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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Heritage Foundation

                The Heritage Foundation is a conservative organization that defends and supports the United States Constitution.  Heritage is doing many things to awaken Americans to the problems in our nation.  A Heritage blog entitled The Foundry recently published their top five must-see charts of 2013.  Here is their continuing countdown to 2014. 

                Chart #5 compares what the picture would look like if a typical middle-class American family spent money like the federal government does.  “While middle-class families are still plagued by a sluggish recovery in the Obama economy, this is what their finances would look like if they spent money like the government – and it’s not a pretty picture.  Most families understand that it is unwise to constantly spend excessive amounts compared to what they take in, but the government continues its shopping spree on the taxpayer credit card with seemingly no regard to the stack of bills that has already piled up.”  This chart shows that the typical middle-class family would owe $312,000 and continue to grow their debt by $12,000 each year if they spent money like the federal government. 

                Chart #4 explains the massive amount of tax hikes included in Obamacare.  Barack Obama made many promises that more Americans are seeing as outright lies.  “Remember President Obama’s promise that he would not raise taxes on the middle class?  Much like his pledge that Americans could keep their health insurance, this turned out to be another promise Obamacare was bound to break.”  This chart at the Heritage site shows that Obamacare will impose “$771 billion in new revenue through 2022.” 

                Chart #3 shows clearly that the sequestration was not even close to being a “meat cleaver” as described by the President of the United States.  The sequestration could hardly hurt our economy and close the government because “it only amounts to a 2.5 percent reduction in spending over 10 years.”

                Chart #2 tells us where our tax dollars go – and why changes need to be made.  Here is a hint:  Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid consume near half of every dollar that goes to the federal government, and Obamacare will simply add to the problem.

                Chart #1 illustrates why YOU and I each own $36,000 as our individual shares of America’s public debt.  This figure will triple by 2036 if changes are not made soon.

                Michael Sargent closed his Foundry post with this statement:  “To address the serious issues highlighted in these charts, Congress must put America on a path to balance by reforming the major entitlement programs – Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – that are the key sources of higher spending and debt.  By implementing entitlement reforms and discretionary spending cuts, Congress can lift a tremendous burden off the economy, freeing up resources for investment in jobs and growth in the private sector.”

                Another Foundry blog post alerts us to the fact that the federal government’s ban on the use of 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent light bulbs beginning January 1, 2014.  If you are one of the Americans that does not consider this a problem, you might want to read the blog and learn what it really means.

                “Proponents of government-imposed efficiency standards and regulations will say, `So what?  There are still plenty of lighting options on the shelves at Home Depot; we’re saving families money; and we’re reducing harmful climate change emissions.

                “The `so what’ is that the federal government is taking decisions out of the hands of families and businesses, destroying jobs, and restricting consumer choice in the market.  We all have a wide variety of preferences regarding light bulbs.  It is not the role of the federal government to override those preferences with what it believes is in our best interest….

                “When the market drives energy efficiency, it saves consumers money.  The more the federal government takes away decisions that are better left to businesses and families, the worse off we’re going to be.”

                Still another Foundry blog post focuses on what would happen if the minimum wage were raised.  Politicians and other people are pressing for a hike in the minimum wage without thinking the problem through completely.  Their concern for people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder has clouded their thinking and kept them from realizing that it is a very bad idea.  Raising the minimum wage will be bad for the overall economy as well as for those low-wage workers it is supposed to help.

                As soon as I heard of the planned strikes in cities, I said it was a bad idea.  It seems obvious to me that the cost of a hamburger at McDonald’s will go up if the company is forced to pay higher wages and the cost of a hotel will go up if the company has to pay its employees a higher wage.  If anyone wants to make more money, they currently have the freedom to make themselves more valuable by improving their skills.       
               “Unfortunately, this seemingly obvious remedy is also a very bad idea, not only for the economy as a whole, but for the low-wage workers it is supposed to help.  Indeed, studies show that the latest congressional hike would likely eliminate some 300,000 jobs per year and lower our national economic output by more than $40 billion annually. Why?  Because raising the cost of labor naturally makes it more expensive to hire, leading cash-strapped employers with no choice but to slow down or freeze hiring.

                “Those who blithely propose large minimum-wage increases are ignoring a basic economic truth:  When you raise the cost of something, you slow down the rate at which people purchase it.  They buy less.  So an employer who might decide to hire another worker when the cost is relatively low will forgo that expense when it gets too high.

                “That, in turn, can be bad news for those who already work for that employer.  He may have no choice but to work his other employees harder, when he could have taken a chance on an unskilled worker and given that individual a chance to prove himself and to move up.

