Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

They Remained Quiet and Attentive

"John Taylor's strength of witness and conversion were illustrated by an event that occurred near Columbus, Ohio, where a group of trouble-makers, learning that he had scheduled to preach a service there, decided to tar and feather him. When a few Church members heard about the plot, they urged him to cancel the meeting, for they lacked the strength to protect him. Expressing his thanks for their concern, he decided nevertheless to fulfill the appointment. At the meeting, the English convert proceeded to lecture his audience about the blessings of freedom guaranteed in the American Constitution and about the valor of their forefathers in fighting for liberty. Having laid that groundwork, he suddenly shifted his focus: 'I have been informed that you purpose to tar and feather me, for my religious opinions. Is this the boon you have inherited from your fathers? Is this . . . your liberty?' After letting the implications of these accusatory questions seep in, he said, 'Gentlemen come on with your tar and feathers, your victim is ready; and ye shades of the venerable patriots, gaze upon the deeds of your degenerate sons! Come on, gentlemen! Come on, I say. I am ready!' (in B. H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor [1892], 53–55). The would-be tormentors made no move. Instead they remained quiet and attentive while Elder Taylor expounded on the plain and precious doctrines of the restored Church for three hours."

L. Tom Perry, "By the Hands of His Prophets," Ensign, Aug. 1998, 54

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apostle Speaks on Religious Freedom

Transcript of Elder Dallin H. Oaks speech given at BYU-Idaho on 13 October 2009.

My dear young friends, I am pleased to speak to this BYU-Idaho audience. I am conscious that I am also speaking to many in other places. In this time of the Internet, what we say in one place is instantly put before a wider audience, including many to whom we do not intend to speak. That complicates my task, so I ask your understanding as I speak to a very diverse audience.

In choosing my subject I have relied on an old military maxim that when there is a battle underway, persons who desire to join the fray should “march to the sound of the guns.”[i] So it is that I invite you to march with me as I speak about religious freedom under the United States Constitution. There is a battle over the meaning of that freedom. The contest is of eternal importance, and it is your generation that must understand the issues and make the efforts to prevail.

I.

An 1833 revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith declared that the Lord established the United States Constitution by wise men whom he raised up for that very purpose (Doctrine and Covenants 101:80). The Lord also declared that this constitution “should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77; emphasis added).

In 1833, when almost all people in the world were still ruled by kings or tyrants, few could see how the infant United States Constitution could be divinely designed “for the rights and protection of all flesh.” Today, 176 years after that revelation, almost every nation in the world has adopted a written constitution, and the United States Constitution profoundly influenced all of them. Truly, this nation’s most important export is its constitution, whose great principles stand as a model “for the rights and protection of all flesh.” On the vital human right of religious freedom, however, many constitutions fall short of the protections that are needed, so we are grateful that the United States government seeks to encourage religious freedom all over the world.[ii]

II.

To illustrate the importance of basic human rights in other countries, I refer to some recent history in Mongolia, which shows that the religious freedom we have taken for granted in the United States must be won by dangerous sacrifice in some other nations.

Following the perestroika movement in the Soviet Union, popular demonstrations in Mongolia forced the Communist government to resign in March 1990. Other political parties were legalized, but the first Mongolian elections gave the Communists a majority in the new parliament, and the old repressive attitudes persisted in all government departments. The full functioning of a democratic process and the full enjoyment of the people’s needed freedoms do not occur without a struggle. In Mongolia, the freedoms of speech, press and religion — a principal feature of the inspired United States Constitution — remained unfulfilled.

In that precarious environment, a 42-year-old married woman, Oyun Altangerel, a department head in the state library, courageously took some actions that would prove historic. Acting against official pressure, she organized a “Democratic Association Branch Council.” This 12-member group, the first of its kind, spoke out for democracy and proposed that state employees have the freedoms of worship, belief and expression, including the right to belong to a political party of their choice.

When Oyun and others were fired from their state employment, Oyun began a hunger strike in the state library. Within three hours she was joined by 20 others, mostly women, and their hunger strike, which continued for five days, became a public demonstration that took their grievances to the people of Mongolia. This demonstration, backed by major democratic movement leaders, encouraged other government employees to organize similar democratic councils. These dangerous actions expanded into a national anti-government movement that voiced powerful support for the basic human freedoms of speech, press and religion. Eventually the government accepted the demands, and in the adoption of a democratic constitution two years later Mongolia took a major step toward a free society.

For Latter-day Saints, this birth of constitutional freedom in Mongolia has special interest. Less than two years after the historic hunger strike, we sent our first missionaries to Mongolia. In 1992 these couples began their meetings in the state library, where Oyun was working. The following year, she showed her courage again by being baptized into this newly arrived Christian church. Her only child, a 22-year-old son, was baptized two years later. Today, the Mongolian members of our Church number 9,000, reportedly the largest group of Christians in the country. A few months ago we organized our first stake in Mongolia. Called as the stake president was Sister Oyun’s son, Odgerel. He had studied for a year at BYU-Hawaii, and his wife, Ariuna, a former missionary in Utah, graduated there.[iii]

III.

One of the great fundamentals of our inspired constitution, relied on by Oyun of Mongolia and countless others struggling for freedom in many countries in the world, is the principle that the people are the source of government power. This principle of popular sovereignty was first written and applied on the American continent over 200 years ago. A group of colonies won independence from a king, and their representatives had the unique opportunity of establishing a new government. They did this by creating the first written constitution that has survived to govern a modern nation. The United States Constitution declared the source of government power, delegated that power to a government, and regulated its exercise.

Along with many other religious people, we affirm that God is the ultimate source of power and that, under Him, it is the people’s inherent right to decide their form of government. Sovereign power is not inherent in a state or nation just because its leaders have the power that comes from force of arms. And sovereign power does not come from the divine right of a king, who grants his subjects such power as he pleases or is forced to concede, as in Magna Carta. As the preamble to our constitution states: “We the People of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution.”

This principle of sovereignty in the people explains the meaning of God’s revelation that He established the Constitution of the United States “that every man may act . . . 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” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78). In other words, the most desirable condition for the effective exercise of God-given moral agency is a condition of maximum freedom and responsibility — the opposite of slavery or political oppression. With freedom we can be accountable for our own actions and cannot blame our conditions on our bondage to another. This is the condition the Lord praised in the Book of Mormon, where the people — not a king — established the laws and were governed by them (see Mosiah 29:23–26). This popular sovereignty necessarily implies popular responsibility. Instead of blaming their troubles on a king or tyrant, all citizens are responsible to share the burdens of governing, “that every man might bear his part” (Mosiah 29:34).

IV.

“For the rights and protection of all flesh” the United State Constitution includes in its First Amendment the guarantees of free exercise of religion and free speech and press. Without these great fundamentals of the Constitution, America could not have served as the host nation for the restoration of the gospel, which began just three decades after the Bill of Rights was ratified.

The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The prohibition against “an establishment of religion” was intended to separate churches and government, to prevent a national church of the kind still found in Europe. In the interest of time I will say no more about the establishment of religion, but only concentrate on the direction that the United States shall have no law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.

The guarantee of the free exercise of religion, which I will call religious freedom, is the first expression in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. As noted by many, this “pre-eminent place” identifies freedom of religion as “a cornerstone of American democracy.”[iv] The American colonies were originally settled by people who, for the most part, had come to this continent to be able to practice their religious faith without persecution, and their successors deliberately placed religious freedom first in the nation’s Bill of Rights. So it is that our national law formally declares: “The right to freedom of religion undergirds the very origin and existence of the United States.”[v]

The free “exercise” of religion obviously involves both the right to choose religious beliefs and affiliations and the right to “exercise” or practice those beliefs. But in a nation with citizens of many different religious beliefs, the right of some to act upon their religious principles must be qualified by the government’s responsibility to protect the health and safety of all. Otherwise, for example, the government could not protect its citizens’ person or property from neighbors whose intentions include taking human life or stealing in circumstances rationalized on the basis of their religious beliefs.

The inherent conflict between the precious religious freedom of the people and the legitimate regulatory responsibilities of the government is the central issue of religious freedom. Here are just a few examples of current controversial public issues that involve this conflict: laws governing marriage and adoption; laws regulating the activities of church-related organizations like BYU-Idaho in furtherance of their religious missions — activities such as who they will serve or employ; and laws prohibiting discrimination in employment or work conditions against persons with unpopular religious beliefs or practices.

The problems are not simple, and over the years the United States Supreme Court, which has the ultimate responsibility of interpreting the meaning of the lofty and general provisions of the Constitution, has struggled to identify principles that can guide its decisions when government action is claimed to violate someone’s free exercise of religion. As would be expected, most of the battles over the extent of religious freedom have involved government efforts to impose upon the practices of small groups like Mormons. Not surprisingly, government officials sometimes seem more tolerant toward the religious practices of large groups of voters.

Unpopular minority religions are especially dependent upon a constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion. We are fortunate to have such a guarantee in the United States, but many nations do not. The importance of that guarantee in the United States should make us ever diligent to defend it. And it is in need of being defended. During my lifetime I have seen a significant deterioration in the respect accorded to religion in our public life, and I believe that the vitality of religious freedom is in danger of being weakened accordingly.

Religious belief is obviously protected against government action. The practice of that belief must have some limits, as I suggested earlier. But unless the guarantee of free exercise of religion gives a religious actor greater protection against government prohibitions than are already guaranteed to all actors by other provisions of the constitution (like freedom of speech), what is the special value of religious freedom? Surely the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion was intended to grant more freedom to religious action than to other kinds of action. Treating actions based on religious belief the same as actions based on other systems of belief should not be enough to satisfy the special place of religion in the United States Constitution.

V.

Religious freedom has always been at risk. It was repression of religious belief and practice that drove the Pilgrim fathers and other dissenters to the shores of this continent. Even today, leaders in all too many nations use state power to repress religious believers.

The greatest infringements of religious freedom occur when the exercise of religion collides with other powerful forces in society. Among the most threatening collisions in the United States today are (1) the rising strength of those who seek to silence religious voices in public debates, and (2) perceived conflicts between religious freedom and the popular appeal of newly alleged civil rights.

