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.

Monday, November 30, 2015

John Tilley

                A discussion on Thanksgiving Day convinced me to make John Tilley my VIP for this week.  My son and I were discussing our ancestry, and he began to read about John Tilley on the Internet.  I decided then and there to write about him because he is my direct ancestor.

                John Tilley was baptized on December 19, 1571, in Henlow, Bedford, England, and was the first child of Robert Tilley and his wife Elizabeth.  Another son was born to the couple, Edward.  On September 20, 1596, John married Joan (Hurst) Rogers at Henlow in Bedfordshire.  She was the youngest daughter of William Hurst and the widow of Thomas Rogers.  She was baptized on March 13, 1567/8 at Henlow and may have been older than John.  She brought one daughter named Joan from her first marriage.  (She married Thomas Rogers on married June 18, 1593, and he seems to have died soon after their daughter was baptized on May 26, 1594.)  Joan may have died soon after her mother married John Tilley.

                John and Joan (Hurst) Tilley became the parents of five children; all of the children were baptized in the parish of Henlow between 1597 and 1607:  (1) Rose Tilley was baptized on October 23, 1597, and may have died young; (2) John Tilley was baptized on August 26, 1599, and may have died young; (3) Rose Tilley was baptized on February 28, 1601/2, and may have died young; (4) Robert Tilley was baptized on November 25, 1604, and may have died young; (5) Elizabeth Tilley was baptized on August 30, 1607.

                John, Edward, their wives, and Elizabeth “were passengers on the historic 1620 voyage of the Mayflower.  “The Mayflower departed Plymouth, England, on September 6/16, 1620.  The small, 100-foot ship had 102 passengers and a crew of about 30-40 in extremely cramped conditions.  By the second month out, the ship was being buffeted by strong westerly gales, causing the ship’s timbers to be badly shaken with caulking failing to keep out sea water, and with passengers, even in their berths, lying wet and ill.  This, combined with a lack of proper rations and unsanitary conditions for several months, attributed to what would be fatal for many, especially the majority of women and children.  On the way there were two deaths, a crew member and a passenger, but the worst was yet to come after arriving at their destination when, in the space of several months, almost half the passengers perished in cold, harsh, unfamiliar New England winter.

                “On November 9/19, 1620, after about 3 months at sea, including a month of delays in England, they spotted land, which was the Cape Cod Hook, now called Provincetown Harbor.  After several days of trying to get south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 11/21.  The Mayflower Compact was signed that day.”  Both   John Tilley and his brother Edward signed the Mayflower Compact.”

                John and Edward Tilley did some exploring in the New World but may have still been living on the Mayflower.  The two Tilley brothers and their wives “all perished that first winter in the New World.”  “In the later recollection of William Bradford:  `John Tillie and his wife both dyed a little after they came ashore; ….’  John and Joan “were buried in Coles Hill Burial Ground in Plymouth, most likely in unmarked graves as with so many who died that first winter.  Their names, along with many others who died that winter, are memorialized on the Pilgrim Memorial Tomb on Coles Hill as ‘John Tilley and his wife.’” 

                Elizabeth married John Howland in Plymouth Colony about 1624 and had ten children.  She died in Swansea on December 22, 1687.  Since Elizabeth is the only child of record on the Mayflower and apparently the only surviving child of John and Joan, I assume that she is my ancestor and my connection to John Tilley.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

God's Hand in the Founding of America

               The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from prophets:  God had a hand in ancient America and will preserve the freedom He established.  I understand that America will go through some dark days, but it will be triumphant in the end if the people are righteous. 

                On February 24, 1976, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke at Brigham Young University on the topic of “God’s Hand in the Founding of America.”  Elder Perry began his address with this statement:  “I look around me and find some very definite signs of the decay that is beginning to occur.  Corruption, crime, dishonesty, immorality, pollution, laziness, devotion only to special interests – these are signs that precede the fall of great civilizations.  We see so much evidence of these signs before our eyes.  Yet I realize the promise that has been given to us in this great land of America.  I also remember the prophecies concerning our great responsibilities to preserve that which we have been blessed with by God.  The Lord has promised to sustain the truth in this land.
                “Our commitment to America has been testified to by many, but I will point out to you special witnesses who have indicated our responsibilities to this land.”

                Elder Perry then proceeded to share the words of several prophets.  His first quote was by Brigham Young, second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:  “Will the Constitution be destroyed?  No:  it will be held inviolate by this people; and, as Joseph Smith said, `The time will come when the destiny of this nation will hang upon a single thread.  At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.’  It will be so.”  (Journal of Discourses, 7:15)

                As a second witness, Elder Perry gave this statement by John Taylor, third president of the Church:  “When the people shall have torn to shreds the Constitution of the United States, the elders of Israel will be found holding it up to the nations of the earth, and proclaiming liberty and equal rights to all men, and extending the hand of fellowship to the oppressed of all nations” (The Gospel Kingdom, Deseret Book Co., 1943, p. 219).  This is part of the program.

