The Third Way is a political position which tries to reconcile right-wing and left-wing politics by advocating a synthesis of mostly right-wing economic and some left-wing social policies. Third Way approaches are commonly viewed from within the first- and second-way perspectives as representing a centrist compromise between free market capitalism and democratic socialism. However, proponents of third way philosophies see it as something beyond free market capitalism and democratic socialism. This claim is embodied in the alternative description of the Third Way as the Radical center.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Way_(centrism)]
This philosophy was the key to political success for Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and other elected leaders in Canada, France, and Australia. These politicians successfully framed their positions as being reasonable and centrist. In reality, they were simply progressives. Progressives exist in both American political parties. They’re the ones who find a way to compromise to overcome “partisan bickering” and get laws passed. The problem wiith them is that the compromises always entail surrender of personal liberty, states’ rights, and national sovereignty.
I have always searched the scriptures, seeking to apply them to our day. Some time back, I re-read a familiar passage in the Book of Abraham, contained in the collection of latter-day revelations known as the Pearl of Great Price. Here is the passage I want us to consider from Abraham chapter 3:
5 And the Lord said unto me: The planet which is the lesser light, lesser than that which is to rule the day, even the night, is above or greater than that upon which thou standest in point of reckoning, for it moveth in order more slow; this is in order because it standeth above the earth upon which thou standest, therefore the reckoning of its time is not so many as to its number of days, and of months, and of years.
6 And the Lord said unto me: Now, Abraham, these two facts exist, behold thine eyes see it; it is given unto thee to know the times of reckoning, and the set time, yea, the set time of the earth upon which thou standest, and the set time of the greater light which is set to rule the day, and the set time of the lesser light which is set to rule the night.
7 Now the set time of the lesser light is a longer time as to its reckoning than the reckoning of the time of the earth upon which thou standest.
8 And where these two facts exist, there shall be another fact above them, that is, there shall be another planet whose reckoning of time shall be longer still;
9 And thus there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time; which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same border as that upon which thou standest.
10 And it is given unto thee to know the set time of all the stars that are set to give light, until thou come near unto the throne of God.
Anti-Mormons love to ridicule the mere mention of Kolob and in the process, they ignore the valuable lesson the Lord taught Abraham. In this passage, the Lord does several things. He shows his servant, the faithful Abraham, a portion of the scope of his creations. He explains somewhat concerning the motions of heavenly bodies. However, the primary lesson to be learned here is more basic. It involves truth and the perception of truth. It is a Divine Dialectic.
The principles involved are as follows. Perception and experience lead us to comparison. Comparison invites the use of agency. When two facts can be seen, “it is given unto [us] to know the times of reckoning.” Agency allows us to compare, discern, and choose. ”Intelligence, or the light of truth, cannot be created or made, neither can be.” (D&C 93:29) As children of God, we possess that divine spark that allows us to perceive, compare, and choose. Truth is independent of observation and intelligence is independent to observe. If not, there would be no existence (D&C 93:30) The moment we can see that two facts exist, the Lord tells Abraham that “there shall be another fact above them.” In other words, when you perceive that there are two choices available, and you’re not content with those choices, “Look up.” There is a third choice that is of a higher, more elevated nature. Seek to identify that third option. It will take you closer to God.
From the vantagepoint of the third option, a new perspective will emerge. New choices will be perceived. The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
“We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Two 1834–37, p.51)
As we navigate this process, our views become more clear. For God, subjective and objective reality are the same thing. He doesn’t see the universe in a linear fashion. For him, the path ahead is always clear. All things are “present” before him. (D&C 38:2) For us, we must negotiate a path between choices, not knowing the outcome. If we know and expect that a third option will inevitably exist, it changes the way we will perceive subjective reality. Each “third way” choice we make elevates our perceptions to be closer to that of our Maker’s.
In a discourse on May 6, 1883, President George Q. Cannon wrote:
“In this way we will be emancipated through the blessing and aid of God upon us, and in this way the earth will be redeemed from the power of Satan. The more people obey the laws of God as God has revealed them and as they are embodied in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the nearer they approach unto God, the more they become like Him, the more power they get over themselves and over the adversary.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.24, p.145-6, George Q. Cannon, May 6th, 1883)
President Cannon also explained:
“The nearer we approach unto God the more perfect we live in accordance with the revelations He has given, the more faith undoubtedly we will possess, the more God will hear us, the nearer the heavens will draw to us, the more the heavens will be opened to us to hear our cries and to answer our petitions. And, as I have said, the day will come, if we obey the laws that God has given, that Zion will be redeemed and the adversary will not have power over us to tempt us, and try us, an to afflict us as he does at the present time.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.24, p.147, George Q. Cannon, May 6th, 1883)
Returning to the topic of political dialogue, the “Third Way” represented by Clinton, Blair, and other progressives, is distinguished from the Divine Dialectic in the fact that it doesn’t look up. It moves to the middle of the same moral plane. It inevitably involves a surrender of principle from one side or the other. It moves to the center, never up. Thus a compromise between good and evil inevitably taints the good and cedes power to evil. The lesser of two evils is still evil.
