Here am I; Send me

Some years ago a young man joined the Church in the Madison Ward and became very enthusiastic about the Church and about the gospel. His wife, however, was not so enthusiastic. She came with him to church a few times, but clearly did not warm to anything she saw. She vigorously opposed his activity in the church. In time, he became discouraged and confided in me that it was becoming too hard for him. I knew what he was going through because I had a very similar experience. My wife bitterly opposed my activity in the Church for many years.

I asked him if he knew that the Church was true, that it was the Church of Jesus Christ? He said, yes, he did. I asked him if he loved his family? He said, yes, he did. The choice then, I said, is simple. Not easy, but simple. You either lead, or you follow. But if you choose not to lead your family back into eternity, who will? To me, the answer was always obvious.

Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Christ sacrificed his life in a way that we are not called upon to do. He died for us. But as we follow Christ and seek to emulate Him, is it not possible that we may be called upon to sacrifice our lives also in a manner of speaking? Would it be an inappropriate paraphrase of Christ’s words to say “greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his family?” A family that doesn’t understand. A family that will not follow. A family, even, that severely persecutes you for your beliefs within the walls of your own home. A family of whom it might be said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

Some of us in the Church understand very well the meaning of these words of Christ:

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).

Indeed, “greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his family.” Meekly, patiently, with humility. Christlike.

Unfortunately, the young man I speak of left the Church and never returned. In my own case, I trudged on. In time, my wife simply became reconciled to the fact that I was determined to stay the course. Though she still has no interest in the Church or the gospel, she at least now can joke that the only person she knows who can out-tough her is me.

But for me, the long struggle is far from over. Our three children have all abandoned the things I worked so hard all those years to teach them and are wandering, as Lehi might have put it, in strange paths. I promised each of them, when I gave them their names and a father’s blessing, that I would always be faithful to their mother and to the Lord, and that I would do everything I could to teach them the truth and to lead them back into the presence of their heavenly Father. I promised them that I would never fail them. Over the years, I brought them to church faithfully, held family prayer daily, struggled to have family home evening regularly, and even taught seminary for five years. Today, I carry on alone. There is no family home evening in our home anymore. No family prayer. I know they don’t want these things, so I hold my peace.

When I received my patriarchal blessing in 1978, I was counseled not to be preachy to my family. I assumed that the counsel referred to my parents and brothers and sisters. But I have come to realize that that admonition from the Lord to me pertained most importantly to my wife and my children. I could never have imagined that at the time.

Responding to a sister who had inquired of Pres. John Taylor, the latter-day prophet wrote:

“Where did I come from? What am I doing here? Wither am I going? And what is my destiny after having obeyed the truth, if faithful to the end?” Pres. Taylor answered in part, “Knowest thou not that eternities ago thy spirit…madest a covenant with one of thy kindred spirits to be thy guardian angel while in mortality, also with two others, male and female spirits, that thou wouldst come and take a tabernacle through their lineage, and become one of their offspring. You also chose a kindred spirit whom you loved in the spirit world…to be your head, stay, husband and protector on the earth and to exalt you in eternal worlds. All these were arranged, likewise the spirits that should tabernacle through your lineage…” (Origin and Destiny of Woman, President John Taylor, “The Mormon,” August 29, 1857, quoted in “The Vision or the Degrees of Glory,” by N.B. Lundwall)

There is a principle here which I believe is true. The principle is that just as we are free to prepare for and work out our eternal destiny while we are here in mortality, so we were free, it seems, in our first estate, to work out and prepare for our mortal probation.

There is evidence that some of the children of God, perhaps all of us, volunteered to fulfill certain callings or missions during this mortal probation.

I have often thought of a young man named Chris Johnson in the Canoga Park II (CA) Ward where I joined the Church. Chris was about 14 when I knew him in the late 1970s. As I recall the story, he got turned around in the birth canal, was strangled by his umbilical chord, and was born a quadriplegic. I remember Chris saying once in a testimony meeting that there were two things he had always wanted to do: go to a high school dance like everyone else, and play soccer. When I think things are tough for me, I think of Chris.

I think it is reasonable to ask, why Chris, but not me? Does heavenly Father arbitrarily designate one of his children to abide in mortality in a wheelchair, while another gets to play soccer? Where is the principle of agency here? Was not the lynchpin of the great controversy in the first estate which culminated in the war in heaven the issue of the agency of man? What about Chris’ agency?

In his book “Life Everlasting” Duane Crowther prefaces the account of a man named DeLynn with these words:

“Inseparably connected with the premortal education program is the process of selecting the challenges one is to deal with during his mortal probationary period. Earth life clearly is an extension of the premortal training environment, as we undergo a variety of challenges which we chose for ourselves prior to coming to earth, each person tailoring his selected mortal tests and experiences to best enhance his eternal progression” (Life Everlasting, Duane S. Crowther, Second Revised Edition, pg. 101).

This is a fascinating prospect because, if it is true, it reinforces the idea that the divine principle of agency is never violated by a just and loving Father. The account of DeLynn buttresses the point.

DeLynn had suffered with cystic fibrosis for 37 years. In a near death experience, he found himself in a conversation with a voice that was very familiar to him, but which he hadn’t heard in a very long time. He recognized it to be the voice of his Father in Heaven. Among other things, he asked why he had had to suffer so in mortality. DeLynn states:

“When he told me that it was my choice, in a premortal environment, to suffer when I came to earth, I was both astonished and incredulous. He must have understood my incredulity, because I was immediately transported to my pre-mortal existence” (Ibid pg. 99).

DeLynn saw himself in a kind of classroom with an instructor. He recounts:

“He was instructing us about things we had to know in order to come to earth and get our bodies. Then he said, and I’ll never forget this: You can learn lessons one of two ways. You can move through life slowly, and have certain experiences, or there are ways that you can learn the lessons very quickly through pain and disease. He wrote on the board the words: Cystic Fibrosis, and he turned and asked for volunteers. I was a volunteer; I saw me raise my hand and offer to take the challenge. The instructor looked at me and agreed to accept me.”

“That was the end of the scene, and it changed forever my perspective of the disease that I previously felt was a plague on my life. No longer did I consider myself a victim. Rather, I was a privileged participant, by choice, in an eternal plan. That plan, if I measured up to the potential of my choice, would allow me to advance in mortal life the fastest way possible. True, I would not be able to control the inevitable slow deterioration of my mortal body, but I could control how I chose to handle my illness emotionally and psychologically. The specific choice of cystic fibrosis was to help me learn dignity in suffering. My understanding in the eternal sense was complete – I knew that I was a powerful, spiritual being that chose to have a short, but marvelous, mortal experience.”

“While I was marveling at this new-found knowledge, or rather, from the reawakened knowledge that I previously had, I was again transported to another era. This time I found myself looking on a different scene – the scene was the Garden of Gethsemane. Looking down from above, I saw Christ undergoing his ordeal of pain with dignified endurance…I felt bad that he had to go through it, and I felt empathy for him. I also realized why he was doing it; I understood that it was his choice, just as cystic fibrosis had been my choice…” (Ibid pg. 102).

