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, December 31, 2010

Keep Christmas Spirit

For this first day of a brand new year, I want to discuss how families are strengthened when they keep the Christmas spirit alive in their hearts and in their homes for the entire year. There are various ways to keep the Christmas feelings alive in our hearts, but the most effective way is to remember that Jesus Christ is the reason why we have the Christmas season. We can best remember Him by studying about Him in the scriptures, by praying to Heavenly Father in His name, and by trying to live as He lived. As we keep this spirit in our hearts, it will radiate out to all around us.

We can remember that the Christmas spirit “is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things” (1 Nephi 11:22). The spirit of love is available to all mankind throughout the year, but we must soften our hearts in order for this spirit to come in and bless our lives. “Christmas is … the love of the Son of God for all mankind. It reaches out beyond our power to comprehend. It is magnificent and beautiful” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand A Little Taller, 371).

We can also remember that the Christmas spirit reminds us of the love of Heavenly Father for all His children: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son….” (St. John 3:16). We have Christmas and the season of giving because Heavenly Father gave His Son, and Jesus Christ gave His life. Without Their gifts and sacrifices, there would be no Christmas. The Christmas spirit is the love of God for mankind.

Another way to keep the Christmas spirit alive is to remember and to learn from the experiences of Ebenezer Scrooge as told by Charles Dickens in his story called A Christmas Carol. Dickens wrote this story nearly 200 years ago, but its message is still relevant and popular today. You may recall that Scrooge was a man who was filled with hate. Even though he was still walking around, eating, sleeping, working, etc, his heart was stone cold and his life was filled with darkness. He was paranoid, and distrusted everyone. He didn't like anyone, not even himself.

One night Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by the ghost of his late partner, Marley. He noticed that Marley was dragging a heavy chain made of "cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds and heavy purses wrought in steel." Marley told Scrooge, "I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it." I have often wondered what my chain is made of and what is hanging from it.

Scrooge questioned, "Why do spirits walk the earth?" Marley answered, "It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world … and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness."

Scrooge stated that Marley "was always a good man of business." To this, Marley cried, "Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business."

After the ghost of Marley departed, Scrooge was visited by three spirits. The first spirit referred to himself as the Ghost of Christmas Past. This spirit took Scrooge back through his childhood, youth, and young adulthood. He saw the kindness of his younger sister and the pretty young woman that he had once loved but lost because he was too interested in money.

The second spirit referred to himself as the Ghost of Christmas Present. This spirit showed Scrooge the citizens of his area. They were living in less than pleasant circumstances but were happy. He saw people preparing to observe Christmas with faith, food, family and friends. Scrooge saw the family of Bob Cratchit, particularly crippled Tiny Tim. This family was very poor but happy and full of love. Bob worked for Scrooge, but Scrooge didn't pay him enough to support his family. Scrooge saw his nephew who was trying to be kind to Scrooge and include him in his life, but Scrooge thought his nephew wanted only his money and wouldn't have anything to do with him.

The third spirit was the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. This spirit showed Scrooge as a dead man who was as unloved and alone in death just as he was in life. It also showed the Cratchit family in a state of deep mourning for Tiny Tim.

When Scrooge returned from the last visit, he realized that he was still alive and understood that he could change the future by changing the present. He became friendly with his nephew, raised the salary of Bob Cratchit and helped the struggling Cratchit family. He made mankind his business and became a good friend, a good employer, and a good man.

Christmas is a season when a peaceful, calm feeling of love is in the very air. It is a time when most of us are a little more tolerant of the bad behavior of other people and a little more helpful to the poor and needy. It is a time when we dig a little deeper in our pockets, wallets, and purses to purchase gifts for those we love and to help other people, even strangers, to have a happier Christmas. The spirit of Christmas is the Spirit of Christ. The feeling in the air is love. It is through the love of Christ for us that we have the ability to love other people. This spirit of love comes from Christ and is something that we can keep with us all the time.

When we put away our Christmas decorations, it is important that we don’t put away the Christmas spirit with them. I keep a couple of my Nativity sets out to remind me of the reason we celebrate Christmas. This reason is not because a Baby was born but because the Son of God came to earth and atoned for the sins of everyone who will obey His commandments. I know that we can strengthen our families by remembering the Christ Child as well as the Resurrected Christ.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Religion Is Essential to Liberty

The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is religion. Religion is essential to a government of free people. Most, if not all, of our Founding Fathers believed that religion and morality were essential for good government as well as happiness and that these topics should be taught in the schools. No specific religion was to be taught, but the universal truths, which were acceptable to all religions, were necessary.

W. Cleon Skousen quoted Benjamin Franklin when he summarized basic religious beliefs as "fundamental points in all sound religion" in a letter to Ezra Stiles, Yale University president: "Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion." (Smyth, Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 10:84.)

Skousen then explained Franklin's statement of the "five points of fundamental religious beliefs. 1) There exists a Creator who made all things and mankind should recognize and worship him. 2) The Creator has revealed a moral code of behavior for happy living which distinguishes between right and wrong. 3) The Creator holds mankind responsible for the way they treat each other.
4) All mankind live beyond this life. 5) In the next life mankind are judged for their conduct in this one" (The Five Thousand Year Leap, p 61).

Even though the Founders considered these core beliefs to be America's religion, they wanted all religions to have equal protection under the Constitution. They wanted the citizens to have morality, religion, and virtue, but they did not want the federal government favoring any one religion or church nor did they want a national church. The Founders understood the importance of religion in the nation, but they did not want government involved in establishing a religion. This is what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said that the Constitution created "a wall of separation between Church and State" (Beigh, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 16:282, as quoted in The Five Thousand Year Leap, p 69).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Two Elizabeth Adams

Samuel Adams was married to two different women named Elizabeth. He married Elizabeth Checkley, daughter of Rev. Samuel Checkley of the New South Church in Boston. Rev. Checkley was a life-long friend to the father of Samuel, and both families were happy when Samuel and Elizabeth decided to married. The Adams and Checkley families were actually connected by marriage during the previous century.

Elizabeth was 24 years old when she married Samuel in October 1749. Her daughter described her as being “a rare example of virtue and piety blended with a retiring and modest demeanour and the charms of elegant womanhood” (Wives of the Signers – The women behind the Declaration of Independence, 60).

Here is an interesting story: Elizabeth Checkley’s mother was the “daughter of Rev. Benjamin Rolfe, minister at Haverhill, at the time of the `Sack of Haverhill’ by the Indians in 1708. In this fighting the minister was killed, together with about one hundred other persons, and many more were carried away. According to Drake’s History of Boston, a maid-servant in the employ of Rev. Mr. Rolfe saved the two little daughters of the minister by her bravery and presence of mind. She overheard the Indians breaking into the house and, springing from her bed, took the two little girls, Elizabeth and Mary, aged respectively nine and eleven years, and hurried them into the cellar where she secreted them under two large tubs. They were not found, though the savages ransacked the whole house. It was one of these little girls, Elizabeth, who afterward became the … mother of Elizabeth Checkley who married Samuel Adams” (Wives, 60-61).

Samuel and Elizabeth were blessed with five children, but only two of them lived to maturity, Samuel, Jr., and Hannah. Elizabeth died on July 25, 1757, less than 8 years after their marriage. The following notation was apparently written by Samuel after the death of his wife: “To her husband she was as sincere a friend as she was a faithful wife. Her exact economy in all her relative capacities, her kindred on his side as well as her own admire. She ran her Christian race with remarkable steadiness and finished in triumph! She left two small children. God grant they may inherit her graces!” (Wives, 61-62).

Samuel, age 42, married Elizabeth Wells, age 29, on December 6, 1757. She was described as being “cheerful and sympathetic; always a faithful and loving wife to Samuel Adams and a tender mother to his motherless children” (Wives, 62-63). Elizabeth apparently showed great loyalty and patience with Samuel and endured hardships in order for him to practice politics. Even though Samuel was born into a wealthy family and inherited the family’s estate, his devotion to the cause of liberty left him less than wealthy. Elizabeth’s ability to do fine sewing and Hannah’s talent with embroidery made it possible for the family to live in comfort. Hannah married Captain Thomas Wells, the younger brother to her stepmother.

