Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The War: "Where does the Church stand in all of this?"

With so much conflict in the world today, and legitimate arguments supporting the war and calling for its end, what position should a good member of the Church take on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan? While anyone who has read my blog knows how I feel about this, I won't presume to say there is one right answer for everyone. We all must follow the Spirit, the counsel of our Church leaders, the scriptures, and the dictates of our conscience. That said, President Hinckley spoke on this topic in the April 2003 General Conference (Gordon B. Hinckley, "War and Peace," Ensign, May 2003, 78). Here is a substantial quote from his talk:
The question arises, "Where does the Church stand in all of this?"

First, let it be understood that we have no quarrel with the Muslim people or with those of any other faith. We recognize and teach that all the people of the earth are of the family of God. And as He is our Father, so are we brothers and sisters with family obligations one to another.

But as citizens we are all under the direction of our respective national leaders. They have access to greater political and military intelligence than do the people generally. Those in the armed services are under obligation to their respective governments to execute the will of the sovereign. When they joined the military service, they entered into a contract by which they are presently bound and to which they have dutifully responded.

One of our Articles of Faith, which represent an expression of our doctrine, states, "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law" (A of F 1:12).

But modern revelation states that we are to "renounce war and proclaim peace" (D&C 98:16).

In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation.

When war raged between the Nephites and the Lamanites, the record states that “the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for … power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.

"And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God" (Alma 43:45–46).

The Lord counseled them, "Defend your families even unto bloodshed" (Alma 43:47).

And Moroni "rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.

"And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren" (Alma 46:12–13).

It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.

When all is said and done, we of this Church are people of peace. We are followers of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Prince of Peace. But even He said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matt. 10:34).

This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy. I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do. It may even be that He will hold us responsible if we try to impede or hedge up the way of those who are involved in a contest with forces of evil and repression.
I believe that one thing all members of the Church can unitedly do is pray for peace and pray that our leaders will be lead by the Spirit of Truth.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

America Stands for Freedom

In his 1982 Christmas Day radio address, President Ronald Reagan read a letter from Ordnance Man, First Class, John Mooney, written to his parents while aboard the aircraft carrier Midway. Of this letter quoted below, President Reagan said, "To me, it sums up so much of what is best about the Christmas spirit, the American character, and what this beloved land of ours stands for -- not only to ourselves but to millions of less fortunate people around the globe."
"Dear Mom and Dad," he wrote, "today we spotted a boat in the water, and we rendered assistance. We picked up 65 Vietnamese refugees. It was about a two-hour job getting everyone aboard, and then they had to get screened by intelligence and checked out by medical and fed and clothed and all that.

"But now they're resting on the hangar deck, and the kids -- most of them seem to be kids . . . are sitting in front of probably the first television set they've ever seen, watching `Star Wars'. Their boat was sinking as we came alongside. They'd been at sea five days, and had run out of water. All in all, a couple of more days and the kids would have been in pretty bad shape.

"I guess once in awhile," he writes, "we need a jolt like that for us to realize why we do what we do and how important, really, it can be. I mean, it took a lot of guts for those parents to make a choice like that to go to sea in a leaky boat in hope of finding someone to take them from the sea. So much risk! But apparently they felt it was worth it rather than live in a Communist country.

"For all of our problems, with the price of gas, and not being able to afford a new car or other creature comforts this year . . . I really don't see a lot of leaky boats heading out of San Diego looking for the Russian ships out there. . . .

"After the refugees were brought aboard, I took some pictures, but as usual I didn't have my camera with me for the REAL picture -- the one blazed in my mind. . . .

"As they approached the ship, they were all waving and trying as best they could to say, `Hello America sailor! Hello Freedom man!' It's hard to see a boat full of people like that and not get a lump somewhere between chin and bellybutton. And it really makes one proud and glad to be an American. People were waving and shouting and choking down lumps and trying not to let other brave men see their wet eyes. A lieutenant next to me said, `Yeah, I guess it's payday in more ways than one.' (We got paid today.) And I guess no one could say it better than that.

"It reminds us all of what America has always been -- a place a man or woman can come to for freedom. I know we're crowded and we have unemployment and we have a real burden with refugees, but I honestly hope and pray we can always find room. We have a unique society, made up of cast-offs of all the world's wars and oppressions, and yet we're strong and free. We have one thing in common -- no matter where our forefathers came from, we believe in that freedom.

