From Hill to Hill, Part 3: The Barbaric Other

But before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose. (D&C 49:24)

This post is Part 3 in a series regarding the message and the challenge that the Restored Gospel raises against the contemporary political establishment of the United States of America.

The story of the Book of Mormon largely revolves around centuries of conflict between two peoples – the Nephites and the Lamanites. Consisting of the descendants of Nephi and those who followed him, the Nephites were a fair-skinned people who are initially characterized by a belief in the Christian God, an agrarian lifestyle, and an appreciation for written language and astronomy. After a few generations in the New World, they even abolished monarchical rule and established a republic. The Lamanites consisted collectively of the dark-skinned descendants of Nephi’s brother Laman and those who followed him, Nephite dissenters, and, most likely, transplants from other nations and peoples. They outnumbered the Nephites, and this fact led to much fear: the danger of a possible Lamanite invasion is a hammer constantly hanging over the Nephite people for much of the record. However, despite a few instances in which the Lamanites managed to pillage, enslave, and kill groups of Nephites, for centuries, the Nephite people remained largely free of Lamanite influence thanks to a stronger source of motivation, superior weapons and tactics, and the grace of God. Indeed, with two Nephite dissenters at one point rising to become successive kings over the Lamanites, it is clear that, despite their smaller numbers, the Nephites had more cultural influence over the Lamanites than the Lamanites had over the Nephites.

Some read synopses of the Book of Mormon and immediately pass judgment upon it as a racist book, as it supposedly suggests that dark-skinned people are inferior to light-skinned people. However, a more careful reading of the text shows that this is not the case. Indeed, it does not take long for the prophets among the Nephites to point out instances in which the Lamanites were actually more righteous than the Lamanites. Jacob, brother of Nephi, said that the Lamanites had stronger families than the Nephites (Jacob 3:5-7). When a large body of Lamanites – called the Ammonites – converted to Christianity and had to flee Lamanite lands to live with the Nephites, they were clearly identified as being more righteous than the Nephites. Helaman, leading their young men into battle, said that they were more courageous than any Nephites (Alma 56:45). Eventually, the Lamanites as a whole became more righteous than the Nephites (Helaman 6:1). When the Gadiantons, an organization of outlaws and manipulative conspirators, grew to become a great threat to both the Lamanites and the Nephites, the Lamanites were able to destroy the organization by either convincing them to change their ways or killing them, but the Nephites were not so successful due to their tendency to partake in the corruption of the Gadiantons (Helaman 36:37-38). While it is true that the Nephites are clearly described as being more cultured and technological in the early part of the record, one would miss the message of the Book of Mormon entirely by taking this as a suggestion that light-skinned people are superior to dark-skinned people. The true gauge of superiority is not technology or culture, but righteousness.

At a time when the conflict and ethnic strife between the Nephites and Lamanites was at its height, the sons of King Mosiah, having experienced a great change of heart due to an angelic encounter, decided to go forth among the Lamanites to preach the Gospel. Hearing of this intent, their Nephite friends tried to dissuade them. Ammon, one of the sons of Mosiah, later recounted these warnings:

For they said unto us: Do ye suppose that ye can bring the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers, as stiffnecked a people as they are; whose hearts delight in the shedding of blood; whose days have been spent in the grossest iniquity; whose ways have been the ways of a transgressor from the beginning? Now my brethren, ye remember that this was their language. (Alma 26:24)

Such concerns were not unfounded. The Lamanites hated the Nephites, having frequently expressed this hatred through countless attacks and raids. How could Ammon and his brothers have expected to receive anything but animus and abuse from a people who hated his people so much? And yet, they went. They preached, and they did suffer persecution, but by the time they were done preaching, an entire province of Lamanites – the aforementioned Ammonites – had converted to Christianity and had become the friends of the Nephites.

As the Lamanites came to learn the Gospel and grew in their understanding of the things of God, prophets began to arise from among them. Just as Nephite prophets had called Lamanites to repentance years before, these Lamanite prophets crossed over to preach to the Nephites, who had grown haughty, prideful, decadent, and vain. The most memorable of these was a prophet named Samuel. Traveling to the Nephite capital of Zarahemla, Samuel scaled the wall of the city and began to cry repentance to the people. Certainly, seeing his dark skin and his clothing, many of the people were immediately incensed at the audacity of this Lamanite. Who did he think he was? The Gospel had gone from the Nephites to the Lamanites, after all. The Nephites had heard it already. This Lamanite needed to go back and preach to his own people. And then, revulsion turned into anger as they heard a Lamanite catalog their many sins. Some were not angry, but immediately sought out their religious leaders, seeking reconciliation with God. Others decided that this arrogant Lamanite must die. Taking up their bows and slings, they shot arrows and rocks at him. By the grace and power of God, however, none of these projectiles could hit him. He continued to stand upon the wall and deliver his message. Seeing the miracle in this, even more of those hearing Samuel’s words decided to repent and seek reconciliation with God. However, there were many who still resisted Samuel’s words and resented him for speaking them. Since their arrows and stones had missed, they took up their melee weapons and went up the wall after him. At this point, he finished speaking and finally fled.

