Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Matt Labrum

                I chose Matt Labrum as my very important person this week because he dared to plant his flag and make his stand.  Labrum is a football coach at Union High School located in Roosevelt, Duchesne County, Utah; he believes it is more important to build character in the young men on his team than winning games.  When Coach Labrum and his staff learned that some of their players were behaving badly off the football field, they decided to do something about the bad behavior, which ranged from skipping classes to disrespecting adults to cyber bullying.  If the coaches had known exactly which boys were doing what, they might have taken different actions.  The coach and his staff made their plans and took the matter to the school administrators, who could have ended the plans at that point.

                Principle Rick Nielsen, whose son played on the team, had “100 percent confidence in our (coaching) staff.  They are just excellent men.  Sometimes we do think we’re bigger than the game.”  

                Coach Labrum, his staff, and the principle made the decision to put the young men before the game of football.  The coach is a former player on the Union High School football team and has coached at the school for the last two seasons.  “We felt like everything was going in a direction that we didn’t want our young men going.  We felt like we needed to make a stand.”

                The coaches just wanted to do the right thing for their players and thought they would have the support of most of their community of 6,100 people.  They have been shocked and overwhelmed by the media attention and national interest in their decision to put the boys before football.  Even though they did not seek media exposure, they are using it too as a teaching tool.  Coach Labrum said, “It’s wonderful to see so many people being so supportive of us.  We’re isolated out here.  This is all new.  We didn’t want the media exposure to make us lose sight of why we were doing this.”

                The teaching started at the end of a Friday night football game when the players learned that they were suspended from the team and required to earn the privilege to play.  The next morning at 7:00, the coaches gave each boy a two-page letter outlining the requirements to earn back their jerseys and the right to play in the homecoming game that week.  Page 1 of the letter is here.     Page 2 is here.  

                Instead of practicing football plays to prepare for their homecoming game, the young men spent their time becoming better people and completing their assignments by Wednesday.  They were required to do at least one service project for their family, write a report on what they did, and document the project with pictures; their report needed the signatures of their parents.  The young men were required to attend a special class on building character.  They were required to visit elderly and disabled people in two Roosevelt nursing homes.  They were all required to attend a study hall on Wednesday.  Any young man struggling with grades were required to show significant improvement. 

                All the boys were required to memorize the following statement and recite it to a coach at some point during the study hall.  “Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent.  Most talents are, to some extent, a gift.  Good character, by contrast, is not given to us.  We have to build it, piece by piece – by thought, by choice, courage, and determination.”

                After the study hall, the young men learned whether or not they had earned the right to play football for their high school that week.  All but nine of the players were given their black and gold jerseys.  This does not mean that the nine players are finished with football.   The nine players can still earn their jerseys by meeting their last few requirements.  New captains for the football team were also elected.

                The school and the coach were inundated with media attention and emails from across our nation.  This caused difficulty in staying focused on their goals, but Coach Labrum used the national coverage to teach yet another point to his players.  “We told them, `This isn’t just Utah.  We have an opportunity to be an inspiration to an entire nation by doing the right things, by following through – and not just this week.  We need to continue to do the right things.’”

                The Union High School football team lost their homecoming game, but they brought tears to their coach’s eyes by reciting the above statement as a team before leaving the football field.  It appears that the young men learned their character lessons well.

                I am very pleased when I hear of people who are willing to plant their flags and stand on good principles, particularly when they do so in order to teach correct principles to the rising generation.  I am especially proud of the fact that Roosevelt is my home town and Union High School is my school.  Goooo Cougars!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Admitting New States

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1:  “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be forced by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”  This provision in the U.S. Constitution granted Americans living in territories the right to become a State after meeting the necessary requirements; it also gave new states the same standing as all other states.

                Many of the Founders and Framers of the Constitution believed that the United States of America would eventually stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean; some of them apparently thought it would cover the entire North American continent.  New territories and states were added from time to time.  These territories included the purchase of the Louisiana Purchase from France during the administration of Thomas Jefferson in 1803, which stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains.  It also included the purchase of Florida from Spain during the administration of James Monroe in 1819. 

                Texas joined the Union in 1845 with an interesting condition:  Texas can be divided into five different states whenever it desires.  This condition is still in place even though Texans have not chosen to do it.  If Texas decided to divide into five states, the area would still have the same number of Representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives but would have ten Senators instead of the present two.

                The United States purchased all of the territory between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean after the war with Mexico (1846-48).  Under the direction of President Andrew Johnson, the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867.  The Hawaiian Islands became a U.S. territory in 1893 when Americans living there revolted.  The United States acquired Puerto Rico, Guam, and other Spanish territories in 1898 after the Spanish-American War in 1898.  The U.S. acquired the Virgin Islands in 1917 during World War I.

