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.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Good Works

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened as individuals seek greater knowledge. This is the seventh in a series on the Young Women values. The first post in the series can be found here. It discusses the Young Women values and the Personal Progress program that assists women of all ages to develop these attributes. Each value is represented by a specific color.

            The sixth Young Women value is Good Works, and it is represented by the color yellow. This color reminds us of sunshine. Just as sunshine makes us feel warm, doing good works of service also makes us feel warm. Service always brings blessings.

            When the Prophet Joseph Smith was asked about the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he wrote a list of thirteen different beliefs. These beliefs are known as The Articles of Faith. The thirteenth Article of Faith starts, “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men….” (Emphasis added.)

            Doing good and giving service is a basic belief of the Church. We are expected to serve wherever we see a need that we can meet. This belief is supported by other scripture. When the Savior visited the ancient American people of the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, He taught them, “Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good words and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (3 Nephi 12:16). 

            In modern times the Lord reminded the Prophet Joseph Smith that He had given all men and women their agency, the freedom to act for themselves. He also explained that He did not expect to have to command us in all things.

   For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
   Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
   For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28).

            From these three scriptures we learn that God expects His children to go about doing good and helping their fellowmen. By being anxiously engaged and doing things of our own free will, we hold up the light of Christ and bring blessings into the lives of other people.

            A visiting teaching message from August 2002 was about helping us to find delight in giving service and doing good works. The lesson included the following quotes from Apostles and Seventies to help us better understand this challenge. Elder Robert J. Whetton of the Seventy teaches:

Jesus’ … love for us motivated His atoning sacrifice for our sins. Without His love, we would be unable to return to our Heavenly Father. How He lived His life is the example we should follow. His way should be our way. `Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am’ (3 Nephi 27:27). He showed us that we must go about doing good, that the spiritual and physical welfare of our fellowmen is as important as our own, and that we should show genuine concern and compassion for all of Heavenly Father’s children. Moroni defines Christlike love as charity. … It’s not enough to say we believe and that we love Him; we must be found possessed with His kind of love for others at that last day. It is not necessary for us to lay down our life for others as He did, but like the Savior, we should bless the lives of others by giving of what our life is made up of – our time, our talents, our means, and ourselves.

            Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles takes charity to a deeper level and broadens the importance of developing it in our lives.

We are challenged to move through a process of conversion toward that status and condition called eternal life. This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason – for the pure love of Christ. The Apostle Paul illustrated this in his famous teaching about the importance of charity (see 1 Corinthians 13). The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness he cited is that charity, “the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47), is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes. Thus, as Moroni declared, “except men shall have charity they cannot inherit” the place prepared for them in the mansions of the Father (Ether 12:34; emphasis added).

            President James E. Faust, then Second Counselor in the First Presidency, explains, “God knows you and what you can become because He has known you from the beginning when you were His spirit sons and daughters. What you become will depend in large measure upon how you follow righteous principles and do good works.”

            From these quotes by latter-day priesthood leaders, we learn that we can develop charity by giving service and doing good works. In other words, we must use the knowledge we have to accomplish good works, and in so doing become like Christ. This is an important lesson for children of God of all ages. Wise parents and teachers will teach the rising generation the importance of service and good works in becoming charitable and by so strengthen homes, communities, and nations.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Freedom from Racism

            The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday concerns freedom from racism. The United States is more divided racially now than it was eight years ago because Barack Obama and his administration fanned the flames of racism whenever they had a chance to do so. Although white people have been the racists for many years, most white folks today are trying to stamp out racism. In fact, more racism is shown publicly by people of color now than by white people. Racism by any race is not acceptable and should be eliminated as quickly as possible.

            I do a lot of reading and sometimes see the term “white privilege.” I had no idea what it meant until recently, and I am astonished at what I am reading. I learned that white privilege is a term that describes treatment given to whites that is withheld from people of color under the same circumstances – social, political, or economic circumstances. That description would not have meant anything to me if I had not seen a video about it.

