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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

America - Still the Best Hope

                    The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is that the United States of America is still the best hope for the world.  The government of the United States was established on certain principles and truths, and those American values can and will bring lasting peace and prosperity to the world.

                    I recently spent a couple of weeks in Kansas with one of my daughters and her family.  We visited the city library while I was there, and I found a newly published book entitled Still the Best Hope - Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph by Dennis Prager.  I did not have enough time to carefully read the entire book, but I read as much of it as possible and glanced through the remainder of it.  I found the book to be very interesting and enlightening and highly recommend it to anyone who understands that Americans must return to constitutional principles into order for our nation and the world to survive and prosper. 

                    The author stated that he wrote the book "because I am convinced that there is a way to end most evil [deliberate infliction of death, cruelty, oppression, and other injustices on fellow human beings].

                    "The only proven way to achieve this on any large scale is the American value system.  These values are proclaimed on every American coin:  `Liberty,' `In God We Trust,' `E Pluribus Unum'" (p. 1).

                    Prager also stated that he intended the book "for several audiences":  1) "Americans who already affirm American values….  Few Americans can articulate what is distinctive about American values, or even what they are…" (p. 1).
                    2) "Americans and all others - who either do not believe that the American value system is as described, or that it is the best ever devised, or that there is even such a thing as a specifically American value system…" (p. 2).
                    3) Non-Americans:  "As this book goes to print, it is becoming obvious that the European attempt to create a welfare state alternative to the American model has failed.  Begun after World War II, the secular welfare state offered Europeans and sympathetic non-Europeans an alternate to American religiosity and to what the welfare state's supporters depict as cutthroat, heartless American free market capitalism.  But some fifty to sixty years later, it is clear that this state is economically - and … morally - unsustainable.  Of the two democratic models - the European and the American - only the American one works and can endure….  Americanism … wants all peoples to retain their national culture and allegiances" (p. 2).

                    One major goal of the author of this book "is to present as thorough a dissection of Leftism as has been written …. An overall explanation of the inherent moral and intellectual defects of Leftism, along with an explanation of why so many people believe in it despite its terrible track record…."

                    The author claims that he "almost never judge[s] the motive or the character of people with Left-wing views" because he has family, friends and acquaintances "who hold those views, and whom I adore."  He also claims that it is "easy to love friends" because "we choose them."  He gave a great reason for the importance of the family:  "It teaches us to love people with whom we may have major disagreements" (p. 3).

                    Prager explained the difference between the use of the world "liberal" and "Left" - which are often "used interchangeably."  "There was a difference between liberals and the Left for many decades.  In the United States, the distinction ended after the Vietnam War.  The John F. Kennedy-type liberal - anti-Communist, in favor of using American power to spread liberty, and for lower taxes to stimulate economic growth - essentially died with his assassination on November 22, 1963" (p. 4). 

                    The author explained that he was "interested in identifying Leftist positions" rather than "Leftist individuals."  Many people identify themselves as liberal but "actually hold many conservative positions" (p. 4).

                    Prager has the hope that "Islam can be reformed and become a major world force for liberty, justice, and goodness" "without dropping belief in the Koran or in Muhammad as Allah's messenger."  "There are hundreds of millions of good and decent people in the Muslim world who can use their Muslim identity as a force for good."

                    The author contends that "the future [of humanity] will be Leftist, Islamist, or American" and that "the three ideologies are incompatible."  By "Leftist" he means the "values" of the "Western welfare state, secularism … attitudes and positions identified as Left from Karl Marx to contemporary socialist democrat parties and today's Democratic Party in the United States…."  By "Islamist" he means those "who wish to see as much of the world as possible governed by Sharia, Islamic law…."  By "American" he means those values imprinted on every American coin.  He calls these values the "`American Trinity':  `Liberty,' `In God We Trust,' and `E. Pluribus Unum' (`Out of Many, One')" (pp. 7-8).

                    Prager wrote that even though "there are many good people in each group," these "three ideologies are incompatible."  "The question is … which of the three ideologies is more likely to produce better people and a better society" (pp. 8-9).

