President Monson on 9/11

The Washington post’s On Faith blog has a piece from President Monson responding to the question, “What have we learned about religion in the past 10 years? What was the spiritual impact of 9/11?”

I like it more than almost anything I have ever read by President Monson.

39 comments for “President Monson on 9/11

  1. The calamity of September 11th, 2001 has cast a long shadow. Ten years later, many of us are still haunted by its terrible tragedy of lost lives and broken hearts. It is an episode of anguish that has become a defining moment in the history of the American nation and the world. This week, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, along with Tom Brokaw, will pay its own homage to the unforgettable events of September 11, 2001.

    Yep, it’s President Monson, master of the passive voice. ;-) He does a good job reminding me that feeling of national unity after the attacks. I think everyone misses that unity found through our national grief.

  2. That’s only one passive in your cite, which is below his average ;)

    (Passive would be “a shadow has been cast” “homage will be paid.” I don’t think you can passivize “become,” can you?)

    It’s a nice article, though in accordance with online standards, the first comment is irrelevant trash.

  3. honestly I don’t think he answered what we have learned about religion in these last ten years. No mention of religions, including our own, backing wars against Muslim countries. No mention of how religions turned back to the usual with discriminating against those they don’t like, like Prop 8. Also no mention of how one party and one ideology uses religion to separate themselves from those they disagree with (see: Perry, Rick and his prayer gathering in Houston), and to sow discord, contention, and disunity, (see: Beck, Glenn). He also neglects to mention anything about the revelations of Catholic priest abuse of children, which we learned in this last decade. There might be good reasons why many people in this country and around the world are neglecting organized religion and even maybe no longer believing in God. After all, if God’s representative sexually abuses a child and then his superior, who is supposed to be closer to God supposedly, protects HIM rather than the abused child, frankly, I too, would question the existence of God. How could God allow someone representing Him to do something so evil?

    There is much that President Monson does not talk about when it comes to religion over the last 10 years. A mere ten years! It is amazing how much has occurred with regard to religion in these last ten years, and none quite good for religion. Maybe religions should get out of politics and focus on teaching individual people how to be better rather than attempting to dictate hypocritically from some high horse.

  4. How dare President Monson not touch on every facet of religious history in the last decade. He even had a couple hundred words to do it!

    I liked the op-ed. I think he did a great job, like he usually does, in taking grand issues and making them personal for everyone on a practical level. Not bad for his first blog post.

  5. Ben S, I’m not really top notch with English grammar. I guess I’m just saying that I recognize President Monson’s relatively calm speech patterns in the article.

  6. Dan,

    Just because YOU learned some negative things about religion, doesn’t mean that everyone did, nor that that was all there was to be learned.

  7. Pres. Monson boils it down well. My only quibble is his use of “Him” instead of “They” when referencing deity. (and I’m not even talking about our Divine Mother)

  8. Only time I will ever see Deepak Chorprah on the same page as Thomas S. Monson (literally speaking).

  9. I think Dan’s critique is a valid one. Of course, President Monson shouldn’t be expected (there’s ya some passive voice, btw) to deal with all of those issues.

    But if he wants to write an even-handed and thoughtful contemplation on why so many people who turned to faith in 2001 have since turned away, I don’t think expecting him to acknowledge the ways that religions have sometimes pushed people away is inappropriate at all. If he had done something like that, I suspect this would have gone viral. As it is, it’ll get a few thousand click-overs from Mormon blogs and If he’d frankly acknowledged some of the ways that faiths have made it hard for people to keep their faith, you’d be seeing this everywhere.

    That said, I think it’s still a nice and uplifting read.

  10. For the critics of religion here, I would be interested to know how religion has harmed you personally.

  11. Lucy, Dan’s not a critic per se. Just a hard-core Democrat who can come across very negatively online. He’s a nice active guy, I promise!

  12. Lucy,

    I’m not sure why that would matter. That’s like asking those who support a war against Muslim nations how exactly Muslims harmed them personally. It’s understandable, say, for the actual victims of terrorism to desire some kind of action, but not anyone else.

  13. other than the first paragraph, Im not sure you would even guess this was about 9/11 and what we have learned. It sounds more like pablum than any actual insight into said tragedy and the ensuing tragedies we have witnessed for 10 yrs.

