Monday, September 29, 2014

Monuments and Memorials, Part IV

This is the fourth (final) part of “What I Did on My Just-Past-Summer Vacation,” to Washington, DC. The significant element of this trip was how frequently we encountered reverence—for the ideas of freedom and civilization, and for the great people who brought those things to us, out of a world of tyranny and savagery.
The first three parts covered mainly individuals: Part I was Thomas Jefferson; Part II was Abraham Lincoln; Part III was George Washington. This final post will cover a number of people and places I’m glad we got to experience, and I want to share, at least with a photo and a mention.
White House front portico, from Pennsylvania Avenue
We saw the White House from the front and the back. To tour inside these days requires a special invitation from your Congressman, arranged well ahead of time. This was four days before some crazy person jumped the fence and made it inside the front door, which was a huge security breach. With all the security we saw, it’s hard to imagine that happening. We also toured the beautiful White House Visitors Center, about a block away—which was the first place to require inspection on the way it.

White House, back view, where the inauguration takes place

National Archives, where you can see the actual
Declaration of Independence and Constitution
No photos were allowed inside the Archives, so I just have to remember. The security guard standing next to the Constitution talked with us, about the various signatures and other details. He had an accent, so I asked where he was from. As I assumed, he had become a citizen, which was required in order to work there. He was from Ghana, but now he is American, and very proud of it. And he may know our history better than most of us born here.
"Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty"
aside the entrance to the National Archives
Inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
We got to witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This was one of the most reverent moments of our trip. We all stood, in silence, throughout. The ceremony takes place whether people are there or not. They revere those sacred dead; we are invited to join them in that honor. We felt privileged to witness it.

Changing of the Guard
at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Retiring the Flag at Arlington Cemetery
After the ceremony, we were waiting for our tour bus, and I ran off to take a few more photos. And I noticed this additional ceremony, the retiring of the flag in early evening. There was no crowd around. The soldiers were doing the honorable ceremony, because that’s what they do. I took the photo from a distance; I was glad I got to see this sacred moment.


Among the Acres of Graves at Arlington Cemetery
I know it doesn’t sound like a thrilling vacation to go to a cemetery, but Arlington Cemetery is worth experiencing. It’s vast, and beautiful, and sacred.

JFK Grave, Eternal Flame
The eternal flame, marking the grave of John F. Kennedy, is actually quite simple and understated.

"Ask not what your country can do for you,
but Ask what you can do for your country..."
near JFK's Eternal Flame
In the wall behind the marker are some of his quotes, carved in the stone. This is my favorite.

Vietnam Memorial Wall

The Vietnam Memorial Wall is most impressive maybe because of its length, full of names of those lost in service in that war.

Korean War Memorial
On the opposite side of the Lincoln Memorial is this Korean War Memorial. It also has a reflective wall, this one with faces looking out. The wall is alongside a garden of statues, soldiers walking through undergrowth, as you might have seen them in action. I hadn’t been aware of this memorial before the trip. But I saw it in a scene of a TV show (Covert Affairs) after returning home. This was another place I really felt the reverence. Maybe it relates to having a son stationed in Korea this year.

Iwo Jima Monument
The Iwo Jima Monument relates to World War II. It is located just outside the Arlington Cemetery. We saw it just before sunset, which made photography a challenge, but the sky toward the sun was stunning. This photo is taken with back to the sun.

MLK Monument, viewed from across the tide pool
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is relatively new. It is along the tide pool, which starts with the Jefferson Memorial, then the FDR Memorial, and then the MLK Memorial, before you get to Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pond.  It’s a long, but not impossible, walk.

That's me, standing strong with
Martin Luther King
on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
This stone, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, marks where MLK gave his “I Have a Dream” Speech.

