Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas & Happy Birthday Jesus

One Solitary Life
Written by Dr. James Allan Francis in 1925

He was born in an obscure village,
The child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until He was 30.

He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never went to college.
He never visited a big city.

He never traveled more than 200 miles
From the place where He was born.
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness.
He had no credentials but Himself.

He was only 33
When He died.
His friends ran away.
One of them denied Him.

He was turned over to His enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing,
The only property He had on earth.

When He was dead,
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind's progress.

All the armies that have ever marched,
All the navies that have ever sailed,
All the parliaments that have ever sat,
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that One Solitary Life.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”
-Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President-

Friday, December 10, 2010

The United Order vs. Socialism

An article by Marion G. Romney from

Webster defines socialism as:
“A political and economic theory of social organization based on collective or governmental ownership and democratic management of the essential means for the production and distribution of goods; also, a policy or practice based on this theory.” (Webster’s New International Dictionary, 2nd ed. unabridged, 1951.)

George Bernard Shaw, the noted Fabian Socialist, said that:
“Socialism, reduced to its simplest legal and practical expression, means the complete discarding of the institution of private property by transforming it into public property and the division of the resultant income equally and indiscriminately among the entire population.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 ed., Vol. 20, p. 895.)

George Douglas Howard Cole, M.A. noted author and university reader in economics at Oxford, who treats socialism for the Encyclopedia Britannica, says that because of the shifting sense in which the word has been used, “a short and comprehensive definition is impossible. We can only say,” he concludes, “that Socialism is essentially a doctrine and a movement aiming at the collective organization of the community in the interest of the mass of the people by means of the common ownership and collective control of the means of production and exchange.” (Ibid., p. 888.)

Socialism arose “out of the economic division in society.” During the nineteenth century its growth was accelerated as a protest against “the appalling conditions prevailing in the workshops and factories and the unchristian spirit of the spreading industrial system.”

Communism, starting point
The “Communist Manifesto” drafted by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels for the Communist League in 1848 is generally regarded as the starting point of modern socialism. (Ibid., p. 890.)
The distinction between socialism, as represented by the various Socialist and Labour parties of Europe and the New World, and Communism, as represented by the Russians, is one of tactics and strategy rather than of objective. Communism is indeed only socialism pursued by revolutionary means and making its revolutionary method a canon of faith. Communists like other socialists, (1) believe in the collective control and ownership of the vital means of production and (2) seek to achieve through state action the coordinated control of the economic forces of society. They (the Communists) differ from other socialists in believing that this control can be secured, and its use in the interests of the workers ensured, only by revolutionary action leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat and the creation of a new proletarian state as the instrument of change. (Ibid.)

German Socialism
A major rift between so-called orthodox socialism and communist socialism occurred in 1875 when the German Social Democratic party set forth its objective of winning power by taking over control of the bourgeois state, rather than by overthrowing it. In effect, the German Social Democratic party became a parliamentary party, aiming at the assumption of political power by constitutional means.

Fabian Society
In the 1880′s a small group of intellectuals set up in England the Fabian Society, which has had a major influence on the development of modern orthodox socialism. Fabianism stands “for the evolutionary conception of socialism . . . endeavoring by progressive reforms and the nationalization of industries, to turn the existing state into a ‘welfare state.’” Somewhat on the order of the German Social Democrats Fabians aim “at permeating the existing parties with socialistic ideas [rather] than at creating a definitely socialistic party.” They appeal “to the electorate not as revolutionaries but as constitutional reformers seeking a peaceful transformation of the system.” (Ibid.)

Forms and policies of socialism
The differences in forms and policies of socialism occur principally in the manner in which they seek to implement their theories.

They all advocate:
(1) That private ownership of the vital means of production be abolished and that all such property “pass under some form of coordinated public control.”
(2) That the power of the state be used to achieve their aims.
(3) “That with a change in the control of industry will go a change in the motives which operate in the industrial system. . . .” (Ibid.)

So much now for the definition of socialism. I have given you these statements in the words of socialists and scholars, not my words, so they have had their hearing.

The United Order
Now as to the United Order, and here I will give the words of the Lord and not my words. The United Order the Lord’s program for eliminating the inequalities among men, is based upon the underlying concept that the earth and all things therein belong to the Lord and that men hold earthly possessions as stewards accountable to God.

On January 2, 1831, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that the Church was under obligation to care for the poor. (See D&C 38.) Later he said:

“I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, . . .and all things therein are mine.
“And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
“But it must needs be done in mine own way. . . .” (D&C 104:14–16.)

Consecration and stewardship
On February 9, 1831, the Lord revealed to the Prophet what his way was. (See D&C 42.) In his way there were two cardinal principles: (1) consecration and (2) stewardship.

To enter the United Order, when it was being tried, one consecrated all his possessions to the Church by a “covenant and a deed which” could not “be broken.” (D&C 42:30.) That is, he completely divested himself of all of his property by conveying it to the Church.

Having thus voluntarily divested himself of title to all his property, the consecrator received from the Church a stewardship by a like conveyance. This stewardship could be more or less than his original consecration, the object being to make “every man equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs.” (D&C 51:3.)

This procedure preserved in every man the right to private ownership and management of his property. At his own option he could alienate it or keep and operate it and pass it on to his heirs.
The intent was, however, for him to so operate his property as to produce a living for himself and his dependents. So long as he remained in the order, he consecrated to the Church the surplus he produced above the needs and wants of his family. This surplus went into a storehouse from which stewardships were given to others and from which the needs of the poor were supplied.

These divine principles are very simple and easily understood. A comparison of them with the underlying principles of socialism reveal similarities and basic differences.

Comparisons and contrasts: Similarities
The following are similarities: Both
(1) deal with production and distribution of goods;
(2) aim to promote the well-being of men by eliminating their economic inequalities;
(3) envision the elimination of the selfish motives in our private capitalistic industrial system.

Now the differences:
(1) The cornerstone of the United Order is belief in God and acceptance of him as Lord of the earth and the author of the United Order.

Socialism, wholly materialistic, is founded in the wisdom of men and not of God. Although all socialists may not be atheists, none of them in theory or practice seek the Lord to establish his righteousness.

(2) The United Order is implemented by the voluntary free-will actions of men, evidenced by a consecration of all their property to the Church of God.

One time the Prophet Joseph Smith asked a question by the brethren about the inventories they were taking. His answer was to the effect, “You don’t need to be concerned about the inventories. Unless a man is willing to consecrate everything he has, he doesn’t come into the United Order.” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 7, pp. 412-13.) On the other hand, socialism is implemented by external force, the power of the state.

(3) In harmony with church belief, as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, “that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property” (D&C 134:2), the United Order is operated upon the principle of private ownership and individual management.

God-given agency preserved in United Order
Thus in both implementation and ownership and management of property, the United Order preserves to men their God-given agency, while socialism deprives them of it.

(4) The United Order is non-political.
Socialism is political, both in theory and practice. It is thus exposed to, and riddled by, the corruption that plagues and finally destroys all political governments that undertake to abridge man’s agency.

(5) A righteous people is a prerequisite to the United Order.
Socialism argues that it as a system will eliminate the evils of the profit motive.

The United Order exalts the poor and humbles the rich. In the process both are sanctified. The poor, released from the bondage and humiliating limitations of poverty, are enabled as free men to rise to their full potential, both temporally and spiritually. The rich, by consecration and by imparting of their surplus for the benefit of the poor, not by constraint but willingly as an act of free will, evidence that charity for their fellowmen characterized by Mormon as “the pure love of Christ.” (Moro. 7:47.)

Socialism not United Order
Socialism is not the United Order. However, notwithstanding my abhorrence of it, I am persuaded that socialism is the wave of the present and of the foreseeable future. It has already taken over or is contending for control in most nations.

