Friendly Words, Meant to Deceive

Three very friendly-sounding words: affordable, fairness, and neutrality. To me these words convey a kind of soothing mildness of circumstance or of intent. Affordable is good. It’s certainly preferable to unaffordable. Fairness is good. Who could be opposed to fairness? Neutrality? That’s the absence of bias, isn’t it?

But these friendly-sounding words have been used in public policy to deceive.

The Affordable Care Act was deceptive. It promised to make health insurance more accessible and more affordable for everyone. It did neither. There are still tens of millions of people with no health insurance, premiums have risen dramatically, high deductibles have made the coverage virtually unusable for many people, and plan options have been strictly limited.

But one thing the Affordable Car Act did very well: it drew healthcare in America closer to total government control than ever before.

The Fairness Doctrine was deceptive. Adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1949, it promised to “afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of public importance.” But with the government policing the airwaves looking for “fairness,” they being the sole arbiters of what defined fairness, and with broadcast licenses ultimately hanging in the balance, the doctrine proved to have a chilling effect on broadcast speech. Two U.S. Administrations, one Democrat, one Republican, employed as a regular feature of political strategy the use of the FCC and the threat of the Fairness Doctrine to limit the speech of their political opposition.

The Fairness Doctrine did not, it could not, guarantee free speech. But what it did do was place broadcast speech under government control. The Fairness Doctrine is no more, thankfully. It was done away with by an enlightened FCC.

Net Neutrality is deceptive. Net Neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine applied to the internet. It is the Affordable Care Act applied to the internet. The heretofore largely unregulated internet has been a model of rapid and stunning innovation and it is its own prima facie evidence of the moral and practical superiority of a free market. But since the implementation of Net Neutrality rules in 2015, overall investment in the internet has begun to decline. When investment declines, innovation slows. The very first issue addressed by the FCC under the 2015 rules was to limit creative business models which gave some customers free data. This because such business models, though they were a boon to customers, violate net neutrality rules.

Affordable. Fairness. Neutrality. Nice words. Friendly words, to be sure. But deceptive, in my view, because they are used to obscure the fact that the underlying policies associated with those nice words take choice from the American citizen and turn it over to government bureaucrats. Yes, government should regulate some things: anti-competitive or deceptive business practices, for example. But government should not be regulating and limiting the choices we have in the area of healthcare, speech, or internet service. We, the American citizens, can and will regulate those services by virtue of the choices we make in a free, open, and competitive marketplace.


Posted in Thomas Jefferson | 1 Comment

With a Firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence

There is no question in my mind that this nation was established under the guiding hand of the Lord. He makes that clear with these words:

 “And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose…” (D&C 101:80).

It is also clear that the Founders recognized the Lord’s hand in the miraculous work they had done:

“The man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe whose divine interposition was so frequently manifested in our behalf. And it is my earnest prayer that we may so conduct ourselves as to merit a continuance of those blessings with which we have hitherto been favored” (George Washington, letter to Reverend Samuel Langdon of New Hampshire, New York, September 28, 1789; Fitzpatrick 30:416).

And so the Founders stood together against great odds “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” (Declaration of Independence).

We face great odds today. America has been undergoing a Progressive transformation for a hundred years. Today, the Constitution is hanging by a thread. America has a choice to make. But is that choice limited to voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? I don’t think so.

If America could not have risen without the superintending hand of God, is it possible that she can be saved from falling in the absence of the aid of that same God? I think not.

And if the Founders stepped into a very dangerous unknown “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,” should not we, who are their heirs, be willing to do likewise? And if we are unwilling to do so, how can we expect to receive “the protection of Divine Providence”?

I propose that we consider the admonitions of the Lord, and that we put our trust in Him:

 “and thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him” (Mosiah 29:20).

King Mosiah, a prophet of God and a Washington-like figure to his people, sought to persuade his people to give up the monarchical form of government they had and to establish a representative form of government

 “… that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord” (Mosiah 29:25).

Like the Nephites, we have a law which is correct and which was given us by the hand of 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.

I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.

Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.

Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil” (D&C 98:5-10).

