As a former U.S. senator, I am regularly invited to the State of the Union address which was given this week by President Donald Trump. Also, as a longtime member of the Senate Prayer Group, I helped organize and attended this past Thursday morning’s National Prayer Breakfast, at which Trump also spoke. He gave superb speeches at each event, calling for national reconciliation and unity. In both speeches, the president cited a lot of good things that are happening, but he also cited a lot of strife and turmoil.
Unlike some of his campaign rally type speeches, President Trump was very measured, even humble. Perhaps the brutal experience of the government shutdown has mellowed him and his opposition. I hope so — his speeches seemed to indicate a surprisingly thoughtful and almost modest approach. He stuck to his teleprompter. In my opinion, even though I don’t always agree with him, he is one of the greatest natural orators of our time. At both of the speeches Trump was excellent.
The president called for unity. At the prayer breakfast, he implored the large audience to join him in prayer for our nation. It was the first time I had heard the president speak so personally about God, his faith and prayer. “Fill our hearts with love … a nation that believes in redemption,” he intoned, “united by a shared belief in the glory of God and the power of prayer. … When we open our hearts to faith, we fill our hearts with love.”
Some say the National Prayer Breakfast is a hypocritical event in that we are just like the Pharisees and Sadducees — rich, powerful people praying in public (whom Jesus criticized). Maybe, but I also think it is good for our national leaders to acknowledge our dependence on some higher power as different people understand it. The National Prayer Breakfast has had Jewish, Muslim and other faiths participate, but it is basically a Christian event. The prayer breakfast is accompanied by two days of seminars here in Washington, D.C., discussing ethics, service and God.
However, this year, the various conversations seemed to focus on the tragic, unfolding events in Virginia. It appears that the state’s governor and top three officials may have to resign if certain policies of zero tolerance are applied to racial and sexual accusations. This is an unfortunate situation in Virginia and no one has an easy answer. Most of the events happened some time ago, and if we believe in the doctrine of redemption, we might just forgive all the officials for certain sexual and racial errors. However, if we do apply the same “zero tolerance” standard to public officials, as we sometimes apply to private citizens, probably three or four top officials in Virginia should resign.
Enter politics: This would mean that the governorship of Virginia would shift from Democrat to Republican.
At the beginning, the Democratic Party in Virginia loudly called for the incumbent governor to resign, but after more revelations it became apparent that all four top officials might need to resign leading to a Republican official succeeding the governorship. The Democrats have gone mute, and the Republicans are now calling for their resignations. At the end, it seems that everything is about politics.
My prediction is that no one will resign as the two parties have more or less formed collective self-protection circles and have stopped calling for any resignation.
And that leads us to the need for meetings like the National Prayer Breakfast, where we struggle together to “choose the right” thing.71 comments on this story
Why did the president at his State of the Union speech and the National Prayer Breakfast focus so much on conflicts? And why did we participants spend much of our time on the conflict in Virginia? Part of the answer lies with Elder Neil L. Andersen’s talk, “Wounded,” given in the October 2018 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Andersen cited the miraculous story of Helaman’s 2,060 young soldiers being wounded, but they all survived. He said that “each one of us will be wounded in the battle of life, whether physically, spiritually or both.”
And that is true of our democracy. Every citizen is wounded by some of these conflicts, but somehow God keeps our democracy strong and moving forward. Some bad things will continue to happen in our good nation. There will be constant fights and struggles. Gathering for prayer and fellowship help us to understand why some misfortunes happen to good people and to a good nation.