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.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Danger to the Supreme Court

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the dangerous situation in which the Supreme Court currently sits. The Justices that sit on the Supreme Court should not be partial to either political party. They are to judge the law according to the Constitution and not use their position on the bench to support or weaken any politician or party.

            There were great political fights about whether Judge Neil Gorsuch should be confirmed as a Justice for the Supreme Court. Republicans were forced to eliminate the filibuster in order to confirm him. Conservatives celebrated his confirmation, but Chief Justice John Roberts defined the “real danger” that the Supreme Court faces.

            As reported by The Blaze and the Washington Post,  Chief Justice Roberts held a “question-and-answer session at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute” and said that the “partisan hostility” that took place between the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the confirmation of Justice Gorsuch “threatens the sanctity of the court.” The Chief Justice said the following.

I want to point out one thing – that throughout this whole process, the Supreme Court has been quietly going about its business of deciding the cases before it, according to the Constitution, in a completely nonpartisan way. … We’ve done it for the past 14 months with one vacancy, and we’ll do it going in the future now that we have a full complement.

            The Chief Justice continued his comments by stating his real concern about the partisanship that took place in the confirmation process.

It is a real danger that the partisan hostility that people see in the political branches will affect the nonpartisan activity of the judicial branch. It is very difficult I think for a member of the public to look at what goes on in confirmation hearings these days, which is a very sharp conflict in political terms between Democrats and Republicans, and not think that the person who comes out of that process must similarly share that partisan view of public issues and public life.

            The Chief Justice showed his faith in the new Justice by saying that he is “confident” that Gorsuch will not be political in his rulings.

The new justice is not a Republican, not a Democrat – he is a member of the Supreme Court. But it is hard for people to understand that when they see the process that leads up to it.

            The problem as described by the Chief Justice is not that the Justices will be partial to one party or the other, but that the people will think that the Justices are political in their judgments. We have witnessed several rulings in recent years – such as the rulings on Obamacare and same-sex marriage – that could look like they are political but maybe not.

            I suppose that there can be differences between “liberal” rulings and “conservative” rulings without politics being involved, but I can see the danger outlined by the Chief Justice. There have been riots in the streets of the nations for the past six months, and some people are still claiming that Donald Trump is not the legitimate president. What would happen in the nation if unhappy groups of people decided that the Justices were not legitimate because they ruled against the interests of those people? I hate to envision the divisions that would form in the nation. We must insist that Congress take the politics out of the confirmation process and vote on the abilities of the judges. Gorsuch would have been confirmed with 100 percent of the votes, and the voting would have been done quickly!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Warnings from the Book of Mormon

            I chose to write about the following principle: The Americas are a choice land, and the nations that live there must serve God or be swept off when they become ripe in iniquity. The more time that I spend in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the more I am convinced that its writers describe our day with the divisions in our nation, the intrigue in the government, and vast amount of wickedness in the world.

            The books of Mormon and Ether tell of the destructions of two great civilizations that once thrived and prospered in the Americas – the Nephites and the Jaredites. Each group was led by the Lord to America, a place that is described frequently in the Book of Mormon as being a land that “is choice above all the lands of the earth” (Ether 1:42). Each group prospered as long as the people were righteous and worshipped the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ. Each group was swept off the land and destroyed when they reached a fulness of iniquity or became rotten to the core.

            The first group – the Jaredites – came to America in the years following the scattering of the people who tried to build a tower to heaven – the tower of Babel. Their history, which is contained in the book of Ether, covers approximately 1500 years. They had years of prospering, and times of wickedness. The last surviving Jaredite was discovered by the Nephites, who left Jerusalem in 600 B.C.

            The first leaders of the Jaredites were Jared and his brother – known as the brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon. The people were righteous because their leaders were righteous. However, some years after the arrival of the Jaredites in America, Jared and his brother became old and realized they would soon die. They asked their people what they should do for them before they died, and the people answered that they wanted a king to rule over them.

            Jared and his brother found the idea of a king to be “grievous,” and the brother of Jared told the people: “Surely this thing leadeth into captivity” (Ether 6:23). The people insisted that they wanted a king, so the sons of Jared and his brother were asked if they wanted to be king. All of them refused except one, and he was anointed to be king before Jared and his brother died.
He was a righteous king, and the people prospered under his rule. However, there were many kings who were wicked, and the people were often brought into “captivity” before their destruction. The Jaredite history is filled with changes between righteous kings and wicked kings, prospering and suffering.

