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, November 23, 2017

Choose to Think

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals realize that they can choose how to think. In order to gain this understanding, one must understand that labels can limit the way one thinks. 

            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 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.

            Most people know that we use the right side of our brains to think globally while we use the left side to think analytic. The thinking abilities of some people are generally split down the middle, but many, maybe even most, people are more left-brained or more right-brained. This does not mean that one can think in only one way. We should never place a label on our thinking abilities.

Labels are too rigid to define anything as complicated as a human being. What you are is not determined by how others see you. You are always changing and always able to change. No one is locked into one way of thinking or learning. You use your whole brain all the time. You can think analytically or globally, even if you happen to prefer one way.

Think for a moment about how that frees you. Maybe you thought you could never learn to draw or understand math. But that simply isn’t true. Anyone can learn how to do anything at all. You just need to change your way of approaching art or math. Once you open yourself up to the possibilities, they become realities. (51)

            The book gives several examples of how we use all of all brains. An untrained musician may be drawn to music simply because they enjoy it. This would be thinking globally. They begin to think analytically when they learn to read and play music. A program computer thinks analytically, but a person using the computer to write a letter is thinking globally. “A painter paints globally, but mixes colors analytically.” (51-52)

            We can choose the way that we learn, and we can choose to learn in different ways. Knowing that we can choose is an important step in changing the way that we think.

Just because you prefer, or tend, to learn one way doesn’t mean you can’t learn in a different way sometimes. Having a choice is important because there are many ways to do something. Choosing strategies will help you enjoy learning more because you won’t find it as frustrating… (52-53)


            Parents can help their children to understand the various ways of thinking simply by being aware that there are different ways of learning and then sharing what they know. Learning to think in different ways can strengthen the individual as well as the family, community, and nation.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The First Thanksgiving

            Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. We celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. The holiday began as a celebration of the harvest. The Pilgrims celebrated the First Thanksgiving in October 1621 after their first harvest in the New World.

            Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks and show gratitude for blessings. It is a day to remember the arrival and survival of the Pilgrims in the New World. Since I enjoy many blessings, I will use the day to express my gratitude to God for watching over and blessing my family and friends.

            Michael Medved, shares the fascinating story of the first Thanksgiving in a video provided by Prager University. It can be found at this site.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Plato's Cave Today

            Human nature appears to be the same no matter where or when one lives. Some people claim that humans living today are more “enlightened” than those who lived in past ages. Others disagree and give examples to prove their point. One such person is Earick Ward who posted an article titled “Plato’s Cave and Our Current Reality” at American Thinker. http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/11/platos_cave_and_our_current_reality.html

            I was immediately drawn to Ward’s article because I recently studied Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_Cave in my humanities class. A short summary of the allegory is as follows.

In the allegory Plato has Socrates describing a group of people who have lived all their lives in a cave. The people are born in the cave and are kept as prisoners in the cave. They are chained to a wall and can see only the blank wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners there is a passageway where people walk back and forth carrying various items. On the far side of the passageway is a fire that causes shadows of the passing people to be projected upon the wall in front of the prisoners. The prisoners assign names to the various shadow objects. The shadows on the wall are the prisoners’ reality. They know nothing about the real world and have no desire to leave the cave.

The allegory continues by Socrates explaining what would happen if a prisoner broke free and fled the cave. The first thing he would notice is the brightness of the fire, which might partially blind him. As he made his way to the front of the cave, the increasing sunshine would further hurt his eyes. He may be tempted to return to his chains.

If the prisoner made it to the outside world and recovered from the blindness, he would see a whole new world and realize that it is better than the cave. He might wish to return to the cave in an effort to help his fellow prisoners to escape. However, his eyes would have difficulty returning from the brightness of the sun to the blackness of the cave, causing him to stumble. The prisoners still in chains would see his stumbling and believe that his blindness was caused by his escape. Having no wish to become blind, they would gladly stay in their chains.

            Ward compares Plato’s allegory to the biblical story of the Israelites who preferred to die in Egypt where they had “pots of meat” to eat rather than to starve to death in the desert. (See Exodus 16:3 and Numbers 14:4.) He also compares the allegory to Nazi Germany where Goebbels said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it…” Ward claims that the same thing is happening in America today.

What we see playing out in America, and throughout the world, is two starkly different worldviews: Freedom and the State (bondage). Of course, bondage isn’t being sold as such. It’s being sold as “free stuff” and “safety and security” from the ravages of hatred. Who doesn’t want free stuff and safety and security? Of course, reason informs us that there is no such thing as free stuff, and that safety and security for some, demands that freedom for others must be infringed upon and/or suppressed…

Let us appoint a new leader and return to Egypt (or the cave). In the end, the people (the mob) will accept the comfort of lies (bondage), over the reality of truth (freedom). Our efforts to free our fellow captors are being met with fear and anger. As Plato suggests, they will fight to the death, to maintain their belief that what they’re seeing on the cave wall is true.


