Finding and Maintaining True Happiness

What is true happiness?

I’ve been thinking a bit today about what happiness truly is and how we can achieve it. I have been reflecting on how much joy and happiness I felt on my mission despite challenges setbacks and trials!

One of my favorite verses in the Book of Mormon is the often quoted refrain: “Men are that they might have joy,” but what exactly do we mean we speak of joy. Why is it that we often found the most joy when things are most difficult?

I found a really great talk from back in 2005 that dealt with this topic beautifully. It is entitlted True Happiness: A Conscious Decision. Elder De Hoyos of the 70 argues that “wanting to” or desiring and striving towards joy is one of the key elements that help us achieve true joy. Furthermore, “Happiness comes as a result of our obedience and our courage in always doing the will of God, even in the most difficult circumstances.”

Therefore, when we are struggling and trying to do what we know is right despite the challenges that come our way, we are filled with the spirit and experience a sense of exhilaration and joy that is incomparable. That is why as a missionary, I experienced such highs of joy and such unparalleled moments of bliss.

Also, Elder De Hoyos declares that “Happiness is a condition of the soul. This joyous state comes as a result of righteous living… Yes, my beloved brothers and sisters, life is good if we live in such a way to make it so. Believing, desiring, deciding, and choosing correctly are the simple actions that define an increase in happiness and an increase in the inner assurance that transcends this life.”

Happiness is not something fleeting that comes in fits of bursts, but something that we can always enjoy as a constant companion. Indeed, happiness is something that we must rechoose each day. We have to desire joy and work hard to achieve it.

I’ve been thinking about this in the context of relationships and dating. Not long ago, I started dating Jessica and that has been a source of great joy and happiness for me. I think a big part of that joy is the decision to date fully in keeping with the standards and commandments of God. That is such a refreshing choice that allows the spirit to be present. Yet, each day is another opportunity and challenge to choose: choose to work hard and choose to show love to each other. It’s a chance to get to know each other better and to develop a relationship that could become eternal. I have a really strong testimony that if we continue to follow the spirit we will be led and guided onward. Each day, I have to do my part to pray and to study and seek out the Lord’s will. Each day, I have to face the challenges that come my way with courage and great obedience to the will of the Lord. Those same attributes that served me well on a mission are needed in courtship and throughout the rest of life!

Elder De Hoyos has a great quote by the Prophet Joseph Smith that I really loved

“The Prophet Joseph stated, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”

Think about it! The object and purpose of our existence is happiness! Why then do we spend so much of our time not truly happy? The path ( and I might add the only path) comes from those attributes that the prophet mentioned: Virtue, Uprightness, Faithfullness, Holiness and Obedience. If we walk this road, we will draw closer to God and to those we care about. We will discover more happiness than we could have anticipated!

Scripture Study- Enlarging our Memory (1 Ne 4)- Book of Mormon Study Journal

As a missionary, I often taught people about the importance of reading and studying the scriptures. As such, I often reflected on why exactly this is so important. Whenever I read 1 Ne 3-4 I continue to be drawn back to this question: Why were the scriptures so valuable to Lehi and Nephi that they were willing to risk their lives, fortunes and everything else to retrieve them.

Elder Christofferson in a great talk in April 2010 entitled The Blessing of Scriptures enumerated three primary blessings of the scriptures

1)    The Scriptures Enlarge Our Memory

2)    The Scriptures Are the Standard for Distinguishing Truth and Error

3)    The Scriptures Bring Us to Christ, Our Redeemer

The Book of Mormon provides a couple of great examples of each of these points. I want to focus on the first point. Indeed, Nephi seems to explicitly focus on this point as he contemplates whether or not he is justified in killing Laban.

“14 And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.

15 Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.

16 And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.

17 And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.”

Thus, Nephi realizes that the text of the Book of Mormon is so vital in allowing past generations to learn the collective wisdom that the lord has revealed in all generations of time.

Indeed, the later events of the Book of Mormon confirm this importance as the contrast between the people of Nephi and the Mulekites is revealed

The Nephites had a love  of pondering and analyzing the scriptures and as such remained faithful to the lord for an extended period:

2 Ne 4:15 And upon these I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass. For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.

In contrast, the Mulekites did not have sciptures and quickly fell away from the true worship of God

Omni 1:  17 And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them.

Elder Christofferson powerfully explains this principle

“The scriptures also enlarge our memory by helping us not forget what we and earlier generations have learned. Those who either don’t have or ignore the recorded word of God eventually cease to believe in Him and forget the purpose of their existence. You will remember how important it was for Lehi’s people to take the brass plates with them when they left Jerusalem. These scriptures were key to their knowledge of God and the coming Redemption of Christ. The other group that “came out from Jerusalem” shortly after Lehi had no scriptures, and when Lehi’s descendants encountered them some 300 or 400 years later, it is recorded that “their language had become corrupted; … and they denied the being of their Creator” ( Omni 1:15, 17).”

