Why Boyd K. Packer Is My Hero

July 31, 2005

Years ago, beginning in the summer of 1992, I participated on Mormon-L, the first email discussion list for Mormons on the Internet. It was hosted on the BYU mainframes. Over the following year of actively contributing, I learned that many of the most active list participants were enthusiastic friends of Signature Books and Sunstone Magazine. Almost to a man, these Signaturi, as I came to think of them, adored the homosexual apostate, D. Michael Quinn, who was once a professor at BYU before he was first fired and then excommunicated. Another quality this “in crowd” shared was a universal hatred of Boyd K. Packer, the man who is now the the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve.

It was in September of 1993 that the “spirit of criticism” towards our Church leaders became the most intense. That was the month that the notorious September Six were excommunicated for apostasy. And these critics, dissidents really, blamed Elder Packer for these excommunications. D. Michael Quinn was among those excommunicated, and they were outraged.

During the months leading up to these excommunications, Elder Packer gave a talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council in which he identified three dangers which had made major invasions into the Church. He said these three serious threats to the Church membership were the “gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.” Someone posted his talk, and the whole list exploded into the most horrific flame war I’ve ever seen on the Internet. And believe me, I’ve seen a lot of flame wars. I’ve even started a few of them myself.

Guess what the topic was? This flame war went on for about six months, generating enormous amounts of traffic, and it was an argument over whether or not Elder Packer was a fascist. During those months it was common to hear the Brethren in Salt Lake City compared with the Kremlin, the KGB and Hitler’s henchmen. Another favorite comparison was to the Borg of Star Trek fame. Finally, the apostasy on the list became so bad that it came to the attention of the school administration, and the list was kicked off the BYU computers. It was immediately restarted on an off-campus server, and it has continued to thrive to this day. Currently it is hosted at SmartGroups. It continues to be a very large list with many members and a lot of traffic.

The thing that I found most remarkable in all of this was that for the most part, these “saints” claimed to be faithful, active members of the Church. Yet on the list, a person could make a derogatory remark about any of our prophet-leaders with hardly a word of protest. But the slightest criticism of a popular Sunstone or Signature Books author would cause a great chorus of righteous indignation. Who did these “faithful, active members of the Church” think they were kidding?

Anyway, it took me about a year to fully understand what was going on with this list. Until this talk, the “spirit of criticism” was more or less covert. But this talk outed these dissidents until they were coming out of the woodwork like so many cockroaches. Finally, because this talk was so polarizing, it was easy to see who was on the Lord’s side, and who was working for the other team.

Ever since then, Elder Boyd K. Packer has been my hero because he has the moral courage to make himself a lightening rod for all the hatred that surely pours daily from dissidents within the Church, the wolves in sheep’s clothing that the Savior referred to in his Sermon on the Mount. (Matt. 7:15)

Does Drinking Cola Violate the Word of Wisdom?

July 28, 2005

Upfront I want to confess that I am terribly addicted to Coca-Cola, and I have been for many years. So in what I write here, no one should suppose that I am pointing the finger at them by condemning cola drinking. For me to do so would be gross hypocrisy. But I happen to believe that the Lord doesn’t want me to drink colas. And I think he will rejoice for me when I am able to finally put the addiction forever behind me. Doing so is repentance that I have been procrastinating, and the Lord has taught us in numerous ways that procrastinating repentance is a bad idea. With that said, let me ask the question:

Does drinking cola violate the Word of Wisdom?

Technically it does not, and modern prophets have confirmed this. Further, drinking them will not keep one out of the temple. But for many they are habit forming, and the prophets of God have counseled us to avoid cola drinks. Here are some quotes with sources:

From the Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball:“Wisdom goes beyond the letter of the law. Generally when we speak of the Word of Wisdom, we are talking about tea, coffee, tobacco, and liquor, and all of the fringe things even though they might be detrimental are not included in the technical interpretation of the Word of Wisdom. I never drink any of the cola drinks and my personal hope would be that no one would. However, they are not included in the Word of Wisdom in its technical application. I quote from a letter from the secretary to the First Presidency, “But the spirit of the Word of Wisdom would be violated by the drinking or eating of anything that contained a habit-forming drug.” With reference to the cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken any attitude on this, but I personally do not put them in the class as with the tea and coffee because the Lord specifically mentioned them [the hot drinks].”

