Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Proper Role Of Government by Ezra Taft Benson

The Proper Role of Government

by The Honorable Ezra Taft Benson

Former Secretary of Agriculture [The Eisenhower Administration - ed.] Published in 1968

Men in the public spotlight constantly are asked to express an opinion on a myriad of government proposals and projects. "What do you think of TVA?" "What is your opinion of Medicare?" How do you feel about Urban Renewal?" The list is endless. All too often, answers to these questions seem to be based, not upon any solid principle, but upon the popularity of the specific government program in question. Seldom are men willing to oppose a popular program if they, themselves, wish to be popular - especially if they seek public office.

Government Should Be Based Upon Sound Principles

Such an approach to vital political questions of the day can only lead to publistions of the day can only lead to public confusion and legislative chaos. Decisions of this nature should be based upon and measured against certain basic principles regarding the proper role of government. If principles are correct, then they can be applied to any specific proposal with confidence.

"Are there not, in reality, underlying, universal principles with reference to which all issues must be resolved whether the society be simple or complex in its mechanical organization? It seems to me we could relieve ourselves of most of the bewilderment which so unsettles and distracts us by subjecting each situation to the simple test of right and wrong. Right and wrong as moral principles do not change. They are applicable and reliable determinants whether the situations with which we deal are simple or complicated. There is always a right and wrong to every question which requires our solution." (Albert E. Bowen, Prophets, Principles and National Survival, P. 21-22)

Unlike the political opportunist, the true statesman values principle above popularity, and works to create popularity for those political principles which are wise and just.

The Correct Role Of Government

I should like to outline in clear, concise, and straight-forward terms the political principles to which I subscribe. These are the guidelines which determine, now and in the future, my attitudes and actions toward all domestic proposals and projectsals and projects of government. These are the principles which, in my opinion, proclaim the proper role of government in the domestic affairs of the nation.

"(I) believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society."
"(I) believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life..."
"(I) believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, which protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience." (D&C 134: 1-2,5)

The Most Important Function Of Government

It is generally agreed that the most important single function of government is to secure the rights and freedoms of individual citizens. But, what are those right? And what is their source? Until these questions are answered there is little likelihood that we can correctly determine how government can best secure them. Thomas Paine, back in the days of the American Revolution, explained that:

"Rights are not gifts from one man to another, nor from one class of men to another... It is impossible t discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man; it consequently follows that rights appertain to man in right of his existence, and must therefore be equal to every man." (P.P.N.S., p. 134)

The great Thomas Jefferson asked:

"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?" (Works 8:404; P.P.N.S., p.141)

Starting at the foundation of the pyramid, let us first consider the origin of those freedoms we have come to know are human rights. There are only two possible sources. Rights are either God-given as part of the Divine Plan, or they are granted by government as part of the political plan. Reason, necessity, tradition and religious convictions all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights. If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corolla must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government. I, for one, shall never accept that premise. As the French political economist, Frederick Bastiat, phrased it so succinctly, "Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place." (The Law, p.6)

The Real Meaning Of The Separation Of Church And State

I support the doctrine of separation of church and state as traditionally interpreted to prohibit the establishment of an official national religion. But I am opposed to the doctrine of separation of church and state as currently interpreted to divorce government from any formal recognition of God. The current trend strikes a potentially fatal blow at the concept of the divine origin of our rights, and unlocks the door for an easy entry of future tyranny. If Americans should ever come to believe that their rights and freedoms are instituted among men by politicians and bureaucrats, then they will no longer carry the proud inheritance of their forefathers, but will grovel before their masters seeking favors and dispensations - a throwback to the Feudal System of the Dark Ages. We must ever keep in mind the inspired words of Thomas Jefferson, as found in the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." (P.P.N. S., p.519)

Since God created man with certain unalienable rights, and man, in turn, created government to help secure and safeguard those rights, it follows that man is superior to the creature which he created. Man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around. Even the non-believer can appreciate the logic of this relationship.

The Source Of Governmental Power

Leaving aside, for a moment, the question of the divine origin of rights, it is obvious that a government is nothing more or less than a relatively small group of citizens who have been hired, in a sense, by the rest of us to perform certain functions and discharge certain responsibilities which have been authorized. It stands to reason that the government itself has no innate power or privilege to do anything. Its only source of authority and power is from the people who have created it. This is made clear in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, which reads: "WE THE PEOPLE... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The important thing to keep in mind is that the people in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form? A hypothetical question? Yes, indeed! But, it is a question which is vital to an understanding of the principles which underlie the proper function of government.

Of course, as James Madison, sometimes called the Father of the Constitution, said, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." (The Federalist, No. 51)

Natural Rights

In a primitive state, there is no doubt that each man would be justified in using force, if necessary, to defend himself against physical harm, against theft of the fruits of his labor, and against enslavement of another. This principle was clearly explained by Bastiat:

"Each of us has a natural right - from God - to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is propAnd what is property but and extension of our faculties?" (The Law, p.6)

Indeed, the early pioneers found that a great deal of their time and energy was being spent doing all three - defending themselves, their property and their liberty - in what properly was called the "Lawless West." In order for man to prosper, he cannot afford to spend his time constantly guarding his family, his fields, and his property against attach and theft, so he joins together with his neighbors and hires a sheriff. At this precise moment, government is born. The individual citizens delegate to the sheriff their unquestionable right to protect themselves. The sheriff now does for them only what they had a right to do for themselves - nothing more. Quoting again from Bastiat:

"If every person has the right to defend - even by force - his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right --its reason for existing, its lawfulness -- is based on individual right." (The Law, p. 6)

So far so good. But now we come to the moment of truth. Suppose pioneer "A" wants another horse for his wagon, He doesn't have the money to buy one, but since pioneer "B" has an extra horse, he decides that he is entitled to share in his neighbor's good fortune, Is he entitled to take his neitake his neighbor's horse? Obviously not! If his neighbor wishes to give it or lend it, that is another question. But so long as pioneer "B" wishes to keep his property, pioneer "A" has no just claim to it.

