Thursday, January 27, 2005

Moving Toward a Socialist Utopia (Part III)

From "Church Welfare Services' Basic Principles" by Marion G. Romney, Ensign, May 1976.

Brothers and sisters, we’ve had a fine presentation this morning from which we can all profit if we will follow the counsel. I have in mind to discuss with you two basic, fundamental principles upon which the Church Welfare Services are founded which we should never forget. They are: first, love—love of God and neighbor—and second, work.

Before doing so, however, I desire to say a word or two about agency. Free agency means the freedom and power to choose and act. Next to life itself, it is man’s most precious inheritance.

Free agency was operative in the spirit world. The gospel plan, as there proposed and adopted, provided that men should enjoy agency in mortality. Satan, with a third of the hosts of heaven, fought it there and lost, but they did not give up their opposition to the principle.

In the Garden of Eden, God endowed Adam and his posterity with free agency. Satan and his followers have, from then until now, sought directly and in every conceivable indirect manner to substitute the principle of force for the principle of free agency.

I suggest we consider what has happened to our agency with respect to contributing to the means used by the bureaucracy in administering government welfare services. In order to obtain these means, one head of state is quoted as saying, "We’re going to take all the money we think is unnecessarily being spent and take it from the 'haves' and give to the 'have nots' that need it so much." (Congressional Record, 1964, p. 6142—Remarks of the President to a Group of Leaders of Organizations of Senior Citizens in the Fish Room, Mar. 24, 1964.)

The difference between having the means with which to administer welfare assistance taken from us and voluntarily contributing it out of our love of God and fellowman is the difference between freedom and slavery.

Now as to the principle of love. In the operation of our Church Welfare Services, such love is to be the motivating power which moves us to give our time, money, and services.

When we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, might, and strength, we will love our brothers as ourselves, and we will voluntarily, in the exercise of our free agency, impart of our substance for their support.

Now about work. Work is just as important to the success of our welfare services as are the first and second great commandments and the preservation of our free agency.

We must ever keep in mind that the First Presidency, in announcing the welfare program in the October 1936 conference, said:

"Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership." (Conference Report, Oct. 1936, p. 3; italics added.)

A year before this statement was made, on October 7, 1935, President Clark, in a special priesthood meeting held in this tabernacle, referring to government gratuities, said:

"The dispensing of these great quantities of gratuities has produced in the minds of hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people in the United States a love for idleness, a feeling that the world owes them a living. It has made a breeding ground for some of the most destructive political doctrines that have ever found any hold in this country of ours, and I think it may lead us into serious political trouble. "I fear," he continued, "we need not be surprised if some blood shall run before we of this nation finally find ourselves."

In his conference address of April 1938, President Clark said this:

"I honor and respect old age. I would not see it suffer from want, not from disease that can be helped. It is entitled to every care, to every act of kindness, to every loving caress which a grateful community and a devoted family can give. I have every sympathy with age. I know the difficulties which age has in fitting into modern, economic life. …

"Some plan must be devised that shall make certain that no aged person shall be cold or go hungry or unclad. But the prime responsibility for supporting an aged parent rests upon his family, not upon society. Ours is not a socialistic or communistic state, where the people are mere vassals to be driven about as animals from one corral to another. We are freemen. So still with us the family has its place and its responsibilities and duties, which are God-given. The family which refuses to keep its own is not meeting its duties. When an aged parent has no family or when the family is itself without means, then society must, as a matter of merest humanity, come to the rescue. This is perfectly clear.

"But it is a far cry from this wise principle to saying that every person reaching a fixed age shall thereafter be kept by the state in idleness. Society owes to no man a life of idleness, no matter what his age. I have never seen one line in Holy Writ that calls for, or even sanctions this. In the past no free society has been able to support great groups in idleness and live free." (CR, Apr. 1938, pp. 106-7.)

And I’ll say to you that no society in the future will ever be able to do so.

And in a private letter five years later, President Clark wrote:

"You must remember that back and behind this whole propaganda of 'pensions', gratuities, and doles to which we are now being subjected, is the idea of setting up in America, a socialistic or communistic state, in which the family would disappear, religion would be prescribed and controlled by the state, and we should all become mere creatures of the state, ruled over by ambitious and designing men."

What has happened during the third of a century since this statement was made testifies to President Clark’s prophetic insight.

Prayer in schools has been dealt a fatal blow. The integrity of the family is being undermined. Unemployment compensation, Medicaid, aid to families with dependent children (AFDC), food stamps, and hundreds of other transfer-payment programs for veterans, widows or widowers, and children are today all supported, totally or in part, by federal and state/local tax revenue.

Little is said or done in these programs about the obligation of parents to care for their own or of recipients to work for what they receive.

The Lord, in the revelations given during the Restoration, and the presidents of the Church since then, have unequivocally and repeatedly declared that our welfare services are to be founded on love and on work.

The Lord said in the revelation recorded in section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants, specified by the Prophet Joseph as being the law of the Church:
"Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer." (D&C 42:42.)

A statement which focuses upon and gives real meaning to what we have been talking about here is the following "Editorial on Labor," written and published by John Taylor in Nauvoo, October 15, 1844. I just found this recently, and I think it’s a marvelous statement. This was way back there just after the Prophet had been martyred. It reads:

"Labor is the manufacturer of wealth. It was ordained of God, as the medium to be used by man to obtain his living [italics added]: hence it is the universal condition of this great bond to live.

