What Is An American To Do?

South façade of the White House, the executive...

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I rarely discuss politics or government issues on this site. There are several good reasons. #1. This is not a political blog. #2. I am not an expert on government policy, nor do I feel qualified [or patient enough] to debate the many complex issues facing our nation. [I still have plenty of personal opinions, of course]. #3.  The Pandora Box Syndrome – I’ve noticed whenever politics are mentioned, out comes the strong emotions, the opinions, the criticism and arguing … which easily can turn cynical and negative, and that’s such a downer. This blog strives to be a happy, positive place.

Anything I say from here on out should be considered my own personal reflection on the times we are going through. Even though I might mention some of the less pleasant parts of our government, this is not intended to be a “rant”.  I love being an American, and I actually have a positive point at the end, [if you make it that far - which I hope that you will]. I’ll understand if you skim through, or just scroll to the bottom. [I think the video is the coolest part. But, if you read the post, that's cool, too.]

We should talk about politics and express our opinions in respectful and intelligent arguements. It’s not healthy to ignore this subject completely or stick our proverbial “head in the sand” waiting for it to go away. I definitely think we each should strive to be educated as much as possible on the issues and to be actively involved in our community government [something I've gotten better at with age]. If we have the privilege to vote, then we should! And, when we vote, we ought to take a little time to find out WHO and WHAT we are actually voting FOR before arriving at the booth, which avoids the necessity of randomly guessing, or simply picking names that sound the “nicest” or “coolest” [been there, done that] 

Commander Dallis Joseph Christensen, "Grandpa"

I love my country. My 95-year-old grandfather is a WWII hero – one of the last of the Greatest Generation, who sacrified and served to protect our liberty. Despite all of her problems, I still believe that the United States is a land of promise and that our Constitution was divinely inspired. I work for a University which relies on federal funding for important medical research. Like every other American, I have been both directly and indirectly affected by our national  budget crises. So, whether I fully understand what is going on in our Capital or not, it affects me and my family, and I care. I am an equal partner with my fellow citizens in traversing our current unsteady road. I think it’s safe to say the majority believe that our Nation is in the middle of a fiscal disaster. It often seems a bleak outlook for our children and grandchildren. . . but, we need to keep things in perspective and remember the history of our nation. We have been “to the brink” many times before, and our people had the ability to pull together through hardship and rise above it, and prosper.

 

How many average  American’s have found themselves thinking 

  • I don’t really count.
  • I have no actual power to change anything.
  • My vote is more a  ‘token of citizenship ‘ than a tool for change.
  • I’m stuck with these people I didn’t even vote for [or...]
  • I got the ones that I voted for and now I’m regretting my choice!”

I think these are really common and valid frustrations. Sadly, today’s USA economic situation is not a cure for pessimism:

1. 4.1 Billion Dollars A Day of Debt - My brain just exploded trying to comprehend this

2. Ineffective Congressional leadership: If you ever choose to listen to the endless debates on the floor of the House or the Senate. [yep, I tune in to CNN's live coverage of the sessions from time to time  - I recommend it, if only because it will make your job and coworkers seem so much easier] basically, it’s all talk and no action [and a lot of posing for the camera]. In today’s debate [which I listened to for over an hour until my nerves couldn't take the grandstanding and double-speak over the latest "Government Shutdown" threat] , one Senator lamented:

“We are always debating things that should have been decided a long time ago” - Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee

From my perspective, our politicians can only agree on one thing: America is in a big scary mess, and she needs help getting cleaned up as soon as possible. As for which cleaning solutions to use, the method of cleaning, and who will do the actual clean-up work? Oh no, they’re right back to bickering, disagreeing and stalling again – and often over ridiculous minutia! For example, today the entire process was brought to an abrupt standstill due to a Senator [I don't remember who] requested to speak for 15 minutes instead of his allotment of 10. After being given initial approval, there erupted murmuring and then arguement, debating and whining about how unfair the allotment was, and that if he got extra time then everyone should get extra time. Eventually [after wasting at least 10 minutes of the initial 15 that was originally asked for] the motion was reversed, the extra 5 denied, and the Senator began his 10 minutes! [the whole thing reminded me of a reality show being staged in a Kindergarten]

To an average law-abiding citizen like me, it’s a puzzle why none of these generally brilliant,  expensively dressed, well educated, and exceptionally experienced leaders seem to have a clue how to effectively solve problems! In fact, more often than not they create more problems for the next group to have to deal with. [I know there are a lot of extraneous reasons attached to why these guys can't do their job the way we would like -  which we could discuss and debate, but let's not and say we did, OK?]

3. Drowning In Debt: 

If we were to cut all of our “discretionary spending”, [and actually agree on what fell under the category of "discretionary"]  including defense spending [which is officially considered "discretionary"] we STILL could not balance our budget.

Perhaps one speaker came closest to the mark in his allotted 10 minutes when he postured:

 ‘”The question we must ask ourselves is, How do we get better results for less money?. . . The answer is that we must replace a culture of spending with a culture of thrift.” – Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware

It is often said that to make change happen, we have to “Be The Change“. So, what does that really mean for you or me? Most of us won’t study politics, run for office, spend copious amounts of time writing letters to lobby for a cause, or march in protest on the Mall in Washington DC. We are all too busy living! We work day-to-day to make ends meet, we are raising our children, and caring for our elderly parents, and doing community service and attending church or other social events…in other words, we are being average citizens of a vast nation. 

