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, May 31, 2014

Governing through Councils

                “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 65:2).  The kingdom of God on earth is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is governed through priesthood and priesthood keys.

                The Lord governs His Church through various counsels, and He calls leaders to direct those councils for the benefit of individuals, families, and the Church.  Priesthood leaders seek input from all members the council as well as unity and guidance from the Holy Ghost in their efforts to build the kingdom of God.  Councils at all levels – presidencies, bishoprics, family, etc. – can learn how to be guided by revelation from God.

                President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke about councils in an address to priesthood holders.  He and his family belonged to a tiny branch of the Church in New Jersey where President Eyring was the only deacon in the branch and his brother the only teacher.  While he was still a deacon, his family moved to Utah.  “There I found three wonderful things in place to speed my growth in the priesthood.  The first was a president who knew how to sit in council with the members of his quorum.  The second was great faith in Jesus Christ that led to the great love we have heard of – love for each other.  And the third was a shared conviction that our overarching priesthood purpose was to labor for the salvation of men.”

                President Eyring learned the importance of councils when he became a member of the “priests quorum, with the bishop as our president….
                “As near as I could tell, he treated the opinions of young priests as if we were the wisest men in the world.  He waited until all who would speak had spoken.  He listened.  And when he decided what should be done, it seemed to me that Spirit confirmed the decisions to us and to him.

                “I realize now I had felt what the scripture means when it says that the president is to sit in council with the members of his quorum.  And years later as I was a bishop with my priests quorum, both they and I were taught by what I had learned as a young priest.

                “Twenty years later as a bishop, I had the opportunity to see the effectiveness of a council, not just in the meetinghouse but also in the mountains.  During a Saturday activity, a member of our quorum had been lost in the forest overnight.  As far as we knew, he was alone and without warm clothes, food, or shelter.  We searched for him without success.

                “My memory is that we prayed together, the priests quorum and I, and I then asked each to speak.  I listened intently, and it seemed to me that they did too, to each other.  After a while, a feeling of peace settled on us.  I felt that our lost quorum member was safe and dry somewhere.

                “It became clear to me what the quorum was to do and not to do.  When the people who found him described the place in the woods where he had gone for safety, I felt that I recognized it.  But the larger miracle for me was to see a united priesthood council’s faith in Jesus Christ bringing revelation to the man with the priesthood keys.  We all grew that day in the power of the priesthood.”

                President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke about counsels in a worldwide leadership training meeting.  “We human beings have a strange tendency to complicate simple things.  We set up rules, laws, bylaws, processes, and subprocesses.  Eventually, we pile up load after load until we end up under a huge weight of expectations that are so complicated it is difficult to keep track of them, let alone meet them….

                “Too often, we complicate the beauty and simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ with endless lists of meticulous expectations.  However, when we focus on the `why’ of the gospel, much of the confusion fades away.  Why are we here?  Why are we asked to obey the commandments?  Why is the Atonement of Jesus Christ of such value to us?  The proper `why’ questions will lead us to the proper `who,’ `what,’ `when,’ `where,’ and `how’ decisions.

                “Elder Ballard and his group gave us a great example by asking, `Why do we meet in councils?  Is it to arrange and rearrange the war calendar?  to discuss staffing problems?  to schedule cleaning the building?’

                “Such issues may be urgent and necessary, but are they the most important?  There are many ways to enhance our precious council time, like always coming well prepared.  We could handle scheduling or other organizational matters by memo, phone, e-mail, or text.  When we allow organizational matters to dominate our efforts and time in our councils, we run the risk of missing the mark of why the Lord has called us to minister in His Church.

                “We meet in councils to seek the inspiration of the Spirit in building the kingdom of God.  We meet to seek the answers to two basic questions:  (1) How can we help our members better love the Lord our God with all their heart, soul, and mind?  (2) How can we help our members better love their neighbors as themselves?

                “Every other thing we discuss in our councils within our Church organizations should derive from these great commandments, for everything else hangs upon them.

                “Once we understand the `why’ behind our council meetings, it is easier for us to focus appropriately on how to accomplish it.  For example, as we consider ways to increase love for neighbor among our members, we might decide to plan a service activity in which we include our less-active members and our friends of other faiths.

                “All of our discussions concerning young and old, from welfare needs to missionary work, from gospel teaching to strengthening families, should be framed in this context.  By simplifying and strengthening the council process and by inviting the Spirit, we will find the life and fire of the Holy Spirit, who provides guidance and heavenly support for our efforts.”