"God never meant to bemean his creation, especially his own image, because they had to labor:—no; never; God himself according to the good old book labored on this world, six days; and when Adam was animated from clay to life, by his spirit’s making use of him for a dwelling, we read that God put him into the garden to dress it:—Therefore, in connection with the samples of all holy men, we are bound to honor the laboring man: and despise the idler.

"Let them labor like men, prepare for that august hour; when Babylon and all her worldly wisdom; her various delicacies; and delusive fashions, shall fall with her to rise and trouble the earth no more!" Then he said, "What a glorious prospect, to think that drunken Babylon, the great city of sin, will soon cease, and the kingdom of God rise in holy splendor, upon her ashes, and the people serve God in a perpetual union!" (Times and Seasons 5:679, Oct. 15, 1844.)

Now, my brothers and sisters, the handwriting is on the wall; "the interpretation thereof [is] sure." (Dan. 2:45.) Both history and prophecy—and I may add, common sense—bear witness to the fact that no civilization can long endure which follows the course charted by bemused manipulators and now being implemented as government welfare programs all around the world.

Babylon shall be destroyed, and great shall be the fall thereof. (See D&C 1:16.)

But do not be discouraged. Zion will not go down with her, because Zion shall be built on the principles of love of God and fellowman, work, and earnest labor, as God has directed.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Moving Toward a Socialist Utopia (Part II)

More from the Church Leaders on the dangers of socialism/communism....

From "America's Promise" by Marion G. Romney, Ensign, Sept. 1979:

"In distinguishing communism from the United Order, President David O. McKay said that communism is Satan’s counterfeit for the gospel plan, and that it is an avowed enemy of the God of the land. Communism is the greatest anti-Christ power in the world today and therefore the greatest menace not only to our peace but to our preservation as a free people. By the extent to which we tolerate it, accommodate ourselves to it, permit ourselves to be encircled by its tentacles and drawn to it, to that extent we forfeit the protection of the God of this land."

From “Farewell to a Prophet” by Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, July 1994:

"I was at the Swiss Temple in 1955 when it was dedicated by President David O. McKay. Brother Benson was there. President Harold Gregory of the Berlin Mission was able to bring a company of Saints to the temple on that occasion. I will never forget what I witnessed. When they saw Brother Benson, they ran to him and they embraced one another, with tears rolling down their cheeks and tears rolling down his cheeks. Ten years earlier he had come almost as an angel from heaven with food when they were hungry and with hope when they were desperate.

"I am confident that it was out of what he saw of the bitter fruit of dictatorship that he developed his strong feelings, almost hatred, for communism and socialism. That distaste grew through the years as he witnessed the heavy-handed oppression and suffering of the peoples of eastern Europe under what he repeatedly described as godless communism.

"These experiences further strengthened his love for the land of his birth. He had grown up in big sky country, where there was a spirit of freedom and independence. He had grown up in the tradition of his forebears, who spoke reverently of those who were raised up by the Almighty to establish this nation and who had pledged 'their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor' to the cause of liberty. He never got over his boyhood love for freedom. Rather it grew within him, nurtured by what he saw of oppression in other lands and by what he observed firsthand of a growing dominance of government in this land over the lives of the people."


From “Work and Welfare: A Historical Perspective” by Marion G. Romney, Ensign, May 1982:

"Some fifty years ago, when the Church launched its welfare program, President Heber J. Grant stated, as was quoted by the former speaker: 'Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self-respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.'"(In Conference Report, Oct. 1936, p. 3.)
"A few years ago I read a lengthy book dealing with the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire. That fall, in large measure, was due to the purchasing of votes with unearned benefits, such as entertainment, circuses, and food. The government’s actions built up in the people an expectation and demand which eventually could be kept down only by the establishment of a dictatorship. Many of our members live in countries where this history has repeated itself. In the United States, our treasured American work ethic is waning and the purchasing of votes with unearned benefits is dangerously common."

"...One of the most demeaning things a government can do is to teach people that the government owes them a living."

More to come.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Moving Toward a Socialist Utopia (Part I)

I watch in horror as the communistic/socialistic mindset and way of life are engulfing much of the Western world, and often at the urgent request of its citizens. Even many Latter-day Saints are confusing this diabolical counterfeit with the Lord's own United Order. But what do the Prophets teach us? I have done much reading on the subject, and though much of the work might be considered by some as "dated" I believe the words of the Prophets of this dispensation are worthy of our respect. I would like to start with a classic talk from President Ezra Taft Benson, who warns us that our freedom is being threatened as never before.

From "A Witness and a Warning," by Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1979.

The Lord has declared this "a day of warning, and not a day of many words" (D&C 63:58). My message is a witness and warning about some of the evils which threaten America—a land I love with all my heart. There are other countries with this same problem. You who have seen these dangers in the land you love will have a deep feeling for what I will say.

America is a place of many great events. Here is where Adam dwelt, where the Garden of Eden was located. America was the place of former civilizations, including Adam’s, the Jaredites’, and Nephites’. America is also the place where God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith, inaugurating the last gospel dispensation on earth before the Savior’s second coming.

This consecrated land has been placed under the everlasting decree of God. That decree is recorded in the sacred Book of Mormon, a new witness for Christ, in these words: "For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. … Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ" (Ether 2:10, 12).