                Elder Perry’s final witness was George Q. Cannon, a former member of the First Presidency of the Church, who said that “the day will come when the Constitution and free government under it will be sustained and preserved by this people” (Journal of Discourses, 23:104).

                One of the purposes for Elder Perry’s address to the students at BYU was to present the Church’s Bicentennial message to America.  The Church printed and distributed a document titled “God’s Hand in the Founding of America” in an effort to “reverse the trend and help chart the course of this country back toward righteousness.”  The Church “commissioned seven paintings” and printed them as “posters to tell our message to the nation.”  The desire was for the posters to hang in every Church building located in the United States during 1976.

                During the Bicentennial year of the founding of the United States, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wanted the people of America to hear “three unique messages.  First, America’s early history began more than 2,000 years ago and is contained in an ancient and sacred record called the Book of Mormon.  Second, the discovery of America and the establishment of the United States was a part of God’s plan and was brought about by men who were inspired and guided by God.  And finally, America’s future destiny is dependent on the righteousness and morality of [America’s] families.
                “Why is it so important to know and understand America’s past?  We know that history provides important lessons and warnings for today – lessons about God and his interest in the affairs of men; and warnings in the form of destructions that came to early American civilizations when they lost their reverence for family, morality, or God.  Why are these messages particularly important during the Bicentennial year?  Because the only true way to celebrate the Bicentennial is in the same spirit that prevailed 200 years ago, in the spirit of humility and acknowledgement of God’s control over the earth and man’s dependency on Jesus Christ.”

                Elder Perry explained the seven posters using history and then gave a challenge to the BYU students.  It is a wonderful challenge that I now extend to my readers:  “I want you who are the best trained, the best educated, who have been given these great advantages here in America to literally become the conscience of America and the molders of its destiny and future.  With your knowledge, your training, your understanding of how God works in the hearts of his children here on earth, let us obligate ourselves to temperance, to frugality, and to industry.  Let us show justice, kindness, and charity toward our fellowmen.  Let us demonstrate the love and reverence we should exhibit toward our Almighty God.  Let us not trifle with the things that are holy to God.
                “Fifty-six men represented 2.5 million in 1776 to bring about a new nation that has literally blessed the whole world.  That was one man to every 45,000.  Today I’m calling on each of you to exert an influence over about 220 million people in this land.  [Now there are over 300 million people in the United States.]  The odds are even better for you; the advantage is on your side.  This is the time for you to be bold enough to stand up for what you believe, to let the world know that God still blesses this great land of America – if we will live righteously, according to that which he has commanded.”

                This message was given nearly 40 years ago.  The problems discussed by Elder Perry have grown steady worse.  America needs righteous men and women to stand up and defend her by personal righteousness and prayer.  These are the weapons that we can use against the evils of our day.  May God still bless America!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Natural Man or Saint

                 King Benjamin was a prophet-king in ancient America.  He was a righteous king who taught his people the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As he neared the end of his life, he anointed his son Helaman to be the next king.  Before turning everything over to his son, King Benjamin spoke to his people one last time.  He gave a very memorable address and taught many gospel principles.  The principle I would like to share today is that we must put off the natural man and become a saint in order to qualify for the kingdom of God.

                “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 3:19).

                This verse raises some questions.  What is a natural man?  In common usage, natural means something is a part of us, something we do by nature.  Her natural hair color is blood.  She is naturally left-handed but has learned to use her right hand.  When the scriptures speak of natural, they refer to sin.  When Adam and Eve partook of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, they and all their posterity, they “fell” into mortality, a fallen world.  In this fallen condition, they were in a state of spiritual death, separated from the presence of God.  They knew good from evil but lived in an imperfect world where all men sin.  They had transgressed the law of God and became a “natural man” or “enemy to God.” 

                King Benjamin taught his people to put off the natural man.  He counseled them to yield to the enticings of the Holy Ghost.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:  “Personal righteousness, worship, prayer, and scripture study are so crucial in order to `[put] off the natural man’ (Mosiah 3:19).  Be wary, therefore, when some demand public tolerance for whatever their private indulgences are!” (Ensign, November 1994, 36).

