Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Book of Mormon on Riches, Terror, Secret Combinations

The prophet Joseph Smith said "the Book of Mormon [is] the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."

I would not be surprised if many libertarians and Ron Paul supporters are not Latter-Day Saints or affiliated with offshoot religions that still use the Book of Mormon. Among the most common themes addressed by the book's prophets are the issues of love of riches, pride, and secret combinations. I will try to put our current "war on terror" in a Book of Mormon perspective and try to argue why conventional thinking about the current political system in our country may be extremely misguided.

While the current prosperity in the United States can be arguably God-given because we are a God-fearing and righteous nation, I think this argument has been the excuse to allow starvation and suffering inexplicably among our own people, but even more among the peoples of the world. To buttress my claims, I will use as a source The Book of Mormon Reference Companion by Largey, as well as the book itself, and other words of modern LDS prophets.

First, the Reference Companion says "in addition to being a source of pride (2 Ne. 28:15; Alma 4:6; Hel. 3:36, 7:26; 3 Ne. 6:10,12), riches are also used to support wickedness (Mosiah 11:13-14);...they can divide societies into classes and ranks (3 Ne. 6:12, 4 Ne. 1:24-26); they are the foundation of materialism (Alma 31:24, 27-28; Hel. 7:21); and they lead to secret combinations (Hel. 6:17). It is obvious that these signs of riches are seen all over our society today. Meanwhile one must understand that secret combinations go unperceived simply because secret combinations are just that: secret. However, they are also all over our society today; even among our highest government officials.

2 Ne. 28:14 says: "They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men."

Simply put, we are compelled to change our ways of viewing and worshiping God from all sides. From elimination of prayer in public, to elimination of the Bible in any public affairs, to the fight to strip the Pledge of Allegiance of the words "one nation under God," the government has become a sort of "false God." The government has been set up to take care of us, thus becoming a substitute for the true Father of our country.

But looking into verse 14 more deeply, is it not accurate to say that our views on our society and the government currently are shaped almost exclusively by the government and the educational system set up by said institution? Therefore, many are ignorant, either outright or willingly, and even the few are caused to stumble because of the "precepts of men." One precept of men that is becoming more prominent is the idea that our founding fathers were not inspired men - rather they were no better than terrorists today. The peddlers of this believe explain that the tactics used by the founders in their warfare against England were similar to the tactics terrorists use today. Therefore, the Constitution has little use in these different, more sophisticated times. If this is not an evil position, I don't know what is. In truth, I am not as put off by the comparison as I may sound. With today's ever more broad definition of terrorist, just about anyone who challenges the status-quo in any way might be labeled a terrorist. The founders definitely challenges the top-down government emanating out of London, the policies of which were similar to those of our current government in too many ways.

Such talk immediately demonstrates that our ways of thinking are skewed not only by our indoctrination by the powerful, but also by the pride and ease that have come as a result of our riches.

Hel. 6:17 says "the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars, nor to bloodshed; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another..."

Despite the current political climate and various wars on multiple fronts taking place today, most of us have not had to worry about fighting or even thinking war, and we have enjoyed several years if not decades of ease enjoying the riches of the world. Complete with million-dollar homes, fancy cars, HDTV's, fine clothes, we see examples of this all around us. Meanwhile people are starving left and right and we are told that we deserve our wealth, that we earned it, that the poor are poor because the government welfare state made them that way, or because they are lazy.

Here again we see "precepts of men" creeping in. How is it not an outrage that the U.S. - five percent of the world's total population - consumes 25% of the world's goods and commodities? Yet thousands of people die every day from starvation around the world, and this suffering is compounded by the policies of western states, especially the United States today. The idea that this is an inspired nation was not meant to be a pretext to make us feel we are better than everyone else.

While we go around after the riches of the world, families are torn apart, children's lives are severely harmed, if not destroyed. Yet returning to God and family is yet another "extremist" idea. Yes, the presidential candidates, particularly on the republican side will say we need to return to family, but the evidence shows that these same individuals when placed in power will continue to increase the grip of the federal government and will do anything in their means to assure that the U.S. still controls a disproportionate amount of the world's goods as the planet's only super power.

