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.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


                    Many people are more concerned with present wants than with future desires and have difficulty thinking about the long-term consequences of their actions.  The most worthwhile things in life, both temporal and spiritual, can only be achieved by mastering ourselves.  Lasting joy and happiness are achieved through self-mastery.

                    Imagine for a moment that a friend offered you a ride in his beautiful candy-apple red convertible.  You are very impressed with the car and can see that it is in wonderful condition.  The engine roars, and the tires look brand-new.  Just as you are about to enter the car, your friend mentions that the brakes do not work.  Are you still interested in riding in the car or do you realize that it is dangerous to ride in a car with no brakes?

                    Living without self-mastery is just as dangerous as riding in a car without working brakes.  Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:  "You consist of two parts - your physical body, and your spirit which lives within your body.  You may have heard the expression `mind over matter.'  …. I would like to phrase it a little differently:  `spirit over body.'  That is self-mastery" (in Ensign, November 1985, 30).

                    Self-mastery is the ability of your spirit to control your body, the ability to do what you know you should do even if a part of you does not want to do it.  You exercise self-mastery when you do God's will instead of your own.

                    One of the characteristics of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is self-mastery.  They want us to have control over ourselves because self-mastery brings blessings.  Jesus Christ taught us that we must be able to master ourselves if we are to be His disciples. 

                    "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24).

The Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 16:24 (see footnote d in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible) clarifies that we are to deny ourselves "all ungodliness."  We are to give up unrighteous actions and replace them with righteous ones.  Exercising self-mastery involves using our agency to choose to live righteously.

                    Exercising self-mastery does not mean denying oneself everything that is enjoyable or fun.  When we practice self-mastery, we give up some things or experiences in order to receive things or experiences we want more.  For example, when we fast, for a time we give up eating, which is enjoyable, in order to receive spiritual strength and growth.  On a larger scale, we give up sin (which may sometimes appear enjoyable) in order to have peace of mind and the opportunity to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again.

                    Consider a man who was carrying a bottle of water.  He knew the water was needed to prime the water pump, but he was thirsty.  He decided to drink the water instead of priming the pump.  He lacked self-mastery and satisfied his immediate desire instead of preparing for the future.  His experience would have been much different if he had exercised self-mastery.  If he had primed the pump before taking a drink, he would have had all the water he needed.

                    It is easy for us to see the mistake that this man made, but his experience is comparable to many of the spiritual decisions we face.  Self-mastery, like other skills, is developed through practice.  In some instances, we practice self-mastery simply by doing the desired action each day and thus forming a habit.  Self-mastery in other areas, however, may require more effort.

                    There are several ways that we can develop self-mastery.  1) We can work to achieve appropriate goals.  When we recognize areas in our lives that require greater self-mastery, we can set goals with clear achievable steps to help us.  For example, if we need greater self-mastery in getting ready for church on time, we can plan what things need to be done on Saturday in order to achieve this goal. 

                    2) We can replace bad habits with good ones.  It is easier to break a bad habit if we replace it with a better habit or activity.  We can develop the habit of daily scripture study by setting a goal to study the scriptures at a specific time each day.

                    3) We can ask friends or family members to help.  Sometimes simply telling someone else about a new goal or a habit we are trying to develop can motivate us to work harder.   Friends and family members can also give us encouragement and assistance as we work to exercise greater self-mastery.

                    4) We can pray and read the scriptures.  When we pray, we can ask Heavenly Father to give us the strength we need to reach our goals or change our habits.  As we study the scriptures, we can be guided by the Lord's counsel and the example of others who have exercised self-mastery, such as Daniel or Joseph of Egypt.  If we are receptive to the influence of the Holy Ghost, He can also help us achieve self-mastery.

                    "Many years ago [Roger Bannister] participated in the Olympic Games as a champion in the one-mile race.  He was supposed to win, but he wound up finishing in fourth place.  He went home from the Olympics discouraged, disillusioned, and embarrassed.

"He had his mind set on giving up running.  He was a medical student at the time, and his studies were so demanding.  He decided that he'd better get on with life and devote all of his time in preparing for medicine and forget his hopes about running the world's record in the four-minute mile.  He went to his coach and told him, `Coach, I'm through.  I'm going to devote all my time to studying.'  His coach said, `Roger, I think you are the man who can break the four-minute mile.  I wish you'd give it one last try before you quit.' 

"Roger … went home knowing not what to say or do.  But before the night was over, he had convinced himself that he would develop an iron will before he quit running.  He was going to break the four-minute mile.

"He knew what this meant.  He would have to set a pattern and live by it.  He realized he would have to study seven, eight, or even nine hours a day to get through medical school.  He would have to train for at least four hours a day….  He knew he would have to eat the best foods.  He knew he would have to go to bed early every night and sleep nine or ten hours, to let his body recuperate and constantly build up for the great day.  He determined within himself that he was going to follow the rigid pattern he and the coach knew was necessary for victory and achievement.

