All governments formed and administered by imperfect men will be oppressive and limit our freedoms in some measure, since they will inevitably mirror the imperfections of those who rule and those who are ruled. For this reason, we promote the cause of freedom and good government when we fulfill our religious duty to work for good laws, seek diligently for honest and wise rulers, and preach repentance to all citizens.
These principles and precedents, and others too numerous to cite in this limited space, are persuasive evidence that even an oppressive government that limits freedom is preferable to a state of lawlessness and anarchy in which the only ruling principle is force and every individual citizen has a thousand oppressors. Abraham Lincoln was espousing this preference when he said, "There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law." (Bartlett?s Familiar Quotations, p. 635, 14th ed.) There are exceptions. The command of loyalty to laws and rulers does not compel a citizen to participate in or submit to a government edict that runs counter to the common consensus of humanity, such as genocide or other cold-blooded murder. Nor should it require a person to violate the fundamental tenets of religious faith.
Sometimes we are delayed in the receipt of revelation, and sometimes we are left to our own judgment. We cannot force spiritual things. It must be so. Our life?s purpose to obtain experience and to develop faith would be frustrated if our Heavenly Father directed us in every act, even in every important act. We must make decisions and experience the consequences in order to develop self-reliance and faith.
When one person purports to receive revelation for another person outside his or her own area of responsibility - such as a Church member who claims to have revelation to guide the entire Church or a person who claims to have a revelation to guide another person over whom he or she has no presiding authority according to the order of the Church?you can be sure that such revelations are not from the Lord.
Even in decisions we think very important, we sometimes receive no answer to our prayers. This does not mean that our prayers have not been heard. It means only that we have prayed about a decision that, for one reason or another, we should make without guidance by revelation. Perhaps we have asked for guidance in choosing between alternatives that are equally acceptable or equally unacceptable. Similarly, the Spirit of the Lord is not likely to give us revelations on matters that are trivial. If a matter appears of little or no consequence, we should proceed on the basis of our own judgment. If the choice is important for reasons unknown to us, the Lord will intervene and give us guidance.
Closely related to the feeling of comfort is the...purpose or function of revelation, to uplift. At some time in our lives, each of us needs to be lifted up from a depression, from a sense of foreboding or inadequacy, or just a plateau of spiritual mediocrity. Because it raises our spirits and helps us resist evil and seek good, I believe that the feeling of uplift that is communicated by reading the scriptures or by enjoying wholesome music, art or literature is a distinct purpose of revelation.
Most of us have more things expected of us than we can possibly do. As breadwinners, as parents, as Church workers and members, we face many choices on what we will do with our time and other resources. We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.
Children need the emotional and personal strength that come from being raised by two parents who are united in their marriage and their goals. As one who was raised by a widowed mother, I know firsthand that this cannot always be achieved, but it is the ideal to be sought whenever possible.
I have been puzzled that some scriptures command us not to judge and others instruct us that we should judge and even tell us how to do it. I am convinced that these seemingly contradictory directions are consistent when we view them with the perspective of eternity. The key is to understand that there are two kinds of judging: final judgments, which we are forbidden to make; and intermediate judgments, which we are directed to make, but upon righteous principles.
We are often left to work out problems, without the dictation or specific direction of the Spirit. That is part of the experience we must have in mortality. Fortunately, we are never out of our Savior?s sight, and if our judgment leads us to actions beyond the limits of what is permissible and if we are listening to the still small voice, the Lord will restrain us by the promptings of His Spirit.
What are those ?holy places?? Surely they include the temple and its covenants faithfully kept. Surely they include a home where children are treasured and parents are respected. Surely the holy places include our posts of duty assigned by priesthood authority, including missions and callings faithfully fulfilled in branches, wards, and stakes.
Another reason why news stories are unsuited to communicate historical understanding is that their format is such that they invariably report such facts out of context. An individual historical fact has meaning only in relation to other facts. Outside that context, a single fact is almost certain to convey an erroneous impression.
