Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hillary Clinton: “liar,” “dishonest” and “untrustworthy.”

I don't know when the summer leading up to a presidential election has ever been more interesting (read "strange") than this one. I think someday America will probably have a female president. There, I've said it. But this woman, who has been running for president most of her adult life, now faces the end of the trail.

Hillary Clinton
The smart money on the Democrat side got behind Hillary Clinton early. Then a radical socialist named Bernie Sanders started making headway and he began to nibble away at the Clinton lead. Strange that someone even more polarizing and radical than either Obama or Clinton could make that kind of headway.

Now comes news that her fund raisers are reporting less than enthusiastic support from traditionally reliable sources. Some are aching for Vice-President Joe Biden to get into the race, and even President Obama has reportedly "given his blessing" for another Biden run at the presidency. So much for forgotten pledges to Bill Clinton, who campaigned for Obama in exchange for a Hillary endorsement someday. The political calculus these days for me has become increasingly mystifying, and well, just strange. But some have suggested the Biden pick as VP was a cool political strategy on Obama's part because it insulated him from impeachment - no one would want Joe Biden as the replacement POTUS. Yes, strange.

Yesterday Hillary boasted that she already had 25% of the "super delegates" on the Democrat side already locked up, and she was certain the nomination would be hers. Well, time will tell on that one. Strange she could be so self-assured when her favorability ratings and her polling numbers keep dropping like a rock. She thinks the "fix" is in, but she may just sink her own ship that is beyond fixing.

On the Republican side all the air in the room is being sucked up by Donald Trump. He has been dissed, dismissed, and disassembled a thousand times piece by piece this summer by all the pundits who claim he has "no chance" of winning the nomination, much less the presidency in November 2016, and yet his ascendancy cannot be denied. Strange that someone so bombastic, arrogant and off-putting could somehow tantalize the electorate the way this man has.

Jeb Bush was the presumptive nominee a few weeks ago until Trump got into the race, and since that first debate Bush has been dropping. Three of his fund raisers have already abandoned the ship. That's very strange, given the inevitability of another Bush/Clinton match-up predicted by the political punditry earlier in the summer.

Someone I read yesterday on Twitter suggested to the DC establishment that if they want to stop Trump they should just endorse him. Strange that you've never heard that strategy enunciated in politics before this year. But these are not normal times. The disfavor into which the Republican establishment has dropped keeps finding new bottoms.

The Republican field is deep this year and filled with what one would presume is a talented field. One would think the GOP hierarchy would be licking its chops in glee. Experienced governors and ex-governors with tremendous accomplishments in the field this year would be a campaign organizer's dream come true. Talk about an embarrassment of riches! But this year things are different. Things are very strange this year.

Donald Trump
Topping the early primary polling, of course, is Mr. Trump, followed now by retired brain surgeon Ben Carson, and retired HP CEO Carly Fiorina. It depends of course on who's doing the polling, but the strange thing about the ascendancy of Trump, Carson and Fiorina is that they are political outsiders. It seems Republicans have forsaken their party champions and taken leave of their collective conservative and time-tested reasoning ability and their rational and measured sense of propriety. That's strange indeed to think Trump could be the standard bearer for conservatives.

But maybe, just maybe, what's happening is a collective disenchantment with leadership in the GOP. They made bold promises about standing up against Obama. Republicans swept control of both houses of Congress in 2014, with high hopes the promises made would be promises kept. But their perception seems to be that they got nothing of what they bargained for from either Boehner in the House or McConnell in the Senate. One senses the makings of an uprising in the base.

Maybe in part that's what might explain Trump's ascendancy. His scorched earth policies and rhetoric - maybe the best word is "hyperbole" - have swept across the land like a raging wildfire of pent up anger, especially over illegal immigration. Many are warning of what happened in pre-World War II Europe as millions promoted and embraced Adolph Hitler in the name of German nationalism. That idea, however, seems a little strange to me, since Obama would resemble more of a dictator than Trump. But I said this was a strange summer.

Nevertheless, there are those who see all the familiar earmarks of what's now happening in America in our desperate search for a savior who can deliver America. "Making America Great Again" has struck a responsive chord and Trump has found legs with his slogan this summer. Granted he's a little light on the specifics of HOW he's going to do that, but it seems a refreshing alternative to what Obama has given us in his "transformational change" of nearly everything in America.

People are saying they've had enough of politicians and their promises, period. Somehow, almost mystically it seems, Trump has managed to differentiate himself from lifelong politicians and their promises. He says outrageous things that would doom any other politician and he gets away with it as his poll numbers continue to soar! And that's very strange.