            The prophet Moroni summarized the Jared history into what is now fifteen chapters in the Book of Mormon. He described the Jaredites during one of their last righteous periods: “Never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord. And they were in a land that was choice above all lands…” (Ether 10:28). What causes a great civilization to progress from being a “blessed” people to total destruction?

            We know about the Jaredites because the Nephites found 24 gold plates that contained their record. The history was written by a prophet named Ether, and his book in the Book of Mormon is called the book of Ether. A Nephite prophet/king named Mosiah was a seer who had the ability to translate languages, and he translated the record of Ether. With the history of the Jaredites firmly in his mind, he recognized the problems caused by wicked kings. He convinced his people to change their type of government from a monarchy to a democracy ruled by a system of judges. He hoped that this change of government would save his people from the same destruction of the Jaredites. It did not.

            Even though the people had the freedom to choose their leaders, they did not always choose wisely. When the people were righteous enough to choose righteous leaders, their nation prospered. When the people chose wicked leaders, the nation suffered. Obviously, the secret to being a “blessed” people is to be righteous and to choose righteous leaders. When people have righteous leaders – king, judge, or president, he/she leads the people righteously. Wicked leaders lead their people into wickedness, and this is what happened to both the Jaredites and the Nephites. The Jaredites were destroyed by division and war among themselves. The Nephites were destroyed by the Lamanites, part of the original group that came from Jerusalem about 1,000 years earlier. Both groups were warned numerous times to repent or be destroyed. They did not listen to the prophets of their day.

            Mormon was a Nephite prophet/military leader/record keeper. He was present when his people were destroyed and was one of twenty-four Nephites who survived the last battle. He greatly mourned the death of his people. Mormon recognized the cause of destruction for both the Jaredites and the Nephites – secret combinations under the control of Satan. While summarizing the record in the book of Helaman, he writes about Gadianton and his robbers.

And behold, in the end of this book ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi.
Behold I do not mean the end of the book of Helaman, but I mean the end of the book of Nephi, from which I have taken all the account which I have written [meaning the end of the Book of Mormon] (Helaman 2:13-14).

            Mormon’s son Moroni was the last surviving Nephite who lived for 20 plus years after the death of his father. Moroni wandered around and kept himself hidden from the Lamanites in order to live. He completed his father’s record, summarized Ether’s record, and made his own record. Some of Moroni’s last words were these.

Condemn me not because of mine imperfections, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been” (Mormon 9:31).

            We can “learn to be more wise” than the Jaredites and Nephites by recognizing that there are secret combinations controlling events in our day. Secret combinations include gangs, terrorist organizations, and secret governments. We can also be "more wise" by listening to the Latter-day prophets and apostles who often warn about secret combinations. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke in the October 1997 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and explained the threat of secret combinations that exist in our day.

The Book of Mormon teaches that secret combinations engaged in crime present a serious challenge, not just to individuals and families but to entire civilizations. Among today’s secret combinations are gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime families. The secret combinations of our day function much like the Gadianton robbers of the Book of Mormon times. They have secret signs and code words. They participate in secret rites and initiation ceremonies. Among their purposes are to “murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God” [Helaman 6:23].

If we are not careful, today’s secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and just as completely as they did in Book of Mormon times. Do you remember the pattern? The secret combinations began among the “more wicked part” of society, but eventually “seduced the more part of the righteous” until the whole society was polluted (Helaman 6:38)….

The Book of Mormon teaches that the devil is the “author of all sin” and the founder of these secret combinations [Helaman 6:30; see 2 Nephi 26:22]. He uses secret combinations, including gangs, “from generation to generation according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of men” [Helaman 6:3]. His purpose is to destroy individuals, families, communities, and nations [see 2 Nephi 9:9]/ To a degree, he was successful during Book of Mormon times. And he is having far too much success today. That’s why it is so important for us as priesthood holders to take a firm stand for truth and right by doing what we can to help keep our communities safe” (“Standing for Truth and Right,” Ensign, November 1997).

            Following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke in the October 2001 General Conference. This is a long quote, but it is spoken by the prophet of the Lord. He begins his talk by announcing that the United States’ missile attack on Afghanistan has started.

