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, September 30, 2011

Families Are Forever

                    Families are strengthened by the knowledge that family life is meant to last for eternity and when priority is put on the family.  The Proclamation on the Family tells us:  "Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God….  The family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." (See "The Family:  A Proclamation to the World," Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 102.)

                    We know that Heavenly Father brought Adam and Eve together in marriage and then commanded them to have children (see Genesis 1:28).  He revealed to them that one of the purposes for marriage is to provide physical or mortal bodies for His spirit children still in heaven.

                    President David O. McKay said, "With all my heart I believe that the best place to prepare for … eternal life is in the home" ("Blueprint for Family Living," Improvement Era, April. 1963, p. 252).  It is in our homes that we learn to love, to share and to serve each other.  It is in our homes that we learn self-control, sacrifice, loyalty, and the value of work.

                    I recently purchased a small placard that I really like.  It says, "Family:  Other things may change us, but we start and end with family."  I found this same thought in the posting of a friend on Facebook:  "FriEND, BoyfriEND, GirlfriEND, Best FriEND.  Every close relationship has an END except FamILY!  Family has three letters that say I LOVE YOU."

                    This is so true.  I always make time for family whenever I return to my home area, but I seldom have time to visit friends.  In fact, in the past fifty years, I can remember only a few visits since graduation with my very best friend from junior high school and high school.  Even our letters and telephone calls have become infrequent.  Yet I stay in close contact with family.

                    One of my very favorite songs is about families.  It is entitled "Families Can Be Together Forever" and was written by Ruth M. Gardner.

I have a family here on earth.
They are so good to me.
I want to share my life with them
Through all eternity.

Families can be together forever
Through Heavenly Father's plan.
I always want to be with my own family,
And the Lord has shown me how I can.

While I am in my early years,
I'll prepare most carefully,
So I can marry in God's temple
For eternity.

Families can be together forever
Through Heavenly Father's plan.
I always want to be with my own family,
And the Lord has shown me how I can.

                    Families gather in circles for many different reasons - blessings, confirmations, ordinations, etc.  Families gather to share reunions, weddings, baby showers, and other happy events.  Families also gather together in difficult times such as serious accidents, fatal illnesses, deaths, funerals, and the reading of wills.  Sometimes friends become as close as family, but usually "blood" is thicker than friendship.  Friends are very important in lives, but we must put our priorities on family.

                    Marriage as ordained by our Heavenly Father was not meant to end in divorce or at death.  It was meant to last for all eternity.  I firmly believe that husbands and wives, fathers, mothers, and children can be together for eternity because love lasts for eternity.  Prophets have taught that heaven is only an extension of an ideal home, and I believe this is true.  Families are forever!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Watch Israel

                    The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is that Americans must keep their eyes on Israel in order to know what will come to the United StatesIsrael is like the canary in the mine in relation to the United States.  As long as the canary was alive, the miners knew the mine was safe to enter.  When the canary died, the miners needed to get out fast.

The Arab nations consider Israel to be "Little Satan" and the United States to be "Big Satan."  Arab nations have declared their intention to drive all Jews into the Mediterranean Sea and wipe the nation of Israel off the face of the earth.  They have also declared that they intend to destroy the United States.  What happens to Israel will affect the United States

                    Tensions have been building in the months leading up to an appearance at the United Nations by Palestinian Authority President Mahmaud Abbas.  Abbas spoke  at the UN on Friday, September 23, 2011, and to demanded that the Security Council grant immediate statehood to the Palestinians.  He said that his new nation would be "Jew free." 

                    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left Israel with plans to meet with President Barack Obama and to speak at the General Assembly of the United Nations.  He told members of the Likud party in Israel that he was aware that he would "come under heavy pressure" at the UN, "and exactly because of that I think we should go there and present our truth … of a people attacked over and over by those opposed to their very existence.  That is the most basic truth."

                    Netanyahu said that he has offered to meet Abbas several times, but Abbas has always declined.  "I told him the road to peace goes through direct negotiations and not unilateral decisions at the UN."  [The UN decided that the Palestinians and Israelis should do more negotiating.]

                    Netanyahu added that "it is much easier to win applause from world nations by extensive concessions we make, and then we see what we get.  Municipality heads in the north and the south can attest to that.  The danger of a rushed or a unilateral agreement or no agreement is not just rockets on the south or the north, but on all of Israel."

                    Ron Prosor, Israel's Ambassador to the UN, told Army Radio that Israel "is ready to negotiate tomorrow" with the Palestinians.  He confirmed that attempts were made to arrange a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu in New York before the UN votes on Palestinian statehood.  Abbas refuses to meet.

                    CBS News reported that frantic efforts were made at the United Nations on Tuesday, September 20, 2011, to avoid a face-off on Friday over Palestinian statehood.  Marcia Kramer of CBS 2 reported that Israel suggested the possibility of an "interim solution" that would allow Palestinians to establish a state within the existing borders of Gaza and the West Bank with all the difficult problems worked out later.  Some of the problems to be worked out later would include difficult issues such as final borders, the status of Jerusalem, right of return for Palestinian refugees, and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

                    The Palestinian campaign for statehood has caused a very sensitive domestic problem for President Barack Obama, and he has been walking a political tightrope while attempting to solve the diplomatic problem between Israel and Palestine.  He spent time talking with both Netanyahu and Abbas before the UN vote.

