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, August 25, 2016

Freedom of Inquiry and Expression

                The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns freedom of inquiry and expression. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States declares:  “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or of the press….” Amendment 1 was adopted on December 15, 1791, as the first of ten amendments constituting the Bill of Rights.

                Yet, freedom of speech has been curtailed and even prevented on liberal university campuses across the United States because someone might feel uncomfortable by something someone else says. Spineless and/or liberal administrators at colleges have allowed liberal and progressive students to force rules curtailing the freedom of speech on their campuses and demanding “safe places” where they will not feel threatened by words.

                Finally, a university stands up to the pressure. Jay Ellison, Dean of Students at the University of Chicago, sent a letter to the class of 2020 informing them that one of the university’s “defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression.” The letter warned incoming students to not expect “trigger warnings” or “safe spaces” on campus.

                In its first paragraph the letter congratulates incoming freshmen on being accepted to the university and welcomes them to the campus. The second and following paragraphs informed students of the university’s stand on free speech.
                “Once here you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression…. Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.
                “Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called `trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual `safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

                You can find the entire letter at this site, and I hope you will read it. I find the letter to be very refreshing. I am grateful for those universities and other schools that refuse to curtail academic freedom because of pressure from liberals.

                Students go to universities, colleges, and other schools to learn. How can they learn if they are censored in what they can speak, write, or hear? I enjoy hearing the viewpoints of other people because I know they come from different backgrounds and different experiences and can add to my knowledge. The more knowledge I gain, the better I am equipped to make informed decisions. The opposite is also true. If knowledge is withheld from me, I am less able to make good decisions.

                Could this be the reason freedom of speech is curtailed on liberal campuses? Conservative principles work every time they are tried, and they bring more freedom with their policies. Liberal leaders must be afraid they will lose followers if their followers are allowed to hear conservative ideas!    I applaud the University of Chicago in their commitment to academic freedom!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mormons and Immigration

                Donald Trump does have a “Mormon problem,” but it is not the problem Tom Tancredo posed recently. “It is an open secret in Washington, D.C., that the Mormon church supports open borders and lax enforcement of immigration laws.” This is an outright lie.

                The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement five years ago on June 20, 2011, concerning its position on immigration. The first four paragraphs of the statement are as follow:

                “Around the world, debate on the immigration question has become intense. That is especially so in the United States. Most Americans agree that the federal government of the United States should secure its borders and sharply reduce or eliminate the flow of undocumented immigrants. Unchecked and unregulated, such a flow may destabilize society and ultimately become unsustainable.
                “As a matter of policy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discourages its members from entering any country without legal documentation, and from deliberately overstaying legal travel visas.
                “What to do with the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now residing in various states within the United States is the biggest challenge in the immigration debate. The bedrock moral issue for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is how we treat each other as children of God.
                “The history of mass expulsion or mistreatment of individuals or families is cause for concern especially where race, culture, or religion are involved. This should give pause to any policy that contemplates targeting any one group, particularly if that group comes mostly from one heritage.” (Emphasis added.)

                Most people would agree that the above statement hardly calls for open borders. It does, however, put the responsibility of securing the borders directly on the federal government of the United States. It also states that continued illegal immigration into the United States can “destabilize” our society and that members of the Church are discouraged to enter any country illegally.

                The most important issue to the Church and its members is “how we treat each other as children of God.” This is an issue that the early members of the Church dealt with over and over again. Joseph Smith and his followers were persecuted and pushed out of New York, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois because of religious beliefs. The intolerance of other religious groups forced them to actually leave the territory of the United States and seek safety and religious freedom in the Utah Territory. This is the reason why members of the Church and the Church itself defend the religious freedom of all other people.

                Many of my ancestors were among those members who were uprooted time and time again and finally established permanent homes in Utah. I am in full support of the Church’s position on immigration. I too believe that the most important issue is “how we treat each other as children of God.”       

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

                The New Atlantis published a new report about gender identity and sexual orientation. The report, “Sexuality and Gender:Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” is co-authored by Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh, two of the nation’s leading scholars on mental health and sexuality.

                Ryan T. Anderson at The Daily Signal says that the report “challenges the leading narratives that the media has pushed regarding sexual orientation and gender identity…. The major takeaway, as the editor of the journal explains, is that `some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence.’”

                Anderson then lists “four of the report’s most important conclusions.” (1) “The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property – that people are `born that way’ – is not supported by scientific evidence.” (2) “Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex – so that a person might be a `man trapped in a woman’s body’ or `a woman trapped in a man’s body’ – is not supported by scientific evidence. (3) “Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. There is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.” (4) “Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.