                What is a saint?  Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:  “The word saint in Greek denotes `set apart, separate, [and] holy’ [in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. (1992), 3:1249].  If we are to be Saints in our day, we need to separate ourselves from evil conduct and destructive pursuits that are prevalent in the world.
                “We are bombarded with visual images of violence and immorality.  Inappropriate music and pornography are increasingly tolerated.  The use of drugs and alcohol is rampant.  There is less emphasis on honesty and character. Individual rights are demanded, but duties, responsibilities, and obligations are neglected.  There has been a coarsening of dialogue and increased exposure to that which is base and vulgar.  The adversary has been relentless in his efforts to undermine the plan of happiness.  If we separate ourselves from this worldly conduct, we will have the Spirit in our lives and experience the joy of being worthy Latter-day Saints”   (Ensign, November 2003, 95).

                So, in order to put off the natural man and become a saint, we must avoid evil and yield to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  Through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we can put off the natural man and put the Atonement of Christ into effect in our lives.  By following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we can obey God’s commandments and resist temptation.  We can change and qualify to be true saints of God.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Aging Parents

                Families, communities, and nations are strengthened as we interact with our aging parents.  They have gained much knowledge and wisdom that can benefit us if we will only take the time to learn from them.  I hesitate to write this post because I do not want to give the wrong impression or make my own children feel guilty or obligated.  I do however wish I had taken the time to gain more wisdom and knowledge from my own parents as well as those of my husband while they were still with us.  .
                Rachelle J. Christensen wrote a very interesting article about gleaning knowledge and wisdom from by our parents, particularly those who are nearing the end of their lives on earth.  I believe the article has valuable information for anyone and encourage you to read the article.  Here are her ten suggestions for making every moment with aging parents count but read the article for more information.

#1 Take mom or dad out to eat and ask them questions about their childhood.
#2 Take time to connect with your parents.
#3 Invite your parents over for dinner.
#4 Participate in family history work together.
#5 Take your parents to the temple.
#6 Invite your parents over for family home evening.
#7 Encourage and help them come to grandchildren’s events, but also make sure children know why their grandparents can’t always come.
#8 Make General Conference a family event.
#9 Be involved in your parents’ lives.
#10 Be patient with your parents.

                I am sharing this information with you to help you avoid some of the guilty feelings I have for not including aging parents more in the lives of my family.  The thing that I feel most guilty about is not taking the time to sit down and just listen to them.  I remember my husband’s father saying something about gaining wisdom and no one wanting to hear it.  I was so busy with a daughter’s wedding that I did not take the time to really listen to him.  Now I recognize that I lost a valuable opportunity to make him feel appreciated as well as to gain some knowledge.  We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by making the most of every moment with our aging parents.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Freedom or Slavery

                The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns our freedom to choose liberty or slavery.  There is much fear in the world and in our nation about ISIS since their attack on Paris.  We have reason to be fearful of them because they desire to destroy us and our way of life.  I believe that an even greater danger comes from progressives who are attempting to move our nation closer and closer to socialism and then communism.

                Elder Ezra Taft Benson served as President of the European Mission at the close of World War II, eight years as the US Secretary of Agriculture during the Eisenhower administration, and later as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He saw the “godless evil of the socialist-communist conspiracy on both sides of the iron curtain.”

                “I have talked face-to-face with the godless communist leaders.  It may surprise you to learn that I was host to Mr. Khrushchev [First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 1953-1964] for a half day when he visited the United States.  Not that I’m proud of it – I opposed his coming then and I still feel it was a mistake to welcome this atheistic murderer as a state visitor.  But according to President Eisenhower, Khrushchev had expressed a desire to learn something of American agriculture, and after seeing Russian agriculture I can understand why.

                “As we talked face-to-face, he indicated that my grandchildren would live under communism.  After assuring him that I expected to do all in my power to assure that his and all other grandchildren will live under freedom, he arrogantly declared in substance:

                “`You Americans are so gullible.  No, you won’t accept communism overnight, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you’ll finally wake up and find you already have communism.  We won’t have to fight you.  We’ll so weaken your economy until you’ll fall like over-ripe fruit into our hands.’

                “And they are ahead of schedule in their devilish scheme” (An Enemy Hath Done This, [1969], p. 320).

                Whether it is progressives, ISIS, or communism that threatens us, it does not really matter.  They all build their beliefs and programs on the foundation of Satan, who hates freedom and enslaves as many people as he can.  Our only safety from Satan and those who follow him is to turn to the God of this land, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Heavenly Father gave us agency to give us the opportunity to freely choose who we would follow.  Satan offers us slavery, and God offers us freedom to grow, develop, and finally reach our full potential.  Freedom is very important to God; He wants all His children to be free to choose for themselves.  He will never force anyone to follow Him, but He does try to persuade us to do so.  As a nation, we must choose to turn our hearts to God.  I know that true freedom comes no other way than by following Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude

                It is late on the eve of Thanksgiving Day.  I am deep into preparations for celebrating this national holiday.  I am grateful for the opportunity to take a day to express my gratitude for the many blessings I receive.  As I was pondering about what I could write, I came upon an article “Five Simple Ways to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude” by David A. Christensen.  I found his suggestions very helpful.

