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.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

People Can Change

            Repentance is the act of changing – changing thoughts, words, and behaviors into better ones. Christians are commanded to repent, and there are many calls for repentance in the scriptures. There are also numerous stories in the scriptures that teach the importance of repentance. Two of these stories clearly illustrate the possibility of repentance for even the vilest of sinners. These stories are the experience of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ (Mosiah 27) and the experience of Saul of Tarsus in the New Testament (Acts 9).

            As I am currently studying the book of Acts, this post will be about Saul. He was a devout Jew who thought that the Christian movement was wrong and wanted to stamp it out. He went about persecuting the Christians and “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). He obtained “letters” from the high priest allowing him to hunt Christians and to bring them bound to Jerusalem.

            As Saul journeyed near Damascus, he suddenly saw a bright light from heaven about him, and he fell to the earth. Then he heard a voice speaking to him.

Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do (Acts 9:4-6).

            I have heard and/or read this story many times in my life. I always considered Saul to be quite wicked because he was persecuting the Christians, and I do not believe that I am the only one to think this way. When I studied these verses this time, I had some different thoughts about Saul. Maybe he was not as wicked as I assumed. Maybe he was just focused on the wrong thing. Maybe something happened to make him more teachable. My thoughts were similar to the following words by President David O. McKay.

Perhaps during those few days of comparative leisure, [Saul] began to wonder whether what he was doing was right or not. Perhaps the shining face of the dying Stephen and the martyr’s last prayer began to sink more deeply into his soul than it had done before. Little children’s cries for their parents whom Saul had bound began to pierce his soul more keenly, and make him feel miserably unhappy as he looked forward to more experiences of that kind in Damascus. Perhaps he wondered whether the work of the Lord, if he were really engaged in it, would make him feel so restless and bitter. He was soon to learn that only the work of the evil one produces those feelings, and that true service for the Lord, always brings peace and contentment (Ancient Apostles, 2nd ed. [1921], 148, as quoted in New Testament Student Manual, Religion 211-212, 295) 

            This statement by President McKay helped me to understand Saul and his story a little better. Saul’s conversion story is more dramatic than most of us will ever experience. Most of us do not go around persecuting the covenant people of God like Saul (his name in Hebrew), nor will we become Special Witnesses of Jesus Christ as Paul (his name in Greek) did. However, we all have the need to change and to become more like the Savior.

            I always thought that repentance took time, but I am thinking in a different way since I read a statement shared by a classmate. The following statement is from a devotional address given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on March 18, 1980, at Brigham Young University. 

You can change anything you want to change and you can do it very fast. It is another Satanic falsehood to believe that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say, “I’ll change” – and mean it. Of course there will be problems to work out and restitutions to make. You may well spend – indeed, you had better spend – the rest of your life proving your repentance by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as it did for Alma and the sons of Mosiah.

            Reason tells us that we can repent of our sins and mistakes just as Saul and Alma the Younger did. They were among the vilest of sinners because they tried to destroy the Church of Christ. For Saul it took a visit from Christ, and for Alma it took a visit from an angel. Both of these men went forward and did great work for God. Paul became an Apostle, and Alma became a Prophet. For whatever reason, God decided that they needed special teaching methods.

            We are given the gift of the Holy Ghost to help us choose the right in this life. When we listen to the promptings that come from Him, we will know what the Lord requires of us to do with our lives. The first thing that He requires is that we have faith in Him, and the second is that we repent of our sins. As we repent, we will be changed into the kind of people that God can use to build up His kingdom on earth, just as Saul the persecutor of Christians became a great missionary and Apostle of Jesus Christ who went by the name of Paul.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New First Presidency

            I was awake early this morning in order to watch a special announcement made from the Annex of the Salt Lake Temple. Elder D. Todd Christofferson announced that Russell M. Nelson is the new Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of God and the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This announcement is not a surprise because Elder Nelson’s succession to the position follows a divine pattern established in the early days of the Church. It is just confirmation of what most of us already knew would happen.

            The surprise is always who the new president will choose as his counselors. President Nelson chose Dallin H. Oaks as his first counselor and Henry B. Eyring as his second counselor. Since President Oaks (as second in seniority) is also the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, M. Russell Ballard is the Acting President of the Quorum. The new president, counselors, and acting president were sustained and set apart on Sunday, January 14, 2018, in the Salt Lake Temple.