                “As new states have been admitted by Congress, the rule of `equal footing’ has been honored – until the western states began to seek admission.  The Congress began imposing restrictions on these states which had never been imposed on earlier states.  The most significant restriction was the retention of huge sections of these states (e.g., 87 percent of Nevada) as federal territory.  About 96 percent of Alaska was retained.  Restrictions imposed on the territory of Utah kept that region from becoming a state for forty years.”  (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, pp. 635-636.)

                The clause stipulating that a state could not be formed within an existing state gave each state the right over its own territory.  According to Skousen, James Madison commented:  “The particular precaution against the erection of new States, by the partition of a State without its consent, quiets the jealousy of the larger States; as that of the smaller is quieted by a like precaution against a junction of States without their consent.”

                This is an interesting subject at the present time because counties in two current states – California and Colorado – are petitioning to secede from their respective states.   Conservative residents of the northern counties in each state desire to secede from the more liberal southern counties.  I have also read information stating that Puerto Rico wants to become a state.

                Four states were created from existing states.  Kentucky split off from Virginia in 1790 and West Virginia split off from Virginia during the Civil War.  Most of Tennessee was once part of North Carolina.  Vermont was once claimed by both New Hampshire and New York and became the 14th U.S. state in 1791.  Arizona was part of the New Mexico Territory, and Washington was once part of the Oregon Territory.

                David F. Forte of The Heritage Foundation commented on the New States Clause:  “… Thus the Congress, utilizing the discretion allowed by the Framers, adopted a policy of equal status for newly admitted states….  Utilizing its discretion, Congress admitted new states from newly acquired territory and opted to give equal status to each.

                “The Supreme Court, however, chose to impose the very constitutional requirement that the Framers had rejected.  With the growth of states’ rights advocacy during the antebellum period, the Court asserted that the Constitution mandated admission of new states on the basis of equality….  The doctrine remains constant to this day and has engendered problems in construing the legal effect of conditions that Congress has placed on the admission of a number of states.

                “According to traditional historic practice, Congress passes an enabling act prescribing the process by which the people of a United States territory may draft and adopt a state constitution.  Texas is the exception:  it was an independent republic, and, under the Resolution of Annexation, has the option of creating up to four additional states out of its territory.  Many enabling acts contain restriction, such as the prohibition of bigamy in the Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma acts.  The applicant state then submits its proposed constitution to Congress, which either accepts it or requires changes.  For example, in 1866, Congress refused the proposed Nebraska constitution because it limited suffrage to white males.  Upon approval of the new state constitution, Congress may direct the President to issue a proclamation certifying the entry of the new state into the United States.  A number of states, however, drafted constitutions for submission to Congress absent enabling acts and were subsequently admitted.

                “Although the enabling act becomes a `fundamental law’ of the state, its provisions must give way to the `equal footing’ rights once the new state becomes a member of the Union….

                “Finally, despite the ambiguous second semi-colon in the clause, new states may be formed out of an existing state provided all parties consent:  the new state, the existing state, and the Congress.  In that way, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maine, West Virginia, and arguably Vermont came into the Union.”  (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 277-278.)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Personal Life Writing

                I am always alert to learn new ways to improve my journal and life story.  I was immediately intrigued with an articleby Colleen Harrison about “the sacred act of recording your life.”  The author took this topic from a scripture written by Nephi, the son of Lehi:  “And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 1 Nephi 1:3).

                According to Harrison, there are numerous “genres” (forms) of “Personal Life Writing,” which include the following:  writing personal letters, keeping a “log” in a day timer or on a calendar page, diary entries or “expanded log entries” (more details of events), journal entries (“reflecting, interpreting, and even prayerful pondering”), personal essays (“reflections on virtually any subject or theme), autobiographical essays (“life story in increments), and memoirs (taking a “slice of your life and reflecting on it from your current point of view).

                The most important thing we can include in any of the forms of personal life writing is honesty about the things that happen in our lives – whether those things were in our past, our present or our future.   To be of any value to ourselves or anyone else, the things that we write must be true according to our best knowledge and memory.  Harrison suggested that her readers ask questions such as “What do I need to get honest about in my past?”  Then we should write about that experience with some form of life writing.  We could write a letter – whether or not we mail it – to a person in our past or we could write about the experience in our journal.

