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.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Presidential Compensation

                    The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article II, Section 1, Clause 7: "The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected…."  This clause guaranteed that the President would know in advance what he would be paid for the position; it also assures the President that his pay will not be changed during his time in office.  Alexander Hamilton explained in The Federalist No. 73 that the main reason for the requirement of fixing the presidential compensation in advance and for his entire term of office was to keep the office of President as independent as possible. 

                    The first Congress decided in 1789 that the President of the United States would receive $25,000.00, and the President's salary has been increased several times since then.  President Grant's salary was doubled in 1873.  In 1809 the President's salary was increased to $75,000 plus traveling expenses approved by Congress.  The President's salary was increased again in 1949 to $100,000 plus $50,000 for expenses and again in 1967 to $200,000.  The presidential compensation changed again on January 1, 2001, when the amount was increased to $390,000 per year including a $50,000 expense account.

                    Our Founders wanted to compensate the President for his services, but they did not want the President's salary to be so large that it would attract the wrong kind of people to the position.  Benjamin Franklin was quoted as stating, "Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men.  These are ambition and avarice:  the love of power and the love of money.  Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects….

                    "And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable pre-eminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters?  It will not be the wise and moderate, the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust.  It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits.  These will thrust themselves into your government, and be your rulers….

                    "Besides these evils, sir, though we may set out in the beginning with moderate salaries, we shall find that such will not be of long continuance.  Reasons will never be wanting for proposed augmentations.  And there will always be a party for giving more to the rulers….

                    "It may be imagined by some that this is a Utopian idea, and that we can never find men to serve us in the executive department without paying them well for their services.  I conceive this to be a mistake….  The pleasure of doing good and serving their country, and the respect such conduct entitles them to, are sufficient motives with some minds to give up a great portion of their time to the public, without the mean inducement of pecuniary satisfaction…

                    "And, indeed, in all cases of public service, the less the profit the greater the honor…" (as quoted by W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America - The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, pp. 532-33).

                    Although George Washington did not accept any salary while he served as President, he did keep "careful and accurate accounts" of his expenses and was reimbursed for them.  There are reports that John F. Kennedy donated his full salary to charity.

When Mitt Romney is elected to be our next President, he may be one of the wealthiest presidents in the history of our nation.  He has been asked if he would take the salary as President, but he has not answered that question.  I personally would not be surprised to hear that he had declined the compensation.  During his 2008 campaign for President, Romney said that he would donate his salary to charity.  While governor of Massachusetts, he declined his salary of $135,000 a year.  While he was in charge of the Olympics he indicated that he would not accept the salary of $250,000 unless the games were successful.  After the Olympics proved to be a financial success, he donated the salary to charity.  He has donated his services in other public and private situations as well; therefore, I believe he would do the same as President of the United States


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Honest in All Things

                    Are you honest?  Honesty includes being true to oneself as well as being honest with other people and with the Lord.  Being honest in all things requires a constant, conscious effort, but it brings many blessings, such as self-respect, love of others, and eventually all the blessings that the Lord can offer.

                    We must be honest in both word and deed in order to have integrity.  There are lots of ways to be dishonest; some of those ways include cheating, stealing, lying, and telling only part of the truth.  In addition, there are other more subtle ways to be dishonest, such as remaining silent when someone else is lying.  Also when we are dishonest, we are usually dishonest with numerous people.  For example, when a student cheats in school, he is not only cheating himself but also his classmates, teachers, and parents.  If a professional cheats in training, he would also be cheating his patients or clients of having a more qualified doctor, lawyer, etc.

                    Elder Marvin J. Ashton, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated:
"[After] 50 years … some former students recall with lasting appreciation the words one teacher had her class repeat at the beginning of each day.  Every school morning this [teacher] implanted the meaning of honesty into our minds by having us recite `A lie is any communication given to another with the intent to deceive.'  A lie can be effectively communicated without words ever being spoken.  Sometimes a nod of the head or silence can deceive" (Ensign, May 1982, 9).

                    Anytime we cause or allow someone to believe something that is not true, we are being dishonest.  To be worthy to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father, we must learn to be honest with ourselves, with others, and with the Lord.

                    The Lord explained to Moses about the premortal life and a council meeting held there.  Heavenly Father explained His plan for the eternal happiness of all His children; after He had explained His plan, two of His greatest Sons came before Him and volunteered to help Him.  Lucifer said, "Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
                    Then Jesus Christ - whom the Father called "my Beloved Son" - said, "Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever."
                    Lucifer did not accept being passed over and rebelled against God.  Because he rebelled against God "and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
                    "And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice" (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 4:1-4).

                    Lehi, an ancient American prophet, taught his family about agency and how they were free to follow Jesus Christ and to choose liberty or eternal life or they were free to follow Satan and to choose captivity and death.  He also told them that Satan "seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 2:27; emphasis added).

                    When we are dishonest, we have been deceived or blinded into following Satan.  We must be honest with ourselves and other people as well as with God.  We are dishonest with ourselves when we fail to accept responsibility for our own decisions, words, and actions and instead blame other people or circumstances; we are dishonest with ourselves when we fail to understand that choices have consequences; we are dishonest with ourselves when we fail to recognize our own strengths and weaknesses.

                    It is important to be honest with ourselves about our own thoughts and actions; if we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize what we must do in order to become more like the Lord.  We also will recognize that we can ask for God's help in overcoming our weaknesses, and that we are responsible to thank God for our blessings.

                    Being true to ourselves helps us to be honest with others; this is true because when we are honest with ourselves, we develop a sense of honor and self-respect.  We then can apply this same honor and respect in our relationships with other people.