                Mr. Christensen began his article:  “Our attitude is defined by the way we think and feel about life.  It all begins with the way we see the world – which triggers a reaction, response, or behavior.  Developing an `attitude of gratitude,’ or seeing the world in such a way that spawns a thankful heart, produces many positive results.
                “Studies in what has become known as the `science of gratitude,’ show that being grateful helps us feel more alive, promotes better sleep, fortifies our immune system, and even influences our looks.  In short, grateful people are friendlier, healthier, happier, and even more attractive.
                “If you’re having trouble developing this habit in your life, then here are five suggestions to help you master an attitude of gratitude:   (1) Develop the habit of `looking up.’ …  (2) Start a gratitude journal or a tender mercy board in your home….  (3) Make a list of all the people you are grateful for….  (4) Make a list of all the enriching experiences in your life….  (5) Make a list of people you need to forgive….”

                I recommend this article to all who would like to become more grateful for the tender mercies God gives to them as well as the gifts given by our fellowman.  The author gives some good ideas on how to develop an “attitude of gratitude” and become “friendlier, healthier, happier, and even more attractive.”  What is there to not like in any of that!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Are We Not All Beggars?

                The instructor in my Book of Mormon class shared some of his thoughts with his students this week.  I have been pondering his ideas for a couple of days and decided to share some of them with my readers.  What follows are his ideas in my words.  I am sure he explained it much better than I will, but I hope you get the idea.

                I assume that you have seen homeless people; I also assume you have heard many stories about how they are not really homeless and in need of money and food.  I have heard stories about some of them begging for money on street corners and then getting in a nice car to drive to a nice home.   I have also heard of women who bring children to help them beg.  I have read signs telling us not to give money to the people because it will just enable them.  I personally do not have much contact with homeless people; however, I have no idea what I should do when contact is made.  Should I give them money or not?  What if they use the money to buy alcohol or drugs?  Should I carry food in my car to hand to them?  What should I do?  Like I said, I do not see many homeless people, but I do make regular donations to help the poor among us.  I make regular donations to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I know the Church will use 100% of the money to help the poor. 
                According to King Benjamin, a prophet-king in ancient America, I do not need to worry about how my money will be used.  My instructor pointed out that it doesn’t matter how the poor uses the money.  If my heart is in the right place when I give, the Lord will bless me for giving no matter what the person does with it.   King Benjamin left some counsel that may help us.  King Benjamin was nearing the end of his address.  The Holy Ghost was there in rich abundance; the people were ready to make a covenant with God.  King Benjamin addressed the problem of beggars.

                “Perhaps thou shalt say:  the man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just –
                “But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
                “For behold are we not all beggars?  Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
                “And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins.  And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain?  Nay:  he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that our mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
                “And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 4:17-21).

                My instructor compared the homeless people who need food to the people around us who ask us for forgiveness.  Do we withhold our forgiveness because they brought the problem on themselves?  Do we refuse to forgive them and allow them to move forward with their lives?  The Lord tells that we must forgive in order to be forgiven.  The Lord will respond to our pleas for forgiveness in the same way we respond to other people. Are we not all beggars?

Monday, November 23, 2015

James Fenimore Cooper

                James Fenimore Cooper was born on September 15, 1789, in Burlington, New Jersey.  He was the eleventh of twelve children born to William Cooper and his wife Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper.  Most of his siblings died during infancy or childhood.  His great-great-grandfather was James Cooper who immigrated to the American colonies from Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in 1679.  “James and his wife were Quakers who purchased plots of land in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”  William Cooper was born on December 2, 1754, seventy-five years after his great-grandfather arrived in America.

                James had just passed his first birthday when William moved his family to Cooperstown, New York; this community was founded by “on a large piece of land” his father had purchased to develop.  William was later elected as a United States Congressman representing Otsego County.  Cooperstown was located in central New York, in an area previously “occupied by the Iroquois of the Six Nations.  The Iroquois were forced to cede their territory after [the] British defeat in the Revolutionary War” because “they had been allies.”

