My Religion, Faith, and Politics

I suppose before a person can begin making arguments to persuade others to their point of view, it helps to first declare that point of view. When Hamilton rote the first Federalist Paper, he made clear his intent to convince his readers of the importance of federalism and the new Constitution. I don’t pretend that my lowly blog will ever be as well written nor as widely read as those masterful works, but I do hope to mimic their methods.

So without further ado, I endeavor to inform my reader (or readers? I hope so) on the basis or foundation of my beliefs.

Religion:

I was born to parents who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a child, I did not doubt the testimonies of my parents. I had no reason to. I was baptized, as is customary in our Church, at the age of 8, when I was old enough to know what I was doing and make my own decision. I proudly remember stepping into the warm font waters on February 9th, just days after I turned 8. I was baptized by my father, who at the time was an Elder of the Church.

My first doubt came when I learned the true nature of Santa: if my parents where not telling me the truth about that man, what else would they lie about? Looking back, it was no significant crisis of faith, but it was my first, and so it felt significant at the time. Fortunately, my parents had wisely taught me the correct principles of the Church since I was old enough to learn and the crisis of faith was averted shortly, and without them ever knowing (this may be the first time they’ve heard that: surprise!) Those that know me best will, rightly, gather that this is the cause of my aversion to Santa: I am convinced that he strips faith, rather than building it.

At the age of 12 I happily was ordained a Deacon in the Church, having hands laid on my by the Elders and leaders of our congregation. This consisted of responsibilities and also the power of the lesser, Aaronic Priesthood. My responsibilities consisted primarily of passing the sacrament of bread and water to the congregants. This was a role took seriously.

At 14, as is the standard, I was given additional responsibility as a Teacher. I kept my Deacon’s responsibilities, but added the role of entering into the homes of those in our congregation, checking that their physical and spiritual needs were being met, and teaching them gospel messages. My first partner was my father, his masterful instruction began my lifelong love for educating others, and myself.

At 16, as is standard, I rose to the calling of Priest: still an office of the lesser Priesthood, I added the responsibilities of preparing and blessing the sacrament and working with the Elders to prepare myself for proselytism. I believe that, while somewhat silly, I was a serious and sober young man. I took my commitments to the Church seriously and pushed myself to do as I was expected.

It was during this time that I was in an accident that would shape the course of my life. I’ve written of this event in some detail, and won’t repeat the whole of it here. But critical to my faith in the Priesthood, having had every attempt at modern medical science fail to help me heal, I had the hands of the Elders laid on my head, first anointing me with oil and then, my father acting as voice, commanding my body to heal. This is something that I am hesitant to share openly on the Internet to the random stranger who may read this, due to the very sacred nature of the experience. Nonetheless, my body healed within weeks rather than the many months it should have taken. As the New Testament promises, the laying on of hands had healed me when I had become a wonder to medicine by not healing.

Having my faith buoyed up by both the subtle whispering a of the spirit and the majorly miraculous workings of the Priesthood, i accepted the calling of Elder and the accompanying greater responsibility of the higher Melchizedek Priesthood. With it, came the call to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world. A calling I took to Detroit, Michigan, where I served as a full time missionary for two years without payment and at the loving expense of my parents.

I hope to share some of my missionary experiences in other writings. But let me sum up the experience as this: it was the most difficult, most trying, most exhausting, and most powerfully rewarding time of my life up to that to that point. My father would occasionally share his mission’s experiences with me by letter. And my mothers faith, testimony and teaching on my behalf impacted me daily. One small story: the first area of my mission was in Sterling Heights, Michigan, an area populated in no small part by the Iraqi Chaldeans, who are the Christians currently genocidally butchered in the Middle East by the radicals of the Islamic State. These loving Christians shared some wonderful aspects of their culture with me, including their food (which I remember with the highest fondness) in my first 6 or 7 weeks, I’d gone from 160 pounds to 215 pounds… I had gotten fat. I spoke to my mother on Mother’s Day, and told her that I intended to send home my unfitting and unopened clothes, asking her to replace them with a larger size and send them back. I will enter forget her sage and loving instruction: “gluttony is a sin. Lose weight!” The blatant and unrestricted truth has always been my mother’s style, and I took her chastisement to heart and lost the fat that I had quickly accumulated. (A process much more difficult than gaining it in the first place).

