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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Standing Rock Protests

                Thousands of people have been protesting the building of an oil pipeline in North Dakota. The protests have continued for more than three months, and most of the protesters do not live in North Dakota. They are there to protest an oil pipeline project that has met all the legal requirements and is currently 85 percent complete.

                The protesters – “celebrities, political activists, and anti-oil extremists” – are basing their protest on emotions rather than facts, news reporters build on emotions rather than furnishing facts. The protesters object to the location of the pipeline being too close to the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This should not be a problem because the pipeline will be located “92 feet below the riverbed, with increased pipe thickness and control valves at both ends of the crossing to reduce the risk of an incident, which is already low.”

                Representative Kevin Creamer, the Representative for North Dakota and a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, published an article about the Standing Rock protests for The Daily Signal. He writes, “This 1,172-mile Dakota Access pipeline will deliver as many as 570,000 barrels of oil a day from northwestern North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to connect to existing pipelines in Illinois. It will do this job far more safely than the current method of transporting it by 750 rail cars a day.”

                Creamer noted that company building the pipeline “is taking all necessary precautions to ensure that the pipeline does not leak” and there will be another “water intake” further downstream for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

                According to Creamer, the Sioux leaders at Standing Rock have not met with either the pipeline company or the Army Corps of Engineers. “The Army Corps consulted with 55 Native American tribes at least 389 times, after which they proposed 140 variations of the route to avoid culturally sensitive areas in North Dakota. The logical time for Standing Rock tribal leaders to share their concerns would have been at these meetings, not now when construction is already near completion.”

                Creamer also notes that the pipeline is being built in the original area, which is south of Bismarck, North Dakota, rather than north of the city as the protesters claim. The company did not pursue the northern route because that course “would have affected an additional 165 acres of land, 48 extra miles of previously undisturbed field areas, and an additional 33 waterbodies.”

                Creamer’s article is very interesting and informative. He concludes, “The simple fact is that our nation will continue to produce and consume oil, and pipelines are the safest and most efficient way to transport it. Legally permitted infrastructure projects must be allowed to proceed without threat of improper governmental meddling.

                “The rule of law matters. We cannot allow lawless mobs to obstruct projects that have met all legal requirements to proceed. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Is the Election Over?

                Hillary Clinton conceded defeat three weeks ago, and most Americans thought the presidential election was behind us. Apparently we were wrong. All those paid protesters were simply the prelude to new drama.

                President-elect Donald Trump recently claimed on Twitter that “millions” of people voted illegally in the election. He presented no proof for his claim. We can only guess at the reason for his statement, but we can suspect a few possibilities.

                One reason could have something to do with all the noise that Hillary won the “popular vote” by more than two million. I read something a few days ago that more than three million illegal votes were cast in the election. If that figure is true – and most of the illegals voted for Clinton – then Trump won the popular vote!

                A second reason could have to do with Green Party candidate Jill Stein who filed for a recount in Wisconsin last week and may file for recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Trump flipped these traditionally Democrat-leaning states, and Stein apparently believes that Russian hacking of the political machines caused Clinton’s defeat. Again, there is no evidence of any tampering by hackers.

                In fact, the Obama administration issued this statement: “We stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people…. The federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyber activity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on Election Day…. We believe our elections were free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective.”

                So, if there is no evidence of millions of illegal votes or election tampering – and the federal government believes the election was fair, why is Jill Stein, supported by Hillary Clinton, calling for recounts three weeks after Clinton conceded the election and Stein failed to get enough votes to even matter? Is it just a scam by Stein to get donations? Are people trying to tie up the electoral votes in those states to force Trump’s numbers below 270?

                The answer is: Who knows?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fidel Castro

                 Fidel Castro has finally died, but Cuba is not free. Castro died on Saturday, 26 November 2016, but the island nation is still ruled by his dictator brother. The Castro brothers have reigned in Cuba for more than 60 years. Instead of freedom and prosperity, they brought poverty to their nation and forced many freedom-loving Cubans to leave their country, be jailed, or be killed.