Jewish votes have historically favored Democrats for almost a century.  Now many orthodox and conservative Jews who support Israel are questioning why they should support Obama if he is against Israel.  Obama is trying to shore up the Jewish vote while at the same time trying to keep from alienating his liberal/progressive base that doesn't care that much about Israel.  Eight out of ten Jewish voters backed Obama in 2008, and Republicans are trying to woo them into the Republican camp.  The Jewish vote could be important in pivotal states such as Florida and Ohio as well as in fundraising.  The Jewish voters in Ohio and Florida are much like those in New York who just voted for Republican Representative Turner in a special election.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson

                    Martha Wayles Skelton was a young and beautiful widow when she married Thomas Jefferson on January 1, 1772.
Bathurst Skelton, her first husband, had died four years previously, and her only child had died in infancy. 

                    Martha was born October 30, 1748, and was the daughter of John Wayles of "The Forest" in Charles City County, Virginia.  She was living with her father at "The Forest" when she married Jefferson.  Thomas and Martha were distant cousins.  Martha was twenty-three years old when she married Jefferson who was twenty-six years old at the time.  After Jefferson graduated from William and Mary College, he studied law with George Wythe and started a successful law practice. 

                    Randall, the author of Life of Jefferson wrote the following about Martha at the time of her second marriage.  "Mrs. Skelton was remarkable for her beauty, her accomplishments, and her solid merit.  In person she was a little above medium height, slightly but exquisitely formed.  Her complexion was brilliant - her large expressive eyes of the richest tinge of auburn.  She walked, rode, and danced with admirable grace and spirits; sang and played the harpsichord and spinet with uncommon skill.  The more solid parts of her education had not been overlooked."

                    Randall continued in his praise of Mrs. Skelton:  "She was well read and intelligent, conversed agreeably, possessed excellent sense, and a lively play of fancy, and had a frank, warm-hearted, and somewhat impulsive disposition."

                    The wedding festivities took place at "The Forest," and then the newlyweds left for his home, Monticello.  According to a manuscript written by their oldest daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph, Thomas and Martha left "The Forest" after a light snowfall.  The snow increased in depth as they traveled and finally became so deep that they had to leave the carriage and ride horseback.  About eight miles from Monticello, they stopped for a short time at a place called "Blenheim" and then continued in snow that was from eighteen inches to two feet deep.  They arrived late at night after the fires had been put out and the servants had gone to their own homes.  They found a partial bottle of wine behind some books, and it served them "for both fire and supper."

                    Thomas and Martha lived together in "domestic happiness" for nine years at Monticello - in spite of the anxiety of the times.  During those nine years, five children were born to them.  Thomas served both his country and Virginia as he served in the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, and wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence.

                    Martha's health was in a state of decline when Thomas was offered an important mission to Europe.  He declined the offer in order to be home with Martha, but he was almost immediately elected as Governor of Virginia.  The British army attempted several times to capture Jefferson.  Martha gave birth to her fifth child in November 1779 (another source gave the year of birth as 1780), and she fled with the infant in her arms two months later when the traitor Benedict Arnold and his army approached Richmond.  Jefferson sent his family away in a carriage and stayed to secure his most important papers.  He saw the army coming and escaped, but Monticello was captured and searched by the enemy.  Many of their Blacks were taken and only five were returned.  All the valuable horses were taken as well as many thousands of dollars worth of tobacco and grain.
                    The baby died about April 1781.  The baby's death plus the constant anxiety about the safety of her husband took much of Martha's remaining strength.  She gave birth to her last child in May, 1782.  She never regained her health and died September 6, 1782.  Martha gave birth to six children:  Martha (born September 27, 1772; named in honor of Martha Washington; also known as Patsy; married her cousin Thomas Mann Randolph who had been a ward of Jefferson and who was Governor of Virginia from 1819-1822; died October 10, 1836); Jane Randolph (born 1774; died 1775); unnamed son born in 1777; Mary Wayles (born in 1778; also known as Polly; married John Wayles Eppes; died in 1804; Lucy Elizabeth (born 1780; died 1781); Elizabeth (born in 1782; died in 1785).  Only Martha, Mary, and Elizabeth survived their mother. 

                    Many years after her mother's death, Martha recorded her memories of the sad event:  "He [her father] nursed my poor mother in turn with Aunt Carr and her own sister, sitting up with her and administering medicines and drink to the last.  For four months that she lingered, he was never out of calling; when not at her bedside, he was writing in a small room which opened immediately at the head of her bed.  A moment before the closing scene, he was led from the room almost in a state of insensibility by his sister, Mrs. Carr, who with great difficulty got him into his library, where he fainted and remained so long insensible that we thought he would never revive.  The scene that followed I did not witness, but the violence of his emotion, when almost by stealth I entered his room at night, to this day I dare not trust myself to describe.  He kept his room three weeks and I was never a moment from his side.  He walked almost incessantly, night and day, only lying down occasionally, when nature was completely exhausted, on a pallet that had been brought in during his long fainting fits.  My aunts remained almost constantly with him for some weeks.  I do not know how many.  When at last he left his room, he rode out and from that time he was incessantly on horseback rambling about the mountain in the least frequented roads and just as often through the woods.  In those melancholy rambles, I was his companion, a solitary witness to many a violent outburst of grief, the remembrance of which has consecrated particular stones of that lost home beyond the power of time to obliterate."

