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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Force in Human History

Image result for religion matters“Religion has no monopoly on moral action, but centuries of religious belief, including institutional church- or synagogue- or mosque-going, have clearly been preeminent in shaping our notions of right and wrong.” A recent statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland as he spoke to several thousand participants at Brigham Young University Education Week.

There is an unquestionable force of faith—religious influence—that has inspired many men and women. Their works in art, with the pen, and in the gift to speak have illuminated the meaning of our existence. There is a great video piece in his address (about the 38 minute mark; link below) that provides some examples.

Pure religion, practiced by pure hearts subdues evil deeds. It pushes indifference aside and brings to the forefront meaning and moral behavior. Our current environment and social arrangements call for religious practices, expressions, and beliefs to be appreciated.

Another snip it from Elder Holland’s address puts forth this admission and logic: “Not to say that individual faith groups in their many different forms and with their various conflicting beliefs are all true and equally valuable; obviously they cannot be. Nor does it say that institutional religions collectively—churches, if you will—have been an infallible solution to society’s challenges; they clearly have not been. But if we speak of religious faith as among the highest and most noble impulses within us, then to say so-and-so is a “religious person” or that such and such a family “lives their religion” is intended as a compliment. Such an observation would, as a rule, imply that these people try to be an influence for good, try to live to a higher level of morality than they might otherwise have done, and have tried to help hold the sociopolitical fabric of their community together.” (BYU Education Week Devotional Address, 16 August 2016).

If you want to better understand what religion is and why it is important, listen and ponder his address: Bound by Loving Ties.

Cautionary Address on Freedom of Religion

Religious freedom has been on my mind a lot lately. I have been trying to read as many books, articles, addresses, etc… as I possible can on the subject. It is a flammable current issue but a “fundamental right of paramount importance.” mormon-Wickman

I recently reviewed an address by Elder Lance B. Wickman, general counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His remarks brought an intelligent, yet cautionary perspective to the cause of promoting religious freedom. It was delivered in early July at the Religious Freedom Conference, sponsored by International Center for Law and Religious Studies at Brigham Young University. Here is a link to his address.

Promoting Religious Freedom in a Secular Age: Fundamental Principles, Practical Priorities, and Fairness for All. Continue reading

America Needs a Wake-Up Call

As a Middle East news correspondent in 1973, Peter Jennings was covering the war between Israel and Syria. One day an Israeli pilot was shot down and rushed to a Syrian hospital. Peter Jennings and his camera man boldly entered the hospital and without any resistance walked right into a room where a Syrian surgeon was operating on this Israeli pilot.

Mr. Jennings thrust a microphone at him and said, “How does it feel to be working on an Israeli pilot?” No comment from the surgeon. Again he asked “how does it feel to be working on an Israeli pilot? No comment. Frustrated at failing to capture a sound bite, he and his camera man exited to the hall. About ten minutes later the surgeon came out to the hall and took the two men to the window. He then said, “You see the home over there? It was bombed by an Israeli plane three days ago. My wife and children died. It could have been him. But I am a doctor.” Continue reading