Looking to the Future

I think often about the future. I suppose most people do. We wonder what things will be like next year or ten years from now. We’re probably looking for a sense of security and stability so we can move ahead with our everyday lives. We want things to be the same or better than they are now. We make plans, hope for the best and then go on to the next thing, whatever that may be.

Like many of you, I get a sense of where people are by what they post on Facebook. I have lots of friends who posted predictions of doom and dread if their guy didn’t get elected. Now that the election is over, they’re either silent or their predictions have become more gloomy. I can only imagine the silent ones are waiting for the many terrible things they predicted to start happening.

I’m not trying to be disrespectful of those who foretold awful things. After all, they’re my friends for a reason. We were classmates long ago, were work associates, attended church together or met online through common interests. I’m grateful that most of my family members are cautious like me. We read what others are saying and then encourage each other in our plans for living.

Seeking Stability in Life

I spent fifty hours this past week in formal classroom training, preparing to become certified in a work-related skill. I am very grateful my employer paid the cost of the training. It’s not cheap. That says two things to me. One, my employer believes I’m worth the investment, but second and more important, my employer believes his business will continue and will need my services.

It takes a lot of faith to be a small business employing hundreds of people in today’s uncertain economy. You depend on your customers to keep buying your products and services. You depend on your suppliers to come through when you need them. You depend on your employees to do what needs to be done to deliver the goods or services that make your business succeed.

In short, you trust that the business world will remain the same or get better going forward. You depend on certain conditions being stable in order to carry out your business plan. Stability is the name of the game in making plans and being successful. We like and seek after stable people and stable companies in our lives because we can depend on them. We want our world to be solid.

A World of Uncertainty

And yet we live in a world of uncertainty. We are reminded of this every day when surprises come up that cause us to stop and think. Don’t get me wrong. Surprises can be good. We like surprises like an unexpected refund check, a bonus for doing a good job or when a new friend tells you about an opportunity that would be just right to advance your mutual interests.

We don’t like surprises that cause us to have to scale back our daily operations or cancel plans for expansion. Perhaps an anticipated demand for our products or services does not materialize. Maybe new legislation causes us to incur unanticipated expenses to meet regulatory compliance. The cost of goods rises because the raw material becomes scarce. All are outside our control.

I guess that’s why people seek power to control their environment because they want to have that stability. That’s why we invest so heavily in our elections, both monetarily and emotionally. We want our guy to get elected because he will help maintain or improve conditions for us. But isn’t that the wrong way to go about seeking control over our lives, by investing in someone else?

Things Beyond our Control

Ultimately, we have very little control over things. We can’t control the weather. We can’t control natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanos or wildfire. There are those who say the late hurricane that hit the New Jersey area just before the election was caused by human-induced climate change. They also say it shows how much we need big government.

Of course there are those who say it was a warning from God, just like they have said all the natural disasters we have experienced or read about lately are warnings from God. It seems like any natural disaster can be turned to promote your own view of things, whether you believe we need to band together to reverse climate change or band together to prepare for terrible times.

I think that’s where all this doom and gloom talk is coming from among some of my friends. Like me, they believe that awful things beyond our control are going to happen as we get closer to the end of world as predicted in the Bible. But I guess your reaction to the recent election depends on what you consider awful. A comet or meteor coming close to the earth is awful.

White Horse Prophecy

I’m not worried that my guy didn’t get elected. I’m a little sad for him and his family. He has invested so much over the past six years of his time, money and energy. It must be disappointing. But he’ll bounce back. He’s a good man. That’s why I voted for him. But I am concerned about some of my friends who now bemoan the end of the world is closer because he wasn’t elected.

I can’t go with that as a legitimate cause and effect thing. There are some who say Romney was supposed to win because of the “White Horse Prophecy” and that the Elders of Israel will be the only ones to save the constitution when it will hang by a thread. If you’re Mormon like me I’m sure you’re familiar with these ideas. They have been a hot topic of online discussion lately.

Saying that Romney was destined to win seems a bit much to me. Also claiming that America has sealed its fate because he was rejected is just plain wrong. That’s putting too much faith in a man who championed a different path to prosperity that we all seek. Mitt Romney is a good man who espouses principles I believe in but his rejection is not a harbinger of the end of the world.

