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America “Hangs by a Thread” …Prophetic?

This afternoon to start his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said:

Today, as we start the radio program, America is hanging by a thread.  So we have to see what we can do with a thread.  At the end of the day, our freedom has been assaulted.  This is the kind of change that people did not think they were going to get when they voted for Barack Obama.  Freedom must win the day.

Is this the first indication of a supposed prophetic fulfillment?  Though the Church denied the validity of the claim, many Mormons have heard the prophecy that the constitution would hang by a thread.  Consider the following quotes: (link to article containing these)

Joseph Smith, 10 March 1844:

Even this nation will be on the verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the Constitution is on the brink of ruin this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.

Joseph Smith, “Found among loose sermons” (Can’t verify the date)

The time would come when the constitution and government would hang by a brittle thread and would be ready to fall into other hands but this people the latter-day saints will step forth and save it.

Eliza R. Snow:

“I heard the prophet say, ‘The time will come when the government of these United States will be so nearly overthrown through its corruption, that the Constitution will hang as it were by a single hair, and the Latter-day Saints-the Elders of Israel-will step forward to its rescue and save it.’ “

I can’t say whether or not this current possible constitutional crisis is severe enough to spark the fulfillment of this prophecy.  However, I do believe that our government (probably on both sides of the aisle) has been so corrupted that it is incumbent on good, honorable, and honest people to uphold the Constitution.

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O My Father

Today in Church, we sang the Hymn “O My Father”, a hymn I have sung many times before.  However, I never took the time to read and ponder the lyrics.  I did so today and felt the spirit strongly.  I think the lyrics could be my favorite of all our Hymns .

Lyrics for “O My Father”, LDS Hymnal #292, Eliza R. Snow

O my Father, thou that dwellest
In the high and glorious place,
When shall I regain thy presence
And again behold thy face?
In thy holy habitation,
Did my spirit once reside?
In my first primeval childhood
Was I nurtured near thy side?
For a wise and glorious purpose
Thou hast placed me here on earth
And withheld the recollection
Of my former friends and birth;
Yet ofttimes a secret something
Whispered, “You’re a stranger here,”
And I felt that I had wandered
From a more exalted sphere.
I had learned to call thee Father,
Thru thy Spirit from on high,
But, until the key of knowledge
Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there.
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you.

The personal feeling and conviction in the hymn is inspiring.  It also sends me into deep thoughts and ponderings as it is one of the few published works by the LDS Church that refers to a Heavenly Mother, a belief that I whole heartedly subscribe to.  Here is the wikipedia entry for this hymn.

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By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

Since starting this blog, I have discussed with many people the various theological differences between the LDS Church and Christendom as a whole.  Certainly, the differences are significant and, as has been proven many times, there are many conflicts of belief that seem will never be resolved and we often have to agree to disagree.  For the most part, the comments and conversations I have been party to have been civil and respectful.  Both sides seem to be careful to only discuss doctrinal differences while avoiding criticism of the other person’s faith as a whole and for this I am grateful.  However, there have been many times, both here and on other websites (and, I might add, that I experience just living life in an area where Mormons are few) when people have called the LDS Church the “Church of the Devil” or denigrated our Prophet (more than just question such a reality or the need/doctrinal justification for a Prophet).  We are criticized by many as leading our people to hell and blinding folks from the truth. 

I thought about these views and comments as I watched the General Conference of the LDS Church this past weekend.  It was a weekend of wise and joyous instruction, where we were given the opportunity to hear from those we consider Prophets and other leaders of our faith.  It was the first Conference to which President and Prophet Thomas S. Monson was at the helm and leading up to the Conference I was praying for a confirming feeling or impression that he was indeed called and chosen by God himself, but I will get to that later. 

The one thing that struck me about all the messages delivered this weekend was the humility, wisdom, and optimism the leaders of the Church have.  This was most apparent to me as I attended Priesthood session on Saturday night.  The concluding three speakers, taking up all of the last hour, consisted of the First Presidency.  They all spoke about staying on course and repentence, yet they all took it from very different perspectives.  Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke about the need to stay on direct course and how even a one degree deviation off course can lead to us being extremely lost, President Henry B. Eyring spoke about the doctrine of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood and the need for we Priesthood members to be faithful in fulfilling that covenant, and President Monson spoke on obedience to duty and the need for more faithfulness.  In each of these talks we were essentially called to repentance.  But it was not a call in vanity or rebuke, but a call in love and encouragement.  It was readily apparent that one of the greatest concerns the First Presidency has is the increased prevalence of sexual sin (President Monson had an incredible quote about tolerance, but I don’t have it with me, I will do a post on a few of my favorite quotes later).   As I listened to these fine men speak, I realized that the image that critics of the Church try to paint about our Prophet is in no way accurate.  These men who lead the Church do not do so in a quest for power or to feed their vanity. One just needs to watch and listen to their speeches to understand this.  They lead because they were called by God and out of an unbending faith and dedication to him. 