                “That, incidentally, is the great truth that all too many people on both sides overlook:  Relatively few people actually earn the minimum wage.  Less than 3 percent of all workers earn $7.25 an hour.  For the vast majority of low-skilled or unskilled workers, that amount is simply a starting salary that gets them in the door and gives them a chance to advance.  Most workers do just that.  They move up.  After being hired for the minimum wage, they learn valuable skills that help them move up the economic ladder.  Two-thirds of them get a raise within a year.”

                The Heritage Foundation researches many causes and publishes their findings.  I think this organization is a good one that deserves our support.  I encourage you to go to their site and learn more about them.

Monday, December 30, 2013

William Penn

                I found the life of William Penn to be very interesting.  He was born into wealth and power but gave it up for religion.  He left the land of his birth to find freedom of religion in the New World.  He had great scholastic skills but poor business practices.  He was disinherited but inherited a fortune.  He was wealthy but died penniless.  He was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, early Quaker, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, which later became the of Pennsylvania.

                William Penn was born on October 14, 1644, at Tower Hill, London.  He was the son of English Admiral Sir William Penn and Margaret Jasper, the daughter of a rich Dutch merchant and widow of a Dutch captain.  When William Penn, Jr. was born, his father was twenty-three years old and in charge of quieting Irish Catholic unrest and blockading Irish ports.  Admiral Penn served in the Commonwealth Navy was rewarded with estates in Ireland by Oliver Cromwell.  During the English Civil War, the lands were seized from Irish Catholics because they massacred Protestants.  Admiral Penn served in the Royal Navy and was eventually knighted after assisting with restoring Charles II to the throne. 

                Growing up during the rule of Oliver Cromwell, the younger William Penn received his first education at Chigwell School, by private tutors while in Ireland, and then at Christ Church, Oxford.  There were no state schools at the time, and most educational institutions were run by the Anglican Church.  Penn absorbed many Puritan behaviors, such as his serious demeanor, strict behavior, and lack of humor, from his time in these schools.

                When Penn was about fifteen years old, Admiral Penn and his family were exiled to his lands in Ireland due to a failed Caribbean mission.  A Quaker missionary by the name of Thomas Loe became a part of the Penn household and gave discourses on the “Inner Light.”  Young Penn believed that “the Lord visited me and gave me divine Impressions of Himself.”  After the death of Cromwell, the Penn family returned to England where Admiral Penn was knighted and given the position of Commissioner of the Navy.

                Penn arrived at Oxford in 1660 and “enrolled as a gentlemen scholar with an assigned servant.”  He was part of the upper social class because of his father’s position, but he was sympathetic with the persecuted Quakers.  He chose to become a reclusive scholar in order to avoid any conflict.  It was during this time that Penn realized that he did not agree with “his father’s martial view of the world or his mother’s society-oriented sensibilities” and felt all alone in the world except when “feeling the divine presence.”

                After returning home for the splendor of the ceremony restoring the King to power, Penn returned to Oxford and considered a medical career.  When free-thinking Dean Owen was fired, Penn and other “open-minded students” supported him.  When Owen was censured again, Penn was one of the students punished for associating with him.  His father pulled him out of Oxford to distract from the “heretical influences of the university,” but father and son could not understand each other.  The younger Penn went back to Oxford but rebelled when “stricter religious requirements” were imposed.  Admiral Penn used a cane on his son and forced him from his home, but the mother made peace in the family.  The son’s behavior was causing problems with the mother’s “social standing” and the father’s career; therefore, the son was sent to Paris at age 18
“to get him out of view, improve his manners, and expose him to another culture.”

                Penn appreciated the refinement of the French manners in the court of young Louis XIV but did not feel comfortable with the
“extravagant display of wealth and privilege.”  He sought “spiritual direction from French Protestant theologian Moise Amyraut, who invited Penn to stay with him in Saumur for a year.  The undogmatic Christian humanist talked of a tolerant, adapting view of religion which appealed to Penn….”  Penn dropped his Puritanical guilt and rigid beliefs and “was inspired to search out his own religious path.”

                When young Penn returned to England two years later, he was “a mature, sophisticated, well-mannered, `modish’ gentlemen” who had “developed a taste for fine clothes.”  For the rest of his life Penn paid “more attention to his dress than most Quakers.”  The Admiral thought his son was ready to become an “aristocrat” and had him enroll in law school.  War with Holland appeared imminent, and young Penn joined his father at sea, functioning as an emissary between his father and the King.   He learned to better appreciate his father and even worried about his safety.  The father returned safely, but “London was in the grip of the plague of 1665.”  The Admiral got gout, and sent his son to Ireland to look after his lands there.  The Penn family escaped the plague and the Great Fire of 1666 that burned central London. 

