Rejoice Exceedingly and Give Thanks

TurkeyDinner-thanksgivingToday is thanksgiving and I felt like I should depart from my typical political posts and talk about some of the things that I am grateful for.  First and foremost I am grateful that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am grateful for the knowledge that I have that I am a child of God and that because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ I can repent and return to live with God.  I’m grateful for the prophet Joseph Smith and for his courage and example.  I’m grateful for the restoration of the gospel through him and for the added knowledge this brings to my life about my purpose on this earth and about the importance of family.

I am grateful for my family, for the love and friendship that we have and for the little troubles we have that keep life interesting!  I’m grateful for my awesome friends and roommates and for the support they give to me.  I am surrounded by some of the best people in the world and their examples are a great blessing in my life.

I’m grateful to be getting an education.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have an education. I think its often easy to take education for granted because it is so readily available to all of us.  I’m grateful to know how to read and write.  I’m also grateful that I’ve been blessed to have a good mind so that I can understand and reason about interesting things.

I’m grateful also to be a citizen of this great country.  I know that I often talk about the things that we do wrong but it is a great blessing to live in a country where we have the freedom to speak our minds.  I’m grateful for the freedom to worship the way that I want and the freedom to pursue my goals in life. I’m grateful for the heroes and patriots that founded America and for those that continue to defend her today.  I am grateful for their examples of unselfish service and sacrifice for freedom.

I hope that today, as we eat dinners and spend time with family, that we will all reflect on the many, many blessings that we have.  What are you thankful for?

Family, Freedom, God, and Country

The following is an essay by Hyrum Arnesen, my brother, which won first place in the “America’s Freedom Festival at Provo” essay contest.

No civilization in history has succeeded in maintaining itself. Each one has risen to power, become prosperous, and eventually declined, falling into decay. Can any country escape this fateful cycle? Yes! The Founding Fathers understood the reasons for the downfall of civilizations. They warned the Americans about these dangers, teaching them how they could maintain their freedom. Their formula for freedom included strong families, a willingness to sacrifice, and a strong reliance in God. Building on this foundation will keep our country strong.

For our country to stay strong, its people must be strong. They must be a virtuous, well-taught people if they are to carry on the tradition of freedom in this country. Good families build good people. The teaching in the home cannot be rivaled by any other organization. The Founding Fathers understood this principle. John Adams wrote, “The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families…. How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers?” John and Abigail Adams exemplified the strength of a good family. While John was away in Congress, Abigail wrote constantly to him, supporting him, encouraging him, and prodding him to keep working in his trying circumstances. She helped to shape his ideas about freedom, as he shaped the country’s ideas about freedom. Today, when children learn in their homes about the heritage of freedom in our country, they can fight for it with strength and power.

America was founded on immense sacrifice. Soldiers bled, froze, and suffered extreme trials. Civilians’ homes were burned or used as stables, livestock was scattered, and food was destroyed or used by the British. However, these people were glad to sacrifice for freedom, for “liberty must at all hazards be supported…at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.” The Americans were fierce for freedom. They would not, for any reward, give it up. The soldiers at Valley Forge could have deserted, but instead, they endured their trials knowing that “they that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” This heritage of sacrifice continues today. During the Vietnam war a captured American soldier, carefully stitched an American flag from the threads of his own clothing. When the flag was discovered, it was destroyed and he was severely beaten. Undaunted, as soon as he recovered, he started stitching a new flag—the flag that represented freedom, his country, and his willingness to sacrifice for both.

Throughout all their trials, the Americans maintained a firm reliance on divine providence, trusting that God would help them. This reliance is as vital today as it was then. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.” Similarly, George Washington clarified why America needs a strong reliance on God. He said, “The foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; …the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” Our government, our country cannot stand without a firm reliance in God. This country was founded with His aid. It cannot survive without it. We cannot maintain our freedom if we foolishly throw away our Christian morals and principles. As John Adams said, “Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.”

Following these principles of strong families, sacrifice for freedom, and a firm reliance in God will give America strength. Without these principles, America will decline and fall into decay. With these principles, freedom will be protected and America will remain strong. Strong families create strong individuals, sacrifice protects hard-fought liberty, and a firm reliance in God ensures divine intervention in our behalf. The fateful cycle of civilization is broken and America endures in freedom.

The Answer

This last week and a half I’ve wanted several times to sit down and write about how things in this country need to change. I’ve wanted to point out what we’re doing wrong and point a blaming finger at those who seem to be responsible. I’ve decided, however, that this week none of that really is going to help. I want to present what I believe to be the answer to the problems that face us as a nation, us individually, and us as communities. What is this answer? It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Book of Mormon, a scriptural record of the people of ancient America, describes a people that had similar problems to those that we face. Their government was corrupt, their financial system often came into collapse, there were class distinctions and warfare between ideologically different parties. In the midst of this trouble, however, there was a 400 year period in which these problems disappeared. They disappeared because the entire population believed in and followed the teachings of Jesus Christ the Son of God. The record describes the state of these people as follows:

“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor rumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God” (4 Nephi 1:15-16).

You may think, “It must have been a very complicated process to achieve that level of peace and happiness.” It is not, however, complicated at all. To follow Jesus Christ and thereby attain these blessings is simple. All He asks of us is that we follow His commandments and His gospel. This consists simply of having faith in Jesus Christ, repenting of our sins, being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. I know and testify that any person who follows these simple steps, as outlined and taught in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon, will have peace in their lives and will have the blessings of God even in the midst of these troubling times. I know that we are the literal children of God and that he lives.


