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, March 25, 2017

Knowing God

            In my scripture study this week, I came across John 17:3, which says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” The principle that I took from this verse is: I can gain eternal life by knowing Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

            I remember teaching this scripture to a Seminary class many years ago. I used the father of one of my students as an example. I told my students the man’s name, where he lived, how many children he had, and many other bits of information about him. Then I told the students that I did not really know the man because I had never met him.

            There are numerous references in the scriptures where Jesus tells His disciples that He came to earth to reveal the Father to them. He also tells them that, if they have seen Him, they have also seen the Father. I understand that the Holy Ghost can and will lead me to know Jesus Christ, and only then will Jesus Christ lead me to the Father.

            I appreciate the explanation given by Elder Bruce R. McConkie about the difference between knowing about God and knowing Him:

It is one thing to know about God and another to know him. We know about him when we learn that he is a personal being in whose image man is created; when we learn that the Son is in the express image of his Father’s person; when we learn that both the Father and the Son possess certain specified attributes and powers. But we know them, in the sense of gaining eternal life, when we enjoy and experience the same things they do. To know God is to think what he thinks, to feel what he feels, to have the power he possesses, to comprehend the truths he understands, and to do what he does. Those who know God become like him, and have his kind of life, which is eternal life (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:762, as quoted in the New Testament Student Manual, 254).

            We must do more than simply know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We must actually know Him. We come to know Him as we become more like Him. We must think the same type of thoughts that He thinks, have the same type of feelings that He does, and do the same type of acts that He does. In other words, we must become like Him and Heavenly Father in order to have eternal life.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Choice and Accountability

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened as individuals seek greater knowledge. This is the sixth in a series on the Young Women values. The first post in the series can be found here. It discusses the Young Women values and the Personal Progress program that assists women of all ages to develop these attributes. Each value is represented by a specific color.

            The fifth Young Women value is Choice and Accountability, and it is represented by the color orange. This color is a reminder to be cautious as shown by the color on a stoplight. We see the caution light from a distance and should start slowing down before we reach the intersection. The orange of this value reminds us to use caution in the choices we make because we are accountable for them.

            I am amazed at the number of people in the world who do not seem to understand that every choice has a consequence. If we make a good choice, we receive a good consequence. If we make a bad choice, we receive a bad consequence. Many people seem to have a difficult time learning this concept. This is one reason why parents and other adults should teach children and youth about choice and accountability.

            The Primary theme for 2017 is “Choose the Right,” and we are learning lots of songs about choosing the right. I teach the CTR-5 class in Primary, and I teach many lessons to help the children learn to make correct choices. Even five-year-old children understand this concept.

            President Thomas S. Monson spoke about choosing the right in the October 2010 General Conference. He shared an experience of Clayton M. Christensen, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a professor of business administration in the business school at Harvard University.

            Brother Christensen made a decision when he was 16 years old that he would not play sports on Sunday. Years later, he learned the difficulty of keeping this commitment. He played center on the basketball team at Oxford University in England. The team was undefeated that season and went through the British tournament similar to the NCAA tournament in the United States.

            The team easily won their games and made it to the final four. Then Brother Christensen noticed that the championship game was scheduled for Sunday. He wanted to keep his commitment to not play sports on Sunday, but he did not want to let his team down. He spoke with his coach about his problem but received no sympathy.

            The backup center dislocated his shoulder in the semi-final game, thus increasing the pressure on Brother Christensen. He knelt down in his hotel room to speak with Heavenly Father. He wanted to know if it would be okay to play on Sunday just this time. Before he even finished his prayer, he received the answer. “Clayton, what are you even asking me for? You know the answer.”

            Brother Christensen told his coach that he was sorry but he would not be playing in the final game. He then went to Sunday meetings in the local ward during the time his team was playing. He prayed “mightily” that his team would win, and they did.

            More than 30 years have passed since Brother Clayton made his choice. President Monson says that Brother Clayton considers his decision to be one of the most important decisions in his life. President Monson then explains that it “would have been very easy” to make an exception to his commitment to never play sports on Sunday. He adds that Brother Clayton’s “entire life has turned out to be an unending stream of extenuating circumstances, and had he crossed the line just that once, then the next time something came up that was so demanding and critical, it would have been so much easier to cross the line again. The lesson he learned is that it is easier to keep the commandments 100 percent of the time than it is 98 percent of the time.”(Thomas S. Monson. “The Three Rs of Choice.” Ensign, November 2010.) 

            We make many small decisions every day that would have little or no consequence in our lives. However, there are important decisions in every life that have enormous consequences. We must teach the rising generation the importance of going to the Lord in prayer about their decisions and following the promptings given. When we make good choices, we can be instrumental in bringing good consequences to our families, communities, and nations.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hearts and Minds

            The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that religious freedom is under attack. We have Muslims pouring into our nation and declaring that the United States is a “Muslim nation.” We have the LGBT faction fighting Christian business owners. We have atheists trying to take “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” off our money.

