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.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

German Gun Control

                Many Americans fear that the government of the United States is following the example of Adolf Hitler and the German government.  There are some grounds for these fears because the Nazi reign of terror took place after gun control laws were put in place.  Hitler was well aware that he had to disarm the citizens before he could take control of them as his statement below illustrates.

                “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms.  History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.  Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty.  So let’s not have any native militia or native police.  German troops alone will bear the sole responsibility for the maintenance of law and order throughout the occupied Russian territories, and a system of military strong-points must be evolved to cover the entire occupied country.”  Adolf Hitler, dinner talk on April 11, 1942, quoted in Hitler’s Table Talk 1941-44:  His Private Conversations, Second Edition (1973), Pg. 425-426.  Translated by Norman Cameron and R.H. Stevens.  Introduced and with a new preface by H. R. Trevor-Roper.  The original German papers were known as Bormann-Vermerke.

                A review of the history offirearms restrictions in Germany may help us understand our situation better.  The German Weimar government passed very strict gun ownership restrictions in 1919 and 1920 in an effort to stabilize the country and to comply with the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles.  Article 169 of this Treaty stated:  “Within two months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, German arms, munitions, and war material, including anti-aircraft material, existing in Germany in excess of the quantities allowed, must be surrendered to the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers to be destroyed or rendered useless.”

                The German government passed the Regulations on Weapons Ownership in 1919.  This law declared that “all firearms, as well as all kinds of firearms ammunition, are to be surrendered immediately.”  This means that anyone found in possession of a firearm or ammunition was subject to five years in prison and a fine of 100,000 marks.  Then on August 7, 1920, the German government enacted a second gun-regulation law called the Law on the Disarmament of the People.  This law activated the provisions of the Versailles Treaty with regard to the limit on military-type weapons.

                Another law, the Law on Firearms and Ammunition, was enacted in 1928 to revoke the 1919 Regulations on Weapons Ownership.  Instead of banning all firearms possession, the new law activated strict firearm licensing.  This meant that Germans could possess firearms if they had separate permits to own or sell firearms, carry firearms (including handguns), manufacture firearms, and professionally deal in firearms and ammunition.

                According to Stephen Halbrook who wrote about the German gun restriction laws in the 1919-1928 period:  “Within a decade, Germany had gone from a brutal firearms seizure policy which, in times of unrest, entailed selective yet immediate execution for mere possession of a firearm, to a modern, comprehensive gun control law.”

                A new law in 1938 superseded the 1928 law.  Both the 1928 and the 1938 laws required citizens to have a permit to carry a firearm and a separate permit to acquire a firearm.  It also restricted ownership of firearms to “…persons whose trustworthiness is not in question and who can show a need for a (gun) permit.”  The Nazi Weapons Act of 1938 (translated into English) is as follows:

                . Classified guns for “sporting purposes”.
                . All citizens who wished to purchase firearms had to register with the Nazi officials and have a background check.
                . Presumed German citizens were hostile and thereby exempted Nazis from the gun control law.
                . Gave Nazis unrestricted power to decide what kinds of firearms could, or could not be owned by private persons.
                . The types of ammunition that were legal were subject to control by bureaucrats.
                . Jews were prohibited from manufacturing or owning firearms.
                . Juveniles under 18 years could not buy firearms and ammunition.

                After the end of World War II in 1945, the Allied Forces commanded the complete disarming of Germany, even German police initially.  Private citizens were not allowed to own firearms until 1956.  “The legal status returned essentially to that of the Law on Firearms and Ammunition of 1928.  The regulation of the matter was thoroughly revised in 1972, when the new restrictive Federal Weapons Act (Bundeswaffengeset) became effective, partly as a reaction to the terror of the Red Army Faction.  It was developed in the Federal Weapons Act of 2002 and amended in 2008 and 2009 as a “result of a chain of school shootings.  They led to a public debate, in which blame was attributed to various elements of youth culture and society, including violent computer games, television programs, rock music and private gun ownership.”  Germany has some of the strongest gun control laws in the world today.

                Germany put a vast new gun database into service at the beginning of the year.  The registry lists every gun owner in the nation with all the necessary information, including details about all their firearms.  The registry makes it possible for law enforcement officials to check the lists of owners and their guns in a matter of seconds on their computers.

                The registry shows that Germany has 5.5 million legally registered guns in their country of 80 million people.  The database allows law enforcement officers to know what, if any, guns are in a house before a raid; it also gives them the information to quickly trace any legally-owned gun involved in a crime.

