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, November 30, 2013

True Church of Christ

                As we began the countdown to Christmas Day, I thought it might be interesting to write about the true teachings of Jesus Christ.  I found a list of the seventeen points of what the true church of Jesus Christ would teach.  I have seen this list numerous times but have never felt the need to study them more closely or to enlarge on them until now.  I personally believe there are many more “points” that could be discussed, but I will stick with the listed ones.

                The list of “Seventeen Points of the True Church” was supposedly created by a group of people – students, servicemen, scientists, etc. -- studying the Bible.  They based their studies on the church that Jesus Christ established while He was on earth.  According to the story I read, when the members of the group went their separate ways, they each searched diligently for a church that met their seventeen points.  After many years, they discovered that they had all discovered the same church.  The seventeen points were based on actual scriptures in the Bible, but other scriptures support the points also.  The final or eighteenth point answers the question:  Why are these things important?

                Point #1Christ organized the Church.  “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
                “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
                “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
                “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:11-14).
                This was the description of the Church of Christ in New Testament times.  I know that many churches have one or more of these officers, but I know of only one church that has all of them.

                Point #2:  The true church must bear the name of Jesus Christ.  “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church:  and he is the savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23).
                “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
                There are many scriptures that mention taking the name of Jesus Christ upon us, but they do not mention the actual name of the church.  Here is a scripture that leaves no doubt as to the name of the church.
                “Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name?  For by this name shall ye be called at the last day; …
                “Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.
                “And how be it my church save it be called in my name?  For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church if it so be that they are built upon my gospel” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 27:5-8).
                I know of only one church that bears the complete name of Jesus Christ.

                Point #3:  The true church must have a foundation of Apostles and Prophets.  “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
                “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).
                I know of only one church that claims to have both prophets and apostles.

                Point #4:  The true church must have the same organization as Christ’s Church.  “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11; See #1 above).

                Point #5:  The true church must claim divine authority.  “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
                “So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee.
                “As he saith also in another place, Thou are a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec….
                “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
                “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
                “Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:4-10).
                I know of only two churches that claim divine authority; one claims the authority was passed down from Peter and one claims that it was restored by Jesus Christ and his servants.

                Point #6:  The true church must have no paid ministry.  “I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways:  he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 45:13).
                “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind” (1 Peter 5:2).
                I know of only one church that has no paid ministers.

                Point #7:  The true church must baptize by immersion.  “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
                “But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
                “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now:  for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.  Then he suffered him.
                “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:  and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
                “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:13-17).
                I know of at least two churches that baptize by immersion.

                Point #8:  The true church must bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.  “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
                “Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
                “(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them:  only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
                “Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:14-17).
                I know of several churches that use laying on of hands.

                Point #9:  The true church must practice divine healing.  “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him and that he might send them forth to preach,
                “And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils” (Mark 3:14-15).
                There are numerous churches that claim to have the healing power.

                Point #10:  The true church must teach that God and Jesus Christ are separate and distinct individuals. 
                “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
                “And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56).         
“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father:  but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17).

                I know of only one church that teaches that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are separate Personages.  “… I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
                “It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound.  When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.  One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – This is My Beloved Son.  Hear Him!  (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith – History 1:16-17).

                Point #11:  The true church must teach that God and Jesus Christ have bodies of flesh and bone.
                “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:  and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
                “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27).
                “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit.  Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22).

                Point #12:  The officers must be called by God.  Hebrews 5:4 (See #5 above.) 
                “And take thou unto thee Aaron, thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons” (Exodus 28:1).
                “And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.
                “And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats:
                “Ad thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office:  for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.
                “Thus did Moses:  according to all that the Lord commanded him, so did he” (Exodus 40:13-16).

                Point #13:  The true church must claim revelation from God.  “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

                Point #14:  The true church must be a missionary church.  “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;
                “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:  and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.  Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).

                Point #15:  The true church must be a restored church.  “The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
                “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
                “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths:  for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:1-3).
                “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:
                “And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12).

                Point #16:  The true church must practice baptism for the dead.  “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?  Why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29). 

                Point #17:  By their fruits ye shall know them.  “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
                “Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
                “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
                “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
                “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
                “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).

                Point #18:  Why are these things important?  “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
                I know that Heavenly Father loves all His children, no matter when they live on earth or where.  I know that He wants all of His children to have the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know that these eighteen points represent true principles taught in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I also know that all eighteen points are taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I know that this church is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30).  I know this because the truthfulness of it has been borne to me by the Holy Ghost. 

