Declaration of Independence

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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Freedom from Net Neutrality

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the repeal of Obama Administration net neutrality rules. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 on Thursday and along party lines to repeal the rules. 

            The Trump Administration called for a lessening of regulations on the Internet, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai held the vote. In remarks before the vote Pai said: “It is time for the Internet, once again, to be driven by engineers and entrepreneurs and consumers rather than lawyers, accountants and bureaucrats.” Pai defended the repeal of net neutrality by informing his critics that they can still Instagram their food, take selfies with their pets, shop for Christmas presents, binge watch their favorite shows, cheer on their favorite sports teams, and drive memes into the ground. 

            Speaker of the House Paul Ryan agree with Pai and celebrated the end of old rules. “Despite its unassuming name, the Obama administration’s net neutrality regulation threatens the free and open internet that has done so much to advance modern society. … The Trump administration’s action to roll back this egregious government overreach into the most innovative space will benefit all users of the internet.”

            In other words we are all free to use the Internet as we choose as long as we obey other laws. Our use of the Internet will return to the way it was before the Obama Administration decided to regulate the Internet as a utility.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Stories

            Now that we are less than two weeks away from Christmas, I thought that I would share some Christmas stories with you. I think the world needs more stories about the spirit of Christmas. The first story was written by Rian B. Anderson and is titled “A Christmas Prayer – Christmas Eve 1881.” 

            It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read the scriptures.

            After supper was over, I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what.

            Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood – the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?” “You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. “Yeah,” I said, “Why?” “I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading; we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon, and sent me for a sack of flour. I asked “What’s in the little sack?” that Pa was carrying. He said shoes, they’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too, just for Christmas.” We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it.

            We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?” “Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt.”

            Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another, and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen was fumbling with a match and finally lit the lamp….

            What do you think they found inside the house?

            I received this story in a Christmas card from a friend. With some searching I discovered that it is actually a book, so this must be a shortened version. You can get the rest of the story from Amazon or Deseret Book.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bringing Joy to the World

            Today is the anniversary of the birth of one of my daughters. It is also the birthday anniversary for one of her daughters and one of her cousins – as well as several friends. It is a joyful day in spite all the awful things going on in the world.

            The topic of joy in the world brings my thoughts to the reason for the Christmas season. Isaac Watts wrote a hymn titled “Joy to the World,” and his story, as told in a Christmas card, is an interesting one.

In the late 1600s, most worship music in Europe consisted of singing the Old Testament Psalms. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) loved the Bible, yet he thought these songs felt `unnatural’ to sing. After one Sunday service, 15-year-old Isaac complained about `the atrocious worship.’ A deacon challenged him with, `Give us something better, young man.’ He went home and penned his first hymn, and the love of hymn-writing stuck with him all his life.

Later in life, and inspired by the last half of Psalm 98, Watts penned the beloved Christmas carol “Joy to the World” (1719). Watts transformed the old Jewish psalm of praise for historic deliverance, into a song of rejoicing for the salvation of God that began when Jesus came `to make his blessing flow far as the curse is found.’

The music is by an unknown composer using fragments from George Frederick Handel, some scholars say it resembles Handel’s greatest work, “Messiah.”

            Watts’ “Joy to the World” is simple and beautiful. However, the LDS version is different with some words and phrases added/repeated by William W. Phelps (1792-1872) with music by George F. Handel (1685-1759). This version brings rejoicing for the birth of Christ, and it brings joy to my heart.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And Saints and angels sing, And Saints and angels sing,
And Saints, and Saints and angels sing.

Rejoice! Rejoice when Jesus reigns, And Saints their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more will sin and sorrow grow, Nor thorns infest the ground;
He’ll come and make the blessings flow
Far as the curse was found, Far as the curse was found,
Far as, far as the curse was found.

Rejoice! Rejoice in the Most High, While Israel spreads abroad
Like stars that glitter in the sky,
And ever worship God, And ever worship God,

And ever, and ever worship God.

Monday, December 11, 2017

William Shakespeare

            The actual birthdate of William Shakespeare is unknown but is observed on April 23, 1564. It is known that he was born in Stratford-upon Avon, United Kingdom, and baptized there on April 26, 1564. His father was John Shakespeare, an alderman and a successful glover, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning farmer. He was the third of eight children and the first son to survive.

