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, October 20, 2017

Why Study?

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals understand the importance of studying in their lives. As I discussed last week learning can take place without the effort of studying, such as infants who learn to crawl, walk, talk, and feed themselves. They do no studying, yet they learn a great deal. However, in order to understand information, one must study.

            A book titled The World Book of Study Power, book one of a set of two, has a section about the reasons studying is important to succeed in school, at work, and in life itself. Since I am now a student, I want to learn good study skills and am sharing what I learning with you. The following is what I learned from reading the above referenced book today.

When you study, you search for understanding. You read, take notes, listen, and try to remember because you know that you can learn and understand complex ideas, concepts, and subjects. Studying is a means to understanding….

Every time you learn something, you prepare yourself to learn more. For example, you must learn to count before you can learn to add or subtract. And you must learn to add and subtract before you can hope to master more complex mathematical principles. The more you learn, the more you are able to learn. That’s because by learning something, you expand not only your knowledge but your self-confidence. Every time you complete that circuit, you deepen your understanding of the world (pages 20-21).

            The book states that there is a wide variety of “steps to learning” that we must climb in order to study effectively. These steps are called “strategies,” and the learner must “know what strategies you have to choose from, how to use those strategies, and when to use a particular strategy” (page 21).

            When one learns something new, their mind changes “to new ways of thinking or acting” causing one to change their approach to learning. A suggested example of this change is looking for a library book. One can search for a book by walking up and down each aisle looking at the books, or one can use the data in the library’s computer. Learning to use the information in the computer changes the procedure to find books in the library (page 22).

            Since studying is supposed to help learning to take place, it stands to reason that one must study effectively, and to study effectively means that one must understand how they learn. The book uses Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison as examples. Einstein was a “pioneer in physics,” yet he failed math. Edison was a “great inventor,” yet he was labeled “addled” by his teacher. Both men were highly intelligent, but they performed badly in school because they learned in ways different than the normal student. Students do their best when they understand “how to learn.”

What Einstein and Edison did know about themselves – and what you can find out – was how they learned best, what they had to do to reach their goals, what resources they had, and how to get the job done. You can learn to direct your studying so that it pays off. To do so, you must organize your thoughts and time, channel your energy, and connect whatever you’re learning to what you already know (page 23).

            Because learning does not just happen even though one has the desire to learn, one must prepare to learn, such as warming up before exercising. This warm up includes the following (sometimes summarized) elements:

. Yourself: What do you already know? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

. Criteria: What are you expected to achieve? How much time do you have? How will you be evaluated? How will this project help in the future?

. Resources: What do you need to complete the task? Where can you go for help? What materials should you use? Where can you get the books or equipment needed?

Task to be performed: Do you have to prepare a report, take a test, master a new computer program, or give a demonstration?

Strategies: What must you do to successfully complete each task? Can you break down your task into smaller steps? How and when can you take those steps?

            Preparing oneself to learn gives one a structure or outline to check progress as well as a timetable to complete the task. The above checklist also helps one to know how one learns the best, the most important preparation for learning.

            “Everybody learns different things in different ways. How you learn depends on what you learn.” Some of the different types of learning are: (1) kinesthetic learning or doing (riding a bicycle); (2) tactile or feeling (kneading bread); (3) auditory learning or listening (singing, playing a musical instrument, or learning to appreciate music; (4) visual learning (learning about the stars and planets). You should note that these types of learning come from our senses.

Your senses bring all kinds of information to you. Without realizing it, you are learning all kinds of things in all kinds of ways. Usually, if you’re learning for your own satisfaction, you instinctively let the task guide you. Without thinking about it, you choose the best way to learn…. Break down any task into smaller parts. If you take one bite at a time, you’ll be able to enjoy each one (page 25).

            As parents, grandparents, and teachers our task is to help children and youth to understand how they learn best. This knowledge will come in both formal and informal teaching situations. By helping the rising generation to learn how they learn best, we can strengthen individuals, families, communities, and nations.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Freedom from Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is that everyone should be free from sexual harassment and sexual assault. I decided to write on this topic because I saw so many posts on Facebook about it. The posts are a result of a suggestion that actress Alyssa Milano tweeted on Sunday night: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote `Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Thousands of women had tweeted “Me too” by Monday morning. Thousands of others were posting it on Facebook.