We in America have had neither a president nor more than a handful of members of Congress for generations who were truly committed to governing “according to the laws which have been given [us] by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.” Consequently, we have been drifting further and further from correct principles for a very long time. We are many trillions of dollars in debt; record numbers of our citizens are unemployed; racial strife is being cynically and purposely fomented; our cities are bloody battle grounds; our educational system has been badly compromised; political leaders are expected to lie and are passing sweeping, complex laws they have never read; judges, in too many cases, are activists, legislating from the bench; government, especially at the national level, is reaching far beyond the powers and authority granted to it by the Constitution; morality, decency, and common sense are being redefined. Freedom is under assault; religious liberty is under assault; the family is under assault.

“When the wicked rule the people mourn.”

I don’t think that either of the major party candidates are honest, or wise, or good. Neither of them will protect and defend the Constitution, their solemn oath to do so notwithstanding; neither will lead America on a path to national healing.

I decided two years ago that I would never again vote for anyone who is not a friend of that law which is the constitutional law of the land.” I will vote in his election, but I will not vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Instead, I intend to put my trust in God, to vote as best I can according to the admonitions of the Lord, and to seek out and uphold someone who I believe is honest, wise, and good. And I will do so “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”

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Wolves and Good Shepherds

The Lord expects us to love our neighbor.

“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).

But He also commanded us to be wise:

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

Does the Lord expect us to embrace the wolves, or turn a blind eye to them as if they don’t pose an existential threat to us? Moreover, does He expect us to invite the wolves in? I don’t think so.

“And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed” (Alma 5:60).

I realize that the context of this scripture refers to the flock of the Church. But there is a valid principle here. I don’t think I wrest the scriptures when I insist that, as a nation, we have a responsibility to one another that we “suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among [us], that [we] may not be destroyed.”

There are certainly sheep who seek refuge among us. But there are also certainly ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing who will use the mass importation of refugees as cover, and whose purpose in coming here is to shed the blood of our neighbors, perhaps our own friends, our own family, our own children. They have said, over and over again, that it is their intention, their calling, to do this.

I don’t trust the current administration to suffer that no ravenous wolves enter in among us. Their promises with regard to vetting the incoming refugees are as empty as the promises with which they sold the Affordable Care Act to the American people. And the fiasco which attended the roll-out of the Obamacare website proved how utterly incompetent these people are.

Incompetence in the roll-out of the Obamacare website didn’t cost any American lives. But incompetence in identifying wolves in sheep’s clothing most certainly will, sooner or later, cost American lives. But by then it will be too late for those of our neighbors who, we piously said, we loved.

“But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep” (John 10:12).

Are we hirelings? Or are we good shepherds? If we turn a blind eye to the reality of our times, if we suspend all good judgment and common sense and foolishly allow the wolves in sheep’s clothing to slip in among us, even under the cover of a worthy humanitarian endeavor, will we be able one day to look the Lord in the eye and tell him that we loved his sheep? How can we say that we loved our neighbor whose blood was shed because we foolishly suffered wolves to come in among us?

It seems to me that a determined failure to see the wolves coming, to identify them and turn them away, will be evidence that we are neither wise nor are we good shepherds.

Posted in LDS, Refugees | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Church Leaders are Being “Disingenuous”?

To be disingenuous is to be dishonest. When Benjamin R. Hertzberg published his denunciation of the recent change in LDS policy regarding children living in same-sex households, he twice characterized the comments of Elder D. Todd Christofferson as “disingenuous.” In other words, representing the Church and church leaders, Elder Christofferson was lying. Really? Lying about what? Brother Hertzberg must believe that there is a motive for this policy other than the one described by Elder Christofferson. That’s what “disingenuous” implies to me. As best I can tell, Brother Hertzberg never attempted to pinpoint what Elder Christofferson was lying about. What is the real reason for this policy if not the one offered by church leaders?

Brother Hertzberg’s command of the scriptures strikes me as superficial. He says “the new policy contradicts basic Christian teachings and core Mormon theological principles. Jesus said: ‘Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not’ (Luke 18:16)”. That’s true. Jesus did say that. But the Lord also said “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). And yet, at a certain time and in a particular set of circumstances, the Lord commanded Nephi to kill Laban.

“And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands” (1 Nephi 4:12).

The commandment given Nephi by the Lord was very hard for him. But Nephi complied because he knew it was the Lord who commanded him.

The Lord has also commanded,

“Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none” (Jacob 2:27).