The End of the World

Back to the idea of what is really awful, and specifically an oncoming comet or meteor. When Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 hit Jupiter in July 1994, we got a firsthand look at a comet smashing into a relatively close-by planet. We all watched with fascination, went “ooh” and “ahh,” and then went about our lives. It was just too far way to think it could possibly happen here at home.

We have the same reaction when we read about earthquakes or hurricanes that happen in some other part of the world. We think, “How awful for those people who experienced the devastation but it doesn’t affect me so all is well.” We follow the news for a while but see that for most people, life goes on. They survive. We are jaded to the idea that something worse could happen.

But what if next week astronomers announced that they have discovered a new comet or planet coming towards the earth? How would we respond? In fact, don’t we invest a lot of money in our scientific community just so they can watch the heavens for us and warn us of impending doom? Whether you know it or not, we do pay scientists to keep a lookout for large celestial objects.

Watch out for Comets

Why do we do this? Has it happened before? Has a planet or comet ever threatened the earth in our past? We are fascinated with disaster movies like 2012, Armageddon, Deep Impact or the old classic which I hope will be remade someday, When Worlds Collide.  We love to joke about the end of the world coming on Dec 21st this year to coincide with the end of the Mayan calendar.

If you’re a Mormon, you are especially susceptible to stuff like this because the end of the world is a part of our theology. We have been taught and believe that terrible calamities will come upon us as we get closer to the end times. Many of us believe we are living in those times now, in spite of the fact that each succeeding generation has been taught this since the church began in 1830.

We rely on those same scientists who teach us about our past to also watch for threats to our world and assure us that all is well. We look to them for the stability and security we seek. How comforting it is to know that the earth has never been threatened by another planet. Everyone knows that comets don’t come too close. They only pass by and make beautiful sunsets, right?

Signs of the Times

If you’ve read any of my past essays you know how fascinated I am by the signs of the times as foretold in the scriptures and by recent prophets. I have long enjoyed reading and studying the books of Gerald Lund (The Coming of the Lord), Duane Crowther (Prophecy – Key to the Future), David Ridges (65 Signs of the Times) and Anthony Larson (The Prophecy Trilogy).

I have focused more in my studies on the cataclysmic events that will occur in the great and dreadful day when the Lord makes his appearance. Yet those things will all happen suddenly, within a few weeks or months. Stars will fall from the sky, the sun will be darkened, the moon will turn to blood and the sea will heave itself beyond its bounds with terrible earthquakes.

But there are so many other preliminary signs that we can watch for before the great and terrible day arrives. For example, did you know that all nations of the earth, including America, are destined to fail before the Lord returns? Are the times of the Gentiles now coming to an end? Many people seem to think so, or so I read on the blogs and Facebook posts of my friends.

The Collapse of America

Internal wars will cause the collapse of the government of the United States. Quoting Brigham Young who was apparently quoting Joseph Smith, “Mobs will increase until the whole government becomes a mob, and eventually it will be state against state, city against city, neighborhood against neighborhood…” Hmmm…are states that want to secede a beginning?

“A terrible revolution will take place in the land of America, such as has never been seen before; for the land will literally be left without a supreme government, and every species of wickedness will run rampant.” No, that’s not Glen Beck, that’s Joseph Smith. He said the government would be utterly overthrown and wasted; specifically that Congress shall be broken up as a government.

I’ve written previously about this subject and got a lot of comments. I feel even stronger about this now. Wilford Woodruff said, “The American nation will be broken in pieces like a potter’s vessel…” Orson Pratt said, “State will be divided against state, city against city, town against town, and the whole country will be in terror and confusion; mobocracy will prevail…”

Times of the Gentiles

The big question is, “Will this occur in our day or is this years and years into the future?” I don’t know. I hope I don’t live to see the destruction of America but I know it is prophesied by the Savior in Third Nephi chapters 20 and 21. We just studied those as a church a few weeks ago. If the “remnant of Jacob” goes through America, he will “tear in pieces” (3 Ne 20:16 & 21:12).