                Young Penn came back to London but was so depressed with the mood of the city and the condition of his father that he returned to Ireland “to contemplate his future.”  King Charles had “tightened restrictions against all religious sects but the Anglican Church, making the penalty for unauthorized worship imprisonment or deportation.”  “The Quakers were especially targeted and their meetings were deemed as criminal.” 

                Knowing the dangers, Penn started attending Quaker meetings where he met Thomas Loe again.  Young Penn was attracted to Quakerism and “was arrested for attending Quaker meetings.  Rather than state that he was not a Quaker and thereby dodge any charges, he publicly declared himself a member and finally joined the Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends) ate the age of 22.”  He argued that the Quakers “had no political agenda (unlike the Puritans), but he was sprung from jail because of his father’s rank and called home.  Father and son could not agree, and the father eventually ordered his son out of the house and withheld his inheritance.

                Now homeless, Penn lived with Quaker families and learned more of their ways, which he accepted heart and soul.  Penn traveled to Ireland to deal with his father’s estates there and later traveled to Germany several times on behalf of the Quaker faith.  His trips resulted “in a German Settlement that was symbolic in two ways:  it was a specifically German-speaking congregation, and it comprised religious dissenters.  Pennsylvania has remained the heartland for various branches of Anabaptists:  Old Order Mennonites, Ephrata Cloisters, Brethren, and Amish.  Pennsylvania also became home for many Lutheran refugees from Catholic provinces (e.g., Salzburg), as well as for German Catholics who also had been discriminated against in their home country.  In fact, the settlement of Germantown was established in Philadelphia, and the German Society of Pennsylvania, established in 1764, is still functioning today from its Philadelphia headquarters.

                Penn was persecuted and imprisoned in the Tower of London for writing religious pamphlets; he was placed in solitary confinement in an unheated cell and threatened with a life sentence.  He was freed after eight months but felt no remorse; he even vowed to continue fighting the wrongs of the Anglican Church and the King.  The King continued to confiscate Quaker property and imprisoned thousands of Quakers.  Penn was exiled from English society and imprisoned several times. 

                With his father dying, Penn longed to see him once again with the hope of reconciliation, but he urged his father to not pay the fine for his release.  His father however paid the fine for the release of his son.  Admiral Penn “had gained respect for his son’s integrity and courage and told him, `Let nothing in this world tempt you to wrong your conscience.”  The Admiral knew that his son would be vulnerable after his death and wrote to the Duke of York, the successor to the throne, in “an act which would not only secure his son’s protection but also set the conditions for the founding of Pennsylvania.  The Duke and the King, in return for the Admiral’s lifetime service to the Crown, promised to protect young Penn and make him a royal counselor.” 

                Penn received his inheritance and received a large fortune; however, he continued to agitate and found himself in jail once again for six months.  Penn stayed close to home but continued to write tracts about religious tolerance.  He later resumed missionary work to Holland and Germany.

            Penn appealed directly to the King and the Duke for a mass emigration of English Quakers.  A group of Quakers purchased the colonial province of West Jersey (half of the current state of New Jersey.  With this foothold in place, Penn worked to extend the Quaker region.  Whether from personal sympathy or political expediency and to Penn’s surprise, “granted an extraordinarily generous charter which made Penn the world’s largest private (non-royal) landowner, with over 45,000 square miles.  Penn  became the sole proprietor of a huge tract of land west of New Jersey and north of Maryland (which belonged to Lord Baltimore), and gained sovereign rule of the territory with all right and privileges (except the power to declare war).”  The area had several names before King Charles II dubbed it “Pennsylvania” to honor the elder Penn.  The King signed the charter on March 4, 1681. 

                Penn was an influential scholar and theoretician but now had to gain the skills of a real estate promoter, city planner, and governor. In Penn’s quest for religious freedom, Pennsylvania would become the home of Huguenots, Mennonites, Amish, Catholics, Lutherans, and Jews from England, France, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, and Wales.

                Penn’s next goal was to build the legal means for an “ethical society where power was derived from the people” but using Puritanical laws of behavior.  He used many of the ideas of John Locke who had a great influence on Thomas Jefferson, but he wanted to use amendments to provide a “written framework that could evolve with the changing times.” 

                Once he had everything in place, Penn returned to England in 1684 to see his family and to solve a territorial dispute with Lord Baltimore.  While he was gone the prisons at Bridewell and Newgate were filled with Quakers and internal conflicts threatened to destroy the Pennsylvania charter.  King Charles died in 1685, and the Duke of York was crowned James II.  James II resolved the border dispute in Penn’s favor. Bad business practices threatened his success, and Penn struggled with his legacy in Pennsylvania.