                While many world leaders, including Barack Obama, offered condolences to the Castro family, two U.S. Senators with Cuban ancestry told the real story. One of the Senators, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), sent the following tweet: “President Obama issued a pathetic statement on death of dictator #FidelCastro with no mention of thousands he killed & imprisoned. #Cuba”

                Senator Rubio also published the following statement:  “Fidel Castro seized power promising to bring freedom and prosperity to Cuba, but his communist regime turned it into an impoverished island prison. Over six decades, millions of Cubans were forced to flee their own country, and those accused of opposing the regime were routinely jailed and even killed.
                “Sadly, Fidel Castro’s death does not mean freedom for the Cuban people or justice for the democratic activists, religious leaders, and political opponents he and his brother have jailed and persecuted. The dictator has died, but the dictatorship has not. And one thing is clear, history will not absolve Fidel Castro; it will remember him as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people.
                “The future of Cuba ultimately remains in the hands of the Cuban people, and now more than ever Congress and the new administration must stand with them against their brutal rulers and support their struggle for freedom and basic human rights.”

                Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) stated, “Fidel Castro’s death cannot bring back his thousands of victims, nor can it bring comfort to their families.” He added, “Today we remember them and honor the brave souls who fought the lonely fight against the brutal Communist dictatorship he imposed on Cuba.”

                These two Senators have personal and family history with Cuba. Senator Cruz is the son of a Cuban father who was fortunate enough to escape from Cuba in 1957. Senator Rubio’s parents left Cuba in 1956 before Castro came to power.

                I feel certain that Senators Cruz and Rubio have more information about what really happened in Cuba in the 1950s than Barack Obama or any of the other world leaders who feel so badly that Fidel Castro passed away. The Senators are joined by other Americans with Cuban ancestry who are celebrating the death of a dictator.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

U.N. Global Warming Treaty

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the Treaty Clause. Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution states: “The President… shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur….”

                Michael Bastasch at The Daily Signal explains how the Obama administration bypassed the Senate with the U.N.’s global warming treaty. The Senate declined to ratify the treaty, but Barack Obama did ratify it in September by executive actions. Nearly 200 countries ratified the global warming treaty. This is enough countries to bring to bring the treaty into force this year even though the U.S. Senate did not ratify it.

                Mr. Obama “promised to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent by 2025.” His “ambitious pledge – and every domestic regulation crafted to meet it – was meant to convince China to sign onto the deal.” “China pledged to `peak’ emissions by 2030, but made no promise to actually cut global warming emissions.”

                Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry voicing their concerns. The committee members want the Obama administration to be more honest with the international committee about how treaties are ratified in the United States. They “warned that bypassing the Senate, Obama is relying on his `sole executive authority’ to enforce the treaty, meaning it’s `no different than the president giving a speech, or stating at a news conference’ that he’s fighting global warming.”

                The Republicans are not only concerned about Mr. Obama bypassing their authority. They are concerned that his “plan `leaves the door open for any future administration to alter its course.'”

                Donald Trump promised to pull out of the U.N. deal if he is elected, but he may have a difficult time doing so if it is “already in effect. That’s why the Obama administration will heavily focus on implementing the UN treaty at the Marrakech meeting.” There is a court challenge that may solve the problem.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Program or Attitude

                Just prior to His death the Savior, Jesus Christ, instructed His followers to share His gospel. The scriptures state that He said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

                The leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continue to stress the importance of spreading the gospel to all the world. In the October 2016 General Conference of the Church, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed this topic and gave it a different slant. 

                Elder Oaks reminds his listeners that we have many resources to share the gospel today that were not available in the time of Christ. “We have TV, the internet, and social media channels. We have many valuable messages to introduce the restored gospel. We have the prominence of the Church in many nations. We have a greatly increased number of missionaries. But are we using all these resources to maximum effect? I believe most of us would say no. We desire to be more effective in fulfilling our divinely appointed responsibility to proclaim the restored gospel in all the world.”

