Thursday, May 19, 2005

conversation: Politics

The current topic at our group blog conversation is Politics. My offering on the subject is a bit lengthy, so I'm posting it here, with a briefer version there.

Latter-day Saints have often been encouraged by Church leaders to be active in politics. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “To worship the Lord is to stand valiantly in the cause of truth and righteousness, to let our influence for good be felt in civic, cultural, educational, and governmental fields, and to support those laws and principles which further the Lord’s interests on earth." In fact, a message from the First Presidency in January 1998 stated that, “…we urge members of the Church to be full participants in political, governmental, and community affairs. Members of the Church are under special obligations to seek out and then uphold those leaders who are wise, good, and honest.” President Ezra Taft Benson spoke out strongly on our civic duty: “Let us seek to take an active part in our local, state, and national affairs. We are commanded by the Lord to do so. It is as binding as any of the Lord’s commandments.” Commanded! Strong words, indeed! President Benson continued, “We must become involved in civic affairs. As citizens…we cannot do our duty and be idle spectators. It is vital that we follow this counsel from the Lord: ‘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’.” And he also said, “The most dangerous threat of all comes from the disinterested—that great group of otherwise intelligent people who shrug off any responsibility for public affairs.”

So, it would seem quite clear that we need to be active in politics. Our leaders have also given us much counsel on how we should do this. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Now a word on politics. This is an election year, and there are many strong and strident voices incident to political campaigning. It’s a wholesome and wonderful system that we have under which people are free to express themselves in electing those who shall represent them in the councils of government. I would hope that those concerned would address themselves to issues and not to personalities. The issues ought to be discussed freely, openly, candidly, and forcefully. But, I repeat, I would hope that there would be an avoidance of demeaning personalities.” President N. Eldon Tanner’s counsel in this regard was, “We need a change of attitude. We need to be supportive of one another, instead of backbiting and maligning and resorting to malicious gossip. Particularly in the areas of local and national politics do we need to select good, honest representatives who will espouse the cause of righteousness, and then we should forget partisanship and work together for the common good of all. As we say, we should seek after ‘anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy’.” And President Stephen L. Richards stated, “A threat to our unity derives from unseemly personal antagonisms developed in partisan political controversy. The Church, while reserving the right to advocate principles of good government underlying equity, justice, and liberty, the political integrity of officials, and the active participation of its members, and the fulfillment of their obligations in civic affairs, exercises no constraint on the freedom of individuals to make their own choices and affiliations … any man who makes representation to the contrary does so without authority and justification in fact.”

So, what “issues” are important? What should we look for in our search for “good, honest representatives who will espouse the cause of righteousness”? We actually should already know this, as we are reminded with just about every talk we hear pertaining to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But a great overview is a talk from President Spencer W. Kimball entitled “Guidelines to Carry Forth the Work of God in Cleanliness.” President Kimball said, “Early in this dispensation the Lord made clear the position his restored church should take with respect to civil government. In the revelation he gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith, he said: ‘And now, verily I say unto you concerning the … law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, [that it] belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you … in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.” (D&C 98:4–6.) President Kimball goes on to say, “The encroachment of the world into our lives is threatening! How hard it seems for many of us to live in the world and yet not of the world.” He speaks further on the state of the world:

Now the works of the flesh are many, as given by Paul: “… perilous times shall come. [They are upon us!] For men shall be lovers of their own selves, … Without natural affection … incontinent …” (2 Tim. 3:1–3), “… [with] vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another … inventors of evil things …” (Rom. 1:26, 27, 30), thieves, drunkards, extortioners.

“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4.)

These are some of the ugly acts and activities that we call the world.

These ugly transgressions Paul called “doctrines of devils,” and their authors “seducing spirits.” (See 1 Tim. 4:1.) These distortions of the normal life have not changed in this century, except possibly to grow more vile and permissive and vulgar and degenerate.

And we plead with our people everywhere, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7.)

Our sermon is one of reaffirmation and reassurance. We urge our people to “stand in holy places.” (D&C 45:32.)

What we are saying today is not new doctrine, but as old as the day of creation.