                    The author believes that there are both Leftists and Muslims who are good Americans, but "The fact is that the three ideologies are incompatible.  Any one of them succeeds at the expense of the other two.  All Islamists know this, and many Leftists, know this, but most of those holding American values do not.  This book explains why they are incompatible, but I will cite some examples here.  The American value of `Liberty' is at odds with a Sharia-based society and with the Leftist commitment to material equality; `E Pluribus Unum' is at odds with the Leftist commitment to multiculturalism; and `In God We Trust' conflicts with both the Leftist commitment to secularism and the Islamic ideal of a Sharia-based state…." (pp. 9-10).

                    Prager stated that American values "allow, even encourage, people to keep their religious, ethnic, and cultural identities" while millions of "Muslims are prepared to spread Islam violently" (p. 10).

                    The author believes that Leftism is a "religion" just as surely as Christianity and Islam are.  It is a "secular form of religion" which is being spread "much more vigorously" than Christianity, and its "beliefs and values" are being taught in "high schools and universities" (pp. 11-12).  "For the majority of people in the West, the Left's view of life is not considered only the Left's view, but in fact the only legitimate view of life."  It is considered to be "normal" (p. 12).  "Most of all, Leftism is a religion because those who believe in its tenets often do so as fervently as religious Jews, Muslims, and Christians believe in their tenets…" (p. 13).

                    Prager wrote "… America represents the last great holdout against Leftism in the non-Muslim world.  In this sense, America represents the same thing to the Leftist as it does to the Islamist:  the greatest barrier to its success.  Islam and the Left are ideological enemies, but as long as America is strong and neither Muslim or Leftist, both fundamental Islam and the Left are allied in one way - anti-Americanism."

                    The author argues that this is the reason why the Left always defends Muslims.  He gave the "Ground Zero mosque" as one example.  He also cited the large "demonstrations in Western Europe since 1980 that "always" involve "people on the Left and/or led by groups on the Left."  "It is difficult to cite a single Leftist demonstration against any of the worst evils since World War II.  Why?  Because all those evils were committed by Leftist and Islamist regimes or groups, not by America" (p. 14).

                    Prager made an interesting point that I had never previously considered:  "Leftist peace activists demonstrate against war in large numbers only when the United States and/or Israel are at war.  There were few demonstrations when Sudan's blacks were murdered in mass or the genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, or Congo or China's crushing Tibet or when Saddam Hussein warred against Iran, Kuwait, and the Kurds in Iraq.  The Left seems to be much more vocal about America's wars than these greater problems.  The Left does not seem much concerned when atrocities are committed by non-whites.  Israel is the only other country besides America that gets boycotted by the Left" (pp. 13-15).

                    The author explained three different obstacles to spreading American values.  First, the United States is the only country that claims to be Judeo-Christian while both "socialism/secularism and Islam" "dominate many countries."  "That is why America goes it alone" except when conservative governments are in power in Israel, Britain, Canada, and Australia

                    A second obstacle to spreading American values is the simple fact that "neither Judeo-Christian nor individual liberty nor free market values are secure in American."

                    A third obstacle is that few of us are "teaching the next generation of Americans what constitutes the American value system, let alone what is superior, or even simply unique about it.  American children are overwhelmingly educated by people who believe in European, not American, values" (pp. 15-16).

                    Prager further explained that the only way the American value system can prevail is if more Americans are willing to fight and win the ideological war within the United States.  "But with America's universities, labor unions, mainstream news media, entertainment media, and one of its two major parties ideologically aligned with European socialist values and with big businesses frequently aligning" (p. 16), it will be very difficult to win this war.

                    Prager explained that he believed there were only three alternatives because he didn't think China would prove to be a fourth alternative.  "Either China will become a freer society or it, too, will fail.  And along with liberty, it will still have to affirm values beyond material success in order to succeed as America has" (p. 17).

                    As I explained earlier, I found the book to be extremely interesting and well-worth reading.  The author articulately explains how things are and why they are that way.  I am seriously contemplating purchasing the book in order to finish reading it as well as to have it as a reference in my home.  I highly recommend this book to any serious, constitutionally-based student of politics.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Eleanor Roosevelt

                    Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884, in New York City to Elliott and Anna Hall Roosevelt.  She was named Anna after her mother and her aunt Anna Cowles; she was named Eleanor after her father and called "Ellie" or "Little Nell".  Her nicknames may have been used to distinguish her from her mother and aunt, but she apparently preferred the name Eleanor from a young age. 