            I watched a short video that apparently is an advertisement for a film titled “Cracking the Codes.” I do not know what is in the movie because I have not watched it, but I did not like what I learned from the video. The video consisted of a nice-looking, educated black woman telling her experience of going to the grocery store with her sister-in-law and their children. The sister-in-law is half-white/half-black, but she looks white and has blue eyes. They selected their groceries and got to the check out. The clerk was very friendly with the white-looking sister-in-law who wrote a check to pay for her groceries with no problem. The clerk was not friendly with the black woman who wrote a check, had to show two kinds of identification, and watch while the clerk checked her “bad check” book. The black woman was hesitant to say anything because she did not want to come across as “an angry black woman.” The sister-in-law eventually saw what was happening and asked the clerk what she was doing. The clerk said that she was following the rules, but the sister-in-law reminded her that she did not do that with her check. Two elderly white women were in line behind the black woman and backed up the sister-in-law. The manager noticed the problem and came over to check on it. The clerk was called on her racism.

            The half-white/half-black sister-in-law who looks white had no problem going through the checkout line, but the black woman who did the same thing had several problems. Why? I read numerous comments on the video with lots of people saying they had experienced the same type of treatment but in different circumstances. Why? Racism happens because people do not notice it happening or do not call out the racists.

            Why do people treat people differently based on the color of their skin? Do they not realize that we are all brothers and sisters? Racism is racism no matter the color of the skin, and it is wrong. No one has the right to show disrespect or hate to anyone simply because of the color of their skin.

            I often think of a personal experience I had many years ago. I was in a store with one or more of my children and was standing in a checkout line behind a black woman. My little girl who was about four or five years old noticed the woman’s black skin. She was very concerned and wanted to know what happened to the woman to make her skin black. I first apologized to the woman, and then I explained to my daughter that there was nothing wrong with her. I told her that the woman was just like us but had a different color of skin. My daughter accepted my explanation and had no further problems with it. In fact, she had several friends who were black. Another has a best friend who is black and who has been in our home numerous times. In fact, I have family members who are half-black.

            I agree with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who had a dream that people would one day judge each other on character rather than the color of skin. I wish that more people would follow Dr. King’s dream. I know that our Heavenly Father would be pleased if we treated each other with respect and as sisters and brothers rather than enemies.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Part 4: Secure the Border or Not?

            This is the fourth and last post on the question of whether or not the southern border should be secured. The first post dealt with the history and background of the southern border.  The second post dealt with the results of fencing already in place along the southern border. The third post dealt with the cost of closing the U.S.-Mexico border with a barrier. This post presents this author’s position on securing the southern border.

            The United States of America has the right to secure its perimeter and the responsibility to protect its citizens from foreign and domestic enemies. This obligation is applicable in various areas, one of which is illegal immigration. The solution to controlling unlawful entries to the U.S. has several prongs, such as building a barrier along the southern border, assisting Mexico to lessen the need for its citizens to emigrate by improving its economy, and making life in the U.S. less attractive to unlawful aliens. By securing its border the United States could decrease the flow of undocumented immigrants into the United States, eliminate many of the problems caused by the presence of illegal residents, and give American citizens better protection from enemies within its borders.

            While people debate border security and politicians promise to build a barrier along the southern border, Americans are suffering and dying at the hands of illegal aliens. Kate Steinle, 31 years old, strolled down busy Pier 14 in San Francisco with her father on a pleasant summer evening in July 2015. There was a single popping sound. Kate fell to the ground with a bullet hole in her upper body and died a short time later. She was the victim of a random killing by 45-year-old Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant. According to immigration officials, he was a repeat felon who had been deported five times to Mexico. He would have been deported six times, but he was being held in San Francisco on a drug-related warrant. However, the drug charge was dropped, and he was back on the street. The Steinle case is just one example of dangerous people illegally crossing the border into the United States.