The last days of Samuel and Elizabeth were made more comfortable due to a $6,000 claim against the government by his dying son, Samuel, Jr. Samuel died in 1803, and Elizabeth died about five years later.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


As one year ends and another year starts, I am more aware than ever that some changes need to be made. Our Founders wrote the United States Constitution in such a way that it could best safeguard our liberty. They tried to foresee every problem that might arise and wrote a solution to the problem in the Constitution. Then they realized that they couldn’t foresee every change that would be needed; therefore, they wrote into the document the very way that changes could be made.

Article V gives the process of amending the Constitution: “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”

Our federal government is far removed from the language and intent of the Constitution. We are in the midst of a Constitutional crisis. We may need to pass some amendments to our Constitution in order to bring our federal government back under the control of the people and to keep our government from going bankrupt. There is no problem with the Constitution but in the interpretation of what it says. We are in this situation because progressives have evolved the interpretation to be a “living” Constitution that requires our government to provide social services never expected by our Founders.

Ideas for several different amendments are floating around in the circles of patriots who want to take our country back from the progressives who are trying to turn it into a socialist nation. Here are a few of the ideas.

Pass a balanced-budget amendment. Congress does not seem to have the knowledge or ability to keep expenses within the income of our nation. Thomas Jefferson must have foreseen a problem like we are experiencing: “I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its constitution; I mean an article taking from the Federal government the power of borrowing.”

James Buchanan, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, said that there is a structural flaw in our fiscal politics that requires a structural correction – something that will change the way the game of politics is played: “Politicians prior to World War II would have considered it to be immoral (to be a sin) to spend more than they were willing to generate in tax revenues, except during periods of extreme and temporary emergency… There were basic moral constraints in place; there was no need for an explicit fiscal rule in the written constitution.” Now the moral restraints are gone, and an Amendment to the Constitution is probably needed.

Pass a term limits amendment. When the Constitution was written, the Founders were of the idea that public service was to be service to the public – not being served by the public. Gentlemen served in public positions for a few years but never made it a lifetime career. None of the early politicians were getting rich off serving the public, and so they needed to return to their former occupations. Now we have career politicians who wear expensive clothes, live in expensive homes, take expensive trips – and fail to even read the bills they are voting for. It appears that more of our career politicians are in public service for the salaries and benefits than for patriotic reasons. The Constitution was amended to keep the President from becoming a lifetime President; it appears that the Constitution needs to be amended to keep Senators and Representatives from “feeding at the public trough” for their entire lives. I believe that Senators should be limited to two terms or twelve years and Representatives should be limited to three terms or six years.

Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina proposed such an amendment in November 2009. His bill currently has three sponsors: Senators Brownback, Coburn and Hutchinson. Senator DeMint sees the problem clearly: “As long as members have the chance to spend their lives in Washington, their interests will always skew toward spending taxpayer dollars to buy off special interests, covering over corruption in the bureaucracy, fund-raising, relationship building among lobbyists, and trading favors for pork – in short, amassing their own power.”

Since many politicians use an office as a stepping-stone into lobbying the government, we should also make the amendment state that politicians cannot become lobbyists until at least four years after they leave office. Also, the amendment should state that family members of anyone in Congress cannot be lobbyists.

Pass a line-item veto amendment. Congress loves to add their favorite projects to legislation that has wide support. If the President had the ability to carve fat out of any bill, then we could lessen the chances of Congressmen adding pork. This amendment might give a President more power than we would like him to have, but not giving him this power has brought serious problems.

Pass an amendment to make all laws applicable to everyone. Suggested wording for this amendment is: “Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.” I believe that the best place to make this applicable is in equalizing the pay between our representatives in Congress and the men and women who serve in the military. Why should the people who are spending our nation into bankruptcy make eight to ten times more money than the men and women who are putting their lives on the line every day to serve and protect our nation?

Pass an immigration amendment that clearly states, “No baby born to parents illegally in the United States shall be given birthright citizenship.” An amendment such as this should lessen the flow of traffic over the border.

This list contains a lot of amendments that we need, but few of these amendments will be passed. Why? Congress is the organization that we need to control, but Congress is also the organization responsible for amending the Constitution. Any amendment to our Constitution will need to come from the people to the state legislatures. Our Constitution clearly states that the state legislatures can begin the amendment process: “… or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States…”

Monday, December 27, 2010

Samuel Adams

Samuel Adams was a distinguished patriot of the American Revolution. In fact, he is known as the Father of the Revolution. He was born on September 22, 1722, in Boston, Massachusetts. As a descendant of pilgrims, he was taught the principles of freedom from the time he was a baby. His father, a man of considerable wealth and also influence as a member of the Massachusetts Assembly, wanted Samuel to have a liberal education. After taking a preparatory course, Samuel entered Harvard College in Cambridge and received his degree in 1740 at age 18. Samuel was a quiet fellow and was very interested in gaining knowledge.

Samuel’s father wanted him to become a lawyer, but Samuel became an apprentice to Thomas Cushing, a distinguished merchant of Boston who became an active patriot. Even though his father provided financial support enough to have a business of his own, Samuel soon realized that he was more interested in politics than the mercantile profession. He soon became bankrupt because of his inability to keep his mind on his business.

When Samuel was 25, his father passed away. As the oldest son, the responsibilities and cares of the family and estate fell upon Samuel. Even though he had additional responsibilities, he could not keep his mind off the movements of the British government. He spent a great deal of time talking and writing about the oppressions of Great Britain and was in favor of resistance on the part of the colonies. When Great Britain passed the Stamp Act, Samuel took a firm stand against it and other bills to tax the colonies.

He started in 1763 boldly expressing his thoughts about the rights and privileges of the Americans. He wrote a paper offering guidance to the Boston members of the General Assembly stating that Parliament had no right to tax the colonies without their consent. He also suggested that the unification of the colonies for their protection against Britain. Samuel apparently was the first to express publicly such sentiments, which became the “spark that kindled the flame upon the altar of Freedom here” (Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, 35).

Samuel became a brilliant statesman but continued to be a poor businessman. Samuel was elected in 1765 to represent Boston in the General Assembly where he became distinguished for his intelligence and activity. He became the leader of the opposition to the royal governor and distained the governor’s moves to quiet him. He was one of the most active citizens in demanding that the British troops leave Boston in the aftermath of the Boston Massacre.

Samuel Adams of Massachusetts and Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed almost simultaneously that the colonies set up a system of Committees of Correspondence. This system helped to unify the colonies and also put a price on Samuel’s head. When Governor Gage offered to pardon everyone who would be loyal to the King, he particularly excluded Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Adams and Hancock gained in popularity because the people were angry at Gage.

Adams worked in secret to convince the colonies to appoint delegates to a general Congress and became one of the five delegates from Massachusetts. He took his seat in that Congress on September 5, 1774, and remained an active member of that body until 1781. He gladly signed the Declaration of Independence.

Adams retired from Congress but not from public life. He was a member of the committee that drafted a constitution for Massachusetts. He held several public offices successively – member of the Massachusetts senate, senate president, Lieutenant-Governor, and Governor. He was elected as governor each year until his age forced him to retire from public life.

Samuel married Elizabeth Checkley in October 1749. Five children were born to the couple but only two reached maturity. Mrs. Adams died July 25, 1757. Samuel married Elizabeth Wells about 1764. He died on October 3, 1803, at age 82.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Journals Published

The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article I.5.3: “The journal of each house shall be published from time to time.” This principle states that the people have the right to have a written record of the business conducted in Congress. A complete record of the proceedings of both the House and the Senate has been published on a daily basis in the Congressional Record since 1873.

Each day members of Congress are given an opportunity to read the complete transcript from the previous day and can make corrections and additions at that time. As in many other things, some members of Congress have taken advantage of this courtesy and have actually changed their remarks to say something different than what they actually said. These members of Congress have damaged the reputation of the Congressional Record.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


In our pre-earth life, Heavenly Father called all of His children together and explained His plan for our eternal progression. He told us that if we followed His plan, we could become like Him, an exalted being. As part of His plan, we would need to leave His presence and come to earth for a time. He explained that this temporary separation was necessary in order that we might prove whether we would keep His commandments when we were no longer with Him. Another part of His plan provided that we would be judged and rewarded according to our faith and obedience.

