10. Truth is stranger than fiction – and it is beautiful!
9. Gospel is Restored, and Real Prophets Exist Again!
8. Independence, Preparation, Practicality
7. Saved by grace… after all that we can do
6. Focus on the Family
5. I am a Child of God (Children’s Song)
4. Kool-Aid - best drink ever!
3. He who has eyes to see, let him see.
2. It makes bad men good and good men better
1. It is where God has Revealed His Plan for Salvation and Happiness
About this list…
Maybe there is no life after this and the atheists have it right. But even if they are right, what do I lose by choosing to live this way? I have found this church to be very successful at helping both me and so many other members live enlightened, happy, clean, practical, and productive lives. If it isn't true, I don't care, because I doubt I'll ever find anything better than this. But I am quite confident it actually is the truth. Here are 10 reasons I am absolutely thrilled to be anchored to the Rock of Christ as revealed through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
10. Truth is stranger than fiction – and it is beautiful!
Stories familiar to me since childhood sound pretty strange to most people - gold plates, angels, modern prophets. Does that make Mormonism a cult? But there are also many strange biblical, koranic, and other stories that others accept as factual, and certainly not a cult by many longer established religions. What's the difference? Usually they are older. A 1000 year head-start helps a lot more people to believe and accept their own particular weirdness. Is a religion more true after billions believe it than it was when only a dozen believed? Even "settled science" worshipped by perhaps a billion is sometimes simply not true. Jesus preached a new gospel, and many found his followers to be cult-like.
When I realized how unusual our own history and doctrine is, I wondered "isn't it just nuts to believe this?" But through prayer, study, and living the teachings, my mind has raced and come alive with a fascinating world of Truth that is unbeknownst to most people. Do you have a hard time with the story of how our church came into existence? Try the Book of Mormon, study our practices, and discover how we understand the Bible. Ponder on how its founder could suffer as he did. All that for a hoax? You'll be amazed at the truths and value you will find here that really aren't found elsewhere. I heard a religious professor once said something like "I have no idea whether the things Joseph Smith claimed actually occurred. But just look at the pure volume and value of enlightened thought he introduced. It is truly remarkable, independent of how it got here." It got here from God.
9. Gospel is Restored, and Real Prophets Exist Again!
If God ever spoke to man through prophets, why would He cease? Christ set up a church where new apostles were called after one died - a perpetual structure. Why then is that structure not found in Christianity? The righteous were crucified or fed to lions. Those who escaped were left without prophets and apostles, so they did the best they could. But over hundreds of years, corruption and error became obvious.
Throughout the enlightenment, God was working behind the scenes to help secure religious liberty. When something new appears, it is much easier to kill it off quickly if religious or political power structures feel threatened. But when religious liberty became enshrined in the US constitution, lost truths could be again revealed.
The Radio is Working Again!
God does pick kids sometimes, as when he picked David as the future king of Israel, Samuel the prophet, and many others. We look for resume, but God looks only on the heart. Think of those movies where even kids can fly jet airplanes - if they have radio communication with someone who can tell them what to do. Up to 10% of the entire human family since Adam is alive today and searching as never before for important truths that are hidden as never before. Surely God would not leave this many of us with only "ancient flight manuals" when we are in mid-flight and trying our best to safely navigate in modern conditions. Prophets interpret the manuals for 21st century conditions we are flying into right now!
I know that God has restored his church again, as it was first established by Christ. This church is small, but since when did small make it not true? Original Christians were once small in number too. Give it a chance. Yes, Christ did say "beware of false prophets!" Ok. But that inherently implies there may also be true prophets. We should "beware" by first hearing what they have to say, then discern through prayer if they are God's true messengers or not.
8. Personal Responsibility, Preparedness, Practicality
God would have His people be of great service to their fellow man, and He counts any service we give to others as service given to Himself (Golden Rule). Perhaps the first rule of service is avoid being a burden on others if possible. Carry our own weight, and then help carry others. We cannot be "wards of the state" unless there is no other way. To be LDS is to strive for what the Boy Scouts strive for - to do your best to be mentally, emotionally, morally, and physically prepared for whatever life can throw at you, and to do your duty to God and your country.
If life deals you a good hand and you're fortunate enough to avoid serious pain, then it is incumbent upon you act as a good steward and use these blessings and talents in support of those who do suffer - even if their suffering is brought about by their own actions (recall the Lord praises those who visit those in prison, etc.).
To be LDS is to take whatever talents the Lord has given, and to "double them" as commanded in the Lord's parable of the talents. I love LDS emphasis on education, emergency preparedness, food storage, and general well roundedness. The Lord's true gospel would help each person develop their inner genius across an array of disciplines, so that they can be happy in this life and help others too. This gospel does exactly that I think better than anything you will find out there.
7. Saved by grace… after all that we can do
Like other Christians, Latter-day Saints recognize that even if we could create heroic mountains of good works, those works cannot save us. We are completely dependent on the grace of Christ for salvation. But I'd say we also believe that Christ sets his own rules for whom he will grant his grace. He will elect not to save us by his grace unless we obey His commandments, repent regularly when we don't obey, and do in fact produce good works and good fruits. We all intuitively know works matter, and it can't be right to assume that a single event in 1982 where you "accepted Christ" was your golden ticket to heaven.
Our physical resurrection is a gift of Grace that even the wicked will freely obtain. It is a recognition that they chose to be part of the 2/3rds who supported Christ in the Pre-Existence. But for our spiritual salvation in the highest degrees of heaven, we must strive to be more like Him every day, and repent when we fall short. If we will do that, then Christ will elect to "save us by His grace, after all that we can do" (2 Nephi, 25:23). LDS theology brings a perfect resolution to the age old debate between the role of both works and grace in our salvation.
6. Focus on the Family
God has declared that his "work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). Thus man is God's mission, and our efforts to mold children into solid individuals who are good citizens and who know him are the fruits that are the most pleasing to God. Citizenship and knowledge of God is learned in solid religious families.
I once met a man who was greatly concerned about over-population. When he learned I was LDS, he noted our typically larger families, but said, "You folks should keep having as many kids as you can because from my experience Mormons are among the world's most solid citizens." He thought the benefits of great citizens exceed the costs of a little more competition for resources. In fact good citizens create more resources, and help solve environmental consequences of today's methods. I have 7 little kids now, and what a burden! It is hard, but they are also such a joy. Family home evenings, eternal marriage, the list of LDS programs, doctrines, and concepts that support strong families goes on and on. "No success in life can compensate for failure in the home!" So said one of our prophets in the 1970's.
5. I am a Child of God (Children’s Song)
There is a strong, healthy emphasis in this church that every individual on the earth can have a personal relationship with God. Each can come to know that He recognizes our personal, infinite worth even if we aren't very noteworthy by earthly standards. We are each of infinite worth in spite of the fact that billions of others also have personal infinite worth to Him.
To be a Latter-Day Saint is to see God very much as a loving parent in whom you can count on, confide in, converse with, and get responses from. Yes, He is the All-Powerful Governor of the Universe, and that should command our reverence, fear, and respect. But in spite of our billions of siblings, and in spite of our personal failings, He is also intimate and personally concerned for your well-being, as any great parent would be. Time is endless for him, so he can make time for you.
4. Kool-Aid - best drink ever!
Part of what makes being LDS so valuable to me is that it's just plain fun. There is a powerful culture of activities, service, and brotherhood that together just make for a fun life. Primary songs, cub scouts, boy scouts, youth dances & activities, seminary, service projects, church history tours, 2-year missions, "vacation-log" testimonies, little kid testimonies, unintoxicated teenage mischief (usually creative and normally harmless), family reunions, green Jell-O at ward parties, funeral potatoes, wedding receptions in the cultural hall, last day of the month home teaching, inside jokes - it all adds up to a way of life that is engaging and truly fun. It is often called a "Kool-Aid lifestyle" as opposed to a "sex, drugs, and rock and role lifestyle" that qualifies as "fun" for many... until it ruins their lives. "Wickedness never was happiness." (Alma 41:3).
3. He who has eyes to see, let him see.
There is something almost magical about the Gospel of Jesus Christ as practiced in this church. Prayer, study, pondering, and "time in the pews" have helped me comprehend so many powerful truths - mysteries of God if you will - that are lost to the view of the rest of humanity and even largely lost to general Christianity. I've only scratched the surface of what I could know through mechanisms revealed by Christ's restored gospel. Paul did say that "We see through a glass, darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12)." I know that is the case even with the LDS. But I know it would be even darker and more distorted in any other place. The blind are leading the blind. I am glad to at least see through a glass, darkly.
The "enlightened" elites focus on the spiritually inconsequential base sciences and scoff at the thought of anything to do with God. Truths discovered through science are cool and often very helpful. Cell phones are great! But what does that have to do with the meaning and purpose of life? General Christianity does a good job of answering that for billions of people, but they are missing "the rest of the story" that could help them do even better.
There are whole new dimensions of truth to be seen through these lenses. Atheists and intellectuals think they see 20/20. But they are really worshipping their own gods, blind to the most important truths - the Spiritual Sciences.
Spiritual blindness vs. spiritual sight is like looking at the 3-D picture shown here. A few strange "fanatics" claim they see a hidden image that is important and beautiful, but you have to look at it long enough and cross your eyes just right. The blind either don't care and won't look, or they give up too easily - seeing only a mess of colors and strange shapes, and scoffing at those few who swear there is a beautiful 3-D image if you look just right.
2. Makes bad men good, good men better
Gordon B. Hinckley was a prophet who recently passed away, and this was one of his favorite ways to describe the Gospel. Certainly all legitimate churches subscribe to the goal of improving the individual, regardless of where the individual finds himself on the path toward perfection. One beautiful concept emphasized by LDS, but not unique to LDS, is that God is far more interested in the direction you're headed than where you're actually at, since all men fall short of the glory of God, and require His Grace for salvation. I see ample evidence that this Church has a high batting average in helping make bad men good, and good men better.
1. It is where God has Revealed His Plan for Salvation and Happiness
"I think, therefore, I am." We Exist! We existed before, and we will always exist hereafter. Most of us like to hope that is true, even if plenty doubtful. This church provides a satisfying and complete vision that we existed before this earth, and will exist forever. And that we have some control over how that after life will be, by willingly embracing Christ and keeping his commandments. God established the earth as a place for our souls to be tested, gain experience, and ultimately gain critical and Godly knowledge that could only be gained as we wrestle here with all of life's joys and pains - pains often caused by the free will of those who have chosen wickedly (and will hence be condemned).
The vision of who we are, why we're here, and where we're going based on how we live, is breathtakingly beautiful and definitely inspires both long-time members and those just beginning to "see the 3-D picture" - to repent and align their lives with Christ so as to be found in a more rewarding afterlife. This church provides satisfying answers to the most perplexing debates that have raged for eons among the branches of Christianity.
To Be a Latter-Day Saint is to Be Happy in Your Pursuit of Happiness!
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While thinking about the value of living prophets, I created this analogy that was too long for the Top 10 list, but still good to think about...
Navigating Without a Living Guide or a Transmitter
Imagine being on a safari only to wake up and discover that your guides (the apostles) have been killed by savages. Their maps, letters, and survival guides remain behind, but many are torn and pages are missing. But even if it were all there, nothing is quite as good as your living guide was. You are smart, and learn what you can from what's available, but there is no doubt this will be a Dark Age for your group. So you assemble all parchments that your inspired guides left behind and call it "The Bible."
There is no way to make up for the years of critical personal knowledge your prophetic guides had. They had CB radios to communicate with the outside world after all! (i.e., connection to God). So the group selects a leader who seems to best understand both how to survive and how to get home. The new "guide" marches you on - "forward" so he says. But other smart people are reading the same documents, and heated debates ensue. Smaller groups break off and try to find their way based on their interpretation of the material.
After hundreds of years this way, all groups seem to accept that they'll never have such competent, experienced, prophetic guides like they had before. They didn't realize, or they didn't trust, that if they "lacked wisdom they could ask of God" (James 1:5). Or perhaps, many did not feel they lacked wisdom. "I'm brilliant, and I don't need a living guide - 'The Bible' they left behind is all I need." That might be true, if not for the fact that other brilliant people seem to find alternate interpretations of the same Bible.