“At the end of the year [1964] parties affiliated with the [Socialist] International were in control of the governments of Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Israel, and the Malagasy Republic. They had representatives in coalition cabinets in Austria, Belgium, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, constituted the chief opposition in France, India, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and West Germany; and were significant political forces in numerous other countries. Many parties dominant in governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America announced that their aim was a socialist society.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1965 Book of the Year, p. 736.)

United States has adopted much socialism
We here in the United States, in converting our government into a social welfare state, have ourselves adopted much of socialism. Specifically, we have to an alarming degree adopted the use of the power of the state in the control and distribution of the fruits of industry. We are on notice according to the words of the President, that we are going much further, for he is quoted as saying:

“We’re going to take all the money we think is unnecessarily being spent and take it from the ‘haves’ and give it to the ‘have nots.’” (1964 Congressional Record, p. 6142, Remarks of the President to a Group of Leaders of Organizations of Senior Citizens in the Fish Room, March 24, 1964.)

Socialism takes: United Order gives
That is the spirit of socialism: We’re going to take. The spirit of the United Order is: We’re going to give.

We have also gone a long way on the road to public ownership and management of the vital means of production. In both of these areas the free agency of Americans has been greatly abridged. Some argue that we have voluntarily surrendered this power to government. Be this as it may, the fact remains that the loss of freedom with the consent of the enslaved, or even at their request, is nonetheless slavery.

As to the fruits of socialism, we all have our own opinions. I myself have watched its growth in our own country and observed it in operation in many other lands. But I have yet to see or hear of its freeing the hearts of men of selfishness and greed or of its bringing peace, plenty, or freedom. These things it will never bring, nor will it do away with idleness and promote “industry, thrift and self-respect,” for it is founded, in theory and in practice, on force, the principle of the evil one.

As to the fruits of the United Order I suggest you read Moses 7:16–18 and 4 Nephi 2:-3, 15-16. If we had time we could review the history, what little we know, of Zion in the days of Enoch and about what happened among the Nephites under those principles of the United Order in the first two centuries following the time of the Savior.

What can we do?

Now what can we do about it?

As I recently reminded my wife of the moratorium on the United Order, which the Lord placed in 1834 (D&C 105:34), that socialism is taking over in the nations and that its expressed aims will surely fail, she spiritedly put to me the question: “Well, then, what would you suggest, that we just sit on our hands in despair and do nothing?” Perhaps similar questions have occurred to you. The answer is, “No, by no means!” We have much to do, and fortunately for us the Lord has definitely prescribed the course we should follow with respect to socialism and the United Order.

Constitution God-inspired
He has told us that in preparation for the restoration of the gospel, he himself established the Constitution of the United States, and he has plainly told us why he established it. I hope I can get this point over to you. He said he established the Constitution to preserve to men their free agency, because the whole gospel of Jesus Christ presupposes man’s untrammeled exercise of free agency. Man is in the earth to be tested. The issue as to whether he succeeds or fails will be determined by how he uses his agency. His whole future, through all eternity, is at stake. Abridge man’s agency, and the whole purpose of his mortality is thwarted. Without it, the Lord says, there is no existence. (See D&C 93:30.) The Lord so valued our agency that he designed and dictated “the laws and constitution” required to guarantee it. This he explained in the revelation in which he instructed the Prophet Joseph Smith to appeal for help,

Just and holy principles
“According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
“That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose. . . .” (D&C 101:77–78, 80.)

Sustain Constitutional law
Previously he had said:
“And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.
“And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind and is justifiable before me.
“Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land [the test of its constitutionality in the words of the Lord here is whether it preserves man's agency];
“And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this cometh of evil.
“I, the Lord God, make you free therefore ye are free indeed; and the law [that is, constitutional law] also maketh you free.
“Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.
“Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.” (D&C 98:4–10.)

These scriptures declare the Constitution to be a divine document. They tell us that “according to just and holy principles,” the Constitution and the law of the land which supports the “principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before” God; that, “as pertaining to [the] law of man whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.” They remind us that the Lord has made us free and that laws that are constitutional will also make us free.

“When the wicked rule, the people mourn”
Right at this point, almost as if he were warning us against what is happening today, the Lord said: “Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.” Then, that we might know with certainty what we should do about it, he concluded: “Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold. . . .”
In its context this instruction, according to my interpretation, can only mean that we should seek diligently for and support men to represent us in government who are “wise” enough to understand freedom—as provided for in the Constitution and as implemented in the United Order—and who are honest enough and good enough to fight to preserve it.

“. . . under no other government in the world could the Church have been established,” said President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., and he continued:
“. . . if we are to live as a Church, and progress, and have the right to worship as we are worshipping here today, we must have the great guarantees that are set up by our Constitution. There is no other way in which we can secure these guarantees.” (Conference Report, October 1942, pp. 58-59.)

Now, not forgetting our duty to eschew socialism and support the just and holy principles of the Constitution, as directed by the Lord, I shall conclude these remarks with a few comments concerning what we should do about the United Order.

What to do about United Order
The final words of the Lord in suspending the order were: “And let those commandments which I have given concerning Zion and her law be executed and fulfilled, after her redemption.” (D&C 105:34.)

Further implementation of the order must therefore await the redemption of Zion. Here Zion means Jackson County, Missouri. When Zion is redeemed, as it most certainly shall be, it will be redeemed under a government and by a people strictly observing those “just and holy principles” of the Constitution that accord to men their God-given moral agency, including the right to private property. If, in the meantime, socialism takes over in America, it will have to be displaced, if need be, by the power of God, because the United Order can never function under socialism or “the welfare state,” for the good and sufficient reason that the principles upon which socialism and the United Order are conceived and operated are inimical.

In the meantime, while we await the redemption of Zion and the earth and the establishment of the United Order, we as bearers of the priesthood should live strictly by the principles of the United Order insofar as they are embodied in present church practices, such as the fast offering, tithing, and the welfare activities. Through these practices we could as individuals, if we were of a mind to do so, implement in our own lives all the basic principles of the United Order.

As you will recall, the principles underlying the United Order are consecration and stewardships and then the contribution of surpluses into the bishop’s storehouse. When the law of tithing was instituted four years after the United Order experiment was suspended, the Lord required the people to put “all their surplus property . . . into the hands of the bishop” (D&C 119:1); thereafter they were to “pay one-tenth of all their interest annually. . . .” (D&C 119:4) This law, still in force, implements to a degree at least the United Order principle of stewardships, for it leaves in the hands of each person the ownership and management of the property from which he produces the needs of himself and family. Furthermore to use again the words of President Clark:
“. . . in lieu of residues and surpluses which were accumulated and built up under the United Order, we, today, have our fast offerings, our Welfare donations, and our tithing all of which may be devoted to the care of the poor, as well as for the carrying on of the activities and business of the Church.”

What prohibits us from giving as much in fast offerings as we would have given in surpluses under the United Order? Nothing but our own limitations.

Furthermore, we had under the United Order a bishop’s storehouse in which were collected the materials from which to supply the needs and the wants of the poor. We have a bishop’s storehouse under the Welfare Plan, used for the same purpose. . . .

“We have now under the Welfare Plan all over the Church, . . . land projects . . . farmed for the benefit of the poor. . . .

“Thus . . . in many of its great essentials, we have, [in] the Welfare Plan . . . the broad essentials of the United Order. Furthermore, having in mind the assistance which is being given from time to time . . . to help set people up in business or in farming, we have a plan which is not essentially unlike that which was in the United Order when the poor were given portions from the common fund.”

It is thus apparent that when the principles of tithing and the fast are properly observed and the Welfare Plan gets fully developed and wholly into operation, “we shall not be so very far from carrying out the great fundamentals of the United Order.” (Conference Report, October 1942, pp. 51-58.)