                Harrison suggested the following prompts:  “What things in my past still cause me upset?  Specifically, what things, events, happenings, etc. caused me fear?  How about what made me mad?  Or sad?  What about things that I feel responsible for (i.e. – guilty, ashamed)?
                “Or you can focus the same questions on your present.  What in your present makes you afraid, worried, upset, mad, sad, guilty, ashamed?
                “You can even do the same thing about the future!  What do you picture in your future that makes you feel any of those feelings?  Shall I rehearse those feelings again?  It’s really easy to forget them.  We want so much to forget them, to pretend that they don’t happen to us, to pretend that we’re living in such a way that they don’t bother us or matter to us.  But the truth is they do.  It is because of those feelings that we are as troubled as we are, even though we are doing all … of the right things according to our personal value system.

                “Pretending there’s nothing saddening, maddening, frightening, guilt-tripping enough in this life to honestly admit to myself and to God is what keeps me unsettled, upset….
                “Writing … centers me.  It focuses me.  It gives me clarity to identify the `voice’ of peace and hope and willingness and sanity amongst all the other voices (trains of thought) running through my mind.  … I believe this voice of peace, hope and sanity is the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ” as the prophet Alma testified:  `And now I say, is there not a type in this thing?  For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.’
                “This makes personal life writing – especially journaling – a very spiritual experience for me….  Journaling helps me slow down and possess my soul (my thoughts, feelings, life experiences and perceptions) with patience.”

                Like Harrison, I have learned that the simple act of stopping all my busyness and writing something – anything – down on paper helps me to think more clearly about the situation.  I often write the things that I would like to say to people, particularly those who upset me, and I try to write in clear and concise sentences and paragraphs.  By trying to explain by written words, I am able to think through more clearly how I feel, why I feel that way, and even how long I have had those feelings.  I have found on numerous occasions that the simple act of writing my feelings dissipates the problem and frees me to go on with my life.

                This practice is good with either positive or negative situations in our lives.  Sometimes I am overflowing with gratitude for a particular blessing in my life and want to share the blessing with my posterity who may read my journal.  When I write the experience, I try to explain it as though I was sharing the event with my grandchild or great-grandchild, and I ask myself questions.  What do I want my posterity to take from this story or situation?  How can this experience strengthen my posterity?  What lesson did I learn that I can pass along to the rising generations?  When I have a negative experience, I try to write about it in a positive, uplifting manner; I share how I overcame a difficult situation in order that my posterity may understand that they too can do hard things.

                President Spencer W. Kimball counseled the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to keep journals.  “Get a notebook, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.  Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies.  Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events” (“The Angels May Quotefrom It,” New Era, February 2003, pp. 32-35).

                I am very grateful to Harrison for sharing the various genres of personal life writing.  I am grateful to know the difference between the types of writing and that each form has value.  Like President Spencer W. Kimball, I encourage you to get a notebook and start writing about your life.  You are a very important person who has value, and your experiences can help someone else only if you share them. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Family Narrative

                We can strengthen our family, community, and nation by developing a strong family narrative.  A family narrative is the story of the family or a family mission statement.  A family narrative helps a child understand that he or she is part of something bigger than himself or herself.

                The New York Times published an interesting article by Bruce Feiler about this topic.  “… What is the secret sauce that holds a family together?  What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?” 

                Feiler explained that there has been much research in recent years into making teams work together better but most of the knowledge generated by the military and businesses remains in the military circles or the business circles.  Feiler spent several years “trying to uncover” the information in order to help his own family as well as other families.  As he interviewed numerous people in different circles, he discovered a surprising theme:  “develop a strong family narrative.”

                Feiler first heard this idea from Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University, who was asked in the mid-1990s to “help explore myth and ritual in American families.”  The professor and his associates were “more interested in what families could do to counteract” the breakdown in families.  About the same time, Duke’s wife Sara, a psychologist “who works with children with learning disabilities.”  She noticed that her students “who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.”

                Doctor Marshall Duke and his colleague, Robyn Fivush, decided to test Sara’s hypothesis and “developed a measure called the `Do You Know?’ scale that asked children to answer 20 questions” such as “Do you know where your grandparents grew up?  Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?  Do you know where your parents met?  Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family?  Do you know the story of your birth?”

                Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush questioned four dozen families during the summer of 2001 and even “taped some of their dinner table conversations.”  The doctors compared the results of the interviews with the results of several psychological tests taken by the children and “reached an overwhelming conclusion.  The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.  The `Do You Know?’ scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”  The doctors were stunned with the results.