                The interesting tidbit about this registry is that it went into operation without any fuss from the gun industry.  The German people are so used to strict gun control that they willingly and without whimpers gave up more freedom.  They are happy as long as they have guns for hunting.  It is almost like a poker player who gives up a chip here and a chip there until he has no more chips.  Once a nation starts going down the slippery slope of gun control, it is easier for freedoms to just keep slipping away until they are all gone.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Socialism Does Not Work

                It appears that our nation is moving steadily in the direction of socialism in spite of the shouts of warning from many “watchmen on the tower.” It appears that our “leaders” are willing to take our nation down the same slippery slope that is causing so many problems in Europe today as well as in the past.  It appears that people just cannot understand that socialism has never worked and socialism will never work because the majority of our countrymen are willing to following our “Dear Leader” right down the slippery slope to destruction!

                The following information is circulating around on Facebook pages with the notation to pass it on.  Whether or not it is true in every detail, it is an economics lesson that we can all understand as well as appreciate the humor in it.

                An economics professor at a local college is a genius.  He once made a statement that he had never failed a single student before but had recently failed an entire class.  Why was this class different?  They insisted that Obama’s socialism works and is a great equalizer because no one would be poor and no one would be rich.

                The professor suggested an experiment in his class to see how Obama’s plan would work – substituting grades for dollars – something his students could more easily understand.  He told his students that all grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an “A”.

                After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone received a “B”.  The students who studied hard were upset, but the students who studied little were happy.

                As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.  The second test average was a “D”!  No one was happy.

                When the third test rolled around, the new average was an “F”.  As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

                To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

                Human nature will always cause socialism’s style of government to fail because the world has producers and non-producers (makers and takers).  It cannot be any simpler than that.
Five truths you cannot disagree with and possibly the best sentences you will ever read.  They apply directly to the above cited experiment.

1.        You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2.        What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3.        The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4.        You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

5.        When half the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them; and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

We would be wise to heed this counsel from a wise man, even a prophet of God:  “Individuals, to the extent possible, should provide or their own needs.  Where the individual is unable to care for himself, his family should assist.  Where the family is not able to provide, the Church should render assistance, not the government.  We accept the basic principle that `though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.”  Latter-day Saints should not receive unearned welfare assistance from local or national agencies.  This includes food stamps.”  (President Ezra Taft Benson)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

National Rifle Association

                The National Rifle Association (NRA) is the largest organization in the United States for gun rights advocates.  It gained more than 100,000 new members in the first eighteen days after the slaughter at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 11, 2012.  Representatives of the organization stated, “Our goal is to get to 5 million before this debate is over.”

                The NRA is a participant in the national conversation about how to prevent gun violence.  In anticipation of a meeting at the White House, a NRA official said, “We are willing to talk to policymakers about any reasonable proposals and plans; however, the NRA is hearing not just from Beltway elites and the chattering class, but real Americans all over the country that are hoping the NA is not going to compromise on any of the principles of the Second Amendment, nor are we going to support banning guns.  But we’re willing to listen.”

                After NRA officials met with Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder at the White House on January 10, 2013, to discuss possible solutions to the violence in our nation, the NRA released the following statement after the meeting:  “The National Rifle Association of America is made up of over 4 million moms and dads, daughters and sons, who are involved in the national conversation about how to prevent a tragedy like Newtown from ever happening again.  We attended today’s White House meeting to discuss how to keep our children safe and were prepared to have a meaningful conversation about school safety, mental health issues, the marketing of violence to our kids and the collapse of federal prosecutions of violent criminals.

                “We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment.  While claiming that no policy proposals would be `prejudged,’ this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners – honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans.  It is unfortunate that this Administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems.  We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen.  Instead, we will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works – and what does not.”

                Millions of Americans are concerned about the willingness of President Barack Obama to destroy their Second Amendment rights.  Many of them are flocking to gun shows and ordering guns and ammunition from gun shops.   The Obama Administration has been the reason why gun dealers have been doing a booming business in the past four years, a business that greatly increased after the 2012 election and even more after the massacre in Connecticut.  With their members steadily increasing in number, the influence of the NRA is also growing.  Will their political contributions and influence be enough to protect the Second Amendment of all Americans?   I certainly hope so!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Alexander Hamilton, Part 1

                Founding Father Alexander Hamilton was also a soldier, political philosopher, one of America’s first constitutional attorneys, and the first Secretary of the Treasury for the United States of America.