            I decided to do some basic research to learn more about this subject, and I first sought to define it. I learned that sexual harassment is anything of a sexual nature that is unwelcome or unwanted and/or causes discomfort, humiliation, or distress. There are several different types of sexual harassment, such as saying sexist, crude or suggestive remarks; showing sexually suggestive pictures, touching someone in a “friendly” manner, or giving an uncomfortable stare.   I realized that I have been exposed to sexual harassment most of my life. I remember boys lining the hallways in high school and making crude comments to and about the girls who had to pass between them. I found the same type of environment in my places of work.

            Korin Miller shares a definition of sexual assault that she says comes from the United States Department of Justice: “Sexual assault is `any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.’ Sexual assault is basically an umbrella term that includes sexual activities such as rape, fondling, and attempted rape.”

            I find it sad that even one person has been sexually harassed and/or sexually assaulted. To know that this behavior is rampant in our society is heartbreaking. The perpetrators are male with female, male with male, female with male, and female with female, but the vast majority of the cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault are male with female.

            Tweeting or posting “Me too” may bring some relief or satisfaction to the victimized, and it may show the vastness of the problem. As I see it, the problem is not a sexual problem; it is a respect problem. Nothing will change until all of us learn to respect ourselves and each other as children of God and as equals in His sight.

            We must learn to treat each other with respect. Children and youth need to be taught appropriate behavior. Victims need to be supported in their honest claims in order for them to become survivors. The only way to solve the problem is to bring the dirty little secrets out of the darkness into the light. The “Me too” campaign may be the tool to start an open discussion and to teach respect. I would love to live in a world that was free from sexual harassment and sexual assault! 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Conservative JFK

            There is an enormous difference in the politicians of the present time to the politicians of my childhood and youth. Democrats often hold up President John F. Kennedy as a great Democrat. What they do not realize is that JFK was more conservative than many of the so-called conservatives of today. Today's post is a lesson in history.

            In an address to the Economic Club of New York on 14 December 1962, President Kennedy campaigned for tax cuts, claiming that the nation could not succeed with them. You can read his talk at this site or listen to it at this site.  Here is an excerpt from his talk.

Our true choice is not between tax reduction, on the one hand, and the avoidance of large Federal deficits on the other. It is increasingly clear that no matter what party is in power, so long as our national security needs keep rising, an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance our budget just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits. Surely the lesson of the last decade is that budget deficits are not caused by wild-eyed spenders but by slow economic growth and periodic recessions, and any new recession would break all deficit records.

In short, it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now. The experience of a number of European countries and Japan have borne this out. This country's own experience with tax reduction in 1954 has borne this out. And the reason is that only full employment can balance the budget, and tax reduction can pave the way to that employment. The purpose of cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus.

I repeat: our practical choice is not between a tax-cut deficit and a budgetary surplus. It is between two kinds of deficits: a chronic deficit of inertia, as the unwanted result of inadequate revenues and a restricted economy; or a temporary deficit of transition, resulting from a tax cut designed to boost the economy, increase tax revenues, and achieve--and I believe this can be done--a budget surplus. The first type of deficit is a sign of waste and weakness; the second reflects an investment in the future....

 … This Nation can afford to reduce taxes, we can afford a temporary deficit, but we cannot afford to do nothing.

            I do not claim to like everything that JFK said or did, but I thought that he was a good President. After listening to him give this speech, I still believe that he was a good leader. It would be nice to have such a strong defender of tax cuts today. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Why Study Humanities?

            I am in another semester at Brigham Young University-Idaho, and I am continuing my plan to study the foundational courses first. I registered for World Foundations 1 without truly understanding what the course was about. When I opened the first lesson, I thought, “Oh, no!” I probably would not have taken the class if I had known previously that I would be studying art, music, literature, and drama. I was interested in history!

            As I got into the course, I was pleasantly surprised about how fun it is to learn about ancient civilizations through several disciplines. I am actually taking a spiritual journey as well as a fascinating intellectual one. This humanities course is broad-based and explores the connections found literature, art, architecture, history, philosophy, music, politics, and more.