The only limitation on you and me is within ourselves.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Tale of Two Brothers

The article below was written by Gary C. Lawrence for the November 17, 2010 edition of Meridian Magazine online.

Glenn Beck and Harry Reid – Future Buddies?
By Gary C. Lawrence

Normally, the argumentation device in the teaser runs something like this, to borrow a comparison that has popped up again:

You show me a state that can elect both Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown as governors, and I’ll show you a state with a serious identity crisis.

The Church, of course, does not have an identity crisis, so the punch line in our case is more introspective:

You show me a church that has both Glenn Beck and Harry Reid as active members and I’ll show you a big tent religion that … is destined to come out of obscurity.

How can that be? After all, the Church is not unique in having various cultures, ideologies, and partisanship under one umbrella, and there are many organizations that will never be noticed, no matter the polarization among their members.

I submit it’s because we are members in more than names on a roll, in more than dabbling now and then with some common interest.

It has to do with the perspective we gain at the temple.

Both Brother Beck and Brother Reid faithfully attend the temple, I am told, and are just two examples of a special kind of glue – temple worship – that binds people of contrasting political viewpoints together because it has the power to bind generations together.

A Church that can foster such commitment from those holding intensely opposite political positions will not long remain hidden to the world.

When I served as bishop, a good friend once complained about a testimony – better said, a political-mony – that a sister had given in sacrament meeting that morning, which led to a discussion of politics in the Church. I suggested that if he and I – being of different political parties – were to list our personal values side by side, that we would discover not a dime’s worth of difference. He agreed. Our only difference, I continued, was that he has chosen one vehicle to effectuate them and I another – like getting on two buses, each of which promised to take us from Orange County to Los Angeles.

We both want to arrive at the same destination. The problem comes if one of the buses veers toward Barstow.

The Church in New Testament times had the same problems. Jewish, Greek, Roman and miscellaneous pagan converts brought their own desired vehicles – political, cultural and religious – with them, a practice that years later tubed the Church, but for a few decades was held in check by such preaching as Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians:

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”[i]

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”[ii]

In other words, Paul said, put aside your past, your ideologies, your pet projects and be enveloped in the broad, eternal warmth of Christ’s gospel.

We are told in today’s scriptures, that many from among “all sects, parties, and denominations”[iii] are seeking the truth, and it is to be expected that vestiges of previous associations will continue for a while until they fade in importance against the great truths of the temple.

But until that happens, active members will on occasion find themselves in a vehicle crisis – what earthly vehicles, if any, will we ride to reach our goals?

Back to Harry and Glenn.

Past experiences have shaped their views and motivations:

Reid: a hard-scrabble life in the Nevada desert with few modern conveniences led to a burning ambition and a desire to help the underdog.

Beck: a youth spent tinkering with addictions, a failed marriage, and then came guiding principles from a Mormon friend that turned his life around.

Judging from what I’ve heard about them, I believe both men will remain true to gospel principles and their mutual goal of returning to the Father’s presence. And I would not be surprised to see them arm in arm at that great future priesthood meeting at Adam-ondi-Ahman.
But before that happens, one will find out he’s been riding the wrong bus.

Bloggers' note: Our opinion is that not only is Harry Reid on the wrong bus, he's not even close to being in the correct bus terminal.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Testify

In October of 1988 President Ezra Taft Benson gave a talk entitled "I Testify". Considering this was his final spoken message to the saints in General Conference, this talk could be considered his final testimony. The following is an abridged version of his testimony (see link at top for full article).

"As a special witness of Jesus Christ, and as His humble servant, it is now my obligation and privilege, as the Spirit dictates, to bear pure testimony and witness to that which I know to be true..."

"I testify that we are the spirit offspring of a loving God, our Heavenly Father... that God reveals His will to all men through the Light of Christ... that throughout the ages God has spoken to His children through His prophets... that a world so wicked that it killed the Son of God soon began killing the Apostles and prophets and so plunged itself into a spiritual dark age... that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith... bringing to an end the long night of apostasy... that through the Book of Mormon God has provided for our day tangible evidence that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith is His prophet... America will be a blessed land unto the righteous forever..."

"I testify that wickedness is rapidly expanding in every segment of our society. It is more highly organized, more cleverly disguised, and more powerfully promoted than ever before. Secret combinations lusting for power, gain, and glory are flourishing. A secret combination that seeks to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world."

"I testify that the church and kingdom of God is increasing in strength. Its numbers are growing, as is the faithfulness of its faithful members. It has never been better organized or equipped to perform its divine mission."

"I testify that as the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil. As these conflicts rage, either secretly or openly, the righteous will be tested. God’s wrath will soon shake the nations of the earth and will be poured out on the wicked without measure. But God will provide strength for the righteous and the means of escape; and eventually and finally truth will triumph."

"I testify that it is time for every man to set in order his own house both temporally and spiritually... that not many years hence the earth will be cleansed. Jesus the Christ will come again, this time in power and great glory to vanquish His foes and to rule and reign on the earth... I testify to you that a fulness of joy can only come through the atonement of Jesus Christ and by obedience to all of the laws and ordinances of the gospel, which are found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

"To all these things I humbly testify and bear my solemn witness that they are true, and I do so in the name of Him who is the head of this church, even Jesus Christ, amen."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This Week In History

Chip Wood wrote the following article for the Personal Liberty Alerts online publication.
The Adoption Of The Articles Of Confederation

It was 233 years ago this week that our original 13 colonies took a huge step toward nationhood. On Nov. 15, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation. The articles vested the conduct of war and foreign policy in a Federal government, but left everything else to the States.

The Articles of Confederation were modeled after the Swiss Confederation that had been established more than four centuries earlier. On Nov. 15, 1315, the Swiss defeated the powerful Austrian empire in the Battle of Morgarten, when the men of Schwyz (a Swiss canton) lured the Austrians into the mountains and ambushed them in a pass.

The men of Schwyz killed 1,500 Austrian troops, drove hundreds more into Lake Lucerne and put the rest to flight. The country's inhabitants were so grateful they changed the name of their nation from Helvetia to Switzerland. The country has remained free, independent and faithful to its own Articles of Confederation for nearly 700 years.

Our own Articles of Confederation did not survive nearly as long. Too many Federalists objected to the almost total lack of power the articles gave the central government. Demands for a new Constitutional convention began almost at once.

We know what happened next. Some people still say it was a mistake.

--Chip Wood

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A New Blog

We have started a second blog that will concentrate on Nevada politics. We will also keep posting to this site with other news.

Our new site is:

Friday, November 5, 2010

GOP Wave

This would be funny...if we didn't live in Nevada.

This would be funny...if we didn't live in Nevada.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Clueless Harry

In the November 4, 2010, Las Vegas Review Journal, Harry Reid is quoted as saying that he invites Republicans to cooperate with Democrats, saying voters are tired of gridlock.

Does anyone else see the idiocy and irony of this statement? It was the DEMOCRATS who were voted out of office for their policies, not the Republicans. So why would the Republicans commit political suicide by cooperating with Democrats? Wait a minute... maybe Harry is smarter than we thought. Maybe he's intentionally trying to get Republicans to commit political suicide. Nah... no way that Harry is that smart. There certainly isn't any evidence to support the theory that he's smart.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Reid's Bullying

Former F.E.C. official on Reid strong-arming: ‘I’ve never seen anything so blatant’
By: J.P. FreireAssociate Commentary Editor11/02/10 6:25 PM EDT

A former official with the Federal Election Commission, Hans von Spakovsky, blasted the Reid campaign, saying they are clearly engaging in coercion and illegal coordination under federal campaign finance rules. “I’ve never seen anything this blatant,” he told The Examiner. “Most corporations stay far away from this because they know they can get in big trouble if they tell their employees to go out and vote for a particular candidate. That’s a big no-no.”

