My passions in life include my faith in God, my family, American history, and a good road trip.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Trip to the End of the World, Part 2

Starting Down the Coast of Chile

Monday, February 1, 2016
At sea
After breakfast on the Lido deck, we went at 8:30 to listen to Michael Wilcox talk about the earliest Ant­arctic explorers. It was a fascinating presentation. He is a master teacher and an excellent storyteller.
We had lunch, and this afternoon we walked three or four laps around the outside deck on deck 3. Four laps is a mile. After that we attended a series of pres­entations on Antarctica sponsored by the Holland America people.
And then at 4:00 we heard Michael Wilcox tell us the inspiring efforts of Ernest Shackleton, a British explorer, trying to be the first to reach the South Pole and later trying to be the first to travel across the con­tinent of Antarctica. He did not accomplish either ob­jective. He got within 80 miles of the pole but turned back out of concern for the safety of those with him. The account of Shackleton’s effort to cross the conti­nent, which turned into a heroic effort to save his men, is captured in the book Endurance, which was also the name of his ship that was crushed in the ice. My reading of that inspiring story some years ago is what led to our being on this trip.
Tonight’s dinner was the first of three or four formal dinners during the cruise. We ate alone at our table because the previous night Otto and Janice told us they do not do formal.
We went this evening to a movie, Sky and Ice, the story of a French scientist who over the course of his lifetime ob­served from ice samples drilled in Ant­arc­tica that climate change was occur­ring.

Tuesday, February 2
In Chile at Puerto Montt and Frutillar
Today was a good day. We awoke to our 5:45 alarm and went to breakfast about 7:15. I said to Claudia as we awoke, “Can you feel that?”
“What?” she asked.
“The boat is not rocking back and forth.”
At 8:15 we met on the Lido deck with our fellow travelers from Fun for Less Tours to prepare to go ashore. A tender—the boat that transports us from ship to shore—took us to the dock at Puerto Montt. There we boarded our color-coded busses for today’s tour. Puerto Montt, with a population of 219,000, is a port city in the Llanquique Province in the Lakes Region of southern Chile, some 1,055 km (655 miles) south of Santiago. It was founded in 1853 as a part of the German colonization of southern Chile.
We drove through part of Puerto Montt and north to­ward Lake Llanquihue (pronounced something like “Yankee Who?”). It is a large lake, big enough to make it difficult to see the opposite shore. A large snow-capped conical volcano stands at 8,703 feet above the south­eastern shore of the lake. In appearance, the Osorno volcano appears similar to Mount Fuji in Japan.
Our bus traveled along the bank of the lake for some miles until we came to Vicente Pérez National Park, where we took a much-needed bathroom break before hiking an easy trail to Petrohué Falls on the Petrohué River. A word about public restrooms in Chile: You have to supply your own toilet paper, which we had been warned about, so fortunately we were prepared. This one at the national park actually had paper, just not in the individual stalls. You had to guess how much you might need and take that with you into the stall.
The bus then took us to the town of Frutillar, one of several German settlements dating from the mid-1800s in this lakes region. It was a beautiful place, and to­day’s temperatures were absolutely per­fect, proba­bly around 70º, perhaps into the low 70s.
The tenders took us from the shore back to the ship. We filled our water bottles for tomorrow’s shore trip and took short naps. Soon after it was time for dinner. We both had salmon. Our table­mates did not join us again to­night, but we found out why later. After dinner we walked half a mile on the Lower Prome­nade Deck and ran into Janice Edwards, and she told us Otto was not feeling well.
In addition to walking around the deck a couple of times, we also went this evening to listen to a couple different singers on the Upper Promenade Deck.

