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.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Truth Is Truth

                We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by teaching the rising generation that truth is truth.  We must teach our children and youth that eternal truths were established by God and will stand forever - unless God changes them.  We must teach our families that truth does not change to fit situations or desires.  A discussion of a few eternal truths that are being batted around the world now days follows.

                The first eternal truth I want to discuss is the fact that there is a God in heaven.  He is our Heavenly Father, and He loves each of us more than we can even imagine.  He established a plan for our happiness before this earth was even created.  The central part of our Father’s plan is the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ.  The teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ are here on earth to help us prepare to return to the presence of our Father.  Any person who teaches there is no God has succumbed to the influence of Satan and can be considered to be an anti-Christ.  Satan is real and desires all of us to be as miserable as he is; therefore, he teaches the falsehood that there is no God. 

                A second eternal truth is that God created man and woman to be complimentary halves of a whole.  God created men differently than He created women and gave each gender separate traits and responsibilities, but He considers them as equal in worth and value.  God wants His sons and daughters to work together for the good of all mankind.  An important part of this truth is that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God for the specific purpose of creating and rearing families.  God gave each gender certain traits, qualities, and strengths to bring to the marriage and family.

                A third eternal truth is that any sexual relations outside of a traditional and legal marriage constitute sin.  This God-established truth cannot be changed simply because a vocal minority demands a silent majority to approve of their life style.  Even if same-sex marriage is legalized, it is still immoral because God has proclaimed it to be sin.

                All of these eternal truths are being challenged in the same sex marriage struggle.  Religious leaders have been speaking out on this subject for several weeks.  Members of LGBT thought Pope Francis was endorsing their life style when he said, “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?”  That is a very good question and deserves an answer:  Neither the Pope nor any other human being has the right to judge anyone else.  Each of us will one day stand before Jesus Christ to be judged by Him who knows all things.

                After Pope Francis asked “Who am I to judge….” Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, was asked on December 31, 2013, if his position on gays would “shift.”  Graham answered, “God would have to shift, and God doesn’t.  God’s word is the same yesterday and today and a million years from now, that it’s sin.”

                On December 20, 2013, a federal district judge in Salt Lake City issued an order legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah.  His judgment struck down state laws that have stood for more than a century as well as a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage exclusively as between a man and a woman.  Officials for the State of Utah took the case to the Supreme Court who put that ruling on hold pending consideration of the issue by an appellate court. 
                In the days leading up to the ruling by the Supreme Court, hundreds of same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses and were married.  After the Supreme Court ruling, the State of Utah issued a statement that they would not recognize any same-sex marriage until the case goes through the court system.

                This did not stop the Obama Administration from taking action.  On January 10, 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder announced, “I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages.”

                The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued instructions and guidance to congregational leaders throughout the United States and published the following statement:  
                “As we face this and other issues of our time, we encourage all to bear in mind our Heavenly Father’s purposes in creating the earth and providing for our mortal birth and experience here as His children.  `God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth’ (Genesis 1:27-28).  `Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife:  and they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24).  Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well-being of society.  Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and crucial to eternal salvation.
                “Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established.  God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society.  His law of chastity is clear:  sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife.  We urge you to review and teach Church members the doctrine contained in `The Family:  A Proclamation to the World.’
                “Just as those who promote same-sex marriage are entitled to civility, the same is true for those who oppose it.  The Church insists on its leaders’ and members’ constitutionally protected right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family, and morality free from retaliation or retribution.  The Church is also entitled to maintain its standards of moral conduct and good standing for members.
                “Consistent with our fundamental beliefs, Church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same-sex marriages.  Nevertheless, all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there.
                “While these matters will continue to evolve, we affirm that those who avail themselves of laws or court rulings authorizing same-sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully.  The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility – even when we disagree.
                “As members of the Church, we are responsible to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to illuminate the great blessings that flow from heeding God’s commandments as well as the inevitable consequences of ignoring them.  We invite you to pray that people everywhere will have their hearts softened to the truths of the gospel, and that wisdom will be granted to those who are called upon to decide issues critical to society’s future.”

                As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I stand with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  I will continue to follow their counsel in all matters because I believe they represent God.  A blogger at NieNie Dialogues expressed beautifully many of my own feelings about this situation.  Like her, I will stand with the prophet.  I know that truth is truth and truth does not depend on the world to define it.  We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by standing for truth at all times.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Night Visions

                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 number sixteen 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 #16 is the simple fact that God often communicates to us through dreams.  I know this to be true because I have received much personal revelation through dreams.  I have learned that revelatory dreams – called night visions in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ – usually come in the early morning hours.  My dreams usually come when I am well rested and in the transition from being fully asleep to being fully awake.  Revelatory dreams stay with me long after I have them.  I know they come for my comfort and benefit.