From the Teachings of Howard W. Hunter:

“The prophets have taught that we should not partake of tea, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, or any substance that contains illegal drugs or harmful or habit-forming ingredients. In a world where so much of this is both acceptable and accessible, we encourage you to walk squarely on the Lord’s side of the line. Do not tamper with any of these substances, nor similar products which give the ‘appearance of evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5:22). (94-11)”

From Gospel Ideals: Selections from the Discourses of David O. McKay:

“Any physiology book will tell you how nicotine may harm the body, particularly how injurious is its effect upon the young. Science demonstrates that, too, but there is a greater reason why young people especially should not indulge in cigaret smoking or in habit-forming drinks—because as children of God they should not be slaves to an appetite.—DNCS, August 8, 1951.”

From Teachings of Howard W. Hunter:

“Live the spirit of the Word of Wisdom. We complicate the simplicity of the Word of Wisdom. The Lord said don’t drink tea, coffee, or use tobacco or liquor and that admonition is simple. But we confuse it by asking if cola drinks are against the Word of Wisdom. The 89th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants doesn’t say anything about cola drinks, but we ask questions that go beyond the simplicity of the lesson that has been taught. We know that caffeine is taken out of coffee and used as an ingredient of cola drinks. It seems to me that if we really want to live the spirit of the law we probably wouldn’t partake of that which had been taken from what we were told not to drink. (79-09)”

From Joseph Fielding Smith’s Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 5:

“Use of Cola Drinks and Playing Games of Chance

Question: ‘Please enlighten me in relation to the use of cola drinks and the playing of bingo games at parties given by members of the Church. Our neighborhood is starting a group of wives who will play once a month, and each person will bring one small item to be played for. I do not like to go and would like to know our policy in relation to such gatherings or groups.’

Answer: Time is precious and should be occupied in some useful pursuit or study in which the mind may be enlightened and spirituality increased. While there is no objection to the brethren and sisters meeting together from time to time to engage in some relaxation, the devoting of the time to some foolish practice as the playing of cards or games of chance is contrary to the spirit and teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I was definitely informed by a chemist that the cola drinks are just as harmful as tea or coffee, and his advice was to leave all such substances alone.”

I see a pattern developing here, do you? Is it a commandment of Jesus Christ to follow prophetic counsel? Well, it isn’t one of the Ten Commandments, if that is what you are asking. But I seem to remember a scripture that commands us to “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” (D&C 84:44) But how can we tell if these words proceed forth from the mouth of God? Well, is it wise counsel or not? Is it true? Moroni teaches that every good thing comes from God. (Moroni 7:16-17) That would include wise and true counsel, wouldn’t it?

So what is the answer? The answer to the question, “Do cola drinks violate the Word of Wisdom,” is no. Technically they don’t. But for those people who find them habit forming, it most definitely violates wisdom. Are we commanded to be wise? As I read the scriptures, we are commanded to seek wisdom. That is the same thing, isn’t it?

Whether drinking cola violates the Lord’s commandment to be wise depends in large part on how seriously one takes prophetic counsel. Those who cling to the wise counsel of Christ’s true prophets will find the Lord’s will behind the counsel we have received to avoid cola drinks. Those who have less confidence in living prophets can do as they please, interpreting the Word of Wisom in a narrow, technical sense.

For myself, and only for myself, I hope this little self-talk will strenthen my desire to finally overcome the habit that I am still a slave to.

Whose Fault Is the Retention Problem?

