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, August 31, 2013

Keeping God's Commandments

                Have you ever considered why God gives commandments to His children?  He sees all and knows all.  Why can’t He simply tell us what we need to know?  Well, He actually does tell us through personal revelation and the words written by prophets in our scriptures, both ancient and modern.  He gives us commandments to help us learn to be more like Him!

                Imagine for a moment that you are traveling along a mountain road.  This road was built into the side of the mountain with a steep cliff on the side of the road.  There is a guardrail along the side of the road between the road and the cliff.  Consider for a moment that the guardrail represents God’s commandments along the road of life.  Just as a guardrail keeps cars from going off the side of the mountain, commandments are there to keep us on the road back to Heavenly Father’s presence.  The road could also be a symbol for the commandments in that obedience to the commandments helps us move closer to Heavenly Father and makes us happy. 

                Someone once that that when we want to talk with Heavenly Father, we pray.  When we want to hear from Heavenly Father, we read the scriptures.  I think of the scriptures as letters from a loving Father to His children who are away at school.  He sends loving instructions in each of His letters to help us become more like Him.  Through His commandments, He teaches us what He would like us to do and become.  He also shows us how to treat each other and overcome our natural man.  When we obey His commandments, we are making preparations to return to God’s presence; by our obedience we can become like Him and live with Him for all eternity.  We should consider the commandments as blessings rather than burdens.

                Studying the scriptures can help us understand better why God gives us commandments.  The following scriptures teach some of the instructions that Heavenly Father wants us to learn. 

The scriptures help us understand God’s will for us.  “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
                “To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13; emphasis added).

                The scriptures teach us the commandment to love one another.  “But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
                “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
                “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
                “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
                “This is the first and great commandment.
                “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
                “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40).

                The scriptures teach us that we obey the commandments because we love God.  “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). 

                The scriptures teach us that we will eventually receive of God’s fulness if we obey His commandments.  “For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:20).

                Another scripture explains why God gives commandments to us.  Doctrine and Covenants 82:8-10 reads, ““And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you;
                “Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.
                “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”  (Emphasis added.)

                We can be assured that God has purposes behind His commandments.  In October 2011, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke at the Relief Society broadcast about what the sisters should not forget.  The fourth “forget-me-not” was:  “Forget not the `why’ of the gospel.”

                “Sometimes, in the routine of our lives, we unintentionally overlook a vital aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ, much as one might overlook a beautiful, delicate forget-me-not.  In our diligent efforts to fulfill all of the duties and obligations we take on as members of the Church, we sometimes see the gospel as a long list of tasks that we must add to our already impossibly long to-do list, as a block of time that we must somehow fit into our busy schedules.  We focus on what the Lord wants us to do and how we might do it, but we sometimes forget why.  My dear sisters, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not an obligation; it is a pathway, marked by our loving Father in Heaven, leading to happiness and peace in this life and glory and inexpressible fulfillment in the life to come.  The gospel is a light that penetrates mortality and illuminates the way before us.

                “While understanding the “what” and the “how” of the gospel is necessary, the eternal fire and majesty of the gospel springs from the “why.”  When we understand why our Heavenly Father has given us this pattern for living, when we remember why we committed to making it a foundational part of our lives, the gospel ceases to become a burden and, instead, becomes a joy and a delight.  It becomes precious and sweet.

                “Let us not walk the path of discipleship with our eyes on the ground, thinking only of the tasks and obligations before us.  Let us not walk unaware of the beauty of the glorious earthly and spiritual landscapes that surround us.
                “My dear sisters, seek out the majesty, the beauty, and the exhilarating joy of the `why’ of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

                “The `what’ and `how’ of obedience mark the way and keep us on the right path.  The `why’ of obedience sanctifies our actions, transforming the mundane into the majestic.  It magnifies our small acts of obedience into holy acts of consecration.”  (See “Forget Me Not,” Ensign, November 2011, pp. 120-123.)  

                Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke at General Conference in May 2011 about keeping the commandments:  “Our Heavenly Father is a God of high expectations.  His expectations for us are expressed by His Son, Jesus Christ, in these words:  `I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect’ (3 Nephi 12:48).  He proposes to make us holy so that we may `abide a celestial glory’ (D&C 88:22) and `dwell in his presence’ (Moses 6:57).  He knows what is required, and so, to make our transformation possible, He provides His commandments and covenants, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and most important, the Atonement and Resurrection of His Beloved Son.

                “In all of this, God’s purpose is that we, His children, may be able to experience ultimate joy, to be with Him eternally, and to become even as He is.  Some years ago Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained:  `The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts – what we have done.  It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions.  The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.’”  (See “`As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten,’” Ensign, May 2011, pp. 97-100.)  

                While speaking to priesthood holders in April 1996, Elder Robert D. Hales spoke about why the Lord gives commandments to us:  “Some may ask, `Why did the Lord give us commandments?’  In premortal councils, He determined that we, His spirit children, would be given commandments by which to live during our mortal lives.  Jehovah, the firstborn spirit child of our Heavenly Father, said:  `We will go … and we will make an earth whereon these [God’s other spirit children] may dwell,
                “`And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
                “`And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon’ (Abraham 3:24-26; emphasis added).

                “These commandments are loving instructions provided by God our Father for our physical and spiritual well-being and happiness while in mortality.  Commandments allow us to know the mind and will of God regarding our eternal progression.  And they test our willingness to be obedient to His will.

                “The commandments are not a burden or a restriction.  Every commandment of the Lord is given for our development, progress, and growth.  The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:  `God has designed our happiness.  … He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed’ (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 256).

                “How I love the commandments of the Lord!  They guide and protect us and allow us to return back into the presence of our Heavenly Father.  If we faithfully obey the commandments, we are promised the blessings of eternal life.  Eternal life, `the greatest of all the gifts of God’ (D&C 14:7), is to be exalted and to live with Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ in all the eternities to come.  He dearly wants us to return to Him.

                “We don’t need to wait, however, until the next life to receive many of the promised blessings.  In this life, the obedient may enjoy peace of mind, happiness, and `joy in the Holy Ghost’ (Romans 14:17).

                “Living the commandments brings us into harmony with Deity; we become one in purpose with the Father and the Son.  When we are one with God, we walk with spiritual light.  Our diligence in keeping the commandments allows the Holy Ghost to dwell within us.  We are given the gift of personal revelation.  This is a spiritual light that protects us and serves as a beacon, guiding us in righteous ways.  It dispels the darkness of the adversary….

                “Brethren, choosing to live the commandments frees us from the shackles of sin and allows us to experience true happiness….
                “To know and keep the commandments, we must know and follow the Savior and the prophets of God….

                “Each of us is free to accept or reject the commandments, but none of us is free to modify them to suit our personal preferences.  Priesthood leaders do not have the right to change revealed principles and commandments just for the sake of being popular with the world.  Nor do prophets have the authority to alter God’s commandments in order to make them more palatable to those who are weak in their resolve to live worthily….”  (See “If Thou Wilt Enter into Life, Keep theCommandments,” Ensign, May 1996.)

I know that Heavenly Father loves you and me and wants us to be happy.  I know that He gives us commandments for our own good.  I know He knows we can be most happy when we obey His commandments and follow the teachings of His Son Jesus Christ.  I know that we can become more like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ by keeping the commandments.  

Friday, August 30, 2013

Scripture Study

                Individuals and families grow stronger as we spend time and make efforts to study the word of God.  There is something about the word of God that reaches all sincere students of it.  I do not understand how it is so, but I know that the scriptures are written in such a way that children can understand the principle taught and adults can gain more understanding.  Each time I study the scriptures I learn something more or read things that I did not see previously.