  14. The remarkable surge of faith was fear induced and politically manipulated Americans of all faiths came together in a remarkable way they overwhelmingly supported a war on Iraq even though Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with it making Karl Rove and GWB smile. Faith has waned in the years that followed as the economy tanked and OBL became a forgotten name. But why not exploit 911 one more time at least it’s for a good cause this time constancy in our connection to God.

  15. I’m not sure why that would matter. That’s like asking those who support a war against Muslim nations how exactly Muslims harmed them personally.

    This sounds like an acknowledgement that you are supporting a war against religion. Is that the case?

  16. I think Prez Monson did a great job, addressing the topic while focusing on what really matters, as prophets tend to do. One thing caught my eye, though:

    “Sometimes we forget to succor the poor and the downtrodden who are also His children.”

    Look on the bright side. At least we don’t forget to light ’em up and send them back to their Creator. 9/11 helped us a lot with that.

  17. a timely article in the NY Times about how 1) evangelical churches are upset we haven’t turned the 9/11 commemoration into a religious event and 2) how Fox News fuels that anger and division. That says many things about what we’ve learned about religion over the last 10 years.

  18. Word Count for President Monson’s article:

    “God”: used 7 times
    “Father in Heaven”: used once
    “He, Him, His”: (referring to God): used 25 times
    “Jesus Christ”: used once
    “Faith, faithful, faithfulness” (once referring to sects): used 7 times
    “Commandments”: used once
    “Commitment”: used once
    “Constancy”: used once
    “Steadiness”: used once
    “Trust”: used once
    “Prayer”: used once
    “Serve”: used 3 times
    “Spiritual”: used once
    “Mormon Tabernacle Choir”: used once
    Other uses of the word “Mormon”: none
    “Church”: none
    “Religion”: none

    The message seems to be: Although a great tragedy, nationally and personally, in the grand scheme of things, the events of September 11th, 2001 are not important. Religion itself is not important enough to be mentioned. What is important is our personal relationship to our Father in heaven and Jesus Christ.

    “We… for the great steadiness of our Father in Heaven. And, as ever, we found it.” – Some may disagree.

  19. Thanks, John: “Although a great tragedy, nationally and personally, in the grand scheme of things, the events of September 11th, 2001 are not important.” Even in the history of our country, there are many days of far greater importance than 9/11.

  20. I think #20 nails President Monson’s message.

    I’m slowly coming to realize that prophets often give answers not to the questions we ask then, but to the ones we _should_ have asked. (For a few other examples, read Abinadi’s answer to King Noah’s priests or Stephen’s speech before his martyrdom. Or for that matter, any number of the teachings of Jesus.)

  21. Thanks, John: “Although a great tragedy, nationally and personally, in the grand scheme of things, the events of September 11th, 2001 are not important.” Even in the history of our country, there are many days of far greater importance than 9/11.

    Frankly I can think of only a few days more important and more influential on the course of American history. Without 9/11, we would not have invaded two Muslim countries, killed hundreds of thousands of people, curtailed civil liberties, employed Chinese torture methods on prisoners, massively increased our surveillance state, created the Department of Homeland Security, made ridiculous security measures at our airports. George Bush would not have been reelected in 2004. 9/11 was a watershed moment in our country’s history, as it should be, being by far the worst act of violence upon our soil since the attack at Pearl Harbor. Though more people died on 9/11 than on that attack that started America’s involvement in World War II. Before that the highest casualty from violence on American soil was during the Civil War. To try and downplay or minimize the influence and impact of 9/11 is folly, IMHO.

    Ironically, if we go by the idea that in the grand scheme of things 9/11 isn’t that important, or is a “small thing” we lose on the principle that from small things come great things, both for good and bad. 9/11 changed America, and not for the good.

  22. as an example, a friend of mine posted this on her facebook page:

    College Professor stood on his chair and said “If GOD really exists then knock me off this chair” Nothing happened. The class was quiet he said “See! Now I’ll give it a couple more minutes” A Marine Vet stood up punched him in the face knocking him out and off the chair then sat back down. As the Professor came to he looked at his student and said “WHY DID YOU DO THAT” He said “GOD was busy protecting my buddies still fighting for your right to say and do stupid stuff like this so HE SENT ME!”

