Monday, July 21, 2014

My newest book, Together Forever

My latest book, Together Forever: Important Life Lessons for Families and Future Generations, is available here on Amazon.

Together Forever is about families, laughter, and pivotal life lessons. Originally written as bedtime stories to tell the author’s little girls, Together Forever morphed into a fun collection of interesting life experiences. Some of the stories are silly and fun, while others are more thought-provoking. Overall, these important life lessons are cleverly entertaining and capture the attention of the earnest in heart. Readers will come away with a renewed interest in discovering the blessings of family history and the rewards of life that does not end at death.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Neal A. Maxwell on Suffering

"God loves us and, loving us, has placed us here to cope with challenges which he will place before us. I'm not sure we can always understand the implications of his love, because his love will call us at times to do things we may wonder about, and we may be confronted with circumstances we would rather not face. I believe with all my heart that because God loves us there are some particularized challenges that he will deliver to each of us. He will customize the curriculum for each of us in order to teach us the things we most need to know. He will set before us in life what we need, not always what we like." 
(Neal A. Maxwell, “But for a Small Moment,” BYU Fireside, Sept 1, 1974.)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Never give up!

Many people misquote Winston Churchill.  They think he said something brief like, "never give in!" Well, he did ... sort of. Sir Winston Churchill actually said something much more motivating than that.

The year was 1941.  Churchill was giving a speech on October 29th at Harrow School. The incorrect versions of his never give in-speech suggested he was at Oxford or Cambridge. Nope.  In fact, Churchill made annual visits at the school until 1961.

Here are the amazing words of Winston Churchill.

"This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.  Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

Now while the picture accompanied might seem a little, well, flippant, yet it has powerful meaning nonetheless.

Even when you think you're defeated, remember ... never give in!  Never give up!

Potty Talk, my latest article posted on Iron Mike Magazine online

I write on occasion for, an online magazine. Here's my latest: Potty Talk.

Now, by the title, you'd think the piece would be about vulgarity and foul language. Nope, not really. It's more of a story and infusion of enthusiasm, positive thinking and hope!


Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Race -- "Get up and win the race!"

On occasion I awake with these words coursing through my mind: "Get up and win the race!" It comes from this great poem I read by D.H. Groberg about 25 years ago.

“Quit!” “Give up, you’re beaten,” they shout and plead
there’s just too much against you now, this time you can’t succeed.
 And as I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
 my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.

And hope refills my weakened will as I recall that scene,
for just the thought of that short race rejuvenates my being.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; how I remember well,
excitement sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell.

They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race
or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
Their fathers watched from off the side, each cheering for his son,
and each boy hoped to show his dad that he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they went, young hearts and hopes of fire,
to win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
One boy in particular, his dad was in the crowd,
was running near the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.”

But as he speeded down the field across a shallow dip,
the little boy who thought to win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his hands, flew out to brace,
and mid the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.

So, down he fell and with him hope, he couldn’t win it now.
Embarrassed, sad, he only wished to disappear somehow.
But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”

He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all,
and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
his mind went faster than his legs, he slipped and fell again.

He wished that he had quit before with one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”
But, in the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face,
that steady look that said again, “Get up and win that race!”

So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last,
if I’m going to gain those yards, he thought, I’ve got to run real fast.
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight or ten,
but trying so hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.

Defeat! He lay there silently, a tear dropped from his eye,
there’s no sense running anymore—three strikes I’m out—why try'
The will to rise had disappeared, all hope had fled away,
so far behind, so error prone, closer all the way.

“I’ve lost, so what’s the use,” he thought, “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.
“Get up,” an echo sounded low. “Get up and take your place.
You were not meant for failure here, get up and win that race.”

With borrowed will, “Get up,” it said, “you haven’t lost at all,
for winning is not more than this; to rise each time you fall.”
So, up he rose to run once more, and with a new commit,
he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.

So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
still he gave it all he had and ran as though to win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.

They cheered the winning runner as he crossed, first place;
head high and proud and happy—no falling, no disgrace.
but, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, last place,
the crowd gave him the greater cheer for finishing the race.

And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproved,
you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and hard and difficult to face,
the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.

“Quit!” “Give up, you’re beaten,” they still shout in my face,
but another voice within me says, “Get up and win that race.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Obey the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy -- an Olympic miracle

Obedience to the Sabbath Day is one of the Ten Commandments. 

The following is from a talk given by Elaine S. Dalton, given to BYU students in January 2013.