The scriptures teach that there are three kingdoms of glory in heaven. In 2 Corinthians 12:2, the Apostle Paul mentioned that he knew a man who was “caught up to the third heaven.” Paul told us the names of two of the kingdoms in heaven: the celestial and the terrestrial (see 1 Corinthians 15:40-42). The celestial kingdom is the highest, and the terrestrial kingdom is second. The Lord revealed through latter-day revelation that the third kingdom is the telestial kingdom (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:81). We also know from latter-day revelation that the celestial kingdom has three heavens or degrees in it (see Doctrine and Covenants 131:1).

All those who prove faithful to the Lord will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven and will become exalted. They will live with Heavenly Father in eternal families. Exaltation is the greatest gift of God to His children (see Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).

Exaltation means to have eternal life or the kind of life that God lives. God is perfect and lives in great glory. He possesses all knowledge and all wisdom. He is the Father of spirit children. He is a creator. If we are worthy of exaltation, we can become like our Heavenly Father.

Heavenly Father is perfect, and He created a perfect plan for the salvation of His children. He wants all of us to become like Him. His work and glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

By exercising faith in Jesus Christ, we can receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom as well as other special blessings. The Lord promised, “All things are theirs” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:59). Some of the special blessings given to exalted people are: 1) They will live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:62). 2) They will become gods (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:20-23). 3) They will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase. 4) They will receive a fullness of joy. 5) They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have – all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20).

President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The Father has promised through the Son that all that he has shall be given to those who are obedient to His commandments. They shall increase in knowledge, wisdom, and power, going from grace to grace, until the fullness of the perfect day shall burst upon them” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols, [1954-56], 2:36; italics in original).

If we desire to receive exaltation and these special blessings, we must meet the requirements now (see Alma 34:32-34). President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “In order to obtain the exaltation we must accept the gospel and all its covenants; and take upon us the obligations which the Lord has offered; and walk in the light and the understanding of the truth; and `live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God’” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:43).

The first requirement for exaltation is to place our faith in Jesus Christ and continue in that faith to the end of our lives. We show our faith in Jesus Christ when we repent of our sins and obey His commandments. He commands us to receive certain ordinances. Those ordinances are: 1) We must be baptized. 2) We must receive the laying on of hands to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 3) Brethren must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and magnify their callings in the priesthood. 4) We must receive the temple endowment. 5) We must be married for eternity, either in this life or in the next.

Other commandments besides the required ordinances are: 1) Love God and our neighbors. 2) Keep the commandments. 3) Repent of our wrongdoings. 4) Search out our kindred dead and receive the saving ordinances of the gospel for them. 5) Attend our Church meetings as regularly as possible in order to renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament. 6) Love our family members and strengthen them in the ways of the Lord. 7) Have family and individual prayers every day. 8) Teach the gospel to others by word and deed. 9) Study the scriptures. 10) Listen to and obey the inspired words of the prophets of the Lord. 11) Receive the Holy Ghost and learn to follow His promptings to us.

To all those who are faithful disciples of Christ to the end of their mortal lives, the Lord promises, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7. President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “If we will continue in God; that is, keep his commandments, worship him and live his truth; then the time will come when we shall be bathed in the fullness of truth, which shall grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:36).

The Prophet Joseph Smith explained how to achieve exaltation: “When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel – you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil [died] before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 268).

The Prophet Joseph Smith also taught: “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God. … He was once a man like us; … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 345-346).

Heavenly Father loves each of His children. He desires all of us to return to Him. He knows our trials as well as our weaknesses and sins. He has compassion for our struggles and offers mercy to us. He wants us to succeed like He did. I can imagine the great joy felt by those who return home to our Father and hear Him say, “Well done…; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:23).

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christ's Gifts

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you! Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. He is the reason why we celebrate this season. He came to earth in the same way that all babies come, but He is the Son of God. We don’t celebrate His birth simply because He was born. We celebrate His birth because of the life He lived. Because He lived a perfect life, and then was willing to give up His life, all of us may live again after we leave this mortal life.

Jesus Christ gave us many gifts. He gave us freedom from death through the power of His Resurrection. By His power over death, He made it possible for all of us to have our bodies and spirits united in such a way that they will never be separated again.

Jesus Christ also gave us freedom from sin through the power of His Atonement. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and exercises that faith in the process of repenting for his/her sins will have the sins forgiven and will become clean. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the principle of repentance, we can all enjoy freedom from sin.

Freedom from death and freedom from sin are not the only gifts that God has given to His children. We received our very first gift - agency, the freedom to choose – before we left our Father’s presence. Other gifts or freedoms come from living in obedience to the commandments and teachings of Jesus Christ. By living as God wants us to live, we can be free from causing abuse or divorce or contention or war. Jesus Christ is the great Peace Maker. Those who follow His teachings receive the great gift of peace in their lives no matter what happens around them. They will also receive the greatest gift of all - the gift of eternal life. I hope that you enjoy your celebration even more today because you know that Jesus Christ has given us the greatest gifts of all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I love the Christmas story that tells of the mortal birth of the Son of God. The Christmas season reminds us that Heavenly Father loved all of His children so much that He sent a Baby - His Only Begotten Son - to earth on a mission to save all of us. I love the description of Mary who is always depicted as young and virtuous, fair and beautiful. I honor Joseph who showed great love, courage and strength in his marriage to Mary. I am awed by the idea of a God being born in a stable. I feel the excitement of the shepherds as the angel announced the birth of Christ and understand the haste with which they traveled to the stable. I seek to find the Lord just as the wise men did when they followed the star.

There is a special place in my heart and life for the Nativity, and I enjoy collecting Nativity sets to decorate my home for the Christmas season. My favorite Nativity scene is the one enacted by my family each Christmas Eve. My husband and I started this tradition more than thirty years ago when our oldest daughters were just tiny tots and have followed the tradition faithfully since that time. I am pleased that our children are continuing this tradition in their own homes. Some of our family Nativity plays have been elaborate like the one where a roving reporter interviewed the various participants in the Christmas story. Some of them are very simple with just reading the story in Luke and Matthew as it is acted out.

Everyone in the house participates in our Nativity play in some way, whether it is someone there for the evening or someone just stopping by for a few minutes. In fact, we have sometimes had friends stop by just to take part in our Nativity play! The saddest play we did was done with just four or five people using the figures from a small Nativity set to act out the parts - but the good years make up for the poor ones.

I remember our Nativity from a couple of years ago with fondness as we had nine grandchildren as well as five children and spouses taking part in our Nativity. There were two brand new babies to play the part of Jesus. We had three little two-year old girls playing the part of the wise men, riding on the back of the camel (our oldest son who also played the part of Mary's donkey). The wise men were all crying by the time they reached King Herod. Our oldest daughter always plays the role of King Herod because she is so realistic in the role - but this time she took pity on the crying wise men. Our older grandchildren - all under the age of nine - played the parts of Mary, Joseph, the angel, and a shepherd. Adults filled helping roles - such as the fourth wise man that helped the little ones, the adults who accompanied the angel or served as shepherds as well as the inn keeper with his wife. Others took pictures and read the story from the scriptures.

Last year most of our children and grandchildren were spending Christmas with their other families. We enjoyed having our oldest daughter and her husband with us, and we also invited some friends and neighbors with children to join us for the evening. It was a pleasant evening but not the same as having my own children and grandchildren with us.

Most of our children and grandchildren will be together again for Christmas this year. We now have thirteen grandchildren and will have twelve of them with us for the Nativity. I expect that we will make more joyous memories as we initiate our newest grandchildren into our family tradition.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

American Prophet

December 23 marks the anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the Prophet. He organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became its first president. Several other churches consider him to be their founder, and his followers regard him to be a prophet of God.

Joseph was born December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont, the fourth child born to his parents, Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith. The family eventually included six sons and three daughters. The Smiths moved from Vermont to Palmyra, New York, before Joseph was eleven. Four years later the family moved to nearby Manchester where they continued to farm.

When Joseph was fourteen, there was an unusual excitement about religion. Joseph and other members of the family listened to many sermons from several different preachers. Each preacher claimed to have the truth, but they were all teaching different doctrines. Joseph was caught up in the excitement and wanted to join one of the churches, but he was confused as to which church he should join. While studying the scriptures one day, he read, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5). Joseph was aware that if anyone needed wisdom, he did, and he decided that he would ask God.