Wednesday, February 3
In Chile at Castro on Chiloe Island
We awoke and made ready for the day. We were to meet today at 8:00. We’ve learned that 8:00 really means at least 15 mi­nutes before that. We arrived at 7:50, and within a minute we were headed toward the tenders to take us ashore at Castro, the capital and principal city of Chiloé Island. The town has around 40,000 inhabi­tants and is Chile’s third oldest city in continuous existence, having been founded in Feb­ruary 1576, although it only became a part of the Chilean Republic in 1826.
Chiloé Island is the largest island of the Chile Archipelago off the southern coast of Chile in the Pacific Ocean. The island has a popu­lation of 155,000 people.
We boarded our busses and were off exploring. We drove through verdant countryside that was both beautiful and peaceful. We drove to a couple of small villages—one north, one south of Castro. As with Frutillar yesterday, German emigrants set­tled these villages in the mid 1800s. That fact was reflected in the architecture of many of the houses and businesses. The villages had local handicraft markets, a rich heritage of fishing, and many churches. In fact, our native guide, who spoke rudimentary English, seemed to have a fixa­tion on the many churches and on telling us over and over that we were “in Chiloé Island.” Every sen­tence, it seemed, included some reference to the fact that we were “in Chiloé Island.” It became in­creas­ingly comical as the tour continued, and almost a little annoy­ing.
Castro is famous for its colorful wood­en stilt houses that sit in a bay on the end of the town, and as our bus drove past them near the end of our tour I captured some nice pictures of the houses with their reflections in the water.
We returned to the ship a little earlier to­day. The day was over­cast, and it rained a little, looked threat­ening at other times, but tem­pera­tures were ideal again. At 5:45 we had dinner. Our table­mates have not returned, so we were alone once again. After dinner we went to the theater, where three successive Na­tional Geographic films were shown. We saw the first two but decided to skip the final one, the longest of the three, so we could turn in at a reasonable hour.

Thursday, February 4
In Chile at Puerto Chacabuco
Today was another shore excursion—our best thus far. Our guide was a German emigrant who came to Chile six years ago to raise his family of nine child­ren here in Patagonia. The government was giving free land to anyone who wanted to homestead. He and his wife home school their children, which was against the law in Germany. They live on a farm, where they are trying to be self-sufficient. Grandpa Lange would have loved them. They have no electricity ex­cept what a generator can produce. Even though they are home­steaders, he picks up odd jobs, such as serving as a tour guide, to provide for their minimal cash needs. Unlike yesterday’s guide, he was fluent in English and delightful to listen to.
The ship docked at Puerto Chacabuco (a town of only 1,300 people), where we took busses on a scenic drive through some stun­ningly impressive country­side. Our road ran close to the Andes and through lands cleared by settlers dating from the late 1800s. We went through the River Simpson Na­tional Reserve and over a summit down into the town of Coyhaique (a larger town with 54,000 people), where we walked around the main square and down a street of shops. Claudia bought two carved wooden penguins for US$3.00 each. Coyhaique is the capital of the Aysén Region of sparsely-settled southern Chile, a relatively young city that was founded in 1929.
On our drive back toward Puerto Chacabuco we stopped at a waterfall, Velo de la Noiva (the Virgin Waterfalls), and at the natural history museum of the River Simpson Natural Reserve.
It was supposed to have been raining today, but it did not until we were boarding the tenders to return to the ship. I cannot begin to capture the beauty of what we saw today.
At dinner tonight Otto and Janice Edwards still did not join us, but another couple from our group, Stu and Marnie Boyd, came over and sat with us from the neighboring table. We had a delightful visit.

Trip to the End of the World: Part 1

Getting to the Ship
Friday, January 29, 2016
To Los Angeles and then on to South America 
Our adventure began around 4:00 this morning. I had set alarms to go off at 4:30 and again at 4:35, in case I somehow didn’t hear the first one. I didn’t need either because I awoke just after 4:00 all on my own. And Claudia sometime before that!
Delbert and Mary Lou Strasser drove us to the airport. We were there by 6:00 to check in for our 8:30 Delta flight to Los Angeles and to check in with the Fun for Less Tours representative. We made our way through the security check and were easily at our gate well before boarding time, where we be­gan visiting with fellow Fun for Less travelers. We saw a mission­ary I had served with in Brazil more than 45 years ago. He and his wife were on their way to a mission in Lisbon.
Our flight to Los Angeles was uneventful, which we always want air travel to be. We arrived at LAX at 9:35, secured our bags from the claim area, walked with them in company with Glen Rawson and his wife Debbie over to the interna­tional ter­minal to check in for our 12:50 LAN flight to Lima and then on to Santiago. We landed in Lima two meals later after what seemed to be forever at 11:30 p.m. Peru time (or 7:30 p.m. Utah time) and sat on the tarmac as Friday became Sat­urday.
Today was the first we had ever met the Rawsons. We knew who Glen was because he hosts the BYUtv series, History of the Saints, and hosted an earlier KJAZZ series, The Joseph Smith Papers. They, along with Michael Wilcox, are our tour leaders.