If "A" has no proper power to take "B's" property, can he delegate any such power to the sheriff? No. Even if everyone in the community desires that "B" give his extra horse to "A", they have no right individually or collectively to force him to do it. They cannot delegate a power they themselves do not have. This important principle was clearly understood and explained by John Locke nearly 300 years ago:

"For nobody can transfer to another more power than he has in himself, and nobody has an absolute arbitrary power over himself, or over any other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life of property of another." (Two Treatises of Civil Government, II, 135; P.P.N.S. p. 93)

The Proper Function Of Government

This means, then, that the proper function of government is limited only to those spheres of activity within which the individual citizen has the right to act. By deriving its just powers from the governed, government becomes primarily a mechanism for defense against bodily harm, theft and involuntary servitude. It cannot claim the power to redistribute the wealth or force reluctant citizens to perform acts of charity against their will. Government is created by man. No mted by man. No man possesses such power to delegate. The creature cannot exceed the creator.

In general terms, therefore, the proper role of government includes such defensive activities, as maintaining national military and local police forces for protection against loss of life, loss of property, and loss of liberty at the hands of either foreign despots or domestic criminals.

The Powers Of A Proper Government

It also includes those powers necessarily incidental to the protective functions such as:

(1) The maintenance of courts where those charged with crimes may be tried and where disputes between citizens may be impartially settled.

(2) The establishment of a monetary system and a standard of weights and measures so that courts may render money judgments, taxing authorities may levy taxes, and citizens may have a uniform standard to use in their business dealings.

My attitude toward government is succinctly expressed by the following provision taken from the Alabama Constitution:

"That the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression." (Art. 1, Sec. 35)

An important test I use in passing judgment upon an act of government is this: If it were up to me as an individual to punish my neighbor for violl to punish my neighbor for violating a given law, would it offend my conscience to do so? Since my conscience will never permit me to physically punish my fellow man unless he has done something evil, or unless he has failed to do something which

I have a moral right to require of him to do, I will never knowingly authorize my agent, the government to do this on my behalf. I realize that when I give my consent to the adoption of a law, I specifically instruct the police - the government - to take either the life, liberty, or property of anyone who disobeys that law. Furthermore, I tell them that if anyone resists the enforcement of the law, they are to use any means necessary - yes, even putting the lawbreaker to death or putting him in jail - to overcome such resistance. These are extreme measures but unless laws are enforced, anarchy results. As John Locke explained many years ago:

"The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom. For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others, which cannot be where there is no law; and is not, as we are told, 'a liberty for every man to do what he lists.' For who could be free, when every other man's humour might domineer over him? But a liberty to dispose and order freely as he lists his person, actions, possessions, and his whole property within erty within the allowance of those laws under which he is, and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary will of another, but freely follow his own." (Two Treatises of Civil Government, II, 57: P>P>N>S., p.101)

I believe we Americans should use extreme care before lending our support to any proposed government program. We should fully recognize that government is no plaything. As George Washington warned, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence - it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master!" (The Red Carpet, p.142) It is an instrument of force and unless our conscience is clear that we would not hesitate to put a man to death, put him in jail or forcibly deprive him of his property for failing to obey a given law, we should oppose it.

The Constitution Of The United States

Another standard I use in deterring what law is good and what is bad is the Constitution of the United States. I regard this inspired document as a solemn agreement between the citizens of this nation which every officer of government is under a sacred duty to obey. As Washington stated so clearly in his immortal Farewell Address:

"The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. - But the constitution which at any time exists, until changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people is sacredly obligatory udly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government." (P.P.N.S., p. 542)

I am especially mindful that the Constitution provides that the great bulk of the legitimate activities of government are to be carried out at the state or local level. This is the only way in which the principle of "self-government" can be made effective. As James Madison said before the adoption of the Constitution, " (We) rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government." (Federalist, No.39; P.P.N.S., p. 128) Thomas Jefferson made this interesting observation: "Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question." (Works 8:3; P.P.N.S., p. 128)

The Value Of Local Government

It is a firm principle that the smallest or lowest level that can possibly undertake the task is the one that should do so. First, the community or city. If the city cannot handle it, then the county. Next, the state; and only if no smaller unit can possible do the job should the federal government be considered. This is merely the application to the field of politics of that wise and time-tested principle of never asking a larger gr a larger group to do that which can be done by a smaller group. And so far as government is concerned the smaller the unit and the closer it is to the people, the easier it is to guide it, to keep it solvent and to keep our freedom. Thomas Jefferson understood this principle very well and explained it this way:

"The way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to. Let the national government be entrusted with the defense of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, law, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man's farm by himself; by placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best. What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body." (Works 6:543; P.P.N.S., p. 125)

It is well to remember that the states of this republic created the Federal Government. The Federal Government did not create the states.

Things The Government Should Not Do

A category of government activity which, today, not only requires the closest scrutiny, but which also poses a grave danger to our continued freedom, is the activity NOT within the proper sphere of government. No one has the authority to grant such powers, as welfare programs, schemes for re-distributing the wealth, and activities which coerce people into acting in accordance with a prescribed code of social planning. There is one simple test. Do I as an individual have a right to use force upon my neighbor to accomplish this goal? If I do have such a right, then I may delegate that power to my government to exercise on my behalf. If I do not have that right as an individual, then I cannot delegate it to government, and I cannot ask my government to perform the act for me.

To be sure, there are times when this principle of the proper role of government is most annoying and inconvenient. If I could only FORCE the ignorant to provided for themselves, or the selfish to be generous with their wealth! But if we permit government to manufacture its own authority out of thin air, and to create self-proclaimed powers not delegated to it by the people, then the creature exceeds the creator and becomes master. Beyond that point, where shall the line be drawn? Who is to say "this far, but no farther?" What clear PRINCIPLE will stay the hand of government from reaching farther and yet farther into our daily lives? We shouldn't forget the wise words of President Grover Cleveland that "... though the people support the Government the Government should not support the people." (P.P.N.S., p.345) We should also remember, as Frederic Bastiat reminded us, that "Nothing can enter the public treasury for the benefit of one citizen or one class unless other citizens and other classes have been forced to send it in." (THE LAW, p. 30; P.P.N.S., p. 350)

The Dividing Line Between Proper And Improper Government

As Bastiat pointed out over a hundred years ago, once government steps over this clear line between the protective or negative role into the aggressive role of redistributing the wealth and providing so-called "benefits" for some of its citizens, it then becomes a means for what he accurately described as legalized plunder. It becomes a lever of unlimited power which is the sought-after prize of unscrupulous individuals and pressure groups, each seeking to control the machine to fatten his own pockets or to benefit its favorite charities - all with the other fellow's money, of course. (THE LAW, 1850, reprinted by the Foundation for Economic Education, Irvington-On-Hudson, N.Y.)