            Another instance is the case of Jamiel Shaw Jr., a 17-year-old star high school football player in Los Angeles. He died in 2008 near his Arlington Heights home at the hands of Pedro Espinoza. Espinoza was a gang member and had been released from jail the previous day. He was also an undocumented immigrant, brought to the U.S. as a child by his mother. Espinoza saw Shaw wearing a red Spider-Man backpack and mistook him for a member of a rival gang. Espinoza was given a death sentence in 2012 for jumping out of a car, shooting Shaw in the stomach, and firing “a second execution-style shot in his head.” As Jamiel Shaw Sr. mourns the death of his son, he fully supports President Donald Trump’s plan to secure the border. He was a guest of the President when he addressed a joint-session of Congress on February 28, 2017.

            Other Americans besides Steinle and Shaw have been killed by people who were in the U.S. illegally, and many other Americans have been assaulted or raped by illegal aliens. One way to decrease this type of violence is to reduce the flow of unlawful immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. Since fences have proven to be effective deterrents, it seems evident that the first step to controlling illegal crossings of the border would be to build a barrier.

            Even though Peter Schrag believes that a barrier will not stop all illegal crossings, this author accepts Border Agent Ronald D. Vitiello claims that fences reduce illegal crossings at the border. With Daniel Horowitz supporting Vitiello’s claim with statistics from a few barriers already in place, this writer can see no reason to further delay building a barricade on the border. Although a fence or a wall cannot be built in every location along the border, this is no reason why one should not be built wherever possible. It seems simple to understand that smaller openings in the barricade would be easier to patrol than a wide open border.

            Schrag also argues that the cost of building a wall or a fence is too high. Former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer says that “A nation without borders is like a house without walls.” This writer agrees with Brewer. Arguing that there should be no barrier on the border because of cost is like arguing that people cannot afford to build walls in their homes. Yet, every house has walls and even doors that lock in order to stop unwanted entries. Obviously, no one argues about the price for walls and doors because every house has them at whatever the cost.
The same should be true about securing the perimeters of the nation. The argument of cost should be dropped, and a search made to find ways to recoup some or all of the expenses.
            Several sources claim that the costs of a secure border could come from money saved with fewer illegal immigrants. Robert Rector and Jason Richwine give statistics of the costs of allowing illegal aliens to live in the U.S. and they are supported by figures provided by Horowitz and Steven A. Camarota. It seems clear to this author that the money saved on illegal immigration could more than pay for the cost of building a barrier and maintaining it.

            Horowitz claims that “the root of the immigration problem” is politics. He says that an “impervious, fixed, plain, dumb, ugly fence solves the core problem” because a fence “is not smart enough to be manipulated by those who support illegal immigration. It cannot be turned off and regulated. It does not discriminate. It works.” This author agrees with Horowitz’s statement that taking politics out of the equation is a large part of the solution. Once a barricade is in place along the border, a full discussion could take place on immigration without any political agendas.

            Kate Steinle was killed by a felon who entered the U.S. without proper documentation. Her killer crossed the border illegally at least six times. A secure border may not have stopped all of his entries into the nation, but it surely would have stopped some of them and possibly the last one. Americans have the right to feel secure within their own nation, and the government has the responsibility to keep them safe by knowing who enters the nation, why they are here, and how long the visit will last. Politicians should cease their debates about the border and fund a secure barrier. A wall or fence along the U.S.-Mexico border should be built as quickly and as securely as possible. Other problems of legal and illegal immigration can be addressed after the border is secured and safety is provided.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Part 3: Secure the Border or Not?

            This is the third post on the question of whether or not the southern border should be secured. The first post dealt with the history and background of the southern border. The second post dealt with the results of fencing already in place along the southern border. This post will deal with the cost of closing the U.S.-Mexico border with a barrier.