                    Facts and quotes are from Wives of the Signers:  The women behind the Declaration of Independence, pp. 240-247.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blacked Robed Regiment

                    The original Black Robed Regiment was a group of patriotic clergy during the years of the American Revolution.  The name was given to the clergy by the British because they wore black robes in their church duties as well as their courageous leadership in the patriot cause of liberty.

                    According to David Barton  the British blamed the Black Robed Regiment for the American fight for independence, and modern-day historians agree.  Alice M. Baldwin wrote:  "There is not a right asserted in the Declaration of Independence which had not been discussed by the New England clergy before 1763."  Barton claims that the rights listed in the Declaration came from sermons by the clergy in the previous two decades.  The British, modern historians and our Founding Fathers all credited the clergy with inspiring and supporting the fight for independence.

                    A modern-day movement by clergy could be likened to the Black Robed Regiment. A group of courageous pastors have designated Sunday, October 2, 2011, as Pulpit Freedom Sunday.  For more than fifty years, pastors and priests have had restrictions on what they could preach from their pulpits, and clergy are claiming that the free exercise of religion depends on a free pulpit.

                    The Pulpit Initiative "is designed to allow pastors to speak freely from their pulpits without fear of censorship or control by the IRS.  The Johnson Amendment  was passed by Congress in 1954 as an amendment to section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code.  The Johnson Amendment states that entities who are exempt from federal income tax cannot:  Participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of - or in opposition to- any candidate for public office. 
                    "Since its passage in 1954, the Johnson Amendment has been applied to prohibit what a pastor says from the pulpit concerning candidates who are running for elective office.  This means that under current IRS regulations, a pastor cannot say anything from the pulpit that may constitute support for - or opposition to - a political candidate."

                    Pastors spoke freely from their pulpits for nearly 200 years since the time of our Founding Fathers.  They were able to speak with boldness about the moral and social issues of the days as well as about any candidates running for office.  After the Johnson Amendment, pastors and churches stopped speaking out about the problems of society and political issues for fear of losing their tax exemption.  In effect, they censored themselves.

                    Meanwhile, activist groups used the Johnson Amendment to threaten and intimidate the churches.  In response to the threats and intimidation, the Pulpit Initiative was started in 2008 with the goal of getting the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional and of removing the ability of the IRS to censor what is spoken from the pulpits.

                    Be watching on Sunday to see if and how your pastor and church leaders support the modern-day Black Robed Regiment in their fight against tyranny.  In fact, if you think it may be effective, you might contact your pastor before Sunday to encourage his or her support.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thomas Jefferson

                    Thomas Jefferson is one of the most famous men in the history of the United States.  He not only signed the Declaration of Independence, but he was instrumental in the writing of it.  He was later elected to be the third President of the United States.                    Ancestors of Thomas Jefferson were among the early Virginia emigrants from Great Britain and specifically from Wales.  Thomas's grandfather settled in Chesterfield where he raised three sons, Thomas, Field, and Peter.  Peter married Jane Randolph, daughter of Isham Randolph of Goochland, whose ancestors came from Scotland.  Peter and Jane resided at Shadwell, Albermarle County, Virginia.  Their first child of ten was born on April 13, 1743, and named Thomas Jefferson.  Peter Jefferson died when Thomas was only fourteen years old and left a widow and eight children (two sons and six daughters).  Peter left a "handsome estate" to his family.  Thomas inherited the estate called Monticello where he resided except when involved in public service and where he was living at the time of his death.

                    Thomas started grammar school at the age of five years and started studying the classics at age nine.  Upon his father's death, the Reverend Mr. Maury became Thomas's preceptor.  Thomas entered William and Mary College in the spring of 1760 and remained there for two years.  He received his first philosophical teachings from Doctor William Small, a mathematics professor at the college.  It is thought that Thomas's bias against scientific studies came from Doctor Small.  Through the influence of Doctor Small, Jefferson was admitted in 1762 as a student-at-law in the office of George Wythe.

                    While still a student in 1765, Thomas heard the celebrated speech against the Stamp Act by Patrick Henry.  He was so fired up by the principles given in the speech that he immediately became a champion of American liberty.  His political talents were so obvious to the people that they elected him to be a member of the Virginia Legislature where he became immediately active and popular.  He strongly but unsuccessfully lobbied the Virginia Assembly for the emancipation of the slaves.

                    Thomas married Mrs. Martha Skelton, a wealthy, 23 year old widow, in 1772.  Martha was the daughter of John Wales, an eminent lawyer in Virginia.

                    When the colonies established the system of committees of correspondence in 1773, Thomas was a member of the first Virginia committee where he was very active with his writing skills.  Thomas wrote a pamphlet entitled "A Summary View of the Rights of British America" and addressed it to the king.  Edmund Burke was instrumental in getting the pamphlet published in England.  The pamphlet was very offensive to Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, and Dunmore threatened to prosecute Thomas for high treason.  The members of the Virginia Assembly were so supportive of Thomas that Dunmore dissolved the Assembly.  The Assembly members assembled in a private capacity and wrote a "remonstrance" that had a powerful effect on the people.  The governor realized that he couldn't do anything about the matter and let it drop.

