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.”

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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.

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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).

Posted in Unalienable duties, Unalienable rights | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Reply to Jonathan Decker

Brother Decker:

I considered making reference to your “however, it’s also possible” comments toward the end of your piece. But since I included a link to your piece so that readers could read the entirety of it, I felt that anyone interested could read it and judge for themselves what you said. To be honest, I considered your “is not for me to say” qualification at the end of your piece to be too little, too late. The damage was already done earlier in the piece. And it was the damage you did that I felt cried out for a reply.

To me, the enduring message I took from your piece is contained in the line “as a church we have an unfortunate history of racism…” I think that charge is influenced by the prejudices of our own day.

You went to great pains to build the case that prophets can be wrong, that therefore the withholding of the priesthood was possibly a prophetic error, implied that it was rooted in racism, and tried to make the case that President Kimball was open to such a notion when, clearly, he was not.

As to President Kimball’s words, when I went to his book to see for myself the quote you cited, I was struck by the fact that the next paragraph contained a refutation of the whole premise of your interpretation of what he said. I find that to be very disturbing. Having read that next paragraph yourself, how could you entertain even for a brief moment the idea that President Kimball was “open to the notion that the priesthood ban was a mistake”? It seems to me that you saw what you wanted to see and disregarded the rest. This is one of several aspects of your piece that really bothers me.

You cite Brigham Young’s characterization of blacks, whom he saw as “uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable, and low in their habits, wild and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of human intelligence.” You are certain that those words are evidence of being “influenced by the prejudices of the day.” Moreover, you say his statement “contradicts the Book of Mormon doctrine that ‘all are alike unto God.’ ” Really? Let me counter with a Book of Mormon quote from Nephi as he was shown in vision the descendants of Lehi down through the ages:

            “And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations” (1 Nephi 12:23).

Is there any substantive difference between the words of Nephi and those of Brigham Young? Will you charge Nephi with being influenced by the prejudices of his day? Will you charge Nephi’s characterization of the Lamanites as racist? Did the Nephites, as a people, have an “unfortunate history of racism”? Should the Church refute the teachings of Nephi? Why is it that we can read the harsh words of an ancient prophet such as Nephi from the pulpit and the idea of prejudice and racism never crosses anyone’s mind? But if a modern prophet uses similar words in a more contemporary context, his motives, his decency, and his moral rectitude are impugned.

You insist that the incorrect teachings of earlier church leaders which have been refuted by the Church and by Elder Holland were racist. But I think it is very important to note that neither the Church nor Elder Holland has characterized those statements as racist. You have. But they haven’t. The Church’s statement on racism is:

“We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.”

They do not say that the incorrect explanations of any past leader were racist. Nor did Elder Holland make that charge. Nor, in my opinion, should we.

I agree wholeheartedly with the statement of the Church. I am angered by racism. But I am also angered by the promiscuous use of the charge of racism which is so widespread today, and I hate to see it raising its ugly head in the Church. I don’t know what was in the hearts of those men, but neither do you. Is it not possible that you and others who are making similar charges are influenced by the prejudices of our own day? I lamented in my article that, for some, the charge of racism rolls off the tongue very easily. I know this because I am a constitutional conservative. I believe deeply in the sanctity of the agency of man. Because of my convictions, which I believe are rooted in the doctrines of Christ, I am routinely smeared as a racist by many. I am not a racist. But because of the prejudices of our own day, I must endure the sting of that false charge. Those who judge me a racist because they don’t understand and don’t like my views judge me rashly, wrongly, unjustly. We ought not be guilty of such error, especially with regard to one another.

I quoted in my piece the warning of the Lord to those who judge rashly. If you believe that earlier church leaders would have better served all concerned had they just said with regard to the priesthood ban “we don’t know why,” should you not take that same advice to heart? Rather than imputing racism to men whose hearts you don’t know, wouldn’t we all be better served when commenting on their attempts to “give shape…, context…, [or] even history to it” to say of them “we don’t know why”?

Posted in LDS, Priesthood, Racism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

An Unfortunate History of Racism in the Church?