            The course teaches three themes: Redemption, Moral Revelation, and Just Society. Through these themes I am gaining knowledge about basic gospel truths. I learned about redemption through studying symbols, the temple pattern – Creation, Garden, Fall, World, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ – and the monomyth, which basically means the long journey part of the temple pattern. I studied The Epic of Gilgamesh, Oedipus, and The Allegory of the Cave, which all follow the temple pattern quite closely. I learned that many familiar stories follow this same pattern, such as The Wizard of Oz, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Little Mermaid, and Return of the Jedi.

            I am currently studying Moral Revelation, and I am learning that Heavenly Father has revealed gospel truths to His children throughout human history. The lesson this week is an introduction to world religions as well as the ideas of moral revelation and moral truth. I was particularly enlightened by these paragraphs from a statement given by the First Presidency on February 15, 1978, and titled “God’s Love for All Mankind.”

Based upon ancient and modern revelation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gladly teaches and declares the Christian doctrine that all men and women are brothers and sisters, not only by blood relationship from common mortal progenitors but also as literal spirit children of an Eternal Father.

The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.

            The fact that God gave revelation to religious leaders throughout history shows that God loves all of His children and blesses them with light and truth no matter where they lived or when they lived. This moral revelation enlightened whole nations and helped individuals to achieve a higher level of moral understanding. The only determining factor on the amount of light and truth revealed was the individual’s willingness and readiness to be taught.

            Another statement that enlightened me is the following one by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

We are indebted to the men and women who kept the light of faith and learning alive through the centuries to the present day. We have only to contrast the lesser light that exists among peoples unfamiliar with the names of God and Jesus Christ to realize the great contribution made by Christian teachers through the ages. We honor them as servants of God.

            The above statement means more to me after I studied an essay titled “Catholicism’s Contributions to God’s Plan” by Gerald Hansen, Jr. He says that “the Catholic Church is the result, not the cause of the Apostasy.” When the Apostles of Jesus Christ died, they took the keys of the priesthood with them. However, there were still good people, and Catholicism resulted. Catholicism meant Christianity for 1400 years. This was followed by 300 years of the Protestant Reformation. The Catholics and the Protestants helped to prepare the world for the restoration of the priesthood keys and the gospel of Jesus Christ. A study of how the New Testament came to be – and almost missing the book of James – only added to my enlightenment.

            My eyes have been opened, and my mind has been enlightened by taking this humanities class. I am sure that I will learn much more this week as I study the teachings of various religions. The more I learn about other people and their lives and religions, the more I understand that we are all brothers and sisters and children of a loving Heavenly Father. I learn that we are more alike than we are different. My knowledge of how much Heavenly Father loves all His children wherever and whenever they live has grown immensely.

Monday, October 16, 2017

George Bernard Shaw

            George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland, on 26 July 1856. He was the only son and youngest child of George Carr Shaw and Lucinda Elizabeth (Bessie) Gurley Shaw, and he had two older sisters. The Shaw family descended from English ancestors, and they were Protestants in Ireland. Shaw’s father was an alcoholic, and his mother was indifferent and showed little affection to her son. The family lived in what Shaw later described as “shabby-genteel poverty.”

            Shaw’s mother was a close friend of George John Lee, a conductor, singing teacher, and “a flamboyant figure well known in Dublin’s musical circles.” His mother “had a fine mezzo-soprano voice,” and Shaw “found solace in the music that abounded in the house.” The family frequently hosted “gatherings of singers and players.”

            When Shaw was about six years old, Lee and the Shaw family “agree to share a house … [located] in an affluent part of Dublin, and a country cottage” overlooking a bay. Shaw “was happier at the cottage” than in Dublin, and he enjoyed receiving books from Lee’s students. He “read avidly; thus, as well as gaining a thorough musical knowledge of choral and operatic works, he became familiar with a wide spectrum of literature.”

            Shaw did not like any of the four schools that he attended as a boy, and he was “disillusioned with formal education.” He left school in October 1871 at age 15 “to become a junior clerk in a Dublin firm of land agents, where he worked hard, and quickly rose to become head cashier.” At that time he was known as “George Shaw,” but in 1876 he became “Bernard Shaw” and used that name for the rest of his life.

