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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Greatness of John Adams

                    John Adams was a great man in many different ways and for a long period of time.  He was a lawyer, statesman, diplomat, and politician.  In the early days of the American Revolution he became one of the most prominent of our Founding Fathers and a leading champion of independence. 

Adams was a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress and played a main role in persuading Congress to declare independence.  He assisted Thomas Jefferson in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.  He was a diplomat in Europe and was a major negotiator of the peace treaty with Great Britain.  He was also mainly responsible for obtaining loans for the Colonists from Amsterdam bankers. 

                    John was the main writer of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, which ended slavery in Massachusetts; however, he was in Europe when the US Constitution was drafted.  He was a good judge of character: in 1775 he nominated George Washington to be the commander-in-chief of the American armed forces and nominated John Marshall to be Chief Justice of the United States 25 years later.

                    Adams served as Vice President while George Washington served two terms as President; he served one term as President and was defeated in his second election by Thomas Jefferson.   Adams built up the army and navy as a result of the Quasi-War (undeclared war) with France, 1798-1800. 

                    President Adams and his wife Abigail retired to Massachusetts and founded an accomplished family of politicians, diplomats and historians.  He resumed his friendship with Jefferson, and they both passed away on July 4, 1826.  The following Adams quotes show the kind of man he was. 

                   "A desire to be observed, considered, esteemed, praised, beloved, and admired by his fellows is one of the earliest as well as the keenest dispositions discovered in the heart of man."

                    "A government of laws, and not of men."

                    "Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society."

                    "All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation."

                    "As much as I converse with sages and heroes, they have very little of my love and admiration.  I long for rural and domestic scene, for the warbling of birds and the prattling of my children."

                    "Because power corrupts, society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases."

                    "Democracy … while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy.  Remember, democracy never lasts long.  It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.  There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide."

                    "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

                    "I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth."

                    "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy."

                    "Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people."


Sunday, April 29, 2012

No Bill of Attainder

                    The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article I, Section 10, Clause 1:  "No State shall … pass any Bill of Attainder…."  This clause in the Constitution tells American citizens that they do not need to be concerned about being convicted of a crime by the legislature instead of having a fair trial with a jury.  More information on this subject can be found here.  

                    "The Framers regarded bills of attainder and ex post facto laws as so offensive to liberty that they prohibited their use by both Congress (Article I, Section 9, Clause 3) and the states.  The Framers had observed the use of bills of attainder by Parliament, particularly in cases of treason, and they were determined to deny the national legislature any such power.  As Justice Samuel Chase noted in Calder v. Bull (1798), the Framers applied the prohibition to the states `[t]o prevent such and similar acts of violence and injustice.'"  (See David F. Forte in The Heritage Guide to the constitution, 170.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hold to the Rod

Daily and sincere study of the scriptures gives us strength to meet today's challenges by providing inspiration and answers to problems.  We can also gain deeper understanding of eternal principles by studying the scriptures.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:  "Because we believe that scripture reading can help us receive revelation, we are encouraged to read the scriptures again and again.  By this means, we obtain access to what our Heavenly Father would have us know and do in our personal lives today.  That is one reason Latter-day Saints believe in daily scripture study" ("Scripture Reading and Revelation," Ensign, Jan. 1995, 8).

When we read the scriptures, it is as though we are hearing the Lord speak directly to us.  "For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them.
"Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words" (Doctrine and Covenants 18:35-36).

                    Lehi, an ancient American prophet, received a vision about the Tree of Life.  In his vision he saw a man "dressed in a white robe" who bade Lehi to follow him.  Lehi traveled through "a dark and dreary wilderness" for "many hours" and then prayed that the Lord would have mercy on him.  After his prayer he saw "a large and spacious field," and in this field he "beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy."  Lehi went forward and partook of the fruit of the tree and found that it was "most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted."  He also saw that the fruit was white, "to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen."  As he partook of the fruit, it filled his soul "with exceedingly great joy," and he desired that his family would partake of the fruit also. 

Lehi looked around him in an effort to find his family; he saw his wife and his two younger sons and signaled for them to join him, which they did.  Lehi could not convince his two older sons to join him.  As Lehi continued looking around, he saw a river with a rod of iron extending along the bank of the river; this rod of iron led to the tree.  Lehi saw many people who caught hold of the rod of iron and held onto it until they reached the tree.  Lehi also saw "a mist of darkness" and "a spacious building," which "stood as it were in the air, high above the earth."  The building was filled with people dressed in "exceedingly fine" clothing who were "in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers toward those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit."  Some of the people at the tree became ashamed and joined the people in the building.  Other people were wandering around the "large and spacious field" in the "mist of darkness" and couldn't find their way to the tree.  Some of those people fell into the river and were drowned.

In his vision, Lehi saw that the people who clung to the iron rod and did "press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree."  Lehi understood that the fruit of the tree was very desirable and wanted his family to partake.  (See Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 1 Nephi 8.)