Paul was the "guide" for the early churches where he preached, and Christ was Paul's living, resurrected guide. Paul sent letters to correct their course, and would visit as often as he could. But ultimately he and all other apostles were killed, and the prophetic link between Christ and the churches was severed. They were left to do the best they could, but drifted off course just as they had when Paul sent the correcting letters that became the bible. But now no one was sending correction. They set up "Catholicism" at the Council of Nicaea in about 300 AD. Over the centuries Catholicism degenerated, as Luther and others provided compelling evidence. I'd say most reformers were on a good thread. But "threads" are not the "tapestry." They were fundamentally mere mortals of limited resources trying to recreate the tapestry through university-like study - arguably the only thing they could do given the circumstances. Those who followed them then and now were and will be better off than those who accept atheism or a non-Christian religion. But none of them were established by or are guided by God himself.
The Radio is Working Again!
When Joseph Smith entered the scene at age 14, he didn't have the knowledge or rhetorical skill to debate interpretations as so many others were. Instead, knowing he lacked wisdom, he took up James' challenge and prayed with real faith as only kids can (James 1:5). I think God was pleased with Joseph's faith and sincerity, but also pleased with the world's hunger and progress toward finding the lost elements of the Gospel. There was a newly established religious freedom in America, and that could allow God to speak through prophets once again (Amos 3:7) without opposition getting the upper hand as occurred with the original church. So this particular prayer was a convenient opportunity for God and Christ to reveal themselves to Joseph, and begin his preparation to restore anew what others could not fully piece together without God's direct intervention.
God does pick kids sometimes, as when he picked David as the future king of Israel, Samuel the prophet, and many others. We look for resume, but God looks only on the heart. Think of those movies where even kids can fly jet airplanes, if they have radio communication with someone who can tell them what to do. In our safari journey, even the "learned elders" who have memorized everything left behind would be no match for even the simplest soul who happens to have a CB radio and can ask questions and get answers from the outside world.
I know that God has restored his church again, as it was first established by Christ. There are prophets again on the earth as in the days of ancient Israel where one prophet would succeed another. Christ also established the same pattern, where a new apostle was called once one moved on. Is it so hard to believe, given the other things you already believe? This church is small, but since when did small make it not true? Original Christians were once small in number too. Give it a chance.
To me it is almost easier to accept Atheism than to believe God once had prophets, but no longer uses them, because "we have the safari guidebook". Up to 10% of the entire human family since Adam is alive today and searching as never before for important truths that are hidden as never before, like a needle within a media haystack. They search via science, reasoning, religion, etc., but are greatly split on where best to find it. Given such a huge share of God's "family" is here TODAY, God is surely seeking to communicate with all of us collectively and you personally through your prayers and experiences, regardless of your religion. But he also seeks to communicate to you and the entire world through his special witnesses - modern apostles - just as in times of old. Christ said "beware of false prophets!" Ok. But that inherently implies there may also be true prophets. We should "beware" by first hearing what they have to say, then discern through prayer if they are God's true messengers or not.
which is destroying the earth. This religious creed of the godless is accepted even by the God-fearing. Nothing could be further from the truth!
1. A scourge to the earth? Or it's very reason?
2. My Amazing Miracles with 5 and 6-billionth Baby
3. How are God and Pine Trees Similar? Seeds.
The world is flooded with things that consume the time of our lives. What of it is truly useful and important - REAL vs. just real? It’s like we are in a “plastic world", but will we be content to live "Ken and Barbie plastic lives"? Will we learn as Pinocchio did what it takes to become "a Real Person"? Will we be found with God, or against God?
- “What is Real?” 1: Science, facts, pursuits - what is "capital R" Real?
- Real things have a Capital R. Like Pinocchio, our quest is to become Real.
- The Great I AM is Chief among all entities that can say “I am”.
- Possible source or mechanism for God’s Power.
- The role of Christ: Saved by Grace? By Works? By Both!
- “What is Real?” 2: The War in Heaven rages on Earth, and is Real.
- What is the purpose of Earth? Gain experience and demonstrate before the Heavens which side we’re on.
- Why the veil between heaven and earth makes for a perfect proving ground.
- There are only “two churches”, and every soul will be judged as having been in one or the other.
- Are democrats “evil”? Are republicans “righteous”?
- “What is Real?” 3: What is NOT Real.
- The facts of our birth, and what others do TO us, is not Real.
- Our “Ken and Barbie” plastic pleasures and lives are not Real.
- Moses discovered that “Man is Nothing, AND Man is Everything”
- Can you see the dolphins?
- Our choices in “the pursuit of happiness” can be both Real and not real.
“What is Real?” 1: Science, facts, pursuits – what is “capital R” Real?
Preface: There are Really big deceptions designed to distract us from what is Real to what is just plastic. I use a capital R to signify that in this work Real is not defined as simple facts, or even as activities that may even be good, but they are not Great. Real things cut beyond the haze to solid, beyond this world Realities. Things that have true value are Real. Experience (good and bad) is Real. Acts that comfort others, or bless their lives are Real. The facts regarding God and His purposes are Real.
A popular Latter-Day Saint asks, “What is Real?”
Glenn Beck is a popular conservative talk radio host who is on a quest for truth. He has correctly observed that the earth is awash in propaganda, lies, unknowns, incorrect “conventional wisdom”, knowing enablers of evil, and unwitting enablers of evil. He also has expressed my own feelings when he admits he is mostly just a regular guy and doesn’t know how to find his way out of the mess completely. I count myself as a seeker of truth. But the truth is, I probably buy into a lot of stuff that simply isn’t true, but I just haven’t figured that out yet. I like to think that if all humans were placed on the scale of “how much of what you think is correct actually is correct,” I would rate well above average. Individually even Einstein didn’t really know very much compared to our 7-billion person collective knowledge. And even our collective knowledge is still nothing relative to all knowledge (or God’s knowledge).
I mention Glenn Beck because he often ponders out loud on “What is Real?” It struck me when he first asked that because I’ve been pondering that for as long as I can remember. He is bugged by a world where so many things seem pointless or of little lasting value, and mentioned that once in church he saw a sister scratching her brother’s back with a casual comfort that could only come from years of familiarity, respect, and love, and he said to himself “now that is Real.”
Pinocchio wasn’t Real, but he became Real
Pinocchio exclaimed to his fairy godmother, “I want to be a Real boy”. As a puppet, he walked and talked, but couldn’t feel, couldn’t understand, couldn’t love. The story shows how, in his “Pursuit of Happiness”, he was tempted to Pleasure Island where he nearly lost even his wooden life. It then goes on to show his efforts to save his maker, Japetto, and through these heroics he learned to feel and love. All of the experience, good and bad, taught valuable lessons and opened his heart and mind. In the end he was Real. I believe we likewise live unwittingly almost as wooden puppets, or what I like to call “plastic lives”. Like Pinocchio, our challenge is to discover the key to becoming Real.
“I think, therefore I am.”
Let’s start at one the most infamous undeniable Realities. Rene Descartes was one of the greatest philosophers of all time, and was a believer in God. In his quest to find what is Real, he went into a frame of mind where he attempted to devise alternative explanations for everything, even for God and matter itself, in an attempt to identify what few things were truly undeniable. Such mind games as “if I touched a hot stove, it would seem as though I touched something real (hot matter), but what if there is a Being out there who observes me thinking that I’m about to touch a stove, and feeds my mind a sensation of touching a solid object and resulting pain, even though I have touched nothing.” If you’ve ever seen “The Matrix”, or “Inception”, it’s a little like that.
So in these mind-games, he is able to deny matter, God, and everything. I should say, while he still believed in these things firmly, he had to admit that the fact that his mind had constructed a potential alternative explanation held the remote possibility of being correct from a purely logical point of view. After years of struggle, he finally struck on a single, undeniable “Reality” that he could see no other way to explain. He had denied his very flesh as possibly just an image that some unknown being was casting before his mind. But his mind itself – “I think, therefore, I am!” He could deny that his flesh existed, that the world existed, that his contemporaries existed. While he firmly believed in God, he accepted that it was not difficult to devise an alternative reality in which God was not necessary. But something down deep, something with self awareness, something with intelligence, something known to himself as “I,” was still thinking and therefore he MUST exist even if nothing else in the universe existed.
The Great “I AM”
I have found it very interesting that God refers to Himself in the bible as The Great I AM. It’s as if He knows this undeniable truth also, and is telling us that it is true not only for each of us, but also for He Himself. Of all things that are able to say “I am”, HE is the Greatest of all of these. LDS scholar Cleon Skousen once wrote an essay on this subject. His thoughts are rarely part of a Sunday School lesson, in part because they are pretty speculative (though backed by extensive research of existing scripture and seemingly consistent with statements of the prophets), but also because they are “pretty meaty”, and is the kind of stuff that only a few among many active Saints would be able to hear without a lot of obsession or unnecessary confusion, possibly driving them away from what is most important.
I am very reluctant to continue on this thread because I am nervous to put “pearls before swine”, but I also want to help honest truth seekers discover what I’ve found to be one of the most prized pearls! I’ll continue carefully and will gladly pull this or tone it down if ever requested by those in authority.
When The Father names Himself “I AM”, He is placing Himself at the head of all things that can say I am – which is more than just mankind. Man is the only order of intelligence that is fully capable of exercising free will, or in other words, the only entity capable of acting against the will of God. This gets at the very heart of why God is all powerful, or rather it explains the mechanics of how God’s power exists. It is because as an “I am” of the highest order, His is capable of exercising agency, or in other words, theoretically capable of breaking His word. But He has not broken His word, and the Universe of intelligences or “I ams”, whatever that means, respects and trusts Him completely for that. Thus when God speaks and a mountain moves, there is no magic involved, but rather the very mountain itself is aware of and has perfect respect for God. The mountain is capable of acting, but not capable of choosing to act against God – unless – God were to violate His own word and lose the trust of all “I ams”. Clues to this truth lie in scriptural statements such as “If it were not so, God would cease to be God”. This is implying there is a theoretical mechanism by which God Himself would no longer be God if He went against His word.
Possible source of God’s Power
So what is that mechanism? God is King, so maybe we can discover it by looking at the structure of a kingdom. In a kingdom, where does the king’s power come from? The king has power because the majority chooses to obey him. (Note that with a wicked king, a minority may actively support the king, and a large remainder end up supporting out of fear, but always the sum is a majority – some willingly, some reluctantly). If the King acts wickedly against his supporters, he may insight a rebellion by those who would have willingly supported him if he had treated them with respect. This happened to King Noah in the Book of Mormon. After much wickedness against his people, they finally rose up against him and burned him at the stake when he ordered the men to abandon their families to their enemies in order to save himself. After that, he had no respect, and was no longer the king because he had no one who would obey him.
God is the All Powerful King because He has the respect and admiration of all matter and intelligence. He is always on display before the Universe, and if He were to violate His word, they would quickly know it and would no longer lend Him their support. In this vein, it is almost natural to view God the Father as who He Really is – a glorified man. It is perhaps easier to see Christ in this light, since we know He is a glorified and resurrected man. But He is also a God. He is the Creator, and all of His Creation loves Him and respects Him for never having violated His word nor any of the commandments (i.e. His sinless state).
When the Universe watched their sinless Creator suffer unjustly on behalf of sinners, they endowed Him with the redeeming power. In other words, the Universe of “I ams” who have obeyed their commandments (animals that were commanded only to multiply, matter that was commanded only to “form an earth”, etc.), stands against us for even the slightest sin. God the Father has stated that every sin must be paid for, and the Universe stands guard at the gate making sure the unclean cannot get in. If God were to make an exception even for the slightest thing, He would instantly become a fallen man not all that different from ourselves. Having lost respect for God, the Universe would no longer hold Him as King, and would cease to obey His command. So where the earth’s present command from God is simply “exist as a habitat for man”, it is conceivable that the earth may simply disintegrate into space dust in rebellion against its former King. If this is anywhere near correct, then the Priesthood really does hold our very planet together minute by minute as many have suggested.
The Role of Christ
This is where Christ’s role is so vital. We have sinned and cannot work our way out of our sins. We cannot be “extra good from now on” and still take away the fact that a law was broken and a consequence is attached to that by the word of God. We could try to repent and live a Mother Theresa life, and there would still be no salvation for us because once fallen we cannot lift ourselves up. Here is where Lutherans and others are correct in noting that we are not saved by our works, but by the grace of God.
