Sunday, November 23, 2008

Change we can believe in?

Back in December of last year, candidate Barack Obama said, "The real gamble in this election is playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expecting a different result."

Yet, as the president-elect's appointments make news, we are hearing about seeing a bunch of old Washington players back in government.

As National Review notes:
The cabinet names we are hearing:

Potential Secretary of State John Kerry: Elected to the Senate in 1984; served every day since.

Potential Secretary of State Bill Richardson: Elected to the House of Representatives in 1982, served until 1997. Former U.N. Ambassador, Secretary of Energy.

Potential Secretary of State Anthony Lake: Joined the State Department in 1962. Worked in the Carter Administration. Named National Security Adviser in 1993. Nomination to be CIA Director was withdrawn by the Clinton administration. [Sounds like Hillary Clinton, First Lady for 8 years, and senator from New York, will likely be Team Obama's Secretary of State -- not exactly "new blood"].

Potential Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers: Joined the World Bank as chief economist in 1991. Served in Clinton's Treasury Department and actually previously served as Treasury Secretary from 1999 to 2001.

Potential Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin: Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, 1993 to 1995. Treasury Secretary, 1995-1999.

Potential Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: Joined Kissinger and Associates in 1985; joined the Treasury Department in 1988 and served in various capacities until 2001.

Potential Treasury Secretary Laura Tyson: Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1993 to 1995; Director of the National Economic Council from 1995 to 1996.

Potential Treasury Secretary Paul Volker: Joined the Treasury Department in 1962; became undersecretary in 1963. Federal Reserve Chairman from 1979 to 1987.

Potential Defense Secretaries: Richard Danzig, Chuck Hagel, former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, and former NATO Commander Wesley Clark.

Potential Secretary of Commerce: Harold Ford Jr., congressman from Tennessee from 1997 to 2007.

Potential Secretary of Labor: Dick Gephardt, congressman from Missouri from 1977 to 2005.

Potential Secretary of Transportation: James Oberstar, member of the House of Representatives since 1975.

Potential Secretary of Energy: Ed Markey, member of the House of Representatives since 1976.

Potential Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Max Cleland, administrator for Veterans Affairs from 1977 to 1981, elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996.

Potential National Security Adviser: Susan Rice, member of the National Security Council from 1993 to 1997; assistant Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001.

This is not to say that some of these people wouldn't make good or at least acceptable appointments. (By the standards of Washington, D.C. mayors, potential HUD Secretary Tony Williams is excellent.) This is just to remind people of Obama's statement about "the same Washington players" and to emphasize, once again...

...all statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date. All of them.
Hmm. Obama is the least experienced president to take office in my lifetime. Not surprising that he would turn to "old hands". It is surprising given his mantra of change. Perhaps NR is not very charitable. But it does give one pause.

Neal A. Maxwell: prophetic insight 10 Oct 78

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, then in the presidency of the Seventy, said over thirty years ago in a BYU Devotional entitled "Meeting the Challenges of Today":
Discipleship includes good citizenship; and in this connection, if you are careful students of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions--especially when the First Presidency has spoken out--the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. The declarations are about principles, not people, and causes, not candidates. On occasions, at other levels in the Church, a few have not been so discreet, so wise, or so inspired.

But make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).

President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had "never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, or political life" (CR, April 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ.

We are now entering a period of incredible ironies. Let us cite but one of these ironies which is yet in its subtle stages: we shall see in our time a maximum if indirect effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism that uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of Western civilization to shrink freedom even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage.

. . .

Your discipleship may see the time come when religious convictions are heavily discounted. M. J. Sobran also observed, "A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it" (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, p. 58). This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain of people's opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortion will soon be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened.

. . .

