Sunday, July 15, 2012


Based on the talk, “Only Upon the Principles of Righteousness,” by Elder Larry Y. Wilson, spring, 2012 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,

On Sunday, 1 July, I was asked by the First Counselor of my Bishopric to select a talk from the church’s General Conference, and do a 15-minute presentation on it.  I got my copy of The Ensign magazine and started looking at talks.  I read a dozen or more, but was drawn repeatedly to the one by Elder Larry Y. Wilson.  At first, it didn’t interest me, and it seemed that the title didn’t really represent what was in the talk.  By Wednesday, however, I had firmly selected this talk as the basis for my own.  Over the next three days, I read Elder Wilson’s talk several more times, along with the referenced Scriptures. The more I studied, the more strongly I felt that I’d made the right decision.   This is the script from which I spoke, but there were a few departures, mostly 1-off or collateral connections I made at the time.


Elder Wilson’s talk had two main themes:  the fallacy of pretending that the priesthood confers any authority or power over others, and that the exercise of dominion over others can be very harmful to them.

He began with a story about being a newlywed, and telling his bride she was driving too fast. She asked what made him think he had the right to tell her how to drive.  He said he believed his position as her husband and the priesthood holder in her house gave him that right.  He assures us that she convinced him in pretty short order that he was mistaken.

D&C (Doctrine and Covenants) 121:39 informs us that, “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.”  The history of mankind bears this out.  We know that The Adversary’s plan for us involved unrighteous dominion, and I wonder if his affinity for it is why he has crafted it into one of the most irresistible temptations for us – one that comes to us so naturally as to seem almost reflexive and subconscious.  Elder Wilson says, “Women, too may exercise unrighteous dominion, though the Scriptures identify the problem especially with men.”  There is one point on which I have observed that women bear at least an equal part of the fault, and I will bring it up in turn.

The history of America gives us an excellent example of how easily we fall into unrighteous dominion.  In 1613, a Portuguese ship with a cargo of kidnapped Africans was blown off course and landed at Jamestown. The ship’s master struck a deal with the colonists and delivered to them the Africans.  The first documents indicate that the Africans were considered indentured servants who would be freed after 7 years.  However, in less than 7 years, legal documents from the colony began referring to, “Persons born to servitude.”  Not, “IN” servitude, but, “TO” it.  We all know where it went from there.  In such a short time, those Bible-reading, praying, God-fearing men and women embraced human slavery where it had not existed before.

Among the literature of the world’s churches, the restored Gospel of the Book of Mormon is the most consistent and outspoken critic of unrighteous dominion.  It doesn’t just leave us with a, “Thou shalt not,” it gives us a very clear, “Thou shalt.”  D&C 121:41 – “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the Priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.”

Verse 43 even tells us how to handle situations when it is appropriate to rebuff someone:  “Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy.”  I have a personal testimony that The Adversary will use His skill at mimicking the Holy Ghost to make reproving others – and with more than mere sharpness – seem like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.  In my experience, this is most likely to occur when others have refused our “…persuasion… long-suffering… gentleness and meekness, and [our] love unfeigned.”  Whatever the problem was, it still is, and we are left with the choice of backing down and accepting something we believe to be wrong, or taking a more  hard-line approach.  I urge you to beware of this trap, because it can suck you in before you know it, and the results can be catastrophic:  broken hearts, and even spirits – shattered relationships that ought to have been eternal.

The second part of Elder Wilson’s talk concerns the effects of dominion on those for whom we bear the responsibility of teaching.  He spoke primarily of our children, but these principles are true for anyone we are trying to teach or lead.

Genesis tells us that we are created in God’s image, intellectually as well as physically. This gift of agency is beyond price!  If the objective of this life is to prove ourselves worthy to return to the presence of Heavenly Father, we absolutely must have that agency.  If we were compelled to do what He wished us to do, there would be no proving to it, and we might as well skip the whole mortal experience.  From 2 Nephi: 11 and 15 we know that there must needs be opposition in all things, otherwise we could never tell one thing from any other.  Our senses work by differentiation, or discrimination – light and dark, hot and cold, good and evil, freedom and compulsion.  Without our agency we could make no decisions; we’d be like instinct-driven animals, and there could be no growth or learning.