I need not remind you that we live in perilous times. I desire to speak concerning these times and our circumstances as members of this Church.

You are acutely aware of the events of September 11, less than a month ago. Out of that vicious and ugly attack we are plunged into a state of war…. For the first time since we became a nation, the United States has been seriously attacked on its mainland soil. But this was not an attack on the United States alone. It was an attack on men and nations of goodwill everywhere. It was well planned, boldly executed, and the results were disastrous….

Now we are at war. Great forces have been mobilized and will continue to be. Political alliances are being forged. We do not know how long this conflict will last. We do not know what it will cost in lives and treasure. We do not know the manner in which it will be carried out….

Those of us who are American citizens stand solidly with the president of our nation. The terrible forces of evil must be confronted and held accountable for their actions. This is not a matter of Christian against Muslim…. It is terrorist organizations that must be ferreted out and brought down.

We of this church know something of such groups. The Book of Mormon speaks of the Gadianton robbers, a vicious, oath-bound, and secret organization bent on evil and destruction. In their day they did all in their power, by whatever means available, to bring down the Church, to woo the people with sophistry, and to take control of the society. We see the same thing in the present situation….

Occasions of this kind pull us up sharply to a realization that life is fragile, peace is fragile, civilization itself is fragile. The economy is particularly vulnerable….
Great are the promises concerning this land of America. We are told unequivocally that it “is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12). This is the crux of the entire matter – obedience to the commandments of God.

The Constitution under which we live, and which has not only blessed us but has become a model for other constitutions, is our God-inspired national safeguard ensuring freedom and liberty, justice and equality before the law.

I do not know what the future holds. I do not wish to sound negative, but I wish to remind you of the warnings of scripture and the teachings of the prophets which we have had constantly before us….

Now, brothers and sisters, we must do our duty, whatever that duty might be. Peace may be denied for a season. Some of our liberties may be curtailed. We may be inconvenienced. We may even be called on to suffer in one way or another. But God our Eternal Father will watch over this nation and all of the civilized world who look to Him. He has declared, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord (Psalms 33:12). Our safety lies in repentance. Our strength comes of obedience to the commandments of God. [Emphasis added.]

Let us be prayerful. Let us pray for righteousness. Let us pray for the forces of good. Let us reach out to help men and women of goodwill, whatever their religious persuasion and wherever they live. Let us stand firm against evil, both at home and abroad. Let us live worthy of the blessings of heaven, reforming our lives where necessary and looking to Him, the Father of us all. He has said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10).

Are these perilous times? They are. But there is no need to fear. We can have peace in our hearts and peace in our homes. We can be an influence for good in this world, every one of us… (“The Times in Which We Live,” Ensign, October 2001).

            We learn from Elder Ballard and President Hinckley that there are secret combinations in the world. They work under the direction of Satan, whose sole purpose is to destroy civilization and the Church of Jesus Christ. We must defend ourselves against them in every possible way. However, the most effective way is by repenting of our sins, obeying the commandments of God, putting our trust in God, and living the gospel of Jesus Christ as completely and perfectly as we can. God has promised safety and security in this land if we are righteous. There is only one way to destroy the power of the secret combinations of Satan, and that is by righteousness. The Nephites and the Jaredites were destroyed because they became “ripe in iniquity” and were no longer worthy to receive the blessings of God. We can be wiser than they if we will humble ourselves, listen to the prophets, and live righteously.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Search for Happiness

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals are happy. Wise parents, teachers, and leaders will teach the rising generation how to find happiness by their words and examples.

            I have often wondered in recent weeks and months about the level of hate and unhappiness in the world around me. I question the speed with which riots happen and the numbers of protests taking place in our nation. Why is there so much unhappiness?

            I opened my news feed recently and found two articles having to do with happiness.
The first article was a talk titled “The Quest for Happiness” given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This talk was given at Brigham Young University-Idaho on September 23, 2014. It was printed in the September 2016 New Era. He begins his talk with this paragraph:

I do not think God in his glory or the angels of heaven or the prophets on earth intend to make us happy all the time, every day in every way, given the testing and trial this earthly realm is intended to provide. As President James E. Faust (1920-2007) once phrased it: “Happiness is not given to us in a package that we can just open up and consume. Nobody is ever happy 24 hours a day, seven days a week” (“Our Search for Happiness,” Ensign, Oct. 2000, 2). But my reassurance to you today is that in God’s plan we can do very much to find the happiness we do desire. We can take certain steps, we can form certain habits, we can do certain things that God and history tell us lead to happiness.”