                About two months later terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.  Even though they were “horrified” like the rest of us, they recognized that the terrible event gave them “a rare opportunity” to do more research.    They returned to the families who were previously interviewed.  None of the families were “directly affected by the events,” but “all the children had experienced the same national trauma at the same time.”  The researchers reassessed the children and discovered that the children “who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

                The research proved that knowing simple facts about their family - such as where their grandmother went to school or how their parents met or their own birth story – helps “a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as major as a terrorist attack.”  The reason why this knowledge helps children is that it helps them to understand that they are “part of a larger family.”

                Feiler learned that other people “found similar results.  Many groups use what sociologists call sense-making, the building of a narrative that explains what the group is about.”  This is usually accomplished by building traditions that unify the group.  Families can do the same type of things, whether it is about celebrating a holiday or where the family goes on vacation.

                “Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively… `talking through problems’ [as well as] … telling a positive story about yourselves.  When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship.  This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.

                “The bottom line:  if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones.  That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”

                My children and their spouses spend much time, effort, and/or money making happy memories for their children.  Instead of throwing lavish birthday parties for their children, they seek special experiences that the children will remember and know how much they are loved.  The event may be a children’s play or it could be a camping trip – any reasonable activity that is wholesome.  The activity can be a solo date with the parents or a family activity; it just needs to be something extra special.

                My children also go out of their way to take their children to family events, such as family reunions, missionary farewells or homecomings, and celebrations of any type.  Their children understand that many people love them and are interested in their wellbeing.

                I know that we can strengthen the rising generation by helping them to understand that they are part of something bigger than themselves.  I know that by strengthening our children we can strengthen our family, community and nation.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Trust the Holy Ghost

                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 live as though Jesus Christ were walking beside us. 

                The liberty principle for today is the second 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.”  See principle #1 here.
                Principle #2:  The Holy Ghost will never prompt us to do something that we cannot do.  This means that we can feel safe in following the prompting.  It also means that we should “listen and obey” the first prompting that comes to us.  This does not mean that the task will be easy for us.  “It may require extra-ordinary effort and much time, patience, prayer, and obedience, but we can do it.”

                We must exercise faith in God in order to tap into the “limitless power” of God.  “True faith has enormous power, but there are principles that must be followed to unleash that power.  One of the principles is that we must “practice the truth or principle” that you believe.  “Recognize that the Lord will give you the capacity to understand and prove through personal experience the truthfulness of His teachings.  He will confirm the certainty that His laws will produce the promised results when obeyed willingly and consistently.”

                We must have enough faith in the smallest prompting from the Holy Ghost to obey it in order to receive further promptings.  I keep my personal journal on the computer.  One day the Holy Ghost suggested that it was time for me to print my journal.  I began printing the pages almost immediately, saving them in sheet protectors in a three-ring binder until I found a more permanent way to bind them together.  I asked several people how they bound their journal pages together and heard several different ways to do it; however, I did not really like any of those ways.  I continued to search for a simple way to bind my pages – all while continuing to print pages.  I am not yet to the point where I can actually do the binding, but I believe I have a way to do what I want to do.  I also believe that this idea came to me from the Holy Ghost and only because I was being obedient to the first prompting.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Who Will Win?

                Conservatives have drawn their line in the sand about ObamaCare.  The Heritage Foundation has consistently shown that ObamaCare will be destructive for America and Americans.  Heritage for Action has been active in lobbying our representatives in Congress to defund ObamaCare.  Freedom Works  rallied the conservative grass roots to contact their Representatives in the House, and the U.S. House of Representatives voted last week – once again – to defund Obamacare while at the same funding the federal government in totality.  Several Senators have led the effort to defund ObamaCare and are currently in the process of trying to convince enough Senators to do so.

                Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) “rose to speak” on Tuesday in an effort to slow down  and delay for as long as possible the consideration of the continuing resolution passed last week by the U.S. House.  “I intend to speak about defunding ObamaCare until I am no longer able to stand.”  He added, “If Republicans vote with Democrats, then this body will cut off debate on this bill.  And we are silencing the voice of the Senate and the voice of the people.”  Senator Cruz said that he spoke “in opposition to ObamaCare in an effort to speak for 26 million Texans and 300 million Americans.  It is time, quite frankly, to make D.C. listen.  The problem is the elected leaders are not listening to their constituents.”  He is attempting to stop the Democrats from gutting the bill passed by the House.