                The state offered the former Iroquois land for sale and development soon after the end of the Revolutionary War, and William Cooper purchased “several thousand acres” of upstate New York land.  The land was located “along the head-waters of the Susquehanna River.”  William selected the site and surveyed it by 178 in preparation for erecting Cooperstown.  He built a home on Otsego Lake and moved his family there in the fall of 1790.  He wasted no time in constructing Otsego Hall, the family mansion.  James was ten years old when it was completed in 1799.

                James Cooper enrolled at Yale when 13 years old and was expelled three years later without a degree.  He went to work as a sailor in 1806 and became part of the crew of a merchant vessel at age 17.  “By 1811, he obtained the rank of midshipman in the fledgling United States Navy, conferred upon him on an officer’s warrant signed by Thomas Jefferson.

                Cooper was only 20 years old when he inherited a fortune from his father.  At age 21, he married Susan Augusta de Lancey on January 1, 1811.  Her family was loyal to Great Britain during the Revolutionary War.  Her parents had seven children, but only five lived to adulthood.  James and Susan’s daughter Susan Fenimore Cooper wrote about “nature, female suffrage, and other topics;” she and her father “often edited each other’s work.”  Another descendant of James Fenimore Cooper was writer Paul Fenimore Cooper (1899-1970).

                James Fenimore Cooper was a member of the Episcopal Church and “contributed generously to it” in his later years.  He lived most of his life in Cooperstown.  He “was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century, writing “historical romances of frontier and Indian life in the early American days.”   He began writing after his time as a Midshipman in the U.S. Navy, and his experience there had great influence on his writing.  “The novel that launched his career was The Spy, a tale about counterespionage set during the Revolutionary War and published in 1821.  He also wrote numerous sea stories and his best-known works are five historical novels of the frontier period known as the Leatherstocking Tales.  Among naval historians Cooper’s works on the early U.S. Navy have been well received, but they were sometimes criticized by his contemporaries.  Among his most famous works is the Romantic novel The Last of the Mohicans, often regarded as his masterpiece.”

                Cooper died of dropsy on September 14, 1851, the day before he turned 62 years old.  He was interred in Christ Episcopal Churchyard, where his father, William Cooper, was also buried.  Susan survived her husband by a few months and was buried by his side at Cooperstown.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Relevancy of Constitution

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the relevancy of the Constitution of the United States.  Many people today claim that the Constitution is outdated and should be changed or eliminated entirely.  Those people do not understand what the Constitution is and what it does for all Americans.

                Chad Kent, who writes and speaks about the Constitution, explains why one single article is relevant to Americans today.  “It’s trendy today to believe that our Constitution is outdated.  That it’s irrelevant to us as individual citizens.  But as Americans, we have to realize that our Constitution isn’t just some old document that gives power to our federal government.  Our Constitution was primarily designed to act like a shield that protects citizens like you and me from the government.
                “The idea behind the Constitution was to put limits on the government and keep it from doing bad things to you.  That’s why the Constitution matters so much to people like me.  That’s also why people like me tend to freak out a little bit when the government violates the Constitution – those violations tear down the protection that we have against the government doing bad things to us.
                “As much as that might seem theoretical or academic initially, Article 1, Section 9 is a perfect example of why those protections in the Constitution matter so much to us on a personal level.
                “Article 1, Section 9 is just a list of actions that the federal government is forbidden from taking – and three of the actions in that list are intended to prevent the government from unfairly putting you in prison.  I don’t know about you, but I kind of like the idea that my government shouldn’t be able to randomly throw me in jail.”

                Mr. Kent then proceeds to explain two actions that the Constitution protects Americans against:
(1) Writ of Habeas Corpus and (2) Bill of Attainder.  I encourage you to read his article and learn more about these actions.  I also encourage you to think about what would most likely happen if parts of the Constitution were taken away or ruled irrelevant.  I agree with Mr. Kent’s statement that we must enforce the entire Constitution or risk many liberties.  If our elected leaders and their appointees can decide which parts of the Constitution to enforce, they could simply choose to ignore Article 1, Section 9 and start throwing people in prison randomly.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Offer Whole Soul

                This week in my study of the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ I read some of the last words written by Amaleki; he wrote these words as he was nearing his death and preparing to hand over the sacred records to King Benjamin.  I believe that his words are important for all people who truly want to come unto Christ.

                “And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption.  Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26).

                Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered further understanding of offering our whole souls to Christ.  “So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar.  Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed!  Such is the `sacrifice unto the Lord … of a broken heart and a contrite spirit,’ (Doctrine and Covenants 59:8), a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving `away all [our] sins’ in order to `know God’ (Alma 22:18) for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him” (“Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness,” Ensign, May 1995).  

