Sunday, July 29, 2012

"Take Hardest Problem First, Best Way To Improve"

Not everything we do in life yields to our first impulse. We charge down a path, thinking we are headed toward a desirable outcome, only to find we have been wrong in our initial impressions. Even more frequently we are tempted to "sit this one out," reluctant to make the attempt to begin until the "time is right," or we feel "inspired" to move forward. Often results are achieved only after a long struggle in patience and faith.

This can be true in many of our pursuits in life. I'm thinking of young people who wait and postpone opportunities for marriage, schooling, employment or other endeavors. Often, newlyweds postpone having children until school is finished, until a home is purchased, or whatever else some feel needs to be in place before moving forward. How many of us have sat at our desk at work day-dreaming or avoiding diving into a difficult task, and manufactured excuses for putting off something we know must be done in exchange for an easier task?

Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote to his benefactress, Nadezhda von Meck, dated March 17th, 1878, and found in the 1905 volume The Life & Letters of Pete Ilich Tchaikovsky (public domain):

"Do not believe those who try to persuade you that composition is only a cold exercise of the intellect. The only music capable of moving and touching us is that which flows from the depths of a composer's soul when he is stirred by inspiration. There is no doubt that even the greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without inspiration. This guest does not always respond to the first invitation. We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.

"A few days ago I told you I was working every day without any real inspiration. Had I given way to my disinclination, undoubtedly I should have drifted into a long period of idleness. But my patience and faith did not fail me, and to-day I felt that inexplicable glow of inspiration of which I told you; thanks to which I know beforehand that whatever I write to-day will have power to make an impression, and to touch the hearts of those who hear it. I hope you will not think I am indulging in self-laudation, if I tell you that I very seldom suffer from this disinclination to work. I believe the reason for this is that I am naturally patient. I have learnt to master myself, and I am glad I have not followed in the steps of some of my Russian colleagues, who have no self-confidence and are so impatient that at the least difficulty they are ready to throw up the sponge. This is why, in spite of great gifts, they accomplish so little, and that in an amateur way."

Last night, speaking with someone on an unrelated topic, I recounted an experience I had years ago with a Japanese engineer on the golf course. We were at a business retreat on the Monterrey Peninsula at a beautiful destination resort. Many will know that the Japanese people are disproportionately passionate about the game of golf. They join expensive country clubs just to get on the links and avoid long wait times at public courses. Of course, there isn't a lot of real estate in a small country like Japan that can be allocated to expansive patches of greenery like a golf course. The demand for golf in Japan far exceeds the supply.

On this particular day I was partnered with my engineer friend from Japan in what was to be a four-man "best-ball" scramble. It's a popular format for business gatherings because it speeds play and compensates for those who are hackers. There are several variations, but generally all four players tee off and then the ball that lands in the best position is the ball the rest of the foursome plays on the second shot, and so forth.

This day, however, I was surprised when my friend stopped at the worst ball of the four first. One of our foursome was an obvious rookie at golf, and had dribbled a poor tee shot barely fifty feet off the tee. At least it was in the fairway. I said, "No, you don't understand the format, we play the best ball (which happened to be my tee shot about 275 yards up the fairway)," to which he responded, "No, it's you who does not understand. Take hardest problem first, best way to improve game."

I relented, and learned a valuable lesson from my Japanese playing partner. We came in dead last, and it took us a long time to get around the course, consistently playing the worst ball of our weakest playing partner that day. At the end, my friend turned to me and asked, "Did game improve for you today?" I thought about all the tough shots I had been forced to hit in the round, and had to admit, "Yes, we hit some pretty difficult shots today, it was an exceptional practice round." He smiled and said, "Very good, now you thinking like Japanese." He wasn't the least bit interested in who had the low score that day. What he cared about most was eliminating the "muda" from his game.

What my friend taught me that day was what Tchaikovsky had mastered. Move ahead in life even when conditions are not optimal. that's how we progress and learn - by doing the things that are not easy first.