            According to most biographers, Shakespeare was most likely educated at the King’s New School in Stratford that was located less than half a mile from his home. His school most likely “provided an intensive education in grammar based upon Latin classical authors.”

            Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in November 1582 when he was 18 years old and she was 26. The couple became the parents of three children: a daughter named Susanna in 1585 and twin son and daughter, Hamnet and Judith in 1596. Hamnet died at age of 11 from unknown causes.

            There is little known of Shakespeare until 1592 when he entered the London theatre scene. Sometime between the birth of the twins and 1592, “he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men.”

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were primarily comedies and histories, which are regarded as some of the best work ever produced in these genres. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances and collaborated with other playwrights.

            Shakespeare became a poet, playwright and actor. He is “widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the `Bard of Avon’.”

            Shakespeare apparently retired to Stratford at age 49. He died there three years later on April 23, 1616. Some people think that April 23 was chosen to observe his birthday because it is the day of his death.

            Some famous Shakespeare quotes are as follow:
            “All that glitters is not gold.”
            “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”

            “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns free speech, religious liberty, and same-sex marriage. All three of these topics are involved in one very important case. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in the Jack Phillips case. The question to be answered is: Can Colorado force Phillips to go against his religious beliefs in order to create a custom cake for a same-sex couple?

            Phillips’ attorneys argue that he wants to use his creative talents to “speak messages that he agrees with, while still welcoming all customers into his store.” He should be free to do so because the rights of free speech and religious liberty are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The opposing side basically argues that he does not have these rights when dealing with same-sex marriage.

            Emilie Kao posted an article at The Daily Signal that gives some highlights of Phillips’ argument. 

1. Mutual Tolerance Is Essential in a Free Society. … Justice Anthony M. Kennedy [said], “tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual. It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs” [because they “compared Phillips to a racist and a Nazi]. …

Kennedy also pointed out there were other cake shops that would have accommodated Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the same-sex couple who requested a cake for their wedding.

In a similar line of questioning, Justice Samuel Alito pointed out that the state of Colorado had failed to demonstrate mutual tolerance when it only protected the freedom of cake artists who landed on one side of the gay marriage debate – namely, the state’s side. …

2. Compelled Speech for Everyone. … At one point, Justice Stephen Breyer followed up on a question from Justice Neil Gorsuch about whether a cake artist could be forced to create a cross-shaped cake for a religious group that shared the beliefs of the KKK. Cole [ACLU lawyer representing the couple] responded that if the cake artist did so for the Red Cross, then yes, the artist would have to do so for the religious group as well.

[Justice Samuel Alito asked a similar question.] In the exchange with Alito, the Colorado solicitor general said that cake artists could not discriminate on the basis of identity, but could discriminate on the basis of messages. Gorsuch later responded, saying that’s exactly what Phillips has argued.

3. Disagreement Does Not Equal Discrimination. … During the oral arguments, the court appeared to recognize what is patently obvious from the facts. Phillips welcomes all people into his store, encourages them to buy off-the-shelf items, and will make custom-designed cakes for them provided they don’t ask for items that violate his beliefs….

4. Orthodoxy Determined by the State. Finally, the oral arguments revealed the scope of how far the state of Colorado is willing to go to impose its views of marriage on citizens. In one line of questioning from Roberts, Colorado admitted that it would force Catholic Legal Services to provide a same-sex couple with legal services related to their wedding even if it violates Catholic teachings on marriage.

            Free speech and religious liberty are hanging on the Supreme Court’s decision on this case. The entire case seems to be built on a liberal agenda to further destroy religious freedom. There seems to be no thought about the loss of free speech because liberals only approve of free speech for their side.

            Phillips is a business man who seeks to earn his living by using his creative talents. He desires to do so “in a manner consistent with his deeply held religious beliefs.” In doing so, he has turned down other requests to create custom cakes expressing ideas that go against his conscience – such as “Halloween and divorce, anti-American themes, and even anti-gay messages.” He does not turn down the business because of the person, but always because of the message.