                Elder Maxwell spoke on this topic a few years later while speaking to the Priesthood brethren.  “Brethren, as you submit your wills to God, you are giving Him the only thing you can actually give Him that is really yours to give.  Don’t wait too long to find the altar or to begin to place the gift of your wills upon it!  No need to wait for a receipt; the Lord has His own special ways of acknowledging” (“Remember How Merciful the Lord Hath Been,” Ensign, May 2004).  

                Although none of this information is new to me, I am still impacted every time I read it.  It takes humility to acknowledge that God knows better than we do and that we can trust Him to make us into what we need to become.  As we humbly submit our will to His, we are developing the Christlike attribute of meekness, an attribute that is required for us to become like Christ.

Friday, November 20, 2015


                Families, communities, and nations can be strengthened when we ponderize the scriptures.  Ponderize is a word that was coined by Elder Devin G. Durrant in his address at the October General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Even though the word is not in any dictionary, it has become common in the lives of members of the Church.  Elder Durrant defined his new word as follows.

                “… I invite you to “ponderize” one verse of scripture each week.  The word ponderize is not found in the dictionary, but it has found a place in my heart.  So what does it mean to ponderize?  I like to say it’s a combination of 80 percent extended pondering and 20 percent memorization.  There are two simple steps:
                “First, choose a verse of scripture each week and place it where you will see it every day.
                “Second, read or think of the verse several times each day and ponder the meaning of its words and key phrases throughout the week.
                “Imagine the uplifting results of doing this weekly for six months, a year, ten years, or more.  As you make this effort, you will feel an increase in spirituality.  You will also be able to teach and lift those you love in more meaningful ways.”

                Elder Durrant promised that ponderizing weekly would bring “a deeper understanding of gospel principles” and “new spiritual perspectives” to bless our lives.  He said that the words and phrases would “be written on [our] hearts” and on our minds, that memorization would “take place easily and naturally.”  He declared, however, that “the primary goal of ponderizing is to provide an uplifting place for your thoughts to go – a place that keeps you close to the Spirit of the Lord.”

                I chose to memorize “The Living Christ,” a task that took several weeks.  I know that Elder Durrant’s promises are sure.  The memorizing became easier as the words and phrases were written on my heart and mind.  The visits of the Holy Ghost were longer and more meaningful.  When I began to murmur I had a safe place to send my mind and to help eliminate the negative thoughts.  I know that we can strengthen ourselves, our families, our communities, and our nations by following the counsel of Elder Durrant to ponderize a verse of scripture each week.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Do Not Repeal the Bill of Rights

                The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.
There are people in our nation demanding that the Bill of Rights be repealed.  I believe the people do not understand the importance of the Bill of Rights to the freedom of all Americans.

                There has been a slow and steady erosion of the freedoms we enjoy in the United States.  Bit by bit progressives have attacked the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.  Any further erosion could take all of our liberties.  Please do not let anyone convince you that the Bill of Rights is outdated.

                This quote is attributed to Thomas Jefferson and bears some pondering:  “Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense.  Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure…. On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

For a Wise Purpose

                While studying the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ this week, I was impressed again by Heavenly Father’s ability to plan and prepare for events hundreds and thousands of years before they happen.  Almost every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knows how the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon transcript were lost and not re-translated.  

                Martin Harris had served for a brief time as scribe for Joseph Smith as he translated the words from the gold plates, and he desired to share the information with his wife.  Joseph asked the Lord if he should let Martin take the manuscript.  The Lord said no.  Martin begged Joseph to ask again, and the answer was still no.  Martin pleaded again, and the answer came back yes.  Joseph reluctantly allowed Martin to take the manuscript home with him.  There it became “lost” or was stolen. 

                When Joseph realized what had happened, he went to the Lord with the problem and was thoroughly chastised for not taking the first “no.”  Joseph went through a period of repentance and then was allowed to translate once again.  When the Lord restored the power to translate, He told Joseph that “wicked men have taken them from you” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:8).  He said that “Satan hath put it into their hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written….” (v. 10) and the men “had altered the words” v. 11) in an effort to “destroy this work” (v. 12).

                The Lord continued telling Joseph that the men were working under the influence of Satan to stop the Lord’s work.  “For, behold, they shall not accomplish their evil designs in lying against those words.  For, behold, if you should bring forth the same words they will say that you have lied and that you have pretended to translate, but that you have contradicted yourself (v.31).”   So, Joseph did not re-translate the pages but moved forward with the work from that point.  He discovered that much of the same information that was on the 116 pages of manuscript was in the work he was then translating, plus much more.  He then realized that the Lord had prepared for the mistake many hundreds of years previously. 