The eventful destiny of America has also been revealed to God’s prophets. To Joseph Smith the Lord revealed that "the whole of America is Zion itself from north to south" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938, p. 362). Further, the Lord decreed this land to be "the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, … the holy sanctuary of the Lord" (Ether 13:3). To serve God’s eternal purposes and to prepare this land for Zion, God "established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom [He] raised up … and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood" (D&C 101:80).

The Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789. The priesthood of God was restored in 1829. Between those two dates is an interval of forty years. It is my conviction that God, who knows the end from the beginning, provided that period of time so the new nation could grow in strength to protect the land of Zion.

In the decade prior to the restoration of the gospel, many countries of South America fought wars of independence to free themselves from European rule. Russia, Austria, and Prussia, however, urged France to aid Spain and Portugal to restore their monarchies in South America. This effort was repulsed by a proclamation from the United States government known as the Monroe Doctrine. The heart of the Monroe Doctrine consists of these words: "The American continents … are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers."

The Lord had promised, "I will fortify this land against all other nations" (2 Ne. 10:12). President Joseph Fielding Smith said that "the greatest and most powerful fortification in America is the 'Monroe Doctrine.' … It was the inspiration of the Almighty which rested upon John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson and other statesmen, and which finally found authoritative expression in the message of James Monroe to Congress in the year 1823" (The Progress Of Man, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., pp. 466–67).

Thus, in that four-decade period the United States had grown to sufficient strength that she was able to provide a cradle of liberty for the restored Church of Jesus Christ.

But whenever the God of heaven reveals His gospel to mankind, Satan, the archenemy to Christ, introduces a counterfeit.

Isaiah foresaw the time when a marvelous work and a wonder would come forth among men. Isaiah also predicted there would be those who would "seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us?" He saw the time when the work shall say of him that made it, "He made me not" (Isa. 29:15–16).

It is well to ask, what system established secret works of darkness to overthrow nations by violent revolution? Who blasphemously proclaimed the atheistic doctrine that God made us not? Satan works through human agents. We need only look to some of the ignoble characters in human history who were contemporary to the restoration of the gospel to discover fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. I refer to the infamous founders of Communism and others who follow in their tradition.

Communism introduced into the world a substitute for true religion. It is a counterfeit of the gospel plan. The false prophets of Communism predict a utopian society. This, they proclaim, will only be brought about as capitalism and free enterprise are overthrown, private property abolished, the family as a social unit eliminated, all classes abolished, all governments overthrown, and a communal ownership of property in a classless, stateless society established.

Since 1917 this godless counterfeit to the gospel has made tremendous progress toward its objective of world domination.

Today, we are in a battle for the bodies and souls of man. It is a battle between two opposing systems: freedom and slavery, Christ and anti-Christ. The struggle is more momentous than a decade ago, yet today the conventional wisdom says, "You must learn to live with Communism and to give up your ideas about national sovereignty." Tell that to the millions—yes, the scores of millions—who have met death or imprisonment under the tyranny of Communism! Such would be the death knell of freedom and all we hold dear. God must ever have a free people to prosper His work and bring about Zion.


On 3 July 1936, the First Presidency published this warning to Church members:
"Communism is not a political party nor a political plan under the Constitution; it is a system of government that is the opposite of our Constitutional government. … Since Communism, established, would destroy our American Constitutional government, to support Communism is treasonable to our free institutions, and no patriotic American citizen may become either a Communist or supporter of Communism. … We call upon all Church members completely to eschew [shun] Communism. The safety of our divinely inspired Constitutional government and the welfare of our Church imperatively demand that Communism shall have no place in America" (signed: Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O. McKay, The First Presidency, in Deseret News, 3 July 1936; italics added).

More recently, President Marion G. Romney, in the First Presidency Message in the September 1979 Ensign, wrote: "Communism is Satan’s counterfeit for the gospel plan, and … it is an avowed enemy of the God of the land. Communism is the greatest anti-Christ power in the world today and therefore the greatest menace not only to our peace but to our preservation as a free people. By the extent to which we tolerate it, accommodate ourselves to it, permit ourselves to be encircled by its tentacles and drawn to it, to that extent we forfeit the protection of the God of this land" (p. 5).

The truth is, we have to a great extent accommodated ourselves to Communism—and we have permitted ourselves to become encircled by its tentacles. Though we give lip service to the Monroe Doctrine, this has not prevented Cuba from becoming a Soviet military base, ninety miles off our coastline, nor has it prevented the takeover of Nicaragua in Central America, the surrender of the Panama Canal, or the infiltration by enemy agents within our American borders.

Never before has the land of Zion appeared so vulnerable to so powerful an enemy as the Americas do at present. And our vulnerability is directly attributable to our loss of active faith in the God of this land, who has decreed that we must worship Him or be swept off. Too many Americans have lost sight of the truth that God is our source of freedom—the Lawgiver—and that personal righteousness is the most important essential to preserving our freedom. So, I say with all the energy of my soul that unless we as citizens of this nation forsake our sins, political and otherwise, and return to the fundamental principles of Christianity and of constitutional government, we will lose our political liberties, our free institutions, and will stand in jeopardy before God.

No nation which has kept the commandments of God has ever perished, but I say to you that once freedom is lost, only blood—human blood—will win it back.