July 28, 2005

Dave, over at Dave’s Mormon Inquiry has started an interesting discussion on the recent news article in the Salt Lake Tribune reporting that Church growth seems to have flattened out over the last decade. Part of that decline in Church growth is caused by a serious problem we are having with retaining in activity those that we do baptize. Members are dropping out as fast or faster than they are coming in. What is the solution to this problem? Whose fault is it anyway?

Dave seems to think that running the Church as a corporation is part of the problem, and that things would improve if there was a mandatory retirement age for our General Authorities. One of those who commented on Dave’s post writes, “I can’t see how SLC isn’t the principle blame for the current trends.” Another commenter disagrees, saying that the membership is to blame because they are struggling with an increase in spiritual problems that distract them from missionary work.

I tend to agree that the problem lies not with the leadership but with our failure to follow their counsel more carefully. In my comment to the thread I said:

I like Brent’s thoughts on this matter. I have also thought that the problem might be the rank and file membership rather than the leaders. I think that the members need to follow their leaders more closely, especially when they are asked to pray more, pray more fervently, and search the scriptures more.Elder Holland gave a conference talk on the retention problem a number of years ago. He pointed out that many members who become inactive are simply not being spiritually fed in our Church meetings. He said that “theological twinkies” are not an adequate substitute for the scriptures in our talks and lessons. By “twinkies” he meant the cute little stories that we hear so often in our meetings.

If the members knew their scriptures better, they would do a better job of incorporating those scriptures into their talks and lessons. Then the Holy Ghost would be more likely to testify to the congregation that what they were hearing is true. The result would be much more spiritually satisfying meetings. We must preach the gospel when we speak and teach lessons, and we can’t do that unless we know the scriptures better.

A related stumbling block that is interferring with the spirituality of our meetings is personal worthiness. I’ve been doing some research on the impact that Internet pornography is having on the Church membership; and if we can believe Internet usage statistics, and the counsel of our Church leaders, pornography has become a terrible problem among active members, largely because of the Internet. Needless to say, this is going to have a negative impact on our personal spirituality that will inevitably be reflected in our Church meetings. Without the Spirit, we cannot learn what we should from the scriptures even when we do study them. And the Spirit is not going to abide with us if we are using pornography.

Add to that the influence of television, much of which is pornographic to a degree. Americans don’t read as much as they used to, largely because of the proliferation of nonprint media. We are becoming a nation of vidiots or video idiots, and this is just as true of Mormons as Americans in general. Young people especially do not read as much as those in previous generations. Is this going to impact our reading of the scriptures? Of course it is. And unless we really love and learn the scriptures, our talks and lessons are going to be shallow and uninspiring. And the result? Those who attend Church are going to find our meetings boring and otherwise unfulfilling. All we get is going to be milk, because hardly anyone is qualified to give us the meat. Why even bother going to Church when that happens?

I think this is a problem with the membership, not the leadership. I have heard our leaders constantly ask us to study the scriptures more, to avoid pornography, to seek the Spirit in our lives, to preach the gospel using the scriptures when we speak in Sacrament Meeting, to turn off our televisions and read more. It is not as if we were not being taught these things. We just aren’t following very well, and we can do much better. If we don’t, the problem of retention is only going to grow worse. And the Church will continue to struggle in its missionary work. When investigators and new members come out to Church, we have to have something for them. If we don’t, they will stop coming.

I think that one of the benefits of blogging, if we stay focused on the gospel, is that it motivates us to dig through our scriptures looking for doctrines and principles that buttress our opinions. If we can’t find it, then maybe we ought to rethink our position. For every person chopping at the root of our Church problems, there are a thousand hacking at the leaves. The scriptures can point us to the root.

Millennial Star – On Being Offended

July 28, 2005

There is an interesting thread over at the Millennial Star on the topic of generalizations and how making them can often offend others who feel they are being targeted for not fitting some generalized ideal. One of the examples given is statements that past presidents of the Church have made about the morality of birth control measures. Apparently, on a previous thread someone had made strong statements against birth control based upon prophetic utterance, and someone decided that a finger was being pointed at them.