So, now for the “meat and potatoes” of this post – i.e. THE POINT! [Did you think I'd ever have one?]

I think the only way we will ever heal our Nation is from the inside out. Both financially, and spiritually. The President of the United States of America, the Congress and the Senate, our State and local leaders can only go so far to help people who won’t help themselves.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Apostle

It starts with small and simple things. Like, making a personal commitment to ask ourselves “Is this a NEED, or a WANT?” when we consider buying the red nail polish, or the red Corvette. Is there something else more economical I can use as a substitute? Do I already own something similar? Can I make do without it? In other words, striving to build a “Culture of Thrift“.  In the 2004 April General Conference, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles gave timely and inspired council about the danger of debt in his talk “Earthly Debts, Heavenly Debts“..

“One day a man approached the Savior and asked Him to intervene in a family dispute. “Master, speak to my brother,” he pleaded, “that he divide the inheritance with me.”

The Savior refused to take sides on this issue, but He did teach an important lesson. “Beware of covetousness,” He told him, “for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. (Luke 12: 13. 15) 

Brothers and sisters, beware of covetousness. It is one of the great afflictions of these latter days. It creates greed and resentment. Often it leads to bondage, heartbreak, and crushing, grinding debt.”

. . .

Elder Wirthlin reminds us of the many times modern prophets have warned and counselled us on this subject. Here’s a sampler:

President Heber J. Grant:  “From my earliest recollections, from the days of Brigham Young until now, I have listened to men standing in the pulpit … urging the people not to run into debt; and I believe that the great majority of all our troubles today is caused through the failure to carry out that counsel.”  – Oct 1921 

President Ezra Taft Benson:  “Do not leave yourself or your family unprotected against financial storms. … Build up savings.” – Feb 1962

President Harold B. Lee:  “Not only should we teach men to get out of debt but we should teach them likewise to stay out of debt.” – 1996 

President Gordon B. Hinckley:  “Many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings. …

“… I urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt to the extent possible. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage.” – Nov 1998

Then, Elder Wirthlin gives 5 key steps to financial freedom

  1. Pay Your Tithes to the Lord
  2. Spend Less Than You Earn
  3. Learn To Save
  4. Honor Your Financial Obligations
  5. Teach Your Children To Follow Your Example

Solid, sound advice for anyone. It’s perfect in its simplicity, but sometimes the most “simple” things are the most difficult to follow.

I am not a financial expert, nor a “good example” of how to be financially free. Mr. Mo and I  have struggled all 21+ years of our marriage with our finances. We’ve suffered through a lot of financial hardships that were not connected to spending sprees or trying to keep up with the Joneses…but rather, those unpredictable crises so many are dealing with, such as long periods of unemployment, serious illness accompanied by large medical bills, unexpected expenses [the car breaking down, the basement flooding, the random bill come due which we didn't remember...]. Let’s face it, just when you seem to be getting ahead, chances are 90% likely  another financial whammy is preparing to hit. But, I do know that there are ways that we can be prepared for these unforseen circumstances. It’s covered by #2 and #3 above. I also have a very strong testimony of giving to “God what is Gods” The Law of Tithing is a blessing and privilege to keep.  No matter what we have been through in life or how little money we had, Mr. Mo and I made a commitment to always pay our tithing to the Lord first before anything else, and interestingly enough, everything would always work out. Even when the math would clearly say it wouldn’t. No, paying Tithing didn’t make us rich, but we always had food on our table and beds to sleep in and many unseen blessings such as greater peace and love in our home.

 In the end, we learn that there is more to life than things, and there are some things that money cannot buy which are the most precious things of all.

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – Matt 6: 20-21

No matter how bad things become, whether it’s political or personal, our problems never seem as bad when we reflect on all the good. So, What is an American  to do? . . . or a Japanese, or a Libyan, or an African, or an Australian, or a “fill in the blank nationality”….to do?!

Perhaps a good place to start, is simply to remember to keep counting more than sheep.

4 thoughts on “What Is An American To Do?

  1. MoSop, thank you for this thoughtful and timely post about government and personal responsibility. It is very well done and most appreciated! I will in gratitude share it with my Facebook friends, too. . . Every ONE of us can make a difference, especially if we respond righteously and appropriate to the challenges ahead of our nation and individual families. . .

    The Tabernacle Choir hymns for April General Conference were beautiful and a spiritual blessing for our congregations. Thanks again for your service and sacrifices in that glorious organization, as well.

    Happy spring to you and your family, my online friend!

  2. I appreciate your sentiments and hope that people will be encouraged to be more positive and proactive in making a difference, both in their personal and family lives and in their community and government. Sometimes it seems to me that LDS people (and perhaps others of the Christian persuasion) look forward a little TOO much to the Second Coming and use these troubled last days as an excuse to stop caring about their civic duty and being the change they want to see in the world. They are waiting for Jesus to come and set everything right again, rather than taking up the reigns of personal responsibility. I too believe that we can rise to greatness and solve our problems, as generations before us have done. We must set the example for our children as well.

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