There are some things we can and must do at once if we are to stave off a holocaust of destruction.

First: We must return to worship the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ. He has promised that the righteous will be preserved by His power (see 1 Ne. 22:17). But we must keep the commandments of God. We must pay our tithes and offerings, keep the Sabbath day a holy day, stay morally clean, be honest in all our dealings, and have our family and personal prayers. We must live the gospel.

Second: We must awaken to "a sense of [our] awful situation, because of this secret combination which [is] among [us]" (Ether 8:24). We must not tolerate accommodation with or appeasement toward the false system of Communism. We must demand of our elected officials that we not only resist Communism, but that we will take every measure to prevent its intrusion into this hemisphere. It is vital that we invoke the Monroe Doctrine.

Then we must put our trust in Him who has promised us His protection—and pray that He will intervene to preserve our freedom just as He intervened in our obtaining it in the first place.

Third: We must do as the Lord commanded us by revelation in 1833: "Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil" (D&C 98:10).

Men who are wise, good, and honest, who will uphold the Constitution of the United States in the tradition of the Founding Fathers, must be sought for diligently. This is our hope to restore government to its rightful role.

Last: We must study the inspired Constitution and become involved in the political process ourselves. I quote the First Presidency statement that was read in sacrament meetings on Sunday, 1 July 1979: "We encourage all members, as citizens of the nation, to be actively involved in the political process, and to support those measures which will strengthen the community, state, and nation—morally, economically, and culturally" (Letter from the First Presidency, 29 June 1979).

I fully believe that we can turn things around in America if we have the determination, the morality, the patriotism, and the spirituality to do so.

My single-minded concern is for the freedom and welfare of my countrymen and my posterity, the freedom of all men.

I testify to you that God’s hand has been in our destiny. I testify that freedom as we know it today is being threatened as never before in our history. I further witness that this land—the Americas—must be protected, its Constitution upheld, for this is a land foreordained to be the Zion of our God. He expects us as members of the Church and bearers of His priesthood to do all we can to preserve our liberty.
May God bless us that, with His help, we will not fail to bring to pass His purposes on earth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Although many would like to believe that the "Cold War" is over, and that the "Communist Threat" is gone, I believe that the adversary has just become more subtle than ever. His substitutes may be toned down a bit, but socialism has crept through Europe and Canada, and here in the U.S. as well. The same strategy of encouraging dependence on the state, rather than self-reliance, and on renouncing the laws of God, and dismantling the family as the basic unit of society are in effect more than ever. We are still very much in danger of losing our freedom of religion, as well as freedom of speech, from the loud protests of the very vocal minority. We must raise our voices in unison above theirs to return this land to its God-inspired foundations. We must also realize, as Latter-day Saints, that the world's image of a godless social utopia is no substitute for the United Order. (More to come on that!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Religious Values and Public Policy

From "Religious Values and Public Policy" by Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, Oct. 1992.

Last April my Church duties took me to Albania. Elder Hans B. Ringger and I were some of the first Western visitors to that newly opened country. We conferred with government officials about the reception our church’s missionaries would receive in Albania, which had banned all churches in 1967. They told us the government regretted its actions against religion, and that it now welcomed churches back to Albania. One explained, "We need the help of churches to rebuild the moral base of our country, which was destroyed by communism." During the past months I have heard this same reaction during discussions with government and other leaders in Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine.

In contrast, consider what we hear about religion from some prominent persons in the United States. Some question the legitimacy of religious-based values in public policy debates. Some question the appropriateness of churches or religious leaders taking any public position on political issues. Provoked by that contrast, I will use this occasion to speak about the role of religion-based values and religious leaders in public policy debates.

Questions of Right and Wrong
Fundamental to the role of religion in public policy is this most important question: Are there moral absolutes?

Speaking to our BYU students earlier this year, President Rex E. Lee said:
"I cannot think of anything more important than for each of you to build a firm, personal testimony that there are in this life some absolutes, things that never change, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. They are eternal truths, eternal principles and, as Paul tells us, they are and will be the same yesterday, today, and forever."

Unfortunately, other educators deny the existence of God or deem God irrelevant to the human condition. Persons who accept this view deny the existence of moral absolutes. They maintain that right and wrong are relative concepts, and morality is merely a matter of personal choice or expediency. For example, a university professor reported that her students lacked what she called "moral common sense." She said they believed that "there was no such thing as right or wrong, just good or bad arguments." In that view, even the most fundamental moral questions have at least two sides, and every assertion of right or wrong is open to debate.

I believe that these contrasting approaches underlie the whole discussion of religious values in public policy. Many differences of opinion over the role of religion in public life simply mirror a difference of opinion over whether there are moral absolutes. But this underlying difference is rarely made explicit. It is as if those who assume that all values are relative have established their assumption by law or tradition and have rendered illegitimate the fundamental belief of those who hold that some values are absolute.

One of the consequences of shifting from moral absolutes to moral relativism in public policy is that this produces a corresponding shift of emphasis from responsibilities to rights. Responsibilities originate in moral absolutes. In contrast, rights find their origin in legal principles, which are easily manipulated by moral relativism. Sooner or later the substance of rights must depend on either the voluntary fulfillment of responsibilities or the legal enforcement of duties. When our laws or our public leaders question the existence of absolute moral values, they undercut the basis for the voluntary fulfillment of responsibilities, which is economical, and compel our society to rely more and more on the legal enforcement of rights, which is expensive.

