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.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Natural Man or Saint

                 King Benjamin was a prophet-king in ancient America.  He was a righteous king who taught his people the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As he neared the end of his life, he anointed his son Helaman to be the next king.  Before turning everything over to his son, King Benjamin spoke to his people one last time.  He gave a very memorable address and taught many gospel principles.  The principle I would like to share today is that we must put off the natural man and become a saint in order to qualify for the kingdom of God.

                “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 3:19).

                This verse raises some questions.  What is a natural man?  In common usage, natural means something is a part of us, something we do by nature.  Her natural hair color is blood.  She is naturally left-handed but has learned to use her right hand.  When the scriptures speak of natural, they refer to sin.  When Adam and Eve partook of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, they and all their posterity, they “fell” into mortality, a fallen world.  In this fallen condition, they were in a state of spiritual death, separated from the presence of God.  They knew good from evil but lived in an imperfect world where all men sin.  They had transgressed the law of God and became a “natural man” or “enemy to God.” 

                King Benjamin taught his people to put off the natural man.  He counseled them to yield to the enticings of the Holy Ghost.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:  “Personal righteousness, worship, prayer, and scripture study are so crucial in order to `[put] off the natural man’ (Mosiah 3:19).  Be wary, therefore, when some demand public tolerance for whatever their private indulgences are!” (Ensign, November 1994, 36).

                What is a saint?  Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:  “The word saint in Greek denotes `set apart, separate, [and] holy’ [in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. (1992), 3:1249].  If we are to be Saints in our day, we need to separate ourselves from evil conduct and destructive pursuits that are prevalent in the world.
                “We are bombarded with visual images of violence and immorality.  Inappropriate music and pornography are increasingly tolerated.  The use of drugs and alcohol is rampant.  There is less emphasis on honesty and character. Individual rights are demanded, but duties, responsibilities, and obligations are neglected.  There has been a coarsening of dialogue and increased exposure to that which is base and vulgar.  The adversary has been relentless in his efforts to undermine the plan of happiness.  If we separate ourselves from this worldly conduct, we will have the Spirit in our lives and experience the joy of being worthy Latter-day Saints”   (Ensign, November 2003, 95).

                So, in order to put off the natural man and become a saint, we must avoid evil and yield to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  Through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we can put off the natural man and put the Atonement of Christ into effect in our lives.  By following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we can obey God’s commandments and resist temptation.  We can change and qualify to be true saints of God.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Aging Parents

                Families, communities, and nations are strengthened as we interact with our aging parents.  They have gained much knowledge and wisdom that can benefit us if we will only take the time to learn from them.  I hesitate to write this post because I do not want to give the wrong impression or make my own children feel guilty or obligated.  I do however wish I had taken the time to gain more wisdom and knowledge from my own parents as well as those of my husband while they were still with us.  .
                Rachelle J. Christensen wrote a very interesting article about gleaning knowledge and wisdom from by our parents, particularly those who are nearing the end of their lives on earth.  I believe the article has valuable information for anyone and encourage you to read the article.  Here are her ten suggestions for making every moment with aging parents count but read the article for more information.

#1 Take mom or dad out to eat and ask them questions about their childhood.
#2 Take time to connect with your parents.
#3 Invite your parents over for dinner.
#4 Participate in family history work together.
#5 Take your parents to the temple.
#6 Invite your parents over for family home evening.
#7 Encourage and help them come to grandchildren’s events, but also make sure children know why their grandparents can’t always come.
#8 Make General Conference a family event.
#9 Be involved in your parents’ lives.
#10 Be patient with your parents.

                I am sharing this information with you to help you avoid some of the guilty feelings I have for not including aging parents more in the lives of my family.  The thing that I feel most guilty about is not taking the time to sit down and just listen to them.  I remember my husband’s father saying something about gaining wisdom and no one wanting to hear it.  I was so busy with a daughter’s wedding that I did not take the time to really listen to him.  Now I recognize that I lost a valuable opportunity to make him feel appreciated as well as to gain some knowledge.  We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by making the most of every moment with our aging parents.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Freedom or Slavery

                The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns our freedom to choose liberty or slavery.  There is much fear in the world and in our nation about ISIS since their attack on Paris.  We have reason to be fearful of them because they desire to destroy us and our way of life.  I believe that an even greater danger comes from progressives who are attempting to move our nation closer and closer to socialism and then communism.

                Elder Ezra Taft Benson served as President of the European Mission at the close of World War II, eight years as the US Secretary of Agriculture during the Eisenhower administration, and later as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He saw the “godless evil of the socialist-communist conspiracy on both sides of the iron curtain.”

                “I have talked face-to-face with the godless communist leaders.  It may surprise you to learn that I was host to Mr. Khrushchev [First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 1953-1964] for a half day when he visited the United States.  Not that I’m proud of it – I opposed his coming then and I still feel it was a mistake to welcome this atheistic murderer as a state visitor.  But according to President Eisenhower, Khrushchev had expressed a desire to learn something of American agriculture, and after seeing Russian agriculture I can understand why.