The phrase “By their Fruits ye Shall Know Them” resounded regularly in my mind.  Indeed, people may criticize our faith and our leaders all they want, but they do so blindly and in vain.  I can understand one choosing not to believe our doctrines or that we are the true Church; I will not criticize one who came to such a conclusion after study and prayer.  However the childish and irrational name calling and denigration of the Church is inaccurate and contrary to all evidence readily available to one who takes the time to study and research.  Indeed, the fruits of our leaders are good and sweet.   I encourage all to take the time to read and consider the words of the Apostles and Prophets, especially if you are not of our faith.  Come and see what truths have been restored and know that Christ’s church with the same organization that existed in his time is again restored to the earth.

Now allow me to close with my testimony of President Monson.   As I said above, I came into Conference praying for a confirmation of his divine calling.  This was the first transfer of authority in the leadership of the Church that I can really remember.  President Hinckley was a giant among men and one whom I loved deeply.  I also had a great affinity for President Monson, but oddly I found it difficult to hold him up to the same pedastal that I put President Hinckley on.  Saturday night was the first talk he delivered in Conference as the head of the Church.  As soon as he stood and started speaking I felt that still small voice and confirming feeling that he was called of God and leads this Church through direct revelation. 

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D. Todd Christofferson Called as New Apostle in LDS Church; New First Presidency Sustained

Interesting, to start General Conference, following the hymn and prayer, President Uchtdorf explained how and why we sustain Church officers and the Church seems to have changed the way in which sustainings occur.   They had the First Presidency stand and sustain the President, First Presidency, and Quorum of the Twelve.  Once that was conculded they had the Twelve arise and sustain the same, then had the first and second quorum of the Seventy stand and sustain, then had the all area seventies, patriarchs, HP and Elders throughout the world stand and sustain the same, following that they had the Aaronic Priesthood arise and sustain, followed by the Relief Society, then Young Women and all other members of the Church stand and sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as previously consitituted.  It was very interesting and the first time they have done that as I recall.   Funny how things change with the changing of a President.

D. Todd Christofferson was called and sustained as the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve.  Elder Christofferson was born on January 24, 1945 in American Fork, Utah.  He was called as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy at the April General Conference, 1993 and in August 1998 he was called to the Presidency of the Seventy.  His latest assignment was presiding over the North America Northwest and North America West areas of the Church.  In his personal life he supported himself and his family as a lawyer.

Here is an interview Reuters did with Elder Christofersson in 2007.

The members of the Church sustained President Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring, and Dieter F. Uchtdorf as Prophets, Seers and Revelators for the first time

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My Thoughts on the Life & Death of Mormon Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley

President Gordon B. Hinckley 

Last night the world lost one of the greatest men ever to live on Earth.  LDS Church President and Prophet, Seer, and Revelator Gordon B. Hinckley passed away.  There is no man to have lived in my short lifetime that was a greater exemplar of faith, love, honesty, integrity, and Christ-like living. 

It is difficult to put into words how I feel personally about the man.  I never had the opportunity to meet him or shake his hand.  The closest I got to him was in 1998 when he spoke in Edmonton, Alberta.   I was serving as a missionary at the time in Calgary and our Mission President allowed us all to travel to Edmonton for the occassion.   I can vividly remember the spirit he carried and brought into the conference hall where the meeting occurred.  I cannot remember what specifically President Hinckley spoke about, nevertheless, I know that I was in the presence of a holy man, a man who literally spoke with our Savior, even Jesus Christ. 

President Hinckley was one of the longest serving President’s of the Church in Mormon’s short history.  He oversaw the largest expansion of Church membership and temple growth.  He made the Temple and provident, Christ-like living the cornerstone of his service.  It was during his tenure that the Lord revealed his plan to make Temple ordinances more readily available to members throughout the world with the plan of building smaller temples that could built in areas with smaller LDS population.   This program allowed more members to receive the saving ordinances and perform such work for their kindred dead.  