                One such dream came early one Sunday morning.  I had prepared a lesson about the Holy Ghost for my Primary class of six-year-old children.  In my dream that morning I was told, “The Holy Ghost loves you.”  This was a foreign thought to me.  I knew that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ loved me, but I had not even considered the Holy Ghost.  This statement brought such joy to my soul!  Yet I questioned why it had come.  My grandson was being baptized that day, and I worried that I might be asked at the last minute to speak on the Holy Ghost.  When I learned that my son was the speaker, I relaxed and allowed myself to ponder the matter further.  I came to the realization that I was to testify to my Primary children that they were loved by the Holy Ghost as well as by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

                I received much information through dreams about my oldest son while he was serving his mission in Arizona.  Heavenly Father knew that I was having a really difficult time being separated from my son, and He used the medium of dreams to help me “see” him.  I often knew information about my son before he told me.  One morning – another Sunday – I had a dream in which I saw my son suddenly go flying through the air.  That’s all I saw, and my mother’s heart began to fear for my son.  I was afraid that I would receive one of those terrible telephone calls.  The call never came, but I continued to wonder about the dream.  Several weeks later a letter came from my son stating that he had forgotten to tell me about an accident he had.  He was riding his bicycle and did not see a board across his path.  He hit the board and went flying through the air; all the papers and books in his backpack went flying out but he was not hurt.

                Early one Saturday morning I had a dream that my father was dying and that I needed to get prepared to leave.  I spent the entire day washing clothes, preparing the house, and packing my bag, and I received confirmation of my dream early that evening.  I made airline reservations for the next morning and was ready to go.

                Revelatory dreams are different than normal ones.  A few weeks after my mother passed away, I had returned home from her funeral and was fighting depression.  Early one morning I dreamed that my mother came to visit me, and I awoke feeling wonderful and was able to move forward with my life.

                Elder Scott described a very disturbing dream in which he could not find his beloved Jeanine.  He found himself in an “oppressive surrounding” that “was an ugly, artificial, contrived environment.  So intense were the feelings generated by what I had been told by those bent on destroying my hope to take me captive that I had not realized the forces of opposition that made my efforts appear fruitless could have no power over me unless I yielded through fear or abandonment of my principles.  The environment appeared real, yet it had been generated from fear and threat.  Although it was simulated, to those who let themselves believe the falsehoods thrust upon them it became reality.

                “I can now understand that because of my faith in the truths of the gospel plan, I could break through Satan’s manipulative, evil environment to see it as it is – not only in the dream, but in real life as well – a confining, controlling, destructive influence that can be overcome by faith in and obedience to truth.

                “As I awoke, there flooded over me feelings of love and gratitude for our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son that I do not have the capacity to express.  My heart and mind filled with consuming love for Them and inexpressible appreciation for the blessings that are available to every spirit child of Father in Heaven willing to believe and be obedient to the plan of happiness.  I cannot convey the unspeakable joy, the feeling of being wrapped in pure love, the absolute assurance that we will never lose our identity or memory of cherished relationships or the benefits of righteous acts as we continue to resist evil and are obedient to truth….
                “Dreams are just one vehicle the Lord uses from time to time to convey a spiritual lesson.  If you will remain aware, you can learn valuable truths from such experiences” (pp. 78-79).

                I encourage you to be aware of your dreams.  If I have any question about the origin of any dream, I ask God if He sent it to me.  The answer to my prayer determines the relevance of the prayer to me.  I have also learned to ask God to help me understand the meaning of my dreams and have received understanding when I was ready for it.  Night visions are a wonderful form of communication from our loving Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is Poverty a Career Choice?

                Nick Hudson at The Tribune asked some interesting questions that deserve discussion.  “Did President Roosevelt create something in 1933 that we can learn from or even possibly reinstitute in today’s America, or is hard work too much to ask of our perpetual poor?  Would they be insulted if we dare suggest they perform some type of labor in order to receive their entitlements?  Are we allowed to ask what exactly are these people doing all day?  Is it time to ask if poverty has become a career choice in today’s America?”

                Hudson explained how President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) helped the poor during the Great Depression through a program known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  Congress passed legislation that created the CCC, a federally funded program that was part of FDR’s New Deal, and FDR signed the bill into law on April 10, 1933.  In spite of the fact that the work was hard physical labor, more than 3 million unemployed and unmarried men, ages 18-26 jumped at the chance to earn their board plus $30 per month, most of which they sent home to their families. Most of the enrollees were malnourished and poorly clothed.  The program lasted from 1933 until 1942 and was probably the most popular of all the New Deal programs but never became a permanent agency.