I’m not trying to be fatalistic or pessimistic. I believe in this great nation, but it is not as great as it once was. The days of America’s greatness may be past. Are the days of the Gentiles over? Will we ever see America rise to its former state again? There are many millions who believe we are a great people but that we are on the wrong path, one that may now be irreversible. I agree.

There’s a lot happening in Israel in the last few days. It has defended itself against Syria and Gaza and as expected, is portrayed as the aggressor in the media. It always seems to be so. To me, one of the very last signs that the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled is when the Gentiles turn en masse against Jerusalem. I’m watching the events unfolding in Israel with great interest.

Come unto Christ

In spite of what I’ve just reviewed – internal wars, collapse of America, the remnant of Jacob tearing in pieces (Micah 5:8) – I am still optimistic. I am satisfied that the Lord continues to work with his people. He is calling to you and to me to come unto Him. He reaches out to us each day, quietly whispering to our souls to complete our preparations to be in His presence.

I go about my work trusting that the Lord will provide and he does. I try to treat other people with kindness, knowing that the Lord wants me to follow His example in this area. I patiently wait upon the Lord, asking each day if I am ready to meet Him. I am not and I know it. The Lord tries our souls, burning into our very being the idea that He is the source of our hope and peace.

I rejoice in these days, even though I know they are days of sadness for many in America. The coming of the Lord draws ever closer. I watch the signs with earnest anticipation. I invite you to watch with me. Be aware of the signs. Study them. Know what is prophesied. The Lord will be our rock in these difficult times. He will provide stability and security. He has promised peace.

So was it good for the Mormons?

I don’t think all the press attention that has come to the church in the last year because of Mitt Romney will go away but I am fairly certain we have just entered a lull. The attention seemed to come to a high point with two recent articles in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Even the church discussed these two pieces in particular in one of the latest press releases found in the Newsroom, part of the online church web sites.

The headline from the Washington Post was “Did Mormons Get A Bounce From Mitt?,” while the headline from the WSJ was “Mormons Dismayed by Harsh Spotlight.” These are two major publications, well read and referred to by many other journalists. I’m sure you know that staff writers don’t always choose their own headlines. My own headline for this post was taken from a line in the Washington Post piece. Headlines are meant to get people to read the story.

I liked both of these stories. I thought they were well written, professional and easy reading. Of course they were interesting to me because I have been following Mitt’s adventures across America for the past year. The WSJ article in particular included some great quotes that have come up during the past year. I always like when Jan Shipps is quoted. She knows her stuff even though she is not a member of the church. She served as the President of the Mormon History Association a number of years ago, the only non-Mormon to ever do so.

But the most interesting piece to me is the church’s press release on the how the church itself perceived all this attention. Elder Ballard expressed concern that there is still so much misunderstanding to be cleared up. In fact, although he did not say it, the WSJ article pointed out that much of the anti stuff on the internet can be compared to anti-Semitism. He said, “What is much more important to us is that people base their opinions on fact, not on myth or mischaracterizations.” It always amazes me what people will believe instead of getting facts.

I know Elder Ballard and Elder Cook have been tireless lately in visiting national editors and in doing everything possible to point them to official sources of information about the church. The Church Newsroom has come a long ways in the past few years and is a great resource. Of course the same can be said for all the church web sites. I guess the truth is just not sensational enough for some readers who only want salacious gossip and hearsay. 2 Tim 4:3 comes to mind.

What do you think? Did Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign do a lot of good for the church?

Thank you Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney gave one of his greatest speeches today at CPAC – The Conservative Political Action Conference. In that speech he announced that he is suspending his campaign for the candidacy of the President of the United States. Some pundits and commentators lamented, “Why is it that now he comes alive, just to announce he is quitting?” I think he was just happy.

If you haven’t watched his great speech from earlier today I highly recommend you do. I would include an embed but it slows down the loading of the post. It was one animated, exciting speech for a guy who just admitted he got trounced in the elections two days ago. You watch him go through the issues one by one in a manner that rings true and lays them on the line. He hits on every conservative point I hold dear and tells it like it is.

Mitt has his pulse on America, or at least on conservative America. Unfortunately, as he said, the Republican Party no longer represents conservative America. That’s too bad. McCain said we need to give him a chance. I say there’s no way he can replace someone like Mitt Romney. I know I am in the minority as a middle-aged, conservative, religious male of white European ancestry but Mitt Romney represented me better than any other candidate today.