            In the body of his talk Elder Holland discusses four actions we can take to increase our own happiness and to help others to find more happiness.

1. Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Above all else, ultimate happiness, true peace, and anything even remotely close to scriptural joy are found first, foremost, and forever in living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Lots of other philosophies and systems of belief have been tried. Indeed it seems safe to say that virtually every other philosophy and system has been tried down through the centuries of history. But when the Apostle Thomas asked the Lord the question young people often ask today, “How can we know the way?” (and at your age in life that really translates, “How can we know the ay to be happy?”), Jesus gave the answer that rings from eternity to all eternity, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. … And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do. … If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:5-6, 13-14)….

2. Choose to Be Happy. Second, learn as quickly as you can that so much of your happiness is in your hands, not in events or circumstances or fortune or misfortune. That is part of what the battle for agency was over in the premortal councils of heaven. We have choice, we have the power to make our own decisions, we have agency, and we can choose if not happiness per se, then we can choose to live after the manner of it. Happiness comes first by what comes into your head a long time before it comes into your hand….

3. Don’t Be Negative, Mean, or Angry. You can never, worlds without end, build your happiness on someone else’s unhappiness. That is what bullying is. That is what catty remarks are. That is what arrogance and superficiality and exclusiveness are. Perhaps we think if we are negative enough, or cynical enough, or just plain mean enough, then expectations won’t be too high; we can keep everyone down to a flaw-filled level and therefore our flaws won’t be so glaring. Happy people aren’t negative or cynical or mean, so don’t plan on that being part of the “manner” of happiness. If my life has taught me anything, it is that kindness and pleasantness and faith-based optimism are characteristics of happy people. A related step along the path toward happiness is to avoid animosity, contention, and anger in your life.

4. Work Hard and Study. …If you want to be happy in school, or on a mission, or in a marriage – work at it. Learn to work. Serve diligently. Don’t be idle and mischievous. A homespun definition of Christlike character might be the integrity to do the right thing at the right time in the right way. So don’t be idle. Don’t be wasteful. Do the right thing at the right time. “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). “Be industrious, and … labor,” including laboring for and serving others, one of the truly great keys to true happiness.

            Elder Holland counsels us to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, choose to be happy, don’t be negative, mean, or angry, and work hard and study. He closes his talk by testifying that God desires His children to be happy and will help us as we use our agency to seek happiness.

            The second article concerns the secrets of happiness that we can learn from Hawaiians. A recently released Gallup poll had the headline, “Hawaii Leads U.S. States in Well-Being for Record Sixth Time.” This poll proves that Hawaiians are the happiest people in the United States. Therefore, they can teach me some of the secrets to finding happiness.

            Cameron C. Taylor is the author of the article titled “5 Secrets for Happiness We Can All Learn From Hawaiians.” The author uses the “five principles of aloha: puliki, `aka, aloha, `aina, napo`o `ano o ka la and ohana” to explain Hawaiian happiness.

1. Puliki is the Hawaiian word for “embrace.” Hugs are the Hawaiian handshake, but a Hawaiian hug is much more than a greeting. It is an expression of love, trust, hospitality, and family….

2. `Aka (laughter) is a very important part of Hawaiian life. Hawaiians understand that laughter is one of the greatest emotions and is a pure form of communication with God. Life should be filled with laughter….

3. The literal translation of aloha `aina is “love of the land,” but as with all Hawaiian words, the definition cannot be captured with a few words of translation. The phrase aloha `aina is a connection with God and His creations. Nature is a great gift from our Creator and is much more than physical objects….

4. Napo`o `ana o ka la. While in Hawaii, it is fun to see people gather each night and watch the setting of the sun in silence. Each sunset is an opportunity to watch God as He paints on His heavenly canvas and is a clear reminder of the immensity of God’s power, creations, and grace. Watching the sunset helps us connect with God and helps us hear God speaking to us….