            This case is a big one that will have lasting effects on Americans and their freedoms. The Court’s decision in this case can either protect liberty and “foster more civil dialogue on marriage” or destroy freedoms and further divide Americans. Hopefully, the Justices will get this case right!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Seeking Jesus

            Matthew begins his gospel by telling of the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary and her acceptance of her divine calling to be the mother of the Son of God. Matthew also tells of Gabriel’s visit to Joseph, the marriage of Mary and Joseph, and a brief mention of the birth of Jesus Christ. (For more information I encourage you to turn to the book of Luke.) The next chapter in Matthew tells of the visit of the wise men.

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2. Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him (Matthew 2:1-2)

            The wise men travel far to see the newborn King. We do not know how many wise men were in the group, but we do know that they were guided to Bethlehem by a new star and they came to worship the new King. The Bible Dictionary describes them: 

… Who these men were we are not told, but it is certain they were not ordinary men. That they were privileged to search out the Son of God and give Him gifts, and that they were spiritually sensitive and knowledgeable, suggests that they were actually prophets on a divine errand. The customary identification of them as astrologers is a gross misrepresentation. They evidently were holy men from a land east of Palestine.

            We do not know who the wise men were, but we do know that they were seeking the newborn King of the Jews. We also know that they traveled a long distance and that they brought much needed gifts to the Baby. Their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh came just prior to the quick escape into Egypt and undoubtedly helped to finance the family while there.

            President Ezra Taft Benson prepared the December 1993 First Presidency Message with the title of “Keeping Christ in Christmas.” His message was based on a talk given in the First Presidency Christmas devotional given on December 1, 1985. He begins his talk by saying, “Without Christ there would be no Christmas, and without Christ there can be no fulness of joy. After quoting many scriptures about Jesus Christ, President Benson says the following.

And now, my beloved brothers and sisters, what must we do this Christmas season – and always? Why, we must do the same as the Wise Men of old. They sought out the Christ and found Him. And so must we. Those who are wise still seek Him today.

            The message continues through the years. For the First Presidency Message for December 2017, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, also spoke on the topic of seeking Christ. He begins his message with these words.

To all who wish to understand who we are as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I would like to offer a starting point defined by these three words: We seek Christ.

We seek to learn of Him. To follow Him. To become more like Him.

Every day throughout the year, we seek Him. But especially at this time of the year – Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of our beloved Savior – our hearts are ever more inclined to Him.

            President Uchtdorf discusses the various people who sought Jesus – the shepherds, the wise men, Simeon and Anna in the temple, and the believers among the Nephites and Lamanites. Towards the end of his message, President Uchtdorf suggests that we all ask ourselves the question: “How am I seeking Christ?” This is a good question!

            I would answer the question by saying that I seek Christ when I pray and try to discover what He would have me do. I seek Christ when I study the scriptures and listen to the words of modern-day prophets and apostles? I seek Christ as I strengthen family relationships.

            I seek Jesus at this time of year by trying to make Christmas about Him. I decorate with Nativity sets. I send Christmas cards with appropriate pictures of His birth. I play Christmas music that reminds me of Him. My family enacts the Nativity on Christmas Eve, and we celebrate His birthday by singing “Happy Birthday” to Him and serving angel food cake. Every single thing that we do on Christmas Eve points to Christ.

            How do you seek Christ?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Pay Attention!

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals learn to pay attention – not only to what they are studying but also to the conditions around them. Once one learns how their brain works, they must also understand that there are other influences that either improve or diminish one’s ability to study and learn.

            As part of a personal effort to improve my own study skills, I am reading a book titled The World Book of Study Power, volume 1, and I am attempting to share a little of what I learn with my readers. Teaching others what I have learned helps to solidify the information in my own brain and is, therefore, a valuable learning tool. Most of the information that follows, including quotes and ideas, come from this book.

            The ability of one to study and learn is influenced by many things: personal feelings, surrounding sounds, the light and temperature in the room, and many other things. The key is to keep the distractions to the minimum.

You are affected by different things in different ways at different times. You aren’t always hungry or upset, tired or excited. You don’t have to be perpetually cheerful and energetic, but you should be aware of what helps or blocks your concentration. To get the most out of studying, you must manage the environmental, emotional, sociological, physical, and psychological stimuli around you (p. 60).