President Hinckley has been one of the anchors of the LDS faith over the last half-century.  Having been an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ since the 1960’s, he has had a major role in every major decision since then.  He also largely ran the Church in the late-70’s and through the 80’s when President’s Kimble and Benson had severe health problems that limited their activities.  What a great and wonderful man, he was a kind and loving person and touched millions upon millions of people’s lives for good.

Now, President Hinckley’s death is only sad for those of us whom will miss him dearly, but it is certainly not sad for him.  Pres. Hinckley has returned to that God whom gave us life and he returned in glory and honor.  I am reminded of the closing remarks of Book of Mormon Prophet Enos, in his final statement he said the following:

 27 And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father.

Indeed, President Hinckley is rejoicing and will continue to rejoice.  He will see the Savior’s face with pleasure and will obtain a place in the mansions of our Father.  He has been faithful and dedicated in the service of the Lord and will be saved in his courts on high.

Yet, the greatest reason to not mourn, but to rejoice in the passing of President Hickley is that he is reunited with his beloved wife Marjorie.  What a blessing it is to be sealed with our spouse for time and all eternity, not just “till death do us part.”  He has rejoined his wife in heaven, there to be by her side throughout all eternity; is there any greater blessing that one can imagine that being able to spend eternity with the one that you love. 

I have a great testimony that President Hinckley was indeed a Prophet of God, on the paralell of Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and Peter of old.  Can one think of a more important time than this in which we now live where the need for a Prophet of God was greater?  The world has changed immensly over the last 200 years, more so than any period in its previous history.  We face new challenges and evils everyday, how can it be that God has abandonded us to our own devices and own wisdom?  The reality is that he has not.  God loves us the same as he has people of old.   He continues to reveal his will, to teach us the way to follow, and how to traverse these perilous times.   What a great blessing it is to live on the earth in a time when the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth,  when the great gathering of Israel is commencing, and when we have Prophets to teach us the mind and will of God. 

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Mormons and the Origins of Christianity

One of the biggest claims that protestant Christians (including evangelicals) make about Mormons, is that they are not Christian. I will agree that we Mormons are not Christian according to the evangelical/protestant definition of Christian, but I have continually claimed that they have no more legitimacy in claiming what defines Christianity than Mormons, Catholics, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, like most Mormons, this claim that we are not Christian bothers me at a personal level as Jesus Christ is the cornerstone and anchor of my faith.

Today being the Sabbath, I took some extra time to read talks given by LDS General Authorities in the October 2007 General Conference of the Church. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, one of the Church’s Apostles, spoke on the subject of Mormonism and Christianity and I fell compelled to share his words with you today. Although part of my motivation for this is to help people better understand what Mormons believe about Christ, my primary motivation is to help all Christians better understand their faith and Christian history and the origins of many Catholic and Protestant beliefs.

Title: The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent

Elder Jeffrey R. HollandAs Elder Ballard noted earlier in this session, various crosscurrents of our times have brought increasing public attention to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Lord told the ancients this latter-day work would be “a marvellous work and a wonder,”1 and it is. But even as we invite one and all to examine closely the marvel of it, there is one thing we would not like anyone to wonder about—that is whether or not we are “Christians.”

By and large any controversy in this matter has swirled around two doctrinal issues—our view of the Godhead and our belief in the principle of continuing revelation leading to an open scriptural canon. In addressing this we do not need to be apologists for our faith, but we would like not to be misunderstood. So with a desire to increase understanding and unequivocally declare our Christianity, I speak today on the first of those two doctrinal issues just mentioned.

Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”2 We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true.

Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].”3

So any criticism that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post–New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself. Now, a word about that post–New Testament history might be helpful.

In the year A.D. 325 the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to address—among other things—the growing issue of God’s alleged “trinity in unity.” What emerged from the heated contentions of churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known (after another 125 years and three more major councils)4 as the Nicene Creed, with later reformulations such as the Athanasian Creed. These various evolutions and iterations of creeds—and others to come over the centuries—declared the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be abstract, absolute, transcendent, imminent, consubstantial, coeternal, and unknowable, without body, parts, or passions and dwelling outside space and time. In such creeds all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being, the oft-noted “mystery of the trinity.” They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. All three persons are incomprehensible, yet it is one God who is incomprehensible.