World War II Memorial
At the end of the reflecting pool, opposite the Lincoln Memorial, and before the grassy hill leading to the Washington Monument, is the relatively new World War II Memorial. It’s a beautiful, huge circle of pillars, identifying each of the states and territories that participated, all surrounding a huge fountain. We arrived as some tour busses arrived. We were after schools had started, so we saw more older visitors than usual. But at this one, there was an unusual number of wheelchairs. And we realized these were WWII vets, coming here to see the memorial that honored them. Some were in tears. And so was I. Being there, with them, was one of my favorite memories of the trip. My dad served in WWII. He passed away several years ago, at age 91. So I’m thinking our few remaining WWII vets are getting near the limit of being able to come.
What was remarkable about this trip to Washington, DC, was how little we heard the news or politics while in our nation’s capital. It was a great respite. And maybe it would do us all good to look to the ideas of our founding, and the people who staked their lives on those ideas, and go resolutely in that direction.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Monuments and Memorials, Part III

This is part III in recounting a trip to Washington, DC, where we encountered people and places worth reverencing. In Part I we went to the Jefferson Memorial. In Part II we covered Lincoln. In Part III we’ll remember George Washington. The next part will cover a few other places not connected to a single individual.

We didn’t manage to go up in the Washington Monument; transportation and timing got in the way, so that will have to wait for another trip. But the Washington Monument was visible from almost every direction. We saw it from the Jefferson Memorial, from the Lincoln Memorial, from Arlington Cemetery, from the White House, and from the Capitol.
The Washington Monument,  view from the Lincoln Memorial on the Mall

