Thursday, October 13, 2016

An Inspired Constitution

In his address The Doctrine of and Inspired Constitution, Gary Marshall argues that it is easier to defend the inspired nature of the Constitution if we understand its supporting principles. I was asked to answer this question:

How does your understanding of the supporting principles enhance your ability to explain the "just and holy principles" embodied in the Constitution?

I have listed the six supporting principles which he discussed and a brief outline of what is included in each principle. My responses are in blue.

1.       The Supreme Law of the Land must be set forth in a Written Constitution
a.       The Rule of Law must be the underlying premise of the entire constitutional system.
b.       The power of government must be limited and constrained by a written constitution.
c.       Civil governments are ordained of God and instituted by Him for the benefit of all the people and for the protection of their basic, inalienable rights.
d.       The content of the Constitution must be subject to change by an amendment process.

If laws weren’t written, they would be unfixed and changeable based on people’s memory. They must be written to remain stable. If it is to be written, there must be guidelines detailed. This is what the supporting principles do—detail guidelines for the written law of the land. It must give power but limit it. It must be stable, but have the ability to be changed. It must protect freedoms and rights, so the rule of law is the only way that it will work.

2.       The power to make law and to govern in a civil society must arise from the popular will and sovereign power of the people. (popular sovereignty)
a.       A true understanding of man’s nature – of both man’s capacity for virtue and man’s natural propensity to vice and corruption – must be the foundation of a government which derives its power from the people.
b.       Popular government must generally follow the will of the majority.
c.       A republic is the best form of popular government.
d.       The people have the right to choose those who govern in open and fair elections.
e.       The terms of office for those who govern must be fixed and reasonable for the purposes of their offices.

People have the right to make and execute the laws to which they are subject. If you give the power to the people, you must understand their nature and plan for both virtue and vice. Allowing the people to elect those who will govern, with limitations on service, will keep the power with the people, but not so completely that their lesser natures will take over.

3.       Governments must secure and protect the basic, inalienable rights of the people.
a.       Freedom of conscience must be protected as the most inherent and inalienable right of man.
b.       The great rights of free speech, freedom of the press, and of assembling and petitioning the government must be secured and protected.
c.       Prosecutions, accusations of wrongdoing, and judgments against the people must be based on principles of fairness, equity, justice, and due process of law.

If the people vote leaders to govern them, the governance must protect the rights of the people. There are certain rights which are endowed to us by God and no government has the right to limit them.

4.       The legislative power (to make the law), the executive power (to administer and enforce the law), and the judicial power (to apply and interpret the law) must reside in separate branches or departments of the government.
a.       Each of the three branches of government must have some check on the power of the other branches.
b.       The legislative power, which tends to predominate in a republic, must be further divided.

To “help control the corrupting influence of power and the tendency to tyranny,” each of the three branches must be able to check the power of the other two. This way the government can still survive if the people and leaders don’t remain virtuous and it lessens the negative effect of “immediate passions and shortsighted interests of the people.”

5.       The powers to govern ought to be further divided by national and local interests.
a.       The powers given to any level of government should be based in moderation and justice, and should engender confidence and trust in the people.
b.       The powers given to the national government should be specifically delegated, enumerated, and limited.
c.       The state governments should exercise the powers to regulate the health, welfare, safety, education, and moral behavior of the people.

The governance of the people should stay close to the people. The national government should be limited in scope and handle higher level issues such as national security and defense. Things more related to individuals should stay at the local level.

6.       The principles of economic freedom should be preserved and protected.

Government should encourage hard work, commerce, frugality and virtue; promote science and the arts and invention. This will help preserve and protect the economic future of the people.

How Do We Change The World?

The knowledge of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and coming to have faith in him could change the world. 

In Mosiah chapter 4, King Benjamin tells us three simple things that if we do them, will bring about life changing benefits:

  •   Humble ourselves in humility
  •   Call on the Lord daily
  •   Be steadfast in faith

 “if [we] do this [we] shall always

  • Rejoice
  • Be filled with the love of God
  • Retain a remission of our sins
  • Grow in knowledge of God and of what is just and true
  • Have no thought to harm one another, but to live peaceably
  • Care for our children
  • Teach them to obey God’s laws and not fight and quarrel with each other
  • Teach them to walk in the ways of truth
  • Teach them to love one another
  • Succor those in need of succor
  • Give of our substance to those in need

It seems to me that if everyone would do those three simple things, just about every problem facing the world right now would end.

Be of Good Cheer

In Elder Oaks talk, He Heals the Heavy Laden, he references one of my very favorite scriptures:

 In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” 
John 16:33

This is one of the key truths we learn in Article of Faith #3: The Atonement of Christ. We know that if we are obedient to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel, through the Atonement, we can be saved because He did literally overcome the world.