Eleanor was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt.  She had two younger brothers - Elliott Roosevelt, Jr. (1889-93) and Hall Roosevelt (1891-1941) and one half brother - Elliott Roosevelt Mann (born to Katy Mann, a family servant; died 1941).  Eleanor and her family were part of New York high society and lived in a world of great wealth and privilege.
Roosevelt behaved in "old fashioned" ways so much that her own mother called her "Granny".  Even though living in a world of privilege and wealth, Eleanor suffered great childhood heartaches.  Her mother and brother - Elliott, Jr. - died of diphtheria when Eleanor was eight years old.  Her father was an alcoholic who was confined to a sanitarium; he died two years after his wife.  Eleanor was raised by her maternal grandmother, Mary Ludlow Hall (1843-1919) at Tivoli, New York.  Is it any wonder that she was described in a biography as being "insecure and starved for affection" and considered herself to be "ugly".  She understood while still a young teenager that physical beauty did not always determine a person's prospects in life.  

Eleanor had private tutors until she was 15 and sent to Allenswood Academy, a private finishing school near London, England.  She was encouraged to "cultivate independent thinking" by the headmistress of the academy.  Eleanor became fluent in French and gained self-confidence at the academy.

Roosevelt ended her formal education and returned to the United States in 1902 at age 17.  She was a debutante at a ball held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on December 14, 1902, and was later given a debutante party.  She was a member of the New York Junior League and volunteered as a social worker in New York City's East Side slums.

Eleanor met her father's fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1902 and was "overwhelmed when the 20-year-old dashing Harvard University student demonstrated affection for her.  Franklin and Eleanor began courting after she attended a White House reception and had dinner with her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt on New Year's Day, 1903.  Franklin was a "sheltered young man" until Eleanor took him on a "walking tour" through the squalid tenements.

Franklin and Eleanor became engaged in November 1904, but Franklin's mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, insisted that the engagement not be announced until December 1, 1904.  Sara did not approve of Eleanor and took her son on a cruise in an effort to take Franklin's mind off Eleanor.  Her efforts did not work because Franklin returned from the cruise with "renewed ardor" for Eleanor.  President Roosevelt agreed to give the bride away; therefore, the wedding date was fixed according to his schedule.  The President's participation in the wedding "focused national attention on the wedding."

Eleanor was 20 years old and Franklin was 23 years old when they married on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1905, in New York City.  The ceremony was performed by the Reverend Dr. Endicott Peabody, the groom's headmaster at Groton School.  The newlyweds went on a short honeymoon at Hyde Park before they began living in an apartment in New York City.  They took a formal honeymoon, a three-month tour of Europe, the following summer.

Upon their return from Europe, Eleanor and Franklin settled in a house provided by Franklin's mother; they also spent time at the family's Hyde Park estate overlooking the Hudson RiverFranklin's mother apparently had control of all household matters.  I assume that Eleanor felt great relief and freedom when Franklin was elected to the state senate and they moved to Albany, New York.

Franklin and Eleanor became parents of six children, five of whom survived infancy:  Anna Eleanor, Jr. (3 May 1906-1 December 1975; journalist, public relations official), James (23 December 1907-13 August 1991); businessman, congressman, author), Franklin Delano, Jr. (18 March 1909-1 November 1909; died at age seven months), Elliott (23 September 1910-27 October 1990; businessman, mayor, author), Franklin Delano, Jr. (17 August 1914-17 August 1988; businessman, congressman, farmer; John Aspinwall (13 March 1916-27 April 1981; merchant, stockbroker).

The family began to spend summers at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, located on the Maine-Canada border.  While there, Franklin was stricken with a paralytic illness in August 1921; this illness resulted in his legs being permanently paralyzed.  Experts at the time though he had poliomyelitis, but later research indicates it was more likely Guillain-Barre syndrome.  Eleanor gave Franklin devoted attention and later prodded him to return to active life.  In order to compensate for his immobility, Eleanor overcame her shyness and began to make public appearances on his behalf.  She was supportive of him "as a listening post and barometer of popular sentiment."

Eleanor had a relationship with her future mother-in-law long before she fell in love with her distant relative Franklin.  After her marriage to Franklin, her relationship with her mother-in-law was contentious and difficult.  Sara wanted to be a good mother to Eleanor but considered Eleanor to be unprepared for the role of wife to her son; Eleanor valued Sara's opinions but resented her domineering behavior.  Historians continue to study the relationship between Sara and Eleanor.