                William Penn was married twice and was the father of many children.  After a four-year engagement, Penn married Gulielma Marias Posthumas Springett (1644-1696) in April 1672.  She was the daughter of William S. Springett and Lady Mary Proude Penington.  The Posthuma in her name indicates that her father had died prior to her birth.  Eight children were born to this couple, three sons and five daughters:
Gulielma Maria (1671/72), William (1672/73-1674), Maria Margaret (born and died 1673/74), Springett (1674/75-1696), Letitia (1678-1746; married William Awbrey [Aubrey]), William, Jr. (1679/80-1720), an unnamed child (born and died in 1682), and Gulielma Maria (1685-1689).  Four or five of these children died before the age of five years.

                After the death of his first wife, Penn married Hannah Margaret Callowhill (1671-1726).  She was the daughter of Thomas Callowhill and Anna (Hannah) Hollister.  Penn was 52 years old at the time of this marriage, and his new bride was 25.  This couple also had many children and losing several of them at young ages:  Unnamed daughter (born and died in 1697), John Penn (1699/00-1746; never married), Thomas Penn (1700/01-1775; married Lady Juliana Fermor, fourth daughter of Thomas, first Earl of Pomfret), Hannah Penn (1703-1707/08), Margaret Penn (1704/05-1771), Richard Penn, Sr. (1705-1771), Dennis Penn (1705/06-1721/22), Hannah Penn (1708-1709), and Louis Penn (1707-1724). 

                William Penn moved between England and the New World several times.  He tried a couple of time to sell Pennsylvania back to the Crown and suffered a stroke during his second attempt in 1712.  A second stroke a few months later left him unable to speak or take care of himself.  He slowly lost his memory and died penniless in 1718 at his home in Ruscombe, new Twyford in Berkshire.  He was buried in an unmarked grave next to his first wife in the cemetery of the Jordans Quaker meeting house near Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire in England.  His second wife was the sole executor of his estate and became the de facto proprietor until her death in 1726.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Full Payment of Debts

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article VI, Section 1:  “All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.”  This provision guaranteed the creditors of the new nation would be paid in full.

                “Considering the circumstances, this was a monumental undertaking, but it was the key to the early success of the tiny new nation.  Alexander Hamilton, who became the first Secretary of the Treasury, put the debt of the Union at $11,710,387 owed to foreign banks and creditors (primarily in France and Holland) and $42,414,084 owed to banks and contractors in the United States.   The states themselves owed about $25 million for expenditures in the common defense, and all of this amounted to a total indebtedness of about $79 million.
                “The above provision in the Constitution promised to pay it all.”  (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 654.)

                Jeffrey Sikkenga of The Heritage Foundation also wrote about this provision in the Constitution.  “To finance the War of Independence, the American states and the Continental Congress sold millions of dollars in public bonds to soldiers, ordinary Americans, and investors both within America and abroad.  The Constitutional Convention first addressed the debt issue during its debates on the proposed powers of Congress.  On August 21, 1787, the Convention considered this proposal:  `The Legislature of the U.S. shall have the power to fulfil the engagements which have been ent3ered into by Congress, and to discharge as well the debts of the U-S: as the debts incurred by the several States during the late war, for the common defence and general welfare.’
                “Whether Congress could discharge the state debts was left unsettled because the ensuing debate centered on a different question:  Would the new federal government necessarily inherit the debt obligations of the old Continental and Confederation Congresses? …
                “Elbert Gerry objected that the August 21 proposal only gave the new Congress the `power’ rather than the obligation to pay back the debt.  He feared that this wording would allow Congress to neglect the rightful return on bonds due to the creditor `class of citizens.’ …

                “After some political struggles in the early 1790s, the new federal government made good on the bond obligations inherited from the Articles of Confederation, thus vitiating the possibility for serious constitutional controversy….”  (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 289-290.)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

New Beginnings

                Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions according to ancient Roman religion and myth.  The Latin form of his name is Ianus, pronounced is nus.  He is usually shown as having two faces, one to look to the future while one still looks at the past.  The Romans thought so much of Janus that they name a month in his honor; thus, their Ianuarius became our January.

                The end of an old year and the beginning of a new year is usually a time of reflection and planning.  Most of us have made resolutions or goals for what we want to accomplish in the coming year.  Making resolutions or setting goals is easy; the difficult part is to keep them.