The Nature Of Legal Plunder

Listen to Bastiat's explanation of this "legal plunder." "When a portion of wealth is tranferred from the person who owns it - without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud - to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed!

"How is the legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime..." (THE LAW, p. 21, 26; P.P.N.S., p. 377)

As Bastiat observed, and as history has proven, each class or special interest group competes with the others to throw the lever of governmental power in their favor, or at least to immunize itself against the effects of a previous thrust. Labor gets a minimum wage, so agriculture seeks a price support. Consumers demand price controls, and industry gets protective tariffs. In the end, no one is much further ahead, and everyone sufffers the burdens of a gigantic bureaucracy and a loss of personal freedom. With each group out to get its share of the spoils, such governments historically have mushroomed into total welfare states. Once the process begins, once the principle of the protective function of government gives way to the aggressive or redistribute function, then forces are set in motion that drive the nation toward totalitarianism. "It is impossible," Bastiat correctly observed, "to introduce into society... a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder." (THE LAW, p. 12)

Governement Cannot Create Wealth

Students of history know that no governement in the history of mankind has ever created any wealth. People who work create wealth. James R. Evans, in his inspiring book, "The Glorious Quest" gives this simple illustration of legalized plunder:

"Assume, for example, that we were farmers, and that we received a letter from the government telling us that we were going to get a thousand dollars this year for plowed up acreage. But rather than the normal method of collection, we were to take this letter and collect $69.71 from Bill Brown, at such and such an address, and $82.47 from Henry Jones, $59.80 from a Bill Smith, and so on down the line; that these men would make up our farm subsidy. "Neither you nor I, nor would 99 percent of the farmers, walk up and ring a man's doorbell, hold out a hand and say, 'Give me what you've earned even though I have not.' We simply wouldn't do it because we would be facing directly the violation of a moral law, 'Thou shalt not steal.' In short, we would be held accountable for our actions."

The free creative energy of this choice nation "created more than 50% of all the world's products and possessions in the short span of 160 years. The only imperfection in the system is the imperfection in man himself." The last paragraph in this remarkable Evans book - which I commend to all - reads:

"No historian of the future will ever be able to prove that the ideas of individual liberty practiced in the United States of America were a failure. He may be able to prove that we were not yet worthy of them. The choice is ours." (Charles Hallberg and Co., 116 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60610)

The Basic Error Of Marxism

According to Marxist doctrine, a human being is primarily an economic creature. In other words, his material well-being is all important; his privacy and his freedom are strictly secondary. The Soviet constitution reflects this philosophy in its emphasis on security: food, clothing, housing, medical care - the same things that might be considered in a jail. The basic concept is that the government has full responsibinsidered in a jail. The basic concept is that the government has full responsibility for the welfare of the people and , in order to discharge that responsibility, must assume control of all their activities. It is significant that in actuality the Russian people have few of the rights supposedly "guaranteed" to them in their constitution, while the American people have them in abundance even though they are not guaranteed. The reason, of course, is that material gain and economic security simply cannot be guaranteed by any government. They are the result and reward of hard work and industrious production. Unless the people bake one loaf of bread for each citizen, the government cannot guarantee that each will have one loaf to eat. Constitutions can be written, laws can be passed and imperial decrees can be issued, but unless the bread is produced, it can never be distributed.

The Real Cause Of American Prosperity

Why, then, do Americans bake more bread, manufacture more shoes and assemble more TV sets than Russians do? They do so precisely because our government does NOT guarantee these things. If it did, there would be so many accompanying taxes, controls, regulations and political manipulations that the productive genius that is America's would soon be reduced to the floundering level of waste and inefficiency now found behind the Iron Curtain. As Henry David Thoreau explained:

"This government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. IT does not educate. THE CHARACTER INHERENT IN THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAS DONE ALL THAT HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED; AND IT WOULD HAVE DONE SOMEWHAT MORE, IF THE GOVERNMMENT HAD NOT SOMETIMES GO IN ITS WAY. For government is an expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it." (Quoted by Clarence B. Carson, THE AMERICAN TRADITION, p. 100; P.P.S.N., p.171)

In 1801 Thomas Jefferson, in his First Inaugural Address, said:

"With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens - a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it had earned." (Works 8:3)

A Formula For Prosperity

The principle behind this American philosophy can be reduced to a rather simple formula:

Economic security for all is impossible without widespread abundance. Abundance is impossible without industrious and efficient production. Such production is impossible without energetic, willing and eager labor. This is not possible without incentive.

Of all forms of incentive - the freedom to attain a reward for one's labors is the most sustaining for most people. Sometimes called THE PROFIT MOTIVE, it is simply the right to plan and to earn and to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

This profit motive DIMINISHES as government controls, regulations and taxes INCREASE to deny the fruits of success to those who produce. Therefore, any attempt THROUGH GOVERNMENTAL INTERVENTION to redistribute the material rewards of labor can only result in the eventual destruction of the productive base of society, without which real abundance and security for more than the ruling elite is quite impossible.

An Example Of The Consequences Of Disregarding These Principles

We have before us currently a sad example of what happens to a nation which ignores these principles. Former FBI agent, Dan Smoot, succinctly pointed this out on his broadcast number 649, dated January 29, 1968, as follows:

"England was killed by an idea: the idea that the weak, indolent and profligate must be supported by the strong, industrious, and frugal - to the degree that tax-consumers will have a living standard comparable to that of taxpayers; the idea that government exists for the purpose of plundering those who work to give the product of their labor to those who do not work. The economic and social cannibalism produced by this communist-socialist idea will destroy any society which adopts it and clings to it as a basic principle - ANY society."

