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 31, 2012

We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet

The Lord in his love and wisdom has called prophets to guide us and to help us meet the challenges that come as we journey through this life.  We are blessed by knowing that the counsel we receive from the prophet is the same as if it came directly from the Lord.  I am grateful to know that there is a living prophet on earth today and that he speaks for God.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to listen to the prophet again this weekend.

Article of Faith 1:9 states:  "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

                    God has spoken through His prophets since the time of Adam to reveal important information; those people who listened to the prophets were saved both temporally and spiritually.  The prophet Amos testified that "God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophet" (Amos 3:7).

                    Just as there were Old Testament prophets and Apostles in the New Testament, there are both prophets and Apostles in our day.  The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his counselors, and all twelve members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators by members of the Church.

                    Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed the importance of following the counsel of the prophets.  This revelation from the Lord is contained in Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-38.  "This section constitutes the Lord's Preface to the doctrines, covenants, and commandments given in this dispensation."

                    "Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.
                    "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the hearth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."

                    Blessings come to all people who listen to the counsel of the Lord as given through His prophets.  The blessings may be spiritual or temporal.  The following example shows how a group of people were blessed because they listened to the words of the prophet.

               "Many years ago, before there was a temple on the island of Tahiti, 30 Tahitian members of the Church had planned for a long time to make a trip to the Hawaii Temple.  They had worked hard to repair a boat and to save the money necessary for their journey.  They had also requested and received permission for the journey from their government and from President David O. McKay, who was President of the Church at that time.
                    "Shortly before the voyage was to begin, the Church members who would be making the trip were asked to gather at the mission home for a meeting.  There they were informed that a special message had arrived that day from President McKay.  He was asking them not to make the trip to Hawaii.
                    "The Church members did not understand why they could not make the trip, but they had testimonies that President McKay was a prophet, so they followed his counsel.
                    "A few days later the skipper of the boat the Saints had planned to use received a call from the harbor where the boat was kept.  He was told to come quickly because his boat was sinking.  When he examined his boat, he found that the repairmen who had been hired earlier had painted over some rotten wood and rusty pipe, which had then broken, causing the boat to sink.  If the Church members had begun the trip, the boat would have sunk while they were on their way to Hawaii.
                    "The Church members had accepted the prophet's counsel without knowing why it was given, but now they understood why they had been advised not to make the journey.  They were thankful that they had followed the prophet's counsel.  (See R. Lanier and JoAnn M. Britsch, `A Prophet's Warning,' New Era, Mar. 1976, 12-14)."

                    The people had spent much time, money and effort to prepare for their journey, and yet they willingly listened to the counsel of the prophet.  How would you feel if you had made all these preparations and then you were counseled not to go?
Would your feelings be different knowing that the prophet of God had asked you to stop the voyage?  I know that we can be blessed by following the counsel of President Thomas S. Monson just as the people in the story were blessed by following the counsel of President David O. McKay.  I am grateful for my testimony that the Lord speaks through His prophet.

                    We can all gain testimonies that the prophet represents God.  We can ask God if His prophet on earth today in Thomas S. Monson and listen for His answer.  We can heed the feelings we have when we see President Monson and listen to his words.  Once we have a testimony of the prophet, we can also receive additional confirmation of the information.

                    Elder Boyd K. Packer shared the following experience:  "I left the office one Friday afternoon … [and] waited for the elevator to come down from the fifth floor.
                    "As the elevator doors quietly opened, there stood President Joseph Fielding Smith.  There was a moment of surprise in seeing him, since his office is on a lower floor.
                    "As I saw him framed in the doorway, there fell upon me a powerful witness - there stands the prophet of God.  That sweet voice of Spirit… affirmed to me that this was the prophet of God.
                    "I need not try to define that experience to Latter-day Saints.  That kind of witness is characteristic of this church.  It is not something reserved to those in high office.  It is a witness, not only available but vital, to every member" (Ensign, June 1971, 87).

                    Elder Packer knew that President Smith was the prophet of God prior to this experience, but the Holy Ghost confirmed his testimony.  I know that each of us can have this same testimony, with or without being in the presence of the prophet.  We can receive this same testimony through prayer, fasting, reading the prophet's messages, watching or listening to general conference, and/or following the prophet's counsel.