Nephi, the son of Lehi, wanted to see the vision shown to his father and believed that the Lord could show the vision to him also.  As Nephi pondered the information given by his father, he "was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain…."  After the Spirit asked Nephi if he believed the words of Lehi and Nephi confirmed that he did believe, he was shown the vision.  The Spirit gave Nephi a "tour" through the vision, asking questions and giving information as needed.  Nephi learned that the "tree" represented "the love of God" and the "fruit" represented Jesus Christ and His gospel, mission, and Atonement.  The "rod of iron" represented the "word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life."  The "spacious building" represented the "world and the wisdom thereof," "the pride of the world," and the "vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men."  The river represented filthiness "and the depths thereof are the depths of hell."  The "mists of darkness" were the "temptations of the devil."  (See Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 1 Nephi 11-12.)

We are living in the "perilous times" described by the Apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:1).  There are "mists of darkness" in our world in which we can lose our way.  There are "rivers" of "filthiness" that are the very "depths of hell."  There are lots of people in "spacious building[s]" that mock Christians (including members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and other good people.

President Harold B. Lee, the eleventh President of the Church, stated:  "If there is any one thing most needed in this time of tumult and frustration, when men and women and youth and young adults are desperately seeking for answers to the problems which afflict mankind, it is an `iron rod' as a safe guide along the straight path on the way to eternal life" (Stand Ye in Holy Places[1974], 351).

The rod that we should hold onto is the word of God as found in the Bible, Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.  I have daily feasted on the word of God found in the scriptures for more than twenty-five years, maybe even thirty years.   I have learned that when I hold to the truth as found in the scriptures I am strengthened against the temptations of Satan.   I have received personal revelation while studying the scriptures.  I have learned the truth of the words of Nephi when he explained the meaning of the word of God to his brothers:   

                    "And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 1 Nephi 15:23-24).

                    We are fortunate in the fact that we live in a day when there are living prophets upon the earth through whom the Lord continues to instruct and counsel us.  The Lord holds us accountable for our obedience or disobedience to His word, whether He speaks to us directly or through his servants.

                    "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." (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38)

                     "These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man;
                    "For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them;
                    "Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words." (Doctrine and Covenants 18:34-36)

                    "And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
                    "And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation." (Doctrine and Covenants 68:3-4)

                    Trying to go through life without the scriptures is like trying to walk a straight line blindfolded without the assistance of another person, a rope, or a "rod of iron."  The scriptures provide "spiritual food" that is just as necessary for our spirits as food is for our physical bodies.  This fact is demonstrated in the following anecdote given by President Spencer W. Kimball, twelfth President of the Church, about a group of Latter-day Saints who went to war:

                    "Some of our men were taken prisoner and kept in nearly total isolation.  Permitted no access to the scriptures, they later told how they hungered for the words of truth, more than for food, more than for freedom itself.  What they would have given for a mere fragment of the Bible or Book of Mormon that lay so idly on our shelves!  They learned by hard experience something of Nephi's feelings when he said:
                    "`For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.
                    "`Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.'  (2 Nephi 4:15-16)" ("How Rare a Possession - the Scriptures!" Ensign, Sept. 1976, 4).

                    The spirits of the captured men were starving for the word of God as found in the scriptures.  They "hungered" for comfort from God.  I, like Nephi, "delight" in the scriptures.  I thoroughly enjoy the words of love, comfort, and peace found in the word of God, and my soul hungers for more nourishment. 

                    There are several reasons why we should study the scriptures regularly, among which are:  1) They testify of Christ; 2) God commands us to study the scriptures; 3) They teach us the gospel; 4) They can help us gain or increase our testimony; 5) They can help us find solutions to our problems; 6) Reading and studying the scriptures can help us receive personal revelation; 7) The scriptures contain counsel from the Lord that applies to us as well as to the people who first received and recorded that counsel.

                    Nephi taught us that we should "liken all scriptures" to ourselves as he taught his brothers with the scriptures:  "And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning" (1 Nephi 19:23).

                    What does it mean to "liken all scriptures" unto ourselves?  It means that we must think about what we are reading and ponder how it applies to us.  Sometimes, it helps to put our own name in the scriptures, such as "And I, ______, did read many things unto them….."  Other times we could replace the adversity listed in the scriptures with the particular problems we are trying to solve in our lives.

