Remembering also we are part of one world

In continuing my blasts from the past, this seemed appropriate to remember on the 4th of July.

This event occurred last year at a conference hosted at the UN in Vienna.

I just had dinner at a small heurigen deep in the Austrian countryside. There was a group of about twenty of us, but we where seated in sixes at tables with long benches on each side. On my right was an Israeli, on my left a man from Yemen, across from me a Swiss, kiddy–corner left an Iraqi, kiddy-corner right a Kenyan. We talked about the food, the olympics, and flies. Heurigen are small household owned wineries that sell their own label, but me and the three Muslims did not drink so we had grape juice pressed by the Heurigen itself. The others had the wines. Me and the Swiss guy enjoyed a selection of ham slices provided to the table that the others could not eat. We all had a great meal. We laughed and enjoyed ourselves. I thought about it and was stunned for a minute. Here sat Muslim, Jew, Mormon and Christian all in deep and engaging conversation. Here sat Swiss, Israeli, American, Iraqi, Yemeni, and Kenyan. But in another way we were none of these things–these labels we pin on and use to separate ourselves one from another. We were just researchers there to discuss our work. Friends all.

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20 comments to Remembering also we are part of one world

  • Mark

    Thank you, Steve. Your thoughts really resonate with me. Sometimes I feel less patriotic because I’m always the one to tack on “and all other nations” to the “God Bless America!” slogan. I shouldn’t feel this way, but for whatever reasons sometimes I do.

    Anyway, thanks.

  • The pursuit of science unifies and overcomes the segregation of religion and region. As such, science itself is a great moral cause.

  • Steve: Great thought, although maybe not so great on Independence Day.

    A recent latter-day Prophet viewed certain aspects of world citizenship as a threat to our United States Constitution: “Many well-intentioned people are now convinced that we are living in a period of history which makes it both possible and necessary to abandon our national sovereignty, to merge our nation militarily, economically, and politically with other nations, and to form, at last, a world government…. We should refuse to follow their siren song of increasingly … delegating American sovereign authority to non-American institutions of the United Nations.” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp.681, 695.)

    According to the Lord himself, the United States Constitution “belongs to all mankind” (D&C 98:5) “and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh” (D&C 101:77).

    President Benson placed extra emphasis on both instances of the first-person singular pronoun “I” when he read this verse of scripture: “I established the Constitution of this land,” said the Lord, “by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80).

    The signing of the Declaration of Independence marked the beginning of a series of events leading up to the ratification of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. “It is as a result of these events that we are able to meet today in peace as members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. For this we should all be eternally grateful.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, Oct. 1987, Ensign, Nov. 1987, p.4.)

  • Tim

    As soon as I read “A recent latter-day Prophet viewed certain aspects of world citizenship as a threat to our United States Constitution,” I knew R. Gary was talking about Ezra Taft Benson. I know of no other prophet who has held similar beliefs.
    The fact that he’s the only one makes me think we’re dealing with his personal opinion instead of God’s revelation.

  • Tim

    Rereading R. Gary’s comment, I’m totally confused as to what it has to do with the post. Two entirely different topics.
    I’m sure if the Lord wants to keep the US a separate country, he’ll step in when that’s about to change. I don’t see anything like that happening anywhere in the near future, though. Meanwhile, we should be proud of moments when we, as Americans, can interact peacefully with people from other countries.

  • SteveP

    With comments like those from Pres. Benson it’s not hard to see how the gospel and nationalism get conflated. I think Ronan’s post and linking article give us good reasons why the politics of President Benson should be scuttled.

  • Steve: In 1991, the BYU Religious Studies Center published a collection of some 500 statements from all Church Presidents up to that time on the United States Constitution. According to Doonald Q. Cannon, the book’s compiler and editor, Latter-day Prophets and the United States Constitution addresses the question “Do we know what the prophets have said about the Constitution and the threats to it?”

    On the dust jacket of the book are these words: “One and all, Church Presidents have revered the Constitution and the freedoms it protects.”

    So I’m just curious, Steve, are we supposed to scuttle only what Ezra Taft Benson said about the Constitution, or also what all of his predecessors said on the same subject? And is the fact that the New Jerusalem will actually be built in England the only printing error in the Doctrine and Covenants, or should verses about the United States Constitution, such as D&C 98:5; 101:77 & 80, also be scuttled?

  • Ronan

    >And is the fact that the New Jerusalem will actually be built in England the only printing error in the Doctrine and Covenants.

    Meant in jest, Gary.

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting Americans should feel less proud of the Constitution, nor the form of English government it intended to enshrine. It’s the conflation of this pride with a narrow form of nationalism which I suspect Steve is wary of.

    I am proud of magna carta, the constitutional monarchy, and the fruits of the British reformation, but I am also aware that Britain’s past and present sins have too often been wrapped in the flag.

    There’s a song we sing in England that has the potential to symbolise both good and evil and reminds me that patriotism must be handled with care:

    I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
    Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
    The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
    That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
    The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
    The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

  • Wow, Ronan, that’s beautiful. And yes, I do love my country.

    I recognize, too, that it was an accident of my birth. I was very lucky, but I noticed in Vienna that my Austrian brothers and sisters feel much the same about their country. Which is as it should be. (I had to smile when a Buddhist woman told a reporter that he had not lived as good as she had in a previous life because he had been born an American where as she had luckily been born in Thailand).