It may well be, as our time comes to "suffer shame for his name" (Acts 5:41), that some of this special stress will grow out of that portion of discipleship which involves citizenship. Remember that, as Nephi and Jacob said, we must learn to endure "the crosses of the world" (2 Nephi 9:18) and yet to despise "the shame of [it]" (Jacob 1:8). To go on clinging to the iron rod in spite of the mockery and scorn that flow at us from the multitudes in that great and spacious building seen by Father Lehi, which is the "pride of the world," is to disregard the shame of the world (1 Nephi 8:26–27, 33; 11:35–36). Parenthetically, why--really why--do the disbelievers who line that spacious building watch so intently what the believers are doing? Surely there must be other things for the scorners to do--unless, deep within their seeming disinterest, there is interest.

If the challenge of the secular church becomes very real, let us, as in all other human relationships, be principled but pleasant. Let us be perceptive without being pompous. Let us have integrity and not write checks with our tongues which our conduct cannot cash.

Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even these, however, must leave a record so that the choices before the people are clear and let others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel. There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, that others will step forward, having been rallied to righteousness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds--a majority which was, till then, unconscious of itself.

Jesus said that when the fig trees put forth their leaves "summer is nigh" (Matthew 24:32). Thus warned that summer is upon us, let us not then complain of the heat.
Read the whole thing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Another blow to traditional marriage

If I were single, would be the dating website I would use most often, as it was founded by an evangelical Christian, has rather strict standards, and, for the most part at least, seems to attract wholesome and decent people. Thus it was more than a little disconcerting to me to learn earlier this week that as a result of a lawsuit brought against by a gay man in New Jersey, the company is now required to cater to homosexuals as well. Along with other ominous portents, such as the continuing unrest in California over the passage of Proposition 8, I see this as an omen of things to come if same-sex marriages ever become legalized from sea to shining sea. And that, in turn, is likely to happen someday, when the U. S. Supreme Court suddenly discovers that the federal Constitution enshrines this "right," of which its unenlightened framers were, of course, entirely unaware.

Michelle Malkin weighed in on the issue with her column today. Read it here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Former Catholic Bishop of Salt Lake City Decries Religious Bigotry in Political Ad; Defends LDS Role in Protecting Marriage

Link here. Full statement here:

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Nov 07, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The following statement was released today by Bishop William Weigand, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento and former Bishop of Salt Lake City, in response to attacks on the Mormon Church for supporting California's Proposition 8, defending the traditional definition of marriage:

"Catholics stand in solidarity with our Mormon brothers and sisters in support of traditional marriage--the union of one man and one woman--that has been the major building block of Western Civilization for millennia.

"The ProtectMarriage coalition, which led the successful campaign to pass Proposition 8, was an historic alliance of people from every faith and ethnicity. LDS were included--but so were Catholics and Jews, Evangelicals and Orthodox, African-Americans and Latinos, Asians and Anglos.

"Bigoted attacks on Mormons for the part they played in our coalition are shameful and ignore the reality that Mormon voters were only a small part of the groundswell that supported Proposition 8.

"As the former bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, I can attest to the fact that followers of the Mormon faith are a good and generous people with a long history of commitment to family and giving to community causes.

"I personally decry the bigotry recently exhibited towards the members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints--coming from the opponents of Proposition 8, who ironically, have called those of us supporting traditional marriage intolerant.

"I call upon the supporters of same-sex marriage to live by their own words--and to refrain from discrimination against religion and to exercise tolerance for those who differ from them. I call upon them to accept the will of the people of California in the passage of Proposition 8."

SOURCE: Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento

Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento
Kevin Eckery, 916-443-2528

Proposition 8

Life is full of irony.

Following passage of Proposition 8 in California, homosexual activists protest at LDS temples screaming "bigots". White powder is mailed to two LDS temples. Several LDS chapels are vandalized.

Orson Scott Card opines. Read the whole thing.

My belief: homosexual conduct is physiologically and morally wrong. In the Bible is it called an "abomination" (Lev. 20:13). That language is saved for describing what desecrates what is most sacred, such as the temple. (See abomination of desolation). Heterosexual adultery and fornication are also serious sins. (D&C 59:6).