The Lord knew that life would be hard. He tells us we will have “tribulation.” The dictionary defines tribulation as “a cause of great trouble or suffering.” He knows just how great our trouble and suffering are and will be, because He has felt them personally.

He tells us to “be of good cheer.” How is it possible to be of good cheer if we know that we will have great trouble and suffering? This is the amazing thing about the Atonement. Not only has it redeemed us from death and given us a way to be exalted and have eternal life, it has also blessed us with the enabling power of the Atonement.

I have experienced this power while going to school at BYU-Idaho. I work full time, have school, and serve in the temple on Saturdays. I have been blessed, and a witness to miracles, with a literal expansion of time. I have had my abilities increased to learn more quickly and get things done in a shorter amount of time.

Because of the Atonement we have all the reason in the world to be of good cheer.

Have any of you experienced the enabling power of the Atonement?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Welding Families Forever

Two things really caught my attention in D&C 128:18.

First the term “welding” was used two times in reference to linking together generations. We usually think of this in terms of “sealing,” but I really like the term welding. It seems so much heavier and substantial. I envision a very thick chain being welded together which cannot be broken.

Second is “For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.” We need our families. They are what really matter in life. I feel blessed to live in a Church which puts so much emphasis on families.

This made me think of an experience my dad shared with me. After mom died, he would go visit her grave on Sundays before church. A man who lived in their neighborhood told him he wanted the sense of peace he could see in my dad. His wife had also passed away and he wanted what my dad had, so dad started teaching him about the plan of salvation and eternal families. One time while dad was visiting mom’s grave, he received a very strong impression that she was on the other side teaching this man’s wife the same things he was teaching this man.

Missionary work is happening among those who have passed on. They are at the mercy of our willingness to serve in the temple. I am blessed to serve in the temple. It gives me the opportunity and privilege of helping women there who are serving and those who have passed on.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Born Again

In Moses 6: 59-60 there is a pattern that intrigues me. It speaks of being born by water, blood, and the spirit and those words are used three times.

The first time it says that we are “born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit which I have made.” This all happens during the process of childbirth.

Then it tells us we must be “born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten.”

I really like the analogy of being “born again.” When we are baptized and have our sins washed away, it is as if we are a new born babe, fresh from the heavens and without sin. We can become again this way each Sabbath as we renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament.

Then it tells us why we must be born again by these three things and what part they play.

For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified.”

We are baptized in water and by so doing keep the commandment. It is up to the Holy Ghost to justify the ordinance. In the class The Eternal Family we studied this and learned about what the justification of the Spirit means.

We are “justified” by the Spirit as the Holy Spirit of Promise either ratifies or rejects each ordinance as being valid.”[1]

“[Justification] is the Lord’s way of assuring that no unauthorized acts or ordinances are binding in the hereafter.” [2]
These are pretty amazing responsibilities that the Holy Ghost has. This also reminds us that we can’t fool the Lord. If we enter covenants unworthily, they may look like they have been done, but the Spirit will not justify the ordinance as being valid.

And then after those two things have happened, we are able to be sanctified by the blood shed for us by our Savior Jesus Christ. The dictionary defines sanctified as to "set apart as or declare holy; consecrate; make legitimate or binding by religious sanctification; free from sin; purif[ed]."

All of this is how we are born again--by water, by the Spirit, and by blood.

[1] Justification and Sanctification Transcript, The Eternal Family, BYU-Idaho, taken partially from Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Born of God, April 2008

[2] Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 408

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation, introduced in 1777 and ratified in 1781 created a weak “League of Friendship” amongst the states. A decentralized confederation based on state sovereignty. 

Each state sent delegates to serve in the Congress of Confederation. Each of the states had an equal vote on any proposed legislation, legislation required unanimous support in order to pass, and once passed the national government had no authority to enforce the legislation with in a state.

The purpose was to prevent certain states from having control of the legislature to pass laws that weren’t fair to other states. The control was kept at the state level and they were joined together to assist one another for mutual and general welfare.

States began using their power to levy tariffs, but they weren’t levied equally, so low tariff states like Rhode Island started receiving more trade. This led other states to levy retaliatory tariffs against the goods that were favored by the low-tariff states. There was also a lot of dispute over who controlled rivers and ports. 

The high taxes in this difficult economy led to a high number of mortgage foreclosures. Debtors turned to mob action against their state legislatures. Shays Rebellion was one such action used to prevent the government from taking away farms. 

Under the Articles of Confederation, the national government had no power to intervene on behalf of the states. Each state was self-governed and there wasn’t a rule of law applied that would govern everyone equally. It was pretty much chaos and every one feared that what they had fought for was on the brink of destruction.

These are the historical events which led people like James Madison to call for a revision of the Articles of Confederation.