Another revelation to me in my patriarchal blessing is that I have a mission to fulfill on this earth. Leading my family is no doubt a very important part of that mission. But I think there is something else as well. I don’t know exactly what it is yet, but I believe it is also very important. Whatever the sum of my mission in this life is, I believe I volunteered to fulfill it before I ever came into this life.

Examples of such volunteerism are not unfamiliar to us. We know that in the great Council in Heaven before the foundation of this earth, our Father outlined the plan for our progression and salvation. There were many missions which needed to be fulfilled to bring all things to pass in the best interests of each of His children, the most important of which was the need for a Savior, an Exemplar, a Redeemer. No doubt the requirements were set forth and the call was issued:

“And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first” (Abraham 3:27-28).

Isaiah, much like DeLynn, was given a glimpse of a seminal moment in his premortal existence. The Lord had need of a prophet at a time of great wickedness. He again issued a call, and Isaiah recounts:

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

Likewise Jeremiah received his call to be a prophet before he was born:

“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

I have had the feeling for some time that in those premortal councils the Lord described a mission that needed to be fulfilled. There were several of his children, good children, but weak in some ways, who needed a strong guide. If they were to traverse the long, perilous journey through mortal life and successfully find their way back to presence of God, they would need someone who would lead them. Someone who could endure many years of spiritual rejection and loneliness. Someone who would never slacken in faith. Someone who would never give up on them, never abandon them. Someone who would bear the loneliness and discouragement and disappointment for a long, long time. Someone who would endure to the end for them. It would not be easy. It would feel like a lifetime of failure. But with faith and endurance and patience, these children would make it.

I expect that the Lord asked for a volunteer. “Whom shall we send?” I expect that I raised my hand, “Here am I, send me.”

There have been times when I have looked at families in the Church that seem whole and healthy, where everyone seems to be, relatively speaking, on the same page – families with sons who have served honorable full time missions and daughters who were married in the House of the Lord – and I have ached. I couldn’t avoid the question: why is my family so spiritually dysfunctional? I have come to understand the answer to that question line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.

It has to do with the principle of agency. It has to do with what one author called “divine initiative.” It has to do with what I would call the principle of leaven.

Agency is that divine principle by which “…every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (D&C 101:78).

When agency is combined with “the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men” (1 Nephi 11:22), the result is “divine initiative,” the willingness to say “Here am I, send me,” to voluntarily take up the cross of Christ and bear it, alone if necessary.

Leaven is that powerful living agent a small amount of which, after much blending and kneading and in the heat of an oven, causes a mass of dough to rise to the full measure of its potential and become life giving bread. That principle, when applied to souls, calls for small quantities of strong souls (often only one) to be kneaded in amongst the many, and in the furnace of affliction, cause the many to rise to the fullest measure of their creation and become the sons and daughters of God. How much less good would be accomplished if the Lord organized us with all of the strong in strong families, and all of the weak in weak families? How could the strong come to know of their strength? And how could the weak become strong? Where would the service be? Where the eternal gratitude?

I have come to realize that my role in my family is, essentially, to be the leaven.

There is much talk today of heroes and role models. Sometimes I question the world’s definition of just what a hero is. To me, the designation is often misapplied. The true hero is that person who, without fanfare, usually without recognition, often without even thanks, effectively lays down his or her life in the hope of bringing to pass some good for others. Here is living evidence of “the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men” (1 Nephi 11:22). These are they who, alone, take up their cross and follow after Jesus Christ, and in so doing, sacrifice their life in this world because they volunteered to do so at another time, in another place. To them it is promised that they shall not lose their lives, but that they shall find their life with those whom they have saved at yet another time and yet another place.

Do you recognize a little bit of yourself in all of this? Remember, “all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good…Therefore, hold on thy way” (D&C 122:7-9).

You are not a victim of circumstance. You are a person of destiny. You have exercised divine initiative in all of this. You are a volunteer.

You are one who once said, “Here am I, send me.”

Posted in Agency of man, Doctrines of Christ, Eternal salvation, Pre-existence | Leave a comment

Justice Clarence Thomas: Be Not Afraid

In early 2001 I was channel hopping on the television and came upon U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas giving a speech before the American Enterprise Institute. I stopped for a moment to listen, expecting that I would move on in a few moments. But I found Justice Thomas’ remarks to be riveting. Not only did I listen to the entire speech, but I was so inspired by his words that I obtained a copy of it and wrote the following article:

Daniel Webster, the eloquent Senator from Massachusetts, expressed his reverence for the Founders of our country:
“Truly…these founders and fathers of the Constitution were great men…All that reading and learning could do; all that talent and intelligence could do; and, what perhaps is still more, all that long experience in difficult and troubled times and a deep and intimate knowledge of the condition of the country could do, conspired to fit them for the great business of forming a general but limited government…I love to linger around these original fountains, and to drink of their waters. I love to imbibe, in as full measure as I may, the spirit of those who laid the foundations of the government, and so wisely and skillfully balanced and adjusted its bearings and proportions” (The Works of Daniel Webster, Vol. I, pg. 203-204).

Like Daniel Webster, I also love to linger around the writings, the words, and the ideas of the founders. A sampling of some of my favorites:

“Government is instituted to protect property…This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own…That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has …is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.” James Madison

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence – it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” George Washington

“It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights; that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism – free government is founded in jealousy and not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions; to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power…In questions of power, then, let not more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” Thomas Jefferson

“It has long been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression, that the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciary; an irresponsible body (for impeachment is scarcely a scarecrow), working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed; because, when all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the centre of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.” Thomas Jefferson

There are many more I would love to include. But let me segue from Thomas Jefferson’s deep concern about the corrupting potential of the judiciary to the man I really want to speak of, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Ann Coulter wrote a piece recently titled “Eight More Clarence Thomases” in which she posits that the assault by liberals on John Ashcroft was a shot across the Bush bow and a warning that they will tolerate no more principled conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court. Coulter observes that liberalism has rarely found its way into our institutions via the vote of the people, but rather by judicial fiat when she says “A lot is at stake for liberals with the court. If they lose a liberal vote, they will be forced to fight political battles through a messy little system known as ‘democracy’…Conservatives always knew they had to win at the ballot box; liberals prefer to skip voting and win by judicial fiat.”

She is quite right. And while Thomas Jefferson must have seen liberals in his worst nightmares, the liberals’ worst nightmare would be another Clarence Thomas on the court. Coulter offers what I think is a great idea:

“There are…any number of ways the Supreme Court will wreck the country if Bush appoints another David Hackett Souter rather than another Clarence Thomas…Bush ought to find eight more just like Thomas. For one thing, it would be really cool to have an all black Supreme Court. But mostly it would be nice to go back to living in a democracy again.”