            Lee moved to London in June 1873, and Bessie and her two daughters joined him two weeks later. Shaw stayed in Dublin with his father and taught himself to play the piano. He learned in 1876 that his younger sister was dying of tuberculosis, and he joined his mother and older sister at the funeral.

            Shaw never lived in Ireland again but stayed in London where he became famous as an “Irish playwright, critic and polemicist” (one who engages in controversial debate).

[Shaw’s] influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature….
Since Shaw’s death scholarly and critical opinion has varied about his works, but he has regularly been rated as second only to Shakespeare among British dramatists; analysts recognize his extensive influence on generations of English-language playwrights. The word “Shavian” has entered the language as encapsulating Shaw’s ideas and his means of expressing them.

            Shaw met a rich Anglo-Irish woman named Charlotte Payne-Townshend who proposed to him in 1897, but he declined. The next year his health broke, and Charlotte “insisted on nursing him in a house in the country.” Shaw agreed to marry her in order to avoid the look of a scandal, and the wedding took play on 1 June 1898. Both bride and groom were 41 years old. The marriage was “felicitous” (suitable, pleasing) but produced no children.

            The Shaws bought a country home in Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, in 1906 and renamed it “Shaw’s Corner.” They lived there for the rest of their lives. Charlotte passed away in 1943, and Shaw died at home of renal failure at age 94 on 2 November 1950. He was cremated, and his ashes were “mixed with those of Charlotte” and “scattered along footpaths and around the statue of Saint Joan in their garden.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Results of Socialism

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the simple fact that socialism does not work. Yet, there are many people who think that Americans should trade capitalism for socialism. Bernie Sanders, former presidential candidate, ran on a platform calling for socialism in the United States, and he had the support of many millennials. Before discussing socialism, we must first define it. Here is a simple definition. 

Socialism is an economic theory of social organization that believes that the means of making, moving, and trading wealth should be owned or controlled by the community as a whole. In Marxist theory, it is a transitional (temporary, in between) social state between capitalism and communism.

            In other words, the people in socialist societies own and manage all the factories, farms, and businesses until the society slips or is forced into communism and loses all freedoms. That picture is not a pretty one, but here is a more detailed definition of socialism

Socialism is an economic system where the ways of making money (factories, offices, etc.) are owned by a society as a whole, meaning the value made belongs to everyone in that society, instead of a group of private owners. People who agree with this type of system are called socialists. There are two ways socialists think that society can own the means of making wealth: either the state (government of the country) is used or worker-owned cooperatives are used. Another important belief is that management and sharing are supposed to be based on public interests. Socialists believe that everything in society is made by the cooperative efforts of the people.

There are many kinds of socialism, so no one definition can apply to all of them; however, in all types, the workers supposedly own the means of production….

            I saw some red-flag words in the above description: “two ways socialists think,” “Another important belief,”  “Socialists believe,” and “workers supposedly own.” I did not see any definite statements and nothing positive. I searched for the names of a few countries that are socialist, and I was surprised at the list that I found. This site reports the following information.

There are no countries that are 100 percent socialist…. Most have mixed economies that incorporate socialism with capitalism, communism or both. Here’s a list of countries that are considered to have a strong socialist system:

Norway, Sweden, and Denmark: The state provides healthcare, education, and pensions. However, these countries also have successful capitalists. The top 10 percent of each nation’s people hold more than 65 percent of the wealth. That’s because most people don’t feel the need to accumulate wealth since the government provides a great quality of life.

Cuba, China, Vietnam, Russia and North Korea: These countries incorporate characteristics of both socialism and communism.

Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Guyana, India, Mozambique, Portugal, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania: These countries all expressly state they are socialist in their constitutions. Their economies are primarily run by the government. All have democratically-elected governments.

Belarus, Laos, Syria, Turkmenistan, Venezuela, Zambia: These countries all have a very strong aspect governance, ranging from healthcare, the media, or social programs, that are run by the government.

Many other countries, such as Ireland, France, Great Britain, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Belgium, have strong socialist parties and a high level of social support provided by the government. However, most businesses are privately-owned, making them essentially capitalist.

Many traditional economies use socialism, although many still use private ownership. 