                Men and women as well as young men and young women meet in council in their callings in the Church whether on a general, stake or ward level.  Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidencies are councils include only women; Young Women class presidencies are the same.  Priesthood quorums include only men.  Ward and Stake Councils as well as Welfare Councils include both men and women.  All are responsible to bring success to the “quorum” or class.  I enjoy the opportunity to meet in council and learn much from the discussions, whether it be about my own personal calling or the Church in general.  I especially appreciate family councils and a successful way to solve family problems.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Dream Job

                As adults we strengthen our families, communities, and nations by assisting the rising generation prepare for life.  There are many ways we can assist in this preparation, but the most important way is to teach our children and youth how to be happy.  I believe that most of us have been guilty at one time or another of asking a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Maybe we are still trying to decide what WE want to be when we grow up!

                In either case, we can learn much from the answer given by a thirteen-year-old gave in his TED talk.  He obviously knew more about life than most youth his age as well as many adults.  His answer was, “When I grow up, I want to be happy and healthy.”  He then proceeded to list eight Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLF) taught by Dr. Roger Walsh, an expert on how to be happy and healthy.  The young man is already applying these TLF’s in his own life:  (1) exercise, (2) diet and nutrition, (3) time in nature, (4) contribution and service, (5) relationships, (6) recreation, (7) relaxation and stress management, and (8) religious and spiritual.  How are you doing in these eight areas?  Which area makes you the happiest?  

                We must encourage the rising generation to follow their dreams.  It does not matter how much money, power, prestige, etc. that comes from a career if we do not enjoy what we are doing.  When we are doing something we enjoy doing, time flies; when we are doing something we do not enjoy, time drags.  There is nothing like time dragging by to make us unhappy!  We must help our young people to get to know themselves.  They need to know what talents and skills they have and how to apply them to a career.

                When our rising generation reaches for their dreams, are they reaching for money or glory or are reaching for happiness and good health? We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by teaching the rising generation how to follow their dreams to happiness and good health.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Free to Be Happy

                The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is how to achieve lasting happiness.  We all desire to be happy and enjoy life, and we all chase different methods to achieve happiness.  Yet millions of people are unhappy at any given time.

                The Declaration of Independence states:  “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….”

                Thomas Jefferson and the other Signers recognized that all mankind has the God-given right to be happy.  An ancient American prophet named Lehi taught his children, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 2:25).

                The late David O. McKay, a prophet in our day, taught that “happiness is the purpose and design of existence.  `Men are that they might have joy.’  Virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping the commandments of God lead to a happy life; those who follow that path re not long-faced and sanctimonious, depriving themselves of the joys of existence.”  (See Pathways to Happiness, comp. Llewelyn R. McKay [1957], xi; as quoted by Craig P. Wilson in “Lasting Happiness,” Ensign, April 2014, pp. 16-21.) 

                In his article Mr. Wilson suggests several traits that are common among people who live happy and meaningful lives.  (1) “Happy people are content with having their basic needs met.  Researchers have found that across cultures around the world, being able to obtain such basics as food, shelter, and clothing (and to acquire perhaps `a little bit more’) produces high levels of long-term satisfaction in people….”

                (2) “Even when they live in a materialistic society, happy people are not ruled by the often mistaken idea that `more is better.’ … The evidence strongly suggests that in contrast to getting caught up in the culture of `wanting it all,’ the practice of simplifying our lives can lead to greater financial peace and overall well-being….”

                (3) “Happy people are involved in something they believe is bigger than themselves.  Whether through involvement in a religious organization or through working in a meaningful job, those who are happiest are able to lose themselves in a worthwhile cause….”

                (4) “Happy people use their personal strengths to bless the lives of others.  What are our personal strengths?  While we might be inclined to think of these as our talents (such as piano playing or woodworking), there are other kinds of personal strengths – what psychologist Martin Seligman calls our `signature strengths.’  These include `integrity, valor, originality, and kindness.’  They are `are moral traits, while talents are nonmoral.’  Dr. Seligman further defines signature strengths as `what parents wish for their newborn (“I want my child to be loving, to be brave, to be prudent”).  … They would not say they want their child to have a job in middle management.’  The more we are able to identify these signature strengths and find creative, meaningful ways to use them to improve life around us, the happier and more fulfilled we will be….”

                (5) “Happy people foster close friendships and family relationships….  Although having acquaintances and casual friends can be rewarding, it is the supportive, close relationships that are essential to happiness.  `The Family:  A Proclamation to the World’ clearly affirms the importance of creating and maintaining loving family relationships.  It also pointedly reminds us that `happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ’….”