As I address this audience of young adults, I invite your careful attention to what I say on these subjects, because I am describing conditions you will face and challenges you must confront.

Silencing Religious Voices in the Public Square

A writer for The Christian Science Monitor predicts that the coming century will be “very secular and religiously antagonistic,” with intolerance of Christianity “ris[ing] to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes.”[vi] Other wise observers have noted the ever-growing, relentless attack on the Christian religion by forces who reject the existence or authority of God.[vii] The extent and nature of religious devotion in this nation is changing. The tide of public opinion in favor of religion is receding, and this probably portends public pressures for laws that will impinge on religious freedom.

Atheism has always been hostile to religion, such as in its arguments that freedom of or for religion should include freedom from religion. Atheism’s threat rises as its proponents grow in numbers and aggressiveness. “By some counts,” a recent article in The Economist declares, “there are at least 500 [million] declared non-believers in the world — enough to make atheism the fourth-biggest religion.”[viii] And atheism’s spokesmen are aggressive, as recent publications show.[ix] As noted by John A. Howard of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, these voices “have developed great skills in demonizing those who disagree with them, turning their opponents into objects of fear, hatred and scorn.”[x]

Such forces — atheists and others — would intimidate persons with religious-based points of view from influencing or making the laws of their state or nation. Noted author and legal commentator Hugh Hewitt described the current circumstance this way:

“There is a growing anti-religious bigotry in the United States. . . .

“For three decades people of faith have watched a systematic and very effective effort waged in the courts and the media to drive them from the public square and to delegitimize their participation in politics as somehow threatening.”[xi]

For example, a prominent gay-rights spokesman gave this explanation for his objection to our Church’s position on California’s Proposition 8:

“I’m not intending it to harm the religion. I think they do wonderful things. Nicest people. . . . My single goal is to get them out of the same-sex marriage business and back to helping hurricane victims.”[xii]

Aside from the obvious fact that this objection would deny free speech as well as religious freedom to members of our Church and its coalition partners, there are other reasons why the public square must be open to religious ideas and religious persons. As Richard John Neuhaus said many years ago, “In a democracy that is free and robust, an opinion is no more disqualified for being ‘religious’ than for being atheistic, or psychoanalytic, or Marxist, or just plain dumb.”[xiii]

Religious Freedom Diluted by Other “Civil Rights”

A second threat to religious freedom is from those who perceive it to be in conflict with the newly alleged “civil right” of same-gender couples to enjoy the privileges of marriage.

We have endured a wave of media-reported charges that the Mormons are trying to “deny” people or “strip” people of their “rights.” After a significant majority of California voters (seven million — over 52 percent) approved Proposition 8’s limiting marriage to a man and a woman, some opponents characterized the vote as denying people their civil rights. In fact, the Proposition 8 battle was not about civil rights, but about what equal rights demand and what religious rights protect. At no time did anyone question or jeopardize the civil right of Proposition 8 opponents to vote or speak their views.

The real issue in the Proposition 8 debate — an issue that will not go away in years to come and for whose resolution it is critical that we protect everyone’s freedom of speech and the equally important freedom to stand for religious beliefs — is whether the opponents of Proposition 8 should be allowed to change the vital institution of marriage itself.

The marriage union of a man and a woman has been the teaching of the Judeo-Christian scriptures and the core legal definition and practice of marriage in Western culture for thousands of years. Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights. The supporters of Proposition 8 were exercising their constitutional right to defend the institution of marriage — an institution of transcendent importance that they, along with countless others of many persuasions, feel conscientiously obliged to protect.

Religious freedom needs defending against the claims of newly asserted human rights. The so-called “Yogyakarta Principles,” published by an international human rights group, call for governments to assure that all persons have the right to practice their religious beliefs regardless of sexual orientation or identity.[xiv] This apparently proposes that governments require church practices and their doctrines to ignore gender differences. Any such effort to have governments invade religion to override religious doctrines or practices should be resisted by all believers. At the same time, all who conduct such resistance should frame their advocacy and their personal relations so that they are never seen as being doctrinaire opponents of the very real civil rights (such as free speech) of their adversaries or any other disadvantaged group.

VI.

And now, in conclusion, I offer five points of counsel on how Latter-day Saints should conduct themselves to enhance religious freedom in this period of turmoil and challenge.

First, we must speak with love, always showing patience, understanding and compassion toward our adversaries. We are under command to love our neighbor (Luke 10:27), to forgive all men (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10), to do good to them who despitefully use us (Matthew 5:44) and to conduct our teaching in mildness and meekness (Doctrine and Covenants 38:41).

Even as we seek to speak with love, we must not be surprised when our positions are ridiculed and we are persecuted and reviled. As the Savior said, “so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12). And modern revelation commands us not to revile against revilers (Doctrine and Covenants 19:30).

Second, we must not be deterred or coerced into silence by the kinds of intimidation I have described. We must insist on our constitutional right and duty to exercise our religion, to vote our consciences on public issues and to participate in elections and debates in the public square and the halls of justice. These are the rights of all citizens and they are also the rights of religious leaders. While our church rarely speaks on public issues, it does so by exception on what the First Presidency defines as significant moral issues, which could surely include laws affecting the fundamental legal/cultural/moral environment of our communities and nations.

We must also insist on this companion condition of democratic government: when churches and their members or any other group act or speak out on public issues, win or lose, they have a right to expect freedom from retaliation.

Along with many others, we were disappointed with what we experienced in the aftermath of California’s adoption of Proposition 8, including vandalism of church facilities and harassment of church members by firings and boycotts of member businesses and by retaliation against donors. Mormons were the targets of most of this, but it also hit other churches in the pro-8 coalition and other persons who could be identified as supporters. Fortunately, some recognized such retaliation for what it was. A full-page ad in the New York Times branded this “violence and intimidation” against religious organizations and individual believers “simply because they supported Proposition 8 [as] an outrage that must stop.” [xv] The fact that this ad was signed by some leaders who had no history of friendship for our faith only added to its force.

It is important to note that while this aggressive intimidation in connection with the Proposition 8 election was primarily directed at religious persons and symbols, it was not anti-religious as such. These incidents were expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest. As such, these incidents of “violence and intimidation” are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic. In their effect they are like the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation.

Third, we must insist on our freedom to preach the doctrines of our faith. Why do I make this obvious point? Religious people who share our moral convictions feel some intimidation. Fortunately, our leaders do not refrain from stating and explaining our position that homosexual behavior is sinful. Last summer Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke these words to a BYU audience:

“We follow Jesus Christ by living the law of chastity. God gave this commandment, and He has never revoked or changed it. This law is clear and simple. No one is to engage in sexual relationships outside the bounds the Lord has set. This applies to homosexual behavior of any kind and to heterosexual relationships outside marriage. It is a sin to violate the law of chastity.

“We follow Jesus Christ by adhering to God’s law of marriage, which is marriage between one man and one woman. This commandment has been in place from the very beginning.”[xvi]

We will continue to teach what our Heavenly Father has commanded us to teach, and trust that the precious free exercise of religion remains strong enough to guarantee our right to exercise this most basic freedom.

Fourth, as advocates of the obvious truth that persons with religious positions or motivations have the right to express their religious views in public, we must nevertheless be wise in our political participation. Preachers have been prime movers in the civil rights movement from the earliest advocates of abolition, but even the civil rights of religionists must be exercised legally and wisely.

As Latter-day Saints, we should never be reticent to declare and act upon the sure foundations of our faith. The call of conscience — whether religious or otherwise — requires no secular justification. At the same time, religious persons will often be most persuasive in political discourse by framing arguments and positions in ways that are respectful of those who do not share their religious beliefs and that contribute to the reasoned discussion and compromise that is essential in a pluralistic society.[xvii]

Fifth and finally, Latter-day Saints must be careful never to support or act upon the idea that a person must subscribe to some particular set of religious beliefs in order to qualify for a public office. The framers of our constitution included a provision that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” (Article VI). That constitutional principle forbids a religious test as a legal requirement, but it of course leaves citizens free to cast their votes on the basis of any preference they choose. But wise religious leaders and members will never advocate religious tests for public office.

Fragile freedoms are best preserved when not employed beyond their intended purpose. If a candidate is seen to be rejected at the ballot box primarily because of religious belief or affiliation, the precious free exercise of religion is weakened at its foundation, especially when this reason for rejection has been advocated by other religionists. Such advocacy suggests that if religionists prevail in electing their preferred candidate this will lead to the use of government power in support of their religious beliefs and practices. The religion of a candidate should not be an issue in a political campaign.

Conclusion

It was the Christian principles of human worth and dignity that made possible the formation of the United States Constitution over 200 years ago, and only those principles in the hearts of a majority of our diverse population can sustain that constitution today. Our constitution’s revolutionary concepts of sovereignty in the people and significant guarantees of personal rights were, as John A. Howard has written,

“generated by a people for whom Christianity had been for a century and a half the compelling feature of their lives. It was Jesus who first stated that all men are created equal [and] that every person . . . is valued and loved by God.”[xviii]

Professor Dinesh D’Souza reminds us:

“The attempt to ground respect for equality on a purely secular basis ignores the vital contribution by Christianity to its spread. It is folly to believe that it could survive without the continuing aid of religious belief.”[xix]

Religious values and political realities are so interlinked in the origin and perpetuation of this nation that we cannot lose the influence of Christianity in the public square without seriously jeopardizing our freedoms. I maintain that this is a political fact, well qualified for argument in the public square by religious people whose freedom to believe and act must always be protected by what is properly called our “First Freedom,” the free exercise of religion.

My dear brothers and sisters, I testify to the truth of these principles I have expressed today. I testify of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who is the author and finisher of our faith and whose revelations to a prophet of God in these modern times have affirmed the foundation of the United States constitution, which as we have said, was given by God to His children for the rights and protection of all flesh. May God bless us to understand it, to sustain it, and to spread its influence throughout the world, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



Notes

[i] Robert Debs Heinl Jr., Dictionary of Military and Naval Quotations (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1978), 141.