                After saying there are “many good ideas for sharing the gospel,” Elder Oaks suggests three ways that members can fulfill “our lifelong Christian duty and privilege.”
                “First, we can all pray for desire to help with this vital part of the work of salvation. All efforts begin with desire.
                “Second, we can keep the commandments ourselves. Faithful, obedient members are the most persuasive witnesses of the truth and value of the restored gospel….
                “Third, we can pray for inspiration on what we can do in our individual circumstances to share the gospel with others. This is different than praying for the missionaries or praying for what others can do. We should pray for what we can do personally. When we pray, we should remember that prayers for this kind of inspiration will be answered if accompanied by a commitment – something the scriptures call `real intent’ or `full purpose of heart.’ Pray with a commitment to act upon the inspiration you receive, promising the Lord that if He will inspire you to speak to someone about the gospel, you will do it.

                Elder Oaks concludes his address: “Sharing the gospel is not a burden but a joy. What we call `member missionary work’ is not a program but an attitude of love and outreach to help those around us. It is also an opportunity to witness how we feel about the restored gospel of our Savior….”

                So, it appears that missionary work is just like everything else in our lives. It is our attitude that makes the difference! As we live the gospel and pray for the desire to share the gospel with us, we must be willing to follow whatever promptings come.

Friday, November 25, 2016

We Accepted His Plan for Us

                We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by studying “The Family: AProclamation to the Worldand by following its precepts. One way to study the proclamation is one paragraph at a time. This is the fourth article in this series.

                The third paragraph of the proclamation states: “In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”

                This paragraph says that our Father in Heaven explained His plan for our eternal happiness while we lived with Him in the pre-mortal realm. It also says that we accepted His plan for us to come to earth to receive a physical body and gain the experience necessary to become like Him.

                President Henry B. Eyring suggests that we study the proclamation on the family as if we were children. He states, “Understanding these truths ought to make it easier for us to feel like a little child, not just as we read the proclamation but throughout our lives, because we are children – but in what a family and of what parents! We can picture ourselves as we were, for longer than we can imagine, sons and daughters associating in our heavenly home with parents who knew and loved us. Also, we know that in the premortal world we were men or women with unique gifts because of our gender and that the opportunity to be married and to become one was necessary for us to have eternal happiness. But now that we are here we can picture ourselves home again with our heavenly parents in that wonderful place, not only as sons and daughters but as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, grandsons and granddaughters, bound together forever in loving families.
                “There is only one place in heaven where there will be families – the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. That is where we will want to be.”

                As you study the third paragraph of the proclamation, you may want to share what you learn in a family home evening. This site has a wonderful family home evening program all outlined with lesson, music, activity, and refreshments. I hope you will use this outline and strengthen your family, community, and nation by understanding the doctrine that our Heavenly Father has a plan by which we can gain eternal happiness and that we accepted His plan while still in the pre-mortal world.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Freedom to Protest

                The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday comes from the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

                Following the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States (POTUS), many protesters took to the streets of numerous cities to protest his election. The First Amendment gives Americans the right to express their thoughts, to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for redress. The protests started peaceably, but some of the protests became destructive.

                I find it interesting that many liberals were concerned that conservatives would riot after the election – even though conservatives did not riot after either of the elections of Barack Obama. They wanted Trump to pledge to accept the results of the election because they were sure Hillary Clinton would win it. They were stunned when Clinton lost, and they immediately took to the streets to protest. The protesters did not get want they wanted, and they reacted as two-year-old children throwing temper tantrums.

                There were instances of flag burning as well as claims that the protesters were being paid to march. There are also reports that some of the protesters did not choose to vote or even register to vote. Some of the protests turned into mob actions, and property was destroyed. Many protesters were arrested even as the protests continued.

                Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton should have acted as grownups and told their supporters to go home and accept the results of the election. Instead, they said nothing. When they did make comments, they simply added fuel to the fire of indignation with their statements.  Most liberals are so used to getting their own way that they do not know how to lose gracefully.

                An editorial from Deseret News says, “The right to protest and the freedom to assemble are fundamental rights. They have also been the catalyst of important social change throughout American history. Yet, when a protest lingers long after an election, and in some instances causes danger, putting added strain on law enforcement, the utility of such a post-election protest is questionable.
                “More perilous is that such protests often cause politics to become so polarized that it makes it hard for politicians to work together.
                “Real political solutions come from listening, understanding, mutual respect and compromise. The business of persuading and unifying is hard work. Uncomfortable as it may sound, it takes a healthy dose of empathy and human compassion.”