5. Ohana (family) comes from the highly reverenced word `oha. `Oha is a word for the ancient taro root from which all taro has sprung. The taro plant was a staple of life to the ancient Hawaiians and was a main source of food and medicine. The word ohana signifies that all people come from the same root – God….

            The counsel given by Elder Holland and the examples of the Hawaiians support each other. Just as Elder Holland counsels us to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Hawaiian principles teach us that God created this beautiful world for us and reminds us of His power and glory with each sunrise and sunset. Just as Elder Holland counsels us to choose to be happy and not be negative, mean, or angry, the Hawaiians teach us to laugh, hug, and treat each other as family. Elder Holland counsels us to work hard and study, and the Hawaiians teach us to enjoy nature. I enjoy nature by working in my yard and studying how to make my gardens more lovely and more productive.

            There is an old saying that shows the importance of using our agency to seek happiness. It is, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by choosing to be happy and teaching this skill to the rising generation.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Freedom of the Press

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is a question: Are important protections for the press being eliminated? The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….” The Founders obviously considered freedom of the press to be essential to the freedom and independence of Americans. The following statement was given in the Appeal to the Inhabitants of Quebec, written by the First Continental Congress in 1774:

The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs.

            The preceding statement was quoted by Eugene Volokh in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. Volokh then continues with his explanation of what the statement means.

The statement mentions some of the values that the Founders saw as inherent in the principle of freedom of the press: the search and attainment of truth, scientific progress, cultural development, the increase of virtue among the people, the holding of government officials to republican values, the strengthening of community, and a check upon self-aggrandizing politicians….

            As I read the above statement, I compared the glorious values of the Founders with the present attitude toward the press. I personally question everything I read in the press because there are so many half-truths, untruths, and outright lies published in an effort to deceive the American public. Volokh’s statement continues:

…But broad statements such as this may tell us less than we would like to know about what “the freedom of the press” meant to the Founders as a rule of law, when the freedom would yield to competing concerns, or whether the freedom prohibited only prior restraints or also subsequent punishments.

            Volokh continues with his explanation of why it is so difficult to know exactly what the Founders meant by freedom of the press. He ends his chapter with the following “free speech rules.”

1. As with all of the Bill of Rights, the free speech/press guarantee restricts only government action, not action by private employers, property owners, householders, churches, universities, and the like.

2. As with most of the Bill of Rights, the free speech/press guarantee applies equally to federal and state governments….

3. The free speech and the free press clauses have been read as proving essentially equal protection to speakers and writers….

4. The free speech/press guarantees also extends to any conduct that is conventionally understood as expressive – for instance, waving a flag, wearing an armband, or burning a flag. It also extends to conduct that is necessary in order to speak effectively, as, for example, using money to buy a public address system or to buy advertising….

5. The free speech/press guarantee extends not just to political speech but also to speech about religion, science, morality, social conditions, and daily life, as well as to art and entertainment….

6. The free speech/press guarantee extends to all viewpoints, good or evil. There is no exception, for instance, for Communism, Nazism, Islamic radicalism, sexist speech, or “hate speech,” whatever that rather vague term may mean….

7. There is, however, a small set of rather narrow exceptions to free speech protection:
            a. Incitement….
            b. False statements of fact….
            c. Obscenity….
            d. Child pornography….
            e. Threats….
            f. Fighting words….
            g. Speech owned by others….
            h. Commercial advertising….

8. All of the preceding rules apply to restrictions that relate to what the speech communicates – to the tendency of the speech to persuade people, to offend them, or make them feel unsafe….

9. Finally, all of the preceding rules apply to restrictions that are imposed by the government acting as sovereign and backed by the threat of jail terms, fines, or civil liability. They also apply to the government controlling what is said in “traditional public fora,” such as parks, streets, sidewalks, or the post office….

            Volokh closes his chapter with his explanation that “Free speech/press law is sometimes called the tax code of constitutional law. The discussion above suggests how complex the law is, but while some of the complexity may be needless, much of it is inevitable. Communication is in many ways the most complicated of human activities, and no simple rule can properly deal with all the different kinds of harms that it can cause – or all the different kinds of harms that restricting communication can cause.”

