“The Savior’s atoning sacrifice—the central act of all human history—is best understood and appreciated when we expressly and clearly connect it to Him.”Russell M Nelson
Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known. Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes.
— Joseph B. Wirthlin
In May of 1895, the ship Teutonic left the port in Liverpool, England, bound for the United States of America. On the ship was a three-year-old girl, Hannah Askew. She and her family were traveling to America to be reunited with her father. The family had moved from England to Australia in 1888, because of the shortage of work in England. Life in Australia, however, was not much better than life in England, so they had moved back to England. When the Panic of 1893 hit, Hannah’s father went to America to find work. He worked sporadically in different jobs until he got a well-paying job in the iron mines near Ishpeming, Michigan. After procuring lodging he sent for his family. Now the family was coming to meet him and begin their new life in the United States.
The ship had rough sailing and Hannah, her brother and sister, and mother were constantly sick. The quarters on the ship were cramped and miserable and she was kept inside for much of the voyage. The family finally arrived in the United States on July 3, 1895, and were welcomed at Ellis Island. That night they stayed at a friend’s house who fed them a dinner of bread and milk. They traveled from New York by train to Michigan and were reunited with their father. Hannah Askew is my great-grandmother and one of the millions of immigrants that came to America in the 1800’s.
As immigrants like Hannah entered New York Harbor, they passed under the welcoming arms of the Statue of Liberty. On the pedestal of the status are these immortal words:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these the homeless tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door!”
The people who came to America were usually not the rich or the famous; they were the tired, the poor, and the wretched seeking a golden door. That golden door was opened for them in America and so they came seeking a golden opportunity an opportunity that was found in the great cotton and wool mills of the large cities, opportunity that was found in the mines, the farms, the west, and the railroad
These immigrants contributed to our culture and much of the richness that we now enjoy. Immigrants from Norway and the Netherlands brought many of our Christmas traditions. Italian immigrants brought some of our favorite foods. Immigrants from Ireland brought their legends of Saint Patrick. Movies were introduced to America by the Russian Jews and the Greeks. The log cabin was introduced by the Swedes, and the Germans organized symphonies and clubs. Because of the diversity of the cultures that are mixed to form the American culture, we have the richest culture in the world. America’s welcome became America’s wealth.
Since the days of the Ellis Island, we have continued to welcome immigrants and their descendants. We have strived to accept and befriend all people into our churches and our schools. We have elected them to public office and befriended them in our neighborhoods.
Although our doors may not be opened as wide as they were in 1895, when my great-grandmother arrived, our hearts are open still. In our hearts America still welcomes the world. We welcome them by carrying their burdens, by lighting their way, by reaching out to them.
The United States has helped people recover from war, and improved living conditions in third world countries. We have been a major contributor in disaster relief throughout the world and have been the intermediaries and helpers of many struggling governments.
In no war in which the United States has been engaged has it seized property or land from an enemy as a treasure of war. Always we have graciously helped the people in countries regain their lives. After World War II, the United States gave Japan millions of dollars to build steel factories and to help restore what had been destroyed by the war. When soviet armies blockaded Berlin, we airlifted thousands of tons of food through the winter to keep the people from starving.
The United States has also played a prominent role in disaster relief around the world. When there were earthquakes in India the US helped immediately. Rescue workers from the US were sent to help. Food was sent from the Red Cross and many religious institutions. When rain waters flooded the country of Bolivia, we again sent workers and food to help the suffering people.
Just as our government reaches out to others, so do our people. As individuals, we welcome the world. The United States is home to thousands of humanitarian organizations that routinely send help and supplies to the poor and needy of the world. In high school I traveled to Peru with one of these organizations. We took simple things such as nails, hammers, crayons, beads, and educational supplies, and we taught them how to use them. We taught them how to build an efficient stove out of mud, and helped put in a water system to help with sanitation problems. We helped them to improve their overall experience of life by taking America’s richness and sharing it with them.