            One must pay attention to what one is doing, whether it is driving a car or writing a report. In order for one to gain the most from studying, one must focus attention and eliminate distractions. People who study and gain more knowledge strengthen families, communities, and nations.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Repeal of Net Neutrality

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plan to repeal net neutrality rules. A vote is scheduled for December 14 on a plan that has been in place for over a year.

            Alina Selyukh at Nevada Public Radio reports that the plan will “undo the landmark 2015 rules that had placed Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon under the strictest-ever regulatory oversight.” She says that the “vote is expected to repeal so-called net neutrality rules, which prevent broadband companies from slowing down or blocking any sites or apps, or otherwise deciding what content gets to users faster.”

            Selyukh quotes FCC Chairman Ajit Pai as saying that the proposed repeal would “stop micromanaging the Internet” and put responsibility on Internet providers to be open with what they are doing. The repeal would also give “enforcement of net neutrality to the Federal Trade Commission, which polices violators rather than pre-empts the violations in the first place.”

            Carlos Green at The Blaze reports that two Hollywood celebrities, Alyssa Milano and Mark Ruffalo, are pushing a conspiracy theory that “Russian agents were tipping the debate on net neutrality by using `bots’ to influence the FCC comment system.” They apparently are concerned about a “study found that millions of emails that were received by the comment system were under dubious circumstances. Another 444,938 came from Russian email addresses – it was unclear if those were authentic emails messages or from `bots.’”

            According to Green, FCC Chairman Pai confirms that there were “444,938 comments reported from Russia,” but “they were in support of net neutrality, not against, as the celebrities were assuming.” FCC spokesman Brian Hart supported his boss when he said that the “most suspicious activity has been by those supporting internet regulation.”

            Even though the idea of net neutrality sounds good, it causes more problems than it solves. The regulation of the internet implemented by the Obama Administration was intended “to prevent Internet Service Providers from charging different clients different rates for their use of the internet.” This sounds good to people who clamor for everything to be “fair” and “equal.” However, critics say that it stifles “innovation and doesn’t really protect consumers.” It sounds like just another attempt by liberals to control Americans.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Bear One Another's Burdens

            Alma, an ancient American prophet, taught the values of a true follower of Jesus Christ. As the people gathered together to listen to the teachings of Christ, Alma said to them:

9 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

10 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even unto death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life – (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 18:9-10

            All who are baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have accepted Alma’s charge in verse 9 to “bear one another’s burdens.” Since we are under covenant to help each other, Alma shares a few ways that we can follow his counsel: “mourn with those who mourn,” comfort those in need, and share the good word of God.

            The prophet of God today, President Thomas S. Monson, says the same thing as Alma, but he uses a few different words. “We are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us” (“Serve the Lord with Love,” Liahona, Feb. 2014, 4). 

            President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, reviews the commitments expressed by Alma. He then explains how we can follow the counsel of Alma and President Monson.

A great change began in your heart when you came into the Church. You made a covenant, and you received a promise that began changing your very nature. …

… You promised that you would help the Lord make [others’] burdens light and be comforted. You were given the power to help lighten those loads when you received the gift of the Holy Ghost” (“The Comforter,Liahona, May 2015, 18).

            President Eyring tells us that the Gift of the Holy Ghost is given to all baptized people who are confirmed as members of the Church. It is the power of the Holy Ghost that enables us to keep all the commandments. Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, adds other details.

We want to use the light of the gospel to see others as the Savior does – with compassion, hope, and charity. The day will come when we will have a complete understanding of others’ hearts and will be grateful to have mercy extended to us – just as we extend charitable thoughts and words to others. …

Our obligation and privilege is to embrace improvement in everyone as we strive to become more like our Savior” (“I Will Bring the Light of the Gospel into My Home,” Liahona, Nov. 2016, 6, 8). 

            As we keep our baptismal covenant to “bear one another’s burdens” and do so with the power of the Holy, we prepare ourselves to make temple covenants. As become aware of the healing power of Jesus Christ as we keep our covenants and help others. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion and Atonement, I promise you He is not going to turn His back on us now. When He says to the poor in spirit, “Come unto me,” He means He knows the way out and He knows the way up. He knows it because He has walked it. He knows the way because He is the way” (“Broken Things to Mend,” Liahona, May 2006, 71). 