On a beautiful, clear morning in the early spring in 1820, Joseph went to a nearby wooded area to offer his first vocal prayer. After some early difficulties, he called upon God for help. He saw a pillar of light, brighter than the sun, in the air above him. The light gradually descended until it fell upon Joseph.

"When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other - `This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!'" (Joseph Smith - History 1:17).

When Joseph recovered from his shock, he remembered the reason he had gone to the grove to pray. He asked the Personages which of all the sects he should join. He was answered that he must not join any of them because all of them were teaching false doctrine.

Joseph shared his vision of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ with his family and other people. The members of his family believed him and accepted his report as the truth. When he told a preacher of his experience, the preacher ridiculed him, saying it was of the devil. Soon after his conversation with the preacher, Joseph became the object of great persecution. No amount of persecution or hatred could cause Joseph to disbelieve. "… I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me …. For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God and come under condemnation" (Joseph Smith - History 1:25).

Joseph prayed and received an answer from God. He did not join any of the churches and continued to be persecuted. On September 21, 1823, Joseph was again praying for direction when he received another vision. This time he was visited by an angel named Moroni. Moroni quoted scriptures and taught him many things before disappearing into heaven in a conduit of light. Moroni returned two additional times during the night and again the next morning. The reason for Moroni's visits was to instruct Joseph about a record written upon gold plates and recorded by the ancient inhabitants of the American continent. Moroni told Joseph that he would have to wait to receive the plates until the time was right. When it was the right time, Joseph would receive the plates for the purpose of translating the information written on them.

Many things happened in the next few years: Joseph's oldest brother, Alvin, died. Joseph married Emma Hale. Persecution continued as did the necessity for laboring to earn a living. During this same period of time, Moroni continued to instruct Joseph. At length the time to receive the plates arrived on September 22, 1827. Amidst increased persecution and several moves, Joseph translated the necessary information from the plates and returned the plates to Moroni.

"The ancient record thus brought forth from the earth as the voice of a people speaking from the dust, and translated into modern speech by the gift and power of God as attested by Divine affirmation, was first published to the world in the year 1830 as THE BOOK OF MORMON" (Final paragraph of "Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith" in the Book of Mormon).

Concerning this record, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book" ("Introduction" in Book of Mormon).

I have read the Book of Mormon many times myself. I have asked God to tell me if it is His word. I know the Book of Mormon to be true because the Holy Ghost has borne witness to me that it is true; therefore, I also know that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God.

Joseph, his family, and his followers continued to be persecuted. Joseph with five associates organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fayette, New York, on April 6, 1830. He continued to be an instrument in the hands of God. He lived as a prophet of God for all of his remaining days on earth. He died as a prophet, along with his brother Hyrum, on June 27, 1844, about 5:00 P.M., when an armed mob with blackened faces broke into the Carthage, Illinois, jail and killed them. Each man was shot four different times.

John Taylor, the third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wrote the following: "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it…. He lived great and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and … has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood…." (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

True Meaning of Christmas

The true meaning of Christmas becomes clear when we remember the reason why we celebrate Christmas. We must remember that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” There would not be Christmas without Christ!

The following items are connected with Christmas, but their meaning is often lost. Many years ago I received a handout with the following information. I hope that you will find it helpful in remembering and teaching the true meaning of Christmas.

And Santa whispered, "Teach the children the true meaning of Christmas."

The Star: A heavenly sign of prophecy fulfilled long, long ages ago - the shining hope of mankind.

Red: The first color of Christmas - symbolizing the Savior's sacrifice for all.

Fir Tree: Evergreen - the second color of Christmas - shows everlasting life. The needles point heavenward.

The Bell: Rings out to guide lost sheep back to the fold - signifying that all are precious in the eyes of the Lord.

The Candle: A mirror of starlight reflecting our thanks for the Star of Bethlehem.

Gift Bow: Tied as we should all be tied together in bonds of goodwill forever.

Candy Cane: The shepherd's crook used to bring lambs back into the fold - a reminder that all of us are our brother's keeper.

The Wreath: A symbol of the never ending eternal nature of love - having no beginning and no end.

Children are innocent and need to be taught truth by those who love them, but children are often the greatest teachers as shown here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jesus Christ

My VIP for this week is Jesus Christ. He was the greatest leader this world has ever known. The Christian religion was founded on His life and teachings. I, along with most Christians, believe that He is the Son of God who was sent to earth to save all mankind. Many people who are not Christians believe that He was a great and wise teacher. He definitely was a most influential person. Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, regarded Jesus as a great prophet and adopted many of His ideas.

Luke 1:26-38 tells how an angel called Gabriel visited a young engaged woman named Mary living in Nazareth and told her that she was chosen to be the mother of the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary that the baby's name would be Jesus. When Joseph learned that his fiancée was pregnant, he planned to "put her away privily" (Matthew 1:19) until he was visited by an angel who told Joseph that Mary's baby was the Son of God and that his name would be Jesus.

The personal name of Jesus Christ is Jesus. The term Christ is a title that is so closely associated with Jesus that it became part of His name. It comes from the Greek word christos, which is a translation of the Hebrew word messiah (anointed one). This tells us that Jesus Christ means Jesus the Messiah.

The birth of Jesus is celebrated on December 25 simply because somebody in charge decided that the new Christian holiday would take the place of a pagan holiday. Many people believe that Jesus was born in the spring because lambs are born in the spring. The shepherds were probably in the fields because they were there to help with the lambing. I personally believe that Jesus was born on April 6.

Luke 2 tells that Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that all his people should be taxed in his own city. Joseph was from Bethlehem; therefore, it was necessary for him to return there to pay his taxes. Mary, being great with child, went with her husband. It is my understanding that Bethlehem is about one hundred miles from Nazareth. I was fortunate to give birth to one of my children in December. I became greatly enlightened by my experience of being pregnant while preparing for Christmas. I understood so much better the difficulties that Mary went through as she traveled by donkey from her home town and family to Bethlehem. I expect that the entire trip was very difficult for her and that she was greatly relieved to finally find a place to rest.

After Luke wrote about the birth of Christ and the visit of the shepherds, he added these simple words: "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (2:19). I am sure that she had many things to ponder as she cared for her baby - who was also the Son of God.

There are many books and articles written about the life of Jesus Christ - besides what is found in the scriptures. I like the way that Dr. James Allan summed up the life of Christ in his poem called "One Solitary Life."

"He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never went to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind's progress. All the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that ONE SOLITARY LIFE."

Napoleon, French emperor and one of the greatest military commanders of all time, is quoted as saying: "I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of people would die for Him" (Josh McDowell in Evidence That Demands a Verdict, p 127.)

I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I love Him and worship Him as my Elder Brother. I thank Heavenly Father daily for the great gift that He gave to mankind when He sent His Only Begotten Son to earth to live and die for all of us.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Journals Kept

The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article I.5.3: “Each house shall keep a journal of its proceedings.” The Founders put this provision into the Constitution because they felt that the people had the right to know what was happening in the House and the Senate.

The purpose for publishing the daily journal of both the House and the Senate is to make sure that the proceedings are public and the members are responsible to the people who elected them. A “Digest” is published because the entire Congressional Record is too voluminous.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Life of Jesus Christ

When we were in the premortal world, Jesus Christ promised that He would come to earth and be the Savior of all mankind. Every person who has come or will come to earth is dependent on Jesus Christ fulfilling His promise. His mission as the Savior was one of the crucial pillars of the plan of salvation, and, without Him, the plan would fail. His mission was so important that all of the prophets from Adam to Christ testified that He would come (see Acts 10:43). Every prophet since Christ has testified that He did come. In order to faithfully follow Christ throughout our lives, we need to study and learn about His life.

Many of the prophets prophesied of Christ. Adam knew that the Savior would be known as Jesus Christ (Moses 6:51-52). Enoch, Noah, Moses, Isaiah, Nephi and King Benjamin all foresaw the Savior's life, ministry, and sufferings (see Moses 1:11; 7:55-56; 8:23-24; Isaiah 53:3-7; 1 Nephi 11:21; Mosiah 3:5-8).