In America we often pursue what looks easiest to us first, just the opposite of the way my engineering friend attacked a problem. We avoid the hard things for as long as we can. Of course, these are generalities and may not apply to every case, but think and ponder for a moment about what is going on in the political realm in America. What is the political class doing? They are blaming each other, refusing to work together for the best interests of America, and by postponing the work on the hard problems of our fiscal crisis, we continue to languish and atrophy as a nation, stuck in the miry clay of our anemic economic recovery. Rather than tackling the hardest problems first, what do we get out of Congress and the White House? The bare minimum of effort, and very little evidence of leadership willing to take on the really tough problems of entitlement reform, debt reduction and deficit elimination. I read the poll results this morning that only 14% (an all-time low) believe their children will be better off than they are today.

On a personal note, I have a brother who suffered a massive stroke about a month ago, following a massive heart attack last year about this time. The physicians and nurses who attended him during that first week said they had never seen a more severe bleed from a stroke than this one (three areas of the brain were affected). In emergency surgery a fourth of his skull was removed to relieve the pressure on the brain. He was intubated with a ventilator, a feeding tube and a tracheotomy to save his life. He lost all functionality on his left side which was paralyzed permanently, according to his doctors. He could not swallow, he had trouble breathing on his own, he could not speak in addition to the paralysis. His lungs were filled with the dreaded hospital-acquired MRSA super virus. For four weeks he languished, hovering between life and death, his pacemaker was turned off and we were all saying our farewells and preparing ourselves for another funeral.

And then (there is no other word), he miraculously responded when all mechanical and medical interventions to save his life were withdrawn.

He has literally been snatched back from the brink. Who knows why? Maybe it's because there's some unfinished "muda" that needs to be attacked and removed first before he can move on. That's pure speculation on my part, but seldom does deferring the muda clean-up in our lives result in long-term happy outcomes. When we leave it until the end when the stakes are much higher, it's often harder to deal with than if we had tackled it in the beginning - when it was the hardest problem back then - and we weren't particularly feeling like taking it on that day.

As a general rule, like my friend the Japanese engineer suggested, it's better to tackle the hard things first.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Resisting Evil Not Possible Without Sacrifice

I have a young friend who is currently serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is not unlike all who undertake their service, but one thing sets him apart from all the rest - he is brutally honest with himself and does not shrink from expressing himself as few can. A sample:

"I'm not going to lie. I really didn't think a mission would be this hard. I honestly thought that after all I have been through that it would be easy, that it would be a break from the world. I thought that all my sins and temptations would just vanish away and that I would easily completely focus on the Lord. Well, what a surprise to me when all of a sudden the same problems I've had for years are still here! Those same temptations and same desires are still lingering around. I pray every day for the strength to do better, but it seems the more I pray the harder it becomes. . ."

C.S. Lewis
When I read his letter, I was immediately reminded of the insight of C.S. Lewis:

"No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means - the only complete realist."

I believe there are few of us who have not been exposed to evil and the misuse of agency by others. When others sin willfully and we are parties to their poor choices, we are often drawn in by their experiments with evil and their enticements to participate are sometimes difficult to resist. To reject those temptations requires sacrifice.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
What is it we sacrifice by resisting temptations? Elder Neal A. Maxwell said it well:

"So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the 'sacrifice unto the Lord … of a broken heart and a contrite spirit,' (D&C 59:8), a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving 'away all [our] sins' in order to 'know God for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him."
(“Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness,” Ensign, May 1995, 66).

And what is meant by "taking up the cross?" This:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.
And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself of all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments.
Break not my commandments for to save your lives; for whosoever will save his life in this world, shall lose it in the world to come.
And whosoever will lose his life in this world, for my sake, shall find it in the world to come.
Therefore, forsake the world, and save your souls; for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (JST Matthew 16:25-30).

And why sacrifice the sins of this world in the hope of eternal reward? It's giving up the short-term pleasures of the flesh for long-term eternal life. And what does it mean to obtain eternal life? Those who have received the priesthood and entered into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage have covenanted with God the Father, and He with them. This is the answer:

All they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father's kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood' (D&C 84:35-39).

Once again from my missionary friend:

"I pray every day for the strength to do better, but it seems the more I pray the harder it becomes. My faith is lacking but I don't know how to fix it. I really don't think I've ever felt the Lord's help in my life. I'm sure He's been there, I just don't know when. It seems like I went through everything on my own. I know I had family there, but there have been times where I have prayed with all my strength and nothing happens. I want the faith that I need to be a missionary, but I don't know how to find it. I've been studying the scriptures trying to find it, but it doesn't tell me how to get it."