            Recently Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito spoke at an event sponsored by Advocati Christi, an organization of Catholic lawyers and judges. He reminded his listeners of his dissent in the case where the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal. In his dissent he predicted that opposition to the decision would be used to “vilify those who disagree, and treat them as bigots.” In other words, those who oppose same-sex marriage are vilified and treated as bigots. He said, “We are seeing this coming to pass…. [With a reference to a famous song by Bob Dylan), You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.   A wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs.

            After stating that religious freedom has been recognized in Congress and courts, Judge Alito said, “We are likely to see pitched battles in courts and Congress, state legislatures and town halls. But the most important fight is for the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans. It is up to all of us to evangelize our fellow Americans about the issue of religious freedom.”

            What do you think of Justice Alito’s statement? Do you agree that religious freedom is being attacked? Are you concerned at all about losing this freedom? What are you doing to “evangelize [your] fellow Americans” about freedom of religion? Where is your heart and mind on the topic of religion?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Part 2: Secure the Border - or Not?

            I recently completed a long essay for my writing class. Since I put a lot of time and research into my essay, I thought that I would share it on my blog. I based my essay on a question: How secure should the border be? The first part of the essay provides history and background about the U.S.-Mexico border. This essay will cover some of the arguments about building a border. I found some interesting information that I wanted to share and will include the links in case you want to learn more details than I have included.

            Americans have numerous opinions about securing the U.S.-Mexico border. Some folks think that the border should be wide open to anyone who desires to live in the United States. Other individuals believe that the boundary should be sealed tightly in order to totally stop illegal immigration. Still other people reason that the solution lies somewhere in the middle of the two extreme positions. This part of the essay will discuss a few moderate but opposing viewpoints about the problems and importance of building a fence or wall.

            A barrier of some kind, whether it is a fence or a wall, is at the center of the debate because there is disagreement as to how much good a barricade would do. Peter Schrag, a columnist and the author of Not Fit for Our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America, claims that it is impossible to stop all illegal immigration because approximately one-third to one-half of illegal aliens in the United States came legally but “overstayed their visas” (3). He also states that “millions” cross the border “every day to work, study and shop” and that “about 60 percent of U.S. farm workers are believed to be undocumented.” (Schrag, Peter. “Strengthening the US-Mexico Border Will Not Stop Illegal Immigration.” Opposing Viewpoints in Context: Illegal Immigration, 2011.) Schrag shows by his numbers that crossing the border is not the only way for people to live in the U.S. illegally.

            While Schrag says that a fence will not stop all illegal immigration, Robert D. Vitiello, chief patrol agent for the U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, claims that fences reduce illegal crossings at the border. Vitiello says that fences are especially critical in urban environments because aliens “can be across the border and into the community in a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds” He admits that there is no “single solution” to securing the border, even though he sees fencing as an important part of the overall answer. He says that each mile of the border is “unique” and requires its own “balance of personnel, technology, and tactical infrastructure (such as roads, pedestrian and vehicle fencing and lights).” He also asserts that “fencing has proven to be an effective tool to slow, redirect, and deter illegal entries, especially in certain areas where personnel and technology alone cannot sufficiently secure the border.” Since Vitiello is in the business of patrolling the border, his opinion in the debate is important. (Vitiello, Ronald D. “A Border Fence Will Reduce Illegal Crossings of the U.S-Mexico Border.” Opposing Viewpoints in Context: Should the U.S. Close its Borders?, 2010. )  
            Another view comes from Daniel Horowitz, an author of numerous books and articles as well as a defense attorney who comments frequently on criminal cases in the news. He supports Vitiello in his claim that fences are a deterrent to illegal entry into the United States. Horowitz uses the barriers presently in place along the U.S.-Mexico boundary and the wall along the southern border of Israel as examples of the effectiveness of barricades in decreasing illegal crossings. He claims that in the first decade after the 14-mile-long, “double-layered fence (triple-layer in some places)” was built in the San Diego area, “apprehensions fell by 95% as illegals moved eastward” to open border areas. He states that apprehensions fell 96% in the Yuma area in the first decade after a fence was erected there. He says that “suicide attacks perpetrated by Arab terrorists declined by well over 90%” after Israel built “a double-layer barrier with a security zone in the middle.” The Israeli wall is a great example to consider as terrorists are usually quite determined to reach their goal, maybe even more so than immigrants looking for a new home. (Horowitz, Daniel. “Border Fences Work.” Conservative Review, January 25, 2017, originally published in August 2015. 

