Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Gathering of Israel and the "Immigration Crisis"

This morning in the pervasive quietude that prevails in Pine Valley, I have been pondering the latest chapter in our American border "crisis." The irrepressible Ann Coulter wrote last week about the "30th anniversary" of that crisis. The political class in Washington seems to be vying for the affection of the immigrants, and some even assert that somehow Barack Obama has "manufactured" and "masterminded" this dramatic infusion of children whose parents have aided and abetted their flight to America, knowing if they could successfully navigate the border there would be ultimate amnesty and citizenship at the end of their journey. Most of what you are reading about the immigration crisis is pure political propaganda, little more.

We can debate the morality, the legality and the political merits until we are exhausted, but I have been pondering what the gospel perspective on all this might be, absent the political calculations.

Many years ago, beginning in 1982, I started a compilation from the scriptures on the topic of Zion, because I was curious to know how the revealed word described it. At the end of that compilation I offered a summary, little realizing how it would play out in future events. Here's what I said then:

"Ephraim's descendants will figure prominently in the leadership of the House of Israel in the development of Zion, but it would be a gross error to assume that Zion is the private domain of Ephraim. The scriptures speak plainly of all the tribes coming to their inheritances in their various lands. We are witnessing the emergence of all these long-lost cousins in Israel in our day, as adversity, lawlessness, and political upheavals continue to drive them to our borders of freedom. They come because of wars, famines, diseases, natural disasters, and the love of freedom, but whatever the reasons they are coming to claim their promised blessings at the hands of Ephraim. Let us never be so surfeited by the things of this world that we cannot embrace them, when they come with little more than the clothes on their backs."

In the gospel context, the gathering of Israel is accelerating. Some will fail to recognize this for what it is, but the descendants of Lehi, the blood of Manasseh coursing in their veins, are coming to claim their long-promised blessings at the hands of Ephraim, the older birthright brother of Manasseh.

On the political front we can argue, as many conservative elements in our society do today, that securing the borders and enforcing our immigration laws is essential to our survival. We currently have a POTUS, however, who has willfully chosen NOT to enforce the immigration laws that are already on the books and routinely blames Congress for its failure to give him enough money. Last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) declared he would protect his own border. The voices from the states against the federal government become more strident with every passing day. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's (R) bitter indictments of Barack Obama are well-known on this issue.

I understand all the political arguments quite well, so thanks in advance for not reminding me about all that. However, these circumstances are foretold in scripture and should not alarm us when we put it in the larger picture frame of latter-day prophecy. The events leading to the eventual establishment of Zion are well-documented in scripture.

I find it ironic that it is the more conservative elements of society who are beating the drum for tougher border security and are taking such a vehement stand against illegal immigration. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with the Catholic Church and many other religious organizations (and what could be more conservative than these?) has maintained a humanitarian position for many years. Without discrimination about how they got here the churches have taken the position they will succor the weak, lift up the weary arms of the immigrants, and do all they can to provide the care and nurturing the immigrants need.

Political calculations in the give and take of the debate are on constantly shifting sands. People forget under George W. Bush statements and policies were put forward promoting an open border policy. This empty rhetoric didn't start with Barack Obama, as much as I am inclined to blame him for everything wrong with America today. On both sides of the political divide the lust for ever more voters picking them is what has driven the response to immigration. Make no mistake, the dirty little secret is neither side wants to turn away potential voters in such large blocks, notwithstanding the downside of perhaps a few terrorists leaking through the border with the legitimate "Dreamers" seeking a better life in America.

Seeking to set an example before the whole nation for thoughtful consideration of the immigrant crisis back in 2010, a group of citizens, churches and government leaders put forward what came to be called "The Utah Compact" to give some guidance to the debate:


FEDERAL SOLUTIONS  Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries — not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders. We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.

LAW ENFORCEMENT  We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement’s professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.

FAMILIES  Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children.

ECONOMY  Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Utah’s immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.

A FREE SOCIETY  Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill. (Emphasis is mine).

That's as good a summary as I can think of to help us think through what we are saying in our political debates. We are being told there will be no comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year. The politicians simply don't want to handle the hot potato. But keeping in mind the principles cited here will help us think through the reasons so many are flocking to our borders.

Joseph Smith
On Christmas Day in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1832, a "revelation and prophecy on war" was given through Joseph Smith. These wintry words describe the times in which we live: "And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations. (D&C 87:6, emphasis mine).

The prophetic Book of Mormon offers additional insights:

And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them. [Read that verse again, could there be a more apt description of elements of American society today?]
And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them.
And I will show unto thee, O house of Israel, that the Gentiles shall not have power over you; but I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel.
But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.
And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father.
But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me — that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance. (3 Nephi 16:10-16, emphasis mine).

Please note that always and forever, if Israel covenants to repent and obey, the doors of forgiveness are perpetually and eternally open to all who will walk through them.

The events swirling today in Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Gaza, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Afghanistan, added to those in South and Central America only serve to remind us of the upheaval and lawlessness spoken of in the prophecy on war. It seems there will never be peace on earth, for so it has been decreed. Nation against nation, brother against brother, family against family. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ offers true brotherhood and unity. Our political institutions no longer seem capable of offering true asylum from the chaos. Indeed, the government solutions seem worse than the problems government creates. There's now a $3.7 billion solution being proposed to house the immigrants. Um, good luck with that. Until Christ comes again to rule and reign, there will be no peace on earth.