Since we see all around us the effects of the love of riches, and of pride, it is then easy to expect to have present many forms of secret combinations, even among our most "pious" government officials. Hel. 7:4-6 says: "Seeing the people in a state of such awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats - having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God, and not in the least aright before him; doing no justice unto the children of men;

"Condemning the righteous because of their righteousness; letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world, and moreover, that they might more easily commit adultery, to steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills-

"Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years."

These symptoms of secret combinations are all around us. We have seen our country go to war against an unknown foe for an unknown stretch of time. Thousands of our brave men and women have been killed along with tens of thousands of the innocent. While soldiers are often prosecuted for missteps and crimes they performed, the leaders of the military have walked away blameless. Yes, some like Donald Rumsfeld have lost their jobs, but they have not taken any responsibility for the ugly scene they've helped to create among the people in Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of corporate welfare and "capitalistic" seizing of more of the world's resources.

Look at who President Bush appoints as his leaders: almost without exception they are old elite friends who got rich as leaders of large corporations. When they leave their assignments in the government, they will still be rich, but the world will suffer more because of their actions.

All of these arguments seem inappropriate since the real threat is the one to which we have surrendered ourselves which the government has used to cunningly scare us into submission of our God-given rights and privileges. Yes, another "precept of men" that is looming over us. God gives us our freedom, and government is charged to protect those rights.

But there are the real secret combinations out there: the modern form of Gadianton Robbers - the al-Quaeda's, the Hamas's, the Hezbollah's. What does the Book of Mormon say about them?

We read these words in Hel. 7:23-25: "...it shall be better for the Lamanites than for you except ye shall repent. For behold, they are more righteous than you, for they have not sinned against that great knowledge which ye have received...and ye have united yourselves unto it, yea, to that secret band which was established by Gadianton."

This prophet is speaking to the people of Nephi - the Christians of their day. The Lamanites, of whom he refers were the "non-believers." The entire theme of the Book of Mormon is that the people would be blessed if they turned to God, and they would be punished if they turned away. The Lamanites also had interaction with the secret combination of Gadianton, who was the first leader of the band in that time. However, the Nephites seemed to unite themselves more freely to this secret group, and it led to their destruction, as well as the destruction of the people of Ether, who lived in this land before the Nephites.

The message is clear, and it has been repeated to us in contemporary times by leaders of the church, as well as leaders of the United States: that the country would not falter unless it was defeated from within.

While I do not diminish the fact that there are certain individuals in the world who would kill themselves and others to send a message to the world, I am coming to see more and more that the supposed "war on terror" is a scheme of deflection. This way we focus our attention to some unknown, outside threat, and thus remain oblivious to the widespread takeover of our government by members of secret societies, or puppets (our politicians) of the aforementioned. It is clear that this fact threatens the very existence of our nation more than any amount of damage a bin Laden or Ahmadinejad could inflict upon us.

We are the ones who have been blessed of God. We are the ones who are turning from Him after he has bestowed so much on our heads. But because of the precepts of men, we are largely unaware of the current danger surrounding us. We are told that "we" are good and "they" are evil. Meanwhile, our leaders commit sometimes horrendous acts for which they will never answer. Just like in secret combinations, they are above the law.

President Ezra Taft Benson, the thirteenth president of the Church said these chilling words in one of his final testimonies: "I testify that wickedness is rapidly expanding in every segment of our society. (See D&C 1:14–16; D&C 84:49–53.) It is more highly organized, more cleverly disguised, and more powerfully promoted than ever before. Secret combinations lusting for power, gain, and glory are flourishing. A secret combination that seeks to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world. (See Ether 8:18–25.)"

That address was given nearly twenty years ago. If the Nephites were able to degenerate in a matter of not many years, and President Benson said a secret combination was increasing its hold over the world, how could we be so self-satisfied to think that it is not there, right in front of us, but we are unaware.

We are unaware because of imagined enemies. We are unaware because of meaningless issues being debated on the corporate-owned media outlets. We are unaware because of the false left-right paradigm. We are unaware because we are watching football and American Idol and Survivor all day long. We are unaware because although we are skeptical of the worthiness of our public servants, we are still a "pretty good country" so things can't be that bad.

Ron Paul is giving an outlet to people who have not had a voice among Democrats or Republicans for many elections. He is bringing up issues that the mainstream do not want us to be aware of. After all, if the most sinister plot of all was made common knowledge, that we are told we are a democratic free people while our rights are being torn right from our outstretched arms, the powerful might lose their power and dominion over us. That is something that they will do anything to avoid; even murder, plunder, commit adultery, declare war, etc.