Like the inhabitants of Zarahemla listening to Samuel, when it comes to hearing the words of prophets, we can all be divided into three groups. The first group hears, immediately feels the truth of what is said, and seeks reconciliation with God. The second group hears and immediately starts firing back with objections and arguments. Upon seeing that none of these objections or arguments manage to hit the mark, though, we realize our folly and seek reconciliation with God. The third group, undeterred by failure to hit the mark with objections, simply takes resistance to the next level.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I completely believe that, while the events in the Book of Mormon actually happened, the narrative has also been structured in such a way that clear parallels are meant to be drawn with the events and concerns of our time. Like the Nephite Republic, the United States of America has stood as a paragon of innovation, prosperity, faith, and freedom. However, like the Nephites in the time of Samuel the Lamanite, we have become top-heavy, destabilized by our arrogance. We think that our philosophy of government makes us superior, though it is increasingly becoming a thing of theory rather than practice. We think that our freedom makes us superior, though we waste it on addictions and trivialities. We think that our heritage makes us superior, though we have largely betrayed it. We think that our past victories make us superior, though we continue to hollow out the strength that made said victories possible. Some of us even think that our racial identity makes us superior, even while the demographic gaps in prosperity throughout the world are rapidly closing. Most Americans would not know it, but Qatar, Singapore, and Brunei all have a higher per-capita GDP (PPP) than the United States. By 2050, Taiwan and South Korea both will have passed us up. As for China, not only will it have passed us up as the world’s largest economy (based on PPP rather than nominal currency value) by the end of the year, but it is also catching up in STEM education. China is even well on its way to having more Christians than any other country in the world. Therefore, even while I talk about my country’s inspired origins, I cannot bring myself to identify with my more jingoistic peers in the political arena. Even if this country is not on the decline in and of itself, its prominence or primacy relative to other countries is quite clearly on the decline.

The Restored Gospel’s message to the United States on this wise, then, is the same message that was delivered by Samuel the Lamanite: Repent. There is nothing intrinsically superior about us, and in various ways, the peoples whom many of us view as being backward and reactionary actually exhibit many virtues that we would do well to emulate. This is not to say that Islamic extremists in Arab countries are right and we are wrong. Rather, it is to say that, so long as we continue on our present course, our period of primacy as a society will soon come to an end. If we are to be saved, it will only be by espousing the correct principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – principles that are beginning to flourish in the hearts of other nations, even while they shrink and decay in our own.

For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. (2 Nephi 26:33)

The Gospel is going forth in Latin America. It is going forth in Southeast Asia and India. It is going forth in Africa. It will soon go forth in the nations that are now closed to it. It is blessing the lives of people throughout the world. Meanwhile, it has stalled in North America and Europe. As our families deteriorate, as we finance our retirements on the backs of those not yet born, as we institutionalize inverted morality, and as everything that gave us any excuse to think that we are any better than the rest of the world continues to evaporate, we can expect to see more and more instances of the supposed “backwards”, “barbarian”, “heathen”, and “heretic” populations of the world becoming stronger as we become weaker. As the blessings of God begin to pour out upon them, we will begin to see a stifling in the flow of such blessings to us. We just may live to see massive amounts of missionaries flowing from Shanghai, Mexico City, and Cairo to preach the Gospel to the heathens in Los Angeles, Houston, and London. When that day comes, the message from God will be the same as it has always been: Repent.

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From Hill to Hill, Part 2: The Great and Spacious Building

There is nothing so skillful in its own defense as imperious pride.

-Helen Hunt Jackson

This post is Part 2 in a series regarding the message and the challenge that the Restored Gospel raises against the contemporary political establishment of the United States of America.

The first prophet whose words we read in the Book of Mormon is Nephi. Born and raised in Jerusalem, he, his father Lehi, their family, and some friends were led out of that city by the Lord just before it fell to the Babylonians. Guided by the Lord, they eventually voyaged to the New World, where their descendants would become the Nephite and Lamanite nations mentioned in the previous post in this series. Before making that ocean voyage, however, Nephi and his people wandered for years in the Arabian Desert. During this time, the Lord communicated with them, tested them, and taught them important lessons. One of these lessons came in the form of a vision – the vision of the Tree of Life. This vision includes many deeply symbolic images that stand as a summation of the most important things to know about this mortal existence of ours. This post will discuss only two of the images in this vision. The first is the Tree of Life, which bears fruit that is desirable above all other fruit.” Those who managed to find their way to this tree and partake of its fruit became truly happy. It is a symbol of Jesus Christ and the eternal life found through Him.

In their visions, Nephi and Lehi saw people searching for this tree and its fruit. However, they also saw other forces – forces of darkness. These forces sought to draw people away from the Tree of Life and lead them down other paths. As Lehi describes:

And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward […] even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.

And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.

And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld […] a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.

And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.

And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost. (1 Nephi 8:24-28)

There are various Biblical symbols that could be compared to the Great and Spacious Building. Two important examples are the scarlet-clad harlot in the Book of Revelation and the great image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in the Book of Daniel. All three of these symbols similarly deal with the pride and powers of the world – both the social evils brought on by general human vice and the institutionalized evils that characterize our political systems. One aspect of the Great and Spacious Building that is sometimes glossed over is the fact that it “stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.” This is meaningful in at least two ways. First, its loftiness comes as a symbol of the malignant hubris held by the building itself and by those who inhabit it. Second, the fact that it has no foundation conveys the feeling that its greatness, founded on nothing, is only an illusion. Once the lie has been realized, the “spell” will be broken, and the entire structure will come crumbling down. As Nephi later describes:

And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great.

The Great and Spacious Building represents all of the human forces in this world that seek to shame, control, and destroy those who are attempting to live righteous lives, and it has existed for all of human history. It symbolizes the hollow pomp that has always characterized various aspects of human societies. In the time of Lehi, Nephi, and Jeremiah, it could be seen in the wickedness – cataloged by Jeremiah – of Jewish society, specifically that of the court of King Zedekiah. In the time of Christ and the Apostles, it was manifested by the sanctimony and hypocrisy of the Sadducees and Pharisees and by the corrupt, ruthless rule of the Romans. Today, the presence and influence of the Great and Spacious Building is evident in the United States of America in various ways. It hovers over – or is often even embodied by – Capitol Hill, Wall Street, Hollywood, our industrial centers, our schools, our churches, and our very homes.