We are blessed in our ward to have a new member, President Ronald A. Rasband, the senior president of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He just returned from visiting congregations of the saints in Russia and Turkey. He reports there are three thriving branches of the Church in Turkey, a nation of 74 million, 98% of whom are Muslim. There are only twelve full-time missionaries serving in Turkey. Those three branches represent the hope of that region of the world. They are a melting pot of every faction of Islam from all the surrounding countries. There are no government-sponsored reparations against those who have fled to Turkey for asylum and converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those who have become Christians are left alone in peace to practice their religion as they choose. They have embraced truth and light and chosen unity and peace. It is a model for the other nations in that region of the world to follow.

Only in the gospel of Jesus Christ is there sufficient light to extinguish the gathering darkness around us. All other government solutions will fail.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

How Heeding Wise Counsel Blesses our Lives

I was reminded today about a story from the life of George Washington, one of my all-time favorite heroes. I've written of my admiration of "the Father of our Nation" many times, and this story illustrates one of many reasons why I admire his character and the purity of his soul.

President George Washington
George Washington’s father died when he was only eleven years of age. For most of those eleven years and into his teenage years, young George had his heart set on joining the British navy.

His mother, however, had serious reservations about that path. Most mothers of teenagers could possibly relate. Eventually she felt so strongly about it she urged him to reconsider. He listened to his mother, and rather than becoming the captain of a ship, he eventually became Commander in Chief of all the military forces of the United States of America. Those forces he would someday command were little more than a rag tag bunch of farmers, pitted as they were against the might and power of the British army and navy, but his decision to heed wise counsel from his mother and submit to her counsel shaped the future of both nations.

Much of the future course of our lives is determined by the input we get when making decisions and whether we heed wise counsel when we receive it, or ignore it and fight against it. Those choices often shape not only our lives but those of our family.

There are many examples, of course, of those who rejected wise counsel. In The Book of Mormon, the prophet Jacob warns us this way:

“. . . seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.” (Jacob 4:10).

I believe taking counsel from the Lord's hand includes His inspired servants who serve among us, particularly the bishops of the Church into whose hands are placed sacred priesthood keys to bless our lives if we are obedient to their counsel.

Generally, when I notice myself counseling the Lord it means disregarding the Lord’s counsel, either knowingly or unknowingly. Sometimes I replace His wisdom with my own, supposing I know better than His humble servants and substituting my own counsel or the persuasions of men. Even when my intentions are to do good and help others "catch the vision," when I travel down that tempting path for a little season I can sense I am distancing myself from closeness to the Spirit of the Lord.

Let me give an example. On these pages I sometimes have offered criticism, well-intended, but nevertheless perhaps too pointed and direct, about what goes on in our meetings in the Church. When I haven't been edified or inspired by another's attempts to teach, I have become angry, the Spirit has been grieved at my reaction, and has withdrawn. Catching myself in this self-destructive path some months ago, I earnestly sought forgiveness from my Father in Heaven in prayer, and indicated my desire to do better. I was answered almost immediately and have found the edification from within when I was deprived it elsewhere. My sincere but sometimes misguided desires to offer correction may have spilled over into hyperbole that wasn't wise and would be considered offensive by some. I learned that doggedly pursuing that course did more harm to me than anyone else.

I have to be reminded about others who may read these pages are not members of the Church and might mistake my words for something else I didn't intend. I fear with my "heavy hammer" counsel for those within the Church, too, I may be depriving them of the more sublime and subtle persuasions of the Spirit that might be theirs to obtain without me.

I suspect I have even offended some who may have seen themselves portrayed in a way not so pleasing or desirable. To them I apologize publicly, even though I have always preserved their anonymity. I promise I will do better.

President Marion G. Romney
Said President Marion G. Romney: "When a person learns what the Lord’s counsel is and follows it, he irresistibly draws close to the Spirit. From its very beginning, the history of God’s dealings with his children on the earth testifies to the fact that those who disregard his counsel fail and come to grief." ("Seek Not to Counsel the Lord," Ensign, August 1985, 2-5).

Today, following our three-hour block of meetings, our bishop asked if he could visit with me for a minute. We stepped into an empty classroom, we stood together for only a couple of minutes and he began by stating, "I have a concern."

I knew immediately what he was going to say next. He stated his concern, he offered counsel about how I could resolve it, and I immediately accepted his gentle invitation to obey. I could have been offended, but I knew he was right and I was wrong. It was just that simple. It was the final step I needed to take to make my repentance complete.

I came home and took immediate action.

Next time you're tempted to counsel the Lord or his duly-sustained leaders, think again. There is wisdom and revelation readily available to us through them if we will give heed to inspired counsel. The future course of my life will probably not be as dramatic as what happened to George Washington, but for me the counsel I received today was timely, accurate and came in the form of a gentle invitation to do better. The sweet companionship of the Holy Ghost was mine to reclaim because I was willing to submit in gratitude.

I testify being "right" is not as important as being submissive and accepting the counsel of the Lord through His inspired servants.