    However, some have raised the constitution to the level of scripture and the love of nation to the point where it is worshiped inappropriately. Theologian Paul Tillich warned of the dangers of when nationalism is raised to the status of a religion. I belong to a world religion and I do not need to proclaim the American constitution to the world. It’s a fine piece of work, by inspired men. I am justly proud of what it represents. But scripture? No.

  • Ronan: A few years ago, NBC’s Jay Leno quipped, “They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq. Why don’t we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it’s worked for over 200 years, and [heck], we’re not using it anymore.” Not so funny as true.

    You may not be old enough to remember the first-ever LDS area conference. It was held in 1971 in Manchester, England. During that conference, President Harold B. Lee informed Church members from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland that the United States Constitution is the law spoken of in Micah 4:2 which “shall go forth of Zion” (Ensign, Nov 1971, p.9). He said he learned this in 1945 when he went with the Brethren to the dedication of the Idaho Falls Temple and heard “the inspired prayer of the First Presidency.” Now think about it. There he was in Manchester, England, talking about the United States Constitution and how it fulfills an Old Testament prophesy. Would this not be a perfect example of the “narrow form of nationalism” you mentioned?

    On the other hand, of course, President Lee might have been just teaching truth.

  • Peter LLC

    On the other hand, of course, President Lee might have been just teaching truth.

    Indeed. Either the one, or the other–mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive.

  • Ronan

    I’m not sure what on earth the argument here is all about. Is the US constitution inspired? Yes. Should Steve P. enjoy his global friendships in a Viennese heurigen. Yes.

    And?

  • Cap

    Thank you Steve. Great post!

    I don’t really see a good reason for the constitution argument. Yes it was inspired, and yes there are good people living in other nations who feel the same patriotism as Americans can. They love their country.

    What I got out of this post was that we need to look at our fellow human beings with non-judgmental eyes. We need to learn to love. As Steven said, “We were just researchers there to discuss our work. Friends all.”

    It is appropriate on the 4th or July, (as I see it), because our country is set up on tolerance, on freedom. And I feel that we should do better in accepting all nations and people, and races, and beliefs.

  • Okay guys. At the risk of getting beat up again anyway, I’ll try to answer a couple of challenges here.

    .

    Cap said: “I don’t really see a good reason for the constitution argument.”

    The closer our world gets to “one world” public policy administration, the less likely it is that our U.S. Constitution (in the tradition of the founding fathers) will survive. Some of us feel this trend is at odds with D&C 101:77 which says the U.S. Constitution “should be maintained.”

    .

    Ronan said: “I’m not sure what on earth the argument here is all about.”

    First, I see no need to question each other’s faith or patriotism. Did Steve post a great thought? As I already said once, Yes he did. Does Steve’s thought contribute to the celebration of our national independence? Again, as I previously said, maybe not. Maybe July 4th just wasn’t the very best day to post it.

    But Steve did touch a nerve with me when he said “the politics of President Benson should be scuttled.”

    You see, I met Ezra Taft Benson in person 42 years ago when he interviewed me as a missionary in Germany. That experience made an indelible impression on me and I followed his every move and every word from that day until he passed away. Also from that day, I began to notice how people abused him. For example, I was completely mystified when one of my missionary companions had the gall to write a sarcastic remark next to Benson’s talk in one of my Church magazines.

    Over the years I noticed that many of those who didn’t like Benson’s politics clearly didn’t understand his politics. I know because I was there, as a follower and an admirer. Someone with a soap box would take a small part of what he said and blow it completely out of proportion and then it was that distorted idea (not his) that so many people found distasteful.

    So when I asked whether we should scuttle only Ezra Taft Benson or also all of his predecessors on the same subject, that was just another way of saying, I don’t think you would say that if you understood President Benson’s politics.

    .

    Steve: I’m sorry this became more than it needed to be. I don’t question your faith and I don’t question your patriotism. I just think you picked a bad day to post your wonderful Viennese experience. That’s all it was. Cheers!

  • Nice post Steve. And I agree that the extreme parts of the politics of ETB should be scuttled.

    My only quibble with the post was with this line: Here sat Muslim, Jew, Mormon and Christian

    I know what you meant but I hate to see more fodder for the insipid “Mormons aren’t Christian” crowd to use.

  • Cap

    I guess what I was trying to say is that the post, to me is a beautiful telling of an experience Steve had with those of other beliefs, and how they are not so different that you and I.

    Admittedly, politics is not a strong point with me. The constitution discussion, I can say, I know little about. But the point I was making is lets take this post at face value, and enjoy the experience vicariously through Stevens.

    (Also, the idea of one world political administration would take cultures away. Maybe not all at once, but slowly many cultures would be lost and that isn’t an idea I agree with. Any thoughts on that)?

  • True story: Just after 9-11-01, I was in prayer when it occurred to me that God wasn’t an American. This was followed by an even more startling thought that God probably wasn’t even from Wyoming!

    Perhaps my experience is only tangentially related to the original post, but it taught me that my only lasting identity is ‘child of God’. And in a counter-intuitive way that perspective made me even more grateful for (and even proud of) my homeland.

  • God is not from Wyoming?

  • [...] We’re all a part of one world We all can share the same dream And if you just reach out to me Then you will find deep down inside I’m just like you [...]

  • Oh, I’ve done the research. I’ve updated the post to include a hyperlink to the Wisconsin Law Review article I wrote on the subject.

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