            As members of the Church we are under covenant with God to help His children. As part of that covenant God send the Holy Ghost to help us complete His work. As we go forward with compassion, hope, and charity, He will help us.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Common Sense and Personal Responsibility

            The sexual harassment problem continues to grow. Not only are more and more men alleged to act improperly towards women and/or losing their jobs for the accusations, but women are also getting in trouble for their comments.

            Dame Angela Lansbury, the 92-year-old actress, recently stated that women “must sometimes take blame” in sexual harassment. “There are two sides to this coin. We have to own up to the fact that women, since time immemorial, have gone out of their way to make themselves attractive. And unfortunately it has backfired on us – and this is where we are today.” She added that there’s “no excuse” whatsoever for sexual assault and women should not have to risk assault because they want to “look attractive.”

            Lansbury’s comment makes sense to me, but “Twitter users were highly critical of Lansbury, accusing her of victim-blaming.” She released the following statement about the reaction caused by her comments.

I am troubled by how quickly and brutishly some have taken my comments out of context and attempted to blame my generation, my age, or my mindset, without having read the entirety of what I said. There is no excuse whatsoever for men to harass women in an abusive sexual manner. And, I am devastated that anyone should deem me capable of thinking otherwise.

Those who have known the quality of my work and the many public statements I have made over the course of my life, must know, that I am a strong supporter of women’s rights.

            Candace Owens of The Federalist came to Lansbury’s defense. She admits that Lansbury’s comments are “somewhat confusing” but says that they “contain some needed common sense. She continues with this paragraph. 

From her comments it’s not fully clear how she thinks we should parse uncomfortable or adverse sexual situations, but she’s right to push back on narratives that say every accusation should be instantly believed, that all men are likely to abuse women, and that women never make bad choices that create or worsen unwanted sexual encounters.

People do unconscionable things. It’s an inextricable condition of our humanity. In preparation for this, we’ve learned to take certain precautions. To prevent burglary, we lock our doors. We keep an eye on our children when they are on playgrounds. Yet what we consider basic, daily acts of personal responsibility suspiciously halt when the topic shifts to sexual assault.

Visiting a man in his hotel room in the wee hours of the morning after a night of drinking would not fall under “good decision-making” by any stretch of the imagination, yet you will find yourself doused in holy water by self-proclaimed feminists for daring to utter such common sense logic.

            I believe that Lansbury and Owens are saying one and the same thing. No one wants to blame the genuine victims of sexual assault who should be loved and supported, but someone needs to tell women to grow up and take responsibility for their own safety. No one is able to sexually assault a woman in a hotel room if she refuses to go to the hotel room in the first place. If she is physically forced into the room, then she becomes a genuine victim. If she goes into the room of her own free will, it is a different story and she must accept some responsibility for whatever happens there. Owens suggests a question that every woman should ask herself: What good can come from visiting a man in the privacy of his hotel room in the wee hours of the morning? If the woman cannot come up with a good answer, she should decline the invitation.

            I believe that many sexual assaults could be avoided if young women were previously taught about the dangers to be found by being in a man’s hotel room in the wee hours of the morning. Parents should also teach their sons to behave properly around women and children. Where were the parents, and what were they doing when they were supposed to be teaching their children about personal safety and proper relationships?

             I also believe that numerous assaults could be avoided if women would use common sense and stay away from bad situations and if employers would maintain a safe working environment for their employees.

            However, I want to be completely clear: The perpetrator is responsible for the assault and should face accountability. No one has the right to sexually assault anyone at any time!

Monday, December 4, 2017

George Frideric Handel

            George Frideric (or Frederick) Handel was born Georg Friedrich Handel on 23 February or 5 March 1685 (depending on the calendar used) in Halle, Duchy of Magdeburg. His parents were Georg Handel and his second wife Dorothea Taust. He was their second son but first living child, and he had two younger sisters.

            Handel’s family was not a member of the higher classes where the arts and music flourished. Handel showed musical interest at an early age, and his father reportedly opposed any musical instruments in the house or Handel’s use of them in any other location. Handel, however, found instruments somewhere.