The movie Chariots of Fire is the moving story of Eric Liddell, the gold medal winner in the 400-meter track event in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Liddell was not only a gifted athlete who held to his convictions, but he lived out his faith to the very end as a Christian missionary in China. He was such an incredible athlete that his goal was to get to the 1924 Olympics in France and run in his best race—the 100-meter race. He trained hard to get in top shape, and his country of Scotland was sure that he would win a gold medal for them. There was just one problem. The heat to decide who would make the Olympics was on a Sunday, and Liddell would not run on Sunday. Due to this conflict he chose not to run in the 100-meter race. Instead he qualified for the 200- and 400-meter races because those heats were not held on Sunday, but no one expected him to come close to winning. Just prior to the start of the 400-meter race, he was given a piece of paper on which was written words from 1 Samuel 2:30: “Them that honour me, I will honour.” Liddell ran with that piece of paper in his hand and held onto this promise tightly. And, to everyone’s surprise, he won the gold medal and broke a world record. Listen to what his character in the film Chariots of Fire said after winning a previous race:

You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape—especially if you’ve got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe your dinner’s burnt. Maybe you haven’t got a job. So who am I to say, “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from to see the race to its end? From within. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Never Quit -- my latest article on Iron Mike Magazine online

Here's a link to my latest article: 

Here's the poem I included that's worth reading:
“Don’t Quit”
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will.
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low, and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with the twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out:
Don’t give up through the pace seems slow.
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worse,
that you must not quit.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hold On, the Light Will Come

I had a vivid dream this morning that I remembered well when I awoke. I also believe dreams can have significance. 

In my dream I saw my friend, Aurelio DeLaRosa. Aurelio was blown up by a grenade in Panama. After getting out of the US Army, he got into law enforcement and has helped countless individuals. As a veteran of war, he understands more than most the difficulties veterans can have. In my dream, he gave me a great, big, comforting hug. 

I miss seeing my friend.

I asked Aurelio to share his story in my anthology (a collection of many writings from multiple veterans), Warrior SOS: Interviews, Insights & Inspiration (available on Amazon). You've got to read Aurelio's words. What an amazing story! 

In addition to seeing my friend in my dream, I also played a song on the piano. I heard the words of Michael McLean's "Hold on, the light will come" over and over and over again. In my dream, I also played the music on the piano. I don't play the piano. In fact, I can hardly spell it.  I haven't played for many years, but when I was 17 years old, I could play that song. It's interesting how that song made it's way back into my dreams this many years later. 

As I think about the worries and the struggles and the trials each of us are called upon to endure, I can't help but to consider the twin blessings of hope and endurance. Those who give up hope relinquish something marvelous that can help them carry on. Sometimes we just need to keep going and have hope that "joy cometh in the morning." 

Here are some lyrics to “Hold On”:

...If your world is filled with darkness, doubt and fear, 
Just hold on, hold on, the light will come...

If you feel trapped inside a never-ending night
If you’ve forgotten how it feels to feel the light
If you’re half crazy thinking you’re the only one. 

I recently read a great article titled “Trials, Tribulations, and Trust in the Lord” by Elder Bradley D. Foster. I highly recommend it. 
He quoted a leader of another Christian faith, Dr. Ray Pritchard, who wrote, “Sometimes we will face things for which there is no earthly explanation. In those moments we need to erect a sign that reads, ‘Quiet: God at Work.’ Meanwhile, hold on, child of God. Keep believing. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Let God do His work in you. The greatest tragedy is to miss what God wants to teach us through our troubles.” (in his book, Why Did This Happen to Me?)
I don’t know why I had the dream I did. Perhaps I needed to learn that lesson -- the lesson of holding on. Perhaps my daughter needed to hear that message. (I shared my dream with her this evening.) Or still, perhaps someone reading this needed to hear it. 

Life can be trying at times ... but hold on, the light will come. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

When the going gets tough ... keep going!

“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win."

—Roger Bannister, the first man to break the 4-minute mile

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lara Updike: In debate about same sex marriage, we need a 'conscientious objector' status