This commandment from the Lord has been almost universal since Adam and Eve. And yet, at certain times the Lord has commanded otherwise. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and many others have taken multiple wives not of their own choosing, but under commandment from God. In the case of Joseph Smith, the commandment was very hard for him. But he complied because he knew it was the Lord who commanded him.

The fact that Nephi slew Laban does not give other men a license to kill. Nor does the fact that Abraham had four wives give any man a license to practice plural marriage. But when the Lord gives men hard commandments, men of God obey.

Brother Hertzberg, I think, misuses the second Article of Faith:

“‘We believe that men will be punished for their own sins.’ We, sinners all, require access to Jesus’ grace to be forgiven: access Mormons believe is granted through the very ordinances the new policy forbids the children of LGBTQ parents from receiving.”

This is an odd statement on several levels. First, the policy itself is not new at all. It is the same policy – almost word for word – that governs access to church membership for children whose parents are practicing polygamy. I wonder if Brother Hertzberg and others have issued withering public denunciations of church leaders because children of polygamous parents are denied access to the ordinances of the Church? I suspect they have not.

It is true that “we believe that men will be punished for their own sins.” And yet, this scriptural principle is also true:

“Our fathers have sinned…and we have borne their iniquities” (Lamentations 5:7).

We see this principle repeated throughout the scriptures. The children of Laman and Lemuel, for example, were denied access to Jesus’ grace for generations because of the sins of their parents. The children of Laman and Lemuel bore the iniquities of their fathers. You’d think that a high priest in the Church would know that, though the ordinances of the gospel might be delayed for some, for many, of God’s children, ultimately all will have the opportunity to receive the fullness of the Gospel. Church leaders have stated clearly that these children will have their opportunity in due time.

Brother Hertzberg, characterizing the policy as an example of “the authoritarian subservience so prominent in contemporary Mormon culture” continues to wrest the scriptures:

“When we…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 121:37).

I see neither unrighteous dominion nor compulsion being exercised by the Church in this matter. That is – may I say? – a disingenuous argument.

Why, I would ask, does this policy applied in same-sex relationships evoke such strong feelings for some when that same policy has been applied in polygamous relationships for many years? The policy as applied in polygamous relationships has the same effect on children, but has gone largely unnoticed. Why? Is the policy regarding polygamous relationships also “unChristian”? To the extent that church leaders have offered explanations for the policy in polygamous situations, have they been “disingenuous”? Is the policy as applied to polygamous relationships yet another example of “the authoritarian subservience so prominent in contemporary Mormon culture”?

In a talk given by Neal A. Maxwell many years ago, Elder Maxwell anticipated our day:

“Discipleship includes good citizenship; and in this connection, if you are careful students of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions—especially when the First Presidency has spoken out—the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. The declarations are about principles, not people, and causes, not candidates. On occasions, at other levels in the Church, a few have not been so discreet, so wise, or so inspired.
But make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).
President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had ‘never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, or political life’ (CR, April 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ” (Neal A. Maxwell, devotional address given at BYU on 10 October 1978).

I agree. Recall those whom Nephi saw in vision who had partaken of the fruit of the Tree of Life, but then

“After they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.
And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (1 Nephi 8:25-28).

We are at just such a time today. Of those who say they sustain the First Presidency and the Twelve while at the same time calling them “disingenuous,” remember the example of Lehi: we heeded them not.

Follow the prophet.

Posted in Doctrines of Christ, LDS, LDS Church policies, Progressivism, Same-sex marriage | Tagged , | 4 Comments

The Constitution Condones Slavery?

On July 24 2011 the American Thinker published this article:

In a recent series called “The State Against Blacks” John Stossel interviewed Rep. Charles Rangel and made the case that big government had failed the black American family. Congressman Rangel, an unabashed proponent of big government, asked Stossel, “What do you want? No government?” Stossel held up a copy of the Constitution, and answered, “No. I want it this size again. The Constitution and the Declaration – great government right here.” To which Rangel responded, “No, that government will throw me back into slavery. You don’t want that government. Come on now. I mean they weren’t thinking about me when they wrote that book. I wasn’t even three fifths of a guy. So let’s pass that book and say that it was a good beginning and it’s there to improve order and that’s what we’ve done.”