Thus a dilemma: our sins must be paid for, and we have insufficient ability to pay for them ourselves. It requires a scapegoat (after the original Old Testament meaning) – a sacrificial lamb (which is why the Jews did sacrifices, but sadly they didn’t understand the sacrifices were all aimed at helping them recognize the Real sacrifice). When the Universe watched their creator suffer unjustly though He had not sinned, the Universe offered to accept this unjust suffering in trade for what would normally be just suffering by those who have broken the law. Society requires that a law breaker make whatever payment is required for a given broken law. Killers often claim they’ve “found Jesus” in their 10th year, and hope we’ll let them out. A just society rightly says, “Good for you. I hope it’s true. You must still pay your price.” (Sadly, our legal system is often very confused regarding justice).
In the Final Judgment, I think the Universe plays the roll of society, or think of the Universe as both witness to our sins, and expecting enactment of God’s word stating there is a punishment required for sin – namely that unclean things cannot be in Heaven. Therefore, “society” will not allow fallen man in Heaven without the right payment, which payment we are not capable of making on our own behalf (hence the need for Grace). It’s as if we killed someone, and the only acceptable payment is to bring the dead back to life. We can pay a billion dollars and give our own life, but society says, “No thanks, God has written that only life restored is acceptable, and if God takes your billion dollars even for a good cause, He will cease to be God because He will have broken His word, and we will not obey Him. And if the King’s subjects will not obey Him, then there is no King and no Kingdom”. I think of the court dialog as something like this:
Christ: “Before the Bar of Judgment we have the man Michael Brown. I know Michael, like Adam before him, has partaken of the tree which We told him not to partake and deserves the affixed punishment, which is to be removed from God’s presence forever. However, since then, Michael has made great effort to repent, and to obey My commandments. I recognize that this alone does not change the fact that He is accountable before the Law, and that the Law must be satisfied. As your Creator, you have seen my infinite and unjust suffering which I endured just for the likes of Michael. Since his knee first bowed down confessing me as his Savior, he has consistently made great effort to do what I have asked. Therefore, I ask you to accept my unjust suffering as payment for his just suffering.”
The Jury: “It pained us greatly to see your infinite and unjust suffering. You have certainly suffered sufficient to pay Michael’s debt. Therefore, we judge that you may own him and do with him as You will – even to set him free in the Kingdom of Heaven if You will. This Court is satisfied with your argument and payment in his behalf.”
Christ’s Grace satisfies the Universe; Our Works must satisfy Christ
Indeed, all the good works in the world cannot of themselves save us – we do need the Grace of God. But the Grace of God is not as easy to obtain as some would have us think. A wise man once said, “What we obtain too easily we esteem to lightly”. This is why paying for freedom with blood makes us value freedom all the more. Christ is now the “the richest man in the world” in the sense that only He can pay our debts before the Universe. Still, He is a wise investor and doesn’t pay off our debts without getting something He wants more in return. He will not pay our debts for us until we work for Him – until we give our hearts to Him.
Here is where the “Saved by Gracers” don’t quite have it right. They claim all you need to do is “state that you accept Christ”, and then you’re saved. It doesn’t matter what happened before or what happens afterwards. I know they’d say it’s not quite like that, but close enough for illustration. Thus the Atonement takes something that was unattainable (Society’s strict rules of justice), and makes them still not easy, but attainable (Christ’s rules for obtaining Grace and mercy).
Thus a few things that I know are Real:
God is the Great Governor of the Universe, and all entities in the Universe that can say “I am” obey His command because of their great respect for his proven reliability. We exist also, and we are of the same order of intelligence that God is (i.e. capable of agency). We are “I ams” also, but have disobeyed His commands. We are fallen, but gaining knowledge that is obtained through experience. God created the earth as a setting in which we could prove ourselves and gain wisdom. Christ, having suffered unjustly, is now vested with power from those “I ams” (intelligences) that have broken no laws. Christ is infinite in their eyes, and they will release their just claims against us if He requests it. They give Him ownership of us if He will have us. While we still often suffer the earthly consequences of sin, we are at least free from the eternal consequences if we will but do as He who bought us with His blood requires (repent).
Israel Is Real!
Some time ago I discovered that God like to leave little gems around for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Our languages are filled with such gems. Here are a few I have discovered. In English, the Sun gives light and life to all the earth, and the Son also gives light and life to all the earth. Why are these words, so different and yet so the same, pronounced the same? In Portuguese, the word for “heart” is “coracao” and the word for “prayer” is “oracao”. Coincidence? Or has God left us a clue through one of our languages that we should always have a prayer in our heart? There are one or two others that I’ve forgotten about, and no doubt there are many more. If they come back to me I’ll add them.
And on the theme of what is Real, the House of Israel has a special role in the world, and ultimately we must be a part of Israel if we are to be saved. Israel has the same letters as “Is Real” – therefore we can conclude that Israel “Is Real”.
“What is Real?” 2: The War in Heaven rages on Earth, and is Real.
What is Earth for? It’s the “School of Hard Knocks” for critical knowledge that comes in no other way.
Latter-Day Saints believe that the “I am” inside each of us has always existed and always will. We believe that we are spirit children of God, and that we lived with Him before this earth. While we existed as “highest order” intelligences (literally the same type of intelligence that God is), we had a lot of “growing up to do” before we could really be like God. This is hard for many outside our religion to accept, in part because they’ve grown up with a much different concept of who God is and who we are relative to Him. It is simple to see if you know where to look. We all call Him our Father, and who ever saw a son that did not have the potential to become a Father himself? Children are clearly far from adults, but with time and experience they become adults. Likewise as the “children” of God, we are far from Godlike, and many of us will never become Godlike, but we all have that potential.
So what was it we were lacking that compelled God to create the Earth and send us here knowing full well that many would not “spiritually survive?” A word I think sums it up well is EXPERIENCE.
If you have children or observe children, they exist in a wonderfully blissful state of unawareness. Their lives are Real, their problems are Real to them, their joy is Real. But their understanding is limited by inexperience. We know they will grow and learn, and a good parent is eager to help them learn to react positively to life’s lessons and help them desire to choose for themselves the better parts. God is the same way. He knew there was critical knowledge that could never be had unless we were to be isolated away from Him and set on a stage in which we could be pushed, tempted, pained, pleasured, proven. He and we needed to see what kind of metal we were made of. There was no way to reach our full potential without passing through mortal Experience.
The War in Heaven
This set the stage for the War in Heaven (another essay). Basically, Lucifer in a quest for power, lied to us all and convinced many that there was another way for us to get what God had (knowledge and the respect of the elements), but without having to pass through the trials that are what bring knowledge and respect. One third ultimately bought into this easy way, but the rest sensed that Freedom and Liberty were Real. They yearned for a chance to make their own way; to learn and grow; to have a shot at saying “I did it!”; and in the same breath to risk the possibility of having to report “I didn’t do it”. But either way, they wanted to have ownership of the outcome and believed in themselves in spite of the risks.
The Veil makes for a perfect proving ground
So we now find ourselves on Earth with a perfectly thick “veil” drawn between our last existence and this. So thick is that veil that it is very easy to get caught up in this place and to forget or never know that we have a high calling – that the things we do and experience we gain is all aimed at a larger purpose beyond this fleeting existence. The veil is intentional. We may seek for signs of God, but God will not reveal His hiding place to the world so cavalierly. He will not allow “proof” in a “captured on CNN” way (not at the moment, anyway, but Revelations suggests it may be that way in the end). He will provide spiritual proof, and support to reinforce your faith, but we typically must first exercise Real faith. That is, really desire to believe for good reasons, and prove it first by being more committed to a God you may feel you don’t yet know, rather than claiming you’ll cease mocking believers if God will put on a magic show.
The “magic” is out there. I’ve felt it, and I’ve seen in hind sight the unfolding of events in my life, the odds of which are beyond Powerball Lottery. Others can explain it away, but for me “coincidental” is an insult to God because I know better. Further, the events were accompanied with a sixth-sense communication of spirit to spirit that confirms for me it wasn’t just crazy luck or naturally occurring chemicals that affect your senses or psyche. Even further, the continuation of small things seemingly from the other side builds a mountain of evidence in my life that to deny would be like staring at the Sun and claiming it is dark. But personal miracles or communication is in fact personal, and when you tell it, it makes a nice story for other people and may build their faith, but no one will ever be moved like you are. This is why ultimately you need and can get your own spiritual experiences.
It’s as if God and the universe of God’s supporters were compared to your mom putting a hidden camera in your dorm room at college to see what you’ll do when she’s not around. But it’s even bigger than that since in this case you can’t even remember you ever had a mom or a life before college! But truly everything we do is known and recorded. It’s like Candid Camera. We can do our hidden works seemingly in complete anonymity, but are we really playing to a Super-Bowl audience? This side of the veil looks so real sometimes, but is it Real? Some charge forward convinced this is all there is and all there ever will be, and mock and scorn any who believe “God is watching”.
Though the list is much longer, I know at least these things are Real:
Family; love in the family; pure love between husband and wife; gratitude; concern for the well being of others; Christ’s suffering; Christ’s forgiveness; God’s children and our duties concerning them; Priesthood; Courage; a noble heart; compassion for others; service to others as they deal with the merely real; Faith in a reality beyond our plastic world, and effort to learn what is required to obtain that better Reality; the talents we were given and what we do with them is Real; the Great I AM is Real; the lesser or developing I ams are Real;
Evil, or the refusal to follow God, is also Real, and it is allowed to exist to challenge our minds, hearts, and souls with the invaluable experience that is so critical for us to become like God as we succumb to it and are pained to repent, or as we fight against it. The fight against evil is Real and never-ending during our lives. The War of Heaven rages on here in the earth. It is a war for the hearts and minds of God’s children, and it occasionally boils beyond just philosophical camps to actual wars that require the brave to take up guns and forcibly send those on the wrong side of the fight (even if propaganda and lies has fooled them into thinking they’re right) on to Spirit Prison where they can hopefully learn and repent.
The world’s two “Churches” are Real
Any war by definition has only two sides even if there are various nations involved and committed by different degrees. It’s like a football game, with the coaches and starters on one extreme and the fans on the other. Even the fans participate on one side or the other. People that claim neutrality – who won’t even come to the game – have in Reality chosen to enable evil by withholding their support of the righteous. If you’re not for the Right, you’re against the Right. “So then because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot I will spew thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).
The camp we end up in IS Real. Nephi’s vision reveals there are but two camps, or “churches”. The two churches are themselves arrayed in different costumes, in different places, and at different times. It is too narrow an interpretation to assume that the “church of the devil” was the Popes who sold forgiveness, and engaged in all kinds of wickedness. It is likewise to narrow to conclude that the Church of Christ is just a handful of Mormons when there are billions of good and decent people. The camps are all encompassing – like Shiz and Coriantomer at the last battles of the Jaradites where they gathered in all people to one side or the other.
The “churches” are all encompassing umbrellas that sort the righteous of the world from the wicked. From within each nation will emerge many who will be saved in the Kingdom of God, even if few from their nation find the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” in the second estate. Their lives reveal that they support righteousness inasmuch as they can find it. This habit of accepting truth once understood means they’re already in harmony with the Church of God (it just becomes “official” later).
Within the two churches are subcategories for politics, professions, philosophies, economics, and even religion, etc. The righteous may not presently be engaged in organized religion, but it does not mean they are outside God’s Church. I view being classed as “among the righteous”, not as a function of whether you were born to a life that had Mormonism in it somewhere, or any traditional religion at all. It’s not even a prerequisite to know many truths. Many are diverted because they’ve been fed a stream of lies, propaganda, or just do not know all the answers – but they can still be counted righteous if they obey in good spirit what truths they know, or what they believe to be truths (so long as they are prepared to act on knew knowledge). We are not accountable for what we do not know.
Saul unwittingly participated in the martyrdom of Stephen and thought he was doing the right thing for God! God did not hold it against him, but instead led him to the light where he became the greatest missionary of all time. Today, while most terrorists are truly evil, there may be a handful of souls who can be convinced they really are doing God’s will, and God will be more apt to forgive them when they blow themselves up and He’s able to teach them. (Actually that’s probably too extreme, because I think your soul has to wallow in a lot of obvious evil to kill mothers, kids, and yourself in a supermarket. Thus all terrorists are evil. But there are still many who act incorrectly in the name of God who will easily repent when they understand a better way).
It is “What did you do with what you knew? Where was your heart? Do you accept truth when you recognize it? Do you have essentially more good marks than bad marks? Will you repent of those bad marks you have?”