"On May 6, 1954, the four-minute-mile barrier was broken by Roger Bannister, … a man committed to a winning pattern which would bring him recognition worldwide….  Roger Bannister set the pattern many years ago and followed it with total commitment, self-discipline, and a will of iron" (Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, Nov. 1990, 22).

The Savior exercised self-mastery as He did what Heavenly Father wanted him to do rather than what He wanted to do.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Savior prayed "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:39-46). 

The results of the Savior's self-mastery was that He suffered for our sins and made salvation possible for us when we repent.  As we develop self-mastery, we develop a greater ability to say, as Jesus did, "Father, … not my will, but thine, be done."

We must make the decision that we want to master ourselves.  President David O. McKay urged us to remember that "the greatest battle of life is fought out within the silent chambers of your own soul" (Improvement Era, June 1969, 30).

                    We can gain self-mastery by working on one problem at a time.  I remember how hard it was to remember to floss my teeth before brushing them each night until I set a goal to floss them every night.  The fact that I had this goal made it impossible for me not to do it.  Eventually, flossing was just as habitual as brushing was for me.

                    I know that it is important that we learn to master ourselves and that self-mastery brings happiness.  I also know that Heavenly Father is there just waiting for us to ask for help in gaining greater control over ourselves.  I also know that all the blessings promised to the faithful in the plan of salvation come to those who learn to deny themselves of all ungodliness and follow the Lord.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Star Spangled Banner

                    Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when the rising generation knows and loves the history of our great nation.  While reading many of the interesting stories of the history of the United States, I found the story of Francis Scott Key and the Star Spangled Banner to be particularly fascinating.

                    Francis Scott Key was a young lawyer when he boarded a British warship for a humanitarian purpose on September 13, 1814.  He boarded the ship for the purpose of obtaining the release of an elderly American doctor who had been caught taking British stragglers prisoner.  Key argued that Dr. Beanes had treated his prisoners humanly and persuaded the British to release him; however, neither American could leave the ship that night because the British warships were bombarding Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore.

The flag known as the "Star-Spangled Banner" could be seen flying over Fort McHenry from the ship.  This original Star-Spangled Banner was made by Mary Young Pickersgill under a government commission in 1813 at a cost of $405.90.  It was ordered by George Armistead, the commander of Fort McHenry, who specified that he wanted "a flag so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance."  The flag originally measured 30 by 42 feet.

                    The British bombed the fort for 25 hours and continued throughout the night.  When the British ships were still unable to pass the fort and penetrate the harbor, the attack ended and Fort McHenry remained in American hands.

 Old Dr. Beanes asked Key frequently if the flag was still there.  At dawn when the Americans could see the flag fluttering in the wind, they knew that the United States had won the battle and that Baltimore had been spared.  Today the original Star-Spangled Banner hangs in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

                    Francis Scott Key was so moved by the events of the night that he penned a poem with the title of "The Defense of Fort M'Henry."  This poem lifted the spirits of all Americans and gave them the courage needed to continue battling the British.  With a new title of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and music written by John Stafford Smith, the poem became our national anthem in 1931.  This version of our national anthem is sung by a seven-year-old girl.  

                    One reason why parents need to share historically true stories such as this one is because our history is being changed and rewritten by Progressives who want to take our nation in a different direction than the one laid out by our Founders.   Now the attack is centering on our national anthem.

Recently I read a transcription of the remarks of a liberal talk show host about our national anthem.  Bill Press began his criticism of our anthem complaining about how hard it is to sing, but he soon descended into a rant about the actual lyrics.

"PRESS (11:31):  … But it's an abomination.  First it ranges two octaves most people can only do kind of one octave.  I mean when you think about it, it's bombs bursting in air rocket's red glare it all kind of, you know a lot of national anthems are that way, all kinds of military jargon and the land there's only one phrase `the land  the free' which is kind of nice and `the home of the brave?'  I don't know.
"OGBURN:  I mean I get that part.
"PRESS:  Are we [Americans] the only ones who are brave on the planet?  I mean all the brave people live here.  I mean it's just stupid I think.  I'm embarrassed.  I'm embarrassed every time I hear it."

                    Unlike Bill Press, I cannot hear or sing our national anthem without feeling greater love for my country and a surge in my patriotic feelings.  I often think of Francis Scott Key on that battle ship watching as the bombs burst in the air over his country.  I believe that historically true stories such as this one will strengthen families, communities, and nations.

Oh say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thru the night that our flag was still there.
Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen thru the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner!  Oh, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation?
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto:  "In God is our trust!"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Updated June 30, 2012:
                    I do not normally listen to rock music, but I listened to Madison Rising because I love patriotic music.  This band meshes their patriotism with lyrical genius and musical talent.  I encourage you to listen as they present their version of "The Star Spangled Banner."  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Progressive or Socialist?

                    The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is that conservatives must use correct terms and discuss correct principles in order to better oppose progressivism.  We all must realize that progressives are very quick to use our words against us; therefore, we must be honest and direct in our comments.