Rep. Rangel ought to be asked to explain how limiting the size and scope of the federal government to Constitutional standards would throw him back into slavery. The idea is preposterous. It might also be noted that the Founders were indeed thinking of him when they laid the foundations of this nation. Charles Rangel has been a powerful member of the U.S. House of Representatives for forty years. Had the Founders not succeeded in establishing the American nation, Congressman Rangel’s prospects in this world might have been severely limited. Evidently, Rep. Rangel finds no cause for gratitude to the Founders for placing our nation on a path to ever increasing opportunity for all its citizens.

But Rangel’s argument is clearly one that liberals like. Liberals are terrified at the rise of serious talk in America about going back to the principles of the Constitution, and I believe we will see Rangel’s invidious argument trotted out again and again. But “the Constitution was an instrument of slavery” argument will be effective for the liberals only if we are ignorant of the truth.

It should be understood that if the Founders had failed to organize the states into a union, slavery would have continued unabated, certainly in the South, and perhaps in the North as well. One of the great obstacles to forming a union of the states under a constitution was the question of representation in Congress. How shall small states be unified with large states in a government that would be fair and equitable to both? The small states wanted one to one representation equal to the large states, while the large and more populous states wanted representation proportionate to the relative populations of each state. The impasse seemed insurmountable and had the potential to wreck all hope of union. But Roger Sherman of Connecticut provided the solution that ultimately satisfied the representatives at the convention: he proposed that Congress be composed of two houses. Representation in the House of Representatives would be apportioned by population, thereby satisfying the large states, while representation in the Senate would be one vote per state, thereby satisfying the small states.

The question then became which “inhabitants” of each state would be counted for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives. The northern states insisted that only free citizens of each state be counted for purposes of apportionment in the House. The southern states, wanting to garner as much power and influence in the new government as possible, argued that all people within their borders, whether free or not, be counted for purposes of apportionment.

This was yet another deadly serious impasse. It must be said, however, that many of those representatives at the convention who owned slaves recognized that slavery would be a blot on the new nation and that it had to be ended. But it was also certain that if they tried to abolish slavery immediately with the Constitution, it would be rejected by the southern states and the union would fail. Two compromises were made. First, the southern states agreed to count only three fifths of slaves. In turn, the northern states agreed to a clause prohibiting Congress from abolishing slavery for twenty years, until the year 1808.

Charles Rangel and many others argue that, under the Constitution, a black man’s worth was only three fifths of a white man. But the Constitution says no such thing. Article I, Section 2 reads (in part) “Representatives…shall be apportioned among the several states…according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons…three fifths of all other persons.” “All other persons” referred to slaves. In other words, only 60% of slaves could be counted for purposes of a state’s representation in the House. That’s a far cry from arguing that the Constitution valued black men at three fifths of a white man. And what would Rangel and others have preferred, that all slaves be counted, thus increasing the power and influence of the slave states when the time came to vote to abolish slavery? What if the Founders had allowed all slaves to be counted for purposes of representation in the House, thus eliminating the three fifths compromise that so offends Rep. Rangel? And then what if, because of increased slave state representation, the legislation to abolish slavery had failed in 1808? Is that what Rangel would have preferred?

The result of these compromises was that a major obstacle to a union of the states and the establishment of the nation of America was overcome, and slavery as it was known in early America was eventually abolished. It should also be pointed out that America, it’s flaws and imperfections notwithstanding, has become a beacon of individual liberty to the whole world.

We modern Americans allow ourselves a certain self-congratulatory pride because we think we are morally superior to the Americans of the eighteenth century. But let’s consider what it is we so smugly condemn them for. What is slavery? Is not slavery that the fruit of a man’s labor is deemed not to be his own by the system of laws under which he is held in servitude, and that it is taken from him by those who have power and authority over him? When one adds up all the taxes and fees – local, state, and federal – that Charles Rangel and many other like-minded persons of power and authority have gradually imposed on us, we have certainly become a nation of slaves. I don’t mean to suggest that there is equivalency between eighteenth century slavery and slavery today. The slavery of two hundred fifty years ago was a hard slavery, while today’s slavery is much more subtle. I would call it soft slavery. But it is slavery nonetheless. A large portion of the fruit of our labor today is taken from us by people like Charles Rangel who then use the fruits of our labor to purchase the votes they need to keep themselves in power to rule and reign over us.