Justice Thomas gave a speech on February 13 before the American Enterprise Institute which was absolutely riveting. The theme of his comments was the profound need in our nation today for courage, a virtue which Clarence Thomas clearly possesses. Said he:

“Judges do not cease to be human beings when they go on the bench. In important cases, it is my humble opinion that finding the right answer is often the least difficult problem. Having the courage to assert that answer and stand firm in the face of the constant winds of protest and criticism is often much more difficult…judges can be buffeted by strong winds that tear them away from the basic principles they have sworn to safeguard. Fulfillment of our oath requires us to have both a clear understanding of the principles that allow us to ‘call as we see it,’ and the fortitude to stand by those principles and the decisions that rest upon them.”

“If we are to be a nation of laws and not of men, judges must be impartial referees who defend constitutional principles from attempts by particular interests (or even the people as a whole) to overwhelm them, in the name of expediency…A judge is not a legislator…”

“When interpreting the Constitution and statutes, judges should seek the original understanding of the provision’s text…This approach places the authority for creating the legal rules in the hands of the people and their representatives, rather than in the hands of the judiciary. The Constitution means what the delegates of the Philadelphia Convention and of the state ratifying conventions understood it to mean; not what we judges think it should mean.”

“…We ‘the people’ adopted a written Constitution precisely because it has a fixed meaning, a meaning that does not change. Otherwise we would have adopted the British approach of an unwritten, evolving constitution. Aside from amendment according to Article V, the Constitution’s meaning cannot be updated, or changed, or altered by the Supreme Court, the Congress, or the President.”

Hence, Clarence Thomas, or more to the point, any more Clarence Thomases on the U.S. Supreme Court, is liberalism’s worst nightmare.

Thomas then spoke of the forces of intimidation which array themselves against anyone who dares to question the accepted dogmas:

“…in December of 1980…I was unwittingly candid with a young Washington Post reporter. He fairly and thoroughly displayed my naive openness in his op-ed about our discussion, in which I had raised what I thought were legitimate objections to a number of sacred policies, such as affirmative action, welfare, school busing – policies that I felt were not well serving their intended beneficiaries. In my innocence, I was shocked at the public reaction. I had never been called such names in my entire life.”

“Why were these policies beyond question? What or who placed them off limits? Would it not be useful for those who felt strongly about these matters, and who wanted to solve the same problems, to have a point of view and to be heard? Sadly, in most forums of public dialogue in this country, the answer is no.”

“It became clear in rather short order that on the very difficult issues such as race there was no real debate or honest discussion. Those who raised questions that suggested doubt about popular policies were subjected to intimidation. Debate was not permitted. Orthodoxy was enforced. When whites questioned the conventional wisdom on these issues, it was considered bad form; when blacks did so, it was treason.”

“…In my humble opinion, those who come to engage in debates of consequence, and who challenge accepted wisdom, should expect to be treated badly. Nonetheless, they must stand undaunted. That is required. And, that should be expected. For, it is bravery that is required to secure freedom.”

“When one observes the pitched battles that rage around persons of strong convictions, who do not accept the prevailing beliefs of others, it is no wonder that those who might otherwise wish to participate find more hospitable outlets for their civic interests…”

“I do believe that we are required to wade into those things that matter most to our country and our culture, no matter what the disincentives are, and no matter the personal cost. There is not one among us who wants to be set upon, or obligated to do and say difficult things. Yet, there is not one of us who could in good conscience stand by and watch a loved one or a defenseless person – or a vital national principle – perish alone, undefended, when our intervention could make all the difference…if we think something is dreadfully wrong, then someone has to do something.”

Justice Thomas then goes on in his speech to enjoin courage in standing for correct principles, and not to succumb to intimidation:

“As I have said, active citizens are often subjected to truly vile attacks; they are branded as mean-spirited, racist, Uncle Tom, homophobic, sexist, etc. To this we often respond (if not succumb), so as not to be constantly fighting, by trying to be tolerant and non-judgmental–i.e., we censor ourselves. This is not civility. It is cowardice, or well intentioned self deception at best.”

I find Justice Clarence Thomas’ wisdom to be on a par with that of the Founders. I get the same sense of clarity and understanding of correct principles from his words as when I contemplate the words of the Founders. My guess is that, like Daniel Webster, Clarence Thomas loves to drink deeply the waters that flow from that fountain of inspired doctrine which was the Founders’ legacy. This is a man cut from similar cloth. If the Founders were great men for their times, then Clarence Thomas is clearly a great man for our times.

So, with Ann Coulter, I say yes, let’s have eight more Clarence Thomases on the U.S. Supreme Court!

The full text of Justice Thomas’ remarks can be accessed here. It is a remarkable speech. A fountain of wisdom for our times. I encourage all to obtain a copy of it, read it, keep it with your copy of the Constitution, and return to it as needed to remind yourself what is required of each of us if we are to preserve our Constitutional Republic.

Let me close with the closing words of Justice Thomas:

“So, this evening, I leave you with this simple exhortation: Be not afraid.”

Posted in Thomas Jefferson | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Abortion: America’s Greatest Sin

A long time ago I was the editor of the Nutmeg Political Report (affectionately known as NPR). We wrote opinion pieces which we published via e-mail before anyone had ever heard the term “blog.” Then we would send our publication unsolicited to any e-mail address we could find of persons in politics, academia, etc. before anyone ever heard the term “spam.” This article was published on 08/13/00. I think it’s worth publishing again.

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“The Republican Party has this hang-up about sex. Every time it tries to act like a modern institution, it stumbles over its Victorian morality and ends up looking absurd.”

So begins David S. Broder’s recent piece in the Courant (08/01/00). He went on to mock Republicans, or more precisely, conservative Republicans, for their insistence on maintaining their pro-life position on abortion, their opposition to failed sex education programs, and their refusal to embrace the homosexual cultural and political agenda.

Just for openers, since “choice” (what a ludicrous and disingenuous euphemism), sex education, and the homosexual agenda all have a home in the Democrat Party, why the obsession with re-making the Republican Party in the image of their sworn ideological enemies? And why is it that only the Republicans are expected to modify their platform to conform to liberal dogmas? Is the criticism of the Republicans by liberal columnists balanced by similar criticism of the Democrats? Name for me, if you will, which planks in the Democrat platform liberals in that party are being hounded and ridiculed about for their unwillingness to modify so as to accommodate conservative beliefs.

There are none, of course. And there never will be. Democrats are judged by a different standard than are Republicans. But I think it is instructive to note that if the so-called “pro-choice” minions could have their way they would remove the pro-life plank from the Republican platform and deny millions of pro-lifers…dare I say it…? Choice.

I am pro-choice. I believe that a woman should have the right to choose what she does or does not do with her own body. But everyone knows that sex is inextricably linked with procreation. And once a woman has freely chosen to involve herself in those activities by which the spark of human life is struck, she enters a higher realm of natural law and its concomitant duties. By her actions, she has willingly invited another human being to leave the presence of God and come into this life. She has now taken upon herself the most sacred responsibility in all of creation: motherhood.