[ii] Final Report of the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad to the Secretary of State and to the President of the United States, 17 May 1999, 6–7, 30–65. The International Religious Freedom Act, adopted in 1998, 22 USC 6401 et seq., established an office of international religious affairs in the U.S. State Department headed by an Ambassador at Large and the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom. Both of these bodies submit annual reports that assess the status of religious freedom under international standards worldwide and help encourage better implementation of commitments countries around the world have made to respect this fundamental right.

[iii] The information about events in Mongolia was obtained from correspondence with President Odgerel and from Mary N. Cook, former senior missionary and wife of Richard E. Cook, the first mission president in Mongolia.

[iv] Final Report of the Advisory Committee, 6.

[v] 22 USC 6401(a).

[vi] Michael Spencer, “The Coming Evangelical Collapse,” The Christian Science Monitor, 10 Mar. 2009.

[vii] E.g., John A. Howard, “Liberty: America’s Creative Power,” Howard Center, 22 June 2009, 6.

[viii] “In God’s Name: A Special Report on Religion and Public Life,” The Economist, 3 Nov. 2007, 10.

[ix] E.g., The Six Ways of Atheism, which was advertised “to absolutely disprove the existence of God, logically and simply,” was sent free to leading universities and public libraries in all major English-speaking countries in the world. Press release, 26 May 2009.

[x] Howard, “Liberty: America’s Creative Power,” 6.

[xi] Hugh Hewitt, A Mormon in the White House? (Washington DC: Regnery, 2007), 242–43.

[xii] Karl Vick, “Gay Groups Targeting Mormons,” Salt Lake Tribune, 30 May 2009, A8 (Washington Post story).

[xiii] “A New Order of Religious Freedom,” First Things, Feb. 1992, 2; also see Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983).

[xiv] The Yogyakarta Principles, Principle 21 (Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 2006).

[xv] “No Mob Veto,” New York Times, 5 Dec. 2008.

[xvi] M. Russell Ballard, “Engaging Without Being Defensive,” BYU Commencement Address, 13 August 2009.

[xvii] Among the advocates of this position are Kevin Seamus Hasson, The Right to be Wrong (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2005); Douglas Laycock, Anthony Picarello Jr. and Robin Fretwell Wilson, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008); and Michael J. Perry, “Liberal Democracy and Religious Morality,” 48 DePaul Law Rev. 1, 20–41 (1998). For examples of this kind of advocacy, see What’s the Harm? ed. Lynn D. Wardle (University Press of America, 2008); and Monte Neil Stewart, “Marriage Facts,” 31 Harv. J. of Law & Pub. Policy 313 (2008).

[xviii] John A. Howard, Christianity: Lifeblood of America’s Free Society (1620–1945) (Monitou Springs, Ohio: Summit Press, 2008), 57.

[xix] “How Christianity Shaped the West,” Hillsdale College, Nov. 2008, Vol. 37, No. 11, p. 5.

(hat tip, Andy Donkin)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

President Hinckley Quote

I can just hear President Hinckley's voice when I read this quote...
"When our people first arrived in this valley 155 years ago, they saw with prophetic vision a great future. But I sometimes wonder if they really sensed the magnitude of that dream as it would unfold."The headquarters of the Church are in this city which recently hosted the 19th Winter Olympics. We made a deliberate decision that we would not use this as a time or place to proselytize, but we were confident that out of this significant event would come a wonderful thing for the Church. The great buildings which we have here—the Temple, the Tabernacle, this magnificent Conference Center, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, Family History facilities, the Church Administration Building, the Church Office Building, our Welfare facilities, together with scores of chapels in this valley—could not be overlooked by those who walked the streets of this and neighboring cities. As Mike Wallace once remarked to me, 'These structures all denote something solid.'"And beyond this, we had total confidence in our people, many thousands of them, who would serve as volunteers in this great undertaking. They would be dependable; they would be pleasant; they would be knowledgeable; they would be accommodating. The unique and distinctive capacity of our people in speaking the languages of the world would prove to be a tremendous asset beyond anything to be found elsewhere. Well, it all worked out."

Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Church Goes Forward," Ensign, May 2002, 4–5

... I miss him.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Leader of Israel Appeals to the Nations of the World for Support

PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Speech to the UN, Sept. 24, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Nearly 62 years ago, the United Nations recognized the right of the Jews, an ancient people 3,500 years-old, to a state of their own in their ancestral homeland.

I stand here today as the Prime Minister of Israel, the Jewish state, and I speak to you on behalf of my country and my people.

The United Nations was founded after the carnage of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust. It was charged with preventing the recurrence of such horrendous events. Nothing has undermined that central mission more than the systematic assault on the truth.

Yesterday the President of Iran stood at this very podium, spewing his latest anti-Semitic rants. Just a few days earlier, he again claimed that the Holocaust is a lie.

Last month, I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee. There, on January 20, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided how to exterminate the Jewish people. The detailed minutes of that meeting have been preserved by successive German governments.

Here is a copy of those minutes, in which the Nazis issued precise instructions on how to carry out the extermination of the Jews. Is this a lie?

A day before I was in Wannsee, I was given in Berlin the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Those plans are signed by Hitler’s deputy, Heinrich Himmler himself. Here is a copy of the plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered. Is this too a lie?

This June, President Obama visited the Buchenwald concentration camp. Did President Obama pay tribute to a lie? And what of the Auschwitz survivors whose arms still bear the tattooed numbers branded on them by the Nazis? Are those tattoos a lie?

One-third of all Jews perished in the conflagration. Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own. My wife's grandparents, her father’s two sisters and three brothers, and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were all murdered by the Nazis. Is that also a lie?
Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.

But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?

A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state. What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!

Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews. You're wrong. History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.

This Iranian regime is fueled by an extreme fundamentalism that burst onto the world scene three decades ago after lying dormant for centuries.

In the past thirty years, this fanaticism has swept the globe with a murderous violence and cold-blooded impartiality in its choice of victims. It has callously slaughtered Moslems and Christians, Jews and Hindus, and many others. Though it is comprised of different offshoots, the adherents of this unforgiving creed seek to return humanity to medieval times. Wherever they can, they impose a backward regimented society where women, minorities, gays or anyone not deemed to be a true believer is brutally subjugated.

The struggle against this fanaticism does not pit faith against faith nor civilization against civilization. It pits civilization against barbarism, the 21st century against the 9th century, those who sanctify life against those who glorify death. The primitivism of the 9th century ought to be no match for the progress of the 21st century. The allure of freedom, the power of technology, the reach of communications should surely win the day.

Ultimately, the past cannot triumph over the future. And the future offers all nations magnificent bounties of hope. The pace of progress is growing exponentially. It took us centuries to get from the printing press to the telephone, decades to get from the telephone to the personal computer, and only a few years to get from the personal computer to the internet.

What seemed impossible a few years ago is already outdated, and we can scarcely fathom the changes that are yet to come.

We will crack the genetic code. We will cure the incurable. We will lengthen our lives. We will find a cheap alternative to fossil fuels and clean up the planet.

I am proud that my country Israel is at the forefront of these advances – by leading innovations in science and technology, medicine and biology, agriculture and water, energy and the environment. These innovations the world over offer humanity a sunlit future of unimagined promise.

But if the most primitive fanaticism can acquire the most deadly weapons, the march of history could be reversed for a time. And like the belated victory over the Nazis, the forces of progress and freedom will prevail only after a horrific toll of blood and fortune has been exacted from mankind.

That is why the greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fanaticism and the weapons of mass destruction, and the most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Are the member states of the United Nations up to that challenge? Will the international community confront a despotism that terrorizes its own people as they bravely stand up for freedom?

Will it take action against the dictators who stole an election in broad daylight and gunned down Iranian protesters who died in the streets choking in their own blood?

Will the international community thwart the world's most pernicious sponsors and practitioners of terrorism?

Above all, will the international community stop the terrorist regime of Iran from developing atomic weapons, thereby endangering the peace of the entire world?

The people of Iran are courageously standing up to this regime. People of goodwill around the world stand with them, as do the thousands who have been protesting outside this hall. Will the United Nations stand by their side?

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The jury is still out on the United Nations, and recent signs are not encouraging.

Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here have condemned their victims. That is exactly what a recent UN report on Gaza did, falsely equating the terrorists with those they targeted.

For eight long years, Hamas fired from Gaza thousands of missiles, mortars and rockets on nearby Israeli cities. Year after year, as these missiles were deliberately hurled at our civilians, not a single UN resolution was passed condemning those criminal attacks.

We heard nothing – absolutely nothing – from the UN Human Rights Council, a misnamed institution if there ever was one.

In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza. It dismantled 21 settlements and uprooted over 8,000 Israelis.

We didn't get peace. Instead we got an Iranian backed terror base fifty miles from Tel Aviv. Life in Israeli towns and cities next to Gaza became a nightmare.

You see, the Hamas rocket attacks not only continued, they increased tenfold. Again, the UN was silent.

Finally, after eight years of this unremitting assault, Israel was finally forced to respond. But how should we have responded?

Well, there is only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired on a country's civilian population. It happened when the Nazis rocketed British cities during World War II.

During that war, the allies leveled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties. Israel chose to respond differently. Faced with an enemy committing a double war crime of firing on civilians while hiding behind civilians – Israel sought to conduct surgical strikes against the rocket launchers.

That was no easy task because the terrorists were firing missiles from homes and schools, using mosques as weapons depots and ferreting explosives in ambulances.

Israel, by contrast, tried to minimize casualties by urging Palestinian civilians to vacate the targeted areas. We dropped countless flyers over their homes, sent thousands of text messages and called thousands of cell phones asking people to leave.

Never has a country gone to such extraordinary lengths to remove the enemy's civilian population from harm's way. Yet faced with such a clear case of aggressor and victim, who did the UN Human Rights Council decide to condemn? Israel.

A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is morally hanged, drawn and quartered, and given an unfair trial to boot.

By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals. What a perversion of truth! What a perversion of justice!

Delegates of the United Nations,
Will you accept this farce? Because if you do, the United Nations would revert to its darkest days, when the worst violators of human rights sat in judgment against the law-abiding democracies, when Zionism was equated with racism and when an automatic majority could declare that the earth is flat.