Charles Rangel and many other like-minded people have presided over the gradual imposition of a soft enslavement of millions of modern Americans. Their defense of today’s soft slavery is essentially the same as the slave masters of the eighteenth century: this is our system and the economy depends upon it. But, in truth, their own personal wealth and influence also depend on it. In addition to legally confiscating large portions of the fruit of our labor, they control our compulsory education system. They tell us how much water we can use to flush a toilet; what kind of light bulbs we must use. They have shut down vast reserves of our nation’s natural resources which we require for our energy needs, intentionally driving up the cost of energy. They intend to disarm us. They intend to tell us what doctors we can see and when. They insult and demean us in our airports. They seek to divide and inflame us by race and by economic status. They intervene in every aspect of our personal and business lives. They are destroying the value of our currency. They are the soft, but ever hardening, slave masters of the twenty first century. And sadly, most Americans seem to support this system. We are a generation who self-righteously condemns the eighteenth century American for the moat we see in his eye, but are largely blinded to the fact that we have a beam in our own eye.

The Constitution is a framework for a government intended to protect the individual liberty of each citizen – his life, his liberty, and his property – from the encroachments of his neighbor. But the Constitution is an impediment to the slave masters, and they have no regard nor use for it. Remember that the next time you hear Charles Rangel, or anyone else, dismissing the Constitution as the antidote to our national decline.

As for this American, you can count me among the twenty first century abolitionists.

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We must stand with Israel

On April 1, 2010 Connor Boyack published a piece which he titled “Foreign Entanglement with Israel” on his Connor’s Conundrums blog. He re-posted a link to that article recently as Israel invaded Gaza in response to relentless rocket attacks by Hamas. Essentially, Brother Boyack considers America’s long standing support for the state of Israel as a foreign entanglement which is contrary to the counsel of President George Washington as given in his Farewell Address. He quotes Washington:

“Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible” (George Washington, Farewell Address).

Brother Boyack follows the Washington quote with this statement:

“Those who most frequently refer to this letter as a signpost from which America long ago deviated often reject this wise counsel in at least one specific case: when the subject at hand is a country whose name and citizens’ lineage share a Biblical connection. The mere mention of Israel leads some otherwise-faithful advocates of Washington’s guidance to cast their principles to the wind and embrace deeply entrenched relations with another country.

Why the cognitive dissonance?”

It should be pointed out that, while Washington’s counsel is well-founded and wise, it is based largely on his assessment of “European ambition, rivalship interest, humor, or caprice” (Farewell Address). He says:

“Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities” (Farewell Address).

I think Washington was absolutely right in this assessment of Europe. But does this assessment transfer neatly to the nation of Israel? Do the primary interests of Israel (which, simply put, is to survive) have only a “very remote relation” to us? Are the “collisions of her friendships or enmities” merely the fruits of Israeli “ambition, rivalship interest, humor, or caprice”? Are America’s ties to Israel artificial? Are the causes of Israel’s “frequent controversies” “essentially foreign to our concerns”? I say no. The controversies and collisions in Europe are not analogous to the controversies and collisions in the Middle East vis a vie Israel, Washington’s admonitions regarding Europe do not transfer neatly to Israel, and America’s ties to Israel are and ought to be anything but artificial. In fact, Israel’s enemies are our enemies. Here is an example of the world-wide ideology Israel and America are facing:

“We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again. The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world – except for the Jews. The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquility under our rule, because they are treacherous by nature, as they have been throughout history. The day will come when everything will be relieved of the Jews – even the stones and trees which were harmed by them. Listen to the Prophet Muhammad, who tells you about the evil end that awaits Jews. The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew” (Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris, sermon of May 13, 2005 aired on Palestinian Authority TV, translated by MEMRI).

I am reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s assessment to his fellow revolutionists at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Knowing the dire consequences they were facing because of their determination to be free, Franklin said: “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” I think Franklin’s assessment is far more pertinent to the reality facing America and Israel today than Washington’s assessment of European “foreign entanglements.” America and Israel must hang together because, most assuredly, if we do not, Islamists around the world intend to see us hang separately. Islamists consider Israel to be the Little Satan, and America to be the Great Satan and they consider the destruction of both to be their inevitable responsibility.