We recognize that our forebears were human. They doubtless made mistakes...But the mistakes were minor, when compared with the marvelous work which they accomplished. To highlight the mistakes and gloss over the greater good is to draw a caricature. Caricatures are amusing, but they are often ugly and dishonest. A man may have a blemish on his cheek and still have a face of beauty and strength, but if the blemish is emphasized unduly in relation to his other features, the portrait is lacking in integrity...
Satan is the great deceiver, the father of lies. This is not because Satan tells only lies. His most effective lies are half-truths or lies accompanied by the truth. A lie is most effective when it can travel incognito in good company or when it can be so intermarried with the truth that we cannot determine its lineage.
But the ministering of angels can also be unseen. Angelic messages can be delivered by a voice or merely by thoughts or feelings communicated to the mind. President John Taylor described ?the action of the angels, or messengers of God, upon our minds, so that the heart can conceive ? revelations from the eternal world.
In terms of the intellectual, readers and viewers clearly need to be more sophisticated in evaluating what is communicated to them. For example, we often hear it said that when two witnesses give two different accounts of the same event, ?one has to be lying.? Not so. It is rare for two witnesses to observe the same event from exactly the same point of observation at exactly the same time. This fact accounts for some differences in testimony.
For Latter-day Saints, evaluation also has a spiritual dimension. This is because of our belief in Moroni?s declaration that ?by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things? (Moroni 10:5). That promise assures spiritually sensitive readers a power of discernment that will help them evaluate the meaning of what they learn.
The kind of marriage required for exaltation?eternal in duration and godlike in quality?does not contemplate divorce. In the temples of the Lord, couples are married for all eternity. But some marriages do not progress toward that ideal. Because of the ?hardness of [our] hearts,? the Lord does not currently enforce the consequences of the celestial standard. He permits divorced persons to marry again without the stain of immorality specified in the higher law. Unless a divorced member has committed serious transgressions, he or she can become eligible for a temple recommend under the same worthiness standards that apply to other members.
Many of the most important deprivations of mortality will be set right in the Millennium, which is the time for fulfilling all that is incomplete in the great plan of happiness for all of our Father?s worthy children. We know that will be true of temple ordinances. I believe it will also be true of family relationships and experiences.
We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman?young or old?is set apart ? she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function ? Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.
We have witnessed a rapid and increasing public acceptance of cohabitation without marriage and of same-sex marriage. The corresponding media advocacy, education, and even occupational requirements pose difficult challenges for Latter-day Saints. We must try to balance the competing demands of following the gospel law in our personal lives and teachings, even as we seek to show love for all. In doing so we sometimes face, but need not fear, what Isaiah called ?the reproach of men.?
Converted Latter-day Saints believe that the family proclamation, issued nearly a quarter century ago and now translated into scores of languages, is the Lord?s reemphasis of the gospel truths we need to sustain us through current challenges to the family. Two examples are same-sex marriage and cohabitation without marriage. Just 20 years after the family proclamation, the United States Supreme Court authorized same-sex marriage, overturning thousands of years of marriage being limited to a man and a woman. The shocking percentage of United States children born to a mother not married to the father came more gradually: 5 percent in 1960, 32 percent in 1995, and now 40 percent.
The gospel plan each family should follow to prepare for eternal life and exaltation is outlined in the Church?s 1995 proclamation, ?The Family: A Proclamation to the World.? Its declarations are, of course, visibly different from some current laws, practices, and advocacy of the world in which we live. In our day, the differences most evident are cohabitation without marriage, same-sex marriage, and the raising of children in such relationships. Those who do not believe in or aspire to exaltation and are most persuaded by the ways of the world consider this family proclamation as just a statement of policy that should be changed. In contrast, Latter-day Saints affirm that the family proclamation defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur.
Simple and frequent dates allow both men and women to ?shop around? in a way that allows extensive evaluation of the prospects. The old-fashioned date was a wonderful way to get acquainted with a member of the opposite sex. It encouraged conversation. It allowed you to see how you treat others and how you are treated in a one-on-one situation. It gave opportunities to learn how to initiate and sustain a mature relationship. None of that happens in hanging out.
Young women, resist too much hanging out, and encourage dates that are simple, inexpensive, and frequent. Don?t make it easy for young men to hang out in a setting where you women provide the food. Don?t subsidize freeloaders. An occasional group activity is OK, but when you see men who make hanging out their primary interaction with the opposite sex, I think you should lock the pantry and bolt the front door.