                “Each CCC camp was located in the area of particular conservation work to be performed, and organized around a complement of up to 200 civilian enrollees in a designated numbered `company’ unit.  The CCC camp was a temporary community in itself, structured to have barracks (initially Army tents) for 50 enrollees, officer/technical staff quarters, medical dispensary, mess hall, recreation hall, educational building, lavatory and showers, technical/administrative offices, tool room/blacksmith shop and motor pool garages.  The company organization of each camp had a dual-authority supervisory staff:  firstly, Department of War personnel or Reserve officers (until 1 July 1939), a `company commander’ and junior officer, who were responsible for overall camp operation, logistics, education and training; and secondly, ten to fourteen technical service civilians, including a camp `superintendent’ and `foreman,’ employed by either the Departments of Interior or Agriculture, responsible for the particular field work.  Also included in camp operation were several non-technical supervisor LEMs, who provided knowledge of the work at hand, `lay of the land’ and paternal guidance for inexperienced enrollees.  Enrollees were organized into work detail units called `sections’ of 25 men each, according to the barracks they resided in.  Each section had an enrollee `senior leader’ and `assistant leader’ who were accountable for the men at work and in the barracks.

                “The CCC performed 300 possible types of work projects within ten approved general classifications:  1) Structural improvements:  bridges, fire lookout towers, service buildings; 2) Transportation:  truck trails, minor roads, foot trails and airport landing fields; 3) Erosion control:  check dams, terracing and vegetable covering; 4) Flood control:  irrigation, drainage, dams, ditching, channel work, riprapping; 5) Forest culture:  planting trees and shrubs, timber stand improvement, seed collection, nursery work; 6) Forest protection:  fire prevention, fire pre-suppression, firefighting, insect and disease control; 7) Landscape and recreation:  public camp and picnic ground development, lake and pond site clearing and development; 8) Range:  stock driveways, elimination of predatory animals; 9) Wildlife:  stream improvement, fish stocking, food and cover planting, and 10) Miscellaneous:  emergency work, surveys, mosquito control.”

                There were separate camps for minorities but enrollees received equal pay and housing.  There were 200,000 African-American enrollees, segregated until 1935, and their leaders lobbied for leadership roles and supervisory positions.  There was a separate Indian Division to provide major relief for 85,000 Native Americans belonging to federally recognized tribes.  They worked on roads, bridges, clinics, shelters, and other public works near their reservations.  There were no women enrolled in the CCC camps.  Many of the African-Americans and Native Americans employed in the CCC camps joined the military during World War II.

                Some well-known people worked in the CCC camps and included Hubert D. Humphreys (politician), Raymond Burr (actor), Robert Mitchum (actor), Chuck Yeager (test pilot who was the first to break the sound barrier), Stan Musial (baseball player), and Walter Matthau (actor).

                I remember seeing old CCC camps in the mountains when I was a youth.  I understood at the time that the men who lived and worked in those camps did so during the Great Depression.  Since I became an adult and have traveled throughout the United States, I have seen the results of some of their work.  Many of the picnic areas, campgrounds, trails, roads, etc. located in our national parks were built by people in CCC camps during the Great Depression.  I am grateful for the way they made improvements in our nation.

                Hudson may have suggested a way to “end welfare as we know it” (Bill Clinton):  “Can you imagine the outrage from today’s poverty industry if we were to suggest or, better yet, demand that the people receiving government benefits show up and actually do some work?  It really doesn’t matter what type of work, dig a ditch to nowhere and when you’re done fill it back in and start over again same time tomorrow morning – just be there from 9-5 Monday through Friday to dig that ditch.  My guess is that the welfare rolls would be cut in half after one month of implementing the new and improved `ditch digging to nowhere program.’  It would be nice if the work had societal benefits such as President Roosevelt’s CCC, but until then just dig the dang ditch.  If nothing else, it would teach them how to get up in the morning and head out to work.  I am a firm believer in helping the poor, as I would think most Americans are.  But we must ask ourselves, are these programs truly helping the needy?  Are they keeping them needy?  Or, the scariest question of all, are these programs actually creating the needy?”

                Our nation has been fighting the War on Poverty since the 1960s but has not made much difference in the number of people living in poverty.  What we have been doing has not worked.  If we want different results, we did to do things differently.  Maybe we need to do something like FDR did.  The government provided a way for the men in the CCC to earn money, but it also gave them a way to do productive work and gain self-respect.  I believe that we need to make poverty uncomfortable enough that people are eager to escape from it, not depend on it – just as Benjamin Franklin said.  We can give people a hand up without giving them a continuing hand out.

                Hudson ended his article with this paragraph: “What exactly did Franklin Roosevelt accomplish when he created the CCC on April 10, 1933?  For one thing, he taught those young Americans a work ethic.  He demanded labor in exchange for those tax dollars and in the process he accomplished many wonderful things with that labor.  Many of those young men went on to become park rangers, engineers and business owners.  The seedlings they planted are now mighty oaks!  Perhaps what FDR taught us is that handing out free money with no expectations of labor does nothing except keep poor people trapped exactly where they are, in abject poverty. …  Maybe Franklin D. Roosevelt taught us that if society simply pays people to be poor, they will always be poor and they will always stay poor.  But if society demands work, those people just might become workers! …

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Obamacare Problems

                I have intentionally avoided Obamacare because I am simply tired of the subject.  I am grateful that other people have the fortitude to continue the fight.  Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi said “we have to sign it in order to know what is in it,” and we are continuing to find out what is in the terrible program called Obamacare.