            I noticed that “65 percent of the wealth” in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark is owned by the top 10 percent of the people in each nation. Ninety percent of the people are content to let the government take care of them. Most people recognize that Cuba, China, Vietnam, Russia, and North Korea are closer to communism than socialism. The countries in the third group – Belarus, Laos, Syria, Turkmenistan, Venezuela, and Zambia – have socialism written right into their constitutions, and their governments run their economies even though the leaders are supposedly democratically elected. The fourth group – Ireland, France, Great Britain, Netherlands, New Zealand, Belgium, and many other countries have privately-owned businesses, but their governments provide “a high level of social support.”

            Let’s take Venezuela as an example. This nation was once a “middle-class, oil-rich country,” but now there are shortages of everything. The people are starving and protesting. The problem in Venezuela is not a lack of money; it is poor policies.

            David Boaz at The Cato Institute points out that the media reports “regularly on the crises in Venezuela” and lists all the shortages. However, he says, there are few that will mention of the cause of Venezuela falling from a rich country to “desperately poor.” One article came close by writing about the leaders winning office with a “populist message of returning power to the people” but never identified the problem. 

But never does the article identify what economic system could cause such disaster. It does mention specific policies: subsidies, welfare programs, money printing, inflation, and price controls. But nationalization is never mentioned. And in particular [the words “socialism” or “socialist” are never mentioned.]  

            This sounds a whole lot like Barack Obama who chose to never say the words “Radical Islam.” Anyone who refuses to name the enemy is not really interested in fighting it. In order to fight socialism, we must not be afraid to name it.

            People who live under socialism are qualified to discuss the problems caused by it. I found this video provided by Prager University to be very informative. Brazil is not one of the socialist nations listed earlier in this post, but conditions there must be deteriorating. Felipe Moura Brasil, a journalist and Veja magazine columnist in Brazil, explains how socialism is affecting his nation.

            I desire to protect and preserve the American way of life that capitalism makes possible. I am not afraid to say the socialism will never be a good replacement for capitalism. People should never allow government handouts to take away the need to work and to provide for themselves and their families. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Promised Blessings

            Prophets through the ages, from Adam to President Thomas S. Monson, have proclaimed the word of God to mankind. An ancient prophet went so far as to say that “God will do nothing” without revealing His will to His prophets (see Amos 3:7). I have learned to pay attention to the words of prophets, especially when I hear prophets and apostles quoting other prophets.

            At the April 2017 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Monson spoke to the members of the Church as well as to the world. Suffering from old age and speaking for only a few minutes, the Prophet chose to urge everyone to read the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ. He closed his remarks with a promise.

This morning I speak about the power of the Book of Mormon and the critical need we have as members of this Church to study, ponder, and apply its teachings in our lives. The importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated.

We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true – and I solemnly testify that it is – then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children.

If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one. It is essential for you to have your own testimony in these difficult times, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far. However, once obtained, a testimony needs to be kept vital and alive through continued obedience to the commandments of God and through daily prayer and scripture study.

My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives. (See “The Power of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, May 2017; emphasis added.) 

            I was impressed at the number of speakers at the October 2017 General Conference who quoted the words of President Monson or at least referred to them. Two apostles, men that we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators, did so.

            The first to do so was Elder Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who spoke in the Saturday afternoon session of conference and titled his talk, “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It?” Elder Nelson referenced President Monson’s talk and then shared some personal experiences with the Book of Mormon as well as some results from a small survey that he took. Then he said the following.

Immersing ourselves regularly in the truths of the Book of Mormon can be a life-changing experience. One of our missionary granddaughters… promised an investigator that if he would read the Book of Mormon daily, his test scores on his university exams would improve. He did, and they did.

My dear brothers and sisters, I testify that the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God. It contains the answers to life’s most compelling questions. It teaches the doctrine of Christ. It expands and clarifies many of the “plain and precious” truths that were lost through centuries of time and numerous translations of the Bible.

The Book of Mormon provides the fullest and most authoritative understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be found anywhere. It teaches what it really means to be born again. From the Book of Mormon we learn about the gathering of scattered Israel. We know why we are here on earth. These and other truths are more powerfully and persuasively taught in the Book of Mormon than in any other book. The full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the Book of Mormon. Period.