The Priesthood allows us to have the counsel of the Holy Ghost, which facilitates discernment, evaluation, and decision-making.  As fathers and husbands, we can use the first two of these to the advantage of our families.  The decision-making only applies to our children before they are able to take it over for themselves, and we can all speak about this with great conviction; we can quote chapter and verse about it; but recognizing the point where they are ready to take the wheel is a little tougher.

In the case of our wives, none of the three apply, and even hinting that they do can bring about Armageddon.  (Armageddon is a great name for a couch, don’t you think?)  Now, if the wife actually asks for our input on something, I suppose it would be okay to offer it, but Elder Wilson kept his talk rooted firmly in Gospel principles, and did not wander into fantasy.

There is an old saying that experience is the best teacher. It’s baloney.  A more accurate proverb is that experience is what allows us to recognize a mistake when we make it a second time.   Experience teaches nothing, except maybe first aid.  It is the evaluation of experience that teaches us, and then only if we are open to the lesson.  If we decide to do something, and it goes bad, we have the opportunity to evaluate our decision and come to the conclusion that it was not at all what we’d intended, and that we will do it different next time.  That’s what it means to, “learn from experience,” but having the experience does not guarantee learning.  If we did not make the decision that led to the experience, we have little or nothing to learn, unless maybe that we shouldn’t let other people make our decisions for us.  Sadly, many, many people are emotionally incapable of recognizing their own part in bad experiences.

At every step in the process:  information gathering, evaluating, deciding, and acting, if anything interferes with the exercise of our agency, the whole thing comes to naught.  The purpose of our mortal existence has been thwarted.  We must let our children begin to make their own decisions as they become capable.   The hard part, though, is in standing aside and letting them reap the consequence of their decisions.  If they don’t feel the sting or the exaltation, the opportunity is lost.  This is the point at which some mothers exercise unrighteous dominion by falling into a trap that also takes many fathers. That trap is in shielding a child from the real consequences of their decisions, and it is every bit as seductive and powerful as any other. Not only does it keep the child from learning about the decision, it also keeps the child from learning to trust in the counsel of the Holy Ghost, and this may be one of the worst things we can do to our kids.

Elder Wilson quoted Brigham Young thus:  “Were I to draw a distinction in all the duties that are required of the children of men… I would place first and foremost the duty of seeking unto the Lord our God until we open the path of communication from heaven to earth – from God to our own souls.”

Unrighteous dominion is not just bossing people around.  It is also standing between them and reality, usually under the false impression that we are protecting or helping them.  Sisters, watch out for this one, because that old mama bear impulse is awfully strong.  You, too have the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide and counsel you.  Letting your children see you use it, and teaching them that they can do the same will protect them better than anything else you can do.

One of the more subtle ways we exercise unrighteous dominion is through giving others false choices.  Instead of saying, “Clean your room or get grounded; it’s your choice,” some people will say, “Clean your room or I’ll know you don’t love me.”  I have heard, from a trusted source, that some women have become adept at sending others on no-expenses-paid guilt trips. Just because you offer a choice doesn’t mean you aren’t building fences where there shouldn’t be any.

A pattern that Elder Wilson addressed, and one that I have seen many, many times, is that of shielding our kids from consequences until they turn 18 or 21, and suddenly jerking that shield away.  The poor kid is standing there, fat, dumb, and happy, thinking he’s invulnerable, and suddenly one morning he rolls out of his bunk and comes face to face with a hungry tiger called life.  I’ve never seen that listed as a form of child abuse, but I’ve sure seen some kids wrecked by it.

We must also always remember that they are learning, and will make mistakes that should not have lifelong effect on their self-respect.  My own parents were opposites in this.  If I made a mistake on something, Mom was ready to write me off as genetically inferior and hopeless. (She’d use guilt for this:  “I guess I’m just a failure as a mother.  I’ve wasted my life and ruined yours, too.  I don’t blame you for hating me.”)  Dad was the coach who would show me how to bind the wound, then take me to Peter Pan’s for a sundae and a lesson.  He’d let me take the punch, but was always there with encouragement, so that I always knew it was just part of life, and that I could do better next time.  Those lessons were priceless to me.

