Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Principles, the use of Power, and Hillary Clinton©

In March of 1821, at the commencement of the twilight of Thomas Jefferson’s illustrious career he was reflective in a letter to Spencer Roane. He observed that change between one generation and the next was natural. “Time indeed changes manners and notions, and so far we must expect institutions to bend to them.” My lifetime (since WW II) has mirrored and testified to the accuracy of Jefferson’s assessment. The 1960s inaugurated the “sexual revolution” which was recently given a big boost by the Supreme Court. Manners, especially in political discourse, seem to have retrogressed and are closer now to the heat, vitrol and partisanship I observed between the Whigs and Democrats when I was studying Joseph Smith in Illinois in the early 1840s and to the strife at the time of the Civil War.  In many ways we are also returning to the “tribalism” depicted in The Book of Mormon rather than toward e pluribus unum. All of these examples seem to me to be a descent; a decline from a higher more noble approach to life to a lower one. From my vantage it appears to be a movement toward the lowest common denominator. As manners, customs and “notions” (ideas, tastes, preferences?) changed, Jefferson said, institutions change with them. He had his eye particularly on the institutions of government. But that change, he warned was not necessarily good. He worried that a change in principles may accompany changes in manners and notions and institutions. He wrote:
But time produces also corruption of principles, and against this is the duty of good citizens to be ever on the watch, and if the gangrene is to prevail at last, let the day be kept off as long as possible.(1)
There is considerable political wisdom and prophetic prescience in his observation that principles may become corrupted over time. Many in Jefferson’s day used an interesting phrase that is not found in our present political discourse or culture–they spoke of “fixed principles.” Principles, distillations of fundamental truths, that are foundational. Our generation not only seldom speaks of “fixed” principles, we seldom speak of principles at all. And this is the rub. Political expediency has won the day over fundamental principles relative to freedom, rights, and government.

Hillary Clinton is a stellar example in this respect. Even her most ardent supporters have great difficulty making any kind of a convincing case that she is a woman of principle, and especially of any fundamental fixed principles coming from the Founders. Almost daily we are barraged, even bludgeoned from some sectors, with new allegations, new examples, new details, new revelations of her dishonesty, her near total lack of integrity, her inveterate secrecy, her self-serving manipulation of people, things, and even events. “Flip-flop” is heard more often in reference to Hillary by 10,000 to 1 than any reference to her principles. Her principles are as few and as evident as freckles on a flea.

Mrs. Clinton is hungry for one thing–power.  And here’s the thing about that. When President Bush I was inaugurated the first thing he did in his speech was offer a prayer! How many of the x-y-z or millennial generation know that? How many who know that, care?  What did he pray about?  Power! Here is what he said:
My first act as President is a prayer. I ask you to bow your heads:
Heavenly Father, we bow our heads and thank You for Your love. Accept our thanks for the peace that yields this day and the shared faith that makes its continuance likely. Make us strong to do Your work, willing to heed and hear Your will, and write on our hearts these words: “Use power to help people.”  For we are given power not to advance our own purposes, nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people. Help us to remember it, Lord. Amen.(2)
What President Bush taught in that prayer expressed an ideal very close to a “fixed principle.” God revealed such a principle to Joseph Smith:
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.(3)
In subsequent verses the Lord went on to describe how priesthood authority should be exercised, which is commonly discussed in Mormonism. They are fixed principles of leadership and use of authority and power in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their essence is that the authority and power which accompany leadership are in fact to be used to serve and bless people. That is a fixed principle both in our religion and in American politics.

Can anyone imagine Hillary Clinton offering such a prayer in her inaugural, let alone practicing that principle in her presidency? One of the mysteries to me of this day is why the majority of Democrats, knowing her principlelessness, are willing to place the government of the most powerful nation on the planet in her hands! The only explanations I have of this incredible phenomenon are, first, that the generations since WW II do not know and understand what the founding principles are, nor their critical importance. Moreover, those principles have become so corrupted during the last 200 years that many in this generation do not recognize them as foundational.  Little is being done in our nation to recover them or to learn and understand them. Apathy in this respect is pandemic especially among the young.

Second, the contemporary liberal preference for some very unimportant political priorities. The country is on the verge of making the same adolescent mistake in its infatuation to elect the first woman president as they did in electing the first black president. Color and gender are not the important issues–character, leadership, principles, and use of power are. In each of the latter Mrs. Clinton has had a succession of failing report cards since her college days and before.  Why should anything different be expected from her in the future?  A pretty bright fellow named Einstein said the definition of insanity was to continue to do the same thing and expect a different result.  Electing far left establishment candidate Clinton would be the worst sort of Einsteinian insanity.

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 9 March 1821, in John P. Kaminski, ed., The Quotable Jefferson, (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006), p. 216.

2.  George H. W. Bush, cited in William J. Bennett, America The Last Best Hope. Volume III: From the Collapse of Communism to the Rise of Radical Islam 1988-2008 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009), pp. 18-19, emphasis added.

3.  D&C 121:39. 

1 comment:


    1 Peter 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:(KJB)

    The Bible says baptism doth now save us the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Faith alone advocates say baptism has nothing to do with salvation. They say it is a simple act of obedience.

    1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, which is like that water, now saves you. Baptism doesn't save by removing dirt from the body. Rather, baptism is a request to God for a clear conscience. It saves you through Jesus Christ, who came back from death to life.(God's Word Translation)

    The Bible says saves you.
    The Bible says baptism is a request to God for a clear conscience.

    Faith only proponents say water baptism has nothing to do with salvation. They say baptism is only essential in order to join a denominational church.

    Faith only enthusiasts proclaim that baptism does not save, but is only a testimony of faith to the community.

    Faith only defenders state that men can get to heaven without being baptized in water, however they cannot join the local church without baptism.

    Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.(English Standard Version)

    Jesus said whoever is baptized will be saved. Will be, is future tense not past tense. Will be saved does not mean has already been saved.

    Faith only champions say men are baptized because their sins have already been forgiven.