Here's the essence of all this: There was a poll last week that caught my attention. It was done by Quinnipiac, and summarized by Breitbart. The participants in the poll were asked to give the first word that came to their minds when Clinton, Trump and Bush were mentioned.

The top three words used to describe Hillary Clinton were "liar," "dishonest" and "untrustworthy."

And that might be the first thing I've read this summer that was not strange.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Making the Sabbath a Delight

We live in an increasingly dark and dreary world, filled with sin and wickedness almost unimaginable and unspeakable even a few years ago. The latest news broke last week, secret videos exposing Planned Parenthood's selling of fetal tissue - and in some instances, complete bodies of fetuses - to buyers. It should be clear that "Planned Parenthood" is a complete misnomer, since they are in the abortion business and now we learn they are profiting in a black market that is blacker than black. A Senate vote is scheduled for Tuesday to defund the organization, and any moral person would have to conclude their activities must not be underwritten by taxpayer dollars.

Elder Kevin W. Pearson
It's hard to remain an optimist in such a world, but there is at least one way to do that. Elder Kevin Pearson of the Seventy was a speaker in his home ward last week. I got a report of his remarks from my father and sister who were there. He stated in years past when they have gathered at General Conference time in a four-hour training that a host of topics are covered, topics the senior Brethren would like them to take to the far-flung corners of the globe. This year, however, that training centered on one topic only - the Sabbath.

As evidence that the water has flowed into the final furrow on this topic, we heard our bishop address the topic in a recent sacrament meeting where our stake president presided, and then we received instruction from our stake presidency in a letter that was distributed throughout the stake, as follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Kamas Utah Stake, July 2015

We would like to communicate direction we have received from church leaders for each of us to strengthen faith in God by observing the Sabbath day with greater purpose.

Church leaders have felt the importance of encouraging families and individuals to rethink and refocus our efforts on what we do on the Sabbath day. We recently met with Bishoprics and Stake leaders, they in turn have met in Ward Councils to discuss what we can do within our Wards, Branches, families and as individuals to renew our personal and collective worship on the Lord's day. As a Presidency, we have prayed and pondered on this direction and would like to announce the following change to our meeting block order and invite all members of the stake to focus on the Sabbath in the following ways.

First, starting on Fast Sunday August 2nd, we will change, where possible, the order of our meeting schedules so that the Sacrament meeting is first. This is recommended by the leaders of Church so that the sacred sacrament ordinance and the sacrament meeting can begin our block of meetings. Your Bishop or Branch President will announce the specific meeting schedule for your Ward or Branch. Let us use this change as a catalyst to renew our commitment to the Sabbath, such as being on time to Sacrament meeting, increasing our reverence in the chapel, and pondering on the words and meaning of the Sacrament prayers.

Second, between now and August 2nd, we invite and encourage all members of the stake to hold a family council, or personal pondering based on family circumstances, regarding how we can elevate our observance of the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Consider such questions as "What changes can we make to improve our Sabbath observance?" and "What can we do to give the Sabbath back to the Savior?".

Third, on August 2nd, we invite all members of the stake to fast and pray with the unified purpose to improve our Sabbath worship and keep the Lord's day holy. As we fast, let us include a desire to receive an increase in the spirit individually and collectively, and receive the blessings that the Lord has in store for all those who honor Him and strive to keep His Sabbath day holy.

"If thou turn away...from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord...and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure...Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth." Isaiah 58:13-14.

Fourth, we encourage you to view between now and August 2nd, the communication and video from Church leaders on this topic. It is found at this website. Please view the video presentation and read the short overview. This will help set the tone for our fast.

We express our love for you. We testify that we have living prophets today, who lead and guide us, and communicate to us the Lord's will. We know that obedience brings forth the blessings of Heaven. We promise that as we increase our individual and collective observance of the Sabbath day, we will be richly blessed. (emphasis mine).


Mark T. Durham
Howard N. Sorensen
Matthew L. Flinders

* * *

I continue to be grateful for inspired leaders in these last days, filled as those days will be with discouragement and distress on all sides. There seems to be so little peace. The observance and the full embrace of the Sabbath day can provide the nourishment and the refreshment we all need.

I've been reading several articles this morning about the Sabbath, and most come to one conclusion - it should and can be a day of rest and joy. Yes, observing the Sabbath day is the fourth commandment in the list of Ten, but when it is observed with a fullness of heart it should not be oppressive or onerous filled with "shalt nots". Rather than focusing on how our neighbor is or is not observing the Sabbath, let us decide for ourselves what will bring the greatest joy and satisfaction possible to us, and then do those things. I do not suggest a list here. That is for everyone to come to on their own.