The Book of Mormon illuminates the teachings of the Master and exposes the tactics of the adversary. The Book of Mormon teaches true doctrine to dispel false religious traditions – such as the erroneous practice of performing infant baptisms. The Book of Mormon gives purpose to life by urging us to ponder the potential of eternal life and “never-ending happiness.” The Book of Mormon shatters the false beliefs that happiness can be found in wickedness and that individual goodness is all that is required to return to the presence of God. It abolishes forever the false concepts that revelation ended with the Bible and that the heavens are sealed today.

When I think of the Book of Mormon, I think of the word power. The truths of the Book of Mormon have the power to heal, comfort, restore, succor, strengthen, console, and cheer our souls.

My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisionsevery day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day, even the gripping plague of pornography and other mind-numbing addictions. (See “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It? emphasis added.) 

            President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke in the Sunday morning session of General Conference. He reminded us again of President Monson’s plea to us to read the Book of Mormon. He mentioned that he had read the Book of Mormon every day for fifty years, and he still felt the urge from President Monson’s talk to deepen his study of the Book of Mormon.

Like many of you, I heard the prophet’s words as the voice of the Lord to me. And, also like many of you, I decided to obey those words. Now, since I was a young boy, I have felt the witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that the Father and the Son appeared and spoke with Joseph Smith, and that ancient Apostles came to the Prophet Joseph to restore priesthood keys to the Lord’s Church.

With that testimony, I have read the Book of Mormon every day for more than 50 years. So perhaps I could have reasonably thought that President Monson’s words were for someone else. Yet, like many of you, I felt the prophet’s encouragement and his promise invite me to make a greater effort. Many of you have done what I did: prayed with increased intent, pondered scripture more intently, and tried harder to serve the Lord and others for Him.

The happy result for me, and for many of you, has been what the prophet promised. Those of us who took his inspired counsel to heart have heard the Spirit more distinctly. We have found a greater power to resist temptation and have felt greater faith in a resurrected Jesus Christ, in His gospel, and in His living Church.

In a season of increasing tumult in the world, those increases in testimony have driven out doubt and fear and have brought us feelings of peace. Heeding President Monson’s counsel has had two other wonderful effects on me: First the Spirit he promised has produced a sense of optimism about what lies ahead, even as the commotion in the world seems to increase. And, second, the Lord has given me – and you – an even greater feeling of His love for those in distress. We have felt an increase in the desire to go to the rescue of others. That desire has been at the heart of President Monson’s ministry and teaching. (See “Fear Not to Do Good;” emphasis added.) 

            The Prophet said that we should “prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives. Two Apostles quoted or referred to the Prophet’s words, encouraged us to sincerely study the Book of Mormon, and gave their own promises for what we could expect for doing so.

            President Nelson promised that we would “make better decisions,” have “windows of heaven” open to us, “receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life,” and “be immunized against the evils of the day.”

            President Eyring spoke of hearing “the Spirit more distinctly, having “a greater power to resist temptation,” and feeling “greater faith in a resurrected Jesus Christ, in His gospel, and in His living Church.”

            I have been reading and studying the Book of Mormon almost daily for approximately 37 years. I know of its power to bless my life and can testify of its truthfulness. Yet, I feel a great pull to study deeper, pray more fervently, and obey with more exactness. I encourage you to join me in my quest to receive more of the promised blessings that come from studying the Book of Mormon

Friday, October 13, 2017

Need for Study Skills

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals realize that their lifelong learning is enhanced with study. Most of us started learning as soon as we were born when we uttered our first cry to notify the world that we were not happy about our recent experience. We later learned to cry whenever we needed attention – hunger, tired, etc. We also learned to suck soon after we were born – or before birth. Before too many months and years passed, we were crawling, walking, talking, riding bicycles, etc. Then we went to school and learned to read, do mathematics, etc.

            I recently started another semester at Brigham Young University-Idaho, and I recognized that I needed to learn to study better. So, I went to my bookshelves and pulled out a book that I purchased for my younger children many years ago. It is the first book of a two-volume set published by World Book and is titled The World Book of Study Power. I started reading it recently and realized that there was important information that parents can pass along to their children.