?In the sequential relationship between reason and revelation, it is important that reason have what we can call `the first word? and that revelation have `the last word.? In this sequence, reason can `study it out? and formulate a proposed solution. In addition, as we seek confirmation or other guidance from revelation, reason can serve as a threshold check to screen out revelation that is counterfeit and to provide a tentative authentication of revelation that is genuine. This is necessary because, just as there is reasoning that is faulty, so also there is revelation that is spurious.?
What if you disagree with the directions of your leaders? This is the Lord?s work. In the long run, He will direct and correct His servants, one way or another. . . . In the meantime, pray for the needed correction, and in your prayers be sure to acknowledge that you and not they may be the one that needs correction. This is called humility and meekness.
?Our Heavenly Father gave us powers of reason, and we are expected to use them to the fullest. But he also gave us the Comforter, who he said would lead us into truth and by whose power we may know the truth of all things. ? For Latter-day Saints, evaluation also has a spiritual dimension. This is because of our belief in Moroni?s declaration that ?by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things? (Moroni 10:5). That promise assures spiritually sensitive readers a power of discernment that will help them evaluate the meaning of what they learn.?
?Measured against all ? possible objections, the testimony of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon stands forth in great strength. ? As is well known, because of disagreements or jealousies involving other leaders of the Church, each one of these three witnesses was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by about eight years after the publication of their testimony. ? Yet to the end of their lives ? not one of these witnesses deviated from his published testimony or said anything that cast any shadow on its truthfulness. ?Furthermore, their testimony stands uncontradicted by any other witnesses. Reject it one may, but how does one explain three men of good character uniting and persisting in this published testimony to the end of their lives in the face of great ridicule and other personal disadvantage? Like the Book of Mormon itself, there is no better explanation than is given in the testimony itself, the solemn statement of good and honest men who told what they saw?
We may have to struggle to achieve our goals, but our struggles may yield as much growth as our learning. The strengths we develop in overcoming challenges will be with us in the eternities to come. We should not envy those whose financial or intellectual resources make it easy. The stuff of growth was never made of ease, and persons who have it easy will need to experience their growth with other sacrifices or forego the advancement that is the purpose of life. Dallin H Oaks Learning and Latter-day Saints Ensign, April 2009
Some seem to value God?s love because of their hope that His love is so great and so unconditional that it will mercifully excuse them from obeying His laws. In contrast, those who understand God?s plan for His children know that God?s laws are invariable, which is another great evidence of His love for His children. Mercy cannot rob justice, and those who obtain mercy are `they who have kept the covenant and observed the commandment.? If anyone thinks that godly or parental love for an individual grants the loved one license to disobey the law, he or she does not understand either love or law. In other words, the kingdom of glory to which the Final Judgment assigns us is not determined by love but by the law that God has invoked in His plan to qualify us for eternal life, `the greatest of all the gifts of God.?
?I have been puzzled that some scriptures command us not to judge and others instruct us that we should judge and even tell us how to do it?The key is to understand that there are two kinds of judging: final judgments, which we are forbidden to make; and intermediate judgments, which we are directed to make, but upon righteous principles.? ??The effect of one mortal?s attempting to pass final judgment on another mortal is analogous to the effect on an athlete and observers if we could proclaim the outcome of an athletic contest with certainty while it was still under way. A similar reason forbids our presuming to make final judgments on the outcome of any person?s lifelong mortal contest.? ??We must, of course, make judgments every day in the exercise of our moral agency, but we must be careful that our judgments of people are intermediate and not final. Thus, our Savior?s teachings contain many commandments we cannot keep without making intermediate judgments of people?
This does not mean that we agree with all that is done with the force of law. It means that we obey the current law and use peaceful means to change it. It also means that we peacefully accept the results of elections. We will not participate in the violence threatened by those disappointed with the outcome. In a democratic society we always have the opportunity and the duty to persist peacefully until the next election.
At one extreme, some seem to have forgotten that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the ?right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.? That is the authorized way to raise public awareness and to focus on injustices in the content or administration of the laws. And there have been injustices.