The Power Of True Liberty From Improper Governmental Interference

Nearly two hundred years ago, Adam Smith, the Englishman, who understood these principles very well, published his great book, THE WEALTH OF NATIONS, which contains this statement:

"The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security, is so powerful a principle, that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often encumbers its operations; though the effect of these obstructions is always more or less either to encroach upon its freedom, or to diminish its security." (Vol. 2, Book 4, Chapt. 5, p. 126)

But What About The Needy?

On the surface this may sound heartless and insensitive to the needs of those less fortunate individuals who are found in any society, no matter how affluent. "What about the lame, the sick and the destitute? Is an often-voice question. Most other countries in the world have attempted to use the power of government to meet this need. Yet, in every case, the improvement has been marginal at best and has resulted in the long run creating more misery, more poverty, and certainly less freedom than when government first stepped in. As Henry Grady Weaver wrote, in his excellent book, THE MAINSPRING OF HUMAN PROGRESS:

"Most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well-meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to themselves, and who were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of mankind-in-the-mass through some pet formula of their own....THE HARM DONE BE ORDINARY CRIMINALS, MURDERES, GANGSTERS, AND THIEVES IS NEGLIGIBLE IN COMPARISON WITH THE AGONY INFLICTED UPON HUMAN BEINGS BY THE PROFESSIONAL 'DO-GOODERS', who attempt to set themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly force their views on all others - with the abiding assurance that the end justifies the means." (p. 40-1; P.P.N.S., p. 313)

The Better Way

By comparison, America traditionally has followed Jefferson's advice of relying on individual action and charity. The result is that the United States has fewer cases of genuine hardship per capita than any other country in the entire world or throughout all history. Even during the depression of the 1930's, Americans ate and lived better than most people in other countries do today.

What Is Wrong With A "Little" Socialism?

In reply to the argument that a little bit of socialism is good so long as it doesn't go too far, it is tempting to say that, in like fashion, just a little bit of theft or a little bit of cancer is all right, too! History proves that the growth of the welfare state is difficult to check before it comes to its full flower of dictatorship. But let us hope that this time around, the trend can be reversed. If not then we will see the inevitability of complete socialism, probably within our lifetime.

Three Reasons American Need Not Fall For Socialist Deceptions

Three factors may make a difference. First, there is sufficient historical knowledge of the failures of socialism and of the past mistakes of previous civilizations. Secondly, there are modern means of rapid communications to transmit these lessons of history to a large literate population. And thirdly, there is a growing number of dedicated men and women who, at great personal sacrifice, are actively working to promote a wider appreciation of these concepted men and women who, at great personal sacrifice, are actively working to promote a wider appreciation of these concepts. The timely joining together of these three factors may make it entirely possible for us to reverse the trend.

How Can Present Socialistic Trends Be Reversed?

This brings up the next question: How is it possible to cut out the various welfare-state features of our government which have already fastened themselves like cancer cells onto the body politic? Isn't drastic surgery already necessary, and can it be performed without endangering the patient? In answer, it is obvious that drastic measures ARE called for. No half-way or compromise actions will suffice. Like all surgery, it will not be without discomfort and perhaps even some scar tissue for a long time to come. But it must be done if the patient is to be saved, and it can be done without undue risk.

Obviously, not all welfare-state programs currently in force can be dropped simultaneously without causing tremendous economic and social upheaval. To try to do so would be like finding oneself at the controls of a hijacked airplane and attempting to return it by simply cutting off the engines in flight. It must be flown back, flown back, lowered in altitude, gradually reduced in speed and brought in for a smooth landing. Translated into practical terms, this means that the first step toward restoring the limited concept of government should be to freeze all welfare-state programs at their present level, making sure that no new ones are added. The next step would be to allow all present programs to run out their term with absolutely no renewal. The third step would involve the gradual phasing-out of those programs which are indefinite in their term. In my opinion, the bulk of the transition could be accomplished within a ten-year period and virtually completed within twenty years. Congress would serve as the initiator of this phase-out program, and the President would act as the executive in accordance with traditional constitutional procedures.

Summary Thus Far

As I summarize what I have attempted to cover, try to visualize the structural relationship between the six vital concepts that have made America the envy of the world. I have reference to the foundation of the Divine Origin of Rights; Limited Government; the pillars of economic Freedom and Personal Freedom, which result in Abundance; followed by Security and the Pursuit of Happiness.

America was built upon a firm foundation and created over many years from the bottom up. Other nations, impatient to acquire equal abundance, security and pursuit of happiness, rush headlong sh headlong into that final phase of construction without building adequate foundations or supporting pillars. Their efforts are futile. And, even in our country, there are those who think that, because we now have the good things in life, we can afford to dispense with the foundations which have made them possible. They want to remove any recognition of God from governmental institutions, They want to expand the scope and reach of government which will undermine and erode our economic and personal freedoms. The abundance which is ours, the carefree existence which we have come to accept as a matter of course, CAN BE TOPPLED BY THESE FOOLISH EXPERIMENTERS AND POWER SEEKERS. By the grace of God, and with His help, we shall fence them off from the foundations of our liberty, and then begin our task of repair and construction.

As a conclusion to this discussion, I present a declaration of principles which have recently been prepared by a few American patriots, and to which I wholeheartedly subscribe.

Fifteen Principles Which Make For Good And Proper Government

As an Independent American for constitutional government I declare that:

(1) I believe that no people can maintain freedom unless their political institutions are founded upon faith in God and belief in the existence of moral law.

(2) I believe that God has endowed men with certain unalienable rights as set forth in the Declaratioth in the Declaration of Independence and that no legislature and no majority, however great, may morally limit or destroy these; that the sole function of government is to protect life, liberty, and property and anything more than this is usurpation and oppression.

(3) I believe that the Constitution of the United States was prepared and adopted by men acting under inspiration from Almighty God; that it is a solemn compact between the peoples of the States of this nation which all officers of government are under duty to obey; that the eternal moral laws expressed therein must be adhered to or individual liberty will perish.

(4) I believe it a violation of the Constitution for government to deprive the individual of either life, liberty, or property except for these purposes:

(a) Punish crime and provide for the administration of justice;

(b) Protect the right and control of private property;

(c) Wage defensive war and provide for the nation's defense;

(d) Compel each one who enjoys the protection of government to bear his fair share of the burden of performing the above functions.