Information about the birth and life of the Savior can be found in the scriptures, particularly Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament. More information about Christ and His teachings can be found in the Book of Mormon. From the scriptures we learn that Jesus was born of Mary, a beautiful virgin who was engaged to marry Joseph when an angel appeared to her. The angel told Mary that she had been selected to be the mother of the Son of God. Mary asked how that would be possible (see Luke 1:34). The angel explained to her, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Heavenly Father became the literal Father of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the only person on earth to be born of an immortal Father and a mortal mother. That is the reason that He is known as the Only Begotten Son. From his Father, Jesus inherited divine powers. From his mother, He inherited mortality and was subject to pain, fatigue, hunger, thirst, and death. No one had the power to kill Jesus Christ unless He was willing to be killed. He had the power to give up His life, and He had the power to take up His body again after dying. (See John 10:17-18.)

Mary and Joseph guided Jesus, and He grew as other children do. He loved and obeyed the truth. From the time of his youth, Jesus made good choices and obeyed all that Heavenly Father required Him to do. (See Luke 2:40; Doctrine and Covenants 93:12-14.)

An incident in Jerusalem demonstrates that Jesus by age twelve had some understanding that He was on earth to do the will of His Father. He went with His family to Jerusalem to participate in the Passover. When they started on their trip home, His parents discovered that He was not in the group and returned to Jerusalem to find Him. They searched for Him for three days before they found Him in the temple "sitting in the midst of the doctors, and they were hearing him, and asking him questions" (Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 2:46). "And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers" (Luke 2:47).

Joseph and Mary were of course relieved to find Him. When Mary asked Him why He had treated "thy father and I" as He did, He answered, "Wist ye not that I must be about my [Heavenly] Father's business?" (Luke 2:48-49). Jesus understood that His mission was to do the will of His Heavenly Father. He declared, "… I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things… I do always those things that please Him" (John 8:28-29).

When Jesus was thirty years old, He went to the Jordan River to find John the Baptist and asked John to baptize Him in order "to fulfil all righteousness." John recognized that Jesus was greater than he, but he baptized the Savior, immersing Him completely in the water. Then he heard the Father speaking from heaven saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Holy Ghost descended, as shown by the sign of the dove. (See Matthew 3:13-17.)

Soon after His baptism, Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights to be with God. After this period of fasting was over, Satan tried to tempt Jesus, and Jesus resisted all of Satan's temptations and commanded Satan to leave. (See Matthew 4:1-11.) Jesus Christ was sinless, the only perfect person to ever live on earth. (See Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:21-22.)

Jesus' mission on earth consisted of several different responsibilities. Among those duties were the responsibilities to teach us how to love and serve each other, to organize the only true church on earth, to save us from death, and to redeem our souls from our sins. Jesus taught us how to live by both His words and His example. He taught that there were two great commandments: The first is to love God with all our heart, mind and strength; and the second is to love others as we love ourselves. (See Matthew 22:36-39.) He showed us by His life how we should obey these two commandments. He demonstrated His love for God by trusting Him and by being obedient to Him. He showed His love for others by helping them to meet their physical and spiritual needs.

Jesus spent His life serving others: curing people of diseases, causing the deaf to hear, the blind to see and the lame to walk. When He miraculously fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fishes (see Matthew 14:14-21), He demonstrated that we are to help the hungry, needy, cold or lonely all that we can. He taught by His words and actions that we serve God by helping God's children. (See Matthew 25:35-46.)

Jesus loved people with all His heart. He wept with compassion for others. He loved little children, the elderly, the simple people who had faith in Him. He loved the sinners and taught them to repent. He loved those who sinned against Him and didn't repent. Even as He hung on the cross, He pleaded, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Jesus taught us to "love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:12).

Another part of Christ's mission on earth was to organize His Church. He taught the people, and He chose and ordained His Twelve Apostles. He gave them the authority to act in His name and to do the works they had seen Him do. They were to testify of Christ and to teach, baptize and perform other ordinances in His name and with His authority. After the death of Christ, the Apostles carried on His work until the people grew so wicked that they killed the Apostles.

Jesus Christ redeemed us from our sins and saved us from death. Jesus was condemned to death because He had testified that He was the Son of God. In preparation for the final events of His life, Jesus met with His Apostles in an upper room and introduced the sacrament to them. They sang a hymn and then went to a garden called Gethsemane. He was weighed down with much sorrow and wept as He prayed. He prayed, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39). Jesus described His suffering in a revelation to Joseph Smith, saying that it caused Him "to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit" (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18).

The next day Christ was beaten, humiliated, and spit upon. He was forced to carry His own cross and then was lifted up and nailed to it. While Jesus was suffering on the cross, the Father withdrew from Him, allowing Christ to finish suffering the penalty for the sins of all mankind and to have complete victory over the forces of sin and death. (See James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd Ed [1916], 660-61.)

When He knew that the Father had accepted His sacrifice, the Savior exclaimed in a loud voice, "It is finished" (John 19:30). Luke 23:46 records that He said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." He then bowed His noble head and voluntarily gave up His spirit and died.

A terrible earthquake shook the earth. Some of the Savior's friends took His body to a tomb where it lay until the third day. During the time His body was in the tomb, His spirit went to the spirit world where He organized the missionary work needed to teach His gospel to other spirits. (See 1 Peter 3:18-20; Doctrine and Covenants 138.) On the third day, Sunday, he returned to the tomb and took up His body again, becoming the first to overcome death and be resurrected. Soon after His resurrection Jesus appeared to the Nephites on the American continent and established His Church there. He taught the people and blessed them (3 Nephi 11 through 28).

Jesus' willingness and humility to suffer in Gethsemane and on the cross showed His great love for the Father and for us. He fulfilled His part of the great plan of salvation that we might all receive the promised blessings. Now the responsibility is ours. In order to receive these blessings, we must put the Atonement of Jesus Christ into effect in our lives. We must repent of our sins, love Christ with all our hearts and follow Him.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Super Heroes Sharia Style

Families are strengthened when parents are aware of what their children are learning from cartoons on television and movies. This is one reason why parents should never let their children watch television without some supervision.

A new superhero show may be coming to American television on The Hub (formerly known as the Discovery Kids cable channel) in January. The new show is to be called “The 99.” It has 99 characters that are Sharia-compliant superheroes. According to none other than President Barack Obama, the superheroes “embody the teachings of the tolerance of Islam.” The mission of this show, according to a Times London columnist, is “to instill old-fashioned Islamist values in Christian, Jewish, and atheist children.”

It appears that indoctrinating little children with the principles of Sharia Law is just one of the many ways of changing the law of our land. Parents who believe in the United States Constitution would be wise to be aware of what their children may be learning about Sharia Law from television cartoons.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Virtuous Leaders

The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is virtuous leaders. Virtuous leaders can assist and lead their followers to be virtuous and morally strong. The Prophet Joseph Smith recognized this principle of freedom. When he was asked how he governed such a large group of people, he answered, "I teach them correct principles and then they govern themselves."

There are numerous examples in the scriptures of good men leading their people in righteousness. One such man was Enoch, who taught his people so well that the entire city was taken into heaven (Moses 7:23-23). Another good man who led his people in righteousness was Melchizedek, who taught his people so well that he was able to establish peace in the land. He was known as the prince of peace (Alma 13:17-18).

The Founders of our nation knew that leaders must be good men in order to have virtuous and moral people. They also understood the dangers of wicked rulers. James Madison wrote, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary" (The Federalist Papers, No. 51, p 319).

Our Constitution was written for a moral people. There have been numerous times and places in our nation when wicked men were controlling the circumstances. At a time when some of his followers were being persecuted and killed, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the following revelation: "I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free. Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil" (Doctrine and Covenants 98:8-10).