                Jeffrey H. Anderson of the Weekly Standard  reported on one problem of Obamacare – a bailout of the insurance companies.  “Robert Laszewski – a prominent consultant to health insurance companies – recently wrote in a remarkably candid blog post that, while Obamacare is almost certain to cause insurance costs to skyrocket even higher than it already has, `insurers won’t be losing a lot of sleep over it.’  How can this be?  Because insurance companies won’t bear the cost of their own losses – at least not more than about a quarter of them.  The other three-quarters will be borne by American taxpayers.

                “For some reason, President Obama hasn’t talked about this particular feature of his signature legislation.  Indeed, it’s bad enough that Obamacare is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to funnel $1,071,000,000,000.00 (that’s $1.071 trillion) over the next decade (2014 to 2023) from American taxpayers, through Washington, to health insurance companies.  It’s even worse that Obamacare is trying to coerce Americans into buying those same insurers’ product (although there are escape routes).  It’s almost unbelievable that it will also subsidize those same insurers’ losses.”

                Alyene Senger at The Heritage Foundation reported on two additional problems:  “Yes, Obamacare has raised premiums, caused people to lose their health coverage, raised taxes, and more.  But on January 1, Obamacare started digging in for the long haul:  putting down the deep roots of entitlement programs.
                “Entitlements – like the big three of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – are the biggest causes of America’s spending and debt crisis.  And Obamacare creates a new entitlement program while expanding another.”

                Senger explained that the new entitlement is “Taxpayer-funded subsidies for millions of Americans.”  “Obamacare created insurance exchanges to sell and subsidize government-approved health care plans.  Most of those who attain coverage through the exchanges will have their costs partially subsidized by federal taxpayers….”  I recently read a new bulletin that 80 percent of Alaskans who have insurance through Obamacare qualified for subsidies! 

                After discussing the subsidies, Senger moved on to explain that the expansion of Medicaid is the expansion of a broken entitlement program.  “Thanks to Obamacare, the already failing Medicaid program will receive an influx of millions of new enrollees in 2014 and beyond.
                “Before Obamacare’s blanket expansion, Medicaid traditionally covered low-income moms and kids and low-income disabled and elderly.  If every state expands its program, as many as 25 million additional people could enroll in Medicaid by 2021 – most of them childless adults….” 

                Obamacare continues to roll forward and destroying everything in its path – much like a huge boulder rolling down a mountain.  Our nation “is already facing a fiscal crisis, largely due to existing entitlements.”  Our health system does need to be reformed to help the poor, needy and vulnerable in our society, but there are good reforms and bad reforms.  The more I know about Obamacare, the more I worry about the results of it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Irena Sendler

                Few people have the opportunity to change the very lives of 2500 people.  My VIP for today is Irena Krzyzabiwska Sendler  (also referred to as Irena Sendlerowa in Poland), a Polish nurse/social worker who was part of the Polish Underground during World War II.  She was also the head of the children’s section of Zegota, an underground resistance organization in German-occupied Warsaw. Along with about two dozen other members of Zegota, Sendler went into the Warsaw Ghetto and smuggled out 2,500 Jewish children.  The children were then given false identity documents and housing outside the Ghetto, thus saving their lives during the Holocaust.

                How did Sendler accomplish such a task?  She began helping Jews when the Nazi invaded Poland in 1939.  Along with helpers, Sendler “created more than 3,000 false documents to help Jewish families, prior to joining the organized Zegota resistance and the children’s division. Helping Jews in German-occupied Poland meant all household members risked death if they were found to be hiding Jews, a punishment far more severe than in other occupied European countries.”

                In August 1943, Sendler became head of the Jewish children’s section of Zegota.  She was an employee of the Social Welfare Department and had a special permit to enter the Warsaw Ghetto.  She supposedly went there to check for signs of typhus because the Nazis were concerned the dreaded disease would spread beyond the Ghetto.  She wore a Star of David while she was in the Ghetto in order to blend in with the Jews.  Sendler was not alone in her task as other people working in the city’s Municipal Social Services department helped also as did a Polish relief organization known as the RGO (Central Welfare Council) that was tolerated by the Nazis.

                Sendler and her helpers entered the Ghetto under the pretext of inspecting sanitary conditions during a typhus outbreak.  They smuggled out babies and small children in ambulances and trams and sometimes even disguised them as packages.  Once the children were out of the Ghetto, they were placed with Polish families, in the Warsaw orphanage, or in Roman Catholic convents.  There were about thirty volunteers who went into the Ghetto and brought out hundreds of infants, young children, and even teenagers.

