Some reasons for cautious optimism about the incoming Trump administration

Eight years ago, I passed through a brief moment of cautious optimism about the Obama administration.  His election has been so historic, and the country had just suffered the traumatic 2008 market crash.  Like many people, I wanted some reasons for optimism.

I am much more optimistic about President-elect Trump, but I am also cautious.  Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign and his horrible performance during the debates sealed the deal that I could never vote for him.  But I have been pleasantly surprised since his election.  To be quite frank, I was certain Trump would govern like a moderate New York Democrat.  But if anything, his Cabinet choices indicate he may have the most conservative administration since Reagan.  Trump is certain to disappoint in some areas, but there has been a lot of good news for conservative Trump skeptics since his election.

Here are some of the primary reasons for optimism from my perspective.

1)Religious liberty.  The last eight years have been frightening for those of us who care about religious liberty.  Every week brings a new outrage with Christians on the defensive if they actually follow traditional Christian teachings.  Religious freedom has been one of the primary Church causes in recent years, as can be seen from this page on the Church web site.  The good news is that, much to my surprise, Trump’s administration seems to see religious freedom as an important issue.  Trump has said that the country will be saying Merry Christmas again, which is an important rhetorical signal, in my opinion.  But most importantly, Trump’s appointment for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions, is one of the biggest defenders of religious freedom in Congress.  Trump has also indicated he will appoint conservative judges who understand the importance of religious freedom.  There is a lot of room for optimism.  (Note:  Trump said some truly unfortunate things about Muslims during the campaign.  This story details Trump’s comments on a Muslim religious registry.  To sum up:  Trump has gone back and forth on that issue.  Let me be perfectly clear:  a registry or database of Americans based on their religions would violate the first amendment, and all Mormons should oppose such a scheme.  If Trump or his administration takes such steps, I will be one of the first to condemn it.  Personally, I don’t believe we will get anything close to a Muslim registry.  I hope I am not wrong.  Note the use of the word “cautious” in the title of this post).

2)School choice.  Trump made school choice and opposition to Common Core central to his campaign.  This is a huge issue for those of us with children, especially if you live in areas where the public schools are failing.  The appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary is a reason for hope.  DeVos is one of the country’s leading supporters of home schooling, vouchers and charter schools.  Despite what you may have read from some fringe publications, she also opposes Common Core.  DeVos’ leadership has the potential to revolutionize education in America.

3)Federal court appointments.  The latest information from the transition team seems to indicate Trump really will appoint constitutionalist judges.  All I can say is:  Hallelujah!  I am sure that Trump will disappoint us on some appointments, but his list of potential Supreme Court justices is top-notch.  There are all kinds of encouraging signs here:  Trump met with Judge Andrew Napolitano to consult on federal appointees.  Utah’s Thomas Lee is apparently high on Trump’s list of appointees, and he would be an excellent choice.

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When Was Jesus Born?

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25?

Was it just a random date chosen by the early Christian fathers or is there more to it?

Dr. Chadwick, an archaeologist and Herodian scholar, became interested in this question and thinks he has found an answer.

Using Matthew, Luke, the Book of Mormon, and historical clues, he comes up with what he thinks to be a pretty sound theory on the dating of the birth of Christ. As he shares his research, we discuss old Jerusalem and LDS thought on the topic from Elders James Talmage, Reuben J. Clark, and Bruce R. McConkie.

Join Laura Harris Hales of LDS Perspectives Podcast in a fascinating discussion that brings into question how we can use scripture.

Can it accurately pinpoint historical events?

Listen in and let us know what you think.

For links to resources mentioned in this podcast, visit the LDS Perspectives website.

The Christmas Tree Rock

DC Temple Lights, image courtesy of Intellectual Reserve, Inc.In DC, one of the highlights of the holiday season is the Festival of Lights lighting ceremony, where the Church honors a featured world ambassador and invites the rest of the diplomatic community to participate as the 650,000 lights decorating the DC temple grounds are illuminated.

This year the honored ambassador was His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae, ambassador of Japan. As Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has spent many years in Asia and Japan, we were honored to have Gary and Lesa Stevenson visit with us.