There were also difficulties in the relationship between the "Hyde Park Roosevelt family" and the "Oyster Bay Roosevelt family."  President Theodore Roosevelt was a Republican while Franklin was a Democrat so there were political differences.  President Roosevelt admired his niece Eleanor, and his eldest daughter Alice - "beautiful, highly photogenic, but rebellious and self-absorbed" - did not appreciate her father asking, "Why can't you be more like `cousin Eleanor'?"  From early in their lives, Eleanor and Alice had a life-long strained relationship.  Alice had a friendly relationship with Franklin and promoted Franklin's affair with Lucy Mercer - probably an underhanded way to undermine Eleanor.  She once said, "He deserved a good time" because "he was married to Eleanor."

Eleanor discovered the affair when she found letters from Lucy in Franklin's luggage in September 1918.  She was extremely hurt and demanded that he end the affair or she would file for divorce.  Franklin's mother threatened to disinherit him if he got a divorce, and his political advisors pleaded with both Eleanor and Franklin to save the marriage for the sake of their children and his political career.

The marriage survived even though Eleanor insisted that their physical relationship end.  Even though Franklin agreed to
end the affair, Lucy began visiting him in the 1930's and was with him at Warm Springs, Georgia, when he died on April 12, 1945.

Eleanor became a different woman and sought to achieve fulfillment through her own achievements.  Eleanor had close relationships with both women and men, but there are questions about how close the relationships were.

Eleanor supported Franklin in his political career, both as governor of New York and as President of the United States.  She supported his New Deal policies and was an advocate for civil rights.  After Franklin's death in 1945, she continued as an international author, speaker, politician, and activist for the New Deal coalition.  She worked to "enhance the status of working women" but she opposed the Equal Rights Amendment on the grounds that she believed it would have adverse effects on women.  She also supported the formation of the United Nations and was appointed by President Harry S. Truman and confirmed by the US Senate to be a delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1945 to 1952.  While at the United Nations, "she chaired the committee that drafted and approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."  She was called the "First Lady of the World" by President Truman because of her human rights achievements.

Mrs. Roosevelt continued to be active in politics for the rest of her life.  She was instrumental in starting a second wave of feminism after President John F. Kennedy appointed her as chair of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.  Eleanor received many honors.  She was ranked in the top ten of Gallup's 1999 List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.

Eleanor was struck by a car in New York City in April 1960 and her health rapidly declined.  She was treated with cortisone which activated the dormant tuberculosis from years earlier, and she was diagnosed with bone marrow tuberculosis.  She died at age 78 at her Manhattan home on November 7, 1962.  President Kennedy ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff in her honor.  UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson said, "The United States, the United Nations, the world, has lost one of its great citizens."

President John F. Kennedy and former Presidents Truman and Eisenhower attended Eleanor's funeral at Hyde Park.  She was buried on November 10, 1962, next to Franklin in the family compound in Hyde Park, New York.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Law of the Sea Treaty

                    The Law of the Sea (LOST) Treaty appears to be an international plan to redistribute the wealth of Americans to the people of the world.  President Ronald Reagan refused to sign this treaty (known as "United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS") in 1982, but some United States Senators now want to pass this treaty.

                    One of the events that led to the American Revolution took place in the Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773.  American colonists dressed as Indians raided three British ships and threw 342 chests of tea into the harbor to avoid paying the British-levied tax on tea.  Unfair taxation was one of the key issues leading to the Revolution. 

                    The current TEA Party arose in opposition to taxes being levied by the Obama Administration and other Leftists in the federal government.  Now the Left wants American citizens to be taxed by an international organization. 

Senators Orrin Hatch and John Cornyn wrote an article entitled "The Law of the Sea treaty will sink America's economy" for Fox (May 23, 2012).  For the "first time in history" "an international organization would possess taxing authority, and it would amount to billions of American dollars being transferred out of the US Treasury.
                    "The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea or the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) is the vehicle through which such taxes would be imposed on U.S.-based commercial enterprises.  The treaty that Reagan refused to sign in 1982 is reappearing once again in the Senate.  The truth is, LOST contains numerous provisions that hurt the U.S. economy at a time when we need more jobs - not fewer.
                    "Under the guise of being for `the good of mankind,' LOST would obligate the United States to share information and technology in what amounts to global taxes and technology transfer requirements that are really nothing more than an attempt to redistribute U.S. wealth to the Third World….
                    "In case proponents of LOST have not noticed, the US is over $15 trillion in debt, and we still have more than 20 million Americans who can't find a job.  The last thing we need to do [is] redistribute funds from our country to our economic and strategic competitors."