                When the Nazis discovered what Sendler was doing, they tortured her and sentenced her to death.  She escaped because Zegota bribed her German guards on the way to her execution.  She was not killed, but her name was listed on public bulletin boards as having been executed.  She spent the remainder of the war in hiding but continued to help Jewish children.  When the war was over, Sendler and her helpers gathered all their records and tried to unite the children with their parents, but almost all of their parents had been killed or were missing.

                In 1965 Sendler was awarded the Commander’s Cross by the Israeli Institute, recognized as “one of the Polish Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, and had a tree planted in her honor at the entrance to the Avenue of the Righteous at Yad Vashem.  The Polish communist government gave her permission to travel to Israel to be honored.

                On November 7, 2001, Sendler was awarded the Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta.  In 2003 Sendler received a personal letter from Pope John Paul II praising her wartime efforts.  On October 10, 2003, she received the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest civilian decoration, and the Jan Karski Award, “For Courage and Heart”, given by the American Center of Polish Culture in Washington, D.C. 
                At age 97 Sendler was honored by the Polish Senate on March 24, 2007.  She was unable to leave her nursing home at that time but sent a statement through Elzbieta Ficowska, one of the infants Sendler saved many years previously.  Lech Kaczynski, President of Poland, said that she “can justly be nominated for the Nobel peace Prize.”  That year she was presented as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Polish government, an initiative officially supported by the State of Israel through Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the organization of Holocaust Survivors in Israel.  This nomination was also supported by authorities of Oswiecim (Auschwitz in German) because “Irena Sendler was one of the last living heroes of her generation, and demonstrated a strength, conviction and extraordinary values against an evil of an extraordinary nature.”  The Noble Peace Prize for that year went to Al Gore!

                On April 11, 2007, Sendler received the Order of the Smile (the oldest recipient of the award.  In May 2009, she was posthumously granted the Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award, an award presented to persons and organizations recognized for helping children.

        Sendler was the last survivor of the Children’s Section of the Zegota Council to Assist Jews.  She died in Warsaw on May 12, 2008, at age 98.

        It is claimed that Irena Sendler kept her record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.  In 1999 some Protestant kids living in rural Kansas heard about Sendler and decided to tell the world about her.  Since that time, there have been at least 324 presentations of a play entitled Life in a Jar, a website huge usage, a best-selling book, and world-wide media attention. checked out this story and declared it to be true.

        I like this quote from Irena Sendler:  “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory.”

Sunday, January 26, 2014

No Religious Test

                The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday comes from Article VI, Section 3:  “… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  This provision in the United States Constitution gives Americans the right to serve in any office without being judged for their religion. 

                I know of two presidential candidates who fought religious bias:  John F. Kennedy and Mitt Romney.  I remember as a child hearing people say that Kennedy could never be elected President because he was Catholic.  I know that he had to actually give a speech declaring that he could make decisions as President without consulting the Pope.  I realize also that many people did not vote for Romney simply because he is a Mormon – even though the result was another term for Obama.  Even though the Constitution does not require a religious test, it is obvious that citizens hold candidates to a religious test.  I wonder if Barack Obama would have been elected even once if he had been honest about his true religious affiliation.

                Many of the early colonies were established by groups of people with strong religious convictions and those serving in public office were required to commit themselves to certain religious tenets.  This automatically excluded from public offices those who had contrary views.  For this reason the framers of the Constitution provided that no `religious test’ could be required for an office in the national government (where a great variety of beliefs and religious tenets – even atheism – would be represented.)”  (See W. Cleon Clausen, The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 666.)

                Gerard V. Bradley of The Heritage Foundation explained this provision:  “The original, unamended Constitution contains one explicit reference to religion:  the Article VI ban on religious tests for `any office or public trust under the United States.’  Despite much litigation over the constitutional border between church and state, there have been no judicial decisions involving the religious test ban.  The clause has been entirely self-executing.  We do not know whether the Framers intended the clause to apply to every federal officeholder, howsoever minor; but no federal official has ever been subjected to a formal religious test for holding office.

                “By its lain terms, the ban extended only to federal officeholders.  States were free at the time of the Founding to impose religious tests as they saw fit.  All of them did.  State tests limited public offices to Christians or, in some states, only to Protestants.  The national government, on the other hand, could not impose any religious test whatsoever.  National offices were open to everyone.”  (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 296-297.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Know God

                The more we know God, the more we love Him.  When we know and understand the nature of God and the kind of being He is, we can worship Him in spirit and in truth and gain the blessings He promises.  In order to gain this understanding we must know what we worship as well as how to worship Him. 

                “I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.
                “For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:19-20).