If this body does not reject this report, it would send a message to terrorists everywhere: Terror pays; if you launch your attacks from densely populated areas, you will win immunity.

And in condemning Israel, this body would also deal a mortal blow to peace. Here's why. When Israel left Gaza, many hoped that the missile attacks would stop. Others believed that at the very least, Israel would have international legitimacy to exercise its right of self-defense.

What legitimacy? What self-defense?

The same UN that cheered Israel as it left Gaza and promised to back our right of self-defense now accuses us –my people, my country - of war crimes? And for what? For acting responsibly in self-defense. What a travesty!

Israel justly defended itself against terror. This biased and unjust report is a clear-cut test for all governments. Will you stand with Israel or will you stand with the terrorists?

We must know the answer to that question now. Now and not later. Because if Israel is again asked to take more risks for peace, we must know today that you will stand with us tomorrow.

Only if we have the confidence that we can defend ourselves can we take further risks for peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
All of Israel wants peace. Any time an Arab leader genuinely wanted peace with us, we made peace. We made peace with Egypt led by Anwar Sadat. We made peace with Jordan led by King Hussein.

And if the Palestinians truly want peace, I and my government, and the people of Israel, will make peace. But we want a genuine peace, a defensible peace, a permanent peace.

In 1947, this body voted to establish two states for two peoples – a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews accepted that resolution. The Arabs rejected it. We ask the Palestinians to finally do what they have refused to do for 62 years: Say yes to a Jewish state.

Just as we are asked to recognize a nation-state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians must be asked to recognize the nation state of the Jewish people. The Jewish people are not foreign conquerors in the Land of Israel. This is the land of our forefathers.

Inscribed on the walls outside this building is the great Biblical vision of peace: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. They shall learn war no more." These words were spoken by the Jewish prophet Isaiah 2,800 years ago as he walked in my country, in my city - in the hills of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem. We are not strangers to this land. It is our homeland.

As deeply connected as we are to this land, we recognize that the Palestinians also live there and want a home of their own. We want to live side by side with them, two free peoples living in peace, prosperity and dignity.

But we must have security. The Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves except those handful of powers that could endanger Israel.

That is why a Palestinian state must be effectively demilitarized. We don't want another Gaza, another Iranian backed terror base abutting Jerusalem and perched on the hills a few kilometers from Tel Aviv.

We want peace.

I believe such a peace can be achieved. But only if we roll back the forces of terror, led by Iran, that seek to destroy peace, eliminate Israel and overthrow the world order.

The question facing the international community is whether it is prepared to confront those forces or accommodate them.

Over seventy years ago, Winston Churchill lamented what he called the "confirmed unteachability of mankind," the unfortunate habit of civilized societies to sleep until danger nearly overtakes them.

Churchill bemoaned what he called the "want of foresight, the unwillingness to act when action will be simple and effective, the lack of clear thinking, the confusion of counsel until emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong.”

I speak here today in the hope that Churchill's assessment of the "unteachability of mankind" is for once proven wrong.

I speak here today in the hope that we can learn from history -- that we can prevent danger in time.

In the spirit of the timeless words spoken to Joshua over 3,000 years ago, let us be strong and of good courage. Let us confront this peril, secure our future and, God willing, forge an enduring peace for generations to come.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Great Column--Excellent Insight

Washington and Zarahemla: The Beltway-Nephite Disease
By Gary C. Lawrence

Six years.

In the thousand-year span of the Nephite people, that’s the time on stage for a prideful group known as the king-men.

The last fourth of the book of Alma, in which the king-men story is imbedded, is a sharp break from the doctrine-laden chapters of the first three-fourths of the book, as Mormon turns to stories about war strategy and political happenings.

Why did Mormon include this story of arrogance? Is it a parallel for our time, a warning, something we should learn?

I think so. Because Mormon saw our time, what he decided to include in his abridgement was not happenstance.

Doing a bit of reverse engineering on the actions of king-men based in the government town of Zarahemla, and drawing on other scriptures describing Nephite behavior, here are nine characteristics to watch for, if and when king-men pop up in Washington.

1. They Will Be Subtle

The king-men eventually came out in full rebellion against the Nephite system of judges as established by Mosiah, but before a defeat by the voice of the people unmasked their true colors, they had a disguised plan to scam the system — to use the law of the land to overthrow the government of the land. Note this intriguing sentence in Alma 51:

“[The king-men] were desirous that the law should be altered in a manner to overthrow the free government and to establish a king over the land.” [Emphasis added.] 1

Mormon’s choice of verbs and direct objects is instructive. If the king-men had changed the law, Mormon would have said so. Rather, he says they attempted to alter the manner of the law — manner being a method or approach, in this case probably synonymous with implementation. The law itself would remain in place, but how it would be interpreted and implemented would be altered.

These people presented their petition to Pahoran, the chief judge, that “a few particular points of the law should be altered.” 2 (Pretty cheeky: use the right of petition to undermine that and all other rights.) We don’t know what particular points they had in mind. They could have been lower judges, just as those who followed Amalickiah, and maybe they had found a penumbra. Or they might have been appointed officials bent on changing the wording of regulations, not to bring about an immediately detectable consequence, mind you, but to set in motion a series of small hinge-point changes that would eventually cause a major governmental change. In such positions, mischief is limited only by imagination.

Whatever the nub of the issue, we can be sure they postured their petition as no big deal — just a few minor corrections.

No subtle plans to see here, folks; move along, move along.

2. They Will Exploit the Desire for Power

Malickiah achieved power by promising power. This Nephite apostate and would-be king over both Lamanites and Nephites recruited followers with the promise that:

“If they would support him and establish him to be their king that he would make them rulers over the people.” 3

No dictator can survive alone. He gathers, maintains, and projects power through a coterie of followers who are promised authority and power over the people and a share in the extracted goodies.

Once in power, such wannabes are tempted by the misuse of power as bluntly described in D&C 121:

“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.” 4

Power is a reward to those who have a need to feel superior. In a world of nearly seven billion people, it’s difficult for some to believe they are truly unique, and that God knows and loves each one of them. Far better, so they reason, to affirm their specialness by gaining power.

Toward the end of Willie Sutton’s infamous career, someone asked him why he robbed banks. His “duh” answer: “Because that’s where the money is.” Same with Washington — if you know the way, it’s a power magnet …

Put a hundred down and buy a car
In a week, maybe two, they’ll make you a czar

If you don’t make fame in L.A., you park cars and pump gas. If you can’t wangle a Schedule C appointment in Washington, you bide time in a bureaucratic slot or think-tank cubicle until fortune smiles and you grab that golden ring of high authority and low accountability — czardom.

Our current president has appointed more than 30 czars — drug czar, health reform czar, TARP czar, salary czar, car czar, even a Guantanomo-closing czar — unelected special aides with considerable authority over public policy, and virtually no check-and-balance mechanisms such as senate confirmation. More government intrusion means more opportunities for the unelected to wield power — and abuse it.

Count the many staffers, name them one by one.

3. They Will Consider Themselves the New Nobility

King Mosiah established the reign of judges and gave this guiding principle:

“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law – to do your business by the voice of the people.” 5
The king-men of Zarahemla rejected this counsel and felt entitled to govern because of who their daddies were:

“Now those who were in favor of kings were those of high birth, and they sought to be kings; and they were supported by those who sought power and authority over the people.” 6

Those with nobility impulses today make less of a case for bloodlines (though some clamor for a royal American family — guess who?) and more of a case for intellectual nobility. They maintain that the smarter ones among us should rule (the philosopher king idea), and consulting the voice of the people is too laborious for solving urgent crises.

Hence the battle of the mind of God versus that of man. When God is acknowledged as the highest power in the universe, the selfish ambitions of men are somewhat constrained. But if the mind of man is deemed the highest power, then mental megahertz, cunning, and the management of the creature determine the winners. Which is why king-men, yesterday or today, will avoid discussing God’s mind and focus only on their own. They want a robust pecking order based on intellectual prowess.

The case for intellectual nobility goes up as belief in God goes down.

4. They Will Look Down on Others

My father-in-law, a county attorney and rancher, told what happened when an expert from the Department of Agriculture in Washington visited southern Idaho determined to help farmers and ranchers improve their lot in life. Commenting on lamb production, this expert told the poor benighted folks, “Your problem is that all the lambs are born in March. You have to get the ewes [he pronounced it EE-wees] to produce lambs uniformly throughout the year.” He was hooted out of the room.

Why did this man think that his college degree, his place of residence, and his title in a government agency gave him superior knowledge to people laboring daily in the trenches? If there’s a major symptom of the Beltway-Nephite disease, it’s the arrogant belief that people can’t run their own lives and must be told by enlightened ones what to do.

This plague of pride — “we are powerful, and our cities great” 7 — is the warp and woof of Nephite history, and shortly before the appearance of the Savior on the American continent, nobility by intellect added to the pretensions of nobility by blood:

“And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.” 8

Puffed up with pride, those who feel superior soon enough ask, “What’s the use of being a noble if no one cares or notices?” To be sure they do, hello ridicule.

In America today, outright persecution of the poor is rare, but put-downs are not. Elites on both coasts (especially the Beltway and Manhattan) make fun of “fly-over country” and cannot imagine anything of worth coming from the sticks. Comedians call us stupid and congressional leaders say we’re unpatriotic. As a pollster, I am confident that a solid majority of Americans would tell Mr. Maher and Ms. Pelosi that their arrows are half a compass off target.

And talk about geocentric chauvinism. I once conducted focus groups in New York discussing medical clinics and when Mayo Clinic was brought up, one man said, “If they’re so good, why aren’t they in New York?” Similarly, a woman in Washington was reported puzzling over the results of the 1980 election: “I can’t understand how Ronald Reagan was elected; I don’t know one person who voted for him.”

A self-anointed nobility has difficulty understanding those they deem lower on the rungs of society. Some in Washington have become so blind to common sense that they actually thought they could ask American citizens to snitch on friends and families who pass along “fishy” observations about the president’s healthcare agenda.

Fly-over country, indeed.

5. They Will Flatter

Tell someone he is better than someone else and he will likely believe it.