            Part Two of my essay discusses three solutions to reducing illegal immigration. The three ideas include constructing a barrier to decrease illegal crossings along the southern border, helping Mexico and its neighbors to improve the economies in their nations in order to decrease the need for their citizens to emigrate, and eliminating some of the magnets that draw undocumented immigrants to the United States. This half of Part Two discusses only the possibility and importance of a fence. The second half of Part Two will discuss ways to pay for a barrier as well as helping Mexico and eliminating magnets for illegal immigration.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Secure the Border - or Not?

            I recently completed a long essay for my writing class. Since I put a lot of time and research into my essay, I thought that I would share it on my blog. I based my essay on a question: How secure should the border be? The first part of the essay provides history and background about the U.S.-Mexico border. I found some interesting information that I wanted to share and will include the links in case you want to learn more details than I have included.

            The history and background of the borders of the United States provide the context for understanding and analyzing the debate about securing them. The same security measures should be considered for both borders. However, this essay will consider only the southern border because it is at the center of the debate. Some of the issues involved in the discussion concern security, economy, and compassion. How secure should the border be in order to provide safety and security for all people?

            There is no natural boundary line between the United States and Mexico besides the Rio Grande River, which divides Texas from Mexico. The western border was created on December 30, 1853, by a treaty known as the Gadsden Purchase. James Gadsden, the U.S. minister to Mexico, and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the president of Mexico, signed the treaty. The accord specified that the United States would purchase 45,000 square miles of land from Mexico for the price of $15 Million. The U.S. Senate revised the treaty four months later, reducing the land to 29,670 square miles and the price to $10 Million. The actual boundary line changed several times before settling into its current place with 1,933 miles of border. The boundary issue arose when the United States wanted to build a southern cross-continental railroad and determined the only acceptable route went through Mexican territory. Mexico wanted a border to settle some land issues and to stop Americans from entering Mexico illegally and inciting “rebellions in an effort to gain territory.” (“Gadsden Purchase, 1853-1854.” Office of the Historian - Milestones: 1830-1860.

            Even though the boundary between the United States and Mexico was determined in the mid-1800s, there were no efforts for approximately fifty years to enforce it. The U.S. Mounted Guards began to patrol the border to prevent illegal immigration in 1904. They patrolled the entire border from El Paso, Texas, to San Diego, California, in an effort to decrease the flow of Chinese illegal aliens who were “trying to avoid the Chinese exclusion laws.” (“Border Patrol History.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection.) Mounted Inspectors were added to the force in 1915, and military patrols and the Texas Rangers joined the effort intermittently.

            The U.S. Border Patrol was established on May 28, 1924, and the agency received numerous assignments over the years. In the 1960s agents accompanied “domestic flights to prevent takeovers” of hi-jacked aircraft and “assisted other agencies in intercepting illegal drugs” (“Border Patrol History.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection.) Since September 11, 2001, the Border Patrol focuses on stopping terrorists, but “its overall mission remains unchanged: to detect and prevent the illegal entry of aliens into the United States.” (“Along U.S. Borders.” U. S. Customs and Border Protection.) The purpose of patrolling the border has always been security.

            The first barrier along the border was a fence to “protect the fragile environment and livestock from the damage and disease brought by migrating animals” (Krasner, Caitlin. “History of the Border Fence.” National Border, National Park: A History of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.) The success of this fence led to thoughts of a barrier to stop human traffic. The border was completely shut down by agents during the “War on Drugs” in the 1960s. Illegal immigration increased dramatically after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994  because it “had the effect of devastating large sectors of the Mexican agricultural economy by depreciating crop prices” (Krasner 3). Fences were built and patrols increased in the major ports of San Diego and El Paso. These actions forced illegal immigrants into more remote areas where there were no fences and fewer patrols. 

            Since that time, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, increased pressure to close the border, and President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act in 2006 that authorized and funded construction of 850 miles of fencing. As part of the Secure Fence Act some fencing was installed in the Yuma, Arizona, area. Just this year, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order in January 2017 to start construction on a wall along the border with available funds. Even House Speaker Paul Ryan claims Congress will appropriate more funds as needed.

            At present, the border is well established and patrolled. Yet, increasing numbers of people continue to enter the U.S. illegally. The fenced portion of the border is mostly working as it should, and the fence will soon be extended with funds promised to lengthen it. However, a fence alone will not work 100% of the time as people will find their way under, over, or through it. There are numerous prongs in the solution to stopping illegal immigration with a barrier being only one of them. Other parts of the solution include revising NAFTA, working with Mexico and its southern neighbors to improve conditions in their nations, and limiting benefits to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. The next section will discuss some of the numerous issues involved with securing the southern border.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trump Visits Andrew Jackson's Grave

            President Andrew Jackson has been attacked from several directions, and Barack Obama attempted to remove Jackson’s picture from the $20 bill. However, Donald Trump respects Jackson. He recently honored the seventh U.S. President by visiting his home in Nashville, Tennessee.

