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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Are We Worthy Enough?

There is a short answer to this question, and it is "Yes."

The long answer deserves a little more explanation.

Let us suppose three cases, all true stories and the details of which I am personally acquainted:

1) A man marries in the temple, he holds several significant callings throughout his life, including bishop, stake president and stake patriarch. At his funeral, some of the grandchildren begin sharing their experiences with each other they had with their grandfather. They discover that several of the grandchildren were sexually abused by this seemingly faithful man. At the time of his death he was serving as the stake patriarch, routinely giving inspired blessings to the young members of his stake, many of whom were the same ages of his grandchildren when he was secretly abusing them. The secrets of this family went undetected and undiscussed for almost two generations. From all appearances this family was a "model" LDS family to all who knew them.

2) A Relief Society President came to confess a secret sin to her bishop. She had become infatuated with a co-worker. They traded e-mails, innocent enough to begin with, but soon the innocent exchanges turned into increasingly explicit love poetry. Soon they were meeting for movie outings during the day. Then lunch followed the movies, then the movies became more and more explicit. Their love for each other blossomed. She was getting attention from this new suitor she was unable to find at home with her husband. A disciplinary council was convened on her behalf. She wanted to remain with her family and her husband. She was disfellowshipped, but a year later was reinstated.

3) A revered Church leader who had served as a bishop, a stake president, then later as a mission president confessed many years into adulthood he had been romantically involved with his administrative assistant for years. He was excommunicated. His missionaries were devastated, the members of his former stake were disillusioned, and many questioned the inspiration involved with the leaders who had called him to all these positions. In time he wrote a book about his life. His repentance was deep and real and painful. But still others questioned his judgment in profiting from his sins of the past. The secrets he harbored about his behavior, notwithstanding, his wife and family rallied around him and he was later re-baptized and all his priesthood blessings were restored in time.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is one of merciful deliverance from evil for those who abandon their sins and come unto Christ. Whether in this life or the next, the conditions for forgiveness are the same. The ordinances performed by the two priesthood brethren cited are recognized and ratified in heaven, even though the participants were "unworthy" to perform them. Since none is completely "worthy" in every way, the instruments will always be flawed in some particular, and should not foster doubt in the efficacy of the work of salvation. Legion are the examples of young men who administer the emblems of the sacrament to their fellow ward members on Sunday, and yet their behavior on Saturday night was anything but indicative of "worthiness" to perform those sacred ordinances. Hypocrisy is almost a given isn't it?

Worthiness, then, becomes a matter of degrees. We get on a path at baptism leading toward exaltation and eternal life. Our path twists and turns through mortality. Few walk a "straight and narrow" path flawlessly. I know of none who has or ever will. When secret sins are harbored and remain hidden sometimes for years, and yet men continue in their priesthood duties undeterred through many temple recommend interviews, lying and covering up their past sins without remorse until they are "caught," of course there are logical questions of worthiness that arise.

There is a corollary here too: Parenting. Sometimes children get the vibe from their parents who are driven by the need to have perfectly behaved children that they never will be "good enough" to measure up to their parents' lofty expectations. They become discouraged and give up. The quest for perfection is simply too much for them to continue. I labeled this "The Impossible Gospel" many years ago. Some sons think they can never be "worthy enough" in their fathers' eyes, and some daughters think they will never be "competent enough" in their mothers' eyes.

Of course, these thoughts are silly and should not stand in our way to accomplishing what we know we must as we mature and separate out from our parents' watchful care taking of us. The transition from being parented to becoming the parent is often traumatizing to some because of these perilous and false thoughts and expectations. I hope no one gets trapped in this stage of natural and normal progress in mortality.

Here's the reality of parenting - no matter how "great" our parents were, we are all scarred by what parents do or don't do to us and for us. Be kind with each other. Forgive generously. Move on gracefully without harboring the painful memories and replaying them again and again. Don't get stuck in misery.

Patience with each other is required. Harsh judgment for those who falter is not the same treatment we would choose for ourselves. And so we must become as patient as Heavenly Father must be with us. We learn by doing.

Have you ever had the experience of hearing about someone who was called to a responsible position in the Church, and yet based upon your own personal interactions with that person in their past life you know them to be "less than" worthy enough to perform in the office to which they are called? Do you wonder if they might also be having feelings of being "less than" they wish they were? Do you believe these are almost universal feelings others may have? Do you assume they never accessed the benefits of Christ's atonement in their life the way you have have in yours? Are you willing to condemn them for past sins you KNOW about, and yet exonerate yourself for your own hidden sins? Do you take comfort in the public display of another's weakness and remain smug that your secret sins go undetected?