Many Americans in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and elsewhere are waiting to learn whether federal courts will require same-sex marriage to become law in their state. For me, as a resident of Washington State, gay marriage is a done deal. I am waiting to learn whether people who adhere to a traditional morality will be able to live according to their conscience.
Last month there was a great uproar in Arizona over modifications to a law that would have provided a legal defense for people who refuse to provide services on religious grounds. The bill was killed in a storm of controversy, with protesters, pundits and politicians talking about Jim Crow laws. The controversy didn’t draw much attention to why the bill was proposed. It had nothing to do with separate lunch counters. Rather, it was an attempt to create a conscientious objector status for people who don’t want to participate in or lend their creative powers to same-sex celebrations.
Many Americans have been sued for refusing to provide services for same-sex ceremonies. A couple who run a bed and breakfast in Vermont; they paid $35,000 in fees and promised to never again host a wedding or wedding reception of any kind. A baker in Oregon had to close his business. A photographer lost at the New Mexico Supreme Court. A florist in Washington State is being sued by her Attorney General. Also in Washington State, a judge who asked his colleagues to whom he might refer gay couples should they ask him to officiate at their wedding was officially sanctioned by the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct and agreed to never perform any marriages.
There are other similar cases. The most troubling of all began in January. A man filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination because a Catholic School withdrew its job offer upon learning he was married to a man. Though the employer is a religious organization, he has been arguing that the position in food service has nothing to do with religion.
These conflicts boil down to the fact that marriage is not a private activity; it is a social institution. It's a title granted by the community that places obligations upon all community members. Friends and relatives are expected to attend the wedding and offer gifts. Family members are expected to accept the new spouse as one of their own. Acquaintances and colleagues are expected to invite the spouse to social events. Single people are expected to leave the spouses alone. Employers are expected to provide the spouse with insurance. Courts are expected to ensure certain spousal privileges and enforce certain spousal obligations.
In short, everybody is expected to recognize and show deference for the marriage, the idea being that it’s a building block of society and thus deserves our support. In the eyes of social conservatives, though, same-sex marriage is not a building block of society. It’s an affront to our consciences. We believe homosexuality defies the purpose of our creation and offends our Creator. Yet the obligations that homosexual marriages place upon community members are also placed on us.
How are people of traditional faiths supposed to act in this environment? Should we abandon a core tenet of our religion? Should we shut up and pretend we agree? Should we employ our creative skills toward something we find fundamentally immoral? Or should we retreat to a different neighborhood? A different state? A different livelihood? It makes sense to permit conscientious objector status to activities that offend our moral values.
I hear people express hope that the fuss will soon be over, that soon all Americans will accept same-sex marriage. This thinking is naïve. In the coming decades a significant portion of religious Americans will accept homosexual marriage. But the most faithful will not. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and others are governed by scriptures. That is why, unless they are prepared to burn or rewrite these books, progressives need to be satisfied with only a partial victory.

People of traditional faiths don’t think chastity is an incidental or private virtue. While homosexual people are afraid of being treated as blacks were during the Jim Crow era, people of faith are also afraid of being treated like second-class citizens. Our religious heritage is out of step with the new majority. We may be pushed out of certain industries, ostracized from certain circles, and confined to a legal ghetto. This is why individuals must have a right to deny offering services. It is the only way for our legal system to allow both gays and people of faith to live outside the closet.

Lara Cardon Updike is a writer for the Family Policy Institute of Washington State. She lives near Seattle with her husband and four children.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Opportunity by Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:—
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince's banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
A craven hung along the battle's edge,
And thought, "Had I a sword of keener steel—
That blue blade that the king's son bears, — but this
Blunt thing—!” he snapped and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field.
Then came the king's son, wounded, sore bestead,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout
Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
And saved a great cause that heroic day.

"Opportunity" is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.

Friday, March 14, 2014

"freedom from religion" v. "freedom of religion"

As the attack upon Christianity and other religions grows, twisting the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to a platform of "freedom from religion" v. "freedom of religion", thankfully there are many good men and women fighting for religious rights.

The two links above outline the same speech. The second contains written footnotes of the address and has a 33 minute video of the talk. The first link is the full written script.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Malaysia flight 370 — a terrorist final rehearsal with more disasters to come?

Malaysia flight 370 — a terrorist final rehearsal with more disasters to come?
March 10, 2014
Jeffrey Denning