“There are two issues. The first is illegal coordination. The Reid campaign is specifically asking a corporation with the help of a union to get voters to the polls. It’s what a campaign usually pays for and it’s the equivalent of an illegal contribution,” he said.

The second issue, he explained, falls in federal statute 18 U.S.C. 594:
Whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose, or of causing such other person to vote for, or not to vote for, any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, at any election held solely or in part for the purpose of electing such candidate, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

“There’s clearly coercion going on,” he said. “They’re setting up a full program to get people to the polls to vote for Reid and going after supervisors who don’t do what they’re told on this.”
The Reid campaign is under fire for emails allegedly sent from a staffer to the management of mega-casino company Harrah’s. The company management, at the urging of the staffer, reportedly has been asking its employees whether they have voted yet, and agitating about Reid’s potential loss as a deathblow to the industry.

“They’re trying to get people to explain why they haven’t voted. This isn’t some general email from a corporation head to his employees saying, “look we have an election coming up, please get out and vote. These emails make clear that they’re getting people out for Reid.”

Such an offense could be punished not just by a year in fines, but also by a year in jail.

“If they have a U.S. attorney out in Nevada who is actually a real prosecutor, as opposed to a political clone who’s not willing to do his job, he’d open an investigation,” he said.Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Collective or Individual Salvation?

President Obama has said that he believes in 'collective salvation.' states: Basically, “collective salvation” means “unless we are all saved, none of us will be saved” or “we as individuals must cooperate and sacrifice for the good of the whole.” Another way to state what collective salvation means is: “I can't be saved on my own. I have to do my part by cooperating with the group, even sacrificing, to ensure everyone else’s salvation. It is then that we’re all saved together.”

This idea is Satan's plan. It was the premise of the war in heaven: be saved together or don't be saved at all. We rejected that plan. You decide for yourself: do you believe a politician or a prophet of God?

PRESIDENT OBAMA said: You can take your diploma, walk off this stage and chase only after the big house and the nice suits and the other things that our money culture says you should buy, you can choose to narrow your concerns and live life in a way that tries to keep your story separate from America's, but I hope you don't, not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although I believe you do have that obligation; not because you have a debt to all those who helped you get to where you are today, although I do believe you have that debt to pay. It's because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. And recognizing that my fate remain tied up with their fates, that my individual salvation is not going to come about without a collective salvation for the country.

(Prophet) DAVID O. McKAY said: "An outstanding doctrine of the Church is that each individual carries this responsibility [of their own salvation], and that the salvation of man is a process of gradual development. . . . A man may say he believes, but if he does nothing to make that belief or faith a moving power to do, to accomplish, to produce soul growth, his protestation will avail him nothing. 'Work out your own salvation' is an exhortation to demonstrate by activity, by thoughtful obedient effort the reality of faith" (Gospel Ideals, p. 330).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


J. Reuben Clark, Jr., said:

“God provided that in this land of liberty, our political allegiance shall run not to individuals, that is, to government officials, no matter how great or how small they may be. Under His plan our allegiance and the only allegiance we owe as citizens or denizens of the United States, runs to our inspired Constitution which God himself set up. So runs the oath of office of those who participate in government. A certain loyalty we do owe to the office which a man holds, but even here we owe just by reason of our citizenship, no loyalty to the man himself. In other countries it is to the individual that allegiance runs. This principle of allegiance to the Constitution is basic to our freedom. It is one of the great principles that distinguishes this ‘land of liberty’ from other countries.” (Improvement Era, July 1940, p. 444.)

“Patriotism,” said Theodore Roosevelt, “means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. …

“Every man,” said President Roosevelt, “who parrots the cry of ‘stand by the President’ without adding the proviso ‘so far as he serves the Republic’ takes an attitude as essentially unmanly as that of any Stuart royalist who championed the doctrine that the King could do no wrong. No self-respecting and intelligent free man could take such an attitude.” (Theodore Roosevelt, Works, vol. 21, pp. 316, 321.)

Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Now I tell you it is time the people of the United States were waking up with the understanding that if they don’t save the Constitution from the dangers that threaten it, we will have a change of government.” (Conference Report, April 1950, p. 159.)

President Clark warned us that “we stand in danger of losing our liberties, and that once lost, only blood will bring them back; and once lost, we of this church will, in order to keep the Church going forward, have more sacrifices to make and more persecutions to endure than we have yet known. …” (CR, April 1944, p. 116.) And he stated that if the conspiracy “comes here it will probably come in its full vigor and there will be a lot of vacant places among those who guide and direct, not only this government, but also this Church of ours.” (CR, April 1952.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why the Hate?

They Hate Our Guts
And they’re drunk on power.

November 1, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 07
by P.J. O'Rourke
Weekly Standards

Perhaps you’re having a tiny last minute qualm about voting Republican. Take heart. And take the House and the Senate. Yes, there are a few flakes of dander in the fair tresses of the GOP’s crowning glory—an isolated isolationist or two, a hint of gold buggery, and Christine O’Donnell announcing that she’s not a witch. (I ask you, has Hillary Clinton ever cleared this up?) Fret not over Republican peccadilloes such as the Tea Party finding the single, solitary person in Nevada who couldn’t poll ten to one against Harry Reid. Better to have a few cockeyed mutts running the dog pound than Michael Vick.

I take it back. Using the metaphor of Michael Vick for the Democratic party leadership implies they are people with a capacity for moral redemption who want to call good plays on the legislative gridiron. They aren’t. They don’t. The reason is simple. They hate our guts.

They don’t just hate our Republican, conservative, libertarian, strict constructionist, family values guts. They hate everybody’s guts. And they hate everybody who has any. Democrats hate men, women, blacks, whites, Hispanics, gays, straights, the rich, the poor, and the middle class.

Democrats hate Democrats most of all. Witness the policies that Democrats have inflicted on their core constituencies, resulting in vile schools, lawless slums, economic stagnation, and social immobility. Democrats will do anything to make sure that Democratic voters stay helpless and hopeless enough to vote for Democrats.

Whence all this hate? Is it the usual story of love gone wrong? Do Democrats have a mad infatuation with the political system, an unhealthy obsession with an idealized body politic? Do they dream of capturing and ravishing representational democracy? Are they crazed stalkers of our constitutional republic?

No. It’s worse than that. Democrats aren’t just dateless dweebs clambering upon the Statue of Liberty carrying a wilted bouquet and trying to cop a feel. Theirs is a different kind of love story. Power, not politics, is what the Democrats love. Politics is merely a way to power’s heart. When politics is the technique of seduction, good looks are unnecessary, good morals are unneeded, and good sense is a positive liability. Thus Democrats are the perfect Lotharios. And politics comes with that reliable boost for pathetic egos, a weapon: legal monopoly on force. If persuasion fails to win the day, coercion is always an option.

Armed with the panoply of lawmaking, these moonstruck fools for power go about in a jealous rage. They fear power’s charms may be lavished elsewhere, even for a moment.

Democrats hate success. Success could supply the funds for a power elopement. Fire up the Learjet. Flight plan: Grand Cayman. Democrats hate failure too. The true American loser laughs at legal monopoly on force. He’s got his own gun.

Democrats hate productivity, lest production be outsourced to someplace their beloved power can’t go. And Democrats also hate us none-too-productive drones in our cubicles or behind the counters of our service economy jobs. Tax us as hard as they will, we modest earners don’t generate enough government revenue to dress and adorn the power that Democrats worship.

Democrats hate stay-at-home spouses, no matter what gender or gender preference. Democratic advocacy for feminism, gay marriage, children’s rights, and “reproductive choice” is simply a way to invade -power’s little realm of domestic private life and bring it under the domination of Democrats.