The clean lines and extraordinary height of the monument make it look modern. But the obelisk is actually an ancient Greek design, a four-sided structure rising to a point. It is the tallest stone structure and tallest obelisk in the world, at 555 feet and 5 ½ inches.
[For you Texans, the San Jacinto Monument, also an obelisk, is 567.31 feet tall. Permission to exceed the height of the Washington Monument was never given; the design was submitted, and they said, “Oh, and we’ll just put a star on top.” It is the star that puts it over height, so we’ll let the claim of tallest obelisk stand with the Washington Monument, even though we know everything’s bigger in Texas.]
The monument wasn’t actually built until after Washington’s death in 1799, not even fully designed until the 1830s. But the intention to build a monument was set during his lifetime. So, at least according to one of our tour guides, that is why it is called a monument, while so many other sites are memorials.
The place to get to know the real George Washington is his home, about 16 miles south of the capitol (about 8 miles south of Arlington, VA). We went to Mount Vernon on Thursday, by taxi—my first taxi ever. And if there was nothing else to know about George Washington, we would know from his estate that he was a man who loved civilization. He loved family. He loved God. He loved work, industriousness, and attention to detail.
Mount Vernon, George Washington's home
He broke his own horses, and was considered one of the best horsemen of his day. He personally selected breeding sheep to produce the finest wool, which they spun on site. Mount Vernon was a self-sustaining plantation, with many of the same services of a small town. It had a blacksmith, a saddlery and stables and coach house, a paint cellar—meant for the continuing repainting and maintenance of the many buildings. It had orchard lands, woods preserved for hunting, acres for farming, kitchen gardens, flower gardens, and even decorative hedges in a sort of maze.
Washington was one of the wealthiest colonists—and then early Americans. Much of his wealth came into the family with his marriage to the widow Martha Custis. But Mount Vernon was his family home, inherited from his father. The house started much smaller. A second story, as well as right and left wings, were added eventually, and also a kitchen separated by a covered walkway. A formal parlor was the last portion completed, after the presidency, during which there were only a few years to enjoy it before his death.
There's a covered walkway on each side of the house, leading to outbuildings
such as the kitchen. Out back there's a clear panoramic view
of the Potomoc River, pretty much as Washington would have viewed it.
He met Martha while on a military errand, when he was about 26, and found her both beautiful and good company. She had two young children. The daughter died after a prolonged illness, after which Martha began bringing supplies to the soldiers in winter quarters during the Revolutionary War. The son grew up and provided grandchildren that were a special delight to Granddad George Washington. The couple, by all accounts, had a loving and strong marriage relationship. But they did not have any additional children, so he always treated Martha’s offspring as he would his own.
He was a reluctant but extraordinarily brave warrior. It was said of him that he could not be killed. In one battle his clothing was hit with four balls, without any injuries to him. I don’t know if he knew for certain what God was planning for him, but it seems in retrospect that God granted him protection because of a spoken or unspoken promise to lead the new, free nation without any hunger for power.
The weather vane, atop the cupola,
has a dove holding an olive branch,
representing peace--Washington's design request
A young George Washington took it upon himself to develop the habits of good character. He had lists of behavior to practice and follow, until such habits could become natural to him. He also educated himself in a wide variety of subjects. He had a collection of books on landscape design that guided him in designing his own beautiful grounds. He loved and appreciated good music. He purchased paintings, which he displayed gallery style in is formal parlor, particularly favoring landscapes. Also, he read widely and understood the philosophies that went into the founding documents.
When I was growing up, there wasn’t a President’s Day; there were two significant birthdays in February, one for Lincoln, and one for Washington. We didn’t stay home from school to celebrate. We studied these men in school. I think our students could still benefit from such study—even more than one day a year.
But there has been a tendency, in recent decades, to try to point out America’s flaws. Among such things is the dismissal of Washington’s significance because he was a slaveholder. I would not disagree, even after seeing the relatively clean and spacious bunkhouses used for his slaves, that the practice is out of synch with his character. So I’d like to take a minute to talk about that.
Washington grew up in a time and place in which societal stratification was normal. They were subject to royalty, and to the noblemen governors appointed by royalty. Originally, the fight was for that royalty to provide for the rights long guaranteed in English law, rights that were being abrogated. If England’s King George had corrected the abuses, there would not have been a breaking away. Re-read the Declaration of Independence; they had tried all reconciliations first.
The level of civilization reached by the colonists was mixed with this stratification—a southern hemisphere concept on the Spherical Model. In addition, the practice of slavery was not invented by the colonists, but was centuries old in Britain and throughout most of the world. That some people were superior by birth than other people was understood as a given.
It wasn’t until the philosophical understanding of God-given natural rights became the basis for self-rule for the new America that stratification began to be questioned. Early on there were colonies against slavery, for religious reasons, but also for social reasons. The way northern towns were set up was very different from the southern plantations. More entrepreneurial, less brute labor intensive.
George Washington grew up on a southern plantation. So, while we’d like to think that slavery is self-evidently evil, the evil of it dawned slowly—as people began thinking about freedom and equality before the law. In this atmosphere of thought, the blessedly good George Washington came to realize that slavery was wrong. It didn’t fit in a world of freedom and equality.
There were only a few years following his presidency, where he could retire to repose in his family home. During those short years, he re-wrote his will, arranging for all of his slaves to be given their freedom, upon the death of his wife, Martha. He wanted to assure that she was well cared for. However, Martha, knowing what her husband believed, and feeling herself well-enough off, immediately set them free upon his death, rather than waiting.
Even in this I believe George Washington is an example of civilization. He came to see something in his life that didn’t belong in the northern hemisphere zone of freedom, prosperity, and civilization. So he corrected it in his own life, where he had influence to do so. Start building freedom and civilization at home first. And extend out from there, as God expands our circle of influence, so others enjoy the blessings of civilization that we enjoy. That is the pattern for us still, because we're still finding parts of our world that can't cohabit with freedom, prosperity, and civilization.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Monuments and Memorials, Part II