In a CNN poll the other day, the readers were asked which was more important: a candidate’s stand on the issues or his character. As expected from a CNN poll, the overwhelming majority voted that the stand on issues was more important. What about future issues that have yet to come up? Knowing a man’s character will allow you to judge how he will stand on future issues. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. When I hire someone I do it based on my impressions of character formed in an interview, not necessarily based on what’s listed in the resume.

Thank you Mitt Romney. You have brought so much good attention to the church and to conservative values. I hope that by suspending your campaign you are only placing yourself in the background, available for recall at a moment’s notice when your party realizes that it needs you. I voted for you Tuesday but I don’t have a candidate I can vote for in November. John McCain is no conservative in spite of what he claims. That judgment is based on character.

Article VI: Faith. Politics. America.

I received an email from a PR firm for the new movie Article VI that came out today. I normally ignore blatantly commercial stuff like this but after reviewing the trailer I just had to respond. I am impressed. If the movie is anything like the trailer you are going to come away with a distinct impression that the presidential election this year is different from any other.

From the Executive Producer, John Carosella:

“It is our earnest hope that through this film, we can raise the level of inquiry about the role of faith in politics, and catalyze what will be an energizing, provocative, and, yes, combustible debate. Because it’s a necessary debate, perhaps never more so than right now.

“In the end, my faith (or yours) is irrelevant to this story. What matters is how America can express her spiritual and moral values in our political process without relying on, focusing on, or forcing those values into a straight-jacket of a particular religion or religious expression.

“It matters to me because I am a patriot: because I love my country, and the ideals it represents. I believe in the ability of the Constitution of the United States to serve as a guide to the American people in exercising their moral prerogatives and obligations in governing themselves.”

“I encourage you to see the film. The movie isn’t about Romney, or even about how he’s being treated in the narrow sense you may be thinking. It’s really about an American guy (Bryan Hall, the director) who steps out into the political world out of interest — interest in the political process and the political dialog — and comes face to face with much, much more than politics.

“The film doesn’t try to answer questions. It attempts to ask them, and in the process, promote a healthy discussion about the right and wrong ways for religion and politics to mix.”

Update: The movie is now planned for a September release in theaters. I think you will be impressed. The trailer is still available online and is intriguing to review. Take a look.

Mitt, if you read this, stay in the race

Ken Jennings recently wrote an opinion piece in the New York Daily News. If you’ll recall Ken Jennings is the Latter-day Saint who became somewhat famous after winning over two and a half million dollars on Jeopardy in 2004. He suggests that the only way to get Mormonism out of the race is for Mitt Romney to withdraw. That makes sense but I hope he doesn’t.

Mitt, if you read this, please stay in the race, all the way to the end. Being the smart man that you are, I’m sure you can appreciate how much good you are doing by being in the race. I believe the Church is receiving more attention than it ever has because you are running for the office of the President of the United States. Thank you Mitt Romney.

If Mitt Romney is elected to the office, it will restore my hope in the decency of the people of America. If not, it will only confirm what I have long suspected, that we are on a long slow slide to dissolution as a great nation. Don’t get me wrong. I love America and appreciate the benefits and blessings of living in this great land.

But win or lose, it is amazing to see the number of articles about the church in recent months. Yes, I agree with Ken that a lot of them are negative and full of lies, but hey, we are used to that, aren’t we? Ken points out two specifics that are particularly troubling lately – the sly innuendo by Mike Huckabee about Jesus and the devil being brothers and the tirade by Lawrence O’Donnell.

I wrote about this previously but I loved Ken’s response: “The truth, Huck, is that Mormons believe that God is the Father of us all, which does, I guess, in some sense, make Jesus and Satan brothers. And by the same logic, we also believe that Moses and Orville Redenbacher and Attila the Hun and Neil Diamond are brothers. Happy now?”

The opinion piece made big news in Utah, where a writeup of the column was the most popular news item for a few hours today on the Deseret News Web site. I am glad that Ken is speaking up. He is a high profile Latter-day Saint and is doing a good job of using his celebrity status. Thank you Ken. Well done. Those were good explanations offered.