Democrats hate immigrants. Immigrants can’t stay illegal because illegality puts immigrants outside the legal monopoly on force. But immigrants can’t become legal either. They’d prosper and vote Republican.

Democrats hate America being a world power because world power gives power to the nation instead of to Democrats.

And Democrats hate the military, of course. Soldiers set a bad example. Here are men and women who possess what, if they chose, could be complete control over power. Yet they treat power with honor and respect. Members of the armed forces fight not to seize power for themselves but to ensure that power can bestow its favors upon all Americans.

This is not an election on November 2. This is a restraining order. Power has been trapped, abused and exploited by Democrats. Go to the ballot box and put an end to this abusive relationship. And let’s not hear any nonsense about letting the Democrats off if they promise to get counseling.

P. J. O’Rourke, a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, is the author of a new book, Don’t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards (Atlantic Monthly Press).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Need Furniture?

Our favorite furniture store is closing its showroom. They are, however, going to sell online. Mike, the owner, is still working on his website, but below is the link and he has pictures of some of the furniture. This is purely selfish on our part as we don't want Mike to completely shut down -- so if you are thinking of buying furniture, check out Anara. And, no, we aren't getting a kickback for promoting his site. However, there is a nice distressed country-blue wardrobe at the showroom that would be perfect for our Utah home, in case anyone is wondering what to get us for Christmas.

Monday, September 27, 2010

For Jeremy

The following blog entry is for our friend, Jeremy, who asked us questions about our beliefs at a time that we were not able to give complete answers. Hopefully, this will explain what we wanted to say and will also provide material for future conversations:


Our spirits are eternal. They existed before we came to earth and will continue to exist after we leave the earth. God is not only our Ruler and Creator; He is also our Heavenly Father. All men and women are literally the sons and daughters of God. Every person who was ever born on earth is our spirit brother or sister. Because we are the spirit children of God, we have inherited the potential to develop His divine qualities.

Our Heavenly Father knew we could not progress beyond a certain point unless we left Him for a time. We needed to leave our premortal home to be tested and to gain experience. Our spirits needed to be clothed with physical bodies. We would need to leave our physical bodies at death and reunite with them in the Resurrection. Then we would receive immortal bodies like that of our Heavenly Father. If we passed our tests, we would receive the fulness of joy that our Heavenly Father has received.

Our Heavenly Father called a Grand Council to present His plan for our progression. We learned that He would provide an earth for us where we would prove ourselves. A veil would cover our memories, and we would forget our heavenly home. This would be necessary so we could exercise our agency to choose good or evil without being influenced by the memory of living with our Heavenly Father. Thus we could obey Him because of our faith in Him, not because of our knowledge or memory of Him. He would help us recognize the truth when we heard it again on earth.

He has chosen the time and place for each of us to be born so we can learn the lessons we personally need and do the most good with our individual talents and personalities.

At the Grand Council we also learned the purpose for our progression: to have a fulness of joy. However, we also learned that some would be deceived, choose other paths, and lose their way. We learned that all of us would have trials in our lives: sickness, disappointment, pain, sorrow, and death. But we understood that these would be given to us for our experience and our good. If we allowed them to, these trials would purify us rather than defeat us. They would teach us to have endurance, patience, and charity

At this council we also learned that because of our weakness, all of us except little children would sin. We learned that a Savior would be provided for us so we could overcome our sins and overcome death with resurrection.

When the plan for our salvation was presented to us in the premortal spirit world, we were so happy that we shouted for joy.

We needed a Savior to pay for our sins and teach us how to return to our Heavenly Father. Our Father said, “Whom shall I send?" Jesus Christ, who was called Jehovah, said, “Here am I, send me.”

Jesus was willing to come to the earth, give His life for us, and take upon Himself our sins. He, like our Heavenly Father, wanted us to choose whether we would obey Heavenly Father’s commandments. He knew we must be free to choose in order to prove ourselves worthy of exaltation. Jesus said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”

Satan wanted to force us all to do his will. Under his plan, we would not be allowed to choose. He would take away the freedom of choice that our Father had given us. Satan wanted to have all the honor for our salvation. Under his proposal, our purpose in coming to earth would have been frustrated.

After hearing both sons speak, Heavenly Father said, “I will send the first.”

Jesus Christ was chosen and foreordained to be our Savior. When Jesus lived on earth, He taught: “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. … And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day”(John 6:38, 40).

Because our Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Savior, Satan became angry and rebelled. There was war in heaven. Satan and his followers fought against Jesus Christ and His followers. The Savior’s followers “overcame [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11).

In this great rebellion, Satan and all the spirits who followed him were sent away from the presence of God and cast down from heaven. A third part of the hosts of heaven were punished for following Satan. They were denied the right to receive mortal bodies.

Because we are here on earth and have mortal bodies, we know that we chose to follow Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. Satan and his followers are also on the earth, but as spirits. They have not forgotten who we are, and they are around us daily, tempting us and enticing us to do things that are not pleasing to our Heavenly Father. In our premortal life, we chose to follow Jesus Christ and accept God’s plan. That continues to be the choice for us while we are on earth. Will we choose Jesus, or will we choose Satan?

The right to choose between good and evil and to act for ourselves is called agency. In our premortal life we had moral agency. One purpose of earth life is to show what choices we will make. If we were forced to choose the right, we would not be able to show what we would choose for ourselves. Also, we are happier doing things when we have made our own choices.

Agency was one of the principal issues to arise in the premortal Council in Heaven. It was one of the main causes of the conflict between the followers of Christ and the followers of Satan.

Agency makes our life on earth a period of testing. Without the gift of agency, we would have been unable to show our Heavenly Father whether we would do all that He commanded us. Because we are able to choose, we are responsible for our actions.

We began to make choices as spirit children in our Heavenly Father’s presence. Our choices there made us worthy to come to earth. Our Heavenly Father wants us to grow in faith, power, knowledge, wisdom, and all other good things.

When we choose to live according to God’s plan for us, our agency is strengthened. Right choices increase our power to make more right choices.

We cannot choose righteousness unless the opposites of good and evil are placed before us.

God allows Satan to oppose the good.

When we follow the temptations of Satan, we limit our choices.

Even though we are free to choose our course of action, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. The consequences, whether good or bad, follow as a natural result of any choice we make.

Heavenly Father has told us how to escape the captivity of Satan. We must watch and pray always, asking God to help us withstand the temptations of Satan. Our Heavenly Father will not allow us to be tempted beyond our power to resist.

God’s commandments direct us away from danger and toward eternal life.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fundamentals of Our Constitutions

Utah’s Constitution Day Celebration

Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Utah

September 17, 2010

“Fundamentals of Our Constitutions”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

I feel very privileged to be invited to speak to this great audience on Constitution Day. I appreciate the University of Utah Hinckley Institute’s invitation and its sponsorship of this and other community events over the last 45 years.

I will speak about the written constitutions of the United States and its 50 states. As I give examples of various issues under these constitutions — matters on which respected public officials have taken controversial positions — please remember that I am not referring to the persons who hold the various offices under those constitutions. I am speaking of the “institution” of constitutional government. The principles I describe apply regardless of who holds the offices and regardless of party affiliation. Our loyalty is to the institution. If we oppose persons who hold particular offices or the policies they pursue, we are free to vote against them or work against their policies. But we should not carry our opposition to the point of opposing their offices, or we weaken the institution of constitutional government.

Some of the things said by various persons in recent public discourse cause me to urge that we be more careful in the way we throw around the idea that something is unconstitutional. A constitution should not be used as a weapon to end debate. A public policy or a proposed law that is unwise is not necessarily unconstitutional. Even if it is a stupid proposal, it is not necessarily unconstitutional. A constitution gives the people and their elected leaders the opportunity to make many decisions that are unwise or even reckless. When that happens — when the government or one of its officials engages in some kind of action that we consider to be wrong — we should engage in vigorous public debate about it. But we should not use up a constitution by attempting to strike down every ill-conceived act of government or to discredit every unwise official. A constitution is the ultimate weapon, and we preserve that weapon best by using it sparingly and carefully. If we call some action unconstitutional, we should be prepared to explain what provision or principle of a constitution it violates. In this way, a constitution can be used to stimulate discussion and to seek unity.