Actually, that's not true - the scriptures DO tell us how to feel the Spirit of the Lord, and what it means to have His Spirit with us to guide us, comfort us, and assure us of the hope for eternal life. Nephi is the best example, followed closely by Paul, who essentially says the same thing (see Romans 7:24). I call it "Nephi's lament," and he sounds just like you:

Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. (2 Nephi 4:16-18).

Let's also look at his father Lehi, who reminds us it is an absolute essential that we encounter and deal with opposition in this mortal existence:

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness, nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no lie neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. . .
And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
Wherefore, God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. . .
And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents. (2 Nephi 2:11; 15-16; 21).

We become mortal at birth, subject to sin and death. The seeds of both are sown in our mortal bodies. Christ's atonement rescues those who repent of their sins (avoiding death of the spirit), and saves all from death through the resurrection of the body (avoiding the effects of the death of the body):

O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit. . .
But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.
O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.
O how great the holiness of our god! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it. (2 Nephi 9:10; 18-20).

When we choose Christ, and sacrifice the enticements of evil that are routinely presented to us, we are sacrificing something that appears to be "sweet" on the surface but always turns to bitterness and sorrow later.

Korihor is an example of one who learned the lesson the hard way: "And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus wee see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell." (Alma 30:60).

So to the question of how we may feel the Spirit of the Holy Ghost in our lives. I know of no finer explanation and description of the workings of the Holy Spirit than the one given to Hyrum Smith through the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith. I believe what He said to Hyrum may apply to all of us. Why do I say that? Because we all have the same gift that was given to Hyrum - the gift of the Holy Ghost:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be done unto you; and, if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation.
Say nothing but repentance unto this generation. Keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed.
Behold, thou hast a gift, or thou shalt have a gift if thou wilt desire of me in faith, with an honest heart, believing in the power of Jesus Christ, or in my power which speaketh unto thee;
For, behold, it is I that speak; behold, I am the light which shineth in darkness, and by my power I give these words unto thee.
And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good — yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;
And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive. (D&C 11:8-14).

Those who have even made the attempt to do good are feeling and embracing the Spirit of the Holy Ghost. We slide back and forth on a horizontal plane between good and evil in this life, but when we are looking up on a vertical plane for help from heaven, and when we are imbued and infused with the Spirit, we are transformed spiritually. We become "born again," and we cannot say we have never felt the Spirit.

Oliver Cowdery was given similar guidance about how to embrace and recognize the Spirit of the Holy Ghost in this revelation. It likewise may be applied to each of us:

Therefore, if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you.
Now, as you have asked, behold, I say unto you, keep my commandments, and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion;
Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be unto you; and if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation.
Say nothing but repentance unto this generation; keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed.
Behold thou hast a gift, and blessed art thou because of thy gift. Remember it is sacred and cometh from above —
And if thou wilt inquire, thou shalt know mysteries which are great and marvelous; therefore thou shalt exercise thy gift, that thou mayest find out mysteries, that thou mayest bring many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, convince them of the error of their ways.
Make not thy gift known unto any save it be those who are of thy faith. Trifle not with sacred things.
If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.
Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth;
Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.
I tell thee these things as a witness unto thee — that the words or the work which thou hast been writing are true.
Therefore be diligent; stand by my servant Joseph, faithfully, in whatsoever difficult circumstances he may be for the word's sake.
Admonish him in his faults, and also receive admonition of him. Be patient; be sober; be temperate; have patience, faith, hope and charity.
Behold, thou art Oliver, and I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love.
Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the same that came unto mine own, and mine own received me not. I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God? (D&C 6:5-23).

Whenever we feel peace, goodness, happiness, joy and hope, we have felt the Spirit of the Holy Ghost giving comfort and guidance, assurance and peace. The Spirit drives away all the evil spirits who are sent to torment, tempt, try and test us. As our spirit communes with and takes direction from the Spirit we overcome temptations and progress toward eternal life. Here's another useful description from a revelation to Brigham Young:

If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful.
Fear not thine enemies, for they are in mine hands and I will do my pleasure with them.
My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom.
Let him that is ignorant learn wisdom by humbling himself and calling upon the Lord his God, that his eyes may be opened that he may see, and his ears opened that he may hear;
For my Spirit is sent forth into the world to enlighten the humble and contrite, and to the condemnation of the ungodly. (D&C 136:30-33).