The Boeing 777 that disappeared over the ocean may not have been a fluke.  Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 suddenly went missing, without warning or any mayday, recently.  But why? How?
As a former undercover Federal Air Marshal, I have some serious concerns.
The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing had 239 people onboard. Sadly, all of them have passed away.  
Authorities have confirmed that two of the passengers used stolen passports to get onboard.  Those passports were taken from two European tourists who were visiting Thailand in 2012. These two suspicious and currently unknown passengers’ names have not been released to the public if they are even known. Obviously they were up to no good. But was it terrorism? Were they terrorists? Perhaps. 
Regardless, something serious is amiss.
In 1995 authorities undercovered an al Qaeda-based plot called the Bonjinka plot. Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who were both intimately involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, planned and orchestrated a horrific terrorist attack.  In the Bojinka plot, these evil men tested a bomb on Philippine Airlines Flight 434.  One of their henchmen took a bomb and placed it under the seat, got off the plane, and when it hit the air again, KABOOM! 
The unsuspecting passenger sitting on the timed explosive died and others were injured, but the plane didn’t fall from the sky. 
This 1995 attack was a final rehearsal. These terrorists wanted to see if the plane would get obliterated into the ocean. Since it didn’t, they realized they needed to use a little more explosive power.  
This rehearsal was a success. Why? Because they knew what would make it work. They could attack without even losing one shaheed (suicide martyr). Their plan was to take down several planes using this technique in the future. 
Al Qaeda likes to work in fours. They figure one will chicken out, and another will get caught, so having at least two simultaneous or near-simultaneous attacks work is good-to-go in their sordid playbook. 
The problem with Bojinka is their safe house was compromised following a fire. Bomb mixtures aren’t that stable. The terrorists took off and authorities thwarted their plan. So, they devised another: 9/11. Unfortunately, to our chagrin, that plan worked very well.   
While Bojinka may likely occur again someday, I’m not so sure Malaysia flight 370 was a mere accident. 
Think about it, a plan goes down without warning. I believe it very well could have been an inflight explosion, caused by terrorists.  Could it have been a Bojinka-type plot? Sure, but with two suspicious characters onboard, it’s pretty easy to suspect — at least initially — terrorism. 
While some of the air traffic and radar tracking protocols of other nations might not be quite perfect, I’m sure they aren’t completely inept. Shoot, even the ATC in the US has issues. If the plane simply disappeared without warning, it goes without saying that the most likely cause of the crash was violent and swift—a horrific, spectacular explosion. 
No witnesses have been reported. Terrorists like the fact that black boxes and plane parts get buried deep in the ocean. It will take time to recover those items and conduct an investigation.
From Richard Reid, the infamous shoe bomber, to the London Bomb Plot to the underwear bomber on Christmas 2009, terrorists really like the Atlantic ocean as their cemetery for crashed planes.  Testing a plane by taking it down over the Pacific is what happened in Bojinka, and now, ironically, Malaysia flight 370. 
There are a lot of Muslims in Malaysia and in Southern Thailand, from where the two passports were stolen. While the same amount of barbaric and suicidal terrorism isn’t as prevalent in those areas and countries, similar ideologies and radical connections make the area a great testing ground for future attacks. 
So, until more concrete evidence surfaces, I’m making a small prediction. But, first, as a disclaimer, further investigation may show there was no explosion or terrorism on Malaysia flight 370. I could be wrong. However, while the news usually gets a lot of things right, I have personal knowledge and experience they they regularly get things wrong when it comes to some things, like terrorist attacks, simply because they can’t get close enough to real intelligence or they lack access to purely evil terrorists. 
Okay, so here it is: I suspect that this downed commercial airlines could have very well been a final rehearsal for terrorist attacks against the west. In the future, who knows when, if this plane was indeed a rehearsal for bad things to come, there will be several planes attacked over the ocean, using whatever tactic they used on this flight. 
We know that it’s all too easy to smuggle bomb parts onboard airplanes and assemble them, too. Perhaps at least two terrorists (with stolen identities) were needed to smuggle those pieces onboard and assemble them in mid-flight. 
Like I said, I could be wrong.  I hope I am.  But even if this wasn’t the case, it makes a lot of sense to me.

Note: I’m going to bed, without proof reading this. Goodnight. Sweet dreams. Fly safe and don’t fear.

March 14 ... UPDATE.

Malaysian police chief Abu -- --- said in a press conference (or press release) that it had been previously reported that there were five passengers who loaded luggage on the plane, but didn't get on the plane. He said that that wasn't true.

It was also confirmed that the two men who stole the passports were Iranian. Were they intelligence officers or agents of Iran -- a State sponsor of terrorism?  Perhaps. Iranians aren't of al Qaeda ilk. However, Iran certainly has bloody hands from terroristic acts for many years. I wouldn't put it past them.

A spokeswoman in Malaysia did a press conference showing pictures of the two Iranians taken from airport security cameras. The really fishy thing, however, is that while both men were different from the waist up, they both had the same lower half. When questioned, they admitted the images were photoshopped.

Something really weird is going on. Perhaps there were five passengers who loaded up luggage, but didn't get on the plane.

Something's being covered up.

Monday, February 17, 2014

quote from my latest book, Leaders Wanted

"When asked why the sabertooth tiger went extinct, we’re reminded that his mouth got him into trouble.  When tempted to say something mean, don’t.  When we’re tempted to say something untrue or unkind about someone, we should bite our tongue.  On the other hand, when the thought of saying or doing something nice enters our minds, we should go out of our way to do it."

--Jeffrey Denning, author of Leaders Wanted

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Art of Compassion, an excerpt from my book Leaders Wanted

"One of the most basic loving principles of humankind, one of the most beneficial elements each human being is capable of possessing, is the art of compassion.  Compassion is often developed or increased out of personal hardships.  More often than not, difficulty is the conduit for acquiring sympathy and compassion.  As we more fully understand and embrace the blessings of compassion, we gain gratitude that the suffering we experienced gave us something meaningful as a result.

Buy Leaders Wanted: The Power of Influence, Professional Behavior and Moral Leadership today!!

It's available now on Amazon.