The often heard but not often questioned pro-abortion argument that a pregnant woman’s right to abort follows from her right to control her own body is a cunning deception in that it is a blend of truth and the purposeful omission of truth. By virtue of her decision to step over the threshold and enter in to the sacred temple of life, she has exercised her right to choose. She has become a partner with God in the creation of life; she has beckoned a new soul to come forth. And now there is not just the woman, now there are two souls within the one body, her own, and that of another – a child of God. Two souls, two bodies, two beings. Not just one. This is the purposeful omission of truth in the “pro-choice” deceit.

The woman does and ought to have control of her own body. But to leap from that truth to the proposition that by virtue of her right to control her own body she therefore also has a right to vivisect and destroy the child residing within is sheer evil. The higher laws of life dictate that her right to choose has now been modified by virtue of her own choice. Millions of Americans hold this truth to be self-evident.

The “pro-choice” argument is the greatest and most damnable lie of our time.  Only a conscience coarsened by years of moral light mindedness could not know that. There can be no right among a civilized people to willfully, deliberately, cruelly destroy an innocent helpless child in the womb. This is a crime of unspeakable proportions. This is barbarism. In America, it has long ago become a sin of holocaust proportions.

Life is one of the unalienable rights recognized by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence. Life is unalienable because it is given to each individual by God. Among the limited powers granted to our government under the Constitution is the power and duty to protect the unalienable rights of each of it’s citizens. This is one of the most fundamental reasons that legitimate governments exist.

To the extent each of us has unalienable rights, each of us also has an unalienable duty to promote, to uphold, to demand the protection of those rights for all. We are our brother’s keeper. It is my opinion that a people who are unwilling to defend those rights, not only for themselves but for their fellow man as well, will ultimately be found by the natural order of things to be unfit to retain them for themselves.

Millions of Americans recognize that abortion is an infanticidal assault on the unalienable right to life of the unborn child, and it is among their deepest convictions that they have a God-given duty to defend the defenseless, to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, to contend for and uphold the unalienable rights of those who are inexplicably considered by some to be the least among us. It is on this basis that they oppose abortion.

But for those who are so callous, so morally weak, or so fundamentally dishonest that they are capable of embracing the “pro-choice” lie, it is evidently not beneath them to lie also about the motivation of those who oppose this great evil. By their snide portrayals of the defenders of life as intellectually dysfunctional Victorians from a benighted past who are hung up about sex, who want the government snooping in every bedroom, by their invoking images of coat hangers in back alleys and similar tactics, they attempt to reduce the high mindedness of the vast majority of the defenders of life to little more than a vulgar strain of religiously induced psychosis. In doing so they reveal much more of the truth about themselves than about those they scorn.

Those who oppose the death penalty seem also to be almost uniformly “pro-choice”. They often insist that executions should be public, believing that people would lose their stomach for capital punishment if they could see its results. What if all of those who support “choice” could see babies being killed in the womb? Would not the same principle apply? Do you think you would retain your “pro-choice” credentials if you could actually see what it is you are supporting? If you could actually see the child’s reaction as it is being put to death?

Speaking of the passing last year of Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, author of the ruling that opened the floodgates of legal abortions in America, Pres. Clinton paraphrased the prophet Micah: “He did justice, he loved mercy, and now he walks humbly with his God.”

The question the President’s statement begs is obvious: Where is the justice, where was the mercy, for all those millions of souls whose journey from the presence of God into mortality was brutally terminated in the wombs of their mothers? And can any honest person really believe that our Father in heaven smiles upon those who have done such things to His innocent children while their blood cries from the grave for the mercy and the justice that Harry Blackmun denied them?

We will all, Harry Blackmun and David Broder included, face a Supreme Court one day. Is it possible that we will then learn to our everlasting shame that all of those “fetuses” were real people, and that they will each be permitted to testify as to what was done to them, and will bear witness against all those who not only performed these evil deeds, but also all those who were philosophically complicit?

No, Mr. Broder, it’s not about sex at all. It’s about right and wrong. And it’s about our future. Whether the issue be abortion, sex education, or the homosexual political and cultural agenda, each has serious moral implications for our culture and our republic that can only be glossed over or dismissed or denied if we would place our future in great peril.

Try as you will to misrepresent and to marginalize those with whom you disagree, you will not ultimately prevail. Try as you will to belittle and to besmear those who question these things, and who steadfastly refuse to embrace them, as merely hung up on sex, or mean spirited, or prudish, or ignorant, or phobic, you will not ultimately prevail. Your characterizations of them are not founded in the truth, and they will not long stand. Nor will the causes you espouse because they are wrong. Lies and those who embrace them, while they may have their season, are always, in time, discovered, vetted and judged in the irresistible and inescapable light of reality and truth.

May God have mercy on us for what we have done to millions of His little ones in the name of “choice.”

Posted in Abortion, Constitution | 2 Comments

A Tithing Cut for the Rich

We hear the mantra “tax cuts for the rich” over and over again. The Bush tax cuts, we are repetitively told, favored the wealthy. And Republicans, because they passed “tax cuts for the rich,” are for the 1% while Democrats, who opposed those “tax cuts for the rich,” are for the 99%. Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal tax advocacy group, illustrates the argument this way:

Now comes the Romney-Ryan team and their proposal for tax cuts. Mitt Romney characterizes his tax plan as follows: Make permanent, across-the-board 20 percent cut in marginal rates. In other words, he proposes a 20% tax cut for everyone who pays federal income taxes.

Everyone. Across the board.

President Obama and his fellow Democrats, sure as the sun came up this morning, calls Romney’s proposal “a tax cut for the rich.” The President says “the bulk of this tax cut would go to the very top…a lot of it going to the wealthiest 1% of all households.” The way the President puts it, it sounds really unfair. But is it? That depends on your point of reference, and your point of reference depends on the moral compass that guides you.

The matter is easily understood with a little demonstration.

Is Romney actually proposing a tax cut that unfairly favors the wealthy?

To keep this simple, I will answer the question and make my point by using the principle of the tithe to illustrate. The Lord’s tithe is a very simple 10% of an earner’s income. The tithe is the same percentage for everyone, no matter how much or how little they earn.

We will compare two tithe payers: Steve, who earned $3,000,000 last year, and Bill, who earned $30,000. Steve paid $300,000, while Bill paid $3,000 in tithes. Of course, Steve earned 100 times more than Bill and, consequently, paid 100 times more in tithes.

Now, let’s imagine what would happen if the Lord let it be known that he was calling for an across the board reduction of 20% in the tithe. In other words, he was reducing the tithe from 10% to 8% for all tithe payers. That would reduce Steve’s tithe from $300,000 to $240,000, a tithing cut of $60,000. Bill would see his tithe reduced from $3,000 to $2,400, a tithing cut of $600.

There are two ways you can look at this tithing cut. You can either say “it is fair and equitable to both Steve and Bill because they were treated equally, the tithing percentage was reduced by an equal amount for each of them,” or you can say “this is a tithing cut which favors the rich because Steve saw a $60,000 cut while Bill only saw a $600 cut.”

