Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Religious Freedom

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns religious freedom or the freedom to worship according to one’s conscience. Religious freedom is so important that all people across the world should recognize its value and come together to preserve and promote it. Several of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have addressed this topic recently. The following quotes can be found here. 

            President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke in Los Angeles, California, in April 2015 and said, “Church members seek to create goodwill among people of all religious beliefs, political persuasions, and of every race.”
            Continuing, President Uchtdorf said, “the effort to throw off traditions of distrust and pettiness and truly see one another with new eyes – see each other not as aliens or adversaries but as fellow travelers, brothers and sisters, and children of God – is one of the most challenging while at the same tie most rewarding and ennobling experiences of our human existence.”

            Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke in Argentina in October 2015 and said, “There should be no belligerence between religion and government. We all lose when an atmosphere of anger or hostility or contention prevails.”
            Continuing, Elder Oaks said, “Governments and their laws can provide the essential protections for believers and religious organizations and their activities.” He noted that religious principles, teachings, and organizations “can help create the conditions in which public laws and government institutions and their citizens can flourish” and “live together in happiness, harmony, and peace.

            Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke in London, England, in June 2015 and said, “By appealing to one’s deepest values, religions and religious organizations have a unique capacity to motivate people and, at the same time, cultivate attitudes of forgiveness, reconciliation, and a willingness to strive yet again for the ideal in their personal lives and in society.”

            Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in April 2015 in Portuguese. His audience included Muslims, Catholics, Adventists, Jews, Evangelicals, Latter-day Saints, native spiritualists, people of no particular faith, and others in a conference celebrating religious liberty. Elder Christofferson said, “Religious freedom is the cornerstone of peace in a world with many competing philosophies…. May we pursue peace by working together to preserve and protect the freedom of all people to hold and manifest a religion or belief of their choice, whether individually or in community with others, at home or abroad, in public or private, and in worship, observance, practice, and teaching.”

            These are just a few of the comments made by Apostles about religious freedom in a short period of time. Why do you think that Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ are so concerned about freedom to worship? I believe it is because they are seers and can see what is coming. They are warning the worship of the need to protect freedom of religion because the world will be in dire trouble if the people lose the right to worship as they desire. What can you do today to preserve and protect freedom of religion?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why Do Americans Feel Guilty?

            Why do Americans feel guilty about the enforcement of immigration laws? Most Americans understand that the United States has the sovereign right to decide who comes into the nation and who remains. Yet, many of those same people are torn about the efforts led by President Donald Trump to deport many people who enter or remain in the U.S. illegally. Why do people feel guilty about enforcing the laws of the land in which they live?

            With the enforcement procedures in recent Department of Homeland Security memos, most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants are eligible to be deported. ICE officials make the final decisions as to who will be deported and who will be allowed to remain in the United States. Undocumented immigrants are being deported, even those who are going to court. They will not be allowed in the U.S. until the law says they can come legally.

            I do not understand why non-citizens think that they have a right to live in our country simply because they want to live here. I do not understand why they are so upset with the U.S. enforcing immigration laws. They know that they are not here legally. They know that they broke the law. They should know that there are consequences to having broken the laws of the United States. Yet, many of them seem unwilling to accept those consequences.

            I believe the United States has the sovereign right to establish laws about immigration and to enforce those laws. At the same time, I have compassion on the good people who came here illegally but have been law-abiding residents since their arrival. I have compassion on children who were brought here by illegal parents seeking a better place to rear their family.

            Yet, the compassion I feel for the good people who are being deported cannot rob the justice required for breaking the law. There are immigrants who take the time to immigrate legally. They sometimes wait years and pay thousands of dollars for this blessing. Why should people who come illegally receive the same blessings as those who immigrate the right way? Americans should not feel guilty for enforcing the laws of the land, even though everyone should feel some compassion for the people in the desperate circumstances.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Everything Has a Reason

            I read a post on Facebook today that I have been pondering for several hours. Its title was something like “Everything that Happens Does Not Have a Reason.” My first thought was to refute what was said, but I did not follow through on the thought. You see, the poster and many people that I know are recoiling from a terrible tragedy in our community yesterday. I knew there was already enough pain in our midst, and I did not desire to cause any more. The post was not about the misfortune, but apparently it was supposed to give comfort about it.