                    The Heritage Foundation blog "New Common Sense - Applying First Principles to the Issues of Today" posted the following statement about this subject.  "American conservatives needlessly undermine their arguments by labeling every liberal program or policy as `socialism.'  This claim is incorrect - American liberals are generally progressives, not socialists.  Socialism, strictly speaking, involves the government's ownership of the means of production in a society.  In a socialist economy, there are no private corporations that manufacture goods.  Factories and companies belong to the state.  By contrast, progressives are more insidious in allowing for markets and private ownership of corporations, while controlling them through extensive regulation and government spending.
                    "Conservatives need not rely on the S word to argue against liberals - there's plenty wrong with progressivism.  Better yet, demonstrate what's wrong in principle and in practice with a particular liberal program instead of relying on a debatable label."

                    Socialists and progressives both want to control economic outcomes through government power.  I believe that it is safe to claim that progressivism leads to socialism if it is not checked.  I also believe that most progressives believe that progressivism will work in America but don't necessarily want to move down the road to socialism.

                    Allen Guelzo wrote a special report for The Heritage Foundation entitled "Abraham Lincoln or the Progressives:  Who was the real father of big government?  (February 10, 2012).

                    Guelzo's abstract stated:  "Early Progressives co-opted Abraham Lincoln's legacy to justify their program of expansive government powers over American life.  In so doing, they obscured how their philosophy of government broke with Lincoln and the Founding to which he was heir.  Nevertheless, much conservative and libertarian thinking today has assumed, at once and without serious reflection, that the Progressives' appropriation of Lincoln (and the continued appropriation of Lincoln by the American Left) was legitimate - rather like mistaking a hostage taken by terrorists to be one of the terrorists himself.  But Abraham Lincoln is not, and nor was his Administration, any model for what today seems so objectionable in the modern welfare state.  His unwavering commitment to natural rights and the Constitution's framework of limited government, as well as the comparatively limited forces he called into the defense of the nation during the Civil War, not only place him in philosophical opposition to the Left, but dispel any notions that he set the stage for the expansion of government in the 20th century."

                    In his article Mr. Guelzo later wrote the following about Lincoln:  "The complaint that Lincoln was the camel's nose of state centralization assumes that three premises are true:  1) That it can be shown what `centralization' means; 2) That Lincoln intended to initiate a process leading to `centralization' of the U.S. federal government; and 3) That the Civil War (and the Lincoln Administration) was a significant aspect of that process and was perhaps even intended to be the means of furthering that process.

                    "But do any of these premises survive under detailed historical scrutiny?  Begin with the premise that `centralization' is a known quantity with a set of characteristics which are easily recognizable.  One of the characteristics of an over-mighty `centralized' federal government might be the sheer numerical size of a government in terms of the number of its civil or military employees; another characteristics might be the size of the government's budget, representing the fiscal power it can wield in terms of both taxing and spending; yet a third might be the reach of the government, considered as the number of agencies it creates and the review-and-approval authority it claims to exercise over education, the economy, and freedom of speech, movement, religion, and assembly.

                    "In none of these ways can Lincoln or his Administration be shown to have promoted the characteristics of a `centralized' government, or at least not more `centralized' than the government he inherited from his predecessor, James Buchanan, or more `centralized' than the immediate circumstances of a large-scale insurrection would require."

                    Guelzo elaborates on the federal budget, the federal civilian workforce, the reach of the federal government, the transcontinental railroad, the Morrill and Homestead Acts, tariffs, federal income tax, the national banking act, progressivism and the birth of big government, Lincoln's defense of limited constitutional government, the centrality of natural rights, and the fiction of a right to secession.  He then concluded his article with the following statement.

                    "There is nothing obtuse about seeking long-term causes for the emergence of a federal government that has grown to such a gargantuan size that the entire American system seems to have become a relentless, interfering bureaucracy rather than an of-by-and-for-the-people democracy.  But the effort to hang this around Lincoln's neck is both na├»ve and ill-informed, and what is worse, it obscures the importance of the Lincoln image for the defense and promotion of democratic government.

                    "There is no doubt that the wartime emergency of 1861 to 1865 called out a significant increase in the size and scope of the federal government; what is importance to notice, however, is that: [1] This increase was in response to a threat to the very life of the republic, [2] It bears no proportional resemblance to the scope of modern `big government,' and [3] The increase shrank back to its prewar proportions with no sense of having established a permanent precedent, much less a government-knows-best philosophy.

                    "This increase was the creature of an emergency and was never seen by Abraham Lincoln as anything but that.  Moreover, emergencies are emergencies….
                    "If anything, what Lincoln demonstrates is that democratic government, when assailed, is both strong enough to take the measure required for its defense and strong enough to lay them down again when the danger has passed.  It is a mark of confidence in our own principles, not the decay of their purity, that Americans are able to do what an emergency requires for the survival of their republic and to put those measures by when peace is restored.  There will always be legitimate alarm, even in an emergency….  What Lincoln's example means is that we neither allow the alarm to paralyze us nor become necessarily addicted….