Saturday, January 30
In Santiago, Chile

After an inflight breakfast we landed in Santiago, just as dawn was creeping over the Andes Mountains. This is the furthest south either of us has ever been, and we will be heading much further south before this trip is over.
Santiago is the capital and largest city of Chile. It is located in the country’s central valley about 1,700 feet above sea level and 60 miles from the Chilean coast. The city was founded in 1541. The presi­dential and judicial functions are head­quartered in Santiago, but the Chilean congress actual­ly meets in Val­paraiso on the coast. The 2002 census listed the popu­lation of the Santiago metro­politan area at 5,428,590, which represented 36 percent of the entire country.
We made our way through im­migration, collected our luggage, and went through an agricultural inspec­tion. Claudia had to chuck two apples we had not yet eaten, but cheese sticks and nuts were okay to bring into the country.
We boarded busses to tour the city of Santiago while our luggage boarded a truck to be hauled to our hotel. We were supposed to be on the yellow bus, evidenced by the yellow yarn tied to our luggage handles, but it filled up with blues because their blue bus was miss­ing in action, so we had to ride on the red bus. The bus took us to various historic, architecturally unique, or otherwise prominent gov­ernment and civic buildings and churches, including the presidential palace in downtown Santiago. Also some beautiful parks. A native tour guide on the bus told us about the various things we were see­ing. She took us to the temple com­plex, where Church ad­ministra­tive of­fices, the Chile MTC, a meeting­house, and such are located. She also showed us a build­ing nearing completion that is supposed to be the tall­est building in South America.
We next rode a tram to the top of the tallest hill in Santiago, which offered sweeping views of the city. We did a little souvenir shopping at the little shops on top. We went next to a place that had a variety of restaurants and shops, where we ate lunch with Dean and Carol Terry from Enterprise in southern Utah. They know a couple we served with at Winter Quarters and are related to them. They very kindly insisted on paying for our lunch.
And finally, most of us bone tired, we were taken to the Hyatt Hotel to spend the night. There are 117 of us or thereabouts on this Fun for Less Tours trip.
Today—which really started early yesterday morn­ing—has been the long­est day.

Sunday, January 31
In Chile at Santiago, Viña del Mar, and Valparaiso

Last night at 9:00 p.m. (which would have been 5:00 p.m. in Utah), after a shower, I went to bed. Claudia had already fallen asleep. From the time my head hit the pillow until our alarm sounded at 6:00 this morn­ing, I was not conscious of a thing and felt totally re­freshed from the long day that was Friday and Sat­ur­day.
We had to have our luggage outside our door at 6:30. We ate at the breakfast buffet on the main level of the hotel beginning at 7:00. It would be our last meal before boarding the ship. By 7:30 we returned to our room to get our final things, checked out, and this morning were able to get on the yellow bus.
The bus took us the 75 miles from Santiago to the sea over three mountain ranges, through two tunnels, through some beautiful agricultural valleys, and final­ly to Viña del Mar and Val­paraiso, where we boarded the Holland America ship, the Zaandam. We spent a con­siderable bit of time touring through Val­paraiso and got off the bus at the museum that displays one of the large stone heads from Easter Island. Val­paraiso is the administrative capital for Easter Island, even though it is 3,000-some miles dis­tant in the Pacific Ocean, a five-hour flight from the main­land. The Chilean national congress also sits in Valparaiso.
At 1:00 our busses dropped us off at the ship, and by 2:00 we were finally aboard. We have an interior stateroom on the starboard side of the main level (deck 2) of the ship, number 2523. We went im­medi­ately to the Lido deck (deck 8), where we ate a light lunch at a small salad buffet. We explored the ship a little before returning to our cabin. Our lug­gage was there by then, and we unpacked. At 4:00 we partici­pated in a man­datory evacua­tion drill. We are as­signed to lifeboat 3. We hope we never have to use it.
Our assigned dinner table is in the Rotterdam Res­taurant on deck 5 at 5:45 each evening. We are at a table for four people right next to a window. Our assigned dinner companions are Otto and Janice Edwards from near Indiana­polis, Indiana. From the way our dinner conversation played out, we assume they are not members of the Church.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What road are we heading down now?