                    There is much information about prophets, their duties, and their responsibilities in the scriptures.  In Amos 3:7, we are told that God reveals his secrets to his servants the prophets.  In Matthew 16:19, we learn that the prophet holds the keys of the kingdom of heaven.  In Doctrine and Covenants 1:14, we learn that we must obey the words of the prophets or be cut off from the Lord.  In Doctrine and Covenants 1:38, we are told that the Lord's voice and the voice of the prophet to the Church are the same.   In Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-5, we learn that we should receive the counsel of the prophet with all patience and faith.  In Doctrine and Covenants 68:3, we are told that the prophet speaks as prompted by the Holy Ghost and that we sustain the President of the Church as a prophet, seer, and revelator.  In Mosiah 8:17, we learn that a seer knows about the past and the future.  In Ephesians 2:19-20, we read that the organization of the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone.  In Doctrine and Covenants 58:18, we read that the laws of the kingdom, meaning the Church, are given by prophets.

                    William Fowler, a convert from Great Britain in 1849, was so moved by the thought that there was a living prophet on earth that he wrote a beautiful hymn entitled "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet" (Hymns, no. 19).  This hymn is a favorite among members of our Church.

                    We thank thee, O God, for a prophet
                    To guide us in these latter-days.
                    We thank thee for sending the gospel
                    To lighten our minds with its rays. 
                    We thank thee for every blessing
                    Bestowed by thy bounteous hand.
                    We feel it a pleasure to serve thee,
                    And love to obey thy command.

                    When dark clouds of trouble hand o'er us
                    And threaten our peace to destroy,
                    There is hope smiling brightly before us,
                    And we know that deliverance is nigh.
                    We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness.
                    We've proved him in days that are past.
                    The wicked who fight against Zion
                    Will surely be smitten at last.

                    We'll sing of his goodness and mercy. 
                    We'll praise him by day and by night,
                    Rejoice in his glorious gospel,
                    And bask in its life-giving light.
                    Thus on to eternal perfection
                    The honest and faithful will go,
                    While they who reject this glad message
                    Shall never such happiness know.

                    I too am very grateful to live in a day when a living prophet walks the earth and reveals to us the words of God.  I know that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord's prophet on earth today and that the Lord reveals His will through President Monson.  I am grateful for the opportunity to listen to the prophet's counsel this weekend.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Prepare for Easter

                    Families grow stronger when we as parents and grandparents teach the children that we celebrate Easter in remembrance of the Resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  I received the following Easter lesson/activity at a Relief Society conference and found it very interesting and useful.  I am posting the information a little early in order for you to have time to make the necessary preparations.  I believe the lesson/activity is applicable for both adults and children.

                    Eggs have become a part of our Easter celebration because they symbolize life.  Just as the chick finds life as it breaks through the egg shell, Christ broke the bonds of death when He rose from the tomb and brought eternal life to all of us. 

The following activity follows some of the events of the last week of Christ's life.  You can prepare for this lesson/activity by gathering the following items:  ten plastic Easter eggs, small cup, towel, silver coins, crown of thorns, purple robe, nail, piece of white cloth, rock, picture of the resurrected Christ, and a candle.  These items can be small enough to fit inside the eggs or they can be regular size.

Copy the following information and scripture references and place one slip of paper - plus the applicable item -in each plastic egg.  The activity involves viewing in order the items and reading the applicable information and scriptures explaining the object.  Make sure that you include the number so that the activity can be completed in proper order.

1.  The week before His death, during the week of the feast of the Passover, Jesus met in an upper room with His twelve Apostles, and instituted the first sacrament at the Last Supper.  This cup reminds us of the blood He would freely shed for us, and the life He gave for us.  Read Matthew 26:26-28.

2.  This towel reminds us of how Jesus washed and dried the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper, a reminder of our Savior's example of love and service.  Read John 13:4-5, 14-15.

3.  These silver coins represent the 30 pieces of silver for which Judas betrayed Jesus.  Read Matthew 26:14-16.

4.  This crown of thorns and purple robe remind us of how the soldiers mocked Christ.  Read Matthew 27:28-30 [JST Matthew 27:30]. 

5.  This nail reminds us of the suffering Jesus endured as they nailed Him to the cross and that He suffered death that we might live again.  Read Luke 23:46 and Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19.