The Founders were good, honest and wise men who set up our government in such a way as to keep evilness in check. That is the reason why we have three branches of federal government as well as state governments. At the same time they encouraged good men to become public servants. They knew that a good example could encourage people to become better. Any person who reads about Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, etc. should feel a sense of pride in the greatness of our Founders. Let us continue to seek for good, honest, and wise men and women to lead our states and nation. When we find them, let's support them!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Abigail Smith Adams

Abigail Smith Adams, wife of President John Adams, was born his social superior. She was the daughter of the Rev. William Smith, a Congregationalist minister of Weymouth, and her grandfather was also a minister. Her mother inherited the blue blood of the Quincy family. John Adams came to the marriage as the son of a farmer with limited means who was also trained as an attorney. Abigail Smith married John Adams on October 26, 1764, when she was twenty years old. They set up housekeeping on his farm in Braintree because the income from his law profession did not provide fully for them
Abigail had limited education for two specific reasons. Opportunities for girls to be educated were restricted in those days, and her delicate health prevented her being sent from home to gain even the common schooling available. Even though Massachusetts had a reputation for encouraging education, it was usually the sons of the family who received every advantage. The girls were expected to help their mother in the manual household labor and to help their brothers. Women usually had no career opportunities outside the walls of their home. Abigail was basically self-educated because she read widely and wrote many letters.
Abigail did not have much faith in her abilities beyond being a good wife to John and a mother to his children, but she was considered to be a woman who had great and far-reaching influence for good in her day. Her letters are filled with life and feeling. She lived in an era of great historical events and was acquainted with many of the people who were making history, but her own life was not filled with great events. She was never required to perform heroic deeds for the cause of liberty, but she lived her life in such a way that she would have done so in her characteristic quiet and gracious dignity. She was the same person in the little farm house at Braintree as in the gilded drawing rooms of the courts in France and England or the unfinished parlors of the White House.
The first ten years of her marriage were filled with the mundane chores of the wife of a farmer. She spun and wove, knitted stockings, took care of the farm, and wrote frequent letters to friends and family. Four sons and a daughter were born during those years.
In 1774 John was chosen as one of the delegates from Massachusetts to meet with other delegates in Philadelphia for two months. He returned to Philadelphia when Congress met again in May 1775. While John was meeting in Congress, Abigail was busy caring for her children, managing the farm, frugally keeping house, opening her home to the homeless, giving to the poor from her meager supplies, and staying busily occupied. In this same time period she began to study books to learn the French language. Her house was used as a sort of hospital. She was violently ill, and her youngest son nearly died. During this same period of time, her mother passed away. Even though she was lonely for her husband and had to listen to the British firing on Boston, she willingly supported her husband in his duties away from home.
John came home occasionally for a few weeks at a time but was often gone. When he was appointed as an ambassador to France, he thought he could take his wife and children with him, but he could not. The British fleet wanted to capture John Adams because he was a man with a price on his head. He traveled to France on a small and not very fast vessel in February with only eleven-year-old John Quincy Adams. John came home from France after being absent for eighteen months for a breathing spell before being sent to Great Britain to negotiate a peace.
It was especially hard on Abigail when John went to France. She found relief by writing: “My habitation, how desolate it looks! My table, I sit down to it, but cannot swallow my food. Oh! Why was I born with so much of sensibility, and why possessing it have I so often been called on to struggle with it? Were I sure you would not be gone, I could not withstand the temptation of coming to you, though my heart would suffer over again the cruel torture of separation.” By the spring of 1781, she could stand the separation no longer: “I feel unable to sustain even the idea that it will be half that period ere we meet again. Could we live to the age of antediluvians, we might better support this separation, but with threescore years circumscribing the life of man, how painful is the idea that of that short space only a few years of social happiness are our allotted portion!”
Abigail cared for her aged father until he passed away and was buried beside her mother. Early in 1784, Abigail and her daughter sailed for England. It was Abigail’s first ocean voyage, and she was too sea sick to write for the first sixteen days. She reached London on July 23 and was met by her husband and by her son John Quincy whom she had not seen for six years. The family moved to Paris and lived near Dr. Benjamin Franklin for a year before going back to London where John was appointed Minister to that country and Abigail was the first female representative from the United States at the Court of Great Britain.
John and Abigail stayed in Great Britain for three years before returning home in the summer of 1788. The following year the American government was organized under the Constitution, and John was elected Vice President. They established their home in New York for a year before the seat of government was moved to Philadelphia.
In June 1800 the Federal government was moved to Washington, D.C., where the Adams family was the first to live in the partially finished White House. The first New Year’s reception at the White House was held in January 1801. Abigail lived in the White House for about four months before she returned to Quincy because of ill health. There she remained until she passed away on October 26, 1818, at age seventy-five. She retained her faculties to the last, and her declining years were marked with her characteristic cheerfulness and dignity. Eight years later, John was laid to rest beside her in Quincy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pigford Settlement

The United State House of Representatives voted on November 30, 2010, to pay $1.2 billion to settle the case of Pigford v. Glickman, a class-action lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The suit alleged that government agents racially discriminated against farm loans and assistance to black farmers between 1983 and 1997. The lawsuit ended when the United States government agreed to pay $50,000.00 to each African American farmer who attempted to get USDA help but failed.

The lawsuit was filed by Timothy Pigford in 1997, and he was joined by 400 additional African American farmer plaintiffs in the suit against Dan Glickman, the Secretary of Agriculture, the nominal defendant. The plaintiffs alleged that the USDA treated black farmers unfairly when decisions were made about allocating price support loans, disaster payments, “farm ownership” loans, and operating loans. They also alleged that the USDA failed to process subsequent complaints about racial discrimination.

After Pigford filed the lawsuit, he requested blanket mediation for about 2,000 farmers who might have been discriminated against. The U.S. Department of Justice opposed the mediation because they thought each case should be investigated separately. The presiding judge however certified as a class all black farmers who filed discrimination complaints against the USDA between 1983 and 1997.

The case was settled in 1999, decreeing that all African American farmers would be paid $50,000 (Track A) or they could seek a larger payment by presenting a greater amount of evidence (Track B). The claimants were given 180 days from the consent decree to file, but late claims were accepted for an additional year – if there were extraordinary circumstances that prevented filing on time.

Pigford thought that about 2,000 farmers would be affected, but 22,505 people applied on Track A with 200 applied on Track B. In addition to those that were heard and decided upon, there were 70,000 more petitions that were filed late and not allowed to proceed. The last number I read for claimants is 85,000, but the number is still climbing because a provision in the 2008 farm bill made it possible for a re-hearing for any claimant with a claim denied without a decision based on its merits.

Another $20.5 billion class action lawsuit was filed in 2004 by the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association (BFAA) against the USDA alleging racially discriminatory practices between 1997 and 2004. BFAA failed to show it had standing to bring the suit; therefore, the lawsuit was dismissed.

Iowa Congressman Steve King (R-IA-5), a member of both the House Agriculture and the House Judiciary Committees, sent a letter on September 24, 2010, to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to request a meeting in which to discuss allegations of major fraud in the disbursement of Pigford settlement money. He wrote, “There is a growing firestorm over the allegations of massive fraud in the Pigford settlement. … According to sworn testimony by John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers Association, there are 18,000 black farmers. They could not all have been victims of discrimination. To date, there have been over 94,000 claims made. These numbers speak to massive fraud, meaning that American taxpayers are on the hook for what Pigford judge Paul Friedman called `forty acres and a mule.’
“It is common practice for Secretaries of Agriculture to sit down with members of the Agriculture Committee. It is uncommon for the topic of conversation to be as urgent and expensive as Pigford, with a price tag of $2.3 billion. Secretary Vilsack has an obligation to the American taxpayers to cooperate with an investigation of Pigford fraud.
“The Senate may be poised to pass the Obama administration’s request for additional Pigford funding. Pigford payouts must be stopped until Congress and the USDA can conduct a thorough investigation.”
On September 29, 2010, Congressman King and two other GOP House members called on the Justice Department to investigate the claims to ensure that they were legitimate. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) read from a letter written by Ed Schafer, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s GOP predecessor: “I urge that our government step back and institute a procedure to properly investigate each claim to see if it is appropriate or not. The allegations of fraud and abuse must be addressed if we are going to assure our citizens that their government is pursuing equal justice for all.”
Vilsack reportedly said that the “discrimination is well-documented, the courts have affirmed this discrimination, and Congress has twice acknowledged the need to settle with those who have suffered from this discrimination.”
The thorough investigation apparently did not take place yet. After the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill,
Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) likened the black farmers program to “modern-day reparations” for African Americans. He joined Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) in arguing that the claims process is rife with fraud
Black politicians are quick to say that Pigford is not about reparations – the act of compensating for wrong or injury done such as payments made by a defeated country for the devastation of territory during war - and yet they have not explained how there could be only 18,000 black farmers but 94,000 people claiming to be injured. How could a small settlement mushroom into a billion-dollar affair? I don’t mind using taxpayer funds to pay those who were truly discriminated against. I do object to my money being used to pay fraudulent claims. This whole affair smells to me like Obama and his kind are redistributing more money. I hope that the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will investigate how such a fraud could take place and bring any guilty parties to justice. There is no conflict between making sure that the claims are legitimate and offering payments. It is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture and the court to make sure that the money does not go to people who are not entitled to it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