                Ancient prophets and apostles have borne witness of Jesus Christ, and modern-day prophets and apostles bear testimony that He is our Savior and lives today.  

                Modern-day prophets and apostles also testify of the true and living church:  “I bear you my solemn witness that this is the true and living Church of Jesus Christ.  Heavenly Father will answer your fervent prayers to know that for yourself.  You can have a witness that the calls which you sustained today were from God.  Even more, you can know that within this Church, ordinances are performed which can cleanse souls and bind on earth and in heaven, as they were in the days of peter, James, and John.  Those keys and ordinances are now restored in their fulness through the Prophet Joseph Smith and have been passed on through his successors.  Jesus is the Christ.  He lives.  I know that.  I testify that Thomas S. Monson is His living prophet.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it lives on.  I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ” (President Henry B. Eyring of The First Presidency, “The True and Living Church,” Liahona, May 2008).  

Friday, November 29, 2013


                Good traditions can strengthen families, communities, and nations.  Have you ever pondered the traditions in your family, group, and community?  Do you know why you do certain things the way you do?  A tradition is something that has been used by the members of a particular group, family, or society; it is the handing down of beliefs, customs, legends, etc. from one generation to the next generation.  Traditions can be good or evil.  What kind of traditions do you follow?  Do your traditions help you to follow the Savior, or do they move you further from God?

                “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
                “Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?  For they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
                “But he answered and said unto them Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
                “For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother:  and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
                “But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightiest be profited by me;
                “And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free.  Thus have ye made the commandments of God of none effect by your tradition.
                “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
                “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
                “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 14:1-9).

                Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Quorum of the Seventy spoke about developing the right kind of traditions.  “… I have long been interested in culture and tradition and their influence on how we look, think, and act….  Traditions, established patterns of behavior transmitted from generation to generation, are an inherent part of culture.  Our culture and its related traditions help establish our sense of identity and fill the vital human need to belong.
                “Of traditions which are complementary to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul admonished the Thessalonians, `Therefore, … stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught’ (2 Thes. 2:15).  In the Church, powerful traditions remind us of the strength and sacrifice of our ancestors and inspire our efforts.  Among them are industry, frugality, and complete devotion to a righteous cause.  Others are based on doctrine and standards which may seem peculiar to the world but are consistent with God’s pattern.  These include chaste behavior, modesty of dress, unpolluted language, Sabbath observance, adherence to the Word of Wisdom, and the payment of tithes.
                “Even in ethnic culture, many traditions can reinforce gospel standards and principles….
                “Uplifting traditions play a significant role in leading us toward the things of the Spirit.  Those that promote love for Deity and unity in families and among people are especially important” (“Cultivate Righteous Traditions,” Liahona, January 2001).  

                I am often surprised at the “traditions” that are in my family and the importance of them to my children.  Pickles and olives were part of every holiday celebration in my childhood home.  We seldom had either of these foods; we liked pickles a lot but only played with the olives by sticking them on our fingers.  I have no idea why the tradition was started, but I continued it in my home – and my children stuck the olives on their fingers to play with them.  Now I have grandchildren with one granddaughter living close to me.  She likes olives, but she also sticks them on her fingers to play with them.

                I learned of another “tradition” when I decorated for Christmas last year.  My son brought his family over to visit and noticed a raggedy little Santa Claus.  I heard him tell his wife about this little Santa and how he was always part of our Christmas decorations.

                We have to be careful about the “traditions” we follow.  I heard a story about a woman who was preparing a ham for baking.  She cut off both ends of the ham before putting it in the oven.  Her daughter watched as she worked and asked her mother why she cut the ends off.  The mother replied that she did not know the reason but this was the way her mother cooked hams.  The daughter became very interested and asked her grandmother why she cut off the ends of her ham.  The grandmother said that she did not know why but just did it the way her mother did.  The daughter went to the great-grandmother and asked her why she cut off the ends of her ham.  The grandmother replied that she cut off the ends so that the ham would fit in her pan.  This “tradition” went through several generations without knowing why the tradition started.

                I am disgusted every year when I see Christmas decorations in the stores around the first of October, way before Halloween.  We used to be able to celebrate each holiday by itself, but now Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are all lumped together.  Black Friday, a shopping frenzy, has been a part of our society for a few years.  It is a time when many stores have special sales to lure shoppers into their places of business on the day after Thanksgiving Day.  This year the holiday shopping bonanza began earlier when about a dozen retailers started their specials on Gray Thursday – Thanksgiving Day.  From the pictures at this site, it did not look like fun to me or a way I want to spend Thanksgiving Day.  

