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In March 2007, rare protests erupted across BYU campus in Provo, Utah. The controversial topic that saw Mormon dissent make headlines nationwide was the announcement that then-Vice President Dick Cheney would be giving the university’s commencement speech in April.
For several years prior, BYU commencement speakers were high-ranking leaders in the Mormon church—a trend that has similarly continued after Cheney’s 2007 visit. But this recent anomaly was not pursued at the request of Church officials—as the New York Times notes, “the White House asked university administrators for a chance to speak at the graduation” after which request an invitation was extended.
George W. Bush’s job approval ratings were in the low to mid 30s at the time, and Cheney could find few venues nationwide that would offer the sort of praise that residents of conservative Provo would (and did) heap upon him. BYU went so far as to bestow upon Cheney an honorary Ph.D. for public service. Despite some well publicized dissent (because, after all, protests at BYU are uncommon), the LDS Church emphatically stood by its invitation. Cheney’s presence and remarks earned a standing ovation from most of the individuals present.
Why does any of this matter?
One might reasonably assume that a commencement speech is not a trivial event without significance. This event is the culmination of a student’s years of study and labor in pursuit of certification by the school as to their competence and proficiency. The graduating class of students is about to embark on a new journey, and the keynote speaker at their graduation’s commencement is, in theory, to impart words of wisdom in that regard. One might further assume that the speaker’s life history should exemplify the things being discussed.
This was not true of Dick Cheney.
Cheney was, and is, a globalist—a big government statist who disagrees with, and fights against, the very principles upon which America was founded. He is a major cheerleader for torture, unjust war, and in his positions of power has long been embroiled in enriching the military industrial complex and expanding the domestic police state. This man is no statesman, and openly brags about deceiving the public to fulfill his nefarious goals. In short, he is unfriendly to the principles most Mormons claim to hold dear, and his record in office is not one that can be reconciled with the standards set for Latter-day Saints in scripture.
Unfortunately, Dick Cheney’s invitation to speak at the “Lord’s university” to impressionable youngsters is only one of several similar speaking engagements with other supposed luminaries.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser with deep ties to globalists groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and the Bilderbergs, and author of (among other books) The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives which advocates for increased American imperialism, spoke at BYU in January 2010 to a standing ovation. He was invited by an organization at BYU called The Wheatley Institution, the motto of which is “Lifting society by preserving and strengthening its core institutions.” It’s hard to see how warmongers such as Brzezinski meet that criteria. The same can be said for others from the globalist paradigm such as James Schlesinger, Condoleeza Rice, Brent Scowcroft, David Petraeus, Harry Reid, and Joe Lieberman—all of whom have spoken to students at BYU in recent years.
To be quite specific, these individuals are among those who buy into a false political philosophy that more closely approximates Gadiantonism than anything resembling liberty and virtue. They are the individuals that should be kept away from suggestible students (unless balanced with those of opposing views), rather than continuously praised and presented to the public as being worthy of our time and attention.
So why is BYU doing this?
Those who revere the Constitution, are passionate about liberty, and who are otherwise in tune to the problems these people present have in recent years become quite frustrated with Brigham Young University over its support for such persons. Yet in this pattern I find a hint of scriptural support—enough, at least, that I don’t join my associates in their anger.
In Luke 16:9, the Lord instructs his followers on a much overlooked principle that may have significant application to our day. It is repeated in this dispensation with emphasis; this is wisdom, we are told, before the Lord states: “make unto yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness, and they will not destroy you” (D&C 82:22).
Mammon, of course, means riches or monetary wealth. But throughout scripture, this “filthy lucre” is equated with power. Satan exerted great power, tempting his would-be followers “to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world.” Money and power (when used for evil purposes) enjoy a sinister symbiotic relationship, and they both fall within the “Mammon” umbrella that is pitted against God. We read that our enemies, both in ancient times and likewise today, form combinations specifically “to murder, and to rob, and to gain power.”
So if Cheney and his cohorts have anything remotely to do with any of this (and reviewing world history, American policies, and the smashing financial success of the military industrial complex in recent decades, I think they do), why is it at all okay for BYU to cozy up to them?
The Church’s chief priority is to spread the gospel—missionary work. It stands to reason, then, that leaders are sensitive to geopolitical personalities and posturing, and that denouncing a person or policy may create complications for the missionary effort in another country. No longer is the Church an American institution, allowing leaders to openly condemn foreign states and their leaders; the Lord’s elect are effectively walking on eggshells, doing what is necessary to ensure that the nations of the world are open to (and hopefully welcome of) a 70,000-strong missionary force.
Commenting on the Lord’s offering of this “wisdom”, Joseph Fielding Smith noted that it “seems to be a hard saying when not properly understood.” Offering additional context, he continued:
It is not intended that in making friends of the “mammon of unrighteousness” that the brethren were to partake with them in their sins; to receive them to their bosoms, intermarry with them and… come down to their level. They were to so live that peace with their enemies might be assured. They were to treat them kindly, be friendly with them as far as correct and virtuous principles would permit, but never to swear with them or drink and carouse with them. If they could allay prejudice and show a willingness to trade with and show a kindly spirit, it might help to turn them away from their bitterness. Judgment was to be left with the Lord.
In short, there seems to be wisdom in playing nice with the Gadiantons as an institution to preserve the ability to carry on in the more important work. But it’s more than just being left alone by those in control. After citing the Lord’s direction to make friends with the mammon of unrighteousness, Joseph F. Smith asked and answered: “What for? Obviously that you may have power and influence with the unrighteous.” Even Gadiantons can become converted, as the Lamanites demonstrated.
Writing a letter to the Saints from the ironically named “Liberty jail,” Joseph Smith stated that “with great earnestness” the Saints should “waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness.” And yet, on another occasion he stated:
Our lives have already become jeopardized by revealing the wicked and bloodthirsty purposes of our enemies; and for the future we must cease to do so. All we have said about them is truth, but it is not always wise to relate all the truth. Even Jesus, the Son of God, had to refrain from doing so, and had to restrain His feelings many times for the safety of Himself and His followers, and had to conceal the righteous purposes of His heart in relation to many things pertaining to His Father’s kingdom. When still a boy He had all the intelligence necessary to enable Him to rule and govern the kingdom of the Jews, and could reason with the wisest and most profound doctors of law and divinity, and make their theories and practice to appear like folly compared with the wisdom He possessed; but He was a boy only, and lacked physical strength even to defend His own person; and was subject to cold, to hunger and to death. So it is with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; we have the revelation of Jesus, and the knowledge within us is sufficient to organize a righteous government upon the earth, and to give universal peace to all mankind, if they would receive it, but we lack the physical strength, as did our Savior when a child, to defend our principles, and we have a necessity to be afflicted, persecuted and smitten, and to bear it patiently until Jacob is of age, then he will take care of himself.
Though the Church has substantially matured since its early days, it still lacks the power and influence to speak so openly about the many evils being perpetrated worldwide. Warmongers and Gadiantons permeate society and even grace the halls of Brigham Young University. While theories abound as to the reason why such persons are routinely invited to speak at BYU, this one should rise to the top: for the time being, and in an effort to ensure that the work rolls forward, the Lord’s anointed have found it wise to play nice with, and be accommodating of, the powers that be. Fortunately, as Elder Mathias Cowley once noted, “you can make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness without being unrighteous yourself.”
In the end, I believe (as I have for years) that the effort to expose evil and promote proper political principles is and should be an individual, not an institutional, mandate.