The key is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Read Ether 12 and compare Hebrews 11. I've also found another useful key in 1 Nephi 15:8-11. This was Nephi's counsel to his rebellious brothers:

And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.
Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?
Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said? — If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you. 

Did you catch the steps? 1) Don't harden your heart; 2) ask in faith; 3) believe you will receive; 4) diligently keep the commandments; 5) THEN these things are made known unto you.

The scriptures are full of how we may acquire, feel and keep the Spirit. In it all, when we follow these simple instructions the Lord gives to all of us, we are kept on the straight and narrow path, we are clinging to the iron rod (which is His word in the scriptures and through the living prophets), and we are in the way leading toward eternal life. We will still struggle, slip and make mistakes because it is our mortal nature to do so, but there is weekly healing available to us at the sacrament table each Sunday, where we may be renewed spiritually through humbling ourselves, repenting, and committing to do better each day. That is the path of the true disciple.

Lastly, be patient with yourself in your attempts to resist evil. You are literally trying to kill and bury your old man of sin, which is the fulfillment in fact that is only symbolized in the waters of baptism (a watery grave). Study Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 2:11; 3:9 for other examples from Paul's writings. Nobody knew more about the "thorn in the flesh" than Paul, then ask yourself, "What is my thorn?" I'll guarantee you it is the sin you love most. Whatever it is, the grace of God is sufficient for you too if you are humble, meek and teachable, oh, and repentant. (See Moroni 10:32-33). Being "born again" does not happen for most of us like the flipping of a light switch. It is a lifetime pursuit and we must be as patient with ourselves as our Father in Heaven is with us. All harvests require time, especially the change of heart you are seeking. We must continually sacrifice the things of this world in pursuit of the things of eternity in exchange.

The end of that path of discipleship is beautifully described by Nephi in Helaman 10:4-7. It is the same promise God makes to each of us when we are endowed in the temples. His voice may come to us in the same way it spoke to Nephi, when we follow the same steps:

Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.
Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.

We are admonished "be not weary in well-doing." (D&C 64:33).

We are told, "Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground." (D&C 8:2-3).

The day will come, I would say to my young missionary friend and to each of us, when you may bear this witness:

And you have that which is written before you; wherefore, you must perform it according to the words which are written.
And now I speak unto you, the Twelve — Behold, my grace is sufficient for you; you must walk uprightly before me and sin not.
And, behold, you are they who are ordained of me to ordain priests and teachers; to declare my gospel, according to the power of the Holy Ghost which is in you, and according to the callings and gifts of God unto men;
And I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, have spoken it.
These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man;
For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them;
Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words. (D&C 18:30-36).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Democrats and Republicans Responsible for Bankrupting America

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) might be the last truth-teller left standing in Washington D.C. In this interview he explains how both political parties have been the willing co-conspirators in bankrupting America through their self-destructive path of compromise against the principles of liberty.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Obama's First Term - The Record

Take a look at these updated numbers (July 2012), and ask yourself the obvious question: Is this the POTUS who will lead us out of the economic quagmire with his failed policies?

Paul Ryan, the House Budget Chairman, adds this insight to the failed policies of this administration:

"The President recently suggested that a central government — not individuals — deserves the credit for building successful businesses. This sentiment makes for terrible economics, but also reveals a confused morality. In a free community, everyone co-operates by voluntarily offering unique gifts: some invent, some invest, others labor, or sell while customers reward the best producers and providers by buying their products and services. . . . A free economy and strong communities are the best means to reward effort with justice, to promote upward mobility, and to build solidarity among citizens. The President’s vision of a government-centered society — reflected in both his troubling rhetoric and his failed policies — belittles fair rewards for labor and enterprise."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Political Quote of the Day