                Alexander was born January 11, 1757 or 1755 in Charlestown, Nevis, Leeward Islands, British West Indies.  He was born out of wedlock to Rachel Faucette Buck, a married woman of partial French Huguenot descent, and James A. Hamilton, the fourth son of the Scottish laird Alexander Hamilton of Grange, Ayrshire.  Rachel had been married previously to Johann Michael Lavien of St. Croix, a merchant planter who was much older than she.  Rachel was not happy in the marriage and left her husband and eldest son in order to travel to St. Kitts in 1750.  She met Hamilton there, and the two of them moved to Nevis where Rachel was born and had inherited property from her father.  Rachel and James were parents of two sons, James, Jr. and Alexander. 

Alexander Hamilton was denied membership in the Church of England and education in the church school because his parents were not married.  He received private tutoring and attended classes in a private school led by a Jewish headmistress.  He supplemented his education by reading the books in the family library – thirty-four books, including Greek and Roman classics.

Hamilton’s father James abandoned Rachel and their two sons, supposedly because he learned that her first husband “intend[ed] to divorce her under Danish law on grounds of adultery and desertion.”  Rachel supported her family in St. Croix by working at a small store in Christiansted, but she died of a severe fever on February 19, 1768, 1:02 a.m., leaving Hamilton alone without mother or father at age 11.  This probably caused him some emotional problems.  Rachel’s first husband went to probate court; he “seized her estate” and took the few valuables Rachel had owned, including some household silver.  Many of Rachel’s belongings were auctioned off; a friend who purchased the family books later returned them to Hamilton.

 Hamilton started clerking at a local import-export firm.  A cousin, Peter Lytton, adopted Alexander and his older brother James, but the brothers were separated when Lytton committed suicide.  James apprenticed with a local carpenter while Alexander was adopted by a Nevis merchant, Thomas Stevens.  The two boys looked alike and shared similar interests while also speaking fluent French. 

Alexander continued clerking.  While already an avid reader, he developed an interest in writing as well as a desire to leave his small island.  He wrote an essay published in the Royal Danish-American Gazette, a detailed account of a hurricane that had devastated Christiansted on August 30, 1772.  His essay illustrated his talents and abilities.  Community leaders were so impressed that they decided to become his sponsors; they collected enough money to send him to the North American colonies to be educated. 

Hamilton entered the American Colonies in Boston, Massachusetts and arrived at Elizabethtown Academy, a grammar school in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in the autumn of 1772.  He prepared for college by studying with Francis Barber in 1773, and he was greatly influenced by William Livingston, a leading intellectual and revolutionary with whom he lived for a time.  Hamilton applied to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and asked to accelerate his studies in order to complete them in a shorter period of time.  His request was denied by the college’s Board of Trustees so he made a similar request to King’s College in New York City (now Columbia University).  King’s College accepted his request, and Hamilton started college there in late 1773 or early 1774.

The next year Samuel Seabury, a clergyman for the Church of England, published a series of pamphlets in support of the Loyalist cause.  As a supporter of the cause of Patriot liberty, Hamilton responded with his first political writings:  “A Full vindication of the Measures of Congress” and “The Farmer Refuted”.  He also published two additional essays attacking the Quebec Act and fourteen anonymous installments of “The Monitor” for the New York Journal.  Hamilton saved his college president Myles Cooper, a Loyalist, from an angry mob on May 10, 1775, by speaking to the crowd long enough for Cooper to escape.

Alexander was active in many areas of the founding of the United States.  He served in the military several times.  At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, he organized an artillery company and served as its captain.  He declined invitations to become an aide to Nathanael Greene and to Henry Knox because he wanted the glory of the battlefield.  He did however accept an invitation that he could not refuse and became the senior aide-de-camp and confidant of General George Washington.  He held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and served four years as Washington’s chief of staff.

In this position Hamilton “handled letters to Congress, state governors, and the most powerful generals in the Continental Army; he drafted many of Washington’s orders and letters at the latter’s direction; he eventually issued orders from Washington over Hamilton’s own signature.  Hamilton was involved in a wide variety of high-level duties, including intelligence, diplomacy, and negotiation with senior army officers as Washington’s emissary.  The important duties with which he was entrusted attest to Washington’s deep confidence in his abilities and character, then and afterward.  At the points in their relationship when there was little personal attachment, there was still always a reciprocal confidence and respect.