Many other people help the poor and needy people of the world. We have organized groups like the Oulessabougou Alliance whose mission is to help the people of Mali. This organization raises money by selling goods produced by villagers in Mali to people in America. This money then goes back to Mali to pay teachers and to send educational and medical supplies. By helping in this way, they do not make the people dependent on America for leadership and organization. Almost all of the leaders in the alliance are from Mali and will continue to live there and support their country. The founders of the alliance have reached out with their hearts and helped to take the golden door to Mali.
America has welcomed the world in different ways throughout its history. In the 1800’s we welcomed thousands of people to our shores and our way of life. These people brought their culture with them and enriched our culture by it. People still come to America and we should welcome them still. Today we welcome the people of the world into our hearts as we not only welcome them to our shores but also build them up in their native lands and help them better their lives. Our welcome reaches across borders, it embraces all people, it seeks to better the whole world.
This text is a slightly reworked speech that I gave as part of a Independence Day speech competition in 2001. I think it is pertinent today
Today I decided to fly the American flag at my house to celebrate the office of President of the United States of America. In this country we have a remarkable pattern of peacefully transferring power from one president to another. This election was very contentions and divisive and for all that love America I would venture to guess it was saddening and painful in many respects.
However, as we watch the Inauguration of Donald Trump today we should choose to honor the office of the President regardless of our political leanings. Regardless of who we voted for or what we believe to be the correct direction for this country we should remember that the office of President of the United States is one that deserves respect. It is due that respect from the citizens of the country and especially from the person that holds the office.
I did not vote for Trump and I am deeply concerned about the direction he may take our country. Today I hope that we will commit ourselves to doing our all to ensure that this country goes in the right direction. We should choose to do all that we individually can to contribute to this great country and remember that the President is first the servant of the people that elected him.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Abraham Lincoln’s immortal words seem, on this election day, to call to us from the grave. The Civil War had not yet ended when Lincoln spoke these words, yet they were a call to action. Today, as they were in 1865, they are a call for civility, a call for unity, a call for loving our neighbor.
While this election season has drawn out some of the worst in the citizenry of our great nation, it has also drawn out some of the best. I have seen friends thoughtfully and courteously engage with others in discussing the candidates and issues so vitally important in this election. I have seen neighbors kindly entertain conversations about the important problems and the great strengths of our country. I have seen politicians and statesmen stand up for just and true principles before the derisive noise of the popular media and powerful political influence.
Because I subscribe to Lincoln’s dearly held belief that we are better as a unified country, I have decided this election to vote for a man for president who I believe is uniquely qualified to help us achieve that unity – Evan McMullin. Evan McMullin is described quite well by a quote from years ago by a great religious leader and statesman, Ezra Taft Benson, who said: “Unlike the political opportunist, the true statesman values principle above popularity, and works to create popularity for those political principles which are wise and just.” Evan McMulllin is this kind of man. He has taken a stand for our founding principles of individual liberty and our God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He has taken this stand in the face of overwhelming odds and despite very low chances of actually winning the race for the Presidency.
If we as a country are to return to our moral and founding principles, I believe we must stand for what we believe in and cast our individual votes for people that embody those principles. Please don’t just vote against a candidate. Join me and hundreds of thousands of others in voting for Evan McMullin for President of the United States of America.
What do I tell my boys now? Where is the example of standing by values and convictions? Can I trust that my boys will be safe from ridicule and persecution as we camp? How do I help them face the growing evil in the world? These questions and many like them have been crowding my mind this evening after I heard that the Boy Scouts of America decided today to amend it’s long standing adult leadership policy to “[remove] the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees.”
I have been associated with scouting for most of my life. When I was eight-years-old I joined as a cub scout and throughout my youth participated in scouting. I am an Eagle Scout and I have credited my scouting experiences as some that have shaped who I am and the way that I see the world. In my adult life I have continued my association with scouting. The National Eagle Scout association paid for me to go to school through their generous scholarship program. I have served as a merit badge counselor, on the cub committee and I am currently serving as a Scoutmaster in my local troop. I have tried to live the standards outlined in the Scout Oath and the Scout Law and have tried to model these values for the boys that I work with every week.