I have found that 1 Ne 4 also contains a very powerful example and much more personal example of the blessings of scripture study.

At the close of the last chapter, Nephi’s brothers have just complained about the impossibility of retrieving the plates. They are terrified of Laban and the vast power he appears to possess.

In response, Nephi makes a direct appeal to the scriptures.

“ 2 Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.

3 Now behold ye know that this is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt? Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians.”

He takes course by the examples of the prophets of old. He knows that God has saved his people in the past and so he has faith that such will happen again. Even though he wasn’t there when Moses crossed the Red Sea, he is strengthened and encouraged by Moses’s example. His memory has been enlarged through the study of the word of God.

Having been so empowered, Nephi therefore has the faith and courage to do the near impossible. He has the faith to stand up to his brothers and to be led by the Lord

“ 1 And it came to pass that I spake unto my brethren, saying: Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?”

Because Nephi has studied the scripture he is then endowed with the power needed to act and to become part of future scriptural history. In turn, his words and actions have been the inspiration for generations of readers in our days. A quick look at the LDS scripture Citation Index Shows that Nephi’s words and deeds have become the motivation for members to overcome their hardships and to rise above life’s challenges

Elder Eyring for instance in October 2010 referenced this story very powerfully

“The young Nephi in the Book of Mormon stirs in us a desire to develop trust in the Lord to obey His commandments, however hard they appear to us. Nephi faced danger and possible death when he said these words of trust that we can and must feel steadily in our hearts: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them”

As did President Monson more recently in April 2012

“The call of duty came to the boy Nephi when he was instructed by the Lord, through his father Lehi, to return to Jerusalem with his brothers to obtain the brass plates from Laban. Nephi’s brothers murmured, saying it was a hard thing which had been asked of them. What was Nephi’s response? Said he, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

Nephi of course was a man of great faith and courage. However, had he not had the scriptures before his eyes to enlarge his memory he may have feared and been hesitant to act. Indeed, I have seen so many people loose sight of the great scriptural truths and begin to doubt and fall away. Laman and Lemuel for instance clearly did not have this scriptural vision and as such they were terrified by the challenges they faced!

Elder Maxwell spoke of this

“Dulled and desensitized, Laman and Lemuel simply didn’t share Nephi’s confidence that the Lord would never command His children to do difficult things, except the Lord first prepares the way (see 1 Ne. 3:7).

Their enormous errors led to almost comical inconsistencies, such as Laman and Lemuel’s believing that God could handle mighty Pharaoh and great Egypt’s army at the Red Sea all right, but not a local Laban! How many in our time inconsistently subordinate themselves to, and curry favor with, mortal intimidators?”

If we want to keep our spiritual sight and memory, then we need to constantly keep refreshed by immersing ourselves in the scriptures!

Elder Oaks at the BYU Founder’s Day Dinner- The history and triumph of the law school

This past week, I started Law School at Brigham Young University- J. Reuben Clark Law School. I am taking a 1L seminar on professionalism and ethics and as part of it we have a lot of really interesting readings that are very relevant to thinking about how to integrate law and the teachings of the gospel.  I want to write a bit about each of those reading assignments because they are all pretty fascinating.

 

This week, however in particular was a good time to begin these readings. On the 23rd of August was the annual Founder’s Day Dinner and Elder Dalin H. Oaks spoke and directly referenced a speech he gave back in August 27, 1973 as opening remarks for the first law school class.

 

I want to first share my thoughts on Elder Oak’s Founder’s Day Dinner talk and then share my thoughts on his original remarks.

 

Elder Oak’s remarks at the Founder’s Day was meant as a brief history of the law school as well as an evaluation of how we are doing.

 

Elder Oaks began describing what he called the ‘four phases’ of how the church has viewed law and lawyers. First, Joseph Smith of necessity relied upon lawyers but received very bad legal advice. Second, Brigham Young showed an open disregard and hostility towards lawyers. Third, Brigham Young eventually shifted to encouraging the study of law. The fourth phase began with the founding of the law school and led to a greater focus on the importance of lawyers. To date, 13 of the 97 apostles have been legally trained. The first being Stephen L. Richards with Elder Oaks himself the 11th.

 

Elder Oaks spoke in depth about the foundation of the school.  Interestingly, when he first was approached by the idea of the law school back in 1971 he strongly opposed it and felt it was unrealistic. There were very few LDS scholars with legal acclaim ( only a handful in the whole country) and it would be very difficult to build a 1st class university and not worth the effort to build anything less than a first class one. Yet, the 1st presidency and the 12 were strongly in favor of the decision and pushed onward the foundation of the school.

 

As Elder Oaks spoke, it was apparent to me that he had been prepared and called of God to lead this process at this point in time. Newly called as the dean of the university, he was perhaps one of the most qualified people in the whole country to found a law school.