While serving honorably and well as General Washington’s chief of staff, Hamilton also longed to return to active combat in a command position.  He threatened to resign his position if he did not receive a command position, and Washington finally relented on July 31, 1781.  Hamilton was assigned as commander of a New York light infantry battalion.  “In the planning for the assault on Yorktown, Hamilton was given command of three battalions, which were to fight in conjunction with French troops in taking Redoubts No. 9 and No. 10 of the British fortifications at Yorktown.  Hamilton and his battalions fought bravely and took Redoubt No. 10 with bayonets in a nighttime action, as planned.  The French also fought bravely, took heavy casualties, and successfully took Redoubt No. 9.  This action forced the British surrender of an entire army at Yorktown, effectively ending major British military operations in North America.”

Hamilton also served with Washington when an army was raised to defeat the Whiskey Rebellion, a tax revolt of western farmers in 1794.  He called for military mobilization against France in 1798 after the XYZ Affair.  He commanded and trained a new army for the Quasi-War, which was never officially declared.  Although there were some hard-fought battles at sea, President John Adams found a diplomatic solution to avoid war.

While serving as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler on December 14, 1780, at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany, New York.  Elizabeth was the daughter of Philip Schuyler, a general and wealthy landowner from one of the most prominent families in New York.  Elizabeth’s older sister, Angelica, eloped with John Barker Church, an Englishman who made a fortune in the American colonies during the Revolution and took her back to London with him after the war.  Alexander and Elizabeth became the parents of Philip (born January 22, 1782, and killed in 1801 in a duel with George I. Eacker, whom he had publicly insulted in a Manhattan theater), Angelica (born September 25, 1784), Alexander (born May 16, 1796), James Alexander (April 14, 1788-September 1878), John Church (born August 22, 1792), William Stephen (born August 4, 1797), Elizabeth (Eliza) Hamilton Holy (born November 26, 1799), and Philip (“Little Phil”; born June 2, 1802, right after the first Philip was killed.).  The family belonged to the Episcopalian religion.

Hamilton resigned his military commission after the Battle of Yorktown and was elected to the Congress of the Confederation in July 1782 as a representative of New York.  He supported other congressmen – such as Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris, his assistant Gouverneur Morris (no relation), James Wilson and James Madison – in an effort to provide an independent source of revenue to Congress lacking under the Articles of Confederation.  He was well aware of the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation and had been frustrated during the war.  Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress had no power to collect taxes or to demand money from the states.  This lack of a stable funding source made it difficult for Congress to provide the necessary provisions and pay to the soldiers of the Continental Army.  During the war  and even afterwards, Congress had to depend on subsidies from the King of France, European loans, and the meager amounts contributed by the states to pay expenses.

Thomas Burke proposed an amendment to the Articles in February 1781 to give Congress the power to collect a 5% impost, or duty on all imports; Rhode Island rejected the proposal in November 1782.  A delegation was sent by Congress to Rhode Island, but the negotiations ended when Virginia rescinded its ratification of the proposal.

Congress was unable to pay its commitments to the soldiers who were buying much of their own supplies.  After Valley Forge, officers had been promised pensions of half their pay when discharged.  General Henry Knox organized a group of officers who sent a delegation to Congress under the direction of Captain Alexander MacDougall.  Known as the Newburgh Conspiracy, the officers had three demands:  the Army’s pay, their own pensions, and commutation of those pensions into a lump-sum payment.

Hamilton, the Morrises, and other congressmen tried to leverage these demands to secure independent support from the states and in Congress for funding the confederated government.  They encourage MacDougall in his aggressive approach and even contacted General Knox to suggest civil disobedience.  Hamilton sought support from General Washington who declined and warned of dangers of using the army as leverage.  Washington defused the situation on March 15 by speaking to the officers, and Congress ordered the army to officially disband in April 1783.  The Continental Congress made other attempts to secure funding but was never able to secure full ratification for back pay, pensions, or its own independent sources of funding.

A different group of unhappy soldiers marched from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Philadelphia in June 1783 demanding their back pay.  There were attempts to intercept the men, but the mob arrived in Philadelphia and “proceeded to harangue Congress for their pay.”  Congress adjourned to Princeton, New Jersey.

