About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

Is religion in decline?

I traveled to Northern California last week and visited the ward that served the area where I grew up and where I was baptized as an adult. I had a sobering talk with the bishop. There were about 120 or so people in the Sacrament meeting. An area of about 300,000 people that used to serve four wards in two chapels is now one ward and one branch in one chapel. Yes, a chapel was closed. And the bishop told me there are more than 1000 inactive people in his ward alone.

My wife talked to a friend who was a bishop in the SF Bay Area, and the story is apparently the same in most northern California stakes: small, declining wards with huge numbers of people still on the membership lists who no longer go to church.

But on the other hand, the Sacrament meeting I attended was very nice, and I felt the Spirit quite strongly. And my wife and I went to the recently rededicated Oakland temple, and the endowment session was so packed in the middle of the day that extra chairs needed to be brought into the room.

It might be worth pointing out that my ward in rural/suburban Colorado is booming. I am the ward clerk, so I have the numbers. We average about 250 people for Sacrament meetings, up from about 140 just two years ago. New families are moving in every few weeks, and we are actually occasionally baptizing new converts.

According to Church numbers, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to grow, but more slowly. I enjoy reading this web site, which documents the growth.

And outside of our church, a fascinating thing is going on worldwide: according to many sources, religious participation is up significantly, not down as many people apparently believe. And it is the more conservative, traditional churches that are growing.

Many of the narratives you hear — the world is awash in atheism and people only want churches that preach left-wing social justice — are simply not true. It is certainly true that in certain pockets of the world, such as Western Europe and many left-wing enclaves of the United States, Christian church attendance is down. It is also true that traditional Christian teachings are under attack in the West and that the media and the dominant culture appear to promote a variety of non-traditional lifestyles that would have been considered undeniably sinful just a few decades ago.

Conservative religious people have very little influence over the dominant culture in the United States and Europe. But a strange thing is happening at the same time: in the West, traditional religious people are more dedicated than ever, and when you look at the picture worldwide, religious belief overall is ascendant.

This article discusses two new books that are looking at this issue in depth. The books are: “The Triumph of Faith” by Baylor University Professor Rodney Stark (published in 2015) and “The Myth of the Dying Church” by Glenn T. Stanton (published this year).

I will quote at length from the article discussing the books:

From Stark’s book:

“Contrary to the constant predictions that religion is doomed, there is abundant evidence of an ongoing world-wide religious awakening. Never before have four out of five people on Earth claimed to belong to one of the great world faiths,” Stark writes.
“Today, there are millions of devout Protestants in Latin America; not so long ago, there were none. Even so, Latin American Catholics are far more religious than ever before.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is now home to more church-going Christians than anywhere else on Earth, and North Africa and the Middle East are ablaze with Muslim fervor.

“Hinduism has never been stronger and India’s transport system are straining to meet the demands of pilgrims. The Chinese have rebuilt tens of thousands of temples destroyed by the Red Guards, and million have converted to Christianity.

“Only in parts of Europe are the churches still rather empty, but this is not the reliable sign of secularization it has long been said to be; it is, rather, a sign of lazy clergy and unsuitable religions. As has been said, ‘Europe is a continent of believing non-belongers.’”

Among the most amazing data points Stark cites in reporting these facts is this, from the Gallup World Poll: Ninety percent of Nigerians said they attended a religious service in the past week, 88 percent in Burundi and 82 percent in Liberia. The sub-Saharan average is 71 percent.

From Stanton’s book:

“Liberal churches are hemorrhaging members. Churches that are bailing on Christian orthodoxy — those denying the deity of Christ; rejected the reality of sin; doubting the historical reality of Christ’s death and resurrection; and embracing abortion, gay and gender politics — are all in drastic free fall. People are leaving those churches as though the buildings were on fire. They can’t get out fast enough,” Stanton writes.
“Biblical churches are holding strong. Churches that are faithfully preaching, teaching and practicing biblical truths and conservative theology are holding stable overall. Some are seeing steady growth and others are exploding …

“Church attendance is at an all-time high. More Americans in raw numbers and as a percentage of the population, attend church today than at any other time in our nation’s history, including the colonial days. That’s hardly scary news.

“More young adults attend biblically faithful churches today than attended nearly 50 year ago. According to some of the best sociological data, the percentage of young adults regularly attending evangelical and non-denominational churches has roughly doubled between 1972 and today.

“Atheism and agnosticism are not growing wildly. Both have grown in the last few years, but they are an extreme minority, accounting for just about seven percent of all U.S. adults.