                    Jessi Ramey was the only teenage girl in the tiny branch of the Church in Sand Point, Alaska.  She often felt alone and wondered if she really believed the gospel.  She said, "For a while, I'd read the Book of Mormon and never seemed to get anywhere.  Satan seemed to be doing all he could to keep me from gaining a testimony."
                    Then she had a particularly bad day at school.  She had forgotten her lunch, argued with a friend, and been hit by a hockey puck.  When she came home, she went to her room to cry.
                    She explained:  "As my tears ceased, I noticed I had left my triple combination on my desk.  As I walked over to put it away, it fell open to a page marked by a card.  The verses marked in ink caught my eye.  I read in Doctrine and Covenants 18:10-11:  `Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.'
                    "Suddenly I realized that Christ loved me and I wanted to know him better.  I had expected my testimony to be handed to me.  I assumed it would be easy.  I know now that I have to search, ponder, and pray….  If I have faith, my Savior will help me….
                    "That night I decided to start reading the Book of Mormon again.  This time, I was committed to finishing it" (Jessi Ramsey, "No Girl Is an Island," New Era, Mar. 1994, 9).

                    Jessi "likened [the] scriptures to her own situation and felt the love and acceptance of God.  The personal knowledge she gained about her worth in the eyes of God inspired her and strengthened her.  Jessi found her answer simply by opening her scriptures - but her scriptures opened to a scripture she had previously read and marked!  Answers to questions and solutions to problems usually come by praying, studying, and seeking out specific scriptures.  Study of the scriptures can be aided by the study aids found in the Latter-day Saint scriptures, such as footnotes, maps, the Topical Guide, and the Bible Dictionary.

                    I had an interesting experience with the scriptures a few years ago as I was taught by the scriptures in three different ways.  While I exercised I listened to CDs containing the words of the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ.  I also spent some time each day reading a copy of the Book of Mormon to be given to a grandchild.  I feasted on the word of God each day while marking another copy of the Book of Mormon to be given to another grandchild.  I was fascinated on the different strengths of the Spirit experienced and the differing amounts of knowledge gained as I was fed by the scriptures in three different ways.

                    It is important that we study the scriptures every day and not wait for the need to find a specific answer or solution.  The Lord blesses us when we do as He commands, and He has commanded us to study His words.  Studying the scriptures strengthens us so that our needs do not become so great or so we have the strength to endure great trials.

                    I know that studying the scriptures can benefit us personally, as families, and as a nation.  I encourage you to study the scriptures daily and to turn to the scriptures for answers to personal questions or solutions to personal problems.  I am grateful for my knowledge and understanding that sincere scripture study gives us strength to meet today's challenges by providing inspiration and answers to problems.  I know that I gain deeper understanding of eternal principles by studying the scriptures.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Teach Correct Principles

                    Families and nations are strengthened when parents teach correct principles to their children.  People who are not taught properly cannot be expected to behave properly.  The Ten Commandments as given to Moses are the foundation upon which all other laws and principles are formed.

                    God considered the Ten Commandments to be so important that He inspired His prophets to list them in their entirety in three different places in the scriptures.  Moses included the Ten Commandments in two of his books:  Exodus 20:3-17 and Deuteronomy 5:7-21.  The prophet Abinadi taught the people of King Noah the Ten Commandments (Mosiah 12:35-36; 13:12-23).

                    The Ten Commandments as listed in the Exodus account are:  "1) Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  2) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth…. 3) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 4) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord…. 5) Honor thy father and thy mother:  that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.  6) Thou shalt not kill.  7) Thou shalt not commit adultery.  8) Thou shalt not steal.  9) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.  10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, … any thing that is thy neighbour's."

                    The Ten Commandments have been grouped into two groups.  The first four commandments basically concern how we honor God; the last six commandments concern how we deal with our fellowmen.

When a lawyer questioned Jesus Christ about which commandment was the greatest, Jesus Christ grouped all the commandments into the two Great Commandments: "Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
"This is the first and great commandment.
"And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
"On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:35-40).

The Ten Commandments were renewed in our day through the Prophet Joseph Smith when the Lord further explained His commandments as follows:  "And now, behold, I speak unto the church.  Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come.
"And again, I say, thou shalt not kill; but he that killeth shall die.
"Thou shalt not steal; and he that stealeth and will not repent shall be cast out.
"Thou shalt not lie; he that lieth and will not repent shall be cast out.
"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.
"And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out.
"Thou shalt not commit adultery; and he that committeth adultery, and repenteth not, shall be cast out….
"Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbor, nor do him any harm.
"Thou knowest my laws concerning these things are given in my scriptures; he that sinneth and repenteth not shall be cast out.
"If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all my commandments" (Doctrine and Covenants 42:18-29).

If every person were taught from their earliest childhood days to keep the Ten Commandments, there would be far fewer crimes in the world.  Children who are taught proper principles learn to govern themselves; adults who know how to govern themselves do not need government telling them what to do.  Families and nations are strengthened when children are taught proper principles.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Knowledge Brings Freedom

                    The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that more Americans need to know what the US Constitution actually says as well as what it means in order to defend freedom.  Our Constitution has been the supreme law of our nation for over 200 years, and yet some of our current and past leaders do not want to abide by it.  Americans must know what is in the Constitution and guard the freedoms provided by the Constitution from our elected and appointed leaders.