                    Pride, greed, manipulation, hate, rationalization, and fear of discovery keep us from being honest with others.  For example, if we are filled with pride, we may be more concerned about our reputation than the truth because we all want others to think highly of us.

                    Dishonesty leads us into captivity to Satan.  If we are dishonest and do not repent, we may continue in more dishonest behavior.  If we tell a lie, we may need to tell a second lie to cover the first lie; then we may need to tell a third lie to cover the second lie.  If we commit one dishonest act and do not repent, we often have to continue being dishonest to avoid being caught.  This pattern of dishonesty can destroy relationships with others and damage our standing with the Lord.

                    In reply to a question about what he believed and taught, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote thirteen basic beliefs, which are known as The Articles of Faith.  The Thirteenth Article of Faith states:  "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul - We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.  If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things" (Pearl of Great Price, The Articles of Faith 1:13).

                    Being honest can help us in "doing good to all men."  Anyone who is trying to "do good" will not lie, cheat, rob, or steal.  They will instead try to follow the Savior's Golden Rule and treat others the way they want to be treated.

                    "A seminary teacher had been teaching his class the importance of honesty and had stressed that often we do not know when our honesty is being tested.  One day he gave a quiz in class and collected the papers.  He graded them at home that night and recorded the scores, but did not mark any of the papers.  The next day, he returned the papers and asked the students to grade their own tests and report their scores.  Most students reported high scores.  "John?"  "85."  "Susan?"  "95."  "Harold?"  "80."  "Arnold."  "90."  "Mary?  … Mary?"  The response was very quiet:  "45."  Once all the scores were recorded the difference between the two scores was revealing.  Many students had reported higher scores than the teacher had recorded when he graded the tests himself.

                    An unusual silence settled over the class when the teacher explained what he had done:  `This was a different kind of test.  This was a test for honesty.  I noticed that many of you looked at Mary when she announced her score of 45.  I want each of you to know that in my book Mary just achieved the highest score in class" (Family Home Evening Resource Book [1983], 195).

                    We must not only be honest with ourselves and our fellowmen, but we must also be honest with God.  In Ecclesiastes 5:4-5, we read:  "When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools:  pay that which thou hast vowed.
                    "Better is it that thou shouldst not vow, than that thou shouldst vow and not pay."

                    A vow or oath is a promise.  When we make a promise to God, it is called a covenant.  As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have made vows - or covenants - with God.  I promised to take upon me the name of Christ, meaning to be known as a follower of Christ.  I promised to always remember Jesus Christ.  I also promised to keep all His commandments.

                    In return for my keeping these promises, God extends several promises to me.  He has promised that I might have His Spirit to be with me always (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77).  He has promised me great treasures of knowledge (Doctrine and Covenants 89:19).  He has promised me eternal life (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).

                    It is very important to me that I honestly keep my covenants with God.  Why?  "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise" (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10).  The Lord is bound to keep His promises if I am true to the covenants I make with God!

                    I know that there are many blessings that come from being honest with ourselves, with other people, and with the Lord.  I know the importance of being honest in all things.  I want God to be able to trust me as He trusted Hyrum Smith:  "And again, verily I say unto you, blessed is my servant Hyrum Smith; for I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me, saith the Lord" (Doctrine and Covenants 124:15).  I know that we can all develop the same kind of integrity of heart that God saw in Hyrum Smith!  I know that we can all be honest in all things - if we so desire!  I encourage all my readers to remember the promises the Lord has made to those who are honest and faithful.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Seek Learning

                    Families, communities, states, and nations are strengthened when the rising generation is taught to seek knowledge and to develop the habit of life-long learning.  Children, youth, and young adults must be taught that it is their responsibility to seek learning and the importance of doing so.  They must understand that education opens the windows and doors of opportunity.

                    In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith on December 27, 1832, in Kirtland, Ohio, the Lord counseled, "… seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).

                    The rising generation must be taught the importance of studying diligently in their youth because this is the period of time when they have more time to dedicate to learning.  President Gordon B. Hinckley gave the following wise counsel to the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

                    "The pattern of study you establish during your formal schooling will in large measure affect your lifelong thirst for knowledge" (Way to Be!  Nine Ways to Be Happy and Make Something of Your Life (2002), 28.
                    "You must get all of the education that you possibly can….  Sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of [this] world….  Train your minds and hands to become an influence for good as you go forward with your lives" ("Seek Learning," New Era, Sept. 2007, 2, 4).

                    I reached adulthood before secondary education was being pushed for women; in fact, many men did not receive much higher education.  I supported my husband while he went to school to receive a degree in engineering, but I did not realize the importance of formal education for myself until I became a mother.  I made plans to get a degree and even started school several times, but I failed to reach my goal. 

                    I am pleased that leaders are encouraging girls and women to become more educated.  President Thomas S. Monson was speaking specifically to women when he said, "Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties….  I urge you to pursue your education and learn marketable skills so that, should such a situation arise, you are prepared to provide" ("If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear," Ensign, Nov. 2004, 116).

                    Even though I do not have a degree, I always had a thirst for knowledge and did lots of studying on my own.  I learned that a mother can have a great influence on the educational choices of their children.  I also learned that a mother's education is the "key" to halting poverty.  I learned that educated women "tend to:  Give birth to healthier babies, have children who are healthier, be more confident, resilient and have improved reasoning and judgment" (Olene Walker, "More Utah Women Need to Finish College," Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 30, 2011, 04).