                (6) “Happy people focus less on transient, pleasurable pursuits and more on enduring, meaningful ones.  Depression has become increasingly common in all the wealthy countries of the world.  Why is this so?  Psychologist Martin Seligman suggest that one of the culprits is an `over-reliance on shortcuts to happiness.  Every wealthy nation creates more and more shortcuts to pleasure:  television, drugs, shopping, loveless sex, spectator sports, and chocolate to name just a few.’  Noting what little effort a ready-made breakfast required of him, he asks, `What would happen if my entire life were made up of such easy pleasures, never calling on my strengths, never presenting challenges?  Such a life sets one up for depression’….”

                (7) “Happy people strive to become more selfless.  Deciding to forget oneself and reach out to others brings immeasurable blessings to the giver.  Authors Gary Morsch and Dean Nelson explain that `while the scientific evidence shows we are wired toward altruism, there is still a choice involved.  The beauty of the choice is that, when we choose to serve others, something wonderful happens.’  And what kind of wonderful thing might that be?  Morsch and Nelson describe what one group experienced after helping repair a building damaged by a hurricane:  `They felt their lives meant something while they were doing something for someone else.  They had helped someone in a concrete way, and it made them feel alive.  They didn’t say it made them feel good.  Lots of things can do that.  This brought them to life` ….”

                Mr. Wilson closed his account by referencing another story in the Book of Mormon.  After Jesus Christ was resurrected, He visited the people living in ancient America.  For nearly two hundred years following the Savior’s visit, the people lived together in love and consecration and “had all things common among them” (4 Nephi 1:3).  The account continues with this statement “surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God” (4 Nephi 1:15-16).

                We can become happy.  We have the God-given right to be happy.  In order to be truly happy, we must turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and invite Him into our lives.  We are free to be happy in spite of any negative things in our lives.  We can become truly happy by developing the seven traits listed above.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Release of Criminals

                Did you know the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released 36,000 illegal immigrants from custody during 2013?  Under the direction of Barack Obama, ICE released illegal immigrants back into the American society who are not only here illegally but who have criminal convictions.  The Washington Times reported that among those released there were “116 with convictions for homicide; 43 for negligent manslaughter, 14 for voluntary manslaughter, and one with a conviction classified by ICE as `homicide-willful-kill-public official-gun.’

                “The immigrants were in deportation proceedings, meaning ICE was trying to remove them from the country and could have held them in detention but released them anyway, according to the Center for Immigration Studies….

                “`This would be considered the worst prison break in American history, except it was sanctioned by the President and perpetrated by our own immigration officials,’ said Rep Lamar Smith, Texas Republican.  `The administration’s actions are outrageous.  They willfully and knowingly put the interests of criminal immigrants before the safety and security of the American people.’”

                Breitbart Texas contacted numerous Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices around the country in order to learn more about the policies governing the release of 36,000 illegal immigrants.  Each ICE representative contacted knew about the CIS report but would not comment on it.  They also refused to answer any questions because they “were given specific instructions not to comment on that report.”  They all responded with the following press relief, apparently drawn up in Washington, D.C., by a press secretary.

                “Many of the individuals described in the report were released under restrictions such as GPS monitoring, telephone monitoring, supervision, or surety bond.  …[Some] were released as a discretionary matter after career law enforcement officers made a judgment regarding the priority of holding the individual, given ICE’s resources, and prioritizing the detention and removal of individuals who pose a risk to public safety or national security.”

                Breitbart reported that Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was outraged about the release of “thousands of criminal aliens from detention.  He wants to bring Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before his committee to provide some answers.  A recently released report detailed an “internal ICE document which showed that 36,007 immigrants convicted of nearly 88,000 crimes were released back into the United States last year.”  After the leaked documents were released, Representative Goodlatte and Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), former Judiciary Committee Chairman, issued a joint statement:

                “`Over a month ago, the House Judiciary Committee requested that DHS provide information about criminal aliens identified by federal authorities and released into our communities but our questions have gone unanswered….
                “This information is important to inform Congress about the problem of criminal aliens so that we make the right policy decisions moving forward….”

                Representative John Fleming(R-LA) believes ICE should recapture the dangerous criminal aliens.  …It’s as if this president is brazen enough to think he can force immigration reform by blatantly refusing to enforce the laws already on the books….
                “This release of convicted criminals, including murderers, appears to be a signal that Obama will do whatever he wants with illegal immigration unless Republicans capitulate to his demand for amnesty.  Well, it won’t work….”