We should, of course, always be vigilant to insist that our governments and their executives, lawmakers and judges stay within the limits prescribed by our constitutions. That is part of the rule of law, and all of the blessings enjoyed under our constitutions are dependent upon it. President J. Reuben Clark, an honored authority on the Constitution, declared that “our allegiance run[s] to the Constitution and to the principles which it embodies, and not to individuals. All that we say about the Constitution and our reliance upon it depends upon the rule of law and not of the men or women who hold the offices under it.”[1]

There is need for public praise of our constitutions and their principles. A rising generation of influential opinion makers seems to place a lesser value on the United States Constitution. An example of that was related to me by a recent law graduate. In a panel discussion at the Harvard Law School, a professor of constitutional law criticized the United States Constitution in harsh terms. Another faculty panelist speculated that if his colleague’s criticisms were valid we might as well just take our written constitution and “roll it and smoke it.” That kind of disdain for our national constitution is more than concerning.

The United States Constitution is the oldest written national constitution still in use. It has served Americans well, enhancing freedom and prosperity during the changing conditions of more than 200 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,[2] and the United States Constitution was a model for all of them. Consequently, if we abandon or weaken its fundamental principles, we betray our own national ideals and we also weaken our global neighbors.

Now I will proceed to discuss four major fundamentals of the United States Constitution. In an earlier setting, under Church sponsorship, I referred to these fundamentals as the divinely inspired principles in the Constitution,[3] and I here affirm my belief that they are. But in this setting of a community program I will only refer to these as the great fundamental principles of our Constitution.

As I speak of these great fundamentals, I wish to take the long view. I do not wish to be understood as endorsing or condemning specific actions or proposals on current issues. I know that some will apply what I say — one way or another — to issues currently being reported in the media. But I do not seek to be heard for the short term. Drawing on over 50 years of observing a multitude of controversies over the application of constitutions, I am trying to describe fundamental principles that will be meaningful for decades to come. I leave to my listeners the task of agreeing or disagreeing with my description of the great fundamentals and — if they wish — trying to apply them to the very complex issues of this day and the different issues of the days to come.

I. Popular Sovereignty

I mention first what is probably the most important of the great fundamentals of the United States Constitution—the principle of popular sovereignty: The people are the source of government power; it is they who consented to a constitution that delegates certain powers to the government. I stress this fundamental by emphasizing what are not the sources of sovereign power. 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 the Magna Carta. And sovereignty does not rest in an aristocracy of self-appointed wise men who think that their high birth or prestigious education gives them the right to prescribe what is best for everyone else. Sovereignty is in the people as a whole, and their sovereignty is supreme, subject only to a few crucial limitations that I will discuss in a moment.

Sovereignty in the people necessarily implies responsibility in the people. Instead of blaming their troubles on a king, on a cabal of military leaders, or on some distant group of wise men, citizens who are sovereign must share a measure of the burdens and responsibilities of governing. I will say more of this later.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not originate the idea of popular sovereignty, since they lived in a century when persuasive philosophers had argued that political power originated in a social contract. But the United States Constitution provided the first national implementation of that 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. 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.”[4] They also had to decide how minority rights could be protected when the government was, by definition, directed by a majority of the sovereign people. Part of that effort was to resolve whether a constitution adopted by popular sovereignty could be amended, and if so how.

The government of the United States had to be ultimately responsible to the will of the sovereign people, but it also had to be stable. Without stability against an aroused majority, government could not give individuals or minorities protection against overreaching by the ruling majority, a reality most evident when an outraged public calls for immediate punishment of one accused but not yet shown guilty of a crime. Government policies should not be tossed about with temporary swings in public opinion. The Constitution had to give government the power to withstand the cries of a majority of the sovereign people in the short run, but it had to be subject to their direction in the long run. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention achieved the required balance among popular sovereignty, stability, and protection of minorities through a power of amendment that was ultimately available but deliberately slow. It required the action of very large majorities — two-thirds in the Senate and the approval of three-fourths of the states.

II. Division of Powers in a Federal System

Another great fundamental of the United States Constitution is its federal system, which divides government powers between the nation and the various states. This principle of federalism is at the heart of our Constitution. Unlike the next two fundamentals I will discuss, which were adaptations of earlier developments in English law, this division of sovereignty between two government levels was unprecedented in theory or practice. In a day when it is fashionable to assume that the national government has the power and means to right every perceived injustice, we should remember that the United States 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 United States Constitution.

In my lifetime I have seen much neglect of this fundamental constitutional principle. For example, the power to make laws on personal relationships is one of those powers not granted to the federal government and therefore reserved to the states. Thus, the ordinary laws governing marriage and family rights and duties are state laws, subject to the power of national law to govern the extent to which the law of one state is binding on others. The dominance of state law in these personal matters would have been changed by the Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.) proposed about 30 years ago. The dominance of state law will also be changed if, after full review, federal courts decree that a state law on marriage is invalid under the United States Constitution. Whatever the merits of current controversies over the laws of marriage and child adoption and the like, let us not forget that if the decisions of federal courts can override the actions of state lawmakers on this subject, we have suffered a significant constitutional reallocation of lawmaking power from the lawmaking branch to the judicial branch and from the states to the federal government.

III. Bill of Rights

A bill of rights, the third great fundamental of the United States Constitution, came by amendment, but I think almost all Americans look upon these first ten amendments as an essential part of the original Constitution.

The idea of a bill of rights was not new. Almost 600 years earlier, King John had been compelled to sign the Magna Carta, which contained a written guarantee of some rights for certain of his subjects. Later, the Magna Carta was relied upon by the English Parliament in guaranteeing additional rights against royal power in the English Bill of Rights of 1689. In the century that followed, many of the charters used in the establishment of the American colonies included some written guarantees of citizen liberties and privileges. And in the rush of constitution-making that followed the Continental Congress’s 1776 invitation, almost all of the 13 colonies developed these guarantees further. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention were familiar with this history and made brilliant application of its principles in framing a Bill of Rights suited to the needs of the people of a new nation.

There are several supremely important guarantees in the Bill of Rights, including the freedoms of speech and press. I have chosen only one to discuss in detail.

The Bill of Rights begins with what many believe to be the most important guarantee in the United States Constitution. 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 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. For nearly a century this guarantee of religious freedom has been understood as a limitation on state as well as federal power.

The guarantee of the free exercise of religion, which I will call religious freedom, is one of the supremely important founding principles in the United States Constitution, and it is reflected in the constitutions of all of our 50 states. It 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.”[5] I maintain that in our nation’s founding and in our constitutional order, religious freedom, and the freedoms of speech and press associated with it in the First Amendment, are the motivating and dominating civil liberties and civil rights.

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.”[6]

This principle was affirmed impressively 22 years ago when a group of prominent citizens assembled at Williamsburg, Virginia, and signed what was called the Williamsburg Charter. I was privileged to sign that charter in behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its stated purpose was to celebrate and reaffirm religious liberty as the foremost freedom in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Williamsburg Charter states:

“The First Amendment Religious Liberty provisions have both a logical and historical priority in the Bill of Rights. . . . In sum, as much if not more than any other single provision in the entire Constitution, the Religious Liberty provisions hold the key to American distinctiveness and American destiny.”[7]

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 religious principles compelled or justified stealing or taking human life.