6.  This white cloth represents the clean linen cloth in which Jesus was wrapped for burial.  Read Matthew 27:59.

7.  This rock represents the great stone rolled in front of the tomb to protect the body of Jesus.  Read Matthew 27:60.

8.  This egg is empty, just as the tomb was found empty by Jesus' loved ones on the third day after His death.  Read Mark 16:6.

9.  This picture of Christ reminds us that we celebrate Easter in remembrance of the Resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Just as the new chick finds life as it escapes from its shell, Christ brought eternal life when He rose from the tomb.  He has risen and lives once more; He brings life and light to all.  Read Luke 24:36, 39.

10.  This candle is to remind us of the light and life Jesus freely shares with us.  Let us follow His light.  Read John 8:12.

                    The twelve year olds in my Sunday School class seemed to appreciate this activity and acted like they understood the Atonement of Jesus Christ a little better.  They also liked the fact that I sent kits with the information and items home with them to use in family home evening.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Come Listen to the Prophets

                    The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is that God speaks through His prophets on earth to reveal vital information to His children.  God has revealed His will through prophets since the time of Adam, and He speaks through His prophet today.  We can hear counsel from modern-day prophets and apostles this weekend in the General Conference of TheChurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

                    Many people belief in the prophets of the Old Testament but refuse to believe in modern-day prophets.  Does God love us any less than He loved the people in Old Testament time?  No!  Did God reveal to Adam the information necessary for Noah to build the ark?  No! Did God reveal to Noah the information that Moses needed to guide the Israelites to their Promised Land?  No!  God speaks through prophets to give vital and current information.  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, explained why we need prophets today. 

                    "Because Heavenly Father loves His children, He has not left them to walk through this mortal life without direction and guidance.  The teachings of our Heavenly Father are not the ordinary, predictable, run-of-the-mill kind you can pick up in paperback at the local bookstore.  They are the wisdom of an all-powerful, all-knowing celestial Being who loves His children.  Encompassed in His words is the secret of the ages - the key to happiness in this life and in the world to come.
                    "Heavenly Father reveals this wisdom to His children on earth through His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).  From the days of Adam, God has spoken to His children through appointed oracles who are charged with revealing His will and counsel to others.  Prophets are inspired teachers and are always special witnesses of Jesus Christ (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:23).  Prophets speak not only to the people of their time, but they also speak to people throughout all time.  Their voices echo through the centuries as a testament of God's will to His children.
                    "Today is not different from ages past.  The Lord does not love the people of our day any less than in past times.  One of the glorious messages of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ is that God continues to speak to His children!  He is not hidden in the heavens but speaks today as He did in ancient days" ("Why Do We Need Prophets?", Ensign, March 2012, 4).

                    A favorite hymn explains what can happen when we listen to the voice of the prophet.  The hymn is entitled "Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice;" it was written by Joseph S. Murdock (1822-1899) and set to music by Joseph J. Daynes (1851-1920).  A fourth verse was added by Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915-1985).
                    Come listen to a prophet's voice,
                    And hear the word of God,
                    And in the way of truth rejoice,
                    And sing for joy aloud.
                    We've found the way the prophets went
                    Who lived in days of yore.
                    Another prophet now is sent
                    This knowledge to restore.

                    The gloom of sullen darkness spread
                    Thru earth's extended space
                    Is banished by our living Head,
                    And God has shown his face.
                    Thru erring schemes in days now past
                    The world has gone astray;
                    Yet Saints of God have found at last
                    The straight and narrow way.

                    'Tis not in man they put their trust,
                    Nor on his arm rely.
                    Full well assured, all are accursed
                    Who Jesus Christ deny.
                    The Savior to his people saith,
                    "Let all my words obey,
                    And signs shall follow living faith,
                    Down to the latest day."

                    Then heed the words of truth and light
                    That flow from fountains pure.
                    Yea, keep His law with all thy might
                    Till mine election's sure,
                    Till thou shalt hear the holy voice
                    Assure eternal reign,
                    While joy and cheer attend thy choice,
                    As one who shall obtain.

                    Why should we listen to the prophets?  The prophets speak for God.  When we follow the counsel of the prophet, we obey the commandments of the Lord.  When the prophet speaks and we follow his counsel, God will bless us.