Hamilton was frustrated with the weakness of the central government and drafted a call to revise the Articles of Confederation.  His resolution included “many features of the future US Constitution, including a strong federal government with the ability to collect taxes and raise an army.  It also included the separation of powers into the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches.”

Hamilton resigned from Congress and returned to New York where he proceeded to educate himself about the law.  He was admitted to the New York Bar in July 1983 and practiced law in New York City in partnership with Richard Harrison.  He specialized in defending Tories and British subjects.

In 1784, Hamilton founded the Bank of New York, which is now the oldest ongoing bank in the United States.  King’s College had been suspended since 1776 and severely damaged during the war; Hamilton was one of several men who restored it as Columbia College.  Hamilton had long considered the Articles of Confederation weak, and “he played a major leadership role at the Annapolis Convention in 1786.  He drafted its resolution for a constitutional convention, and in doing so brought his longtime desire to have a more powerful, more financially independent federal government one step closer to reality.”

Hamilton was serving as an assemblyman from New York County in the New York State Legislature in 1787 and was the first delegate chosen to the Constitutional Convention.  The other two delegates from New York, John Lansing and Robert Yates, opposed Hamilton’s goal of a strong national government and voted against him when present.  After they decided to leave the convention, Hamilton could not vote at all because each state needed two representatives to cast a vote.

I suppose that we are fortunate that Hamilton did not have much influence in the convention.  Early in the process, Hamilton proposed electing a President and Senators who would serve for life and caused James Madison to consider him to be a “monarchist sympathizer”.  Hamilton constructed a draft for the Constitution based on the debates in the convention but never presented it.  His “draft had most of the features of the actual Constitution, including such details as the three-fifths clause.  In this draft, the Senate was to be elected in proportion to the population, being two-fifths the size of the House, and the President and Senators were to be elected through complex multistage elections, in which electors would elect smaller bodies of electors; they would hold office for life, but were removable for misconduct.  The President would have an absolute veto.  The Supreme Court was to have immediate jurisdiction over all law suits involving the United States, and state governors were to be appointed by the federal government.”

For more on Alexander Hamilton, see part 2.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article II, Section 3:  “[The President] shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers [from foreign nations].  The Constitution gave the President the power and authority to determine the nations with which the United States will maintain diplomatic relations.

                “The President sometimes receives foreign diplomats himself, but usually this formality is handled by the State Department or someone assigned by the President to welcome a particular diplomat.  This reception constitutes diplomatic recognition of the nation which the diplomat represents.  The President can break off diplomatic relations by declaring a particular nation’s ambassador a persona non grata  (a person not welcome) and request that the ambassador be recalled by his government.  If the ambassador refuses to leave voluntarily, he can be deported.  The President can also break off diplomatic relations by calling the American ambassador home.
                “Occasionally, a strain in diplomatic relations occurs when the conduct of foreign officials is offensive to the dignity or welfare of the United States….” (See W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America – the Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 561.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tender Mercies

                 Heavenly Father loves us and blesses us daily.  If we are aware, we can see evidence of His power and influence in our lives and in the world around us.  Though we may not see Him personally, we can recognize His hand in all things and thus strengthen our personal testimony that He lives.

                An ancient American prophet named Alma was attempting to answer the questions of a man named Korihor, but Korihor was not really interested in his answers.  Alma asked the man, “Believest thou that there is a God?”  Korihor answered that he did not.  Alma testified to the man, “I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come.  … what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not.  I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.
                “And now Korihor said unto Alma:  If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words.
                “But Alma said unto him:  Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God?  Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets?  The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 30:37-44).

                Alma was not the only prophet with this knowledge.  When God spoke with Moses face to face, God told him that all things testify that there is a God:  “And behold all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath:  all things bear record of me” (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 6:63).

                What evidence of God’s hand do you see in the world around you?  I saw God’s hand in the birth of my first grandchild.  The simple act of his mother’s egg and his father’s sperm coming together to create a perfect human being, completely separate than either of his parents, was a miracle.  The way his mother’s body worked to incubate the growing child until he could survive outside his mother’s womb and then to give birth to a healthy and complete baby is a miracle.   The birth of every child is a miracle.  In fact, the human body itself is a miracle.

                I see evidence of God’s hand in the world around me every spring when the snow and ice melt and plants start growing again.  I see His hand in the grass turning green each spring.  I see His hand in the tulips and daffodils that grow and bloom each spring.  I see His hand in the return of the robins.  I see His hand in the mother moose who bring their calves into the safety of my yard.  I see His hand in the simple fact that day follows night and that the seasons follow in proper order.  I see the hand of God in many things around me.