We are all sinners. We all come short of the mark when it comes to the lofty ideals of the gospel compared to our actual performance in mortality. Remember, this is all a test, and most are struggling just like you when you flounder with the details. When long-cherished sins are finally exposed to the bright sunlight of truth, we are grieved, and those who are closest to us are likewise affected and grieved. Yet none of this invalidates what a fallen, imperfect person has accomplished for good during their lives. While we must develop understanding and empathy for one another, it may be just as important for us to give ourselves some of the same too.

The requirement is repentance, NOT perfection or the expectation of it any time soon.

Some wives punish their husbands brutally for their mistakes, and some find it difficult to excuse even when sincere repentance is in evidence. A breach of trust is difficult to repair. That's when Satan is at his most powerful in our lives. He thrives on harsh judgments. He is a master at hardening hearts. "I trusted you then," one would say, "and you betrayed me. How can I ever believe anything you ever say again?" When she begins to examine her own life, however, she finds she has withheld as much, then she is fearful she will be treated with the same judgment from her husband she has imposed upon him. And Satan drives those wedges of doubt and fear deeper until the marriage splits. He loves the conflict, the drama and the anguish growing out of the sins he promises will have no consequences. His greatest lie is the one about "victimless sins." Believe me, there is no such thing. Actions bring consequences. When we pick up a stick, we pick up both ends.

What is needed in all these cases is a broad brush of forgiveness. I've learned this is very hard work. When one of the combatants steps away from the conflict, there is no longer a war. When I have been discouraged with relationships, especially family relationships, I have heard a gentle whispered encouragement from my Mother, who died fourteen years ago, "Try one more time, David." It is an unmistakable voice of patience and love.

Of course, there are many situations where forgiveness and repentance just aren't enough, but those situations often suffer from a lack of willingness to extend the balm of Gilead to each rather than a lack of power to heal from the Savior. His love is perfection.

I counseled a couple for many months who found it difficult to remember why they had gotten married in the first place. I granted a temple recommend to the husband with reservations that I knew he was "not worthy" to go, but hoping to rekindle his love for his wife. I instructed my stake president about the course I was recommending to them and asked him to sign this brother's recommend despite my misgivings. I was acting on a prompting that suggested if they could go through an endowment session together, then spend an hour sitting side by side holding hands in the Celestial Room, then going on a sealing session together, there might be a chance to rekindle their marriage covenant. The last time I checked (and this was many years ago) they had six children.

I suggest we trust God. All our husbands and wives are His children first. He knows them better than we do. He also understands the fallen condition we face in mortality. If He had to rely upon conferring priesthood responsibilities only on "worthy" people, He might have easily decided to give the priesthood to women. That way He might be better assured of all the ordinances being performed in perfection.

However, mortality is what it is. We are sent here on a mission to purify ourselves through the blood of Christ. We are also told there is no other way, and no other name given under heaven by which we can be saved from sin and death and made pure. We are told we must never play in the gutter and avoid soiling our best Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. But in mortality we routinely find ourselves in the gutter. . .

And it's hard to avoid getting dirty.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Goates Notes Five Years Later

Recently, Kurt Francom of reached out requesting an interview for his site. I wasn't certain about it, and it took a few hits and misses for us to finally connect, but when we finally did he produced a podcast highlighting the origins of The Goates Notes and other topics of interest to him.

As I told Kurt during our interview, The Goates Notes had a rather naive birth in 2009, almost five years ago. When the thought of producing a blog was first suggested by daughter Melanie, I had to ask, "What is a blog?"

Now five years on and counting I believe I am beginning to understand.

I've had the joyful experience of a lifetime coming up with the content over those five years. In the early stages the ideas came easily, when I would find myself awakening to a new day with a mind bristling with possibilities for topics. Admittedly, I've slowed down the production line in recent months because other priorities have taken precedence. That said, I hope the content taken as a whole is representative of my thoughts, my deeply-held beliefs and my political philosophy that aligns with all of the above.

I want to thank those who have come to The Goates Notes over those past five years for content. The "odometer" on the number of visitors clicked over 200,000 last week, and each week an average of 1,000 visitors discovers content here through Google searches. I'm not exactly setting the blogger universe on fire, based upon those metrics, but I've been content with organic growth exceeding my wildest expectations when I embarked on this journey five years ago.

What I have done, I have done without apology and in the hope others may benefit from lessons learned. Everything here is original content and I answer to no one but myself and God. I'm not trying to win anyone over to my positions on anything. I simply want to be a voice for truth in the wilderness and a beacon for those who are seeking a higher path. In the process, I hope I don't embarrass my children and grandchildren too much.