We agree with our critics on at least that point—that such a formulation for divinity is truly incomprehensible. With such a confusing definition of God being imposed upon the church, little wonder that a fourth-century monk cried out, “Woe is me! They have taken my God away from me, . . . and I know not whom to adore or to address.”5 How are we to trust, love, worship, to say nothing of strive to be like, One who is incomprehensible and unknowable? What of Jesus’s prayer to His Father in Heaven that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”?6

It is not our purpose to demean any person’s belief nor the doctrine of any religion. We extend to all the same respect for their doctrine that we are asking for ours. (That, too, is an article of our faith.) But if one says we are not Christians because we do not hold a fourth- or fifth-century view of the Godhead, then what of those first Christian Saints, many of whom were eyewitnesses of the living Christ, who did not hold such a view either?7

We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings, noting such unequivocal illustrations as the Savior’s great Intercessory Prayer just mentioned, His baptism at the hands of John, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and the martyrdom of Stephen—to name just four.

With these New Testament sources and more8 ringing in our ears, it may be redundant to ask what Jesus meant when He said, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.”9 On another occasion He said, “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”10 Of His antagonists He said, “[They have] . . . seen and hated both me and my Father.”11 And there is, of course, that always deferential subordination to His Father that had Jesus say, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.”12 “My father is greater than I.”13

To whom was Jesus pleading so fervently all those years, including in such anguished cries as “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”14 and “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”?15 To acknowledge the scriptural evidence that otherwise perfectly united members of the Godhead are nevertheless separate and distinct beings is not to be guilty of polytheism; it is, rather, part of the great revelation Jesus came to deliver concerning the nature of divine beings. Perhaps the Apostle Paul said it best: “Christ Jesus . . . being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”16

A related reason The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is excluded from the Christian category by some is because we believe, as did the ancient prophets and apostles, in an embodied—but certainly glorified—God.17 To those who criticize this scripturally based belief, I ask at least rhetorically: If the idea of an embodied God is repugnant, why are the central doctrines and singularly most distinguishing characteristics of all Christianity the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the physical Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ? If having a body is not only not needed but not desirable by Deity, why did the Redeemer of mankind redeem His body, redeeming it from the grasp of death and the grave, guaranteeing it would never again be separated from His spirit in time or eternity?18 Any who dismiss the concept of an embodied God dismiss both the mortal and the resurrected Christ. No one claiming to be a true Christian will want to do that.

Now, to anyone within the sound of my voice who has wondered regarding our Christianity, I bear this witness. I testify that Jesus Christ is the literal, living Son of our literal, living God. This Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer who, under the guidance of the Father, was the Creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are. I bear witness that He was born of a virgin mother, that in His lifetime He performed mighty miracles observed by legions of His disciples and by His enemies as well. I testify that He had power over death because He was divine but that He willingly subjected Himself to death for our sake because for a period of time He was also mortal. I declare that in His willing submission to death He took upon Himself the sins of the world, paying an infinite price for every sorrow and sickness, every heartache and unhappiness from Adam to the end of the world. In doing so He conquered both the grave physically and hell spiritually and set the human family free. I bear witness that He was literally resurrected from the tomb and, after ascending to His Father to complete the process of that Resurrection, He appeared, repeatedly, to hundreds of disciples in the Old World and in the New. I know He is the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah who will one day come again in final glory, to reign on earth as Lord of lords and King of kings. I know that there is no other name given under heaven whereby a man can be saved and that only by relying wholly upon His merits, mercy, and everlasting grace19 can we gain eternal life.

My additional testimony regarding this resplendent doctrine is that in preparation for His millennial latter-day reign, Jesus has already come, more than once, in embodied majestic glory. In the spring of 1820, a 14-year-old boy, confused by many of these very doctrines that still confuse much of Christendom, went into a grove of trees to pray. In answer to that earnest prayer offered at such a tender age, the Father and the Son appeared as embodied, glorified beings to the boy prophet Joseph Smith. That day marked the beginning of the return of the true, New Testament gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the restoration of other prophetic truths offered from Adam down to the present day.