Franklin’s counsel on hanging together lest we hang separately was not lost on George Washington, who gave great emphasis to that principle in his Farewell Address when he argued that if we would preserve liberty in America, we must preserve our national Union:

“Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The unity of government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts…In this sense it is, that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear you to the preservation of the other” (George Washington, Farewell Address).

No doubt this eloquent portrayal of the necessity of hanging together as a nation was not lost on Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is often demeaned as a tyrant for his refusal to allow the southern states to secede from the Union. But it is clear that Lincoln understood what Franklin and Washington understood: liberty, that human condition which is so very rare in this world and has been since the dawn of mankind, cannot survive if free men fail to remain unified. Those who possess this pearl of great price must hang together in spite of our differences or we shall lose it.

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up…

“And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12).

These great men also understood this: that those who would destroy us will work tirelessly, internally and externally, covertly and insidiously, to break down our union and divide us.

The principle applies to Israel and America. It is the oft-stated intention of Islamists to destroy the Little Satan first. Then they will turn their attention to the Great Satan.

Our Duty to Defend Liberty

Those who possess liberty have a duty to defend it.

The Nephites were taught by the Lord that they should defend their families, their lands, their country, their rights, and their religion “even unto bloodshed” if necessary (Alma 43:45-47). The right to defend oneself is a natural right. But there are a number of accounts in the Book of Mormon – Amalickiah, Morianton, the king-men, and Pachus – where Moroni shed the blood of his own countrymen for their failure to defend their country and their freedom. In his letter to Pahoran, a righteously indignant Moroni warned Pahoran that if those in the government failed to “be up and doing” in the defense of the country, that he would come back there and “[cleanse] our inward vessel” (Alma 60:24) for

“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).

The law referenced by Moroni is not explicitly given in the Book of Mormon. However, it is my assumption that this was a law given by King Mosiah and had been taught to and was understood by all the Nephite people.

“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).

Those found denying their freedom were speedily executed?

“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'” (This theme is fully developed in Walking in Darkness at Noonday, John C. Greene, pg. 33-40.)

I believe that the Book of Mormon teaches us this principle: where there are unalienable rights, there are also unalienable duties. Those people who are blessed by God with freedom are also charged by God with the unalienable duty of defending that freedom. Clearly, that is the essence of the law referred to by both Alma and Moroni.

Spending Tax Dollars Defending Israel is Unconstitutional

Which leads me to another argument made by Brother Boyack:

“The scriptures that I read contain no commandment that we submit to taxation and inflation in order to send billions of dollars to a foreign government (despite no constitutional authority to do so) which has adopted for itself the identity its ancestors once shared. While the people themselves may properly be referred to as Israel and be worthy of our support, to argue that our government must have a ‘special relationship’ with theirs is an outright rejection of [George] Washington’s counsel, wholly un-constitutional, and a recipe for continual geopolitical conflict.”

I recognize that there is no specific authority in the Constitution to come to the aid of another nation. But the Constitution was inspired by the same God who taught the Nephites and Moroni the principle that where there are unalienable rights, there is also an unalienable duty to defend those rights. I believe we Americans, who have been made by the Lord to be a light unto the world with the introduction of the eternal verity that the rights of man are endowed upon him by his Creator, and that therefore those rights are unalienable, have a duty to defend unalienable rights beyond our borders lest we be guilty of taking the talents the Lord has given us as a nation and burying them in the ground. How, exactly, and to what extent we should go about doing that I do not say. Prudence and principle must certainly prevail in such a decision. But to characterize our relationship and stand with Israel as merely a “foreign entanglement” as opposed to a sacred duty seems to me on par with minimizing the sacred nature of a child in the womb by dismissing it as merely a “fetus.”

Is the Modern State of Israel the Same as the Biblical Nation of Israel?

Brother Boyack’s phrase “a country whose name and lineage share a Biblical connection” leads to his question: “But is the modern nation state of Israel the same thing [as the ancient biblical nation of Israel]?

He follows with :

“What if the citizens of Israel decided to change the name of their country to something else? If they were no longer known as Israel, would people still be as inclined to support them financially and militarily? What if they chose the name Babylon? Would we then look at them with scorn, somehow tying them to the actions and culture that once described the ancient city of the same name?”