From the pen of Bill O'Reilly, writing today at Townhall:
In 2012, America is not bedeviled by inflation, but we are stuck in the economic mud. Under Obama, government spending has reached record levels, and in three years, Obama has added about 130,000 federal workers to the payroll: more than the number Reagan added in five fewer years. It is breathtaking.
And now Obama wants to jack up tax rates on the affluent all over the place. Income, capital gains and dividends all will be taxed at a significantly higher rate if Congress goes along with the president. Again, this is the exact opposite of what Reagan did.
What Obama hopes to accomplish is hard to ascertain. The feds will derive about $85 billion in extra revenue a year if the president's proposed tax hike is passed. But listen to this: The feds spend $85 billion every eight and a half days, according to the Treasury Department. Talk about putting your finger in a leaking dike.

* * *

I really have come to believe President Barack Obama must think the American people are stupid. Since they make the case even better than I ever could, consider this piece of writing from Brietbart on the broken pledges of the POTUS, not the candidate Obama, but when he was president.

CBS News is quoted in the article:

The National Debt has now increased more during President Obama's three years and two months in office than it did during 8 years of the George W. Bush presidency.
The Debt rose $4.899 trillion during the two terms of the Bush presidency. It has now gone up $4.939 trillion since President Obama took office.
The latest posting from the Bureau of Public Debt at the Treasury Department shows the National Debt now stands at $15.566 trillion. It was $10.626 trillion on President Bush's last day in office, which coincided with President Obama's first day.
The National Debt also now exceeds 100% of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, the total value of goods and services.
Mr. Obama has been quick to blame his predecessor for the soaring Debt, saying Mr. Bush paid for two wars and a Medicare prescription drug program with borrowed funds.
The federal budget sent to Congress last month by Mr. Obama, projects the National Debt would continue to rise as far as the eye can see. The budget shows the Debt hitting $16.3 trillion in 2012, $17.5 trillion in 2013 and $25.9 trillion in 2022.

This POTUS could not be more toxic than he is.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Political Quote of the Day

From the pen of Paul Jacobson at American Thinker:

Yes, we have been deceived with regard to ObamaCare, but the Great Deceit happened in 2008, when many Americans let themselves be duped by the "hope and change" lies and propaganda shoveled out by Obama and his Democrat henchmen.  We the people have only ourselves to blame.  There has been no deception by Roberts or anyone else on the Supreme Court.
Justices like John Roberts epitomize the vast difference between judicial review and judicial supremacy/tyranny.  In the ObamaCare ruling, he has dumped the health care issue right back into the laps of the American people and their elected representatives.  That is exactly where it belongs.

Read more:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Look at our Founders' Beliefs in Light of Today's Politics

The Federalist Papers

On this 4th of July 2012, with nothing better to do on our national holiday, I have been reviewing selected statements from the writings of our founding fathers. Many of the statements in this post will leap off the page at you if you have your eyes wide open to the strife swirling about us in this election season. Do not become discouraged. Do not fear the future. Put into its proper perspective with a healthy dose of hindsight to guide our thinking, contention and opposition has forever been part of our political process, and will be forever as long as free men agree to disagree agreeably in the end.

George Washington
America is astoundingly resilient as these quotes will demonstrate, but first to a bit of history to put it all in a framework everyone can understand.

The Federalist Party was the first American political party, from the early 1790s to 1816, the era of the First Party System. George Washington abhorred the thoughts of his infant republic being torn asunder by partisan bickering, and remained independent, but the Federalists controlled the federal government until 1801.

Alexander Hamilton
The party was formed by Alexander Hamilton, who was committed to a fiscally sound and nationalistic government. The United States' only Federalist president was John Adams, who followed Washington as the second POTUS, who was succeeded by Thomas Jefferson.

The Federalists favored a strong national bank, tariffs, and good relations with Britain. Their political opponents, the Democratic-Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, denounced most of the Federalist policies, especially the bank, and vehemently criticized anyone who expressed remaining sympathy with the British monarchy. The Federalists won most of the major legislative battles in the 1790s. Their supporters were mostly in the nation's cities and in New England. The Democratic-Republicans, drew support from the rural South, and Jefferson eventually won the ugly and nasty election of 1800, defeating his lifelong friend John Adams, whose party never returned to power.