                    Thomas became a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress of 1775 and spent several years in that capacity.  Although he was comparatively young, he became one of the most distinguished members of the Congress.  His talents for writing were recognized, and he was appointed to a committee with the assignment to write the Declaration of Independence.  Even though he was the youngest member of the committee, the other committee members chose him to be the chairman and asked him to draft the document.  The document was adopted with very few changes on July 4, 1776.  "This instrument forms an everlasting monument to his memory, and gives, by far, a wider range to the fame of his talents and patriotism, than eloquent panegyric or sculptured epitaph."  Jefferson signed the document and is known as the Father of the Declaration of Independence.

                    During the summer of 1776, Thomas resigned his seat in Congress when he was elected to the Virginia Assembly.  Soon afterward he was appointed as a joint commissioner with Dr. Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane to negotiate treaties with France.  He declined the proffered honor because of circumstances and remained in Virginia during the rest of the Revolution.  He was elected to a third term in Congress but declined to accept.  He was succeeded by Benjamin Harrison, the father of the late President.

                    Thomas was on a commission to revise the laws of Virginia from early 1777 to the middle of 1779.  George Wythe and Edmund Pendleton were also on the commission.  As such, Jefferson had the honor to be the first to propose laws to the Legislature of Virginia to forbid the importation of slaves.  Other proposals to the Legislature concerned inheritance laws, freedom of religion, and education.

                    Congress would not allow British soldiers captured at Saratoga to leave America until the British government ratified the agreement between General Gates and General Burgoyne.  The prisoners were divided and sent to several states.  Some of them were sent in early 1779 to Virginia near the residence of Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson and his friends saw that the prisoners were in great distress and did all that they could to relieve their sufferings.  Because there was a scarcity of provisions, Governor Patrick Henry decided to send the prisoners to another part of Virginia or even out of the state.  The officers and soldiers among the prisoners were greatly distressed at the suggestion of a move, and Jefferson appealed to the Governor in their behalf.  They were allowed to remain where they were.  When the prisoners departed for England, the officers and soldiers united in writing a letter of thanks to him.  Jefferson replied:  "Opposed as we happen to be in our sentiments of duty and honor, and anxious for contrary events, I shall, nevertheless, sincerely rejoice in every circumstance of happiness and safety which may attend you personally."

                    Jefferson was elected as Governor of Virginia in June 1779 to succeed Patrick Henry.  The latter period of his administration was a period of great difficulty and danger.  American traitor, Benedict Arnold, joined with British troops and Tory troops and brought predatory warfare to Virginia.  They spread desolation with fire and sword all along the James RiverRichmond, the capital of Virginia, was partially destroyed, and Governor Jefferson and his council narrowly escaped capture.  Jefferson tried in vain to capture Arnold, but the traitor was too cautious to be captured.

                    After Jefferson retired to private life, he narrowly missed being captured by British troops again.  Members of the Virginia Legislature were meeting at Charlottesville not far from the home of Jefferson, and Tarleton attempted to capture them.  Jefferson sent his family away in his carriage and was attending to some matters at home when he noticed the cavalry coming up the hill toward his home.  He immediately mounted a fast horse, dashed through the woods, and joined his family in safety.

                    Jefferson was appointed in 1782 as a minister plenipotentiary to assist in the negotiation of a treaty of peace with Great Britain.  He did not actually go because preliminary negotiations reached Congress before he could depart.  Soon afterwards, he was elected to be a delegate to Congress and was chairman of the committee in 1783 to which the treat with Great Britain was referred.  The treaty was unanimously ratified upon the committee's report.

                    Thomas Jefferson wrote an essay in 1784 about coinage and currency for the United States.  The convenient denominations of our federal money - the dollar as a unit and the system of decimals - are credited to him.

                    Jefferson was appointed in May 1784, along with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, as a minister to negotiate treaties of commerce with foreign nations.  Jefferson was appointed to succeed Benjamin Franklin as minister at the French court.  Taking his eldest daughter with him, Jefferson reached Paris in August 1784.  He remained in France until October 1789 and was popular among the literati and the leading writers of the day.

                    Jefferson was still in France when the Constitution was written and ratified and when George Washington was elected and inaugurated as the first President of the United States.  Jefferson took a leave of absence from France and returned home.  Washington offered him the position of secretary of state and gave Jefferson his choice of whether to return to France or be secretary of state.  Jefferson chose to be secretary of state and was a very efficient aide to Washington during his first term of office.  In 1791 Washington asked Jefferson for his opinion about a national bank.  A bill for the same had been passed by Congress and approved by WashingtonJefferson submitted his answer in writing and strongly opposed the matter as being unconstitutional.

Jefferson and Washington had different opinions about the French revolution, but they agreed on the question of the neutrality of the United States.  Jefferson so boldly supported the democratic sentiments of the struggling people in France and sympathized so strongly with their desires for republicanism that he became the leader of the American democratic party.  Since this party opposed the federal administration of Washington, Jefferson resigned his seat in the cabinet in 1793.