Returning home, I found a singles congregation and endeavored to fully integrate. I was asked to teach Sunday School,  which I enjoyed. I failed at integration, as I married my lovely wife just 4 1/2 months after returning home.
Julie and I were married in the Idaho  Falls temple. Like the temples of old, the temples of the LDS Church are the places that we dedicate for the work of the Lord. It is here that God has established to be His house on earth. Appropriately, and as the faithful of old, we put every effort into the ensuring that the buildings are the finest in the world. It was in one of the white rooms of the Temple that I knelt across from my beloved and made the sacred covenant of marriage with her in front of witnesses and in the sight of angels.

Some believe that what goes on in the temple is nefarious because members of the LDS Church don’t speak about them: this isn’t true. We do wonderful things in the temple: taking symbolic actions to learn and make covenants with God. One action performed both inside and outside is baptism: the symbolism is simple enough; thy we are laid down beneath the water as if being laid down in the earth and rise up as a new person; laying down in death our old self and being raised up new in Christ. Because of the sacred nature of these things, however, we don’t talk freely about them, and rarely. I will likely not go into detail in my posts on the acts of the temple.

I’ve held many callings in the Church, but they have been primarily either scouting or teaching: my two passions.

Over the course of my adult life, I’ve never questioned my belief that the Church is God’s. I’ve had too many declarations from Him to doubt it. I have had some trials of faith, but I’ve never doubted that.

Faith:

Some might question why I would separate faith and religion. The answer is that, I’m not sure that they are the same, though they are undoubtedly tied.

From the earliest age, my parents taught me of Jesus Christ, my Savior, my Brother, my King, and my Friend. They taught me of His birth, His life, His death, and His overcoming the Grave. They taught me that he as returned on many occasions, first to Mary, then His apostles, then his disciples both in the old and new worlds. And he has returned in our day as well to a young boy, calling him as a prophet.

I hardly doubted as a young boy, and rarely as an old one, that my parents knew it. I leaned on their faith for a time, as all children do, until the Holy Ghost had spoken enough to me to lean on my own faith.

My journey of faith is less linear and more difficult to write about than my journeying in the Church. But I can speak some to my beliefs, though the following is by no means comprehensive:

I believe that under the direction of the Father, Jesus Christ created the earth.

I believe that Jesus, as the God of the Old Testament, called prophets to lead His people and administer his words.

I believe that Jesus came to earth, the Son of Mary, to fulfill the laws of justice and make way for mercy.

I believe that Jesus lead a sinless life, thus the law of justice which says that the consequent of sin is death, had no hold on Him.

I believe that Jesus set up an actual organized Church, granting it His authority to act in His name.

I believe that Jesus acted vicariously for all sinners: suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, and, contrary to laws of justice, He died.

The law being broken, Jesus held the power over life and death, and rose again: immortality connected to his body.

I believe that Jesus will grant all who have lived second, resurrected life: never to be separated from our perfected bodies again. He gives this gift freely and without cost.

I believe that Jesus’s sacrifice made him an intermediary to the Father on our behalf, and we must only accept this gift to made pure and freed from our sins.

I believe that Jesus’s Church is a necessary part of accepting His atoning sacrifice.

Because of the actuality of this Church, I believe that either the Church never fell away, and is the Catholic Church, or it was lost and would need to be restored. Protestation and reformation of an organization that has lost its rights cannot work: either the Protestant Churches are heretics from God’s Catholic Church, or the Catholic Church had lost its authority and and restoration would be necessary.
I believe that His Church apostatized, and was lost. Neither the Catholic Church, nor its Protestant and reformation splinter groups have the authority to act in The name of Jesus the Christ.