Democrats and Republicans as Factions within the Churches
The camps are manifest in American politics as “liberal vs. conservative” generally, with conservative I believe as the more righteous side. This is not to say that in our American understanding, positions that win support of the Democrats are in every case aligned with evil, and likewise that positions that win support of Republicans are in every case something that Christ Himself would support – in fact often I believe Republican positions and rhetoric are very against what Christ would do if He were in charge of the secular government.
Sometimes it really is the lesser of two evils. Thus on a hundred random positions, and if God were making the marks, I think Democrats would wind up fighting against God often and for God on rare occasion. Republicans would be just the opposite. This does not mean the camps are homogenous. There may even be minor third parties that would get higher marks from God than the Republicans. Such would still tend to be conservative (i.e. supporting liberty over coercion), but maybe also more oriented toward personal responsibility, freedom, fiscal responsibility, and promoting voluntary charity (by removing government mandated charity) than the Republicans have been lately. Clearly what I’m stating is my own opinion. The church’s stance is neutral. Many LDS democrats would beg to differ.
Excellent people destined for the Celestial Kingdom, Mormons and non-Mormons alike, are found as great supporters of the Democrats, in part because they see historic positions on what is meant to be “caring for the needy” – a Christian value. This is not wrong, but the wrong comes from following the thread to the end of the line where we can see that government is an ineffective vehicle for accomplishing this, and essentially boils down to Satan’s plan, which is to coerce everyone into doing the right thing (via taxes, rules, etc.), when freedom to choose the right (via charity), is more effective and more rewarding for all involved. Democrats would say “It’s not more effective. We can’t trust that people will give voluntarily”. To me this shows a lack of faith in the essential goodness of people. Americans would never let other Americans starve or suffer as long as they have the means to do anything about it! That they see “a different dolphin” (or in this case, a turtle) does not mean they are evil, and it could mean we should take time to see if their dolphin couldn’t teach us a thing or two also.
What we do with what we have is Real. Your motion towards God or away from God is Real, but where you’re at on the line between God and Satan is less so (i.e., you may have gone a long way toward Satan, but if you’ve figured that out and are prayerfully clawing your way back, that is Really GOOD!). Present position on the scale of earthly blessings is less real. Job lived a VERY real life (small r. Physically he had it as good and as bad as anyone), but inside he was VERY REAL. Because his heart was honest, pure, and trusting through good and bad, he gained a VERY REAL life (beyond this world glorious).
“What is Real?” 3: What is NOT Real.
Our “costume and setting” – our birth and what happens to us – is not Real
There are many things that are Real within the sunrises and sunsets that make up our time here. Let me start however with what is NOT Real. The circumstances of our lives, or the stage, costumes, props, and setting, are not real. They are second estate factual, but if we get caught in the trees we will never see the forest. It is virtually irrelevant if we are born rich or poor, black or white, American or Iranian, Nephite or Lamanite, far from the truth (as a “confused-but-swear-I-see-the-light” Ivy League liberal), or very near the most valuable truths (such as in a solid LDS family). These are only the props we were handed and the scene we are acting in. However, our reaction to them is Real. Our reaction to others is Real. The Experience we gain from our setting is Real. If much is given, much is required to get the same reward as someone of whom little is required because little was given. This is made plain in the Parable of the Talents.
Suppose our stage sees us born into a war torn environment where children are taught to hate; where rape, murder, torture, starvation, are the lot of many in your circle and maybe even you. Whatever momentary gratification the evil perpetrators obtain seems real to them and many of us, but it is not. The pain we experience ourselves or vicariously as we see the suffering of others is Real, but there are greater Real and valuable opportunities here. Any time we relieve suffering, stand against evil, or maintain our faith when faith is all we have and it’s hard to hold on to, that is all REAL and demonstrates to the Heavens that we are becoming Christ-like!
Our “Ken and Barbie” plastic lives
More on what is not Real. “Stuff” is not real. Earthly kingdoms and power are not Real. Consider for a moment “Ken and Barbie” of dollhouse fame. From our vantage point, they are NOT real. They are “made in our image”, but as plastic they are missing out on a lot of the wonders that it is to be human. Imagine for a minute that Ken and Barbie could move like us, but that they had a veil drawn over them that made them completely unaware that there may be any type of existence beyond their plastic world. They would sit in their plastic world doing what plastic world people do. They would eat plastic hamburgers (just like us – when buying from the dollar menu). They would watch the little TV with nothing on it and marvel at how nice it is (just like we worship all the crap that amounts to nothing). They would drive around forever in a plastic pink Corvette that never runs out of gas.
They hear stories from crazy “prophets” who say there is a life beyond their world which is wonderful – like the life of the child who he says governs over them. He says they may even have a chance to experience such a life it if they will simply believe it is there, stop the infatuation with a TV that won’t turn on, and live as if they really belong in that better place. However, Ken just can’t get over driving the plastic car or Barbie’s slender figure. Barbie is desperate to have the biggest plastic house there is, and she just can’t get over her infatuation with clothes. It never seems to rain in their world, so they ask themselves what could be much better than what they’ve got?
Being plastic or “mortal” and never having seen what our world “beyond their veil” is like, it would be hard to let go of what they have and trust the prophets. But it is easy for us to comprehend not only our world, but theirs also. We can judge that the plastic house, the Velcro clothes, and everything that is their world is nothing to brag about, and it would be well worth their time to do what they could to get into our “real world”.
I believe that from God’s perspective it’s very comparable. Our world is pretty much plastic, and just not that cool to Him. But because we cannot see or comprehend God’s world, it is hard to value it or even to trust that it exists. To us, this is an exciting enough place, and many work really hard to gain whatever they can from this life. Our plastic pleasure seems real. Our plastic pain seems real. They are Real in the sense that WE ARE REAL, and how WE react to them can have a Real outcome either positive or negative.
The Plan of Salvation brings structure and meaning to our lives. It puts our plastic world into context, and reminds us that the plastic and the Pinocchio are necessary steps to obtain something Real.
The Plan of Salvation, with its first estate, second estate, and third estate is the all-encompassing Reality that helps place the experiences of our world into proper context. Inherent in believing in this plan is an admission that there are other places, perhaps best described almost as other dimensions to use a sci-fi description, that have a definite X,Y,Z coordinate in space, and that are inhabited by beings who have a different reality than that which we wake up to every day. For those yet in the first estate, our reality is a step beyond theirs, even if they may be more aware of our reality than we are of theirs (not sure if they are or are not). For those who have passed beyond this state, they are a step beyond us, and may have an awareness not only of their new place, but perhaps a remembrance of this place and the first estate also. Our challenge now is to just trust that there is something greater than simply acquiring a billion dollars or marrying a sexy spouse “as seen with the eyes of the world”.
How cool is Mankind…really?
Moses was one of the few earth dwellers whose mind was opened to an awareness of the greater Realities. As a Prince of Egypt, and party to the most impressive works of mankind to that date, he stated after he was privileged to see the works of God, “Now I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (Moses 1, verse 10).
The works of man are arguably more impressive these days, but how impressive are they really? An awareness of the greater Realities still dwarfs anything we will ever do. You know how kids come running to show you something they’re so proud of? You are in fact proud of them. What ever it is they did is cool in relative terms (relative to them as children), but just really isn’t that cool in absolute terms (compared to the space shuttle or something). I imagine God is like that with us. We work for untold years, spend billions of dollars, and figure out what? Lasik surgery, hearing aids, and the like. God is proud of us, no doubt, but knows that what is “cool” for us is really amateurish in the grand scheme of things. “Oh yeah Lasik surgery? Watch me cure that blind man, and it won’t take even 10 seconds or require an army of PhD’s.”
Man is nothing, Man is everything
So man is nothing, and yet man is everything! God says, “This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”. We understand this when we look at small children. We know their works amount to nothing, that their problems are minor, and that they have an awful lot of progress to make, but to a loving parent that progress means everything! It becomes the reason we get up and head out into the plastic world. Sometimes we misjudge and think that loving our kids means giving them for free the plastic stuff that we always wanted, when actually loving our kids means helping them see the greater vision beyond the plastic. It means enabling them mentally, physically, and spiritually to achieve the most good they can with whatever talents they obtain. It means helping them find God, and then them helping others to find God.
The plastic world and what is Real can be well understood with one of my favorite analogies that I call “3-D dolphins”.
3-D dolphin picture analogy: A fascinating world of spiritual knowledge is available if only you “have eyes to see”
You know those 3-D pictures made of randomly-sized shapes all of varying shades of say green and blue? Someone may tell you there’s a dolphin in there, and you stare at it for awhile, but can’t see it immediately so you give up and move on. They seem trustworthy, but you ultimately don’t believe them or consider them well-meaning but senile. But then someone comes along and you ask, “Can you see anything in there?” They respond, “Oh yeah, it’s a dolphin”. You find many people think they see a dolphin, but you never can, and decide it isn’t really worth the effort to keep trying.
They tell you to look cross-eyed, peripherally, and anything they can think of until you finally have to move on with your day. Many give up there, but others will try again on a different day and finally begin to “see the dolphins” – an entire world that was right before their eyes, but to which they were previously blinded. That is the world that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has opened to my eyes. I don’t see that spiritual world all that clearly yet, but I have “seen some dolphins” and I can tell there is probably a lot more that I can yet see if I look long enough and correctly (prayer, faith, diligence, etc.). In this case, it’s a lizard!
The Pursuit of Happiness
Real and unreal things can also be found when contemplating that unalienable right that Thomas Jefferson well labeled “The Pursuit of Happiness”. His insightful and inspired choice of words reveals one of God’s major purposes for life. He has placed us here with an instinct to seek for things that will bring us happiness, but with a host of competing voices trying to define for us exactly what happiness means. Yet He does not define happiness for us, and leaves us completely free to “pursue” what ever we think happiness might be.
Many are born as “Lamanites” and hear few voices advocating from God’s camp on actions and lifestyles that bring Real and lasting happiness. They are tempted into a life of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”. The tainted pleasures that these bring counterfeit for a short time as happiness. Others so lack God in their lives that they think happiness is being rid of those who have claim on them, so they leave their families or may even murder. Many born as “Nephites” are raised to understand things that really do bring Real happiness, but they don’t or won’t see the dolphins, and they seek an easier way in short term gratification. Then there are Lamanites who find Real happiness, and Nephites also. Real happiness has so many facets. You can search for those multi-faceted gems and find none, find a few and miss most, or find many. I doubt anyone has ever found all or maybe even most facets of happiness. Key is that we all have the same freedom to chase our dreams, and to seek out what we believe will bring Happiness.
I can say with confidence that I have been at the Tree of Life, tasted some of the fruit, and found it to be very desirable – it truly brings Real Happiness. I am grateful to live in a free society that places high value on our right to seek after happiness. I can also say that it is clear that though everyone is seeking, few are really finding Real Happiness. Sadly, I have also spent some time window shopping in the Great and Spacious Building. I can report that whatever measures of short-term pleasure are available there, you come away in the end more hollow, shallow, and disillusioned. There is nothing Real in the Great and Spacious Building, except the fact that we Really will lose our shot at becoming Real if we dwell there too long.
Some things I know are not Real:
Keeping up with the Jones; failing to have a large family or devaluing your family in order to pursue worldliness, or even to pursue a significantly beneficial role in the world; the world’s obsession with sexual sensations (Real in the right setting, but very plastic otherwise); exploiting other people for wealth or selfish purposes (not the same as employing people respectfully, ending up wealthy in the process, and using your wealth to achieve things that are Real); Our costume and stage play is not real (black, white, American, Iranian, middle ages, vegetable IQ, PhD, endless pain, or seemingly endless luxury).
Are Corvettes Real?
I’ve always wanted to believe that great automobiles are Real. I’ve hunted around and I believe the creative genius behind them is Real, but our trading valuable assets for vanity instead of for things God would condone is what makes them not real. Somebody Real had to make Barbie’s plastic Corvette, but the ‘Vette is still plastic. In other words, there is nothing wrong with the process that seeks to improve upon something – either in its physical quality, utility, or beauty. The “wrong” comes in our motive for improving or in our purposes for having the improvement. The makers of Ferraris go wrong when they build into their designs features whose sole purpose is to tempt our vanity into setting ourselves above our brothers and sisters. But to make a Ferrari purely out of the challenge of making it, and for the beauty and utility it can bring into the world, I do not think is wrong. We go wrong when we want a Ferrari, not because of its quality and beauty, but because we can then look down on others.
All of these thoughts have helped me immensely to comprehend the larger Realities. I hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration of “What is Real.”
If you have valued from this, please feel free to email a link to www.latterdaylogic.com to those you believe may be receptive to this essay.