                Americans have the right to assemble and to march in the streets in protest. I believe that this right does not include the right to burn the flag of our country or to destroy the property of other people. The election is over, and the “children” have thrown their “temper tantrums.” Now it is time for all of us to work together as we hold Mr. Trump to his promises to make our country great.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


                Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, and our thoughts go back to the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  The colonists had reason to celebrate. Their first winter in America was terrible with nearly half of the people dying. The survivors rejoiced because their situation was much different than the previous year. They understood their circumstances much better and appreciated their good corn harvest and successful hunts. Governor William Bradford decreed that December 13, 1621, would be a day for feasting and expressions of gratitude.

                Harold Hansen, a professor at Brigham Young University, described the celebration: “The women of the colony spent days preparing for the feast. Foods were boiled, baked, and roasted. The children were kept very busy turning roasts on spits or iron rods in front of the open fires. More than eighty Indians attended the feast. The Indians brought wild turkeys and venison as their share. The tables were set outdoors, and all the people sat around the combined tables like one large family. Prayers, sermons, and songs of praise accompanied the feasting. Three days were devoted to the Thanksgiving, and then the Indians returned to the forests and the colonists to their toil.”

                Thanksgiving is not only a time for giving thanks, but it is also a time for the gathering of family and friends and the strengthening of relationships. My family – all six children and seventeen grandchildren – are together for this Thanksgiving week, and I am grateful for this great blessing. I hope that you are gathered with your loved ones while you rejoice and thank God for your blessings. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I Am Grateful for My Family

                Thanksgiving Day is fast approaching. My husband and I are currently gathered with our six children, their six spouses, and our seventeen grandchildren. This is the first time that we have been with all our children since April 2008 when our youngest daughter was married. We had only seven grandchildren at that time. The last of the group arrived today.

                We have numerous events planned for the week. The most important event, other than simply being together, will be a family picture. A major topic of discussion was dress code for the pictures. We decided on dressy casual standards with black or gray as the basic color with individual families choosing colors to go with them. My husband and I had a difficult time finding a shirt for him to wear for the occasion.

                Tonight we had a family talent show. Some of the grandchildren are budding musicians. We had several who played piano solos, some who played other instruments or sand, and our oldest granddaughter – fourteen years old – sang and accompanied herself with the guitar. A younger granddaughter is an author who read one of her original stories. There were several exhibits by budding artists and other talents. The highlight of the evening was our son – who does not play the guitar or sing – strumming the guitar and singing. We held a family spelling bee after the talent show. The older grandchildren went longer than the younger ones, and the last two were evenly matched for too long.

                Earlier this evening I asked each of my grandchildren and some of their parents what they were most grateful for this Thanksgiving season. Almost all of them said that they were grateful for their family. Some of them were more specific in saying they were grateful for their cousins or the cousins their age, but the major answer was “family.”

                I too am grateful for my family. I am grateful to be the mother of six children. I am grateful that they are all happily married, well educated, and productive members of their communities. I am also grateful to be the grandmother of seventeen grandchildren. I am that we are all comparatively healthy and that each household has employment. I am grateful that my children love each other and enjoy spending time together. I am grateful that my family can be together for all eternity by keeping the covenants we have made with God.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Justice Clarence Thomas

                Justice Clarence Thomas serves on the U.S. Supreme Court, only the second black man to do so. Yet the new National Museum of African American History and Culture did not see fit to showcase his life and career. The museum does, however, give a prominent spot to Anita Hill, the woman who accused Thomas of sexual harassment.

                I believe it is only natural to ask for the reason(s) for the only mention of Justice Thomas being in connection with Hill. Could there be a political reason behind the neglect due to the fact that the Justice is conservative?

                The Daily Signal reports that seventeen members of Congress recently sent a letter to the secretary of the Smithsonian inquiring about Justice Thomas’ absence from the museum. The congressional letter reads: “The background and accomplishments of Justice Thomas are worthy of inclusion in the museum on their own merits…. Justice Thomas’ contributions to the judicial system through his appointment to the highest court in the country cannot be discounted. It is a disservice to his legacy and to the history to mention his name in a single caption, but provide no other exhibit showcasing his story.
                “With this in mind, we insist that you provide an explanation about the conspicuous absence of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from the new museum, and of any future plans to feature him in a permanent exhibit.”