                    "Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.
                    "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. (See Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-38; emphasis added.)

                    We all have questions about life.  Many people ask "Why am I here?" or "Where did I come from?" or "Where do we go after death?" or "What is the purpose of life on earth?"  Other people ask "If there is a God, why does He allow so much suffering?" or "Why is life so unfair?"  Living prophets speak to the world and reveal the answers to these questions and many others.  Living prophets are instruments in the hand of God in order that He might bless His children today.  

                    I invite you to "Come listen to the prophet's voice and hear the word of God" by listening to the speakers at the 182nd Annual General Conference.        

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mary Todd Lincoln

                    Mary Anne Todd Lincoln was born December 13, 1818, in Lexington, Kentucky, the daughter of Robert Smith Todd (February 25, 1791-July 16, 1849) and Elizabeth Parker Todd (1794 or 1795-July 6, 1825/Lexington, Kentucky).  Robert and Elizabeth were parents of seven children, three boys and four girls, with Mary being their fourth child.  The other children were Elizabeth Todd Edwards (1813-1888), Frances "Fanny" Todd Wallace (1815-1899), Levi O. Todd (1817-1865), Robert P. Todd (1820-1822), Ann Todd Smith (1824-1891), and George Rogers Clark Todd (1825-1900).

Robert was a banker, merchant, lawyer, officer during the War of 1812, and member of the Kentucky legislature.  He died of cholera, which required immediate burial; due to his cause of death, there are questions about whether he was buried in Springfield, Illinois, or Lexington, Kentucky.  Robert and Elizabeth were married on November 26, 1812. 

                    Mary came from English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry.  Her paternal great-grandfather was David Levi Todd:  born February 8, 17__, in Longford County, Ireland; immigrated to Pennsylvania and then moved to Kentucky.  Her maternal great-great-grandfather was Samuel McDowell:  born in Scotland and immigrated to Pennsylvania where he died.  Other Todd ancestors came from England.

                    When Mary was six years old, her mother died.  Her father married Elizabeth "Betsy" Humphreys Todd on November 1, 1826, and had seven more children.

                    Mary was reared in comfort and refinement, but she did not get along well with her step-mother.  Mary is described as being five feet two inches tall and having blue eyes and reddish-brown hair.  She left home early to attend finishing school; the school was owned by a French woman and its curriculum was based on French and dancing.  Mary learned to speak French fluently; she studied dance, drama, music and social graces.   Mary was thought to be "witty and gregarious, with a grasp of politics".

                    Mary began living with her sister Elizabeth Edwards in Springfield, Illinois, in October 1839, and Elizabeth became Mary's guardian while Mary lived with her.  Mary was popular in the social circles of Springfield and was courted by several promising young men, including Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln who were both rising young lawyers. 

Abraham, age 33, and Mary, age 23, were married on November 4, 1842, in the home of her sister Elizabeth in Springfield.  They became parents of four boys, all four born in Springfield:  Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926; lawyer, diplomat, businessman); Edward Baker Lincoln (1846-1850; known as "Eddie"); William Wallace Lincoln (1850-1862; known as "Willie"; died while Lincoln was President); Thomas Lincoln (1853-1871; known as "Tad").  Robert and Tad were the only sons to live to adulthood, and Robert was the only one to survive his mother.  

                    Lincoln became a successful Springfield attorney and spent years as an Illinois circuit lawyer.  Mary was often left alone to run the household and rear the children.  She supported her husband both socially and politically, particularly when he was elected President of the United States in 1860.  The Lincoln family home from 1844 until 1861 in Springfield, Illinois, is now the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

                    Abraham Lincoln became a political rival of Stephen A. Douglas for a seat representing Illinois in the United States Senate in 1858.  After the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the Illinois legislature chose Douglas to represent their state in the Senate, but Lincoln became famous and received national support for his position on slavery.