            I searched for the meaning of “freedom of the press” and wanted to share it with my readers after reading this article. Two professors, one from the University of Utah and one from Brigham Young University “agree President Donald Trump appears to be on the path toward eliminating important protections for the press.” The professors argue that “Trump’s feud with the media is more than just a spectacle or way to deflect attention away from himself. It’s something `darker.’” The article continues:

The evidence is overwhelming that Trump is engaged in something more substantial and more troubling than his predecessors…. Because he appears to be on the path toward eliminating important protections for the press, we think this issue absolutely demands careful public attention.

            Freedom of speech and press – speaker and writer – is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Americans no longer trust the media because it has been corrupted by liberal political figures and their supporters in the publishing and broadcasting business. Now two professors are warning about a “darker” problem coming from President Trump. We are again faced with the question of who to believe. Are the professors among the “never Trump” crowd who are trying to destroy the President, or do they have a real concern? Once more, Americans are left on our own to discern what the truth is. This is what happens when the media becomes corrupted. However, we must protect our freedom of speech/press becomes it concerns each and every American in our daily lives.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

All Eyes Are on North Korea

            North Korea has been on the news and in the minds of most Americans for the past week or so. I suppose that statement could be “most people in the world.” Much attention is certainly on Pyongyang as the world responds to provocations by North Korea. President Donald Trump and his administration are determined to let the world know that there is “a new sheriff in town.” The Obama “lead from behind” and “appease the enemy” era is over, and the Trump era is here.

            Kim Jong Un, the current dictator in North Korea, continues the crazy diplomacy of his father and grandfather. He has been called “a dangerous, unpredictable menace” by James Carafano at The Daily Signal. Carafano asks an interesting question after his description of Kim. “Otherwise, why would anybody care to deal with the world’s poorest nation at the far end of the planet.” He explains:

   Not only is the current showdown with North Korea unlikely to lead to a military conflict, it is likely that all the countries involved will walk away believing they have achieved something for their side. In fact, it could be the perfect storm of crisis diplomacy that’s a win-win for everybody – for now….

   Usually the annual military parade gets no more attention than a joke on the late-night shows. This time around, Kim Jong Un’s half-serious salute got worldwide coverage. The question for Kim is how to parlay fear-mongering into some kind of strategic advantage.

   Seoul [South Korea] and Tokyo [Japan] got a big reassurance of commitment from Washington, as the U.S. rushed to show both that we’d honor our obligations to mutual defense. Nothing says we care like an armada of ships and a fleet of nuclear-capable bombers.

            The USS Carl Vinson strike group sailed from Singapore north to the Korean area by order of Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Commanded. The aircraft carrier-led strike group is accompanied by a fleet of Japanese ships and two more aircraft-carrier strike groups from the U.S. Even as North Korea threatens to nuke America, the U.S. is ready to shoot any rockets down or whatever else needs to be done.

            President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are now “best friends” as they play “let’s make a deal.” Beijing sent back barges of North Korean coal and ordered some from the United States. This hurts the North Korean economy while it strengthens the American. Trump looks like a strong leader as he “met with top foreign leaders, including Xi, dealt with the situation in Korea, and handled a crisis in Syria.” Americans and the world welcome his leadership and maintain that he has done well so far.

            It appears that World War III has been avoided, but what happens now? North Korea is still a threat with its nuclear weapons and crazy leader who will never surrender them. North Korea is so poor and so isolated now that they do not have much more to lose. China cannot be depended upon to do anything because the Chinese like things as they are now. They do not want to destabilize North Korea any further, and they certainly do not want any refugees from North Korea moving into their country.

            The question remains, how will President Trump and his administration handle the situation going forward? Carafano suggests that Washington needs to have “a sustained responsible policy” and “send clearer signals that it is not planning to ratchet up tensions.”  There needs to be “a serious long-term plan that might create future opportunities for de-escalation.”  Washington cannot wait for China to solve the North Korea problem but must take the lead in solving it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dropping MOAB

            The United States military “dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on an Islamic State target last Thursday. The official name for the bomb is GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb. The affectionate name given the bomb is Mother of All Bombs or MOAB. The bomb weighs 21,600 pounds and is 30 feet long.

            There are all sorts of worldwide opinions about whether or not America should have dropped the bomb. Even though the bomb has been in the U.S. arsenal for some years, this is the first time it has been used. Why was it used this time? James Carafano posted an article at The DailySignal explaining the use of the bomb. 

In military operations, one of the considerations is to be proportional – use coercive force commensurate with the task, while taking due diligence to protect innocents.