Some years ago as I was listening to a national talk radio program, a very wise black woman called in. I don’t recall what subject was being discussed. But she made a simple observation that I had never before considered, and have never since forgotten. She said, “I believe that race is a test.” The implication was that it is a test from God, though she didn’t say that. And, unfortunately, the host was not as taken with her profound observation as I was and let it pass without comment or inquiry. But I am grateful for the insight of this woman. I’m sure that God has many reasons why he chooses to fill the earth with different cultures, different languages, different religions, different ethnicities, different races. He knows that for some, the differences among men are a blessing and a delight, but for others, the source of endless and ruinous enmity. Examples of that enmity abound throughout the world and throughout history. Indeed race, among other things, is a test from God for all mankind, one of those means by which he will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25).

But if race is a test, it is a multifaceted test. I believe it is not only wrong in the eyes of God to be a racist – that is to hold that one race of his children is inferior to another, but that it is also wrong in the eyes of God to hurl the charge of racism at another unjustly. For some in our day, it seems, the charge of racism rolls off the tongue very easily. It is almost like a weapon in their hands. And it is a very effective weapon because it is very difficult, even for the innocent, to defend oneself against that charge. Because the charge of racism is so damaging, and because there is hardly any defense against it, it is a charge that ought not be made wrongly.

We have often heard the story told by President George Albert Smith of a time when he was so ill he thought he had passed to the Other Side. In a vision, he saw his grandfather, George A. Smith, walking toward him. Said President Smith:

            “When grandfather came within a few feet of me, he stopped. His stopping was an invitation for me to stop. Then…he looked at me very earnestly and said: ‘I would like to know what you have done with my name.’ Everything I had ever done passed before me as though it were a flying picture on a screen – everything I had done. Quickly this vivid retrospect came down to the very time I was standing there. My whole life passed before me. I smiled and looked at my grandfather and said: ‘I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed'” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church – George Albert Smith, pg. xxvi).

With regard to the subject at hand, I think there is an important principle to be learned from this story. It is that the good name of all God’s children is a sacred matter. If President Smith’s grandfather would hold his grandson accountable for what he had done with his name, may we not liken that principle to ourselves and expect that we will be held accountable for any injury we have done to the good name of another? I think that is a reasonable conclusion.

Jonathan Decker, in Race in Mormon History, states that “as a church we have an unfortunate history of racism.” Brother Decker seems to believe that the priesthood restriction endured by men of African descent was born of racism, not by way of commandment from the Lord. I don’t agree with his premise that we as a church have a “history of racism.” A history of difficult doctrines and strong words? Yes. But I don’t believe that the priesthood restriction which ended in 1978 was born of racism any more than the difficult doctrine of plural marriage was born of “tyranny, self-indulgence, and lawlessness” (The Mormon Question, Sarah Barringer Gordon, pg. 47), as some have charged.

For example, Brother Decker quotes President Spencer W. Kimball:

            “The doctrine or policy has not varied in my memory. I know it could. I know the Lord could change his policy and release the ban and forgive the possible error which brought about the deprivation” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball).

Brother Decker assumes that the error President Kimball is referring to was made by early Church leaders, and so he states:

            “Notice that President Kimball was open to the notion that the priesthood ban was a mistake. It truly may have been brought about by prejudice or incorrect opinion.”

I am afraid Brother Decker, in rendering this opinion and all that it implies, was not careful in his reasoning. President Kimball was open to no such notion. How can we know that? We just need to read a little further. President Kimball went on to say – though Brother Decker did not include this in his essay:

            “If the time comes, that he will do, I’m sure. These smart members who would force the issue, and there are many of them, cheapen the issue and certainly bring into contempt the sacred principle of revelation and divine authority.
Blacks and the priesthood: I am not sure there will be a change, although there could be. We are under the dictates of our Heavenly Father, and this is not my policy or the Church’s policy. It is the policy of the Lord who has established it…” (Ibid)

Strong words from the prophet of God speaking of a very difficult doctrine from the Lord. Could President Kimball have been more clear as to the origin of the priesthood restriction? “It (was) the policy of the Lord who established it.” How could anyone misinterpret those words and argue that it may have been “brought about by prejudice or incorrect opinion?”

By the words “release the ban and forgive the possible error which brought about the deprivation,” President Kimball does not suggest any revelatory error on the part of early Church leaders (which is what Brother Decker implies). Rather, he refers to those whose errors caused the Lord to impose the priesthood restriction in the first place. Laman and Lemuel made errors which affected their posterity, which caused Lehi to lament as he blessed his grandchildren:

“Wherefore, if ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents” (2 Nephi 4:2).