                There is a difference between simply reading the scriptures and actually studying them.  One summer I spent time in the scriptures in three different ways and learned that there is a big difference in how much I learned.  I listened to the scriptures on CD as I jogged, I read a chapter each day, and I spent time searching for principles.  As I listened, I heard what was being said, but I did not internalize it.  Reading helped me internalize the scriptures more than simply listening to them, but there were no “hooks” on which to hang the things I read.  When I was searching the scriptures, the principles were the “hooks” on which to hang the stories and statements.

                Lori Fuller suggested three ideas for enhancing our scripture study.  The ideas can be personalized and adapted to our own needs. 
1) Approach scripture study with a question and search for the answer.  2) Choose a specific subject or topic to study.  3) Search for specific guidance for self and/or family (“Scripture Study for Family Strength,” Ensign, Aug. 2013, 20-21). 

                Of course, there are some things we should do no matter which approach we take to studying the scriptures.  We should always begin our scripture study with prayer, asking for help understanding the principles being taught and finding the answers we need.  We should highlight the scriptures that mean something to us.  We should make notes in the scriptures themselves or in a separate notebook.  We can use the topical guide to find specific information or the Bible Dictionary to define specific words and gain greater understanding.

                President Henry B. Eyring, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, shared how he enhanced his personal scripture study.  “When I came into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Richard G. Scott suggested I buy an inexpensive set of scriptures and mark the insights and revelations I would gain in my new calling.  So I did.  But I went a little further.

                “I asked Heavenly Father what He would have me do as an Apostle.  I wrote down what I felt His answers were.  I typed, color coded, and pasted those answers in the front of my scriptures.  For example, the first [answer on the list] was `I am to be a witness that Christ is the Son of God.’  Then I read my scriptures looking for ideas that taught me how to witness that Christ is the Son of God.  Every time I came to something I marked  it in blue.  Soon I developed my own topical guide around what I thought the Lord wanted me to do.  I have learned much through this process.

                “Going to the scriptures to learn what to do makes all the difference.  The Lord can teach us.  When we come to a crisis in our life, such as losing a child or spouse, we should go looking in the scriptures for specific help.  We will find answers in the scriptures.  The Lord seemed to anticipate all of our problems and all of our needs, and He put help in the scriptures for us – if only we seek it” (“A Discussion on Scripture Study,” Ensign, July 2005, 24). 

                Studying the scriptures as a family is a bit trickier than studying individually.  When my children were very small, I would carry them from their beds to the living room each morning and read scriptures to them as they were waking.  As they grew, scripture study was more challenging.  Even though I kept trying, I never found a way that worked real well for our family.

                Somehow my children got the message that families should study the scriptures together.   Each of them gathers their family around them, and each member of the family takes a turn to read a verse or two.  The children who know how to read take their turns reading; one or the parent helps the children who do not yet know how to read by reading a few words and having the child repeat the words.  As I have participated with them in their family scripture study and prayer, I sense that the children enjoy the experience very much.  I believe children can internalize much of what is read and hear during scripture study.  I also believe that children become better readers as they read the scriptures; I am always pleasantly surprised at the “big words” my grandchildren seem to automatically know.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded us that “our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results.”
 “As our sons were growing up, our family … had regular family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening….
“Sometimes Sister Bednar and I wondered if our efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile.  Now and then verses of scripture were read amid outbursts such as `He’s touching me!’  `Make him stop looking at me!’  `Mom, he’s breathing my air!’  Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking.  And with active, rambunctious boys, family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification.  At time Sister Bednar and I were exasperated because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected.

“Today if you could ask our adult sons what they remember about family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening, I believe I know how they would answer.  They likely would not identify a particular prayer or a specific instance of scripture study or an especially meaningful family home evening lesson as the defining moment in their spiritual development.  What they would say they remember is that as a family we were consistent.

“Sister Bednar and I thought helping our sons understand the content of a particular lesson or a specific scripture was the ultimate outcome.  But such a result does not occur each time we study or pray or learn to together.  The consistency of our intent and work was perhaps the greatest lesson – a lesson we did not fully appreciate at the time” (“More Diligent and Concerned at Home,” Ensign, Nov. 2009, 20).  