(5) I hold that the Constitution denies government the power to take from the individual either his life, liberty, or property except in accordance with moral law; that the same moral law which governs the actions of men when acting alone is also applicable when they act in concert with others; that no citizen or group of citizens has any right to direct their agent, the government to perform any act which would be evil or offensive to the conscience if that citizen were performing the act himself outside the framework of government.

(6) I am hereby resolved that under no circumstances shall the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights be infringed. In particular I am opposed to any attempt on the part of the Federal Government to deny the people their right to bear arms, to worship and pray when and where they choose, or to own and control private property.

(7) I consider ourselves at war with international Communism which is committed to the destruction of our government, our right of property, and our freedom; that it is treason as defined by the Constitution to give aid and comfort to this implacable enemy.

(8) I am unalterable opposed to Socialism, either in whole or in part, and regard it as an unconstitutional usurpation of power and a denial of the right of private property for government to own or operate the means of producing and distributing goods and services in competition with private enterprise, or to regiment owners in the legitimate use of private property.

(9) I maintain that every person who enjoys the protection of his life, liberty, and property should bear his fair share of the cost of government in providing that protection; that the elementary priing that protection; that the elementary principles of justice set forth in the Constitution demand that all taxes imposed be uniform and that each person's property or income be taxed at the same rate.

(10) I believe in honest money, the gold and silver coinage of the Constitution, and a circulation medium convertible into such money without loss. I regard it as a flagrant violation of the explicit provisions of the Constitution for the Federal Government to make it a criminal offense to use gold or silver coin as legal tender or to use irredeemable paper money.

(11) I believe that each State is sovereign in performing those functions reserved to it by the Constitution and it is destructive of our federal system and the right of self-government guaranteed under the Constitution for the Federal Government to regulate or control the States in performing their functions or to engage in performing such functions itself.

(12) I consider it a violation of the Constitution for the Federal Government to levy taxes for the support of state or local government; that no State or local government can accept funds from the Federal and remain independent in performing its functions, nor can the citizens exercise their rights of self-government under such conditions.

(13) I deem it a violation of the right of private property guaranteed under the Constitution for the Federal Government to forcibly deprive the citizens of this nation of their nation of their property through taxation or otherwise, and make a gift thereof to foreign governments or their citizens.

(14) I believe that no treaty or agreement with other countries should deprive our citizens of rights guaranteed them by the Constitution.

(15) I consider it a direct violation of the obligation imposed upon it by the Constitution for the Federal Government to dismantle or weaken our military establishment below that point required for the protection of the States against invasion, or to surrender or commit our men, arms, or money to the control of foreign ore world organizations of governments. These things I believe to be the proper role of government.

We have strayed far afield. We must return to basic concepts and principles - to eternal verities. There is no other way. The storm signals are up. They are clear and ominous.

As Americans - citizens of the greatest nation under Heaven - we face difficult days. Never since the days of the Civil War - 100 years ago - has this choice nation faced such a crisis.

In closing I wish to refer you to the words of the patriot Thomas Paine, whose writings helped so much to stir into a flaming spirit the smoldering embers of patriotism during the days of the American Revolution:

"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the servisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; 'tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial and article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated." (THE POLITICAL WORKS OF THOMAS PAINE, p.55.)

I intend to keep fighting. My personal attitude is one of resolution - not resignation.

I have faith in the American people. I pray that we will never do anything that will jeopardize in any manner our priceless heritage. If we live and work so as to enjoy the approbation of a Divine Providence, we cannot fail. Without that help we cannot long endure.

All Right-Thinking Americans Should Now Take Their Stand

So I urge all Americans to put their courage to the test. Be firm in our conviction that our cause is just. Reaffirm our faith in all things for which true Americans have always stood.

I urge all Americans to arouse themselves and stay aroused. We must not make any further concessions to communism at home or abroad. We do not need to. We should oppose communism from our position of strength for we are not weak.

There is much work to be done. The time is short. Let us begin - in earnest - now and may God bless our efforts, I humbly pray.

The End


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Unwritten Order of Things by Boyd K Packer

The Unwritten Order of Things
by Elder Boyd K. Packer
Marriott Center, 15 October 1996

I speak to you today as a teacher. I reflect the influence of a teacher that I knew more than fifty years ago. As is often the case, the influence of that teacher did not center on the subject he taught. Dr. Schaefer was a professor of mathematics at Washington State University at Pullman, Washington. He was quite unimpressive in appearance. I don't remember his first name, but I shall never forget the first thing he said the first day we met.

It was during World War II. We were in pilot training and had been sent to the university for what we were told would be a crash course in meteorology, weather, navigation, physics, aerodynamics, and other technical subjects. We thought the title "Cracts. We thought the title "Crash course" was not very encouraging to student pilots. The word intense would have been better.

The pressure was enormous because those who failed the course would be washed out of the pilot program. I was in competition with cadets, many of whom had been to college; some of them had had some advanced training, while I had barely escaped from high school.
Dr. Schaefer was to take us from basic mathematics through calculus in just a matter of weeks. I thought it was hopeless, until that first few minutes in the first class. He began the class with this announcement: "While many of you have had some college, even advanced courses in what we are to study, it will be my purpose to teach the beginners. I am asking those of you who know the subject to be patient while I teach the basics to those who do not." Encouraged by what he said and more by how he taught, I was able to pass that course with reasonable ease. It might otherwise have been impossible.

When I decided to become a teacher, Dr. Schaefer's example inspired me to try to the best of my ability to teach basic, simple truths in the most understandable way. I have learned how very difficult it is to simplify.

Years after the war, I returned to Washington State University and found Dr. Schaefer. He, of course, did not remember me. I was just one of many hundreds of cadets in his classes. I thanked him for what he had taught me. Thed taught me. The math and calculus had long since faded away, but not his example as a teacher.

So, following that example, today I want to tell you something about the Church. The things that I shall tell you are not explained in the scriptures, although they conform to the principles taught in the scriptures.