You may remember when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked in 2009 if Obamacare was constitutional and she answered, "Are you serious?"  Right now liberals are trying to silence their political opponents by pushing through Congress a proposed amendment to the Constitution, known as the "People's Rights Amendment," which would destroy freedom of speech for groups of citizens.  Americans have enjoyed freedom of speech for more than 200 years, but we may lose this basic freedom if we are not alert.  

                    In an essay entitled "Do You Know What theConstitution Really Means?" on their Morning Bell blog, The Heritage Foundation explained what this amendment would do.  "The proposal, which is known as the `People's Rights Amendment,' would amend the Constitution and hold that constitutional rights are only for `natural persons,' meaning that corporations and legal entities would no longer enjoy the freedoms the Constitution guarantees.  That would apply not just to companies like General Electric, but also to newspapers, churches, nonprofits, businesses, labor unions and book publishers alike.  Individuals acting collectively - whatever their purpose - would wave the freedom of speech goodbye."

                    Many more Americans are studying the Constitution today than in the recent past, and The Heritage Foundation wants to aid us in our quest to "learn more about the history of our founding document."  "Heritage's Online Guide to the Constitution is a comprehensive and authoritative analysis of every single clause in the Constitution - and its available for free at"  l

                    The new online guide was also touted on another blog from The Heritage Foundation - New Common Sense:  Applying First Principles to the Issues of Today.  This blog published a different essay about this subject entitled "Top 5 Things You Didn't Know about theConstitution."  The blog proceeds to list and explain those five things.  It is an interesting essay, and it also links to

                    Being able to study the Constitution online with explanations by constitutional experts should help all of us learn better what our Founders put in this glorious document.  I hope you will use this source to increase your knowledge and then share it with others.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jackie Kennedy

                    The gracious First Lady we knew as Jackie Kennedy was born Jacqueline Lee Bouvier  on July 28, 1929, in Southampton, New York.  She was the first First Lady to be born in a hospital.  Her father was Wall Street stock broker John Vernou Bouvier III (born May 19, 1891, East Hampton, New York; died August 2, 1957, New York, New York) and her mother was Janet Norton Lee (born December 3, 1907, New York, New York; died July 22, 1989, Newport, Rhode Island.  Bouvier was also known as "Black Jack Bouvier."  Jackie was the older of two girls; her sister, Caroline Lee - known as Lee - was born in 1933. 

John and Janet were married July 7, 1928, in East Hampton, New York, and divorced in 1940.  Janet married Hugh D. Auchincloss, Jr. (1897-1972) - Standard Oil heir - on June 21, 1942.  Auchincloss brought three children with him into the family:  Hugh, Nina, and Thomas.  This couple had two children together, Janet and James Auchincloss.  Janet married a third time to Bingham Morris on October 25, 1979.  His first wife and his second wife were apparently long-time friends because the first was a bridesmaid for Janet's first (?) wedding.

Janet descended from Irish ancestry, being the granddaughter of four County Cork, Ireland, immigrants who moved to New York during the 1840's potato famine; this made Jackie half-Irish.   Jack's ancestry included English, French, and Scottish ancestors. Jackie's paternal grandmother Maude Sergeant was the daughter of an immigrant from Kent, England.  Jackie's paternal great-great-grandfather was born in France where he was a contemporary of Joseph Bonaparte and Stephen Girard, and he became a cabinetmaker, carpenter, merchant and real estate speculator based in Philadelphia.  Even though Jackie's maiden name is French, she was only one-eight French, having descended from one French ancestor.

Jackie spent her early years in New York City and at the Bouvier family estate in East Hampton, New York.  After their parents divorced, Jackie and Lee divided their time between their mother's homes in McLean, Virginia, and Newport, Rhode Island, and their father's homes in New York City and Long Island.  Jackie became an enthusiastic equestrienne at an early age and had a lifelong passion for riding horses.  She also wrote essays and poems, some of which were published in local newspapers and magazines.

Miss Bouvier was taught the social graces in the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, (1942-1944) and Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut (1944-1947).  She was named "debutante of the year" when she made her debut into society in 1947.  She was strikingly attractive; she was 5 feet 8 inches tall and had brown hair and brown eyes.

That year Jackie entered Vassar College where she spent two years before spending her junior year (1949-1950) studying in France at the University of Grenoble and at the Sorbonne - in a study-abroad program through Smith College.  When she returned to the United States, she transferred to The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and graduated in 1951 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French literature.  Jackie's college graduation coincided with Lee's graduation from high school, and the two sisters traveled through Europe during the summer of 1951.  They later co-authored a book entitled One Special Summer; this book was Jackie's only autobiography and her only publication to feature her own drawings.

Jackie was hired by The Washington Times-Herald as an "Inquiring Photographer."  She would choose random people on the street and take their pictures, which were then published in the newspaper along with a short quotation from them.  She interviewed Pat Nixon, Vice President Nixon, and Senator John F. Kennedy, and her questions became increasing political.  She covered Queen Elizabeth's 1953 coronation as one of her last assignments.  She took continuing education classes in American History at Georgetown University.