Is America bankrupt? Is the world? Could a Great or even Mega-Depression be part of the near future? If so, might the Second Coming of Christ be fast approaching? Red-states, blue-states – it’s a verbal Civil War! Will the nation split in two? Or ten? There are many mega-trends of wickedness in motion, and there are potential triggers that could initiate a series of catastrophes that could rival any challenges of the last century.
- Part 1: Why Global Warming is the Least of our Worries
- Why I wrote this essay (namely I think it’s important for “those who have eyes to see” to prepare now for survival in a terrible economy).
- Why those concerned with global warming are barking up the wrong tree.
- Why concern over global warming is a valid and noble endeavor, even if it poses a much lesser threat than economically-induced global grand-mal seizures.
- The essay is kind of scary. Don’t miss part 5 where I “look on the bright side”.
- Part 2: Essence of the Perfect Financial Storm
- 20 reasons a serious depression may be well under way very soon.
- American life is like being on a runaway train, with a drunk engineer at the helm (Uncle Sam) who has lost his sense of duty, and has no comprehension of the impending disaster. Worse, the passengers and crew are entirely elated at the incredible speed, and no one wants to see the train slow down (repent).
- The Titanic is also a fitting metaphor
- Federal Bankruptcy?: When I first wrote this in 2006, I knew we were bankrupt at $9 trillion in debt. Now we’re at $15 trillion in early 2012. This is the largest national security threat there is, but few see it as such.
- Personal Bankruptcy?: Everyone else is in debt also. One could say this has long been the case, since debt is necessary for a home and many businesses – but this kind of debt financed luxury and affluent living. We are addicted to debt. The total personal, corporate, and government debt exceeded $53 trillion in 2006, or - $700k per family of 4. How long would it take you to cover that bill with your disposable income?
- Energy/Food Crisis: Energy and commodities are up 3-4 times what they were in 2000. Food is following a similar inflation rate. We have not built new electric or other energy infrastructure, and have taken only modest steps to conserve. Many believe Peak Oil is upon us within a decade, and as demand rises and supply drops, prices will increase perhaps 100 or 200% from here – a shock the economy could not weather given issues noted here.
- Mortgage Crisis: Want to see the tallest roller coaster in the world? Look at Shiller’s index of housing prices over 120 years, and you may conclude that even though your home has dropped in value, it might still have a long, long way to go.
- Lost Opportunity: China and India are rising powers. Is God smiling on them? He does tend to bless the humble and humble the vain. They are humble people who are trying very hard to learn science, entrepreneurship, and all that made us great. With crumbling education, we are irreversibly passing the technological torch to them.
- Failing Generations: Our kids are not doing well. Single parent families are everywhere. Kids are unloved, over-sexed, and burdened with too much. Huge numbers will not receive the education they need to succeed. More importantly, they are not receiving the character they need to succeed.
- Mass gluttony, licentiousness, addiction: Vices of all kinds are widespread and powerful. Pornography is the most recent wide-spread addiction. Its maladies are likely to be the most destructive of all, yet its evil fruits may still take a few years to fully ripen.
- The Nation God smiled on will be humble, or it will not be God’s Nation: “Pride goeth before the fall”. We’ve had prosperity for nearly 70 years, and that has made us too proud of ourselves, and forgetful of God’s roll in our happiness. God is not against “tough love” or “strong medicine” if that’s what it takes to get us to remember Him.
- Prophetic Warning: In 1998 President Gordon B. Hinckley warned about the need to be temporally prepared. He noted the high bankruptcy rate even in the midst of tremendous prosperity. He talked of Pharaoh’s dream of 7 years of prosperity as had never been known followed by 7 years of famine as had never been known. He said “There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we’d better give heed”. Portent in the dictionary means “omen of pending calamity”.
- “Seven Years” is up: That was 14 years ago, and USA and the world have now had 65+ years of prosperity unlike anything ever known since Adam. The Dow-Jones idol worshipers think they’ve safe guarded against depressions, but the One True God has repeatedly shown the wisdom of men to be folly.
- Baby boomer’s massive “scheduled market divestment”: I’ve read several books that take note of the law that created 401(k) retirement accounts (ERISA), and recognize that in about 2012, the Baby-Boomers must begin withdrawing money from the stock market en mass. Some writers are convinced that at the least this will trigger a downturn, and some forecast depression from this factor alone. With millions of non-investors in the market, it could also cause a panic where even those who don’t need to withdraw, still move their money in an effort to avoid losing it. “The Coming Generational Storm” is a good book for this.
- Social Security is shaky: Social Security used to have 17 workers for every retiree (I think). Soon it will have only 3. Expensive technology helps the elderly live longer, but that expense will land on their children and grandchildren, who are too few, too broke, and too unable to earn high incomes to pay for it all.
- The world doesn’t have enough people: What? We just passed 7-billion! Yeah, but the nations responsible for wealth creation are all going backward, not forward. How is Germany alone supposed to save Europe, when Germans have not been replacing themselves?
- Keep up with Jones’ at all cost!: Home equity loans, interest only mortgages – all are evidence of our willingness to figuratively “drive with the wheels right on the edge of the cliff”. Any bumps will push a lot of people over the edge.
- High Taxes: Taxes are high and there is no reason to believe they will ever come down. Too many unionized bureocrats on white-collar welfare.
- Wickedness outpacing righteousness?: ‘The wheat and tares shall grow together.” Righteousness is growing among millions, but I believe wickedness may be growing among even more millions. Many wicked seeds were sewn decades – like boomers not wanting to have kids themselves – and hence not enough people to support their old age. The fruit of wickedness will be pain, and but pain is good if it turns our attention back to God.
- Statesman smothered by weeds: The first 150-years of America was a beautiful garden of Statesmen in both parties, but it has been taken over in the last 80 by Morning Glorepublicans and Dandycrats - some of the hardest to remove noxious weeds known to man! In my mind, the lesser evil is the former, but they’re weak and they’ve lost their way. Republican politicians shy away from challenging shrieking leftist, and they even helped spend us into bankruptcy! The solution is NOT a third party, which just divides our votes and ensures that the left will win. It IS to replace Republican weaklings who run to the center, with big-tent Reaganesque statesmen with a talent for bringing the center to them.
- How good are our walls?: The economy is more fragile than we recognized. September 11th, the housing crisis, Europe, etc. are making us more aware of that all the time. We are very proud of our great and spacious buildings, and other achievements. Everyone is so sure our “strong walls” (military, intelligence, economy, etc.) will keep the enemies out. Not only can enemies get around the walls, but we can’t even maintain the walls with our present internal strife, let alone if we have economic woes to deal with. Can’t even seem to build a wall at the Mexican border! A political cartoon showed our weapon of choice as an F-16, and theirs as a 32-cent stamp! (Anthrax letters). The ways around our walls are endless.
- Slaves to world and activist opinion: We ARE the paper tiger! We have enemies without and within that wish for nothing more than to dedicate their lives to destroy us and all that is good. What do we do about this cancer? We try witch doctor herbal remedies because we know chemotherapy hurts. News flash! It hurts, but you live! On this course, we have a few more nice days now, but we die in the end.
- There have always been tough times: Great troubles have been common in all ages, to include the Great Depression and two world wars very recently. It is foolish to live life completely exposed to the potential for such ravages, assuming such can never occur simply because it hasn’t during our life times.
- Bible assures us troubled times will continue: John’s Revelation pronounces great woes upon the world in the last days, right up until the Second Coming. Good triumphs in the end, but the “wish Christ would get here soon” days will be with us all the way there.
- Prophetic temporal advice: Never-ending warnings from modern prophets to acquire food and essentials to last a year or more. The pace and urgency of messages seems to be increasing.
- We should avoid further selfish credit-spending (personal on up to federal) and other gluttonous sins that equate to rupturing more compartments.
- God can repair the damage if we repent early enough, and we can suffer “just a little”. If we continue in sin, we will suffer more acute pain. Pharaoh had 10 plagues before finally breaking his stubbornness. God will send a rescue if we humble ourselves before our 10th plague.
- Jonah’s Nineveh chose early repentance. I am skeptical that those now living will choose the “early repentance” option in large enough numbers to offset those who want to continue indulging and even join in the orgy. Early repentance seems impossible, so pain is certain. Will we repent after the first pain? Or will we merely become more hard-hearted, sealing our doom?
- Part 3: Potential outcomes of the Perfect Financial Storm
- Would such a disaster signal the Second Coming of Christ?
- Can we handle a Great Depression as well as ‘The Greatest Generation’ did?
- Hypothetical future: Actions the Left may take if they are given power to solve it.
- The problems created when the millions addicted to X-box, tattoos, auto detailing, and internet porn suddenly find themselves without an income and a government with little ability to assist.
- What happens when foreign born PhD’s go home because it is too hard to stay here?
- 8-billion people are easy to support when times are good. What if trucking can’t deliver necessities? What about endangered species and rain forests?
- Would the United States survive as 50? Or perhaps might the “true red, white, and blue” reorganize into a smaller union? Would it mean war?
- Can we effectively defend ourselves against terrorist’s mass destruction plots (including nuclear) if we are reeling from internal chaos brought to a head by several generations of selfishness and lack of concern for the future?
- Part 4: Preparation for the Perfect Financial Storm
- How not to build an ark: What we learned from our first Titanic of a home.
- The wealth our “ant-like” lifestyle will create will widen our opportunities and sphere of influence for good if the storm doesn’t occur, and help us temporally survive more easily than most if it does.
- Essential survival materials – how much you need, and why.
- Part 5: Spiritual preparation for the storm
Part 5: Spiritual preparation for storms is essential
- The attitude of Job: be responsible over earthly stewardships, but be prepared to “bless the name of the Lord” even if you find yourself in hardship someday.
- The best protection money can buy – through Tithing!
- If something remotely like this occurs, is it “the end of the world?”
Even with just a life jacket, God will provide if you’ve been wise.
Some might say I’m blinded to more important spiritual truths. I hope I am not. I really want to just live the best life I can, but be prepared both spiritually and temporally as much as possible. So you’re pretty far from an “ark”? Then work first on getting a lifejacket, then a lifeboat, then… Be wise with what you have, and always pay tithing, and I believe God will shield you from the worst of it.
But even if He allows me to go clear to the bottom as He did with Job, and I find I lose all my resources, I still want to report back that I was not slothful and unwise. I did not bury my talents, but I invested as seemed wise to me, but I simply lost.
Catch the preparedness fever from the masters
Dave Ramsey is fun! He has a radio show built around the theme “Where debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid off home mortgage replaces the BMW as the status symbol of choice.” Dave has several books out. One is “Financial Peace University”. He is a strong Evangelical Christian, advocates tithing first, and gives a lot of great religious perspective to the reasons to get out of debt. And of course you probably know of Clark Howard. He’s not so much about getting out of debt as he is helping you know a million and one ways to save a buck. He also has some decent books. www.ClarkHoward.com is great.
Glenn Beck I mentioned already. He has no particular advice for saving money. He’s just convinced that a major war with radical Islam is building quickly, and that our economy is under major threat. He thinks we’re not doing enough about either, and that could mean a whole lot of nasty. He advises to do what you can to prepare yourself and those you love just in case it’s necessary.
Robert Kiyosaki is the author of the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” series. I’ve read probably 8 of his books and really enjoyed them. He grew up in Hawaii where his real dad was poor and destined to remain so. His best friend’s dad started out the same poor, but was doing things that led to a billion dollar empire. It is a story about how he learned good things from both, and his books are his effort to try and pass on principles of wealth that he learned. It is where I trace a lot of my fire for investing, real estate, and business building. Don’t pay full price J! Get it at the library or used from Amazon.com.
Tithing: The best spiritual means of assuring temporal survival
A lifelong commitment to render unto the Lord what is the Lord’s will not go unnoticed. There is no promise we’ll get temporally rich from paying tithing, but there is a promise that “blessings will rain down”. Of course “blessings” need not be in the form of money. However, I do believe we can safely assume that the Lord is much less likely to leave us truly destitute if we have made these sacrifices with a pure heart.
Even if you are not temporally prepared when world events carry us in their whirling winds, if you have repented enough to acquire a life jacket, I believe the Lord will respect that. You will then make it through challenges better than if you finally fall on your knees and beat upon the door of the ark when it is evident to all that a Storm of Storms is here.