    I can’t tell you how much of this kind of crap I’ve seen since 9/11.

  23. Are you sure that’s not a true story, Dan?

    Since I didn’t go to BYU, the vast majority of my classes were devoted to professors’ lame attempts to prove that there is no God.

  24. @20 – Very good point Julie. And Dan, to be fair President Monson was really answering the 2nd question, not the first. And I think he did a good job in hitting the main point.

    I noticed it myself. It only took a few week or months before everything was back to normal in terms of rhetoric and pride.

  25. @ Dan 24 – not quite as awesome as Buzz Aldrin. Nephi-esque ‘Zaps’ can be appropriate at times, but it is probably impossible to know when those times are. I’m sure this probably wasn’t one of them, but that’s what a professor gets for ranting about atheism in a class, just cover the material. =)

  26. Cameron,

    yeah, the Buzz Aldrin hit was awesome, but see, someone directly insulted him to his face. The guy he decked deserved it. In that meme going around, it’s quite presumptuous of the “Marine vet” to think he can 1) represent God, and 2) think God wanted to actually punch the professor in the face. :)

    but yeah, unless that class was a philosophy class on the subject of deism, the professor ought to have simply covered the topic at hand. :)

  27. “President Monson was really answering the 2nd question, not the first. And I think he did a good job in hitting the main point.”

    Yeah, criticisms ought to address what actually was said about what – but it’s really easy to avoid doing that in a forum like this.

    I really liked it. Thanks for posting it.

  28. President Monson focused on our inner spiritual values. Nice. But the issue of 9/11 deals with conflicts with “others” or more to the point “enemies.” That is relational. We have sacred text that give us guidance (Section 98 for example), so the issue for me is how did we respond to our enemies and, more importantly, did we follow the words of Christ in doing so then and now? This is hard question that real leaders do not dodge. Not whether I find a happy glow in my own soul, but whether I have through words, deeds or through silence condoned our nation’s inflicting upon others the very evil we deplore. Here is my post inspired by President Hinckley in 2003 and now President Monson in 2011—warning: do not read it if you are sensitive so graphic images and/or criticism of either American or Mormon exceptionalism:

  29. Pres. Monson was basically calling us to repentance without actually doing so. Reminding us that we need to turn (back) to God. It’s the turning away from God in innumerable individual ways that we need to repent of. He did this without sounding condescending or being high and might while telling all the sinners to repent.

    But if his words are actually considered, more than a few sincere people would realign their lives with God and in the process make the changes that bring about repentance.

    This is the gospel of repentance. In a public, and especially snarky-hostile, online forum world, I think what he posted is one of the best ways to get “results” from people who have ears to hear.

    Frankly, I think the rest will just find something else to complain about — and I’m not suggesting the complaints are unfounded. But there is a lot of justified complaints in this world. We can’t spend our time detailing them all.

    Look to God and Live.

  30. Pres. Monson was basically calling us to repentance without actually doing so.

    Funny thing about calling someone to repentance:

    Like most activities, you can’t actually do it without doing it.

  31. If after turning away from God you recognize you are missing something and rededicate you life to one of faith what would you describe that as? Perhaps a good way to have people repent is tto lay the ground work for them to recognize their own individual problems throught the guidance of the spirit and use their agency to decide to call themselves to reptance? It is that righteous use of agency the beings in the spirit. I’m not saying it must always be this way by any means but I can recognize the seeds or a reader deciding on their own they need to repent.

  32. What exactly are we being called to repent of in relation to our response to 9/11? Without specifics the subtly escapes me. So we are left to guess?

    What does repentance look like in Mormon cultural terms as a practical matter? What commandments are we invited to keep in response life and death conflicts? Is it a call to repent of one’s addiction to coffee, tea, and tobacco. To become holy, chaste, commandment keeping, and personally worthy and feel really good about oneself and join the “all is well” for you and me club. Is it anymore then just an invitation to have those warm feelings that come from reading the scriptures, praying three times a day, church attendance, wearing white shirts, excellent hygiene, home teaching, taking cookies to the new neighbor—all wrapped up in the warm blanket of personal spiritual health? Is that the “peace” that is being referred to? Or does it involve going further and being valiant in your testimony against socialists, gays, muslims, immigrants? All these things are nice but if in the end one’s spiritual development never leaps beyond pharisaical narcissism of “personal” self-righteousness then have we really found peace with our enemies?