                An online petition addressed to Dr. Lonnie Bunch III, the founding director of the museum, has more than 7,000 supporters. The petition reads in part that Justice Thomas “has established himself as one of the brightest legal minds of his generation, yet the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture fails to include any mention of his numerous accolades. This obvious oversight is even more glaring since this month commemorates Justice Thomas’ 25th anniversary on the Court.
                “It is obvious politics is what kept Justice Thomas out of the museum. For years, he has been shunned by the liberal black community since he has spoken out against affirmative action. He has written that affirmative action amounts to racial discrimination, and detailed how it worked against him when he was trying to find work as a lawyer.
                “Curators at the museum singled out Thomas due to his unique views on race and his conservative thought that the federal government is the greatest threat to our individual liberties. The museum highlights people of less noble endeavors, and it is unfathomable to think the curators were not open-minded enough to include all historically significant African Americans, no matter their political beliefs….”
                Of course, a spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution claims that the museum could not “tell every story” of the experiences of African Americans. Linda St. Thomas said, “There are many compelling personal stories about African Americans who have become successful in various fields, and, obviously, Associate Justice Thomas is one of them…. However, we cannot tell every story in our inaugural exhibitions.”

                Justice Thomas is not the only successful African American not being showcased in the museum. toured the new exhibit and then asked why Justice Thomas and eight other prominent men and women were not included. The answer was that they could not include every successful black American.

                Eight other successful African Americans that were not included are: (1) Cora Brown (first African American woman elected to a state Senate in Michigan), (2) Alveda King (served in Georgia state legislature and pro-life advocate), (3) Senator Tim Scott (first African-American senator from South Carolina, first black Republican Senator, and first elected from the south since 1881), (4) Michael Steele (first African American chairperson of the Republican National Committee), (5) Kenneth Blackwell (mayor of Cincinnati, OH, State Treasurer, and Secretary of State for Ohio), (6) Thomas Sowell (economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author), (7) Shelby Steele (author, columnist, documentary filmmaker), and (8) Walter E. Williams (economist at George Mason University).

                I do not recognize all of the people named above, but I know that Walter E. Williams, Thomas Sowell, Tim Scott, and Alveda King are conservatives who encourage African Americans to take responsibility for themselves and their families. Could this be the reason that they are excluded from the museum?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Freedom of Speech

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the freedom to speak. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees the freedom of speech, but Americans continue to experience problems exercising this freedom. The main problem is censorship of speech in order to prevent individuals from being offended.

                The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech….” It states that “Congress” shall not legislate what we say, but it includes all levels of government. Yet, Americans, particularly students, are being told that they cannot express their feelings in non-aggressive ways.

                Michael Bargo, Jr. at American Thinker believes that the Constitution is violated several ways when the language and actions of Americans are censored or banned. His article makes some very good points, and I recommend that you read the entire works. I will share just a few of his paragraphs to give you an idea of what is in his article and to show some ways our freedom of speech is being curtailed.

            One, the most obvious one, is that it allows a tiny group of people to say they are offended and thereby censor the language of others. The First Amendment does not say that the freedom of speech can be infringed by somebody claiming to be offended by the exercise of someone else’s speech. This standard of personal feeling is not written anywhere into any right protected by the Constitution. Feelings are not relevant -- they simply are not mentioned as variables that influence legislation. If they were, people should have the power to shut down government regulations because they were offended by them. But, curiously, those who promote using the concept of personal offense never speak of limiting government, only limiting the people.
                “Evidence of this is that we are told no matter how many people are offended by government mandates or Supreme Court decisions, such as same-sex marriage, the fact that people are offended doesn’t have any standing when standing in the way of the rights of others being expanded. The people can’t influence government on the basis of being personally offended, only government bureaucrats can use this strategy."