                    In 1796 Jefferson was the republican candidate for President opposing John Adams.  Adams received the most votes and became President while Jefferson became Vice President.  Jefferson was nominated for President again in 1800 and received more votes than Adams.  Aaron Burr was also on the ticket and received the same number of votes as Jefferson.   Two of Burr's friends withdrew from his support on the thirty-sixth balloting, and Jefferson became President.

                    Jefferson was elected to a second term in 1804.  The most famous accomplishment of his administration was the purchase of Louisiana from France.  The area known as Louisiana at that time covered more than a million square miles.  The United States agreed to pay France $15 million.  France allowed $4 million of that amount to be applied as "payment of indemnities for spoliations during peace."  Another great accomplishment of the Jefferson Administration was the order for the Louis and Clark expedition to explore the region of the Rocky Mountains and westward to the Pacific Ocean.  This expedition traveled overland from the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Columbia River.

                    Jefferson began the practice of communicating with Congress by written message rather than by a personal address.  This practice was followed by others Presidents until Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress about joining World War I.  Since the time of Wilson, all Presidents have given the annual State of the Union address to Congress.

                    After leaving the White House, Jefferson retired to the quiet scenes of Monticello and spent his remaining seventeen years there.  He was instrumental in the founding of a university at nearby Charlottesville in 1818.  That university is now the University of Virginia.  Jefferson was a rector there until his death as well as being a liberal patron as much as he could afford.

                    Toward the end of his life, Jefferson's financial affairs were so bad that he sold his library to Congress for $30,000.  A short time before he died, he received permission from the Virginia Legislature to dispose of his estate by lottery rather than letting it be sold to pay his debts.  He did not live long enough to see this happen.

                    Jefferson became quite ill in the spring of 1826 and by June he was confined to his bed.  About the first of July he seemed to improve, and his friends thought he might be recovering.  He was convinced that he was going to die and gave his directions.  On July 3, he asked what day it was.  Upon being told that it was July 3, he expressed his desire to live long enough "to breathe the air of the fiftieth anniversary of his country's independence."  The morning of July 4, he expressed his gratitude to his friends and servants for their care and then said in a distinct voice:  "I resign myself to my God, and my child to my country."  These were his last words for he died about noon on Independence Day.  In a remarkable coincidence, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams - men who composed the Declaration of Independence and signed it, men who were each elected to be President of the United States - died about the same hour on the fiftieth anniversary of Independence Day.

                    Jefferson died at age 83 and was survived by his eldest daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph who was named in honor of Martha Washington.  She married Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr. who became Governor of Virginia from 1819-1822. 

                    Just before Jefferson died, he handed Martha a morocco case with the request that she not open it until after he died.  The case contained a poetic tribute to her virtues and the following epitaph for his tomb.  He desired that his monument be a small granite obelisk with this inscription: 

                                      "Here was buried
                                THOMAS JEFFERSON
                Author of the Declaration of Independence,
            Of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom,
                   And Father of the University of Virginia."

                    "… Mr. Jefferson's manner was simple but dignified, and his conversational powers were of the rarest value.  He was exceedingly kind and benevolent, an indulgent master to his servants, liberal and friendly to his neighbors.  He possessed remarkable equanimity of temper, and it is said he was never seen in a passion.  His friendship was lasting and ardent; and he was confiding and never distrustful.
                    "In religion he was a freethinker; in morals, pure and unspotted; in politics, patriotic, honest, ardent and benevolent. …  His life was devoted to his country; the result of his acts whatever it may be, is a legacy to mankind."

                    Facts and quotes are from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, pp. 174-183.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

High Seas Piracy

                    The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article I.8.10:  "The Congress shall have Power … To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas...."  This principle of the United States Constitution gives Congress the exclusive responsibility and authority to "define and punish" crimes that occur on the open seas and therefore do not come under the jurisdiction of any particular state.

                    Pirates preyed on ships on the open seas for centuries before the Constitution was written.  When Spanish galleons were transporting gold from Latin America to Spain, British pirates became very wealthy by taking some of that gold for their own use.

                    "By the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 England, France, Spain, and Holland all agreed to make common war on piracy.  However, Algiers continued to pepper the seas with pirates, and during Washington's administration a tribute was paid to the pirate chieftains of Algiers to permit American shipping to proceed unmolested.  At the close of the War of 1812, the United States sent Commodore Decatur with a fleet of nine ships to punish the Barbary pirates.  He captured their principal ships, entered the Bay of Algiers, and dictated a treaty to the humbled ruler.  He then sailed to Tunis and Tripoli, where the pirates pledged good conduct from then on.  Since that time the piracy clause of the Constitution has remained practically obsolete.
                    "Felonies committed on the high seas are all crimes (involving penalties of imprisonment or death) which occur on the unenclosed waters of the ocean and on the coast outside of the low-water mark.  These are crimes on the public seas over which all vessels have the right to travel, like a great international highway" (W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America - The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 434).

                    Even though Skousen considered this clause almost obsolete when he wrote his book, piracy on the high seas has increased greatly in recent years.  The latest reported incidence of piracy that I found was dated September 14, 2011.   A Cyprus-flagged fuel tanker was commandeered by armed pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, about seventy miles from Cotonou, the commercial capital of the West Africa nation of Benin.  Twenty-three crew members were taken hostage. 