Some moral absolutes or convictions must be at the foundation of any system of law. This does not mean that all laws are so based. Many laws and administrative actions are simply a matter of wisdom or expediency. But many laws and administrative actions are based upon the moral standards of our society. If most of us believe that it is wrong to kill or steal or lie, our laws will include punishment for those acts. If most of us believe that it is right to care for the poor and needy, our laws will accomplish or facilitate those activities. Society continually legislates morality. The only question is whose morality and what legislation.

In the United States, the moral absolutes are the ones derived from what we refer to as the Judeo-Christian tradition, as set forth in the Bible—Old Testament and New Testament.

Despite ample evidence of majority adherence to moral absolutes, some still question the legitimacy of a moral foundation for our laws and public policy. To avoid any suggestion of adopting or contradicting any particular religious absolute, some secularists argue that our laws must be entirely neutral, with no discernable relation to any particular religious tradition. Such proposed neutrality is unrealistic, unless we are willing to cut away the entire idea that there are moral absolutes.

Of course, not all moral absolutes are based on traditional religion. A substantial segment of society has subscribed to the environmental movement, which Robert Nisbet, a distinguished American sociologist, has characterized as a "national religion," with a "universalized social, economic, and political agenda." So far as I am aware, there has been no responsible public challenge to the legitimacy of laws based on the environmentalists’ set of values. I don’t think there should be. My point is that religious values are just as legitimate as those based on any other comprehensive set of beliefs.

Religion and the Public Sector
Let us apply these thoughts to the role of religions, churches, and church leaders in the public sector.

Some reject the infusion of religious-based values in public policy by urging that much of the violence and social divisiveness of the modern world is attributable to religious controversies. But all should remember that the most horrible moral atrocities of the twentieth century in terms of death and human misery have been committed by regimes that are unambiguously secular, not religious.

Even though we cannot reject religious values in law-making on the basis of their bad record by comparison with other values, there are examples of hostility to religious values in the public sector. For example, less than a decade ago, the United States Department of Justice challenged a federal judge’s right to sit on a case involving the Equal Rights Amendment on the ground that his religious views would prejudice him. The judge was Marion Callister. The religious views were LDS. In that same decade, the American Civil Liberties Union took the position that any pro-life abortion law was illegitimate because it must necessarily be founded on religious belief.

I have read serious academic arguments to the effect that religious people can participate in public debate only if they conceal the religious origin of their values by translating them into secular dialect. In a nation committed to pluralism, this kind of hostility to religion should be legally illegitimate and morally unacceptable. It is also irrational and unworkable, for reasons explained by BYU law professor Frederick Mark Gedicks:

"Secularism has not solved the problem posed by religion in public life so much as it has buried it. By placing religion on the far side of the boundary marking the limit of the real world, secularism prevents public life from taking religion seriously. Secularism does not teach us to live with those who are religious; rather, it demands that we ignore them and their views. Such a 'solution' can remain stable only so long as those who are ignored acquiesce in their social situation."

Fortunately, the Supreme Court has never held that citizens could not join together to translate their moral beliefs into laws or public policies even when those beliefs are derived from religious doctrine. Indeed, there are many sophisticated and articulate spokesmen for the proposition that the separation of church and state never intended to exclude religiously grounded values from the public square. For example, I offer the words of Richard John Neuhaus:

"In a democracy that is free and robust, an opinion is no more disqualified for being 'religious' than for being atheistic, or psychoanalytic, or Marxist, or just plain dumb. There is no legal or constitutional question about the admission of religion to the public square; there is only a question about the free and equal participation of citizens in our public business. Religion is not a reified 'thing' that threatens to intrude upon our common life. Religion in public is but the public opinion of those citizens who are religious. As with individual citizens, so also with the associations that citizens form to advance their opinions. Religious institutions may understand themselves to be brought into being by God, but for the purposes of this democratic polity they are free associations of citizens. As such, they are guaranteed the same access to the public square as are the citizens who comprise them."

Read the full text here.

Monday, January 10, 2005

"Settle This in Your Hearts"

From "Settle This in Your Hearts," by Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, Nov. 1992.

Eighteen years ago from this same pulpit, I pled with those who stood indecisively on the "porch" of the Church to come fully inside. Today my plea is to those members already inside but whose discipleship is casual, individuals whom we love, whose gifts and talents are much needed in building the kingdom!

Any call for greater consecration is, of course, really a call to all of us. But these remarks are not primarily for those who are steadily striving and who genuinely seek to keep God’s commandments and yet sometimes fall short. (See D&C 46:9.) Nor is this primarily for those few in deliberate noncompliance, including some who cast off on intellectual and behavioral bungee cords in search of new sensations, only to be jerked about by the old heresies and the old sins.

Such members accept callings but not all of the accompanying responsibilities; hence, their Church chores must often be done by those already "anxiously engaged." Some regard themselves as merely "resting" in between Church callings. But we are never in between as to this soaring call from Jesus: "What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am." (3 Ne. 27:27; see Matt. 5:48; 3 Ne. 12:48.) It is never safe to rest regarding that calling! In fact, being "valiant" in one’s testimony of Jesus includes striving to become more like Him in mind, heart, and attributes. (D&C 76:79.) Becoming this manner of men and women is the ultimate expression of orthodoxy!