One thing leaps out as you read these excerpts, primarily from Hamilton and Madison: Despite their differences in the beliefs of their respective parties, both men believed the ultimate power of America rested with THE PEOPLE, and each gives us ample justification for taking steps to correct any form of tyranny that may arise. They wrote their essays along with Chief Justice John Jay to promote the ratification of the Constitution, and each in his writings gave us the intellectual arguments sufficient to change the government if it were ever to encroach upon our freedoms. As you read, don't be surprised if you learn how prophetic their writings have become!

John Adams
The Federalists left a lasting legacy of a strong new government with a sound financial base, and simultaneously Chief Justice John Marshall decisively shaped the Supreme Court policies for another three decades.

Today, the ongoing national debate about the relative powers of the federal and the state governments continues. As I write today  state governors, granted the ability to do so in the latest SCOTUS ruling on the Affordable Healthcare Act, are pushing back and refusing to implement the expansion of Medicaid under the law because of the enormous financial hardship it imposes. The more things change in America, the more they remain the same, it seems.

Thomas Jefferson
The infant republic survived those tumultuous years, and it is from their writings I was seeking inspiration this morning as we celebrate yet another American birthday. Share with me their prescient awareness of the very threats we face today:

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James Madison
Was, then, the American Revolution effected, was the American Confederacy formed, was the precious blood of thousands spilt, and the hard-earned substance of millions lavished, not that the people of America should enjoy peace, liberty, and safety, but that the governments of the individual States, that particular municipal establishments, might enjoy a certain extent of power and be arrayed with certain dignities and attributes of sovereignty? We have heard of the impious doctrine in the old world, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the new, in another shape that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed to the views of political institutions of a different form? It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object.  Madison, Number 45

The States will retain all pre-existing authorities which may not be exclusively delegated to the federal head; and that this exclusive delegation can only exist in one of three cases: where an exclusive authority is, in express terms, granted to the Union; or where a particular authority is granted to the Union and the exercise of a like authority is prohibited to the States; or where an authority is granted to a Union with which a similar authority in the States would be utterly incompatible.  Hamilton, Number 82

It has not a little contributed to the infirmities of the existing federal system that it never had a ratification by the PEOPLE. Resting on no better foundation than the consent of the several legislatures, it has been exposed to frequent and intricate questions concerning the validity of its powers, and has in some instances given birth to the enormous doctrine of a right of legislative repeal. Owing its ratification to the law of a State, it has been contended that the same authority might repeal the law by which it was ratified. However gross a heresy it may be to maintain that a party to a compact has a right to revoke that compact, the doctrine itself has had respectable advocates. The possibility of a question of this nature proves the necessity of laying the foundations of our national government deeper than in the mere sanction of delegated authority. The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.  Hamilton, Number 22

If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans and claim for their government the honorable title of republic. Madison, Number 39

The smallness of the army renders the natural strength of the community an overmatch for it; and the citizens, not habituated to look up to the military power for protection, or to submit to its oppressions, neither love nor fear the soldiery; they view them with a spirit of jealous acquiescence in a necessary evil and stand ready to resist a power which they suppose may be exerted to the prejudice of their rights.

The army under such circumstances may usefully aid the magistrate to suppress a small faction, or an occasional mob, or insurrection; but it will be unable to enforce encroachments against the united efforts of the great body of the people. Hamilton, Number 8

If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government. Hamilton, Number 28

John Jay
It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, that absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for purposes and objects merely personal, such as a thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people. John Jay, Number 4

It is in vain to oppose constitutional barriers to the impulse of self-preservation. It is worse than in vain; because it plants in the Constitution itself necessary usurpations of power, every precedent of which is a germ of unnecessary and multiplied repetitions.  Madison, Number 41

Wilful abuses of a public authority, to the oppression of the subject, and every species of official extortion, are offenses against the government, for which the persons who commit them may be indicted and punished according to the circumstances of the case. Hamilton, Number 83

Do these principles, in fine, require that the powers of the general government should be limited, and that, beyond this limit, the States should be left in possession of their sovereignty and independence? We have seen that in the new government, as in the old, the general powers are limited; and that the States, in all unenumerated cases, are left in the enjoyment of their sovereign and independent jurisdiction. Madison, Number 40