I was listening to the Glenn Beck radio program for a few minutes recently.  At the time, Glenn was explaining the importance of studying the scriptures together as a family.  He described the difficulty his family had trying to find a good time to sit down together to study the scriptures.  One day he said to his family:  We eat dinner together as a family every day.  We are going to combine dinner and scripture study.  He said that his family reads and discusses a chapter in the scriptures as they eat dinner each day; he also said that he can sense that his children and family are growing spiritually.

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) said, “When individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, other areas of activity will automatically come.  Testimonies will increase.  Commitment will be strengthened.  Families will be fortified.  Personal revelation will flow” (“The Power of the Word,Ensign, May 1986, 81).  

President Howard W. Hunter, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught:  “When we follow the counsel of our leaders to read and study the scriptures, benefits and blessings of many kinds come to us.  This is the most profitable of all study in which we could engage.” (“Reading the Scriptures," Ensign, Nov. 1979). 

I know from personal and family experience that scripture study helps us to grow stronger as individuals and families.  I encourage you to begin a program of scripture study!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Let Freedom Ring for All Americans

                August 28, 2013, marked the fiftieth anniversary of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It seems that everyone has something to say about the event.  I decided that I needed to add my voice to those who remember the famous March on Washington.  While standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, civil rights leader King captivated the nation with his speech.  Approximately 250,000 people joined this “March on Washington.”

                I knew nothing about the march or the speech; at least, I do not remember anything particular about it.  In fact, I never saw a real-live “Negro” until I was a senior in high school and had moved away from the farm.  I know there were Blacks in my second high school – some even in my classes – but I had no opportunities to interact with them.  By August 1963 I had graduated from high school and was involved in my own life. 

I knew there were problems in our nation concerning the relationship between white people and black people, but I understood little about them.  I had no previous experiences with problems between “my people” and any other race.  My mother grew up on an Indian Reservation and remained friends with many of her school mates for the rest of her life.  Whenever we went to town, Mom always met some of her “Indian” friends and stopped to visit with them.  I too attended school with the “Indians,” took classes with them, and considered them my friends.  They were some of the most beautiful people I ever met!  I always felt that my Native American friends were equal to me; in fact, I knew that in many respects they were superior to me.  This is probably the main reason why I could not understand why there were problems between the races.

I got a job at an Air Force Base a few years after I graduated from high school.  There were numerous Black airmen on base, and some of them worked in my building with me. This was my first experience of interacting with Blacks.  I remember a black Staff Sergeant whom I respected very much.  I did not consider him as “different” than I; I considered him to be an intelligent and hard-working man who always dressed sharply and carried himself with confidence.  We each had a job to do, and we each did our jobs.

Fast forward a few years until I was married and had small children of my own.  I was in a checkout line in a store when my five-year-old daughter saw her first black person, a woman.  She was so concerned about the color of the woman’s skin and wanted to know what was wrong with her skin.  Her compassion was evident in her voice.  I apologized to the woman for my daughter pointing at her and then proceeded to explain to my daughter that there was nothing wrong with the woman and that she was the same as us except she had a different color of skin.  Since that time I have known and appreciated many black people and call them my friends.  I still do not understand why there is a problem between the races!

Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. gave an elegant speech fifty years ago, some of which has been quoted many times.  The most often quoted is the statement, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:  `We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ …
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

This is a dream that many people desire.  I want to be judged by my character and not by the color of my skin.  I want my children and grandchildren to be judged by the good they do and not for their white skin.  I want my family to be respected for who we are and not be condemned for something done a long time ago by people we never even knew or even descended from!

Few people remember how Dr. King started his speech:  “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.  It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

“But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.  One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.  One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.  One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.  And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.  When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the `unalienable Rights’ of `Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’  It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.  Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked `insufficient funds.’

“But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.  We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.  And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

It seems that no matter what we do or how much we give, we can never repay this “check” that came back marked “insufficient funds.”  How much longer will we be held responsible for things done many years ago?  How much more do we have to pay?