--> Thoughts on the Supreme Court’s Unwise and Unconstitutional Decision Redefining Marriage, being a varied collection of everything on my mind these past couple of momentous days, published on Tuesday, June 30, 2015, as the Final Word in our family’s monthly newsletter
Some years ago I started reading a book by David Kupelian published in 2005 entitled The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom.
An overview of the book states that “Americans have come to tolerate, embrace and even champion many things that would have horrified their parents’ generation—from easy divorce and unrestricted abortion-on-demand to ex­treme body piercing and teaching homosexuality to grade-schoolers. Does that mean today's Americans are inherently more morally confused and depraved than previous generations? Of course not, says vet­eran journalist David Kupelian. But they have fallen victim to some of the most stunningly brilliant and compelling marketing campaigns in modern history.
The Marketing of Evil reveals how much of what Americans once almost universally abhorred has been packaged, perfumed, gift-wrapped and sold to them as though it had great value. Highly skilled marketers, playing on our deeply felt national values of fairness, generosity and tolerance, have persuaded us to embrace as enlightened and noble that which all previous generations since America's founding re­garded as grossly self-destructive—in a word, evil.”
I stated that I had started the book. I did not finish it. After reading a couple of chapters—one about the elimination of prayer and religion from schools specifically and the public square generally, the other about making the unspoken evil of homo­sexuality standard and acceptable—I became so agitated, worked up, and disgusted that I could not continue. It was something like playing in a sewer.
The two topics I did read about—the assault on religion and the normalization of homosex­uality—are of course related. And we’ve seen them coming to full fruition in this generation as our country be­comes ever more secularized and drifts further from the spiritual moorings that this nation was founded upon.

The Book of Mormon, which was written for our day, contains numerous warnings about what led to the downfall and eventual destruction of at least two previous civilizations that existed on this continent:
“And now,” wrote the prophet Moroni near the end of the Book of Mormon record, “we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity” (Ether 2:9).
Nearly 400 years earlier, as Mosiah was giving the Nephite nation a new form of government, he warned prophetically, “And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land” (Mosiah 29:27).
And, sadly, just six decades later, we read, “For as their laws and their government were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted” (Helaman 5:2).
This is not just interesting history. These are warnings intended specifically for our day.

When I was a grade schooler in Idaho in the early 1960s, we began each school day by reading from the Bible. I do not remember that we prayed at school.
When the first school prayer cases were decided, President David O. McKay said, “By making that [written prayers formulated by the New York state board of regents] unconstitutional, the Supreme Court of the United States severs the connecting cord be­tween the public schools of the United States and the source of divine intelligence, the Creator him­self” (“Parental Respon­sibility,” Relief Society Magazine, Dec. 1962, 878).
Six months later, just after the Supreme Court’s decision forbid­ding Bible reading in public schools, President McKay said, “Recent rulings of the Su­preme Court would have all reference to a Creator eliminated from our public schools and public offices.
“It is a sad day when the Supreme Court of the United States would discourage all reference in our schools to the influence of the phrase ’divine provi­dence’ as used by our founders of the Declaration of Independence.
“Evidently the Supreme Court misinterprets the true meaning of the First Amendment, and are now leading a Christian nation down the road to atheism” (Church News, June 22, 1963, 2).
President McKay was not a lawyer. He was not a judge. But he was a prophet of God, a seer and a revelator. He could see the path we were beginning down and knew where it would lead. We are well along that path now.
There is silliness about (that’s my kind word, per­verseness would be more accurate) that the United States is not a Christian nation. America was founded as a Christian nation. Our founding documents, to­gether with reliable rhetoric from the remarkable men who founded this country, were that God’s hand was in the enterprise. Our laws were based in the Judeo-Christian morality taught in the Bible. Our belief, until quite recently at least, was that America was something special in the world, a city upon a hill, a beacon for the rest of humanity that stood against the forces of tyranny and evil and oppression.

And that brings us down to this last week, when on Friday morning, June 26, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 split vote re­leased its ruling on so-called same-sex marriage. Five justices, elected by no one, legislated that same-sex marriage would now be legal in all 50 states. From my van­tage point, the Supreme Court got this one supremely wrong on at least two counts: as a moral issue and as a legal issue.