                    Heritage Action for America claims that the "treaty is an unnecessary and fatally-flawed pact that would radically alter American law, allowing an international organization based in Jamaica to erode US sovereignty."

                    Heritage Action for America claims that LOST would have the following effects:  1) "Lost creates the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a new, UN-style organization based in Kingston, Jamaica, that would be dominated by anti-US interests"; 2) "Article 82 of the treaty requires the US to transfer significant offshore energy royalties to the ISA, which is then empowered to redistribute those funds to developing countries, even if they are undemocratic or state sponsors of terrorism"; 3) "Part XV of the treaty requires the US to engage in mandatory dispute resolution, paving the way for reckless and politically motivated allegations from hostile interests"; 4) "Contrary to popular belief, the treaty was not fixed in 1994"; 5) "For more than 200 years, America has successfully preserved and protected its navigational rights and freedoms by relying on naval operations, diplomatic protests, and customary international law."

                    Heritage Action for America also has an explanation for why the Law of the Sea Treaty" is still a bad idea here.  The main reason why this treaty is bad for the United States is because it "undermines American sovereignty" and the US "has much to lose" through this treaty and "little to gain."

                    American Political Action Committee (AmeriPac) is asking us to contact our Senators and demand that they vote against this treaty.  "U.S. adherence to this treaty would entail history's biggest and most unwarranted voluntary transfer of wealth AND surrender of sovereignty.  LOST, which was a product of the Left/Soviet/unaligned movement agenda of the 1960s and 1970s, created the International Seabed Authority (ISA).  ISA is a new supranational organization with unprecedented powers:  1) The power to regulate seven-tenths of the world's surface area; 2) The power to levy international taxes; 3) The power to impose production quotas (for deep-sea mining, oil production, etc.); 4) The power to regulate ocean research and exploration; 5) The power to create a multinational court system to render and enforce its judgments!"

                    AmeriPac also claims that "LOST was drafted BEFORE - and without regard to - the War on Terror, and what the United States must do to wage that war successfully.  As a result, U.S. national security interests will be severely undermined by several of the Treaty's provisions…."

                    I believe that the Law of the Sea (LOST) Treaty is bad for the United States.  I encourage you to contact your Senators and demand that they reject the passage of this treaty.  If you want to contact all 100 Senators, you can do so through AmeriPac for a fee.  I plan to contact only Senator Murkowski and Senator Begich on my own.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Greatness of FDR

                    I am not a fan of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (also known as FDR), but I have to admit that he was a great leader.  FDR served as the 32nd President of the United States (1933-1945) and became the only President to serve more than two terms.  He presided over our nation during the worldwide Great Depression and World War II and was at the center of many great events.

                    The main reason why I dislike FDR is because he instituted the New Deal - "a variety of programs designed to produce relief (government jobs for the unemployed), recovery (economic growth), and reform (through regulation of Wall Street, banks and transportation)."  Even though conservatives were able to abolish many of the relief programs instituted by FDR, he "dominated the American political scene, not only during the twelve years of his presidency, but for decades afterward.  He orchestrated the realignment of voters that created the Fifth Party System.  FDR's New Deal Coalition united labor unions, big city machines, white ethnics, African Americans and rural white Southerners. Roosevelt's diplomatic impact also resonated on the world stage long after his death, with the United Nations … as [one example] of his administration's wide-ranging impact.  Roosevelt is consistently rated by scholars as one of the top three U.S. Presidents."   

                    Roosevelt was a liberal Democrat who "defined his ideological position as `a little left of center' and also called his cabinet `slightly to the left of center.'"  Liberals and progressives tout Roosevelt's greatness because he moved our nation to the left.  Since America is a center-right nation, conservatives are justified in disliking FDR policies.  Even though he was brazen enough to be the first President to serve more than two terms, actions were taken soon after his death to insure that no future President would serve more than two terms in office.

                    FDR is best known for his Day of Infamy speech on December 8, 1941, the day after Japanese airplanes and ships attacked Pearl Harbor.  "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan….  Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us, No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory…."

                    Other quotes show just how far left FDR was.  