                The new report should cause people to pause and consider some of the actions that are being taken in our nation. There is no scientific evidence available to prove the need for some of these actions; therefore, our federal government and media should stop pushing for drastic changes in our society. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Julian Assange

                Julian Paul Assange has been in the news numerous times over the past few weeks for items published by WikiLeaks, and he is in the news today because of a burglary at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

                WikiLeaks published the following statement this morning:  “16 mins ago at 2:47 am a `cat burgler’ scaled the side wall+window of the Ecuadorian embassy in London; fled after being caught by security.”

                What does the Ecuadorian embassy in London have to do with Assange? He was granted political asylum by Ecuador and “has been living inside the embassy for more than four years.”

                There is some concern that the burglar was actually attempting to assassinate Assange. It seems that lots of people associated with the Clintons die of “suicide” or “unknown causes.” Assange has been a pain in Hillary Clinton’s side for a very long time now, as he has continuously released documents and information that indicates massive amounts of fraud and corruption taking place by Hillary, her state department, and the Clinton Foundation.” He promises to release more documents about Hillary.

                I personally have wondered how he has managed to stay alive this long. Apparently, many other people believe his life is in danger. Maybe it is a good thing that he lives in an embassy with security guards.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Voter Fraud

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns voter fraud. Conservatives have been claiming voter fraud for some time, and progressives have been denying it even though voter fraud cases are being put on record.

                Peter Tapsak and Jason Snead explain, “Progressives insist that voter fraud is a myth, a charade meant to justify repressive voting laws. The facts, however, tell a different story: Voter fraud is real, and if we ignore it, we leave our ballot boxes open to fraudsters who would rather steal elections than risk losing in a fair and open contest.”

                In their article titled “Voter Fraud Is Real. Here Are 4 More Cases,” Tapsak and Snead discuss how “courts struck down election integrity laws in Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin” but left “some provisions of Texas’ challenged election laws” in effect. A “stay has been entered against the order striking down Wisconsin’s law.”

                Tapsak and Snead then discuss four new fraud cases to put on the record. They took place in Kentucky, Texas, Iowa, and Wisconsin. The charges include vote buying, identity theft, fraud, “assisting” absentee voters, convicted felon voting, and 13 counts for duplicate voting.

                The article at The Daily Signal concludes: “As the old adage goes, we are entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts. These cases – along with the hundreds of other convictions Heritage has documented – are the inconvenient facts many on the left choose simply to ignore. Reasonable Americans should not follow their lead.
                “Elections – our most direct means of political participation – should be fair and untainted by fraudsters. Every time a vote is cast illegally, it nullifies a legitimate vote and undermines the entire system by eroding public trust in our political institutions. It is imperative that this not be allowed to happen.”

                We must believe that voter fraud takes place and demand fair and honest elections!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Guard Rails

                Almost every time I leave my neighborhood I travel through a certain intersection. As I travel down the road leading to the intersection, I have the choice to go straight across the bridge over the freeway or to take a sharp turn to the right. One lane of the road to the right leads to the freeway, and the other lane leads to the frontage road. I make that sharp right turn regularly and several times each week. I travel down the frontage road each Sunday to reach the meetinghouse. I also travel that road during the week to attend the temple, which sits on the same piece of land as the meetinghouse. I enter the freeway whenever I go shopping, out to eat, or to a movie.

                Just before I make that sharp right turn, I clearly see a guard railing on the opposite side of the road from me. The railing is there to keep vehicles from going off a steep embankment and dropping onto the freeway. When the roads are icy, I drive around the corner very slowly in order to avoid sliding across the intersection and hitting the railing. I have successfully driven through the intersection without hitting the railing for nearly 30 years.

                I know that not every driver is so careful or fortunate because the railing is replaced at least once each year. Obviously, there are too many people driving too fast to make the corner safely because the railing almost always has more than one dent in it and several colors of paint on it. A new railing rarely lasts a week before being dented, but the barrier has fulfilled its purpose by stopping many vehicles from going off the embankment.

                Guard railings are in place to keep people and property safe. The same is true of family rules, city laws, and God’s commandments. The purpose of rules, laws, and commandments is to provide safety and to bring lasting happiness to all of us. Family rules are in place to help all family members remember the actions that strengthen families. Traffic laws are in place to avoid accidents. God gives commandments to help His children become more like Him and to prepare to live with Him for eternity.

                In a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in April 1843, the Lord gave a list of instructions to Joseph and the Church. One of those instructions pertained to the subject of this discussion: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (Doctrine and Covenants 130: 20-21).