“The ‘Nones’ are not new unbelievers. The infamous ‘Nones’ — those reporting to have no particular institutional — are indeed a growing category. This has been widely reported. But there is something very important to note here: They are not a new category. They are not folks who have left a once-living faith, but rather those who merely had a cold or lukewarm family history of church identity and now feel more comfortable saying ‘I don’t really identify with anything.’ It’s not a change in belief. Instead, it’s an honest explanation for where they’ve always been.”

We often hear — even in the comments of this blog — that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints needs to embrace left-wing orthodoxy and social justice to gain new members. In fact, the opposite appears to be true: it turns out that people go to church to be reminded of the truth of absolute morality. People are attracted to a “tough love” gospel that teaches people to reject the pablum preached by popular culture. Quietly, but insuperably, God’s word marches forth.

Latter-day Saints should rally for peace

The United States came very close to war with Iran this week. Such a war would result in hundreds of thousands of God’s children — and potentially millions — killed.

Scoffers will claim that it would not have been a war. They are wrong.

The United States sent a drone, intended for spying, into or near Iranian air space. Iran responded by shooting it down. U.S. military leaders planned a retaliatory strike. This would have been an act of war. Retaliation could have led to further retaliation with an escalation into a full-blown conflict similar to the Iraq invasion.

To understand the feelings of Iranians, who are also God’s children, let’s imagine that China or Russia sent an unmanned spy drone into or near American airspace. I would hope the U.S. military, which is charged with protecting the United States, would shoot it down. Then if China or Russia responded by bombing targets in the United States, wouldn’t that have been an act of war? Was it an act of war when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (at a time, by the way, when Hawaii was not yet a state)?

What do modern-day prophets say about war?

We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44–45.)
We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us—and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Ne. 1:7)—or he will fight our battles for us (Ex. 14:14D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many). This he is able to do, for as he said at the time of his betrayal, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53.) We can imagine what fearsome soldiers they would be. King Jehoshaphat and his people were delivered by such a troop (see 2 Chr. 20), and when Elisha’s life was threatened, he comforted his servant by saying, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kgs. 6:16). The Lord then opened the eyes of the servant, “And he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kgs. 6:17.)

(Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship.”)

Our job as Latter-day Saints is to prepare the world for the Second Coming. We are followers of the Prince of Peace. We should always and at all times proclaim peace and avoid war unless and until we are attacked and are forced to defend ourselves, our homes and our families. But until then, we should never be a “warlike people.”

Must I remind readers that the U.S. Constitution clearly says that the U.S. Congress is responsible for declaring war? The last time that happened was at the beginning of World War II. Since then, the United States has been involved in many military actions that are clearly unconstitutional. Most latter-day Saints rightly defend the First Amendment and Second Amendment at a time when the left wants to destroy American rights to free speech and the right to bear arms. But we should not pick and choose what portions of the Constitution we like and dislike: the Constitution says Congress must declare war, not the president and not his military advisers.

Must I also remind readers that the United States has a $23 trillion debt and a yearly deficit approaching $1 trillion? A war with Iran would be a massive undertaking, much bigger than the war in Iraq, which cost the United States at least $2 trillion and perhaps $3 trillion. Where exactly are we supposed to get the money to fight Iran when we are already $1 trillion in debt on a yearly basis? There is only one way: money printing, which creates inflation and hurts the poor and the middle class most of all.

The Book of Mormon is an anti-war book. It describes two great conflicts that destroyed entire civilizations. It is a warning to our time. The warning is: avoid wars, but especially avoid wars of choice. The only righteous wars in the Book of Mormon are defensive wars in which leaders sued for peace again and again and reluctantly were forced to take up arms to defend themselves. There are no examples in the Book of Mormon of righteous armies marching hundreds or thousands of miles away from home to attack another people. This would be an offense to God.

How can we possibly be justified sending our troops to the other side of the world to fight a people who are not attacking the United States? Latter-day Saints should speak out for peace at all times and in all places.

What is Elder Oaks’ message to young people?

Elder Oaks spoke to students at BYU Hawaii just a few days ago. You can read the entire text here. The title of his talk was “Anxiety in Stressful Times.” He analyzed some of the reasons for anxiety among young people today.