                Representative Fleming also believes that “ICE needs to recapture those criminals who pose a threat to American citizens, and refuse to carry out further releases that are at the administration’s discretion.”

                What kind of a President of the United States would release thousands of violent criminals into American communities  Do you believe Mr. Obama has gone too far now?  Is it time to start impeachment proceedings?       Can we wait until after the November 2014 mid-term election to get this irresponsible man out of the Office of the President?  Can our nation survive?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Good Benghazi Questions

                Why are Democrat Senators reluctant to create a selective committee in the U.S. Senate to investigate Benghazi?  Why are the Democrats so afraid of learning the truth about Benghazi?  Do they already know the truth?  Are they trying to keep the truth hidden? 

                Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked the Senate to approve a resolution supporting the creation of a select committee to investigate Benghazi.  Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, blocked the request, stating that the request was politically motivated.

                Before Senator Cruz made his request, he asked ten key questions about the 2012 attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.  These are more good questions, questions that deserve answers, but Democrats do not seem to want to know the answers.  Do they know already?  Senator Cruz’s questions are as follow.

“1) Why was the State Department unwilling to provide the requested level of security to Benghazi in the summer of 2012?
2) Do President Obama’s daily intelligence briefings in the run-up to September 11, 2012, support the assertion that there was no credible threat of a coordinated terrorist attack on Benghazi during the time?  And do the daily intelligence briefings following that date support the claim the administration made that the cause was an Internet video?  And why hasn’t the White House declassified and released those briefings, just like President George W. Bush did with his pre-September 11, 2001, briefings?
3) Why did we not anticipate the need to have military assets at the ready in the region on the anniversary of September 11, of all days?
4) Did President Obama sleep the night of September 11, 2012?  Did Secretary Clinton?  Neither has answered that very simple question – were they awake or asleep while Americans were under fire?  When was President Obama told about the murder of our Ambassador?
5) If the Secretary of Defense thought there was `no questions that this was a coordinated attack,’ why did Ambassador Susan Rice, Secretary Clinton and President Obama all tell the American people that the cause was a spontaneous demonstration about an Internet video?
6) Why did former deputy CIA Director Mike Morrell edit the intelligence community talking points to delete the references to Islamic extremists and Al Qaeda?
7) Why did the FBI not release pictures of the militants taken the day of the attack until eight months after the fact?  Why not immediately, as proved so effective in the Boston bombing?
8) Why was Secretary Clinton not interviewed for the A.R.B. [Accountability Review Board] report?  And if all the relevant questions were answered in the A.R.B. report… why did the State Department’s own Inspector General Office open a probe into the methods of that very report?
9) Why have none of the terrorists who attacked in Benghazi been captured or killed?
10) What additional evidence that the White House engaged in a partisan political campaign to blame the Benghazi attack on the Internet video is contained in the additional emails requested by Judicial Watch but withheld by the White House on the grounds that it would put a `chill on internal deliberations?’”

                Do you have a desire to know the answers to these and other questions?  Do you think it is important to learn the truth about the attack in Benghazi?  Do you even care about the truth?  Is your attitude similar to that of Secretary Clinton who asked, “What difference does it make?” 

                I believe that it makes a big difference.  I believe that our President, his administration and probably some members of Congress are involved in criminal activity against the well-being of the United States.  I believe they are members of a secret combination, similar to the secret combinations that destroyed the government of the Nephites told in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

                Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued a warning against secret combinations in 1997:  “The Book of Mormon teaches that secret combinations engaged in crime present a serious challenge, not just to individuals and families but to entire civilizations.  Among today’s secret combinations are gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime families.  The secret combinations of our day function much like the Gadianton robbers of the Book of Mormon times.  They have secret signs and code words.  They participate in secret rites and initiation ceremonies.  Among their purposes are to `murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God” (Helaman 6:23).

                “If we are not careful, today’s secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and just as completely as they did in Book of Mormon times….”  (See “Standing for Truth and Right,” Ensign, Nov. 1997.) 

                The Nephites were destroyed because they allowed the secret combinations of their day to gain power over them.  Are we going to follow the same path to destruction?  Or will we find the answers to our questions about what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, and why?  Will we destroy the secret combinations of our day before they destroy our government?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Red Cloud

                Red Cloud was born in 1822 at the fork of the Platte River in Nebraska.  He was not a chief by birth but earned his position through his bravery, leadership, and wisdom.  He became one of the most famous American Indian chiefs.