                President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:  “We know that God is known only by revelation, that he stands revealed or remains forever unknown.  We must go to the scriptures – not to the scientists or philosophers – if we are to learn the truth about Deity.  Indeed, John’s great prophecy about the restoration of the gospel by an angel who should fly in the midst of heaven says that it was to occur so that men could come to a knowledge of the true God and be taught:  `Fear God, and give glory to him … and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.’ (Revelation 14:7.)  In other words, beginning with the restoration of the gospel in this dispensation, men once again would be called upon to worship and serve their Creator rather than the false concepts of Deity that prevail in the world.

                “In every age the Lord’s prophets have been called upon to combat false worship and proclaim the truth about God.  In ancient Israel there were those who worshiped images and pagan gods, and Isaiah asked:  `To whom then will ye liken God?  Or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
                “Hast thou not known?  Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?  There is no search of his understanding.’ (Isaiah 40:18, 28).”

                The knowledge of God is upon earth today, but many people do not have this knowledge.  Many people know bits and pieces of the knowledge of our Eternal Father but do not understand it.  Much of this knowledge is contained in modern scripture.  Doctrine and Covenants 20 contains some of the basic doctrines of salvation.  In verse 17 we read “… there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them.”

                President Smith explained:  “God is our Father; he is the being in whose image man is created.  He has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22), and he is the literal and personal father of the spirits of all men.  He is omnipotent [having all power] and omniscient [knowing everything]; he has all power and all wisdom; and his perfections consist in the possession of all knowledge, all faith or power, all justice, all judgment, all mercy, all truth, and the fullness of all godly attributes. …  If we are to have that perfect faith by which we can lay hold upon eternal life, we must believe in God as the possessor of the fullness of all these characteristics and attributes.  I say also that he is an infinite and eternal being, and as an unchangeable being, he possesses these perfected powers and attributes form everlasting to everlasting, which means from eternity to eternity.”

                President Smith continued, “We know that our Heavenly Father is a glorified, exalted personage who has all power, all might, and all dominion, and that he knows all things.  We testify that he, through his Only Begotten Son, is the creator of this earth and of worlds without number.”  (See Teachings of Presidents of the Church – Joseph Fielding Smith, pp. 38-39.)

                I feel peace when I remember that God knows everything and has everything in control.  This knowledge leaves me free to concentrate on the events and responsibilities of which I have control.  It clears my mind of worry and fear and gives me comfort and peace.  The more I know about Heavenly Father, the more I love Him and worship Him.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Benefits of Music

                We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by encouraging the rising generation to become more involved with good music.  Our children and youth can become better students in numerous ways by learning to play a musical instrument.  Our students can improve their scholastic abilities simply by listening to the right kinds of music.

               Studies show that music has a variety of benefits for our children and youth:  1) Children playing classical music boost their concentration and self-discipline as well as improve their general listening and social skills.  2) Musicians have sharper minds and are less likely to suffer a mental decline.  3) Exposure to the works of classical artists such as Beethoven and Mozart bring appreciation of a wider range of music in later years.  4) Classical music aids the learning of other subjects such as English and mathematics.  5) People who master instruments such as the piano, flute or violin increase their ability to recognize mistakes and fix them quickly.

                How can listening and/or playing music have such a powerful effect on people?  Before I started taking piano lessons, I would have a difficult time believing these study results.  Now I believe them.  My teacher is a professional piano teacher, meaning she went to an academy to prepare her to teach music.  She understands things about music that most people have not even heard.  I started my lessons with very little musical theory and am learning much.

                One day I was discussing with my teacher the difficulty I was having learning to coordinate my eyes, both hands, and feet.  She explained that music is the only activity that involves the entire brain and that the piano is the most difficult musical instrument to learn how to play.  In order to play the music on the page, my eyes have to see the notes, the fingers on right hand have to play one set of notes while the fingers on the left hand have to play another set of notes, and the foot has to pump the pedal at the correct time.  In addition to all these motions, my brain has to keep track of what count each note should have.

                At my last lesson I mentioned that I had two entirely different experiences while practicing my two assigned pieces.  I told her that I had thoroughly enjoyed playing “Silent Night” and played it much more than “A Holly Jolly Christmas.”  She explained how Franz Gruber wrote the notes in “Silent Night” according to rules that guide music and Johnny Marks wrote the notes in “A Holly Jolly Christmas” according to what sounded good to him.  How the notes are written has a great effect on how they are played.

                I believe that listening to music can help children learn to concentrate better because of my own personal experience.  When I first started listening to instrumental music, I could not differentiate between the instruments at all.  Slowly, very slowly, I began to pick out the piano, then the violin, and then other instruments.  I am far from being an expert on music, but I have learned greater appreciation for it.

                I have a very good friend who plays the piano beautifully and can accompany any singer around.  She also teaches mathematics at the local university and tutors secondary students in math classes.  As far as I am concerned, she is an expert in both areas.  Is this a coincidence or did her musical ability help her develop her mathematical abilities?