                Other scriptures teach of the influence of God.  The Psalmist wrote, “The Lord is good to all:  and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalms 145:9).

                Nephi, another ancient American prophet, understood that the Lord’s tender mercies are over all His works: “…But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 1:20).

                How would you define a “tender mercy” of the Lord?  What examples of tender mercies have you noticed in your life?  Elder David A. Bednar spoke about the tender mercies of the Lord.  “… I have reflected repeatedly upon the phrase `the tender mercies of the Lord.’  Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Truly, the Lord suits `his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men’ (D&C 46:15).”

                Elder Bednar gave an example of the Lord’s tender mercies.  An American serviceman, a husband and father of four children, was killed in Iraq in December 2003.  After being notified of her husband’s death and enduring radical changes in her life, the wife received his Christmas card and message.  In the midst of all the abrupt changes in her life, this Christmas card was a “timely and tender reminder” of all that was important to her.  The message in the card said, “To the best family in the world!  Have a great time together and remember the true meaning of Christmas!  The Lord has made it possible for us to be together forever.  So even when we are apart, we will still be together as a family.  God bless and keep y’all safe and grant this Christmas to be our gift of love from us to Him above!!!  All my love Daddy and your loving husband!”

                After reading the message, Elder Bednar said, “Clearly, the husband’s reference to being apart in his Christmas greeting referred to the separation caused by his military assignment.  But to this sister, as a voice from the dust from a departed eternal companion and father, came a most needed spiritual reassurance and witness.  As I indicated earlier, the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence.  Faithfulness, obedience, and humility invite tender mercies into our lives, and it is often the Lord’s timing that enables us to recognize and treasure these important blessings.”

                Elder Bednar also spoke about the “chosen” who receive the tender mercies of the Lord (1 Nephi 1:20).  He explained that the word chosen suggests selected or preferred or picked out or elect.  “Some individuals who hear or read this message erroneously may discount or dismiss in their personal lives the availability of the tender mercies of the Lord, believing that `I certainly am not one who has been or ever will be chosen.’  We may falsely think that such blessings and gifts are reserved for other people who appear to be more righteous or who serve in visible Church callings.  I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are available to all of us and that the Redeemer of Israel is eager to bestow such gifts upon us.

                “To be or to become chosen is not an exclusive status conferred upon us.  Rather, you and I ultimately determine if we are chosen.  Please now note the use of the word chosen in the following verses from the Doctrine and Covenants:  `Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen.  And why are they not chosen
                “`Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men’ (Doctrine and Covenants 121:344-35; emphasis added).

                “I believe the implication of these verses is quite straightforward.  God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added.  He does not limit `the chosen’ to a restricted few.  Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determine whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen.”  (See “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Ensign, May 2005.) 

                I have experienced many tender mercies in my life.  I do not believe that it was a coincidence that a pickup with a plow came down my street one day as I went out to shovel deep snow from my driveway and the driver stopped to ask if I needed help.  I do not believe it was a coincidence that a young man came to visit me one day when I felt all alone.  I do not believe it is a coincidence when the telephone rings and the person on the other end of the line is just the person I need to talk with.  I do not believe it is a coincidence when the speaker at Church says exactly what I need to hear.  I do believe that I have a loving Father in Heaven who watches over me and blesses me each day.
In modern days the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith that God is offended when we fail to recognize His hand in all things:  “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:21).

                President Henry B. Eyring explained that he started to keep a daily record of what happened every day.  “I wrote down a few lines every day for years.  I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day.  Before I would write, I would ponder this question:  `Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?’  As I kept at it, something began to happen.  As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day.  As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.

                “More than gratitude began to grow in my heart.  Testimony grew.  I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers.  I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ.  And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance – even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened….

                “My point is to urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness.  It will build our testimonies.  You may not keep a journal.  You may not share whatever record you keep with those you love and serve.  But you and they will be blessed as you remember what the Lord has done.  You remember that song we sometimes sing:  `Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.’

                “It won’t be easy to remember.  Living as we do with a veil over our eyes, we cannot remember what it was like to be with our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in the premortal world; nor can we see with our physical eyes or with reason alone the hand of God in our lives.  Seeing such things takes the Holy Ghost.  And it is not easy to be worthy of the Holy Ghost’s companionship in a wicked world.