 

A search committee for al aw school dean was founded under close supervision of Elder Oaks as well as the 12 and first presidency. There were three principles that were agreed upon. First, they agreed to make no major decisions until they found a dean. Second, they would not make faculty appointments until they had a dean. Third, they wanted a strong and independent dean that would only report high up to the undergraduate dean himself. Eventually, Rex E. Lee was selected as dean and the work began to find the faculty.

 

Elder Oaks recounted the many miracles involved in the school founding. One at first reticent professors finally agreed to join the faculty securing its success. Elder Oaks recalled his realization that “The lord really wants a law school and he wants it to be a good one.”

 He spoke about the several miracles that came together for the foundation of the school First, that 100 students took a risk to come to the law school as part of the first class. Second, that the school was able to overcome the reservations of the board of accreditation, which would have been wary due to the priesthood ban and the fact that tuition would cost less for members than non-members. Also, Elder Oaks spoke about the miraculous nature of the timing. He said that in today’s environment such a school would be even harder to found due to increasing secularism and antagonism towards religion.

 

In the original talk, Elder Oaks said

 

“We are frequently asked why Brigham Young University is establishing a law school at this time. We have all heard reasons suggested, and many of us have contributed a few. Some of these suggestions are speculative, some reasoned, and some have the ring

10of authority. But the most important fact to be noted on this subject is that the trustees of Brigham Young University, whom we sustain as inspired leaders, have decided that Brigham Young University should have a law school at this time. I have received a confirmation of the divine wisdom of that decision, and I am quite content with that. The special mission of this law school and its graduates will unfold in time.”

 

At the Founder’s Day dinner he said that the time had come to describe some of the accomplishments of the school since its founding. He then spoke about six of the greatest accomplishments.

 

1)    The quality of legal education- The BYU law school doubled the amount of lawyers in the state of Utah and also dramatically increased the quality of education through direct competition with the University of Utah Law School.

2)    The great accomplishments of graduates including: 100 state and federal judges; 12 law clerks on the supreme court; 72 grads have been mission presidents; 18 70’s; 8 General Authorities out of 5,570 alumni. These were pretty impressive statistics by any measure.

3)    The quality of the faculty- Especially some of the special programs at BYU such as the center for law and religion. He said that some research done here just could not be done elsewhere because of political correctness.

4)    The increase of women in the law—1/3 of the current class is women which is a lot better than the historical norm at the time of the foundation of the school. Elder Oaks spoke about how the family friendly nature of the school helped show believing women that Law was an appropriate career for Latter-Day Saint women!

5)    The fact that the school has avoided partisanship or an overly political direction

6)    The low tuition costs which allow students to focus on their interests rather than on paying off their debts.

 

Elder Oaks concluded his remarks with a powerful summation of the importance of the rule of law. He quoted from his 1973 remarks

 

“Fourth, the J. Reuben Clark Law School must always foster an enlightened devotion to the rule of law. A principal function of law, and thus a principal occupation of lawyers, is the prevention and settlement of disputes. Men of law must understand and help others to understand that despite all the imperfections of law and of lawyers, there is no better system for preventing and settling disputes than the rule of law….By the same token, a lawyer’s predominant professional loyalty should be to the principles of the law, not to the officials who administer them or to the person, organization, or other client in whose interest those principles are applied. A lawyer obviously owes a high duty of loyalty to his client, but the duty he owes to the Constitution and laws is higher still.”

Elder Oaks spoke about how the law is like a wall that protects, and how lawyers are like watchman on the tower!

I loved Elder Oaks remarks and especially felt the spirit really strongly as he spoke. I gained an increased testimony that this law school is founded and led by the Lord. It truly is the Lord’s university.  I felt an increased sense that the Lord has called me to BYU Law and that it is part of his plan for me!

Mitt Romney’s Mormonism

I have so far avoided posting much about Mitt Romney or my views about the 2012 election in large part because my views are still in formation. I am undecided and could be persuaded in either direction in the next two months.

I must say however, that the fact that Mitt Romney is an active member of the church and that he has served in such leadership positions as Bishop and Stake President makes me much more inclined to vote for him. Its not so much that he has the same faith that I do, but that I know that the kind of experiences that he must have had as a bishop make him highly qualified for the highest office in the land!

All  of  these articles are worth a read ! ( Those are 9 different links!)

These articles convey an incredible variety of voices some of which are strong supporters of Mitt Romney and others strong critics. There are incidents that liberals can use to portray Mitt Romney as radical or insensitive ( Advising women to not have abortions of to put children up for adoption for instance), but I challenge anyone to read these articles and to not be touched by the range of compassionate service rendered by this man.