                    Pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia have threatened international shipping since the early years of this century,  Concerns over the  rise in acts of piracy have risen especially since 2005.  Pirates are venturing further out into the ocean by using "mother ships" as their bases.

According to, as of September 9, 2011, pirates from Somalia were holding at least 16 ships with an estimated 345 hostages.  Four Americans on an around-the-world sailing trip were captured by Somali pirates in February 2011 while sailing in the Indian Ocean.  When U.S. military personnel boarded the yacht, they discovered that all four hostages had been shot by their captors.  After a brief gun battle as U.S. forces took control of the yacht, two pirates were killed and thirteen others were captured. Two other pirates were dead on the yacht, and two or more others may have been involved - for a total of nineteen pirates.

                    According to Merln under the date of August 9, 2011, new attention has been focused on the piracy off the coast of Somalia because of recent, high-profile events.  These events included hostage rescue operations by France and the attempted hi-jacking of the MAERSK Alabama with the dramatic rescue of Captain Phillips by the U.S. Navy.  Following the rescue of Captain Phillips, the pirates pledged to increase piracy in the Gulf of Aden and specifically target U.S. ships - even though piracy was already rising. 

Merln declared that the International Maritime Bureau claims that 80 commercial cargo ships have been attacked so far this year in the Gulf of Aden with 19 successful hijackings.  There were 111 ships attacked in 2008 with 42 successful hijackings.  The Gulf of Aden is approximately 2.8 million square kilometers.

Also according to Merln, President Barack Obama welcomed Captain Phillips home on April 12 and "stated his resolve to halt the rise of piracy in the region."  Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced three days later that the United States "will not make concessions or ransom payments to pirates" and announced four steps that the U.S. would take immediately:  1) "work with international partners to crack down on pirate bases and decrease incentives to engage in piracy;" 2) "develop an expanded multinational response;" 3) "engage with Somali government and regional leaders in Puntland to take action against pirates operating from bases within their territories;" 4) "work with shippers and the insurance industry to address gaps in self-defense measures."

                    Last month a Dutch court sentenced two Somali pirates to prison terms of up to seven years each for hijacking a yacht from South Africa last year and capturing a South Africa couple.  The two captives are still missing.  Three other Somalis were also convicted of piracy.

                    In similar cases this year, a Spanish court in Madrid handed down prison sentences of 439 years each to two convicted pirates.   In Virginia, a U.S. court gave five convicted pirates life sentences. 

                    These court cases signal that maritime nations are no longer willing to follow the precedence of the past when captured thieves were released or handed over to the Somali or Kenyan courts.  There is no doubt in my mind that this clause is actively being used as the United States and other countries counter pirate attacks on ships.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011


                    Jesus Christ taught a parable about developing our talents.  It tells us that we must serve well in our current stewardship before we will be given greater responsibilities.  Jesus taught, "For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.  And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey."  The servant who received five talents made some trades and doubled his talents, and the servant who received two talents did the likewise.  The servant who received only one talent was afraid that he would lose it and incur the wrath of his master.  He decided to bury his talents to keep it safe.

                    After a long time the lord of the servants returned and required an accounting for the use of the talents.  The first two servants explained how they were able to double their talents.  Their lord said, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant:  thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things:  enter thou into the joy of thy lord."  When the third servant told the lord that he buried his one talent, his lord told him that he should have at least taken the money to the exchangers where he would have at least received the interest.  He continued, "Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.  For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance:  but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath…."

                    Just like the servants in this parable, we have received special gifts, talents, and abilities from our Heavenly Father.  We brought them with us when we were born, but we do not all have the same gifts.  Moses was a great prophet with wonderful leadership abilities but lacked the ability to speak powerfully.  He was aided in his responsibility by his brother Aaron who was a good speaker.    We have people around us who are great leaders like Moses and others who are good speakers like Aaron.  There are others who are good in sports or have musical abilities.  Other gifts include patience, cheerfulness, understanding others, or teaching.  Some talents are very obvious to a casual observer, and others are more difficult to recognize.

                    We are given our talents with the responsibility to develop them.  Many of us think that we have very few, if any, talents and think that others have been given many.  Sometimes we hide our talents or don't use them because we don't want to fail or be criticized by others.  This is a big mistake because we must use our gifts to develop them more fully.  Heavenly Father gave each of us talents, gifts and abilities in order to bless our lives, help other people, and glorify God (see Matthew 5:16).

                    There are certain steps we must take in order to develop our talents, and all of the steps are easier with the Lord's help.  1) We must discover our talents.  We can do this by evaluating our own strengths and abilities, asking family and friends for their input, and praying for help to learn about our talents.  2) We must willingly spend the time and effort necessary to develop the talent we desire.  3) We must have faith in ourselves as well as faith that Heavenly Father will help us.  4) We must learn the necessary skills - take classes, read a book, etc.  5) We must practice using our talent because every talent takes time and effort to develop and mastery of a talent must be earned.  6) We must willingly share our talent with other people because it is using talents that helps them to grow. 