Then-U.S. Representative John Kennedy and Jackie Bouvier were in the same social circles and often attended the same events, but they were not formally introduced until May 1952 at a dinner party hosted by mutual friends.  They soon began dating and announced their engagement on June 25, 1953.

Bouvier and Kennedy were married on September 12, 1953, at a Mass in St. Mary's Church in Newport, Rhode IslandBoston's Archbishop Richard Cushing performed the wedding ceremony, which was attended by 700 guests.  A reception at Hammersmith Farm for 1200 guests followed the ceremony.  Jackie's wedding dress is now housed in the Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts.

Jackie and Jack honeymooned in Acapulco, Mexico, and set up housekeeping in McLean, Virginia.  Jackie miscarried in 1955 and gave birth to a still-born daughter, Arabella, in 1956.  A second daughter, Caroline, was born in 1957, and a son, John, in 1960.  A second son, Patrick Bouvier, was born on August 7, 1963, and died two days later.  Caroline and John were very young children when their father was assassinated.  John died in a private airplane accident with his wife and sister-in-law.

John F. Kennedy served in the U.S. House of Representatives and US Senate before being elected President of the United States, becoming the first Catholic President.

                    Jackie was pregnant for most of the 1960 presidential campaign and thus played a limited public role.  She wrote articles and personal stories that were printed in the newspapers, participated in television and newspaper interviews, and taped campaign radio commercials in foreign languages.  Behind the scenes, she provided literary and historical examples and quotations for Jack's speeches.  She began a popular millinery style when she appeared at her husband's swearing in ceremony in a large pillbox hat.  I remember being very impressed with Jackie Kennedy and the aura of Camelot surrounding her family.

                    Mrs. Kennedy's priorities as First Lady were her young children and her family's privacy, but she began early to redecorate the family quarters of the White House and to historically restore the public rooms of the building.  She scoured government warehouses searching for displaced White House furnishings; she also solicited citizens to donate important historical and artistic items.  She also used the White House to showcase the arts.

The Kennedy's were together in Dallas, Texas, when the President was assassinated on November 22, 1963.  She held his bleeding head in her lap on the way to the hospital, and her pink Chanel suit covered in blood was a symbol of his assassination and a lasting image.

                    Five years after Kennedy's death, Jackie married Aristotle Onassis, Greek shipping magnate and airline owner, at Skorpios Island, Greece.  After the death of Onassis in 1975, Jackie returned to New York City where she spent the final two decades of her life as a book editor at Viking Press (1975-1977) and Doubleday (1978-1994).  She is remembered for her elegance, grace, fashion style, for her preservation of historic architecture, and for her contributions to the arts.

                    Jackie died at her apartment in New York City on May 19, 1994, at age 64.  Even though Jackie married Onassis, a divorced man, in a Greek Orthodox ceremony, she did not convert to his faith and was buried with full rites of the Catholic Church.  She was interred by her husband at Arlington national Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.  Former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and incumbent First Lady Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mormons in the News

                    With Mitt Romney campaigning for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, there has been much talk about his church and its religious practices.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized nearly 200 years when the authority to do so was restored to Joseph Smith in 1830.  I am surprised that people are so fascinated by it today.

                    There are many news articles that are not favorable toward the Church.  It is always a pleasant surprise when there are any that are fair and unbiased, and to see two such articles in during one week is out of the ordinary. 

                    The first such article was written by Bob Lonsberry, a talk show host and was entitled "Mitt Romney's Underwear."  Lonsberry explained that there are numerous faiths that wear religious garments; some of them are outer garments and some are worn under regular clothing.  He ends his article with this statement:

                    "The point of all this is that religions around the world have various types of religious garments.  If you do the math, most believers on earth belong to a religion that commands its followers or leaders to wear religiously significant clothing.
                    "Mormons are part of that majority.
                    "And Mitt Romney is a Mormon.
                    "And he lives his religion.
                    "So, yes, Mitt Romney wears a religious garment, beneath his outer clothes.  He does this for the same reason almost all religious clothing is worn - to remind the believer that he is a believer, and as a token of promises the believer has made to God.
                    "Promises which, like the garment that represents them, are sacred, and should not be made fun of.
                    "At least not by decent people."