Friday, February 7, 2014

First feedback from my new book, Leaders Wanted

I ordered the book immediately ... and it downloaded immediately. I am now 60 % through the book and it is a very well written book that everyone should read. Over my fifty years of military and law enforcement experience I was a personal witness to all of the forms of leadership or lack of it. I learned many of the examples you write of from both good and bad leaders. I tried very hard to use those techniques that you use as examples in my own commands and I agree with you that there is no substitute for personal integrity. Without integrity you are nothing but an empty suit.

I wish I had a copy of this book 50 years ago, It would have saved me from having to learn the lessons of leadership the hard way. Oh, and by the way, I'm still learning. Keep up the good work and I will recommend your book to everyone who will listen to me.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My new book is now available

    My new book, Leaders Wanted: The Power of Influence, Professional Behavior and Moral Leadership, is now available on Amazon.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Leaders Wanted, my new book title

I finished writing a new book manuscript, titled Leaders Wanted: The Power of Influence, Professional Behavior and Moral Leadership.  The cover looks incredible.  Thanks, Kate!

Right now, Colonel Steven R. (Randy) Watt is reviewing the manuscript.  I asked him to write the foreword.

Leaders Wanted will be available very soon on Amazon.  It should be available before March.
is now available on Amazon:

So, what defines a leader?

This morning I was reading and came across the following quotation by the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower that is worth quoting here:

“Any man who does his work well, who is justifiably self-confident and not unduly disturbed by the jeers of the cynics and the shirkers, any man who stays true to decent motives and is considerate of others is, in essence, a leader. Whether or not he is ever singled out for prominence, he is bound to achieve great inner satisfaction in turning out superior work.
“And that, by the way, is what the good Lord put us on this earth for.” (“What Is Leadership?” Reader’s Digest, June 1965, p. 54.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Religious Freedom video

Religious Freedom

"If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon,’ I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.

“It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul—civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:498–99; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on July 9, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois.)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reagan quote

Ronald Reagan said, "The Founding Fathers—that little band of men so advanced beyond their time that the world has never seen their like since—evolved a government based on the idea that you and I have the God-given right and ability within ourselves to determine our own destiny.”

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day post

Gen. Robert E. Lee was one day walking through the snow. His oldest of seven children, still a lad at the time, was mimicking every step his father took; he stepped in the same footprints as his dad. General Lee later recalled, "When I saw this, I said to myself, It behooves me to walk very straight when this fellow is already following in my tracks."

That story reminds me of a poem I read many years ago. I'm not sure who the author is. The poem goes like this:

A careful man I ought to be
A little boy follows me
I dare not ever go astray
For fear he’ll go the self same way.

I must remember as I go,
Through summers heat and winter’s snow
I’m building for the years to be
The little chap who follows me

I cannot once escape his eyes,
What ere he sees me do he tries.
Like me he says he’s going to be
This little chap who follows me.

We all can be good examples to those around us, whether we're fathers or not. May we each recognize that there is always someone looking to our example and looking to us to be leaders. Sometimes the title of "Father" isn't alone given to one who bears children, although that's one of the most significant and important roles in life. No, sometimes "Father" is reserved for leaders, like General and later President George Washington, the Father of our Nation, or James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, or all of America's Founding Fathers.

Finally, in a society that is increasingly fatherless and too often exhibits a disturbing trend of cultural emasculation towards men and boys, let us remember to rise up and be the kind of men and fathers whom our mothers would be proud to call sons.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Strengthening the Free Exercise of Religion

Transcript: Strengthening the Free Exercise of Religion by Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Transcript of a speech given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty Canterbury Medal Dinner in New York City, 16 May 2013