This brings up a whole host of questions in my mind. When is it appropriate to get offended by someone? Is judging others a sin? If so, is it a minor sin like drinking a Coke, or a major sin like lying or stealing? How important is it to tippy-toe around gospel topics in fear of offending someone, keeping in mind that in a sufficiently large group it is almost certain that someone will be easily offended?

And how about birth control? Is it more acceptable to the Lord today than it used to be? It is clear that the prophets don’t speak out against it in the same strong and clear language that they used to. It is a fact that Americans in general, and American Latter-day Saints in particular don’t have as many children per family as they once did. Is this a decline in fertility, or are their social and cultural reasons for this? And what might those reasons be? Are Latter-day Saints who claim to be the Lord’s covenant people justified in adopting so closely the culture of the greater society? Does American affluence and materialism have anything to do with this? Why can so many poor families living in Mexico afford large families, while many relatively wealthy families in the USA struggle to support even small families? Is it a difference in the value that the respective cultures place upon children and family life? Or are there other, more important reasons?

Finally, how important is personal revelation in considering these topics? When a person is faced with a decision whether or not gospel teaching applies to his specific situation, should his first assumption be that he is an exception to the rule. Or should he assume that the rule applies to him unless he receives specific revelation that it does not?

I find these questions interesting because my own lifestyle has deviated substantially from the gospel ideal in a number of areas. For instance, I was the stay-at-home parent throughout the years that my children were being reared while my wife earned the living. There were substantial economic and health reasons for this; but had there been no divine assurance that I was pursuing a course that was pleasing to my Father in Heaven, could I have justified my deviating from the ideal family based upon my own logic and reasoning alone? My life has deviated from the gospel ideal in a number of other ways too. Should I be content that my individual situation justifies me, or do I need to repent? Can I even know without personal revelation? Repentance is never easy, and sometimes it is not even possible in the sense that we cannot always undo damage that we have done. But rationalizations don’t always bring about desired results either.

At the end of the day, I cannot imagine being wise enough to make life’s choices without personal revelation. I know that there are many in the world who seem to do just fine without it, but I would feel hopelessly incompetent without the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I barely feel competent much of the time as it is. Life can seem so overwhelming. Without my faith in Christ and his prophets, I would be utterly lost.

How To Spot An Apostate

July 25, 2005

Mormons who use the Internet are constantly exposed to spiritual dangers such as pornography, anti-Mormon propaganda, false doctrine, and false philosophies. Some of this material is very well written, subtle and persuasive. Some of these false teachers are openly anti-Mormon, often atheists and some Evangelical Christians. But there are others who hide their true intent. Some even pose as faithful members of the Church in order to deceive. Fortunately, the Savior has provided us with effective ways to protect ourselves. Personal revelation combined with counsel from the scriptures and the living prophets make it possible for us to spot these false teachers.

Here is a wonderful talk by Elder M. Russel Ballard called “Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers.” He writes:

Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They “set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Ne. 26:29).[…]

False prophets and false teachers are those who declare that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a duplicitous deceiver; they challenge the First Vision as an authentic experience. They declare that the Book of Mormon and other canonical works are not ancient records of scripture. They also attempt to redefine the nature of the Godhead, and they deny that God has given and continues to give revelation today to His ordained and sustained prophets.

Elder Ballard also reviews many of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostle Paul about false doctrine that will be taught in the last days. Here on the Internet we are seeing these prophecies being fulfilled before our eyes.

In another Conference address, Elder Dallin H. Oaks talks about “Alternate Voices” that we hear in Church, in unofficial publications targeted to a Mormon audience, and here on the Internet. He observes:

Some alternate voices are those of well-motivated men and women who are merely trying to serve their brothers and sisters and further the cause of Zion. Their efforts fit within the Lord’s teaching that his servants should not have to be commanded in all things, but “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27.)[…]

Some alternate voices are of those whose avowed or secret object is to deceive and devour the flock. The Good Shepherd warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7:15; see also 3 Ne. 14:15.) In both the Bible and the Book of Mormon the Savior charged his shepherds to watch over and protect the flock from such wolves. (See Acts 20:28–29; Alma 5:59.)