I wanted my children to have the experience of a college education so I strongly encouraged my children - sons and daughters - to prepare themselves for college.  Today all six of my children have college degrees as do their spouses, and they continue to teach me what they learned. 

                    We must all understand that some of our most important learning will take place outside of any classroom.   We can all develop skills in homemaking, gardening, woodworking, art, music, writing, speaking, etc. without any formal learning experience.  We can be taught by someone with those skills; we can learn from books; we can learn from tutorials on the Internet; we can teach ourselves. 

                    We must develop the habit of life-long learning in order to continue to enrich our lives.  After my son graduated from medical school, he began to educate himself about the financial world.  He gained so much knowledge about investments that he was invited to write a chapter in a book about investing.  He continues to share his knowledge with family members, friends, and others.

                    There is much knowledge that we can gain through studying, but there is some information that we can gain only through faith.  "… We learn by faith as we diligently gain spiritual knowledge through prayer, scripture study, and obedience and as we seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost, who testifies of all truth.  If you do your part to gain knowledge, the Holy Ghost can enlighten your mind.  As you strive to keep yourself worthy, the Holy Ghost will give direction and added light to your learning" (Mary N. Cook, "Seek Learning:  You Have a Work to Do," Ensign, May 2012, 121).

                    We develop spiritual knowledge "line upon line, precept upon precept" and drop by drop as we pray, study the scriptures, and practice obedience.   When we are willing to do our part to gain knowledge, the Holy Ghost will whisper to us what we need to study and learn in order to prepare ourselves for future events.

                    When the rising generation understands the importance of gaining knowledge, they will be more willing to apply themselves to gaining knowledge and learning wisdom.  An educated rising generation will strengthen our families, communities, states, and nations.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

America Is Great

                    The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the fact that the United States of America is a great nation.  America is great because it is good.  America is great because it is free.  America is great because it was founded on liberty principles set forth in the Word of God.  America is great because this land was preserved by God and continues to be protected by God.

                    Moroni, an ancient American prophet, described this land with these words:  "Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written."  (See Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Ether 2:12.)

                    Ancient prophets are not the only people who consider faith in God to be the foundation for the goodness and liberty found in America.  Other people had the same view of America as shown from the following quotes found in President Ezra Taft Benson's book entitled An Enemy Hath Done This (pp. 113-122.)

                    "I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there.  Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.  America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.  (Alexis de Tocqueville, P.P.N.S., p. 60)" 
                    "It is sheer folly for Americans to think that military power and scientific knowledge alone provide the answer to the problems now confronting the nation.  Military strength is only a component part.  If the nation is to escape catastrophe, it must be armored with national character derived from moral and spiritual values….
                    "Let us not lose faith in God's ability to deal with tyrants today as he has in the past.  As long as there is a remnant of people in a society who are capable of being instruments in the hands of God, who know how to intercede with God in prayer, mighty changes in the course of events can and will happen swiftly.  (Gwynne W. Davidson, D.D., The Red Carpet, p. 289)"

                    "The French historian, Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot, while visiting in the United States, asked James Russell Lowell, `How long will the American Republic endure?'  Lowell's answer was:  `As long as the ideas of the men who founded it continue dominant.'
                    "And what were those ideas?  Two fundamental principles were:  Freedom from Dictatorship and Freedom of the Individual!  This goes right back to our free agency, which is as precious as life itself.  (President David O. McKay, 1964, Statements On Communism and the Constitution, p. 34)"

                    "We do not need more material development, we need more spiritual development.  We do not need more intellectual power, we need more moral power.  We do not need more knowledge, we need more character.  We do not need more government, we need more culture.  We do not need more law, we need more religion.  We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen.  It is on that side of life that it is desirable to put the emphasis at the present time.  If that side is strengthened, the other side will take care of itself.  It is that side which is the foundation of all else.  If the foundation be firm, the superstructure will stand.  ([Calvin Coolidge], The Price of Freedom, p. 390; P.P.N.S., p. 35)"

                    President Benson suggested that the history of nations [from ancient Greece and Rome to modern-day European nations to the United States] shows that political entities go through a slow but sure cycle:  "From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to courage; from courage to freedom; from freedom to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to fear; from fear to dependency; from dependency to bondage."

                    We can see from this cycle that our greatest danger comes from weakness within our nation rather than from foreign forces.  In fact, we know that "nations are never conquered from outside unless they are rotten inside" (Benson, p. 120.)  Benson quoted Tom Anderson who wrote, "Our greatest national problem is … erosion of the national morality (Straight Talk, p. 73)."  He also quoted John Steinbeck who said, "If I wanted to destroy a nation I would give it too much and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick."

                    President Benson included the following quoted from a historian:  "The prominent historian, Channing Pollock, observed that most democracies last for about 200 years.  They are conceived and developed by simple, vigorous, idealistic, hard-working people who, unfortunately, with success become rich and decadent, learn to live without labor, depend more on the largess of big government, and end by trading domestic tyrants for foreign tyrants."

                    The fact that our nation has stood for 225 years can probably be attributed to the fact that the Framers of our Constitution gave us a republic and not a democracy.  The reason we are on a slippery slope now is because we changed the Constitution, particularly ratifying the Seventeenth Amendment (April 8, 1913) and changing the way Senators are elected.  When the Constitution was written, Senators were elected by the state legislatures and represented states; after this amendment passed, Senators were elected directly by the people and started being swayed by special interests.