The question seems intended to raise the possibility that the founding of the modern nation state of Israel was entirely the work of men, not directed by the hand of God, and therefore not to be confused with the Israel of scripture. Many Americans, and especially most Latter-day Saints, see the hand of God in the founding of America in spite of all the wrong turns we have made on the way, to include slavery and our treatment of the native Americans among many others. But are we unable to see the hand of God in the latter-day founding of the nation of Israel? To draw an analogy to Connor Boyack’s argument, some might say to us, “If Joseph Smith had called the church he founded the Church of Joseph Smith, then where would that leave your claims of the divine origin of the Church?” Perhaps this is so. But that is not what happened. Joseph Smith was the instrument of the Lord in accomplishing His purposes. Accordingly, the name of the Church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not by happenstance, but by divine design. I believe that the name of the nation state of Israel is no less the work of God than is the name of the Church. The nation of Israel is as flawed as is the nation of America. But both are the yet-to-be-completed, yet to be perfected, work of God. Both have been established under His direction and for His purposes.

The Return of the Rightful Heirs

The Lord tells us:

8 I came unto mine own, and mine own received me not….
24 And this I have told you concerning Jerusalem; and when that day shall come, shall a remnant be scattered among all nations…
43 And the remnant shall be gathered unto this place (D&C 45).

On March 27, 1836 in the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, a prayer which was given by revelation, the Prophet Joseph Smith offered this supplication:

62 We therefore ask thee to have mercy upon the children of Jacob, that Jerusalem, from this hour, may begin to be redeemed;
63 And the yoke of bondage may begin to be broken off from the house of David;
64 And the children of Judah may begin to return to the lands which thou didst give to Abraham, their father (D&C 109:62-64).

On the 10th birthday of the Church, April 6, 1840, Orson Hyde, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was called in a conference of the Church in Nauvoo to undertake a mission to several foreign cities, including Jerusalem. On Sunday morning, October 24, 1841, Elder Hyde ascended the Mount of Olives and offered a dedicatory prayer. Excerpts of that prayer follow:

“O Thou! who art from everlasting to everlasting, eternally and unchangeably the same, even the God who rules in the heavens above, and controls the destinies of men on the earth, wilt Thou not condescend, through thine infinite goodness and royal favor, to listen to the prayer of Thy servant which he this day offers up unto Thee in the name of Thy holy child Jesus, upon this land, where the Son of Righteousness set in blood, and thine Anointed One expired…

“Now, O Lord! Thy servant has been obedient to the heavenly vision which Thou gavest him in his native land; and under the shadow of Thine outstretched arm, he has safely arrived in this place to dedicate and consecrate this land unto Thee, for the gathering together of Judah’s scattered remnants, according to the predictions of the holy Prophets — for the building up of Jerusalem again after it has been trodden down by the Gentiles so long…

“O Thou, Who didst covenant with Abraham, Thy friend, and who didst renew that covenant with Isaac, and confirm the same with Jacob with an oath, that Thou wouldst not only give them this land for an everlasting inheritance, but that Thou wouldst also remember their seed forever…

“Grant, therefore, O Lord, in the name of Thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to remove the barrenness and sterility of this land, and let springs of living water break forth to water its thirsty soil. Let the vine and olive produce in their strength, and the fig-tree bloom and flourish. Let the land become abundantly fruitful when possessed by its rightful heirs; let it again flow with plenty to feed the returning prodigals who come home with a spirit of grace and supplication… Incline them to gather in upon this land according to Thy word. Let them come like clouds and like doves to their windows. Let the large ships of the nations bring them from the distant isles; and let kings become their nursing fathers, and queens with motherly fondness wipe the tear of sorrow from their eye.

“Thou, O Lord, did once move upon the heart of Cyrus to show favor unto Jerusalem and her children. Do Thou now also be pleased to inspire the hearts of kings and the powers of the earth to look with a friendly eye towards this place, and with a desire to see Thy righteous purposes executed in relation thereto. Let them know that it is Thy good pleasure to restore the kingdom unto Israel — raise up Jerusalem as its capital, and constitute her people a distinct nation and government, with David Thy servant, even a descendant from the loins of ancient David to be their king.