When we cease "finding thine own pleasure" on the Sabbath, as Isaiah suggests, then we are free to "delight thyself in the Lord". I have always called the Sabbath "a delight" because it gives me a chance to think about and to do those things that focus on the Lord. It is more than coincidental that God "blessed" the seventh day of creation from the beginning. It was sanctified by Him and consecrated for us as a day in which to rest from our labors and to return our thanks to Him.

July has brought a full house of delightful chaos, as we have had visits from every child and their families. We have loved the noisy squeals of joy as they have played with each other, since so many of our empty nesting days are nothing but dead calm and silence. Now that our home is empty of little children requiring our constant guidance and instruction, we are finding it much easier to spend the day in quiet bliss and pondering on the blessings of the goodness of their lives.

Long forgotten are the hard times, the tears of remorse some shed, the contention and the bickering that too often marred the peace of the Sabbath in years gone by. Now we have nothing but deafening silence to greet us on the dawns of our Sabbaths. Now they are the ones who are giving instruction and guidance to their children, and in every case they are doing much better than we ever did. For that we are constantly grateful, and we express that each time we pray to our Heavenly Father. There is no greater joy than the blessing of a posterity who are trying to do good.

Going to Church on Sunday is only the least part of observing the Sabbath day. I have found much solace in writing my feelings, as I do constantly on this page on a Sunday. As you will note above, our meeting schedule has changed. We might be the last stake on earth that wasn't holding sacrament meeting first in the three-hour block. We're also meeting in the afternoon while the roof on our stake center is replaced and we are lovingly compelled to share our building with another ward that took our morning slot.

All of these structural changes in the Sunday routine call for flexibility and accommodation, but they are all possible because of our abiding faith in the underlying and overarching principles of the purposes of the Sabbath day.

Many years ago I was chairman of the boundary committee in our stake, and we were grappling with some contentious and difficult recommendations about pending changes that involved new boundaries and creating new wards. In the middle of one of those meetings, I reminded the members of the committee, "It doesn't really matter what we do. Faithful saints will show up to worship on top of a mountain at dawn in a tent if that's what the recommendation might be." I was expressing the point of view so many of us know to be true. It is not when and where we worship, so much as it is HOW and WHO we worship. Section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants provides the counsel needed to explain the Sabbath spirit of worship.

Joseph Smith
On this Sabbath day when there will be many "firsts" in our stake, it is my prayer we may all focus on the object of our worship - our Father in Heaven. We worship Him in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost. The Godhead comprise three separate and distinct beings, two corporeal resurrected and glorified beings and a third who is a body of spirit. (See D&C 130:22-23). To them we owe our existence and our happiness because in these last days they have made themselves known to us through modern revelation to a living boy prophet, Joseph Smith. At fourteen years of age he saw them, spoke with them, and his testament stands. The evidence of his divine calling is The Book of Mormon.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work;
But the seventh day, the sabbath of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all in them is; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Mosiah 13:16-19).

Friday, July 3, 2015

Thoughts on Independence, Moral Agency, SSM and Eternal Truth

I've been asked by more than a few followers of this page why I haven't posted anything about the recent ruling of the SCOTUS on same sex marriage. The short answer is that Patsy recently decided to exchange her bad knee for a cobalt steel replacement part, and her surgery and recovery have pre-occupied my free time. Now it's Independence Day weekend and I have a chance to reflect.

The Supreme Court of the United States of America
I find these latest developments in the LGBTQ (yes "Q" has been added - meaning "questioning" my sexuality) agenda to be so ironic. On the one hand we find advocates asserting their independence and exercising their moral agency to choose homosexuality. And on the other hand they could not be more anti-Christ than they are.

It was Christ in the pre-existence who championed our moral agency. We who walk the earth today were there as pre-mortal spirits. We sanctioned the plan of our Father in Heaven, the centerpiece of which was the ability to choose between right and wrong here in mortality. The consequences for our choices are not always immediately in evidence. Sometimes years go by before we reverse course and repent. Knowing there would be universal opposition to the truth, promoted and advocated by Satan and his minions, we accepted the offer of our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, to come to earth, live the perfect life, and sacrifice Himself for all of us to satisfy all the demands of justice under the laws of God. There weren't "two plans" put forward - only one plan - and our Lord and Savior became the Chosen One to implement that plan.