A principle is an enduring truth, a law, a rule you can adopt to help you in making decisions. Generally principles are not spelled out in detail. That leaves you free to adapt and to find your way with an enduring truth, a principle, as an anchor. The things I am going to tell you are not explained in our handbooks or manuals either. Even if they were, most of you don't have handbooks--not the Melchizedek Priesthood or Relief Society handbooks and the others--because they are given only to the leaders.

I will be speaking about what I call the "unwritten order of things." My lesson might be entitled "The Ordinary Things about the Church Which Every Member Should Know." Although they are very ordinary things, they are, nevertheless, very important! We somehow assume that everybody knows all the ordinary things already. If you do know them, you must have learned them through observation and experience, for they are not written anywhere and they are not taught in classes. So, as we continue, if you are ones that know it all, be patient while I teach those who do not--and take a nap. The basic foundaThe basic foundation of knowledge and testimony never changes--the testimony that God the Father lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Holy Ghost inspires us, that there has been a restoration, that the fullness of the gospel and the same organization that existed in the primitive church have been revealed to us. Those things are taught everywhere and always--in our classes, the scriptures, the handbooks and the manuals--in everything we do.

The fundamental doctrine and instructions on the organization of the Church are likewise found in the scriptures. In addition, there is another source of knowledge relating to what makes the Church work: We learn from experience and observation. If you learn about these things that are not written down, the unwritten order of things, you will be better qualified to be a leader--and you are going to be a leader. The most important positions of leadership are in the home--the father, mother, wife, husband, older brother and sister.

Then, in the Church, positions of leadership and teaching opportunities are available as nowhere else on earth.

While the things I will talk about are not written, they are really quite easily learned. Just be alert to the unwritten order of things and take an interest in them, and you will find that you will increase your ability and your value to the Lord.
Before I give you a few samples of this unwritten order of things, let mef things, let me remind you what the Lord said: "My house is a house of order, saith the Lord God" (D&C 132:18; emphasis added). And he told his prophet: "See that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order" (Mosiah 4:27; emphasis added).
Paul told the Corinthians that "all things" were to "be done decently and in order" (see 1 Cor. 14:40; emphasis added). We'll return to that in a moment or two. The things I am going to tell you about are not so rigid that the Church will fall apart if they are not strictly observed all the time. But they do set a tone, a standard, of dignity and order and will improve our meetings and classwork; they will improve the activities. If you know them and understand them, they will greatly improve your life.

Our meetings should be conducted in such a way that members may be refreshed spiritually and remain attuned to the Spirit as they meet the challenges of life. We are to establish conditions under which members can, through inspiration, solve their own problems. There are simple things that help in that regard, and things that hinder. Alma taught "that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise" (Almwise" (Alma 37:6).

I give as my first illustration of this unwritten order of things so simple a thing as this: The one who presides in a meeting should sit on the stand and sit close to the one conducting. It is a bit difficult to preside over a meeting from the congregation. The one who presides is responsible for the conduct of the meeting and has the right and the responsibility to receive inspiration and may be prompted to adjust or correct something that goes on in the meeting. That is true whether it be an auxiliary meeting presided over by the sisters or any of our meetings.
A new stake president sometimes will ask, "Must I sit on the stand in every meeting in the stake? May I not sit with my family?" I tell him, "While you preside, you are to sit on the stand." I am tempted to say, but I don't, "I can't have that privilege; why should you?"

Another example: If you watch the First Presidency, you will see that the first counselor always sits on the right of the president; the second counselor on the left. That is a demonstration of doing things "decently and in order," as Paul told us. Ordinarily, but not always, if the presiding officer speaks, it will be at the end of the meeting. Then clarification or correction can be given. I have had that experience many times at the close of meetings, "Well, brother or sister somebody said such and such, and I'm sure they meant such and such."

Another illustration: We do not aspire to calls in the Church, nor do we ask to be released. We are called to positions in the Church by inspiration. Even if the call is presented in a clumsy way, it is not wise for us to refuse the call. We must presuppose that the call comes from the Lord. The fifth article of faith tells us that we "must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof." If some circumstance makes it difficult for you to continue to serve, you are free to consult with the leader who called you. We do not call ourselves and we do not release ourselves. Sometimes a leader or a teacher enjoys the prominence of a presiding position so much that, even after serving for a long time, they do not want to be released. That is a sign that a release is timely.

We should do as we are called. We should accept the calls and accept a release by the same authority.

When President J. Reuben Clark was called as second counselor in the First Presidency after having served for many years as first counselor, he responded at the Solemn Assembly where the sustaining of the new First Presidency took place: "In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one takes the place to which one is duly called, which place one neither seeks nor decks nor declines" (CR, Apr. 1951, p. 154). The Church had been taught a very valuable lesson in the unwritten order of things.
I learned years ago that we do not choose where we serve--we just answer the call. Soon after our marriage, I was called as an assistant stake clerk. My bishop did not want to release me as Gospel Doctrine teacher. He told me that I had much more to offer as a teacher than in the very obscure assignment as assistant stake clerk. But he knew that, under the unwritten order of things, the stake president presided and that his call took precedence.

I cannot tell you all that I learned in that calling. I was able to see how a presidency works. I was the witness to revelation in the calling and the releasing of stake and ward officers. By watching our stake president, I learned by observation and experience many things that are not in the handbook. It was in that calling that I first met members of the Twelve and others of the Brethren as they came to conference. It was a time of training in the unwritten order of things.
I was on a plane once with President Kimball who, I think, served for 19 years as a stake clerk. A member that lived in the stake at that time was on the plane. He said to me, "If I'd known that our stake clerk was going to be President of the Church, I'd have treated him a lot better."
Brother Kimball was actually serving as second counselor in the stakelor in the stake presidency when the stake clerk moved. They called a clerk and that clerk moved. Brother Kimball had taken over the responsibility. Brother Melvin J. Ballard came to conference, and he said, "You shouldn't have to be the second counselor and the stake clerk at the same time. You choose which you would rather be." Brother Kimball was not used to having a choice. He wanted to have Brother Ballard tell him, but Brother Ballard said, "No, you choose." So Brother Kimball said, "I have a typewriter. [Very few people had typewriters then.] I know the system. I think I can make a bigger contribution if I stay as the stake clerk." And so it was. In those days the stake clerk received a small stipend, a little monthly something or other, I suppose to buy supplies. A sister, who knew him well, wrote and said, "Spencer, I'm surprised at you--to take a calling just because there is money involved." Then she said, "If you don't change your attitude, within two months, you'll apostatize from the Church." Well, she was a little off in her timing!