All are free to choose, of course, and we would not have it otherwise. Unfortunately, however, when some choose slackness, they are choosing not only for themselves, but for the next generation and the next. Small equivocations in parents can produce large deviations in their children! Earlier generations in a family may have reflected dedication, while some in the current generation evidence equivocation. Sadly, in the next, some may choose dissension as erosion takes its toll.

Some of these otherwise honorable members mistakenly regard the Church as an institution, but not as a kingdom. They know the doctrines of the kingdom, but more as a matter of recitation than of real comprehension.

One common characteristic of the honorable but slack is their disdain for the seemingly unexciting duties of discipleship, such as daily prayer, regular reading of the scriptures, attendance at sacrament meeting, paying a full tithe, and participating in the holy temples. Such disdain is especially dangerous in today’s world of raging relativism and of belching sensualism, a world in which, if many utter the name of Deity at all, it is only as verbal punctuation or as an expression of exclamation, not adoration!

In contrast, those sincerely striving for greater consecration neither cast off their commitments nor the holy garment. They avoid obscenity, keep the law of chastity, pay their tithes, and love and serve their spouses and children. As good neighbors, they "bear one another’s burdens," "mourn with those that mourn," "comfort those … in need of comfort," and valiantly "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places." (Mosiah 18:8–9.)

When the determination is first made to begin to be more spiritually settled, there is an initial vulnerability: it is hard to break with the past. But once we begin, we see how friends who would hold us back spiritually are not true friends at all. Any chiding from them reflects either resentment or unconscious worry that somehow they are being deserted. In any attempt to explain to them, our tongue is able to speak only "the smallest part." (Alma 26:16.) We continue to care for them, but we care for our duty to God more. Brigham Young counseled candidly: "Some do not understand duties which do not coincide with their natural feelings and affections. … There are duties which are above affection." (Journal of Discourses, 7:65.)

Unfortunately, we tend to think of consecration only in terms of property and money. But there are so many ways of keeping back part. One might be giving of money and time and yet hold back a significant portion of himself. One might share talents publicly yet privately retain a particular pride. One might hold back from kneeling before God’s throne and yet bow to a particular gallery of peers. One might accept a Church calling but have his heart more set on maintaining a certain role in the world.

Still others find it easier to bend their knees than their minds. Exciting exploration is preferred to plodding implementation; speculation seems more fun than consecration, and so is trying to soften the hard doctrines instead of submitting to them. Worse still, by not obeying, these few members lack real knowing. (See John 7:17.) Lacking real knowing, they cannot defend their faith and may become critics instead of defenders!

A few of the latter end up in the self-reinforcing and self-congratulating Hyde Park corner of the Church, which they provincially mistake for the whole of the Church, as if London’s real Hyde Park corner were Parliament, Whitehall, Buckingham Palace, and all of England combined!

Only greater consecration will cure ambivalence and casualness in any of us! As already noted, the tutoring challenges arising from increased consecration may be severe but reflect the divine mercy necessary to induce further consecration. (See Hel. 12:3.) If we have grown soft, hard times may be necessary. Deprivation may prepare us for further consecration, though we shudder at the thought. If we are too easily contented, God may administer a dose of divine discontent. His long-suffering thus becomes very necessary to maximize our agency and development. But He is not an indulgent Father.

We "cannot bear all things now," but the Lord "will lead [us] along," as we "give place" in our thoughts and schedules and "give away" our sins, which are the only ways we can begin to make room to receive all that God can give us. (D&C 78:18; D&C 50:4; Alma 32:27, 28; Alma 22:18.)

Consecration is the only surrender which is also a victory. It brings release from the raucous, overpopulated cell block of selfishness and emancipation from the dark prison of pride. Yet instead of striving for greater consecration, it is so easy to go on performing casually in halfhearted compliance as if hoping to "ride to paradise on a golf cart." (Henry Fairlie, The Seven Deadly Sins, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979, p. 125.)

But is being consecrated and "swallowed up" a threat to our individuality? (See Mosiah 15:7.) No! Heavenly Father is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new and the real self. It is not a question of losing our identity but of finding our true identity!

When, at last, we are truly pointed homeward, then the world’s pointing fingers of scorn can better be endured. As we come to know to Whom we belong, the other forms of belonging cease to mean very much. Likewise, as Jesus begins to have a real place in our lives, we are much less concerned with losing our places in the world. When our minds really catch hold of the significance of Jesus’ atonement, the world’s hold on us loosens. (See Alma 36:18.)

Increased consecration is not so much a demand for more hours of Church work as it is for more awareness of Whose work this really is! For now, consecration may not require giving up worldly possessions so much as being less possessed by them.

True orthodoxy thus brings safety and felicity! It is not only correctness but happiness. Strange, isn’t it, even the very word orthodoxy has fallen into disfavor with some? As society gets more and more flaky, a few rush forward to warn shrilly against orthodoxy!

Remember how, with Pharaoh’s angry army in hot pursuit, ancient Israel aligned themselves with the Lord’s instructions? Moses stretched forth his hand and the Red Sea parted. With towering walls of water on each side, Israel walked through the narrow passage obediently, and no doubt quickly! There were no warnings about conforming on that day!

There are passages ahead which will require similar obedience, as prophets lead the "men [and women] of Christ" in a straight and narrow course.