So I find it sadly ironic, because there seems little more that I could offer at this point that I haven't already said on the matter. The plan of salvation, referred to as "the great plan of happiness" (see Alma 42) by Alma, has as the bedrock principle the creation of mortal bodies to house the spirits created by God. In order to bring to pass the immortality and the eternal life of man (see Moses 1:39), God's stated purpose for His existence, we must assist in His work by bringing to pass the mortality of man by providing the mortal bodies for those spirits. Gender identification is also imprinted as part of the plan. Males and females are distinctly unique in the creative process. Each contributes a piece to make a new human body. The two parts are joined together in a holy union, a holy matrimony, to complete the plan.

The perversions around human sexuality are no longer secret, nor spoken in hushed secret corners. In fact, those perversions which until a few years ago were against the laws of most states, are now freely available to all who would choose them. The SCOTUS, make that one justice of the SCOTUS in a 5-4 vote, who wrote the majority opinion, has chosen for the whole nation based upon the popular opinion of the electorate as registered in recent polling data about same sex marriage. I accept the ruling of the SCOTUS as the supreme law of the land in the highest court, even though I would side with those four justices who dissented.

You can herald the triumph of so-called "equal rights" and "equal access" to marriage if you choose - that is your right as well - but this latest decision has little to do with a Constitutional right. This wasn't about the Constitution, observed Chief Justice Roberts, writing in his minority opinion. Roberts correctly observed the Court had overturned the voice of the people who had voted to retain the definition of traditional marriage in the several States through their elected representatives in the Republic established under the Constitution. Nowhere in the Constitution can an "equal right" to gay marriage be found. You won't even find a definition of traditional marriage there. Instead, the Founders wisely left to the States the definitions and resolutions of those kinds of issues. At the federal level, power of, by and through the people's voice has been trampled upon once again.

This was about advancing the anti-Christ agenda, nothing more, nothing less. He didn't say that, I did.

Why anti-Christ? Because the argument that "God made me this way and there's nothing I can do about it," is fundamentally flawed. Those who so assert also claim there is no need to repent of their perversion because God made them that way. "I'm not sinning because there's nothing I can do about the way I am." How convenient. Those of us who were also made by God, by the extension of that reasoning must also get a "free pass" for repentance. We truly live in a day of "live and let live" and "God will beat me with a few stripes in the end" (2 Nephi 28:8) but I'll eventually be saved in my sins because God loves me just as much as He does you. But as scripture reminds us, no one is saved in their sins. (Alma 11:34-37). The subtle rejection of the need for a Redeemer and the need for repentance is what is at the core of the LGBTQ agenda. However, you won't hear it expressed in those terms from them. Being "anti-Christ" isn't subtle enough for them. Instead, they seek to "normalize" the perversion so revulsion evaporates.

The perversions in the flesh are analogous to the perversions they make in the Word. A lawyer asked the Savior a question: "Master which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:35-40).

In the name of "loving our neighbor" tolerance reached its pinnacle under hashtag #lovewins on word of the SCOTUS decision. It may be "love" in the eyes of homosexuals, but it still classifies as perversion as it was in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. The legal definition of love now having been defined by the courts notwithstanding, marriage between a man and a woman is God's law.

I find it nothing short of stunning how quickly this agenda has advanced in public opinion. Even among members of the Church there seems to be a "no big deal" attitude. "If gay people want to get married, that's fine with me, what's the big deal?" they seem to repeat among themselves, as though there will be no consequences for those who have chosen their perversions. The weakening of the moral fiber not only in America but world-wide, is well-documented and now continues without much resistance it seems. What was once the silent sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is now splashed boldly in rainbow colors illuminating the White House.

There is no other word than "stunning" to describe it. People forget that in both elections in 2008 and 2012, President Barack Hussein Obama was elected by stating his support for traditional marriage to avoid risking the alienation of voters in the Hispanic, Black and other religious communities who also favored traditional marriage. And now a rainbow colored White House in celebration of same sex marriage? Well, there you have it. . . that's stunning! You can ask yourselves why it happened so quickly, but the easy answers might be the influence of media, including television sitcoms and the attempts by advocates to "normalize" homosexual behavior. "We're just like you are," they will claim, and being the tolerant neighbor-loving and embracing people we are, and not wanting to be classed as "homophobic" we have come to the conclusion it can't be all that bad. That's how public opinion shifted so easily. One author called it "The Big Gay Lie."

The First Presidency

The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Either this week or the following week, congregations in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be discussing a lengthy letter produced by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We sustain these fifteen men as living prophets, seers and revelators. The topic of their letter to the Church will be the recent SCOTUS decision. Once again members of the Church will be given an opportunity to absorb, digest, discuss, and either support or oppose their leaders on this topic. It is not the first chance, nor will it be the last to weigh in.