At the other extreme, a minority of participants and supporters of these protests and the illegal acts that followed them seem to have forgotten that the protests protected by the Constitution are peaceful protests. Protesters have no right to destroy, deface, or steal property or to undermine the government?s legitimate police powers. The Constitution and laws contain no invitation to revolution or anarchy.
Two Yale University scholars recently reminded us: ?For all its flaws, the United States is uniquely equipped to unite a diverse and divided society. ? Its citizens don?t have to choose between a national identity and multiculturalism. Americans can have both. But the key is constitutional patriotism. We have to remain united by and through the Constitution, regardless of our ideological disagreements.?
We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparations for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming. And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult--the spiritual. A 72-hour kit of temporal supplies may prove valuable for earthly challenges, but, as the foolish virgins learned to their sorrow, a 24-hour kit of spiritual preparation is of greater and more enduring value.
facilitate. In the balance between truth and tolerance, tolerance can be dominant where the behavior does not involve us personally. But if the cohabitation does involve us personally, we should be governed by our duty to truth. For example, it is one thing to ignore serious sins when they are private; it is quite another thing to be asked to sponsor or implicitly endorse them, such as by housing them in our own homes.
Finally, the spirit of our balance of truth and tolerance is applied in these words of President Hinckley: ?Let us reach out to those in our community who are not of our faith. Let us be good neighbors, kind and generous and gracious. Let us be involved in good community causes. There may be situations where, with serious moral issues involved, we cannot bend on matters of principle. But in such instances we can politely disagree without being disagreeable. We can acknowledge the sincerity of those whose positions we cannot accept. We can speak of principles rather than personalities.?10 Watchman on the Tower
We live in a time of anger and hatred in political relationships and policies. We felt it this summer when some went beyond peaceful protests and engaged in destructive behavior. We feel it in some current campaigns for public offices. Unfortunately, some of this has even spilled over into political statements and unkind references in our Church meetings.
In that critical period, many of Churchill?s associates and newly converted supporters advocated his taking punitive measures against those who had contributed to the unprepared, precarious position in which the British found themselves. In that setting, Churchill spoke these words in the House of Commons in June 1940: There are many who would hold an inquest in the House of Commons on the conduct of the Governments?and of Parliaments . . . ?during the years which led up to this catastrophe. They seek to indict those who were responsible for the guidance of our affairs. This also would be a foolish and pernicious process. . . . Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.8 I find great wisdom in that counsel. Let us not ?open a quarrel between the past and the present? lest we jeopardize our attempts to improve our future.
This is our current state. We share our history and enjoy the advantages of our constitutional government and the prosperity of this nation. The predecessors of many Americans of different backgrounds made great sacrifices to establish this nation. Whatever those sacrifices?of freedom, property, or even life?let us now honor them for what they have done for us and forgo quarrelling over the past. Ours is the duty to unite and improve the future we will share.
He noted his generation?s ?undying devotion to reason? but observed that ?the thoughtless desecration of multiple monuments and the broader defamation of the Founding Fathers . . . hardly demonstrates a . . . respect for reasoned discourse.?10 The rising generation?s increasing departure from organized religion is well known. ?Thus,? your fellow student continued, ?we have rejected the two pillars of Western Civilization, faith and reason.?11 He concluded, persuasively, that your ?rash but confident screams for `justice? ought to be understood as cries for help more than anything else.?
The shocking police-produced death of George Floyd in Minnesota last May was surely the trigger for these nationwide protests whose momentum was carried forward under the message of ?Black Lives Matter.? Of course Black lives matter! That is an eternal truth all reasonable people should support. Unfortunately, that persuasive banner was sometimes used or understood to stand for other things that do not command universal support. Examples include abolishing the police or seriously reducing their effectiveness or changing our constitutional government. All these are appropriate subjects for advocacy, but not under what we hope to be the universally accepted message: Black lives matter.
Therefore, any personal attitudes or official practices of racism involve one group whom God created exercising authority or advantage over another group God created, both groups having God-given qualities they cannot change. So understood, neither group should think or behave as if God created them as first-class children and others as second-class children. Yet that is how racism affects thinking and practices toward others. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ must remember that all such attitudes and official practices were outlawed for us by the Lord?s 1833 revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith that ?it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.?