I am deeply troubled and saddened by the choice of the BSA National Executive Board to allow openly gay scout leaders to serve. I believe that this is the wrong decision for the BSA to make. Scouting is an organization whose methods, I believe, are some of the best at teaching boys strong values. I believe that the principles embodied in the Scout Oath and Law are timeless and moral. Because of this belief, it is hard for me to accept that an organization that has morality and Duty to God at its core could take a step such as this.
There are two reasons that, for me, this is a troubling development. First is the actions taken by the leadership of the organization at the national level and second is my experience with my boys after the membership policy for youth membership changed several years ago. I will address both topics.
Robert Gates Should Have Kept His Word
When Robert Gates was first selected as president of the BSA, he said the following:
“I believe strongly that to re-open the membership issue or try to take last year’s decision to the next step would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement — with the high likelihood neither side would subsequently survive on its own. That is just a fact of life. And who would pay the price for destroying the Boy Scouts of America? Millions of scouts today and scouts yet unborn. We must always put the kids and their interests first. Thus, during my time as President, I will oppose any effort to re-open this issue.” — Robert Gates, 2013, emphasis added
Now, a mere two years later Robert Gates has not only completely reneged on this commitment, but he has actually led the change to re-open this issue that in his own words may “provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement.”
How can I teach my boys that they are to be trustworthy, loyal, and brave when the president of their organization blatantly demonstrates that he is none of these on this important issue? The “reasons” are plenty he says that the policy must change. Sure there are social pressures — there are even lawsuits. There are groups that are openly defaming the Boy Scouts for their policy. However, if there is to be something that destroys the Boy Scouts of America I would much prefer it be pressures from the outside that force the organization to die rather than the organization imploding due to social pressure because we chose not to stand by our moral convictions.
The Boys Were Bullied and Harassed
In 2013, just weeks after the membership policy was amended to allow gay youth in scouting (a change that I understood and even partially agreed with), my boys and I headed to our summer scout camp. We were expecting to have a great week full of water sports, rifle shooting, archery, wilderness survival, rock climbing and just about any other adventure you could want to have as a boy (or as a man for that matter!).
Not more than a day into the program we began to realize the very real effect that the policy change was having on our youth’s experience at camp. While boys were at the water front and when they were in the showers they were taunted and teased by other boys attending camp. They were asked if they were gay. Other boys reviled and persecuted them when they did not want to talk about it and tried to dodge the question. Boys were openly speaking of lewd actions.
Now a certain amount of this can be attributed to boys just being boys. I usually expect to have to deal with a certain amount of potty talk at camp. These things happen when you get a bunch of 12-13 year olds together. This was much, much worse. The staff of the camp was totally at a loss and had no idea how to deal with the problem. They were confronted with the difficulty of the membership policy in their faces, and this ruined camp for many of my boys that year. The actions of the scouts at that camp resulted in multiple reports to scout executives and review by the adult leaders at camp. I am happy to report that we have not had a similar experience in our other years at camp since that experience.
I worry that with this change in policy these types of experiences will come more and more often. I will have to worry about what boys from troops that do allow gay leaders may say or do to my boys. My boys will have to be taught to be resilient and to stand on their own. They will have to be taught that sometimes they have to stand utterly alone in the face of ridicule and political correctness. They will be confronted by questions of sexuality in places and situations that should have been safe havens for these boys.
I hope and pray that I am over reacting and that men and women of good faith can come together and continue to provide the scouting program to my children’s generation. I know that in the end God is at the helm. My church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has long been a proponent of scouting is reviewing its position. I trust that whatever the outcome, God will provide a way for our young men to develop into the men of God that this world so desperately needs.