I’m traveloguing last week’s trip to Washington, DC, going by way of the great people worth revering. Monday was on Thomas Jefferson. Today we honor Abraham Lincoln. I expect there will be at least two more parts to come.
We had a few minutes before our tour trolley arrived Monday morning, so we quickly walked through the Ford Theater—yes, that Ford Theater—which was just across the street from our starting place. They have memorialized the box in which President Lincoln was assassinated, and have a more general museum downstairs as well.
President Lincoln's box at the Ford Theater
There was a section of the museum on the various generals of the Civil War, which was interesting. And there was a fair amount on the Lincoln family in the White House. Other than what George Washington went through that winter at Valley Forge, well before his presidency, I don’t know if a US president ever went through a more stressful and precarious time than Lincoln did during his presidency. It is hard to imagine what would have happened without his resolute leadership in getting disagreeing sides to come together. Such circumstances with our current president would have meant total dissolution. God blessed us with Lincoln at that time. Praying that God has prepared such a person for our immediate future. (I wrote about Lincoln, in relation to "Ultimate Right and Wrong," September 14, 2011.)
The Lincoln Memorial is built to look something like a Greek Parthenon.
Lincoln Memorial, approaching from the left side
This larger-than-life statue sits looking out.
The way the monuments are set up, the Lincoln memorial is at one end. There is the reflecting pond straight ahead of him, toward the Washington Monument, with the White House beyond, and the Capitol building at the far end. There’s a word for such a view—the aspect. It is stunning, the symmetry and beauty of this aspect, referred to as the Washington Mall. It says civilization in every tree and stone in the arrangement.
View from the Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln was both brilliant and brief in words. The walls to his left and right have immortalized in stone his Gettysburg Address—which daughter Social Sphere and I memorized as part of her homeschooling—and also his Second Inaugural Address. These are words worth immortalizing, along with a man worth remembering through the ages.
The Gettysburg Address, at the Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address, at the Lincoln Memorial

Friday, September 19, 2014

Monuments and Memorials, Part I

I just spent the week in Washington, DC—my first trip there. We played tourist and took hundreds photos (800, to be exact). The Constitution was signed September 17th, and we saw the actual document in the National Archives on the 16th. I geeked out a little.
So, if you’ve ever wondered why some things are called monuments, and others are memorials, here’s the difference: A memorial is for someone after they have died—to remember them. A monument is to honor a person still living. So…the Washington Monument was begun to honor our first US President, George Washington, while he was still alive.
If there was a theme for this trip, it was reverence. As the children in our church sing, “Reverence is more than just quietly sitting.” In our case it involved walking, briskly, about eight miles a day. That is normal for a vacation with Mr. Spherical Model, as the kids can attest. I am stiff and sore, and will take some days to recover. But, there were so many places where it was natural to be reverent.
A sign at Arlington Cemetery says it directly: “Silence and Respect.” During the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the sergeant directed that it is expected we will be silent—and stand—throughout the entirety of the ceremony. There was no listing of “or else” and consequences. There was simply the statement and the expectation. For those who love liberty and civilization, that is sufficient.
There is much I want to share, and I’m not sure how to organize it all yet. For now I’m thinking of going with a main founder per post, more or less in the order we encountered them. Several things they had in common: personal character and decency, honor toward God, skill and learning, and appreciation for all things beautiful and civilized.
First we’ll go to the Jefferson Memorial. This great renaissance man of the 18th Century stands in the center of a circular open building (with museum on the lower floors), an imposing 19 feet tall. He looks toward the Capitol and White House, to keep an eye on things.
My personal quote collection already holds a share of Thomas Jefferson’s words, but they were even more striking carved in stone on marble walls. I attempted to photograph them to bring that sense of awe back for myself.
To summarize, Jefferson knew God as his guide, he knew God as the source of our rights and liberties, and he knew learning becomes wisdom under God's guidance.  I’ll share a few of the quotes in photos. These first four are from the walls of the memorial, surrounding him. You'll recognize this first one from the Declaration of Independence, which he had the skill to put into words and to pen.
in the Jefferson Memorial,
from the Declaration of Independence
Freedom of religion is essential.
Keep the Constitution sacred, and unchanged as much as possible.
Liberties are a gift from God.
Overhead, around the bottom of the dome, it reads, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” It took four photos to capture it, so I’ll spare you.
Inside the museum, this is above the door; he knew, even then, what we clearly see today.