There have always been alternate voices whose purpose or effect is to deceive. Their existence is part of the Plan. The prophet Lehi taught that there “must needs be … an opposition in all things.” (2 Ne. 2:11; italics added.) And there have always been other alternate voices whose purpose or effect is unselfish and wholesome.

In most instances, alternate voices are heard in the same kinds of communications the Church uses to perform its mission. The Church has magazines and other official publications, a newspaper supplement, letters from Church leaders, general conferences, and regular meetings and conferences in local units. Similarly, alternate voices are heard in magazines, journals, and newspapers and at lectures, symposia, and conferences.

He goes on to point out that the Church does not try to isolate its members from these alternate voices, but that it teaches correct principles so that the members can choose for themselves between truth and falsehood.

What are some of those correct principles? Here are several of them.

First, each member should continually ask himself, “How does this opinion square with what is taught in the scriptures and by the living prophets?” False doctrine and false philosophy will always contradict the truth of God as taught by his chosen prophets. Sometimes the contradiction is subtle, and it will take mental effort to discern it; but if the teaching is false, it will always contradict true doctrine. Of course, this method of discernment only works if one knows the scriptures and the teachings of the modern prophets. That is why it is so important to gain gospel knowledge by searching the scriptures daily and carefully listening to the counsel of our Church leaders.

Second, we must continually seek the companionship of the Holy Ghost so that we can receive personal revelation. We do this by daily repenting of our sins, and doing our best to keep all of the commandments. Only by receiving frequent personal revelation is it possible for us to think clearly about the things of God. We won’t even know when a doctrine or philosophy contradicts the scriptures and the prophets unless we receive personal revelation.

Third, listen for a “spirit of criticism” towards our Church leaders. While many who teach false doctrine do so out of ignorance, others know that their opinions are at odds with the Brethren. This often manifests itself in a critical attitude towards them. They look for mistakes and errors. And since our Church leaders are human beings and fallible, they make mistakes like anyone else. But those who have embraced false ideas and promote them on the Internet, seem to enjoy shining a light on their every failure and misstatement. They go over all their talks and writings with a fine toothed comb looking for something they can find fault with. They ignore the good our leaders do, and the correct things they say, then jump on any evidence they can find that is embarrasing to them. They especially like to dig through Church history books looking for evidence against them. A careful study of the scriptures will reveal that this “spirit of criticism” is a sure sign of personal apostasy. Satan hates Jesus Christ and his prophets. He hates the truth. And those who follow Satan in mortality, wittingly or unwittingly, also hate the truth. And as a consequence, they are offended by true prophets because of the truth they teach. And this is revealed in their attitude towards the Brethren. True disciples of Jesus Christ love the Brethren, and find joy in following them as the chosen shepherds they are. While those possessing a spirit of criticism are often the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” spoken of by the Savior in Matt. 7:15.

Other fine talks on false doctrine are found here, here and here.

Our Savior loves us. We don’t have to stumble around in the dark. It is possible to learn true doctrine and recognize false doctrine when we encounter it on the Internet. Because of the widespread availability of information on the Internet it is easier than ever before to learn the truth about God and our relationship with him. But there is also a lot of inaccurate and false information floating around. False doctrine and the false “precepts of men” are being taught online, too. But if we judge all the opinions we hear by comparing them with the scriptures and the prophets, if we seek and receive personal revelation by keeping the commandments, and if we are alert and listen carefully for that “spirit of criticism” toward the Brethren that characterizes the enemies of Christ, there is very little chance that we will be led astray and deceived into believing that which is false to be true, that which is bad to be good, or that which is wrong to be right.

I hope that no one loses his testimony on the Internet. It doesn’t have to happen.