            What do you think? Does Ward have a point? Are the people today much like the people in the day of Plato or the Israelites or the Germans? I think so!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Squanto

            It seems only fitting to have Tisquantum, known as Squanto, as my VIP for Thanksgiving week because he was there for the first Thanksgiving. The story of Squanto helping the Pilgrims was one of my favorite childhood stories.

            Squanto was born about 1585 in Massachusetts. He was one of the last living members of the Patuxet Indian Tribe because he was in England when his village was annihilated by an infectious epidemic.

Six years before the Mayflower’s landing, in 1614 Squanto was abducted by an English adventurer, Thomas Hunt, who came to Patuxet as part of a commercial fishing and trading venture commanded by Captain John Smith. After Smith left for England with his cargo, Hunt, who was to take his dried fish cargo to Spain, kidnapped 27 Natives, including Squanto, and sailed to Spain to sell them into slavery. How Squanto escaped from Spain to England is not known, but when in England Squanto lived with a merchant involved in the project to exploit and settle Newfoundland. He eventually was sent there, where he met an associate of John Smith, Thomas Dermer, who was acting for the London merchants involved in settling New England. In 1619 Dermer brought Squanto to his native village, which he found to be destroyed by an epidemic. After intervening in a dispute between Dermer and Cape Code Natives, Squanto evidently went to live with the Pokanoket, some say as a prisoner. No records exist of his activities from that time until his famous encounter with the Mayflower settlement in 1621.

            Squanto is famous because he was the liaison between the Native Americans in the New England area and the settlers from the Mayflower, who built their settlement upon the ruins of Squanto’s former summer village. Squanto lived with the settlers for 20 months and served as their translator, guide and advisor. In particular, he is known for showing them how to plant, fertilize, and grow native crops. He also introduced them to the fur trade, which helped them to pay their debts to their financial backers in London.

            Squanto was a great help to the Pilgrims in numerous ways. His ability to speak English was helpful in teaching the newcomers the ways of the New World. He was an important part of the reason for the settlers’ survival during their first two years in America.


            Squanto died on November 30, 1622, in Chatham, Massachusetts, and was buried at Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Gorsuch: Originalist and Textualist

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the importance for judges to stay faithful to the Constitution. One such judge is Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch who spoke during the 2017 National Lawyers Convention in Washington, D.C. According to Rachel del Guidice at The Daily Signal, Gorsuch said that judges should be “applying pre-existing law” and made the following statements.

A person can be both a committed originalist and textualist and be confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Even if … you might find yourself the only person in a class or in your office who holds to textualism, it would still be OK to say so, because what matters isn’t whether an idea is popular, what matters is whether it is right.

Originalism has regained its place at the table with the Constitution interpretation and textualism in the reading of statutes… and neither one is going anywhere on my watch.

            Gorsuch has been making national headlines since he was nominated for Supreme Court by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate on April 7, 2017, on a vote of 54-45. Conservatives are grateful for his nomination and confirmation. We hope that he is followed by other “originalist and textualist” nominees.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Blessed by Gratitude

            Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday. This is a day set apart in our nation to proclaim our gratitude for our many blessings. It is a day for expressing thanks to God. We should give thanks in all things and at all times. In fact, our lives reflect whether or not we feel gratitude because we always have enough when we are thankful for what we have.

            We are commanded to be grateful. In fact, showing gratitude is not only a commandment, but it is a commandment with a promise.

Ye must give thanks unto God in the Spirit for whatsoever blessing ye are blessed with (Doctrine and Covenants 46:32). 

And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments (Doctrine and Covenants 59:21). 

And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19). 

            The last scripture promises us that our blessings will be multiplied if we are grateful for what we have. Most of us are familiar with the Parable of the Ten Lepers. Leprosy was a terrible disease that caused much physical suffering as well as social and emotional problems. At the time of Jesus Christ the people who suffered from leprosy lived isolated lives and were required to proclaim themselves as being “unclean” as shown in Luke 17:11-19

11 And it came to pass as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:

13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,

16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?

18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
            
           We should all take this lesson to heart. We know that the one leper was healed because he had the faith to be healed and was grateful for the blessing. We do not know what happened in the long run with the other nine lepers. Were they healed, or did their leprosy return?

