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, December 16, 2017

Prospering in the Lord's Way

            I suggest that we consider the meaning of the word “prosper” in our discussion today. Many people, including myself, connect the word “prosper” to the word “prosperity” and believe that prospering means to grow rich. Google tends to give that impression because it defines prosper as to “succeed in material terms; to be financially successful.” However, it gives a secondary definition as to “flourish physically; grow strong and healthy.”

            I learned in a recent scripture study experience that God’s promise to “prosper” us is much more than helping us to become wealthy. Variations of the word “prosper” is found in many scriptures. Here are a few of the scriptural uses of prosper, prospered, etc.

O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11).

And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan (Judges 4:24). 

31 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should do as ye have hitherto done. As ye have kept my commandments, and also the commandments of my father, and have prospered, and have been kept from falling into the hands of your enemies, even so if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land, and our enemies shall have no power over you.

36 And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye shall transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 2:31, 36). 

            These scriptures and many others make it plain that God can prosper us in many ways if we will keep His commandments and follow His guidance through the power of the Holy Ghost. He can bless or prosper us in good health, power over our enemies, and in many other ways. I forget the reference of the scripture to which I was listening when I suddenly had this “a hah” moment, but I remember the power with which the message came to me. With this new understanding, it is only natural that I should be drawn to some remarks made by Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during commencement exercises at Brigham Young University-Hawaii on December 15, 2017.

            Elder Rasband focused on “prospering in the Lord’s way” in his remarks. “What the Lord makes clear is that we prosper when we live the commandments of God.”

So, when we are keeping the commandments, what does it mean to “prosper?” Is it the measure of how much money you are going to make? How many children we have? How many cars and trucks are sitting in our driveway? What positions we fill in our employment? Or even in this Church?

I believe the Lord needs each one of us to prosper on the front lines of our professions, our community involvement – which includes actively working to keep our freedom of religion and religious liberties; keeping up with our responsibilities as honest, compassionate, fair-minded citizens, and as leaders in our families and in our faith. The Lord needs us “to wax strong in the knowledge of the truth” and to be examples of how living the gospel of Jesus Christ brings peace, fulfillment and happiness.

            Elder Rasband then shared three ways that a person may prosper in the Lord’s way.
(1) A “person must have faithful family, friends and mentors in relationships that lift, guide and prompt a person to do the same for others.” (2) “Turn to Heavenly Father in prayer, making Him an important part of decisions and direction.” (3) Keep the commandments to receive God’s blessings, including frequent and regular temple attendance.

            By following Elder Rasband’s counsel, we can prosper in the Lord’s way. He made it clear that prosperity in this sense does not mean having an enormous house or many cars in the driveway. It does mean having knowledge of the truth and strengthening our families and communities.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Too Much Stuff

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals understand that “stuff” does not equal happiness. I am aware that many parents go into debt each year in order to provide Christmas for their children. I am also aware of the stress that comes into many households because of an attempt to provide “stuff” for their children.

            My children are grown with families of their own, and they have their own way of doing things. Some spend lots of money in order to place lots of gifts under the Christmas tree, while others might spend as much money in order to provide valuable experiences for their children.
I wish that I had thought about gifting experiences rather than stuff for my children.

            I was a newlywed when I first began to consider gifts for children. A landlady and a lady who rode in the same carpool shared their Christmas experiences with me, and these experiences left an impression on me. My husband and I lived in the basement of a family home during his last year in college.         Late on Christmas Eve our landlady invited my husband and me up to view their Christmas. We entered their living room and were dumbfounded with the amount of stuff sitting around their tree. I think that there were four children in the family, and each child had a designated chair for their gifts. The chairs were piled high with clothing – coats, sweaters, ski clothes, skirts, pants, tops, etc. The other gifts were placed on the floor around the chair. I do not remember seeing any wrapped gifts, but I did see a living room full of gifts. I come from a family of twelve children, and I can say that those four children had about ten times more gifts than my entire family received!