                Chief Red Cloud was the leader of the Oglala, one of the largest groups of Sioux Indians.  He opposed the government’s plan to build three forts and open the Bozeman Trail.  Red Cloud besieged the forts.  The government agreed - after many attacks - to the treaty of 1868.  The government agreed to close the trail and abandon the forts; Red Cloud agreed to stop attacking the white men.  White men broke the treaty when gold was discovered.   Red Cloud  charged the Indian agents with corruption.  He was removed as head of the Oglala in 1881 when he threatened a government agent.

                Red Cloud had great leadership ability and was regarded as a gentleman with dignity and honor.  He sought peace but watched with horror as the rights of the Indians were trampled.  He died on December 10, 1909, after the government moved his tribe to the Pine Ridge Agency in South Dakota.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day

                Memorial Day is an American holiday and is observed on the last Monday in May.  Its purpose is to remember and honor those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the military of the United States of America. 

                This holiday is considered the unofficial beginning of summer, but it means so much more than outings and picnics.  Many Americans spend the day visiting cemeteries or memorials, placing flowers on graves, holding family gatherings, etc.

                However you choose to spend Memorial Day, please stop whatever you are doing at 3:00 p.m. local time and join in a national moment of remembrance for our fallen heroes.  May we always remember their great sacrifices in keeping America free!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Meaningful Scripture Study

                We are commanded to “feast upon the words of Christ (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 32:3).  The word feast has been defined as a special or large meal elaborately prepared with many different dishes; it has also been defined as a rich or abundant meal.  Since we are commanded to feast rather than nibble or snack, we can assume that we are commanded to do more than simply read the scriptures.

                No matter how we are currently feasting on the scriptures, we can all improve in our efforts and should take frequent inventory of our efforts.  We should search the scriptures diligently while pondering their meanings.  We should liken them to ourselves and our situation.  We should always include prayer with scripture study, praying for understanding; then we should follow any promptings we receive from the Holy Ghost.  We can strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ and draw closer to Heavenly Father merely by committing ourselves to more meaningful scripture study.  As we feast on the scriptures, we will be fortified against the fiery darts of temptation.

                Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles likened the scriptures to a reservoir of living water.  “The scriptures contain the words of Christ and are a reservoir of living water to which we have ready access and from which we can drink deeply and long.  You and I must look to and come unto Christ, who is `the fountain of livings’ (1 Nephi 11:25; compare Ether 8:26; 12:28), by reading (see Mosiah 1:5), studying (see Doctrine and Covenants 26:1), searching (see John 5:39; Alma 17:2), and feasting (see 2 Nephi 32:3) upon the words of Christ as contained in the Holy Scriptures.  By so doing, we can receive both spiritual direction and protection during our mortal journey” (emphasis added).
                Elder Henry B. Eyring, now of the First Presidency, was asked for suggestions on how to prioritize scripture study.  “The only way you can be sure that a busy schedule doesn’t crowd out scripture study is to establish a regular time to study the scriptures.  I have found that the beginning of the day and the end of the day are mine.  Those are times I can usually control.  So my pattern since I was a boy has been to read my scriptures at the beginning and end of the day.  I read the Book of Mormon many times before I was 18 because of that pattern.
                “When I am in situations where I break out of the pattern, it’s hard on me.  Once you get used to regular scripture study, you miss it if you don’t have it.  It’s like food – you have to have it.  I know that I need the scriptures like I need food.  I don’t miss a regular meal, and I don’t miss regular scripture study.”
                I too have learned that I do not function well without daily scripture study.  A wonderful Spiritual Living teacher in Relief Society helped me develop the habit of daily scripture study in the early 1980s.  I went five years before I missed the first time; I have not missed more than ten times in since I started daily scripture study.  Most days I actually feast on the scriptures, but some days I merely nibble.  I can honestly tell the difference in the spirituality!

                I encourage you to start feasting on the word of God.  If you do, you will be amazed at the knowledge you gain and the protection you and your family will have against Satan.  I set a goal one year to read the complete Standard Works – Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price – before the end of the year.  I accomplished that goal and had time to read the Bible Dictionary and other study helps in the process.  The experience was a great accomplishment and a wonderful blessing.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Social Confidence

                We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations through the associations we make.  When we associate with other people and get to know them better, we make connections with them, connections that strengthen all involved.  When we teach our rising generation to make connections, we strengthen them and their future connections.  These connections are essentially networking.