                “As we talked face-to-face, he indicated that my grandchildren would live under communism.  After assuring him that I expected to do all in my power to assure that his and all other grandchildren will live under freedom, he arrogantly declared in substance:

                “`You Americans are so gullible.  No, you won’t accept communism overnight, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you’ll finally wake up and find you already have communism.  We won’t have to fight you.  We’ll so weaken your economy until you’ll fall like over-ripe fruit into our hands.’

                “And they are ahead of schedule in their devilish scheme” (An Enemy Hath Done This, [1969], p. 320).

                Whether it is progressives, ISIS, or communism that threatens us, it does not really matter.  They all build their beliefs and programs on the foundation of Satan, who hates freedom and enslaves as many people as he can.  Our only safety from Satan and those who follow him is to turn to the God of this land, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Heavenly Father gave us agency to give us the opportunity to freely choose who we would follow.  Satan offers us slavery, and God offers us freedom to grow, develop, and finally reach our full potential.  Freedom is very important to God; He wants all His children to be free to choose for themselves.  He will never force anyone to follow Him, but He does try to persuade us to do so.  As a nation, we must choose to turn our hearts to God.  I know that true freedom comes no other way than by following Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude

                It is late on the eve of Thanksgiving Day.  I am deep into preparations for celebrating this national holiday.  I am grateful for the opportunity to take a day to express my gratitude for the many blessings I receive.  As I was pondering about what I could write, I came upon an article “Five Simple Ways to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude” by David A. Christensen.  I found his suggestions very helpful.

                Mr. Christensen began his article:  “Our attitude is defined by the way we think and feel about life.  It all begins with the way we see the world – which triggers a reaction, response, or behavior.  Developing an `attitude of gratitude,’ or seeing the world in such a way that spawns a thankful heart, produces many positive results.
                “Studies in what has become known as the `science of gratitude,’ show that being grateful helps us feel more alive, promotes better sleep, fortifies our immune system, and even influences our looks.  In short, grateful people are friendlier, healthier, happier, and even more attractive.
                “If you’re having trouble developing this habit in your life, then here are five suggestions to help you master an attitude of gratitude:   (1) Develop the habit of `looking up.’ …  (2) Start a gratitude journal or a tender mercy board in your home….  (3) Make a list of all the people you are grateful for….  (4) Make a list of all the enriching experiences in your life….  (5) Make a list of people you need to forgive….”

                I recommend this article to all who would like to become more grateful for the tender mercies God gives to them as well as the gifts given by our fellowman.  The author gives some good ideas on how to develop an “attitude of gratitude” and become “friendlier, healthier, happier, and even more attractive.”  What is there to not like in any of that!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Are We Not All Beggars?

                The instructor in my Book of Mormon class shared some of his thoughts with his students this week.  I have been pondering his ideas for a couple of days and decided to share some of them with my readers.  What follows are his ideas in my words.  I am sure he explained it much better than I will, but I hope you get the idea.

                I assume that you have seen homeless people; I also assume you have heard many stories about how they are not really homeless and in need of money and food.  I have heard stories about some of them begging for money on street corners and then getting in a nice car to drive to a nice home.   I have also heard of women who bring children to help them beg.  I have read signs telling us not to give money to the people because it will just enable them.  I personally do not have much contact with homeless people; however, I have no idea what I should do when contact is made.  Should I give them money or not?  What if they use the money to buy alcohol or drugs?  Should I carry food in my car to hand to them?  What should I do?  Like I said, I do not see many homeless people, but I do make regular donations to help the poor among us.  I make regular donations to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I know the Church will use 100% of the money to help the poor. 
                According to King Benjamin, a prophet-king in ancient America, I do not need to worry about how my money will be used.  My instructor pointed out that it doesn’t matter how the poor uses the money.  If my heart is in the right place when I give, the Lord will bless me for giving no matter what the person does with it.   King Benjamin left some counsel that may help us.  King Benjamin was nearing the end of his address.  The Holy Ghost was there in rich abundance; the people were ready to make a covenant with God.  King Benjamin addressed the problem of beggars.

                “Perhaps thou shalt say:  the man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just –
                “But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
                “For behold are we not all beggars?  Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
                “And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins.  And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain?  Nay:  he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that our mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
                “And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 4:17-21).

                My instructor compared the homeless people who need food to the people around us who ask us for forgiveness.  Do we withhold our forgiveness because they brought the problem on themselves?  Do we refuse to forgive them and allow them to move forward with their lives?  The Lord tells that we must forgive in order to be forgiven.  The Lord will respond to our pleas for forgiveness in the same way we respond to other people. Are we not all beggars?