Dr. King gave other speeches that are memorable but few are seldom quoted.  On October 26, 1967, about four years after the Washington march, he spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia.   I wonder what kind of difference it would make in our world today if this speech were quoted more often. 

“And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it.  Don’t just set out to do a good job.  Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.
“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, seep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera.  Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.  Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say:  Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. 
“If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley.  Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.  Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.  If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail.  If you can’t be a sun, be a star.  For it isn’t by size that you win or fail.  Be the best of whatever you are.”

Fifty years is a long time.  The young adults of fifty years ago are now among the elderly.  More than 250,000 people marched with Dr. King in 1963 while “tens of thousands” came to commemorate his march in 2013.  Fifty years ago people understood what real racism was; now people call everything “racism” and people “racist” if they have a different point of view!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave good counsel for members of every race.  Every American should be equal under the law; each one of us should have the Right to pursue our dreams and have life, liberty and the opportunity to be happy.  I believe that it is time for each of us to step back and take another look at where we are.  We live in a nation where a half black man is the President and a black man sits on the Supreme Court.  We have another black man who became a famous brain surgeon, and still other black men and black women who sit in our halls of Congress.  We have black millionaires and blacks leading in every area of our lives.  How much more equal can we get?  How much longer do we have to fight this “racial war”?  How much more do white Americans have to pay before we have paid that “check” in full?  I have a dream of an America where my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren can live in peace with people of all colors!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tsunami Needed

                ObamaCare was forced on Americans in 2010, and millions of us have been voicing our objections to it ever since.  Most Americans oppose Obamacare, which starts enrolling people on October 1, 2013.  That is the day that open enrollment begins in the healthcare exchanges.  That is the day that millions of Americans will start enrolling in this terrible program. 

                The program is so bad that numerous parts of it have been delayed because the regulations, etc. could not be instituted by the deadline.  It is so bad that unions and members of Congress have sought and received waivers to avoid it.

                The entire law needs to be defunded; if it is not, the damage done by this law will be much harder to undo.  Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is calling for a “grassroots tsunami” of contacts to our elected representatives in Congress.  He also said “there is nothing that scares elected officials more than hearing from their constituents.  And … liberty is never safer than when politicians are terrified.”  Please let your congressional representatives know that you expect them to vote to defund Obamacare.

                Heritage Action for America put together this short video about the need to defund Obamacare and encourage all Americans to become part of the “grassroots tsunami” called for by Senator Cruz.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Make A Difference

                Have you ever tried to make a difference in the life of another person?  Is it possible for one person to change the results in the life of another?  The following story tells us that we can make a difference to others.  A second version of the story, possibly the original, can be found here. 

                As she stood in front of her fifth grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth.  Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same.  However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

                Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath.  In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.

                It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

                At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last.  However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

                Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh.  He does his work neatly and has good manners … he is a joy to be around.”

                His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well- liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life ate home must be a struggle.

                His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him.  He tries to do his best, but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.

                Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.  He doesn’t have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class.”

                By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself.  She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s.  His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got form a grocery bag.  Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents.  Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.  But she stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist.  Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.”  After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.

                On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Instead, she began to teach children.  Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy.  As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive.  The more she encouraged  him, the faster he responded.  By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.”

                A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

                Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy.  He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.

                Four year after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors.  He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

                The four more years passed and yet another letter came.  This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further.  The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had.  But now his name was a little longer….  The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

                The story does not end there.  You see, there was yet another letter that spring.  Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married.  He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

                Of course Mrs. Thompson did.  And guess what?  She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing.  Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

                They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me.  Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.

                Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back.  She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong.  You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference.  I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.”

                There was a note at the bottom of the story explaining that Teddy Stoddard is a doctor at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.

                I really like this story, and I wanted to share it on my blog; however, I desired to know if the story was really true.  According to Snopes, it is a work of fiction written by Elizabeth  Silance Ballard  in 1974 and  published in HomeLife, a Baptist magazine for families.  The author is now known as Elizabeth Ungar.  The original title of the story was “Three Letters from Teddy.”  The story is based on a couple of experiences from the author’s life. 