Becoming more like Jesus in thought and behavior is not grinding and repressing, but emancipating and discovering! Unorthodoxy in behavior and intellect is just the opposite. A little pornography may lead not only to child and spouse abuse, but it slowly sucks out the marrow of self-esteem. A little tendency to gossip can lead not only to bearing serious false witness, but more often to malicious whispers which, unfortunately, "memory will warehouse as a shout." (C. S. Lewis, The Quotable Lewis, ed. Owen Barfield and Jerry Root, Wheaton, Ill.: Tindale Publications, 1989, p. 425.) A little criticism of the Brethren, which seems harmless enough, may not only damage other members but can even lead to one’s setting himself up as a substitute "light unto the world." (2 Ne. 26:29.) Yes, happily, some such prodigals do come back, but they usually walk alone, unaccompanied by those they once led astray!

Jesus counseled His disciples, "Wherefore, settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you." (JST, Luke 14:28.) Getting thus settled precedes consecration. The Prophet Joseph Smith said gospel knowledge "does away with darkness, suspense, and doubt" and how "there is no pain so awful as that of suspense." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 288.) Being settled keeps us from responding to every little ripple of dissent as if it were a tidal wave. We are to be disciples, not oscillators, like a "reed shaken with the wind." (Matt. 11:7.) More members need the immense relief and peace which can come from being "settled" without which those individuals will be like "the troubled sea, when it cannot rest." (Isa. 57:20.)

There is another special reason to become settled: we will live in a time in which "all things shall be in commotion." (D&C 88:91; D&C 45:26.) The uncertainties, upheavals, and topsy-turviness of today’s world will be such that those who vacillate and equivocate will be tossed about by severe turbulence.

Finally, if we shrink from deeper consecration, then we are not worthy of Him who, for our sake, refused to "shrink" in the midst of His deepening agony during the Atonement! (D&C 19:18.) Instead, Jesus pressed forward, giving His all and completing His marvelous "preparations unto the children of men." (D&C 19:19.)

Consider, what if Jesus’ Mortal Messiahship had consisted only of remarkable sermons? Or was further enhanced with healings and other miracles—but without Gethsemane’s and Calvary’s awful but consecrated hours of the Atonement? How then would we regard Jesus’ ministry? Where would mankind be?

Brothers and sisters, whatever we embrace instead of Jesus and His work will keep us from qualifying to enter His kingdom and therefore from being embraced by Him. (See Morm. 6:17.)

May we get settled and prepare now for that marvelous moment then, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

I have been hearing from various places the question of why God, if he exists, allows such suffering as the current disaster with the earthquake/tsunami, and with the death toll up to at least 155,000 people, it is a very good question.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said this:
"One cannot look at suffering, regardless of its causes or origins, without feeling pain and compassion. I can understand why someone who lacks an eternal perspective might see the horrifying news footage of starving children and man’s inhumanity to man and shake a fist at the heavens and cry, 'If there is a God, how could he allow such things to happen?'"

"The answer is not easy, but it isn’t that complicated, either. God has put his plan in motion. It proceeds through natural laws that are, in fact, God’s laws. Since they are his, he is bound by them, as are we. I recognize for purposes we mortals may not understand, the Lord can control the elements. For the most part, however, he does not cause but he allows nature to run its course. In this imperfect world, bad things sometimes happen. The earth’s rocky underpinnings occasionally shift and move, resulting in earthquakes. Certain weather patterns cause hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and drought."

(Answers to Life's Questions, Ensign, May 1995)

Not a bad answer, but I remember reading something long ago from Joseph Fielding Smith where he stated that God allows suffering so that our hearts will be turned to Him. I wanted to know more about the spiritual reasons for suffering. I found this talk, "Adversity" by Elder Dallin H. Oaks Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Adversity will be a constant or occasional companion for each of us throughout our lives. We cannot avoid it. The only question is how we will react to it. Will our adversities be stumbling blocks or stepping-stones?

Father Lehi taught his son Jacob that in order to bring to pass righteousness, the Lord’s plan allowed for wickedness. In order for God’s children to appreciate joy, they must also be subject to misery (see 2 Ne. 2:23). To accomplish the purposes of God, there must needs be "an opposition in all things" (2 Ne. 2:11). Our adversities are part of that opposition. Elder Howard W. Hunter explained the principle in a general conference address many years ago:

"We came to mortal life to encounter resistance. It was part of the plan for our eternal progress. Without temptation, sickness, pain, and sorrow, there could be no goodness, virtue, appreciation for well-being, or joy" ("God Will Have a Tried People," Ensign, May 1980, 25).

Some adversities are individual. Others are common to large numbers of our Heavenly Father’s children. During the past decade there have been many examples of large-scale adversities affecting tens or hundreds of thousands or millions. Only a few can be mentioned. In addition to wars in many nations, we have had earthquakes in Japan, California, China, Armenia, and Mexico; hurricanes or tornadoes in Florida and the central United States; volcanic eruptions in the Philippines; flooding in India and North America; and famine and pestilence in Africa and elsewhere.

These huge catastrophes are tragedies, but they may have another significance. The Lord uses adversities to send messages to his children. Isaiah prophesied that in the last days the Lord would visit all nations with great natural disasters (see Isa. 29:6; 2 Ne. 27:1–2). In modern revelation, the Lord speaks of calling upon the nations of the earth by the mouth of his servants and also "by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind" (D&C 43:25). In another revelation, the Lord tells those he has called to teach the gospel:

"After your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, …

"And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.