Those that are concerned that Romney is out of touch with the poor should read these reflections published in the Washington Post 

“Nolan Don Archibal, a former member of the Cambridge congregation who went on to become executive chairman of the board at Stanley Black & Decker, said Romney picked up the phone to help the unemployed members of his congregation find work. He acted as a marriage counselor and a mentor to troubled teens and provided a willing ear to lonely widows. He called on those in his flock struggling with a crisis in faith to publicly meditate on their problems at sacrament meetings.

He believed in avoiding problems before they started. Bennett recalled Romney, who set aside Tuesday nights for annual one-on-one meetings with young members, poring over lists of birthdays to make sure he saw everyone.

In a building that prominently featured a depiction of Jesus instructing a rich young man to give his treasure to the poor, Romney reached out to the network of business leaders in the congregation to help put people on solid financial footing. He arranged for one member with money problems to sit down with Steven Wheelwright, a Harvard Business School professor who went on to run Brigham Young University at Hawaii, to develop a personal budget and a path to a better job, according to Bennett.

On one occasion, he dropped Barlow off at his home and the two discussed the array of challenges their congregation faced.

“The one that bothers me the most that I’ve thought a lot about over the years,” Romney told Barlow, “is how genuinely to help the poor.”

And how can those who dismiss Mitt Romney as robotic or indifferent do so after they read this touching account 

“Bryce Clark was a recipient of Mr. Romney’s spiritual advice. Late one summer night in 1993, distraught over his descent into alcoholism and drug use, Mr. Clark, then a 19-year-old college student, decided to confess that he had strayed from his Mormon faith. So he drove through this well-heeled Boston suburb to Mr. Romney’s secluded seven-bedroom home.

As the highest-ranking Mormon leader in Boston, Mr. Romney was responsible for determining whether Mr. Clark was spiritually fit for a mission, a rite of passage for young Mormon men. Mr. Clark had previously lied to him, insisting that he was eligible to go. But instead of condemnation that night, Mr. Clark said, Mr. Romney offered counsel that the younger man has clung to for years.

“He told me that, as human beings, our work isn’t measured by taking the sum of our good deeds and the sum of our bad deeds and seeing how things even out,” recalled Mr. Clark, now 37, sober and working as a filmmaker in Utah. “He said, ‘The only thing you need to think about is: Are you trying to improve, are you trying to do better? And if you are, then you’re a saint.’ ”

That encounter with Mr. Clark provides a rare glimpse into the way Mr. Romney — now a Republican candidate for president — expresses his faith and exercised authority as a religious leader”

Most impressive to me was how Mitt Romney handled the tensions with the Feminist leaders of the Exponent II

“Mormon women in Boston still talk about an extraordinary 1993 meeting Romney called to address the women of the stake.

More than 250 members poured into the Belmont chapel. One by one they called out their issues while he stood at the front with three pads labeled: policies we can’t change, practices we can change, and things we can consider.

Nearly 100 proposals were made that day, including having female leaders give talks in various wards as the men on the high council do; letting women speak last in church; turning the chapels into day-care centers during the week; letting women stand in the circle while blessing newborn babies; recognizing the accomplishment of young women as the church does of Boy Scout advancements; and putting changing tables in the men’s rooms.

Many women left with a new appreciation of Romney’s openness.

He was “so brave,” says Robin Baker, who has worked on Exponent II.

Sievers, who worked with Romney to set up the meeting, was ecstatic.

“I was really surprised,” she says. “He implemented every single suggestion that I would have.”

Additionally, Romney showed his ability to surround himself with men of diverse views and perspectives. Renowned Scholar Philip Barlow was a member of Romney’s Bishopric. I also really liked this quote in the Salt Lake City Tribune article

“By all accounts, Romney the religious leader was a good listener and an innovative manager who considered various positions before making any decision. He was occasionally willing to work around bureaucratic edicts from Salt Lake City to better serve his people. He allowed divorced men to continue in their leadership positions, rather than remove them as church policy dictated at the time. He did not discipline outspoken writers and activists within his ranks.”

I also appreciated that the New York Times and other reporters recently attended sacrament meeting with Mitt Romney and reported on the meeting! This is exactly the kind of publicity that the Church has been encouraging.

From all of these accounts, it seems to me that Mitt Romney was an incredible leader. He managed to be compassionate and maintain a human touch while at the same time showing true leadership and guiding his stake and ward to great prosperity. Having served in the church, I know how serving the Lord can help us become better men: More patient and loving and charitable. It seems to me that Mitt Romney was influenced greatly by these experiences! Because of this, I believe that he would make a phenomenal President and I am strongly leaning towards him!

International Legal Issues Facing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

I attended a fascinating class during education week focusing on International Legal Issues Facing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by William F. Atkin office of the general counsel

I am posting my notes from the event which are of course not comprehensive. First, I wanted to share some of my impressions and insights.