And this is a replica (with some actual artifacts) from his study.
God knew when we needed Thomas Jefferson, and prepared him for that particular time. I pray God is preparing another Thomas Jefferson-quality person for our day.

In Part II we'll consider Lincoln, among other notable memorials.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The I Stands for ...

The president has spent the last two 9/11s giving speeches tepidly jumping into the Middle East chaos. In 2013, he suggested we maybe support Syrian rebels against Assad. He didn’t really build the case for it (and, as we see now, going his way would have just put ISIS in power sooner, with our blessing). This year he announced that we would be solving the ISIS problem (he called it ISIL—which we will discuss henceforth). He said it would be a broad coalition—of yet-to-be-contacted world leaders and their countries. We would not, he emphasized, send boots on the ground, except for 475, which would be added to the 450 put there the last couple of months—who would be doing unidentified non-soldierly things, maybe training, maybe handing out food and water? Not sure.
In short, this year’s speech was as inconsequential as last year’s. Not sure what we were supposed to notice, but I noticed another one of those things where the president says things differently. And maybe he has a reason. Not sure.
ISIS stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which is the terrorist organization that has gained ground in mainly Iraq and Syria, well-funded, growing, and savage. ISIS is the term adopted by most news outlets to refer to this self-described “state.” *
Beyond other non-content of the speech, one of the oddest things the president said was, "ISIL is not Islamic." Um. Yes. Yes, it is.

He uses the acronym--one of them--that starts with "I is for Islamic." But he defines it as something else. Here's the statement in context from the transcript: "Now let's make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state."

He is wrong about the definition of religion. Historically many have killed, beheaded, sacrificed and enslaved innocents. Those aren't civilized organizations, but they are organizations that use religious beliefs to justify their savagery. You don't stop them by defining their beliefs as not religious. They won't turn 180 degrees and say, "You mean we weren't doing these atrocities because of our beliefs about our god? Our bad. Oops. Sorry." More likely they either ignore the blather or set out to prove their beliefs in bigger and uglier ways.

And I might agree they aren't a recognized state, but they are declaring themselves one, and the president is using an acronym acknowledging their declaration.

The use of ISIL instead of ISIS avoids reference to Syria. The L refers to Levant, a way of saying "and the surrounding general area." He may be refusing to say the problem has spread significantly into Syria, but the word he uses actually gives greater area to the terrorist enemy, rather than less. With this president, we never know whether he knows what he'says saying and means it or is just awkwardly incoherent. But he is consistent.

I would like to give an attempt to possibly understand the "not religious" assertion.

I belong to a religion with many detractors, and some splinter groups. Several years ago a group calling themselves FLDS (fundamentalist latter-day saints) showed up in rural Texas. This group did not ever associate with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's members had not previously been members of my church. They hijacked the name just a few decades ago and have beliefs nothing like mine. It made sense to make it clear these were not fundamentalist Mormons or any other word for Mormon. I knew it. I preferred that others knew it. Media was not particularly helpful.

Here's the comparison. It may be that these ISIS terrorists are simply hijacking the name of Islam, thus maligning the millions of peaceful Muslims who want it known they don't believe the same things at all. I hope it is a situation like that, and that real Muslims will be successful in declaring the differences.

Glenn Foden editorial cartoon

This past Saturday, Mr. Spherical Model had breakfast with a client visiting from Iraq. He assured that the people of Iraq want ISIS gone. They did see that the previous regime was too corrupt, into cronyism. The president needed replacing. But with someone who would ensure freedom and prosperity, not another tyranny. One oddity was having to fly over ISIS held territory to get to a consulate that would grant his visa for this trip, because the one in Bagdad was closed down from the danger.

Rick McKee political cartoon 9-11-2014

A Mormon friend posted the above cartoon on Facebook and added, “Hey, we do have a lot in common. When someone mocks our sacred scriptures, such as by creating a satirical Broadway play, we too decide that we must riot in the streets, burn flags, and kill all of the infidels. Oh, wait...”