                Thanksgiving Day has always been a day when families and friends gather together to give thanks to God for their many blessings and to simply enjoy being together.  Since the “Black Friday creep” came along, the family celebration has become a commercial melee.  I understand that stores and families are facing tough times because of the economy, but I believe this commercialization of Thanksgiving Day will have a negative effect on many families and our society in general.  I am grateful that my family gathered for feasting and fun as well as expressing gratitude.  We ate leisurely and visited for a long time.  After our meal was over and the dishes cleared away, we stayed together to play games and visit until the little ones had to be taken home for bed.  It was a delightful day, one that I would not have traded for any financial gain.    This is a tradition I hope my family continues.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Discerning Answers

                We can bring the greatest of all liberties into our individual lives by living true and correct principles.  This liberty comes to us as we learn to live as though Jesus Christ were walking beside us.  We gain this freedom when we invite the Holy Ghost into our lives.

                The liberty principle for today is the eighth in a series of true principles suggested by Elder Richard G. Scott in his book 21 Principles – Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit.  I will merely introduce the principle and suggest that you obtain Elder Scott’s book in order to truly understand this principle.  Elder Scott explained that principles “are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances.  A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and challenging circumstances.”  You can see principle #1 “True Principles of Freedom” here, principle #2 “Trust the Holy Ghost” here, principle #3 “Try New Things” here, principle #4 “Accept Promptings” here, principle #5 “Decisions Determine Destiny” here, principle #6 “Accept God’s Will” here, and principle #7 “Power Limited” here. 

                Principle #8 is the simple truth that discerning answers to our prayers is not always easy.  I am so very grateful for my knowledge that I can talk with God at any time and in any circumstance.  I often thank Him just for being there and loving me, and I cannot even fathom the emptiness that would be in my life without this knowledge.

                Elder Scott spoke about prayer being “a supernal gift of our Father in Heaven to every soul.  Think of it:  the absolute Supreme Being, the most all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful personage, encourages you and me, as insignificant as we are, to converse with Him as our Father.  It matters not our circumstance, be we humble or arrogant, poor or rich, free or enslaved, learned or ignorant, loved or forsaken, we can address Him.  We need no appointment.  Our supplication can be brief or can occupy all the time needed.  It can be an extended expression of love and gratitude or an urgent plea for help.  He has created numberless cosmos and populated them with worlds, yet you and I can talk with Him personally, and He will ever answer.”

                Heavenly Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ, has created “worlds without end” and yet knows you and me personally.  He knows us by name, He knows our strengths and weaknesses, and He knows our every desire.  He cares deeply about each of us.  Like any parent, He enjoys hearing from us on a regular basis, and He is willing to answer any reasonable request.

                Elder Scott continued, “I wonder if we can ever really fathom the immense power of prayer until we encounter an overpowering, urgent problem and realize that we are powerless to resolve it.  Then we will turn to our Father in humble recognition of our total dependence on Him.
                “However, an individual who lets his or her emotions influence decisions cannot be powerfully led by the Spirit.  The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride.  When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeno pepper.  Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other.  In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit….
                “Know that our Father in Heaven will always hear your prayers and will invariably answer them.  However, His answers will seldom come while you are on your knees praying, even when you may plead for an immediate response.  Rather, He will prompt you in quiet moments when the Spirit can most effectively touch your mind and heart.  As you seek His counsel in moments of pondering, you will rejoice to find solutions to even your most perplexing problems” (pp. 40-43).

                I have learned through personal experience that sometimes I receive immediate answers to my prayers and other times the answers do not come so easily.  I have also learned to be very grateful for the immediate answers and to search more diligently for the answers that do not readily come.  I have learned to ask yes and no questions because these questions bring answers to me more readily.  I have also learned that God’s meanings are not always the same as mine.

                About twenty years ago a dear friend was suffering from cancer and sought special medical help.  I prayed regularly for her health, and one day I asked the Lord if she would be okay.  I received a definite answer of yes, she would be just fine, and I assumed this meant that she would beat the cancer.  A few days later, my friend passed away, and I questioned the answer I had received -- until I realized that the Lord’s answer was very true.  My friend was okay because she had returned to God’s presence and would continue to serve Him there.

                Recently I was praying about some announced ward boundary changes and asked the Lord if the division would take place along a certain road.  The answer I received was yes; when the actual changes were announced, that particular road was one of the boundaries – just not in the way I expected.

                Elder Scott counseled us to live our “homes and lives free from discord or tension” in order to hear the Spirit better.  “Spiritual direction will not come when the spirit is offended by unresolved differences with our loved ones even though they are small.  It certainly cannot come in an environment where there is even occasional uncontrolled emotion, disharmony, or anger.”