Now an example: On one occasion Elder Harold B. Lee presided over our stake conference. Between sessions we had lunch at the home of President Zundell. Donna and I arrived a little late because we had gone home to check on our young children. Elder Lee had come to the car to retrieve something from his car and was on the walk when we arrived. I am sure we were very visibly moved to be abto be able to talk personally and to shake hands with an Apostle. He gestured toward the house and said, speaking of the stake presidency who were assembled there, "They are great men. Never fail to learn from men such as these." And I had been taught something of the unwritten order of things by an Apostle.

There is so much you can learn by watching experienced leaders in the wards and stakes in which you live. There is so much you can learn by listening to the older brethren and sisters who have had a lifetime of experience in the school of the unwritten.

Another illustration. There is an order of things as to where we go for counsel or blessings. It is simple--we go to our parents. When they are no longer available, if it is a blessing, then we may go to our home teacher. For counsel, you go to your bishop. He may choose to send you to his file leader--the stake president. But we do not go to the General Authorities. We do not write to them for counsel or suppose that someone in a more prominent position will give a more inspired blessing. If we could get this one thing taught in the Church, great power would rest upon us.
President Joseph F. Smith taught that should there be sickness in a home and should there be present "apostles, or even members of the first presidency of the Church, . . . the father is there. It is his right and it is his duty to preside" (Gospel Doctrine, p. 286).
There is one authorized "end run" around the bishop, the stake president, the General Authority, and everyone else in our line of authority. That is to our Father in Heaven in prayer. If we do that, we will in most instances solve our own problems.

Another principle: Revelation in the Church is vertical. It generally confines itself to the administrative or geographic boundaries or limitations assigned to the one who is called. For instance, a bishop who is trying to solve a problem will not get revelation by counseling with a bishop from another ward or stake to whom he is related or with whom he might work at the office.

My experience has taught me that revelation comes from above, not from the side. However more experienced or older or however more spiritual someone to the side may appear to be, it is better to go up through proper channels.

Principle: A prime attribute of a good leader is to be a good follower. In a meeting with bishops, a new and struggling bishop once asked me, "How do I get people to follow me? I have called nine sisters to be president of the Primary and none has accepted." There was a good humor and pleasant spirit in the meeting which made it an ideal teaching moment. I answered that I doubted that he had "called" any of the nine sisters. He must only have asked or invited them.
I told him that if he had earnestly prayed and counseled with his counselors his counselors as to who should preside over the Primary, the first sister would have accepted the call. Perhaps he might have discovered in the interview some reason why it was not advisable or timely for that sister to serve and excused her from serving. But surely not more than one or two. If that many sisters turned down the call, something was out of order--the unwritten order.

Because there was such good spirit in the meeting, I said to him, "Bishop, I know something else about you. You're not a good follower, are you? Aren't you the one who is always questioning what the stake president asks of his bishops?" The other bishops in the room started to chuckle and nodded their heads--he was the one. He chuckled and said he supposed that was right. I said, "Perhaps the reason your members don't follow their leader is because you don't follow yours. An essential attribute of a leader in the Church is faithful and loyal followship. That is just the order of things--the unwritten order of things."

When I was a young man, Elder Spencer W. Kimball came to our conference and he told this experience. When he was a stake president in Safford, Arizona, there was a vacancy in the office of superintendent of Young Men in the stake, as the office was then called. He left his office one day, went a few steps down the street, and had a conversation with the owner of a business. He said, "Jack, how would you like to be superintendentrintendent of the stake Young Men's organization?"

Jack replied: "Aw, Spencer, you don't mean me."
Spencer replied, "Of course I do. You get along well with the youth." He tried to convince him, but the man turned him down.

Later in the day, after smoldering with his failure and finally remembering what Jacob had said in the Book of Mormon-- "having first obtained mine errand from the Lord" (Jacob 1:17)--he returned to Jack. Calling him "brother" and by his last name, he said, "We have a vacancy in a stake office. My counselors and I have discussed it; we've prayed about it for some time. Sunday we knelt down together and asked the Lord for inspiration about who should be called to that position. We received the inspiration that you should be called. As a servant of the Lord, I am here to deliver that call."

Jack said, "Well, Spencer, if you are going to put it that way . . ."
"Well, I am putting it that way."

You know the result. It helps to follow the proper order of things, even the unwritten order.
I have on my desk a letter from a brother who is greatly bothered because he was not called to office properly. He accepted the call and is willing to serve, but he said his bishop did not consult his wife first and otherwise did not handle it properly. When I respond to him, I will try to teach him something of the unwritten order of things as itnwritten order of things as it relates to being a little patient with how things are done in the Church. In the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord admonished every man to "speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world" (D&C 1:20). I think I'll point out to him that he may one day be a bishop, overburdened with problems in the ward and with an extra burden of personal cares, and suggest that he give now what he would appreciate receiving then.

Another point of order: Bishops should not yield the arrangement of meetings to members. They should not yield the arrangement for funerals or missionary farewells to families. It is not the proper order of things for members or families to expect to decide who will speak and for how long. Suggestions are in order, of course, but the bishop should not turn the meeting over to them. We are worried about the drift that is occurring in our meetings.

Funerals could and should be the most spiritually impressive. They are becoming informal family reunions in front of ward members. Often the Spirit is repulsed by humorous experiences or jokes when the time could be devoted to teaching the things of the Spirit, even the sacred things.

When the family insists that several family members speak in a funeral, we hear about the deceased instead of about the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the comforting promises revealed in the scriptures. Now it's all right's all right to have a family member speak at a funeral, but if they do, their remarks should be in keeping with the spirit of the meeting.
I have told my Brethren in that day when my funeral is held, if any of them who speak talk about me, I will raise up and correct them. The gospel is to be preached. I know of no meeting where the congregation is in a better state of readiness to receive revelation and inspiration from a speaker than they are at a funeral. This privilege is being taken away from us because we don't understand the order of things--the unwritten order of things--that relates to the administration of the Church and the reception of the Spirit.