A More Perfect Union

We watched the video A More Perfect Union for American Foundations. It is a movie depicting the Continental Congress and what went into the creation of the Constitution.

I was surprised at how tenuous of an experience it was to get passed. There were many times it almost failed.

Something else that I was amazed by was how men stood up and voted against what they personally wanted because it was the right thing to do for America. One example is the discussion about slavery. The man who suggested doing away with it within a certain period of time was a slave owner and relied on that labor for his lively hood. He was willing to put God and Country ahead of his own personal wants and needs.

It was amazing how many times divine providence, prayer, our maker, and statements like that were made. Such a stark difference from what we see today.

You could literally see the hand of God working over this gathering of men. 

How Would I Amend the Constitution?

I was asked to answer this question:

Article 5 of the Constitution allows the states to convene another constitutional convention.  If such a meeting were held, and you were asked to be a delegate, what changes would you propose to the existing constitutional structure?

I would propose term limits on Senators and Congressmen. We have people who have served in those positions for 30 years. Yes, there is some benefit to longevity, however, they are out of touch with reality. They worried about a President becoming like a monarchy, I believe this has happened in some form with these lifetime senators and congressmen.

I would also propose that all Senators, Congressmen, President and Vice President, etc. must abide by any law passed by Congress. This means they would pay the same taxes and have the same healthcare as the people they pass the laws for.

I would also propose that Congress cannot vote themselves a raise. Those should be voted on by the people. None of us can vote ourselves a raise. They are supposed to be working for us. We should determine if they are doing a job worth getting a raise or not.

Monday, October 03, 2016

He will Succor His People

I had a hard time deciding what to discuss this week because there were so many awesome scriptures that we read. 

I finally chose Alma 7 because I love something I found in my scriptures about this.

In Alma 7:12 it says he will take upon him their infirmitiesthat he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

If you are like me, I always thought that succor meant to comfort. The dictionary says it is “assistance and support in times of hardship and distress.”  I had a note in my scriptures with this statement by Elder Holland which gives the word succor a much deeper meaning:

Succor is used often in the scriptures to describe Christ’s care for and attention to us. It means literally ‘to run to. What a magnificent way to describe the Savior’s urgent effort in our behalf. Even as he calls us to come to him and follow him, he is unfailingly running to help us.” [1]

Imagine that; the Savior is literally running to help us. Take a minute and actually picture that in your mind. I imagine him running to me and when he reaches me, he embraces me in a huge hug. That is absolutely a “magnificent” thought! Not only did Jesus Christ suffer all the pains and agonies of our lives, so that he could know how to succor us, but he is literally running to us to do it.

He has given us the means whereby we can receive support, comfort and understanding, and to be redeemed so that we may return to him.

Are we accepting his amazing gift with open arms?

[1] Jeffrey R. Holland, Mar 2, 97, CES Fireside “Come Unto Me”

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Salvation of Infants

As kind of a piggy back to this post, Article of Faith #2 can offer the world a whole lot of peace. 

I think specifically of mothers of babies who die in infancy, before the chance to have them baptized; mothers, and fathers, who think that their baby is lost and will never be in heaven, but instead in a dark and dreary state of limbo. I can’t imagine being a mother of an infant and thinking that this was the fate of my child.

We know from this Article of Faith that we are punished for our own sins and NOT for Adam’s transgressions. This means that babies aren’t born with “original sin” tarnishing their perfect beings. 

Babies who die in infancy are automatically with their God.

What an amazing doctrine to learn if you have never known this before. Jesus Christ Atoned for our sins. 

For all of our sins, everyone. 

This gives us the peace of knowing that we only bear the burden of our own sins.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Punished for Our Own Sins

Article of Faith #2: We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

While reading these scriptures through the lens of the second Article of Faith, some things really hit me differently.

Normally this passage in Nephi amazes me that a prophet of God would think himself a “wretched man.” This time I felt the words he spoke sounded like deeply fervent prayer. It seemed to me as though he was pleading with the Lord to save him from his weaknesses and praising Him for all the goodness He has bestowed upon him.

Keeping the commandments was the thing that stood out to me in Moses. Adam and Eve had been kicked out of the Garden but still looked to the Lord for guidance. When they received commandments, they obeyed and taught their children.

Something was also cleared up for me regarding the offerings of Cain and Abel. Cain was a gardener. Abel kept sheep. Cain gave the Lord some of what he produced with his labors. So did Abel. I always wondered why the Lord was so unhappy with Cain’s gift. Then it hit me. It wasn’t because he didn’t like the gift. It was because what they were giving the Lord was the “offering” of worship. God had commanded them to “offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord” for their worship. God was unhappy with Cain because he basically made a mockery of a sacred ritual.

Because we are going to be punished for our own sins, we need to do as Nephi and look to the Lord and pray fervently. We also need to do as Adam and Eve and obey the commandments.