I love life no matter what. What an amazing experience this is. I hope you have profited from this series and will do further research to confirm for yourself whether what I’ve written holds any water. A quick search of Google on key words such as “Perfect Financial Storm”, “bankruptcy rates”, or any others you can think of can yield a wealth of objective sources confirming that this is a real possibility and no laughing matter. So many are panicked about global warming, and have no idea that the debt monster is poised to eat us all for lunch. Then the terrorist monsters inside and out will attempt to bring death by a thousand cuts while we’re wrestling to get by. If so, we’ll have global warming after all – from the intense heat of war and economic failure.
Looking on the bright side – we may well repent when we’re in pain
Are dark days straight ahead? Yes. But that doesn’t mean we won’t have bright days ahead also. Take what we know of 1927-1947. 1927 was the heart of “the roaring 20’s”. You’d never convince people they “should prepare for disaster”. The World War was behind them, people were getting cars, washers – everything looked great. Yet in 1935 they were befuddled and dumbfounded that such an economic disaster could have happened so quickly. Surely there was great speculation that “the Second Coming” must be right around the corner. Then it got worse before it got better. Hitler was supported in large part because his promises sounded great in the desperation of the depression. But in those darkest days, great days were still ahead! The whole storm only lasted about 16 years, and ever since has been quite good!
Hope and pray it never happens, but prepare today as if the Storm were a sure thing. I once heard depressions seem to occur on 75 year cycles. It’s been 77 years since the storm of 1929. Will there soon be a 25, 100, or 500 year storm? God may grant a medium scale, 25 year storm if we repent now on a large scale. I think it will be comparable to the 1929-1945 storm (maybe bigger, maybe smaller, but bigger than anything experienced since 1945).
I fully expect to see a 100-200 year storm during my working years. But even if we see a millennial storm, don’t lose hope for a brighter day. A 100-year magnitude storm might last 15-years, and a millennial storm might last much longer. But all throughout there will be chances to smile, and we will surely emerge to a happy time once again, and maybe all without the Second Coming being part of that happy time. Job endured so much, and even if he had lost all hope of relief in this life, he still had confidence in a wonderful afterlife. Ultimately God did restore him to great happiness even in this life.
What good is “Talk of Storms”
So is there any value in “scaring people” with all this talk of Great Storms? YES! If you were in 1922 and someone could convince you that a serious depression and another world war were relatively close, wouldn’t you want to know that? How could you prepare? First, by not squandering your money and taking unwise risks when everyone else was. When prophets say “we’d better give heed to gathering storms”, does it make sense to get a boat, snowmobiles, and a McMansion all on credit just because the loan officer finagled a way to do it? Remember, millions in India could be mastering your job!
I painted a “worst case scenario” here just to get you to think about what might be possible if the nation and world won’t repent even when in the throws of desperation. I’m very optimistic that we will begin to repent, and do what we have to do to our enemies, our politicians, our addictions, and our own hearts, once pain is seriously upon us. I am much more skeptical that we will take the hard steps before pain is inflicted. History proves that pain is a necessary part of learning. If we’d engaged in war with Hitler while he was still weak, maybe the Nazi’s could have been ousted on less than 100,000 lives rather than dozens of millions. But the future was muddy enough at the time that few saw how bad it could get, so even a war of 100,000 seemed too much. Had it happened that way it would be demonized by the left today as a “terrible war of aggression that was too high in price” – yeah right.
In Iraq, Bush’s folks had no idea how bad it could get, so they did dumb stuff like “respected the enemy’s funeral”, and “let top bad guys get away because they were in Mosques and schools”. Now what could have been a small war if it were taken seriously ballooned more than it needed to because Jihadists are easy to recruit when all the world sees how politically correct our media and our push-over citizenry forces our military to be. It makes them believe they can win! (And they can, up until we get REALLY mad, which will never happen because we’re a paper tiger). That’s where the Bush admin. went wrong. They thought the whole thing could be tidied up from afar – where we were strong. They didn’t realize they’d end up occupying Iraq, and that world media scrutiny would hold them to unattainable standards for collateral damage. So we just get killed because we can’t fight back.
So I conclude that the pride cycle will come full circle, and we will suffer intensely within just a few years. But no matter how large this particular storm – even if it is the Storm of Storms before the Second Coming (which I don’t think it is), the righteous will recover and see bright, happy days on the other side (whether the other side of the storm, or other side of the veil), just as God promised Noah with the Rainbow.
If you have gained any value from this, please feel free to email it or send a link to www.latterdaylogic.com for those you believe may be receptive to this essay.
- The attitude of Job: be responsible over earthly stewardships, but be prepared to “bless the name of the Lord” even if you find yourself in hardship someday.
Part 1: Global Warming? There are bigger fish to fry.
This 5-part essay is something I’ve written to help me sort my thoughts, but also something I believe useful for my relatives and for a world-wide audience desirous to prepare for the possibility of hard times. I am a devout but average member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and take many of my points from truths I believe I have learned from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, modern prophets, secular sources, and the Spirit of Truth. I am not a financial expert and I have little scholarly knowledge, but I do have a knack for discerning trends and the Big Picture. I think the “experts” often do not see the forest for the trees. I’m just a regular guy who tries to pay attention and discern what’s going on, and could easily be wrong. Knowing that, you’ll comprehend what I’m saying much better.
Is it the best of times, or the worst of times?
The present world is such a place of confusion. Who can really figure it out? Truly there are many who “call good evil and evil good” (Isaiah 5:20). Here is a mechanism I have found useful to discern what is Really important, with a capital-R. Very often, it is the exact opposite of what the worldly and godless think is “truth” or “important”. Many would have us believe that life has never been worse on planet earth, and that the United States is the primary reason why. A rational, truth-seeking soul, who uses their mind, heart, and prayer; can, given time to ponder, easily recognize that the truth is exactly opposite. The world has never known prosperity and wide-spread improvement in freedom, enlightenment, and hope as it has now – and the United States has been largely the vehicle of choice by which God has blessed the earth with these wonderful things. The past many decades have been the best of times, and the USA was the biggest factor in that. But the wicked among us have been “fundamentally transforming us” for decades, and without vigilance God will judge us to be more evil than good, and we will experience hard trials as in past times.
What are our biggest threats? Republicans? Democrats? Global Warming?
There are a lot of “Boogy Men” subjects out there: “The world will surely end if…”
A) Obama is President; B) Romney is President; C) We stay in the Middle East;
D) We leave the Middle East; E) We don’t stop Global Warming; F) All of the above.
Answer is? N – None of the above. I am concerned like everyone about finding our way through these things. But there may be a lurking monster that is far more terrible than all of these. I wrote the first version of this essay in 2006, and I could see there were massive tectonic trends that could cause global economic quakes more significant than anything else we worry about. I knew then that we could be sailing into a perfect financial storm, and recent years are proving that is exactly the case.
I don’t want to contribute to a sense of gloom and hopelessness. My intent is just the opposite. I hope that seeing the potential for tough times will give us motive to prepare so that we can be hopeful and optimistic of our ability to deal with the challenges of either peace and prosperity, or the loss thereof. “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear”.
On with part 2, or the essence of the Perfect Financial Storm!
Part 2: Essence of the Perfect Financial Storm
The far left is convinced that global warming and nearly all other ills are traceable to the evils of the United States. It is “Global Climate Change” that will bring disaster upon us, they say. Or maybe we haven’t given teachers unions and other government unions enough money, and that’s why we’re facing disaster. They have missed the forest for the trees. Like them, I also am convinced that hard times of Biblical proportions could easily be part of my generation’s future, but it won’t come from what the left says is bad about America (and is actually good). It is more likely to come from what actually is bad about America and the world – simple wickedness and blatant violation of the 10 commandments and the Golden Rule.
I am certainly not a prophet, and I’m not sure of the details for how this could unfold, but it doesn’t take a prophet to read many of the signs. But we can learn from prophets and even receive personal revelation that can motivate us today in ways that will prepare us for hard times in our future.
I’m more convinced all the time that a serious economic depression could be underway within a few years. A “Perfect Storm” seems to be brewing. Even if the present “Cat-2 Hurricane” calms for a season, it is just the calm before the Big One. There are many problems that by themselves are large – and we always kick the can down the road. There will come a point where they can be kicked no further, and in fact many will converge to create monster waves and winds. I’ve wanted to gather my reasoning into one place for quite some time. I am weak in defending this with links and facts (they’re out there, I just don’t have time to assemble them all), but I hope I can help you connect some of the dots in your own mind.
Why a depression?
“Cap’n, She’s Gonna Blow!” – Scotty to Kirk, in all Star-Trek episodes but three
Life feels like a train that is ever accelerating and currently moving 160 mph on a track that was designed for 60 mph. Our locomotive’s boiler was not designed for pressure like this. Our fat and drunken engineers (political leadership) partied too long in the back with the mindless celebrity culture. Surely they sense the speeds now are too dangerous, but would never admit it, and are even more loath to admit their role. Beside, they are so excited by the speed that they wouldn’t slow down even if they were sober enough to remember how. They are too confident in the systems they think they know so well. I am a civil engineer, and I wonder which part of the system will give way first, and how many more miles we can go. It doesn’t much matter what triggers the disaster: if the wheels come off, or the boiler bursts, or if we skip the track, the result will be a whole lot of crunching metal and bloody people.
I hope for a hero as in oft-repeated Hollywood train scenes. Chris Christy making his way to the front along the top hoping to wrest the train from the inebriates. Or maybe Mitt Romney grabbing the breaks to save us in the nick of time from the seemingly unavoidable. But I feel alone in the theater as I watch, supposing myself to be one in a thousand or even ten-thousand who is sober enough to sense a potential pending calamity, and so far our heroes either aren’t making it, or may not be able or willing to do enough, fast enough.
Being in no position to stop it, at least I can attempt to prepare myself and those in my circle temporally, mentally, and spiritually for the impact. I can live like the ant and not the grasshopper. I am sometimes criticized, “You’ve got to live a little.” True, it is still summer, and I think even ants can appreciate that. I do enjoy life, and we don’t really live like it’s already the Great Depression. I often think of the words of Christ, “He who has eyes to see, let him see”. I am blind in so many ways, but this is the one thing I feel like I am seeing more clearly than most, and I’m happy to curb my appetite now if it helps me put food on the table later.
“It is a mathematical certainty. This ship will sink!” – Engineer of Titanic, on Titanic
The movie “Titanic” may be a fitting analogy. The initial impact didn’t even spill their Champaign. It seemed to most that nothing serious had happened, so the song and dance continued. Remember the engineer who designed the ship? He quickly summoned a report on the damage, and then zoned off into despair as he heard “5 ruptured compartments” – a daze that impeded him too long from effectively mobilizing crew and passengers to deal with the impending doom he knew was coming! He knew mathematically their arrival at the bottom of the Atlantic was now only a matter of time, yet in his astonishment he could not muster the good sense to begin immediate action on a plan to fully utilize available life boats. The passengers, even when faced with the obvious conclusion that all was lost, still held out hope to the end that by some miracle the ship would not sink. I believe America is hitting icebergs. It’s hard to tell how many compartments have been ruptured. Is our sinking now inevitable or can we still limp to shore? I believe these things:
I think we are proving we are not Ninevah, but I’m also optimistic we’re not as stubborn as Pharaoh. So I conclude that the Ship of State will sink far enough to create truly humbling economic circumstances (we ain’t seen nothin’ yet)! But I’m optimistic that the USA might limp to port without breaking up too badly. It could mean that the Spirit of American Freedom will rise anew as a Phoenix from the ashes, but maybe with fewer states, as we shake off those who are too blindly blue and still foolishly worship at the alter of Socialism and Godlessness in spite of a mountain of evidence that such is what caused the calamity. Our best hope is that enough will see the error of their ways once ruin is staring them in the face, and they will yet repent and be favored of God again before things like in my “hypothetical future” of section 5 occur.
Part 3: Potential outcomes of the Perfect Financial Storm
Will “the next big challenge” signal the Second Coming?
I used to think that something like a major depression in my lifetime would surely be accompanied by the Second Coming - indeed it perhaps necessitated the Second Coming. Now I concede I have no idea. People thought the same in the last great wars and depressions. I think we could easily suffer temporal trials of biblical proportions (unparalleled economic troubles, civil unrest, nukes, etc.), and yet many survive to watch things recover. I do think it would be more evidence that we will ultimately arrive at “Armageddon” some day, but not necessarily with the next traumatizing event.
“The Greatest Generation” and their parents handled Depression, but can we?