                Nearly six hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Nephi was commanded to make a second set of records.  He wrote in 1 Nephi 9:5 that he did not know why the commandment was given, but he did understand that it was “for a wise purpose.”   The first set is known as the large plates of Nephi, and the second set is known as the small plates of Nephi.  The small plates covered the period of 600-130 B.C., and the 116 pages of manuscript covered the exact same period of time.  The large plates contained more of the history and temporal information; the small plates contained more prophecy and sacred teachings.

                When Mormon was compiling his records nearly a thousand years after Nephi, he made an abridgement of the information on the large plates.  Then he found the small plates among the many records in his possession and felt impressed to simply include them. 

                “And now, I speak somewhat concerning that which I have written; for after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and found these plates, which contained this small account of the prophets, from Jacob down to the reign of this king Benjamin, and also many of the words of Nephi.
                “And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me, because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ; ….
                “Wherefore, I chose these things to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi; ….
                “But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren.
                “And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me.  And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will” (Words of Mormon 1:3-7).

                Like many members of the Church, I thought I knew the wise purpose for including the small plates of Nephi; however, I learned from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that there was a wiser purpose for the inclusion than simply compensating for the loss of the 116-page manuscript.

                “But it strikes me that there is a wiser purpose than that….  The key to such a suggestion of a wiser purpose is in verse 45 of Doctrine and Covenants section 10.  As the Lord instructs Joseph … he says, `Behold, there are many things engraven upon the [small] plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel’ (emphasis added).
                “So, clearly, this was not … tit for tat, this for that – you give me 116 pages of manuscript and I’ll give you 142 pages of printed text.  Not so.  We got back more than we lost.  And it was known from the beginning that it would be so.  It was for a wiser purpose.  We do not know exactly what we missed in the 116 pages, but we do know that what we received on the small plates was the personal declarations of three great witnesses [Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah], three of the great doctrinal voices of the Book of Mormon, testifying that Jesus is the Christ….
                “In fact, I think you could make a pretty obvious case that the sole purpose of the small plates was to give a platform for these three witnesses” (“A Standard unto My People” [Church Educational System symposium on the Book of Mormon, Aug. 9, 1994], 9-10; as quoted in Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121-122, pp. 134-135). 

                We know from the scriptures that Nephi made the small plates for a wise purpose, and Mormon included them in his record for a wise purpose.  We know from Elder Holland that there was a wiser purpose than the one known by many of us for numerous years.  The wiser purpose, as explained by Elder Holland, was to include the testimonies of Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah. 

                My first thought after reading Elder Holland’s words was to ponder “the doctrine of Christ” that I wrote about previously.  We might not have known this doctrine so plainly and so clearly without the small plates.  You may remember, Nephi taught “the doctrine of Christ” in the last pages of his writings and near the time of his death.  Without this great doctrine, we may not have had Article of Faith #4, which explains the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.  We would have missed out on much if Nephi and Mormon had not followed the promptings of the still, small voice.  I am grateful to have the witnesses of Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah.

                My second thought was to wonder if I am being impressed to do things “for a wise purpose” that I know not.  I hope I am responsive enough to the promptings of the Spirit to accomplish all that is required of me.  I do not know all things, but the Lord does.  I know He can prompt me to do “wise” things in order to further His work here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Refugee Conundrum

                I am sincerely torn about the refugee problem.  On one side is my common sense that says to stop the refugee programs and stop refugees from coming into our nation, particularly those of Muslim persuasion.  Why would anyone put a poisonous snake in their pocket?  It just does not make sense to invite sworn enemies into our nation.  I do not want to provide anything – money, homes, clothing, food, access – to people who will abuse the gift.  We already have plenty of people in our own nation that need help.  Why can’t we use our money to help them instead of bringing more needy people into our nation?

                Then there is my other side.  I feel great empathy for parents who are striving to take their children to a safe place.  I feel great empathy for people who have had to leave their homes and all their belongings and now have nothing except what they are wearing or carrying.  I feel a great need to help people who need assistance.

                This side includes the part of me that desires to be obedient to God and His prophets.  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency spoke at the “Volkstrauertag” gathering on November 15, 2015, at the Fort Douglas Military Cemetery in Salt Lake City.  Germans at home and abroad celebrate “Volkstrauertag” annually; it is their national day of remembrance to commemorate all war victims.  German-Americans and their friends gathered to pay tribute to 41 German prisoners of war and others who are buried at Fort Douglas Military Cemetery.  This marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II as well as the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Germany.