                    Even though we have weaknesses, we can still develop our talents.  When Moroni expressed a fear to the Lord that people would mock his writing, he was told, "Fools mock….  And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them" (Ether 12:26-27).

                    We see the talents of others after they have struggled to develop them.  Many great people have overcome weakness to develop wonderful talents.  Beethoven was deaf when he composed his greatest music.  The prophet Enoch became a powerful teacher after overcoming his slowness of speech (see Moses 6:26-47).  Heber J. Grant turned many of his weaknesses into talents.  He had the following motto:  "That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing is changed, but that our power to do is increased" (in Teachings of Presidents of the Church:  Heber J. Grant [2002], 35).

                    The scriptures tell us that we will be judged according to the work we do (see Matthew 16:27).   President Joseph F. Smith taught, "Every son and every daughter of God has received some talent, and each will be held to strict account for the use or misuse to which it is put" (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 370).  We can perform good works when we develop and use our gifts and talents for the good of other people.  Just as the lord in the parable was pleased with the first two servants, Heavenly Father is pleased with us when we use our gifts wisely.  He has given us these talents to benefit other people and to further His work here upon earth.  Some of the blessings that we receive through wise use of our talents are joy, love, and self-control, all of which are necessary for worthiness to live with Heavenly Father again.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Everyone Is Important

                    Families are strengthened when every member feels important to the whole.  Each member of a family has something important to add to that particular household.  Children, teenagers, and young adults all need to understand that they each fill a certain need in their family.
                    I recently received a really cute fund-raising letter from Brigham Young University.  The letter was basically just a story about a little raindrop. 
                    "Once upon a time there lived a family of raindrops.  They were a happy bunch, bouncing about in a fluffy, gray cloud that floated over the big world below.
                    "Squirt was one of the youngest.  He liked to play games with his fellow raindrops.  But one day Squirt didn't feel like playing.  Instead he sat on the edge of the cloud, head drooping, feeling downright glum.
                    "`How come you're not playing with your friends?' an old raindrop asked, coming up behind him.
                    "Squirt sighed.  `I want to make a difference in the world.  But I'm just one little raindrop, and I'll never amount to anything.'"
                    The old rain drop thought for a moment and explained that a farmer couldn't grow his wheat without raindrops.  Squirt didn't think that one little raindrop could make a difference to the farmer.  The old raindrop explained, "You know, Squirt.  I've been around this earth a few times, and I've learned that while each of us is only one drop of water, something special happens when we all get together in a rainstorm."
                    Just like many raindrops cause our rivers to flow, our trees to turn green, and wheat to grow, living together as families makes many good things happen - and each person is a part of the successes.  Something special happens in families.
                    When Heavenly Father taught us His plan for our happiness, He told us that He would send each of us down to earth to a family.  He sent us to families with fathers and mothers and other family members.  He sent us as babies who needed to be cared for and loved.  Each baby is a blessing from Heavenly Father, a special gift to that particular family.
                    By careful observance, parents can see the special gifts and talents of each of their children and then point them out to the rest of the family.  One child may be especially cheerful while another child is a great helper.  Every child has something worthwhile to add to the family.  Wise parents will make sure that each child feels special and needed.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Debt Is Bondage

The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is: Freedom can be destroyed by debt as easily and quickly as by conquest. Our Founders understood that debt corrupts and disables individuals and nations. They knew that borrowing in a time of emergency is honorable, but they also knew the necessity of repaying debt as quickly as possible. Debt has been described as trading an advantage today for an obligation tomorrow. It requires the payment of the original amount borrowed plus an added amount to compensate the creditor for the use of his money. An individual or nation with excessive debt loses the freedom to choose change or opportunity and pays more for an item than necessary.

Our Founders understood that debt is evil and that frugality is a virtue. They knew that debt is a form of bondage. They avoided debt as if it were a plague because debt causes a loss of spirit as well as a loss of funds. Our Founders understood that national debt was just as evil as individual debt. They also knew that a nation could be forced into a situation such as war when it would need to borrow funds. That is the reason that they wrote an authorization to borrow money in Article I of the United States Constitution. Nevertheless, they knew that freedom from debt and complete solvency is the way to prosperity.

Thomas Jefferson stated, "I, however, place economy among the first and most important of republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared." (Bergh, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 15:47.)

Our Founders laid down a policy of incurring national debt as seldom as possible and paying off the debt as quickly as possible. They were particularly adamant that their debt should not be passed to their posterity because they wanted freedom for the rising generation - not bondage.

President George Washington was very concerned about the debt of the nation and urged Congress several times to pay off the debt. Just before leaving office, he made a final plea: "Posterity may have cause to regret if, from any motive, intervals of tranquility are left unimproved for accelerating this valuable end."

Every generation of Americans until our generation followed the policy of the Founders. Our slide into debt began when progressives started to dismantle the Constitution and the three branches of government started to overstep their constitutional authority in the era of the Great Depression. The people were told then just as we are being told now, "We have to spend our way out of the problem." It didn't work in the time of FDR, and it won't work in our day. Our national debt to our enemies is now in the trillions of dollars, but our President and Congress continue to spend unnecessary money.

Many Americans are alarmed at the debt and continued spending. They are attending meetings and writing to their representatives in Congress with this message: Stop spending money! Our leaders appear to not be listening to the people; therefore, the people are starting to rise up and vote the big spenders out of office.