First of all, I got a glimpse at the complexity of running such a large international organization. The church is absolutely meticulous about doing everything absolutely by the books, and this leads to a need to hire and use lawyers. Of course, countries often will try to make it as difficult as possible for the church. Often, laws will be changed in opposition to the church and much legal diplomacy and craftsmanship is necessary. One example mentioned took place in my mission in Novosibirsk. Young missionaries were in the mission office one day when a tax inspector came to visit. There as of yet were no legal stuff, and the inspector looked through records and grilled the young missionaries. The church eventually received a very large fine. Since then, the church has made sure that in each mission there are trained individuals to help out with legal matters.

The variety of legal issues facing the church also stood out to me. Brother Atkins spoke about tax issues, diplomacy concerns, immigration, data privacy, cyber attacks, terrorism and many other issues that emerge in our complex and increasingly challenging world.

Secondly, the greatest asset the church seems to have is the positive impressions of those that come into contact with members. A story in Slovakia highlighted this: 

A law was passed in Slovakia right after the divide with the Czech Republic. It required 20,000 follwers to register a church. The word follower could mean an adherent, members etc OR just someone that will declare support. They started a petition drive and could not get enough signatures. Had to give social security number and legal address  so only got 300
Sent missionaries in from Czech republic.  In the end of a week they got the 20,000.
Newest missionaries got the most signatures.
 
They had a good relationships with Czechoslovakian government before divide. One of the leaders had attended a symposium in Salt Lake City years prior. Those that we had a good relationship with were the heads of the new government and they accepted the definition of follower we wanted. 

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly was the message that Brother Atkins expressed very memorably as 

“When the adversary looks at the lord and says check and the lord looks back and says check mate.”

TIme and again, as the church has faced challenges in its spread, it has been clear that the lord has prepared a way for his church to continue to grow. The church’s history in Russia perfectly illustrated this 

” Back in 1997, Conservative leader General Alexander Lebed of Russia called Mormons ‘scum and mold.’ He was the opponent to Boris Yeltsin and widely expected to win election. After his remarks, leaders of the world were calling us to support us.Russia was member of g7 and president Clinton took prime minister aside and he asked why there was this persecution.  The Prime minister ended up going up to Russia and inquiring about the church.  On his staff, he had someone who had been to a  symposium  in Salt Lake City and was friend of church and it dramatically improved relationship with church.

Later, when in Russia they passed a new registration law that required presence for 50 years. The church was worried because they seemed to have no good legal options.  Because of good relationships they were informed that the legal structure in place was perfect because it had local legal entities. They are only loosely affiliated. Drafted a template in 1992 before the law which had language of affiliation which saved the church in Russia! At the time, those that organized the church did not know how critical that decision would be!

I was struck by the great prophecy of Joseph Smith

““The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; … the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

I know that this is true and that the church will roll forth despite all opposition! This class truly strengthened my testimony in this regard!

_______________________________________________________________________________________

International Legal Issues Confronting the Church ( August 14th, 2012)

William F. Atkin office of the general counsel
 
His children jokingly labelled him President Monson’s ‘hit man’
 
Why does the church need lawyers?
Formed in 1996
One of president Hinkley’s first acts. Called a general authority to lead it
D&C 44:4-5
4 And many shall be converted, insomuch that ye shall obtain power to organize yourselves according to the laws of man; 
5 That your enemies may not have power over you; that you may be preserved in all things; that you may be enabled to keep my laws; that every bond may be broken wherewith the enemy seeketh to destroy my people. (Doctrine and Covenants, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 44)
 
Purpose is to advise the first presidency on the legal matters that affect them
 
Do day to day legal work (mostly outsourced)
They focus on strategic matters
 
Lance Wickman, William Atkins, Boyd j. Black
 
1995- president hinckley – two big concerns- 
Abuse of children- Organized hotline and abuse training for ward councils.
International legal structure of the church- dramatic growth but struggles to keep pace
 
Hired area legal attorneys ( started with 6 and now 13)
 
Robert b Lochhead in Moscow
 
Associate area legal council- senior missionaries working in area offices
 
Larry Walker in Moscow
( definetly an option as a senior couple) ( 30 have gone out)
 
Government relations missionaries
Un-Geneva un-NYC eu-Brussels
 
Diplomacy- the art of lying to ones neighbors
Or to communicate and develop a relationship of trust
 
Franklin s Richards was the first general counsel for the church. Son of apostle. Was called by Brigham Young to be a lawyer.
 