            Handel accompanied his father on a trip to Weissenfels sometime between the ages of seven and nine. While there he went to the court organ and started playing it, surprising everyone present. Duke Johann Adolf I overheard his performance and noted his age. He suggested to his father that he provide musical instruction for his son. Upon their return home Handel’s father hired young Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, the church organist, to give music lessons to his son. Zachow was Handel’s only teacher.

Because of his church employment, Zachow was an organist “of the old school,” reveling in fugues, canons and counterpoint. But he was also familiar with developments in music across Europe and his own compositions “embraced the new concerted, dramatic style.” When Zachow discovered the talent of Handel, he introduced him “to a vast collection of German and Italian music, which he possessed, sacred and profane, vocal and instrumental compositions of different schools, different styles, and of every master. Many traits considered “Handelian” can be traced back to Zachow’s music. At the same time Handel continued practice on the harpsichord, learned violin and organ, but … his special affection was for the hautbois (oboe)….
With respect to instruction in composition, in addition to having Handel apply himself to traditional fugue and cantus firmus work, Zachow, recognizing Handel’s precocious talents, systematically introduced Handel to the variety of styles and masterworks contained in his extensive library. He did this by requiring Handel to copy selected scores…. Much of this copying was entered into a notebook that Handel maintained for the rest of his life….

            Zachow apparently delegated some of his church duties to Handel, and Handel frequently performed on the organ. When he was only nine years old, Handel started composing church services for voice and instruments and did this for three years. Handel surpassed Zachow’s abilities by the end of three or four years, and Handel started looking for another situation in Berlin.

            Handel received training in Halle and worked as a composer in Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712. He became a naturalized British subject in 1727. Handel became a baroque composer, having been “influenced by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and by the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition.”

            Within 15 years of moving to London, Handel established “three commercial opera companies to supply the English nobility with Italian opera.” He has been described as being “a dramatic genius of the first order.” Handel wrote his successful Messiah in 1742 and stopped writing Italian operas.
Born the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti, Handel is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era, with works such as Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks and Messiah remaining steadfastly popular. One of his four Coronation Anthems, Zadok the Priest (1727), composed for the coronation of George II, has been performed at every subsequent British coronation, traditionally during the sovereign’s anointing. Handel composed more than forty operas in over thirty years, and since the late 1960s, with the revival of baroque music and historically informed musical performance, interest in Handel’s operas has grown.

            Handel lived in England for almost 50 years and was nearly blind when he died in 1759. He had wealth and respect, and he received full state honors at his funeral. He was buried in Westminster Abbey in London.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Influences on the Founding Fathers

            For this Constitution Monday I want to discuss how the Founding Fathers of the United States were influenced by studying the ancient Greek and Roman cultures. Since I studied a little about the two cultures in my humanities class, my appetite for learning more about them has greatly increased.

            I knew previously that the Founding Fathers were well-read and well-educated individuals who studied various governments before they began to write the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, I decided to do some research to discover exactly what they learned from these two ancient cultures that they used in founding the United States.

            I found a blog post titled “How ancient Greeks influenced America’s founding fathers.” Below are some summaries of the eight ways that ancient Greek influenced the Founding Fathers.

1. They were inspired by the Hellenic and Roman history. They knew the stories from the ancient civilizations and learned valuable personal, social, and political lessons from them.

2. They knew how to read and write Greek. They learned Greek and Latin in grammar school and met the ancient historians at a young and teachable age.

3. They studied and were impressed by the courage of the ancient Greeks as they fought stronger and better prepared opponents. This was important information to know as the colonists went up against the strongest military in the world.

4. They looked to the Greek history of overcoming insurmountable odds and compared it to their own fight. No one expected the Greeks to defeat the Persian Empire, and no one expected the Americans to defeat Great Britain.

5. They learned what worked and didn’t work from Greek democracy. They knew Plato’s story of Socrates being executed on false grounds and determined to create a nation where the power of the government would be balanced by the power of the people. This is why they created a republic rather than a simple democracy.

6. They appreciated the values of community as well as honor that defined Sparta.
They learned the strengths and the weaknesses of republics from studying Sparta and found a way to protect individual rights while working for the good of the collective.

7. They wanted to emulate their Greek heroes. They wished to create an elevated and virtuous society.

8. They learned important lessons from Greek history that we can still benefit from studying.

            The Greeks were defeated by the Romans. The Roman civilization spanned more than 1000 years and was located on three continents. The decline of Rome was caused by several problems, one of which was over-expansion. It got so large that it could not be protected from enemies or governed correctly. One can quickly see why the Founders would want to study the decline of Rome.