This is the essence of the charge that the Romney tax cut proposal, like the Bush tax cuts, is a tax cut for the rich. The Romney proposal is to cut marginal federal income tax rates by 20% across the board for everyone who pays federal incomes taxes. This proposal would treat everyone equally. But the dollar amounts would differ depending on a person’s taxable income.

The moral linchpin upon which this debate turns is this: which should we institutionalize in our laws in America? Equality of treatment of all people? Or equality of outcomes?

Equality of treatment of all people is the American ideal, and is morally right. Equality of outcomes, imposed by compulsory rather than by voluntary means, is tyranny, and is morally repugnant.

“Tax cuts for the rich” has an unseemly appeal for some Americans. But it is the mantra of cunning demagogues who are determined to bury the traditional American ideal of equality under the law by imposing equality of outcomes under the law. Whether or not America continues to be the shining city on a hill will depend on how many of us recognize the demagoguery and reject it at the polls.

Posted in Thomas Jefferson | 9 Comments

Perceptions: The Romney/Obama Clash on Foreign Policy

The clash between Mitt Romney and the Obama administration over the assaults on our embassies in Egypt and Libya and the murder of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others has provided a stark contrast between two fundamentally different views of American governance.

Romney’s criticism of the Obama administration’s initial response to the assaults on the U.S. Embassies in Cairo and Benghazi has drawn fire from both friend and foe alike:

“The foolishness of Romney’s reaction is glaring. Pretending that the statement from the U.S. embassy in Cairo was anything other than a completely understandable and reasonable attempt by its occupants to save their own lives borders on disgraceful. Romney’s implication that the statement was issued at the height of the attacks is also false; it was actually released earlier in the day, a preventive measure aimed at keeping the protests from turning violent” (Mitt’s Shameful Libya Statement, Salon.com).

“I don’t feel that Mr. Romney has been doing himself any favors, say in the past few hours, perhaps since last night,” (Peggy) Noonan told Fox News. “Sometimes when really bad things happen, when hot things happen, cool words or no words is the way to go…I was thinking as he spoke, I think I belong to the old school of thinking that in times of great drama and heightened crisis, and in times when something violent has happened to your people, I always think discretion is the better way to go,” Noonan said. “When you step forward in the midst of a political environment and start giving statements on something dramatic and violent that has happened, you’re always leaving yourself open to accusations that you are trying to exploit things politically” (Noonan: Romney not Helping Himself, Politico.com).

First, a timeline: With protestors evidently gathering outside, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued the following statement on Tuesday morning:

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

Then, throughout the day, the embassy stood by its original statement with a series of tweets, even after their security had been breached and the embassy stormed:

@USEmbassyCairo “This morning’s condemnation (issued before protest began) still stands. As does our condemnation of unjustified breach of the Embassy” 11 Sep 12

On Tuesday evening Romney released the following statement:

“I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Which is precisely what Administration officials in Cairo did throughout the day on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday evening (10:10 p.m.), the Obama administration disavowed the statements of its Cairo Embassy:

“The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government.”

After the Obama administration’s disavowal of its Embassy’s statement, the tweets were all deleted.

On Wednesday, Romney defended his statement of the previous evening:

“The embassy in Cairo put out a statement after their grounds had been breached, protesters were inside the grounds. They reiterated that statement after the breach. I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation. An apology for America’s values is never the right course.”

I agree. But Romney’s response to the attack on America gives me hope that maybe in Romney we have a leader who takes American national security seriously. Consider the following:

“Islamist militants armed with antiaircraft weapons and rocket-propelled grenades stormed a lightly defended United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, late Tuesday, killing the American ambassador and three members of his staff and raising questions about the radicalization of countries swept up in the Arab Spring.”
American and European officials said that while many details about the attack remained unclear, the assailants seemed organized, well trained and heavily armed, and they appeared to have at least some level of advance planning. But the officials cautioned that it was too soon to tell whether the attack was related to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks” (Libya Attack Brings Challenges for U.S., New York Times, 9/12/12).

How could it be that on a day so portentous as September 11 that our embassy in Benghazi could be “lightly defended”? What does this say about the Obama Administration? How could it be that the attackers “seemed organized, well trained and heavily armed, and they appeared to have at least some level of advance planning” and yet the Obama Administration was caught flat-footed on September 11, 2012? The New York Times article continues:

“But a Libyan politician who had breakfast with Mr. Stevens at the mission the morning before he was killed described security, mainly four video cameras and as few as four Libyan guards, as sorely inadequate for an American ambassador in such a tumultuous environment” (Ibid)

This, I fear, is the state of American security at home and abroad under the current administration.

Maybe the lack of seriousness with regard to security at our embassies in Cairo and Benghazi has something to do with the fact that President Obama displays only a half interest in daily intelligence briefings. An analysis of the President’s first 1,225 days in office from January 23, 2009 through May 31, 2012 reveals that the President was in attendance at less than half of the Presidential Daily Briefs. An article in the Washington Post cites this study and adds that President George W. Bush “almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting.” It might not be a stretch to suggest that President Obama attends more fundraisers than intelligence briefings. In fact, after the President delivered his Wednesday morning Rose Garden comments on the American deaths in Libya, he was off to Las Vegas for a scheduled fundraiser.

The criticisms of Romney are

1. That he reacted too quickly. But when you are a Republican/conservative politician, you’re going to be criticized no matter what you do. Remember the vilifying George Bush took from the Left because he showed restraint for seven minutes after learning of the attack on the World Trade Center? Romney’s reaction was timely, firm, and highly appropriate.

2. The Salon.com piece charges Romney with being “fundamentally dishonest.” They point to two PolitiFact posts, one which parses the word “apology” and another the term “apology tour” to argue that some “experts” don’t agree with Romney’s use of these terms because neither Obama nor administration officials ever actually said the words “I’m sorry.” Therefore, they conclude, Romney is a liar for characterizing the Embassy’s statements as an “apology.” But would these same people argue that a crime is not a hate crime unless the perpetrator says “I hate you” while committing it? I don’t think so.

To deny that Obama has not been apologizing for his country because he didn’t actually say the words “I’m sorry” is absurd. I am reminded of the oft recalled lawyerly parsing of former President Bill Clinton who, in his deposition in the investigation that led to his impeachment, proffered “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” As to whether or not the Obama Administration has a track record of apologizing for America, the liberals are modeling their debate tactics after those of Slick Willie, arguing that it depends on what the meaning of “apologize” is.

Romney did not lie, nor was he precipitous in his reaction to the assault on American sovereignty. He showed himself to be a principled leader with the courage to defend America. But more importantly, Romney’s response showed the nation and the world that we are in great peril with a weak, disengaged, and equivocating president in the White House, and that we have, for the first time in a very long time, a real choice in November.