. . . If it be asked what is to be the consequence, in case the Congress shall misconstrue this part of the Constitution and exercise powers not warranted by its true meaning. I answer the same as if they should misconstrue or enlarge any other power vested in them; as if the general power had been reduced to particulars, and any one of these were to be violated; the same, in short, as if the State legislatures should violate their respective constitutional authorities. In the first instance, the success of the usurpation will depend on the executive and judiciary departments, which are to expound and give effect to the legislative acts; and in the last resort a remedy must be obtained from the people, who can, by the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers. The truth is that this ultimate redress may be more confided in against unconstitutional acts of the federal than of the State legislatures, for this plain reason that as every such act of the former will be an invasion of the rights of the latter, these will be ever ready to mark the innovation, to sound the alarm to the people, and to exert their local influence in effecting a change of federal representatives. There being no such intermediate body between the State legislatures and the people interested in watching the conduct of the former, violations of the State constitutions are more likely to remain unnoticed and unredressed. Madison, Number 44

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments in times of peace and security. As the former periods will probably bear a small proportion to the latter, the State governments will here enjoy another advantage over the federal government. The more adequate, indeed, the federal powers may be rendered to the national defense, the less frequent will be those scenes of danger which might favor their ascendancy over the governments of the particular States.

If the new Constitution be examined with accuracy and candor, it will be found that the change which it proposes consists much less in the addition of NEW POWERS to the Union than in the invigoration of its ORIGINAL POWERS. The regulation of commerce, it is true, is a new power; but that seems to be an addition which few oppose and from which no apprehensions are entertained. Madison, Number 45

There is no position which depends on clearer principles than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this would be to affirm that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid. Hamilton, Number 78

The House of Representatives is so constituted as to support in the members an habitual recollection of their dependence on the people. Before the sentiments impressed on their minds by the mode of their elevation can be effaced by the exercise of power, they will be compelled to anticipate the moment when their power is to cease, when their exercise of it is to be reviewed, and when they must descend to the level from which they were raised; there forever to remain unless a faithful discharge of their trust shall have established their title to a renewal of it.

I will add, as a fifth circumstance in the situation of the House of Representatives, restraining them from oppressive measures, that they can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society. This has always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can connect the rulers and the people together. It creates between them that communion of interests and sympathy of sentiments of which few governments have furnished examples; but without which every government degenerates into tyranny. If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and, above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America -- a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.

If this spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate anything but liberty. Madison, Number 57

For it is a truth, which the experience of all ages has attested, that the people are commonly most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion. Hamilton, Number 25

I believe it may be laid down as a general rule that their confidence in and obedience to a government will commonly be proportioned to the goodness or badness of its administration. Hamilton, Number 27

It may safely be received as an axiom in our political system that the State governments will, in all possible contingencies, afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by the national authority. Hamilton, Number 28

It is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people. Madison, Number 52

No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable.  Madison, Number 62

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith

In the flurry of all the news activity of the SCOTUS ruling last week, an important date in the Mormon calendar was skipped over. I speak of the 168th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith (38) and his brother Hyrum (44) on June 27th, 1844.

Carthage Jail
It has been estimated that thirty-five lead balls were fired that day in Illinois by the participants in the massacre at Carthage Jail. The mob was estimated at around fifty in number against the four who were in the room where Joseph and Hyrum died. We know that fifteen of the bullets found their mark, killing Hyrum and Joseph and injuring John Taylor (35). Willard Richards the largest man of the four escaped uninjured.

Hyrum Smith, the Prophet's older brother, was the first to die instantly as he was hit by four lead balls. At the time of his death he was the assistant president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and also the patriarch to the Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith and Elder John Taylor, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were also each struck by four lead balls. We know the exact time of the martyrdom because John Taylor pocket watch stopped when it was struck by one of the balls, and the watch likely saved his life. Some accounts marked the time at 5:21:15 p.m., others at 5:26:16.

Many authors over the years have written their accounts of the martyrdom, but there is nothing to compare with standing or sitting in that room to help one relive those events. I've had that experience on four separate occasions over the years. I can tell you the witness of their divine calling as true prophets never diminishes each time I have gone.