Legal structure today- the church is distinct from its legal entities. Difference between ecclesiastical and legal structure. Legal structure must be in place to support the ecclesiastical structure
 
What is a church
 
A community of believers sharing common faith and doctrine- a spiritual body
( in America a church requires no legal organization
 
A legal entity
We are an unincorporated legal entity
 
Church us corporate structure
Statute in new york for religious organizations required from 3-9 founders. Signed some kind of incorporation document
 
No incorporation in Ohio Missouri or Illinois
 
In Utah at first state and church were very closely related. Incorporated according to territorial laws. Dissolved by federal government
 
When brigham young died it was hard to sort affairs or young family and church 
 
Franklin S. Richards- corporation sole- each western state encorporated this into its charters
 
Corporation of the presiding bishop (cpb) 1916 – each stake and ward was also a corporation sole
 
Corporation of the president of the church ( cop) 1923- holds properties outside of Utah
 
Now each ward and stake is not organized as a corporate entity because of lack of fear.
 
Now no more of these  in utah law but the church is grandfathered in
 
Now a lot of legal entities like the Deseret management corporation
 
International reserve inc ( copyright laws)
 
FamilySearch international ( Utah genealogical society)
 
Two perspectives
 
Our internal view:
–areas ( area presidencies)
— stakes districts wards and branches
— missions, temples and mtcs
— area offices and service centers ( dtas, controllers and managers)
 
Governmental view
 
–legal entities
— management
 
One of the challenges is integrating the two.
 
Moscow tax attorney- 500,000 tax assessment in Novosibirsk. Tax inspector came and the missionaries didn’t know how to respond. For it negotiated down to 30,000 dollars, but from that began legal training for missions in Russia
 
“respect the box”- 
Legal existence
Tax problems
Piercing the corporate veil- liability issues
Internal and external confusion
Accountability and reporting
 
Church itself does not employ a single person- temporal affairs church does have employees
 
Helsinki temple- vendor in Spain sold chandlers. The Spanish entity bought it for the finnish one. Big problem under articles of encorporation
 
Garments are manufactured in brazil and legal entity in brazil manufactures it. In america production and distribution is part of same entity. In brazil they think there are different entities so they are over paying in taxes
 
Legal and political trends
 
Taxation- in the last decade it has become of greater interest. Where do you find new taxes and tax revenue. By going after entities and looking for lack of compliance
 
Always looking for non-profit tax exempt structure- been able to do so world-wide
Want direct first presidency control but it’s not always possible so we need creative lawyering.
In Ukraine there is a five year old case.- tax audit found a problem. We had purchased property and had a dilapidated building on it.  We demolished a building but failed to get a demolition permit ( had a building that you demolished— need to pay Capitol gains tax on it)
 
We try to do everything in accordance to law of land sometimes at great cost to the church.
When in Russia it was very difficult to be in full compliance (1992). Their laws were to use sovietlaw until replaced with new laws. Soviet law was designed for command economy.
 
We need to comply with laws to the best of our ability 
Southern baptist in Siberia did what all in Russia was doing. Rubble was begged to dollar and so people would use black market. Orthodox priest complained and he was reported. He was deported and black listed. 
 
Tax story in Italy- family search international hire local people to perform digitizing. We Declared it as a product or service that is being exported. Could apply for vat refund.
(laws changed so that vat is not required, but since you did pay it we are not going to give it back to you).
 
Elimination of tax exemptions– getting harder and harder. “Pure religion” is often not covered. Charity is often define differently. Fast offerings often not exempt but humanitarian works are.
 
Russia- If a branch president givens fast offering money to needy it is a taxable payment. Mostly set up on a withholding basis so need to pay taxes on it.
 
Cpb is not a legal entity in Russia so you can have cpb do humanitarian activities- appoint branch president as agents for purpose of aid. Have powers of attorney. Can disperse Welfare funds.
 
Transparency- unclear exactly what the net worth of the church is. We are not very big into disclosure. There is a historical reason why not– careful about disclosure because of history of government
 
Church has to be transparent in certain countries by laws 
 
In us money laundering and terrorism laws require greater disclosure
 
How does the euro crisis affect the church. Great control over export of dollars. Okay for church because we usually import them. But now greater currency limitations implemented
 
Argentina had a distribution center for Latin America but had customs and export taxes. They will take 30% and keep it and give it back but then it devalues.
 
Money flows mostly from America to elsewhere. When we had currency devaluations it cost a lot more to run internationally. Started to equalize.
 
Data privacy- now its an issue that impacts the church enormously. There are lots of privacy concerns. Financial, genealogical, employment information, missionary applications etc…. Eu has directive so throughout Europe makes it very hard to transfer data across borders. Need to give data transfer consent. Now on baptism forms.
 
Law suits from ex members in england– they want to see their disciplinary records. We do not keep records of disciplinary accounts. They are confidential and sent to salt lake. Require first presidency approval. 
 
Immigration restrictions-
Visas- go to country through the front door. No underground churches. We are patient until we can do things legally.
 
New law allows to only get visa renewals so can do it in one day.
 
Western European country will no longer give westerners visas- Switzerland. Exceptions if there is a strong need ( granted for cabaret dancers)
 
Business travel visas- we will only go in on business visas rather than just go in without it.
 