            Tonight I decided to share some of my thoughts with the little knowledge I have about the calamity. I believe that there are no coincidences in life. I also believe there is a reason for all things even though we may not understand it.  I believe that God is in charge of the universe and individual lives and that He allows things to happen as they do. I may not understand why things happen, but I trust that God has His reasons.

            The tragedy happened to dear friends, who are members of our local church group. They are almost kin to my family because my daughter married into that clan. There was a carbon monoxide leak caused by a faulty furnace repair two weeks ago, and the family was exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning. They had been experiencing flu-like symptoms, but they thought it was just the flu. Yesterday morning the parents found one of their eighteen-year-old sons dead and a second one very ill. The entire family of two parents and five remaining teenagers were sent to the hospital for treatment. All but one went home last night (to a different house), and the last one will most likely be released tomorrow. They are apparently all okay.

            People are questioning why things like this happen to good people – and all members of the family are good people. Friends and loved ones are having difficulty coming to terms with the results. Yet, I asked a few questions, and I believe the answers are reasons why things happened the way they did. The two young men were sleeping in separate bedrooms in the mother-in-law apartment over the garage, just above where the furnace is located. The carbon monoxide went through the garage ceiling and into the bedrooms. One son was sleeping with his window open, and the other was not.

            Three reasons explain why one fine young man is dead and another one is a very ill survivor. The first reason is that the furnace was not put back together correctly. The second reason is that the family did not recognize the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning (would you?). The third reason is the fresh air coming into one room and not the other.

            These reasons are fairly obvious ones, but they are not satisfactory to mourning parents, siblings, other loved ones, and friends. The only answer that brings peace to our souls is to put our trust in God, which is often a difficult thing to do.  I suppose that only God really knows the answer to why things happened the way they did. I know that He is in control of all things, but I do not claim to understand why God allowed this experience to play out as it did. I do not know why He saves one person and not another. I do, however, know that He has His own reasons, and I believe that He will show us the big picture at some time in the future. In the meantime, I join my family and friends in mourning the loss of a wonderful young man.       

Monday, February 20, 2017

Presidents Day

            The United States commemorates Presidents Day today as a day to honor all Presidents of the United States. This is a fairly new federal holiday that supposedly replaced Washington’s Birthday, which is February 22. This change does not set well with many people because some of our Presidents have been much greater than others. Why should George Washington share this honor with the likes of Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, and others too numerous to mention?

            In his article titled “Why We Should Celebrate Washington’s Birthday, Not Presidents Day,” Arthur Milikh at The Heritage Foundation argues the federal holiday should still be known as Washington’s Birthday because “America’s greatest statesmen did not think that national holidays were merely about family dinners, watching fireworks, or getting a three-day weekend.”

            Milikh uses the holidays of Thanksgiving and Independence Day to show why he believes the Founders would never have accepted the change to Presidents Day. He explains that George Washington wrote his Thanksgiving Day proclamation about how the day should be about gratitude for the blessings of God and particularly for those of this great nation. He suggested that Americans should offer up their thanksgiving to God. Milikh contrasts the day of gratitude with a day of rejoicing by explaining that Independence Day is a day to celebrate the “courage and manliness” that went into defeating Great Britain and establishing the United States. His explanation put my feelings about the day into words.

            Continuing his article, Milikh writes, “What we today call `Presidents Day’ is in fact Washington’s birthday. Just like a republican people must on occasion be reminded of the need for manly assertiveness and modest gratitude, so too must they be reminded of examples of human greatness.” He states that “presidents” is just “an abstraction” with “no real content, being viewed as merely another day off work.” He continues.

   During Washington’s life, he deservedly became one of the most famous men in the world. His remarkable courage and prudence had, despite great odds and at great peril, carried to victory our 13 colonies against the most powerful empire on earth. The weight of this task fell upon his shoulders.           
   In times of peace, moreover, Washington’s self-possession and equanimity – by contrast to the brilliant but somewhat impulsive advisers surrounding him – meant that the country’s fate could be responsibly entrusted to him. The example of his control over his passions, his judgement, and devotion to the common good made him the new model of republican greatness, which until recently filled the American imagination for generations.
   Indeed, so clear were his virtues that both Federalists and Anti-Federalists reached unanimous agreement about Washington’s worthiness to be president, despite their immense disagreements on almost everything else.