President Kimball continues by saying, “Again, abortion is a growing evil that we speak against. Certainly the terrible sin of premeditated abortion would be hard to justify. It is almost inconceivable that an abortion would ever be committed to save face or embarrassment, to save trouble or inconvenience, or to escape responsibility. How could one submit to such an operation or be party in any way by financing or encouraging? If special rare cases could be justified, certainly they would be rare indeed. We place it high on the list of sins against which we strongly warn the people. ‘Abortion must be considered one of the most revolting and sinful practices in this day, when we are witnessing the frightful evidence of permissiveness leading to sexual immorality.’ Then in the area of one of Satan’s most destructive evils, we strongly warn all our people from childhood to old age to beware of the chains of bondage, suffering, and remorse which come from improper use of the body. The human body is the sacred home of the spirit child of God, and unwarranted tampering with or defilement of this sacred tabernacle can bring only remorse and regret. We urge: stay clean, uncontaminated, undefiled. Jude says: ‘… There should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.’ (Jude 1:18.) We urge, with Peter, ‘… Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.’ (1 Pet. 2:11.) No indecent exposure or pornography or other aberrations to defile the mind and spirit. No fondling of bodies, one’s own or that of others, and no sex between persons except in proper marriage relationships. This is positively prohibited by our Creator in all places, at all times, and we reaffirm it. Even in marriage there can be some excesses and distortions. No amount of rationalization to the contrary can satisfy a disappointed Father in heaven.”

Well, President Kimball certainly doesn’t even try to be politically correct. And neither should we. We must hold to the iron rod, the very word of God, as if our lives and eternal destinies (as well as those of our loved ones!) depend upon it, for they do. We can trust the words of the Lord’s servants, but not the world’s doctrine of men. There are many other issues in a political forum that we must be aware of what the Lord’s doctrine is, and the leaders have been just as clear on those. There is really no excuse for us not studying the Gospel, and how it relates to the political issues at hand. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Now, I want to say to you, and I say it with a plea in my heart, get involved. Get involved on the side of righteousness and truth and decency and sobriety and virtue. You, and others like you, are the great hope of this world. … The problem with most of us is that we are afraid. We want to do the right thing, but we are troubled by fears and the world drifts about us. …‘Be not afraid, only believe.’ I commend to you these wonderful words of the Lord as you think of your responsibilities and opportunities. …Teach those for whom you are responsible the importance of good civic manners. Encourage them to become involved, remembering in public deliberations that the quiet voice of substantive reasoning is more persuasive than the noisy, screaming voice of protest. In accepting such responsibilities our people will bless their communities, their families, and the Church.”

Rosalie English, in “My Work, Your Work, Everyone’s Work,” remarked, ”Someone once said that a country gets the government it deserves. Apathy and fatalism breed tyranny and repression. Freedom, like everything good, has to be worked for. I knew that if I awoke one morning and found that the Church had been outlawed, it would be my own fault if I had not worked to prevent it. I love the gospel and all it stands for, but am only too aware that what it stands for—the freedom I hold so dear—is being gradually whittled away. The gospel is a gospel of love and we can show that love in many ways, one of which is being an involved citizen.” Sister English is right. Freedom has to be upheld, or it will be lost. Already too many of our freedoms are in jeopardy, including freedom of speech and religion. As bloggers, we have an opportunity to share our thoughts about many things, including politics. We would do well to follow the counsel the Prophet Joseph Smith gave to a group of Saints who were working on building the Nauvoo Temple in 1843,” There is one more thing I wish to speak about, and that is political economy. It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound.” As President Kimball concluded in the previous talk, “This, then, is our program: to reaffirm and boldly carry forward the work of God in cleanliness, uprightness, and to take that gospel of truth to that world that needs so much that godly life.”

“Getting Involved, Giving Service, Growing,” Ensign, Feb. 1999, 21.

N. Eldon Tanner, “Live by the Savior’s Teachings,” Ensign, Dec. 1982, 2.

James B. Allen, “The American Presidency and the Mormons,” Ensign, Oct. 1972, 47.

Spencer W. Kimball, “Guidelines to Carry Forth the Work of God in Cleanliness,” Ensign, May 1974.

Rosalie English, “My Work, Your Work, Everyone’s Work,” Ensign, June 1976.

Gordon B. Hinckley, “Reach Out in Love and Kindness,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 76.
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