Homosexual marriage has never been permitted in recorded history. (The "cities of the plain" may have been an exception, but their records have not survived).

The moral standard is the same for heterosexuals and homosexuals: chastity before marriage, fidelity after.

Proponents of homosexual conduct espouse determinism. But I believe all men are free to exercise moral agency. (D&C 101:78). By the divine standard, men and women are not permitted to act on their urges without a marriage union. And the scriptures teach that no man is tempted above what he is able to resist. (1 Cor. 10:13).

There is no right to homosexual marriage in the United States Constitution, or any state constitution. In the three states where it has been "legalized" (California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts), it has been done not by legislation or a vote of the people, but by activist judges who have interpreted existing law in a novel way. Proposition 8 amended the California Constitution to expressly state what has been the law in all civilized societies since the beginning of time.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It is therefore ironic that homosexual activists calling for tolerance are intolerant of any who oppose them, particularly of Latter-day Saints who oppose them on religious and moral grounds.

Several years ago, we were visiting friends in Palo Alto. On Sunday afternoon, I took my family on a drive into San Francisco. We drove through various parts of the city. There was a row of motorcycles parked in front of a tavern. Several riders, in leather hats, vests, "jock straps" (no pants) and jackboots were milling around outside. In another part of the city, we saw a bearded man in a white wedding dress and veil with a single large protuberance coming out of his chest. It wasn't Halloween. As far as I know, it wasn't "Gay Pride" day. Even if it were, wearing such clothing in public is offensive and deviant.

As a bishop, I have counseled LDS Church members in connection with both heterosexual sin and with same sex attraction. And I have seen their lives transformed. Our God is a merciful God, and he is mighty to save.

I don't understand everything, but I know that our heavenly Father loves his children. (1 Ne. 17:17). He does not tolerate sin, but he loves and seeks to save the sinner. (D&C 1:32-33).

I also know that true prophets have never been popular. The reason is they upset the status quo: they preach repentance. (See Helaman 13:25-28).

Joe the Plumber and partisan government leaking

In the days immediately following the third presidential debate, six Ohio state agencies (including the Attorney General's office) scoured their databases for information on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher they could provide to the media.

Talk about "spreading the wealth." Apparently the right of privacy must give way to partisan politics.

To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, "Extremism in support of Obama is no vice"?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Beyond Politics

I believe the partisans at both ends of the political spectrum have unrealistic expectations about an Obama presidency: he is neither the Messiah nor the Antichrist.

I don't have faith in government or politics to change the world.

I do have faith in my children and in the amazing young people I have the privilege of serving in the BYU 4th Stake who are going to the ends of the earth to change the world one person and one family at a time in the only way that matters.

As Hugh Nibley wrote in his essay, "Beyond Politics":
On the last night of a play the whole cast and stage crew stay in the theater until the small or not-so-small hours of the morning striking the old set. If there is to be a new opening night soon, as the economy of the theater requires, it is important that the new set should be in place and ready for the opening night; all the while the old set was finishing its usefulness and then being taken down, the new set was rising in splendor to be ready for the drama that would immediately follow. So it is with this world. It is not our business to tear down the old set -- the agencies that do that are already hard at work and very efficient -- the old set is coming down all around us with spectacular effect. Our business is to see to it that the new set is well on the way for what is to come -- and that means a different kind of politics, beyond the scope of the tragedy that is now playing its closing night. We are preparing for the establishment of Zion.
I nevertheless pray for our new president and our country and hope for the best.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Quotes for a day of decision

"We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name - liberty. And it follows that each of these things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names - liberty and tyranny." --The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, "Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, Maryland" (April 18, 1864), p. 301-302

"At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." --The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler. Volume I, "Address Before The Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois (January 27, 1838), p. 109

"If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and my posterity forget that you were our countrymen." --Samuel Adams

(Hat tip to Jed)