Distinguished guests and fellow workers in the cause of religious freedom: I am profoundly grateful for the Canterbury Medal you have bestowed on me. Just to have my work associated with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a great honor, which is magnified by this opportunity to speak to what is surely the most influential audience I have ever addressed on this subject.
        I begin with a truth that is increasingly challenged: Religious teachings and religious organizations are vital to our free society and therefore deserving of its special legal protection.
        Our country’s robust private sector of charitable works originated with and is still sponsored most significantly by religious organizations and religious impulses. This includes education, hospitals, care for the poor, and countless other charities of great value to our country.
        Many of the most significant moral advances in Western society have been motivated by religious principles and persuaded to official adoption by pulpit preaching. Examples include the abolition of the slave trade in England and the Emancipation Proclamation in this country. The same is true of the Civil Rights movement of the last half-century. These great advances were not motivated and moved by secular ethics or persons who believed in moral relativism. They were driven primarily by persons who had a clear religious vision of what was morally right.
        Our society is not held together primarily by law and its enforcement, but most importantly by those who voluntarily obey the unenforceable because of their internalized norms of righteous or correct behavior. Religious belief in right and wrong is a vital influence to produce such voluntary compliance by a large number of our citizens. President George Washington spoke of this reality in his farewell address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports,” he said. “Reason and experience both forbid us to ex­pect that national morality can prevail in ex­clusion of religious principle.”[1]
        Over 200 years later, in 1998, Congress enacted a law that formally declares: “The right to freedom of religion under­girds the very origin and existence of the United States.”[2] That law formally associates our nation with the truth voiced by Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth:
        “[Religion] remains the most powerful community builder the world has known. . . . Religion is the best antidote to the individualism of the consumer age. The idea that society can do without it flies in the face of history.”[3]
        In our nation’s founding and in our constitutional order, the First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom and the freedoms of speech and press are the motivating and dominating civil liberties and civil rights. Appropriately, the guarantee of freedom of religion is the first expression in the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution, and it is embodied in the constitutions of all 50 of our states. For many Americans, the free exercise of religion is the basic civil liberty because faith in God and His teachings and the active practice of religion are the most fundamental guiding realities of life.
        The free “exercise” of religion obviously involves both (1) the right to choose religious beliefs and affiliations and (2) the right to “exercise” or practice those beliefs without government restraint. However, in a nation with citizens of many different religious beliefs, the right of some to act upon their religious beliefs must sometimes be qualified by the government’s responsibility to further compelling public interests, such as the health and safety of all. Thoughtful authorities and scholars have wrestled with this tension for many years, and will continue to do so.
        Another current debate over religious freedom is more easily resolved. The guarantee of free exercise of religion must give persons who act on religious grounds greater protection against government prohibitions than are already guaranteed to everyone else by other provisions of the constitution, like freedom of speech. Otherwise, we erase the significance of the separate guarantee of free exercise of religion. Religion must preserve its preferred status in our pluralistic society in order to make its unique contribution—its recognition and commitment to values that transcend the secular world.
        This preferred status must include more than a believer’s right of conscience. The Second Vatican Council’s “Declaration on Religious Freedom” (1965) per­suasively declares that “individuals do not practice their religion as a solitary act, but together with one another.” Our right to the free exercise of religion must apply when we act as a community. As elabo­rated by Matthew J. Franck of the Witherspoon Institute: “The vitality of faith comes in its communal character, in the individual’s fellowship with others whose views support, inform, and refine his own,” including the right to undertake “educational, cultural, charitable and social” efforts as they see fit. [4]
        Unfortunately, as scholars have observed, for about a half-century the role of religion in American life has been declining.[5] In this same period, the guaran­tee of free exercise of religion seems to be weakening in public esteem. It is surely under siege by the forces of political correctness, which would replace it with other priorities.
        When he was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis George referred to what he called “threats to religious freedom in America that are new in our history and to our tradition.”[6] Legal commentator Hugh Hewitt described one of these threats: “For three decades people of faith have watched a systematic and very effective effort waged in the courts and the media to drive them from the public square and to delegitimize their participation in politics as somehow threatening.”[7]
        Powerful secular interests are challenging the way religious beliefs and the practices of faith-based organizations stand in the way of their secular aims. We are alarmed at the many—and increasing—circumstances in which actions based on the free exercise of religion are sought to be swept aside or subordinated to the asserted “civil rights” of officially favored classes. This conflict between religious freedom and antidiscrimination laws was the subject of a recent public hearing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
        In the long run, the vitality of religious freedom must rely on public under­standing and support. We are therefore troubled at the recent survey finding by the Barna Group that the population least concerned about religious liberty in America are adults under 30, only 20 percent of whom believe that restrictions on religious freedom will increase in the next five years.[8]
        Related to this is the familiar fact that our rising generations are less religiously observant than their predecessors. Even though about 80 percent of our citizens report that they believe in God, the percent who have no denominational affiliation—the so-called “nones” (n-o-n-e-s)—is large and growing larger, especially among the young. The Putnam/Campbell book American Grace identifies these facts with scholarly precision. These authors put the proportion of “nones” in our population at 19 percent overall,[9] solidly ahead of mainline Protestants, and ex­ceeded only by evangelical Protestants and Catholics, who have about 30 and 24 percent, respectively.[10] Even more signifi­cant is the fact that the “nones” are now 33 percent of the young adults,[11] and that about half of the increasing proportion of Americans who have no denomina­tional affiliation—mostly young people—have “a genuine antipathy toward organized religion.”[12]
        These facts are extremely important to our efforts to strengthen religious free­dom. We must enlist the support of persons who have what is called “spirituality” but who lack denominational affiliation. Religious freedom must not be seen as something serving only the interests of churches and synagogues. It must be understood as a protection for religious people, whether or not their beliefs involve membership or behavior. Support for the First Amendment free exercise of religion should not be limited to those who intend to exercise it, individually or through denominational affiliation.
        We must give greater attention to the education of the rising generation. If the foundation of religious liberty is weakening, it must be because the role of religion and the contribution of religious organizations and religiously motivated people in our nation is not sufficiently understood.