            Obviously, God is aware of whether or not we are grateful for the blessings that He pours down upon us as individuals, families, and nations. The following statement by President Brigham Young tells us that ingratitude may cause the loss of blessings. “The Lord is more merciful than we are; but there may be a termination to His gifts, if we do not receive them with gratitude and take good care of them when we have them in our possession” (“Cultivating Gratitude, Humility, and Honesty,” Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:Brigham Young).


            President Young’s successor, President John Taylor named some blessings and taught that we are indebted to God for each and every blessing in our life.  

If we have life, or health, or possessions; if we have children, and friends and homes, if we have the light of truth, the blessings of the everlasting gospel, the revelations of God, the holy priesthood, with all its blessings and government and rule, all these, and every true enjoyment that we possess come from God. We do not always realize this, but it is nevertheless true that to God we are indebted for every good and perfect gift (“Temporal Blessings and the Law of Tithing, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:John Taylor). 

            Since we are commanded to have gratitude to God for our many blessings, we must realize that ingratitude is a sin that requires repentance. If we are ungrateful for what we have, we bring darkness into our lives by wanting more and more. When we are grateful for what we have – even if it is little, we move closer to God and bring His light into our lives.

            President Thomas S. Monson is one of the most positive people in the world and seems to always look on the bright side of whatever is happening, as shown by the following quote.

This is a wonderful time to be on earth. While there is much that is wrong in the world today, there are many things that are right and good. There are marriages that make it, parents who love their children and sacrifice for them, friends who care about us and help us, teachers who teach. Our lives are blessed in countless ways.
We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the nobles of virtues (“The Noblest of Virtues,” A Future as Bright as Your Faith, p. 358). 

            We can bring more happiness and satisfaction into our own lives by developing an attitude of gratitude. We can lift others, as President Monson states, by filling our hearts with gratitude. We can demonstrate by our words and actions that we are grateful for the many blessings in our lives, and Heavenly Father will recognize our gratitude and give us further blessings.  May we all cultivate attitudes of gratitude and bring blessings to us and to others.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Time for Family

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened by individuals who make time in busy lives for family. My husband and I returned early this morning from a four-week trip to visit children and grandchildren. As my regular readers may have guessed, I chose to invest my time with family rather than write blog posts for a few days. We saw other family members and long-time friends, but we took the trip to strengthen our relationships with our own posterity.

            We had the opportunity to visit with my older brother and his wife. My brother’s health has been declining in recent years and continues to do so. He has his good days and his bad days, but his condition is not good. My sister-in-law carries a heavy burden – literally – in her attempt to make my brother comfortable at home. She is assisted by her children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends, but the major part of responsibility falls on her. We were grateful to be able to help her for a few days, and we wish we could be of more service there.   
    
            We also had the opportunity to have lunch and visit with one of my cousins. We had only two hours together, but we covered a lot of years and experiences in that time.

            We saw some long-time friends in the temple and had a good visit with them in the waiting room and while walking to our cars. We watched another long-time friends in a starring role in a local play production. We knew that he had a beautiful singing voice, but we had our first experience of watching him act. He did a good job!

            We had some time to rest and relax on our own, but we spent most of our time with children and grandchildren. We attended numerous activities where our grandchildren took part: dance presentation, high school play, and several soccer, hockey, and basketball games. We even attended a Cub Scout pack meeting.

            We gave our support as a daughter and grandson ran a 15K race that ended with a climb up some steep steps. Our daughter took first place in the Masters Division (over 40) and her son took first place in his division (probably 15 and under). She was the third woman to come in, and he was the sixth runner to come in overall. We had the opportunity to attend a Veterans Day program and lunch with a granddaughter and a Thanksgiving lunch with a grandson.

            We joined our posterity for nightly scripture study and prayer. We united in fasting and prayer with our posterity for a daughter-in-law who was undergoing serious surgery, and we rejoiced when no obvious cancer was found. We also joined with our extended family in praying for a sister who had her eye removed, a niece who had cancer surgery, a cousin fighting cancer, and other family members who are undergoing challenging situations. We felt great unity in our family because we were helping other people to bear their heavy burdens.

            We rejoiced to know that grandchildren appreciate the things that we do for them. Three granddaughters were pleased to receive handmade quilts made specifically for them, and three teenagers expressed appreciation for the scriptures that we purchased and marked for them as baptismal gifts when they were eight years old. We are pleased to see that realize the value of the teaching notes written in their scriptures.

            We enjoyed our time with family and feel that the time and money were well spent. More trips will be made in the future because we know that strong families require quality time together, and strong families bring strength to their communities and nations.