                I enjoy making new starts, whether it is a new day, a new week, a new month, or a new year.  I like starting over with a clean slate.  I particularly enjoy being able to start over when I have made a mistake or committed a sin.  I think this is one reason why I appreciate the gospel principle of repentance so much and am a firm believer in it.

                President Dieter F. Uchtdorf wrote of new beginnings in his First Presidency message for January and compared the opportunity to “start again with a clean slate” to getting a new computer.  “I love getting a new computer with a clean hard drive.  For a time it works perfectly.  But as the days and weeks pass by and more and more programs get installed (some intentional, some not so intentional), eventually the computer begins to stall, and things it used to do quickly and efficiently become sluggish.  Sometimes it doesn’t work at all.  Even getting it to start can become a chore as the hard drive becomes cluttered with miscellaneous chaos and electronic debris.  There are times when the only recourse is to reformat the computer and start over.
                “Human beings can likewise become cluttered with fears, doubts, and burdensome guilt.  The mistake we have made (both intentional and unintentional) can weigh upon us until it may seem hard to do what we know we should.

                “In the case of sin, there is a wonderful reformatting process called repentance that allows us to clear our internal hard drives of the clutter that burdens our hearts.  The gospel, through the miraculous and compassionate Atonement of Jesus Christ, shows us the way to cleanse our souls of the stain of sin and once again become new, pure, and as innocent as a child.
                “But sometimes other things slow us down and hold us back, causing unproductive thoughts and actions that make it hard for us to get started.”

                President Uchtdorf continued in his article to warn us against procrastination – “waiting for the right moment to begin.”  He said that sometimes we put off making changes because of fear and then possibly give up entirely.  “Another thing we need to remember when it comes to setting goals is this.  We almost certainly will fail – at least in the short term.  But rather than be discouraged, we can be empowered because this understanding removes the pressure of being perfect right now.  It acknowledges from the beginning that at one time or another, we may fall short.  Knowing this up front takes away much of the surprise and discouragement of failure.

                “When we approach our goals this way, failure doesn’t have to limit us.  Remember, even if we fail to reach our ultimate, desired destination right away, we will have made progress along the road that will lead to it.
                “And that matters – it means a lot.
                “Even though we might fall short of our finish line, just continuing the journey will make us greater than we were before” (“The Best Time to Plant a Tree,” Ensign, January 2014, pp. 4-6).  

                When we set personal goals and work towards them, they can “bring out the best in us”; however, we should exercise wisdom as we choose our goals.  We may feel good as we write a long list of “resolutions”, but we may become discouraged and give up on all of them.  I prayerfully select a few goals in two or three areas of my life – physical, spiritual, social, etc. – and make sure they are measurable, attainable but challenging, and something I can control.  We are more apt to work towards our goals if we have written them down.  A good place to write our goals is in our journals where we can describe our goals in detail.

                I set goals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis as well as at the beginning of year.  My big goals are of course for longer periods of time; my shorter goals are more like daily chores.  I am a firm believer in goal setting.

                I have always struggled to floss my teeth until a few years ago when I set flossing my teeth daily as a goal.  I have not missed a single day of flossing since that time because I do not want to miss my goal.  Simply having the goal keeps me flossing my teeth daily!  I have enjoyed many successes simply because I set goals and write them down on paper, but I have also met failure.  Last year I set a goal to lose some weight, and I worked diligently all year long to lose it.  I stepped up my exercise, and I was much more careful about the food I ate.  In spite of all my efforts, I lost about half as much weight as I wanted to lose.  At first, I was discouraged with my lack of success, but then I looked at my progress.  I simply set a new goal to lose the other half of the weight in 2014!

                The best time to make changes is now.  When we realize that we need to change something or desire to become better, there is no time like the present to begin that process.  I encourage you to join with millions of other people all over the world in making resolutions for change in the coming year.  Be sure to be reasonable in your goals and determine to keep working towards them.  You will feel better about yourself and eventually will become the person you desire to be. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Planning Ahead

                We can be more effective leaders and teachers when we plan ahead.  When we look ahead and make decisions early, we have time to think about what our family really needs and what we can realistically do.  We can make Christmas 2014 more effective if we take the time to make a few notes now about any changes we wish to make and then set a schedule to accomplish what we really want to do.

                Most of my children as well as most of my grandchildren live far from me.  This means that I must consider not only what presents I want to give to them but how to get the gifts delivered.  I tried for several years to individualize the gifts but realized that I want the same blessings for all my children and grandchildren.  I love them all and do not play favorites.  I decide what I want to give each of my sons, each of my daughters, and each grandchild, not particularly what they want but what I want them to have.  I purchase or create a few gifts, but I send the bulk of my Christmas gifts in the form of money for the parents to purchase whatever they need or want for their home and family.  Sometimes the money is used to purchase Christmas gifts for their family.  Sometimes it is used to purchase season ski lift tickets.  Sometimes it is used to purchase an item for the home or put in savings towards a future purchase.

