Wednesday, October 13, 2010

President Packer and 1 Nephi 16

Ever since this whole thing has erupted I've been pondering 1 Nephi 16. I think this is a really good example of that. Yes, President Packer could have been more sensitive to the feelings of those who struggle with this and whose feeling ar...e close to the surface. These are hard things to listen hear. But this is no different then Nephi's brothers who: "Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear." (V.1) I agree. But I also agree with Nephi's response. "And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center." Notice that he did say "and the rightous I did justify?" That means those who may struggle with things but seek to stay faithful. Nephi didn't say these things out of hatred or intolernce. He said these things out of love, I truly feel in my heart that Pres Packer also feels this great love and urgency that we follow the Lord and am "willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God" we will be blessed. Pres Packer has a solemn responsibility to warn us and somethings what he warns us against may be things we have issues with.

When I'm faced with a situation where I may feel offended I sometimes worry when I find something that I personally feel is out of line with what I may feel is right and its because it offends me even if it does line up with what is doctrinal, it's just not presented in a comfortable way. Honestly I guess in some ways its better to be offended now then not to be warned because the consequences could be far worse then the discomfort I feel at the moment.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Thank Thee O God For a Prophet

All this week as I prayed about this whole Prop 8 situation, the one thing that keeps coming to mind is how grateful I am for my testimony in the gospel and the church. Over and over the words of the hymn "We Thank The O God For a Prophet" has filled my mind when I was feeling low. I don't have to go searching for the path to follow, if I listen the Holy Ghost confirms truth to me.

It is so true and it wraps up this whole situation.

"We Thank Thee O God For A Prophet, To Guide Us in These Latter-day."

That really is what a Prophet does, if we heed his guidance he does "lighten our minds with its rays."

He is not only the Prophet for the church but for the world. His message is that of the Savior Jesus Christ. When he and the First Presidency speaks as the First Presidency you can have faith its under the direction of the Holy Ghost. And its what God would have them say.

When I read of the things that these people are working for, I know that as Pres Monson said, "Without him we won't be successful, with him we can't fail." I think of the last words of that hymn. "While they who reject his glad message will never such happiness know." These are the same people who as the hymns say "Fight against Zion," who "will surly be smitten at last."

Now I'm not happy about this, some of these people are good friends of mine. I mourn that they are lost. I hope they will make the choice to come back. But I can't let my friendship with them prevent me from standing for what's right and I won't change what I believe just to make them happy or feel good about themselves.

Now I know that gay marriage may very well be legal soon. Even if it does go against the mind and will of God. The world is full of things that are wicked and "legal."

Abortion is legal and that also is a wicked thing. But I do know that as long as I do my best to stand for whats right I will be blessed for it. As the hymn says "When dark clouds of trouble hang over us and threaten our peace to destroy, There is hope smiling brightly before us and we know that deliverance is neigh."

So that is why I "Thank Thee O God For a Prophet." Because I don't have to be confused. Because I know which side is the Lords side. It's the side that the Prophet is on. When he asked me to help support Prop 8, as the Prophet, I know it was the same as God asking me to. I have faith in that. I have a testimony of that.

I don't think I follow blindly, but I also don't need to prove him time after time. However again "We doubt not the Lord nor His Blessings, we've proved him in day's that are past." The truth here is that because I know I don't have to doubt. I can move past this and as the song says "Thus on to eternal progression, the honest and faithful will go."

In someways this is like the whole pioneer deal. The journey to the west wasn't easy. It was deadly for some. When they got to the Salt Lake Valley it wasn't the most welcoming place either. But they had faith and they persevered and they made the desert blossom like a rose. We can choose to be like those brave pioneers who moved forward in faith amid some of the worst hardships and yes SSA is just that. Or we can allow that challenge to define us and shade every choice and decision in our life and influence our relationship with God and the Spirit. I choose to to be the one who makes that choice, I'm not a prisoner to my challenges.

I do "Thank Thee Oh God For A Prophet."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Civic Virtue: A Unique Knowledge and Sacred Duty

Text of my talk given in Sacrament meeting on 13 June 2010. Source material is listed below.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we have a unique knowledge of the divine nature of both the United States and of the Constitution.