            The first thing that I learned was to differentiate between learning and studying. Sometimes people think that there is a wall between learning and studying because some things are fun to learn and studying is hard work. The above referenced book begins with a section called “Why Study?”

This book is about understanding yourself so that you can motivate yourself and perform with more confidence at school or work. You’ll learn to remove the artificial barrier between studying and learning. When that wall is up, you study because you have to answer to some else – not because you want the satisfaction of learning. By tearing down the wall, you’ll study to learn instead of studying to perform (page 16).

            A year or so ago I was with my then-ten-year-old granddaughter, and she was rattling off all kinds of information. I asked her how she learned so much about so many different kinds of things. She answered, “I read books, and I learn from what I read.” So, one thing that parents can do to help their children gain a love for learning is to encourage reading of good books.

            The book on study skills continues by stating that “Studying is something people do throughout their lives.” It explains that students study because they “have assignments to read, papers to write, and tests to take.” However, studying continues long after the student graduates.

Studying doesn’t end when you leave school. Adults may have oral or written reports to present, budgets to monitor, ideas to evaluate, workshops to attend, and classes to take. To keep up, they need to schedule their time so that they can read and research, listen and write, question and remember. To stay on top of things at work, adults read specialized magazines and journals. To process this deluge of information, they use study skills (page 17).

            I recently visited with two different doctors; one is an emergency room doctor, and the other is an orthopedic surgeon. Both of them were studying in order to pass their board exams, which they have to take every ten years. One of them told me that he had studied for two months between his two jobs, and the other one took two weeks off work to study. So, we know that study skills are needed long after a student leaves school.

            The book lists some study skills in one column and suggests that the reader writes when they use a particular skill in a second column and how the reader uses the skill in a third column. Just reading the list shows that study skills are useful outside the classroom. See how you do on this the list of study skills (page 18).

. Remembering details and recognizing how they fit together
. Writing clearly to express what I know
. Reading to understand and remember
. Asking questions to find out or clarify
. Taking notes
. Listening
. Reviewing for tests or presentations
. Taking tests or answering questions

            One of the most valuable study skills is the ability to ask questions. Part of this skill is the capacity to know the right time to ask a question. “Questions lead you down the path of learning…. When you stop asking, you stop learning. Questioning is a sign that you’re thinking. You’re trying to make sense of new information” (page 20).

            The best way to learn new information is to use study skills, but the actual “learning itself takes place inside…. Studying is supposed to lead to learning – but as you know, that’s not always the case…. What you gain from studying depends on what you bring to the task” (page 20).

            In addition to encouraging children to read, parents can also encourage their children to ask questions and to give honest compliments when one notices a child using one of the study skills. It is a simple task to say something like, “I appreciate the way that you are listening to what I am saying” or to ask a child to remember some details and explain how they fit together.

By encouraging children to learn good study skills, we can help them to learn to love learning. In doing so, we can strengthen our families, communities, and nations.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Religious Freedom

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday deals with the right to freedom of religion. What does it mean to have freedom of religion? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints defines freedom of religion as follows. 

Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right that protects the conscience of all people. It allows us to think, express and act upon what we deeply believe. But around the world, and in the United States, this freedom is eroding. Churches, religious organizations and individuals face increasing restrictions as they participate in the public square, express their beliefs or serve in society. But there is much good that Church members and people of goodwill can do to preserve and strengthen religious freedom.

            The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The federal government, as well as state and local governments, is bound by this law. No government can form any law that is for or against any religion. The Founders obviously felt strongly about the need for this freedom because they placed it first in the First Amendment.

            Why do we need freedom of religion? One reason that we need freedom of religion is that it protects everyone. Every person is free to worship whatever God they choose and to do it in whatever way they choose – or to not worship God at all. This freedom is important because our nation and society has great diversity.

            This site has a cute video outlining why religious freedom is important. I encourage you to watch it.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Stupid or Not?