                My current assignment in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to work in the Employment Resource Center (ERC).  My duties include helping other people to find and use all the resources available to them as they search for a job or for the opportunity to upgrade their current work situation.  In my assignment I have the opportunity to study many articles associated with employment.

                A recent article giving tips for networking helped me to realize another way that “employment skills” can help us in our everyday life.  The subject of the article is “5 Quick Tips for More Confident Networking. I read these five tips and realized they are skills that all of us need in our lives whether or not we are looking for employment.  (1) “Know how to break the ice.”  Imagine how this skill could help a pre-teen or teenager in their social lives.  What do they do when they walk into a room where they know few people?  “A simple `Hello, my name is _______’ is more than sufficient if said with a smile.”  You could add, “So, what brings you here?”

                (2) “Get warmed up.”  A youth might have the desire to meet a handsome hunk or a beautiful girl.  Before they walk up to that person, they should make “a few practice swings.  Make sure you talk to a few people before you hit up your main target – it will ease your nerves and make you feel more comfortable.”  “The moment you walk into the room, just start chatting it up with someone to warm up a bit.  Before you know it, you’ll feel comfortable chatting up [anyone].

                (3) “Be aware of your body language.”  We should all be aware of what our body language is saying because “93% of communication is non-verbal.”  The following advice is given:  “Don’t cross your arms.  Keep a strong smile all night long.  Hold strong eye contact.”

                (4) “Ask great questions.”  One of the best ways to avoid talking about yourself is to ask a companion about his or her life.  Oh, you are on the debate team.  What kind of rules do you have to follow in your debate competitions?  Another question might be:  What kind of music do you like?  Why?

                (5) “Have fun.”  “Focus on having a good time.  People will be attracted to your good attitude.”

                When we know how to meet and greet people, we strengthen relationships with them and possibly with their families.  When groups of people are connected, they strengthen their communities and nations.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

National Defense

                The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that America has a continuing need for national defense.  America has enemies who are simply waiting and preparing for an opportunity to attack but will not attack until they think America is weak enough to be beaten.

                Abraham Lincoln made the following statement during a speech in 1838:  “All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

                “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected?  I answer if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us.  It cannot come from abroad.  If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.  As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”  (Quoted by Brian T. Kennedy in a speech delivered on March 4, 2014, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.; printed in Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College, Vol. 43, No. 3.)

                In my scripture study this week, I was intrigued by an account given about the struggles of an ancient American civilization.  In the midst of a series of wars, contention arose among the Nephite people.  A minority of the people wanted to alter e a few “particular points of the law.”  When Pahoran, the chief judge, refused to alter the law, the people tried to “overthrow the free government and establish a king over the land.”  The matter was put to the people, and voice of the people declared they – known as freemen - wanted the free government.  The people who wanted a king – king-men – refused to accept the voice of the people and “sought power and authority over the people.”

                The division among the people took place at a critical time because the enemy – Lamanites – were being stirred up to anger against the Nephites.  When the Nephites learned the Lamanites were coming to do battle, the king-men “were glad in their hearts; and they refused to take up arms, for they were so wroth with the chief judge, and also with the people of liberty, that they would not take up arms to defend their country.”

                Captain Moroni faced an enormous problem.  He had to break down the wars and contentions among his own people and establish unity among them before he could fight the enemy.   To do so, he was forced to do battle with his own people.  Four thousand people were killed, and the leaders of the king-men who were not killed in battle were put in prison to await trial.  The remainder of the living king-men were “compelled” to “take up arms in defence of their country.”

                While Captain Moroni was settling the problems among his own people, the enemy came into the edge of the nation and began to kill the citizens.  The survivors were driven out of their homes and cities.  The contentions and fighting among the Nephites kept them so distracted that they were not prepared to fight the real enemy.  (See Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 51:2-24.)

                This scriptural story reminded me of the United States and the great divide among American citizens in the present time.  We are distracted and divided by race issues and economic issues are not focused on defending our nation.  Barack Obama and other Democrats seem intent on weakening our military.  We hear how good people are being driven out of the armed forces, our military being weakened by political correctness, and even ammunition being destroyed.  Republicans are more interested in fighting members of the Tea Party than standing on principle. 