We know from scriptures found in the Book of Mormon that America is a land that was held in reserve for the last days in which a system of government could be established that would allow for the restoration of the gospel and for it to be spread throughout the world.

Ezra Taft Benson, 13th President of the Church and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower’s Secretary of Agriculture taught: “For centuries the Lord kept America hidden in the hollow of His hand until the time was right to unveil her for her destiny in the last days.”

In 2 Nephi 1:8, Nephi reveals the Lords plan: “It is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.”

In the Lord’s due time His Spirit “wrought upon” Columbus, the pilgrims, the Puritans, and others to come to America. They testified of God’s intervention in their behalf. The Book of Mormon records in 1 Nephi 13:16 that they humbled “themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.”

Our Father in Heaven planned the coming forth of the Founding Fathers and their form of government as the necessary great prologue leading to the restoration of the gospel. The Lord spoke of this in D&C 101:80: “I established the Constitution of this land by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.”

Recall what our Savior Jesus Christ said nearly two thousand years ago when He visited this promised land: “For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth” (3 Ne. 21:4).

America, the land of liberty, was to be the Lord’s latter-day base of operations for His restored church.

With this unique knowledge come and equally unique and sacred responsibility.

As members of The Church and as citizens of the United States what should be our role be? Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve has posed that question: Should not just believing, but knowing that we have an inspired Constitution affect our behavior toward law and government? It should and it does.

Elder Oaks stressed that as U.S. citizens and faithful members of the church we should follow the First Presidency’s counsel to study the Constitution. We should be familiar with its great fundamentals: the separation of powers, the individual guarantees in the Bill of Rights, the structure of federalism, the sovereignty of the people, and the principles of the rule of the law. And we should oppose any infringement of these inspired fundamentals.

We should be law-abiding citizens, supportive of national, state, and local governments.
The twelfth Article of Faith declares: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

The Church’s official declaration of belief on this topic can be found in D&C 134 verse 1 and states: “We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.”

The dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, as dictated by the Lord and found in the Doctrine and Covenants, contains these words: “May those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.” (D&C 109:54).

For those who would argue that the Founding Fathers didn’t have God as their inspiration or that the United States isn’t a Christian Nation, need only to read the words of our Founding Fathers.

John Adams, the second president of the United States: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Alexander Hamilton, famous as the originator of The Federalist papers and author of fifty-one of the essays, said: “For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system, which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interest”

Those who enjoy the blessings of liberty under a divinely inspired constitution should promote morality, and they should practice what the Founding Fathers called “civic virtue.”

Elder Oaks noted that it is part of our civic duty to be moral in our conduct toward all people. There is no place in responsible citizenship for dishonesty or deceit or for willful law breaking of any kind. We believe with the author of Proverbs that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34.) The personal righteousness of citizens will strengthen a nation more than the force of its arms.

As Citizens we should also be practitioners of “civic virtue” in their conduct toward government. We should be ever willing to fulfill the duties of citizenship. For example, we value the right of trial by jury, we must be willing to serve on juries, even those involving unsavory subject matter. Elder Oaks added that: “Citizens who favor morality cannot leave the enforcement of moral laws to jurors who oppose them.”

The Savior said “render unto Caesar what is Caesar.”

A single word that best describes the fulfillment of the duties of “civic virtue” is patriotism. Citizens should be patriotic. As members of the Church we should be patriots.

When the First Presidency asked members of the church in California to help support and actively participate with work on Prop. 8, locally, it served to open the eyes, as a sort of wake up call for many of us in what we could do if they got involved, and worse what could happen if we didn’t get involved. Prop 8 was successful, but I think even more meaningful is that many members have stayed involved.

As part of my job as a field representative for our State Assemblyman one of the things I’ve had the privilege of doing is to travel throughout the North State visiting the many local patriot groups that have sprung up. I am please to report that many of these groups, especially the one here in this ward have many members of the church among their ranks both in members but especially leadership.

In a letter to members read in Sacrament meeting in 1998 The First Presidency reiterated the divine counsel that members “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things to bring to pass righteousness” while using gospel principles as a guide and while cooperating with other like-minded individuals.