Using current definitions, some might call such divine actions and prophet-taught principles racist, but God, who is the loving Father of all nations, tribes, and ethnicities,32 cannot be branded as racist for His dealings with His children. Often the reasons for His plan are not known or understandable to mortals. ?For my thoughts are not your thoughts,? He said through the prophet Isaiah. ?Neither are your ways my ways.?
Some have rejected some element of God?s plan as unreasonable according to cultural norms they could understand or accept.34 Others who have accepted God?s plan have mistakenly relied on cultural norms to provide reasons God has not revealed.35 Thus both nonbelievers and believers can reject or attempt to amend divine plans by relying on cultural norms instead of the directions of God. The safest course is not to reject or supplement the divine plan by human reasoning. Those who cannot accept the prophetic decisions and practices of the past should consider Winston Churchill?s wise counsel quoted earlier: ?If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.?
On a personal basis, each of us struggles individually with some of the many adversities of mortality, such as poverty, racism, ill health, job losses or disappointments, wayward children, bad marriages or no marriages, and the effects of sin??our own or others?. Yet, in the midst of all of this, we have that heavenly counsel to be of good cheer and to find joy in the principles and promises of the gospel and the fruits of our labors.
Tribulation and challenges are the common experiences of mortality. Opposition is an essential part of the divine plan for helping us grow,2 and in the midst of that process, we have God?s assurance that, in the long view of eternity, opposition will not be allowed to overcome us. With His help and our faithfulness and endurance, we will prevail. Like the mortal life of which they are a part, all tribulations are temporary.
anger is ?Satan?s tool,? for ?to be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice.?5 Anger is the way to division and enmity. We move toward loving our adversaries when we avoid anger and hostility toward those with whom we disagree. It also helps if we are even willing to learn from them.
?For all its flaws, the United States is uniquely equipped to unite a diverse and divided society. ? ?? Its citizens don?t have to choose between a national identity and multiculturalism. Americans can have both. But the key is constitutional patriotism. We have to remain united by and through the Constitution, regardless of our ideological disagreements.?13
?The world in which we live would benefit greatly if men and women everywhere would exercise the pure love of Christ, which is kind, meek, and lowly. It is without envy or pride. ? It seeks nothing in return. ? It has no place for bigotry, hatred, or violence. ? It encourages diverse people to live together in Christian love regardless of religious belief, race, nationality, financial standing, education, or culture.?
And our article of faith, written by the Prophet Joseph Smith after the early Saints had suffered severe persecution from Missouri officials, declares, "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law" (Articles of Faith 1:12). This does not mean that we agree with all that is done with the force of law. It means that we obey the current law and use peaceful means to change it. It also means that we peacefully accept the results of elections. We will not participate in the violence threatened by those disappointed with the outcome. In a democratic society we always have the opportunity and the duty to persist peacefully until the next election.
While one portion of the human race [is] judging and condemning the other without mercy, the great parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; he views them as his offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men.2
I wondered, Are the advocates and actors in these efforts aware of what they are attempting to erase? For reasons that every serious student of American history understands, even the Constitution of the United States is stained with concessions to slavery that were made in order to get the whole document ratified. Those textual stains were, of course, removed by the amendments following the Civil War, which cost hundreds of thousands of lives throughout the North and the South. I cannot condone our now erasing all mention and honor of prominent leaders such as George Washington and others who established our nation and gave us our constitution because they lived at a time with legal approvals and traditions that condoned slavery.
The United States Constitution is unique because God revealed that He ?established? it ?for the rights and protection of all flesh? (D&C 101:77,80). That is why this constitution is of special concern for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world. Whether or how its principles should be applied in other nations of the world is for them to decide.
We are often left to work out problems without the dictation or specific direction of the Spirit. That is part of the experience we must have in mortality. Fortunately, we are never out of our Savior's sight and if our judgement leads us to actions beyond the limits of what is permissible and if we are listening to the still small voice, the Lord will restrain us by the promptings of His Spirit.