Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our Golden Age Is Still to Come

One of the ideas of the tea party types that bothers me is the seeming obsession that things were better in a mythical past. They go on about the inspired founders and how he need to get back to those ideals completely ignoring things like, well, slavery. It's not just a political thing but a cultural and sometimes religious idea that somehow everything used to be so much better and now we are heading for some kind of apocalyptic reckoning for all our current evils. Maybe it's part of human nature to idealize the past, and maybe it's a personality difference I have in that I tend to idealize the future. But it sure makes me feel better about life and my place in it to maintain the hope of a better world ahead.

It was another article from the Atlantic that caught my attention on this. It's an interesting analysis that Americans are actually more similar in political ideology than we are different. We take a lot for granted that we don't even recognize. And most that we take for granted is positive in the sense that it is the basis for our Western, liberal (yes, liberal) political thought. What unites us is greater than what divides us. (hmm. I probably should have put that it quotes. I think one of our Presidents has said something like that.)

It seems to fit with the uniquely LDS belief in a promise of Zion and a New Jerusalem to be built on this continent. Yet even that is not all that unique as there is that hopeful strain in American thought that we have been attempting to build that shining city on the hill from the time of Plymouth Rock through modern days as reminded by President Reagan. We fail frequently, and we keep trying. And there was that directly-expressed purpose of the founders, not looking backward, but forward to that "More Perfect Union." We've been making some progress for more than 200 years. Lincoln and the Civil War Amendments helped a lot with that. And we have more to do yet.

And because it's my blog, I can mix politics with religion a little. When I saw that article it reminded me of Elder Bednar. He came to our Stake just a few weeks before he was called to be an apostle. He was the visiting authority since he was a Seventy, and he spoke very forcefully and positively about President Hinckley's teachings reflected in his latest conference talk at that time in that while we live in a day when there is so much sin and terrible evil in the world, we also were in the greatest time of history looking forward to a bright future. President Hinckley summed up this way:
But this does not put us in a position of superiority. Rather, it should humble us. It places up us an unforgiving responsibility to reach out with concern for all others in the Spirit of the Master, who taught, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matt. 19:19). We must cast out self-righteousness and rise above petty self-interest.
We must do all that is required in moving forward the work of the Lord in building his kingdom in the earth. We can never compromise the doctrine which has come through revelation, but we can live and work with others, respecting their beliefs and admiring their virtues, joining hands in opposition to the sophistries, the quarrels, the hatred--those perils which have been with man from the beginning. 
Without surrendering any element of our doctrine, we can be neighborly, we can be helpful, we can be kind and generous.
We of this generation are the end harvest of all that has gone before. It is not enough to simply be known as a member of this Church. A solemn obligation rests upon us. Let us face it and work at it.
We must live as true followers of the Christ, with charity toward all, returning good for evil, teaching by example the ways of the Lord, and accomplishing the vast service He has outlined for us. 
President Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Address, Sunday Morning Session, April 2004.
Elder Bednar would demonstrate the modern situation with a nod to Dickens as well as President Hinckley by stretching out one hand for the worst of times and one hand for the best of times to show that we had the extremes before us.

And the choice is ours.

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