“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. D&C 98:10.

“Thus, we strongly urge men and women to be willing to serve on school boards, city and county councils and commissions, state legislatures, and other high offices of either election or appointment, including involvement in the political party of their choice.

“Members are counseled to study the candidates carefully and vote for those individuals they believe will act with integrity and in ways conducive to good communities and good government.”

It is reassuring when you see members of the church heeding this call. We must remember that in a democracy, we all have the same. If we don’t stand up for what we believe we will have to accept what we are given, and we will receive exactly the sort of government we deserve.

The Book of Mormon tells of many great and powerful nations that became that way because they were faithful to the Lord. We also read about the destruction of these people because of their own fall into disbelief.

Two great American Christian civilizations—the Jaredites and the Nephites—were swept off this land because they did not “serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12).
What will become of our civilization?

The Book of Mormon warns us relative to our living in this free land: “Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever” (2 Ne. 1:7).

I would be willing to bet that the first step in the fall of most of these people wasn’t a huge leap into immorality, but a slow loss of faith because of complicity. Faith without works is dead. Knowledge without action is wasted.

The Proclamation to the World makes mention of this when its calls upon world leaders to take a stand on preserving the sanity of families. I think this warning can be applied to a lack of participation in the process as well.

“We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

“We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

We all have our agency, and even those who are members of the church who are active may not always agree with each other. The First Presidency states this in its statement on its role in Government:

“Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.”

President Benson further warned us in 1997 that as a nation have apostatized in various degrees from different Constitutional principles as proclaimed by the inspired founders. We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith when he said: “Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground, and when the Constitution is upon the brink of ruin, this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.”

President Benson continued that “For centuries our forefathers suffered and sacrificed that we might be the recipients of the blessings of freedom. If they were willing to sacrifice so much to establish us as a free people, should we not be willing to do the same to maintain that freedom for ourselves and for future generations?”

Only in this foreordained land, under its God-inspired Constitution and the resulting environment of freedom, was it possible to have established the restored church. It is our responsibility to see that this freedom is perpetuated so that the Church may more easily flourish in the future.

The Lord said, “Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.” (D&C 98:6).

How then can we best befriend the Constitution in this critical hour and secure the blessings of liberty and ensure the protection and guidance of our Father in Heaven? President Benson gave four suggestions.

First and foremost, we must be righteous.

Second, we must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.

Third, we must become involved in civic affairs to see that we are properly represented.

Fourth, we must make our influence felt by our vote, our letters, our teaching, and our advice
We, the blessed beneficiaries of the Constitution, face difficult days in America, as stated in Ether 2:10: “a land which is choice above all other lands.”

A Christian nation, that will only stay that way if we choose to step forward and keep preserve it.
May God give us the faith and the courage exhibited by those patriots who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

May we be equally as valiant and as free, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ

The Holy Bible: The New Testament

The Doctrine and Covenants

The Pearl of Great Price: The 12th Article of Faith

"Our Divine Constitution" by Ezra Taft Benson

"The Divinely Inspired Constitution" by Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Political Neutrality - LDS Newsroom

A Proclamation to the World

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Looking Good vs. Fixing Things

One of the problems with Mormon culture is that we tend to live in a world of looking good instead of fixing problems, we tend to hide them. Now I'm not condemning "the church" what I'm saying is that we may not really understand the point here. We may not be emotionally or spiritually mature enough to put into practice what we preach, it happens. It's a by product of imperfection on the pathway to perfection.

When I was serving as the secretary of the stake young men it always amused me how much effort we put into the dress code for stake youth dances. Now I'm the first to state that yes modesty is important, but I think sometimes some adults really believe that sticking a boy in a tie and a girl in a dress that goes under her knees is going to prevent them from having sex. I often thought that trying to dress the youth up like little adults wasn't really helping. Well they looked good but were they good?

I remember also the discussion about boys and earrings and passing the sacrament. The rule stated that the boy needs to take the earring or whatever the piercing was out before he could participate. In the back of my mind I kept wondering if the boy had understood why he shouldn't have had the piercing in the first place this wouldn't have been an issue, is just taking it out so he can put it right back in really the answer? And I'm not judging the kid, I'm just judging the reasoning.