            As I read through the announcement posted on the Church’s website, I marveled at the ages of the men that the Lord selected to lead His Church. President Eyring is the youngest of the four men at age 84. He is followed by President Oaks at age 85, President Ballard at age 89, and President Nelson at age 93.

            I also marveled at the education and secular experiences of the four men. President Nelson is famous internationally as a heart surgeon and medical researcher. President Oaks served as the president of Brigham Young University and then as a justice for the Utah Supreme Court. I remember when these two men were called as Apostles. I think what touched me most was the fact that they were giving up fame and fortune to serve the Lord as His special witnesses.

            President Eyring was the president of Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) before his call to the Twelve. He previously served as first counselor to President Monson. President Ballard was a successful businessman before his call to the Twelve. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor to President Monson, resumed his position in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and has already received assignments that he is “uniquely qualified” to handle.

            The new First Presidency and the Acting President of the Twelve definitely qualify as “old, white men,” but I am not concerned about their ages. They each have served for many years and gained valuable experience that will help them succeed in their new callings. It matters not how long they serve. They each appear to be healthy at the present time and could serve for a number of years. However, we all know that they could be called home at any time. Meanwhile, they will be doing whatever the Lord called them to do. I love them and will sustain them in their new positions.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Martin Luther

            My VIP for this week is Martin Luther. I chose to do a little research on him because I am studying the Reformation this week in my humanities class. Since he started the Reformation, it is only fitting that I should study him.

            Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Saxony – then part of the Holy Roman Empire and now part of Germany. His parents were Hans Luder (or Ludher, later Luther) and Margarethe, his wife. He was baptized the next morning. His mother was a “hard-working woman” and his father was a miner until he rose through the ranks to be a leaseholder on copper mines and smelters. Martin was the oldest son of several brothers and sisters.

            Hans Luther wanted Martin to become a lawyer and sent him to three Latin schools. Martin would later describe his education there as “purgatory and hell.” In 1501 Martin was 17 years old, and he entered the University of Erfurt. Four years later in 1505, Martin received his master’s degree. Martin, as an obedient son, entered law school even though he was drawn to theology and philosophy. He soon left law school. He decided that he was not that interested in philosophy because reason alone could not bring a person to God. Divine revelation and scripture study were increasingly important to him.

            Luther was returning to the university on July 2, 1505, on horseback when he was caught in a thunderstorm. A lightning bolt struck near him and frightened him so badly that he thought that he was going to die. He cried out to Saint Anna to save him and promised that he would become a monk. He later left law school, sold his books, and entered St. Augustine’s Monastery in Erfurt on July 17, 1505 – less than two weeks later.

            Nearly two years later in 1507 Luther was ordained to the priesthood in Erfurt Cathedral. He started to teach theology 1508. He received a bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies in March 1508 and another bachelor’s degree in 1509. He received a Doctor of Theology degree in October 1512. Two days later he became a member of the senate of the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg. In 1515 he became provincial vicar of Saxony and Thuringia.

            About this same time the Catholic Church began selling priesthood offices or indulgences. Luther wrote a letter of protest of the indulgences to his bishop. “He enclosed in his letter a copy of his `Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,’ which came to be known as the Ninety-five Theses.” He did not intend to confront the church but was searching for answers to questions such as the following in Thesis 86: “Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?”

            Luther continued his studies of the scriptures, and by 1520 he was convinced that the Church was corrupt. He wanted to reform the Church from within but could not. The Pope warned Luther to withdraw a large percentage of his 95 statements, and Luther would not. Luther was excommunicated on January 3, 1521, by Pope Leo X, who issued an order that no one was to help him and could even kill him.

            Luther escaped and headed to his home town of Wittenberg. Frederick III had “masked horsemen impersonating highway robbers” intercept Luther in the forest near Wittenberg. They took him to the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach was he was safe. While there he translated the Bible from Greek into German, married and had several children, and introduced congregation singing to the church.