Almost every villain in the Book of Mormon shared two traits: fluency of language and flattery of the people. To name a few:

* Sherem was “learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery” 9

* Korihor demonstrated his power of language in an argument with Alma, who said it is better that Korihor be lost than souls be brought down to destruction “by thy lying and by thy flattering words” 10

* Amalickiah, the villain of choice in king-men days, was “a man of cunning device and a man of many flattering words” 11

* Even Alma the Younger, in his pre-angel-appearance days, “was a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people” 12

The essence of flattery is telling someone he or she is better than others, which pride-driven disease plagued the Nephites even before the first scrape of their boat on America’s shores. Flattery requires and builds on class distinctions — a shared sense of us versus them, the “them” being anyone the speaker chooses to demonize, especially those who have supposedly failed them in the past.

Flatterers in the Book of Mormon enlisted others in their fight against church and/or government by telling their listeners that they deserved better. They gave them a sense of purpose, of being important, of participating in a great event — a sense of Kumbaya togetherness and belonging to something bigger than themselves.

But trust them to make their own decisions? Fuhgeddaboutit.

Have things changed? If dissenting Nephites had bumper stickers for their chariots, they could not have done better than…

We are the change we have been waiting for.

6. They Will Deceive

Flatterers and king-men will …

* Rarely speak specifics or directly state their intentions,

* Use vague and nebulous terms that encourage the audience to hear what they want to hear while reserving private definitions that allow for different explanations later,

* Disarm the opposition by appearing to side with them when they really harbor opposite intentions, and

* Speak in frothy, feel-good, cotton-candy platitudes.

The king-men pretended to want to correct only a few details, but knew their plan would overthrow the free government. Amalickiah pledged fealty to Lehonti, the Lamanite king, while secretly having him poisoned. 13 And 50 years later, corrupt judges accused Nephi, great-grandson of Alma, of being un-Nephite, claiming he reviled against the people and the law, while they themselves belonged to Gadianton’s secret band dedicated to usurping the power of government. 14

The sad story is played out repeatedly. The prideful seeking power know they can never show their true agenda because, as Mosiah said, the greater part of the people will choose the right if given a clear choice. Therefore, they cannot and do not trust the people.

As a measure of our culture today, can you think of an adjective that more frequently modifies the word agenda than the word hidden?

7. They Will Strike When Crises Provide Opportunities

The king-men made their move when Amalickiah was running roughshod over the countryside and Captain Moroni and Helaman were out of town:

“For behold, this was a critical time for such contentions to be among the people of Nephi; for behold, Amalickiah had again stirred up the hearts of the people of the Lamanites against the people of the Nephites.” 15

Power expands and freedoms are lost when people face critical threats and are vulnerable to persuasion that their government be granted new powers.

If a situation is or can be manufactured into a crisis, people will allow suspension of some democratic processes (witness especially World War I and the Great Depression). Checks and balances give way to calls for a strong man to make decisions for the common good, however that superior being chooses to define it. Simplification looks enticing.

Never let a good crisis go to waste.

8. They Will Not Trust People’s Freedoms

The Spirit of God is also the spirit of freedom. 16

Power in the secular world is the right to tell people what to do and the policing authority to make them do it. Freedom is the natural enemy to that power. The two vary inversely.

The king-men came out in open rebellion against a free government for at least two reasons:

* They could not very well consider themselves noble and better than others if they were obliged to live under the voice of the people; and

* They wanted power and control, but the more people enjoyed freedom, the less the opportunity to obtain power over them.

The battle for freedom then and now boils down to one question: who gets to decide what? Who has agency — the person for himself, or the government for him?

When people, elected and unelected, show up on the Washington scene, we get dutiful lip service to the cause of freedom, but watch their actions. Do they protect the rights of citizens to make their own decisions, or do they work for bigger government, more intrusion into individual lives, and fewer decisions left to the average citizen?

If the latter, then they’re king-men — thirsty for power with little heed for the agency of man and lulling people into surrendering a few choices here, a few there, in the “interest of the common good.”

Elites do not champion liberties; they protect privileges.

9. They Will Oppose Efforts to Defend the Country

“And it came to pass that when the men who were called king-men had heard that the Lamanites were coming down to battle against them, they 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.” 17

Whether king-men personally pick up a weapon isn’t as important as the attitudes that drive them. The king-men of yore actively hoped for the defeat of the Nephite nation (probably thinking it would provide opportunities for power under the new rulers) and did not lift a finger to help until they were compelled to do so.

Can we spot king-men today by their attitudes? Apply these questions to those in power:

* Are they proud or ashamed of their nation?

* Are they anxious to share American values?

* Do they favor or oppose a robust military?

* Do they support or oppose defense innovations, such as missile defense?

* Do they demonize domestic opponents but apologize to foreign enemies?

* Do they allow interrogators to extract intelligence from sworn enemies to save American lives, or do they prosecute them for their efforts?

* Do they respect debate or do they attempt to intimidate and silence critics?

A would-be dictator stirs people to anger, but upon achieving power wants silent obedience.

Smell familiar?

* * *

The king-men did tremendous damage to the Nephite nation in six short years. Pride, subtlety, flattery, deceit, nobility, condescension, power ambition, geocentric chauvinism, opportunism, distrust of the voice of the people and disdain for freedom from government intrusions — the only element of king-men-ism absent from Washington today is an outright refusal to take up arms to defend the country. But there are many in power who are hobbling those who try.

If the events of 2009 and the attitudes of those currently in power are not those Mormon saw in our day, such that he included the king-men story in the Book of Mormon, what further parallels must occur before we learn the intended lesson?

Are we so complacent to think that the king-men parallel lies yet in the future, a problem for some other generation? Are we willing to take a chance that 2009 could not possibly be the king-men day that Mormon saw?

Look around, America. The answer is clear — very clear.


* * *

Unlike king-men, Gary Lawrence welcomes opposing as well as supporting comments at gary@lawrenceresearch.com.

Notes
1 Alma 51:5

2 Alma 51:2

3 Alma 46:5

4 D&C 121:39

5 Mosiah 29:26

6 Alma 51:8

7 Helaman 8:6

8 3 Nephi 6:12

9 Jacob 7:4

10 Alma 30:47

11 Alma 46:10

12 Mosiah 27:8

13 Alma 47:18

14 Helaman 8:1-5

15 Alma 51:9

16 Alma 61:15

17 Alma 51:13

Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Enemy Hath Done This, pt.2

I wish I could post the entire text of this book here. Every sentence, every paragraph is profound. But here is a particularly poignant section--chilling in it's application to our current situation.
"As a nation we are strong. With the freedom of economic enterprise that we possess, we are able to produce as much industrial goods as all the world combined -- even though we are only seven percent of the world's people and possess only six percent of the world's land.

(Written is 1969, we are now the inheritors of the immense decline of which President Benson repeatedly forewarned. It seems we are the present witnesses of the fruition of his darkest worries.)
These abundant blessings have come to us through an economic system which rests largely on three pillars:

1. Free enterprise...the right to venture...the right to choose.
2. Private property...the right to own.
3. A market economy...the right to exchange.

Working together, we can maintain the strength of these pillars.

There are some in the U.S., nevertheless, who decry free enterprise, who would place business, agriculture, and labor in a government strait jacket.

Our economic order is not perfect, because it is operated by imperfect human beings, but it has given us more of the good things of life than any other system. The fundamental reason is that our economy is free. It must remain free. In that freedom ultimately lies our basic economic strength.

Let us admit the weaknesses that exist. Let us work aggressively to correct them. But never let us make the catastrophic blunder of putting chains on our basic economic freedom.

Yes, our phenomenal material advances have been the fruit of our freedom--our free enterprise capitalistic system, our American way of life, our God-given freedom of choice.

The progress of the future must stem from this same basic freedom.

Yet, these basic American beliefs, principles, and attributes are threatened today as never before.

By whom are they threatened? These basic concepts are threatened by three groups:
1. They are threatened by well-meaning but uninformed people who see the shortcomings of our economic system and believe they can legislate them out of existence. They try to reach the promised land by passing laws. They do not understand our economic system and its limitations. They would load it down with burdens it was never intended to carry. As their schemes begin to break down, more and more controls must be supplied. Patch is placed upon patch, regulation is added to regulation and ultimately, by degree, freedom is lost--without our desiring to lose it and without our knowing why or how it was lost.

2. Our heritage of freedom is threatened by another group--self-seeking men who see in government legislation a way to obtain special privileges for themselves or to restrain their competitors. They use demagoguery as a smokescreen to deceive. These people have no love for freedom or enterprise. They would bargain away their birthright for a mess of pottage. They would learn the value of freedom only after is was gone.

3. A third, still much smaller group is dedicated to the overthrow of the economic and social system that is our tradition. Their philosophy does not stem from Jefferson, but is foreign to our shores. It is a total philosophy of life, atheistic, and utterly opposed to all that we hold dear as a great Christian nation. These men understand our system thoroughly--and hate it thoroughly. They enlist innocent but willing followers from the uninformed and the unprincipled. Through rabble-rousing and demagoguery they play upon the economic reverses and hardships of the unsuspecting. They promise the impossible, and call black white, and mislead with fallacies masqueraded as truth.

If we lose our freedom, it will be to this strange and unlike coalition of the well-intentioned, the slothful, and the subversives.

It will be because we did not care enough--because we were not alert enough--because we were too apathetic to take note while the precious waters of our God-given freedom slipped -- drop by drop -- down the drain.

Heaven forbid that this should come to pass!"
Ezra Taft Benson, An Enemy Hath Done This, pg.24-26

I remember as a youth, President Benson speaking repeatedly to our generation, insisting that we were saved for these last days. I wonder if he foresaw that we would be the generation that restores the Constitution in the days that it would "hang by a thread". Heaven help us to have the courage and strength.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

An Enemy Hath Done This

I am currently reading a book by Ezra Taft Benson, published in 1969, called "An Enemy Hath Done This". This book is as profound as it is cutting in it's condemnation of Communism, Socialism, Fascism, and other atheistic government "isms". My highlighter is running out of ink in the second chapter.

I'm sure I'll be bringing you quotes from it on a regular basis. I'd love to hear from anyone else who'd like to follow along and read it as well.

