|Points of the Compass
David Wilson Atwood
as published in Gulf Coast Newspapers
|Other columns can be viewed on the Points of the Compass
Archives page. Just follow the link below
Thanks for reading.
Is America ready for a Mormon President?
An Answer to the Question
My Granddaddy told me, “If you want to start an argument, talk politics or religion. If you want to
make an enemy, talk about both at the same time.”
I try to avoid either subject. I am religious, but not political, and writing about both at the same time
makes me nervous. Last Sunday, I read a column by a Baptist minister from Auburn, Alabama’
which asked the question, “Is America ready for a Mormon President?”
The column gave some historical background of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and
some Book of Mormon references, as well as statements concerning the church’s growth. Most of it
was factual and fair, some of it played loose with science, but the article never did answer the
question; is America ready for a Mormon President?
I was in high school when John F. Kennedy was running for the office. There was a loud outcry
about his being Catholic and he would be the first President of that faith. Fear mongers declared that
the Pope would rule America through the office of the President. The question then was, “Is
America ready for a Catholic President?”
I don’t care what religion my President is. I am much more concerned as to how he, or she, adheres
to their religion’s tenets, and what his, or her values are. I ask if a candidate defends the Constitution
and values set down by the Founding Fathers. Does he or she respect the Flag when the Pledge of
Allegiance is said? Does the candidate continue the tradition of Prayer Breakfasts, or are they
cancelled? Does the holder of that office have high moral standards, or is adultery in the White
House acceptable? Is truth in all things part of their character?
Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was asked what the church
believes. He wrote thirteen statements about the fundamental beliefs of the Church, which are
known as The Articles of Faith.
The thirteenth Article reads, “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in
doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul – We believe all
things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.
If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
Not a bad standard to judge a candidate for the most powerful office in the world by, is it? A nation
could be judged by the same set of values. I don’t think the framers of the Declaration of
Independence, or the Constitution would object to these principles. They should be at the heart of
any religion, and certainly any leader of any organization.
I believe the real question to be, is America ready for a President who lives by these values? How
can America not be? How can our nation not embrace these qualities regardless of religious
We are at a dark time in our nations’ history. Immorality is becoming the rule, not the exception.
Escapism by drugs and alcohol is escalating. Self-reliance is no longer an esteemed value as more
live on the government dole. The ideals in our country’s founding documents are being ignored, or
I fear the Presidency has become a popularity contest, a beauty pageant, a prize to the highest
bidder. If there is a candidate out there who lives the values listed above, I will follow regardless of
race, creed, color, or gender. Lead on decent person, America needs you.
I love chocolate doughnuts. I don’t mean the chocolate covered regular size ones; I love the little cake
ones that are dipped in thick chocolate that come in packages of five or six that you buy at
convenience stores. Those are the ones I love. I don’t just love them, I crave them.
Is there a twelve step program for chocolate doughnut eaters? If there is, I should be in it. I’m writing
this at nine-fifteen in the morning, checking my watch to see how long it is until ten-thirty. That’s
when I can go get my package of chocolate doughnuts and my Dr. Pepper and take my morning
break. See, I do have some self discipline.
I blame this all on my mother. She’s passed, so she can’t defend herself, and it may not be fair, but it
is her fault. I was a finicky eater as a child (I wish I had that problem now) and on into high school. I
would eat no reasonable breakfast food, not even cereals. My mom, a nurse, having more than a
working knowledgeable of nutrition and the importance of a good breakfast, gave up and one
morning plopped down in front of me a box of chocolate doughnuts with a glass of milk, and with a
disgusted and defeated tone, said, “Here”, and walked away.
You must be kidding me, chocolate doughnuts for breakfast?! Oh, there is a God, and he loves me! I
was elated; I was hooked. From that day on until I left for college and then the service, I had chocolate
doughnuts for breakfast.