            George Washington was raised up by God to lead this nation. He was aware of his
great calling and responsibility, and he lived worthy of the Lord’s blessings upon him. He is worthy to be honored by his own special day.

            The Patriot Post today was also about Washington’s Birthday vs. President’s Day. The author of the post quoted Matthew Spalding, a Heritage Foundation scholar. Spalding noted that Washington’s Birthday was celebrated as early as 1778 and “was second only to the Fourth of July as a patriotic holiday” by earth in the next century. He also noted that Congress recognized the day as Washington’s Birthday in 1870. He explained the connection between Washington’s Birthday and Presidents Day.

   The Monday Holiday Law in 1968 – applied to executive branch departments and agencies by Richard Nixon’s Executive Order 11582 in 1971 – moved the holiday from February 22 to the third Monday in February. Section 6103 of Title 5, United States Code, currently designates that legal federal holiday as `Washington’s Birthday.’ Contrary to popular opinion, no action by Congress or order by any President has changed `Washington’s Birthday’ to `Presidents’ Day.’
   Furthermore, to call the day “Presidents’ Day” not only diminishes George Washington but elevates presidents like Barack Obama. Whereas Washington sought to keep his oath to “support and defend” the Constitution, Obama undermined it at every turn.

            I learned something today as I wrote about this topic. I did not know that the holiday had not been officially changed from Washington’s Birthday to Presidents’ Day. The knowledge that Congress has not changed the name of the holiday makes me feel much better. Maybe someday a President will use an executive order to again honor President George Washington.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Constitutional Rights

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the “rights” that are not in the Constitution. Liberals tried to convince everyone in their fight against President Trump that people who had never been in America had a Constitutional “right” to come here. There is no such right listed in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

            Nate Madden at Conservative Review explains another right that is not a real “right.” In a 2001 case before the Supreme Court – Zadvydas v. Davis – concerned how long an illegal alien can be detained. The Court ruled 5-4 that undocumented immigrants could not be held more than 90 days. This sort of created a “right” for the alien to be released back into the general population. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissent the vote, and Scalia wrote the following dissent.

    Insofar as a claimed legal right to release into this country is concerned.
    An alien under final order of removal stands on an equal footing with an inadmissible alien at the threshold of entry: He has no such right.
    We are offered no justification why an alien under a valid and final order of removal – which has totally extinguished whatever right to presence in this country he possessed – has any greater due process right to be released into the country than an alien at the border seeking entry.
   [A]n inadmissible alien at the border has no right to be in the United States.

            Justice Scalia, joined by Justice Frankfurter, used a dissent from Justice Robert Jackson in Shaughnessy v. United States in 1953: “Due process does not invest any alien with a right to enter the United States nor confer on those admitted the right to remain against the national will.
Nothing in the Constitution requires admission or sufferance of aliens hostile to our scheme of government.”

            All people have the right to be treated with respect as human beings, but they have no fundamental or Constitutional right to enter America or to stay here without permission.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Records on Metal Plates

            Many people have heard of the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Most of those people have heard that the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith from a record kept on metal plates.

            Joseph Smith writes in his history about his experience of obtaining the record and translating it. A heavenly messenger by the name of Moroni visited the young man and told him about some gold plates with a message on them. He showed the plates to Smith and explained the importance of them, but he did not deliver the plates. These are Smith’s words about his experience.

He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source form whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants.

            Smith continues with his explanation that Moroni visited him every year for four years, and then he delivered the plates to him. Smith translated the record using an Urim and Thummin that was found with the records. He had a third-grade education, yet he was able to translate the record in a period of approximately two months. The only way he could have accomplished this task was with the help of God. When he finished the translation, he returned the plates to Moroni. The resulting translation is known as the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

            In 2015 a team of archaeologists from Brigham Young University reported that they found some plates buried in the Hill Cumorah, which is located in the western part of the state of New York. They noticed a small cave-like cavity while they were searching the area with “advanced metal detectors, lasers and other ground-penetrating imaging technology. They dug through about twelve feet of rocks and dirt. The scientists found signs of ancient use of the cave, a flat stone that looked like an altar, and “a book made of metal plates” made from a copper-gold alloy. There were twelve pages in the book.