One of our most serious problems is the inferiority complex which people feel when they are not informed and organized. They dare not make a decision on these vital issues. They let other people think for them. They stumble around in the middle of the road to avoid being 'controversial' and get hit by the traffic going both ways.

To the patriots I say this: Take that long eternal look. Stand up for freedom, no matter what the cost.

It can help to save your soul--and maybe your country...

May God give us the wisdom to recognize the dangers of complacency, the threat to our freedom and the strength to meet this danger courageously...

In this mighty struggle each of you has a part. Every person on the earth today chose the right side during the war in heaven. Be on the right side now. Stand up and be counted. If you get discouraged remember the words of Edward Everett Hale, when he said:

I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.
(Familiar Quotations, p. 550)

We need more like this guy in DC

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Witness and a Warning

Ezra Taft Benson, “A Witness and a Warning,” Ensign, Nov 1979, 31
The Lord has declared this “a day of warning, and not a day of many words” (D&C 63:58). My message is a witness and warning about some of the evils which threaten America—a land I love with all my heart. There are other countries with this same problem. You who have seen these dangers in the land you love will have a deep feeling for what I will say.

America is a place of many great events. Here is where Adam dwelt, where the Garden of Eden was located. America was the place of former civilizations, including Adam’s, the Jaredites’, and Nephites’. America is also the place where God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith, inaugurating the last gospel dispensation on earth before the Savior’s second coming.

This consecrated land has been placed under the everlasting decree of God. That decree is recorded in the sacred Book of Mormon, a new witness for Christ, in these words:

“For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. …

“Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:10, 12).

The eventful destiny of America has also been revealed to God’s prophets. To Joseph Smith the Lord revealed that “the whole of America is Zion itself from north to south” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938, p. 362). Further, the Lord decreed this land to be “the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, … the holy sanctuary of the Lord” (Ether 13:3). To serve God’s eternal purposes and to prepare this land for Zion, God “established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom [He] raised up … and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (D&C 101:80).

The Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789. The priesthood of God was restored in 1829. Between those two dates is an interval of forty years. It is my conviction that God, who knows the end from the beginning, provided that period of time so the new nation could grow in strength to protect the land of Zion.

In the decade prior to the restoration of the gospel, many countries of South America fought wars of independence to free themselves from European rule. Russia, Austria, and Prussia, however, urged France to aid Spain and Portugal to restore their monarchies in South America. This effort was repulsed by a proclamation from the United States government known as the Monroe Doctrine. The heart of the Monroe Doctrine consists of these words: “The American continents … are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.”

The Lord had promised, “I will fortify this land against all other nations” (2 Ne. 10:12). President Joseph Fielding Smith said that “the greatest and most powerful fortification in America is the ‘Monroe Doctrine.’ … It was the inspiration of the Almighty which rested upon John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson and other statesmen, and which finally found authoritative expression in the message of James Monroe to Congress in the year 1823” (The Progress Of Man, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., pp. 466–67).

Thus, in that four-decade period the United States had grown to sufficient strength that she was able to provide a cradle of liberty for the restored Church of Jesus Christ.

But whenever the God of heaven reveals His gospel to mankind, Satan, the archenemy to Christ, introduces a counterfeit.

Isaiah foresaw the time when a marvelous work and a wonder would come forth among men. Isaiah also predicted there would be those who would “seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us?” He saw the time when the work shall say of him that made it, “He made me not” (Isa. 29:15–16).

It is well to ask, what system established secret works of darkness to overthrow nations by violent revolution? Who blasphemously proclaimed the atheistic doctrine that God made us not? Satan works through human agents. We need only look to some of the ignoble characters in human history who were contemporary to the restoration of the gospel to discover fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. I refer to the infamous founders of Communism and others who follow in their tradition.

Communism introduced into the world a substitute for true religion. It is a counterfeit of the gospel plan. The false prophets of Communism predict a utopian society. This, they proclaim, will only be brought about as capitalism and free enterprise are overthrown, private property abolished, the family as a social unit eliminated, all classes abolished, all governments overthrown, and a communal ownership of property in a classless, stateless society established.

Since 1917 this godless counterfeit to the gospel has made tremendous progress toward its objective of world domination.

Today, we are in a battle for the bodies and souls of man. It is a battle between two opposing systems: freedom and slavery, Christ and anti-Christ. The struggle is more momentous than a decade ago, yet today the conventional wisdom says, “You must learn to live with Communism and to give up your ideas about national sovereignty.” Tell that to the millions—yes, the scores of millions—who have met death or imprisonment under the tyranny of Communism! Such would be the death knell of freedom and all we hold dear. God must ever have a free people to prosper His work and bring about Zion.

I am a witness to nations and people deprived of their freedom. I was there. I watched that great Iron Curtain drop around nations which formerly had prized their freedom—good people. I was aghast as these were written off by the stroke of a pen. I saw Poland abandoned by nations with a heritage of freedom—the United States and Great Britain.

I was in Warsaw in June of 1946. I shared a room with seven other men in the Polonia Hotel, the only hotel even partially intact in the great city of Warsaw. Our ambassador, Bliss Lane, had his office in part of the building. He was so saddened that he resigned and wrote the book I Saw Poland Betrayed, which detailed the failure of the United States and England to keep their promise that the Poles would have a free election after the war.

I saw firsthand our great nation stand by at the time of the Hungarian revolution—when “freedom fighters” with bare hands and stones resisted bullets, tanks, and artillery. I confess I was ashamed at the response of my country—a nation which I believe the Lord intended to be an ensign of freedom to all others. Freedom did not die that day (23 October 1956) for Hungary alone. Hope died for many in other captive nations and has only recently been somewhat revived by courageous men willing to speak against oppression.

Since that day, I have seen the Soviet Union, under its godless leaders, spread its ideology throughout the world. Every stratagem is used—trade, war, revolution, violence, hate, detente, and immorality—to accomplish its purposes. Many nations are now under its oppressive control. Over one billion people—one-fourth of the population of the world—have now lost their freedom and are under Communist domination. We seem to forget that the great objective of Communism is still world domination and control, which means the surrender of our freedom—your freedom—our sovereignty.

On 3 July 1936, the First Presidency published this warning to Church members:

“Communism is not a political party nor a political plan under the Constitution; it is a system of government that is the opposite of our Constitutional government. …

“Since Communism, established, would destroy our American Constitutional government, to support Communism is treasonable to our free institutions, and no patriotic American citizen may become either a Communist or supporter of Communism. …

“We call upon all Church members completely to eschew [shun] Communism. The safety of our divinely inspired Constitutional government and the welfare of our Church imperatively demand that Communism shall have no place in America” (signed: Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O. McKay, The First Presidency, in Deseret News, 3 July 1936; italics added).


More recently, President Marion G. Romney, in the First Presidency Message in the September 1979 Ensign, wrote: “Communism is Satan’s counterfeit for the gospel plan, and … it is an avowed enemy of the God of the land. Communism is the greatest anti-Christ power in the world today and therefore the greatest menace not only to our peace but to our preservation as a free people. By the extent to which we tolerate it, accommodate ourselves to it, permit ourselves to be encircled by its tentacles and drawn to it, to that extent we forfeit the protection of the God of this land” (p. 5).

The truth is, we have to a great extent accommodated ourselves to Communism—and we have permitted ourselves to become encircled by its tentacles. Though we give lip service to the Monroe Doctrine, this has not prevented Cuba from becoming a Soviet military base, ninety miles off our coastline, nor has it prevented the takeover of Nicaragua in Central America, the surrender of the Panama Canal, or the infiltration by enemy agents within our American borders.

Never before has the land of Zion appeared so vulnerable to so powerful an enemy as the Americas do at present. And our vulnerability is directly attributable to our loss of active faith in the God of this land, who has decreed that we must worship Him or be swept off. Too many Americans have lost sight of the truth that God is our source of freedom—the Lawgiver—and that personal righteousness is the most important essential to preserving our freedom. So, I say with all the energy of my soul that unless we as citizens of this nation forsake our sins, political and otherwise, and return to the fundamental principles of Christianity and of constitutional government, we will lose our political liberties, our free institutions, and will stand in jeopardy before God.

No nation which has kept the commandments of God has ever perished, but I say to you that once freedom is lost, only blood—human blood—will win it back.

There are some things we can and must do at once if we are to stave off a holocaust of destruction.

First: We must return to worship the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ.
He has promised that the righteous will be preserved by His power (see 1 Ne. 22:17). But we must keep the commandments of God. We must pay our tithes and offerings, keep the Sabbath day a holy day, stay morally clean, be honest in all our dealings, and have our family and personal prayers. We must live the gospel.

Second: We must awaken to “a sense of [our] awful situation, because of this secret combination which [is] among [us]” (Ether 8:24). We must not tolerate accommodation with or appeasement toward the false system of Communism. We must demand of our elected officials that we not only resist Communism, but that we will take every measure to prevent its intrusion into this hemisphere. It is vital that we invoke the Monroe Doctrine.

Then we must put our trust in Him who has promised us His protection—and pray that He will intervene to preserve our freedom just as He intervened in our obtaining it in the first place.

Third: We must do as the Lord commanded us by revelation in 1833: “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 98:10).

Men who are wise, good, and honest, who will uphold the Constitution of the United States in the tradition of the Founding Fathers, must be sought for diligently. This is our hope to restore government to its rightful role.

Last: We must study the inspired Constitution and become involved in the political process ourselves.
I quote the First Presidency statement that was read in sacrament meetings on Sunday, 1 July 1979: “We encourage all members, as citizens of the nation, to be actively involved in the political process, and to support those measures which will strengthen the community, state, and nation—morally, economically, and culturally” (Letter from the First Presidency, 29 June 1979).

I fully believe that we can turn things around in America if we have the determination, the morality, the patriotism, and the spirituality to do so.

My single-minded concern is for the freedom and welfare of my countrymen and my posterity, the freedom of all men.

I testify to you that God’s hand has been in our destiny. I testify that freedom as we know it today is being threatened as never before in our history. I further witness that this land—the Americas—must be protected, its Constitution upheld, for this is a land foreordained to be the Zion of our God. He expects us as members of the Church and bearers of His priesthood to do all we can to preserve our liberty.