            Jarrett Stepman explains why Trump’s visit to Jackson’s grave matters in his article titled “Why Trump’s Visit to Andrew Jackson’s Grave Matters” published at The Daily Signal. Trump’s visit took place on March 15, the 250th anniversary of Jackson’s birth. He is the first President since Ronald Reagan to visit Jackson’s home.

            There is a reason why Trump is drawn to Jackson. They are both outsiders who ran for office as a means to restore the United States to the nation created by the Founding Fathers. Stepman says that Jackson “attacked the permanent, entrenched bureaucracy, took action against crony capitalism, and fought to ensure that the ideas of limited government and federalism would survive.” Stepman continues:

   Jackson trusted that America would be strong if the people were strong, and the federal government limited to its proper place. And when the existence of the country itself was threatened, when so-called “nullifiers” threatened to disobey rightly-enacted federal laws and secede from the Union if they didn’t get their way, Jackson moved into action to defend the Constitution he swore to protect.

   For Jackson, the Constitution and the Declaration were at the heart of what he fought to preserve in this country. He wrote to a friend, “I have suffered too many privations in my youth for the establishment of that happy Constitution, and form of government, under which we live ever to violate its provisions, unless when dire necessity compels me; and then only to preserve my country, and the Constitution with it.”

            Stepman concludes his article: “The president is taking a stand for Jackson with this small gesture, which simply draws the line. It shows the world and the American people that we are proud of who we are and what we mean to be again.”

            Do you think that our current President is like Andrew Jackson in any way? I believe that he is like Jackson in much more than simply being an outsider. Jackson was very patriotic, and Trump is also. I believe that Jackson is one of Trump’s heroes. I believe that this is the reason that Trump went to Jackson’s home to honor him by laying a wreath on his grave for his birthday. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Constitutional Crisis 2

            The Framers of the Constitution organized the government of the United States into three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. They did this on purpose because they wanted to make sure that the power of government was balanced between the three branches. The government works best when the power stays evenly divided, but the liberals/progressives do not care about balance. They want things done their way. An example of their attempts to get what they want can be found in the recent court decisions on limiting immigration.

            President Donald Trump is attempting to close the immigration process to people coming from six nations in the Middle East. The six nations were designated as terrorist spots on a list made by the Obama Administration. President Trump has issued two Executive Orders in his attempt, but liberal judges shot down both of them, claiming constitutional problems. Here are some opinions about the situation.

            David Horowitz has an interesting article at Conservative Review titled “Yes, liberals, we can deny entry to any immigrant AND for any reasons.” He starts his article with this statement and then cites sources.

   What is happening in the courts right now goes beyond any debate over a “ban” on Muslim immigration. The courts have denuded the president of his plenary power over setting the refugee cap, which Trump applied evenly to every country included in his new executive order. Obviously, all the national security problems we have are from predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East. But let’s put that aside for a moment. Even if this was a ban on Muslim immigration, it would be legal. That is settled law of a sovereign nation state.

   Let’s also ignore political considerations for a moment. From a legal standpoint, a nation can set any criteria for letting in any group of people. Through our elected representatives, we can decide to only bring in people with brown hair. We can shut off immigration to those with green eyes or those who are left-handed. The prudence of such a law would have to be dealt with on a political level. Any legal limitation placed on our sovereignty, by definition, means we are not a sovereign nation and that foreign nationals can forcibly control our destiny. This is a principle deeply rooted in the social compact, the preamble of the Declaration of Independence (governance by consent), and the sovereignty of a nation state. Even one who is politically a supporter of loose immigration laws should be alarmed by courts creating a legal limitation to restricting immigration.

            Gregg Jarrett at Fox News says the following in his article titled “Why the law is on Trump’s side with his immigration ban”: “Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate immigration. In 1952, Congress passed a law empowering the president to deny entry into the U.S. to `any class of aliens’ considered to be `detrimental to the interests of the United States.’ In other words, a threat to America and in the interests of national security.”

            The President clearly has the authority to shut down immigration from whatever area he believes is a threat to the national security of the United States. The rogue judges are attempting to wrest power from the President of the United States. Are they doing so under direction from Barack Obama? Is Obama attempting a silent coup about the President? Some people think so!

            The first order was stopped by a judge in Washington and seconded by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The second one was stopped by a judge in Hawaii and a judge in Maryland. The case in Hawaii would have to go through the Ninth Circuit Court, but the one in Maryland may have a chance at a fair review at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. It is possible that a case will end up in the Supreme Court.

            I believe that President Trump is holding off going to the Supreme Court until Judge Neil Gorsuch is appointed as an Associate Judge there. As the Court stands now, there is no guarantee that liberal judges would rule according to the Constitution. Trump’s chances will be much better with Judge Gorsuch on the Court.