A stately Palace built of squared Brick,
Which cunningly was without Mortar laid,
Whose Walls were high, but nothing strong, nor thick;
And golden Foil all over them displaid;
That purest Sky with Brightness they dismaid:
High lifted up were many lofty Towers,
And goodly Galleries far overlaid,
Full of fair Windows, and delightful Bowers;
And on the top a Dial told the timely Hours

It was a goodly Heap for to behold,
And spake the Praises of me Workman’s Wit;
But full great Pity, that so fair a Mold
Did on so weak Foundation ever fit:
For on a sandy Hill, that still did flit,
And fall away, it mounted was full high,
That every Breath of Heaven shaked it;
And all the hinder parts, that few could spy,
Were ruinous and old, but painted cunningly.

-Edmund Spenser (from The Faerie Queene)

Our Great and Spacious Building

Approval ratings for Congress are at record lows – recently descending below 10%. And  yet, out of 395 Representatives running for reelection in 2012, only 13 were fired by voters. The outcome probably will not be much different in 2014. How does this happen? How is it that we only throw out our Representatives 3.3% of the time when over 90% of us disapprove of the representation we are afforded? It is because these career politicians, with their monumental party organizations, have constructed a political paradigm akin to an oligopoly or a consortium of cartels.

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

-George Washington

The power of our political cartels is most clearly seen in our election processes. For independent and third-party candidates, it is difficult to get ballot access. Even when they manage to do so, they can almost never match the Democrats and Republicans dollar-for-dollar in campaign contributions. Those who seek to bring about change within the major parties still find themselves pressured to use the very frameworks that have become infested with corruption, infected with hypocrisy, and impeded by internal bureaucracy. And once they become immersed in the party’s microcosm, they begin to lose any external perspective they once may have had, gradually becoming friendly to the groupthink and conflicted allegiances characteristic of the major political parties. They make promises to donors – promises they will need to keep in order to get reelected. At the national conventions, they meet with small groups of influential people on private yachts to discuss the future of the nation beyond the eyes of the public. They establish close ties with lobbyists, who make more than doctors, lawyers, and members of Congress for good reason. Many of them profess religion, but only because they perceive their respective electorates as being religious, and the religion they profess is usually a caricature that focuses on a few aspects of their supposed faith, at the expense of the other aspects. Thus, some proclaim belief in a hatefully judgmental Deity, while others proclaim belief in a Deity for whom all is permissible – depending upon the vices and prejudices characteristic to their electorates. Either way, many of these people do not actually believe in God at all, but simply invoke Him whenever it becomes politically convenient to do so.

Thus, we see the great edifice of contemporary American political culture: a massive structure hovering above the meek and lowly of the world, its inhabitants meting out judgments and ridicule without even a hint of understanding of how weak its position actually is. Unfortunately for us, though, it is not just the political establishment that faces such peril. Led on by such parties and the pride they emit, our entire nation has become like the Great and Spacious Building in many ways. In economic and financial terms, the fact that we command an illusory prowess but have no substantiating foundation can be illustrated quantitatively. The clearest way of making this illustration is by showing the ridiculous extent to which we, both as individuals and as a nation, think that we can finance what we want now on borrowed money forever. As an example, consider these stats as of the writing of this post:

  • Personal debt per citizen: $51,741
  • National debt per citizen: $55,184
  • National debt per taxpayer: $151,611
  • Liabilities per citizen: $1,113,055 (Assets per citizen: $357,592)

By the time you read this article, if you go to the source cited above, you will probably see even more horrific numbers. As one might imagine by looking at these numbers, the most frightening item is the last. In a country with a per-capita GDP of approximately $53,000, how is it that we have over $1 million in liabilities per citizen? How did we get to this point? How did we not see this coming? Alexander Hamilton once said: “A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.” It is true: if we were to use our ability to borrow as a means of paying for defensive wars to ensure our survival and for infrastructure that will bring exponential returns, this ability could surely be termed a blessing. However, that is not how we use debt in this country.

And I sincerely believe…that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.

-Thomas Jefferson

The ability to borrow when necessary brings a higher level of freedom and security. However, as with every other misuse of power, our freedom itself becomes the very thing that brings us under a yoke of bondage. We are already past the point of excess, both individually and as a nation. Instead of using debt to finance growth and investment, we use debt to finance profligate spending and more debt. We have not been in any serious fear of having an armed conflict with another major world power since the Cold War, but you would not think so by looking at our national debt. Our economy continues on a general trend of growth, but it is not growing quickly enough to catch up with our unfunded liabilities. One can only imagine what kind of debt we would accrue in a hypothetical WW4 scenario. (WW3 being the Cold War and related conflicts.)

The inconvenient truth is that, even if we were to completely cut everything from the federal budget except Social Security and defense, we would still be in trouble. And yet, virtually everyone in Washington seems oblivious to this fact: both major parties are full of people who will not even consider cutting these programs, instead demanding that we actually increase funding for one or both. Some say that we need to raise taxes in order to account for this budget disparity, and this can surely result in higher tax revenue in some cases (depending on where current rates lie on the Laffer curve), but we cannot hope to cover all or most of this gap with tax hikes. The unavoidable truth is that we cannot render this country solvent without cutting federal expenses significantly. And no matter what we cut, someone will always shout: “Not that! Anything but that!” We must cut everything: military, Social Security, funding for science and art…everything. Like chemotherapy, it will be painful, difficult, and necessary.

Washington continues to ignore the need to cut Social Security payouts in particular because those receiving it have more of a tendency of voting than the young do. Baby boomers have paid for Social Security, and they intend to get what they were promised. They even fight to increase payouts. On the whole, they do not understand what current policy is doing to the system. For this reason, the only hope for the young is the young. The young must become politically active. As Thomas Friedman wrote in November 2013:

Short of an economic meltdown, there is only one thing that might produce meaningful change: a mass movement for tax, spending and entitlement reform led by the cohort that is the least organized but will be the most affected if we don’t think long term — today’s young people.