May God bless us that, with His help, we will not fail to bring to pass His purposes on earth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Socialist's critique of Socialism

I have been reading “The Naked Communist” by Skousen. Very scary considering what we are going through. One quote was very fitting:

A leading Socialist in Britain, Professor W. Arthur Lewis, openly acknowledged that socialism had been a great disappointment in England: “What has been done…is to transfer property not to the workers but to the Government. Workers continue to be employees, subject to all the frustrations of working under orders in large undertakings…Those who expected nationalization to raise wages have…been disappointed…It does not solve the problem of labor relations: it reduces private wealth…it raises unsolved problems of control; and it raises the issue of how much power we want our Government to have.”
“U.S. News and World Report,” “Socialist Sour on Socialism,” July 8, 1955, p. 48

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Divinely Inspired Constitution

By Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

"Not long after I began to teach law, an older professor asked me a challenging question about Latter-day Saints’ belief in the United States Constitution. Earlier in his career he had taught at the University of Utah College of Law. There he met many Latter-day Saint law students. “They all seemed to believe that the Constitution was divinely inspired,” he said, “but none of them could ever tell me what this meant or how it affected their interpretation of the Constitution.” I took that challenge personally, and I have pondered it for many years.

I hope I will not be thought immodest if I claim a special interest in the Constitution. As a lawyer and law professor for more than twenty years, I have studied the United States Constitution. As legal counsel, I helped draft the bill of rights for the Illinois constitutional convention of 1970. And for three and one-half years as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court I had the sworn duty to uphold and interpret the constitutions of the state of Utah and the United States. My conclusions draw upon those experiences and upon a lifetime of studying the scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets. My opinions on this subject are personal and do not represent a statement in behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Creation and Ratification

The United States Constitution was the first written constitution in the world. It has served Americans well, enhancing freedom and prosperity during the changed conditions of more than two hundred years. Frequently copied, it has become the United States’ most important export. After two centuries, every nation in the world except six have adopted written constitutions, and the U.S. Constitution was a model for all of them. No wonder modern revelation says that God established the U.S. Constitution and that it “should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles.” (D&C 101:77.)

George Washington was perhaps the first to use the word miracle in describing the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. In a 1788 letter to Lafayette, he said:

“It appears to me, then, little short of a miracle, that the delegates from so many different states (which states you know are also different from each other in their manners, circumstances, and prejudices) should unite in forming a system of national Government, so little liable to well-founded objections.”

It was a miracle. Consider the setting.

The thirteen colonies and three and one-half million Americans who had won independence from the British crown a few years earlier were badly divided on many fundamental issues. Some thought the colonies should reaffiliate with the British crown. Among the majority who favored continued independence, the most divisive issue was whether the United States should have a strong central government to replace the weak “league of friendship” established by the Articles of Confederation. Under the Confederation of 1781, there was no executive or judicial authority, and the national Congress had no power to tax or to regulate commerce. The thirteen states retained all their sovereignty, and the national government could do nothing without their approval. The Articles of Confederation could not be amended without the unanimous approval of all the states, and every effort to strengthen this loose confederation had failed.

Congress could not even protect itself. In July 1783, an armed mob of former Revolutionary War soldiers seeking back wages threatened to take Congress hostage at its meeting in Philadelphia. When Pennsylvania declined to provide militia to protect them, the congressmen fled. Thereafter Congress was a laughingstock, wandering from city to city.

Unless America could adopt a central government with sufficient authority to function as a nation, the thirteen states would remain a group of insignificant, feuding little nations united by nothing more than geography and forever vulnerable to the impositions of aggressive foreign powers. No wonder the first purpose stated in the preamble of the new United States Constitution was “to form a more perfect union.”

The Constitution had its origin in a resolution by which the relatively powerless Congress called delegates to a convention to discuss amendments to the Articles of Confederation. This convention was promoted by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, two farsighted young statesmen still in their thirties, who favored a strong national government. They persuaded a reluctant George Washington to attend and then used his influence in a letter-writing campaign to encourage participation by all the states. The convention was held in Philadelphia, whose population of a little over 40,000 made it the largest city in the thirteen states.

As the delegates assembled, there were ominous signs of disunity. It was not until eleven days after the scheduled beginning of the convention that enough states were represented to form a quorum. New Hampshire’s delegation arrived more than two months late because the state had not provided them travel money. No delegates ever came from Rhode Island.

Economically and politically, the country was alarmingly weak. The states were in a paralyzing depression. Everyone was in debt. The national treasury was empty. Inflation was rampant. The various currencies were nearly worthless. The trade deficit was staggering. Rebelling against their inclusion in New York State, prominent citizens of Vermont had already entered into negotiations to rejoin the British crown. In the western territory, Kentucky leaders were speaking openly about turning from the union and forming alliances with the Old World.

Instead of reacting timidly because of disunity and weakness, the delegates boldly ignored the terms of their invitation to amend the Articles of Confederation and instead set out to write an entirely new constitution. They were conscious of their place in history. For millennia the world’s people had been ruled by kings or tyrants. Now a group of colonies had won independence from a king and their representatives had the unique opportunity of establishing a constitutional government Abraham Lincoln would later describe as “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

The delegates faced staggering obstacles. The leaders in the thirteen states were deeply divided on the extent to which the states would cede any power to a national government. If there was to be a strong central government, there were seemingly irresolvable differences on how to allocate the ingredients of national power between large and small states. As to the nature of the national executive, some wanted to copy the British parliamentary system. At least one delegate even favored the adoption of a monarchy. Divisions over slavery could well have prevented any agreement on other issues. There were 600,000 black slaves in the thirteen states, and slavery was essential in the view of some delegates and repulsive to many others.

Deeming secrecy essential to the success of their venture, the delegates spent over three months in secret sessions, faithfully observing their agreement that no one would speak outside the meeting room on the progress of their work. They were fearful that if their debates were reported to the people before the entire document was ready for submission, the opposition would unite to kill the effort before it was born. This type of proceeding would obviously be impossible today. There is irony in the fact that a constitution which protects the people’s “right to know” was written under a set of ground rules that its present beneficiaries would not tolerate.

It took the delegates seven weeks of debate to resolve the question of how the large and small states would be represented in the national congress. The Great Compromise provided a senate with equal representation for each state, and a lower house in which representation was apportioned according to the whole population of free persons in the state, plus three-fifths of the slaves. The vote on this pivotal issue was five states in favor and four against; other states did not vote, either because no delegates were present or because their delegation was divided. Upon that fragile base, the delegates went forward to consider other issues, including the nature of the executive and judicial branches, and whether the document should include a bill of rights.

It is remarkable that the delegates were able to put aside their narrow sectional loyalties to agree on a strong central government. Timely events were persuasive of the need: the delegates’ memories of the national humiliation when Congress was chased out of Philadelphia by a mob, the recent challenge of Shay’s rebellion against Massachusetts farm foreclosures, and the frightening prospect that northern and western areas would be drawn back into the orbit of European power.

The success of the convention was attributable in large part to the remarkable intelligence, wisdom, and unselfishness of the delegates. As James Madison wrote in the preface to his notes on the Constitutional Convention:

“There never was an assembly of men, charged with a great and arduous trust, who were more pure in their motives, or more exclusively or anxiously devoted to the object committed to them.” Truly, the U.S. Constitution was established “by the hands of wise men whom [the Lord] raised up unto this very purpose.” (D&C 101:80.)

The drafting of the Constitution was only the beginning. By its terms it would not go into effect until ratified by conventions in nine states. But if the nation was to be united and strong, the new Constitution had to be ratified by the key states of Virginia and New York, where the opposition was particularly strong. The extent of opposition coming out of the convention is suggested by the fact that of seventy-four appointed delegates, only fifty-five participated in the convention, and only thirty-nine of these signed the completed document.

It was nine months before nine states had ratified, and the last of the key states was not included until a month later, when the New York convention ratified by a vote of thirty to twenty-seven. To the “miracle of Philadelphia” one must therefore add “the miracle of ratification.”

Ratification probably could not have been secured without a commitment to add a written bill of rights. The first ten amendments, which included the Bill of Rights, were ratified a little over three years after the Constitution itself.

That the Constitution was ratified is largely attributable to the fact that the principal leaders in the states were willing to vote for a document that failed to embody every one of their preferences. For example, influential Thomas Jefferson, who was in Paris negotiating a treaty and therefore did not serve as a delegate, felt strongly that a bill of rights should have been included in the original Constitution. But Jefferson still supported the Constitution because he felt it was the best available. Benjamin Franklin stated that view in these words:

“When you assemble a number of men to have the advantage over their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does. … The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good.”

In other words, one should not expect perfection—one certainly should not expect all of his personal preferences—in a document that must represent a consensus. One should not sulk over a representative body’s failure to attain perfection. Americans are well advised to support the best that can be obtained in the circumstances that prevail. That is sound advice not only for the drafting of a constitution but also for the adoption and administration of laws under it.

Inspiration

It was a miracle that the Constitution could be drafted and ratified. But what is there in the text of the Constitution that is divinely inspired?

Reverence for the United States Constitution is so great that sometimes individuals speak as if its every word and phrase had the same standing as scripture. Personally, I have never considered it necessary to defend every line of the Constitution as scriptural. For example, I find nothing scriptural in the compromise on slavery or the minimum age or years of citizenship for congressmen, senators, or the president. President J. Reuben Clark, who referred to the Constitution as “part of my religion,” 6 also said that it was not part of his belief or the doctrine of the Church that the Constitution was a “fully grown document.” “On the contrary,” he said, “We believe it must grow and develop to meet the changing needs of an advancing world.”

That was also the attitude of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He faulted the Constitution for not being “broad enough to cover the whole ground.” In an obvious reference to the national government’s lack of power to intervene when the state of Missouri used its militia to expel the Latter-day Saints from their lands, Joseph Smith said,

“Its sentiments are good, but it provides no means of enforcing them. … Under its provision, a man or a people who are able to protect themselves can get along well enough; but those who have the misfortune to be weak or unpopular are left to the merciless rage of popular fury.” This omission of national power to protect citizens against state action to deprive them of constitutional rights was remedied in the Fourteenth Amendment, adopted just after the Civil War.