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The Chick-fil-A Phenomenon

I don’t do fast food. Haven’t for years. It doesn’t sit well in my stomach. I don’t do hatred either. Never have. Hatred doesn’t sit well in my stomach either. Until last week, I had never heard of Chick-fil-A. But if there were a Chick-fil-A within a reasonable distance from me, I’d have lunch there in spite of my stomach. Why? I’m tired of the lies.

And obviously, so are a lot of other people. I don’t think America has ever seen such an outpouring of support before for a business as we have seen for Chick-fil-A in the past week. If you haven’t been in a coma, you know the story. In an interview published July 16 in the Baptist Press Chick-fil-A president and chief operating officer Dan Cathy was asked about the company’s support of the family:

Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position.

We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

Also noted in the interview was the fact that Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed on Sundays, the Sabbath Day for most Christians. The article describes Cathy as “a warm, common man who is deeply committed to being a faithful Christian witness,” that he is “fully involved in New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga.”, and that he “drives Chick-fil-A’s efforts to provide genuine hospitality…Based on Matthew 5:41, Cathy is on a mission to provide customers with ‘second-mile’ service — exceeding even the highest expectations of a typical fast-food restaurant.”

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain (Matthew 5:41).

In other words, Chick-fil-A incorporates the first and the second great commandments into their business model:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

How refreshing. The next time you hear someone ranting about “corporate greed,” remember what you have learned this week about the efforts of Chick-fil-A, Inc. to go the second mile for their customers. Wouldn’t it be nice if the IRS were so disposed?

But the response of some — most notably Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — was typical: in essence, “Stop the hate.”

And there is the big lie.

Like Dan Cathy and millions of others, I have deeply held moral and religious convictions. And I am tired of being bullied, insulted, and lied about because I am unwilling to abandon the traditional definition of heterosexual marriage.

They call us bigots, which is defined as “a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own.” By that definition, Mayors Menino and Emanuel and their ilk are bigots, aren’t they? But I am not a bigot. I try to be careful not to judge people by any other standard than the content of their character. I don’t care what their sexual orientation is. But I do care about the moral foundation of our culture. For the vast majority of traditional marriage advocates, the charge of bigotry is a lie.

They call us homophobes, which is defined as “fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men.” But I don’t fear homosexuals. I just don’t see some things as they do. The charge is a lie.

They say I am motivated by hate. That’s the biggest lie. I don’t hate anyone.

I am weary of being relentlessly charged with bigotry, homophobia, and hatred simply because I have deeply held traditional moral and religious values and refuse to be bullied into relinquishing them. I am guilty of none of these things. I love my neighbor, and I always try to treat him or her with respect. And so do most people. The overwhelming support for Chick-fil-A tells me that not only are the American people determined to stand for legitimate free speech, but, like me, they are weary of the lies.

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Unalienable Rights, Unalienable Duties

Given the scriptures we have, the question of the proper use of force, including war, should be of critical importance to the Latter-day Saints. There is debate among the Saints as to whether we are a warlike people, or a people of peace. The Lord is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). But he is also a man of war (Exodus 15:3). Likewise, I think we should be princes of peace also, but willing to go to war when necessary.

My reading of the Book of Mormon leads me to the conclusion that where there are unalienable rights granted to a people by the Lord, there are also concomitant unalienable duties. The Nephite rebels dispatched by Moroni had an unalienable duty to defend their country. Their failure to do so was a crime and was dealt with as such. I expect that the idea of “unalienable duties” may not sit well with some, so I have taken excerpts from my book “Walking in Darkness at Noonday” and posted them below so that anyone interested can determine if my reasoning is sound. I think the Book of Mormon case is airtight: where there are unalienable rights granted to a people by God, there is also the unalienable and God-given duty to defend those rights. That being so, if the American nation has been given great talents by the Lord consisting of a government divinely designed to protect the unalienable rights of man, as well as great wealth, and great power, what shall we do with those talents? Bury them in the ground until the Lord returns as some seem to advocate? Or do we have an unalienable duty to put them to good use defending the defenseless around the world, succoring the weak, lifting up the hands which hang down, and strengthening the feeble knees?

Unalienable Rights

We may think of the unalienable rights of man, generally speaking, as the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to lawfully obtain and retain property. These three fundamental human rights are like a three-legged stool. If any one of the three legs is kicked out from under a man, the other two must also fall. Can a man sustain his life without food and shelter? Does a man have liberty if his property can be taken from him by his neighbor? And where is liberty or property without life?

Not all men respect the God-given rights of others and, being predators of one stripe or another, they devise a thousand schemes for plunder. Reason dictates, then, that each
of us has a God-given right – and, I will argue later, even a duty – to defend our individual rights from the predations of others.

Since the rights of men are generally taken by force, reason dictates that we may defend our rights with force if necessary. But we need not rely on reason only to form this
conclusion. The Nephites were taught by their prophets that it was their God-given right to defend themselves:

“And they were doing that which they felt was the duty
which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.

And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your
families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the
Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion” (Alma 43:46-47).

The Nephites were defending their unalienable rights.

Reason also dictates that law abiding individuals have the right to organize and combine their defenses, for greater safety, in what we call government. Hence, the Founders
Declaration “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” (Declaration of Independence).

The Just Powers of Government

The individual citizen possesses a natural right to resort to force against another only in the defense of his unalienable rights. If an individual initiates an assault on the life, the liberty, or the property of his neighbor, he is “guilty of the first offense” (Alma 43:46-47), will have committed a crime, and will be subject to the penalty of the law.

We know that a legitimate government derives its “just Powers from the Consent of the Governed” (Declaration of Independence).

Therefore, the power that government possesses – which is the power to use force – can only be that power which the individual citizens have the moral, God-given right to lend
to it, and no more. If the individual does not have the right to take the life, the liberty, or the property of his neighbor, then it is unreasonable to conclude that he can vest his government with such powers. This is the very essence of what the Framers meant when they termed the government they designed as limited. It follows then that the only legitimate use of force by the government is in the defense of the unalienable rights of its
citizens.

Thomas Jefferson put it this way:

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts
only as they are injurious to others” (Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-1785).

To Frederic Bastiat, the terms “law” and “government” were interchangeable. In his 1850 publication The Law, he echoed Jefferson’s characterization of properly defined
government this way:

“What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the
individual right to lawful defense.

Each of us has a natural right – from God – to defend his
person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic
requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is
completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two.

If every person has the right to defend, even by force – his
person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right – its reason for existing, its lawfulness – is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force – for the same reason – cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty or property of individuals or groups.

Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to
our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does not it logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?

If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this:
The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over all” (Fredric Bastiat, The Law, pg. 6-7).

Could it be any more clear, then, why the government which was framed by the Founders in the Constitution was termed a limited government? Said Thomas Jefferson: “…it would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism — free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power: that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go; … In questions of powers, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution” (Thomas Jefferson, Kentucky Resolutions number 8, 1798).

More or Less than This Cometh of Evil

If it is true, then, that the Constitution as devised by those “wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80) was intended by those wise men to be limited in the use of its powers to defending and securing the unalienable rights of its citizens – which is precisely what they stated in the Declaration of Independence – then perhaps we Latter-day Saints should be concerned with this statement from the Lord:

“And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting
that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges,
belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my
church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less
than this, cometh of evil” (D&C 98:5-7).