In this case, it appears the target was an underground complex – virtually a sanctuary, impossible to get at with conventional munitions. It was an important enemy target. This particular weapon creates a massive over-pressure wave that collapses the tunnel underneath.

            Carafano continues with his explanation by suggesting that the United States has shifted the way it fights wars. The Obama administration obviously did not want to fight the war in the first place, and other administrations seemed to not be in the war to win.

            Donald Trump likes to win, but he does not necessarily want the glory. He says that he has unleashed the military commanders. He obviously recognizes that the trained and experienced military officers and personnel know more about fighting wars that he does, and he is willing to let them do their jobs. In dropping MOAB the U.S. told the entire world, “We mean business. Do not mess with us!”

Monday, April 17, 2017

Jeff Sessions

            One of my latest heroes is Jeff Sessions, the new U.S. Attorney General. He would not have to be a very good Attorney General in order to be better than the two during the Obama Administration. Besides being conservative and being well qualified for the position, I like Sessions because he says what he means and he means what he says.

            Sessions served in the U.S. Senate as the junior Senator from Alabama for twenty years. Before that he served at the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama for twelve years, resigning only when asked to resign by newly inaugurated President Bill Clinton. While in Congress Sessions was considered to be one of the most conservative Senators. He opposed illegal immigration and amnesty and supported expanding the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

            Sessions supported Donald Trump early in the 2016 presidential campaign and was considered for the position of Vice President. President-elect Trump nominated Sessions for U.S. Attorney General in November 2016, and the Senate confirmed him on February 8, 2017, with a 52-47 vote. He was sworn into office of Attorney General on February 9, 2017.

            The reason that I chose Sessions to be my VIP for this week is his visit to the southern border of the United States. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Fox News host, Sessions spoke about the Trump policy on the U.S.-Mexico border and made his position clear.

The border is not open. Please don’t come.
You will be apprehended if you do come and you will be deported promptly. If you’re a criminal, you will be prosecuted, and if you assault our officers, we’re going to come at you [like] a ton of bricks.

            Sessions and Hannity also discussed a recent report out of the Department of Homeland Security, which specified that illegal border crossings are at the lowest point in 17 years. Sessions gave all the credit to the President: “This is a direct result of Donald Trump’s strong clear leadership.” Sessions continued.

I knew strong Presidential leadership, unlike the wishy-washy-ness we’ve seen in the past, would impact the flow, but not as much as we’ve seen already. The numbers are down 70 percent since President Obama left office. So it’s really a remarkable achievement.”

            Sessions believes that Congress will fund a barrier at the border. He testified that “a wall, a barrier, multiplies the ability of our border patrol and customs officers to be effective … So, this is the way to go.” He also said that the barrier does not have to cover the entire length of the border to be effective. Sessions calls this the “Trump era” and says that illegal immigrants have been warned. “The lawlessness, the abdication of duty to enforce our laws, and the catch and release policies of the past are over.”

            It is very obvious that there is a new chief law enforcement officer in our nation. He knows the laws, and he intends to enforce them to the best of his ability. I support him in doing so. I like his humility and his desire to fulfill his responsibilities.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Another Attack on the Second Amendment

            The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Yet, there is almost a constant attack on this right, particularly after a school shooting.

            Following the recent shooting at an elementary school in San Bernardino, a liberal writer claims that the National Rifle Association (NRA) “is responsible for the shooting.” The writer blames the NRA because the shooting took place after Republicans in Congress relaxed gun laws. He also states that the restrictions were relaxed because they were put in place by “a black man with a funny name.”

            An article by Chris Enloe posted at The Blaze pointed out a few facts that oppose the liberal writer’s viewpoint. First, the shooting took place in California, which has “some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. Second, the idea that Republicans repealed Obama’s rule because of his race is simply not true.”

            As Enloe explains, the Obama law that was relaxed is called the “social security gun ban.” It allowed an investigation to take place for any person who receives benefits from social security and also needs assistance of some kind, such as with finances. Republicans relaxed the law because they realized that it could affect Americans who receive social security but who are not mentally ill or disabled.

            Liberals continue to cry for stricter gun laws. At the same time they forget about the places like Chicago, which has strict gun control laws as well as the highest murder rate in the nation. The murders nationwide would most likely be higher except for thousands of people who save lives because they legally carry concealed weapons.