"And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people" (D&C 88:89–91).

Surely these great adversities are not without some eternal purpose or effect. They can turn our hearts to God. Nephi was told that the natural enemies of his descendants would be "a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me" (2 Ne. 5:25). The idea of a scourge to cause people to remember God reaffirms a familiar teaching in the 12th chapter of Hebrews: "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Heb. 12:6). Even as adversities inflict mortal hardships, they can also be the means of leading men and women to eternal blessings.

Such large-scale adversities as natural disasters and wars seem to be inherent in the mortal experience. We cannot entirely prevent them, but we can determine how we will react to them. For example, the adversities of war and military service, which have been the spiritual destruction of some, have been the spiritual awakening of others. The Book of Mormon describes the contrast:

"But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility" (Alma 62:41).

I read of a similar contrast after the devastating hurricane that destroyed thousands of homes in Florida some years ago. A news account quoted two different persons who had suffered the same tragedy and received the same blessing: each of their homes had been totally destroyed, but each of their family members had been spared death or injury. One said that this tragedy had destroyed his faith; how, he asked, could God allow this to happen? The other said that the experience had strengthened his faith. God had been good to him, he said. Though the family’s home and possessions were lost, their lives were spared and they could rebuild the home. For one, the glass was half empty. For the other, the glass was half full. The gift of moral agency empowers each of us to choose how we will act when we suffer adversity.

Our adversities can be the means of obtaining blessings unobtainable without them. Young Jacob had "suffered afflictions and much sorrow" in his childhood, but Lehi assured his son that God "shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain" (2 Ne. 2:1–2). After the Saints suffered severe persecutions in Missouri, the Lord gave this beautiful promise:

"Fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks.

"… [A]ll things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good" (D&C 98:1, 3).

How can adversities be for our good? Speaking in area conferences more than 20 years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson explained:

"It is not on the pinnacle of success and ease where men and women grow most. It is often down in the valley of heartache and disappointment and reverses where men and women grow into strong characters" (in Conference Report, Stockholm Sweden Area Conference, 1974, 70).

"Every reversal can be turned to our benefit and blessing and can make us stronger, more courageous, more godlike" (in Conference Report, Philippine Islands Area Conference, 1975, 11).

Thousands of years ago, Egyptian taskmasters afflicted the Israelites with heavy burdens. However, the Bible records, "the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew" (Ex. 1:12).

The Book of Mormon contains many similar examples of how whole groups of people can be blessed through common adversities. When the wicked Nephite priests enslaved the faithful people who followed Alma, the Lord blessed them with extra strength as a witness of how he did visit his people in their afflictions.

"And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord" (Mosiah 24:15).

When Alma the Younger preached to the Zoramites, the rich and the proud would not listen, but many who were poor heard his message. Alma saw "that their afflictions had truly humbled them, and that they were in a preparation to hear the word" (Alma 32:6).

Later, during the long wars reported in the last chapters of the book of Alma, many of the Nephites and the Lamanites “were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility” (Alma 62:41). As a result, Helaman and his brethren were able to preach to them, baptize them, and reestablish the Church in their land (see Alma 62:45–46).

With the blessings of God, what seem to be adversities can be turned to the benefit of his faithful children.

For example, on a large scale, we can look on television as an adversity because it brings ugly programming into our homes and undercuts our standards of behavior by making wickedness seem accepted and popular. But television is also a medium we are using to spread the glorious message of the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Many other such examples could be given.

We may look on the shortage of money and the struggle to find rewarding employment as serious adversities. I remember such experiences and feelings, and I am unpersuaded that relative poverty and hard work are greater adversities than relative affluence and free time. You are all familiar with the cycles reported in the Book of Mormon in which prosperity led to complacency and pride and spiritual downfall and in which deprivations led to humility and spiritual growth. I believe that the easy way materially usually is not the best way spiritually. For many, though not all, material wealth and abundant free time are spiritual impediments.

Elaine Cannon reminds us of an important way these blessings come and how we can make the most of them. "When we are pushed, stung, defeated, embarrassed, hurt, rejected, tormented, forgotten—when we are in agony of spirit crying out 'why me?' we are in a position to learn something" (Adversity, 47).

As the Lord explained to the prophet Moroni, "I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them" (Ether 12:27).

"Have you ever seen someone who has been helpless for so long that he has divested himself of every envy and jealousy and ugliness in his whole life, and who has perfected his life? I have. Have you seen mothers who have struggled with, perhaps, unfortunate children for years and years, and have become saints through it? … No pain suffered by man or woman upon the earth will be without its compensating effects if it be suffered in resignation and if it be met with patience" (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball [1982], 167–68).

...the words the Lord spoke to the children of Israel through the prophet Isaiah: "Behold, I have refined thee, … I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction" (Isa. 48:10; see also 1 Ne. 20:10).

I know that the consequences of the "furnace of affliction" bring eternal blessings. Those blessings are made possible because of the Resurrection and Atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know and testify to the truth of Alma’s teaching: "Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day" (Alma 36:3).

(Adversity, Ensign, July 1998)
<< ? | LDS Blogs | list >>