I would like to excerpt some key takeaways from Elder Oaks’ talk, because there seems to be a lot of confusion these days about a variety of important moral issues. Some people even claim the Church is backing away from its traditional positions on morality. As you will see, nothing could be farther from the truth:

We live in stressful times.  For some young people the stresses are financial:  loss of employment or home or financial security.  For others, the stresses are associated with painful separations from those we love, such as caused by divorce of parents or other threats to personal security.  We also have the challenge of living in a godless and increasingly amoral generation.  More and more publicized voices deny or doubt the existence of God.  More and more support the idea that all authority and all rules of behavior are man-made and can be accepted or rejected as one chooses, each person being free to decide for himself or herself what is right and wrong.
        Along with these challenges—and caused by them—we are confronted by a culture of evil and personal wickedness in the world.  This includes:
        Ÿ    Dishonesty
        Ÿ    Pornography
        Ÿ    Perversions
        Ÿ    The diminishing of marriage and childbearing
        Ÿ    The increasing frequency and power of the culture and phenomenon of lesbian, gay, and transgender lifestyles and values
        Ÿ    Finally, you live in a culture that focuses on individual rights and desires rather than the responsibilities and cooperative efforts that have built our societies.
        A major cause of these cultural deteriorations is the loss of belief in absolutes.  A century ago, private and public morality—the sense of moderation and restraint necessary to the survival of a free society—were universally understood to rest on the reality of absolute right and wrong, decreed by God and ultimately enforced in a final judgment.  Then, as this faith was undercut, public morality sagged into the safety net of ethics, a set of rules based on philosophy, pragmatism, or legalities, which rely on enforcement by individual self-interest or imperfect bureaucracies.[4]
        Removed from their foundation of an absolute right and wrong, ethics and legalities have been unable to hold back the tide of immoral conduct that now threatens to engulf us.  People have cast off conventional morality and old-fashioned restraints.  Our society is now in peril from increasing dishonesty, frightening increases in personal violence and other crimes, and shocking increases in public dependency attributable to deterioration in the solidarity of the family.[5]
        That is why we encourage you to look forward to marriage and not be afraid of it.  Fear is a substantial deterrent among the increasing proportion of youth being raised in broken homes, who have observed the pain broken marriages can bring.  Those kinds of fears are understandable, but they can be overcome by our faith in God and His plan, and the atonement of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  That is my message to you.  Don’t lose your perspective of eternal life and the priority it assigns to marriage and child-rearing.[6]

Elder Oaks’ message is right in line with the messages from modern-day prophets since the 19th century. Don’t accept the propaganda from opponents of the Church. Our challenge is to follow the prophets even when their message may seem at odds with what the rest of society believes. Elder Oaks makes the course clear in this talk.

Jimmy Carter: the most underrated president of the last 60 years

Long-time readers know I am a constitutional conservative/libertarian and that I hold nothing back in criticizing the toxic left.   When Teddy Kennedy died, I wrote a controversial piece pointing out what a disaster of a person he was, and I remain proud of that post.

I reached my years of political awareness in the late 1970s, and let’s face it, those years were chaotic, and Jimmy Carter was president.  The United States suffered through gas lines and massive inflation and seemingly one foreign policy crisis after another (Afghanistan, Iran,  the hostages in Iran, El Salvador, Nicaragua, etc, etc).  For those of us who lived through those times, the relative calm of the Trump years is, so far, noteworthy.  When I was a teenager, I felt like the United States was about to fall apart literally every day.

And the Reagan years of the 1980s were prosperous and filled with foreign policy successes culminating in the fall of the Soviet Union and the seeming end of Communism.   So, the conventional wisdom is:  Jimmy Carter – disaster; Reagan – massive winner.

What people are missing is that almost all of Reagan’s biggest successes were put into motion by President Carter.  Carter laid the foundation for the vast majority of Reagan’s economic and foreign policy achievements.  If Carter had been elected for a second term, he would have gotten credit for turning the economy around and laying the groundwork for the end of the Soviet Union. But of course he did not, so many people see Carter as an ineffectual lightweight.

Let me try to convince you that Jimmy Carter has been underrated and indeed promoted many policies that bore fruit after he left office.

Paul Volcker appointed chairman of the Fed

It may be difficult for young people today to understand how bad the economy was through most of the 1970s. The primary problem was inflation, which was in the double digits during critical times.  Today inflation is less than two percent.  A world of 12 to 14 percent inflation means good in the stores are constantly going up in price and consumers feel they can never keep up.  I remember going to the grocery store and seeing the checkers going down the rows constantly raising prices of bread, cereal, meat, milk, eggs – everything.  We would go back two days later, and the prices had gone up yet again.

And the economy had created a mental environment where people began to accept the idea of massive inflation.   It seemed like something we would just have to learn to live with.  But of course massive inflation hurts the poor most of all (and I was quite poor in those days).   Mentally, most people I knew had come to accept a sense of decline.  We would never get ahead – we would always be poor.

Jimmy Carter appointed Paul Volcker to the head of the Federal Reserve 1979, and Volcker adopted the controversial position of massively raising interests rates to deal with inflation.  You can read more about it here.   It took two years, and Jimmy Carter was voted out in 1980, but by the early 1980s inflation had virtually disappeared.   The policy worked so well that there was massive deflation in many goods during the 1980s.   I remember watching gas prices crater after constantly going up in the 1970s, and it was a beautiful thing for drivers.  