        The rising generation is not being taught these things. I believe that a study of the treatment of religion in elementary and secondary textbooks over the last half-century would show a significant decline in the description and stated importance of religion in the founding of our nation and the progress of our civilization.
        A generation ago, an influential public education group joined others in calling for action by educators, textbook publishers, and civic leaders to halt what they called the “rigorous exclusion” of religion from school textbooks and curricula.[13] Scholars of education advise me that the current problem is not so much the “exclusion” of religion, but its presentation in a critical or biased way that minimizes its influence. The American Textbook Council surveys the most widely used American and world history textbooks. Their 1995 report con­tained this description:
        “The strength of religion in shaping human thought and action is not often explained, and its role as a motivating agent of culture, politics, and ethics often remains under examined. . . . Religion in the contem­porary world is discussed by region, out of context, and often in oblique and misleading ways.”[14]
        At the same time, some influential leaders and many educators have come to con­sider it bad taste or even illegal for public schools even to mention religious influ­ences and motivations.
        A continuation of this trajectory of ignorance and advocacy of diminished religious freedom—inhibiting the free exercise of religion in favor of other (though often worthy) social goals—will fundamentally change the character of America, and not for the better.
        The problem of educating the public, and especially the rising generation, needs to be addressed on a front wider than preaching, lobbying, and litigating. We must employ education to broaden the base of citizens who understand and are committed to defending religious freedom. This will require better information for our religious believers and also the enlistment of other groups.
        I conclude this recital of concerns for the current and future freedom of religion with what is essentially a legal point, but one of considerable significance. We must be sensitive to the definition ofreli­gion. We must resist two opposite tendencies. We must not define religion too narrowly—excluding those who do not believe as we do. Christians and Jews can make this mistake by arguments and practices that fail to extend religious freedom to beliefs outside the Judeo-Christian tradition.
        The opposite tendency—to define reli­gion too broadly—is more seductive and more dangerous. We already see the tendency to describe religious freedom as “freedom of conscience”—whatever its source. That definition can deny the protection of the free exercise guarantee to churches and the organizations through which believers exercise their faith. In addition, if we expand the definition of religion to systems of belief not based on a divine being, we incur the risk I once described as a judge in a lecture at DePaul University:
        “The problem with a definition of reli­gion that includes almost everything is that the practical effect of inclusion comes to mean almost nothing. Free exercise protec­tions become diluted as their scope becomes more diffuse. When religion has no more right to free exercise than irreligion or any other secular philosophy, the whole newly expanded category of ‘religion’ is likely to diminish in significance.”[15]
        While there are serious challenges to the continued strength of the constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion, there have been many encouraging developments during the last half-decade that make us optimistic about its future.
        First, we have the marvelous work of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. We, of course, link them with the United States Supreme Court’s remarkable decision in the Hosanna-Tabor case—remarkable for its ruling, its opinion, and its unanimity. We salute the Becket Fund attorneys and all others involved in advocating this marvelous precedent, which we pray will be applied rigorously and per­suasively for years to come. We also salute the Becket Fund for their decisive role in Stanford Law School’s recent creation of a clinic focusing on the religious liberty rights of believers of various faiths.
        Of immense importance to the strengthening of religious freedom is the rising concern and vigorous advocacy of many influential religious leaders. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ creation of an Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Freedom is of pivotal importance. So are the influential voices of Protestant evangelical leaders, such as Pastor Rick Warren, who has stated his belief that “religious liberty is going to be the civil rights issue of the next decade.”[16]
        We all agree with Cardinal Francis George, who said, “In the coming years, interreligious coalitions formed to defend the rights of con­science for individuals and for religious institutions should become a vital bulwark against the tide of forces at work in our government and society to reduce religion to a purely private reality.”[17]
        Religious leaders and believers must unite to strengthen our freedom to teach what we have in common, as well as to teach and exercise our very real religious differences. We must walk shoulder to shoulder on the same path in order to secure our freedom to pursue our separate ways when that is necessary according to our distinctive beliefs. We must also insist on our constitutional right to exer­cise our beliefs and to voice our con­sciences on issues in the public square and in the halls of justice. These are the rights of all citizens, including religious believers, leaders, and organizations.
        We are heartened by the formation and work of the American Religious Freedom Program, under the auspices of the respected Ethics and Public Policy Center, which seeks to organize a nationwide nonpartisan movement to strengthen religious freedom. Numerous legal challenges to various government imposi­tions show the vigor of the free exercise of religion. Some of these involve individual choices based on the exercise of religious beliefs. A large and growing number of others are legal actions by religiously affiliated organizations challenging government actions inhibiting the exercise of religious beliefs in institutional activities.
        We are also encouraged by the turning tide of scholarly support for the free exer­cise of religion as it applies to important social issues. For example, the Girgis, Anderson, and George book What Is Marriage? states a powerful scholarly and philosophical case for the time-honored definition of marriage as between a man and a woman and its importance for the issue of religious freedom. If the defense of traditional marriage “comes to be seen as irrational,” the authors write, “people’s freedom to express and live by it will be curbed,” and “believing what virtually every human society once believed about marriage—that it is a male-female union—will be seen in­creasingly as a malicious prejudice, to be driven to the margins of culture.”[18]
        There are encouraging signs that the American public is awakening to the im­portance of strengthening religious freedom. A recent study showed that one-fourth of all Americans consider religion to be the First Amendment freedom most threatened.[19] Another recent study showed that significant majorities of all faith traditions—even including those not religious affiliated—said they support organizations that protect the religious freedom of all religions.[20]
        I conclude with a well-known image from the New Testament. Jesus used a coin to teach the principle that we have obligations to civil government as well as to divine authority (see Mark 12:14–17). Similarly, a two-sided coin reminds us of our two-fold duties to truth and to tolerance. In our efforts to strengthen religious freedom, we must always remember that the truth of our cause does not free us from our duty of tolerance toward those who differ.
        Jesus modeled this principle. When He faced the woman taken in adultery, He spoke the comforting words of tolerance: “Neither do I condemn thee.” Then, as He sent her away, He spoke the commanding words of truth: “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). We should follow this example, by kindness in communications but firmness in the truth.
        The metaphor of the two-sided coin yields another lesson, with which I close. The coins of our country contain the declaration “In God We Trust.” I repeat that declaration as the concluding affirmation of this message, and invoke the blessings of Almighty God on our difficult task of preserving and strengthening the precious first freedom, the free exercise of religion.

