Friday, July 31, 2020

The Safe Way Forward

We live in a time of extraordinary civil unrest and turmoil. It’s unsettling. As responsible parents and individuals this uncertainty makes it hard to plan and live our lives. The questions on our minds are, “where do I find the honest answers to these questions?” “How can I know for sure what I should be doing in response to events of our day?”

Trying to figure out what the facts are is difficult. It’s a given social media is agenda driven. If you want to listen to an echo chamber, you need look no further. But if you want a more informed source of information where do you turn?

It used to be people could turn to the news to get information about people and events. But not today. People on both sides of the issues have little confidence in new agencies. Democrats (Liberals and Progressives) consider Fox News, most of talk radio, and a few newspapers to be shills for the President.

Republicans (Conservatives and Libertarians) view the “MSM,” the “Main Stream Media,” most cable news outlets and most newspapers as little more than propaganda organs for the DNC. Their credibility is so stained, even the President mocks them with the moniker “fake news.” 

Regardless of your political leanings, the reality is news organizations today have overt agendas. Having one is nothing new: the “voice” of a news organization has always been either the owner or publisher. If the publisher wanted something said, the news organization would say it. But, years ago, reputable news agencies enforced a discernible boundary between news and opinion. Today's advocacy journalism has blurred that boundary to the point of nonexistence. Advertising and agendas, not truth, drive the news cycle. As evidence for this, I offer Andrew Sullivan’s blistering departure letter from the New York Magazine. It’s also the root cause of the enormous libel settlements several formerly reputable news organizations are paying Nicolas Sandmann. Click bait headlines is more evidence that this behavior is pervasive in the industry.

So, in the midst of this war of ideas where a tumult of opinions masquerade as news, where can you find the truth about events of our day? There is only one answer. It’s the same one people of all generations have had: personal revelation. President Nelson urged members to develop a greater ability to receive personal revelation from God. The seminal scripture which started the Restoration, James 1:5 doesn’t limit what a person may ask of God. It states: “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.”

President Nelson also said, “good information leads to good revelation.” The Doctrine and Covenants, tells us to “study it out in your mind, then ask.” Moroni promises, “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” So the promise for an answer is there. But, you must ask in humility and with the understanding the Lord will tailor His answer, whatever it is, to your personal needs. 

Of the few instances where I’ve heard of people asking these very sort of questions, the answers were rarely, “this guy is right while that guy is wrong.” In one case, the answer was, “don’t worry about it. Let it go.” In another it was, “it’s not needful that you know.” For another, the answer was, “this is something you must be more involved in.” And another was insight into the concepts Heavenly Father thinks are relevant and correct for the situation, an insight incidentally which had little to do with the person’s original question.

The common theme through all the answers is the Lord saying: “have faith in Me. I will take care of you and deal with those things outside your sphere of influence.” The scriptures give clear examples of how different those answers can be. Alma the Younger’s answer was to preach the Gospel. For a time, both Mormon and Ether's was to stand as an idle witness: to do nothing. In contrast, Abinadi's was stand as a bold witness, even though it cost him his life doing so.

There will also be times your preconceptions and emotional state will obscure clear answers. Consider Lehi’s and Nephi’s understanding of the river of water in their respective visions of the Tree of Life. Lehi’s anxieties for his sons' welfare blinded him to the water’s filthiness which Nephi saw. 

The lesson of the perfecting of the Olive vineyard in Zenos’ vision in Jacob chapter five is also instructive. In that vision, the perfection of the vineyard was an iterative process. The Lord removed the most wicked first. As righteousness increased, He removed the worst remaining fruit. The Lord repeated this process  until He finished. Your answers will change over time too, depending on where you are on your personal path of discipleship.

So, ask the Lord to learn what you should do. But do so with humility for He may answer your question with “No,” or with an answer you are not expecting. The thing to remember is to ask in faith then hearken to the answer you get. That is the safe way through these days.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Words. Words. Words.

While reading today's lesson in Alma 30-31 of “Come, Follow Me,” I was struck by the power of words to change human behavior and beliefs. Alma's faith in that power led him to organize a missionary effort to try and reclaim the Zoramites. He wanted to bring them back into the fold of God. 

The effort was partially successful. Their efforts converted many of the poor. But most Zoramites, those who didn't change, drove them out of the land. Then, true to Alma's fears, the Zoramites turned their backs on the Nephites and became Lamanites.

There was a similar story in the land of Ammonihah. Those who were changed by Alma's missionary efforts paid with their lives or were driven out of the land by those who weren't. In a demonstration of divine justice, those who didn't change, who murdered those who did, were utterly destroyed by a Lamanite army.

Amalikiah's use of the spoken word is also instructive. In one year, his use of it unified a divided nation and galvanized it into going to war. Thus began a war of conquest to sate Amalikah's ambitions. In the end however, it failed and succeeded only in the deaths of thousands.

Words have great power: they can build or they can destroy. Like the Native American story of the two wolves, the wolf that thrives within us is the one we feed. Which words do we choose to listen to? Words which build faith? Words which instill fear? Words which foster love and unity? Words which incite anger and hate? 