                Since my actual gifts are usually few and small, I spend a great deal of time thinking about I want to give.  There are some definite “lessons” that I want to share with my children and grandchildren, and these lessons concern the gospel of Jesus Christ, family, and patriotism.  My gifts almost always fall within one or more of those categories.  I already have some ideas for next year; I am currently in the planning process and will soon start the actual creation.

                Many years ago I told my children that there were not many “things” I needed and I could purchase whatever I wanted.  I told them that I wanted pictures of their families, and I usually receive several family pictures as well as individual pictures.  I suggested that they do service for someone else and share their experience with me; these “gifts” have brought much happiness to me.

                I try really hard to keep my focus on the Savior in my plans and in my celebration of Christmas, and I have some suggestions for parents with children still in the homes or gifts from grandparents.  One of the most obvious ways to focus more on the Savior is to have Christ-centered decorations.  I believe that every home needs at least one Nativity scene.  No home actually needs as many Nativity sets as I own but having something Christ-centered here and there among the decorations is very pleasing to me.

                A friend of mine recently shared how her focus is usually on finding the perfect gifts, preparing the most wonderful feast, and having the most beautiful decorations.  She said that after working so hard to have everything perfect, she usually came away from her Christmas celebration less than satisfied.  This year her family decided to focus on the Savior instead of the gifts, food, and decorations.  They decided to have a small family devotional each evening in which they would share a scripture and/or a Christmas story and sing a Christmas hymn about the Savior.  Even though there were nights when the family could not do the devotional, she said that her December was much different than usual and she was better prepared to have a more meaningful Christmas.

                Other parents decided to use their family home evening each week to focus on the Savior.  The various lessons during December could focus on a single aspect of the Christmas story.  One week the focus could be on the symbols of Christmas and how they relate to Jesus Christ and His birth.  Another lesson could focus on the shepherds, and the family could dress as shepherds, eat the simple food of shepherds, and the discussion could be about how the shepherds must have felt as they saw and heard the angel telling of the birth of Christ and then traveled to the stable where they actually saw the Son of God.  Still another lesson could be about the wise men, and the family could dress as the wise men and discuss their gifts to the Christ Child and how they must have felt when they saw the star and followed it to the house where the young child lived with Mary and Joseph.  Yet another lesson could be about the gifts that the family could give to the Savior, such as making cookies for the neighbors, serving in the community, etc.   Many families enjoy acting out the full Nativity story on Christmas Eve.

                I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what you liked and what you did not like about your December and your Christmas celebration.  Think about what you want to continue doing and what you would like to change.  Dream big – but be realistic.  I know that Christmas can be more fulfilling if we plan ahead and start early in our preparations.  I know that sharing more meaningful Christmas celebrations can strengthen families, communities, and nations. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Power of God

                We can bring the greatest of all liberties into our individual lives by living true and correct principles.  This liberty comes to us as we learn to live as though Jesus Christ were walking beside us.  We gain this freedom as we invite the Holy Ghost into our lives.

                  The liberty principle for today is the twelfth in a series of true principles suggested by Elder Richard G. Scott in his book
21 Principles – Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit.  I will merely introduce the principle and suggest that you obtain Elder Scott’s book in order to truly understand this principle.  Elder Scott explained that principles “are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances.  A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and challenging circumstances.”  You can see principle #1 “True Principles of Freedom” here, principle #2 “Trust the Holy Ghost” here, principle #3 “Try New Things” here, principle #4 “Accept Promptings” here, principle #5 “Decisions Determine Destiny” here, principle #6 “Accept God’s Will” here, principle #7 “Power Limited” here, principle #8 “Discerning Answers” here, principle #9 “Mentors Help” here,  Principle #10 “Internalize Principles” here,  and Principle #11 "The Why of Adversity" here. 