Anti- discrimination legislation- gender age ethnicity nationality etc
Gender discrimination is a big issue here. Us state department is pushing that agenda.
 
Employment/ temple worthiness is the major concern. If you don’t have a recommend you will lose your employment! Have to discriminate based on standards. Work really hard to find exemptions for churches based on religious belief
 
Uk passed an omnibus anti-discrimination law and they narrowed it significantly so that only exemption was clergy. They worked in a religious coalition except for Catholics and anglican church because they are large enough. They ultimately joined. The church is small in the Uk but when the priesthood is involved they become leaders. Legislation passed house of commons but in the house of the lords there was a proposed amendment that passed 97-92 .
 
Church autonomy cases in Europe where the church has prevailed. In Germany church won a case they expected to lose by an ex- member. Amicus was written by church in lawsuit against germany by that ex- member.
 
Secularism
Churches no longer have favored status.
 
Zoning laws are large concern 
Temples usually have concerns over stepples.
 
Terrorism and security issues-
 
Technology crimes/ cyber attacks- church is attacked many times a day.
 
Experiences in representing the church.
 
Registration in Slovakia-
 
Required 20,000 follwers to register a church.
For word follower could be adherent, members etc OR just someone that will declare support.
 
Could not get enough signatures. Had to give social security number and legal address  only got 300
Sent missionaries in from Czech republic.  In the end of a week they got the 20,000.
Newest missionaries got the most signatures.
 
Had good relationships with Czechoslovakian government before divide. Those that we had a good relationship with were the heads of the government and they accepted the definition of follower we wanted.
 
Monterrey mexico temple- could not get building permit from city.
Found another site and were actually then supported by government
 
Church rarely sues because you don’t win very much through it.
 
Adversary looks at the lord and says check and the lord looks back and says check mate.
 
General Alexander Lebed of Russia called Mormons in 1997 as ‘scum and mold.’ was opponent to Boris Yeltsin
 
Leaders of the world were calling us to support us.
Russia was member of g7 and president Clinton took prime minister aside and he asked why there was this persecution. Prime minister ended up going up to Russia and inquiring about the church. Had someone who had been to symposium and was friend of church and it dramatically improved relationship with church. They passed a new registration law that required presence for 50 years.  Because of good relationships they were informed that the legal structure in place was perfect because it had local legal entities. They are only loosely affiliated. Drafted a template in 1992 before the law which had language of affiliation which saved the church in Russia!
 
President hinckley- ‘Brethren, be peacemakers.’
 
Law is there to maintain peace.
 
Questions
 
Supreme court case on boy scouts- not directly involved
 
Recognition in Italy- what does it mean. Catholic model has been to have treaties. Modern legislation in Spain and Italy continues. Give special treatment to churches that can enter into these treaties . Had association for years, but we’re second class and now developed a treaty. Now allowed to get tax deduction, ministers can do civil marriages etc. largest benefit is public image.
 
Israel- deal very carefully.
 
Byu has its own legal structure that owns center. 
‘what are we going to do about the look in their eyes.’
 
China progress- strict separation between foreigners and chinese. Two or three ex pat districts.  Two Area 70’s. 
 
In France many of the investigators are Chinese mandarin speaking.
 
Growth in Latin America came in second generation once the youth served missions. In china it’s different the best and brightest end up joining. Chinese lets locals share the gospel with friends and family.
 
Kennedy center English teaching in china.
 
Humanitarian aid is a strategic tool. We have built good relationships through them. Lds charities registered through UN.
 
Elder brown in Japan when they first opened Russia the far east of Russia was part of Asian area. Gov brown had no success meeting in vladivostok. The last morning there he followed an impression to get in touch with catholic charities. He had been a leader in Somalia when the church gave money there. Opened the door to them.
 
Churches relationship in muslim world- do not proselyte to Muslims. There is a stake in Bahrain. Little toe hold. 
 
Legal entity in turkey but the missionaries were denied work permits.
 
Samoa- village chiefs have great authority. Mormons have largest percentage of population but many villages prohibit villagers from leaving to go to other churches. Working with government to stop restrictive law.
 
France- commission on dangerous sects. Cole derm- working on an article on dangerous sects. Very inocuous seeming but use it to make groups illegal.
 
Gana- kicked out in 1992. Half brother of leader was member so the church was able to regain status.
 
Prop 8- probably will be up to supreme court.
 
General authority was once in a building that was shot up but they just missed them.