The lesson showed me that while I have the freedom to pick the words I listen to, I am bound to the influence of those words.

Friday, July 10, 2020

How to Get a Perfect Understanding of Events

I read 2 Nephi chapter 1 this morning as part of my daily study regimen. The contrast between 2 Nephi 1:30-31 and Alma 54:17, 23 about Nephi and Zoram’s relationship is instructive. From Nephi’s account of his experience, we read that he and Zoram ended up being good friends. It’s not hard to believe when you think that had not Nephi come along, Zoram would’ve spent the rest of his life as a servant to Laban. Instead, he and his descendants lived as free men as part of the Nephites in the New World.

Contrast that with how Ammoron, and Amalikiah's explanation of that relationship, was used to win over the Lamanites. They claimed Zoram was “pressed and brought” out of Jerusalem. They tell the story as if he was forced against his will to become a victim of Nephi's ambitions. While it's true Nephi gave Zoram a “join us or die” ultimatum, it was to travel with them as an equal, not a slave. That’s the difference in the telling of the stories. 

Zoram was better off for joining Nephi. Since that reality didn’t fit Amalikiah’s agenda, that was never mentioned. Ammoron wanted the Lamanites to believe Zoram was a slave while the Nephites knew he was a friend. That way, the Lamanites would consider Ammoron as an equal and not as an oppressor.

We see the same today in the news. The Republicans will describe something in one way to suit their agenda. Democrats will describe the same thing differently to suit theirs. How do you tell who is telling the truth? As is the case with Zoram, there are going to be elements of truth in both versions, but discerning the whole truth of the story requires study. Most of us don’t take the time to study events so we have a clear understanding of an issue. The flood of soundbites in the 24/7 new cycle doesn’t contain enough substance to give understanding. So, what to do?

While more study is good, President Nelson’s counsel in April 2018 General Conference is best. He said: improve your ability to receive revelation from the Lord. Live righteously. Make the time to study things out because good information leads to good revelation. Ask the Lord to show you where to look. Act on His answer.

That is the path to a “perfect understanding” as Captain Moroni had, of the political turmoil of our day.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

My November Vote

In the grand scheme of politics in these United States, I’m a virtual nobody. I do vote, so that makes me somebody for a few minutes in November when I vote, but the rest of the time, I’m a political nobody. I’m OK with that.

With the political and social turmoil embroiling our country now, I do feel a compelling need to let people know how I feel about the upcoming election. I’ll be honest here: I am NOT voting FOR Donald Trump. At the same time I am NOT voting FOR Joe Biden. The truth is, I’m not voting FOR any one person at all.


“So you’re not voting this year?” You ask. Au contraire mon ami. I am most certainly going to vote in November. I want to make it clear I am not voting “for” any person. The ONLY person whom I feel safe voting “for” would be Jesus Christ. I have absolute trust in His ability to make wise decisions. I would vote for Him. No one else.

Instead I am voting “for” principles.

I’m voting for the defense of the unborn child. Too many children are killed each year by the likes of “Planned Parenthood.” Children which could otherwise be adopted. This is a travesty that must be stopped.

I’m voting for the appointment of strict constructionist judges. Many of the social problems we suffer from today are the result of activist judges “legislating from the bench.” That is not what the Founding Father’s intended.

I am voting for reduced government involvement in my life. I’m mindful of history that shows what Pres. Gerald Ford once said is very true. He said, “a government that can give you everything you want has the power to take everything you have.” I don’t want that kind of government. If it means it can give less stuff away, so be it. I don’t want it to take any more of my stuff than necessary.

I’m voting for a government that respects the rule of law. Though to be candid, I don’t see that principle in effect very many places at all.

I’m voting for a government which allows the free market to decide “winners” and “losers” in the economy. “To big to fail,” or “protected groups deserving special consideration” is anathema to me. No one gives me a special break when it comes to bills I have to pay or qualifying for a position in a company. Why should anyone else?

I’m voting for the right to defend my property and person. This summer has shown the police can be overwhelmed by events and out of touch politicians. (Yes, I'm thinking of you Jenny Durkan.) While I’d much rather they do the job, when they can’t I want to be able to defend myself.

I’m voting for equal representation at the ballot box. It’s scary to think that enough dead people have voted to change the outcome of elections. That shouldn’t be.

I’m voting for elections to be limited to those who actually have skin in the game of government. I pay taxes, so I have a right to make my voice heard at the ballot box. I am passionately opposed to letting people vote who don’t pay taxes or contribute to the system.

I’m voting for a better, choice-driven education system. Public schools in America, especially in inner cities are absolute failures. The practice and laws which deny parents choice in where their children attend school, must be abolished. Let the free-market work to make schools better.

I’m voting for a foreign policy where the interests of my country are not for sale to foreign powers.

I’m voting for a color blind government. Laws shouldn’t favor or punish anyone simply for the color of their skin. Laws that discriminate against someone on the grounds of the color of their skin or race or where they live should be altered or abolished.