                According to Snopes, a friend of the author was a substitute Sunday School teacher who receive a gift of cheap perfume and a broken rhinestone bracelet from a grubby little boy and later shared the experience with Ballared/Ungar who combined this story with a personal experience from her own childhood.  As a child, the author took a small box of hand-picked pecans to her elementary school teacher.  The other children laughed at her gift, but her teacher stopped the derision by announcing that she was baking fruitcakes and needed pecans to finish the task.  It was the compassion of her own teacher that led her to write a story about the experience of her friend.

The boy’s name has several variations – Teddy Stoddard, Teddy Stallart, Teddy Stoddart, or Teddy Stallard; the original story has his name as “Teddy Stallard,” a name that was a combination from the author’s name “Ballard” and Stanley, the surname of her grandmother who suggested that she take the pecans to her teacher. There is no Theodore “Teddy” Stoddard at the John Stoddard Cancer Center at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa.  The facility was named for John Stoddard, an engineer and  real estate developer who donated money to build the center. 

                Does the fact that the story is fiction make a difference in your feelings about it?  I believe that it carries a powerful message even if it is not a true experience.  I believe that we can learn much from this story about how our actions can affect the lives of others.

A teacher in Texas wrote about this story on her blog:  “But the fact that this story is a work of fiction does not make it any less thought-provoking.  Even in my short career as a teacher so far, I can think of several students I’ve taught already who match Teddy’s hygiene, friend-situation, and/or home life.

                “It is so important to remember that we don’t know as much about our students as we think we do.  It is also so important to remember that we must treat every student as if they are our favorite student; the most difficult, friendless, and smelly of the bunch need our love more than anyone else does!
                As a teacher, your influence can last a lifetime.  Having YOU as a teacher for just one short school year can change a student’s entire life.”

                This teacher and I were both touched by the statement, “On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic.  Instead, she began to teach children.”  This is probably the most powerful statement in the entire story!  This is one reason why I am so against the Common Core Curriculum for I am afraid that teachers will get so caught up in teaching the standards that they will forget that they are actually teaching children. 

                It is also one of the reasons why I like the new curriculum for youth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  While using the old curriculum, it was easy to get caught up in teaching the lesson and fail to meet the needs of the class members.  With the new curriculum, the teacher presents the topic and lets the Holy Ghost direct the discussion.  It no longer matters whether or not we cover the entire subject matter because the youth are getting what they need most at that particular time.

                I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ expect us to help other people, to be kind to each other, and to love one another.  We can be their hands and hearts and show compassion and love for other people.  I know that we will be blessed greatly for whatever we can do to help our brothers and sisters on this earth. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Steve Stockman

                I chose Congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX) as my Very Important Person (VIP) this week because I believe he is a man who has the courage to stand on his principles.  He appears to me to be unafraid of speaking the truth and does not mince words.  I think he is a man worth noting.

                On August 23, 2013, Congressman Stockman released his statement about the Obama Justice Department attempting to invalidate voter identification laws in Texas:  “This is a clear attempt by a lawless White House to aid and abet voter fraud.  Whether it is blocking the prosecution of voter intimidation in Philadelphia, illegally running guns to Mexican drug lords or assisting voter fraud in Texas, Barack Obama has decided the rule of law takes a back seat to `Rules for Radicals.’
                “A Marist poll conducted July 25 shows 83 percent of minority voters support voter ID laws.  Obama’s actions [are] what you see in Venezuela, a president falsely claiming to [act] on behalf of people to cover up an unpopular political play.
                “I encourage the federal courts to do their constitutional duty and thwart this latest attempt to abuse presidential power to pervert free and clean elections.  The only people with an interest in preventing voter ID are people engaged in voter fraud.”

                On August 20, 2013, Congressman Stockman, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement about Egypt:  “Both Israel and Saudi Arabia, important allies of the United States in the Middle East, have asked President Obama to remain neutral in the ongoing conflict in Egypt.
                “Obama’s decision to cut off support to the Egyptian military trying to preserve order is not in the best interests of the region.
                “Not only does it provide relief to the Muslim Brotherhood, it poses a threat to the security of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other allies in the region.”