                    "It is the misfortune of much conservative and libertarian thinking to have seen the Progressive appropriation of Lincoln and to have assumed, at once and without serious reflection, that it was legitimate…."

                    Just as Guelzo debunked the Progressive idea that Abraham Lincoln began the progressive movement, we must educate ourselves in order that we can show the errors of progressivism in other ways.  I encourage you to read the entire article by Guelzo in order to understand better why Lincoln was not a progressive.  Then join me in attacking progressivism and destroying its roots in our nation instead of simply shouting about Obama and his followers being socialist.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Helen Herron Taft

                    Helen "Nellie" Louise Herron was born June 2, 1861 in Cincinnati, Ohio. She was the fourth child of Judge John Williamson Herron (1827-1912; law partner of Rutherford B. Hayes) and Harriet Collins (1833-1902).  Nellie attended and graduated from Cincinnati College of Music; she taught school for a short period of time before she married.  She and her parents were at the White Houses in 1877 to help President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.  Nellie was obviously comfortable around politicians because both her grandfather (Ela Collins) and her uncle (William Collins) were members of Congress.

                    Nellie met William Howard Taft at a bobsledding party in Cincinnati in 1879 when he was 22 years old and she was 18 years old.  Their first date was in February 1880, but they did not start regular dating until 1882.  He proposed in April 1885, and she waited until May to accept.

                    William and Nellie were married on June 19, 1886, in Cincinnati at her family home.  Reverend D.N.A. Hoge of Zanesville, Ohio, performed the ceremony and Horace Taft, young brother of the groom, was best man.  The newlyweds honeymooned in New York City for one day; then spent four days at Sea Bright, New Jersey, prior to touring Europe for three months.  Upon their return to the states, the couple settled in Cincinnati.

                    Even though William preferred the judiciary, Nellie was supportive of his political career; she welcomed each new step as he moved from state judge, to Solicitor General of the United States to federal circuit court judge.  William was appointed in 1900 to be in charge of the American civil government in the Philippines.  Nellie enjoyed even more travel when William became Secretary of War in 1904; she widened her knowledge of world politics and enlarged her circle of cosmopolitan friends.

                    Nellie and her husband became parents of two sons and a daughter:  Robert Alphonso Taft (1889-1953; political leader), Helen Taft (1891-1987; educator), and Charles Phelps Taft II (1897-1983; civic leader).  

                    Mrs. Taft was the first wife of a president to accompany her husband down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day.  Mrs. Taft suffered a stroke two months later; she never recovered from the stroke, which impaired her speech.  She was able to entertain moderately with the help of her sisters, and she received guests in the Red Room three afternoons each week.  On June 19, 1911, President and Mrs. Taft entertained 8,000 guests to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.

                    Mrs. Taft made a lasting contribution when she arranged for 3,000 Japanese cherry trees to be planted in the Washington Tidal Basin.  She was joined by the wife of the Japanese ambassador when she planted the first two saplings on March 27, 1912.  Everyone who has enjoyed the beautiful cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. has Mrs. Taft to thank for it.

                    One of the major political debates during the Taft Administration was prohibition.  President Taft did not drink alcohol, but he opposed prohibition during his presidency and as Chief Justice; as First Lady, Mrs. Taft served alcohol to her guests.  President Taft wrote letters supporting the objectives of Prohibition in his last years.  As Taft was the only man to serve as both President and Chief Justice, Mrs. Taft became the only woman to be First Lady and wife of a Chief Justice. 

                    Nellie Taft passed away on May 22, 1943, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery next to her husband.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Same-Sex Attraction

                     With all the challenges and negativity involved in the discussions about same-sex marriage, I was pleased to read something about same-sex attraction with a positive outlook.  The article appeared in a magazine entitled LDS Living (May/June 2012, pages 48-58) and was written by Ty and Danielle Mansfield, a married couple who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

                    The article is about Ty's challenges with same-sex attraction.  He was not open about his challenges until he wrote an essay for a class at Brigham Young University (BYU) in 2003 about how he had experienced same-sex attraction.  Because of his essay, he was asked by Deseret Book to contribute to a book on same-sex attraction.  The book, In Quiet Desperation:  Understanding the Challenge of Same-Gender Attraction, was published in 2004, and Ty's personal challenges became public knowledge.  Ty published another book on the same subject in 2011 entitled Voices of Hope:  Latter-day Saint Perspectives on Same-Gender Attraction - An Anthology of Gospel Teachings and Personal Essays.  Ty is also a cofounder of the nonprofit organization North Star, a support organization for LDS individuals and families affected by same-sex attraction.  Anyone desiring more information can visit their website

                    In their article Ty and Danielle explain a little about Ty's struggles and a lot about how they came to marry and have a child.  Ty did all the things that good LDS young men do:  He attended BYU; he sang in the BYU Men's Chorus; he served a mission; he attended the temple and kept his temple covenants; he attended General Conference; he read his scriptures; he served others; he gained an education and got a job to provide for himself.  He basically decided that he would not marry in this life, and he was okay with that decision.