                Abraham Lincoln was right.  When Americans are united in a cause, no nation on earth can defeat us.  If we are ever taken into bondage by another nation, it will happen because we allowed it.  Our nation is in danger, and we are fighting among ourselves.  We must settle our problems and prepare to face our enemies!  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Benghazi - Follow the Weapons

                Douglas Hagmann is the founder and director of the Northeast Intelligence Network; he is also a multi-state licensed private investigative agency.  He uses his investigative skills and training to fight terrorism and increase public awareness through his website.  He can be reached here  He recently published a very interesting article at Canada Free Press. 

                Mr. Hagmann reminded his readers of the instructions received by Washington Post journalists Woodward and Bernstein from their confidential source known as “Deep Throat.”  The source told the journalist to “Follow the money” in order “to get to the bottom of the Nixon White House cover-up of the Watergate burglaries in 1972.”  Media persistence forced the creation of the Senate Watergate Committee, which eventually led to indictments, convictions, and the resignation of President Richard Nixon.  Nixon resigned before he could be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.  His problem was not only the crime but also the cover-up of the crime.

                Mr. Hagmann continued, “In consideration of last week’s announcement of a Select Committee on Benghazi, truth-seeking Americans titillated by the formation of this committee would be well advised to recall the backroom dealings that established the Senate Watergate Committee and the political perimeters to which it was bound.  The back story is nicely articulated by Jeffrey Lord in his article published in the American Spectator titled Trey Gowdy and the Real Lesson of Watergate.   Although I am in favor of the formation of a truly independent investigative body, my hopes for the whole truth to be made known are not only tempered by history, but the magnitude of the crime, not scandal, that is now simply known as `Benghazi.’

                “In the event that it has gone unnoticed, the White House and the U.S. Department of State is desperate for every American to believe that persistent questions about the attack at Benghazi on September 11, 2012, that killed four Americans, including a U.S. Ambassador (the first such murder in more than 30 years) are nothing more than a baseless political ploy against the current administration and a gratuitous attack to derail a potential future candidate for president.  So do many in congress.  So do nearly all of the major media outlets, every Progressive blog on the internet, and countless political pundits.

                “Irrational yet exuberant allegiance to their own political messiah and their matriarch of international mayhem aside, there is a much more important reason for this frenzied veil of protection against any thorough and meaningful inquiry.  Although only a few similarities exist between the `Deep Throat’ of Watergate and my intelligence source for facts related to Benghazi, the message is similar.  Instead being directed to `follow the money,’ I was directed to `follow the weapons.’”

                Since receiving that instruction, Mr. Hagmann has written more than four dozen investigative reports about the attack on Benghazi.  He also interviewed Robert “Tosh” Plumlee on his radio broadcast, on April 30, 2014.  The Obama Administration is trying to silence Plumlee because of the eleven questions he posted on his Facebook page.  Mr. Hagmann asked another question that deserves an answer:  Where was Barack Obama during this period?”  His secondary question is, “If Barack Obama was not in charge or making decisions during this most critical period in recent American history, who was? 

                The efforts of the administration to silence Mr. Plumlee and other whistle blower illustrate the need for us to seek more truth.  Mr. Hagmann’s article is very informative and helpful in this endeavor.  I encourage you to read it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Arrested for Dissent

                Attorney William Baer recently attended a school board meeting in New Hampshire to comment about a book assigned to his fourteen-year-old daughter.  The book contains “an explicit passage” that details a “rough” sexual encounter between two teenagers.  He wanted to stop other students from reading the book without parental approval.  Mr. Baer spoke for less than three minutes but was arrested for going over two minutes.  The police officer who arrested him was nervous about his task and stated that he did not want to make the rest.

                Mr. Baer took his story to Doug Hagmann, an investigative journalist and personal friend of Mr. Baer.  Mr. Hagmann discovered some interesting tidbits about the whole experience.  “The critical back-story, then, indicates that the school board not just anticipated Mr. Baer’s attendance, but took very precise steps to make certain that his objections would be muted and otherwise dealt with in a manner that has been inconsistent with previous public meetings.  It would appear that dissent about the book as an assignment in a ninth grade honors class was not merely expected, but the response to such dissent was decided in advance.”

                I hope parents are alert to actions like this in their school districts.  Mr. Baer should be supported for standing and protecting his daughter.  I read a page in the assigned book and can definitely say that I would never approve such reading material for my high school student.  I encourage you to read the entire article and then discover what your school district is actually teaching your children.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Horace Greeley

                Horace Greeley was born on February 3, 1811, near Amherst, New Hampshire.  He served as an apprentice printer for five years and then at age 20 he went to New York to seek his fortune.  He became an important editor, reformer, and political leader.