                I enjoy the friendships of many musicians, particularly people who play the piano well.  Every one of them is intelligent and accomplished in several areas.  I also know a family where music is limited to classical music or Church-related music.  The children are self-disciplined and outstanding students.  Are their overall accomplishments a result of the music they hear and play?

                I was a dutiful mother and made sure that each of my children had the opportunity to take piano lessons.  A couple of them played instruments in school bands.  None of them play instruments today but they could easily pick it up if they chose to do so.  They received many of the benefits of music and today their own children have the opportunity to take piano lesson.  My older grandchildren play other instruments of their own choosing, either on their own or as part of their school bands.  These same grandchildren are outstanding students.

                I truly believe that music can strengthen our children and youth.  Obviously, mastering a musical instrument will have a greater impact, but even the simple act of listening to classical music builds other skills needed to be good students.  I know that we can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by insuring that our rising generation has the benefits of good music in their lives.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Immediate Gratification

                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 number fifteen 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 #15 is the simple fact that seeking immediate gratification can distract us from accomplishing greater things.  Distraction is one of the many tools Satan uses in his attempt to stop God’s plan from being successful.  If he can distract us from the essential activities of this life, he does not need to tempt us to do bad things.

                “Although our memory of it is withheld, before we came to this earth we lived in the presence of God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.  We shouted for joy when given the privilege of coming to this earth to receive a body and to move forward in God’s plan for our happiness.  We knew that we would be tested here.  Part of that testing is to have so many seemingly interesting things to do that we can forget the main purposes for being here.  Satan works very hard so that the essential things won’t happen.

                “In quiet moments when you think about it, you recognize what is critically important in life and what isn’t.  Be wise and don’t let good things crowd out those that are essential.
                “What are the essential ones?  They are related to doctrine.  They are centered in ordinances and embrace critical covenants.  To receive all of the blessings of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, we are only asked to be obedient to His commandments and to receive all  of the essential ordinances:  baptism, confirmation, priesthood ordinations for men, and temple ordinances.  The Atonement will not only help us overcome our transgressions and mistakes, but, in His time, it will resolve all inequities of life – those things that are unfair which are the consequences of circumstance or others’ acts and not our own decisions.”

                Elder Scott counseled:  “Don’t give up what you most want in life for something you think you want now.”  He suggested that we find a quiet place to “ponder and let the Lord establish the direction of your life.”  He suggested that we do this activity “periodically” to “confirm” we are on the right path.  He suggested that we ask ourselves some questions:  1) “What are my highest priorities to be accomplished while on earth?”  2) “How do I use my discretionary time?  Is some of it consistently applied to my highest priorities?”  3) “Is there anything I know I should not be doing?  If so, I will repent and stop it now.”
                “In a quiet moment, write down your responses.  Analyze them.  Make any necessary adjustments.  Put first things first” (pp. 73-75).

                As I was typing the above quote I remembered a test we can give our children to determine if they have self-control to withstand the need for immediate gratification.  Ask the children to sit at the table.  Place a marshmallow in front of them on the table.  Tell them you are testing them to see if they can leave the marshmallow on the table until you return to the room.  If their marshmallow is still in front of them when you return, you will give them two marshmallows.  Leave the room for a few minutes and return.  Reward the children who could withstand their need for immediate gratification.  This is a very difficult test for some children.  It might be good if the test is given on a somewhat irregular basis using different treats.  A marshmallow is no test at all for someone that does not like marshmallows!

                So what are some of the distractions that keep us from more important things?  Do we sleep a few extra minutes rather get up and study the scriptures before leaving for school or work?  Do we watch Monday Night Football instead of holding family home evening?  How about going fishing or golfing or to a movie rather than keeping the Sabbath Day holy?  I know numerous young people who were distracted from a temple wedding by things of this world as well as some young men who were distracted from serving in the mission field by friends.

                I have made all the covenants and received all ordinances of this life, and I try real hard to keep those covenants.  I am however often distracted from important things such as scripture study in the morning by the “need” to do something else or go somewhere important.  I have to keep pulling myself back from such distractions and do the activities that I consider most important in reaching my eternal goals.  I tell myself quite often to “put first things first.”  I try to mentally put desires in categories of “good,” “better,” and “best.”  Cleaning the house is usually a good way to use my time but spending time with my husband may be a better or even the best way.  I am constantly appraising my plans to see if I use my time in the best way.  I encourage you to start asking yourself, is this activity good, better, or best?  Questioning choices is one way to make good ones.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bad Economy

                Do you think the economy is bad?  If so, you are not alone.  None other than Rush Limbaugh  compared the current economy to the  economy during the administration of Jimmy Carter.  For those who do not remember the Carter economic downturn, Limbaugh recaps it.