I believe that, despite the loss of authority, many good Catholic, Protestant, and Reformative people lived and acted according to God’s will: making way for a restoration of Christ’s Church.

I believe that Jesus the Christ and His Holy Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith and called him to open a new dispensation of the world, and to restore Christ’s Church on the earth for the work of salvation to be continued.

I believe that despite his many flaws, Joseph did in fact work to the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ, including the reception of Christs authority, called the Priesthood, by the laying of hands on his head, just as has been done from the beginnings of time.

I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s own Church, restored to earth, with all the privileges, powers, and responsibilities previously established by Christ to His apostles.

I believe that the apostolic line restored to Joseph still stands, unbroken, and is headed by Thomas Monson.

I believe that God reveals truth to his prophets and apostles, as He always has. I also believe that He reveals truth to the honest seeker as well.

I believe that God wants us to be happy, and has established commandments not to restrict our happiness, but to expand it.

I believe that God allows us to be wicked, but sorrows in that wickedness because it keeps us from the happiness he desires for us.

I believe that God has established the American Continents for the growth of the righteous, but thy he will remove the unrepentant wicked from this place and put in our place those who seek Him.

I believe that God inspired and directed the Founding Fathers to build a government that ensures the greatest liberty and chance for righteousness ever known to man.

I believe that we have the responsibility to protect individual liberty and encourage personal righteousness.

So we can see that my faith and religion are inexhaustibly connected, but that my politics are dictated by my faith.

Politics:

I’ll try to avoid great detail, as I expect to do detail on future posts, but here are the foundational principles.

Unlike many of our contemporaries, I don’t mind labels. I’m a Mormon. I’m fat. I’m white. I’m handicapped. I’m daddy. I’m silly. I’m nice. I’m mean. Labels are descriptive. They don’t define me, but they do help describe me. Some may be more true than others. I’m conservative. I’m traditional. I’m libertarian. Each label has different meaning to different people, so it’s important to understand the spirit in which they are intended.

Politically, I describe myself as a conservative, libertarian constitutionalist. There was a time when the 3 labels meant mostly the same thing, but that time has passed. Another label that is accurate is liberal, though the true meaning of term is lost by the deliberate hijacking by the American Progressive movement.

So to define, which is important. I believe that ‘conservative’ values are generally correct, as they have their foundation in the Godly principles of the bible. They are currently described as Judeo-Christian values. An important thing to note is that I believe that the concept of relative morality is horse manure. Murder is wrong despite the fact that some cultures condone, accept or encourage it. It’s wrong even in those cultures, though the people of those cultures may be less accountable to the Great Judge than I am, raised with correct principles, it is still wrong. There are those who will be offended at this truth, and I am sorry to offend, but not sorry for the truth.

As a libertarian, I believe that people should have the freedom to act according to the dictates of their  own conscience, even when their conscience leads them to violate the principles and morals that I believe in.

I believe that just governments are instituted to protect the liberty of people by ensuring that one person doesn’t harm another or take their things. Thus, I am a constitutionalist. I believe that the Constitution was inspired by the Father and ensures the greatest level of liberty ever instituted by people in the whole of history. Government must protect life, liberty and property, or else it is not just.

Using these foundation principles, I dictate every aspect of my political belief. With every issue, I consult my values, consider the philosophies of wiser people, and come to conclusions with the best of my ability. Sometimes I get it wrong, and that is okay. But my political views that I will share will be founded in these principles.

Of course, I don’t expect my reader to agree with me, though I hope to make compelling arguments enough that I can at least challenge those who disagree, and give those who agree further foundation for their beliefs. I will point out areas where I have changed my mind, and areas where better arguments have caused me to change as well.

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