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. 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, many of the battles over the extent of religious freedom have involved government efforts to impose upon the practices of small groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Recent experiences suggest adding Muslims to the category of threatened religious minorities.

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 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.

A recent book illustrates this danger. In Freedom From Religion, published by the Oxford University Press, a law professor makes this three-step argument:

1.In many nations “society is at risk from religious extremism.”[8]
2.“A follower is far more likely to act on the words of a religious authority figure than other speakers.”[9]
3.Therefore, “in some cases, society and government should view religious speech as inherently less protected than secular political speech because of its extraordinary ability to influence the listener.”[10]
He concludes:

“[W]e must begin to consider the possibility that religious speech can no longer hide behind the shield of freedom of expression. . . .[11]

“Contemporary religious extremism leaves decision-makers and the public alike with no choice but to re-contour constitutionally granted rights as they pertain to religion and speech.”[12]

I hope that those who might be persuaded by these arguments will consider how easy it would be over time to manipulate the definition of “religious extremism” to suppress any unpopular religion.

Religious belief and preaching must be protected against government action, even while 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 preaching and action than to other kinds of speech and 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.

IV. Separation of Powers

The fourth great fundamental of the United States Constitution and of our state constitutions is the principle of separation of powers. This principle puts our national government on a significantly different foundation than the parliamentary systems of most western governments. The idea of separation of powers came out of the English experience, when parliament wrested certain powers from the king in the conflicts of the 1600s, thus achieving some separation of legislative and executive authority. But the United States Constitution carried this separation much further.

The concept of separating the executive, legislative, and judicial functions was established in the American colonies in the 1700s. A commentary on the Massachusetts Constitution of 1778, of which John Adams was a principal author, explained the basic principle.

“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.”[13]

Thus, we often refer to the principle of separation of powers in terms of the checks and balances each branch exercises upon the others.

If the idea of checks and balances is to work properly, each branch of government must preserve its independence from the others. Moreover, the powers of each of these three branches must be exercised in a good faith effort to serve the interests of the public, rather than to dominate the others or to enhance the personal position of a particular official. Politics, revenge or personal gain must never be the primary driving force in the application of checks and balances.

For checks and balances to work properly, and for the fundamental principle of separation of powers to be honored and perform its proper function, each branch of government must fulfill its duties fully, and each must refrain from attempting to exercise the functions of the others. For example, Congress should perform its duty of making the laws and specifying the principles—even politically difficult principles—and not dodge this responsibility by delegating this function to regulations made by the executive branch. The courts must limit themselves to interpreting the Constitution and the laws and not stray into the legislative function of law-making. In contrast, we are all aware that in our day the actions of courts on major issues of public policy receive great attention in the media, and are frequently represented and understood as the actions of those who make laws rather than those who merely interpret them.

These are, of course, very broad assertions, and in practice these ideas are complex and controversial. I will attempt to express my thoughts about them without getting into too much technical legal jargon. If my remarks seem to deal excessively with the judicial branch and the conduct of judges, you will understand that I choose to elaborate on that subject because the judicial branch is the one with which I have had my greatest experience.

V. The Judicial Branch’s Role in Separation of Powers

There are two different views of the role of the judicial branch of government in our constitutional system. One maintains that the genius of the American system is its expectation that the courts will resolve very difficult and important questions that the legislative and executive branches of government have been unable to resolve. For example, it was the Supreme Court of the United States that compelled this nation to resolve the problem of racially segregated public schools, after many decades in which the nation’s elected lawmakers were unwilling to recognize this injustice or unable to resolve it. Other examples could be given. The important thing is that many believe the courts have a legitimate function in lawmaking when the problem is large and urgent enough and the legislative and executive branches have shown by inaction or ineffective action that they are unable to perform their functions to resolve it.

The opposite point of view argues that the courts should stay entirely out of the domain of legislative lawmaking, leaving this function to the popularly elected legislative bodies and the elected chief executives who presumably reflect the will of the people. A generation ago a prominent legal scholar described this position:

“Outside of a few important, well-defined personal liberties set forth in the document, the Constitution allows the people to make public policy through their elected representatives. When the Court ventures into policymaking in the guise of constitutional interpretation, it oversteps the role assigned to it under the Constitution.”[14]

The differences in these approaches will not be resolved. Both will be followed in their time, with the ebb and flow of judicial appointments, politics, and legal thought. But it is important to note that we currently have widespread public dissatisfaction on this subject. The 2006 Georgetown Conference on Judicial Independence considered a Princeton survey finding that 62% of Americans say the courts in their state are legislating from the bench rather than interpreting the law. This reveals a widespread public feeling that the courts are revising the moral and cultural life of the nation by making policy determinations that should be made by lawmakers in the elected branches.

Judicial Independence

What concerns us most about this widespread public dissatisfaction is that if not attended to it will threaten the independence the judicial branch must have to perform its function in our system of separation of powers. In the last few years, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has performed a great service by leading a series of conferences at Georgetown University on the state of the judiciary. They focused on this question of judicial independence.

As I have cheered these efforts from the sidelines, I have thought of how our system contrasts with that of the now defunct Soviet Union. During my years as president of BYU (1971–80), I hosted the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union, who was touring the United States in that Cold War period. In a private one-on-one discussion, I asked him how the Soviet system really worked in a highly visible criminal case, such as where a person was charged with an offense like treason or other crimes against the state. He explained that on those kinds of cases they had what they called “telephone justice.” Judges conducted the trial and heard the evidence and then went back to their chambers and had a phone call from a government or party official who told them how to decide the case.

I am grateful that, whatever difficulties we have in our system of justice — and there are many — we are still far away from what he called “telephone justice.” What stands between us and that corruption of the judicial system — what stands between us and the destruction of a vital check and balance in our system of separation of powers — is the independence of our state and federal judges.

I speak of state as well as federal judges because in most citizen encounters with the law state judges are by far the most important representatives of the judicial branch. I thought of that as I listened to our Utah Chief Justice, Christine M. Durham, speak to a group of lawyers last month.[15] She told them that in a recent year there were 384,000 cases filed in the federal courts, but the state courts had over 47 million. This is about 123 state court cases for every single case filed in the federal courts. She reminded her audience that “state courts are closer to everyday life where the legal meanings of such elemental concepts as birth and death and family take shape.” It is in the state courts where family law issues are adjudicated, where foreclosures take place, and where injured persons come to recover damages. When we speak of the importance of judicial independence, we must not neglect the important role of state courts as a co-equal branch of government.

Chief Justice Durham cited three troubling recent developments that put the judicial independence of state courts at risk. One of these she called “the politicization of state judiciaries.” This is the subject Justice O’Connor’s various conferences have pursued so persuasively with various recommendations, including judicial selection and tenure, judicial salaries, and limits on judicial campaign contributions.

As I give my strong endorsement of judicial independence, I am conscious that many in this audience will have observed or personally experienced court decisions with which they disagreed. I have also had that experience. In endorsing judicial independence, I do not approve every court decision it makes possible. What I advocate are the conditions necessary to preserve the institution of judicial independence, which is essential to the principle of separation of powers. We must defend judicial independence. We must not tolerate existing laws or support new laws that would make judges the servants of the legislative or executive branches or of any private interest.

At the same time, we must acknowledge that there are limits. Judicial independence does not mean that judges are free to decide controversies or cases according to their personal preferences.

Our constitutions and the acts of our legislative bodies are the paramount and most obvious examples of restraints upon judicial independence. In interpreting these and in applying the common law on subjects where there are no legislative enactments, judges are constrained by the precedents of prior judicial opinions. Less obvious, and subordinate to these restraints, are those elusive but very real community and personal standards of right and wrong that comprise what we might call the moral framework that defines what is workable or appropriate for persons living in an organized society. In total, these constraints should prevent a judge from having his or her personal interests take command of the decision-making process to augment personal power, property, prominence or prestige.