                Bargo continues, “This leads into the second important Constitutional issue regarding the offensive language standard: the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment says that no state can pass a law that denies anyone equal protection. This means that a tiny group of people cannot have a right to censor language as offensive, and no one else. So far no one has explained, in constitutional terms; why one person, who claims to be offended, has the right to shut down the speech, clothing, or legal actions of everyone else.
                “At first glance this looks ridiculous, and it is. But like many other liberal power-enabling concepts, those perpetrating it intend to repeat it so often that it becomes accepted by a majority of Americans. But it cannot survive constitutional scrutiny for the simple reason that in order to accept the censorship authority of person A, one has to disqualify the censorship authority of person B. Simply put, this implies that one person’s feeling of being offended has value, and everyone else’s doesn’t. This is unequal protection. A regulation is as legally binding as a law, so one can argue that this regulation, of elevating personal feelings to regulations, is asserting unequal protection of the law. And this is what the 14th Amendment clearly bans."

                Bargo explains, “The idea that one person, or a small number of persons, can veto a law or control the speech of others has the very real effect of seizing power over the votes of everyone else. This is because if a small group of bureaucrats can censor speech, they can censor the expression of speech through the ballot box. This deliberately concentrates power into the hands of a small number of people. And this violates the one person one vote concept that has been repeatedly protected by Supreme Court rulings.”

            One of the reasons why Donald Trump became so popular with the people is the fact that he is not “politically correct.” He does not care if he offends anyone by telling the truth. I do not believe in rudeness, but I do believe that we should be able to express our thoughts in a civilized way without being censored.

            We have God-given agency, which is the freedom to choose. One of our choices is the decision to take offense at what we see or hear. We have the freedom to be offended, but we do not have the freedom to censor what someone else says or does.

            I appreciate the counsel given by Elder David A. Bednarof the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make. It is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.
            “In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see [Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ], 2 Nephi 2:13-14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent actions and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.”

            Our God-given agency and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution give us the freedom to speak, act, and wear what we choose. No one has the right to take those freedoms from us. However, we must remember that all of our choices have consequences and act accordingly.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Valiant in Testimony of Christ

                I know many young adults who have either left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or have become inactive in it. I am confident that some of them drifted into inactivity without even thinking about it. Once one misses a Sunday or two, it becomes easier to stay home and eventually stop attending Sunday meetings. The same applies to personal and family prayer, individual and family scripture study, or any other righteous action.

                I know that some of these young people have chosen to leave the Church over doctrine or historical occurrences. Some of them have listened to anti-Mormon messages and thrown away everything they knew about the Church. Some have even rebelled against Christ’s teachings.

                I feel great concern for these young adults – some of whom are now reaching middle age. Some of them are members of my own family. Others are the children of dear friends. Still others are former students. All of them are dearly loved by me and by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ even though they are not valiant in their testimonies of Jesus Christ. They are often in my thoughts and prayers.

                Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about remaining valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ. “Eternal life is the greatest gift of God and is bestowed on those who `keep [God’s] commandments and endure to the end’ (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). On the other hand, eternal life with our Heavenly Father is denied those `who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus’ (Doctrine and Covenants 76:79). There are a number of stumbling blocks to our valor that can prevent us from reaching the goal of eternal life.”                 

                Stating that “stumbling blocks can be complex” Elder Cook shared a personal experience to illustrate his point. His father built a small cabin on the ranch where he was reared. Elder Cook visited his father after the cabin was framed. He looked out the window at the “exceptional” and “magnificent” vistas that could be seen. Right in the middle of the view was a power pole. Elder Cook thought the pole ruined the view and spoke to his father about it. His father explained, “Quentin, that power pole is the most beautiful thing to me on the entire ranch! … When I look at that pole, I realize that, unlike when I grew up here, I will not have to carry water in containers from the spring up to the house to cook, wash my hands, or bathe. I will not have to light candles or oil lamps at night to read. I want to see that power pole right in the middle of the view window.”    The father had a different perspective than the son. To one it meant an improved life, and to the other it was “a stumbling block to a magnificent vista.”

                Elder Cook explained that a “stumbling block is `an impediment to belief or understanding’ or `an obstacle to progress.’ To stumble spiritually is `to fall into sin or waywardness.’ A stumbling block can be anything that distracts us from achieving righteous goals.”