                When we are in tune with the Spirit, we can receive immediate answers to our prayers.  When I do not receive an immediate answer, I take a personal inventory of what is going on in my life.  Is there tension with my husband?  Am I too tired?  Am I upset or stressed over something?  I also recognize that the answer will come when I am ready to receive it.  I have received many answers to prayers through dreams while I am sleeping or in the short period of time when I am just waking up.  Sometimes answers come as I continue to ponder the problem.  Sometimes the answer comes as I take that step out into the unknown.  Since the Spirit speaks in a soft voice, I leave plenty of quiet time in my days, times when there is no background noise like a radio or television.

                When we are struggling with difficult decisions – particularly with decisions that cause strong emotions in us, Elder Scott suggested that we seek additional help.  This help can come from loving parents, older siblings, priesthood leaders, teachers, etc.  Discussing our situation with such people can help us see the bigger picture and give us better perspective – and save us from disastrous decisions.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Counting Blessings

                I normally have a positive attitude.  I usually see the glass as half full rather than half empty.  I often look for the silver lining behind the dark clouds.  I really dislike it when someone wants to pour water on my parade.  Why?  I know I am very blessed and often count my blessings. 

                I love to sing a hymn entitled Count Your Blessings (Hymns, 241; text written by Johnson Oatman, Jr., [1856-1922] and music written by Edwin O. Excell [1851-1921].  I learned this hymn as a child and try to follow the counsel in it.  

                When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
                Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
                Are you ever burdened with a load of care?  Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
                Count your many blessings; every doubt will fly, And you will be singing as the days go by.

                When you look at others with their lands and gold, Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold.
                Count your many blessings; money cannot buy Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.

                So amid the conflict, whether great or small, Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
                Count your many blessings; angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

                Chorus:  Count your blessings; Name them one by one.  Count your blessings; See what God hath done.  Count your blessings; Name                them one by one.  Count your many blessings; See what God hath done.
                I highly encourage all of us to regularly count our blessings.  Most of us have so many blessings that we do not even recognize many of them or think of them as gifts from our loving Heavenly Father.  Consider the following information.  When I look at my life under this microscope, I know I am very blessed.

                If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all.
                If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive the       week. 
                If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this                 world.
                If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s           wealthy.
                If your parents are still married and alive, you are very rare, especially in the United States. 
                If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than almost three billion      people in the world. 
                If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you              are ahead of 20 million people around the world.     
                If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.
                If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer God’s healing                 touch.
                There are many ways that we can count our blessings and learn to see more of them.  One way is to keep a “blessings notebook” as discussed in a poem written by Marianne Wilson McKnight.  

                One day, I started writing down
                My blessings one by one.
                I filled both sides of seven sheets
                And still did not get done.

                I wrote down, “friends and family,
                And legs that run and hop,
                A cozy bed and clothes to wear,
                And, of course, my mom and pop.”

                I’m grateful for so many things –
                For sunsets, trees, and rain,
                For eyes to see and ears to hear,
                For being free from pain.

                I wrote the name of Jesus down –
                I’m thankful most for Him –
                Then added, “scriptures, music, love,
                And my new puppy, Tim.”

                And now whenever I feel down
                And don’t know what to do,
                I get my blessings notebook out
                And add a page or two.

                Another way to recognize and count our blessings is to get a new perspective; we can rephrase the situation and turn our problems into blessings.  Consider the difference in the following statements.  
1) “I have to go to a new school.”  “I have the opportunity to make a whole new set of friends and learn new things from them.” 
2) “I’m the only Mormon in a student body of 2,500.”  “This way I’ll have lots of opportunities to share the gospel.”
3) “I’m only a freshman and can’t do very well on the basketball team.”  “But workouts are a great way to stay in shape, and they’ll help prepare me for next year.”
4) “Most people speak Spanish here, and I don’t understand them.”  “Great!  I always wanted to learn a foreign language.  Here’s my chance.”
5) I have to go to work.  I have a job where I can earn money to provide for myself and my family.
6) I have to clean the house.  I am grateful that I have a house to clean.
7) Being a mother of several small children is not fun.  I am grateful that Heavenly Father trusted me enough to send these sweet little children to my home.

                Still another way to count blessings is to occasionally express only gratitude in our prayers.  Instead of simply saying “I am grateful for a healthy body,” I will go into more detail “I am thankful for eyes that see, ears that hear, toes and fingers, etc. We are often so in need of blessings – or think we are - that our desires consume most of our prayers.  We do nothing wrong when we ask for blessings, but we should be sure to express gratitude for the ones we already enjoy.