Monday, November 23, 2015

James Fenimore Cooper

                James Fenimore Cooper was born on September 15, 1789, in Burlington, New Jersey.  He was the eleventh of twelve children born to William Cooper and his wife Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper.  Most of his siblings died during infancy or childhood.  His great-great-grandfather was James Cooper who immigrated to the American colonies from Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in 1679.  “James and his wife were Quakers who purchased plots of land in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”  William Cooper was born on December 2, 1754, seventy-five years after his great-grandfather arrived in America.

                James had just passed his first birthday when William moved his family to Cooperstown, New York; this community was founded by “on a large piece of land” his father had purchased to develop.  William was later elected as a United States Congressman representing Otsego County.  Cooperstown was located in central New York, in an area previously “occupied by the Iroquois of the Six Nations.  The Iroquois were forced to cede their territory after [the] British defeat in the Revolutionary War” because “they had been allies.”

                The state offered the former Iroquois land for sale and development soon after the end of the Revolutionary War, and William Cooper purchased “several thousand acres” of upstate New York land.  The land was located “along the head-waters of the Susquehanna River.”  William selected the site and surveyed it by 178 in preparation for erecting Cooperstown.  He built a home on Otsego Lake and moved his family there in the fall of 1790.  He wasted no time in constructing Otsego Hall, the family mansion.  James was ten years old when it was completed in 1799.

                James Cooper enrolled at Yale when 13 years old and was expelled three years later without a degree.  He went to work as a sailor in 1806 and became part of the crew of a merchant vessel at age 17.  “By 1811, he obtained the rank of midshipman in the fledgling United States Navy, conferred upon him on an officer’s warrant signed by Thomas Jefferson.

                Cooper was only 20 years old when he inherited a fortune from his father.  At age 21, he married Susan Augusta de Lancey on January 1, 1811.  Her family was loyal to Great Britain during the Revolutionary War.  Her parents had seven children, but only five lived to adulthood.  James and Susan’s daughter Susan Fenimore Cooper wrote about “nature, female suffrage, and other topics;” she and her father “often edited each other’s work.”  Another descendant of James Fenimore Cooper was writer Paul Fenimore Cooper (1899-1970).

                James Fenimore Cooper was a member of the Episcopal Church and “contributed generously to it” in his later years.  He lived most of his life in Cooperstown.  He “was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century, writing “historical romances of frontier and Indian life in the early American days.”   He began writing after his time as a Midshipman in the U.S. Navy, and his experience there had great influence on his writing.  “The novel that launched his career was The Spy, a tale about counterespionage set during the Revolutionary War and published in 1821.  He also wrote numerous sea stories and his best-known works are five historical novels of the frontier period known as the Leatherstocking Tales.  Among naval historians Cooper’s works on the early U.S. Navy have been well received, but they were sometimes criticized by his contemporaries.  Among his most famous works is the Romantic novel The Last of the Mohicans, often regarded as his masterpiece.”

                Cooper died of dropsy on September 14, 1851, the day before he turned 62 years old.  He was interred in Christ Episcopal Churchyard, where his father, William Cooper, was also buried.  Susan survived her husband by a few months and was buried by his side at Cooperstown.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Relevancy of Constitution

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the relevancy of the Constitution of the United States.  Many people today claim that the Constitution is outdated and should be changed or eliminated entirely.  Those people do not understand what the Constitution is and what it does for all Americans.

                Chad Kent, who writes and speaks about the Constitution, explains why one single article is relevant to Americans today.  “It’s trendy today to believe that our Constitution is outdated.  That it’s irrelevant to us as individual citizens.  But as Americans, we have to realize that our Constitution isn’t just some old document that gives power to our federal government.  Our Constitution was primarily designed to act like a shield that protects citizens like you and me from the government.
                “The idea behind the Constitution was to put limits on the government and keep it from doing bad things to you.  That’s why the Constitution matters so much to people like me.  That’s also why people like me tend to freak out a little bit when the government violates the Constitution – those violations tear down the protection that we have against the government doing bad things to us.
                “As much as that might seem theoretical or academic initially, Article 1, Section 9 is a perfect example of why those protections in the Constitution matter so much to us on a personal level.
                “Article 1, Section 9 is just a list of actions that the federal government is forbidden from taking – and three of the actions in that list are intended to prevent the government from unfairly putting you in prison.  I don’t know about you, but I kind of like the idea that my government shouldn’t be able to randomly throw me in jail.”

                Mr. Kent then proceeds to explain two actions that the Constitution protects Americans against:
(1) Writ of Habeas Corpus and (2) Bill of Attainder.  I encourage you to read his article and learn more about these actions.  I also encourage you to think about what would most likely happen if parts of the Constitution were taken away or ruled irrelevant.  I agree with Mr. Kent’s statement that we must enforce the entire Constitution or risk many liberties.  If our elected leaders and their appointees can decide which parts of the Constitution to enforce, they could simply choose to ignore Article 1, Section 9 and start throwing people in prison randomly.