                After stating that we “cannot afford to have our testimonies of the Father and the Son become confused and complicated by stumbling blocks,” Elder Cook proceeds to share “some of the stumbling blocks that confuse and complicate our pure and simple testimony of the Father and the Son and keep us from being valiant in that testimony.”

                The first stumbling block Elder Cook speaks about is “the philosophies of men.” “We are committed to knowledge of every kind and believe `the glory of God is intelligence.’ But we also know that the preferred strategy of the adversary is to lead people away from God and cause them to stumble by emphasizing the philosophies of men over the Savior and His teachings….
                “We know the Apostasy occurred in part because the philosophies of men were elevated over Christ’s basic, essential doctrine. Instead of the simplicity of the Savior’s message being taught, many plain and precious truths were changed or lost….
                “At the dawn of the Restoration, many at least professed to follow the Savior’s teachings. Many countries considered themselves Christian nations. But even then there was prophecy of a more difficult time for our day.”

                Elder Cook quoted Heber C. Kimball who was called as an apostle at the time of Joseph Smith. Elder Kimball warned: “The time is coming when … it will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint from the face of an enemy to the people of God. Then … look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall.’ He concluded that there is `a TEST coming.”

                Explaining that Christianity is decreasing in many nations, Elder Cook continues. “Unfortunately, this also happens with some members of the Church who lose their bearings and become influenced by the cause of the moment – many of which are clearly not righteous.” He then adds the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell in 1982: “Much sifting will occur because of lapses in righteous behavior which go unrepented of. A few will give up instead of holding out to the end. A few will be deceived by defectors. Likewise, others will be offended, for sufficient unto each dispensation are the stumbling blocks thereof!”

                Elder Cook’s second stumbling block is “Refusing to see sin in its true light.” Many people today are committing great sins but refuse to recognize them as sins. “They have no remorse or willingness to acknowledge their conduct as being morally wrong. Even some who profess a belief in the Father and the Son wrongfully take the position that a loving Father in Heaven should exact no consequences for conduct that is contrary to His commandments.” To these people, Elder Cook recommends repentance. “The remarkable and celestial blessing of the Savior’s Atonement is that through repentance, sinful conduct is blotted out….”

                Elder Cook’s third stumbling block is “Looking beyond the mark.” “While there are many examples of looking beyond the mark, a significant one in our day is extremism. Gospel extremism is when one elevates any gospel principle above other equally important principles and takes a position that is beyond or contrary to the teachings of Church leaders. One example is when one advocates for additions, changes, or primary emphasis to one part of the Word of Wisdom. Another is expensive preparation for end-of-days scenarios. In both examples, others are encouraged to accept private interpretations….”

                Concluding his address Elder Cook states, “If we are to be valiant in our testimony of Jesus, we must avoid the stumbling blocks that entrap and impede the progress of many otherwise honorable men and women. Let us determine to always be in His service. While seeking knowledge, we need to avoid the philosophies of men that lessen our commitment to the Savior. We must see sin in its true light and accept the Savior’s Atonement through repentance. We need to avoid looking beyond the mark and focus on Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, and follow His doctrine.”

                What some people see as a stumbling block, others see as a stepping stone – just as Elder Cook and his father had different opinions of the power pole. We can be sure that “being valiant in our testimony of Jesus is a stepping-stone toward qualifying for the Savior’s grace and the celestial kingdom.”

                It is my hope and my prayer that I will stay valiant in my testimony of Jesus Christ and then hold up His light to all my family and friends. I especially hope that all my young adult and not so young friends and family members will see it and follow that light into the Celestial Kingdom.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Divine Nature and Destiny

                We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by studying “The Family: AProclamation to the Worldand by following its precepts. One way to study the proclamation is one paragraph at a time.

                The second paragraph of the proclamation states: “All human beings – male and female – are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

                If we study that paragraph as if we were children (as suggested by President Henry B. Eyring), we will gain much understanding of the doctrine presented in those three sentences. The first sentence tells us that we are not only created by God, but we are created in his image. We look like God. Therefore, God looks like us. He has a head, torso, arms, and legs. He has two eyes, two ears, a nose, and a mouth. Even little children can understand how children look like their father.