"I hope we always have room for one more person, maybe an Afghan or a Pole or someone else looking for a place . . . where he doesn't have to worry about his family's starving or a knock on the door in the night . . ." and where "all men who truly seek freedom and honor and respect and dignity for themselves and their posterity can find a place where they can . . . finally see their dreams come true and their kids educated and become the next generations of doctors and lawyers and builders and soldiers and sailors.

Love, John."
This is why we should teach our children how great America is and why we should be patriotic. While it's people are not perfect, America stands for freedom and hope in a troubled world where evil men wish to exercise unrighteous dominion to take away our freedom to worship God and seek for better lives for ourselves and our families.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

New Google tools and the Church

Google Labs has come out with a few interesting new search functions: Timeline view and Map view. Try these out these searches:

"Book of Mormon" view:timeline

LDS history view:timeline

"Brigham Young University" view:timeline

Mormon history view:map

utah national parks view:map

Some searches work better than others. Try this one:

Moroni view:map

It's clearly still in the experimental stage, but the mapping is still an interesting tool.

Though it's been available for some time, another fun tool is Google Sets. Try entering the following sets, click on Large Set, and see what Google comes up with:

Lehi, Nephi, Moroni
Jacob, Mosiah, Alma

I'm not sure how useful these tools are, but they're fun. That said, if anyone has ideas for how to use these tools in our gospel study, lesson preparation, etc., post a comment!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Alcohol, the National Hypocrisy

The government has heavily regulated and even withdrawn approval for many drugs because of the potential harm they can cause, even when they have a real medical benefit. However, despite the number of people who are hurt and die every year as a direct result of alcohol consumption, the government does not regulate it at all. That we Americans permit this is disgraceful and hypocritical.

Many people die every year as a result of alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that in 2001, the United States had 75,766 alcohol-attributable deaths ( The causes of these deaths varied from drunk driving to liver disease. But sadly, many of these deaths were innocent people including children who suffered because others had been under the influence of alcohol.

These figures don't take into account the number of people who suffer alcohol-attributable disease, injury, or abuse. For example, studies indicate thousands are children are born every year with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), a “a set of birth defects caused by maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.” According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Overall, the available literature points to a prevalence rate of FAS of 0.5 to 2 cases per 1,000 births in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s” ( Approximately 4,000,000 live births were registered in the United States in 1994 ( Using the estimates above, between 2,000 and 8,000 babies are born every year with FAS. Because of alcohol, these innocent children suffer from “deficits in general intellectual functioning, ... difficulties with learning, memory, attention, and problem solving as well as problems with mental health and social interactions” (NIH).

The U.S. Government regulates medications because of their potential harm to individuals. As a result, drugs are subjected to heavy testing to ensure an acceptable degree of safety before they are permitted to be sold. Even then, prescription drugs cannot be purchased without a prescription from a licensed physician who has verified that an individual can safely take the medication. In addition, the physician must tell the patient how much they can take and in what intervals.

In extreme cases where a drug has proven to be more dangerous than originally thought, the government has withdrawn its approval for the sale of the drug. In most cases, few people had to die before approval was withdrawn. Take Propulsid, for instance. This medication was approved for the treatment of severe nighttime heartburn in 1993. By 1999, the government decided to withdraw approval for Propulsid because it had been linked to the deaths of 80 people during that six-year period. (

While Propulsid provided a medical benefit to many people who took it, the drug was taken off the market because a small number faced a higher risk of death or illness. Despite the fact that alcohol plays a direct roll in the deaths of far more people than withdrawn drugs had, the federal government continues to permit its sale and distribution. Herein lies the hypocrisy. We won't tolerate something harming innocent people unless that something is desirable to ourselves. We Americans tolerate this hypocrisy because so many people don't want to give up alcohol with its non-medicinal, mood-altering benefits. Worse, most Americans ignore what alcohol does to the innocent and the rest of society so that they won't have to face this hypocrisy. Those who do face it use arguments of moderation or rights to deflect the argument away from those who suffer, pay, and die because of alcohol.

I am not arguing for a complete ban. We don't have the will to uphold it, and too many people would disobey the law anyway. Rather, I argue that the government must step in and regulate alcohol like it does other drugs in order to protect the the population, both users and innocent alike.

The Lord's warning in Doctrine and Covenants 89 is relevant today. We as a people are weak in protecting ourselves from alcohol; Satan knows this and is working hard to use it to bring us further into bondage. Of course, the best solution is to avoid alcohol and to encourage others to use their agency abstain from it. But given that alcohol is addictive and mood altering, and given that Satan is working hard to trap people with it, I recommend that the federal government treat it the same way it does other drugs in order to protect those who use it and the innocent.