John Adams

John Adams, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, played a leading role in the early years of our nation. He was a leader in opposing British colonial policies in America, starting when the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765. He called the Boston Tea Party "the most magnificent movement of all" (December 16, 1773). He was a delegate from Massachusetts to the First Continental Congress (1774). He was active in the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and signed the historic document (1776). He was elected as commissioner to France to negotiate a treaty of alliance (1777). He obtained recognition of American independence from the Netherlands (1780-1782). He served on the commission that negotiated peace with Great Britain (1782-1783). He was appointed minister to Great Britain (1785). He returned to the United States just prior to being elected to serve as Vice President of the United States (1789) and was re-elected Vice President in 1792. He was elected President of the United States in 1796.
John Adams was born October 30, 1735, in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts. His father, also named John Adams, was a farmer, a deacon in his church, and a militia officer. His mother, Susanna, was from a leading family of merchants and physicians. She was a descendant of John Alden, a passenger on the Mayflower. The family farm was at the foot of Penn's Hill. The house where John was born is now a memorial and is close to the place where his great-great-grandfather, Henry Adams, settled before 1640. Henry came to America from Somersetshire, England, as one of the thousands of Puritans escaping religious persecution in their homeland. Thus, both of John’s parents came to America for religious freedom, and he had a right to the title of Son of Liberty.
John helped with chores on the farm and studied hard in the village school. He graduated from Harvard College in 1755, with the social - not academic - rank of 14 out of 24 students. He apparently was one of the best scholars in the group.
John taught school for a short time before studying law. He started practicing law in Braintree in 1758 and moved to Boston ten years later where he became a leading attorney. John faced a dilemma in the aftermath of the Boston Massacre during which several colonists were killed by British soldiers on March 5, 1770. On one hand, some of his countrymen had been killed and people all around him were clamoring for the soldiers to be punished. On the other hand, John understood the demands of justice and humanity. He accepted the invitation to work with Josiah Quincy to defend Captain Thomas Preston when he and his men were arraigned for murder. They defended Captain Preston successfully, and he was acquitted because there was no proof that he had ordered his troops to fire. Two of the soldiers were later found guilty of manslaughter and were branded on their thumbs as punishment.
John was short and stout with a ruddy complexion. He tended to be blunt, impatient, and vane and made more enemies than friends, but those who knew him well loved him for his genial, affectionate, and playful nature.
He married Abigail Smith in 1764, the amiable daughter of a pious minister. She did not receive much public schooling but read widely and became one of the most informed women of her day. Abigail and John apparently had a very happy marriage and wrote many letters to each other during their many separations. Abigail's letters to John were published in 1840 and provide colorful pictures of life in colonial times.
The Adams' oldest son, John Quincy Adams, was elected as the sixth President of the United States the year before his father died. They had a total of five children: Abigail, John Quincy, Susanna (died in infancy), Charles (died while his father was President), and Thomas.
Just prior to the end of the Administration of President Adams, his family moved into the unfinished White House, which stood alone in a swampy landscape. In a letter from Abigail Adams to her sister, she wrote, "As I expected to find it a new country, with houses scattered over a space of 10 miles, and trees and stumps in plenty with a castle of a house - so I found it." There were about six rooms in the White House which were finished. Abigail used the East Room to dry her laundry because there was no other place yet provided for it.
Because the White House was unfinished, the Adams struggled to hold social functions. They felt a great responsibility as the first occupants of the White House to set a proper social tone for the home of the President of the United States. Because she admired social engagements of Martha Washington, Abigail tried to follow her example.
During the Administration of Adams, the government faced many domestic problems as well as an unsettled situation in Europe. Adams could not count on support from his own party or his Cabinet because there was great disagreement over foreign policy. Adams was part of the more moderate members of the Federalist Party, and Alexander Hamilton led the other group.
Most of the problems faced by President Adams were caused by the French Revolution. Adams insisted that the United States remain neutral in case of war in Europe, but this position was difficult to maintain due to the fact that European warships attacked ships from America. Both England and France claimed the right to seize American ships, and the United States was forced to defend itself. The United States launched several new warships, including the Constitution ("Old Ironsides").
Thomas Jefferson and his party sympathized with the French people because they likened the French Revolution to the Revolutionary War in America. They wanted to give support to the French people, but the group of Federalists headed by Hamilton demanded a war against France. The Federalist Party split over the issue of war or neutrality - an irreparable split which later cost Adams a second term as President. Adams was determined to maintain peace and sent commissions to France. Even though this bold act cost him the support of his party, he believed that avoiding war was his most important achievement.
Hamilton criticized Adams for not fighting France, and his arguments convinced many Federalist voters. The Democratic-Republicans criticized Adams for his hostility toward France. In the 1800 election, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr each received 73 electoral votes while Adams received only 65. The election was decided by the House of Representation. The seat of government moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. in June 1800, and Congress began meeting there in November 1800. Adams was still making appointments on his last day in office. The appointment of John Marshall as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court was one of his most important. History has shown that Adams was right in the great decisions of his political life.
Adams left the White House just before he turned 66 years old. He grieved over his defeat and left Washington, D.C., prior to Jefferson's inauguration. He returned to his home in Quincy where he studied history, philosophy, and religion.
Some the historical events that happened during the time of Adams are as follows: 1) The first woolen mills began operating in Massachusetts. 2) Congress established the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps. 3) Johnny Appleseed wandered through Ohio and Indiana, planting apple seeds and preaching the Bible. 4) A group of shoemakers in Philadelphia organized the first labor strike in 1799 when they refused to work for nine days until they received higher wages. 5) Napoleon became the First Consul of France in 1799 to begin his reign as dictator. 6) The Library of Congress was established in 1800 when Congress appropriated $5,000 to buy books and to furnish a room in the Capitol to house the library. 7) In 1800 France secretly reacquired Louisiana from Spain, but the United States learn of the transaction until the following year.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson met in congress in 1775 and became good friends. Their friendship cooled after 1790 because of their different ideas about the French Revolution. After they both retired from political life, they forgot their quarrels and renewed their friendship. These two great Americans, one from the North and one from the South, both signed the Declaration of Independence. They both died on July 4, 1826. Adam's last words were: "Thomas Jefferson still survives." Adams died four months prior to his 91st birthday and was buried in Quincy, Mass.
Facts for this post came from an article by James H. Hutson in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp 34-39.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Power to Expel

The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article I.5.2: “The House and the Senate shall each have the authority to expel a member for improper behavior by a two-thirds vote.” Each Senator or Representative has the right to keep his seat unless two-thirds of that particular chamber vote to expel him/her.

If either a Senator or Representative shows behavior that is embarrassing to the house, that particular house has the right to expel that person. The ruling was “… the right to expel extends to all cases where the offense is … inconsistent with the trust and duty of a member” according to a decision by the Supreme Court

The Founders thought that a two-thirds vote would provide safety. James Madison wrote that “the right of expulsion was too important to be decided by a bare majority of a quorum.”

If the bad behavior is not considered serious enough for expulsion, the member could be called before the podium for censure or reprimand.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Final Judgment

We know from various scriptures that we will stand one day before God to be judged. In order to better prepare for this important event, we must understand how the judgment will take place.

The scriptures teach that everyone will be judged according to our works: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12; see also Doctrine and Covenants 76:111; 1 Nephi 15:32; Abraham 3:25-28). Doctrine and Covenants 137:9 teaches that we will also be judged “according to the desire of [our] hearts.” (See also Alma 41:3.)