The harsh reality is that, whether they realize it or not, Baby Boomers are eating my generation for breakfast. This will have consequences. As one writer put it:

Impoverished by our incessant demands for free government services, our children will most likely get revenge by not providing us with any grandchildren. Even if they wanted kids, how will they afford them if half their paycheck is confiscated to take care of us? As the most self-absorbed generation in American history, I suppose Baby Boomers will find it easy to live out their days bereft of grandchildren, much as the French and Italians have. Can this really be the Great Society we’ve been promising to bequeath to posterity?

This writer, like many others, has compared Social Security to a Ponzi scheme. I cannot think of a modern incarnation of the Great and Spacious Building that is more accurate than the Ponzi scheme structure, with its pretentiousness, imagined sustainability, lack of real foundation, and unavoidable collapse. Some challenge the Social Security-Ponzi scheme comparison, however. One writer for CNNMoney has given three reasons for which he thinks this is a false comparison:

  1. “[N]o one is being misled.” Is it worse to trick people into making a poor investment or to use law to force them into making an investment that they know is a poor one?
  2. “Social Security isn’t automatically doomed to fail.” No, we can still save it through reform. However, so long as those receiving payments have more political clout than those making payments, no such reform will occur. Even if we were to manage to do so, those currently receiving payments would feel cheated – and rightly so. An investment scheme that does not deliver on its promises is a failed investment scheme. The fact that it is still able to pay something is good, but not sufficient. Social Security may not face an impending collapse like what the organizations of Ponzi and Madoff experienced, but diminished returns are unavoidable. We cannot use the fact that Social Security can be fixed as an excuse for not fixing it.
  3. “Social Security is morally the polar opposite of a Ponzi scheme and fundamentally different from what Madoff allegedly did.” Current Social Security liabilities are funded not with returns on smart investments made with funds previously contributed, but with funds extracted from new payers. Regardless of the intent of this system, it is doing exactly what a Ponzi scheme does. The fact that current beneficiaries do not mean to rob their grandchildren does not change the fact that they are doing so.

Before the anti-government crowd starts pointing at the excess and foolishness of the public sector, however, it is important to emphasize the excess and foolishness of the private sector. For instance, the average household credit card debt for the United States is $15,191. This figure can be attributed to the fact that so many people in this country lack a basic understanding of finances, incessantly spending money they do not have for things they do not need. Credit truly is a financial wonder: it allows one to enjoy riches without being rich and to be prideful without being great.

One might think that such foolishness can only be attributed to “lay people”. Those who actually understand finance and economics surely would never be so foolish as to construct their lives upon a foundation of financial sand. However, it appears that even those whose business it is to know finance have at times proven woefully inept at seeing impending systemic problems – and have therefore contributed substantially to the causing of said problems. The crisis that began in 2008 is a clear example of this.

Much has been said about the seemingly counter-intuitive nature of our banking system. For example, why is it that banks are able to lend money that they do not have? The explanation is actually very complex – so complex, in fact, that many experts actually say that banks do not really lend money at all. What banks do, put simply, is stand as an intermediary party that channels and facilitates the financial obligations and transactions of other parties. Lay people often criticize our banking system, saying that it is intrinsically insane. “How can you lend money that you do not have?” they ask. This just comes from a lack of understanding of the way the banking system works within the greater financial system and economy. It is really not as crazy or stupid as those given a simplistic explanation may think. However, we do need to remember one very important fact: The banking system, in the end, depends upon a lender of last resort – that is, the federal government. If the federal government were solvent and strong, able to repay its own debts, the seemingly precarious nature of the banking sector would not be a matter of concern, as the federal government could always be relied upon as a bulwark of stability. However, as the federal government is already woefully unable to cover its own liabilities, its position as lender of last resort continues to weaken. The result, again, is a great edifice with no real foundation.

Where can we look for hope, then? For many, the answer is clear: God. Christ. Scripture. Church. Religion. However, as we turn to church and to religion, we must be careful not to merely take our spiritual infections with us where they will be aggravated in yet another Great and Spacious Building. While many leaders belonging to many religious groups lead modest lives of service, all too many are among the greatest of hypocrites, collecting millions from the desperate, impoverished masses even while they preach of the evils of worldliness. And even among the lay people, such problems abound. As Christians, we stand firmly against the institutionalization of homosexual “marriage” because we say it is a sin, but when our children fornicate shamelessly, we shrug at it and tell them that Jesus will forgive them. We preach to young girls about modesty and then get into our Land Rovers and drive home to houses full of empty bedrooms. We complain about the excesses, waste, and corruption of government welfare programs, but we are not willing to give our money to the non-profit organizations that would do the job better. We believe that abortion is sin, but then we fight for our right to abort – and do so when it becomes convenient – because Jesus will forgive us.

Make no mistake: regardless of how much your salvation depends on faith or grace, God expects you to do hard things. God expects you to forsake your favorite sin. Yes, even that. Especially that. Despite your observances, your words, and even your donations, so long as you cling to that thing and make no attempt to free yourself from it, that thing – whatever it is – has the power to destroy you. And empowering snake oil salesmen merely because they stroke your pride and excuse your vices will only bring you a shallow and cheap type of solace.

And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.

Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.

But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.

Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him. (Helaman 13:25-28)

The pride of the world is and always has been the result of a fundamental lack of understanding of one’s greatest weaknesses. Today, the Great and Spacious Building may stand higher than it ever has, and it is as menacing, supercilious, and doomed as it ever was. The message of the Restored Gospel to the United States of America can therefore be summarized in this way: Either do what you must to bring your institutions, philosophies, and lifestyles back down to firm grounding, or abandon them altogether – because their pomp and pretense have doomed them, and you will be doomed with them.