“Let that nation or that people who shall take an active part in behalf of Abraham’s children, and in the raising up of Jerusalem, find favor in Thy sight. Let not their enemies prevail against them, neither let pestilence or famine overcome them, but let the glory of Israel overshadow them, and the power of the Highest protect them; while that nation or kingdom that will not serve Thee in this glorious work must perish, according to Thy word — Yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.”

In the letter that Elder Hyde wrote reporting on his mission, he added this:

“I have found many Jews who listened with intense interest. The idea of the Jews being restored to Palestine is gaining ground in Europe almost every day. .. Many of the Jews who are old go to this place to die, and many are coming from Europe into this eastern world. The great wheel is unquestionably in motion, and the word of the Almighty has declared that it shall roll.”

How can there be any doubt that what we have seen in the last 140 or so years with regard to Israel is an answer to the prayers of the authorized servants of the Lord? Some forty years after Elder Hyde’s dedicatory prayer, the remnant of the Jews which had been scattered around the world began what was known as the First Aliyah to the land of their ancient inheritance. They purchased land from Arab landowners and began building small communities. Soon, some Arabs began to take offense at the small but growing Jewish presence. Opposition, violence, and jihad began early and has continued almost unabated since the late nineteenth century.

A brief history of the birth of the modern state of Israel: On November 29, 1947 the United Nations, in a peaceful and legal process, partitioned land which had been ruled for 400 years by the Ottoman Turks but lost by them when, allied with Germany, they were defeated in World War I. This land became known as the Palestine Mandate. The states of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq were created out of about 80% of that land. From the remaining 20% the UN created the State of Israel for the Jews, and a state for Palestinian Arabs.

Isaiah foresaw these events and prophesied of them with these words:

22 Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me (Isaiah 49:22-23).

Is this not a scriptural description of the establishment of the nation state of Israel under the auspices of the United Nations? I think it is. The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob comments on the words of Isaiah:

8 And now I, Jacob, would speak somewhat concerning these words. For behold, the Lord has shown me that those who were at Jerusalem, from whence we came, have been slain and carried away captive.

9 Nevertheless, the Lord has shown unto me that they should return again…(2 Nephi 6:8-9).

8 And it shall come to pass that they shall be gathered in from their long dispersion, from the isles of the sea, and from the four parts of the earth; and the nations of the Gentiles shall be great in the eyes of me, saith God, in carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance.

9 Yea, the kings of the Gentiles shall be nursing fathers unto them, and their queens shall become nursing mothers; wherefore, the promises of the Lord are great unto the Gentiles, for he hath spoken it, and who can dispute? (2 Nephi 10:6-10).

Note how pleased the Lord is with those nations of the Gentiles who “shall be great in the eyes of me” because of their “carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance.” And because of the kindness of the Gentile nations, and because of their nurturing the Jews, the Lord promises great things to the Gentiles. The Lord hath spoken it. So why would Brother Boyack or anyone else who knows of these things dispute it? If these things are pleasing to the Lord, how can they be displeasing to any Latter-day Saint?

Where should we stand?

In the end, the Lord will

“…make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:2).

This is indeed the circumstance in which Israel finds itself today, under siege by all the people round about them who, as Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris stated, want Israel and the Jews annihilated.


“And in that day I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it” (Zechariah 12:3).

Brother Boyack asks:

“Does this ‘unbreakable’ commitment [to Israel] know no limits? Should the American people be forced to fund the operations of another government which – like any other government – is riddled with corruption, waste, and power-lusting politicians?”

Evidently, to Brother Boyack, to some Latter-day Saints, and to “all the people of the earth,” Israel has become a burdensome stone, the warning of the Lord against such notwithstanding. The whole world is turning against Israel, and will soon be gathered against her to battle. The Lord has warned that he will “gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle” (Zechariah 14:2). I have to assume “all nations” will include America. “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations…” (Zechariah 14:3). And, it would seem, against those people to whom Israel has become a burdensome stone.

I write this not to castigate, not to upbraid, not to make an enemy of Connor Boyack or anyone else who has a different point of view. I write this because I love liberty, I love justice, and I love the ways and the works of the Lord. Israel, with all its imperfections, is the work of the Lord. Turning away from Israel because she has become a burdensome stone seems to me to be unsound. Joseph Smith taught “It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:286.) It is in this spirit of persuasion that I write.

If we would “stand in holy places” (D&C 45:32), we must stand with Israel.

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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.”

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