Judgments are made here on earth as to our worthiness to receive opportunities in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first judgment is made when the bishop determines we are worthy to receive the ordinance of baptism. Whenever we are interviewed for priesthood advancement or asked to serve in the Church, we are being judged. Another judgment will take place when we die. According to Alma, when we die our spirits will be assigned to either a state of happiness or a state of misery. (See Alma 40:11-15.)

The prophet Alma told us that we will be judged for our actions as well as for our thoughts and words: “Our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; … and our thoughts will also condemn us” (Alma 12:14).

Alma is not the only one to warn us about our words. The Lord said, “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

We can prepare for the Final Judgment by exercising faith in Jesus Christ. By following Him faithfully and by repenting of all our sins, we can receive forgiveness and become pure and holy so that we are worthy to enter the presence of God. As we become aware of our sins and give away every impure thought, word and action, the Holy Ghost will help us in the purification process. He will change our hearts so that we no longer desire to sin (see Mosiah 5:2). With the help of the Holy Ghost, we will be judged worthy to enter God’s presence.

According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we will be judged from the records being kept on earth and out of the “book of life,” which is kept in heaven (see Doctrine and Covenants 128:6-8).

President Harold B. Lee taught: “Every one of you … must stand before `the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel … and then must … be judged according to the holy judgment of God.’ (II Nephi 9:15.) And according to the vision of John, `The books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.’ (Rev. 20:12.) The `books’ spoken of refer to the `records [of your works] which are kept on the earth. … The book of life is the record which is kept in heaven.’ (Doc. And Cov. 128:7.)” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [2000], 226-227).

Besides the records kept in books on earth and in heaven, there is another record by which we will be judged. According to the Apostle Paul, we ourselves are a record of our life (see Romans 2:15). There is a complete history of everything we have thought, said, and done stored in our body and mind. President John Taylor taught: “[The individual] tells the story himself, and bears witness against himself. … That record that is written by the man himself in the tablets of his own mind, that record that cannot lie will in that day be unfolded before God and angels, and those who shall sit as judges” (Deseret News, Mar. 8, 1865, 179).

The Final Judgment will be conducted by Jesus Christ and others that He will call to assist in the Judgment. The Apostle John taught that “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22). The Twelve Apostles who helped Christ in His ministry on earth will judge the twelve tribes of Israel (see Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). Under the direction of the Twelve Apostles, the twelve Nephite disciples will judge the Nephites and Lamanites (see 1 Nephi 12:9-10; Mormon 3:18-19).

At the time of the Final Judgment, we will receive a place for which we have prepared. We learn from the scriptures that there are three kingdoms of glory – the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:20-32).

We prepare for our eternal inheritance by the choices we make in our mortal lives. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 76 that our choices here will determine our eternal inheritance. He described the ways we can live in mortality in order to inherit the kingdom of our choice.

In describing those who will receive the celestial kingdom, the Lord said: “They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized, … that by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit.” He also taught that they include those who overcome the world by their faith and who are just and true. The Holy Ghost will seal blessings upon all those who meet these requirements. (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:51-53.) All those who wish to inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom and to become gods must also be married for eternity in the temple (see Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4). All those who are judged worthy to inherit the celestial kingdom will have the opportunity to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for all eternity (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:62).

Because He loves all of His children, Heavenly Father has revealed the way by which all of us can inherit a place in the highest degree of celestial glory. Through the work done in our temples, everyone who has ever lived on earth can enjoy an equal opportunity to receive the fullness of the gospel and the ordinances of salvation.

The Lord described those who will receive the terrestrial kingdom as those who rejected the gospel on earth but afterward received it in the spirit world. These are the honorable people on earth who were blinded to the gospel of Jesus Christ by the craftiness of men. These people also include those who received the gospel and a testimony of Jesus but were not valiant. The people who inherit the terrestrial kingdom will be visited by Jesus Christ but not by our Heavenly Father. (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:73-79.)

The Lord described those who will receive the telestial kingdom as those who did not receive the gospel or the testimony of Jesus either on earth or in the spirit world. They will suffer for their own sins in hell until they are resurrected after the Millennium. “These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.” These people are as numerous as the stars in heaven and the sand on the seashore. They will be visited by the Holy Ghost but not by the Father or the Son. (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:81-88, 103-6, 109.)

Those who will be cast into outer darkness include those who had testimonies of Jesus through the Holy Ghost and knew the power of the Lord but gave away their agency to Satan. They denied the truth and defied the power of the Lord. There is no forgiveness for them, for they denied the Holy Spirit after having received it. They will not have a kingdom of glory. Because they chose to follow Satan, they will spend eternity in darkness, torment, and misery with Satan and his followers. (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:28-35, 44-48.)

We face judgment day every day by the way we speak, think, and act. We live our lives by the laws of whatever kingdom we wish to inherit. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the law of the celestial kingdom. God has revealed every priesthood ordinance that is required for our progression. Once we have entered the waters of baptism and made a covenant to live Christlike lives, we are on the path to the celestial kingdom. If we are faithful and keep all the covenants we make with God, we are worthy to hear Him say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Traditions

Families grow stronger by sharing uplifting Christmas traditions. Celebrating with special Christmas traditions reinforces the true meaning of Christmas as well as adds fun, unity, and warmth to our family gatherings.

Many families have the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree together. In our home, my husband always had responsibility for making sure that the tree was straight and secure in its base. He then added the lights and the tinsel. When he had completed his tasks, the children and I were then free to add the ornaments. Now that the children are all married with homes of their own, the pleasant experience of hanging the ornaments is totally mine.

Our family had another tradition that is shared by many other families. Each Christmas the children were given a new ornament of their own to hang on the tree. When the holidays ended, each child’s ornaments would go into an individual box. By the time the children were grown, they had many ornaments to take to their new homes. Since my children are all married, I have changed this tradition to giving a new Nativity set to each family. I collect Nativity sets and use them to decorate my home for Christmas. I have sets of many different types, sizes, and colors from several different countries – and I enjoy them all. Some of my children have continued this tradition in their own homes.

Another tradition that my family enjoys is acting out the Nativity story each Christmas Eve. I am very pleased that my children and grandchildren all enjoy participating in this activity at our Christmas gatherings and continue the tradition in their own homes when we are not together.

Many families have a tradition of singing Christmas carols together or going Christmas caroling to their neighbors. One family of my acquaintance has such beautiful singing voices that friends and neighbors make appointments for them to come caroling.

Another fun tradition, particularly for families with young children, is to read a special Christmas story each evening between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some families add a special scripture and song also.

Christmas morning traditions at our house included meeting in the parents’ bedroom for family prayer and then going to the Christmas tree to open gifts. The youngest person always has the opportunity to open the first gift, and then it is the next youngest child’s turn – all the way back to the parents – before the youngest one opens another gift. This way all family members have an opportunity to see the others open gifts. It also serves to lengthen the gift opening time so that it lasts longer than just a few minutes!

A tradition that my husband insists on is the annual family basketball game. This tradition is a fun one when we have access to a basketball court. Other times we choose a different activity to do together. I think our activity for this Christmas will be a family hike. Our family also enjoys playing board games and card games. We are all very competitive and so our games get very exciting. The spouses and grandchildren are learning that we can be competitive and still love each other.

The types and kinds of traditions are as individual and special as are the families who participate in them. It is always fun to learn of the traditions that other people enjoy and then adapt them to our own family. Uplifting Christmas traditions always bring us closer together as a family as well as reinforcing the true meaning of Christmas.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Virtue and Morality

The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is the need for virtue and morality. This principle of freedom is based on the idea that a republican type of government needs virtuous and morally strong citizens to survive. The Founders had a great desire for independence but worried that they might not be good enough to make it work. They identified virtue and morality as being obedient to God's will, particularly the Ten Commandments.

Benjamin Franklin understood the importance of virtue and morality in obtaining and maintaining liberty: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters” (Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 9:569).

The Founders also understood that virtue comes only with effort and learning and that it must be cultivated and exercised. They wondered if their posterity would make the effort to teach the rising generations to be virtuous and moral.

John Adams said, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." (Quoted in John R. Howe, Jr., The Changing Political Thought of John Adams, p 189).

We must be virtuous and moral people and teach our posterity to be the same. This is one of the most important things we can do to protect the freedom, independence, and liberty guaranteed by our Constitution.