                “That is why forgetting God has been such a persistent problem among His children since the world began….”  (See “O Remember, Remember,” Ensign, Nov. 2007).

                I encourage you to try to recognize the tender mercies of God in your life this week.  I am sure that you will be amazed at the number of times He blesses you.  I know that I am constantly amazed at the love He shows to me 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Learning from Great People

                Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when parents teach their children to learn from the great people of history.  When we study history and learn from the mistakes of others, we do not need to repeat those same mistakes; therefore, we are strengthened to face our own weaknesses.

                One of the great people of history who can teach us much is Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 1874-24 January 1965), a British politician who is best known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II.  He was born into an aristocratic family and was the grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough.  His father was Lord Randolph Churchill, a charismatic politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his mother was Jennie Jerome, an American socialite.  He saw military action as a young army officer and gained fame as a war correspondent who wrote books about his campaigns.

                Churchill was at the forefront of politics for fifty years and held many political and cabinet positions.  He served twice as Prime Minister (1940-45 and 1951-55) and is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century.  He was out of office during most of the 1930s, but he took the lead in warning about Nazi Germany and in campaigning for rearmament.  When World War II broke out, he was reappointed as First Lord of the Admiralty and became Prime Minister when Neville Chamberlain resigned on 10 May 1940.  He steadfastly refused to consider defeat, surrender, or compromise peace and inspired British resistance – especially during the difficult days of the War when Britain stood alone in its active opposition to Adolf Hitler.  His speeches and radio broadcasts inspired the British people.  He led Great Britain as Prime Minister until Nazi Germany was defeated.

                Churchill was not only a noted statesman and orator, but he was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer, and an artist.  He is the only British prime minister to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature and was the first person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States.

                Some of the greatness of Churchill can be seen in the following quotes.  More of his quotes can be found here.  

                “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

                “You don’t make the poor richer by making the rich poorer.”

                “The price of greatness is responsibility.”

                “Never give in, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.  Never yield to a force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

                “Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart.  Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.”

                “It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”

                “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

                “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

                “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

                “Personally, I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”

                The great leaders of history can teach the rising generation much of what they need to know in order to endure well the coming bad times.  We can strengthen our families by teaching our children about the great people of history and thus strengthen our communities and nations.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gun Control and Freedom, Part 4

                The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that gun control takes away freedom and security.  This fact has been proven time after time in nation after nation.  Is the United States doomed to follow the pattern?  We can know only by looking back, but heaven help us if we do. 

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Put simply, the reason for the Second Amendment is for the security of the people, individually and in groups, from our own government as well as from invasion by enemies.  Consider the Third Amendment in connection with the Second Amendment:  “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”  Our Founding Fathers trusted the common people more than they trusted the military!  This is the reason why they wanted every person to have the Right to keep and bear Arms.  We have the Second Amendment in order to provide security for ourselves and our neighbors, not for hunting and sports shooting as some claim.  In fact, it is the Second Amendment that protects all our other Rights.

President George Washington obviously thought the Second Amendment was for more than hunting and sports shooting because he said, “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”

Millions of people in numerous nations – Nazi Germany, Communist China, North Korea, and Cuba to name a few - have suffered loss of freedom and even death through gun control and then confiscation of the guns.  Russia is one of those nations where citizens lost their freedom to protect themselves.  A Russian blogger by the name of Stanislav Mishin published the following opinion piece, titled “Americans never give up your guns,” on his blog, and his article was later picked up by Pravda.  Considering that Pravda was once the official press of the government of the United Soviet Socialist Republic, I find it strange for that specific newspaper to be publishing this information about the history of Russia to the world.

                “These days, there are few things to admire about the socialist, bankrupt and culturally degenerating USA, but at least so far, one thing remains:  the right to bear arms and use deadly force to defend one’s self and possessions.

                “This will probably come as a total shock to most of my Western readers, but at one point, Russia was one of the most heavily armed societies on earth.  This was, of course, when we were free under the Tsar.  Weapons, from swords and spears to pistols, rifles and shotguns, were everywhere, common items.  People carried them concealed, they carried them holstered.  Fighting knives were a prominent part of many traditional attires and those little tubes criss crossing on the costumes of Cossacks and various Caucasian peoples?  Well those are bullet holders for rifles.