    OR does repentance come in the form of identifying the very sin that leads to cycles of death and violence? The Lord gave us Section 98 as an “immutable covenant” with a blessing and curse. He told us explicitly that if we are attacked by and enemy we are not to retaliate and seek vengeance and if we do then we become no different then our enemy. Rather He commanded us to “renounce” war and proclaim peace. To Renounce is not to simply say “war it not nice” or “I hate war” while explicitly and implicitly endorsing allegiance to state sponsored wars of aggression. No to “renounce” is to say refuse outright to support in word and deed any war of aggression. It is to conscientiously object and encourage others to do so. It is to speak stridently and unrelentingly against one’s nations war policies even if it means being unpopular. Is that the repentance President Monson is referring to? Is he referring to our decades (since Viet Nam) support of state sponsored militarism and economic repression worldwide that created these blowbacks such as 9/11? To those in this thread that are saying he is calling us to repentance are you thinking that President Monson is referring to our need to conscientiously object to our present wars of aggression as DC 98 mandates? Or do you/ President Monson have something else in mind?

    I submit that if we had followed the explicit commandments founds in Section 98 instead of rejecting it in words and deed from the onset, then we would have found peace individually and collectively as faith community. But no, we suffer from collective spiritual dyslexia. We think the Lord is really concerned about Section 89 and such “life coaching” commandments to be the key determinative of our morality rather then Section 98—but only a faith community with spiritual narcissism could make that mistake.

  33. Ron,

    Please read again… “to recognize their own individual problems throught the guidance of the spirit and use their agency to decide to call themselves to repentance”

    He could get up and say we all need to repent of being a warlike culture. Or we all need to repent of being lustful, etc.

    But by encouraging people to return to God, the spirit will work on those individuals as they actually do it. You might say, “fat chance of anyone doing that and then repenting of being warlike”

    But few if any would sincerely repent of being XYZ if it was expressly written about in a platform for lots of non-members in a major online website. And people would start arguing about motes and beams (As you seem to be doing but introducing all sorts of things and then determining for yourself which is important at the present time for that individual who you aren’t even interacting with).

    Rather, I think as a first step, encouraging one to return to God is a good approach to repentance. What gives repentance its efficacy? Sure, it’s the righteous use of agency on the individuals part, but all of that would be useless if it wasn’t for the atonement.

    And what does the atonement do? One thing is to help us to be one or united with Christ and his Father in turn.

    I don’t think one can actually, sincerely contemplate returning to God and considering what changes you would make in your life to do so and not have the power of the atonement distill upon your soul, as it were.

    I’m not going to argue with you over section 98, because I agree with everything contained in it. What’s interesting about that section though is it wasn’t given to the “world”, but to those who had received visions, seen angels, experienced miracles, etc. The immutable covenant you speak of certain can and should apply to modern later-day saints. I don’t get why you seem upset that he didn’t beat the world over the head with it and expect them to comply with the meat of the gospel, when they’ve already demonstrated they can’t handle the milk?

    Before you can grow to forgive your enemies, indeed even have the strength to do so, you need to turn towards God first.

    Remember, line up line.

    Your comment may apply perfectly. To you and perhaps others who are at the same “line” of revelation so to speak. Apply unto it.

  34. 9/11 was an act of war that spawned two wars. The most relevant issue deriving from 9/11 is our national response to war. This is the true test of whether we are a Christian nation. Can we, as a nation, forgive our enemies and renounce wars, as Christ commanded? This is the message that leaders of Christianity should have ten years ago proclaimed to our nation and still should be proclaiming today. This is the opportunity that President Monson missed. It is an opportunity that President Kimball did not miss during the bicentennial celebration.

  35. I think President Monson was wise to avoid addressing the justness of the war. His goal is to bring souls to Christ, and he smartly avoided the controversial topic involving variables, most of which we probably do not understand.

    Instead he called people to repentance (you don’t have to say ‘I call you to repentance’ in order to be doing so) by gently and lovingly encouraging them to recommit themselves to God and be diligent, rather than being tossed by the waves.

  36. I would gladly give to God the respect and love he has given to me and mine. Now remind me—what did God do for me on 9/10/01? Where were the warnings from the prophets?

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