Category Archives: Uncategorized

If not “under God,” under what?

A teacher at Battle High School recently led the pledge of allegiance. His version: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands one nation . . . . indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

For unknown reasons the faculty member excluded “under God.” The students immediately caught it. Some students assumed he had mistakenly misquoted, while others discerned the intent. Their teacher assured them it was on purpose.

If not “under God,” under what? By what or whom? Through what or whom?

An elementary stroll through easy to find primary U.S. documents will reveal a constant recognition of God. Early writings and speeches of the men and women who laid the foundation we enjoy referred to Him as: Divine Being, Supreme Judge, Father of Lights, Omnipotence of God, the benign Parent, Providence, and the Almighty. Continue reading

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Political Arena Offers Same Fight For Over 200 Years

America’s second contested presidential election in 1801 ended up in the House of Representatives when the Electoral College ended in a tie (between Jefferson and Burr, with Adams right behind them).

John Adams—the sitting president, and Thomas Jefferson—the sitting candidate, waited for the political quagmire to be resolved. Jefferson gives us a glimpse of the plague one must endure in the civic arena. As he waited the decision of his most recent political fight he was able to discern the coarse nature of politics in a free republic.

Jefferson conveyed to his daughter: “Warn down here with pursuits in which I take no delight, surrounded by enemies and spies catching and perverting every word which falls from my lips or flow from my pen, and inventing where facts fail them” (Meacham, Art of Power, see xviii in Prologue).

Poignantly the political arena has been offering the same main event for over 200 years. Perhaps it’s time to identify the promoter. Satan desires to stir people up. He is a liar, false accuser, and flatterer. His subtle but persistent chant: “Deceive and lie in wait to catch, that ye may destroy; behold this is no harm” (D&C 10:25). Those who wish to occupy premium seating in the arena are more prone to accept the promoter’s motto: “Lie a little, take advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor” (2 Nephi 28:8).

It is imperative that we get involved in civic activities to some degree. Our republic demands moral people be anxiously engaged. Maybe it’s time to expose the promoter, seek a change in venue, and alter the main event. Politicians and media-mongers must change their nature and soften the wild ambitions of personal gain, position, and power. So must the electorate.

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Zion Doesn’t Leave People Behind

Image result for job educationThe term Zion has multiple meanings in the scriptures. Perhaps the most general idea is “the pure in heart’ and/or being of “one heart and one mind” with emphasis of living in righteousness and eliminating poverty (See D&C 97:21 and Moses 7:18; online LDS Topics, “Zion”).

John Taylor (1808-1887) declared many years ago concerning a Zion people: “You will see the day that Zion will be as far ahead of the outside world in everything pertaining learning of every kind as we are today in the regard to religious matters” (Durham, The Gospel Kingdom, 275).

When I heard that a sixth spoke to the Church’s educational wheel was announced I was delighted. BYU-Pathway Worldwide (BYU-PW) now joins BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, LDS Business College, and Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. The wheel of educational opportunities continues to roll forward. The creation of BYU-PW is evidence of a greater effort to offer education to a broad range of individuals in a broad range of countries, economic situations, and social situations. Continue reading

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Let Us All Press On

My wife reminded me of this stirring version of “Let Us All Press On” that was performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir last October. Its crescendo is moving, but the message is crucial.

I appreciated the choir’s performance of “America, the Beautiful” at the presidential inauguration. But it would have been thrilling to hear them introduce this hymn, “Let Us All Press On.”

In a day of “fake news,” and “alternate facts” we need to be reminded that truth is eternal. Each of us must be more devoted and loyal to truth and less beholden to the deceptions of a profane world. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, we must trudge through this world discerning “Celestial sense from secular nonsense.” Continue reading

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I Wrote President-Elect Trump an Inaugural Address

People have asked me over the years what I would like to do if I wasn’t a religious educator. I give them three ambitions or interests. A college basketball play by play announcer, an OBGYN, or a speech writer. I know that’s a broad professional range. Ask my boys about the first interest, my wife about the second one, and keep reading about my third interest.

Yes, I wrote president-elect Trump an inaugural speech. I realize Stephen Miller has been assigned to write the actual inaugural address. Feel free to edit, ridicule, or make observations.

First, a few thoughts about my attempt. I think president-elect Trump should deliver a very short inaugural address. George Washington’s second inaugural was only four sentences. I don’t think president-elect Trump should be that brief. But I do think he should follow the counsel that FDR gave to his son before a speaking engagement: “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”

Speaking of FDR, his fourth inaugural was just over 500 words. Lincoln’s second inaugural was just over 700 words. Most of the others were quite long. Trump should come in under 1000 words. I think for most part, people will be watching and listening how he says his words, rather than what he says. The shorter and more sincere his speech, the more people will actually listen to his words. A shorter, thoughtful, and personal speech will be to his advantage.