                    Mary Lincoln was the first presidential wife to be known as the "First Lady", and she faced numerous difficulties during her White House years.  As Lincoln was the first "western" president, the society in Washington, D.C. - dominated by eastern and southern culture - often criticized Mary's "western" manners as coarse and pretentious.  Mary had a difficult time dealing with White House social responsibilities, which were made worse due to the intrigue of the Civil War.
                    A devoted supporter of her husband, Mary was strictly loyal to his policies as he fought to save the Union.  She was in a very difficult position due to the fact that her home state of Kentucky was a border state where slavery was legal.  Several of Mary's half-brothers served in the Confederate Army and were killed in action; one of her brothers was a surgeon for the Confederacy.  The husband of one of her half-sisters was killed in action and several others supported the Confederate cause.  

In spite of the fact that she had family members fighting for the Confederacy, Mary often visited Union soldiers in Washington hospitals; there she distributed flowers and fruit to wounded soldiers and helped them prepare letters to send home.  Some times she accompanied President Lincoln when he made military visits to the field.  She also hosted many social functions.  She was severely criticized for spending too much on the White House but felt it was necessary to maintain the prestige of the Presidency and the Union.

                    Mary suffered severe headaches as an adult and had other mental and physical problems.  Her "behavior suggests severe depression, anxiety and paranoia, migraine headaches, even possibly diabetes.  Certainly all of her ills were exacerbated by a series of tragic circumstances during her White House tenure:  the trauma of Civil War, including the allegiance of much of her family to the Confederacy and their death or injury in battle; an 1863 accident which threw her from a carriage and knocked her unconscious; the accusations by northerners that she was sympathetic to the Confederacy and the ostracizing of her as a `traitor' by southerners; the sudden death of her son Willie in 1862; and, of course, the worst incident of all, the assassination of her husband asshe sat beside him in the Ford's Theater."   Some historians and psychologists speculate that Mary suffered from bipolardisorder.  

                    After the assassination of President Lincoln, Mary returned to Illinois.  The death of her son Thomas (Tad) in July 1871 plunged Mary into deeper grief and increasing paranoia.  Her son Robert was so concerned about her that he had her committed to a psychiatric hospital in Batavia, Illinois, in 1875.  She was so angry with the court order that she went to a pharmacy and ordered enough drugs to kill herself.  The pharmacist realized what she was planning and filled her order with a placebo.   Three months after being committed in a private sanitarium, Mary smuggled letters to her lawyer and the editor of the Chicago Times.  The ensuing publicity put Robert's character and motives in question and caused the sanitarium to publicly declare that Mary should be sent to Springfield to live with her sister.  In 1876 Mary was declared competent enough to manage her own affairs, but the estrangement between Mary and her only living son was never fully reconciled.

                    Mary traveled throughout Europe for the next four years, during which time she settled for a time in Pau, France.  Her declining health and severe cataracts affecting her eyesight made her more susceptible to falls.  In 1879 she fell from a step ladder and suffered spinal-cord injuries.  In the early 1880s Mary was confined to the residence of her sister Elizabeth Edwards in Springfield, Illinois.  There she died on July 16, 1882 at age 63.  She was interred beside her husband in the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.   


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Supreme Court Looks at Obamacare

                    The long awaited time has finally arrived.  This week all nine Justices of the United States Supreme Court are listening to the oral arguments for and against Obamacare.  The Court set aside six hours over a period of three days to listen to oral arguments.  It is a very rare occurrence for the Court to allow this length of time to hear a case; it is also rare for them to hear a case that has this much potential to affect all Americans. 

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi famously claimed that "we have to pass the bill so that you will know what is in it."  She obviously knew that it would not pass if its contents were known.  Polls have consistently shown that the more information given to the American people about Obamacare, the more we do not want it to remain law.  If we - the American people - were voting on the health care issue today, we would strike it down in serious defeat.  Conservatives have been against Obamacare from the very beginning - remember the town hall meetings of the summer of 2009 - claiming that Congress does not have the authority to force Americans to purchase health insurance.  The majority of Congress did not listen to the American people and passed the bill; President Barack Obama signed the bill into law.  The fight against Obamacare went to the Judicial Branch of the government and has been making its way through the lower courts.  Now it is being heard by the Supreme Court.

The Justices have to look at the case from every possible angle before making their judgment and even appointed an attorney to argue a third point that neither of the other sides were taking.   Mike Brownfield at The Heritage Foundation explained, "The central issue before the Court is whether Congress has the power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause to impose the individual mandate on the American people, forcing them to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.  If the Court holds that Congress was outside the bounds of its authority, it can strike down the individual mandate, leaving the justices to then decide whether all or part of Obamacare should fall along with it."