                    It appears that Benjamin Franklin was prophetic.  "As Franklin emerged from the Constitutional Convention, a woman tugged on his sleeve and asked what system of government had been proposed for the American people.  His famous reply remains timely after nearly two centuries:  `A Republic, if you can keep it.'  Later amplifying his remarks, he predicted that the new nation would be well administered for a few years, `but only end in despotism, as other forms have done before, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other'.  (See George C. Roche III, The Freeman, March 1967, p. 145)"

                    President Benson considered the following quote by Admiral Ben Moreell as "most appropriate" in 1968 when he spoke at the Annual Boy Scouts Banquet in Commerce, Texas.  The quote seems to me to be "most appropriate" in 2012 also.

                    "Is there a way ahead which will take us out of this morass?  Is there a way to recover the sanity and balance which once marked our life?  I am sure there is, if we are willing to pay the price.  But it is not by resort to political legerdemain.  It is by beating our way upstream, against the swift-running current, to those moral and spiritual values upon which this nation was built.  We must be born again of the spirit!
                    "… if men are not right at the deeper level, in their understanding of the nature of the universe and man's position therein, they can tinker with economic and political problems from now until doomsday and still come up with the wrong answers.

                    "It is a case of putting first things first and the very first thing is a rehabilitation of our basic moral principles.  Such an effort on our part will call forth the support of cosmic sanction, for God intended men to be free.  `The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time,' Jefferson observed.  But we will need conviction, courage, tenacity, understanding, humility, compassion and above all, faith in our traditional American way of life, our inspired constitution and the Lord our God.  (The Freeman, September 1966, p. 13)"

                    America is not "just another nation" in the world.  America is a choice land with a divine destiny to preserve and protect freedom throughout the world.  America is the last great hope for the world and must remain great in order to perform its mission of saving the world from the godless conspiracy that seeks to destroy freedom everywhere.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Breakdown of Families

                    How does the breakdown of the family affect society?  How can we strengthen our families and society?  What effects do education, morals, and religion have on families and communities?

                    Most of us are aware that the divide between the people in our nation continues to grow wider and deeper.  Liberals claim that the divide is caused by rich people who are not willing to share their worldly goods.  Their answer is to tax the rich more and distribute the money to the poor.  Conservatives claim that people are poor because they are too dependent on government for handouts.  Their answer is to set goals and work hard in order to live the American dream.  Conservatives just want equal justice for all under the U.S. Constitution.  Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that society has moved away from God and that simply living the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ can make the greatest difference in the rate of family breakdowns, societal problems, and economic ills. 

"It is our homes and families that need reforming in this increasingly materialistic and secular world.  A stunning example is the growing disregard for marriage here in the United States.  Earlier this year the New York Times reported that `the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold:  more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.'  (Jason DeParle and Sabrina Taverise, "Unwed Mothers Now a Majority Before Age of 30," New York Times, Feb. 18, 2012, A1).

                    "We also know that among couples in the United States who do marry, nearly half get divorced.  Even those who stay married often lose their way by letting other things interfere with their family relationships.

                    "Equally worrisome is the ever-growing gap between the rich and poor and between those who strive to preserve family values and commitments and those who have given up on doing so.  Statistically, those who have less education and consequently lower incomes are less likely to marry and to go to church and much more likely to be involved in crime and to have children outside of marriage.  And these trends are also troubling in much of the rest of the world.  (See W. Bradford Wilcox and others, "No Money, No Honey, No Church:  The Deinstitutionalization of Religious Life among the White Working Class," available at

                    "Opposite of what many had thought, prosperity and education seem to be connected to a higher likelihood of having traditional families and values.

                    Elder Ballard questioned the cause and effect of such happenings.  "Do some sectors of our society have stronger values and families because they are more educated and prosperous, or are they more educated and prosperous because they have values and strong families?  In this worldwide church we know that it is the latter.  When people make family and religious commitments to gospel principles, they begin to do better spiritually and often temporally as well.

                    "And, of course, societies at large are strengthened as families grow stronger.  Commitments to family and values are the basic cause.  Nearly everything else is effect.  When couples marry and make commitments to each other, they greatly increase their chances of economic well-being.  When children are born in wedlock and have both a mom and a dad, their opportunities and their likelihood of occupational success skyrocket. And when families work and play together, neighborhoods and communities flourish, economies improve, and less government and fewer costly safety nets are required.

                    "So the bad news is that family breakdown is causing a host of societal and economic ills.  But the good news is that, like any cause and effect, those ills can be reversed if what is causing them is changed.  Inequities are resolved by living correct principles and values.  … the most important cause of our lifetime is our families.  If we will devote ourselves to this cause, we will improve every other aspect of our lives and will become … an example and a beacon for all peoples of the earth."

                    After diagnosing the breakdown in families, Elder Ballard suggested some statistics from the lives of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  "The Church stands as an example of heart turning and as a catalyst for good in the world.  Among Church members who are married in the temple and who regularly attend Sunday meetings, the divorce rate is significantly less than that of the world, and families remain closer and are in more frequent communication.  The health in our families is better, and we live several years longer than the population average.  We contribute more financial resources and more service per capita to those in need, and we are more likely to seek higher education.  I point out these things not to boast but to testify that life is better (and much happier) as hearts turn toward family and as families live in the light of the gospel of Christ."

                    Elder Ballard then proceeded to list several actions we can take to strengthen ourselves, our families, our communities, and our nations.  1) "Prioritize.  Put everything you do outside the home in subjection to and in support of what happens inside your home."   He quoted the counsel given by two prophets.  President Harold B. Lee said that `the most important … work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes' (Teachings of Presidents of the Church:  Harold B. Lee [2001], 134).  President David O. McKay counseled, `No other success can compensate for failure in the home' (quoted from J. E. McCulloch, Home:  the Savior of Civilization [1924], 42; in Conference Report, Apr. 1935, 116)."