I remember going to a number of Christian rock concerts were the youth were a little less well dressed, still modest, but they didn't look like little junior executives and how much they were enjoying themselves, even more none of their parents had to force them to go. It was amazing, yes they were feeling the Spirit without a tie on.

Looking good sometimes helps us feel better when things aren't really good. Lets face it, we are striving for perfection and none of us really understands what that means. We say we believe in repentance, we say we are grateful for it in testimony meetings, we may even cry about it, but we shy away from it at times because the process may be to painful. I have a feeling that the chapel is full of lots of people in the church who want to come forward, who want to "do the right thing, make things right with God" but who don't because they feel what people will say if they do. I know because I've been there.

Some could say they are leading double lives. Yes, the church is full of two camps those who are Saints and those who are pretending. But it's not really that simple is it? I think this is only half of the story. None of us are perfect. And that's not just an excuse its more of a fact. None of us are presently complete or we'd not be here trying to learn how to be. I honestly believe that most people are good and most people want to do the right thing. We can't even begin to understand why people do things they do, the feelings that are real and that motivate others to do things we would never think of. We've all been there I think.

I fear also that it also allows us to judge others who may also be struggling. This is because we don't really know how to deal with it in person. It's like the uncomfortable awkwardness a lot of us face when we meet a handicap person. We don't want to admit it, but its true. We don't want to say the wrong thing and hurt their feelings. And yes some of us may be ignorant about that persons personal struggle or our feelings may be fueled with anger, guilt, misunderstanding or any number of things.

I've often wondered about those who have been confessed, been through the process been excommunicated never come back. I understand why some may leave the church when they no longer feel their beliefs are inline with the church, but those who have submitted to this as part of the repentance process who then don't come back breaks my heart.

I know that I've been taught that church disciple is supposed to be restorative and not punitive. But I also know that a startling number of those who have been through it don't come back. Those who have voluntarily endured it as part of the repentance process, who then stumble and fall are the most tragic because it took great faith to humble themselves to it.

This is where I hope I can be better. Maybe I need to worry less about understanding and more about loving because loving can lead to understanding. Maybe the key is that to love doesn't always mean to understand but just to love.

I think this is an area that the church needs to help teach its members to understand. This is why I think a lot of these good people don't come back, they feel alone, isolated, judged and ostracized. Pondering this I realize however that the church can only teach correct principles, its up to me to put them into practice in my own life. I need to do it myself.

Dancing with the Bears

A wise man once wrote that there is a great definition for rationalization, it's legitimizing impropriety. He compared this to dancing with a bear noting that its easy to waltz our way into circumstance that we think we can control, when in fact just the opposite occurs and these circumstances end up controlling us.

Personally I have noticed in that in my life when I'm on the dance floor with the bear, it's these times that I become acutely aware of the "gray" areas. Those areas help me justifying being there. Yes, I've been taught right from wrong, black and white, but as I dance with this bear, and as I move further and further from light to darkness, it seems like those dance moves cut off the input of the Spirit. I feel safe because I'm still in the gray, technically the light and I can still feel the light. When in reality, I'm finding it harder and harder to tell the difference. These are also the times when if called on it, I will tell you that things aren't always black and white.

I think everyone has situations, personal "gray zones" so to speak, where we know in our hearts we can't be trusted and that we need to avoid. But then the opportunity presents itself and we begin to legitimize it.

Hyrum Smith, founder of the Franklin Institute and author of the book "Pain Is Inevitable, Misery Is Optional" said that "I am firmly convinced that sin and transgressions are in almost every circumstance a result of some sort of self-deception."

There is a great deal of truth to this.

That's the hard part, being able to not just say it. It's easy to warn others, to preach and to tell others not to do stuff. But its harder to do it yourself. I've found in my life that if I took most of the advice I've given I'd be happier. And I think at times there is a lesson there. It's why we should blog and keep journals so that we can later go back and read it ourselves.

That and admitting I'm not a very good dancer or at least I need to dance with the lights on.