                The second sentence tells us that we are the children of God. We are His beloved sons and daughters. He is the Father of our spirits. As such, He loves us more than anyone on earth loves us. He watches over us and blesses us whenever He can. We have the potential to become as He is because we each have a “divine nature and destiny.”

                The third sentence tells us that our gender is eternal. We were male or female long before we were mortally conceived. We were identified as male or female in our pre-earth lives, and we will be identified as male or female in our eternal lives no matter what we do here on earth about our gender.

                President Boyd K. Packer, late President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, states: “We know that gender was set in the premortal world. `The spirit and the body are the soul of man’ (Doctrine and Covenants 88:15). This matter of gender is of great concern to the Brethren, as are all matters of morality.
                “A few of you may have felt or been told that you were born with troubling feelings and that you are not guilty if you act on those temptations. Doctrinally we know that if that were true, your agency would have been erased, and that cannot happen. You always have a choice to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost and live a morally pure and chaste life, one filled with virtue."

                As you study the second paragraph of the proclamation, you may want to share what you learn in a family home evening. This site has a wonderful family home evening program all outlined with lesson, music, activity, and refreshments. I hope you will use this outline and strengthen your family, community, and nation by understanding the doctrine that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to Heavenly Father’s plan for the happiness of all His children.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Agency and Religious Freedom

                The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that we cannot fully use our God-given agency without religious freedom. Heavenly Father gave us our agency or the freedom to choose while we lived with Him in the pre-mortal world.

                While we were in heaven with Heavenly Father, He told us about His plan for our salvation and our eternal happiness. He told us that our agency was an essential part of His plan and that we must use it wisely. Father asked for volunteers to be our Savior because He knew we would sin during our mortal lives. Lucifer volunteered, but he wanted to destroy our agency and have Father’s glory. Jesus Christ volunteered and said that the glory be Father’s. Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ.

                Lucifer rebelled against Heavenly Father and drew a third-part of our Father’s spirit children after him. There was a great battle, and Lucifer and his followers were kicked out of heaven without the opportunity to gain physical bodies. Lucifer became known as Satan, and he and his followers continue to tempt men, women, and children to follow him in this life. He does not give his followers the opportunity to choose. He gradually wraps his silken threads around them until they are bound by chains, Satan’s chains.

                On the other hand Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to use our agency to make correct choices. They know that we have to have the opportunity to choose in order to learn and grow. Our choices do not always come between good and evil; sometimes they come between good, better, and best.

                While we were in heaven with Heavenly Father, He told us about His plan for our salvation and our eternal happiness. He told us that our agency was an essential part of His plan and that we must use it wisely. We know that we made the correct choice in heaven because we are here on earth with physical bodies.

                Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says, “Jesus, who exercised His agency to sustain Heavenly Father’s plan, was identified and appointed by the Father as our Savior, foreordained to perform the atoning sacrifice for all. Similarly, our exercise of agency to keep the commandments enables us to fully understand who we are and receive all of the blessings our Heavenly Father has – including the opportunity to have a body, to progress, to experience joy, to have a family, and to inherit eternal life.”

                After reminding us that we enjoy blessings now because we chose to follow the Savior in our pre-mortal life, Elder Hales urged us to make the same choice now. “As we walk the path of spiritual liberty in these last days, we must understand that the faithful use of our agency depends upon our having religious freedom. We already know that Satan does not want this freedom to be ours. He attempted to destroy moral agency in heaven, and now on earth he is fiercely undermining, opposing, and spreading confusion about religious freedom – what it is and why it is essential to our spiritual life and our very salvation."

                Elder Hales then gave us four cornerstones of religious freedom that we “must rely upon and protect.” Those four cornerstones are as follow:  (1) The “freedom to believe,” (2) The “freedom to share our faith and our beliefs with others,” (3) The “freedom to form a religious organization, a church, to worship peacefully with others,” and (4) The “freedom to live our faith – free exercise of faith not just in the home and chapel but also in public places.”

                As you can see from Elder Hales four cornerstones, moral agency or the freedom to choose is essential to religious freedom. Without the freedom to choose, we cannot enjoy any of the four freedom cornerstones.