First, as a moral issue. Modern prophets have taught, “Man’s laws can­not make moral what God has de­clared immoral” (Dallin H. Oaks, “No Other Gods,” Ensign, Nov. 2013, 75) and “Sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God” (Russell M. Nel­son, “Decisions for Eternity,” Ensign, Nov. 2013, 108).
The scriptures and the teachings of modern prophets and apostles are clear that homosexual behavior is a sin, just as fornication and adultery and various other corrupt practices that are commonly tolerated in our society are sins. Sin is sin. God defines that; I do not.
Now that probably sounds very bigoted. Those who know me at all know that I haven’t got a bigoted bone in my body. I am simply stating what should be obvious and self-evident. I know people who are gay. I may not agree with them, but I still respect them. I do not hate or mock or belittle them. I respect their rights, including now in every jurisdiction their right to marry. I do not disparage what they have been through or what they have had to contend with. God is the judge; I am not.
“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense” (attributed to Rick Warren, an American evangelical Christian pastor).
It goes with saying, although unfortunately it does need to be said, that no true disciple of Jesus Christ should ever persecute another person for his or her beliefs or actions. As Elder Oaks has taught, “On the subject of public discourse, we should all follow the gospel teachings to love our neighbor and avoid contention. Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. . . . Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable.”
Elder Oaks continued, “The Savior taught that contention is a tool of the devil. . . .
“The most important setting to forgo contention and practice respect for differences is in our homes and family relationships. Differences are inevitable—some minor and some major. As to major differences, suppose a family member is in a cohabitation rela­tionship. That brings two important values into conflict—our love for the family member and our commitment to the commandments. Following the Savior’s example, we can show loving-kindness and still be firm in the truth by forgoing actions that facilitate or seem to condone what we know to be wrong” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Loving Others and Living with Differences,” Ensign, Nov. 2014, 27).
There is a freeway billboard sign in Salt Lake that proclaims, “God loves gays.” Well, of course He does, but implied in that message is that He accepts illicit or sinful behavior, which He clearly does not. To think otherwise, is simply cheap theology and deceitful, devious doctrine.
From the beginning of time, across cultures and centuries, the definition of marriage has been a union be­tween a man and a woman. A Supreme Court deci­sion cannot change that. They may extend the bene­fits of marriage to those of the same sex, but they can­not say a cat is a dog simply because a lot of cats wanted to be dogs and felt bad that they couldn’t be. Sometimes I think we must be in a dream, an absurd night­mare of the sort that Alice experienced in Won­der­land.
A statement by the Church that same Friday morning said, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acknowledges that follow­ing today’s rul­ing by the Supreme Court, same-sex marriages are now legal in the United States. The Court’s decision does not alter the Lord’s doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God.”

And now second, as a legal issue. Last Friday morn­ing I read the majority opinion and the four dissent­ing opinions (all 103 pages of them) and, re­gardless of one’s orientation or views on same-sex marriage, I have to concur with all four of the dis­senting justices that today is a sad day for America and those who love the Constitution and the rule of law. For saying as much on Facebook, in re­sponse to someone else’s post, I have already been labeled a bigot.
“This Court is not a legislature,” Chief Justice John Roberts observed in his dissent. “Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be. . . .
“Although the policy arguments for extending marriage to same-sex couples may be compelling, the legal arguments for requiring such an extension are not. The fundamental right to marry does not include a right to make a State change its definition of mar­riage. And a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational. . . .
“Today, however, the Court takes the extraordi­nary step of ordering every State to license and rec­ognize same-sex marriage. Many people will rejoice in this decision, and I begrudge none their celebra­tion. But for those who believe in a govern­ment of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is dis­heart­ening. . . .
If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
I wish we had the space, and you as reader the patience, to quote Justice Robert’s entire masterful dissent, as well as the dissents authored by the other three justices who did not concur with the majority opinion. In my judgment, all four of them gave com­pelling reasons why legally this was a bad decision.
“I join the Chief Justice’s opinion in full,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia. “I write separately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy.”
He continues, “It is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage. It is of over­whelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opin­ion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact—and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create ‘liberties’ that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to men­tion. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern them­selves.”
He continues, “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of govern­ment. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibi­tion agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ ‘reasoned judgment.’ A system of government that makes the People subor­dinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”
Justice Clarence Thomas adds, “The Court’s deci­sion today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built. Since well before 1787, liberty has been under­stood as freedom from government action, not en­titlement to government benefits. The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that under­standing of liberty. Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a ‘liberty’ that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect. Along the way, it rejects the idea—captured in our Declaration of Independence—that human dignity is innate and suggests instead that it comes from the Government. This distortion of our Constitution not only ignores the text, it inverts the relationship between the individual and the state in our Republic.”
And, finally, from Justice Samuel Anthony Alito: “Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understand­ing of marriage. The decision will also have other important consequences. It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are deter­mined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.
“Perhaps recognizing how its reasoning may be used, the majority attempts, toward the end of its opinion, to reassure those who oppose same-sex marriage that their rights of conscience will be pro­tected. We will soon see whether this proves to be true. I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by govern­ments, employers, and schools. The system of federalism established by our Constitution provides a way for people with different beliefs to live together in a single nation. If the issue of same-sex marriage had been left to the people of the States, it is likely that some States would recognize same-sex marriage and others would not. It is also possible that some States would tie recognition to protection for conscience rights. The majority today makes that impossible. By imposing its own views on the entire country, the majority facilitates the margin­alization of the many Americans who have tradi­tional ideas. Recalling the harsh treatment of gays and lesbians in the past, some may think that turn-about is fair play. But if that sentiment prevails, the Nation will experience bitter and lasting wounds.
“Today’s decision will also have a fundamental effect on this Court and its ability to uphold the rule of law. If a bare majority of Justices can invent a new right and impose that right on the rest of the country, the only real limit on what future majorities will be able to do is their own sense of what those with political power and cultural influence are willing to tolerate. Even enthusiastic supporters of same-sex marriage should worry about the scope of the power that today’s majority claims. Today’s decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain this Court’s abuse of its authority have failed.”