                If I obey the traffic law that says to stop at a STOP sign, I most likely will not be hit by any car driving through the intersection. If I understand the law of nature that cold and moisture turns roads icy, I will drive slowly enough through the icy intersection to miss the guard railing. If I obey the commandment of God to be honest in my dealings with my fellowmen, I do not need to worry about being caught in a lie. If I am obedient to the law, I will reap the blessings that come with obedience to those laws.

                Whether rules, laws, and commandments bring happiness or heartache depends on how we view them. If we view them as barriers to our happiness, we will do all that we can to get past them. If we view them as railings to protect us spiritually and physically, we will appreciate them and do our best to stay within them. I know that obedience to rules, laws, and commandments brings greater freedom and happiness just as the guard railing keeps me safe from a terrible accident.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Book of Mormon Is the Keystone

                We can strengthen families, communities, and nations by learning how to be more effective missionaries.
President David O. McKay said, “Every member a missionary,” and President Thomas S. Monson called for better member missionaries. Are you following this counsel? Would you like to know how to be a better member missionary?

                This site has prepared some family home evening lessons to help us become better missionaries by using the missionary manual, Preach My Gospel. The “lessons cover everything from using the Book of Mormon to teach to understanding the Spirit better.” The site promises that “family home evenings will be filled with the spirit of missionary work” if you use the lessons. 

                The second lesson comes from Preach My Gospel, Chapter 5: “What Is the Role of the Book of Mormon?” The purpose of this lesson is to emphasize the importance of the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ is sharing the gospel. The lesson emphasizes the value of knowing what the Book of Mormon teaches and why it is essential.

                The “Introduction” in the Book of Mormon discusses the “what,” “when,” “how,” etc. of the volume of history. This statement is found in the sixth paragraph:  “Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: `I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.’”

                Approximately 30 years ago in the October 1986 General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson spoke on the topic of “The Book of Mormon – Keystone of Our Religion.” President Benson (1899-1994) was the 13th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As an Apostle of the Lord, he also served the United States as Secretary of Agriculture during the Eisenhower Administration. “He is remembered for his firm testimony of the power of the Book of Mormon and his emphasis on its importance in daily scripture study, missionary work, and gospel teaching.”

                President Benson begins his talk by explaining that the Book of Mormon is “one of the most significant gifts given to the world in modern times” and “is a gift of greater value to mankind than even the many wonderful advances we have seen in modern medicine… [or] … the development of flight or space travel….” He reminds us that this “gift was prepared by the hand of the Lord over a period of more than a thousand years, then hidden … [and] … preserved” for us. He also reminds us that the Lord bore witness of the Book of Mormon: (1) It is true (Doctrine and Covenants 17:6), (2) It “contains the truth and His words” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:26), (3) It “was translated by power from on high” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:8), (4) It “contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:9; 42:12), (5) It “was given by inspiration and confirmed by the ministering of angels” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:10), (6) It “gives evidence that the holy scriptures are true” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:11), and (7) Those “who receive it in faith shall receive eternal life” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:14).

                Later in his talk, President Benson explains that there “are three great reasons why Latter-day Saints should make the study of the Book of Mormon a lifetime pursuit.” The three reasons are: (1) The “Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.” (2) “It was written for our day.” (3) It “helps us draw closer to God.” I know that the entire talk is relevant and interesting, but I will share only what President Benson says about the first reason.

                “The first is that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. [He includes part of Joseph Smith’s statement quoted above.] A keystone is the central stone in an arch. It holds all the other stones in place, and if removed, the arch crumbles.
                “There are three ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. It is the keystone in our witness of Christ. It is the keystone of our doctrine. It is the keystone of testimony.”

                President Benson explains the three ways that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and testifies that he has spoken the truth. This talk by President Benson is one of the classic talks given in General Conference and should be studied by all members of the Church over and over again. I would like to share all of the talk with you, but I will return to the “Introduction” in the Book of Mormon.

                The seventh paragraph explains that eleven other people saw the gold plates and left their written testimonies. These testimonies are included in the Book of Mormon under the headings of “The Testimony of the Three Witnesses” and “The Testimony of the Eight Witnesses.”

                The eighth and ninth paragraphs issue an invitation and a promise:  “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3-5.)  
                “Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah.”

                I have read the Book of Mormon many times, usually two or even three times each year. I have pondered its message and taken my questions to Heavenly Father. When He knew that I sincerely wanted to know if it is true, I received a powerful message through the power of the Holy Ghost. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and brings me closer to God. I encourage you to read this sacred book and ask God for yourself. If you are sincere in your quest, you can know the truth and strengthen yourself, your family, your community, and your nation.