Can there be any other interpretation of the Lord’s warning here than this: the Constitution vests our government with power and authority to protect and preserve the agency of its citizens, no more, no less. And any law of men which sanctions the use of force by the government beyond “supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges,” or, in other words, beyond the defense of the inalienable rights of its citizens,
“cometh of evil”?

I think this is precisely the law of the Lord.

Government is Force

Latter-day Saints are well familiar with Joseph Smith’s oft quoted statement, when asked how it was that he governed the Saints so effectively: “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves” (Joseph Smith, quoted in the Millennial Star 13, November 15, 1851: 339).

It is essential that Latter-day Saints understand “correct principles” as they pertain to government. Why? Because, as George Washington stated:

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence – it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master” (George Washington, quoted in Lifetime Speaker’s Encyclopedia, Jacob M. Braude, Vol. 1, pg. 326).

There is some element of force, either explicit or implicit, in everything government does. Force is the antithesis of free agency. The improper use of force is ungodly. The Latter-day
Saint should consider that the improper use of government is therefore ungodly. Remember the warning of the Lord:

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and
disposition of almost all men…to exercise unrighteous dominion.
…but when we undertake to exercise control or dominion or
compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:39,37).

The words from that statement of the Lord which leap from the page and demand to be emphasized are “in any degree of unrighteousness.” The implications here are that a) there is such a thing as the righteous application of “control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men,” and b) for those who would possess the powers of heaven, there can be no error in its application. Also implied, however, is that few understand righteous principles as they pertain to the use of force. Consequently, when the souls of men are forced unrighteously by those who have been temporarily granted authority to exercise the priesthood during their mortal probation, “… behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the
priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:37).

It is clear that we must be precise in our understanding of, in our use of, or – and this may be most critical of all – in our support for the use of force against others. If we vary from
the correct principle “in any degree of unrighteousness,” then we violate the law of the Lord, offend the Spirit of God and, at some point – perhaps at the time of our judgment – will be found unworthy to continue to exercise the priesthood of God.

Few Are Chosen

There are two sections of the Doctrine and Covenants which contain the warning “many are called but few are chosen.”

Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-42:

“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why
are they not chosen?

Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this
world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we
undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain
ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of  unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against
the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and
disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by
virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge
the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile…” (D&C 121:34-42).

The dominant theme of these verses is the use of power. Will the Lord give all of the powers of heaven to a man who does not understand completely the proper use of power? I think the answer is self evident.

“Wherefore, ye must needs be chastened and stand rebuked
before my face;

For ye have sinned against me a very grievous sin, in that ye
have not considered the great commandment in all things, that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house…

But behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many who
have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are chosen.

They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in
that they are walking in darkness at noon-day.

And for this cause I gave unto you a commandment that you
should call your solemn assembly, that your fastings and your
mourning might come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth…

Yea, verily I say unto you, I gave unto you a commandment
that you should build a house, in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high…

If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father
shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness.

Now here is wisdom, and the mind of the Lord—let the house
be built, not after the manner of the world, for I give not unto you that ye shall live after the manner of the world” (D&C 95:2-13).

The Lord warns that there are “many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are chosen.” It is because we have committed a “very grievous sin” that we will not be chosen to be endowed “with power from on high.” We have had the revelations of God laid before us. We have been given prophets, seers and revelators. We have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost. And yet, most of us – all but a few – are,
in the words of the Lord, “walking in darkness at noon-day.”

Why?

Is not the “the great commandment in all things” revealed by the Lord in the following New Testament dialogue?:

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour
as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the
prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).

The Lord warns that we “have not considered the great commandment in all things, that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house…” Might we conclude from Sections 95 and 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants that the proper use of the powers of God require that we love God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves? And further, that we not “live after the manner of the world.” Especially as pertains to the agency of our neighbor. How can we say we love our neighbor out of one side of our mouth if we consent to the violation of his agency out of the other?

God is love, and, though he is omnipotent, he does not violate the agency of his children. If we would possess the powers of heaven, then we must not violate the agency of God’s children either. This, I believe, is the key to that “very grievous sin” and the area in which we must not be found “walking in darkness at noon-day.”

Does it not follow logically, then, that we Latter-day Saints must understand correct principles with regard to the use of force – and particularly as it is exercised by the
governments we sustain?

Unalienable Duties?

It is certainly not an original thought to say that with rights come responsibilities. Most would agree that this is a true principle. But if men possess unalienable rights endowed
upon them by their Creator, then does it not follow that they also have unalienable duties endowed upon them by their Creator in connection with those rights?

And if we have a right to defend our unalienable rights “even unto bloodshed” (Alma 43:47), do we have a duty to defend our unalienable rights “even unto bloodshed”?
I believe that the Book of Mormon teaches us that the answer is “yes.”

We have four accounts in the Book of Mormon where those whose actions put the liberty of their countrymen in jeopardy were put to death:

Account 1. Amalickiah was an ambitious man of “cunning device” and “flattering words.” He and his followers sought “to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation
of liberty which God had granted them…” (Alma 46:10). We are told that Amalickiah desired to be a king, and, because Helaman and his brethren opposed them, they, the Amalickiahites, were determined to slay them (Alma 46:2). We cannot determine
from the account we have if they made any overt attempt to do so.

Upon recognizing that they were in the minority, Amalickiah and his followers fled.
But fleeing was not to be an option for them. Moroni acted to a) stop them so that they could not join forces with the Lamanites (Alma 46:29-33), and b) put Amalickiah to death.
Assuming that Moroni was a righteous leader – and Mormon assures us that he was (Alma 48:17-18) – and looking at these actions from a “free agency” point of view, I have to assume that these actions could not have been an unjust violation of the agency of these people. Had Moroni’s actions been wicked, the scripture would surely have said so.

Amalickiah and his followers are not, up to this point in the Book of Mormon narrative, accused of overtly breaking any law. And yet, Mormon denied them the freedom to leave the Nephites. On what basis, then, were these obvious impositions of force examples of “righteous dominion,” as opposed to “unrighteous dominion”?

Account 2. Morianton, a trouble maker and woman beater, feared his efforts to take a portion of the land of Lehi from its rightful inhabitants would bring the wrath of Moroni
upon him. He and those who followed him elected to flee into the north country. Once again, Moroni “sent an army…to head the people of Morianton, to stop their flight into the land northward” (Alma 50:33). Bloodshed ensued, including the slaying of Morianton (Alma 50:35). The survivors were forcibly repatriated to the Nephite nation where they were required to enter into a covenant to keep the peace.

Where was the “free agency” of the followers of Morianton? On what basis was this imposition of force, including the ultimate use of force resulting in death, “righteous dominion,” not “unrighteous dominion”?