            The first day of work after Christmas my carpool picked up a lady with a single teenage daughter. She was quite upset with the way that her daughter received her gifts. She shared how she had gifted her daughter with new skis, a completely new ski outfit, several other outfits, a nice watch, and numerous other gifts. Her daughter did not appreciate the gifts and was upset because she did not receive something else that she wanted. The child had been spoiled by too much stuff.

            I remembered the above experiences, and I determined that I was not going to rear selfish, ungrateful children. When my own children were little my husband and I developed a plan to follow the example of the wise men. We gave each child three gifts: a book, something to play with, and something to wear – plus a Christmas tree ornament. We continued this pattern throughout their childhood and youth, and we sort of do the same today. They always receive a book – one of my choice and all receive the same book (makes it easier for me to remember who got what). I usually send an ornament if I can find one that I like. The gifts that I give usually have something to do with the Nativity. The main part of their present is money. If they need stuff, they can buy stuff. If they need money for experiences, they can use it for experiences. I also send money to each grandchild to purchase a new book and maybe something else.

            I learned a big lesson fairly early in my parenting years. I provided the money one year for each child to purchase a gift for each sibling. Since five children equaled twenty-five gifts, the next year and each succeeding year the children drew names and gave one gift. They continue to draw names today, but now they draw the name of a sibling and family.

            I wholeheartedly support the idea of providing less material goods at Christmas and gifting more experiences. This is most likely the reason I was drawn to an article titled “The Most Meaningful Gifts for Kids Who Have Everything.” The author explains that her family has a four-gift tradition, and the children receive a gift that falls in each of four categories: “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.” I like this four gift idea better than my three-gift idea! A few weeks ago she and her husband asked their children for ideas for their four categories. Their oldest daughter suggested that they give her only a book. She did not need any clothing or anything else, and she couldn’t think of any particular thing that she wanted. That left something to read. So what is a parent to do when a child has everything they need or want?

The hard truth is that a child who already has everything he needs (and maybe most of what he wants too) won’t fully appreciate gifts of more stuff.

Here’s why: Research shows that after a while, the human brain gets used to new stuff. The fancy scientific term for this phenomenon is adaptation, and it means that when we’re exposed to something on a regular basis, we adapt to it.

In other words, when your child gets used to that new stuff, it becomes as notable and interesting as the carpet he walks on in your home every day. In other words, not at all notable or interesting.

This is why after a few days or a couple of weeks, most gifts end up shoved in a closet or somewhere else out of sight, forgotten and collecting dust.

            This would also explain why children quickly set the toy aside and play with the empty cardboard box that it came in! In order to avoid adaptation, the author suggests that parents gift memories rather than stuff. Whatever you want to call this type of gift, it is a gift that “builds memories your child will treasure for the rest of her life.”

            The author provides a list of “34 most meaningful gifts for kids who have everything.”
The list includes such ideas as a monthly subscription for science projects or art projects, a “movie night box” with a video, blanket, and popcorn, and a globe and a promise to send the child a postcard from each place you visit as you travel for work.

            One of the best suggestions is a “gift of conversation”: “Turn a spare mason jar into a conversation jar by filling it with these family conversation starters [link provided, cost $6.99]. The child can put the jar on the dinner table and pull out a new question every night to have memorable conversations with their family. And the best part of these conversation starters for families is that they’ll get you more than the dreaded one-word answer from kids. We use these every night with our kids, and they’ve been a game-changer, helping us end every day feeling connected, loved, and happy.”

            Another great idea is a journal “Mother-Daughter” or “Mother-Son”. The author states that this gift “will give you a magical way to get your kid to open up about what’s going on so you can stay connected. You take turns writing in this journal, and in the process, you find out what’s weighing on your little one’s heart.”

            The author gives many more ideas for experience gifts that will provide cherished memories for your children. I suggest that you follow this link to read about them. We can all strengthen our families, communities, and nations by giving gifts that bring wonderful memories.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Freedom from Net Neutrality

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the repeal of Obama Administration net neutrality rules. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 on Thursday and along party lines to repeal the rules. 