May we open our eyes and start learning about the real issues that are being avoided by our very politicians, media, and presidential candidates today. Find out that change is a must, and change will not come by walking down the same millionaire democrat/republican one-way dead-end street.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Blowback: Unintended Consequences of Empire

I have been voraciously reading Chalmers Johnson's Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. I originally came to an awareness of the term Blowback while listening to Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul talk about why we need to get our troops out of Iraq, as well as why we were attacked on 9/11/2001. His comments came during a debate on Fox News several months ago, and was widely publicized due to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani taking umbrage to Paul's stance.

Immediately following the debate, Fox News spun Paul's words into him blaming Americans for the attacks. Over and over again, the representative from Texas had his words misrepresented. The noise machine had done its job well: instead of American people actually listening and questioning whether our foreign policy over the years has had or could have any negative unintended repercussions, they simply branded Paul as a "loon." Name calling is quite often a preferred alternative to actually discussing real issues.

However, my interest was piqued; I proceeded to look into the matter further. What could the United States have possibly done in the past that would incite such hatred that people might actually fight back? Before Paul brought up the issue I thought, much like many in this country undoubtedly have, that if our nation had committed any serious atrocities, we would have heard about it. After all, Abu Ghraib was splattered all over the mainstream news media for quite awhile while admittedly some of us thought those crimes were not nearly as egregious as some of the horrific acts perpetrated by dictators like Saddam Hussein.

Not surprisingly, examples were not in short supply. In fact, I would proffer that they are so abundant that making the argument that our policies do not impact foreign relations has about as much utility as arguing that Phoenix is not in the desert. For some reason we expect these facts to be out in the open when they in fact must be kept secret as much as possible - for if they were made public knowledge, many might actually be concerned. Just slightly less startling is the amount that has been published while a good number of "great Americans" turn a blind eye, either because they couldn't care less, or due to the fact that they will not believe America could ever be in the wrong no matter where the information comes from. Understandably, it is difficult to separate the fact that this nation, which I believe was divinely organized, has done so much good in the world while concurrently being capable of doing so much evil.

Regardless, I also believe that we cannot move forward unless we acknowledge the error of our ways and correct them. Denying a doctor's diagnosis will not help the patient heal his ailment.

Enter Chalmer's contribution, which foreshadowed 9/11 by little over year. This text examines the United States' often secret involvement with so many of the world's power players since World War II ended as well as U.S. foreign policy toward these countries following the end of the Cold War. Needless to say, Johnson offers much that makes one sit and wonder. Generally, the United States has been involved with staging uprisings in various nations against leaders whom the U.S. opposed in order to create instability that would lead to installing a political figure that could pull in the reins and whom the U.S. supported. Often these involvements take place behind the scenes, but large scale destruction and serious human rights violations are the norm.

One of the most glaringly awful incidents that we seem to ignore is that Iraq sanctions imposed by the United Nations (due mainly to US pressure) from 1991-98 likely caused the deaths of close to half a million Iraqis due to "disease, malnutrition, and inadequate health care (p. 9)." While the U.S. government will justify these deaths and say Saddam deserves responsibility, it is doubtful the Iraqi people will see it that way. Causing the deaths of tens of thousands of the innocent while failing to take Saddam down is a pretty serious offense. And while we may forget and diminish the fact that we (the U.S. government) placed Saddam in power initially, no doubt Iraqis still remember painfully. To maintain that only al-Qaeda terrorists are fighting our troops in Iraq is asinine. No doubt many of the "insurgents" are those who are seeking vengeance for the harsh consequences suffered by them and their families while the U.S. tinkered with them during decades of despicable foreign policy toward the Middle East.

While this example may be on the extreme end of the spectrum, similar findings are available in countries on every continent of the globe. From Okinawa, Japan, to Chile, to Guatemala, to Turkey, to the Sudan, the United States has organized countless operations that to us may have seemed in our best interest, while not even considering the impact on the country in question or its citizens.

What is the bottom line here? Secret societies which were formed to increase security have actually made the world less safe.

Another issue for another time: why is the mainstream media, as well as government leaders, republican and democrat, so scared of Dr. Paul?