            This site has information on the Roman civilization. The author says that the Founders and Framers of our nation were “like the ancient Romans and even consciously identified with them.” Rome was built on one of seven hills, thus the name “Capitol Hill.” They identified with “Roman models of republican virtue” such as Publius, Cicero, Cincinnatus, Cato, and Brutus and many Roman ideas.

The Founders’ political ideas were largely informed by Roman republican and imperial ideas. They sought to create a mixed constitution that balanced monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. (This is why our nation is not technically a democracy.)

The political vocabulary they used – republic, virtue, president, capitol, constitution, Senate – was based on Latin words. The legislative processes they utilized – veto, sine die – were Latin. Many of their political symbols – the eagle, the fasces, the image of a leader on a coin – were Roman in inspiration.

The architecture of the American Founding also showed a predilection for the Roman aesthetic sense. It’s not too much of stretch to assert that the buildings and monuments lining the National Mall in Washington, DC – with its stately, classical architecture – might resemble a Roman colony; the new additions constructed in the 1930s continued the Roman theme. The Capitol was inspired by Renaissance models that, in turn, were loosely based on the Roman Pantheon. Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, looks like a Roman temple….

            Knowing the Founders’ interest in ancient Rome, one can quickly see how they were influenced by this civilization. The Founders studied each of the important eras in Roman history – the kingdom, the republic, and the empire. They learned how the successive wars turned the republic into an empire. They learned the problems that are caused by becoming a welfare state. They learned the importance of having good infrastructure – roads, bridges, etc. – to span their territory.

            There is another comparison between the founding of America and the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations that I found particularly interesting. During the Greek control of the region, all the people learned to speak a common language – Greek – and retained it when ancient Greece fell. The Roman civilization prospered from the common language and made travel around the kingdom/republic/empire much easier with its roads, bridges, etc. The common language, ease of travel, and freedom of religion eased the way for the spread of Christianity.  

            The American comparison is the fact that within fifty years of the founding of this nation (1776), the Lord restored the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith (1820). The Constitution provided freedom of religion, an important requirement for the restoration.

            The Founding Father gained many ideas and much knowledge from studying the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. I believe that Americans today would understand the Constitution and the government much better by studying these ancient cultures also. I encourage you to do so because I will continue to study them.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Light the World

            The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently announced their “Light the World” Service Campaign for the 2017 Christmas season. The 2016 “Light the World” campaign was so successful that it was brought back – bigger and better – this year. The whole purpose for the campaign is for people from around the world to join together in giving acts of service.

            One new addition to the 2017 campaign is the placement of red vending machines in the corner of the main lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. These vending machines are much different than the normal ones. You can go to these vending machines, select an item, pay your money, and get nothing more than good feelings and a machine-generated receipt for a charitable giving tax deduction. The charity organizations that are partnering with the Church will do the rest.

            The money that is put into the machine can pay for any number of things that people in a Third World country could use this Christmas. You could buy eye glasses ($5), an eye exam ($20), two chickens ($25), or even a goat ($75). Other items for sale in the machines are shoes, first aid kits, and lifesaving medicines.

            I liked the idea of giving a goat and/or chickens to a family. It would be a great conversation starter to tell people that you gave a goat and chickens for Christmas! How many people could match that statement? In all seriousness, the animals could provide milk and eggs for the family or to sell for money to pay for other expenses.

            Since I am not in Salt Lake City, Utah, and am unable to go to the vending machines, I looked up the charitable organization on line. I learned that I could give two chickens for $25, two goats for $150, or a goat and two chickens for $100. I was almost ready to donate when I decided to read the small print. It basically said that the organization would use the donation for whatever purpose they felt was most important and could not guarantee that it would be used for the selected items.

            The company statement was no-deal for me. If I cannot depend on a family receiving a goat and two chickens, I will continue to do my giving through the Church humanitarian department.  By sharing through the Church, I know that 100 percent of my donation will go to the cause, and I do not have this guarantee with any other organization. Still, I am disappointed because I really wanted to give a goat for Christmas!