Just watch an hour of Fox News or an episode of Hannity and you’ll see how the telestial dialectic works. A moderator presents two antagonists in split-screen. They begin by reciting talking points and rehearsed counterpoints to their adversary’s assertions. The bickering escalates until they’re shouting over one another. No resolution is possible. Polarization is the goal. Both sides are concerned with “who’s right” instead of “what’s right.”
When we apply the Divine Dialectic to individual issues, an amazing thing happens. Let’s examine a couple of social issues and see how it can be applied.
One side in the debate over a “woman’s right to choose” treats the issue as a “sacred,” secular sacrament. It is an inviolable principle of a woman’s sovereignty over her own person. They draw a line in the sand which not even God may cross, even if they do believe in him. On the other side are religious individual, most of whom reject revealed religion and rely on conflicting interpretations of an ancient text from which they extrapolate an opinion. The same Bible that the Evangelical Christian uses to claim that abortion is murder is used by the Jew to justify abortion to save a woman’s life when pregnancy would threaten it. They remain at polar opposites, irreconcilable. One side cannot prevail except at the expense of the other. One must be victorious, one must surrender. Compromise destroys the values of both sides. These are “two facts” of which God spoke to Abraham.
Applying the Divine Dialectic, we don’t move to the center–we look up. Considering scriptures and the teachings of modern prophets, members of the Church arrive at a different sort of compromise. Insofar as it has been revealed, abortion is not murder. Nevertheless, life and its beginnings are sacred. Abortion should be avoided unless the life of the mother is in danger, the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or the child will suffer extremely severe birth defects. Even in those conditions, abortion is not the default choice. The mother is advised to seek personal revelation from the Lord on how to proceed and seek confirmation of her decision. Furthermore, the teachings of the Church regarding chastity, repentance, and forgiveness discourage the sins and choices that might lead to unwanted pregnancies and the entertaining of the idea of an abortion as a solution. This proactive approach is augmented by resources that are poured into organizations like LDS Family Services to facilitate adoption as an option. This is a “compromise” that works on a higher plane. It requires the individuals to look up to God and find the “Third Way.”
Only a true Church can promise that God will speak to the individual. The secular learning of men denies this possibility as do the sectarian creeds. They cannot “look up.” Their precepts preclude that possibility. The Divine Dialectic does not.
Progressives seek to express charitable expressions in government welfare programs that reward idleness, divide families, discourage fathers from taking responsibility for their children, and keeping people dependent. On the right, the attitudes may range from uncharitable urges to cut off all assistance to the able-bodied indigent to the work of religious charities. Some of these charities are inefficient because of the overhead costs they bear from paying hireling clergymen and the lack of efficient coordination among their efforts. Those two sides are the “two facts” in question.
Looking upwards, the revelations received in the latter-days encourage selfless and sacrificial giving. At the same time, there is an emphasis that the “idler shall not eat the bread of the laborer.” Individual latter-day saints give generous fast offerings in addition to tithing. Those offerings care for the needy. The Church’s welfare program is designed to help individuals become self-reliant. It is administered by bishops who are given keys of authority and revelation to administer the program. The Third Way involves looking up to the Lord and finding solutions that lift everyone up together. Our teachings prepare us to live in a consecration economy at some future time, where the poor will be exalted in that the rich shall be made low.” (D&C 104:16)
The left and right are locked in fateful battles affecting large populations of undocumented immigrants in the United States. One side wants to ignore the security of the nation in hopes of securing a generation-long pool of voters dependent upon government largess. The other side wants to lock down the border, deport millions of non-citizens, potentially dividing families, and causing harm to the economy. Those are the “two facts.”
Again, “looking up” to the revelations and the teachings of the prophets and apostles from this dispensation, we learn that all of North and South America will be one land, without borders. The Lord has called these continents “Zion.” It is to these lands that he is gathering the seed of Joseph, the one sold into Egypt. It is this tribe of Israel whose very name means “to gather.” Why should we contend so vehemently one with another over this issue, which sparks accusation of racial profiling on one side and treasonous efforts to undermine national sovereignty on the other? Those whose efforts are intended to undermine the Republic will inadvertently do God’s will. Their attempts to destroy the nation will bring about the conditions that will cause Zion to enter into its own. On the other side, how can any political party stop the prophetically ordained movements of the remnant of Jacob into the lands that were given their father Lehi by covenant? (See 3 Nephi chapter 21.) If we will look up–to the revelations–we will find our answers.
In conclusion, when latter-day saints join the contentious chorus of political discord, we need to be wary of embracing the arguments and tactics of the telestial antagonists. If we consider the Lord’s instructions to Abraham, we would be well-advised to look beyond left and right and raise our sights to the next level. When we do, our views will become more clear, our arguments more persuasive, and our solutions more humane and effective. Whenever there are “two facts” that exist, “there shall be another above them.” This is a Divine decree that we can count on. We just need to disengage from the battles at hand and look upwards to find answers that will work.
(Written for LDSLiberty.org, July 8, 2010)