Our bishops should not give our meetings away. That is true of our missionary farewells. We're deeply worried that they now have become kind of reunions in front of ward members. The depth of spiritual training and teaching which could go on is being lost. We have failed to remember that it is a sacrament meeting and that the bishop presides.

There are many things I could say about such matters as wearing Sunday best. Do you know what "Sunday best" means? It used to be the case. Now we see ever more informal, even slouchy, clothing in our meetings, even in sacrament meeting, that leads to informal and slouchy conduct.

It bothers me to see on a sacrament meeting program that Liz and Bill and Dave will participate. Ought it not be Elizabet not be Elizabeth and William and David? It bothers me more to be asked to sustain Buck or Butch or Chuck to the high council. I just say, Can't we have the full names on that important record? There is a formality, a dignity, that we are losing--and it is at great cost. There is something to what Paul said about doing things "decently and in order."

Well, there is so much I want to tell you about the unwritten order of things, but then these are things that you must learn for yourself. If we could only put you in the circumstance where you begin to observe, begin to get that training, then you will know how the Church is to operate and why it operates that way. You will find that it conforms to the principles which are outlined in the scriptures. If you will just "treasure up in your minds continually the words of life," the Lord will bless you and give "you in the very hour" what you should say and what you should do (D&C 84:85). Learn about this great pattern--the teachings that come to us from just watching and participating.

Soon after Spain had been opened for the preaching of the gospel, I was in Barcelona. Two of the first missionaries sent to Spain were sent to Barcelona to open the city. They had appealed to President Smith Griffin for forty chairs. He was in Paris at the time, and he didn't know why they wanted forty chairs when they had no members. He hesitated at the expense, but he thought he would encoura encourage the missionaries. So he approved the forty chairs.
When we arrived at the meeting hall, upstairs in a business building, the forty chairs were filled. There were people standing. The elders had arranged for their first convert, a middle-aged man who worked in a fish market, to conduct the meeting. We watched as they taught him what to do, sometimes standing up to whisper to him. Brother Byish nervously got through the meeting with their assistance. And then, as he stood to close, the Spirit of the Lord fell upon him and he preached with great power and at some length. It was an inspired testimony, an unforgettable moment. The two young elders, both converts from South America, had somehow learned something of the unwritten order of things. They were putting the Church in place in proper order in Barcelona. Now there are four stakes in that city.

And so it goes. The Lord uses the ordinary Saints, the rank and file, to move his work along.
Isn't it strange that princes and kings And clowns that caper in sawdust rings And just plain folks like you and me Are builders for eternity? To each is given a bag of tools, A shapeless mass and a book of rules, And each must build ere life has flown, A stumbling-block or a stepping stone. --R. L. Sharpe, "Stumbling-Block or Stepping Stone"

The Church will move on, and it moves on just because the rank and file learn by observation, learn by teaching, learn by experience. Most of all, we learn because we are motivated by the Spirit. One day, of course, you who are young now will lead the Church. If in the intervening time you will learn and study the unwritten order of things, the power of the Lord will be upon you to the end that you might be the useful servant.

I bear witness that this is His Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, as the Lord said, that all "might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world" (D&C 1:20).

I invoke his blessings upon you and bear witness to you in the name Jesus Christ. Amen.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Take Responsibility, don't be a victim

Taking Responsibility                                                                                                                          

People often wonder how men like Adolf Hitler were (and are) able to get an entire society to commit atrocities, or at least look the other way. It’s simple. They promote mentalities of victimhood and blame. In Hitler’s case, he convinced a lot of people that they were victims. Hitler blamed the Jewish people for his lack of acceptance twice to Vienna's Academy of Fine Arts as well as for many other problems in his life. He needed something to explain away his personal failures and unfavorable circumstances. Later he was able to convince a lot of others to do the same thing. Whatever wasn’t right at the time, was in one way or another blamed on the Jewish people. When people believe they are victims they act out of fear rather than love, and the outcome is always tragic.

However, people who know they are responsible for their lives don’t blame society, ethnic groups, friends and family for their current situations. Taking responsibility means not blaming anyone or anything for your current situations in life. There is no reason to ever assign blame, because the entire concept of blaming comes from a mentality of victimhood. Taking responsibility for our lives, does not mean we “blame” ourselves either. It means we acknowledge that as powerful creators, humans create their own lives.

Yes, bad things happen to all of us, and some suffer much more than others. Those who have suffered much often have huge challenges to overcome, with an equal potential to become that much stronger, that much more compassionate, and that much more empowered. Is it a child’s fault that he or she was abused by his or her parents? Of course not! Is it an entrepreneur’s fault when a business partner turns out to be unethical and steals his or her money? No! Is it a homeowner’s fault when property values drop and their house isn’t worth what it used to be? Nope. But an abusive parent, a stupid boss, a dishonest partner, and changing markets do not have the power to determine what you make with the rest of your life—not unless you allow it to.

As adults living in a free society, we are able to make our own choices. We can leave abusive situations. We can find a new job if we hate the one we have. We can choose to forgive when we have been ill-treated. We can choose to heal (even though it may take time and guidance). But every problem or challenge is an opportunity in disguise. Those who choose to be responsible for their own lives take their moments of struggle and pain, and transform them into a wisdom and understanding. When we cultivate personal responsibility we start to enjoy greater power to shape our own lives into what we want our lives to be.

Capitalizing Potential

For the Social portion of the next Producer Power Hour reflect on this concept, and self evaluate with the following question on how you practice an attitude of responsibility in your life. As usual, write down any insights or inspirations you may have in your PPH journal.

  • Have I let myself believe that there are certain people or situations that have ruined my life, or a portion of my life?

  • How can I prove these thoughts wrong, and live a wonderful life in spite of people I perceive as having hurt me, and in spite of situations that were less than ideal?

“We need to teach the next generation of children from Day One that they are responsible for their lives. Mankind's greatest gift, also its greatest curse, is that we have free choice. We can make our choices built from love or from fear.”
~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“How fortunate for leaders, that men do not think.”
~ Adolf Hitler

This comes from a Producer Power Hour Daily post from Garrett Gunderson