                    Elder Ballard counseled us to organize our time and lives in such a way to have time for prayer, scripture study, and wholesome activities together as families.  He suggested that children should have responsibilities in the home in order for them to learn how to work and to be prepared to handle the responsibilities of adulthood.  He counseled parents to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the home.

                    2) "Do things in the right order."  Elder Ballard emphasized that the natural order of things is for a couple to get married before they began having babies.  He taught young men to "accept cheerfully the responsibilities of family life" and young women that "No career can bring you as much fulfillment as rearing a family."

                    3) "Husband and wives … should be equal partners in your marriage…. No one owns a spouse or children…  Everyone, married or single, can be happy and supportive within whatever family you may have."

                    4) "Use the family resources of the Church."  Elder Ballard reminded us of what President Lee once said, "that the Church is the scaffolding with which we build eternal families" (see Teachings:  Harold B. Lee, 148).

                    Here we have the words of an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving us counsel on how to overcome the breakdown in families, the problems in society, and the great divide between the rich and the poor.  The answers to our problems lie in living the gospel of Jesus Christ and putting our trust in God.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Does US Stand with Israel

                    There is some question in my mind about whether the Obama Administration stands with Israel - the only democratic government in the Middle East and good friend to the United States.  Barack Obama has not visited Israel at all since he became the President of the United States, but he did find time to make a tour of apologies to several Arab countries.  He has also sided with the Palestinians and against Israel on several different occasions.  During the 2012 Democratic National Convention there was a big problem about whether or not that party should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

The problems between the United States and Israel have broken out into the open lately.  Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, requested a meeting with Obama while he was in the US for the UN General Assembly, but the White House refused.  Obama's excuse was that the two men would not be in New York City on the same day, but Israeli sources say that Netanyahu offered to meet with Obama in Washington.

Netanyahu apparently wanted to discuss recent US statements about Iran with Obama privately, but he openly criticized them after the private meeting was refused.  Netanyahu criticized Washington's refusal to draw a line in the sand - a "red line" - a point that would trigger US military action if Iran crossed the line.

                    Netanyahu warned the world about Iran moving ever closer to having a nuclear bomb.  Netanyahu said at a press conference, "The world tells Israel:  `Wait.  There's still time.'  And I say:  `Wait for what?  Wait until when?'  Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."  

                    There may be a political reason for the increasingly open feud.  Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, and Mr. Netanyahu are old friends, and Romney visited Israel a few weeks ago.  With their support for Israel and their position with Iran, Republicans are hoping to draw Jewish voters to vote for Romney, particularly in key states like Florida and Ohio.

                    Romney has consistently criticized Obama for his soft touch with Iran and suggested there should be a hard line on Tehran's nuclear intentions.  Secretary of State Hilary Clinton stated that the US would not set deadlines for negotiations with the Iranian government.  Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta indicated that he felt no need to set "red lines" because the US would have at least a year to make a decision after Tehran decided to make a nuclear weapon.  "We know generally what they're up to, and so we keep a close track on them.  We think we will have the opportunity once we know that they've made that decision [to] take the action necessary to stop [Iran]."  

                    The apparent problem causing disagreement between the US and Israel is on their perception of the threat.  Israel is watching Iran's capability to make a nuclear weapon while the US is focused on whether or not there will be an actual weapon.  The Obama Administration does not want to use the military route against Iran and prefers to give the UN sanctions more time to force Tehran to give up its nuclear intentions. 

                    So the question remains:  Does the US stand with Israel while Obama is President?  I do not think so.  I can easily understand why Israel is concerned about Iran having nuclear abilities because Iran has consistently stated that Israel should be destroyed.  I believe the US should at least show Iran and the world that Israel is our friend and we will be on the Israeli side of any war.  I believe that a Romney Administration would be acting much more positively with Israel.  I firmly believe that the US must stand with IsraelIsrael is God's covenant people, and any nation that fights against Israel will lose.  Israel has won every war forced upon it in the past sixty years.  Israel wins because God is with them; even the most powerful military in the world cannot win a war against God!

Monday, September 24, 2012

William Blount

                    William Blount, the American statesman and signer of the United States Constitution, was born on March 26, 1749, in Windsor, Bertie County, North Carolina; he was born into a prominent North Carolina family of distinguished merchants and planters.  The family owned extensive property along the banks of the Pamlico River

                    Blount married Mary Grainger, and the couple had one son named William Grainger Blount (1784-1827; Tennessee state representative and U.S. Representative from Tennessee, 1815-1819).  Blount had one brother named Thomas (1759-1812; Revolutionary War veteran and U.S. Representative from North Carolina, 1793-1799, 1805-1809, and 1811-1812) and a half-brother named Willie (1767-1835; Governor of Tennessee 1809-1815).

                    William Blount served as a paymaster during the American Revolutionary War.  When North Carolina faced British invasion, Blount helped organize citizen-soldiers and went into the field with them.  He was elected to the North Carolina legislature in 1781 where he served for most of the decade except while he represented North Carolina at the Constitutional Convention of 1782 and 1787.  He led the efforts to ratify the Constitution in North Carolina in 1789. 

                    Blount is distinguished as being the only governor of the Southwest Territory and was a leader in efforts to help the territory be admitted to the Union as the State of Tennessee.  He was elected to be a Senator from Tennessee in 1796.  He was behind the push to open the lands west of the Appalachians to settlement.  As governor of the Southwest Territory negotiated the Treaty of Holston in 1791; this treaty brought thousands of acres of Indian lands under the control of the United States.