What actually happened? The Church bought up advertising space in the program that said, “You’ve seen the play. Now read the book.” Genius. You might even say God inspired that reaction.

* Good explanation here:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

We Still Remember

It’s always good to wake up on a 9/11 anniversary and find the world continues. That is a blessing. Two years ago it was a blessing we didn’t get; that was the Benghazi attack, along with the administration’s lying about it not being perpetrated by Muslim extremists, for reasons still not clear.
There is plenty of unrest today, in the Middle East and elsewhere. But, so far today, no attack on America has hit the news.
So I’ll take the day to share some images of remembrance.
My favorite continues to be “Out of the Ashes,” painted by Ken Turner.

"Out of the Ashes" by Ken Turner

And next to that is the photo of responders posting a flag among the rubble.
photo by 2001 The Record/Getty Images

Today I’m adding a few favorites I found posted on Facebook. My apologies if I can’t find original sources; my intent is simply to pass along the honor intended by those who posted.

from my friend Janet's Instagram, posted on Facebook

posted by Gov. Rick Perry on Facebook

posted by Sen. Ted Cruz on Facebook

posted by Bryan Preston of PJ Media on Facebook
with the comment "still angry"

logo for the day for Not on This Watch Facebook page

another image from Not on This Watch on Facebook
from my friend LaDonna's Facebook
I love the simplicity of this one

One young friend posted this less familiar verse of our national anthem, which is worth repeating:  
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
 Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
 Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
 Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
 Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
 And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
 And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
 O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

I flew the flag today. This is not a holiday, but it has become a holy day—because we make it so. It is a day we remember who we are as Americans, as civilized people, standing up against tyranny and savagery. Giving up, giving in—is not an option. We will not rest from fighting that war until the Savior returns to reign personally upon the earth.

Monday, September 8, 2014


There’s a word you might not be in the habit of using, at least in this particular way—that will help in understanding direction, either up toward civilization or down toward savagery.

Agency, sometimes combined with the word free, as in free agency, is our word for the day. You’ve probably encountered it when sports professionals leave a team and become free agents, open to a contract with another team. That might be the limit of how you've used it. Unless you’re Mormon. We talk about the word a lot, to mean “the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and ‘to act for [ourselves] and not to be acted upon.’”[i]
There’s a story—the oldest story—behind the concept of agency, from before the world was made. It’s the story John Milton refers to in Paradise Lost. It’s in the Bible, in Jude; Revelation 12; Job 38; Isaiah 14; as well as some additional Mormon scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 29 and 76; Pearl of Great Price books of Moses and Abraham.
Satan, banished from Heaven, to the earth
Paradise Lost illustration by Gustave Dore
That is to say, I am not coming up with this out of whole cloth. With that prelude, here’s my retelling.
Long ago, before the world was, God the Father met in heaven with his spirit children to present His plan. He would create a world for His children, where they could receive a body, learn to choose right from wrong, and progress as His children. The plan included choosing to go to the earth, which would be separated from God’s presence, where the children would be tested and tried. And because they would make errors, and be no longer perfectly clean, they would need a way back, so there would be a Savior provided, who would live a perfect life and then suffer for the sins of the world, overcoming death and opening the way for all who repented to return to heaven, to their Father.
Father asked who would be willing to become our Savior. There were two responses.
One was from the spirit brother we called Lucifer, who said, “Send me. I will make sure no children are lost. I will take from them their agency—their free will—so they will make no mistakes and can all return unchanged. But I insist that, for my success, I be given all the glory.”
Another said, “Send me. I will follow Thy plan, and the glory be Thine.” This was the spirit brother we call Jesus Christ. The Father chose the Son who would follow His plan. It was essential to His plan that His children be given their agency, so that they would learn to choose good over evil. That is the only way they could become more than they were in the beginning. God would force no one back to Heaven.
Lucifer was angry that Father did not forego His original plan and go with Lucifer’s pointless, no-growth plan. And Lucifer rebelled against the Father. It may be that, because he was unwilling to suffer for the sins of others, he assumed no one would do such a thing—so the only workable way was to take away free will, to coerce. Or it may be simply that he was looking for a way to gain glory without sacrifice—the first con, trying to get something for nothing.[ii]
He used his persuasion to gain many followers—one third of the hosts of heaven. These chose never to be born to the earth, and to rebel against God. For this they were cast out of heaven. They are the cause of evil we face on this earth—trying to make us miserable like unto themselves. Their leader, Lucifer, is called Satan here. He continues to try to take away our agency—convincing us we have no control over our passions, no control over any good coming in our lives, no control over addictive substances and behaviors.
He is subtle and cunning. But he can only gain our free agency if we give it up to him.