                The Blaze listed their top five statements from Senator Cruz:  5) He compared Congress to the WWF:  “It’s wrestling matches where it’s all rigged, the outcome is pre-determined.  They know in advance who’s going to win and lose and it’s all for show!”  2) He read a sampling of #DefundObamacareBecause tweets and brought the voices of Americans to the Senate.  3) Senator Cruz had help from Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), David Vitter (R-La.), Pat Roberts (R-Kans.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).   2) He read Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess to his daughters over C-SPAN2 and thus into the Senate Record.  1) “I will speak until I am no longer able to stand.  The American people want to stop his madness, and so do I.  Americans understand this isn’t working and yet Washington is pretending not to know.” 

                If Congress does not pass a funding bill of some kind, the federal government will shut down on October 1.  Republicans do not want to shut government down; they simply want to stop ObamaCare before it destroys America; Democrats are willing to do whatever is necessary to save the monster health care bill.

                The government has been shut down numerous times in my lifetime and seventeen times in our history.  Americans barely noticed that the government was not working!  There were no hungry people rioting in the streets for lack of food or losing their homes.  Yet liberals and their lap dog media are trying to scare Americans about the government shutting down.  CNN listed their top ten ways the government shutdown might affect you.  10) The national parks, national zoos, national museums, etc. will close for the duration.  9) Government employees – other than “critical services such as air traffic” – will be furloughed – and receive full pay when a bill is finally passed.  8) The military will continue to protect Americans but will not receive any pay during the shutdown.  7) Taxes will continue to be collected and essential banking functions will continue.   6) The Post Office will continue to deliver mail.  5) The implementation process of ObamaCare will continue.  4) Gun permits will not be given.  3)  Government loans will not be available for businesses or mortgages, but Social Security and welfare checks will probably go out.  2) There will be no trash collection in Washington, D.C.  1) The “collective psyche” of Americans will take a hit – just as we have numerous times over the past five years because there is no federal budget.

                Quite frankly, none of those reasons concern me.  The government never shuts down for more than a couple of days or a couple of weeks.  I can get along.  We might be inconvenienced by having to wait for the government to reopen, but there will not be any life or death situations.  I am prepared to survive through a government shutdown – especially if it ends in defunding ObamaCare. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


                There are many different changes in life, some that we choose and some that we do not choose.  Some changes bring excitement and growth, some bring only pain, and some bring an assortment of experiences and feelings.

                I have known for several months that there would be a ward boundary change in our stake, and I felt certain that it would affect my family in a big way.  There was never any doubt in my mind that my little neighborhood would be moved to a different ward.  I had a little pity party, thinking that my area was the only one being affected.  Little did I know that almost every ward in the stake would be affected in some way. 

                Two sections of Rabbit Creek Ward were moved to different wards:  my neighborhood was moved into Huffman Ward while the other section was moved into Brayton Ward.  Most of the old Brayton Ward became the new Oceanview Ward.  Huffman Ward and O’Malley Wards lost members to the new Brayton Ward.  On the other side of the highway, Klatt Ward lost members to the new ward called Oceanview Ward.  Sand Lake Ward lost people to Jewel Lake Ward, which was the smallest ward in the stake.  The only ward in the stake that was not changed in some way is the Cook Inlet Ward for young single adults, which covers the entire stake.

                I am now in a different ward from many of my friends, but I am mourning for one friend in particular.  I have known Dyanne for thirty-eight years since she was in the stake Primary presidency and visited my ward when I was in the ward Primary presidency.   A couple of years later I was called to be the secretary to the stake Primary president, and Dyanne was a counselor.  A couple of years later she was made president and I remained as her secretary.  I stayed on as secretary when she was released.  Meanwhile, my husband and I built a home in her ward so we started going to church together every week.   Some years later Dyanne was called to be our ward Relief Society president, and I was called to be her counselor.  We have been through many ward and personal experiences together.  Our latest association has been in the visiting teaching program.  I was assigned to be her visiting teacher, and we had many long and wonderful visits.  I value her knowledge and strength and will miss that close association.  Now we will be in different wards once again but will remain friends forever.

                Boundary changes are nothing new to me.  When I arrived in Anchorage more than forty years ago, there were only five wards in all of Anchorage.  I lived in Third Ward, and my friend Dyanne lived in Fifth Ward.  Two or three years later, the Sixth Ward was created by dividing Third Ward.  My little neighborhood was left in Third Ward until the Seventh and Eighth Wards were created, at which time we were put in the Sixth Ward. 

                Then I moved into the Fifth Ward.  The first division of Fifth Ward was when it was divided to make Tenth Ward.  About seven or eight years later Fifth Ward was divided once again to create Thirteenth Ward.  About twenty years later the names of the wards were changed from numbers to names, and my ward – now Rabbit Creek Ward – was divided to make the Huffman Ward.  Again, my little neighborhood was left in the parent ward but was very close to the new ward.  Now my neighborhood has been moved from Rabbit Creek Ward to Huffman Ward.