                    Blount was an "aggressive land speculator" and acquired millions of acres in Tennessee and the trans-Appalachian west.  He made "risky land investments" that left him in debt and led to some bad decisions.  In the 1790s he entered a conspiracy with England to seize the Louisiana Territory from Spain with the hope that the prices of western land would be boosted.  The conspiracy was discovered in 1797, and Blount was expelled from the U.S. Senate.  In fact, he became "the first U.S. public official to face impeachment."  The people of Tennessee still liked him and elected him to the state senate where he became speaker.

                    William Blount died at age 50 on March 21, 1800, in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was buried in First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Knoxville.  He and his family have an extensive legacy of schools, streets, towns, and counties being named after them.  The town of Blountville and Blount County, both in Tennessee, were named after William.  The town of Maryville and the county of Grainger, both in Tennessee, were named after his wife, Mary Grainger Blount.  They both had schools named after them:  William Blount High School, William Blount Middle School, and Mary Blount Elementary SchoolBlount Street in Madison, Wisconsin, was named in his honor as was a street through the center of downtown Raleigh, North CarolinaBlount County, Alabama, was named after William's half-brother Willie Blount, who was governor of Tennessee.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Congress Has Control

                    The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article II, Section 1, Clause 6:  "[… and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.]  The intention of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution was to guarantee to the citizens that they would always have a chief executive to handle whatever situations arose.

                    "In an atomic age, and during a period of widespread assassinations and terrorism, it is highly essential that provision be made for any disaster which might deprive the nation of its top leadership just when it is needed the most.
                    "As a result, it has been provided that in the event the President and Vice President are not available, the Speaker of the House shall become President.  The next person in line is the president pro tempore of the Senate.  Next come the cabinet officers according to the seniority of their departments."  (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America - The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 530.)

                    "This provision constitutes the anchor for presidential succession in the United States.  It provides for the Vice President to take over in the event of the removal, death, resignation, or inability of the President.  It also authorizes Congress to establish a line of succession beyond the vice presidency…." (See John Feerick in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 191.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Give Yourself Away

                    In order to understand selflessness, we must first understand what it means to be selfish.  A dictionary definition of the word selfish is:  "Seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., s.v. "selfish").  In other words, a person that is selfish is also self-centered, greedy, unkind, and insensitive; the same person may also be lustful and unpleasant.  Some results of selfishness are dishonesty (lying, cheating, stealing, etc.), envy, jealousy, poor family relationships, unwillingness to serve others, immorality, crime, and war.

                    The opposite of selfishness is selflessness.  Selfless people think of other people before they think of themselves.  A selfless person has characteristics opposite to those of a selfish person.  For example, a selfless person is generous and kind to others while a selfish person is greedy and unkind.  The results of selflessness are the exact opposite of those caused by selfishness.  Selflessness leads to love, service, and peace while selfishness leads to bad relationships, crime, and war.  A wise teacher wanted to teach this lesson to his students and used an activity to do so as illustrated in the following story. 

"One Monday morning when Rob and Janet arrived at school, they noticed that their teacher, Mr. May, had an interesting smile on his face.  `I wonder what Mr. May is going to do today,' Janet whispered to Rob.  The other students in the class also seemed curious about what was behind Mr. May's intriguing smile.

"It seemed to take forever for class to begin.  When the bell signaled the start of class, Mr. May said, `Today I am going to give each of you three gifts. You may do whatever you wish with the gifts.  But the object of receiving these gifts is to get more of them by the end of the week.'

"With that short explanation, Mr. May gave each student three small pieces of paper.  Rob quickly looked at each one.  On one piece of paper was the word "Smile."  A second piece of paper read "Sincere compliment."  The third simply read "Help."

"A student raised her hand and asked, `What are we supposed to do with these?'

"Mr. May smiled again.  `You can figure it out,' he said.

"Determined to get more gifts, Rob stuffed the pieces of paper into his pocket so no one would be able to take them from him.  Then he spent the rest of the week trying to get gifts from other people.  He poked fun at one of the students in the class and then looked around to see how many people had smiled at him.  When he got a good grade on a spelling test, he showed his grade to several people, hoping that someone would give him a sincere compliment.  And he reminded Tom of a favor he had done for him once, saying, `We'll be even if you will help me with my book report.'  By the end of the week, all Rob had was three crumpled pieces of paper in his pocket and a sick feeling in his stomach.

"Janet didn't really think about Mr. May's assignment.  She just went about her week as she always did.  She greeted everyone with a smile.  When she noticed that Emily had done especially well on a math quiz, she congratulated her.  Later that week she noticed that Loren was having a hard time with his science project.  She helped him with the problem that was frustrating him.  By the end of the week, Janet was happier than she had been before, even thou she had forgotten about Mr. May's challenge to get more gifts.

"Rob was confused.  He had tried hard to get more gifts, but he had failed.  Meanwhile, he noticed that even though Janet had not done anything different, everyone smiled at her.  People were always giving her sincere compliments.  And when she needed help with something, someone always seemed to notice and offer assistance" (Preparing for Exaltation, pp. 209-10).

                    Rob approached his assignment selfishly while Janet spent her week unselfishly thinking of other people.  Rob tried all week long to add to his number of "gifts," but he seemed to have less at the end of the week than at the beginning.  Janet spent her week giving away smiles, sincere compliments, and help; in the process of making other people happy, Janet received "gifts" from them and was happier at the end of the week.  Janet never "lost" anything; she didn't lose her smile by smiling at other people but gained smiles from them.  She didn't lose anything by giving sincere compliments and help to others, and she gained those same "gifts" in return.  When we give of ourselves, we often find that we don't lose anything at all but receive gifts of love, friendship, and greater happiness.