One thing the Old Man didn’t have, though, was the Gospel and the Priesthood.  He didn’t have the Gift of the Holy Ghost to guide him, and he couldn’t give it to me.  He didn’t have the authority to bless me.  He didn’t understand the Gospel principle that I am a child of God.  As it was, he did an amazing job of teaching me to be introspective and open to the lessons.  As holders of the priesthood, we have a much, much greater chance of imparting these attitudes to our children.  

There is another aspect of letting our children exercise their agency and enjoy the consequences of their actions.  As priesthood holders, we have a unique opportunity to grasp this, and to use it to the everlasting benefit of our children. The idea that we are doomed by our mistakes is absolutely corrosive to the human spirit.  As we allow our children to take the punch, as Dad used to say, we must – MUST – convey to them the knowledge that no matter what they do, they have available to them ultimate perfection through The Atonement.

Christ has given us the chance to make good on our probation through the use of our agency, but he has also stepped between us and the consequences of our actions.  As we teach our children about accountability and responsibility, we must leaven those lessons with the understanding that we are all flawed and unworthy, but we have within our grasp the most amazing, incredible gift – a gift that literally blots out all of those foolish things we will do in our lives.  The lesson of standing tall and accepting consequences should never exclude this fact of supreme mercy, lest they live in terror of making a mistake, and that terror dull or dampen the joy they should take in this mortal life.

In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ,  amen.

Monday, July 2, 2012


One disadvantage to living in a free country is that all of those other folks get to be free, too.  Of course that’s at the heart of the liberal/democrat/progressive/fascist platform, but don’t think for a second it doesn’t apply to a lot of folks on the other side of the line.  In fact, I’m thinking about some people right now that I kind of wish I could put a leash on for a little while

These people are on my side; they are passionately opposed to Barack Obama and his policies, platform, government, and generally everything about the man.  I love them for this, but there is a point at which we take divergent courses.  That point is when we discuss how to get rid of Obama.  There has always been a rebellious element in America, and they have brought tremendous energy and outside the box thinking to our political tapestry.  Because of Obama’s compulsion to sow disunity, distrust, and downright hatred among different segments of the population, the level of anger in this country is higher than I have ever seen it. People on both sides of the issues are just flat pig-bitin’ mad.  If we don’t get a grip on this anger pretty soon, someone is going to do something stupid, and that will set in motion a chain of events more tragic than anything any of us can imagine.

I’ve heard more loose talk about armed rebellion than at any other time in my life.  People express such anger and frustration that they are ready to stop talking and start the ball.  Believe me, I understand that frustration and anger!  However, I also understand something about armed conflict, and it is here that I part company with those who are ready to start shooting.  This essay is intended to get them to realize what they may be getting us into.


First of all, have you thought about how this thing might start, or what might trigger it?  Most people say they’d be ready to go if some specific event were to occur, usually some overt act of aggression by Obama – martial law, letting the UN interfere in our domestic affairs, passage of some catastrophic treaty with the UN, such as a ban on possession of firearms, or something on that order.  But remember, there are always at least two parties involved in every fight.  So who will you be fighting?  You aren’t going to get a shot at Barack Obama, and Nancy Pelosi isn’t going to come charging into your home.  Will you be fighting local or state police?  That’s a possibility.  Have you given any thought to how you might feel about popping a cop?  How about our own troops?  I don’t believe all of them would fire on American citizens, but I guarantee you some of them would.  Could you bust a cap on an American soldier or Marine?  Could you bust a cap on another human being, at all?  In our wars, only a small percentage of our troops even fired their weapons; do you really think you are more combat ready than the guys who went up the sand at Omaha Beach?

Have you consulted whatever ultimate moral authority you recognize (I’m going with God, here) to make sure you can emotionally survive killing another human being? You aren’t going to be shooting at faceless, soulless targets, or zombies from a movie.  They will be human beings – maybe your countrymen.  Have you thought of that?  You might consider taking care of this little detail before you even pick up a firearm, because if you aren’t almighty sure about this, and you pop some kid who joined the army to get away from his mother, it’s going to destroy you.  If you have sorted it out, good for you, but if you haven’t, you darned well better not kid yourself about it.

It is estimated, based on rebellions and resistance movements in other nations, that not more than one out of every 10,000 gun owners would actually participate in armed action – and some estimates go as low as one out of every 100,000.  In other words, of the guys who sit around in bars and gun shops and shoot their mouths off about, “my cold, dead fingers,” you probably don’t know even one that will really fight.  Are you that one?  If you are, have you talked to others like yourself – and I mean those who will fight, not the blowhards who will roll over and betray you at the drop of a rifle bolt.