                    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has recently completed the construction of a new temple in Liberty, Missouri, near Kansas City.  The Church held an open house at the temple last week in order for children and youth, less active members of the Church, or non-believers to see the inside of the temple.  Episcopal Priest Danielle Tumminio took the opportunity to tour the temple and wrote a fair and unbiased review of her experience entitled "An Episcopal priest tours the Kansas City temple."   Tumminio's review was very thoughtful and listed numerous questions that she had about the temple.  She ended her review with this statement:

                    "Like Dante, who saw God face to face but had no words to describe the encounter, I have few words to describe what I felt in that moment.  But I can say this:  While it did not convert me, nor did it make me want to be a Mormon, the silence and peace I felt reminded me of the many other times I've felt close to God, whether in an Episcopal cathedral, in a clear, warm ocean or in my ratty old car.  And because of that, I came to understand why temples exist and why they are so important to Mormons across the world.
                    "And along the lines of Mormons being across the world:  As I wrote earlier, Mormons were ironically driven out of Liberty, Missouri and the surrounding region nearly 175 years ago.  It cannot be lost on those who visit the new temple that almost two centuries later, Mormons are often still held in suspicion by society, but they are far from being as vulnerable as they were in their early years.  They are building stronger foundations every day, and striving, as they do so, to catch a glimpse of heaven."

                    I thank Bob Lonsberry and Danielle Tumminio for being sensitive to our sacred beliefs even though they do not believe the same as we do.  I hope and pray for the day when we will all be sensitive and respectful to the religious beliefs of other people.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Greatness of JFK

                    John Fitzgerald Kennedy  (also known as John Kennedy, Jack Kennedy, and JFK) was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts, the second son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and Rose Fitzgerald.  His maternal grandfather was John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald who was a prominent Boston political figure, serving as the city's mayor and three terms in the US Congress.

                    While still a teenager Jack developed health problems which were later diagnosed as colitis.  He took his first trip abroad in September 1935, traveling with his parents and sister Kathleen to London, but he was forced to return home the next month because of ill health.  He enrolled in Harvard College in September 1936.  While still a college student Jack made several trips overseas.  In July 1937 he took his own convertible to France and spent ten weeks traveling around Europe with a friend.  In June 1938 he sailed with his father and brother Joe to London with the purpose of helping his father who was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt to be the US Ambassador to the Court of St. James.  In1939 he traveled throughout Europe, the Soviet Union, the Balkans, and the Middle East to gain information for his senior honors thesis at Harvard.  He then spent time in Czechoslovakia and Germany; he returned to London on September 1, 1939, the same day that Germany invaded Poland.  He was with his family in the House of Commons on September 3, 1939, when the United Kingdom declared war on Germany

John graduated from Harvard College cum laude with a Bachelors of Science degree in international affairs in 1940.  That fall, JFK enrolled and audited classes at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  In 1941 John helped his father write a memoir of his three years as an American ambassador; then he left on a tour of South America.

Kennedy served in the Pacific as commander of the Motor Torpedo Boats PT-l09 and PT-59 during World War II.  After the war he represented Massachusetts in Congress; he served six years in the US House of Representatives (1947-1953) and seven years in the US Senate (1953-1960).  He defeated Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election and became the youngest person elected to the office of President (43 years old) and the second-youngest President (after Theodore Roosevelt).  He was also the first President to be born in the 20th century and the first Catholic to hold the office of President.  In addition, he is the only President to have received a Pulitzer Prize.

JFK was a Democrat, but he was more conservative that many of the Republicans who followed him.  He started the Space Race when he authorized NASA to work towards reaching the moon within the next decade.  Other events of his presidency included the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Civil Rights Movement, and early involvement in the Vietnam War.

Our nation and the world were shocked when Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.  Lee Harvey Oswald was charged with the crime but was never tried for it due to the fact that Jack Ruby killed him two days after his arrest.  The Kennedy assassination was investigated by the FBI, the Warren Commission, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA); the conclusion of these investigations was that Oswald was the lone assassin.  HSCA left open the possibility of a conspiracy and based it on disputed acoustic evidence.  I personally believe that Kennedy was killed because he had information about "secret combinations" and would not go along with their games.  Even though Kennedy was not a faithful husband, I believe that he was a good President and that he loved our nation.

                    Like most Presidents, JFK left many quotes.  The following quote is probably his most famous one of all, and it is very applicable to our day:  "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

                    Kennedy's second most famous quote is probably this one:  "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it."

                    "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

                    "Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace."

                    "The best road to progress is freedom's road."

                    "The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it.  And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission."

                    "Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity."

                    "The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities.  We need men who can dream of things that never were."

                    "The tax on capital gains directly affects investment decisions, the mobility and flow of risk capital… the ease or difficulty experienced by new ventures in obtaining capital, and thereby the strength and potential for growth in the economy."

                    "The very word `secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings."

                    "The world is very different now.  For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life."

                    "The world knows that America will never start a war.  This generation of Americans has had enough of war and hate… we want to build a world of peace where the weak are secure and the strong are just."

                    "There is always inequality in life.  Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded and some men never leave the country.  Life is unfair."

                    "Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly."

                    "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

                    "Too often we … enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

                    "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan."

                    "We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values.  For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."

                    "We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or to make it the last."

                    "Communism has never come to power in a country that was not disrupted by war or corruption, or both."