                   Principle #12 is the simple fact that God has given limitless access to His priesthood power to worthy men on earth.  Elder Scott wrote, “I wonder how many men seriously ponder the inestimable value of holding the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods.  When we consider how few men who have lived on earth have received the priesthood and how Jesus Christ has empowered those individuals to act in His name, we should feel deeply humble and profoundly grateful for the priesthood we hold.
                “The priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God.  That authority is essential to the fulfillment of His work on earth.  The priesthood we hold is a delegated portion of the eternal authority of God.  As we are true and faithful, our ordination to the priesthood will be eternal.
                “However, the conferring of authority alone does not of itself bestow the power of the office.  The extent to which we can exercise the power of the priesthood depends upon personal worthiness, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and obedience to His commandments.  When supported by a secure foundation of gospel knowledge, our capacity to worthily use the priesthood is greatly enhanced.
                “The perfect role model for use of the holy priesthood is our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He ministered with love, compassion, and charity.  His life was a matchless example of humility and power.  The greatest blessings form the use of the priesthood flow from humble service to others without thought of self.  By following His example as a faithful, obedient priesthood bear, we can access great power.  When required, we can exercise the power of healing, of blessing, of consoling, and of counseling, as the quiet promptings of the Spirit are faithfully followed”               
(pp. 59-60).

                Bearers of the priesthood act as agents for God to those in need of blessings.  The priesthood is given as a means of service to others as no priesthood bearer can give blessings to himself.  In order for anyone to receive a priesthood blessing, we must ask someone else to bestow the blessing upon us in the name of the Savior.

                It is the sacred responsibility of the priesthood bearer to become and to remain worthy to act in the name of God.  When men use the priesthood appropriately, they open a channel up to heaven through which God can pour out blessings upon His children according to His will. 

                The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following proclamation on April 6, 1980:  “We solemnly affirm that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latte-day Saints is in fact a restoration of the Church established by the Son of God, when in mortality he organized his work upon the earth; that it carries his sacred name, even the name of Jesus Christ; that it is built upon a foundation of Apostles and prophets, he being the chief cornerstone; that its priesthood, in both the Aaronic and Melchizedek orders, was restored under the hands of those who held it anciently:  John the Baptist, in the case of the Aaronic; and Peter, James, and John in the case of the Melchizedek” (“Proclamation,” Ensign, May 1980, 52).  

                The Lord Himself summed up the responsibility of priesthood bearers in the revelation on the priesthood:  “Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:99).

                It is no small thing for a man to bear the power of God; however, when a righteous man worthily seeks to use the priesthood to bless other people, God is pleased and opens the windows of heaven according to His will.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Duck Duck

                Most of us have been enjoying family and loved ones while celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, but there have been other people causing “a tempest in a tea pot” in the name of tolerance.  Duck Dynasty has been in the news because Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family, described behavior that these people hoped to keep unspoken.  The gay community is upset because he made “graphic comments” about homosexuality in an interview with CQ Magazine.  The A&E Network suspended him from the show  indefinitely, and Cracker Barrel pulled Duck Dynasty items from its shelves.  In spite of all the problems, Robertson refused to back down on his controversial remarks.  So what did Robertson say that was so bad?

                Robertson was asked a question during the interview, and he answered in “crass terms” by saying that he does not understand how “two men could enjoy making love to one another.”  He was asked what constituted sin, and he expressed his personal views of sin, “Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong…  Sin becomes fine.  Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there….  Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”  Because Robertson gave his opinion of what constitutes sin – when he was asked for it -  GLAAD accused Robertson of lying and not living Christian values. 

                The “deeply religious” Robertson commented on the uproar, “I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior….
                “My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together.
                “However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me.  We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity.  We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”  

                In spite of all the problems, the Robertson family has stood with their patriarch and has basically said we are a family that stands together.  A&E Network is feeling the wrath of viewers of Duck Dynasty who are threatening to boycott the network if Robertson’s suspension is not revoked.  The network is caught between a rock and hard place with the gay community on one side and the possible loss of their very popular show.  Cracker Barrel decided to put the Duck Dynasty items back on its shelves because of customer complaints.  Robertson has not backed down from his comments.  Under Armour, one of the main sponsors of the Duck Dynasty franchise, is backing the Robertson family.  Glenn Beck offered a spot on his network to Robertson and his family.

                Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) believes that tolerance should be a “two-way street.”  He said that “the reason that so many Americans love Duck Dynasty is because it represents the America usually ignored or mocked by liberal elites:  a family that loves and cares for each other, believes in God, and speaks openly about their faith” 

                Cruz wrote on his Facebook page, “If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson. … Phil expressed his personal views and his own religious faith; for that, he was suspended from his job.  In a free society, anyone is free to disagree with him – but the mainstream media should not behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they disagree.”  
It appears that Phil Robertson will be appearing when Duck Dynasty begins airing new episodes of the show on January 15.  

                I do not watch Duck Dynasty and have no ties to Robertson, but I believe  his first amendment rights are being abused.  Christians and Jews and all people who believe in the teachings of God in the Bible must stand with Phil Robertson.  We must “stand together or hang separately” as Benjamin Franklin once said.   When one person’s freedoms are threatened, everyone’s liberty is at stake.