                    Through a series of spiritual experiences, his thoughts went from never marrying in this life to maybe marrying later to probably marrying sooner to desiring to marry a certain young woman, Danielle.

                    "… I was earnestly seeking additional divine guidance…  It was general conference time, so I wrote down some of my most heartfelt questions and went into the Saturday morning session fasting.
                    "As soon as the opening prayer was given, I was completely enveloped by this spiritual feeling.  I hardly remember anything that was said during the session, but the feeling was unlike anything I've ever felt.  For nearly two hours, all the hurt, the pain, the confusion, the frustration were completely gone.  In their place was this feeling of divine love I had also never experienced.  As a part of that, there was a feeling of what I perceived as pure celestial love and desire to be with a daughter of God in the most holy, connected, and uniting of ways.  The world's portrayal of love and romance seemed so shallow and `false' in comparison.  With the feeling came the words:  `Just stay with me.  If you do, this is the feeling you will someday feel - and it will be a permanent part of your being.'  And then suddenly, as the end of the session approached, the feeling left.  I didn't know how I would eventually grow into that feeling as an integral part of my being, but I trusted that God would lead me there.

                    "I experienced some gradual change overtime as I continued to try to stay close to and be led by the Spirit and as I sought other various means of personal growth….
                    "In this area and so much of my life, I feel I've had to live the principle President Boyd K. Packer taught of going to `the edge of the light and [stepping] into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two' (That All May Be Edified (1982), 340).  We have to put Him first today, taking the necessary steps of faith today, and simply trust Him to take care of tomorrow.  It's only been through my learning and living that principle that the Lord has slowly been revealing to me His plan for my life" (p. 51).

                    Danielle was also led along a path from when she first met Ty until they were married approximately ten years later.  Both Ty and Danielle put their trust in the Lord and followed the promptings of the Spirit until they fell in love, married, and now have a child.  They appear to be very happy.  Ty continues to reach out to others.  His advice for dealing with same-sex attraction follows.

                    "There is no one-size-fits-all path for everyone, but there are a few things that I think are critical:  [1] No one can healthily work through this in isolation.  It's important to enlist the support of those who are most able to help us emotionally and spiritually - family, friends, priesthood or other Church leaders, professional counselors, people who have experienced same-sex attractions as well as those who don't.

                    "[2] Don't underestimate the power and pull of identity - for good or ill.  The term `gay' is not something that holds any weight in my own sense of identity, but neither does `straight.'  My identity is simply as a man, a son of God who loves the Lord, who believes in His eternal plan as taught through His prophets, and who holds fast to his covenants.

                    "[3] Learn to love and accept yourself unconditionally.  We have inherent worth and value.  Whatever our weaknesses or sins or human limitations may be, our growth is inhibited when we are unable to love ourselves and to see ourselves with some measure of the infinite love and grace God has for us.

                    "[4] Maintain an eternal perspective.  It's important to seek through an intimate communion with God an understanding of our personal mission in life, to be true to that mission, and to take life a day at a time, trusting in God.

                    "[5] I have a conviction of the value of professional help.  There's no shame in enlisting a professional counselor or therapist to help us work through issues that may be inhibiting meaningful growth.  Each of us has blind spots, and it helps to have someone knowledgeable explore those blind spots with us and help us to work through them.

                    "[6] Love others fully wherever they are.  If you're a family member or friend of someone who experiences same-sex attraction, I believe the most important thing you can do is help that person to know and feel they are loved and that they have inherent value and worth, whatever direction they elect to take their lives" (p. 55). 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Greatness of Taft

                    I have a difficult time thinking of William Howard Taft (September 15, 1857 - March 8, 1930) as "great" because the Sixteenth Amendment (income tax) was passed during his administration; however, he qualifies as being great because he served both as President of the United States and as the Chief Justice of the United States, the only person to have served in both offices.

                    Taft was appointed to serve on the Ohio Superior Court in 1887, as Solicitor General of the United States in 1890, and as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1891.  President William McKinley appointed him as Governor-General of the Philippines in 1900.  President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to be Secretary of War in 1904.  Roosevelt handpicked Taft to succeed him as President and appointed him to this office in order to better "groom" him.  "Taft assumed a prominent role in problem solving, assuming on some occasions the role of acting Secretary of State, while declining repeated offers from Roosevelt to serve on the Supreme Court."

                    Taft easily won his bid for the presidency in 1908 largely by riding the popularity of President Theodore Roosevelt, a fellow Republican.  Domestically, Taft "emphasized trust-busting, civil service reform, strengthening the Interstate Commerce Commission, and improving the performance of the postal service" - in addition to passing the income tax law.  His foreign policy included furthering "the economic development of nations in Latin America and Asia through `Dollar Diplomacy'" and "showed masterful decisiveness and restraint in response to revolution in Mexico." 