Our hope does not lie in any particular political ideology or campaign. Such things are cheap and fleeting – and the very source of many of our problems. Rather, our hope lies in goodness, forthrightness, tenacity, and faith – among the people, our elected officials, our bureaucrats…everyone. All too often, social and fiscal reform only amount to a stirring of the nasty bucket: we turn everything upside down and inside out, but the pollution remains. Some systems are certainly better than others, but no system can compensate for that which has died in the heart of an entire people.

From Hill to Hill, Part 1: The Title of Liberty

Neither man nor nation can exist without a sublime idea.

-Fyodor Dostoevsky

Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The rest is in the hands of God.

-George Washington

This post is Part 1 in a series regarding the message and the challenge that the Restored Gospel raises against the contemporary political establishment of the United States of America.

title of liberty

In 1820, an uneducated and seemingly unremarkable youth in rural New York by the name of Joseph Smith had a miraculous vision in which he beheld God the Father and Jesus Christ. In the years following that vision, he received a number of heavenly manifestations. He was led by an angel to recover an ancient record and commissioned and empowered by God to translate the same. In 1830, by the power of the priesthood bestowed upon him and Oliver Cowdery by angelic messengers, he oversaw the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ to the world.

One of the reasons for which it took so long to restore Christ’s Church was because the world was simply not ready for it. When the nation of the United States of America was established, there was finally a climate of institutionally protected religious freedom. This made the Restoration possible, as the powers of hell would certainly combine to attempt to drive the Church into the “wilderness” (Rev. 12:6) as had occurred previously. Indeed, the powers of hell did combine against Joseph Smith and the Church: despite the Constitution of the United States of America, detractors printed libel against it while mobs assembled to violently persecute the Saints, with multiple state governments passively and actively supporting said persecution. When Joseph Smith met face-to-face with President Van Buren to plead for help from the federal government, the President responded: “Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you; if I take up for you I shall lose the vote of Missouri.” Such persecution led directly to the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and many others. One can only imagine what would have happened if Joseph Smith had been living in a country that did not value religious liberty. Even so, the strength of the message was not lost, and the Church has managed to thrive to this day, becoming a worldwide organization with over 15 million members.

It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors.

-George Washington

While neither the message nor the Church of Jesus Christ are particularly American in nature, we believe that the Constitution of the United States of America – despite its flaws – was drafted by inspired men, and that the underlying values found in that document and in the U.S. Declaration of Independence are fundamental values in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, we believe that the Lord helped to orchestrate the establishment of the United States of America expressly for the purpose of preparing the way for the Restoration of the Gospel, knowing that the resulting religious freedom would allow the Church to take root, and that the Church would also be able to take root in various other countries that would follow the example of the United States by ensuring religious freedom. The inspired nature of the founding of the United States is expressed in no uncertain terms in the revelations published by Joseph Smith and those who came after him.

For this reason, it is exceedingly puzzling to me when some of my faith’s detractors promulgate silly conspiracy theories in which they claim that we want to overthrow the Constitution. Our culture, our political tendencies, and our doctrines clearly show that there is little that is of more concern to us than the protection of the Constitution of the United States and the liberties it affords. Anyone who would study our doctrine would see that fact with the utmost clarity. One of the works that most clearly testifies of this fact is the Book of Mormon, the work of scripture translated by Joseph Smith. This text – compiled, preserved, and brought forth specifically for our time – offers both seminal sermons and stories full of dilemmas and figures that may sometimes appear all too familiar. In the Book of Mormon, we see with remarkable clarity that, as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin said, “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” In no figure is this message more clear than in the figure of Captain Moroni (“mor-OH-nai”).

Moroni (not to be confused with the man by the same name who helped his father Mormon to compile the records of their people) arises in the Book of Mormon’s narrative at a time of great distress. Established by King Mosiah when all four of his sons chose ministry over the throne, the Nephite Republic was still young. This state, coming into existence somewhere in the Americas while Julius Caesar was beginning his ascent to power in the Old World, stood as a rare early example of liberal, representative governance. As the Greek republics once stood boldly against certain subjugation at the hands of the Persian Empire with its vast armies, so did the people of the fledgling Nephite Republic stand against various groups – collectively referred to as Lamanites – who sought to rob, enslave, and kill them.

When Moroni arose to take command of the Nephite armies at the age of 25, the young republic faced twin threats – one external, and the other internal. At their borders, the Lamanites were again clamoring to cross into Nephite lands and spill their blood. In the Nephite cities and villages, a rising reactionary movement, presumably led by the former nobility, sought to once again establish a monarchical government. It is unclear why Moroni arose to prominence at such a young age. Apparently, his people saw something extraordinary in him – and they were right. As the prophet Alma later wrote of Moroni:

Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men. (Alma 48:17)

Both Moroni’s strength of resolve and his righteousness become evident from the beginning of the Book of Mormon’s account of his time as a military leader. Soon after Moroni arose to take command of the Nephite armies, the Lamanite commander Zerahemnah led an army against the Nephites. As this army approached Nephite lands, Moroni made preparations among his warriors, giving them armor to cover their heads, torsos, and arms. Archaeological evidence shows that these items were probably made of a combination of bronze, leather, and other materials. This was a new thing for this part of the world: when the Lamanite and Nephite armies met in the land of Jershon, despite their numerical advantage, the Lamanites were deterred by the very sight of the Nephites, and they shortly retreated. However, realizing that the Lamanites would surely still be looking for blood, he sent spies to keep an eye on them and see which way they were going. Then, he did something that modern military men might find very peculiar:

Moroni, also, knowing of the prophecies of Alma, sent certain men unto him, desiring him that he should inquire of the Lord whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites. (Alma 43:23)

That is correct: Moroni made military decisions based upon the prophetic guidance of a religious leader. This certainly would have been ridiculed by the “division of church and state” advocates of today, but Moroni’s faith proved well-founded: Alma correctly predicted the point at which the Lamanites would emerge from the wilderness and again enter Nephite lands. Marching swiftly to that point, Moroni was able to ambush them at a river crossing and rout them. The Lamanites who survived the battle undertook a vow to never take up arms against the Nephites again and were allowed to return to their homes in peace.