            It was Forrest Gump who introduced me to the statement “Stupid is as stupid does.”   This saying is apparently a variation of “Pretty is as pretty does” or “Handsome is as handsome does.” The latter saying is ancient and can be traced to the 14th Century, but it also appears in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and in Herman Melville’s “Billy Budd.” All the sayings mean basically the same thing: Judge people by their actions and not how they look

            It is impolite as well as politically incorrect to call anyone “stupid,” but it must be okay to call ideas stupid. Walter E. Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, says that “Many stupid ideas originate with academics on college campuses. If they remained there and didn’t infect the rest of society, they might be a source of entertainment, much in the way a circus is.” He shares “a few stupid ideas peddled by intellectuals.”

During the Cold War, academic leftists made a moral equivalency between communist totalitarianism and democracy.

Worse is the fact that they exempted communist leaders from the type of harsh criticism directed toward Adolf Hitler, even though communist crimes against humanity made Hitler’s slaughter of 11 million noncombatants appear almost amateurish.

According to Professor R. J. Rummel’s research in “Death by Government,” from 1917 until its collapse, the Soviet Union murdered or caused the death of 61 million people, mostly its own citizens.

From 1949 to 1976, Communist China’s Mao Zedong regime was responsible for the death of as many as 78 million of its own citizens.

            Williams continues his post by stating that intellectuals are now saying that communism and capitalism are basically equal. He asks which countries people are fleeing from – communist or capitalist, and which countries are people fleeting to – capitalist or communist. The idea that the two governmental systems are equal is “stupid.”

            Moving on to other areas where ideas could be considered “stupid,” Williams discusses the idea that multiculturalism and diversity is a cause for celebration.

If one is black, brown, yellow, or white, the prevailing thought is that he should take pride and celebrate that fact even though he had nothing to do with it.

The multiculturalist and diversity crowd seems to suggest that race or sex is an achievement. That’s just plain nonsense.

In my book, race or sex might be an achievement, worthy of considerable celebration, if a person were born a white male and through his effort and diligence became a black female.

            A third idea that Williams considers “stupid” is white privilege. He says that there is even a course titled “Abolition of Whiteness” at one college. He discusses why “white privilege” can be considered a stupid idea.

According to academic intellectuals, whites enjoy advantages that nonwhites do not. They earn higher income and reside in better housing, and their children go to better schools and achieve more. Based upon those socio-economic statistics, Japanese-Americans have more white privilege than white people….

Leftists should get rid of the concept of white privilege and just call it achievement.

            Williams states that his daughter has more privilege than most whites. He then considers an idea that apparently does not interest academic intellectuals. At least, they do not say much about it and definitely do not teach it.

Many of our problems, both at our institutions of higher learning and in the nation at large, stem from the fact that we’ve lost our moral compasses and there’s not a lot of interest in reclaiming them.

As a matter of fact, most people don’t see our major problems as having anything to do with morality.

            Williams ends his post with the above statement, but I would like to discuss morality a bit more. When we speak of “morality,” we mean having the ability to distinguish between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. Morality should be taught in the home, and many parents are teaching it. However, many children are never taught morals, and they fall prey to intellectuals who are pushing an agenda and others who take advantage of them.

            Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke about the need to “work with good people of other faiths to improve the moral fabric of our communities, nations, and world.” He says that we can help to restore morality to our nation and world by doing three things: (1) Be a righteous example. Practice the principles of honesty, integrity, morality, and service to our fellowmen. (2) Be civil in your discourse and respectful in interacting with others, particularly when we disagree. Practice the golden rule and treat others as we would like to be treated. (3) Be an advocate for morality and religious freedom. He says the following about being an advocate.

This is a time when those who feel accountable to God for their conduct feel under siege by a secular world. You understand the moral principles that are under attack and the need to defend morality. Religious freedom all over the world is also under attack. It is important for us to become well educated on this issue and assume responsibility for ensuring that the religious freedom we have inherited is passed on to future generations. We must work together to both protect religious freedom and restore morality.

            Forest Gump says that “Stupid is as stupid does.” Williams says that many of the problems in society are due to a lack of morality. Cook gives three ways that we as individuals can help restore morality: (1) Walk the talk – be a good example of a moral person. (2) Treat other people with respect. (3) Be an advocate for morality and teach morals to the rising generation.

            Are these ideas stupid? No, they are not. However, we may be considered stupid by future generations if we do not follow the counsel given to restore morality to our society.