 

 

Putting it all on the altar ( 1 ne 3: 22-24)

21 And it came to pass that after this manner of language did I persuade my brethren, that they might be faithful in keeping the commandments of God.
22 And it came to pass that we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things.
23 And after we had gathered these things together, we went up again unto the house of Laban.
24 And it came to pass that we went in unto Laban, and desired him that he would give unto us the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, for which we would give unto him our gold, and our silver, and all our precious things. (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi, Chapter 3)

Nephi and his brethren dutifully went to Jerusalem to try to get the plates. In their first attempt, they did not take more thought than simply to ask. Maybe they were expecting that familial ties would be a strong enough motivation for Laban to hand over the plates. Regardless, they were disappointed to find that Laban not only rejected their offer, but viewed them as robbers and tried to kill them.

I think many can relate to this moment of disappointment. Several people that I taught as a missionary dutifully told friends and family about their desire to be baptized. Others put off this terrifying step until the last minute. Many expected that the reaction would be tepid but not hostile. Yet, like Laban so many respond with open hostility that would be shocking were this not the very church and kingdom of God.

Yet, for me the key lesson is the contrast between Laban and Lemuel immediately after this initial rejection. I saw this difference in the people we taught. Some like Laman and Lemuel are so quick to return in failure. They think that if there is opposition then it must not truly be worth it. After all, if God truly wanted them to get the plates then why wouldn’t it be easy? They never really had a strong faith that God had commanded them to seek the plates, and this initial rejection only seeks to strengthen their disaffection and doubt. If left to their own devices they would have left empty handed and yet justified themselves by saying that they had ‘tried’.

Nephi, and people who have his great faith, on the other hand must have anticipated opposition. He was not shocked or discouraged by this minor set back. He had a firm faith that the lord had commanded them to retrieve the plates. Nephi knows that the things that matter the most are rarely easy or challenge free– quite to the contrary in fact. As such, his response is full of fervent faith.

15 But behold I said unto them that: As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.
16 Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi, Chapter 3)

Nephi is willing to sacrifice in a way that is unthinkable to Laman and Lemuel. He is read to put all his wealth, time and efforts towards the fulfillment of the lord’s commandments. Laman and Lemuel in contrast have their hearts set on the things of the world. They doubt that plates on brass are worth this type of sacrifice. Even after they successfully retrieve the plates, they continue to think and dwell on their lost riches. Sadly, for them the things of the world come first. Unfortunately they have not learned the lesson so eloquently declared by President Uchtdorf

Disciples of Jesus Christ understand that compared to eternity, our existence in this mortal sphere is only “a small moment” in space and time. They know that a person’s true value has little to do with what the world holds in high esteem. They know you could pile up the accumulated currency of the entire world and it could not buy a loaf of bread in the economy of heaven. (2011 October General Conference, You Matter to Him, Sat. Morning Session – Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

Nephi had his sights set on heavenly rewards and as such, as we see later in the Book of Mormon, received great temporal gifts coupled with great spiritual blessings. In reality, when we turn our focus and trust to the lord we always receive more than our fair share!

Book of Mormon study journal#8- I will go and do (1 nephi 3 part one)

Book of Mormon Scripture Study Journal : 1 Nephi 3

Immediately after the spiritual manifestation recalled in Chapter two, Nephi faces a real and concrete trial of his faith. I love how the chapter mentions that (as soon as) Nephi had returned from speaking with the Lord, his father tells him about his dream and asks him to go to Jerusalem in order to secure the plates.

This is so often the case. We receive a call to serve or a prompting to act well before we may fully feel ready to do so. Perhaps, Nephi felt unprepared. After all, he had just recently had his incredible conversion experience. Perhaps all those recent converts ( and not just recent converts, but all members really) can relate to what Nephi must have felt here. Days or weeks after baptism, being called in and given a really difficult, seemingly impossible task or calling. Nephi was put in the position to lead his older and supposedly ‘more mature’ brothers and was asked to show a remarkable amount of leadership and courage.

I remember at times before I served a mission being overwhelmed with the fact that the Lord wanted me to serve. Here I was, so young in the church and only having so recently overcome familial and personal challenges in order to be baptized, and I was being asked to prepare for what seemed impossible. I knew that going would create many difficulties and I wasn’t quite sure if I was ready for it. At times I considered waiting a few more months or years until my faith had become more solidified and the opposition lessened before I put in my papers.

For me, Nephi’s example was and is a truly inspiring one. His brothers murmured and complained, but Nephi knew as his father points out that this was not a commandment of men, but of the Lord. He had a burgeoning testimony of God’s power and majesty. He knew that God had spoken to him and so did not doubt that these words of his father were inspired of God.

I cannot say that I was always as free of murmuring or doubts as Nephi, but I am eternally grateful that as Nephi I was able to respond “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commanded them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)

On the tail end of my mission, and as I look at various challenges that lie ahead ( Courtship and marriage, Law School etc.), my faith is reinforced both by my own experiences and by the experiences of Nephi. His courage and his trust in the Lord are ultimately so incredibly inspiring to us all.

Let us follow his example and ‘not murmur’ when faced with a difficult task. Let us go and do the things of the lord with all of our heart, might and soul!