                As I contemplated the upcoming boundary changes, I thought back about all the other changes that have been made and realized that boundary changes do not always affect me the same way.  When I am left in the parent ward, I am just fine and accept the change without any problem.  Both times that my neighborhood has been moved to another ward have been difficult for me.  In both cases I have known people in the ward to which I was transferring so it was not like I would be going to church with a group of strangers.  I decided that I just do not like change!

                There were some personal things concerning me about this change; they bothered me so much one night that I could not sleep.  I finally got out of bed and knelt in prayer.  I poured out my heart to the Lord.  I told Him of my concerns and my fears.  I shed a few tears and was comforted by the Spirit.  Even though the change was still difficult for me, I know beyond any doubt that my Heavenly Father heard my prayer and answered it.  I know that this change is a good thing for all of us. 

                After my prayer I understood to a much deeper degree that the kingdom of God cannot grow bigger and stronger without change.  For some reason I compared the birth of a new ward to the birth of a baby.  The mother’s entire body is affected by the pregnancy and the birth of the baby just as our entire stake was affected by the birth of this new ward.  There is much pain and sometimes tears when a baby is born, but the newborn baby is a beautiful creation of our Father in Heaven – just as a new ward is created under His direction.

                I was bothered by the fact that our visiting teaching routes were changed before the boundary changes were made.  I almost felt like I was being kicked out of the ward.  After I discussed my concerns with Heavenly Father, He reminded me of when the Thirteenth Ward was created, and I was called to be the Relief Society president of the Fifth Ward.  The division of the ward messed up every single visiting teaching route.  Either the route was in the new ward or the teachers were.  Not one route was left intact!  As the president I felt a heavy burden of responsibility for the sisters in the ward because I knew that no visiting teachers were assigned to watch over them.  As soon as I organized the routes and assigned visiting teachers, that burden was lifted from my shoulders.  I came to a new appreciation for a wise Relief Society president who reorganized her visiting teaching routes before the ward was divided!

                Ward boundary changes are not easy on anyone, particularly the teenagers; however, we can all be comforted in knowing that the changes were made by priesthood leaders who love us and care about us.  We can be comforted in knowing that they discussed the situation often with the Lord and sought approval from the Brethren in Salt Lake City.  We can rejoice in the opportunities for different people to be called to positions of responsibility and the growth that will come to them.  We can rejoice in the growth of the kingdom of God even though the growing pains hurt.  I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who hears my pleas and sends words of counsel and comfort to me.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Senator Mike Lee

                I chose Senator Michael Shumway “Mike” Lee as my very important person (VIP) for this week because of his outstanding record of standing for conservative values.  I have liked Senator Mike Lee since he was campaigning for Senator.  I do not know him or any of his family personally, but I do know his father’s reputation.  As soon as I learned that Mike Lee was the son of Rex E. Lee, I wanted to know more about him.  Everything I learned caused me to like him more and more.  I am grateful to have him in the U.S. Senate!

                I learned of Rex E. Lee when he became the tenth president of Brigham Young University (BYU).  I gained a lot of respect for him in this position and only later learned of his law experience.  He was a Constitutional lawyer, a law clerk for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White, and the United States Solicitor General under the Reagan administration.  He argued 59 cases before the U.S Supreme Court.  He was the founding dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU.

                Senator Lee is an Eagle Scout, a former missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Republican, and the junior United States Senator from Utah.  Like his father, he is a constitutional lawyer in Utah and Washington, D.C.  He served as a clerk for then-Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

                By all accounts, Senator Lee is a true conservative and has been embraced by the Tea Party.  “In 2011, Club for Growth gave him a 100% score.  Only four other U.S. Senators received a perfect score:  Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Jim DeMint, and Tom Coburn.  He also received a 100% Conservative voting record for 2011 from the American Conservative Union.  The Heritage Foundation gave him a 99% score, ranking first only with DeMint.  The only wrong vote he made, in the opinion of the Heritage Foundation, was voting for the GSE Bailout Elimination and Taxpayer Protection Act that would privatize Fannie and Freddy.” 

                Senator Lee and Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) were the only two Republicans to vote against extending three key provisions of the USA Patriot Act in February 2011.  He repeated his action in May 2011.

                “On December 01, 2011, Lee was one of only seven U.S. Senators, and one of only three Republicans, to vote against the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.  He vetoed because of concerns over Section 1021, the section of the bill that gives the Armed Forces the power to indefinitely detain any person (including U.S. citizens) `who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners’, and anyone who commits a `belligerent act’ against the U.S. or its coalition allies in aid of such enemy forces, under the law of war, `without trial, until the end of the hostilities authorized by the [AUMF]’.