Despite the Nephite victory over Zerahemnah’s army, this was anything but the end of strife between the Lamanites and the Nephites. The old hatred remained, and this defeat only contributed to it. The Lamanites remained a constant threat just beyond the border.

Shortly after Moroni defeated Zerahemnah, the monarchist movement among the Nephites gained its full strength. A man named Amalickiah arose with the intent to reinstate a monarchical government, with himself as the king. While the majority of the people were seemingly in favor of the new republican model, they were not organized as part of a specific political movement. Amalickiah, on the other hand, was quite organized, and his efforts were fueled by a full measure of ambition, pride, and intellect.

The Nephite Republic had a much simpler structure than the three-branch model with which we are familiar. Virtually all political power was given to judges, whose authority was organized in a pyramid structure, with the chief judge at the top of that pyramid. Judges were elected to their positions by the voice of the people, and they could be deposed in like manner. A ruling or decree made by a judge carried the force of law unless it was overturned by a higher judge or by a group of lower judges. It was a simple model, but it was one of the first instances in which an entire nation was ruled by a central government in which no one commanded absolute power, and in which the voice of even the lowliest citizen was taken into account.

In his quest to be king, Amalickiah networked with many of the lower judges in the land, promising them higher positions in the new kingdom if they would use their influence to help him. He also flattered various Christian priests with similar promises, convincing them, for the sake of power, not only to abandon their republican and egalitarian ideals, but to abandon their very religion. In this way, a movement that should never have been taken seriously in a nation of representative governance quickly gained momentum. With this new support from the political establishment, Amalickiah and his ilk went about proclaiming the benefits of monarchism to the people. Noting that such a large portion of the educated leaders in their society were part of this movement, it becomes a little easier to understand how Amalickiah managed to convince many of the people to agree to surrender their rights.

Seeing the direction things were going, Moroni realized that something had to be done. He knew that Amalickiah was a petty and power-hungry man, and that he would rule as a tyrant. Moroni also knew that many of the rights that were at that time enjoyed by the Nephites would be abrogated. As a result, he tore off a piece of his clothing and wrote the following passage upon it: “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.” Calling this banner the Title of Liberty, he fastened it to a pole and went out among the people, dressed for battle.

…he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:

Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.

And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments.

And now it came to pass that when Moroni had said these words he went forth, and also sent forth in all the parts of the land where there were dissensions, and gathered together all the people who were desirous to maintain their liberty, to stand against Amalickiah and those who had dissented, who were called Amalickiahites.(Alma 46:19-21, 28)

Answering Moroni’s call, the Nephites came together to resist the powers of tyranny. Seeing that they were outnumbered, and knowing that their cause was not just, most of the people of Amalickiah either surrendered or fled. Those who sought to overthrow the liberties of the people had always been in the minority. Their strength had come from their positions of influence rather than from their numbers, and once the people realized their own strength, the power of Amalickiah evaporated. This was not an end to the young republic’s troubles, however: Amalickiah and some of his followers managed to escape into the lands of the Lamanites, where he was eventually successful in seizing the title of king. Seeking vengeance, he then turned the armies of the Lamanites against his own people. However, with the inner vessel cleansed, the Nephite Republic now had the integrity to withstand this onslaught.

I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country.

-Moroni (Alma 60:36)

The parallels between this story and the story of our own time are all too clear. There are forces similarly pushing for the overthrow of a free society and the consolidation of power among a relatively small group of individuals – using position, fame, and riches to achieve this end. This is not to say that there is a single conspiracy behind all of our problems. In truth, that is most probably not the case: there are, instead, many small conspiracies working toward this end. Sometimes they work together, and sometimes they cancel each other out, but the general direction of the trend makes it something to fear. Those embodying this force cannot be clearly defined as members of a particular political party, organization, religion, or social group – indeed, it is often embodied by various groups that can sometimes be rivals – but the force exists nonetheless.

Some, reading Moroni’s story, would argue that he was actually an overbearing leader – a fascist, even. He did, for instance, put people to death for refusing to take up arms and fight against the Lamanites. However, he only did so after they had already shown themselves to be traitors who had contributed to efforts to subject their country to tyrannical rule. In the case of the Ammonites – former Lamanites who had joined the Nephites and could not take up arms for religious reasons – he made no such demands. (However, the Ammonites did support the Nephites who defended them in every way they could.) Thus, the story of Moroni and the young Nephite Republic is neither an argument for anarchy nor a case of hypocritical statism: the Nephites had a government, and that government did exercise a certain level of authority over the people, but, unlike tyranny in its many forms, the government of the Nephite Republic was strong, consistent, specifically limited, and pragmatically lenient. Conversely, it is certain that the arguments used by Amalickiah and his ilk were similar to those made by statists and cronyists today: You should not trust your neighbor, but you should trust politicians. Give me power, and I will give some of it back to you. You have been marginalized, and it is time for revenge. Your decisions are not the problem: the system is the problem. Others use their power selfishly, so you should give their power to us. Other rulers have been draconian, but we will be considerate. We promise. They invoke a collection of gods with their mantras – Fairness, Stability, Security, Prosperity, etc. – but the core of their dark gospel remains the same: You can only be happy if I rule you.

I believe that Moroni was a real person who actually did these things, and I believe that God saw to it that this story would come forth in our era specifically for our benefit. The message that the story of Moroni and the Title of Liberty is intended to convey is this: It is the duty of the citizens of every nation – especially this one – to stand against the forces of tyranny, and if they have the will to fight and the character to do so with unity and compassion, they will win.