I see divine inspiration in what President J. Reuben Clark called the “great fundamentals” of the Constitution. In his many talks on the Constitution, he always praised three fundamentals: (a) the separation of powers into three independent branches of government in a federal system; (b) the essential freedoms of speech, press, and religion embodied in the Bill of Rights; and (c) the equality of all men before the law. I concur in these three, but I add two more. On my list there are five great fundamentals.

1. Separation of powers. The idea of separation of powers was at least a century old. The English Parliament achieved an initial separation of legislative and executive authority when they wrested certain powers from the king in the revolution of 1688. The concept of separation of powers became well established in the American colonies. State constitutions adopted during the Revolution distinguished between the executive, legislative, and judicial functions. Thus, a document commenting on the proposed Massachusetts Constitution of 1778, speaks familiarly of the principle “that the legislative, judicial, and executive powers are to be lodged in different hands, that each branch is to be independent, and further, to be so balanced, and be able to exert such checks upon the others, as will preserve it from dependence on, or a union with them.”

Thus, we see that the inspiration on the idea of separation of powers came long before the U.S. Constitutional Convention. The inspiration in the convention was in its original and remarkably successful adaptation of the idea of separation of powers to the practical needs of a national government. The delegates found just the right combination to assure the integrity of each branch, appropriately checked and balanced with the others. As President Clark said:

“It is this union of independence and dependence of these branches—legislative, executive and judicial—and of the governmental functions possessed by each of them, that constitutes the marvelous genius of this unrivalled document. … As I see it, it was here that the divine inspiration came. It was truly a miracle.”

2. A written bill of rights. This second great fundamental came by amendment, but I think Americans all look upon the Bill of Rights as part of the inspired work of the Founding Fathers. The idea of a bill of rights was not new. Once again, the inspiration was in the brilliant, practical implementation of preexisting principles. Almost six hundred years earlier, King John had subscribed the Magna Charta, which contained a written guarantee of some rights for certain of his subjects. The English Parliament had guaranteed individual rights against royal power in the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Even more recently, some of the charters used in the establishment of the American colonies had written guarantees of liberties and privileges, with which the delegates were familiar.

I have always felt that the United States Constitution’s closest approach to scriptural stature is in the phrasing of our Bill of Rights. Without the free exercise of religion, America could not have served as the host nation for the restoration of the gospel, which began just three decades after the Bill of Rights was ratified. I also see scriptural stature in the concept and wording of the freedoms of speech and press, the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, the requirements that there must be probable cause for an arrest and that accused persons must have a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, and the guarantee that a person will not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. President Ezra Taft Benson has said, “Reason, necessity, tradition, and religious conviction all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights.”

The Declaration of Independence had posited these truths to be “self-evident,” that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights,” and that governments are instituted “to secure these Rights.” This inspired Constitution was established to provide a practical guarantee of these God-given rights (see D&C 101:77), and the language implementing that godly objective is scriptural to me.

3. Division of powers. Another inspired fundamental of the U.S. Constitution is its federal system, which divides government powers between the nation and the various states. Unlike the inspired adaptations mentioned earlier, this division of sovereignty was unprecedented in theory or practice. In a day when it is fashionable to assume that the government has the power and means to right every wrong, we should remember that the U.S. Constitution limits the national government to the exercise of powers expressly granted to it. The Tenth Amendment provides:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.”

This principle of limited national powers, with all residuary powers reserved to the people or to the state and local governments, which are most responsive to the people, is one of the great fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution.

The particular powers that are reserved to the states are part of the inspiration. For example, the power to make laws on personal relationships is reserved to the states. Thus, laws of marriage and family rights and duties are state laws. This would have been changed by the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.). When the First Presidency opposed the E.R.A., they cited the way it would have changed various legal rules having to do with the family, a result they characterized as “a moral rather than a legal issue.” I would add my belief that the most fundamental legal and political objection to the proposed E.R.A. was that it would effect a significant reallocation of law-making power from the states to the federal government.

4. Popular sovereignty. Perhaps the most important of the great fundamentals of the inspired Constitution is the principle of popular sovereignty: The people are the source of government power. Along with many religious people, Latter-day Saints affirm that God gave the power to the people, and the people consented to a constitution that delegated certain powers to the government. Sovereignty is not inherent in a state or nation just because it has the power that comes from force of arms. Sovereignty does not come from the divine right of a king, who grants his subjects such power as he pleases or is forced to concede, as in Magna Charta. The sovereign power is in the people. I believe this is one of the great meanings in the revelation which tells us that God established the Constitution of the United States,

“That every man may act … 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.

“Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land.” (D&C 101:78–80.)

In other words, the most desirable condition for the effective exercise of God-given moral agency is a condition of maximum freedom and responsibility. In this condition men are accountable for their own sins and cannot blame their political conditions on their bondage to a king or a tyrant. This condition is achieved when the people are sovereign, as they are under the Constitution God established in the United States. From this it follows that the most important words in the United States Constitution are the words in the preamble: “We, the people of the United States … do ordain and establish this Constitution.”

President Ezra Taft Benson expressed the fundamental principle of popular sovereignty when he said, “We [the people] are superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around.” The Book of Mormon explains that principle in these words:

“An unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness. …

“Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws. …

“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.” (Mosiah 29:23–26.)

Popular sovereignty necessarily implies popular responsibility. Instead of blaming their troubles on a king or other sovereign, all citizens must share the burdens and responsibilities of governing. As the Book of Mormon teaches, “The burden should come upon all the people, that every man might bear his part.” (Mosiah 29:34.)

President Clark’s third great fundamental was the equality of all men before the law. I believe that to be a corollary of popular sovereignty. When power comes from the people, there is no legitimacy in legal castes or classes or in failing to provide all citizens the equal protection of the laws.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not originate the idea of popular sovereignty, since they lived in a century when many philosophers had argued that political power originated in a social contract. But the United States Constitution provided the first implementation of this principle. After two centuries in which Americans may have taken popular sovereignty for granted, it is helpful to be reminded of the difficulties in that pioneering effort.

To begin with, a direct democracy was impractical for a country of four million people and about a half million square miles. As a result, the delegates had to design the structure of a constitutional, representative democracy, what they called “a Republican Form of Government.”

The delegates also had to resolve whether a constitution adopted by popular sovereignty could be amended, and if so, how.

Finally, the delegates had to decide how minority rights could be protected when the government was, by definition, controlled by the majority of the sovereign people.

A government based on popular sovereignty must be responsive to the people, but it must also be stable or it cannot govern. A constitution must therefore give government the power to withstand the cries of a majority of the people in the short run, though it must obviously be subject to their direction in the long run.

Without some government stability against an outraged majority, government could not protect minority rights. As President Clark declared:

“The Constitution was framed in order to protect minorities. That is the purpose of written constitutions. In order that the minorities might be protected in the matter of amendments under our Constitution, the Lord required that the amendments should be made only through the operation of very large majorities—two-thirds for action in the Senate, and three-fourths as among the states. This is the inspired, prescribed order.”

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention achieved the required balance between popular sovereignty and stability through a power of amendment that was ultimately available but deliberately slow. Only in this way could the government have the certainty of stability, the protection of minority rights, and the potential of change, all at the same time.

To summarize, I see divine inspiration in these four great fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution:

• the separation of powers in the three branches of government;

• the Bill of Rights;

• the division of powers between the states and the federal government; and

• the application of popular sovereignty.

5. The rule of law and not of men. Further, there is divine inspiration in the fundamental underlying premise of this whole constitutional order. All the blessings enjoyed under the United States Constitution are dependent upon the rule of law. That is why President J. Reuben Clark said, “Our allegiance run[s] to the Constitution and to the principles which it embodies, and not to individuals.” The rule of law is the basis of liberty.

As the Lord declared in modern revelation, constitutional laws are justifiable before him, “and the law also maketh you free.” (D&C 98:5–8.) The self-control by which citizens subject themselves to law strengthens the freedom of all citizens and honors the divinely inspired Constitution.

Citizen Responsibilities

U.S. citizens have an inspired Constitution, and therefore, what? Does the belief that the U.S. Constitution is divinely inspired affect citizens’ behavior toward law and government? It should and it does.

U.S. citizens should follow the First Presidency’s counsel to study the Constitution. They should be familiar with its great fundamentals: the separation of powers, the individual guarantees in the Bill of Rights, the structure of federalism, the sovereignty of the people, and the principles of the rule of the law. They should oppose any infringement of these inspired fundamentals.

They should be law-abiding citizens, supportive of national, state, and local governments. The twelfth Article of Faith declares:

“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

The Church’s official declaration of belief states:

“We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them. …

“We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside.” (D&C 134:1, 5.)

Those who enjoy the blessings of liberty under a divinely inspired constitution should promote morality, and they should practice what the Founding Fathers called “civic virtue.” In his address on the U.S. Constitution, President Ezra Taft Benson quoted this important observation by John Adams, the second president of the United States:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Similarly, James Madison, who is known as the “Father of the Constitution,” stated his assumption that there had to be “sufficient virtue among men for self-government.” He argued in the Federalist Papers that “republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.”

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

Citizens should also be practitioners of civic virtue in their conduct toward government. They should be ever willing to fulfill the duties of citizenship. This includes compulsory duties like military service and the numerous voluntary actions they must take if they are to preserve the principle of limited government through citizen self-reliance. For example, since U.S. citizens value the right of trial by jury, they must be willing to serve on juries, even those involving unsavory subject matter. Citizens who favor morality cannot leave the enforcement of moral laws to jurors who oppose them.

The single word that best describes a fulfillment of the duties of civic virtue is patriotism. Citizens should be patriotic. My favorite prescription for patriotism is that of Adlai Stevenson:

“What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? … A patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

I close with a poetic prayer. It is familiar to everyone in the United States, because U.S. citizens sing it in one of their loveliest hymns. It expresses gratitude to God for liberty, and it voices a prayer that he will continue to bless them with the holy light of freedom:

Our fathers’ God, to thee,
Author of liberty,
To thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light.
Protect us by thy might,
Great God, our King!
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