The Three Greatest Truths of Eternity

July 21, 2005

To summarize the teaching of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, the three greatest of all truths are: 1) God is an actual person with a body of flesh and bones, rather than a “spirit essence that fills immensity.” 2)That through the atonement and grace of Jesus Christ, all men may be saved from sin if they have enough faith in Him to truly repent. And 3) God continues to give revelation to men today by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Conversly, the three greatest lies or heresies taught in the world by those who are ignorant of the truth, are the denial of these three truths. Namely, that God is not an actual person of flesh and bone, that men do not have to repent to receive forgiveness of sin, and that God no longer speaks to mankind today through prophets by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Elder McConkie does not use exactly these words in describing these three great truths and heresies, but he says essentially the same thing here:

From Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, pp. 47-4:Three Greatest Truths—and Heresies—of Eternity

We start with God, our Heavenly Father, who is here named God the first, the Creator. And we have to understand that he is a holy and perfected and exalted person (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938], pp. 345-46); that he is a being in whose image man is created (Gen. 1:26-27); that he has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s (D&C 130:22); and that we are literally his spirit children (Num. 16:22; Heb. 12:9), the Lord Jesus being the firstborn (D&C 93:21; Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15). I suggest that the greatest truth in all eternity, bar none, is that there is a God in heaven who is a personal being, in whose image man is made, and that we are his spirit children. We must build on that rock foundation before any progression ever begins in the spiritual realm. We first believe in God our Heavenly Father.

I suggest also that the greatest heresy that was ever devised by an evil power was the heresy that defines the nature and kind of being that God is as a spirit essence that fills immensity; as a being without body, parts or passions; as something that is incomprehensible, uncreated, and unknowable. The greatest truth is God; the greatest heresy is the doctrine that recites the opposite of the truth as to God’s person.

I suggest that the second greatest truth in all eternity is that Christ our Lord is the Redeemer; that he was foreordained in the councils of eternity to come down here and work out the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice (Isa. 53; Rev. 13:8); that because of what he did we are ransomed from the effects of the temporal and spiritual death that came into the world by the fall of Adam (2 Ne-2:19-25; 1 Cor. 15:21-22). And all of us have the hope, the potential, the possibility, to gain eternal life in addition to immortality, meaning that we can become like God our Heavenly Father (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938], pp. 346-48). That is the second greatest truth in all eternity.

The second greatest heresy in all eternity is the doctrine that denies the divine sonship, that sets up a system that says you can give lip service to the name of Christ, but you are saved by grace alone without efforts and without work on your part.

I suggest, conformable to what the Prophet said about God the third, who is the Witness or Testator, that the third greatest truth in all eternity is that the Holy Spirit of God, a personage of spirit, a member of the Godhead, has power to reveal eternal truth to the heart and soul and mind of man. And that revelation—known first as a testimony, and then known as the general receipt of truth in the spiritual field—that testimony is the great thing that man needs to lead him on a course back to our Father in Heaven.

Since that is the third greatest truth in all eternity, it follows that the third greatest and third most serious heresy in all eternity is the doctrine that denies that the Holy Spirit of God reveals truth to the human soul, and that denies that there are gifts of the Spirit, that there are miracles and powers and graces and good things that the Lord by his Spirit pours out upon mortal men.

I testify that these things are true. Elder McConkie was speaking as a prophet when he spoke these words. The Holy Ghost will testify of the truthfulness of these doctrines to any honest seeker who has a genuine desire to know the truth.

What is wrong with libertarian philosophy?

July 19, 2005

For years I was seduced by the philosophy of modern libertarianism. I found the arguments against so-called victimless crime laws particularly compelling. But I was puzzled by the fact that the Lord’s prophets supported the amendment to the US Constitution establishing Prohibition, and they opposed the amendment repealing it. If God was for freedom and liberty, shouldn’t his prophets have opposed Prohibition and favored its repeal? Why were the Lord’s prophets championing the devil’s cause against freedom of choice? This seeming contradiction bothered me a lot for quite a few years. Do we not revere the Founding Fathers of the United States as wise men raised up by God, and were they not the first libertarians?