This week the California Supreme Court is hearing arguments regarding overturning Proposition 8. As you remember this was the initiative on the ballot in November 2008 that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. There hasn’t been nearly as much publicity about these hearings as there was in November regarding the vote. As you remember the vote then was very polarizing for Californians with the proposition passing with only 52% of the vote. With this in mind I would like to briefly discuss one of the major arguments that is used by the gay and lesbian community to claim their supposed rights to marriage. They claim that the denial of “rights” to them is a form of prejudice. This morning the New York Times reported that “Opponents of Proposition 8 argued that the voters had gone too far in taking away the right to marry from gay men and lesbians, who had been identified by the court in May’s ruling as being historically subjected to prejudice.”

In America we have come to think of the word prejudice as an evil word. We think that because society is prejudiced against someone that that person is by definition being wronged. This is a flawed view. For example, it could be said that I am prejudiced against murderers. I feel it is just for society to take from them their God-given rights to life, liberty, and property. I feel the same way about those who steal, are dishonest in business dealings, etc. Why am I prejudiced against these types of people? Because their choices harm the public good and can harm me personally. The same principle applies to the issues of providing marriage to gay and lesbian couples. Society can rightfully be prejudiced against these people in depriving them of the privilege to marry because in so doing society protects its own good and its own strength. The argument that we are prejudiced against a particular demographic is not sufficient reason to grant them rights or to forbear taking those rights and privileges from them.

The Times further reported that “The lawyer, Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, argued that if the court upheld Proposition 8, same-sex couples would have ‘our outsider status enshrined in our Constitution.’ The right to marry, he said, was inalienable.”

This is simply not true. In simple fact, there is no inalienable “right to marry” given to any citizen of the United States. Marriage is rather a privilege that can be attained by citizens who are willing to live up to the social responsibility and obligations that come along with marriage.

A Father’s Importance

I was watching the news tonight and saw this clip. Every night recently NBC Nightly news has been doing a series entitled “Making a Difference.” Most of the stories they talk about are happy stories about humanitarians or people trying to make their community a better place. Tonight’s message, however, was a telling commentary on our society. It talks about a boy wanting his father and the importance of having a father figure in the home. The boy’s school principle has a very telling quote in the clip. She says, “A young man who is trying to define what it means to be a man and really enter into his manhood, his father would have said to him, ‘Son, this is what it means to be a man: be a person of character, respect yourself and respect others.’”

This is such an interesting thing to have a major news organization show. I hope that the message portrayed in this clip actually does reflect the belief of the majority of Americans because it reflects mine. How can a society that believes this way about the importance of having a father for an African American boy even consider allowing homosexual individuals to marry and raise children? If the benefits of having a father in the home are so dramatic, why does the country get so upset when we “infringe the rights” of homosexuals to marry? The facts are plain. Marriage between a man and a woman is important because of the vital role that a father and a mother play in the development and rearing of their children.

Vote YES on Proposition 8

On November 4, 2008, voters in California will head to the poles to vote on what perhaps is the most important social proposition in the history of our country. Proposition 8 proposes to “amend the California Constitution to specify that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Marriage between a man and a woman is legal recognition of the creation of a new family unit. The family is the basic social and governing unit of society and as such it is important to preserve strength in the family. This strength is best preserved when marriage is between a man and a woman. This has been verified throughout the history of the world. Some people argue that unions between two men or two women should also be recognized as a marriage and therefore as the basis of a family. If this is the case, then this homosexual union must be able to increase or at least equal the general social and governmental benefits that are derived from a traditional heterosexual family with a man and a woman at its head. Recent research shows that this is not the case. There are several benefits, social and otherwise, that are derived from traditional heterosexual marriages that are not present in homosexual unions.

“Marriage between a man and a woman provides, among other things

  1. “The best setting for the safest and most beneficial expression of sexual intimacy (the only safe sex);
  2. “The best environment into which children can be born and reared
  3. “The best security for the status of women
  4. “The strongest and most stable companionate unit of society (and thus the most secure setting for intergenerational transmission of social knowledge and skills)
  5. “A functional and historic social stability that same-sex marriage would undermine
  6. “The seed-ground for democracy and the most important schoolroom for self-government (the best training ground for civic virtue, the ability to forgo personal gratification or immediate profit for the greater welfare of society)
  7. “The basis for intercultural understanding (male-female marriage is one of the few constants across cultures
    and across time).”

In addition to these benefits, it is imperative that we remember that marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God Himself from the beginning of time. Throughout history, as men have disregarded the commandments of God and turned to their own wisdom, calamities and destruction have come upon them. Living prophets in our day have warned, “We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

For these reasons I urge all residents of California to vote YES on Proposition 8 and all others to do all within their power to support this initiative. Make your voice heard in supporting this God-given institution and do not allow the whims and designs of a few to bring calamities and disarray upon our great nation


Center for Studies of the Family, Brigham Young University. (2000). Strengthening Our Families: An In-Depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family. (D. C. Dollahite, Ed.) Salt Lake City, UT, United States of America: Bookcraft.


The Family: A Proclamation to the World