                With all of his accomplishments, I chose Senator Lee as my VIP because of his principled stance on Obamacare.  Along with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Lee has worked tirelessly to defund Obamacare.  On July 17, 2013, Senator Lee spoke about the need to defund Obamacare:  “It is fundamentally unfair for President Obama to exempt businesses from the onerous burdens of his law, while forcing American families and individuals into Obamacare’s unsound and unstable system.”  The full text of Senator Lee’s remarks along with audio can be found here.  

                Senators Cruz and Lee are leading an effort in Congress to use mandatory spending bills to defund Obamacare.  Lee and some of his colleagues have called on Democrats to pass a bill that would fund the government but also defund the health care law.  If Congress does not pass a bill to extend funding of government, the federal government will have to shut down – temporarily – on October 1, 2013.  The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to fund government without funding Obamacare last week, and Senator Lee later spoke at a news conference about how the Republicans do not want to shutdown government.

                “A shutdown is too much.  We don’t want a shutdown, we don’t need a shutdown.  We should avoid a shutdown, and Obamacare is a law that’s going to harm people.  It certainly is not a good idea to shut down the government in order to force through the implementation of Obamacare at a time when the president has said he’s not going to follow the law and he’s made substantial changes.”  He added, “Shutdowns are bad, shutdowns are not worth it; this law is not worth causing a shutdown over.” 

                The Democrats will probably use Senator Lee’s words to press their cause without using them in correct context.  The bottom line is, the Republicans want to fund the federal government without funding Obamacare, and the Democrats are willing to shut down the federal government if Obamacare is not funded.  The whole thing will probably get uglier before it gets better, but I admire Senator Lee and Senator Cruz for standing on their principles and trying to help Americans.

                Senator Lee continues to affirm that the effort to defund Obamacare will not lead to a government shutdown.  When asked about a potential shut down of the federal government on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Senator Lee said, “No.  We all know that the government is going to be funded.  The question is whether it will be funded with Obamacare or without.”  The supporters of the Defund Obamacare movement have declared that they will not support a budget that funds Obamacare, and the Democrats insist on funding Obamacare.  I expect to see a show down before the government is funded – with or without funding Obamacare.

                I believe that we can know a lot about a person by the words they speak.  Here are just a few quotes from Senator Lee.

                “I want to be one that is willing to do things that are not easy but that need to be done.”

                “We can’t legislate the creation of jobs, but we can legislate things that will allow jobs to be created.”

                “We ought to have more people who believe in constitutionally limited government.  We have to have more people come to Congress with that mindset.  I think we can make this a better place, if, when elections happen, we support candidates who share that philosophy.”

                “I would vote against raising the national debt ceiling.  Again, this is about mortgaging the future of unborn generations of Americans.  It’s a form of taxation with representation.  I don’t think we can do that.”

                “Whether it’s a penalty or a tax, it’s all one and the same.  It’s coming out of somebody’s hard-earned money in their pocketbooks and that’s the point.  So in some ways, to me, it’s a distinction without a difference.”

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fugitive Slaves and Servants

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3:  “[No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.]”  This clause is known as the “Fugitive Slave Clause.”  It had to do with slavery and bond servants and became obsolete after the Thirteenth Amendment was passed.

                “… Since slaves and bond servants under contract were considered a RIGHT of property, this provision was originally intended to protect that right on the insistence of certain states.  However, abolishing involuntary servitude of all kinds made this provision a mere footnote on the pages of history.
                “Note that this is the last of three provisions in the Constitution respecting slavery.  It will be recalled that three-fifths of the slaves were to be counted in determining population, and there was a provision that there should be no prohibition against the importation of slaves until after 1808.  This final provision was to prevent a slave from escaping to a non-slave state and claiming he was `free’ because the state to which he had fled prohibited slavery.”  (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 634.)

                Matthew Spalding of The Heritage Foundation explained:  “Toward the end of the Constitutional Convention, during the debate over the Privileges and Immunities Clause (Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1), Charles Pinckney of South Carolina remarked that `some provision should be included in favor of property in slaves.’  Thereafter, he and his fellow South Carolinian, Pierce Butler, moved `to require fugitive slaves and servants to be delivered up like criminals.’  The motion was withdrawn after James Wilson and Roger Sherman objected, but the next day it was renewed as a formal addition to what would become Article IV.  It passed unanimously and without debate.  This was probably because there was a strong precedent in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (passed six weeks earlier by Congress), which included a fugitive slave provision along with its declaration (presaging the Thirteenth Amendment) that `neither slavery nor involuntary servitude’ would exist in the territory.