The assaults on religious freedom will continue unabated. I would expect the Church to continue to be the bastion of eternal truth it has always been. They constantly warn against being "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of [false] doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." (See Ephesians 4:11-15). These fifteen men are the very reason Apostles were chosen and ordained in the meridian Church by Christ, and they are the modern-day counterparts.

I have read a lot, the ruling itself, all the dissents and much more while Patsy has been rehabbing her new knee. I have seen the comments of a lot of "good" members of the Church on forum boards and their social media postings. There are many who assert that like the question over Blacks receiving the priesthood and even longer ago with the rescission of plural marriage in the late 1800s, the Church will eventually come to its senses and bow to public opinion and political pressure on this issue too. They foresee a day when same sex marriages will be performed in the temples, just as Blacks were eventually granted equal access to all priesthood blessings.

But sadly, they will be wrong. Some say the Church will be on the wrong side of history unless it yields to public pressure. The passage of time will prove otherwise. Unless God has it in His mind to alter the bedrock doctrine of the great plan of happiness that has been revealed since the Creation without equivocation in Holy Writ, this question of "marriage equality" is nothing more than a cleverly crafted sophistry devised by Satan and his minions to separate the man from the woman. Since the plan was announced by our Father in Heaven and Satan opposed it in the pre-mortal council where we all upheld the plan, that has been his aim. (Moses 4:1-4). Don't forget that every single professed homosexual today is the product of the union of a man and a woman. Life is possible in no other way. If Satan succeeds in separating the man from the woman, if he undermines and erodes the underpinnings of traditional marriage, then the Father's announced purpose of His work and His glory can indeed be thwarted. That is Satan's aim, and he is making stunning progress toward achieving it. But in the end, he doesn't win if scripture is to be believed. (See a sampling in Revelation 19-22).

Don't seek to become an erudite so-called "Devil's Advocate". He has plenty of help already. Instead, seek to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ, not an anti-Christ who promotes and hails the LGBTQ agenda under the banner of political progress or equal rights. It is none of that. When you support and encourage their agenda you are in the ranks of the anti-Christs. You can't have this both ways any longer. The gulf between the two worlds is widening and can no longer be straddled comfortably as in the past.

I sound the warning voice here to those of you who are blindly advocating for something you don't fully understand - don't swallow the Kool-Aid by filling up your social media posts with exultation over what appears to be a "victory" for equal rights under the law. There are many examples of morally reprehensible behaviors that are legally protected. Abortion rights might be the most obvious example. This SCOTUS same sex marriage ruling is a short-term victory, like everything else that resembles a Satanic idea in opposition of eternal truth. Here's a sample from the Church's response:

"A family built on marriage of a man and a woman is the best setting for God’s plan of happiness to thrive. That is why communities and nations generally have encouraged and protected marriage between a man and a woman, and the family that results from their union, as privileged institutions. Sexual relations outside of such a marriage are contrary to the laws of God pertaining to morality.

"Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We invite all to review and understand the doctrine contained in 'The Family: A Proclamation to the World.'

"Consistent with our fundamental beliefs, Church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same‐sex marriages. Nevertheless, all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there."

Just as I have exercised my freedom of speech rights here, those of you who oppose my point of view are also free to express your opinion. We are all independent and we are free to choose whatever position we would like. We can do so respectfully but vociferously in whatever forum we elect. Remember, the blessing of moral agency, the freedom to choose and the subsequent consequences that go with those rights are all part of the plan of salvation. All of it has a root in God our Heavenly Father and in His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Redeemer. When you exult in choices outside the parameters of God's perfect plan, please stop to think twice before going further down that path.

I've had occasion recently to review every single entry in the personal journal of President Harold B. Lee. It has provided great insight into the inner workings among the men we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators. As part of that reading I also spent last Sunday re-reading the General Conference sermons of all the General Authorities during the 18-months tenure of President Lee. I discovered this statement in the General Priesthood Meeting of October 1972:

President Harold B. Lee, 1972
"I want to warn this great body of priesthood against that great sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, which has been labeled as a sin second only in seriousness to the sin of murder. I speak of the sin of adultery, which, as you know, was the name used by the Master as he referred to unlicensed sexual sins of fornication as well as adultery; and besides this, the equally grievous sin of homosexuality, which seems to be gaining momentum with social acceptance in the Babylon of the world, of which Church members must not be a part.

"While we are in the world, we must not be of the world. Any attempts being made by the schools or places of entertainment to flaunt sexual perversions, which can do nothing but excite to experimentation, must find among the priesthood in this church a vigorous and unrelenting defense through every lawful means that can be employed.