Now, a few words in conclusion. For all this to work for same-sex marriage pro­ponents, they have to get rid of religion and morality. They have to get rid of Christianity, which will always be a thorn in their side and a prick to their conscience. They know this. They acknowledge this. And the assault has long since begun. In their eyes, America can no longer be a Christian nation. It must become thoroughly human­istic and secular. Religion and faith can have no place in the public arena.
The Constitutionally protected and enumerated freedoms of religion and speech and assembly, ac­cording to this assault, now have to bow to concocted freedoms and political correctness.
A characteristic of elitists and those on the left end of the political spectrum is that freedom of speech, for example, is all good and fine as long as it does not disagree with what they believe. Otherwise, they brand it as hate speech or bigotry or stupidity. They use it to demean or belittle or ridicule. They employ it to get people ostracized or dismissed or fired, just as Justice Alito predicted. They somehow miss or are willfully ignorant of their own hypocrisy.
We in the Church believe that in fulfillment of prophecy the Lord is now hastening His work in the earth. The end must be near. Satan knows this of course, so he too is currently hastening his work. He is freely marketing his evil. These are to be “days of wickedness and vengeance” (Moses 7:60). The skir­mishes may become quite intense. We are in for an interesting ride.
But the Lord’s purposes in the end result in “peace, justice, and truth . . . and mercy” (Moses 7:31). So, armed with faith and the power of right­eousness, and led by revelation, the saints of God in this dispensation ultimately prevail. We can take comfort in knowing who wins the war.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine's thought

I've journeyed a bit down the road of life, and I want all of you children and grandchildren to know that one could not have a better traveling companion than your mom and grandmother.

She may fall asleep along the way. She may send you down the wrong road--no, wait, that's just when she's with you in a literal car. In the metaphorical journey down life's highway, she never steers you wrong, and she's fiercely vigilant when it comes to those she loves. And her heart is a very big and generous and inclusive one. She just wants every chair filled, no one to miss the train--whatever metaphor you wish to use--so that everyone arrives safely home at the end of life's journey, secure in the arms and the love of our Heavenly Parents.

And that's my Valentine's tribute to her and my Valentine's wish to all of you.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

A mountainous journey

The wife and I were driving along a winding scenic road in the rugged high mountains of southern Utah. The ride through forests of juniper, punctuated with red-rock ridges, bluffs, towers, and canyons carved through time by wind and water, was breathtaking. The brilliant blue sky, interrupted with an occasional white cloud, the fluffy kind, arched overhead. Judging from the sun approaching its zenith, it was late morning. The air at this elevation was delightfully cool. A beautiful day.

The narrow blacktop snaked its way through the landscape. This was pristine country. Except for the road we were traveling on, there were no obvious signs of civilization to be seen for miles in any direction. We did not pass any other vehicles. The road through this stretch had no signs, no pavement markings, no guardrails. The guardrails, in retrospect, would have seemed to be a desirable nicety if not an outright necessity.

My wife was driving the car. That was an odd curiosity because on road trips I was always the driver.

Her father was in the back seat. I remember that fact simply because he cautioned her to slow down as we began our descent from the relatively flat plateau we had been driving on. The road started to become treacherous as it headed down the mountainside, but she seemed not to heed his warning.

We rounded curves that hugged the side of the mountain. Just beyond the side of the road, the terrain in places fell away for thousands of feet. At times we were climbing steep hills. Once crested, the car picked up speed as we descended the other side. More curves. Switchbacks. More ups and downs. For whatever reason, she seemed bent on getting us to our destination in somewhat of a hurry. A ride on a roller coaster would have seemed tame in comparison.

She headed a bit too fast into a lengthy curve to the right, and the rear wheels were sliding dangerously close to the precipitous edge. She gunned the engine to help the front wheels pull the vehicle back onto the pavement. The outcome appeared dubious.