                I first heard of Congressman Stockman on August 24, 2013, when he invited the rodeo clown from Missouri to perform in Texas.  As you probably heard, a clown at the Missouri State Rodeo chose to wear an Obama mask while he performed there.  Liberals were offended that a clown would “mock” President Barack Obama and demanded that something be done about this horrible behavior.  The clown was banned for life from performing at the rodeo and ordered into “sensitivity training.”  Congressman Stockman invited him to perform at a rodeo in Texas’ 36th District.
                “Liberals want to bronco bust dissent.  But Texans value speech, even if its speech they don’t agree with.  From Molly Ivins to Louis Gohmert and every opinion between, Texans value free and open political speech.  I’m sure any rodeo in Texas would be proud to have performers.
                “Disagreeing with speech is one thing.  Banning it and ordering citizens into reeducation classes for mocking a liberal leader is another.  Liberals have targeted this man for personal destruction to create a climate of fear.

                “The liberal reaction is straight out of Alinsky.  They want to crush dissent by isolating and polarizing anyone who questions Obama, even if it’s a rodeo clown with a harmless gag.  The idea [is] to create a state of fear and make people afraid to trivialize Obama.  No one tried to personally destroy the rodeo clown who wore a George H. W. Bush mask.”

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Full Faith and Credit

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article IV, Section 1:  “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State….”  This statement means that each state has the right to have its official acts recognized by other states.

                “This is one of the `nationalizing’ clauses of the Constitution.  It was designed to prevent a citizen from avoiding his responsibilities or liabilities simply by moving out of a particular state.  Thus, if a judgment were obtained against a person in one state, the authenticated record of that judgment could be taken to another state where the defendant had moved and could be used to collect form him in his new domicile without having to go into the court of that state and prove the case all over again.”  (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 630.)

                Erin O’Hara of The Heritage Foundation explained an “essential purpose” of this clause “is to assure that the courts of one state will honor the judgments of the courts of another state without the need to retry the whole cause of action.  It was an essential mechanism for creating a `union’ out of multiple sovereigns….
                “Because the clause was drawn from the Articles of Confederation, there is very little discussion of it in the  The Federalist, although James Madison asserted in No. 42 that its clarity was a great improvement over the version in the Articles.  He listed the clause as one of several that `provide for the harmony and proper intercourse among the States.’
                “The Supreme Court has invoked the clause to police state-court proceedings in three contexts:  (1) determining when a state must take jurisdiction over claims that arise in other states; (2) limiting the application of local state law over another state’s law in multistate disputes; and (3) recognizing and enforcing judgments rendered in sister-state courts.”  (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 267.)

                Congress has also used this clause is making laws concerning child custody, parental kidnapping, etc.  This clause was used when Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to enable “each state to refuse to recognize other states’ acts, records, and judicial proceedings purporting to validate same-sex marriages.  Moreover, the Act specifically enables each state to deny rights and claims arising form same-sex marriages created in other states….” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 268.)  It is my understanding that this provision in DOMA still stands even though other parts of the act were ruled unconstitutional.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Learning and Teaching in the Home

                Do you realize that there are many opportunities for learning and teaching in our homes?  Many parents take the opportunity to teach their children in their homes and use various ways of doing so.

                As part of His plan for the happiness of His children, Heavenly Father planned for us to be born into families.  It is within the family circle that we can gain our most happiness; the loving atmosphere of the family circle is also the best place for us to learn and teach correct principles and help children prepare for eternal life.

                Heavenly Father has charged parents with the vital responsibility of helping their children to prepare to return to His presence.  Parents who teach their children to follow Jesus Christ and live His gospel fulfill this responsibility.

                In the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, we read instructions to parents:  “And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
“But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another” (Mosiah 4:14-15).

The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith, “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.
“For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized.
“And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.
“And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-28).