                    President Spencer W. Kimball was very selfless and spent his life helping others and serving the Lord.  He gave this counsel to the rising generation:  "To do the special things given to this generation, you will need to guard against selfishness.  One of the tendencies most individuals have which simply must be overcome is the tendency to be selfish.  All that you can do now while you are young and are more pliant [easily influenced] to become less selfish and more selfless will be an important and lasting contribution to the quality of your life in the years, indeed in the eternity, to come.  You will be a much better wife or a much better husband, a better mother or a better father, if you can curb the tendency to be selfish" ("President Kimball Speaks Out on Planning Your Life," New Era, Sept. 1981, 51).

                    We have all heard the adage that we "can't teach old dogs to do tricks."  The same is true of humans to a point:  young people learn new things easier than older people do.  It is easier to make changes when we are young and more "pliant" than when we are older and more established in our habits.

                    One of the teachings of the Savior, even Jesus Christ, is known as the Golden Rule:  "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them:  for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12).  If we follow this counsel, we will show more courtesy and kindness to other people; we will give more sincere compliments to others; we will avoid sarcasm and thoughts of resentment, envy, or jealousy; we will put ourselves in the position of others; we will be more genuinely interested in other people.  In short, we will show more love for others.

                    The Savior taught us to be unselfish, and He practiced what He preached.  He gave numerous examples of selflessness, but there were two examples while He hung on the cross.  Referring to the Roman soldiers who had nailed Him to the cross, He said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).  When Christ saw His mother weeping at the foot of the cross, He said to her, "Woman, behold thy son!" referring to John the Beloved.  Then He said to John, "Behold thy mother."  Even while hanging in pain on the cross, He was more concerned about His mother than himself!

                    Jesus Christ gave us the perfect example of selflessness.  We can follow the example of our Savior by becoming less selfish and more selfless.  We can become happier by following the example of Janet when she "gave away" her smiles, sincere compliments, and assistance and "received" more of them in return.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Teach Civics

                    Families, communities, states, and nations are strengthened when we teach civics to the rising generation.  Parents, leaders, and teachers must show children and youth the importance of becoming educated about politics and being informed voters.  The rising generation will not understand the importance of citizenship and voting if they are not taught.

                    An interesting article by Michael Carey, formerly of the Anchorage Daily News, was published on September 6, 2012.  The article was entitled "Citizenship and voting must be ingrained from family tradition."  Carey was concerned about the low turnout of voters in a recent municipal election.  He was curious about how voters are "different than their non-voting neighbors.  Why do they go to the polls when those around them stay home?"

                    Carey came to the following conclusion:  "If there is an explanation of why people vote, it must begin with this:  Voting is learned behavior.  Those who vote are not only taught how to vote but why voting matters.

                    "Citizens are not born, they are made.  And it is ridiculous to expect people who are residents of a community but unwilling or unable to assume the responsibilities of citizenship to wake up [on] election day and shout `I'm gonna vote!'  …

                    "I suspect voters learn to vote from parents who either talk to them about voting or serve as example.  Some parents have their children accompany them to the polling place and bring them into the voting booth.  Others - and I have seen this - are politically active and have their children dropping campaign fliers on doorsteps from the time the kids are old enough to walk a neighborhood without heavy supervision….

                    "There are people right now with fatal illnesses determined to live long enough to vote in the presidential election.  Someone taught them the importance of even-numbered years, and although they may die in an even-numbered year, they will cast their ballot one last time because, in sickness and in health, they are voters."

                    One of my clearest memories of my childhood and youth is of my parents going to the polls to vote.  I remember few political discussions in our home, but I do remember my parents comparing their votes - and knowing they had voted differently.  My husband's parents were also "super voters" who voted in every election. 

                    I remember taking my little children with me to the polling place and gathering several of them into the booth with me as I cast my vote.  I remember feeling some frustration with trying to concentrate on the ballot while keeping my children under control.  I was fulfilling my civic duty, but now I know that I was also teaching an important lesson to my children.  My children are now adults with families of their own, but they take the time to study the issues of the day and to go to the polls to cast their votes. 

                    Carey's article gave me a sense of relief because I knew that I had succeeded as a parent in this one area.  I know that families, communities, states, and nations are stronger when the rising generation understands the importance of civics.    


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Godless Conspiracy

                    The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the fact that millions of Americans do not believe in God and seek to replace God with government.  Their plan has been in place and slowly progressing since before World War II.

Ezra Taft Benson, former Secretary of Agriculture and late President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed a meeting sponsored by the American Wake Up Committee, on February 28, 1966, in St. Louis, Missouri.  (See "Chapter 6.  It Can Happen Here," An Enemy Hath Done This, pp. 87-112.)

"… I shall speak to you frankly and honestly.  Some of you may not agree with everything I say.  Thank God in this blessed land we can still speak our convictions.  I pray it may ever be so.  I have been in nations where this blessed privilege is no longer enjoyed.
"What I say are my personal convictions born out of an active life which has taken me into forty-five nations and brought me close to the insidious forces which would destroy our way of life….

"I speak then of the greatest single evil in the world - a vicious, godless conspiracy.
"For a quarter of a century I have seen, at close range, on both sides of the iron curtain the insidious forward march of creeping socialism and its ruthless companion godless communism.  It is a shocking record of bluff, bluster, deception, intrigue, bondage, and mass murder.  Never in recorded history has any movement spread itself so far and so fast as has socialistic-communism in the past few years.  The facts are not pleasant to review.  Communist leaders are jubilant with their success.  They are driving freedom back on almost every front….