They weren’t practical in college. I mean, I would have to buy them myself and I had better things to
spend my money on. In the Marine Corps, they weren’t available. There, I ate anything I could get
my hands on. Finicky wasn’t an option. See, I can do without them, and have for varying periods of
time; sometimes, years. Well, that might be stretching it a little, but I can do without them…for awhile.
I have forgotten about them at times, but then out of nowhere, I get this craving and have to have
them. Or, I’ll be walking through a store and spy them on the shelf and they cry out to me; no, they
sing to me, “Remember me? Don’t you want me? You can’t live without me”, and they’re right. Then
I’ll go through a period where the Admiral buys them in quantities to stock the pantry. That’s nice,
and she says that if I insist on being addicted, that it’s more economical, but sneaking off to the corner
store is so much more satisfying.
I’m sure I’ll quit again soon. I don’t seem to crave them in the hotter weather; I don’t like the chocolate
melting on my hands. They’re so gooey and gummy in your mouth when they’re melty like that;
yuck! The doughnuts will slip away from my conscious awareness, but I know they are lurking back
there somewhere, waiting and plotting.
A price will have to be paid for this as it is with all things that feel, or taste good, but until then, I’m
loving them. I look at my watch; oh no, I’ve still have thirty minutes to go! Maybe I’ll break early
An Evening with Mark Twain
I was asleep; at least it felt like sleep. I was awake too. I was not dreaming.
I sat up and standing at the foot of my bed was a man dressed in a white suit with an unruly head
of hair the color of the suit. He was smallish, and had a mustache that covered his upper lip. I
could smell cigar smoke. Training and practice dictated that I reach for a weapon, but something
stopped me. It didn’t seem right to shoot Mark Twain.
I laughed at the thought of shooting a dead man. He smiled at my laughter as if we had shared a
joke. I then thought, “What do you do with a dead man in your room?” I laughed, and again, he
Since it was clear that killing him was futile, I determined to talk to him. “What are you doing
“You invited me,” he said with a twinkle in his eye that told me he knew more about the situation
than I did.
“I did not,” was my brilliant retort.
He smiled again, reached into his right suit pocket, and took out an apple. I watched as he turned it
in his hand. It looked solid. I couldn’t look through it and see his hand as if it was a ghost apple,
nor could I see the apple through his fingers.
Mr. Twain, then put his left hand into his pants pocket and took out a small penknife. As he
opened the knife’s blade, he spoke, “You were reading Letters from the Earth, and you called me.”
I did not speak, having sounded dumb enough with my first attempt. He nodded, “You said, ‘I
wish I could meet the mind who wrote this’, so here I am.”
“Nice to meet you.” I said, “Nice to meet you”! How lame? I embarrass myself. To recover, I
added, “I love your War Prayer.” Another smile.
My attention was drawn back to the apple because his was. I watched as he started to cut it. I had
always seen and cut an apple on its north-south axis, into slices, removed the core and ate them.
Mr. Twain was cutting the apple around its girth.
The apple spun deftly in his hands as the small blade incised an arc through the heart of the fruit.
He split it, and held two halves, one in each hand. I smelled fresh apple in the room over the
fading cigar smoke. He held the two halves, fruit side out for me to see.
There were two stars, one in either half. I had never known that splitting an apple that way would
reveal stars and was delighted with the discovery.
I looked at him smiling. The twinkle in my eye matched his as he said, “Look beyond what you
know and see the stars. Things are not as they seem.” He then took a bite of one-half and held the
other toward me. I reached for it, but as I did, he faded and was gone.
I got up, raced to the kitchen and grabbed an apple, ran back to my room, got my knife and cut the
apple as Mark Twain had done, looked at the stars, laughed, took a bite and swore I smelled cigar
You may say the visit was not real, and you may be right, but I know this, things are not always as
they seem. If you look into the heart, you might find stars.
David Wilson Atwood is a local writer whose human interest columns offer a unique
perspective. He may be contacted, and his other works viewed at: www.starchasers.us,