"The common judges of Israel, our bishops and stake presidents, must not stand by and fail to apply disciplinary measures within their jurisdiction, as set forth plainly in the laws of the Lord and procedures as set forth in plain and simple instructions that cannot be misunderstood. Never must we allow supposed mercy to the unrepentant sinner to rob the justice upon which true repentance from sinful practices is predicated."

Note in his statement, there is no "special class" that eludes the demands of justice because "I was born this way." As President Lee suggested way back then, "every lawful means" to oppose same sex marriage has been undertaken, and time and again the courts have struck down those attempts. Losing in the court of public opinion, however, is no new development the Church is seeing for the first time. It has been the unrelenting reality of the Church's existence since 1830. The Savior faced rejection daily during His mortal ministry. The rejection of the world is the inherent theme of walking the straight and narrow path leading to the tree of life, and those who mock today may find in their ranks the members of the Church who have been deceived even when they were once among "the very elect". (See 1 Nephi 11-14; D&C 45:57-59; Matthew 24:24; JST Matthew 22; 37; D&C 33:16-18).

One son asked me last week if this assault on religious liberty would force the Latter-day Saints into the seclusion of our religious practice in our homes. I reminded him of the Church's missionary mandate. We cannot invite the world to "come unto Christ" by living like cloistered monks behind the protection of the walls of our homes. We as Church members must vigorously defend eternal truth as only found in the revealed word of God. Anything outside that scope, while legal and politically progressive (even correct!), may not be, and often is not, moral.

Even the SCOTUS does not have the final word on the moral code as defined by our Creator.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

If You Knew Then What You Know Now. . .

Image result for jerry sloan
Coach Jerry Sloan
I watched more than a few post-game shows with Jerry Sloan, the legendary coach of the Utah Jazz. When he would get questions like what could the team have done better in that game just completed, his classic response was, "You can't play this game backward. We're getting ready for the next one."

When asked once what he needed to do to beat a certain team after losing badly to them that night, he answered wryly, "Score more points than they do." 

Recently, former Florida Governor, and probable presidential contender, Jeb Bush, younger brother of George W., was asked a dumb question. "Knowing what you know now, would you have gone to war in Iraq?"

Politics aside, and the media's tendency to ask "gotcha" questions in general, I'll bet everyone out there would be a lot smarter then if they knew what they know today.

I'm now 50 years removed from my high school graduation. A lot of water has passed under the bridge to my future I built back in 1965. Were there some bricks in that bridge that I would love to go back and reconstruct today, knowing what I know now? Of course.

Bush was criticized for his bungled answer to that hypothetical. I'm not here to defend Jeb Bush, only to point out what a stupid question it really is.

Knowing what Americans now know about the real Barack Hussein Obama, would we (if we could) go back and ask for a re-do on two presidential elections? TWO?

Knowing what we know now, is there anyone who would have allowed Muhammed Atta and his band of "freedom fighters" (or is it "terrorists"?) to fly hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001?

Knowing what we know now, would George Washington have ever taken on the might of the British Army and Navy?

Knowing what we know now, would anyone have allowed the door to the presidential box at Ford's Theatre to have gone unguarded that night on April 14, 1865, when Lincoln attended?

These are a few examples of decision making. When Presidents and their advisers make decisions, they have enormous consequences that are felt for generations yet to come. They cannot be reversed. We may boldly fly "Mission Accomplished" banners, only to learn our euphoria was premature and ill-advised.

America continues its interminable war against terror. The body count continues to rise. Leaders of the new ISIS (rhymes with "crisis") phenomenon in the Middle East are routinely hunted down and surgically removed in the name of homeland security lest their poisonous tentacles infiltrate America's borders. However, on a larger scale, the fall of Ramadi to ISIS begs the question, "Is there really an American strategy at this juncture?" Nothing changes in the trajectory of nations, it seems, except heightened threats of instability and the potential for nuclear proliferation. Robert Gates, former Defense Secretary under Obama, flatly stated, "There is no strategy in Iraq."

And, oh by the way, those were all existential threats 50 years ago in the "idyllic" times of my youth. We practiced hiding under our desks, and neighbors were building bomb shelters. The protests of the Sixties had all the familiar earmarks of those we witness today. The Vietnam War was the social springboard for anti-war protests, flower children, free love, and psychedelic drugs like LSD and marijuana.