Account 3. The “king-men,” having evidently learned nothing from the saga of Amalickiah, “desired that a few particular points of the law should be altered” so that they might
“overthrow the free government and.. .establish a king over the land” (Alma 51:5). Pahoran and those who were known as “freemen” were an obstacle to their designs. The matter was put to a vote, the majority of the people sided with the freemen, and the king-men “were obliged to maintain the cause of freedom” (Alma 51:7).

Knowing that Amalickiah and the Lamanites, having amassed a “wonderfully great army,” were coming to attack their nation, the king-men “were glad in their hearts; and they refused to take up arms, for they were so wroth with the chief judge, and also with the people of liberty, that they would not take up arms to defend their country” (Alma 51:13).

Moroni, “because of the stubbornness of those people whom he had labored with so much diligence to preserve; yea, he was exceedingly wroth; his soul was filled with anger against
them” (Alma 51:14).

This is an example of righteous indignation.

Moroni organized a petition, representing himself and “the voice of the people, unto the governor of the land, desiring that he should read it, and give him (Moroni) power to compel those dissenters to defend their country or to put them to death” (Alma 51:15).

Permission was granted “according to the voice of the people,” Moroni marched against the king-men, four thousand of them were slain, and “those of their leaders who were not slain
in battle were taken and cast into prison, for there was not time for their trials at this period” (Alma 51:19).

Trials? Trials for what? It seems that this attempted “overthrow” of the free government was through democratic rather than violent means. They desired changes in the law to
allow for a king and the question was submitted to the voice of the people. Up to that point, it seems, they had not violated the law. But subsequently, after they refused to take up arms in the defense of their country, the leaders of these dissenters merited trials. In doing this, they must have broken some law. Was it that “they did lift their weapons of war to fight against the men of Moroni”? (Alma 51:18) I don’t think so. They did, in fact, seek to
defend themselves from the forces of Moroni. But Moroni was the aggressor here, not the king-men. It seems that the law they broke pertained to their unalienable duty to defend their country, to “lift their weapons of war to fight against” the enemies of their country.

The survivors of this internal war who were not leaders, but who we may assume also “did lift their weapons of war to fight against the men of Moroni,” were given two options: a) “be
smitten down to the earth by the sword” (Alma 51:20), or b) “[yield] to the standard of liberty…[be] compelled to hoist the title of liberty upon their towers…and to take up arms in defence of their country” (Alma 51:20).

Where was the “free agency” of the king-men? On what basis were they executed for failure to take up arms in defense of their country? On what basis were they compelled to defend their country? Was this “righteous” or “unrighteous dominion”?

Account 4. Though in approximately 67 B.C. Moroni “put an end to those king-men, that there were not any known by the appellation of king-men” (Alma 51:21), it seems that about five years later the anti-liberty movement was revived and its adherents became “exceedingly numerous” (Alma 61:3). Under the leadership of Pachus they overthrew the authority of Pahoran, drove the freemen from their land in Zarahemla, established Pachus as king of Zarahemla, entered into an unholy alliance with the king of the Lamanites and sought to subvert the war effort of Moroni against the Lamanites.

Despite this obvious treason, Pahoran wrote to Moroni that he was “somewhat worried… whether it should be just to go against our brethren” (Alma 61:19). Though Pahoran was a good and faithful man, it seems he was not as clear on the matter of the proper use of force as was Moroni and was relieved to learn from Moroni that “except they repent the Lord hath commanded you that ye should go against them” (Alma 61:20).

After defeating Pachus and restoring Pahoran to the judgment seat, “the men of Pachus received their trial, according to the law, and also those king-men who had been taken and cast into prison; and they were executed according to the law; yea, those men of Pachus and those king-men, whosoever would not take up arms in the defence of their country, but would fight against it, were put to death” (Alma 62:9).

There is no question that men who will take up arms to fight against their own country are guilty of treason and worthy of death. But suppose there were men “whosoever would not take up arms in the defence of their country” but would not go so far as to take up arms against it? The next verse in the account of Mormon seems to set the standard:

“And thus it became expedient that this law should be strictly
observed for the safety of their country; yea, and whosoever was found denying their freedom was speedily executed according to the law” (Alma 62:10).

Whosoever was found denying their freedom, without regard to whether they would take up arms against their own country, was speedily executed according to the law.

The character, the integrity and the godliness of Moroni cannot be questioned. But for the record, let us note Mormon’s characterization of Moroni:

“And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man
of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in
bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;

Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his
God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.

Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ,
and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood…

Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and
were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.

Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah,
yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God” (Alma 48:11-13,17-18).

We cannot impute wickedness in Moroni in any of the actions he took in his dealings with Amalickiah, Morianton, the king-men or the leaders of the Nephite government. We must
conclude that Moroni’s actions in using force to compel fidelity to the Nephite nation were Book of Mormon examples of righteous dominion.

However, implicit in all of the foregoing is a certain reliance upon connecting the dots and a certain amount of inference to arrive at a principle of unalienable duties. But the Book of Mormon closes the case for this principle with its account of Moroni’s letter to Pahoran.

When Moroni realized that the government was not supporting the war effort, he wrote an epistle to Pahoran wherein he warned him that if he did not “repent of that which ye have done, and begin to be up and doing” (Alma 60:24) in support of the Nephite armies, that he would leave a portion of his army to contend with the Lamanites, leave a special blessing from God upon them “that none other power can operate against them” (Alma 60:25), and with the remainder he would come to the head of the government to “[cleanse] our inward
vessel” (Alma 60:24). Moroni warns Pahoran that he fears only God, “and it is according to his commandments that I do take my sword to defend the cause of my country” (Alma 60:28) and that by his failure to “be up and doing” in the support of the troops, “Ye
know that ye do transgress the laws of God, and ye do know that ye do trample them under your feet” (Alma 60:33).

Here we have, in Moroni’s own words, the basis for all of his actions against those Nephites who imperiled the unalienable rights of their nation in any way: Moroni knew that in doing so, those Nephites transgressed the laws of God and trampled His commandments under their feet. Where is the law given that a free people must defend their freedom? We do not have a detailed account of all the laws given to the Nephites by King Mosiah when he counseled the people to relinquish their monarchical form of government and embrace
a free government, but I think it is likely that Moroni learned this commandment from the teachings of King Mosiah.

What other conclusion can we arrive at but that with “unalienable rights,” which come from God, come “unalienable duties,” which also come from God? And if unalienable rights may be defended with force with the approbation of God, “even unto bloodshed” (Alma 61:10), so, it would seem, may unalienable duties be enforced according to the commandments of God, “even unto bloodshed.”

And as to the laws of men, any use of force or compulsion upon the souls of men other than protecting and defending unalienable rights and enforcing their concomitant unalienable duties is a violation of the agency of man.

Here, I believe, is an example of what President Ezra Taft Benson was referring to when he spoke of the Book of Mormon as being “…so molded… that we might see the error and
know how to combat false…political…and philosophical concepts of our time” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Regional Representatives Seminar, Salt Lake City, Utah, 4 April 1986).

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