Grandfather Lee often quoted someone who posed a provocative question: "Will we become the grandfathers of great men, or forever remain their grandsons?" The duty of each generation is to advance the species, I believe, and I am confident our children are raising that generation of great men my Grandfather Lee alluded to. To be their grandfather is incredibly satisfying and fulfilling at this stage of life.

One of our sons, Rich, was kind enough to comment on the interview, and reminded me of the many years Patsy tolerated the late night sessions with the scriptures and the typewriter (long before the computer) while I tried to make myself a useful instrument by attempting to understand the doctrine of Christ with all its gleaming facets. She truly has been a remarkable and patient partner in my pursuits.

In addition, reference to my dear friend Scott Strong came up more than once during our interview. Without Scott's deep and abiding friendship in our mutual love of the scriptures, perhaps neither of us would have gone as "deep" and as "far" as we did in those earlier formative years. So, for his lifelong friendship, example and love, I remain forever grateful and humbled. As I said in the interview, at one point along the way Scott and I commented we must be really "special" sons of God because He was revealing so much to us. Then, in more mature moments we began to realize He was revealing so much because we asked so much and He was merely keeping His promise that to everyone who asked there would be answers.

So, Happy Fifth Birthday to The Goates Notes. I will continue to scribble the notes if you'll continue to read them.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

War Weary America, "Not Again!"

News is coming in this week from Iraq about ISIS, the al Qaeda inspired jihadists who are overrunning the country en route to Baghdad. When one calculates the blood and treasure America has left behind there, it is sad to contemplate how futile our efforts have been in helping to put Iraq back on its feet since the regime of Saddam Hussein was toppled.

Incredibly, today President Barack Obama made a stunning statement. "The world," he asserted, "has never been less violent than it is today." I guess any logical person would have to say that to be true one would have to look at where one was living. As throngs flee the violence and the Iraq army lays down its arms and runs to avoid the confrontation with evil, how could one assert in their situation that the world is less violent?

War will always be with us. I am grieved routinely when I think about the costs in lives it will mean. Yet another round of violence and lawlessness appears ready to explode across the Middle East. All of our interventions of the past to alleviate the suffering have proven futile and ineffective. Freedom, it seems, is never permanent as long as tyrants exert their unchecked influence.

I am reminded that in 2009, the Obama Administration officially declared the end of the use of the term "War on Terrorism". With sober, but flawed, feigned sagacity, the Pentagon declared these "incidents" would be referred to as "Overseas Contingency Operations".

The political fall out since then in foreign policy is nearly incalculable. Consistently looking the other way and ignoring the onward march of evil allows the resulting vacuum to be filled with unsavory characters who are emboldened by America's lack of attention.

I do not advocate, as the hawks in Washington, for "drastic measures". I've seen enough of that, and so have most of us.

One could call it naive, but I think most Americans are past that. As we think about all the work done there to give Iraqis their freedom, and now to see it all being swept away in yet another flood of aggression, who among us would vote for going back to Iraq and giving it another try? I suspect very few.

We are weary of wars and rumors of wars. I always reflect in these sobering moments on the remarkable prophecy on war by Joseph Smith in 1832:

SECTION 87 of The Doctrine and Covenants

Revelation and prophecy on war, given through Joseph Smith, December 25, 1832. History of the Church 1:301-2.

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;
2 And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.
3 For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations.
4 And it shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war.
5 And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation.
6 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;
7 That the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies.
8 Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen.

* * *

The concluding verse is perhaps our key to understanding. While we yearn for peace on earth, there will be no peace until He comes again. The Middle East combatants will not suddenly sit down one day soon and devise a "two-state" solution for the border conflicts extant in Israel. Afghanistan and Iran will not one day suddenly devise a truce with terrorist factions determined to overthrow freedom in every country on earth.

Mark Twain
What we can do, we must to promote peace everywhere we have the chance. I have thought so many times how simple the whole plan of salvation might have been absent that pesky principle of agency. Much as we would like to sometimes, we cannot force our will upon others, only through patience, long-suffering and love unfeigned.

Choices, agency and consequences make up the fabric of our lives. Sometimes the poor choices of others affect us dramatically, particularly when those choices lead to war in all its hues and shapes. It all begins with one individual deciding to make a beginning toward a better tomorrow.

I have no illusions about world peace, but I do know that I can be at peace with myself. Mark Twain once sagely observed, "Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life."

May everyone have an abundance of all three!