The lighting ceremony was covered by Deseret News <ref>If you look carefully you can see my knee in the picture of soloist Sandra Turley. I was playing violin but also sing in the choir, so was not dressed in black.</ref> but perhaps a more delightful evening was the annual Temple Workers’ Christmas Devotional, held the previous Sunday evening in the Solemn Assembly Room of the DC temple. As Elder Stevenson was planning to be in town to honor His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae, he arranged to participate in the devotional.

That is where Elder Stevenson told us the story of the Christmas Tree Rock. Continue reading

Evan McMullin: ‘Have you no sense of decency, sir?’

I would ask readers to watch this short clip of an exchange between Sen. Joseph McCarthy and Joseph Welch.  The occasion was McCarthy’s investigation of the US Army for supposed Communist ties. Mr. Welch was a lawyer for the Army.  He watched McCarthy destroy the reputations and livelihoods of dozens of people for no reason other than his own political grandstanding.  Many readers may have heard of “McCarthyism.”  In a nutshell it is this:  questioning the patriotism and loyalty of people to further your own political designs.

Evan McMullin, a Mormon presidential candidate, who garnered a large number of votes in the 2016 election, has proven himself a purveyor of McCarthyism.

First, watch this clip:

 

Here is what McMullin tweeted over the weekend:

“It must be clear that Donald Trump is not a loyal American and we should prepare for the next four years accordingly.”

I ask Evan McMullin:  have you no sense of decency, sir?  Do you really have the hubris to accuse the presidential elect of not being a loyal American?  Can you see how this is nothing more than McCarthyism, a cynical attempt to further your own political career by accusing somebody else of being disloyal?

Let me make this clear:  I have no problem with McMullin raising questions about Russia’s supposed involvement in the elections.  Personally, I think such claims are garbage, but McMullin has a right to raise concerns.  I also have no problem with him slamming Trump’s possible choice of Rex Tillerson as Sect of State.  I think Tillerson would be a great Sect of State, but McMullin is well within his rights to question that choice.

Where McMullin shows no decency is in his claim that Trump is “not a loyal American.”  Such a claim is simply ridiculous, and McMullin needs to be called out for his McCarthyism.

Remember, I was #neverMcMullin from the beginning.  The man is a warmonger and has no decency, at least when it comes to this issue.

 

I am liberated in the Gospel of Christ

Today, the Indianapolis West Stake received a new stake president. It is also the 200th anniversary of the statehood of Indiana, so the new stake president will lead us into the next century.

I was fortunate to know the previous stake president well, having served with him for about 6 years on the high council. I am amazed at the love and devotion this man (and his wife) have given to the stake over the past 9 years.

Recently, I rediscovered some old friends from the late 1980s while looking on Facebook. Over the years, she and her daughters became disaffected from the Church, and eventually left it. She told me that she felt “liberated” at leaving the Church.  For her, the Church had become too restrictive. I think she was tired from trying to earn her way into heaven, and so chose an easier path.

Sadly, many do not understand the gospel of Christ. We do not earn our way into heaven. We cannot earn our way into heaven. Unfortunately, previous statements from old LDS books suggest that grace doesn’t go much beyond resurrection, and obedience is the first law of heaven.  Happily, the recent teachings from the Brethren focus on grace, atonement, and the peace the gospel brings.

I know when I am properly focused on these things, the gospel is liberating for me. Not as the world offers freedom, but as God offers it. Not the peace the world offers, but the peace Christ gives.

I cannot explain to others the joy and peace I’ve felt serving in the temple.  To ponder upon the promises made in the initiatory, endowment and sealings.  There is great power and hope in those words.

And the things I’ve learned from my stake president over the past years are priceless. I have not found anything on earth that can match the wonders. Yes, being a Mormon can be challenging. It requires time and effort. It requires all of one’s heart and soul. But the spiritual rewards just cannot be compared.  All other things pale.  Fun times are passing, but the spiritual experiences I’ve had carry me through all the difficult times, with hope that I will be together with my loved ones in the Celestial Kingdom.