                “Various armies, such as the Poles, during the CMYTA (Times of Troubles), or Napoleon, or the Germans even as the Tsarist state collapsed under the weight of WW1 and Wall Street monies, found that holding Russian lands was much much harder than taking them and taking was no easy walk in the park but a blood bath all its own.  In holding, one faced an extremely well armed and aggressive population Hell bent on exterminating or driving out the aggressor.

                “This well-armed population was what allowed the various White factions to rise up, no matter how disorganized politically and militarily they were in 1918 and wage a savage civil war against the Reds.  It should be noted that many of these armies were armed peasants, villagers, farmers and merchants, protecting their own.  If it had not been for Washington’s clandestine support of and for the Reds, history would have gone quite differently.

                “Moscow fell, for example, not from a lack of weapons to defend it, but from the lying guile of the Reds.  Ten thousand Reds took Moscow and were opposed only by some few hundreds of officer cadets and their instructors.  Even then the battle was fierce and losses high.  However, in the city alone, at that time, lived over 30,000 military officers (both active and retired), all with their own issued weapons and ammunition, plus tens of thousands of other citizens who were armed...  The Soviets promised to leave them all alone if they did not intervene.  They did not and for that were asked afterwards to come register themselves and their weapons:  where they were promptly shot.

                “Of course being savages, murders and liars does not mean being stupid, and the Reds learned from their Civil War experience.  One of the first things they did was to disarm the population.  From that point, mass repression, mass arrests, mass deportations, mass murder, mass starvation were all a safe game for the powers that were.  The worst they had to fear was a pitchfork in the guts or a knife in the back or the occasional hunting rifle.  Not much for soldiers.

                “To this day, with the Soviet Union now dead 21 years, with a whole generation born and raised to adulthood without the SU, we are still denied our basic and traditional rights to self defense.  Why?  We are told that everyone would just start shooting each other and crime would be everywhere…. but criminals are still armed and still murdering and too often, especially in the far regions, those criminals wear the uniforms of the police.  The fact that everyone would start shooting is also laughable when statistics are examined.

                “While President Putin pushes through reforms, the local authorities, especially in our vast hinterland, do not feel they need to act like they work for the people.  They do as they please, a tyrannical class who knows they have absolutely nothing to fear from a relatively unarmed population.  This in turn breeds not respect but absolute contempt and often enough, criminal abuse.

                “For those of us fighting for our traditional rights, the US 2nd Amendment is a rare light in an ever darkening room.  Governments will use the excuse of trying to protect the people from maniacs and crime, but are in reality, it is the bureaucrats protecting their power and position.  In all cases where guns are banned, gun crime continues and often increases.  As for maniacs, be it nuts with cars (NYC, Chapel Hill NC), swords (Japan), knives (China) or homemade bombs (everywhere), insane people strike.  They throw acid (Pakistan, UK), they throw fire bombs (France), they attack. What is worse, is, that the best way to stop a maniac is not psychology or jail or `talking to them’, it is a bullet in the head, that is why they are a maniac, because they are incapable of living in reality or stopping themselves.

                “The excuse that people will start shooting each other is also plain and silly.  So it is our politicians saying that our society is full of incapable adolescents who can never be trusted?  Then, please explain how we can trust them or the police, who themselves grew up and came from the same culture?

                “No, it is about power and a total power over the people.  There is a lot of desire to bad mouth the Tsar, particularly by the Communists, who claim he was a tyrant, and yet under him we were armed and under the progressives disarmed.  Do not be fooled by a belief that progressives, leftists hate guns.  Oh, no, they do not.  What they hate is guns in the hands of those who are not marching in lock step of their ideology.  They hate guns in the hands of those who think for themselves and do not obey without question.  They hate guns in those whom they have slated for a barrel to the back of the ear.
                “So do not fall for the false promises and do not extinguish the light that is left to allow humanity a measure of self-respect.”

                Did you notice the author’s comment that the Russian people still do not have the right to self-protection even though the Soviet Union fell 21 years ago?  I believe it will be much easier to defend and protect our right to keep and bear arms than it would be to retrieve it once it is taken away. 

Did you notice that the author considers the American way of life to be a “light” to the rest of the world?  President Ronald Reagan spoke about a “shining city on the hill,” and this is what he meant.   The people of the world recognize that the United States has what they want to enjoy; they want their nations to have the same freedoms we enjoy.  We cannot and will not give up our liberties!  America is the last best hope for the freedom of the world!