            Peter Schrag believes that building a barrier, maintaining it, and closing the border would cost too much money without solving any problems. He estimates that it would cost $10 billion annually – in addition to the costs for the barrier and increased patrols - for “the cost of electronic sensors, surveillance aircraft, training of local police; the cost of detaining, incarcerating and deporting illegal immigrants; and the countless other expenses associated with border security.” Schrag is obviously correct about the high cost for securing the border, but he does not balance his estimates with any savings elsewhere.

            Daniel Horowitz counters Schrag’s claim by reminding his readers that illegal immigration increases the costs in U.S. “welfare, education, hospitals, criminal justice system, highway safety, drug violence and culture” (6). Horowitz claims that the U.S. could erect a double-layer barrier for approximately 700 miles of the boundary and save money by using only a single layer fence for the rest of the border. He uses the costs of the Israeli barrier to show an approximate cost of $2 to $9 billion for a barricade along the U.S.-Mexico border. With President Trump’s experience in construction along with his desire to cut government expenses, the cost of building a barrier could be kept to a minimum.

            Horowitz claims that the U.S could pay for the barrier with the thousands of dollars it would save with each illegal alien either deterred from crossing the border or deported. He backs up his statement with information from a report written about the effects of amnesty by Robert Rector and Jason Richwine at The Heritage Foundation. Rector and Richwine state that American-born children of illegal aliens are “currently eligible for the full range of government welfare and medical benefits,” and they increase the costs of “roads, parks, sewers, police, and fire protection.” They explain that the “average unlawful immigrant household” costs the American taxpayers approximately “$14,387 per [illegal] household.” This amount may not seem like much, but Rector and Richwine say there are “approximately 3.7 million unlawful immigrant households in the U.S. The unlawful households impose a net fiscal burden of around $54.5 billion per year.” These numbers show that the U.S. could pay the costs of maintaining a secure border with the funds saved by eliminating unlawful households.

            Steven A. Camarota the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, supports the theories of Horowitz, Rector, and Richwine. Camarota says that stopping only “a small fraction of the illegal immigrants” over the next decade “would be sufficient to cover the costs of the wall.” He bases his theory on data from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) and says that “illegal border-crossers create an average fiscal burden of approximately $74,722 during their lifetimes, excluding any costs for their U.S.-born children.” Camarota estimates that $12 to $15 billion could be saved over the next decade by building a wall. It appears from the figures given by Horowitz, Rector, Richwine, and Camarota that the U.S. has the ability to secure the border and maintain security.

            Even though a barrier seems to be an essential element of securing the border, the United States must consider other options to solving the problem of illegal immigration. Schrag’s biggest gripe about the cost of securing the border is that “immigration, both legal and illegal, is driven more by the economy than it is restrained by border enforcement.” He argues that people have been moving back and forth across the border for more than 150 years in order to reach whichever country had the best economy at the time of crossing. He reminds his readers that Americans invite foreign workers to come to the U.S. in good economies but reject them in bad ones. He suggests that Americans should decide what they want most.

            Jeff Faux, the founder of the Economic Policy Institute, claims that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is to blame for the increased surge of undocumented aliens into the U.S. He says that it “was sold to the citizens of the United States, Mexico and Canada with the promise that free trade in goods and money would transform Mexico into a booming middle-class economy, dramatically reducing illegal immigration and creating a vast market for US and, to a lesser extent, Canadian exports.” He states that “out-migration has doubled” over the fifteen years since the treaty was put in place because of low wages being paid on both sides of the border. Revising NAFTA seems to be an essential piece of the solution to securing the border because doing so may help to improve Mexico’s economy.

            At the same time, President Donald Trump talks about revising NAFTA because it has proven to be a bad deal for the United States. However, he does not mention the effect that it has had on Mexico. The agricultural area in northern Mexico was devastated, which led to increased illegal crossings into the U.S. According to Faux, corruption of the police and military and the violence of the drug culture “frightened away tourists and investors, making Mexico’s recession even worse.” The Mexican people have few choices when they have no jobs or money. They must be able to provide for the needs of their families one way or another.