            This is not the only “book” found on metal plates in recent years. “This ancient collection of 70 tiny books, their lead pages bound with wire, could unlock some of the secrets of the earliest days of Christianity. Academics are divided as to their authenticity but say that if verified, they could prove as pivotal as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.”

            Another set of plates was reportedly found in 2008. This “ancient set of lead tablets showing the earliest portrait of Jesus Christ have proved to be around 2,000 years old, according to experts. The metal `pages,’ held together like a ring binder … [and] make reference to Christ and his disciples.

            There are other reports of metal plates being found, but these three sets prove that ancient people made records on metal plates. Even though the plates translated by Joseph Smith are no longer available to see and handle, there is still a way to determine if they contain the word of God. The last chapter of the record, chapter 10, contains Moroni’s instructions on how to know if the Book of Mormon is true.

4. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

            Anyone who desires to know if the Book of Mormon is the word of God can learn for themselves if they will only read the book and pray sincerely about it. I have studied the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ many times. In fact, I read from the book every day. I put the promise of Moroni to the test, and I learned for myself that Moroni’s promise works. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I also know that it supports the Bible in its witness of Jesus Christ.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Faith in Jesus Christ

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened as individuals exercise faith in Jesus Christ. This is the second in a series on the Young Women values. The first post in the series can be found here. It discusses the Young Women values and the Personal Progress program that assists women of all ages to develop these attributes. Each value is represented by a specific color.

            The first Young Women value is faith in Jesus Christ, and it is represented by the color white, which symbolizes purity or pure faith. An ancient American prophet by the name of Alma taught that faith is “not to have a perfect knowledge” but to have a “hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 32:21).

            We read of many miracles performed by Jesus Christ as He walked the roads of Palestine. One of those miracles was the healing of the daughter of Jairus as well as the story of a woman who was healed. These stories are found in Mark 5:22-43. Jesus was approached by “one of the rulers of the synagogue” by the name of Jairus. He fell at the feet of Jesus and begged Him to return to his home to heal his “little daughter” who was near death.

            Jesus went with Jairus, but His travel was hindered by the many people who thronged around Him. One of those people was a woman who was healed of a long-time health issue because she believed she would be healed if she only touched His robe. She accomplished her goal of touching Him and was immediately healed. He felt the virtue go out of Him and demanded to know who had touched Him. She came to Him and told Him the truth. He said, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague” (v. 34).

            While Christ was thus delayed, a servant of Jairus arrived with the news that the daughter had died. Jesus told Jairus, “Be not afraid, only believe” (v. 36). Jesus took Peter, James, and John and went to the home of Jairus, which was surrounded by people weeping and wailing. Jesus asked them, “Why make ye this ado, and weep? The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth” (v. 39). The people laughed with scorn at His words.

            Jesus took the father, mother, and His apostles and went into the room where the damsel was lying. He took her by the hand and told her to “arise” (v. 41). The twelve-year-old girl immediately “arose and walked” (v. 42); she was given some food and ate it (v. 43).

            The woman with the health issue was healed because she had faith that Christ could heal her with only a touch. The young maiden was healed because her father had faith in Jesus Christ and His power to heal. There are many other examples in the scriptures and in life where people are healed because they have enough faith to be healed or others exercise their faith in behalf of the ill person. There are other times when people exercise faith in Jesus Christ, but it is not the Lord’s will for them to be healed. Faith in Jesus Christ means faith in His ability to know what is right in each circumstance and a willingness to accept His will. Just as Christ has the power to heal people physically, He also has the power to heal spiritually. He has the power to heal individuals, families, communities, and nations.

            Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin while a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Faith is not so much something we believe; faith is something we live.” In other words, more is required that simply belief. Faith is an action word. The woman with the health issue did more than simply believe in Christ; she reached out to touch His robe. The ruler Jairus did not simply believe in Christ. He found Jesus and asked Him to come to his home to heal his daughter.

            Faith can be exercised in many different areas of life. It takes faith for a young couple to start their family while still obtaining their education. It takes more faith than money to pay tithing. It takes faith to establish and continue a pattern of prayer and scripture study. It takes faith to move to a new area simply because one feels it is the right thing to do.

            A wonderful family home evening lesson about faith in Jesus Christ can be found at this site. I encourage you to consider your own faith in Jesus Christ. What can you do to strengthen your faith and, in return, strengthen your family, community and nation?