                “This number of people not working, labor force participation rate, is a record 92 million people.  This labor force participation rate plunge equals, on a percentage basis, where we were in 1978.  Now, I realize many of you are too young to remember 1978.
                “We were in the second year of Jimmy Carter’s administration – and, folks, things were so bad back then that the `misery index’ was invented as a way of expressing how bad it was.  Interest rates were in the 12 to 14% range.  Inflation was double-digit.

                “I mean, it was an absolute, total, utter disaster.  Jimmy Carter was giving speeches from the White House about the national malaise.  He was telling everybody [to] turn down the thermostats and wear sweaters because the Middle East was restricting oil delivery.  It was absolutely disastrous.  It was on the heels of the mess caused by Watergate, but it was, again, the policies of a liberal Democrat president.  This is Jimmy Carter’s second term is what’s happening here.
                “Barack Obama is Jimmy Carter’s second term, if he had won.

                “So we’re now statistically right where we were in the middle of the Jimmy carter disaster, and especially when you look at the similarity as a percentage basis was the labor force participation rate.  All of this is just awful as a American, knowing that these are real people affected by this.  These are real human beings who are affected by all of this – and yet inside the Beltway, they’re looked at as statistics or recipients of extended unemployment benefits.”

                As I remember the Carter economy, it was caused by the lack of oil and inflation.  The economy now seems to have been planned by liberals, progressives, socialists, and possibly communists who are trying to destroy our nation.  I believe our nation is much worse off now.  Most people can pinch pennies and get along until a new administration is elected, but evil in high places is difficult to get around.  I hope you will join me in praying for our nation!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mr. Obama Goes to Court

                Lawyers for Barack Obama faced the Supreme Court on Monday, January 13, 2014, to defend his use of executive power in temporarily filling high-level posts.  The case concerns his so-called “recess appointments” during his first term when he made three temporary appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while Congress was technically still in session. 

                Lower courts said the appointments were unconstitutional, and experts claim that the decision “could endanger hundreds of NLRB decisions.  Even more significant are the ramifications for future presidents, with the court poised either to bolster or blunt the chief executive’s appointment powers.”

                Michael Lotito,  an employment and labor attorney with the law firm Littler Mendelson P.C.’s Workplace Policy Institute, told the Hill newspaper:  “Rulings like this have implications that last for centuries.”

                Presidents have used their executive power to temporarily fill positions.  Most recess appointments were to “install judges and fill top federal vacancies” that would require Senate approval.  “But with the disputed NLRB appointments, Obama became the first president to appoint nominees when the Senate was in a `pro-forma’ session, when the upper chamber is briefly called to order and adjourned every few days.
                “The sessions are intended to prevent recess appointments, and usually only a handful of senators are present for them.  In filling the NLRB posts, the Obama administration claims that the Senate is generally not available to conduct business during the sessions, so the president’s recess appointment power is in effect.”

                Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz of the Georgetown University Law Center is arguing against the government and claims that the Obama administration has to win three points.  “First, it must convince the justices that presidents may make appointments during regular recesses and not, as the appeals court rules, only during the breaks between numbered sessions on Congress.
                “Next, the court must agree that the appointments may include the filling of vacancies that existed before the recess began, rather than those that occurred during a recess.
                “Finally, it must conclude that the pro-forma           sessions do not count as formal sessions of Congress.

                Rosenkranz said that “proving all three points, particularly the last, would be a tall order” and predicted a unanimous win for Joel Canning.

                United Press International  reported that “A Congressional Research Service report found 329 recess appointments since President Ronald Reagan in 1981 would not meet the appeals court’s criteria and could therefore be ruled void if the appeals court’s ruling is upheld.
                “Upholding the appeals court’s decision `would repudiate the constitutional legitimacy of thousands of appointments made by at least 14 presidents since the 1860s,’ Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote in a brief.

                “Verrilli argued the Senate was not permitted to use pro forma sessions to unilaterally hamstring or manipulate the president’s recess appointments authority.  `Whatever leeway the Senate may enjoy when governing its own affairs, it cannot exploit that leeway to limit the president’s constitutional authority,’ he wrote.
                “But Noel Francisco, a Washington appellate lawyer challenging the recess appointments, argued it was up to the Senate, not the president, to decide when the Senate is in session.
                “`Presidents have discretion to decide whether to make recess appointments, and to select whom they appoint.  But they may not also determine when that power is available.’ Francisco said.  `That decision is for the Senate alone.’”

                Mr. Obama has bypassed Congress numerous times because he “could not wait” for Congress to act.  I hope the Justices on the Supreme Court stand tall on this issue and rule against Mr. Obama because our nation would be better for their action.  If Mr. Obama gets away with this unconstitutional action, he will simply be strengthened in his lawlessness.  If he gets his knuckles rapped in this case, he may be slowed in his destruction of our laws and nation.