                    At the end of the second day of hearing by the Supreme Justices, liberals are proclaiming Obamacare to be a "train wreck for the Obama administration.  This law looks like it's going to be struck down.  All of the predictions including mine that the justices would not have a problem with this law were wrong" (Jeffrey Toobin/CNN).  Pete Williams/NBC said that Obamacare is "in trouble."

         Todd Gaziano, legal scholar at The Heritage Foundation, gave his recap of the second day of arguments in a video found here.  

         I believe that the health care law known as Obamacare must be declared unconstitutional in its entirety.  I believe that Obamacare is about more than obtaining affordable health care; I believe that it is an attempt to apply the final blow to destroy the United States Constitution.  Progressives and Communists have been working for the past fifty to one hundred years to change the Constitution in an effort to "fundamentally transform" the United States.  I believe that the 2000 page document was written long before Congress began debating its merits; I believe that this law was sitting somewhere in a desk drawer or file cabinet drawer awaiting a good time to bring it out in the open.

                    Believing as I do, I hope that the Supreme Court rules the whole law to be unconstitutional; however, I am asking our Heavenly Father - who is watching over this nation and all his children - to inspire the Justices to judge it according to the will of God.  I know that Heavenly Father sees the "big picture" and knows what is best for this nation and the world; I also know that my thoughts are not always in alignment with His thoughts.  Therefore, I am putting the matter in God's hands and asking Him to bless the United States and to inspire the Justices to make the right decision in order that Americans may retain our freedoms.  I invite all of you to join me in praying for the Justices of the United States Supreme Court, particularly for the next few months as they make their ruling on Obamacare.  Ask God to bless them that they might rule in favor of the Constitution and liberty and that the will of God may be done.  May God continue to bless America!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Greatness of Abraham Lincoln

                    The greatness of Abraham began with his opposition to the expansion of slavery in the United States, which was one of the main reasons why he ran for President of the United States.  He used his campaign debates and speeches to express his beliefs that slavery was wrong - both for individuals and for our nation. 

                    Lincoln was elected in 1960 and was inaugurated as President of the United States in March 1861.  Southern states began leaving the Union as soon as he was elected.  "He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis - the American Civil War - preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and promoting economic and financial modernization."  President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address given in 1863 "became the most quoted speech in American history.  It was an iconic statement of America's dedication to the principles of nationalism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy." principles of nationalism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy." 

                    President Lincoln was re-elected in the presidential campaign of 1864 and was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre in April 1865 - just six days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate army and ended the Civil War.  He died on April 15, 1865.  He is one of four Presidents memorialized on Mount Rushmore.  

                    The Gettysburg Address was a short speech delivered at the place of the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.  It was given on November 19, 1863, at ceremonies to dedicate part of the battleground as a cemetery for the men who died fighting there.
                    "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 
                    "Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.  We are met on a great battlefield of that war.  We are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting place of those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
                    "But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow this ground.  The brave men living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.  It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried on.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain - that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom - and that governments of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

                    The following quotes by Lincoln show he was a regular, compassionate American who loved the United StatesMore quotes can be found here.  

                   "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."  [I like this one!]

                    "Discourage litigation.  Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can.  As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man.  There will still be business enough."  [Interesting!]

                    "Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived."  [This is good counsel for nations, civic leaders, and parents!]

                    "I am a firm believer in the people.  If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises.  The great point is to bring them the real facts."  [This quote gives a clear reason why the lame stream media continues to hide the truth from the American people.  They are afraid that Americans will see through their thinly-disguised ploys to destroy the United States as we know it.]

                    "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."  [How true!] 

                    "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."  [Again, very true!]

                    That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and, hence, is just encouragement to industry and enterprise."  [This quote sort of takes the wind out of the progressives' sails!]

                    "The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just."  [Join the fight to save our nation!]

                    "No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent."

President Lincoln left many outstanding quotes as shown by the following ones.  More quotes can be found here.

                    "A friend is one who has the same enemies as you have." 

    "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?"

                    "A house divided against itself cannot stand."  [This is another one of his famous quotes.]