So, how does this relate to the Spherical Model? Coercion is a southern hemisphere quality. You can’t use coercion to get to the northern hemisphere. Coercion is used by people who either aren’t aware there is a northern hemisphere, and think the only options are between chaotic tyranny and statist tyranny; or who crave to be the controllers and therefore want to stay in the southern hemisphere of tyranny, widespread poverty (except for the elite controllers), and savagery.
For the northern hemisphere, where you find prosperity and civilization, people have to choose to rule themselves. Never in history has a nonreligious or anti-religious people succeeded in self-rule. Individuals, a critical mass of them, have to choose to govern themselves. Government that is granted only limited powers—to protect the God-given rights of the self-governing people—is useful. But, as with fire, requires careful control.
Freedom is required in order to choose goodness. Chosen goodness is required for prosperity to spread and grow. Chosen goodness is required for civilization to develop and spread.
Where there is coercion, there is savagery. No religion or government that coerces adherence can be God’s way; that is Satan’s way. Existence of coercion is a way to tell whether a way of thinking fits in the southern or northern hemisphere.
The most powerful disciplinary tool of a religion should be excommunication, so that the religion can determine its consistent doctrines. But a religion shouldn’t have the right to inflict physical punishment or imprisonment, and certainly not death.
So, the Inquisition, as far as we can tell from history, which used torture to coerce adherence, was savage. Enslaving the nonbelievers in ancient Egypt was savage. Burning nonbelievers to death, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in ancient Babylon, is proof of wrongness.[iii] Throwing Daniel in the lion’s den for his difference in belief is an example of savagery. The Extermination Order allowing for the murder of Mormons in Missouri in the mid-1800s was savage.
Beheading nonbelievers in Iraq is proof that ISIS is savage. It’s ironic that the people trying to coerce the world into thinking as they do call us the Great Satan, while using Satan’s plan to accomplish their savage ends. This is not simply a difference of belief that we should respect; this is an attack upon our agency—a continuation of the War in Heaven, between Lucifer’s plan to gain power and control over us for his personal glory, and Heavenly Father’s plan for our happiness through allowing us to choose good.
Choosing Satan’s way always leads to the misery of coercion, poverty, savagery—and ultimate death. Choosing Father’s way always leads to the happiness of freedom, prosperity, civilization—and ultimate eternal life.
I choose happiness and life.

[i] This definition comes from Robert D. Hales, “Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life,” speech at LDS General Conference, October 2010. He is quoting from the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:26.
[ii] I first heard the “something for nothing” version of this story from David A. Bednar in a conference in Houston in 2010. A similar talk was given by Robert D. Hales in the worldwide General Conference of October of that year (linked in footnote i). I found that the concept of agency is something of a theme for Elder Hales; he has been speaking on that subject for decades.
[iii] The account of the three brothers thrown in the fiery furnace, and saved by angelic help, is found in Daniel 3. Besides various historical evidences of this practice, such as the Salem witch trials, or Joan of Arc, additional incidents of mass execution for difference of belief are recorded in the Book of Mormon: Alma 14; 3 Nephi 1.