On the other hand, if Obama has learned anything at all from his Russian buddies, it’s that you never use local troops to stomp on people.  You send American troops to stomp on Afghans, and bring Russians or [shudder] Ghurkas to stomp on Americans.  Are you ready to face some really, truly bad motor scooters? Professional troops who are not only thoroughly trained, but lead by seasoned officers and non-coms?  Who are well armed and have all the technology our guys do in Afghanistan?  Who hate America and Americans, and are thirsty for your blood?


A lot of guys talk about how they’re going to kill every fed that comes through the door, and clearly have a mental picture of some Hollywood last stand, with the bodies heaping up in front of them.  Well, that’s baloney.  If they want you, do you really think they’ll give you an even break?  They’ll pick you up at work, or pull you out of the line at a DWI checkpoint and you’ll be shot while trying to escape.  Or maybe you’ll walk in the front door with your arms full of briefcase and groceries, and they’ll have your family sitting in the front room with guns to their heads.  What will you do then?  Drop the groceries and try to shoot it out with a half-dozen feds?  Let me know how that works out for you.

Really, they won’t even have to be that direct.  In a city like Albuquerque, with about 500,000 people, there are only so many grocery stores.  There are only so many roads into and out of town. With a regiment of infantry, I could shut this city down tight.  First, close the roads a mile or so outside town, so you can’t be sucked into a fight in the city.  Second, close down all the grocery stores and move as much of the stuff as you can to a central location.  Third, destroy the rest so you don’t have to defend it, and your troops aren’t needlessly exposed.  Fourth, issue a proclamation saying that no one can buy food or leave town unless they have a certificate saying their house has been cleared of all food storage, firearms, munitions, bows, arrows, swords,  and knives over 2”.  Now you might be able to hide a gun or two, but this is going to seriously cramp your style. 

Think you might jump the soldiers when they come to clear your house?  Well, you might get a few, but remember what I said about only one in 10,000 gun owners actually being willing to shoot someone?  Unless you have planned well, you will be alone.  There will be no one to take the enemy in the flank or rear, no one to lend supporting or distracting fire.  Is your house bullet-proof?  How about .338 Lapua- or .50 Browning-proof?  And what if they just decide to cut the power and water to your house and wait you out.  How much food and water do you have in your house?  Did you think to get your family out in time?  How about a chemical toilet?  If they cut your water, are you going to pour drinking water down the toilet, or just let the feces back up until it runs over the edge of the bowl? What if they gas you?  Do you have a good gas mask?  And remember, this deal isn’t going to go on and on.  They’ll get bored and bring in a Bradley and flatten your butt.

When everybody was getting all psyched up for Y2K, I ran into a fellow who had an MG-34 and two full pallets – a hundred thousand rounds – of belted 8mm.  He also had 2 quarts of water.  Not all of the fools I met during that period had MG-34’s, but the pattern was very common.  This is New Mexico, for cryin’ out loud!  There is no water!  It’s not like Virginia, where they have a mile-wide, 10 feet-deep river about every two miles!  Are you thinking this thing all the way through?

Get the picture?  There’s a heck of a lot that goes into a rebellion, and most people don’t think about 2% of it.  All of the things I’ve talked about can be overcome by taking appropriate action beforehand.  The main thing you need to do is get ready, because if you wait until the Huns are coming around the end of your block, you’re toast.  You need other people you can trust, but not too many of them, because the chance that one will crack under pressure is great. Are you young and fit enough to leave your base of security and hit the bush, or are you like me, and too old and fat and rickety?  Do you have family members who are limited in their mobility?  And even if you are tough enough, what if this comes down in mid-winter?  Do you have cold-weather gear that you can actually move in?

I’m not saying it can’t be done, and I’m not saying there is no hope!   But I am saying that if you’re thinking about starting anything because you think it’s going to be a walk in the park, you are making one huge mistake.  All the brag and bluster and big talk about how they’d better not come through your front door is, to be blunt, stupid.  The more you think and plan, the more you’ll realize what a staggering endeavor an armed rebellion in this day and age would be.