Even if you cannot accept Moroni’s story as fact, I ask you to accept it as truth. I ask this because we need another Moroni. We need another Title of Liberty. We need a people who value liberty so much that they are all willing to pledge their life and wealth to its protection. We need a people who will come running together, whether armed with weapons or with words, upon realizing the precarious situation in which American liberty now stands. We are not yet to the point of violence, and I look to that day with a healthy level of fear and distaste, hoping that I will never need to see it. We have, however, reached the point of action, and believe it or not, the heroes we need are among the people you know.

Mormons and Homosexuality: What Does the Future Bring?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, is an institution unlike any other religious organization in the world for one reason: prophets. Mainline Protestantism, Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, the Baha’i Faith, and a number of other sects are all similar in that they believe that prophets talked to God and wrote scripture a long time ago – but that such prophets do not exist in our time. Some small sects do profess to believe that various individuals do stand as authoritative representatives of God in this world as the prophets of old did, but over the last thousand years or so, the general trend has been for such sects to arise under the leadership of this “prophet” and then fizzle out as soon as he is gone. Additionally, the adherents of such sects tend to prove unable to function as contributing members of society. Indeed, their leaders often command them to completely cut themselves off from society. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, is special in that it is a large, mature faith – with over 14 million adherents and nearly 200 years of history – that has managed to maintain a trend of solid growth even after the death of Joseph Smith. While the adherents of the faith believe that they follow a divinely inspired leader of a caliber comparable to Moses, Isaiah, or John the Revelator, their apparent weirdness does not extend far beyond a hokey sub-pop-culture and innovative Jell-O recipes.

So what does this have to do with homosexuality and similar gender and family issues? In simple terms, an understanding of the Latter-day Saint view of revelation is absolutely vital in that it shows that the doctrines of the Church are not and cannot be decided according to shifting social preferences. The Church claims that both its interpretation of ancient scripture and additional scripture introduced by Joseph Smith and others come from God, and not from mere scholars or believers who do the best they can due to a presumed state of heavenly silence. Thus, for the doctrines of the Church to suddenly undergo a fundamental change, the entirety of its message would prove illegitimate. For instance, while Southern Baptists believe that the will of God is expressed through their democratic system of ecumenical governance, this belief is a very loose one: since it is obvious that Baptist doctrine is defined by what Baptists think rather than by what God thinks, if that doctrine were to change, there would be nothing particularly earthshaking about such a development. Southern Baptists do not even claim to have the same authority as Peter or Ezekiel, so any claim to prove that point would be of little use. However, Latter-day Saints do believe that their interpretations of scripture come from God in a very real sense, and any discussion of Latter-day Saint doctrine must occur with that understanding in mind.

In recent decades, emboldened by slackening sympathies from society in general, a growing number of Latter-day Saints have started to “come out,” describing themselves as “Gay Mormons” or “Homosexual Mormons.” Some, particularly those who hardly ever actually attend services or read their scriptures, seem to believe that the Church’s doctrines do not conflict with the homosexual lifestyle in any way. Others, correctly realizing that the homosexual lifestyle is absolutely incompatible with current doctrines, often develop a hope that doctrines will change in the future, allowing two men or two women to go to the temple and get married for time and all eternity in the same way that a man and a woman can. However, the assumptions that these people make as a result of these hopes are all baseless. Here are a few:

“If we just remain faithful to the Church’s doctrines in every other way and exert soft force on its leaders, they will eventually come around.”
The Kingdom of God is just that: a kingdom. God is the boss, and He does not take suggestions. If God needs suggestions, God is not God. Those who assume that God is not actually the source of the Church’s doctrines – those who believe that our leaders do not really receive revelation – should not want to be members of the Church to begin with. If you honestly believe that a man has been appointed by God to lead you in moral issues, you should never want him to “come around” about any such issues.

“Jesus Christ dined with sinners, so the Church should stop being so judgmental.”
The irony in this argument lies in the fact that it implies that homosexuals are, in fact, sinners. Aside from that, though, the other implications here make no sense. Yes, Christ dined with sinners and preached a gospel of love – but He also publicly chastised sinners and even beat them with whips. The difference between these two groups of sinners was that the first came to Him specifically for the purpose of forsaking their sins, while the second came to Him to make themselves feel better by telling Him that He was wrong. Into which group do these people fall when they come to the Lord’s anointed and try to convince them to change doctrines to make the Church more palatable to society?

“Homosexual marriage is compatible with the LDS doctrine of eternal marriage.”
Gender identity is a fundamental doctrine of the Restored Gospel. We believe that there is more to gender than sex: those who are male in this world were male before they received bodies and will continue to be male after they die. The same goes for females. Our gender is an inexorable aspect of our identity, and God is no idiot: He does not match male bodies with female spirits or vice versa. Arguments challenging Latter-day Saint beliefs regarding homosexuality are largely rooted in a feeling that sexuality is not something that Mormons concern themselves with. However, the contrary is actually true: sexuality is something extremely sacred to us. It is for this reason that we must be unyielding when it comes to homosexuality, as it is a perversion of something most sacred. Sexual deviants often talk about how their love transcends meaningless physical things such as an incompatibility of sex organs. However, in doing so, rather than elevating sex to the spiritual level, they turn it into something purely temporal: they imply that one’s identity as a male or female is meaningless on the spiritual level, and that all spirits are neuter. The Latter-day Saint belief in eternal marriage, however, comes forth as a result of an understanding that gender is something applicable to all levels of existence, and that only by joining male and female energies can we progress together to the point that God wants us to reach.

“We have the right to disagree with the Prophet.”
Of course you do. However, you do not have the right to belong to this Church when you believe that its doctrines are false and tell others to do the same.

