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I don’t think there’s one of us in these final days of the gut-wrenching U.S. Presidential Election of 2016 that doesn’t g0 to bed wondering what has happened to our country and the simple truth of personal honesty and Christian morals being the bedrock of both daily life and the future for the average American citizen, and our beloved country as a whole. Is there any way to turn back the clock?
Of course not. As Elder Russell M. Nelson aptly told us in General Conference two weeks ago: these are long foretold days of “tragedy and travesty.” Well said. At this point, with such grave concerns about both candidates and the future of our great United States and its international relationships, there’s not much we can do but look to the Lord and find comfort in our own personal integrity, and the Lord’s promise that this is still a Promised Land. I wish both Donald and Hillary a good night’s rest — maybe they’ve both just been physically exhausted for years with their busy careers and that’s where the poor judgment and lies stem from. None of us make wise decisions when we’re tired. In truth, however, a good night’s rest comes from not just enough hours to sleep, but the peace of mind and the clean conscience before God and man that personal honesty brings.
The most disheartening thing of the many troubles that plague both the candidates and those that follow them is a seeming lack of personal responsibility for their cavalier words, actions, and the consequences those words and actions have and may continue to bring on countless citizens. When the sordid national televised debates became something that civic-minded parents and teachers cannot sit down and comfortably watch with their children and students without fear of it being a “Jerry Springer” type of TV reality-show drama based on lies, evil-doing and sexual misconduct, there is sorrow on both sides of heaven. It is hard to turn them off, both on our TV and computer screens, and in our minds. Michelle Obama spoke for all of us when she stated last week, “I can’t stop thinking about it.”
I have joked with my family and others that Donald and Hillary are like over-active, overly-bright and agressive middle-school students determined to tear apart the 8th grade. Their antics, if they were 13 and 14 year olds, would require their teachers, guidance counselors and the principal to have some stern meetings and parent teacher conferences. There might even be some enforced days at home while behavior is checked and double-checked demanding no return to the school until there is a reasonable agreement and compliance to honesty and civil behavior. Only its not 8th grade. It’s our great Country.
My husband and I have recently watched an older Robert Redford movie called “Quiz Show” in which the popular early 60’s TV game show “21” was exposed for the dishonesty involved in providing answers to the game show questions to control the supposed “average guy” contestants for higher viewer ratings. The high-level, bald-face lies on both the part of the TV network executives as they fought for their careers and the contestants as they sought for fame and fortune is well worth a review during our own troubling times and the dishonesty and performances we are currently viewing. This excellent movie, available on streaming Netflix, is a must-see, both gripping and extremely entertaining, clean drama for ages 12 and above.
Oh, that we could go back to simpler times! Would history be different if it had been televised, and socially media-ized and we could see and know more fully the daily thoughts and actions of past heroes? What would George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s tweets reveal? I doubt that it would be what we are experiencing now. For this is what has made our country great: the heroes (both leaders and citizens) who do what is right under fire, as a matter of personal integrity unto themselves our country and the God we serve. And that is what we are missing now: Candidates with the personal integrity to do and say what is right in matters large and small.
In light of the current days where black and white seems to be such a problem for high profile individuals that should know and do better, I share a recent story to inspire us all from Les Thompson, a member of the Church who lived in our Virginia ward several years ago. He shared this experience in Sacrament Meeting, then allowed me to share it here on Meridian during the election year of 2012 and deserves to be reprinted here, as a reminder of the sacrifices our soldiers make, and what true honesty is … and who our heroes REALLY are.
Donald, Hillary – could you take a minute and read this story, then get a grip on what honoring truth means … to you AND our country? And then let it inspire you to do the same, both personally and for the good of our nation?
Brother Thompson shares:
“In 2008, I was assigned to Baghdad, Iraq as an embedded U.S. Army combat advisor to Iraqi security forces in 2008. Our responsibility was to train and mentor senior Iraqi leaders in order to build and enhance their capacity to secure the population and bring peace to their nation. This was a sensitive mission that required building trust with our Iraqi counterparts and mediating disputes between various factions that were extremely divided and sectarian in nature. The small team of advisors that we were replacing had a difficult year that culminated with the death of two their members in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack a few months before we arrived. To make matters worse, they suspected our Iraqi counterparts of complicity in the attack. Needless to say, we wanted to make sure that our first meeting with our Iraqi counterparts went as smoothly as possible so as to step off together on the right foot. We rehearsed every detail prior of the meeting to ensure we did nothing to offend our hosts.