And that's when I awoke, safe in my comfortable bed, and realized that it had all been a dream.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"We're back in the saddle again"

More than a year has passed since I last posted here. There are a variety of reasons, I suppose. For nearly six months during the first part of the year, I devoted much of my discretionary time to compiling the book Diary of a Boy, which I gave to my children on my 62nd birthday in July. It chronicles the first 16 years of my journey through life.

In the months since then, I have been working on the next two volumes of that journey, my final two years of high school (the gift for my 63rd birthday) and my first year of college (for my 64th birthday). And doing various other things.

Our out-of-state travel diminished this year compared to last year. In the fall of 2010 Claudia and I completed the marathon Primary sacrament meeting tour, including being there for grandchildren in the Eldorado Branch in Illinois, the Mulkiteo Ward in Washington state, the Brockett Ward in Georgia, and a couple wards here in Layton. Five separate Primary programs.

This year we were as committed to such programs but attended only one out of state. We caught some here in Utah and one in Illinois. Chris and Camilla moved from Everett back to Bountiful, so we didn't need to go to Washington. We very likely would have flown to Atlanta to see Peter say his few words, but that program was the day after Paul and Eliza returned home after visiting us here in Utah for a whole month. And what a wonderful month it was!

This year's road trips have been relatively short ones: to southern Utah a couple times to visit Kay and Karen (including an August trip to see him sustained as bishop of the Hurricane 11th Ward), to Lava Hot Springs (including a scenic drive home on a road less traveled), and to Nampa/Boise a couple times to see family there, attend a weddings, and participate in a Cleverly family reunion.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A special type of soldier

President Hugh B. Brown (1883-1975) served during the 1960s as a counselor in the First Presidency to President David O. McKay. He was one of my spiritual heroes in my late teen years. His teachings, among other factors, influenced my decision to serve a mission, which has influenced my life for good ever since. Recently one of the Brethren I work with now, Elder Richard G. Hinckley, shared the following account by President Brown. I had never heard this story before and was impressed with it. It is a great story.

At the request of the First Presidency, I had gone to England as coordinator for the LDS servicemen. One Saturday afternoon in 1944, I sent a telegram from London to the base chaplain near Liverpool letting him know that I would be in camp the next morning to conduct Mormon church services at 10:00 a.m.

When I arrived at the camp, there were 75 Mormon boys, all in uniform and quite a number in battle dress. The chaplain to whom I had sent the wire proved to be a Baptist minister from the southern U.S. He, too, was waiting for my arrival. As these young men ran out to greet me not because it was I, but because of what I represented, and as they literally threw their arms around me, knowing I was representing their parents as well as the Church, the minister said, "Please tell me how you do it."

"Do what?"

"Why," he said, "I did not get your wire until late this morning. I made a hurried search. I found there were 76 Mormon boys in this camp. I got word to them. 75 of them are here. The other is in the hospital. I have more than 600 Baptists in this camp, and if I gave them 6 months notice, I could not get a response like that."

And then he repeated, "How do you do it?"

I said, "Sir, if you will come inside, perhaps you will see."

We went in to the little chapel. The boys sat down. I asked, "How many here have been on missions?"  I think a full 50 percent raised their hands.

I said, "Will you and you and you, and I pointed to six of them, please come and administer the sacrament? And will you and you and you, and I pointed to six others, please come and sit here and be prepared to speak."

Then I said, "Who can lead the music?" A number of hands were raised. "Will you come and lead the music? And who can play this portable organ?" There were several more hands, and one was selected. Then I said, "What would you like to sing, fellows?" With one voice they replied, "Come, Come Ye Saints!"

We had no hymnbook. The boy sounded the chord:  they all arose. I have heard "Come, Come Ye Saints" sung in many lands and by many choirs and congregations. Without reflecting adversely on what we usually hear I think I have only heard "Come, Come Ye Saints" sung that once when every heart seemed to be bursting. They sounded every verse without books.

When they came to the last verse, they didn't mute it; they didn't sing it like a dirge but throwing back their shoulders, they sang out until I was fearful the walls would burst." And should we die before our journey's through, happy day, all is well." I looked at my minister friend and found him weeping.

Then one of the boys who had been asked to administer the sacrament knelt at the table, bowed his head, and said, "Oh, God, the Eternal Father." He paused for what seemed to be a full minute, and then he proceeded with the rest of the blessing on the bread. At the close of that meeting, I sought that boy out. I put my arm around his shoulders, and said, "Son, what's the matter? Why was it so difficult for you to ask the blessing on the bread?"