I was also puzzled by the fact that the literature of modern libertarianism does not quote much from our nation’s Founders, or spend much time reading their writings and philosophy. In fact, the writings of our Founding Fathers are conspicuous by their absence from libertarian literature. In contrast, our Church leaders from the days of Joseph Smith have taught that we should study the writings of the Founders, and have quoted from them.

So what is the resolution to this contradiction in philosophy between the writings of our Founders and our Church leaders on the one hand, and the philosophy of modern libertarianism on the other? I finally figured it out one day as I was reading The Second Treatise on Government by John Locke who was the philosophical father of our Founders. In Chapter II, Section 6, Locke writes:

Sec. 6. But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of licence: though man in that state have an uncontroulable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it. The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our’s. Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.

Voila! The contradiction is resolved. Our Founding Fathers were true libertarians. Modern libertarians are not. They have made a fundamental error.

On the one hand, modern libertarians teach as a most fundamental principle that each man belongs to himself, and that therefore no man and consequently no government has a right to impose his will on another except to defend himself from another doing so to him. A man’s right to swing his fist extends only as far as the end of another man’s nose. On the other hand, John Locke, true libertarians, the prophets of God, and our national Founding Fathers teach that men do not belong to themselves but to God who created us, and that all our rights originate with Him as stated so eloquently in our Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Hence we see that modern libertarian philosophy is false. It is Godless, atheistic, materialist and secularist. And in these qualities it resembles Marxist communism which inevitably results in totalitarianism.

Does an acknowledgement of God as the source of our rights violate the principles of freedom upon which the United States is founded? No it does not. Indeed, all of our Founders were strongly influenced by the philosophy of John Locke. That philosophy is embodied in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence. And it is implied throughout the US Constitution which is the supreme law of the land. We can be sure of this because those same men who signed the Declaration of Independence, and in many cases shed their own blood so that Americans can live free of foreign tyranny, were the men who brought forth the Constitution and the new American republic. They were students of John Locke and believed that men belong to their Creator, and not to themselves.

Does this understanding and philosophy violate the separation of Church and state? Not if it doesn’t establish a state church or religion as prohibited by the Bill of Rights. Of this we may be certain because these same students of John Locke, and authors of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, are the men who gave us the Bill of Rights which guarantee us our freedom of religion.

It is astounding how true libertarianism has been corrupted in our own day to obscure this basic truth, that men belong not to themselves but to their Creator from whom all men obtain their rights.

Why is the pro-choice position wrong?

July 19, 2005

Frequently we hear in Mormon circles that while the overwhelming majority of abortions are an abomination in the eyes of God, civil laws against it are a violation of the divine principle of free agency. Hence, the pro-life position is the “devil’s plan” to force God’s children to do the right thing. Freedom of choice is the Lord’s plan, or in other words, pro-choice. What is wrong with this line of reasoning? Can a person oppose abortion and still be pro-choice? Elder Dallin H. Oaks explains the sophistry involved in this kind of fallacious thinking in his BYU address, Weightier Matters. Among other things he says:

“If we say we are anti-abortion in our personal life but pro-choice in public policy, we are saying that we will not use our influence to establish public policies that encourage righteous choices on matters God’s servants have defined as serious sins. I urge Latter-day Saints who have taken that position to ask themselves which other grievous sins should be decriminalized or smiled on by the law on this theory that persons should not be hampered in their choices. Should we decriminalize or lighten the legal consequences of child abuse? of cruelty to animals? of pollution? of fraud? of fathers who choose to abandon their families for greater freedom or convenience?Similarly, some reach the pro-choice position by saying we should not legislate morality. Those who take this position should realize that the law of crimes legislates nothing but morality. Should we repeal all laws with a moral basis so our government will not punish any choices some persons consider immoral? Such an action would wipe out virtually all of the laws against crimes.”

Other topics that Elder Oaks addresses in this wonderful talk include the poor thinking that frequently accompanies calls for diversity and tolerance.