"In less than half a century this evil system has gained control over one-third of mankind, and it is steadily pursuing its vicious goal of control over all the rest of the world, while we as Americans cry all is well in our passive complacency….
"Our greatest need in American today is to be alerted and informed.  When we have become alerted and informed, we will soberly sense the need for a reversal of the present trends.  We will realize that the laws of economics are immutable.  We will be convinced that we must return to a spirit of humility, faith in God and the basic concepts upon which this great Christian nation has been established under the direction of Divine Providence….

"Today we are at war.  It is not enough to be against communism.  We must shed our complacency and aggressively meet this challenge….  There can be no compromise with the communists.  They are at war with us - with the entire cause of freedom….
It is a real war.  The lines are tightly drawn….

                    "The socialist-communist philosophy is devastatingly evil - destructive of all that is good, uplifting, and beautiful.  It strikes at the very foundation of all we hold dear….
                    "We believe in religion as a mode of life resulting from our faith in God.  Communism contends that all religion must be overthrown because it inhibits the spirit of world revolution…."

                    President Benson explained that Lenin outlined his strategy to take over the world.  Lenin died in 1924, but his "brilliant, far-seeing, realistic, and majestically simple" plan lives on and moves forward:  "First, we will take Eastern Europe, then the masses of Asia; then we will encircle the United States, which will be the last bastion of capitalism.  We will not have to attack.   It will fall like an overripe fruit into our hands."

                    As explained by President Benson, the "first real great break for the communist society came in 1933" when the United States "extended diplomatic relations to atheistic Russia" - "Stalin's godless, murderous regime."  World War II was their "second great break."  Poland was betrayed in August 1939; Finland was taken over in 1940, followed by Estonia, Latvia, and LithuaniaAlbania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania, and Bulgaria were taken over in 1946.  When the USSR broke apart, these nations regained control of their own governments - but did they throw off communism?  The communists enslaved the whole mainland of China by 1950, and then they seized Tibet.  The truce in Korea took place in 1953 followed by the conquest of Indochina in 1954.  The Communist plan moved on with Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore - and continues to move forward.  Communists took over Cuba (1963), invaded Latin America, and have infiltrated every important organization in the United States - government, labor, education, etc.   President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a confirmed communist within the borders of the United States!

                    The socialists/communists were beaten back in the 1980's while Ronald Reagan was the President.  They merely went underground and continued to move their plan forward as they took over numerous parts of our nation.  A good example of just how far they have moved took place at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.  When the Democratic Party platform was written, the words "God" and "Jerusalem" were omitted.  The Republicans pounced on the omissions and broadcast the information widely.  When the Democrats realized that they were out of step with the majority of American people, they called for a two-thirds vote by delegates to approve language invoking God and affirming that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.  Supposedly by request of Barack Obama, the vote was made; it was passed after voting three times - each time sounding like the "Yea's" and the "Nay's" were about evenly divided.  After the third such vote, the chairman of the convention said the change in rules had passed.  Many of the delegates obviously disagreed with the chairman and made their voices heard, but the change was made.  The fact remains that approximately half of the delegates present did not want any mention of God or Jerusalem in the party platform and even booed and jeered when the announcement was made to include the word "God." The platform was not the only place where God was replaced:  at least one vendor sold posters and other items depicting Barack Obama as Jesus Christ.  Throughout their convention, the Democrats seemed to be more interested in making government their god rather than worshipping the God of our land, even Jesus Christ!  

                    If we want God to stand up and protect us, we must stand up for God in this fight against the godless conspiracy.  The residents of AntrimTownship in Pennsylvania gave us a good example of standing up for God; we would do to follow them. "For as long as there has been a school board …, members have begun their meetings by reciting the Lord's Prayer.  This action attracted the attention of several atheists, who have threatened legal action against the board.   At their last meeting, the board refrained from saying the prayer, so without missing a beat, the crowd recited it on its own."  These people clearly demanded that their school board meetings start with prayer!

                    President Benson said that America needs "men and women who possess the moral strength and courage of our forefathers - modern-day patriots, with pride in our country and faith in freedom…
                    "The only thing which can possibly stop the communists is for the American people to learn the truth in time - to become alerted and informed, to join with neighbors in effective programs of exposure and opposition.  The one effective weapon is truth.  It is the truth they fear.  It is the truth that can defeat this godless conspiracy.  That is the reason why the communists, their dupes and fellow-travelers smear, vilify and attack….  The socialist-communist conspiracy cannot stand the light of truth.  And so they direct their lying, venomous attacks at our most loyal and courageous patriots who are determined to spread the truth about the greatest evil in this world today…."

                    J. Edgar Hoover, the late Director of the FBI, said on February 22, 1962, "What we desperately need today is patriotism founded on a real understanding of the American ideal - a dedicated belief in our principles of freedom and a determination to perpetuate America's heritage.  … There must be in America a rebirth of the spirit of Valley Forge…."

                    First of all, we must realize that our nation could also fall to the godless conspiracy that President Benson warned about 46 years ago.  Second, we must become informed about the dangers facing us.  Then we must become true patriots, ready to protect and preserve our freedoms by making our voices heard.   We can no longer sit on the sidelines and let someone else fight the battle.  We must enter the war ourselves by making sure that Mitt Romney is elected as the next President of the United States of America on November 6!  Even then we cannot fully step down; we must continue to insist that our political leaders uphold the U.S. Constitution.