President John Taylor
In the heat of that sweltering June afternoon, the Prophet asked Elder Taylor, an accomplished tenor soloist, to sing "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” and he complied not just once but twice. His voice uplifted his fellow inmates. It was also John Taylor who would later pen the official account of the martyrdom, and it is preserved today as D&C 135. Joseph Smith predicted his time had come when he said to his brethren on the other side of the Mississippi, forsaking his plans to flee to the west, "I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer's morning."

Elder Willard Richards
Elder Willard Richards, also a member of the Twelve, who received powder burns on his cheek that day in 1844, wrote his own account of the martyrdom. It was later published in the Nauvoo Times and Seasons, titled “Two Minutes in Jail.” He said he hid the wounded Elder Taylor underneath a mattress in another room in the jail, fearing the mob would return and finish them off. Later that night, Elders Richards and Taylor sent a message back to Nauvoo. They wrote simply, "Carthage Jail, 8:05 o'clock, p.m., June 27th, 1844. Joseph and Hyrum are dead. . . The job was done in an instant."

Elder Taylor returned July 2nd to Nauvoo on a sleigh, but the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were taken to Nauvoo on June 28th.

Those who succeeded the Prophet and Hyrum in their death were their two widows, Emma (40) and Mary Fielding Smith (43). Emma and Joseph had eleven children, including their youngest son, David H. Smith, who was born in November, four months after the Prophet's death. Only five lived to adulthood.

Mary Fielding Smith was the mother of two of Hyrum's eight children, including then five-year-old Joseph F. Smith, future Apostle and eventually a President of the Church.

Two others known by Joseph Smith were among those late arriving on the scene on June 27, 1844: Samuel Smith, his younger brother, and “Sonny,” who first met the Prophet as a young man.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
In his October 2007 general conference address, the late Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve told of a fourteen-year-old boy who had been taken care of by Joseph Smith as he searched for his brother. This boy ended up being a stage driver between Nauvoo and Keokuk, Iowa, with Carthage being a half-way station. That boy was nicknamed “Sonny” by Joseph, who rode the stage.

On June 27, 1844, when that stage came through Carthage, Sonny saw a mob gathered around the jail. As passengers got off the stage, the shooting started. Sonny drove the stage to the stable and saw Joseph fall from the jail window.

Samuel, who was one of the eight witnesses to The Book of Mormon, never made it to the Carthage Jail before the martyrdom.

He lived southeast of Nauvoo in nearby Plymouth, Ill., and was on horseback to see his brothers in Carthage. He escaped after being met by members of the mob who chased him through the woods.

Samuel rode back to Nauvoo as part of the fourteen-person bodyguard of Joseph and Hyrum when their bodies were returned to Nauvoo the next day in his wagon. Samuel would succumb and die on July 30th, just a month later as a result of the fatigue from the chase of June 27th. He left behind six children and his death preceded by twenty-one days the birth of his daughter, Lucy J.C.

Other members of the Quorum of the Twelve as well as two future church presidents, Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff, were on missions in Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nauvoo at the time of the martyrdom.

Elders Taylor and Richards, the only two apostles who were not away on missions, were in the jail cell that day because they willingly chose to accompany the Prophet and Hyrum to Carthage.

Joseph and Hyrum leave Nauvoo for Carthage
Joseph, in his journal, noted Nauvoo had 15,000 inhabitants. There were between 25,000 and 26,000 members of the Church in 1844. Today, Nauvoo has a population around 1,000. When the company of fifteen men rode out of Nauvoo on that final journey to Carthage, the road was about fifteen miles in length. Today on paved roads it's about twenty-three miles on a similar route.

The Nauvoo Temple has now been reconstructed and was dedicated in 2002. The original temple was completed after Joseph and Hyrum's martyrdom, razed shortly thereafter.

John Taylor's tribute to the brothers concludes:

". . . henceforward their names will be classed among the martyrs of religion; and the reader in every nation will be reminded that the Book of Mormon, and this book of Doctrine and Covenants of the church, cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world; and that if the fire can scathe a green tree for the glory of God, how easy it will burn up the dry trees to purify the vineyard of corruption. They lived for glory; they died for glory; and glory is their eternal reward. From age to age shall their names go down to posterity as gems for the sanctified." (D&C 135:6).