                    "All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind."  [This quote shows his intelligence as well as his humanity.]

                    "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."  [What a tribute!  His mother must have been truly wonderful!]

                    "All the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure."  [The truth of this statement is shown by our current President's wars in the Middle East!]

                    "America will never be destroyed from the outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."  [This statement is the absolute truth.  Communists understood this fact and began to infiltrate our nation soon after World War II in an effort to destroy our nation from the inside.  Their work appears to be almost complete.]

                    "Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.  This is a most valuable - a most sacred right - a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world."  [He understood that the ultimate power in government rests with the people.]

                    I believe that Abraham Lincoln was great for many reasons.  His greatness is shown by the continued Union - the fact that we are united - the United States

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gifts from Foreign Governments

                    The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article I, Section 9, Clause 8:  "… And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them [United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."  This provision in the Constitution provides us with assurance that our elected officials will do the job we have given them without being "bought" by gifts from foreign nations.

                    "The Founders were anxious that the wealth of European nations would not be used to compromise the loyalties of American officials.  It is said that a gift from the king of France to the American ambassador during the Revolutionary War aroused sufficient concern to have this provision inserted in the Constitution….
                    "The Founders left no doubt as to their intention when they incorporated this provision into the Constitution."  (See W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America - The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, 487.)

                    Robert Delahunty further explained the importance of the Emoluments Clause:  "Like several other provisions of the Constitution, the Emoluments Clause also embodies the memory of the epochal constitutional struggles in seventeenth-century Britain between the forces of Parliament and the Stuart dynasty.  St. George Tucker's explanation of the clause noted that `in the reign of Charles the [S]econd of England, that prince, and almost all his officers of state were either actual pensioners of the court of France, or supposed to be under its influence, directly, or indirectly, from that cause.  The reign of that monarch has been, accordingly, proverbially disgraceful to his memory.'  As these remarks imply, the clause was directed not merely at American diplomats serving abroad, but more generally at officials throughout the federal government.
                    "The Emoluments Clause has apparently never been litigated, but it has been interpreted and enforced through a long series of opinions of the Attorneys General and by less-frequent opinions of the Comptrollers General.  Congress has also exercised its power of "Consent" under the clause by enacting the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, which authorizes federal employees to accept foreign governmental benefits of various kinds in specific circumstances" (The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, 167).

                    I believe that it is obvious why our elected leaders and other federal workers should not receive emoluments from foreign governments, but I want to make sure you see the reason.  We want our elected representatives and those they appoint to positions to be loyal to the United States and protect the rights of Americans!  We must continue to insist that our officials be true to our Constitution and nation.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Baptism Means Taking the Name of Christ

                    Baptism is one of the first steps we take to come to Christ and most often comes after we gain faith in Jesus Christ and repent of our sins.  Baptism is a covenant that we make with Christ.  When we understand the symbolism of baptism, we are more capable of understanding the eternal nature of the covenants and blessings that come because of baptism.  Through continued obedience and the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can overcome spiritual death and return to the presence of our Father in Heaven.  When we are baptized, we take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and promise to remember Him in all that we do.

                    Modern-day scriptures clearly identify the purposes of baptism. Some of those scriptures follow:

"Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, according to the holy commandment, for the remission of sins" (Doctrine and Covenants 49:13).  The purpose given is to have our sins "erased" or taken from us.

"But … thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying:  After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 31:14).  The purpose given is to show our willingness to keep all of Heavenly Father's commandments.

"No one can be received into the church of Christ unless he has arrived unto the years of accountability before God, and is capable of repentance" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:71).  In other revelations, the Lord explained that the "years of accountability" is eight years of age.  Children are not baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until they are old enough to know the difference between good and evil.  All children who die before the age of eight years are automatically taken back into the presence of God.

"Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter.  For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
"And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ….
"And now … I would ask if all is done?  Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father:  Ye shall have eternal life" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 31:17-20).  The purpose given is to get on the path and begin the journey to eternal life."

"And whoso doeth this shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of the hands of the elders of the church" (Doctrine and Covenants 49:14).  The purpose given is to be ready and worthy to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

In light of the above scriptures, I think it is fair to ask this question:   Why did Jesus - who did not sin - need baptism?  We are very fortunate because Nephi, an ancient American prophet, answered this question very clearly.