                  "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward."  (He was a progressive who wanted to move away from traditional American values.  He even tried to "stack" the Supreme Court with more justices in order to get his progressive policies past the Court.)

                    "I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm."

                    "If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships - the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world of peace."

                    "If I went to work in a factory, the first thing I'd do is join a union."

                    "If you treat people right, they will treat you right … ninety percent of the time."

                    "In our personal ambitions we are individualists.  But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up or else all go down as one people." 

                    "In politics, nothing happens by accident.  If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way."

                    "Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us.  The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country."

                    "Not only our future economic soundness but the very soundness of our democratic institutions depends on the determination of our government to give employment to idle men."

                    "One thing is sure.  We have to do something.  We have to do the best we know how at the moment….  If it doesn't turn out right, we can modify it as we go along."  (Is this the idea behind Obamacare?

                    "Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideals and principles that we have cherished are challenged."  (Leftists operate on feelings!)

                    "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little."

                    "The United States Constitution has proved itself the most marvelously elastic compilation of rules of government ever written."  (This idea stretched into the idea that the Constitution is a "living and breathing" document that changes according to what people think it means.)

                    "There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still."

                    "There is a mysterious cycle in human events.  To some generations much is given.  Of other generations much is expected.  This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day of Remembrance

                    How will you celebrate Memorial Day?  To millions of Americans, Memorial Day is simply an excuse to have a three-day weekend to celebrate the beginning of summer.  To others, it is a day to remember loved ones who are now gone.  To still others, it is a day to honor fallen heroes. 

Known originally as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a federal holiday. It was observed on May 30 for many years but was changed in 1971 to the last Monday in May in order to make it a three-day holiday weekend.  Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, who scheduled it to be observed on May 30, 1868.  The date was set apart as a day for flowers to be placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  After World War I, the day was dedicated to all Americans who died fighting in any war.

                    I remember as a child, youth, and young adult seeing older people wearing red poppies on Memorial Day.  I understood that the poppies represented something important, but I didn't understand their purpose at that time.  Moina Michael wrote the following poem in 1915:

                                        We cherish too, the Poppy red
                                        That grows on fields where valor led,
                                        It seems to signal to the skies
                                        That blood of heroes never dies.

                    Ms. Michael was credited with the idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died during war while serving our nation as well as the first person to wear one.  She also sold red poppies to her associates to earn money to assist needy servicemen.  Ms. Michael was honored in 1948 when the US Post Office issued a red 3-cent postage stamp bearing her picture.

                    Observance of Memorial Day is not the same to people now as it was traditionally.  I remember that my parents and parents-in-law would drive long distances in order to put flowers on the graves of deceased loved ones.   I live too far from the graves of my loved ones to visit them on Memorial Day, but I take flowers to their grave sites when I am in the area.

                    Mark Alexander at Patriot Post  posted an article on Thursday, May 24, 2012, entitled "Memorial Day Is NOT On Sale - Millions of Patriots Have Already Paid the Full Price."  He wrote:  "Memorial Day provides a stark contrast between the best of our nation's Patriot sons and daughters versus the worst of our nation's civilian culture of consumption.

                    "Amid the sparse, reverent observances of the sacrifices made by millions of American Patriots who paid the full price for Liberty, in keeping with their sacred oaths, we are inundated at every turn with the commercialization of Memorial Day by vendors who are too ignorant and/or selfish to honor this day in accordance with its purpose.  Indeed, Memorial Day has been sold out, along with Washington's Birthday, Independence Day, Veterans, Thanksgiving and Christmas Days.  And it's no wonder, as government schools no longer teach civics or any meaningful history, and courts have excluded God (officially) from the public square."

                    There are still a few people and places that remember the reason for Memorial Day.  "Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery.  They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.  In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day.  More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Mary's Heights (the Luminaria Program).  And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.
                    "To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the `National Moment of Remembrance' resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans `To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to `Taps.'" 

                    This site also advocates that we return Memorial Day to its traditional day of observance.  When Congress passed the law to make the day just another three-day weekend in 1971, it cheapened the day.

                    I was pleased to read in the Anchorage Daily News, May 26, 2012, that "surviving World War II veterans will be honored as part of Memorial Day observances on Monday … at 3p.m. on the Park Strip at the Veterans Memorial, west of I Street between Ninth and 10th Avenues.
                    "This year the event will note the 70th anniversary of the attack on Dutch Harbor, in which Japanese planes bombed American facilities on Unalaska Island on June 3 and 4, 1942."  The ceremony will include recognition of other military members who have died. 