The race for the office of the President to the United States really is a popularity contest, isn’t it? We vote for the man or woman who we think most represents us or who we feel can best lead the nation today. I’m still convinced that both Mitt represents me well and can do the best job of leading the nation. But will America feel the same way? I wonder.

What do you think? Should Mitt drop out of the race like Ken Jennings suggests? I agree that will probably stop the pundits from saying stupid things about Mormons. Do you feel as I do that no matter what they say, the attention helps bring the church more into the light?

The Ron Paul – Mitt Romney poll in Meridian magazine

So I was on the phone walking one of my associates at work through a printer install when I hear a knock at the door. I work from home most of my work week. The boss is very kind that way. There stands a neighbor with a Ron Paul hat on.

‘Nice hat,” I say.

“Thanks. That’s why I’m here.”

“Oh? You’re selling Ron Paul hats?”

“No. I’m a volunteer and we’re visiting Republicans in our neighborhoods to get the word out about Ron Paul.”

“Oh,” I replied, “I’ve read a lot about him – mostly from Digg articles.”

My neighbor Lance is now animated. “You’re on Digg? What’s your profile name?”

I tell him and we continue our conversation. I congratulate him on his grass roots activity. We both lament on the state of affairs in our nation and he gives me some Ron Paul literature. Nice material. But what impresses me more is the idea of neighbors visiting neighbors to ask them to read up on their candidate of choice. This is real grass roots political activity at its best.

One of those Digg articles I missed is this one on Meridian magazine’s Web site. It’s a straw poll asking which of the Republican candidates would be your choice if you were voting today. Now Meridian magazine is an LDS-oriented publication and Web site. You would think that the results would show that Mitt Romney would be the clear leader.

Guess again. I suspect that because Ron Paul supporters are incredibly tech savvy that they got the word out and the survey got an uncharacteristically skewed response. Of course, that then became a news article in itself – more Mormons voted for Ron Paul than voted for Mitt Romney. Somehow I just don’t think that is accurate but I can’t prove it.

By the way, after extensive review of the Ron Paul Web site and the Wikipedia Ron Paul entry (very well done guys) and the Ron Paul YouTube page and the Ron Paul Paul MySpace page, I like what I read. Now what differentiates Mitt Romney from Ron Paul? Who could represent the people better and lead this nation better than the other?

What do you think? Are there more Ron Paul supporters among the Mormons than there are Mitt Romney supporters?

It’s all in the way the question is asked

I was wondering when stuff like this would come up. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and an ordained Southern Baptist minister who happens to be running for President of the United States asked of Mitt Romney’s religion, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Mitt also happens to be campaigning for the office of the President of the United States.

The AP writer, Libby Quaid did a good job of elaborating on the question and offering an explanation. She both quoted from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and got a quote from a church spokesperson in public affairs. I guess the Encyclopedia of Mormonism has become a semi-authoritative source, since it was published by BYU and Macmillan under contract. Apostles quote from it in General Conference.

Of course the best authoritative source for explaining Mormon doctrine is the conference report, which contains the words of the prophets and apostles, when they are speaking in an official capacity. It is certainly not from ‘Mormon Doctrine’ originally written by Elder Bruce R McConkie back in the 1950’s. It is also not the Journal of Discourses, which did not always contain accurate quotes.

“We believe, as other Christians believe and as Paul wrote, that God is the father of all,” said the spokeswoman, Kim Farah. “That means that all beings were created by God and are his spirit children. Christ, on the other hand, was the only begotten in the flesh and we worship him as the son of God and the savior of mankind. Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for.” I like that explanation.

When another reporter asked Mitt Romney to answer the question he refused saying that Church leaders had already done a good job of doing so. He said, “Attacking someone’s religion is really going too far. It’s just not the American way, and I think people will reject that. I don’t believe that the people of this country are going to choose a person based on their faith and what church they go to.”

I believe Mike Huckabee’s question shows the basic tactic of a dishonest attack. It has all the elements of FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt. If one has never considered the question before and does not understand the underlying doctrine that God created everything then it can be a shocking thing to consider. Mitt is right. The question does not belong in a presidential campaign.

What do you think? Was it a fair question? What do you think was the intent of the question?