I do think our nation may not handle a depression as well as we did in the 1930’s. I don’t think as a whole they were vastly more virtuous than we are. For example, they wrestled with racism probably more than we do, and I think the Depression was God’s way of calling many back to their roots after the “Roaring 20’s”. Still, they were a people accustomed to hard manual labor, and their families were still largely God-fearing and intact. Today there are too many poorly raised children of selfish and spoiled baby-boomers who are now poorly raising their own, and manual survival skills are lost. Self defense could become pretty important.
Might the “tribes” among us separate peacefully?
I think true red, white, and blue would emerge from a massive depression (and likely related world-wide wars and strife), but perhaps not as the original 50 United States. Maybe 40, or 25, or heaven forbid just 10. An aspect of the Book of Mormon that intrigues me comes from 3rd Nephi chapters 6 & 7. Believe it or not, it tells how one faction seeking to take over the government then murdered the Chief Judge, hoping one of their own would be supported in his place. But the nation had become too diverse in their ways of living and thinking, and the nation inadvertently disintegrated into tribes. No one liked the new situation –not even the tribe that caused it. Nonetheless they were unable to reorganize and reconcile their differences. In the story, this was only three years before Christ came and destroyed the more wicked among them.
For a long time I’ve imagined that we also have potential for this. There are many “tribes” among us: Red States/Blue States (conservative/liberal); Gay; Black; Mexican; Christian, Atheist, many more smallish tribes. If things get bad enough, I suppose we could see a relatively peaceful and willing dissolution of the union into smaller unions. If so, I will flee to the one that elects to renew the US Constitution pretty much the way it was originally intended, but with key amendments whose value was discovered the hard way: balanced budget, term limits, and voting allowed only by those not receiving federal aid. Maybe a renewed but smaller nation could be one way the Constitution could be saved from “hanging by a thread”.
Scenario: Could this be in our future? (Imagine this story is just 2-years ahead)
The national economy continues to struggle. We know that from 1996 to 2007, Republicans competed with Democrats to create wealth draining and personal responsibility draining programs. Lack of fiscal discipline, along with other wimpy, weasely actions and inactions, angered the conservative base to punish their party, giving opportunity for the left to seize power in 2008 on vague promises of “hope and change.” But being leftists and having the House, Senate, and Presidency, they were 10-times worse with the public purse than the darkest days of Republican power. They further created extensive regulations across all aspects of the economy.
Nukes in Iran
The USA and UN’s “diplomacy” (wimpy economic sanctions on Iran and strong talk against Israel) doesn’t stop Iran from joining the nuclear club. With that as a reality, the new “diplomatic solution” to dealing with a nuclear Iran is in part to provide billions in aid for Hezbollah and Iran (buying peace from the alligator until it’s powerful enough to eat you too), and holding “summits” to address their grievances against the West and Israel.
Mini-Mexico’s in every city
Ultimately, our royalty finally “cures” immigration with the same “comprehensive” reform that couldn’t even get a fence on the border. Now immigration is legal via “guest workers”. But our existing and new “guests” have no need to melt in the pot, since we bent over backwards to accommodate their language and culture. This created “mini-Mexico’s” in every city with culture, language, TV & radio, and unwritten laws from the old country. These barrios became very large, almost completely taking over the first suburban ring of lower-end homes and apartments in every major city. The dems also nationalized health care (a disaster too overwhelming to cover here).
“Sixty years of partying like it’s 1999!”
By 2012 it was clear that Democrats have not been more successful in managing the economy. Further, there are pressures on the economy that were pushed back for decades by self-seeking earlier generations – not just congress, but everything was an orgy of “eat, drink, and be merry”. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” – was a great aspiration, but the reality over decades became dominated by Takers succeeding at stealing from Producers so that they could continue in their drunken stupor.
So now it is clear to more and more economists that even a miracle of finally electing a more fiscally responsible congress would not bail the water out faster than it is now coming in. The national debt is at $15 trillion; costs of food and fuel are high; inflation and interest rates are high; boomer retirement is beginning (along with their 401k draws on the Stock Market); boomer’s parents are hanging on to life in record numbers, but are doing so only off of high-taxes which support Medicare. The generation that came of working age between 2000 and 2012 is relatively small (due to their parent’s and boomer-grandparent’s selfish refusal to ‘multiply and replenish the earth’). That generation was also spoon-fed a “Beavis and Butthead” non-culture where too many are now lazy and unskilled at anything but X-box, rap music, auto detailing, and finding internet porn.
The “brain drain” from Asia reverses
With fewer workers and less wealth generated per worker, taxes have increased to the tipping point on those who still have wealth, will, or talent. Where manufacturing jobs left in the 90’s, but were replaced by tech-sector jobs spun off in large part by foreign-born Ph.D.’s, the reverse now appears to be underway! China and India are now showing themselves more capable than the Americans in a host of high talent areas. Foreign born Ph.D.’s (is there any other kind?) who used to stay are now going home to compete against us!
What of our own kids?
Ultimately the U.S. does greatly increase the H1-B visas as part of the long overdue and ineffective immigration reform package. This did increase the number of PhD’s from China and India who stayed in America, subsidizing our knowledge gap. Why are there few American-born PhD’s? Decades of unloved, undisciplined, unchallenged children whose early years were marked by divorce, Twinkies, Ritalin, and 46 re-runs of The Little Mermaid as they were shuttled to unionized educrat propaganda centers. Who knows where their sperm-donor is? Their adolescent years saw them comatose on potato chips, substance abuse, orgies, and Grand Theft Auto. Their destiny? Foolish adult children – no PhD, but many have a valuable 4-year degree in sociology – which they acquired on just $100,000 of loans, and which they took to understand why they were dysfunctional!
Now Asia’s low taxes and increased standards of living are attracting back their own citizens, many of whom believe the future back home is looking brighter than America’s. The trend was recently highlighted by a news story featuring California’s six-figure software engineers who have now trained their replacements in India, and their million-dollar Silicone Valley bungalows are going into default. Bankruptcies which were high in good times are now higher than ever.
Panic sets in
By 2014, the market has been up and down for years, but essentially flat. In part to the weak economy, but also to the massive need of retirees to pull out of the market and live off their 401(k)’s. The market enjoys a brief 8% run up between 2014 and 2016, fueled more by gambling and the Greater Fool theory than by any underlying strength. But by 2016 the writing is on the wall as foreign investors are now convinced of America’s inability to make good on T-bills, and we’re downgraded once again. As the market slowly tumbles, retirees panic and move what’s left of their 401(k)’s into Asian markets, bonds, money markets, gold - anything but American or European firms.
By 2020, the full brunt of the problem has impacted the nation. The morass has gone on so long that people have called it a depression for a few years now, even though the stats have always looked better than they did in the 1930’s. But the new panic, and collapse everywhere, has unemployment topping 35% and bank failures abound. Armed robberies, murders, and suicides are at all-time highs. Civil unrest is at a crescendo with everybody playing the blame game, and daily riots among the poorest demographics.
“Survival of the fittest” food chain
With sprawling American megopolises so much larger than during the depression of the 1930’s, and having consumed all the farmland for miles, it is difficult to supply enough food and fuel to such massive populations other than by truck. Where previous generations enjoyed a measure of ability to live off the land while unemployed, by 2020 there are few skilled enough to even partially support themselves, and little productive land nearby. Nearly all wild and domestic animals in and around the cities, with the exception of attack dogs maintained by the wealthy, have been consumed by the hungry masses who have finally discovered a successful weight loss program! Trucks supplying food for the cities are routinely ambushed to supply the gangs that have resurged. More brazen attackers have even begun taking on trucks that are accompanied by armed escort.
To be a plain old American became secondary to one’s hyphenated “tribe” decades earlier. But with the current strife and blaming going on, “tolerance and diversity” of all peoples and views (with the exclusion of conservatives and Christians of course) is no longer the highest value of the godless. They’ve in fact embraced the opposite! Mexican-Americans (Mexicans first, “guest workers” second) are no longer comfortable anywhere but in the south-west, and begin moving there en mass. Gay-Americans (gay first, Americans second) likewise are streaming in from around the continent, occupying the Bay Area, northward. And what conservatives remained in those cities are all too happy to sell so they can get into a fly-over state. African-Americans and Evangelical Christians have long been together in the South, but with their cultures and political views so significantly different, Christians migrate toward Texas and the mid-west, while African-Americans across the nation have begun a migration to the South-Atlantic. Atheistic, elitist Americans who have long looked to Europe as their model of perfection are congregating in the New England area.
The Melting Pot cools and Tribes coagulate
By 2030 the migrations are largely complete. The melting pot has cooled and coagulated. What was once Americans of diverse traits, making them all minorities in some way, and hence a functioning system based on mutual respect, has given way to super-majorities in large and distinct geographic areas not unlike tribes or new nations. In Lincoln’s day divorce was not an option either in marriage or as a nation. And though the fight was bitter, clearly the outcome was worth it! In our times, “till death do us part” commitments are rare, and there is little reason to believe that either “Red States” or “Blue States” would go to war (physically) if each had become more red and more blue. I suppose they would mutually agree that they would continue to trade with each other and maybe defend each other, but no longer will they be politically influenced by the other.
What happens when 8-billion people are in economic peril?
World-wide, 2030’s 8-billion people, who could be sustained in good times, are having a hard time. Extinctions and environmental destruction on a never before seen scale are occurring as hungry masses struggle for survival. Wars are seemingly everywhere at once. Not a huge, single World War, but dozens of smaller wars – a World At War. With modern killing efficiency, combined with mass starvation and disease, the population reduced from 2030’s 8-billion to 2050’s 5-billion before stability is regained and prosperity begins anew.
What’s going on among Muslims?
Islamic extremists have grown in power and influence. They have successfully captured the governments of many nations. Their propaganda, harping on the failure of the West and the pain that the infidel’s ways have inflicted on Muslims has been influential with the masses. They claim the “Great Satan” has caused all this destruction, and they’re not entirely wrong. They use Western troubles as proof that Allah is punishing the “Great Satan.”
The position among Muslim regimes
Most muslim regimes agree with terrorists to some extent, and many secretly fund terrorists (plenty to spend when oil is over $200/barrel). They recognize that if the terrorists make a nuclear strike on any Western nation, there will be a “civilians be damned” nuclear retaliation, but they fund terrorists anyway because their fear of terrorists is today, while their fear of nuclear annihilation is tomorrow.
The position among the Muslim shadows
The terrorists, however, care only about murdering and further burdening the object of their enmity. Of course they want to live to fight another day, but they are not afraid to die and will do so willingly if it looks like a job with high returns on the investment. They’ve deceived themselves into believing they are doing the will of Allah even if their own people face total retaliation. They know the Paper Tiger too well by now, and are convinced that even a nuclear strike will at most be met one for one, and more likely will be met with simply aggressive conventional tactics in an effort to at least temper large-scale, instantaneous collateral damage and save face in the international community.
Terrorists being more elusive than the regimes, will have removed themselves from likely targets in their homelands many years in advance of their nuclear attack - because America will target the obvious. For nearly two decades they’ve had access to bulky weapons of mass destruction, but little confidence in their ability to deliver such weapons undetected. Now 2030 technology and reduced scrutiny of the black market brought on by the chaos have finally allowed them to gain smaller devices. They have more confidence they can deliver these “suitcase nukes” to targets undetected.
A successful, crippling attack
On May 23rd, 2032, three of five cells succeed in detonating nuclear devices. Their uranium-based suitcase nukes killed 100,000 in a suburb of Atlanta, and 320,000 in downtown London. In a surprising but effective move, the third didn’t target a city directly, but instead destroyed the Glen Canyon Dam which holds the Colorado River’s Lake Powell. Few were killed in the blast, but an ocean of water was set in motion which scoured the Grand Canyon, washed out the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, killed tens of thousands in smaller towns on the banks of the Colorado. The genius in this device was the crippling effect it had on the entire southwest, from Denver to San Diego and everything in between – averaging a 30% exodus as it is impossible to supply stable water again for at least 10-years.
Yes, I’ve delved into the realms of science fiction with this one - but I can see a pretty believable Stephen King novel around some of these themes.
Next, how to prepare for the potential of a Perfect Financial Storm.
Part 4: Preparation for the Perfect Financial Storm
Make sure your boat won’t sink!