I plan to be in attendance at this event to join in honoring deceased heroes.  How do you plan to observe Memorial Day?  I hope that you will at least pause for a moment at 3:00 p.m. to remember our fallen heroes.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I Know for Myself

                   A testimony is a personal conviction of gospel truths, based on knowledge revealed by the Holy Ghost.  Most Church members have a testimony of some principle of the gospel, and on this foundation a more complete testimony can be built.  A testimony motivates us to live righteously, and righteous living causes a testimony to grow.  A testimony of the Savior and his gospel is essential to our exaltation.

                    A testimony is really quite simple and has three main elements as explained by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:  "A testimony in our day consists of three things:  It consists of the knowledge that Jesus is the Lord, that he is the Son of the living God who was crucified for the sins of the world; it consists of the fact that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God called to restore the gospel truths and be the revealer of the knowledge of Christ for our day; and it consists of knowing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth, the one place where salvation is found, the organization which administers the gospel and therefore administers salvation to the sons of men" (in "Gaining a Testimony of Jesus Christ," Ensign, Dec. 1980, 15).

                    The three elements described by Elder McConkie are critical for a testimony because they are the foundation for a testimony of other gospel truths.  Everything in the gospel of Jesus Christ depends on these three elements.

                    It is important that we know for ourselves that Jesus is our Savior, that Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the earth.  We cannot depend on the testimonies of other people.  We can be taught and inspired by them, but ultimately we can only gain a strong testimony when we feel the witness of the Holy Ghost ourselves.

                    "When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
                    "And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist:  some, Elias; and others, Jeremias [Jeremiah], or one of the prophets.
                    "He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
                    "And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
                    "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona:  for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 16:13-17).

                    Peter testified of the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  He gained this personal knowledge when Heavenly Father revealed it to him through the Holy Ghost.  We know that Heavenly Father reveals truth through the Holy Ghost because the ancient American prophet, Moroni, told us:  "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Moroni 10:5).

                    Peter had walked with Jesus and witnessed the many miracles that Jesus performed, but he received his testimony just as we can and do.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:  "The original Apostles were eyewitnesses to the ministry and resurrection of the Savior (see Acts 10:39-41)….
                    "[But] an eyewitness was not enough.  Even the witness and testimony of the original Apostles had to be rooted in the testimony of the Holy Ghost.  [President Joseph Fielding Smith] has told us that the witness of the Holy Ghost makes an impression on our soul that is more significant than `a visitation of an angel'" (Ensign, May 1983, 80).

                    Each of us can obtain a testimony of Jesus Christ and his gospel.  President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, "Every Latter-day Saint has the responsibility to know for himself or herself with a certainty beyond doubt that Jesus is the resurrected, living Son of the living God" (Ensign, May 1983, 80).

                    Another ancient American prophet named Alma described how we can gain a testimony by likening the word of God to a seed:  "But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
                    "Now, we will compare the word unto a seed.  Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves - It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me." .
                      "But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow.  And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith?  Yea, it will strengthen your faith:  for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
                    "And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 32:27-28, 30, 33).

                    Alma explained that we can know the word of God when we desire to know the truth and allow the "seed" to be planted in our hearts.  When the "seed" begins to "swell" and "grow," we can know that we have received a confirmation from the Holy Ghost that we have received the truth.  When we receive such a confirmation, we may feel comforted or uplifted.  We may feel a desire to serve the Lord and others.  We can all use the counsel in Alma 32 to obtain a testimony of specific aspects of the gospel, such as the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon or the blessings of paying tithing.

                    Alma continued:  "And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say:  Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up and bring forth fruit unto us.  And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
                    "But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life" (verses 37 and 41).

                    Once the word of God has grown in our hearts, we must nourish it.  As we work diligently and exercise faith and patience, we can develop testimonies of individual doctrines and principles of the gospel.  Our testimonies can grow to include more gospel truths as we progress spiritually.  Continued righteous living helps nourish the portion of our testimonies that we have already obtained.  There are many ways that the Lord has provided for us to experiment on his word and strengthen our testimonies.  [Previous posts have been about faith, repentance, the gift of the Holy Ghost, prayer, fasting, personal revelation, patriarchal blessings, scripture study, following the prophet, and Church service - all principles that help strengthen testimonies.]