                    President Taft was very task-oriented; he was "oblivious to the political ramifications of his decisions [and] often alienated his own key constituencies.  He lost his second bid for the presidency in 1912 in a landslide.  After leaving the White House, Taft worked in academia, arbitration, and searching for world peace.  After World War I (1921), President Warren G. Harding appointed Taft as Chief Justice of the United States; he served in this office until just prior to his death in 1930.

                    I found a lot of conservative quotes by President Taft, which can be found at this site.   

                    "A government is for the benefit of all the people."

                    "A system in which we may have an enforced rest from legislation for two years is not bad."

                    "Anti-Semitism is a noxious weed that should be cut out.  It has no place in America."

                    "As the Republican platform says, the welfare of the farmer is vital to that of the whole country."

                    "Don't write so that you can be understood, write so that you can't be misunderstood."

                    "Enthusiasm for a cause sometimes warps judgment."

                    "Failure to accord credit to anyone for what he may have done is a great weakness in any man."

                    "I am in favor of helping the prosperity of all countries because, when we are all prosperous, the trade with each becomes more valuable to the other."

                    "I do not know much about politics, but I am trying to do the best I can with this administration until the time shall come for me to turn it over to somebody else."

                    "I love judges, and I love courts.  They are my ideals, that typify on earth what we shall meet hereafter in heaven under a just God."

                    "No tendency is quite so strong in human nature as the desire to lay down rules of conduct for other people."

                    "Politics makes me sick."

                    "Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court goes on forever."

                    "Socialism proposes no adequate substitute for the motive of enlightened selfishness that today is at the basis of all human labor and effort, enterprise and new activity."

                    "Substantial progress toward better things can rarely be taken without developing new evils requiring new remedies."

                    "We are all imperfect.  We cannot expect perfect government."

                    "We live in a stage of politics, where legislators seem to regard the passage of laws as much more important than the results of their enforcement."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

No State Agreements or Compacts

The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article I, Section 10, Clause 3:  "No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, … enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power…."  This clause simply declares that no State has the right to make any agreements that would impact other states or involve the entire nation.

"The constitutional logic of the provisions reflects a profound insight.  Fearing that `factions,' or interest groups, operating at the state level would endanger the Union and the legitimate interests of sister-states, Madison urged the Convention to include a congressional `negative' of `state laws in all cases whatsoever.'  … The Convention instead subjected state laws to the operation of the Supremacy Clause:  state laws become and remain in effect unless they are inconsistent with federal law or the Constitution" (Michael S. Greve in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 178).

"In a very real sense this provision anticipated and tried to prevent the tragic circumstances which led to the American Civil War.  A combination of `secession' and `confederation' in violation of this provision cost the American people nearly a million lives.  It is important to point out, however, that there were violations of the Constitution on both sides before the contending forces finally erupted in civil war.  It is also interesting that the threat of secession and a separate confederation was a haunting spectre which had hung over the United States almost from its inception.  New England … was talking of secession and a separate confederation clear up until the end of the War of 1812."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Obedience Is The First Law of Heaven

                    God gives us commandments because He loves us.  We show our love for Heavenly Father by obeying His commandments.  Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be like Him and return to His presence.  He gives us commandments in order to help us meet those goals.  We are able to receive all of the blessings of the plan of salvation by keeping God's commandments. 

                    Obedience is the first law of heaven.  "The windows of heaven are open wide to the faithful and righteous; nothing closes them faster than disobedience….
                    "… Diligent, enduring obedience to God's laws is the key that opens the windows of heaven.  Obedience enables us to be receptive to the mind and will of the Lord.  `The Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient' are those who receive these blessings of revelation through the open windows of heaven" (Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in Ensign, Nov. 1995, 75-76; see also Doctrine and Covenants 64:34).

                    We learn much from the following two scriptures from the Doctrine and Covenants.  Elder Wirthlin quoted part of Doctrine and Covenants 64:34; the complete verse is as follows:  "Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days."

                    A second important scripture about obedience is found in Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21:  "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated -
                    "And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."

Every blessing we receive is based on our obedience.  The word irrevocable means unable to be taken back; predicate means to establish.

Two of the following three stories show the consequences of disobedience and the third shows the blessings of obedience.  The first story is about Saul, the first king of Israel.  His story is found in 1 Samuel.  The Prophet Samuel was getting old, and his sons were unworthy to follow in his footsteps.  The Israelites asked for Samuel to anoint a king for them, and Samuel warned them of the problems caused by wicked kings.  The people insisted that he give them a king:  "… Nay; but we will have a king over us;
"That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles
(1 Samuel 8:19-20).

                    Samuel did not want to anoint anyone to be king, but the people insisted; therefore, Samuel began looking for a king and found a young man named Saul who was taller than all the people:  "And when Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of!  This same shall reign over my people" (1 Samuel 9:17).