"And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?
"Know ye not that he was holy?  But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.
"Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.
"And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 31:6-9).  The reason given is that even Jesus Christ needed to be baptized in order to show obedience to Heavenly Father.  In doing so, Jesus set an example of what all of us must do in order to enter the kingdom of God.

A symbol is an object or action that represents something else.  In Romans 6:3, the Apostle Paul spoke of baptism as a symbol:  "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?"

What did Paul mean when he said that we are "baptized into [Christ's] death"?  The word baptism comes from a Greek word that means to dip or immerse (Bible Dictionary, 'Baptism," 618).  The act of immersion - being momentarily buried under water - represents the death and burial of a person's sinfulness.  The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to repent of our sins and to be forgiven.

The Apostle Paul continued his explanation:  "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death:  that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
"For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (Romans 6:4-5).

This scripture brings another very fair question:  How is baptism "in the likeness of [Christ's] resurrection"? The act of coming out from under the water represents a birth into a new life, just as the resurrected Jesus Christ rose from the tomb.  A newly baptized person is free of sin and possesses a new opportunity to grow closer to God.

Jesus Christ discussed baptism with a man named Nicodemus in John 3:3-5 and told him:  "…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
"Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

When Nicodemus asked how a person could be born of water, Jesus Christ explained that a person is "born of water" when he/she is baptized by immersion.  Christ also explained that a person is "born of the Spirit" when he/she receives the Holy Ghost after their baptism.

A newly baptized and converted man testified:  "I came from a broken home.  We had no religion, and I was not taught any particular moral values.  My life was meaningless, empty, and full of conflict.  I committed many sins.  Then the gospel came into my life.  I accepted the Savior wholeheartedly.  I began to believe in Him and to turn away from my former ways.  I was baptized, and I received the marvelous gift of the Holy Ghost.  Brothers and Sisters, for years and years I felt as if I were `dead' inside and now for the first time in life, I feel `alive'" (in My Errand from the Lord [Melchizedek Priesthood study guide, 1976], 161).

In April 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith received instructions through revelation about organizing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This revelation also gave instructions for the people who wanted to be baptized as members of the Church.

"And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism - All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:37). 

This verse contains the baptismal covenant, an agreement between the Lord and the person being baptized.  With this covenant, we promise to obey God's commandments, and He promises to bless us according to our obedience.  People covenant to
1) humble himself/herself before God, 2) repent of their sins, 3) be willing to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ,
4) be willing to serve the Lord, 5) show by their works that they have received the Spirit of Christ.

                    What does it mean to take upon ourselves the name of Christ?  A basic answer is that we take upon ourselves the name of Christ when we follow His example.  Alma, an prophet in the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ taught his people how they could take upon themselves the name of Christ.  Alma was converted through the teachings of Abinadi and then proceeded to teach the gospel to others.  In order to help the people prepare to be baptized, he reviewed the duties they would be expected to do as members of the Church.

                    "And it came to pass that he said unto them:  Behold, here are the waters of Mormon … and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light;
                    "Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life -
                    "Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?"  (See Mosiah 18:8-10.)

               According to Alma, in order to "come into the fold of God, and … be called his people", we must 1) "bear one another's burdens", 2) "mourn with those that mourn", 3) "comfort those that stand in need of comfort", and 4) "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places".

                    We "bear one another's burdens" when we help them during their trials and adversities.  We "mourn with those that mourn" when we share their grief - death of loved ones, miscarriages, loss of job, etc.  We stand as witnesses of God when we 1) defend the name of Deity and do not allow it to be taken in vain, 2) are willing to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, 3) sustain and support priesthood and auxiliary leaders, and 4) choose the right thing to do whether or not we are being watched.

                    Alma listed promises along with the requirements; by observing the requirements of membership we can:  1) "be redeemed of God", 2) "be numbered with those of the first resurrection, 3) "have eternal life", and 4) receive "his Spirit more abundantly upon you". 

                    The baptismal covenant is so important that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the opportunity to renew it each week by partaking of the sacrament.  Baptism is more than just being immersed in the water.  The covenants we make and the blessings we can receive are eternal.  I testify that keeping our baptismal covenants brings joy in this life and hope for eternal life.