2 Nephi 4:16-35
Moses 5:1-27

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Along the Road to Independence

The Patriot Philosophers had a positive outlook on mankind when determining the principles and structures of good government. They believed that True Liberty, which was the balance between absolute freedom (anarchy) and absolute order (tyranny), was possible through the Virtue of the People. They believed that certain positive qualities and characteristic had been implanted in the human soul and would lead the people to be able to exercise self-restraint to achieve True Liberty.

They espoused principles of both schools of thought: the Democratic principles of participation in government and protection of the people, and the Republican principle of representation where decision making authority is given to representatives of the people to make laws on their behalf.
They also believed in Natural Law – the will of God and His “higher law.” These concepts justified resistance and rebellion and their belief in the basic right to govern themselves.

The Colonists had a love, pride, and affection for Britain. After the war, a “pernicious project” adopted by Parliament to directly tax the colonists started the discontent. They felt their rights were being taken away. They weren’t consulted on taxes; their petitions for redress went ignored. After revolting the Stamp Act, Parliament made things worse with the Declaratory Act and the Coercive Acts in response to the Boston Tea Party. The Colonists still had the spirit of reconciliation in the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress, but Britain wasn’t listening. They actually sent out troops to destroy militia munitions and arrest the patriot leaders, leading to the battles at Lexington and Concord. This brought them to the Declaration for the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms, which by the way has some most excellent language, if not a bit of drama. The Colonists felt they had to choose between unconditional submission to “the tyranny of irritated ministersor resistance by force.  They resolved to “die free men rather than to live as slaves.”

Prior to Common Sense, independence wasn’t really discussed openly – it was still considered treason. Common Sense pointed out why rule by king and monarchy was basically a ridiculous idea. Because it was accessible to everyone, the common working folk and not just the upper class, it became a widely accepted topic of conversation. It said what everyone was feeling; “that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still,” and got the people talking about it.

The Declaration of Independence was basically an indictment of the King and Parliament listing all of their offenses and violations of the “inalienable rights” of the Colonists. It then showed that based on those things, the Colonists were rightfully declaring their independence from Britain.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Beguile - The Deeper Meaning

In Moses we read of Satan seeking to beguile Eve, “for he knew not the mind of God.”[1] Satan wanted to destroy agency from the get-go by forcing everyone to return to Heaven and receiving the glory of not losing any of God’s children. We know how that ended.

Then we read “it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men.”[2] Here is Satan, trying to undermine God’s plan, but actually playing into it because he didn’t know the mind of God.

I pondered the word beguile. Most people say it means deceived or fooled. I have this note in my scriptures: Beguiled is an ancient Hebrew word not commonly used. Satan gave her a complex scenario. Eve had a decision to make.

I found an article wherein a Hebrew scholar, Dr. Nehama Aschkenasy, told the writer that the Hebrew word interpreted as "beguiled" is a “rare verb form of unusual depth and richness … no longer in use, [and] almost impossible to translate. ‘It is safe to say that it indicates an intense multi-level experience which evokes great emotional, psychological and/or spiritual trauma’ … and ‘makes it clear that Eve was motivated by a complex set of inner drives, anchored not only in her physical but also in her intellectual and spiritual nature.’ … She further suggests that because of this intense multi-level experience, Eve is caused to step back, reevaluate, reassess, and ponder the tree of knowledge of good and evil.[3]

Those who attend the temple experience this view of Eve. We are blessed to know that she was a woman of great courage and spiritual insight which allowed her to make the choice she had to make.

[1] Moses 4:6 And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world.
[2] D&C 29:39 And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet—
[3] Beverly Campbell, Mother Eve Mentor ForToday’s Woman: A Heritage of Honor, April 2, 1993, 11th annual conference of Collegium Aesculapium in Salt Lake City, Utah 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

True Liberty

We talk about liberty in this country, but how did the Founding Fathers define True Liberty? 

True Liberty is the middle ground between absolute freedom and complete control. On the one hand, with absolute freedom - there is anarchy, on the other, with complete control -  there is tyranny. 

They believed that when the people are living honest and virtuous lives, less control has to be exerted over them. This is True Liberty. The less honest and virtuous people are, the more control has to be put in place and liberty is lost.

This comes full circle back to agency and accountability. When people use their agency well and are accountable for their actions, they have liberty. 

Popular Sovereignty

Popular Sovereignty is the concept that the government will act based on the will of the people. 

This is a basic tenet of The Constitution. 

The power comes from the base of the people up to the government, not down from on high such as with a monarchy. 

I believe that this base of power has become flipped over. 

Under the guise of protection, better education, better health, etc., the government is pushing things down on the people. The government has become corrupt and beholden to special interest groups and a few people in power who want to change the face of America.