                I believe Robertson was attacked because he dared to remind all of us that there is such a thing as sin and that the Bible contains the word of God.  It appears to me that the gay community wants the freedom to commit sin but does not want their actions to be called sin.  They want the freedom to say and do whatever they desire but do not want other people to have the right to share their opinions.  In other words, the people who demand tolerance for their life styles refuse to have tolerance for people with different opinions.  Tolerance must be a two-way street if America is to remain free for all citizens.  We should all listen carefully to the words of Robertson, “We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”  May God watch over and bless America!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Son of God

                Christmas is the day and season to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; however, we do not celebrate Christmas because a baby was born.  We celebrate the birth of Christ because of what He did during His life; we celebrate Christmas because He gave His life and then overcame death.  We celebrate Christmas because of what Easter represents.

                Many prophets have testified that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  Jesus also testified to this fact when He appeared to ancient Americans.  “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 11:10).

                Have you ever considered what our world would be like if Heavenly Father had not sent His Son to earth?  It is hard to imagine a world without the example, principles, and teachings of Jesus Christ.  Without Jesus Christ, we would be living in a very wicked world with no hope for a better one.  God the Father gave His Son to the world that we might have an opportunity to gain eternal life, and Jesus Christ gave His life to provide that opportunity to all who believe in Him.

                John, the Beloved Apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

                I know a little bit about sending a beloved son out into the world to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In fact, both of my sons went on such missions, and each of them spent two years of their lives sharing the teachings of the Lord.  I know some of the concerns of such a parent.  I can only imagine what it was like for our Father in Heaven to send His Son, knowing full well the suffering He would do.

                I had a little taste of what the Father must have felt as He watched His Son suffered, bleed, and die.  When my sixteen-year-old daughter broke her tibia playing soccer, the break was such that surgery needed to be performed for her leg to heal correctly.  The doctor made a hole in the broken bone just under my daughter’s knee, sucked out all the bone marrow, and inserted a titanium rod that went from the ankle to the knee.  The pain was excruciating.

                When she recovered from the surgery, she was taken to a hospital room before the doctor’s orders arrived at the nurses’ station.  My daughter was in great pain, and I would call for the nurse to give her something for the pain.  The nurse came immediately but could only give her enough medication to last a few minutes while she awaited the doctor’s orders.  As I watched my daughter suffer, I hurt just knowing how she was suffering.  I would have done anything to save her from the pain, but all I could do was call for the nurse to give more pain medication and pray for God’s blessings upon her.  As I watched my daughter suffer such great pain, the Holy Ghost whispered to my soul, “This is how Heavenly Father felt as He watched His Son suffer.”  There is nothing worse for a parent than to watch one’s child suffering.  How grateful I am that Heavenly Father loved us so much that He allowed Jesus Christ to suffer for our benefit.  Heavenly Father’s gift came at great sacrifice for both Himself and His Son.  Heavenly Father gave His Son, and Jesus Christ gave His life for us.

                “Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who condescended to come into this world of misery, struggle, and pain to touch men’s hearts for good, to teach the way of eternal life, and to give Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind.  How different, how empty our lives would be without Him.  How infinite is our opportunity for exaltation made possible through His redeeming love” (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand A Little Taller, p. 376).

                The testimony of Luke states that the anguish of the Savior was so great that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). 

                The suffering of Jesus Christ in Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary included both physical and spiritual pain.  King Benjamin said “he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 3:7).

                The Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation in March 1830, and in this revelation Jesus Christ described His suffering.  “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all….
                “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit – and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink –
                “Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19).        
                I love the Father, and I love the Son.  I am so very grateful for the sacrifices of both of them.  I am grateful for this Christmas season when I can join with millions of others in singing praises for the birth, life, death, and resurrection of the Son.  The Savior has done more for me and for all mankind that any of us could do for ourselves.  He has brought meaning to our life here on earth and has given us the gift of eternal life.  His influence in my life has stirred me to be a better person, to be more kind, and to show more love, concern, and respect to other people.

                I love the Christmas carols proclaiming joy for the birth of the Savior.  They bring such peace to me in this uncertain world and hope for a much better world.  I loved to sing many hymns praising the Father and the Son, but I especially appreciate a hymn entitled “I Stand All Amazed” (Hymns, 193; text and music by Charles H. Gabriel).  It describes my feelings about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

                I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me, Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
                I tremble to know that for me he was crucified, That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.

                I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine.
                That he should extend his great love unto such as I, Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

                I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!  Such mercy, such love, and devotion can I forget?
                No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat, Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

                Chorus:  Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me Enough to die for me!

                Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!