[1] Washington’s Farewell Address, ed. Thomas Arkle Clark (1908), 14.

[2] International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, 22 U.S.C. § 6401(a).
[3] Jonathan Sacks, “The Moral Animal,” The New York Times, Dec. 23, 2012,
[4] Matthew J. Franck (The Witherspoon Institute), “Individual, Community, and State: How to Think about Religious Freedom,” Hillsdale Publication, Imprimis, Sept. 2012, 6.
[5] See Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, American Grace (2012), 562.
[6] Cardinal Francis George, “Catholics and Latter-day Saints: Partners in the Defense of Religious Freedom,” Brigham Young University (Feb. 23, 2010).
[7] Hugh Hewitt, A Mormon in the White House? (2007), 242-43.
[8] “Many Americans Worry about Religious Freedom,” Deseret News, Jan. 30, 2013, A8.
[9] American Grace, 7, 75–80, 588–61. This is also the finding of The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Oct. 9, 2012.
[10] American Grace, 17.
[11] American Grace, 558–61.
[12] American Grace, 566.
[13] Report, “Religion in the Curriculum,” described in Religious News Service, week of July 6, 1987, p. 4; also see Washington Post National Weekly Edition, July 21, 1986, p. 23; and William J. Bennett’s Payne Lecture, “Religious Belief and the Constitutional Order,” University of Missouri, Sept. 17, 1986, pp. 12–14; Warren A. Nord, “Liberals Should Want Religion Taught in Public Schools,” Washington Post National Weekly Edition, July 21, 1986, p. 23; Washington Post editorial, Dec. 27, 1986; also seeWashington Post, Oct. 22, 1988, p. A22.
[14] G. T. Sewell, “Religion in the Classroom: What the Textbooks Tell Us, a Report of the American Textbook Council” (1995), 17, Also see M. H. Romanowaki, “Addressing Christianity in American History: Are Textbooks Improving?” Mid-Western Educational Researcher, 14(2) (2001), 21, 23–24. (“They simply mention religion . . . creating the impression that religion and faith have little to do with the development of U.S. History.”)
[15] Dallin H. Oaks, “Separation, Accommodation and the Future of Church and State,” 35 DePaul L. Rev. 1, 8 (1985). More recently I have said that while I have “no concern with expanding comparable protections to non-religious belief systems, as is done in international norms that protect freedom of religion or belief” (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 18, Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 302), I object to doing so by “re-interpreting the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion” (“Preserving Religious Freedom,” Chapman University School of Law, Feb. 4, 2011).
[16] “Church Founder: Religious Liberty the Next Rights Issue,” Deseret News, Dec. 3, 2012, A6.
[17] Cardinal Francis George, “Catholics and Latter-day Saints: Partners in the Defense of Religious Freedom,” Brigham Young University (Feb. 23, 2010).
[18] Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, Robert P. George, What Is Marriage? (2012), 9; see also pp. 62–64.
[19] “Survey Fact Sheet: Americans’ Views on Religious Freedom,” American Religious Freedom, Dec. 2, 2011,