                    "Do not pray for easy lives.  Pray to be stronger men."

                    "Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us."

                    "I hope that no American will waste his franchise and throw away his vote by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation.  It is not relevant."

                    "I look forward to a great future for America - a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Only Gold and Silver

                    The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article I, Section 10, Clause 1:  "No State shall … make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts…."  This provision in the Constitution tells States that Congress has the authority over the national financial system based on gold and silver and that no State can legally authorize anything else.

                    "When the Congress ruled out paper currency as a medium of exchange, it was trying to guarantee that, from this point on, the American people would have honest money based on precious metal.  The states were also restricted so that they would stay on a solid system of honest money based on gold and silver.
                    "Unfortunately, however, precious metal is a very awkward and cumbersome means of transacting business.  The people virtually demand paper money, especially for larger transactions…." (W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America - The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p 497).

                    "… During the Revolution, the states began issuing paper currencies again, having a somewhat better record in financing the war than Congress had.  After 1783, however, specie dried up in a popular rush to purchase imported goods, and the states' currency issues exacerbated the serious depression of 1784.  In early 1787, Massachusetts, which had resisted currency issues, was faced with Shays's Rebellion, whose partisans demanded new currency.  In Philadelphia, the Framers were determined to put an end to the practice that they believed had contributed to so much economic and political dislocation.  Rhode Island, a major issuer of paper money, refused to send delegates to the Constitutional Convention precisely because it feared monetary reform" (David F. Forte, The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p 169).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Recognizing Personal Revelation

                    I am grateful for the personal revelation that has come to me from our loving Heavenly Father and for the many blessings that have come from seeking information from God.  I want very much to be able to better understand the process of receiving personal revelation, recognizing the answer, and taking appropriate actions.

                    Revelation has been described as God's way to communicate with His children on earth.  The Bible Dictionary gives the following definition:  "Divine revelation is one of the grandest concepts and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for without it, man could not know of the things of God and could not be saved with any degree of salvation in the eternities.  Continuous revelation from God to his saints, through the Holy Ghost … makes possible daily guidance along true paths and leads the faithful soul to complete and eternal salvation in the celestial kingdom" (p. 762).

                    Members of some churches believe that revelation has stopped and that God no longer communicates with His children, but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that God still speaks to man.  The First Presidency stated, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owes its origin, its existence, and its hope for the future to the principles of continuous revelation" (Church News, 10 January 1970, 12).

                    The Prophet Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, in the early spring of 1820 and received information directly from them.  "After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God….
                    "… I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
                    "…When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.  One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other - This is My Beloved Son.  Hear Him!"  (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith - History 1:15-17; italics in original).

                    On September 21, 1823, the first of numerous heavenly beings appeared to Joseph Smith and began tutoring him in preparation for the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  "While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside….
                    "He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people….
                    "At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate.  On the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they [the plates] were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me….
                    "… I commenced copying the characters off the plates.  I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them…. (Joseph Smith - History 1:30, 33, 59, 62).

                    Revelation has been an important part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since its beginning, but Joseph Smith and other prophets are not the only ones to receive personal revelation.  Every baptized member of the Church who is trying to live righteously has the right and privilege to receive personal revelation.  General Authorities, stake leaders, ward leaders, and individual members receive personal revelation to help them in their career, their Church callings, their families, and individual lives. 

                    "… Fathers and mothers also may receive inspiration, revelation … to help guide their families.  And of course each of us, if we will live for it, may be the recipient of spiritual communications for our own personal guidance" (Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Ensign, May 1974, 93).

                    Revelation comes from God in many different ways.  1) Heavenly messengers (Moroni's appearance to Joseph Smith; the angel Gabriel's appearance to Mary, the mother of Jesus); 2) Visions and dreams (Moses' vision of the earth's creation; Lehi's dream; Joseph's interpretation of Pharaoh's dream; Brigham Young's dream of Joseph Smith; 3) Sacred instruments (Lehi's use of the Liahona for direction; Joseph Smith's use of the Urim and Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon); 4) Inspiration (Oliver Cowdery receiving peace and a testimony through the Holy Ghost; Nephi determining how to obtain the brass plates from Laban).

                    Inspiration is the most common type of personal revelation experienced by members of the Church.  Inspiration comes through the Holy Ghost, and it can come by way of feelings, thoughts, or words.  The Holy Ghost prompts us in the following ways:
1) Peace:  "Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?  What greater witness can you have than from God" (Docdtrine and Covenants 6:23); 2) Knowledge in our minds and hearts:  "Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart" (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2); and 3) Enlightenment and joy:  "Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill our soul with joy" (Doctrine and Covenants 11:13).

                    Personal revelation can also come to us through the scriptures or another person.  The Holy Ghost may prompt us to read a certain verse of scripture, or he may inspire a parent, teach, or Church leader to tell us what we need to hear.  (For example, when Joseph Smith needed to know which church to join, he was prompted to pray while reading James 1:5 in the Bible.)  Priesthood blessings can also be valuable sources of personal revelation.