                Because of this charge from the Lord Jesus Christ, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have always placed great emphasis on the importance of gospel learning in the home; many years ago the Church instituted what is called family home evening.

                “The home is the most important place for gospel learning. No other organization can take the place of the family.  Latter-day prophets have repeatedly called on parents to nurture their children with love and gospel teaching.
“In 1915 President Joseph F. Smith and his counselors in the First Presidency began a Churchwide effort to strengthen the family. They called on parents in the Church to gather their children once each week for a “Home Evening.” Families were to take time to pray and sing together, read the scriptures, teach the gospel to one another, and participate in other activities that would build family unity.

“In 1970 President Joseph Fielding Smith joined with his counselors in the First Presidency to designate Monday night as the time for family home evening. Since that announcement, the Church has kept Monday evenings free from Church activities so families can have this time together.
“Latter-day prophets continue to urge Church members to give highest priority to family home evening. They have promised that our dedication to this program will help protect our families against the evils of our time and will bring us abundant joy now and throughout the eternities.

“All members of the Church should make Monday evening a sacred time, reserved for family home evening. If you are married, have weekly family home evening with your spouse. As you have children, include them in family home evening. Adapt the program to their needs and interests, and let them participate. After your children grow up and move away, continue to hold family home evening with your spouse.
“If you are single, consider asking your bishop or branch president to organize a home evening group for you and other single members of your ward or branch. He may call a home evening leader, who is responsible to organize the program and see that home evenings are held regularly.”  (See “Family Home Evening,” True to the Faith, pp. 65-66.) 

The Church suggests the following outline for family home evenings:  opening song, opening prayer, scripture reading, lesson, activity, closing son, closing prayer, and refreshments.  Family home evening lessons should be based on the scriptures, the teachings of latter-day prophets, personal experiences, and personal testimony.  The Church provides many resources to help parents in teaching their children; these resources include True to the Faith, Family Home Evening Resource Book, Gospel Principles, The Family Guidebook, and Church magazines.

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave the following counsel about the stewardship of parents:  “In our remarkable parental stewardship, there are many ways that goodly parents can access the help and support they need to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to their children.  Let me suggest five things parents can do to create stronger family cultures:
                “First, parents can pray in earnest, asking our Eternal Father to help them love, understand, and guide the children He has sent to them.

                “Second, they can hold family prayer, scripture study, and family home evenings and eat together as often as possible, making dinner a time of communication and the teaching of values.
                “Third, parents can fully avail themselves of the Church’s support network, communicating with their children’s Primary teachers, youth leaders, and class and quorum presidencies.  By communicating with those who are called and set apart to work with their children, parents can provide essential understanding of a child’s special and specific needs.

                “Fourth, parents can share their testimonies often with their children, commit them to keep the commandments of God, and promise the blessings that our Heavenly Father promises His faithful children.
                “Fifth, we can organize our families based on clear, simple family rules and expectations, wholesome family traditions and rituals, and `family economics,’ where children have household responsibilities and can earn allowances so that they can learn to budget, save, and pay tithing on the money they earn.

                “These suggestions for creating stronger family cultures work in tandem with the culture of the Church.  Our strengthened family cultures will be a protection for our children from `the fiery darts of the adversary’ (1 Nephi 15:24) embedded in their peer culture, the entertainment and celebrity cultures, the credit and entitlement cultures, and the Internet and media cultures to which they are constantly exposed.  Strong family cultures will help our children live in the world and not become `of the world’ (John 15:19).”  (See “Becoming Goodly Parents,” (Ensign,Nov. 2012, 26-28.) 

                The Church and the home are to help and strengthen each other.  The Church provides the doctrines and priesthood ordinances needed for eternal life.  Righteous families serve to make the Church a strong and vital organization.

                Many blessings come to those who participate in gospel learning with their families through prayer, scripture study, family home evening, or wholesome recreational activities.  I know there are many opportunities for us to learn and teach correct principles in our homes, and I know our families will be blessed for following the teachings of the prophets.