It is my opinion that a saint who appeals to libertarian philosophy to justify his stand against anti-abortion laws, claiming that such laws violate the fundamental principle of separation of Church and state, is being seduced by the fundamental error of modern libertarianism which I have outlined in another post. He is failing to acknowledge that our constitutionally guaranteed rights originate with our Creator, and that an acknowledgement of Him does not violate the the First Amendment so long as it does not establish a state church or religion.

The devil has great power to deceive, and he does continually corrupt our understanding of true philosophy.

Will McConkie’s Prophecy Come True?

July 16, 2005

In April General Conference of 1980, Elder Bruce R. McConkie made some prophesies relating to the future of the world and the Latter-day Saints. Will these prophesies come true?

“Nor are the days of our greatest sorrows and our deepest sufferings all behind us. They too lie ahead. We shall yet face greater perils, we shall yet be tested with more severe trials, and we shall yet weep more tears of sorrow than we have ever known before.””We see the Lord break down the barriers so that the world of Islam and the world of Communism can hear the message of the restoration; and we glory in the fact that Ishmael—as well as Isaac—and Esau—as well as Jacob—shall have an inheritance in the eternal kingdom.”

“We see evil forces everywhere uniting to destroy the family, to ridicule morality and decency, to glorify all that is lewd and base. We see wars and plagues and pestilence. Nations rise and fall. Blood and carnage and death are everywhere. Gadianton robbers fill the judgment seats in many nations. An evil power seeks to overthrow the freedom of all nations and countries. Satan reigns in the hearts of men; it is the great day of his power.”

“Truly the world is and will be in commotion, but the Zion of God will be unmoved. The wicked and ungodly shall be swept from the Church, and the little stone will continue to grow until it fills the whole earth.”

“The way ahead is dark and dreary and dreadful. There will yet be martyrs; the doors in Carthage shall again enclose the innocent. We have not been promised that the trials and evils of the world will entirely pass us by.”

These are just a few interesting quotes from the talk. The whole thing is worth reading.

I especially found interesting his prediction that the “wicked and ungodly shall be swept from the Church.” Are the wicked and ungodly really that big a problem in today’s Church? How are they to be swept out? By excommunication? I used to think that perhaps the Lord would reveal some doctrine that was really offensive to members who do not have strong testimonies, restoring plural marriage perhaps. But over the years I have come to think that something else is even more probable: the Internet! I think that the Internet is going to cleanse the Church of those who do not have strong testimonies. With the emergence of the Internet, anti-Mormons, former Mormons, dissidents within the Church, and crusading apostates have found a way to publish their filthy, lying propaganda far more effectively than ever before.

In the past, they haven’t been able to reach the saints at Church very well. And unless one lives in central Utah, the saints are not much exposed to apostate books and magazines on the newsstands and in bookstores. But here on the Internet they are free to serve the devil with great cunning and craftiness, preaching false doctrine, spreading a spirit of criticism towards the Brethren, and deliberately undermining the testimonies of the saints.

Are they effective? You bet they are. Large numbers of saints are leaving the Church because of the Internet. If you don’t believe me, just do a Google search on the term “Mormon” and see how highly ranked the most prominent apostate websites are. One of them is ranked right up there at the top just under the three main Church websites. Search other popular keywords such as LDS, Joseph Smith, and Book of Mormon. You will find that apostates and other anti-Mormons have websites that rank highly there too. The same is true on the other major search engines. And nearly everyone who uses the Internet rely on these major search engines.

So how many saints will remain after these apostates and dissidents have done their evil work? No one knows. But of one thing we may be sure. The remaining saints will be those who receive personal revelation, the true and faithful, the steadfast, and those who are valiant in the testimony of Jesus. Satan rages in the hearts of men and women across the Internet. But so does the spirit of the Lord among those who are the humble followers of Jesus Christ.

Marvelous New Source of Mormon Studies Links

July 13, 2005

Jonathan Stapley, who writes the Splendid Sun blog, has compiled a marvelous set of Mormon Studies links which are organized by type of resource. See if you can find something new here. And if you are aware of something that should be added, post the link in the comments section. I know that I will find these links useful. I already have.