The destruction of double-digit inflation also created a new sense that the United States was back and that the country would not fall apart at any moment.  The new optimism created the economic boom of the 1980s, and led to Reagan’s massive reelection victory in 1984.  I will also point out that it meant literally millions of new jobs for people like myself.   People in my family went from poor to upper middle class during the 1980s, and it is directly linked to the improvement in the economy.

Now, to be fair, a lot of the economic success of the 1980s was due to the Reagan tax cuts, which Carter probably would not have favored, but one simply cannot the rule out the importance of ending double-digit inflation.  And Jimmy Carter and Paul Volcker deserve credit for destroying inflation, not President Reagan.   It is simply a fact.


Believe it or not, there was a time when Democrats were not completely ignorant of basic economics. JFK, for example, promoted tax cuts in the early 1960s that created the boom of that decade.  And in the 1970s, Democrats, including the execrable Ted Kennedy, promoted deregulation precisely because it is good economic policy and helps the poor.

Oh that the Democrats of today would learn a bit of history!

One of the great underreported stories of our time is that the basic foundations of economic success from the 1980s to today were created by the wave of deregulation promoted by many Democrats, including President Carter, in the 1970s and the early 1980s. In the space of a few years, the country saw deregulation of the airlines, the trains, the trucking business, natural gas and telecom. 

It is difficult to imagine now, but there was a time when a cross-country phone call cost a week’s salary.  An economy seat from San Francisco to New York was the equivalent of $2000 in today’s money (and most people smoked on the plane, by the way).   Conservatives and liberals united against the high costs created by regulation, and they passed a series of bills and measures to end regulatory capture on a federal and state level. 

The deregulation of the 1970s and early 1980s created new industries which of course created new jobs. In the 1970s, there was only one telephone company, AT&T.  By 1990, there were dozens of phone companies, all offering cheaper prices. The same thing happened in many other industries. 

President Carter deserves credit for promoting much of the deregulation that helped create the economic booms that followed him. 

Foreign policy

The Middle East was even more of a mess in the 1970s than it is today.   The region suffered through explosive wars in 1967 and 1973, and the rise of the PLO and other terrorist groups made it seem that there would never be peace.

The Camp David accords, sponsored by President Carter, were a huge success.   Israel and Egypt are still at peace today in part because of hard work by the Carter administration.  The great accomplish should not be forgotten:  Jimmy Carter deserves a lot of credit.

Believe it or not, President Carter also deserves a lot of credit for laying the foundation for Reagan’s policy on the Soviet Union.   In many ways, Reagan took Carter’s policy of 1979 and added to it, rather than create an entirely new approach.  

I would encourage people who think Carter was a disaster on foreign policy to read this article, which points out many of his successes.  It may help you see his presidency as more nuanced than you imagine.

Jimmy Carter is not on my list of best presidents

To be clear, Jimmy Carter is not on my list of the 10 best presidents in U.S. history.  Most of the best presidents (those who actually followed the Constitution) served in the 1800s.  The best president of the last 100 years is Calvin Coolidge, and Jimmy Carter does not come close to being as good as silent Cal.    But Jimmy Carter was, in my opinion, better than all of the presidents who followed him, except for Reagan (and the jury is still out on Trump).   He was better than Ford and Nixon and LBJ.   He was as good as JFK.  So, in my opinion, Jimmy Carter is tied for the second best president of my lifetime, after Reagan.

You don’t have to remind me about Carter’s many failures in Afghanistan, Iran and Central America. You don’t have to remind me about the many terrible judges he nominated.  He don’t have to remind me about his unfortunate flirtation with anti-semitism.   I lived through the Carter years, and I know all of those things about Jimmy Carter, but I still think that, overall, he is underrated.

If one of my conservative friends can read this article and say to himself, “I still hate Jimmy Carter, but he did do a few good things,” than I will consider it a success.

Church opposes the Equality Act

The Church issued a statement today on the Equality Act, a House bill that promotes LGBTQ issues while not protecting religious freedom.

The Equality Act now before Congress is not balanced and does not meet the standard of fairness for all. While providing extremely broad protections for LGBT rights, the Equality Act provides no protections for religious freedom. It would instead repeal long-standing religious rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, threaten religious employment standards, devastate religious education, defund numerous religious charities and impose secular standards on religious activities and properties. The Church joins other religious organizations that also strongly oppose the Equality Act as unbalanced, fundamentally unfair and a path to further conflict.

Here is the Church’s entire statement on this issue.