                Greeley began in 1834 to publish the New Yorker, a new literary magazine that had financial problems.  He wrote political papers and became a liberal Whig.  In 1838 he published a weekly paper called Jeffersonian; he also published the Log Cabin during the 1840 presidential campaign.  The next year he established the New York Tribune.  He worked closely with Thurlow Weed, the New York State Whig political boss, and William H. Seward, the governor of New York.  He and his Tribune were violently opposed to slavery.

                Greeley accepted the presidential nomination in 1872 for the Liberal Republicans and Democrats, but he lost decisively to Ulysses S. Grant.  He died on November 29, 1872, in Pleasantville, New York.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Grand Jury Exception

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:  “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger….”  This provision states that the military personnel of American armed services have the right to be tried in a civilian criminal court unless the crime was related to their duty in the military or war.

                W. Cleon Skousen explained why military personal might want to be tried in a civilian court:  “Because a court-martial does not provide the protection of a jury, this provision was considered extremely important to treat members of the military like any other citizen unless a crime was connected with military duties.”  (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 704.)

                David F. Forte at The Heritage Foundation further explained the Grand Jury Exception:  “Since the time of the drafting of the Fifth Amendment, there has been a debate over which constitutional protections are applicable to courts-martial.  The text of the amendment exempts only the requirement of a grand-jury indictment.  Though it was universally understood at the time of the Founding that jury trials did not apply to courts-martial, there is no such textual exception in the Sixth Amendment.  An earlier draft presented to Congress did specifically exclude military trials from the jury guarantee, but that version was rejected.  Perhaps the Framers believed that the exemption to jury trials was so universally recognized, it would have been redundant to have specified it….

                “It seems clear enough that the Framers intended Congress to have plenary authority to define the rules regulating the armed forces (Article I, Section 8, Clause 14) at least in relation to the executive, and perhaps to the judiciary as well.

                “Subsequent to the ratification of the Fifth Amendment, the courts left it to Congress to define offenses against the military and the manner of their being adjudicated.  Judicial review of decisions of military tribunals was very limited….” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p.331.)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reverence and Revelation

                The Psalmist wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10).  When we are still, we can “hear” the voice of the Lord better.  Reverence helps us to be more sensitive to the still, small voice of the Spirit and better able to receive personal revelation.  Heavenly Father insists that we treat sacred things with reverence; if we do, He will trust us and will give us more truths.

                Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how reverence invites revelation.  “When we meet to learn the doctrines of the gospel, it should be in a spirit of reverence.  It is about reverence and how it relates to revelation that I wish to speak.  Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings.  Such words as quiet, still, peaceable, Comforter abound in the scriptures:  `Be still, and know that I am God.’  (Psalm 46:10; italics added)  And the promise, `You shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom.’ (Doctrine and Covenants 36:2; italics added.) ….
                “No one of us can survive in the world of today, much less in what it soon will become, without personal inspiration.  The spirit of reverence can and should be evident in every organization in the Church and in the lives of every member.”

                Elder Paul B. Pieper of the Quorumof the Seventy spoke about the importance of treating sacred things with reverence.  “As we seek answers from God, we feel the still, small voice whisper to our spirits.  These feelings – these impressions – are so natural and so subtle that we may overlook them or attribute them to reason or intuition.  These individualized messages testify of God’s personal love and concern for each of His children and their personal mortal missions.  Daily reflecting upon and recording the impressions that come from the Spirit serve the dual purposes of helping us (1) to recognize our personal encounters with the divine and (2) to preserve them for ourselves and our posterity.  Recording them is also a formal recognition and acknowledgment of our gratitude to God, for `in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:21).
                “With respect to that which we receive by the Spirit, the Lord said, `Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred’ (Doctrine and Covenants 63:64).  His statement is more than a reminder; it is also a definition and an explanation.  Light and knowledge from heaven is sacred.  It is sacred because heaven is its source.
                “Sacred means worthy of veneration and respect.  By designating something as sacred, the Lord signals that it is of higher value and priority than other things.  Sacred things are to be treated with more care, given greater deference, and regarded with deeper reverence.  Sacred ranks high in the hierarchy of heavenly values.” 

                I make it a daily practice to listen for personal instructions from the Lord, and I try to remember the sacredness of all the instructions and loving “embraces” I received from the Spirit.  I love to feel the presence of the Holy Ghost and try hard to stay worthy of his companionship.  I would be lost without the “lifeline” I have with Heavenly Father to help me in my personal decisions and family struggles.