            Faux claims that the U.S. “will finally have to address its trade deficits and its massive foreign debt … slow down consumer spending, increase savings and sell more to – and buy less from – the rest of the world.” He worries that Mexico will have a more difficult time when the American market shrinks and says the renegotiation of NAFTA should have been done years ago. He claims that “Mexico’s growing troubles” will not stay on the southern side of the border even if a fence is built. He suggests that the U.S. should do something to help the economy of Mexico in order to successfully decrease the flow of illegal immigrants across the border. This could possibly be accomplished using excess savings from stopping illegal immigration.

            Along the same lines, Schrag is concerned that closing the border could have “unintended consequences” such as “in reluctant illegal residents, in increased offshoring of industry and jobs, in cross-border smuggling and crime or … in a whole new set of foreign policy problems.” The U.S. would be wise to prepare for any additional concerns that could arise.

            A third prong of the solution to stop undocumented aliens is to eliminate some of the magnets that draw them to the United States. Some of those magnets are jobs, government benefits, and talk of amnesty. The current law eliminates legal work for illegal aliens. It requires employers to “verify that an individual whom they plan to employ or continue to employ in the United States is authorized to accept employment in the United States…. No alien may accept employment in the United States unless they have been authorized to do so.” Laws and executive orders are currently in place to prevent illegal aliens from working in the U.S. or receiving welfare, but laws must be enforced to accomplish their purposes.

            According to the figures provided by Rector and Richwine, the subject of amnesty should also be addressed at some point. Their report discourages amnesty for undocumented aliens by clearly defining the current costs of illegal immigration and stating that the costs would increase drastically if amnesty was declared. More studies such as the one completed by Rector and Richwine could put more light on the subject of amnesty.

            This post discusses the costs of building a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border. There will be costs in addition to the construction price for the barrier. Will the United States save enough money with fewer illegal aliens living in the nation to pay for the costs of preventing them? The next post will present my position on how secure the southern border should be to provide safety and security for people on both sides of the southern boundary of the United States.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mark Meadows

            Republican Mark Meadows is the U.S. Representative for the 11th Congressional District in North Carolina since 2013. He is the leader of the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives and played a valuable part in forcing a no-vote on the repeal-and-replace Obamacare bill. President Trump and many other Republicans were elected on their promises repeal Obamacare, not just change it, and Congressman Meadows believes they should honor their promises.

            The members of the Freedom Caucus are being called all sorts of names by other Republicans for causing the first big Republican loss. However, the conservative representatives are sticking to their principles. The bill pushed by President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was called Obamacare-lite because it would not repeal Obamacare. The Freedom Caucus in the House, along with conservative Senators such as Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz, are working towards a bill that will completely repeal Obamacare.

            Congressman Meadows is being hailed as a hero in North Carolina for demanding full repeal of Obamacare. As far as I am concerned, all members of Congress who are against Obamacare-lite are heroes. Obamacare must be fully repealed. Then Congress should prepare a bill that will make health care and health care insurance more affordable for all Americans.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Surveilling Trump

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is a question: Did Barack Obama order surveillance on Donald Trump and/or this campaign staff or transition team? It seems that the whole affair got tied up in knots because Trump used the word “wiretapped” rather than the word “surveilled.” All intelligence sources say there was no “wiretapping” done on Trump. However, there is some evidence that surveillance was done on Trump and other Americans.

            Clarice Feldman posted an interesting article at The American Thinker titled “Obama Did Wiretap Trump: It’s Like Putting Together a Russian Nesting Doll.” Feldman describes the Russian nesting doll – known as Matryoshkas:

Inside each doll are several others, smaller but identically shaped characters, until you get to the smallest one inside. Studying what we have learned of the timeline – and we still don’t have the entire story – we see Wikileaks, the smallest, at the core, and Obama as the largest piece in what is the most historically outrageous misuse of the people and institutions of government for partisan advantage.