            Martin Luther suffered from a multitude of health problems and died at 2:45 a.m. on February 18, 1546, at age 62, in Eisleben, the city of his birth. He was buried in the Castle Church in Wittenberg, beneath the pulpit.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Election Integrity

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the importance of integrity in the elections the United States. President Donald Trump is so concerned about voter fraud that he established a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity on May 11, 2017, by Executive Order. Vice President Mike Pence was appointed as chairman of the Commission, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was appointed as the vice chair.

            President Trump closed his commission on election integrity by another Executive Order on Wednesday, January 10, 2018. He still stresses the need for bringing integrity to the elections by the requirement for more voter identification. The task for ensuring election integrity has now been given to the Department of Homeland Security.

            The Commission accomplished all that it could do without the cooperation from most Democrat-led states. These states refused to release to the Commission their data from the 2016 Election. They did not want the Commission looking at their data or the methods for collecting it. Apparently, they have something to hide. Could it be many people casting illegal votes?

            President Trump insists that the system is rigged, especially in the states that will not release their information. Many people are wondering if the President will call for a national voter ID system. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Thursday that there is no decisive White House answer about whether or not the President favors a nation-wide voter ID system.

            Fred Lucas reports at The Daily Signal that the Commission consisted of five Democrats and seven Republicans. He says that Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation was a member of the Commission. He shares the following quote from Von Spakovsky that explains why the Commission could not accomplish its task.

Unjustified refusal from some states to work with us and dozens of meritless lawsuits; those two things made it next to impossible for the commission to do its work… They don’t want the American people to find the truth about [voter] fraud and errors and double voting.

            I am in favor of election integrity. I know that most Americans have personal identification because they need it for many other reasons than voting. I have to identify myself in many different situations. I cannot withdraw money from the bank without showing ID. I cannot see a doctor without showing ID. I cannot get into the Social Security office without showing ID and going through a metal detector. I cannot get on an airplane or even purchase certain medication without identifying myself. I assume that most Americans face similar situations. So, why is it such a big problem to identify ourselves before we vote for our leaders?

            Even though I want election officials to require voters to show personal identification, I have mixed feelings about a requirement for national identification. I do not know why I feel such apprehension because I already have a U.S. Passport. I am already in the national register!

            I decided to research some of the pros and cons of a national identification system and found this site that lists several of each. The pros of national ID cards listed on this site are:
(1) Immigration Control: … The card would include information about the person, such as height, weight and eye color, and other aspects to make it harder to forge. (2) Easier Identification: … While many people use a driver’s license [for making purchases with a credit or debit card], a national ID card will also let those without driver’s licenses prove their identity more easily and without hassle.

            The site lists three problems with national identification cards: (1) Feasibility [training and maintenance of staff, difficulty of proof for accomplishing task, and people like homeless who do not have Social Security numbers or birth certificates], (2) Redundancy: … There is no point in having a separate national identity card when the state driver’s license system is already in place, and (3) Possible Invasion of Privacy.

            Invasion of privacy or corrupted use of the identification is what concerns me. Therefore, I want to give you the full explanation from the site for this con in order to have better understanding.

National identification cards can be used to track an individual. In order for the national identification card to be usable by the government, a national database containing personal information would have to be created. This database could be considered an invasion of privacy. However, if the government chooses not to create this database, then it will be too easy for individuals to commit fraud by having multiple cards with different identities. (Emphasis added.)

            I will be watching this process closely because it presents yet another situation where we must give up freedoms in order to have security. If we want election integrity, are we willing to be registered nationally? I am not sure that I am willing to give up more freedom!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Life Changing Experience

            In his last General Conference talk in April 2017, President Thomas S. Monson spoke about our need to study the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ. In the next General Conference in October 2017, Elder Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, also spoke about the Book of Mormon and its place in our lives.

            Since President Monson’s death on January 2, 2017, Elder Nelson – as the senior Apostle – has been leading The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because the senior Apostle has always become the next Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and President of the Church, I want to share some of Elder Nelson’s remarks. He said that he acted on President Monson’s counsel in the previous conference, and he shared some of his experiences. He then bore his testimony of the Book of Mormon. 

Immersing ourselves regularly in the truths of the Book of Mormon can be a life-changing experience…

My dear brothers and sisters, I testify that the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God. It contains the answers to life’s most compelling questions. It teaches the doctrine of Christ. (See 2 Nephi 31:2-21.)  It expands and clarifies many of the “plain and precious” (1 Nephi 13:29-33) truths that were lost through centuries of time and numerous translations of the Bible.