                    Samuel anointed Saul to be captain over the Lord's inheritance:  "And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?  And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king"
(1 Samuel 10:24).

                    Saul was a righteous man before he became king, but he became wicked.  "And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly:  thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee:  for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
                    "But now thy kingdom shall not continue:  the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee" (1 Samuel 13:13-14).

                    Samuel told Saul, "And Samuel said unto him, The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou" (1 Samuel 15:28)

                    In a very short period of time, Saul went from being chosen by the Lord as king to being rejected by the Lord as king.  Saul brought the consequence of losing his kingdom upon himself when he chose to disobey the Lord and His prophet.  Saul's disobedience made the difference between being a king and not being a king.

                    President Wilford Woodruff, fourth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shared the following experience:  "I will now give an example from my own experience of the result of not obeying the voice of the Spirit.
                    "Some years since I had part of my family living in Randolph, Rich County [Utah].  I was there on a visit, with my team [of horses], in the month of December.
                    "One Monday morning my monitor, the Spirit watching over me, said:  `Take your team and go home to Salt Lake City.'
                    "When I named it to my family who were at Randolph they urged me strongly to stop longer.
                    "Through their persuasion I stayed until Saturday morning, with the Spirit continually prompting me to go home.  I then began to feel ashamed to think that I had not obeyed the whisperings of the Spirit to me before.
                    "I took my team and started early on Saturday morning.  When I arrived at Woodruff, the Bishop urged me to stop until Monday and he would go with me.
                    "I told him, `No, I [have] tarried too long already.'
                    "I drove on sprightly, and when within fifteen miles of Wasatch, a furious snow storm overtook me, the wind blowing heavily in my face.
                    "In fifteen minutes I could not see any road whatever, and knew not how or where to guide my horses.
                    "I left my lines loosely on my animals, went inside my wagon, tied down the cover, and committed my life and guidance into the hands of the Lord, trusting my horses to find the way, as they had twice before passed over the road.
                    "I prayed to the Lord to forgive my sin in not obeying the voice of the Spirit to me, and implored Him to preserve my life.
                    "My horses brought me into the Wasatch [train] station at 9 o'clock in the evening, with the hubs of my wagon dragging in the snow.
                    "I got my horses under cover, and had to remain there until the next Monday night, with the snow six feet deep on the level, and still snowing.
                    "It was with great difficulty at last that I saved the lives of my horses by getting them into a [railroad] box car and taking them to Ogden; while if I had obeyed the revelation of the Spirit of God to me, I should have traveled to Salt Lake City over a good road without any storm.
                    "As I have received the good and the evil, the fruits of obedience and disobedience, I think I am justified in exhorting all my young friends to always obey the whisperings of the Spirit of God, and they will always be safe" (Leaves from My Journal [1881], 90-91).

                    President Woodruff's disobedience nearly caused him to lose his horses and/or his own life.

Part of obeying God is being obedient to the counsel of those He has called to lead us.  The following story was told by President Gordon B. Hinckley, fifteenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

                    "Years ago I was on a mission in England.  I had been called to labor in the European Mission office in London under President Joseph F. Merrill of the Council of the Twelve, then president of the European Mission.  One day three or four of the London papers carried reviews of a reprint of an old book, snide and ugly in tone, indicating that the book was a history of the Mormons.  President Merrill said to me, `I want you to go down to the publisher and protest this.'  I looked at him and was about to say, `Surely not me.'  But I meekly said, `Yes, sir.'
                    "I do not hesitate to say that I was frightened.  I went to my room and felt something as I think Moses must have felt when the Lord asked him to go and see Pharaoh.  I offered a prayer.  My stomach was churning as I walked over to the Goodge Street station to get the underground train to Fleet Street.  I found the office of the president [of the publishing company] and presented my card to the receptionist.  She took it and went into the inner office and soon returned to say that the president was too busy to see me.  I replied that I had come five thousand miles and that I would wait.  During the next hour she made two or three trips to his office; then finally he invited me in.  I shall never forget the picture when I entered.  He was smoking a long cigar with a look that seemed to say, `Don't bother me.'
                    "I held in my hand the reviews. I do not recall what I said after that.  Another power seemed to be speaking through me.  At first he was defensive and even belligerent.  Then he began to soften.  He concluded by promising to do something.  Within an hour word went out to every book dealer in England to return the books to the publisher.  At great expense he printed and [placed] in the front of each volume a statement to the effect that the book was not to be considered a history, but only as fiction, and that no offense was intended against the respected Mormon people.  Years later he granted another favor of substantial worth to the Church, and each year until the time of his death, I received a Christmas card from him.
                    "I came to know that when we try in faith to walk in obedience to the requests of the priesthood, the Lord opens the way, even when there appears to be no way" ("If Ye Be Willing and Obedient," Ensign, July 1995, 4-5).