                “A model of circumlocution, the resulting clause is the closest of the so-called Slave Clauses (Article I, Section 2, Clause 3; Article I, Section 9, Clause 1; and Article V) to recognizing slavery as a protected institution.  It also became the most controversial of the clauses and was at the center of many constitutional disputes in the 1840s and 1850s.”  (See “Fugitive Slave Clause,” in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. p. 275.)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Explaining Standards

                People are naturally interested in why other people behave the way they do.  Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often asked about the standards or principles of the Church.  We can prepare to answer their questions and explain why we choose to live by the Lord’s standards.

                President Thomas S. Monson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints showed the easiness of explaining our standards when he spoke to young priesthood brethren in April 2010.  “Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary. There are many tools to help you learn the lessons which will be beneficial to you as well as helping you to live the life you will need to have lived to be worthy. One such tool is the booklet entitled For the Strength of Youth, published under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  It features standards from the writings and teachings of Church leaders and from scripture, adherence to which will bring the blessings of our Heavenly Father and the guidance of His Son to each of us.  In addition, there are lesson manuals, carefully prepared after prayerful consideration.  Families have family home evenings, where gospel principles are taught.  Almost all of you have the opportunity to attend seminary classes taught by dedicated teachers who have much to share.

                “Begin to prepare for a temple marriage as well as for a mission.  Proper dating is a part of that preparation.  In cultures where dating is appropriate, do not date until you are 16 years old….
                “Be careful to go to places where there is a good environment, where you won’t be faced with temptation….

                “Servants of the Lord have always counseled us to dress appropriately to show respect for our Heavenly Father and for ourselves.  The way you dress sends messages about yourself to others and often influences the way you and others act.  Dress in such a way as to bring out the best in yourself and those around you.  Avoid extremes in clothing and appearance, including tattoos and piercings.

                “Everyone needs good friends.  Your circle of friends will greatly influence your thinking and behavior, just as you will theirs.  When you share common values with your friends, you can strengthen and encourage each other.  Treat everyone with kindness and dignity….

                “The oft-repeated adage is ever true:  `Honesty [is] the best policy.’  A Latter-day Saint young man lives as he teaches and as he believes.  He is honest with others.  He is honest with himself.  He is honest with God.  He is honest by habit and as a matter of course….

                “How you speak and the words you use tell much about the image you choose to portray.  Use language to build and uplift those around you.  Profane, vulgar, or crude language and inappropriate or off-color jokes are offensive to the Lord.  Never misuse the name of God or Jesus Christ….

                “Our Heavenly Father has counseled us to seek after `anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.’  Whatever you read, listen to, or watch makes an impression on you.

                “Pornography is especially dangerous and addictive.  Curious exploration of pornography can become a controlling habit, leading to coarser material and to sexual transgression.  Avoid pornography at all costs….

                “Hard drugs, wrongful use of prescription drugs, alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco products destroy your physical, mental, and spiritual well being.  Any form of alcohol is harmful to your spirit and your body.  Tobacco can enslave you, weaken your lungs, and shorten your life.

                “Music can help you draw closer to your Heavenly Father.  It can be used to educate, edify, inspire, and unite.  However, music can, by its tempo, beat, intensity, and lyrics, dull your spiritual sensitivity….

                “Because sexual intimacy is so sacred, the Lord requires self-control and purity before marriage as well as full fidelity after marriage.  In dating, treat your date with respect and expect your date to show that same respect for you….

                “If any has stumbled in his journey, there is a way back.  The process is called repentance.  Our Savior died to provide you and me that blessed gift….

                “Don’t put your eternal life at risk.  Keep the commandments of God…
                “Spiritual strength frequently comes through selfless service…” (“Preparation Brings Blessings,” Ensign, May 2010, pp. 64-67).

                The Prophet of God spoke plainly and simply as he counseled the young men.  President Monson explained the importance of living the standards of the Church and keeping the commandments of God.

                The Apostle Paul told the Saints in Rome:  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:  for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).  He demonstrated how to stand for truth and righteousness even in difficult situations and to allow the Lord to work His miracles. 

                We too can open our mouths and share our standards with other people.  All we have to do is to give a plain and simple explanation of what the standard means to us.  We can learn correct principles and standards by studying the pamphlets “For the Strength of Youth” and “True to the Faith” as well as the scriptures.  Parents, leaders, and teachers are all good sources to learn appropriate standards.