The Book of Mormon provides the fullest and most authoritative understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be found anywhere. It teaches what it really means to be born again. From the Book of Mormon we learn about the gathering of scattered Israel. We know why we are here on earth. These and other truths are more powerfully and persuasively taught in the Book of Mormon than in any other book. The full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the Book of Mormon. Period.

The Book of Mormon both illuminates the teachings of the Master and exposes the tactics of the adversary. (See 2 Nephi 26-33.) The Book of Mormon teaches true doctrine to dispel false religious traditions – such as the erroneous practice of performing infant baptisms. (See Moroni 8:11-15.) The Book of Mormon gives purpose to life by urging us to ponder the potential of eternal life and “never-ending happiness.” (See Mosiah 2:41; see also Alma 28:12.) The Book of Mormon shatters the false beliefs that happiness can be found in wickedness (See Alma 41:10-11.) and that individual goodness is all that is required to return to the presence of God. (Special sacred ordinances and covenants are also required.) It abolishes forever the false concepts that revelation ended with the Bible and that the heavens are sealed today.

            I am grateful for the counsel and testimonies of President Monson and Elder Nelson. I am grateful to live in a time and a place where Prophets and Apostles walk the earth to teach and bless as the Savior would do. I encourage all of us to pay attention when they speak. I also encourage you and me to follow their counsel to study the Book of Mormon and let it change our lives for the better.

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Place to Study

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals have a place to do their best studying. When a person has a comfortable place to study, it is easier to go to it. Each person needs a place free from distraction and comfortable enough to do the work.

            As part of a personal effort to improve my own study skills, I am reading a book titled The World Book of Study Power, volume 1, and I am attempting to share a little of what I learn with my readers. Teaching others what I have learned helps to solidify the information in my own brain and is, therefore, a valuable learning tool. Most of the information that follows, including quotes and ideas, come from this book.

            The best place to study is one that will make studying easier to do. This place needs to be a place where you can start studying immediately and remain studying until the assignment is finished. Once you determine your special place, you should arrange it the way that you desire.

            My husband recently had surgery to repair a rotator cuff. I wanted my study area to be close to the bedroom in order for me to hear him. I moved my lap top computer and study materials to a card table in a nearby bedroom. I am now about twenty feet from him where I can easily hear him if he needs attention. He has enough quiet to get his rest, and I have enough quiet to complete my assignments. This arrangement works well for both of us, especially because I am putting ice on his shoulder for thirty minutes, taking it off for thirty minutes, and then putting it back on – all day long.

            According to the book, there are some basic necessities for successful study. One of those basic needs is a writing surface, but there are other needs.

A basic requirement for any study or workspace is a writing surface. For many people, that surface will be a desk or table. Others prefer to stretch out on the floor. Of course, even if your concentration is much greater while you’re lying on your stomach, you’ll probably be able to indulge in that luxury only at home! The most important thig is to be comfortable enough to concentrate, but not comfortable to the point of falling asleep.

Being aware of how you sit or stand will help you concentrate longer. Support your head, neck, shoulders, and lower back by sitting with good posture. Improper support can lead to tension and fatigue, which in turn can lead to discomfort, backaches, and loss of concentration…

Your desk or worktable should have enough space for you to spread out your papers, books, and supplies. You might want to keep reference books, such as a dictionary, thesaurus, and atlas, on your desk. Bookshelves and file cabinets can be handy as well.

            Parents can hopefully help their child or children to prepare comfortable study areas,   where they can concentrate on their studies. They may want to have a study place close to you or prefer a private area. Either way, by helping your child to succeed in school will strengthen your family as well as your community and nation.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Freedom of Speech

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the fact that freedom of speech is being destroyed by political correctness. Americans can no longer express their thoughts freely because too many other people take offense. It seems that millions of Americans need safe spaces in order to be free from opposing points of view.

            Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education shares some of his ideas in this video. In it he discusses the dangers facing free speech on college and university campuses. Please watch the video in order to know how quickly Freedom of Speech is being destroyed.