                When we focus on counting our blessings, our minds forget our troubles and our loads are lightened.  Sister Shirley W. Thomas, then second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, spoke about counting blessings.  “When our children were young, they had a first-grade teacher who understood one of the distinct benefits of counting.  She explained that when she shopped for clothes to wear to school, she always looked for dresses with buttons – down the front, on the sleeves, the pockets – and the more buttons the better.  Then, when it was time to settle her class down each morning, she would ask the children to count the buttons on her dress while she called the roll.

                “Counting blessings doesn’t have much in common with counting buttons, but it does have the same function of requiring our focus.  While we count, we concentrate our attention upon the encouraging, the positive, the happy.  It gets our mind away from loneliness or pain….

                “We all, at times, succumb to the tendency to discount what we have or fail to realize the value in what we have because of focusing so much on what we want.  We lament, `I don’t have a thing to wear,’ when we really have clothes in the closet; but somehow they don’t count.  Or `I wish I had a friend,’ when actually there are many who could be friends if we would realize it.

                “It takes maturity and sometimes perspective to be able to place the proper value on gifts and blessings – know what counts….
                “We need to count our blessings because it causes us to look more closely and not miss those quiet blessings beyond price.  `It will surprise you,’ as the hymn says.”

                We know that God watches over all His children and sends many blessings to each of us.  He has given us this beautiful world to live in, warm sunshine to brighten our days, and cooling rain to freshen the air.  He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, who died for us that we might return to God’s presence.  He has a plan for how we can find true happiness. 

                The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans:  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God….”  This is a very important and powerful statement.  It tells us that loving God is the only qualification for being blessed.  If we love Him, God will make sure that everything works together for our good.  We can safely put our trust in God and have many blessings to count!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

More Problems with Obamacare

                Problems with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, continues to surface.  The law was billed as blessing to Americans, especially the needy.  The law is a monster that is destroying America whether or not it was meant to do so.  Instead of being compassionate toward those Americans who had no health insurance and affordable to those of low or modest incomes, Obamacare is proving to be anything but compassionate and affordable.

                Chris Jacobs at The Heritage Foundation suggested two ways that Obamacare traps people in poverty.  Throughout history, Americans have known that there were two very important and well proven ways to become successful in America.  The first way is to work hard for success; the second way is to get married and to stay married. 

                Jacobs claims that Obamacare “includes disincentives for individuals to marry and for Americans of low and modest incomes to work.  Discouraging work and marriage will only perpetuate poverty and income inequality, not alleviate them.”  Here are her explanations.

                “Discouraging Work:  The way Obamacare calculates federal premium subsidies and cost-sharing subsidies includes several `cliffs.’  A person might qualify for a hefty subsidy at his current income, but if he gets a raise and makes a little more, that Obamacare subsidy disappears.  At these cliffs, individuals and families will actually benefit more by working less because additional earnings could cause them to lose thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies.
                “Families facing these kinds of poverty traps may ask the obvious questions:  If I will lose so much in government benefits by earning additional income, why work?
                “Rather than encouraging hard work, initiative, and entrepreneurship.  Obamacare instead undermines these essential American values.

                “Discouraging Marriage:  Obamacare contains not one, but two penalties on marriage – one for families with low and moderate incomes and another for families with higher incomes.  By continuing failed policies that undermine the institution of marriage, Obamacare will accelerate a root cause of income inequality in the United States.
                “Here’s an example.  A 50-year-old non-smoker making $35,000 per year would qualify for a sizable insurance subsidy, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s insurance subsidy calculator.  The individual’s premium would be capped at 9.5 percent of income, resulting in an insurance subsidy of $2,065 paid by the federal government.
                “However, if this 50-year-old is married to another 50-year-old who also makes $35,000 per year, the couple would receive no insurance subsidy at all.  This couple would incur a marriage penalty of $4,130 in one year – equal to the $2,065 that each individual could have received if they were not married.
                “As Urban Institute fellow Gene Steuerle has said:  `Our tax and welfare system thus favors those who consider marriage an option – to be avoided when there are penalties and engaged when there are bonuses.  The losers tend to be those who consider marriage to be sacred.’”

                If our leaders in government were interested in strengthening our nation, they would encourage Americans to continue these traditional values.  The fact that they pass laws that undermine these values says to me that they are not interested in a strong America.  By discouraging “work, initiative, and entrepreneurship,” the government is essentially guaranteeing that those particular Americans will never achieve the American Dream.  By discouraging marriage, the government is destroying stability in families and thus destroying the stability of our society.