“The Church has changed its doctrines in the past.”
No, it has not. The application of doctrines changes, but the actual doctrines do not. Those who expect the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to warm up to homosexuality tend to respond to this assertion by claiming that the Church has, in fact, changed its doctrines in two areas: polygamy and priesthood. However, this is not true in either case. Regarding polygamy, anyone who assumes that the Church’s doctrine is or ever was either strict monogamy or strict polygamy does not understand the Church’s doctrine or its history. The Church’s doctrine regarding polygamy is clearly shown in the Book of Mormon:

Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:27-30)

The doctrine according to Jacob is very clear here: The general rule is and always has been strict monogamy. However, in cases in which the population is skewed, having more eligible women than men, it makes sense to practice polygamy for one or two generations until that imbalance has abated. Only the Lord can say when it is necessary to practice polygamy, though. Unless the Lord specifically commands us to practice polygamy, we must practice strict monogamy. This was the doctrine of the Church in the time of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and it continues to be the doctrine of the Church today. No doctrinal change has occurred: the temporary need to practice polygamy has simply subsided. Those who refuse to see the simple truth of this do so as a matter of personal convenience rather than rational truth-seeking.

As for the matter of priesthood, I do not intend to address that in-depth here. However, I think it is sufficient to say that, from Genesis to the Doctrine and Covenants, we have seen a continuing trend in the Lord’s issuance of priesthood authority, and that this trend has continued up into modern times. What was once given only from father to eldest son in a very limited patriarch-to-patriarch model has gradually broadened over the millennia, becoming available to a larger and larger group of people as time passed. The fact that a particular group had to be last should not be any great trial of faith for us, and the extension of priesthood authority to that group is evidence of a continuity of doctrine rather than a revocation of it. Some might say that, according to this logic, the scope of priesthood authority may continue to expand, allowing women to hold the priesthood – and then homosexuals. I doubt that women will ever hold the priesthood, but if the Prophet were to issue a statement to the contrary, it would not be a trial of faith for me. However, God will never categorically extend His Holy Priesthood to people who openly and unequivocally believe that the doctrines of His Gospel are incorrect.

“We will obey doctrine as it is, but we hope it changes in the future.”
Regardless of whether doctrine changes in the future or not, this is an intrinsically sinful attitude, and it shows that you obey out of fear rather than out of a desire to obey. No one should live his life hoping that God will someday sanction his favorite sin.

“We are persecuted.”
I am truly, truly sorry for the hate that homosexuals face in society – especially when it comes from members of the Church. From a doctrinal standpoint, we should not view homosexual acts much differently from adultery or general fornication. For some reason, though, people in this church often shrug at heterosexual fornication, viewing it as something bad-but-understandable, while vehemently railing against homosexuality. This ethical imbalance is something that I hope changes in the future. However, let’s remember that no amount of undue persecution can turn a vice into a virtue.

What To Expect
Joseph Smith and others prophesied that this Church, though still small, would grow to establish a presence in every nation of the world, and that, prior to the Second Coming, we would see a time of great rebellion from within the Church, causing even those previously thought to be very faithful to deny the faith and become enemies. Judging by developments that are currently happening in the Church, I think that it is perfectly rational to assume that such issues of discord and rebellion will come largely as a result of disagreements with the Church’s doctrine of homosexuality. We may even again see a time in which Apostles deny the faith due to an inability to accept the idea that they or their family members may be sinning by rejecting the words of the prophets. Buckle up: Things are only going to get crazier.

What We Should Do:

  • Be nice. Some make the mistake of thinking that being righteous always means being nice. Jesus was not “nice” to the Pharisees and Sadducees. However, this does not give us the right to be snooty or mean. We should do whatever we can to help people feel the love of God – and realize that someone who is struggling with a particular sin may even be more righteous than us in another area.
  • Stand with homosexuals whenever possible. While the Church has been unyielding in its doctrine regarding homosexuality, the leaders of the Church have wisely done what they can to show love for homosexuals. One way of doing this has been to help them enjoy the same basic rights as other people. In the political realm, we should enact and support policies that help to ensure that homosexuals enjoy the same basic human rights as other people, such as access to health care, housing, and employment. However, this does not mean that we must allow our representative governments to openly advocate and institutionalize the homosexual lifestyle by elevating it to the same status as what a husband and wife have.
  • Believe. Maintain a testimony of the Restored Gospel: believe that God has not left us alone in the dark, but that He has sent us prophets just as He did in times of old.
  • Obey. If you experience same-gender attraction issues, deal with them. We all have tendencies toward sin, and we all have to overcome them. You can do this: many people have, my favorite example being Michael Glatze. Even if marrying someone of the opposite sex is not something you think you can do, God still requires chastity from you. No, it is not easy – but chastity is not easy for anyone.

What We Should Not Do:

  • Obsess. Every apostate I ever met became an apostate because he decided to become something else first and a Saint second. Whether it means openly accepting homosexuality or becoming violently hateful of it, obsessing over this issue and forgetting about everything else will cause you to live a very imbalanced life and lose touch with reality.
  • Ignore. This is a real problem, and it is only getting worse. The world needs the Gospel now more than ever, so be part of the solution.

An Era of Prophets
I know that I am blessed to live in an era in which prophets guide God’s people. As Brigham Young once said:

I felt in those days [before joining the Church], that if I could see the face of a prophet, such as had lived on the earth in former times, a man that had revelations, to whom the heavens were opened, who knew God and his character, I would freely circumscribe the earth on my hands and knees; I thought that there was no hardship but what I would undergo, if I could see one person that knew what God is and where he is, what was his character, and what eternity was. (DNW, 8 Oct. 1856, 3)

A prophet guides us today. As in times of old, some people oppose his message. Some of these people are outside the Church, while others are inside. Some of these people oppose the message with violent force and inflammatory rhetoric, while others use soft words and tears. The majority of the people of this world will almost always oppose the true Gospel. This is to be expected. Let’s not look back on our lives after this homecoming game is over only to realize that, when we were faced with the great challenges of our time, we stood on the wrong side of the line. I may have my moments of weakness and indiscretion, but I will stand with the Prophet of the Lord until I die. I am a Saint first and foremost – and nothing else really matters.