I’m voting for smaller government. The smaller the government, the less power it has and the less appealing it is to those who lust after power. We have enough masters as it is. I don’t want overlords.

I’m voting for a government that keeps a level playing field in the world of business and finance. I’m against the cozy relationships between government agencies and large businesses, non-profit foundations, private interest groups, lobbyist and trade unions.

I’m voting for the right to keep my money from being sent to a trade union I don’t want representing me.

I’m voting for a government which doesn’t punish me for wanting to live the precepts of my religion. (Obviously there are limits here, a “religion” that condones honor killings for some perceived abuse should not be allowed to do such things.)

Yet, since voting requires voting “for” a person, I will vote for someone. But the person I vote for will be the person who I think will best represent these interests.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Antidote for the Perfect Storm

Several years ago, I actively wrote in this blog. I used it to grapple with the fallout of a massive crisis of faith which engulfed my life. That period of time is now passed and I haven’t touched this blog for years.

My faith is fine. But I am, dismayed, angry and dumbfounded at the events which are unfolding across our country. We are living through a perfect storm of political unrest:
• An unprecedented illness has engulfed the world. 
• Civil unrest wracks our country more than anytime since the Civil War. 
• I watch journalistic malpractice, in the name of political agendas no less, so damnable Joseph Goebbels would be proud. 
• We have a president who is so hated by state and local leaders, they feel justified in trampling on the rule of law to score political points against him. 
• Political correctness and accusations of "racism" are now bludgeons used to silence different points of view.

I often ask myself, "What are we to do in the face of all this?" For I see it consuming, even destroying, the social fabric of my country.

To the depths of my soul, I believe the Book of Mormon can help us through this period of unrest as it helped me through my faith crisis. So, here I am, writing in my blog, again. My hope is that my efforts to come to terms with what's happening will help you in some ways do the same.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

President Uchtdorf: Yearning for Home

A Yearning for Home

Something Pres. Uchtdorf said several times throughout this past conference is, "blessings come not from our abilities, but from our choices." He first mentioned it Saturday when he spoke in the Women’s session and repeated it again in this talk.

He spoke about it in the context of his talk on our “yearning for home.” His talk and Elder Holland’s talk both addressed the relationship we have with Heavenly Father and of His great love for us. I feel within each of us there is a divine spark and like Bobbie, the wonder dog, that yearning motivates us to seek out a higher purpose in life. To wonder and ask, “Is this all that I am?” or “If I didn’t have all these weaknesses, who would I be? What could I become?

This divine spark is the force behind our desires to find happiness, to be better, to do more, to be more than who we are now. Becoming better is innate to our being. I read this morning a quote by Heraclitus, it goes along with this…

The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny . . . it is the light that guides your way.  (Heraclitus. ca. 535 BC to ca. 475 BC)

Pres. Uchtdorf also spoke of discipleship… the process of making choices which shape who we are and our destination require us to “swim upstream when needed.”

There is so much more which he talked about, I don’t have the space to talk about it. Suffice it to say, his is one which stood out in a conference filled with great addresses.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dallin Oaks, “The Plan and the Proclamation”

No other talk in conference generated as much press as did Elder Oaks talk on the “Proclamation on the Family.” I think had the killings not occurred in Vegas Sunday evening after conference, this talk would’ve gotten a lot more coverage in the news and by critics of the Church.

So, what is all the fuss about? It centers on two paragraphs uttered by him and the tenor of his admonition to the Saints:

“The family proclamation begins by declaring ‘that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.’ It also affirms that ‘gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.’ It further declares ‘that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.’”

I testify that the proclamation on the family is a statement of eternal truth, the will of the Lord for His children who seek eternal life. It has been the basis of Church teaching and practice for the last 22 years and will continue so for the future. Consider it as such, teach it, live by it, and you will be blessed as you press forward toward eternal life.”

In effect he’s saying, this is the revealed will of God to man about the role of the sexes, families, and marriage. While man has passed laws which go against this, God is not beholden to them. True disciples of God will pay the price to follow His law over man’s laws.

Additionally, he made it very clear what God’s standards are regarding chastity and marriage and then contrasted that with what the world thinks of those two concepts. He then pointed out where our loyalty and devotion should lie if we really mean to be disciples of Christ. It wasn’t harsh against those who choose to not live these principles, but rather “if you intend to be a disciple, you will be opposed and criticized by the world.”

That said, it was his story of how the proclamation came to be which was most interesting to me. It was “a surprise to some,” said Elder Oaks. The general thought at the time was the doctrines about marriage and family were well understood and not in need of “restatement.” Nevertheless, he said, the spirit confirmed to them the need to proceed, so they did. After nearly a year of fasting, prayer and counseling with each other, the document was presented to the First Presidency. After they made further changes, it was announced by President Hinckley to the church in September, 1995.

Elder Oaks followed this with a sobering observation. He said forty years ago, President Benson taught every generation [of Saints] has its test and its chance to stand and prove itself.” Our stance on the proclamation is one of the tests for our generation.

He’s right.