How do you survive a storm? Build an ark - and you can’t wait until it rains! Start by acquiring a life preserver and a fishing pole (eliminate consumer/auto debt, and build up a year’s supply of necessities). Then build a life boat: build a business, acquire assets with positive cash flow (Robert Kyosaki’s definition of an asset), accelerate mortgage payments, and reduce extravagant living. If you get that far before it rains, build a bigger boat and haul the life boat on board for use by your friends and relatives if so moved by the spirit. Whatever floatation device you presently have, don’t overload it (with unrighteous consumer debt, or unsound investing that you haven’t fully researched) or you may capsize in a strong breeze, let alone the Storm!
“I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blowww your house down!” – Wolf to pigs
There is much wisdom to be gained from the Three Little Pigs story. Each pig looks at the world with a different paradigm. The poor pig is paycheck to paycheck and consumed by vices, which is why he builds of straw – that’s all he can afford given his lifestyle. The middle-class pig has a high work ethic, and manages to pull together something better than straw, but he is then easily enticed with “stuff”: Hardwood floors, fancy molding, big-screen HD-TVs, granite countertops, and he takes a cruise every winter. The structure has no strength to resist wolves, but as long as there are now wolves, his lifestyle is a thing of envy. He’s heard stories of wolves with strong lungs that existed before they were born. But he’s convinced the Wall Street and Washington pigs have eliminated all the wolves, so his “stuff” is perfectly secure.
Sadly, these pigs squander their chances to prepare. The third pig earns no more than his middle-class relative, and really isn’t so much smarter, but he recalls his grandparents quivering voice when recanting the tale of the last wolves (depression, wars, etc.) He believes wolves might come back. It pains him a bit to see all the fun and fancy the others are having – knowing he could have the same if he’d quit preparing for fabled wolves that “experts” assure are now extinct. But the day of the wolf comes after all. The lifestyles that defined the foolish pigs were lost, and the pigs themselves are eaten (in the Grimm version). While the wise pig had less “stuff” under his roof, he kept what he had.
In a more “politically correct” version, the pigs run quickly to get inside the brick house of their relative. My aim is to avoid conspicuous or unnecessary consumption, and instead work while the day lasts on the strength of my walls. I hope to gain enough strength and space inside that I’ll be able to help others who’ve had their houses blown down, if the spirit so dictates: financial resources, food storage principles, and physical/spiritual/mental strength.
Jesus taught similarly. He warned that “the wise man built upon a rock, while the foolish man built upon the sand.” Through his atonement he has built the ultimate “brick house”, and offers to save us inside, though we don’t deserve it. I want to be like Jesus for as many as I can.
Our Family’s first “investment”
Ever seen “The Money Pit”? Our first “ark” was like the Titanic. It would have worked out ok if I’d left well enough alone, but I wasted a lot of years and money on a remodeling project that was the equivalent of a face-lift for an 85 year-old grandma with terminal cancer. Where we had considered buying a more structurally sound duplex in a lesser-but-still-good part of town, we instead bought a run-down dive on an incredible property. Instead of an effective payment of $400/month (subsidized by renting the other half), we had an effective payment of almost $1600/month when factoring in the trips to Home Depot to gussy up that grandma for her “Perfect Storm” funeral (the new buyer). On top of that I lost nearly every Saturday for four years to “the project”.
When our family was large enough, we concluded that while the property and neighborhood were wonderful, it was simply unwise and impractical to expand this home to fit our needs. The new owner tore down the home to put a starter-castle in its place a year later. As I took pictures of my beautiful walls, fireplace, and windows giving way under demolition, I learned that “stuff” must “go the way of all the earth”, and it is pointless to become attached to material things.
While we lost, we really gained
Where we can clearly see the fiscal folly of that decision, we felt inspired to live there nonetheless, and don’t question that the Lord had other purposes for our living there. Possibly it was His wisdom in letting us see so plainly our poor habits of stewardship and temptations toward material things, that we will perhaps be more temporally secure than we would have been if we’d purchased the duplex in the first place. I estimate the decision we made compared to our other best choice has set us back between $100,000 - $200,000 in net worth over about a 6-year span. One good aspect is that we had to live frugally in every other part of our lives, to finance “the project”, and now that’s the way we prefer to live. We’ll probably make back what we lost and to spare because our vision was opened to the value of frugality.
Making sure we’ll float
Anticipating this Perfect Storm, we are aggressively trying to “build an ark” by increasing our income, decreasing our outgo, paying off debts, and acquiring survival aids. It is challenging to live among such affluence knowing that lenders will let us have a lot of “cool stuff.” Instead we follow a plan that we hope will leave us well off if calamity never strikes, or “less miserable than others” if it does. We haven’t completely lost our marbles - we still have almost everything anybody else has - but we buy most things used (Car auctions, DI, EBay, Craigslist.org). At the dollar movies, we never buy popcorn, and we decided we can put sprinklers off and move the hose around for a few more years. Unfinished sheet rock and carpet that won’t seem to clean anymore also looks surprisingly nice against the thought of cramming our 6-kids in a 3-bedroom apartment and living on macaroni & cheese because we were on the edge of our income when The Storm rolled in.
We have found that this is how we must live if my wife is to remain a stay-at-home mother, and we still hope to obtain enough means to more easily support ourselves and perhaps a few friends or relatives in a depression economy. We do not feel like we’re missing out on much living like the ant.
What are “survival materials”?
In our church, our prophet has advised that we all acquire a full year’s worth of survival materials, primarily food. I suspect that most active members probably have a lot more storage than the average American, but I also suspect that most of us would fall short of a full year’s supply. When I let my brain wander to “ok, Wal-Mart is ransacked, anarchy reigns, and has anyone seen Fido?”, then here is my list of what I think is a higher priority than fancy molding and an HDTV.
Bulk, long lasting, cheap “insurance” food: A family of eight such as mine, with kids all under 14, requires 3,000 pounds of dry foods per year according to the calculators on the LDS www.providentliving.org. A 5-gallon bucket of wheat is about 35 pounds, so that means I should be able to look around my house and find the equivalent of 85, 5-gallon buckets of stuff to be in compliance. I just recently achieved about that much. This seemingly phenomenal 1.5 tons is really just 18 ounces per person per day – the weight of an average-sized can of soup per day. Some say, “only buy what you can stand to eat”. I think that is too often used as an excuse to avoid getting very much at all. To that I say, “Yeah, I’ve got maybe 3-months of root beer, ketchup, and other “normal stuff” that we do rotate, but I’ve also got about 1-ton of wheat, rice, and beans I hope I never have to use and can compost 30-years from now. It is just good, cheap insurance (actually my wife makes some pretty good stuff with wheat, so it will be rotated before 30 anyway, and we’ll eat better in “the disaster” because she already knows how to use it).
Hard assets: Some gold or silver is great to have on hand. It tends to just rise with inflation in normal times, and is not typically a wealth-building investment unless you’re lucky and time markets correctly. However, it can be a wealth securing investment against chaos. Though most think “it could never happen here”, it is possible that circumstances would emerge here spawning hyper-inflation. I lived in Brazil during hyper inflation and now have a whole Monopoly set of real money ! Bills that were worth $20 were worth about 5-cents two years later. People dump money in the streets. At times like that, precious metals go through the roof. Since gold is so expensive, I prefer silver in a safe deposit box, or an “X-marks the spot.” It’s a supplement to food storage since it is somewhat liquid and can be used to purchase things you didn’t have in storage. To me it makes sense to have a thousand dollars or so in precious metal after you’ve got food essentials, but before you pay off the house or invest seriously in 401k, mutual funds, or other on-paper asset that can be “zapped” from existence by economic hemorrhaging. I found www.bulliondirect.com to be a decent outlet for silver coins.
Other items: Look around and ask, “If tattoo-face and his pals are over-running grocery stores, what else is pretty nice to have in your storage?” TP, toothpaste, soap all come to mind. Guns are also useful. Rifles for hunting, but also a quick access, quick maneuver pistol so that tattoo-face can be aided in seeing the light (if necessary, the light at the end of the tunnel – probably a red light of fire and brimstone.) I would also like to have a street-legal motorcycle for fuel efficiency, as it may be the most practical way of getting around when fuel is hard to come by. A means of warming the house a bit that is not dependent on utility infrastructure could also come in handy ( wood stove and extra blankets). I have a kerosene heater, but those must be used with care to avoid CO poisoning.
Letter to Editor, submitted to Deseret News Oct 20, 2007:Â Trust Legislature, Support Vouchers
Even the most informed among us do not have the luxury to study every issue to make well reasoned choices.Â The uninformed are even more likely to support the catchiest phrase.Â â€œFull of flawsâ€ â€“ oh no, be scared.Â Try this principled gem:Â â€œThe only thing we have to fear isâ€¦â€Â Our founders knew that Statesmen should represent us with a mandate to study and make informed decisions.Â Our legislature and governor did just that, concluding that this is worth a try.Â They will correct flaws as theyâ€™re revealed.Â We must experiment or weâ€™ll never find a better way.Â If you feel you donâ€™t know enough to decide, then please refrain from second-guessing your own representatives!Â Â â€œHave no fearâ€, and vote for vouchers!Â Donâ€™t abandon the Republic for sound-bite Democracy, or education may be the least of our worries.
That was the letter.Â It’s really more about believing that a Republic is superior to a Democracy, in which decisions are made by the uninformed.Â DemocracyÂ is the de facto condition in America due to governance by poll, referendums, cowardly politicians, well funded sound bites, and by allowing every adult regardless of their morals or intellect to vote (which means those who have suppressed their concience or don’t know better will vote to put a gun toÂ their more prosperous neighbor’s head and steal so they can have “free programs”).Â Recall the Greek democracy voted to kill Plato!Â
This is also much of the reason the Founding Fathers only wanted people with property to vote.Â The uninformed and easily swayed should notÂ be running the country, and they’re easy to find because theyÂ rarely have any significant income or net worth.
Vouchers is about more than money, but it is also about money.Â I’m sure some publicly educated government accountant can show some way it could cost more money, but consider this:
- If for just $2000 we can tempt families to match, the schools keep $5000, the kid gets $4000, so overall education benefits at $9000 instead of $7000, with either the schools or taxpayers having $5000 they’d have otherwise had to use for that kid!
- Business is EXCELLENT at finding ways to make things both better and cheaper at the same time.Â Will it cost more? Maybe to an accountant.Â Will we get better value?Â YES!Â Â Attatch the dollars to the kid instead of the district, and watch miracles begin to happen.Â
- Lasik would be far more expensive if insurance companies were the middle man, just as bureaucrats are.
- Airlines, phones – both better and cheaper once the government got out, but there were doomsday predictions!
- What about Pell Grants?Â Is this not public money that goes to a student who then decides where to go, even BYU?Â Have Pell Grants ruined the world yet or been determined unconstitutional?
TheÂ cookie commercial isÂ a perfect example.Â Vouchers will result in a net savings to taxpayers.Â WhileÂ our public system is our tradition and we all have fond memories, at the core it is fundamentally a socialist system.Â How we got here was largely accidental.Â Education is clearly in the public interest, so since we were levying taxes, it seemed natural to just put teachers on the government payroll.
There is a better way.Â Instead of paying teachers, pay parents if the parents want to be involved, and let them shop for where they think they’ll get what their kid needs.Â Most parents will settle on the neighborhood school, but more than a few have kids with special needs (both ends of the bell curve, behavioral problems, etc.), or they have educational goals that are important to the family (moral emphasis, American history emphasis, musical emphasis, science emphasis, whatever).Â
It is like hiring contractors, which the government does all the time and you should be glad they do.Â Government doesn’t pave the streets, but they raise money to do it.Â They don’t built missles, but they raise money to do it.
Our tradition of government operated schools has resulted in schools that:
Can’t discipline adequately;
Can’t get rid of the lazy or incompetent, but tenured 10% (you know you had some);
Can’t find desire to innovate and keep up with the modern world;
Can’t respond adequately to special needs of families not a few;
Can’t leave any child behind (i.e. must hold performers back to focus on those who still won’t read when they graduate);
Must pay the bottom 10% within 10% of the top 10%.Â
How about this?Â Keep the schools completely in tact and initially staffed with the same staff, but put the management roll to contractors.Â Then they can hire say retiring chemists or engineers who have no “certificate”, but do have a knack for teaching kids and desire to serve.Â Since BUSINESS must perform to renew their contract, they can also help those on white-collar welfare and hiding behind the union find their way over to Home Depot.Â
We’ve got to try something, and the other 49 expensive experiments prove that handing cash over to unionized government bureaucrats is also not a wise course.Â Let’s try vouchers anyway and see what we learn.