                    As we strengthen our testimonies, our testimonies give us strength. Elder John B. Dickson of the Seventy presented an example of how we can gain strength by knowing the truth.  "I am reminded of a little village called Panacaxtlan, situated where the coastal plains meet the mountains of central Mexico.  The village is situated in a lush, green, humid area known as the Huesteca, and the inhabitants are sons and daughters of Lehi.  In 1979, … missionaries began proselyting in the Huesteca.  Fifty-two people joined the Church in Panacaxtlan….
                    "A short time later, a meeting was called in Panacaxtlan at which Church members were given the following options:  denounce the Church, leave the village, or be killed (not an idle threat).
                    "The members, particularly the women, said they knew the Church to be true and would not denounce it.  They also indicated they had worked just as hard as the rest of the community to secure their homesteads, and they would not leave.  Boldly stepping forward, they told their taunters if they were going to kill them, to get on with it.  The moment grew tense as machetes were raised, then finally lowered while the Latter-day Saints stood up for that which the Spirit had testified to them to be true.
                    "These Saints eventually learned, as most of us do, that it is harder to live the gospel day by day than to die for it in an instant, but their early commitment came because the Spirit had touched their hearts and changed their lives.  Their conversion process had taken place as the Book of Mormon helped build their faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God" ("The Incomparable Gifts," Ensign, Feb.  1995, 7).

                    The fact that the Saints in Panacaxtlan had the courage to stand up for the Church testifies of their testimonies.  They obviously had received confirmation through the Holy Ghost or else they would not have stood firm.  We can follow the example of the Saints in Panacaxtlan when we stand up for the gospel and the Church in whatever situation we may encounter.

                    Most members of the Church will not be asked to die in defense of their beliefs, but we are all asked to "live the gospel day by day" as Elder Dickson said.  Daily life presents many obstacles to everyone.  Choosing to live the gospel takes much more courage that choosing to die for it.

                    Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained one way we can strengthen our testimonies:  "Share your testimony ….  Let others know that you know.  Bear your testimony in fast meeting.  Tell your family; tell your friends.  You will find when you share your testimony it becomes stronger, and there are many others around you who also want to embrace the truth" (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 22).

                    President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, "None of us ever need hesitate to speak up for this Church, for its doctrine, for its people, for its divine organization and divinely given responsibility.  It is true.  It is the work of God" (Ensign, Nov. 1996, 51).

I can say that I know for myself that we have a loving Father in Heaven who sent His Son, Jesus Christ to earth to atone for our sins.  I know that they live!  I also know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God called to restore the gospel truths and be an instrument in the hands of God in revealing the knowledge of Christ in our day.  I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth.  I know that the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ is the word of God.  I know these truths because I studied them out, asked God if they were true, and received confirmation from the Holy Ghost that they are true.  I invite you to read the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ and learn the truth for yourself.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Be Attitudes

                    Families, communities and nations are strengthened when parents help their children to have good and proper attitudes.  Our attitudes affect how we feel and think about life and our place in it.  Parents with good attitudes can more easily help their children to develop the same.

                    Our Savior, Jesus Christ, taught a sermon about attitudes, which is referred to as the Beatitudes.  He taught this sermon in both the Holy Land (Matthew 5) and on the American continent (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 12).  This morning while I was studying about the Beatitudes taught to ancient Americans, I realized that there are some excellent lessons for parents and leaders contained in them.

                    The Savior began each Beatitude with the "blessed," which means happy.  Whenever you read the word "blessed" in the following scriptures, please substitute the word "happy."  Look for the blessing that comes from each proper attitude.

                    "Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants :  and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; …

                    "And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am.  Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depts. Of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.

                    "Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit [humble] who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

                    "And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

                    "And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

                    "And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

                    "And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

                    "And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

                    "And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name's sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

                    "And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake;
                    "For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you" (3 Nephi 12:1-12).

                    Our families, communities, and nations would be much happier and successful if all children and youth were taught the teachings Jesus Christ.  We would enjoy peace and security if the rising generations were taught humility, compassion for others, and how to be peacemakers as well as to seek righteousness, mercy, and purity of heart.  The Beatitudes are correct teachings; the Be Attitudes can change our lives, our homes, our communities, and our nations.