                    Many people have received and recognized inspiration from the Holy Ghost; others may not have received it or may not have recognized it as inspiration.  Recognizing revelation and inspiration from the Holy Ghost takes experience and practice.

                    Satan tries to imitate the promptings of the Holy Ghost by giving us strong feelings that we may confuse with revelation from God.  President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told us how we can recognize a feeling from Satan.

                    "There can be counterfeit revelations, promptings from the devil….  As long as you live, in one way or another the adversary will try to do something that makes you feel uneasy, something you know in your mind to be wrong and contrary to the principles of righteousness, do not respond to it!"  (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 61; italics in original).

                    In a situation like this, it is the feeling of uneasiness that is the actual revelation. This uneasiness is the Holy Ghost warning us that what we are considering is wrong.  God will never give any of us personal revelation that contradicts what has already been revealed in the scriptures.

                    Thousands and even millions of people have received promptings from the Holy Ghost.  Some experiences are as follow:

                    "In 1921 Elders David O. McKay (who later became the ninth President of the Church) and Hugh J. Cannon visited missions around the world.  While in Hawaii, they visited the Kilauea volcano, the largest active volcano in the world, with some of the missionaries.  They discovered a natural balcony just inside the volcano, and Elder McKay and several of the missionaries climbed down to stand on it.  On this balcony they were out of the chilly wind and had a marvelous view of the inside of the volcano.  After a while, Elder McKay said, "Brethren, I feel impressed that we should get out of here."  Almost immediately after they climbed back to the rim, the balcony on which they had been standing crumbled and fell into the molten lava below."  (See Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay, comp. Clare Middlemiss, rev. ed. [1976], 51-53.)

                    "A young elder of the Church in the armed services was stationed in Australia during World War II.  He became acquainted with a family living on a nearby farm and spent a good deal of time with them while off duty.  The family members became interested in the gospel and desired to learn more about it.  The elder had attended seminary, priesthood meetings, and Church classes as a boy but felt unqualified to teach this family the gospel.  He decided, however, to do his best and pray for help.  He later explained that in his attempt to teach the family he quoted many scriptures that he had long forgotten."

                    "When Annie was born she was so tiny that her mother's wedding ring would fit over her wrist.  When Annie's mother died, she left the ring to Annie.  One day Annie wore the ring, which she loved dearly, while she was doing her housework.  When the work was all done, she discovered that the ring was gone.  She frantically searched the house, but it was nowhere to be found.  Finally she knelt down and asked Heavenly Father to help her.  She felt she should look in the bedroom.  She looked everywhere in there, but could not find the ring.  Disappointed, she went into another room, but again she felt she should look in the bedroom.  As she went through the bedroom door, there, beneath the bed, she saw the ring."

                    Sometimes inspiration or revelation simply comes to us, as it did to Elder McKay in the story above.  More often, however, we must ask for the revelation through prayer.

                    When Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were working on the translation of the Book of Mormon, the Lord taught Oliver how to seek and receive the revelation he needed to translate.  We can use the same pattern to seek personal revelation.  In a revelation to Oliver Cowdery given through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said:  "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
                    "But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
                    "But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me" (Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9).

                    According to this scripture, the steps to receiving revelation are:  1) Study the matter and make a decision; 2) Ask the Lord if your decision is correct; 3) Receive a burning feeling (if the decision is good) or a stupor of thought (if it is wrong).

                    Because personal revelation is - well personal and individual - we may not have the same feelings that Oliver Cowdery had.  We may have a feeling of peace rather than a burning in the bosom, or we may feel uncomfortable about a wrong decision rather than forgetting it.

                    There are many, many reasons why people seek personal revelation, and those reasons can include:  1) Resisting temptation; 2) Understanding the scriptures; 3) Enduring sickness and trials; 4) Overcoming discouragement; 5) Staying safe; Dealing with family members; 6) Whether or not to move or take a specific position.

President Lorenzo Snow, the fifth President of the Church stated:  "The spirit of God … will reveal to [people], even in the simplest of matters, what they shall do, by making suggestions to them.  We should try to learn the nature of this spirit, that we may understand its suggestions, and then we will always be able to do right.  This is the grand privilege of every Latter-day Saint.  We know that it is our right to have the manifestations of the spirit every day of our lives" (in Conference report, Apr. 1899, 52).

Once we receive revelation or inspiration, we must act on that message.  If we do not act on the inspiration that comes to us, we have a more difficult time receiving inspiration the next time we need it.  The more we seek and act on personal revelation, the more in tune we are to receive it.

                    I am very grateful for the knowledge that I can ask Heavenly Father for assistance and feel confident that He hears and will answer my prayers.  I am grateful for the many, many times that He has given me answers to my questions and pray that I may be continually worthy of this great blessing.