The day of the meeting arrived and anyone of influence in our area of the city for which we had oversight was present. Our host was an Iraqi general who wielded significant influence and was clearly the chief broker of power among them. As is customary in many Arab cultures, he began the meeting with a round of chai (tea) drinking. In fact, he boasted that his chai was the “best in Baghdad” and looked forward to us validating his opinion. As the chai was poured before me, I recognized that my decision to drink or not drink it would have serious ramifications. I knew I had made covenants with my Heavenly Father to obey the Word of Wisdom and would not break it. On the other hand, not drinking the chai could seriously offend our hosts and jeopardize our entire year’s efforts in Iraq – potentially the lives of my team members as well. I paused to say a little prayer to myself asking for inspiration and guidance on what to do.
As luck would have it, the General noticed that I wasn’t drinking my chai and said, “Captain Thompson, why are you not drinking your chai…it is the best in Baghdad and we cannot begin the meeting until you partake.” I hesitated to answer and suddenly the whole room grew quiet and every eye was focused on me with astonishment. The looks on the faces of my team members were that of alarm, as if to say, “I can’t believe you are going to offend our guests over something so trivial! Just drink the chai!” In what was reality just a few seconds, but felt like a few minutes, I was reminded of a world religions class I had at Brigham Young University a decade earlier. I remembered learning that Muslims follow a health code as well, in that they abstain from eating and drinking certain things. I felt immediately prompted to draw a parallel between my faith and his.
I looked back up at the General, who by now had a displeased look on his face, and said, “Sir, my faith forbids me from drinking this chai. I believe drinking alcohol is against your faith, is this true?” He responded, rather proudly, “Yes, as Muslims, we do not drink alcohol because to do so would offend Allah.”
I responded, “Sir, just as your faith is important to you, I believe that I would be offending my God if I drank your chai. I hope you will understand.”
Everybody’s attention now shifted to him. He stared at me for a moment with eyes that could kill, took a puff from his cigarette, and then smiled. He subsequently looked at everyone else and said, “In all my days, I never thought I would be taught to be a better Muslim by an infidel!”
His remarks drew laughter from everyone in the room, which immediately broke the tension. He continued by saying that he appreciated men who would stand for principles and remain true to their faith. I thanked him for the compliment. He then looked at his subordinates and declared, “Anyone who ever serves Captain Thompson chai again will be shot!” This drew slightly more nervous laughter, especially from the young soldier standing next to me who was serving the chai!
From there the meeting went very well and our relationship with our Iraqi counterparts blossomed throughout the rest of our yearlong tour in Iraq. We grew to love each other as brothers, sharing true concern for one another.
Indeed, I have no doubt in my mind that our Iraqi brethren saved our lives on more than one occasion.
Most importantly, I learned the blessings of being faithful to our covenants with our Heavenly Father. I can better understand the meaning behind Doctrine and Covenants Section 84:88 when the Lord says, “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
As he concluded, the chapel was filled with a powerful spirit and witness of the “Wow!” in the Word of Wisdom. With emotion, I turned to D&C 89 and read these words that Major Thompson had fully experienced: “And I the Lord give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.” (D&C 89:18-21)
Oh, that Donald and Hillary could have an ounce of Brother Thompson’s courage and integrity! To do what is right and to honor the principles of personal honesty, in matters large and small … for that, dear Donald and Hillary,I repeat, is what made America great.
Will it be so again? Not ever in the same way, and that is where the divine nature of both our Country and our own personal lives are at stake: It’s a choice to be honest. It’s a choice to live the truth, even when a lie would be easier …. for the moment.
And that’s what we will take to the Lord. Our actions, choices, behaviors and the consequences they will have brought, both large and small to ourselves and those within our circle of influence. Yes, as Americans, but more importantly, as children of God.
Once again, I wish both Donald and Hillary a good night’s rest. As for the rest of us, we know where that good night’s rest comes from and I personally hope that we will use the energy that comes from it to pray for our Country at this most troubling time.
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available HERE. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of ten. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson Tennessee, close to Memphis where they center their online business and Carolyn serves in the Primary Presidency.