I testify that my witness of these things is true and that the heavens are open to all who seek the same confirmation. Through the Holy Spirit of Truth, may we all know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent.”20 Then may we live Their teachings and be true Christians in deed, as well as in word, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
NOTES
1. Isaiah 29:14.
2. Articles of Faith 1:1.
3. Paul F. Achtemeier, ed. (1985), 1099; emphasis added.
4. Constantinople, A.D. 381; Ephesus, A.D. 431; Chalcedon, A.D. 451.
5. Quoted in Owen Chadwick, Western Asceticism (1958), 235.
6. John 17:3; emphasis added.
7. For a thorough discussion of this issue, see Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christian? 71–89; see also Robert Millet, Getting at the Truth (2004), 106–22.
8. See, for example, John 12:27–30; John 14:26; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 1:1–3.
9. John 5:19; see also John 14:10.
10. John 6:38.
11. John 15:24.
12. Matthew 19:17.
13. John 14:28.
14. Matthew 26:39.
15. Matthew 27:46.
16. Philippians 2:5–6.
17. See David L. Paulsen, “Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses,” Harvard Theological Review, vol. 83, no. 2 (1990): 105–16; David L. Paulsen, “The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: Restoration, Judeo-Christian, and Philosophical Perspectives,” BYU Studies, vol. 35, no. 4 (1996): 7–94; James L. Kugel, The God of Old: Inside the Lost World of the Bible (2003), xi–xii, 5–6, 104–6, 134–35; Clark Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness (2001), 33–34.
18. See Romans 6:9; Alma 11:45.
19. See 1 Nephi 10:6; 2 Nephi 2:8; 31:19; Moroni 6:4; Joseph Smith Translation, Romans 3:24.
20. John 17:3.

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Will Hillary Lose Because She is Female?

Many supporters of Hillary Clinton attribute many of the troubles she faces to the fact that some people just won’t vote for a Woman.  They act like Hillaries biggest stumbling block is her gender.  So the question begs to be asked, “Will Hillary lose because she is a Woman?”.   In short, No! She will lose because she is Hillary.

We are at a historic time in our history as a nation.  We have a very diverse Presidential field; it is quite possible that we will have a “first” as our next President – First woman, first Black (or even more inclusive, first non-White), or first Mormon.  Many argue that the country is not ready for the first woman or black president.  They say we are still too bigoted and unaccepting.   While there are certainly some ignorant and bigoted people in our country (and in higher percentage in the South), I strongly disagree that America is not “ready”.   

While critics of America (especially internal critics) like to portray America as being racist and sexist while portraying Europe as inclusive and progressive, the reality is that America is far advanced in terms of race than any other country.  Racism is rampant in England, France, and Spain.   At Soccer games in Europe, bigoted fans throw bananas and mimic monkeys to denigrate Black players.  What sets America apart is our inclusiveness and our continued ability to be self-critical and, thus, self-correcting.  Europe never had their own Civil Rights Movement and race is a real problem.

The fact is, most Americans will vote according to whom they perceive to be the best person for the office; the definition of “the best” is relative to each voter however.  There is absolutely no grounding in the claim that an American will not be elected because they are female.   I, for one, would have voted for Condoleeza (a woman and Black!), but I won’t be voting for Hillary.  Why? Again, because she is Hillary.   And for Hillary it is not even about the Politics, on which I pretty well disagree with her, it is about her – her lack of integrity and insatiable desire for power.  She cannot be trusted.

I have a similar problem with Rudy Giuliani.  I won’t vote for him either, he has shown a propensity to be involved in scandal and seems to lack any sort of sound moral judgement;  I can’t trust him.  If we have a Rudy-Hillary race in 2008, I will be voting 3rd party or will simply withhold a vote for President.

On the other hand, I have a more positive disposition towards Barack.  With him, I completely disagree with his policies and politics, I even think he is more left-wing than Hillary.  But I also have the impression that he is a good man, had real convictions, and believes what he says.  In the event of a Rudy-Barack race, I would vote for Barack.  Additionally, I would seriously consider Barack over Huckabee (depending on how his subtle anti-Mormon views play-out) and Fred Thompson (who I think is incompetent and too lazy to be President).

For me my determination for who should be President is first dependent on character and integrity, followed closely by political ideology.  I strongly prefer GOP policy and will choose a person of mediocre character over a democrat of strong Character.  However, I will choose the Democrat over a GOPer that has no character and integrity or is simply unfit for the job.

Certainly, I will not make the determination on race or sex.  And I think that most of America feels the same way on that point.  There is just no evidence that Americans as a whole would fail to vote for Hillary because she is a Woman.  They will not vote for Hillary because she is Hillary.

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