            An example of one such person is Air Force reservist, Lt. Brandon Teel, in Little Rock, Arkansas.   He was driving home from work last week when he thought he saw some children fighting. As he drew nearer he realized that they were men fighting and tumbling in the street, with one of them stabbing the other with a knife. Lt. Teel stopped his car and pulled his concealed weapon. He ordered the aggressor to stop and held him at gunpoint while calling the police. After the police arrived, they sent the wounded man to the hospital and arrested his brother. Lt. Teel most likely saved the man’s life simply because he carried a concealed weapon and got involved.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"Be of Good Cheer"

            Shortly before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, He told His apostles and disciples what would happen and what the circumstances would be. John 16:32-33 explains.

   Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

   These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

            On this Easter Sunday may we remember that Jesus Christ has “overcome the world” and made it possible that we all might do likewise. We can “be of good cheer” because Christ overcame death and hell. He overcame sickness and pain. He overcame sin. Even though we will pass through tribulation, we may have peace in our hearts because of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.

            What does it mean to “be of good cheer?” Two priesthood leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints explain what this phrase means. Elder Adhemar Damiani of the Quorum of the Seventy teaches the following.

   As part of our mortal probation, we pass through affliction, pain, and disappointment. Only in Jesus Christ can we find peace. He can help us to be of good cheer and to overcome all the challenges of this life.

   What does it mean to be of good? It means having hope, not getting discouraged, not losing faith, and living life joyfully. `Men are, that they might have joy’ (2 Nephi 2:25). It means facing life with confidence.

   The gospel of Jesus Christ gives us the strength and the eternal perspective to face what is coming with good cheer (“Be of Good Cheer and Faithful in Adversity,” Ensign, May 2005, 94). 

            Elder Damiani tells us that we are of good cheer when we have hope that things will work out for us. It means to not get discouraged while going through difficulties. It means that we should remember that Heavenly Father wants us to be happy and have joy.

            Elder Joe J. Christensen, then of the Presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy, reminds us that we are commanded to “be of good cheer.”

Your level of spirituality is also directly related to how well you fill the Lord’s commandments to `Be of good cheer’ and `Life up our heart and rejoice’ (Doctrine and Covenants 31:3). How many times in the scriptures did the Lord command us to be of good cheer? He didn’t say, `Be of good cheer if everything is going well, if you have enough money to pay all your bills, if [you are feeling well],’ or whatever. No. For us to be of good cheer is a commandment and not merely a suggestion” (“Ten Ideas to Increase Your Spirituality,” Ensign, March 1999, 59). 

            Why would the Lord give us a commandment to “be of good cheer” and to “rejoice” when He knew that we would be passing through difficult times? He surely knew that mortal life would be hard for us! I believe that the answer comes through the teachings of President Gordon B. Hinckley. I am often amazed at the optimism shown by all the prophets and apostles who lead the Church, but I am particularly impressed with the positivity shown by President Hinckley. He had a positive attitude about everything, even when he was facing difficulty. He often declared, “I am an optimist!” Here are some examples of his counsel to be cheerful.

   My please is that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.

   Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.

   If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us.

   I have seen a good deal of this earth. … I have been in areas where war rages and hate smolders in the hearts of people. I have seen the appalling poverty that hovers over many lands. … I have watched with alarm the crumbling morals of our society. And yet I am an optimist. I have a simple and solemn faith that right will triumph and that truth will prevail.

   We have every reason to be optimistic. … Look at Nauvoo. Look at what they built here in seven years and then left. But what did they do? Did they lie down and die? No! They went to work! They moved halfway across this continent and turned the soil of a desert and made it blossom as the rose. On that foundation this church has grown into a great worldwide organization affecting for good the lives of people in more than 140 nations. You can’t, you don’t, build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen. (“Gordon B. Hinckley: A Prophet of Optimism and Vision,” Liahona, Jan. 2017).

            There is the answer for why the Lord commands us to “be of good cheer” and “rejoice.” We must have faith in Jesus Christ and move forward in our lives with our trust in God and hope for a better life. We must be positive in order to do good works. Otherwise, the weight of the problems of the world would hold us back and keep us from preparing for eternal life with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. “Be of good cheer” because Christ has overcome the world!