He paused for a minute and said, rather apologetically, "Well, Brother Brown, it hasn't been two hours since I was over the continent on a bombing mission. As we started to return, I discovered that my tail assembly was partly shot away, that one of my engines was out, that three of my crew were wounded, and that it appeared absolutely impossible that we could reach the shore of England.

"Brother Brown, up there I remembered Primary and Sunday School and MIA, and home and church, and up there when it seemed all hope was lost, I said, 'Oh, God the eternal Father, please support this plane until we reach a landing field.' He did just that, and when we landed, I learned of this meeting and I had to run all the way to get here. I didn't have time to change my battle dress, and when I knelt there and again addressed the Lord, I was reminded that I hadn't stopped to say thanks.

"Brother Brown, I had to pause a little while to tell God how grateful I was."

Well, we went on with the meeting. We sang. Prayers were offered, and these young men, with only a moment’s notice, each stood and spoke, preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to their comrades, bore their testimonies, and again I say with due respect to the various ones with whom I have associated and labored they were among the finest sermons I have ever heard.

Then the time was up and I said, Fellows, it's time for chow. We must dismiss now, or you will miss your dinner. With almost one voice they cried, "We can eat grub any time. Let's have a testimony meeting!"

So we stayed another hour and a half. I looked at my friend, and he was weeping unashamedly.

At the close of that meeting, this minister said, "I have been a minister for more than 21 years, and this has been the greatest spiritual experience of my life."

This story comes from a talk President Brown gave at BYU in May 1969 ("An Eternal Quest—Freedom of the Mind," May 13, 1969, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, 14–17), when I would have been in Brazil on my mission. The story is also quoted in “Lesson 28: Serving in the Church,” The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part B, 240.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A dangerous journey

My son-in-law Vince yesterday posted some comments on his blog about the talk given in the recent general conference by President Boyd K. Packer and the resulting noise in the media. I posted the following comment in response to Vince's blog.

Vince, I appreciate and endorse your sentiments. Issues such as homosexuality and same-gender marriage are clearly moral issues, and churches are supposed to speak out on moral issues. Besides the Mormons and the Catholics, where are all the other churches?

President Packer's talk was characterized in some of the media and by some homosexual advocates as hate speech. I defy anyone who actually heard the talk or has since read it to point out a single hint of hate.

I am grateful that the Lord is still willing to speak to His children through prophets, seers, and revelators. How utterly presumptuous to think we know more than the Lord or His servants! Among all the Brethren, President Packer clearly has the gift of seership; he "sees" things so many of the rest of us do not see.

Last night I started reading the book Michael referred to, The Marketing of Evil, and yes, we've been cleverly sold a bill of goods resulting in an almost wholesale shift in attitudes toward and acceptance of homosexuality (you will note that I am avoiding any use of the little three-letter politically correct word that was co-opted as a part of this sneaky advertising campaign for homosexuals to gain acceptance and then to silence any possible opposition [hence the cry of hate speech the moment anyone dares disagree with them]). They and we have been done a horrendous disservice.

Yes, we are heading down many wrong roads as a culture and a society. It is a slippery, dangerous journey that is rapidly eroding what has traditionally been admired as the American dream (and I am not talking about the economics of the American dream, but the moral and spiritual underpinnings of that way of life and the associated liberties that were once a beacon and last best hope for all the rest of mankind).

I think we are reaching the time foreseen by the prophet Isaiah: "Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20; and quoted in 2 Nephi 15:20). That's the only conclusion I can come to when hearing someone say that President Packer's talk was "hate speech" when clearly it was precisely the opposite.

I disagree with the objectives and the agenda of those militants who are pushing for homosexual rights. Mere disagreement does not constitute hate. I also disagree with any who would persecute or deny the rights of those who are different than they are or who believe differently than they do (whether they be Mormons, homosexuals, Jews, Hispanics, whatever the hate de jour).

I personally know some homosexuals, two of whom are fairly close family members, and I bear them no ill will, no animosity, no hatred. If anything, I feel more compassion and concern and love for them. But such compassion, concern, and love do not move me to ignore, question, or oppose the Lord's clear position as taught in the scriptures and by latter-day prophets on issues such as marriage, virtue, and fidelity. Any sexual relationship outside of marriage is sin. Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental and basic and essential to the very plan of happiness that was put in place before the world was even formed. Indeed, it was the very reason the world was created. Compromising on or destroying that foundation can only lead to individual heartbreak and the demise of civilization.

Bleak outcomes, to be sure, but we have a sure, bright hope in knowing that the Lord's purposes in the end will prevail (see Mormon 8:22).