Judicial Activism

Unfortunately, the constraints I have described do not always hold judges within the limits imposed by our constitutional order. The label many put on judicial decisions that break free of these limits is judicial activism. It could just as well be called judicial arrogance. It has a variety of causes, including misinterpretation of the law and excessive reliance on personal predilections in the decision of cases. But neither of these should override the framework of the law, especially in those cases where the judicial branch should make no decision, but leave the matter to popularly elected lawmakers.

In criticizing judicial activism, I am not agreeing with those critics who define judicial activism as a circumstance where a judge makes the law rather than merely interprets it. That is an over-simplified definition. Our system of law clearly contemplates that judges will make law as well as interpret it. Appellate courts inevitably make law as they interpret legislative enactments that are ambiguous or contradictory. Judges make law by giving meaning to legislative language that is deliberately vague, such as laws using words like “fair” or “reasonable” or “obscene.” Appellate courts make law gradually on a case-by-base basis as they define and apply the common law, which consists of the decisions of courts on subjects not treated by the legislature. None of these lawmaking functions of judges is subject to criticism as judicial activism, because if the popularly elected lawmakers don’t like these judicial actions, they can change them by legislation.

In my opinion, the judicial lawmaking that has been legitimately criticized as judicial activism concerns the interpretation of state and federal constitutions. This kind of judicial action is not reversible by the popularly elected lawmakers, and cannot even be changed by the sovereign people except in those unusual circumstances in which a constitutional amendment is feasible. If such judicial action sets aside laws enacted or approved by a direct vote of the people, it offends two fundamentals: separation of powers and popular sovereignty.

Constitutional adjudication is the kind of activity that requires the highest exercise of the judicial talent and should cause the greatest soul-searching on the part of judges. On the one hand, the compelling traditions of common law adjudication show that the law — even constitutional law — can grow gradually to meet the problems and challenges of a new day. On the other hand, the overriding requirements of stability in the law forbid judges from using their office to enact their own personal preferences and moral framework in the way they could justifiably do as legislators. The question that should always be asked in constitutional adjudication is, “Is this a matter that the sovereign people in our democracy ought to decide through their popularly elected lawmakers, or is it a matter that our constitution clearly assigns to judges not directly accountable to the popular will?”

In the end, the only complete remedy for judicial activism is judicial restraint. Only judges can make judicial restraint a reality. The rarest kind of power in our troubled world is a power recognized but unexercised. Yet that is what the people have a right to expect from the judicial branch, which must define the limits of all government branches, including its own. I maintain that the same branch of government that has defined the power and forged the tools of judicial activism should decline to exercise them.

VI. Citizen Responsibilities

I conclude with some suggestions about our responsibilities as citizens. We have a great Constitution whose fundamental principles many believe to be divinely inspired. Therefore what? I will suggest five responsibilities that I believe are appropriate for all citizens—whatever their religious or philosophical persuasion.

1.Understand the Constitution
All citizens should be familiar with its great fundamentals: the sovereignty of the people, the structure of federalism that divides powers between the state and the federal government, the individual guarantees in the Bill of Rights, and the principle of separation of powers among the various branches of government. We should take alarm at and consider how to oppose any action that would infringe these fundamentals.

2.Support the Law
All citizens should give law-abiding support to their national, state, and local governments. My religious faith expresses this principle in an official declaration of belief:

“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).

3.Practice Civic Virtue
Those who enjoy the blessings of liberty under our national and state constitutions should promote morality, and they should practice what the Founding Fathers called “civic virtue.” John Adams, the second president of the United States, declared, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”[16]

James Madison argued in the Federalist Papers that “republican government presupposes the exercise of these qualities [of virtue] in a higher degree than any other form.”[17]

Citizens should also be practitioners of civic virtue in their conduct toward our states and our nation. They should obey the laws. 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.

Then there is the matter of voting. I have been alarmed at the steady decline of voter turnout in many parts of the United States, including Utah. Voting is a fundamental right and responsibility that must not be taken for granted. Political participation can be inconvenient. It requires sacrifices of time and resources, but it is essential to our democratic society. Without substantial voter turnout, the people abrogate the great fundamental of popular sovereignty.

It is also part of civic virtue to be moral in our conduct toward all people. We believe with the author of Proverbs that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). The personal righteousness of citizens will strengthen a nation more than the force of its arms.

4.Maintain Civility in Political Discourse
If representative government is to function effectively under our constitutions, we must have civility in political discourse. We currently have an excess of ugliness and contentiousness in our communications on many political issues. I don’t need to give examples; we have all been exposed to it, and some of us have occasionally been part of it. We all bear some responsibility for the current political polarization and the stalemates that have resulted from it. We ought to tone it down. Meaningful debate and discussion about policies, programs, and procedures is essential to a democratic society. But contentiousness for the sake of division is bad for democracy. It is bad for law observance. It is bad for neighborly relations. And it is particularly destructive as an example for the rising generation, who, if not taught better, will perpetuate and magnify its ugliness and divisiveness for generations to come.

A year ago our Church published a statement called “The Mormon Ethic of Civility.” I quote from that statement:

“The Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that renders civil discussion impossible. . . . Our democratic system [should] facilitate kinder and more reasoned exchanges among fellow Americans than we are now seeing.”[18]

Our President, Thomas S. Monson, has said, “When a spirit of goodwill prompts our thinking and when unified effort goes to work on a common problem, the results can be most gratifying.”[19]

5.Promote Patriotism
Finally, the single word that best describes a fulfillment of the responsibilities of citizenship is patriotism. Citizens should be patriotic. My favorite prescription for patriotism is that of Adlai Stevenson, the Illinois governor who was twice the Democratic candidate for President:

“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.”[20]


I close with a poetic prayer. It is familiar to most Americans because we sing it in one of our loveliest hymns. It expresses gratitude to God for liberty, and it voices a prayer for continued blessings:

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! [21]

[1] J. Reuben Clark: Selected Papers on Religion, Education, and Youth, ed. David H. Yarn, Jr., Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1984, p. 43.

[2] See A. E. Dick Howard, “Making It Work,” Wilson Quarterly, Spring 1987, pp. 122, 126.

[3] See “The Divinely Inspired Constitution,” Ensign, February 1992, 68-74.

[4] U.S. Constitution, Art. IV, Sec. 4.

[5] Final Report of the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad to the Secretary of State and to the President of the United States, May 17, 1999, p. 6.

[6] 22 USC 6401(a).

[7] The Williamsburg Charter, pp. 11-12. The text of the Williamsburg Charter is reproduced in the appendix (pp. 127-45) of Articles of Peace, the Religious Liberty Clauses and the American Public Philosophy (James Davison Hunter and Os Guinness, eds., Brookings Books, Washington, D.C., 1990).

[8] Amos N. Guiora, Freedom From Religion (Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 27.

[9] Ibid., at p. 30.

[10] Ibid., at p. 31.

[11] Ibid., at p. 31.

[12] Ibid., at p. 39.

[13] Quoted in Gerhard Casper, “Constitutionalism,” Occasional Papers from the Law School, The University of Chicago, no. 22 (1987).

[14] Michael W. McConnell, “Four Faces of Conservative Legal Thought,” University of Chicago Law School Record, Spring 1988, 12, 13.

[15] “State Courts and Justice for All,” BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School Founders Day Dinner, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 26, 2010.

[16] John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, ed. C. F. Adams (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, October 11, 1798.

[17] Federalist No. 55, February 13, 1788.

[18] ”The Mormon Ethic of Civility,” October 16, 2009 (see commentary/the-mormon-ethic-of-civility).

[19] Ibid.

[20] Adlai Stevenson, speech given in New York City, 27 August 1952, quoted in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1955, p. 986.

[21] Hymns, no. 339.