                    The mission president gave Elder Hinckley a very difficult assignment, but Elder Hinckley was obedient and was blessed for being obedient.  The heart of the publisher was soften by the Lord in answer to Elder Hinckley's faith and obedience.

                    God told Moses, "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39). 

                    God's work is to help His children to achieve immortality and eternal life.  Immortality is a state of living forever, never to die again.  Eternal life is living forever in the presence of God.  It is the gift given to those who are exalted in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.

                    Every person who has come to earth and received a body will one day be resurrected and receive immortality.  Those people who obey the commandments of Heavenly Father will receive eternal life.  Heavenly Father gives us commandments because He loves us and wants us to become like Him and to dwell in His presence forever.

                    Another reason Heavenly Father gives us commandments is to help us to be happy.  When King Benjamin was speaking to his people, he told them:  "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.  For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.  O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 2:41).

                    Obedience to the commandments does not guarantee that we will never experience difficulties or challenges.  However, even when we are disappointed or sad about circumstances in our lives, we can be happy about our lives in general because of our faith in God and our assurance that he is pleased with our efforts to be obedient.

                    Heavenly Father showed his great love for us when he sent his Son to atone for our sins.  By doing what Heavenly Father wanted him to do, Jesus Christ set a perfect example for complete obedience.  In John 6:38 Jesus Christ said, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."
                    We read in Luke 22:41-44:  "And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
                    "Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
                    "And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
                    "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly:  and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."

                    Jesus Christ showed complete obedience before He suffered for our sins and afflictions in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He asked to be spared the pain but said He was willing to do the will of His Father. 

                    There are numerous reasons why people obey the commandments of God, but some of the reasons are better than others.  Some people are obedient because they are afraid of being punished for disobedience.  Some people want the rewards that come from obedience.  Some people want other people to see them and think that they are righteous.  Some people feel peace and joy when they are obedient, and some people are obedient because they love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

                    Jesus Christ commanded in John 14:15:  "If ye love me, keep my commandments."

                    God requires our hearts and our willing minds.  When we are obedient, we are better prepared to serve God and the people around us.  Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles related the following story:

                    "Two missionaries … had spent an active day establishing a branch of the Church in a remote village.  At 5:30 that morning, they had taught a family before the husband left for the fields.  Later they struggled to plaster their adobe walls to keep out blood-sucking insects.  During the week they had laid a small cement floor and had hung a five-gallon can with a shower head to keep clean.  They had begun a sanitation facility and put new gravel and sand in their water filter.  For part of the day they had worked beside men in the fields, to later teach them.  They were exhausted and ready for welcome rest.
                    "There came an anxious knock at the crude wooden door.  A small girl was crying.  She had been running and was gasping for air.  They struggled to piece together her message, delivered amid sobs in a torrent of words.  Her father had suffered a severe head injury while riding his donkey in the darkness.  She knew he would die unless the elders saved his life.  Men of the village were at that moment carrying him to the missionaries.  She pled for her father's life, then ran to help him.
                    "The seriousness of their desperate situation began to engulf them.  They were in a village with no doctors or medical facilities.  There were no telephones.  The only means of communication was a rough road up a riverbed, and they had no vehicle.
                    "The people of the valley trusted them.  The missionaries were not trained in medicine.  They did not know how to care for a serious head wound, but they knew someone who did.  They knelt in prayer and explained their problem to an understanding Father in Heaven.  They pled for guidance, realizing that they could not save a life without His help.
                    "They felt impressed that the wound should be cleansed, closed, and the man given a blessing.  One companion asked, `How will he stand the pain?  How can we cleanse the wound and bless him while he is in such suffering?'
                    "They knelt again and explained to their Father, `We have no medicine.  We have no anesthetic.  Please help us to know what to do.  Please bless him, Father.'
                    "As they arose, friends arrived with the injured man.  Even in the subdued candlelight, they could see he had been severely hurt.  He was suffering greatly.  As they began to cleanse the wound, a very unusual thing occurred.  He fell asleep.  Carefully, anxiously, they finished the cleansing, closed the wound, and provided a makeshift bandage.  As they laid their hands on his head to bless him, he awoke peacefully.  Their prayer had been answered, and his life saved.  The trust of the people increased, and a branch of the Church flourished.
                    "The missionaries were able to save a life because they trusted the Lord.  They knew how to pray with faith for help with a problem they could not resolve themselves.  Because they were obedient to the Lord, the Lord trusted them and answered their prayer.  They had learned how to recognize the answer when it came as a quiet prompting of the Spirit.  You have that same help available to you if you live for it" (in Ensign, May 1989, 35-36).

Although our Heavenly Father always hears our prayers, we are more prepared to receive his answers when we are obedient.

                    I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love each of us.  I am so grateful for this knowledge and for the many times that I have felt God's love.  I am grateful for the commandments of God for I know that Heavenly Father has given us commandments to help us receive eternal life and happiness.  I encourage all of us to show our love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ by keeping the commandments.