The error of ancestors can bring a curse upon their posterity. Is there any doubt that generations of Lamanites were cursed as to the priesthood because of the error of their distant ancestors? And isn’t it clear from the words of Lehi that the time would come when the error would be forgiven, the ban released, and the deprivation ended?

But to argue that President Kimball’s words regarding “possible error” are pointed at “prejudice or incorrect opinion” by early Church leaders is, in my view, a serious error on the part of Brother Decker. If he included the rest of President Kimball’s words, his argument would have fallen apart and his unfair “brought about by prejudice or incorrect opinion” conclusion would have been plainly manifest to his readers. This kind of selective presentation of facts is not a light matter when we are talking about the names of good men.

I appreciate the perspective of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the matter of the priesthood restriction:

            “One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. … I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. … They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong. …
It probably would have been advantageous to say nothing, to say we just don’t know, and, [as] with many religious matters, whatever was being done was done on the basis of faith at that time. But some explanations were given and had been given for a lot of years. … At the very least, there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why that doctrine existed. I think, to the extent that I know anything about it, as one of the newer and younger ones to come along, … we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, PBS interview, March 4, 2006).

A very difficult doctrine was given to the Church by the Lord without explanation. In this, I see the dilemma experienced by Father Adam, who for a long time offered up sacrifices to the Lord. When an angel appeared to him and asked him why he offered sacrifices to the Lord, Adam responded, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me” (Moses 5:6). What Elder Holland is saying is that the leaders of the Church were in a similar situation with regard to the priesthood ban. Why was the priesthood withheld? They knew not, save the Lord commanded them. But some of them attempted to explain the doctrine “to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it” – the “folklore” – when they shouldn’t have.

The priesthood ban was lifted nine months after I joined the Church. I remember it well. It was and continues to be a very difficult subject because it is hurtful to brothers and sisters whom we love, because it is an obstacle to bringing many into communion with the Saints which we dearly desire, and because it is so easy to wrongly attribute that policy to ugly racism. But the sum total of the lives of these earlier leaders is that they were magnificently good men, righteous men; men whose lives were marked by fidelity to God and charity toward all men. If they made errors in attempting to explain things they really didn’t understand, don’t we make the same mistake when we attempt “to give shape to…to give context for, to given even history to” the motives behind their explanations when we really don’t understand what was in their hearts? I agree with Elder Holland. It would have been better had they not tried. But I don’t believe that the errors they made in attempting to explain the doctrine of the Lord should convict these good men of racism.

It troubles me that so many Latter-day Saints are so willing to point the boney finger of indignation at Church leaders and condemn them as racists and bigots. If you have access to volumes of statements by almost any given individual, could you not select a few statements and – ignoring the tenor, tone, and content of the vast majority of his stated convictions – portray that man in an unflattering light? I think you could. Read all of Brigham Young’s teachings and statements, and let them give context to the statements that seem hard to explain. The Lord has warned:

            “For behold, the same that judgeth rashly shall be judged rashly again; for according to his works shall his wages be; therefore, he that smiteth shall be smitten again, of the Lord(Mormon 8:19).

One of the purposes of the Lord in bringing to pass the restoration of all things was “that faith also might increase in the earth” (D&C 1:21). The priesthood ban has been a sore test of faith for many. But by great faith, hundreds of thousands of the children of God of African descent have learned for themselves that this is the work of God and have embraced the fullness of the gospel in spite of the obstacles. Today the children of African descent are blossoming as the rose all around the world. But, as with the posterity of Laman and Lemuel, the children of African descent endured a period of time in which some of the blessings of the gospel were withheld from them. Why? As President Hinckley and other Church leaders have said, “We don’t know why.”

Indeed, race is a test. So also is humility, forbearance, and the willingness to let God judge the hearts of our brothers. “An unfortunate history of racism” in the Church? I just don’t think that is a fair judgment. I say we refrain from charging those of “less enlightened eras” (Brother Decker’s words) with capitulation to the ugly orthodoxy of their time and give them a break based on the goodness of their lives. Strong words do not necessarily equal racism. I would also argue that we too have ugly and destructive orthodoxies in our own time – like the corrupt and soul-destroying welfare state – which Brigham Young and others recognized as wicked and rejected, but which many of us embrace because of the beams in our own eyes. In other words, we may not be as enlightened as we like to think. Perhaps a little more humility, a little more forbearance, and a little more willingness to let God be the judge of these things is in order.

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