All that seems tame indeed when today we are dealing with Islamic extremists among whom murder is common practice, legalization of marijuana, the infiltration of illegal aliens pouring through our porous borders and flaunting our laws, and those who have advocated "gay marriage" (in quotes because there really is no other way to express that oxymoron in my lexicon) seemingly on the brink of victory in all 50 states pending a POTUS decision that is weeks away. Even conservative Utah Governor Gary Herbert said this week he's keeping "an open mind" about legalizing medical marijuana in Utah.

Some call it "progress" under a "progressive" political agenda. Neanderthal Man that I am, I just call it sin. I know we live in a secular world, surrounded by human secularists on all fronts, but I'm still clinging to my guns and my Bible. I am such a cultural dullard, I guess.

I wonder if some dull-witted reporter in some future day will ask a presidential candidate, "Knowing what you know today, would you vote in favor of gay marriage?" When we put in place a broad and sweeping declaration for marriage equality, when there is nothing "equal" about it, we must imagine there will be consequences.

When we make personal decisions, they may not be as far-reaching in global politics, but in each case those decisions can only be made on the basis of what is known at the time. Imagine what a different life it would be for each of us if we could make a decision where we know the outcome at decision time plus X years out into the future! I know many who would crave that kind of certainty.

There are very real issues that face our country today. The media does not serve the electorate well when they engage in such stupid parlor games with questions like "If you knew today what you didn't know then, would you have decided differently?"

I was thinking back on what my mindset was seven years ago in 2008, then 2010, then 2012, then 2014, when the political pot was boiling with what I thought were massive issues requiring immediate attention. Now, seven years removed from the heat of the battle for the White House in 2008, little has changed on immigration, the massive federal debt, the lack of a balanced budget, not to mention an executive branch usurping constitutional authority reserved to the legislative and the judiciary branches. In fact, much of that troubling agenda I thought about then has only gotten worse.

I was tempted to believe that when the House returned to GOP control there was hope for a brighter future. Then in 2014, the Senate was returned to Republicans as well. Even more cause for hope! But what has happened instead is I have grown older and more weary of the familiar rhetoric. I am heartened with the announcement that we will at least have a federal budget prepared and submitted to the Senate for consideration this year. But the rhetoric is all too familiar, and the results all too predictable.

It seems there are many who are willing to engage in one of life’s favorite fantasies, daydreaming about living one’s life over knowing what one knows now. If it's an idle speculation indulged in on occasions like your 50-year high school graduation, it's harmless enough I suppose. But I would advise against spending too much time on it. You can't have your yesterdays today and make them into something you wish they had been. But you can repent and move forward.

I teach and counsel young people today. I say essentially these same things to them. I counsel them to live well in their youth, to put the building blocks of a sure foundation in place in their lives today while they aren't even thinking about their future too much. Then, as I do now, they can look back without regrets (some, maybe, but not too many). I always treasure the counsel of Mark Twain, who noted: "Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." So I counsel my young friends to surround themselves with those three to prepare them for old age lived serenely.

My takeaway from Jerry Sloan is the bit of advice I pass along today - don't live your life in reverse, going backward to revisit what happened yesterday. If you learned from your past, and hopefully we have all done that, take the lessons learned and move forward. Life must always be lived into the future.

That's where true hope and happiness reside, as we look forward to our next great adventure, not backward on past events.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

"He Was Wounded For Our Transgressions"

Enough days have passed since a recent automobile accident that I can finally write about it. Up until three weeks ago all my near death experiences had involved horses. Now I can add a one-car roll over to that list.

It was a Thursday afternoon, and I was near home on my way from the office. The skies were clear, the air was warm, it was a perfect spring day. The stealthy all-electric Nissan Leaf I was driving was silently humming along. I put the car on cruise control at the posted speed limit, 50 mph. That was my last conscious memory until the car left the highway and started tumbling.

I hit a tree on the passenger side, and the force of the accident flipped it in midair and landed it on all four wheels in the opposite direction I had been traveling. The force of the impact came from the rear, smashing six of my ribs in my back. When the car came to rest I was strapped into my seat belt surrounded by destruction. All the windows were broken and shattered, and the interior was mangled beyond recognition. All the air bags deployed and I found myself in a protective cocoon inside the car. The car was a total loss.

I first moved my hands that had sustained some broken glass scratches and nicks, then my arms and legs, then my neck. I tried to reach for my cell phone, but the pain in my back was excruciating and I couldn't get it out of my pocket. I knew I had broken ribs, but I also knew my spine was not involved. I would live. I didn't lose consciousness throughout the ordeal. A passing motorist called for help on his cell phone and alerted Patsy.

In due time the paramedics arrived with an ambulance and I was transported on a back board with a neck brace to the emergency room at the Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake. The trip was nearly unbearable as I felt every bump in the road and the pain registered in my back.