For that reason I don’t think he needs to regurgitate campaign rhetoric. I don’t think he needs to explain policy during his address. I think he needs to genuinely tell people he is serious about getting to work and leave listeners with an assurance that is what he and his administration are going to do.

I hope the inaugural speech is simple and heartfelt. Here is my attempt of an inaugural speech for Donald Trump:

In Revolutionary rhetoric, patriot Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Events of our day resurrect the words.

For many days I have been briefed on trying situations and trying issues that concern all Americans. There are solutions for these situations and issues. There are some serious tasks before me—and before you. Continue reading

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Pulling Down the Strongholds of Satan

“Statesmen my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.”

These words were written by John Adams to his cousin Zabdiel, during the swelling days of Revolution. In the letter he unequivocally argued: “The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a greater Measure, than they have it now, They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies.”

Zabdiel who was a lawyer, also received this conclusion in his short letter from John Adams: “You cannot therefore be more pleasantly, or usefully employed than in the Way of your Profession, pulling down the Strong Holds of Satan. This is not Cant, but the real sentiment of my Heart” (See The Adams Papers Digital Addition or Bennett, Our Sacred Honor, 371). Continue reading

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Pence Wins With Kindness

More and more are hearing about how Mike Pence—vice-president elect—wImage result for mike penceas booed and then lectured at the Broadway show Hamilton. The “curtain-speech-heard-round-the-world” as it has come to be known has flooded social media.

Mike Pence was a pillar. Watch footage of the how they treated him at the Broadway show and then watch how he responded the next day.

He won with kindness. He won with genuineness. He won in substance. Once again we see a public example where those crying against narrow-mindedness are themselves most narrow minded. This is an interesting read as well. Larry O’Connor observes the shaming and calling people out doesn’t reflect a diverse America. He is very familiar with the theatre industry. He wrote today: Continue reading

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Joseph Smith—A Precious Commodity in the Theological Arsenal

I just finished The Truman G. Madsen Story: A Life of Study and Faith. It is a remarkable biography. Truman was a prominent philosopher and theologian. He wrote and spoke constantly in all parts of the world. He had friends in all political and religious persuasions. He wtruman-madsenas a Latter-day Saint.

One unique aspect of Truman’s scholarly path is his acknowledgment of the first Latter-day Saint prophet, Joseph Smith. A 19th century man who lived only 38 years and yet brought forth volumes of words, (and volumes more unrecorded). An individual who prophesied and performed miracles, a man who stood boldly before enemies and earnestly before followers. For many, Joseph Smith’s doctrines dissolved an unfamiliar God, to a living, knowable being, who Jesus Christ intimately called, Father.

This resonated with Truman G. Madsen. He felt that knowing and pursuing our true relation to Deity was of utmost importance. He attributed to Joseph Smith’s teachings and revelations, his own discovery of his intimate path back to the Son, and with the Son, to the Father. Continue reading

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Reasonable Morality Requires Us to Vote for Neither

A few weeks before the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton a U.S. Congressman from the Democratic Party stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and said: “We need to stop destroying imperfect people at the altar of an unobtainable morality.” You can read and listen to the gobbledygook speech for yourself.   virtue-vice

Not every man acts and talks like Donald Trump. Not every man acts and talks
like Bill Clinton. Nor does every woman enable such men and discredit so many women like Hillary Clinton. Not every man commits adultery with multiple women. Not every man seeks sexual contact with a married woman. Not every married man flirts with women. Not every woman protects her husband’s immoral, hostile behavior while ignoring the consequences and sorrows of others, who were publicly displayed in his dishonorable path.

Morality is obtainable. It should be sought for diligently. It is reasonable to expect government leaders to be honest and upright in their personal lives. There are virtuous people who have grown in moral discipline. Many people have honored a life of fidelity in their marriage covenant. Continue reading

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Let’s Take a Knee America—After Singing the 4th Verse

Current events draw attention to the national anthem, right to expression, and social injustice. Unfortunately not enough attention is drawn to police officers who day in and day out have to operate in an environment where societal calamities are escalating. In the fault-finding these days, I think we have forgotten that it is about the content of our character, not the color of skin. Martin Luther King Jr. was hoping it would be otherwise.

The national anthem has more than one verse. The fourth verse may be the most timely.

 O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall standfort_mchenry_flag

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.

Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave! Continue reading

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