                President Uchtdorf knows well what it is like to be refugee as he was displaced twice during his childhood in Germany.  He has great compassion, empathy, and love for the millions of refugees and emigrants today who need assistance.  He declared the “Volkstrauertag” is a day to speak out for peace as well as to mourn the dead.
                “This is our responsibility [for] our children and their children.  It takes empathy and action to influence the future of mankind based on dignity, honesty and eternal values – regardless of differences in politics, religion, race or cultural traditions.”
                President Uchtdorf encouraged his listeners to love those who suffer, including many innocent children and their families.  He said that we have responsibilities as Christians – or any other religion – to reach out and help.  He counseled us to follow the example of Jesus Christ and show compassion and empathy for all.
                Can you see my conundrum?  I know President Uchtdorf is a prophet, seer, and revelator, and I know that he sees and understands things that I do not.  I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent $5 million in cash or goods to help the refugees in Europe, and I supplied some of that money.  The leaders of the Church desire to help all of God’s children.  How can we do it safely?

                Then I realized as I was writing this post how it can be done.  President Uchtdorf was speaking to individual people.  As individuals we are responsible to care for each other, no matter who they are or what they might do.  We are commanded to love God and to love our fellowman.  Many of us are under covenant to do so.  God expects us to help care for His children.  At the same time, one of the purposes for our federal government is to protect us from enemies both within and without our borders.  Individuals can show love, empathy, and compassion at the same time that governments take the necessary steps to safeguard their people.  This is the answer to my conundrum!

Monday, November 16, 2015

George Gallup

                George Horace Gallup was born on November 18, 1901, in Jefferson, Iowa.  He was the son of George Henry Gallup, a dairy farmer.  George, Jr., then known as “Ted” delivered milk and “used his salary to start a newspaper at the high school.”  He was also a football player who played for the University of Iowa while he obtained his higher education.  He was “editor of The Daily Iowan, an independent newspaper which serves the university campus.  He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1923, his Master of Arts in 1925, and his Ph.D. in 1928.

                After obtaining his education, he “served as the head of the Department of Journalism” at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1931 he became “a professor of journalism and advertising at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  The next year, he moved to New York City to join the advertising agency of Young and Rubicam as director of research” and later as vice president.  He was also “professor of journalism at Columbia University.”  He resigned from this position soon after he started the American Institute of Public Opinion (known as Gallup Poll) in 1935.

                As “an American pioneer of survey sampling techniques,” he is “often credited as the developer of public polling” after helping his mother-in-law with some political polling.  “In 1936, his new organization achieved national recognition by correctly predicting, from the replies of only 50,000 respondents, that Franklin Roosevelt would defeat Alf Landon in the U.S. Presidential election.  This was I direct contradiction to the widely respected Literary Digest magazine whose poll based on over two million returned questionnaires predicted that Landon would be the winner.  Not only did Gallup get the election right, he correctly predicted the results of the Literary Digest poll as well using a random sample smaller than theirs but chosen to match it.
                “Twelve years later, his organization had its moment of greatest ignominy, when it predicted that Thomas Dewey would defeat Harry S. Truman in the 1948 election, by five to fifteen percentage points.  Gallup believed the error was mostly due to ending his polling three weeks before Election Day.”

                Gallup died on July 26, 1984, “of a heart attack at his summer home in Tschingel, a village in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland” and was buried in the Princeton Cemetery.  His wife died in 1988.  The couple had one son, George Gallup, Jr., writer and pollster, who died in 2011.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Purpose of Constitution

                What was the purpose for writing the Constitution?  Chad Kent, author and speaker on the Constitution, reminded his readers that our contracts do not contain any clauses except those whose meanings are important to the contract.  He then argued that it is “ridiculous to argue that a given clause of the Constitution has a meaning that completely defeats the purpose that the document was created to serve.  That is why … we need to keep the purpose of the Constitution as a whole in mind whenever we are interpreting it….
                “The founders of this country were brilliant people.  They wrote a Constitution that was designed to limit the federal government and protect the liberty of the American people.  It is common sense to assume that every clause that they included in our Constitution was intended to achieve those primary goals.  It would be illogical to assume that these brilliant people would approve clauses that completely contradicted the entire reason they were writing a constitution in the first place.
                “In order to get to the proper interpretation of the Constitution – the one that will protect our rights and preserve our liberty – we have to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the purpose of the document as a whole….”

                Mr. Kent then proceeds to discuss four things about the Constitution that we know to be true:  (1) “It was designed to create a limited federal government….”  (2) “It was designed to protect the liberty and individual rights of the American people….”  (3) “The federal government does not have the power to do anything until that power is granted to it….”  (4) “The States were intended to play a critical role in how our country functions….”

                Mr. Kent suggests that any interpretation should be compared to these four known facts.  For more of Mr. Kent’s explanation, check out this site.