I will spare the readers all the medical details. Suffice it to say I had never stayed overnight in a hospital in my entire life as a patient. I was told pain management was the only thing medicine had to offer me with my broken ribs. The trauma team put me through a CT scan from head to toe, and discovering no other injuries other than the cracked ribs, offered surgery to mend the bones with titanium plates on the six ribs, but when they described the benefits their case was not compelling enough to me. I opted for no surgery. They loaded me up with eight different meds in varying cocktails until they found a combination and frequency that worked. I was there for three days. Oxygen was added to aid my breathing.

When I left to go home, I discovered everything had changed and I had to begin again with even rudimentary tasks like learning how to go to the bathroom again with regularity. Showering was painful, but efficacious and it felt wonderful. Tiny shards of glass kept appearing as I showered and I meticulously picked them out of my skin. Eating was a chore, and nothing tasted right. My head was spinning. I was light-headed and dizzy. For those who talk about the benefits of masking pain with narcotics, I found them to be the antithesis of a desired life. I was walking with a walker to keep my balance, and I was admonished to practice my deep breathing to avoid pneumonia. Sleeping in a bed was nearly impossible, and I finally gave that up in favor sitting up in an overstuffed couch with pillows bracing my back. I was awake most nights, slept most days, and I found it difficult to discern the difference between night and day. Patsy was setting an alarm every two hours during the night and day to administer my meds.

Then, finally, after a week of all that at home I decided I'd had enough. I told her no more meds. I wanted to discover what my baseline of pain was without the meds, so I quit everything one night to see what would happen. I awoke to discover that I had slept and the pain was tolerable. Soon thereafter I quit the oxygen. By the time I went in for a follow-up exam with my doctor about a week and a half after the accident, I was walking unaided without oxygen and my blood was sustaining normal oxygenation levels again. His comment: "Your speedy recovery is an indication that your underlying health profile is excellent."

Based upon what I had been told at the hospital, I had expected 6 to 8 weeks of agonizing pain in the recovery process. In fact, I had gone back to the office and was driving again after 2 1/2 weeks.

I still feel some pain, but it is manageable. I am sleeping on both sides in bed without pain. My energy and stamina are still lagging, but I feel so blessed. My bruised and broken body is healing rapidly.

The rest of the story is that on scene at the accident site, the tow truck driver who came, along with the paramedics and the local police and volunteer fire department were all members of my ward. Patsy insisted that they give me a blessing before I was transported to the hospital, which they did. Then at the emergency room my sons who were nearby gathered and gave me another priesthood blessing. I was not appointed unto death (see D&C 42:48), and I am still healing and living on in mortality for purposes yet unknown to me. I am so grateful for this merciful deliverance. But for an inch or two here or there in that event, the outcome might have been very different.

Fifteen years ago this week, my mother passed away after a courageous battle with ovarian cancer. I became aware of her presence seated next to me last week in the chapel of the Woodland Ward at our fast and testimony meeting. I felt a distinct impression from her, "The time for us to be reunited is not yet. You have a work yet to do." My father, who still lives and is 93, was less comforting. He reminded me that I had arbitrarily taken away his car keys and sold his car to prevent this very kind of thing from happening to him. And now it had happened to me. Touche, father.

I have no idea what that work might involve, but I know I have gained added perspective on the suffering of our Savior in this Easter season. Never again when I read or sing the words about His broken and bruised body bleeding at every pore will I not personally connect and have immediate recognition of the degree of pain that was inflicted upon Him in the agonizing hours preceding His death and resurrection. While I may never know in full what that pain might have been, I have come to appreciate only in a small part what He must have suffered for each of us.

"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell offers this perspective:

". . . we are told that Jesus took upon Himself the infirmities of all of us in order 'that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.' (Alma 7:12. Italics added.) Being sinless Himself, Jesus could not have suffered for personal sin nor known what such agony is — unless He took upon Him our sins, not only to redeem us and to save us, but also in order that He might know how 'according to the flesh . . . to succor his people according to their infirmities.' A stunning insight!

"Thus the compassion of the divine Jesus for us is not the abstract compassion of a sinless individual who would never so suffer; rather, it is the compassion and empathy of One who has suffered exquisitely, though innocent, for all our sins, which were compounded in some way we do not understand. Though He was sinless, yet He suffered more than all of us. We cannot tell Him anything about suffering. This is one of the inner marvels of the atonement of Jesus Christ!" (Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, 35).

May we come to appreciate and understand what His liberating agony in Gethsemane and on Golgotha might mean to each of us, is my prayer.