I believe that the only way out of our current economical problems is a return to the fundamental principles of our Founding Fathers. The First Principles contain a formula for economical prosperity. This formula can bring our nation out of debt without a major depression or war.

Ideas and quotes for this post came from W. Cleon Skousen in The Five Thousand Year Leap, pp 205-214.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Obama and Israel

                    I guess his Jewish voters finally convinced President Barack Obama to be more supportive of Israel.  In his speech before the United Nations General Assembly today in New York, Obama actually declared that Israel had the right to be in their "historic homeland."  He did not repeat his comment about Israel going back to the 1967 borders - borders that are indefensible. 

                    Obama's comments to the UN must have had some effects on that body.  At least, the Palestinian Authority may delay its demand for immediate admission to the United Nations.  This delay will give members of the UN Security Council more time to look for an alternative that will restart the peace talks between Israel and Palestine.  The United States will continue to use its influence to encourage council members to vote against the Palestinian request.

                    Thanks to blogger Leo Rennert, I have some of Obama's remarks:  "Any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.
                    "Let us be honest with ourselves:  Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it.  Israel's citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses.  Israel's children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. 
                    "Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off the map.  The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are.  Those are facts.  They cannot be denied.
                    "The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland.  Israel deserves recognition.  It deserves normal relations with its neighbors.  And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine." 

                    I personally do not care what happened to Obama to cause him to stand up for Israel.  I am just grateful that he did.  I am also confident that Israelis are grateful for his verbal support.

Two Anne Lees

                    Richard Henry Lee, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was one of the most eminent and patriotic sons of Virginia.  Richard was the fifth son of Thomas and Hannah Ludwell Lee of Stratford House, Westmoreland County, and he was married twice.  His first wife was Anne Aylett, and his second wife was Mrs. Anne Gaskins Pincard.  Children were born of both unions.

                    Old Virginia was different materially from other provinces and other countries.  The women there were sheltered and protected as there were no large cities and very little town life.  Hospitality there was both a virtue and a fine art.  "The old families, with their large estates and numerous house and field servants, their wealth and culture, visited and intermarried among themselves until the entire commonwealth was like one big family."  The estates were scattered over vast stretches of country and sometimes miles apart.  Due to the lack of population found in more thickly settled areas like Maryland, the Carolinas and the northern Colonies, Virginia did not suffer the same depredations of war such as being overrun by British troops and Hessians.  Even though the men were often called away to Congress or war, the women of Old Virginia were not left unprotected or any less patriotic or loyal to the cause of liberty than any other colonial women.  The fact that the men of Virginia were such steadfast patriots is a tribute to the support and sacrifices made by their women.

                    The Aylett family was as wealthy and prominent as the Lees.  The following note is included in the Historic Families of Virginia:  "It is claimed that the Ayletts are descended from a companion of the Conqueror whose sons received grants in Cornwall.  In 1657, Captain John Aylett came to Virginia and had a son William whose daughters intermarried with prominent families."

                    Anne Aylett was a cousin to Col. William Aylett of "Fairfield," King William County, who was one of the leading citizens of Virginia at that time.  Anne's sister Mary married Thomas Ludwell Lee, brother of Richard Henry Lee.  Col. Aylett and George Washington were members of the House of Burgesses at the same time and were good friends.  In fact, Col. Aylett's mother was a first cousin of Martha Washington, and his brother John married Martha's sister.  There were other marriages between the two families.  Col. Aylett's home was on the road between Mount Vernon, the Washington home, and Williamsburg.  George and Martha generally stopped to spend several days with the Ayletts whenever leaving or returning home.  This was also the custom of Richard and Anne Lee as well as Thomas and Mary Lee.

                    Anne Aylett Lee bore the following children:  Thomas Lee (born October 20, 1758, lived at "Park Gate" in Prince William County, was a lawyer, married Mildred Washington, daughter of Augustine and Hannah Bushrod Washington, and married second Eliza Ashton Brent); Ludwell Lee (born 1760, served on the staff of General LaFayette, married his cousin Flora, daughter of Philip Ludwell and Elizabeth Steptoe Lee); Mary Lee (born 1764, married Colonel William Augustine Washington, son of Augustine and Anne Aylett Washington, and nephew of George Washington); Hannah Lee (born about 1766, married Corbin Washington, son of John Augustine and Hannah Bushrod Washington and brother-in-law to her brother Thomas Lee).  Anne Aylett Lee died at age 35 in 1767. 

Two years after the death of his first wife, Richard Henry Lee married Mrs. Anne Gaskins Pincard, daughter of Thomas Gaskins of Westmoreland County and sister of Colonel Thomas Gaskins, Jr. who was a distinguished officer of the Revolution.  The children of this union were:  Anne Lee (born 1770, married her cousin, Charles Lee); Henrietta Lee (born 1773, married Richard Lee Turberville); Sarah (born 1775, married her cousin, Edmund Jennings Lee, of Alexandria); Cassius (died in boyhood); Francis Lightfoot.  This Mrs. Lee survived her husband, but the date of her death is not known.

                    Facts and quotes are from Wives of the Signers:  The women behind the Declaration of Independence, pp. 235-240.