            The Trump Administration called for a lessening of regulations on the Internet, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai held the vote. In remarks before the vote Pai said: “It is time for the Internet, once again, to be driven by engineers and entrepreneurs and consumers rather than lawyers, accountants and bureaucrats.” Pai defended the repeal of net neutrality by informing his critics that they can still Instagram their food, take selfies with their pets, shop for Christmas presents, binge watch their favorite shows, cheer on their favorite sports teams, and drive memes into the ground. 

            Speaker of the House Paul Ryan agree with Pai and celebrated the end of old rules. “Despite its unassuming name, the Obama administration’s net neutrality regulation threatens the free and open internet that has done so much to advance modern society. … The Trump administration’s action to roll back this egregious government overreach into the most innovative space will benefit all users of the internet.”

            In other words we are all free to use the Internet as we choose as long as we obey other laws. Our use of the Internet will return to the way it was before the Obama Administration decided to regulate the Internet as a utility.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Stories

            Now that we are less than two weeks away from Christmas, I thought that I would share some Christmas stories with you. I think the world needs more stories about the spirit of Christmas. The first story was written by Rian B. Anderson and is titled “A Christmas Prayer – Christmas Eve 1881.” 

            It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read the scriptures.

            After supper was over, I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what.

            Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood – the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?” “You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. “Yeah,” I said, “Why?” “I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading; we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon, and sent me for a sack of flour. I asked “What’s in the little sack?” that Pa was carrying. He said shoes, they’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too, just for Christmas.” We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it.

            We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?” “Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt.”

            Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another, and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen was fumbling with a match and finally lit the lamp….

            What do you think they found inside the house?

            I received this story in a Christmas card from a friend. With some searching I discovered that it is actually a book, so this must be a shortened version. You can get the rest of the story from Amazon or Deseret Book.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bringing Joy to the World

            Today is the anniversary of the birth of one of my daughters. It is also the birthday anniversary for one of her daughters and one of her cousins – as well as several friends. It is a joyful day in spite all the awful things going on in the world.

            The topic of joy in the world brings my thoughts to the reason for the Christmas season. Isaac Watts wrote a hymn titled “Joy to the World,” and his story, as told in a Christmas card, is an interesting one.

In the late 1600s, most worship music in Europe consisted of singing the Old Testament Psalms. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) loved the Bible, yet he thought these songs felt `unnatural’ to sing. After one Sunday service, 15-year-old Isaac complained about `the atrocious worship.’ A deacon challenged him with, `Give us something better, young man.’ He went home and penned his first hymn, and the love of hymn-writing stuck with him all his life.

Later in life, and inspired by the last half of Psalm 98, Watts penned the beloved Christmas carol “Joy to the World” (1719). Watts transformed the old Jewish psalm of praise for historic deliverance, into a song of rejoicing for the salvation of God that began when Jesus came `to make his blessing flow far as the curse is found.’

The music is by an unknown composer using fragments from George Frederick Handel, some scholars say it resembles Handel’s greatest work, “Messiah.”

            Watts’ “Joy to the World” is simple and beautiful. However, the LDS version is different with some words and phrases added/repeated by William W. Phelps (1792-1872) with music by George F. Handel (1685-1759). This version brings rejoicing for the birth of Christ, and it brings joy to my heart.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And Saints and angels sing, And Saints and angels sing,
And Saints, and Saints and angels sing.

Rejoice! Rejoice when Jesus reigns, And Saints their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more will sin and sorrow grow, Nor thorns infest the ground;
He’ll come and make the blessings flow
Far as the curse was found, Far as the curse was found,
Far as, far as the curse was found.

Rejoice! Rejoice in the Most High, While Israel spreads abroad
Like stars that glitter in the sky,
And ever worship God, And ever worship God,

And ever, and ever worship God.

Monday, December 11, 2017

William Shakespeare

            The actual birthdate of William Shakespeare is unknown but is observed on April 23, 1564. It is known that he was born in Stratford-upon Avon, United Kingdom, and baptized there on April 26, 1564. His father was John Shakespeare, an alderman and a successful glover, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning farmer. He was the third of eight children and the first son to survive.

            According to most biographers, Shakespeare was most likely educated at the King’s New School in Stratford that was located less than half a mile from his home. His school most likely “provided an intensive education in grammar based upon Latin classical authors.”

            Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in November 1582 when he was 18 years old and she was 26. The couple became the parents of three children: a daughter named Susanna in 1585 and twin son and daughter, Hamnet and Judith in 1596. Hamnet died at age of 11 from unknown causes.

            There is little known of Shakespeare until 1592 when he entered the London theatre scene. Sometime between the birth of the twins and 1592, “he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men.”

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were primarily comedies and histories, which are regarded as some of the best work ever produced in these genres. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances and collaborated with other playwrights.

            Shakespeare became a poet, playwright and actor. He is “widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the `Bard of Avon’.”

            Shakespeare apparently retired to Stratford at age 49. He died there three years later on April 23, 1616. Some people think that April 23 was chosen to observe his birthday because it is the day of his death.

            Some famous Shakespeare quotes are as follow:
            “All that glitters is not gold.”
            “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”

            “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns free speech, religious liberty, and same-sex marriage. All three of these topics are involved in one very important case. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in the Jack Phillips case. The question to be answered is: Can Colorado force Phillips to go against his religious beliefs in order to create a custom cake for a same-sex couple?

            Phillips’ attorneys argue that he wants to use his creative talents to “speak messages that he agrees with, while still welcoming all customers into his store.” He should be free to do so because the rights of free speech and religious liberty are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The opposing side basically argues that he does not have these rights when dealing with same-sex marriage.

            Emilie Kao posted an article at The Daily Signal that gives some highlights of Phillips’ argument. 

1. Mutual Tolerance Is Essential in a Free Society. … Justice Anthony M. Kennedy [said], “tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual. It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs” [because they “compared Phillips to a racist and a Nazi]. …

Kennedy also pointed out there were other cake shops that would have accommodated Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the same-sex couple who requested a cake for their wedding.

In a similar line of questioning, Justice Samuel Alito pointed out that the state of Colorado had failed to demonstrate mutual tolerance when it only protected the freedom of cake artists who landed on one side of the gay marriage debate – namely, the state’s side. …

2. Compelled Speech for Everyone. … At one point, Justice Stephen Breyer followed up on a question from Justice Neil Gorsuch about whether a cake artist could be forced to create a cross-shaped cake for a religious group that shared the beliefs of the KKK. Cole [ACLU lawyer representing the couple] responded that if the cake artist did so for the Red Cross, then yes, the artist would have to do so for the religious group as well.

[Justice Samuel Alito asked a similar question.] In the exchange with Alito, the Colorado solicitor general said that cake artists could not discriminate on the basis of identity, but could discriminate on the basis of messages. Gorsuch later responded, saying that’s exactly what Phillips has argued.

3. Disagreement Does Not Equal Discrimination. … During the oral arguments, the court appeared to recognize what is patently obvious from the facts. Phillips welcomes all people into his store, encourages them to buy off-the-shelf items, and will make custom-designed cakes for them provided they don’t ask for items that violate his beliefs….

4. Orthodoxy Determined by the State. Finally, the oral arguments revealed the scope of how far the state of Colorado is willing to go to impose its views of marriage on citizens. In one line of questioning from Roberts, Colorado admitted that it would force Catholic Legal Services to provide a same-sex couple with legal services related to their wedding even if it violates Catholic teachings on marriage.

            Free speech and religious liberty are hanging on the Supreme Court’s decision on this case. The entire case seems to be built on a liberal agenda to further destroy religious freedom. There seems to be no thought about the loss of free speech because liberals only approve of free speech for their side.

            Phillips is a business man who seeks to earn his living by using his creative talents. He desires to do so “in a manner consistent with his deeply held religious beliefs.” In doing so, he has turned down other requests to create custom cakes expressing ideas that go against his conscience – such as “Halloween and divorce, anti-American themes, and even anti-gay messages.” He does not turn down the business because of the person, but always because of the message.

            This case is a big one that will have lasting effects on Americans and their freedoms. The Court’s decision in this case can either protect liberty and “foster more civil dialogue on marriage” or destroy freedoms and further divide Americans. Hopefully, the Justices will get this case right!