            One of my daughters brought a set of nesting dolls to me when she visited Russia during high school. They are fascinating and fun to play with. They are also a good analogy for the corruption Trump is dealing with. Feldman uses the article to explain who and why the various “dolls” represent and then closes with this paragraph:

No matter how many dolls are hidden in the nest – Comey, Clapper, Brennan, Lynch – it is undeniable that they all fit under the big one – Obama. It was he who authorized the surveillance and multiagency distribution of intelligence – in Bob Woodward’s reading “highly classified gossip” – about political opponent Trump and his team – invading their privacy in violation of the law. If you were inclined to want Americans to lose faith in their intelligence community and media you couldn’t have done a better job than they did themselves. The Russians didn’t have to do a thing.

            You can find Feldman’s article at this site. Feldman calls the corruption in our nation nesting dolls. I call it secret combinations. History tells us that other nations have been destroyed by secret combinations that gained control of the government. I hope we can expose the secret combinations working in the United States and destroy their power before they destroy our constitutional way of life.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Knowing God

            In my scripture study this week, I came across John 17:3, which says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” The principle that I took from this verse is: I can gain eternal life by knowing Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

            I remember teaching this scripture to a Seminary class many years ago. I used the father of one of my students as an example. I told my students the man’s name, where he lived, how many children he had, and many other bits of information about him. Then I told the students that I did not really know the man because I had never met him.

            There are numerous references in the scriptures where Jesus tells His disciples that He came to earth to reveal the Father to them. He also tells them that, if they have seen Him, they have also seen the Father. I understand that the Holy Ghost can and will lead me to know Jesus Christ, and only then will Jesus Christ lead me to the Father.

            I appreciate the explanation given by Elder Bruce R. McConkie about the difference between knowing about God and knowing Him:

It is one thing to know about God and another to know him. We know about him when we learn that he is a personal being in whose image man is created; when we learn that the Son is in the express image of his Father’s person; when we learn that both the Father and the Son possess certain specified attributes and powers. But we know them, in the sense of gaining eternal life, when we enjoy and experience the same things they do. To know God is to think what he thinks, to feel what he feels, to have the power he possesses, to comprehend the truths he understands, and to do what he does. Those who know God become like him, and have his kind of life, which is eternal life (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:762, as quoted in the New Testament Student Manual, 254).

            We must do more than simply know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We must actually know Him. We come to know Him as we become more like Him. We must think the same type of thoughts that He thinks, have the same type of feelings that He does, and do the same type of acts that He does. In other words, we must become like Him and Heavenly Father in order to have eternal life.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Choice and Accountability

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened as individuals seek greater knowledge. This is the sixth in a series on the Young Women values. The first post in the series can be found here. It discusses the Young Women values and the Personal Progress program that assists women of all ages to develop these attributes. Each value is represented by a specific color.

            The fifth Young Women value is Choice and Accountability, and it is represented by the color orange. This color is a reminder to be cautious as shown by the color on a stoplight. We see the caution light from a distance and should start slowing down before we reach the intersection. The orange of this value reminds us to use caution in the choices we make because we are accountable for them.

            I am amazed at the number of people in the world who do not seem to understand that every choice has a consequence. If we make a good choice, we receive a good consequence. If we make a bad choice, we receive a bad consequence. Many people seem to have a difficult time learning this concept. This is one reason why parents and other adults should teach children and youth about choice and accountability.

            The Primary theme for 2017 is “Choose the Right,” and we are learning lots of songs about choosing the right. I teach the CTR-5 class in Primary, and I teach many lessons to help the children learn to make correct choices. Even five-year-old children understand this concept.

            President Thomas S. Monson spoke about choosing the right in the October 2010 General Conference. He shared an experience of Clayton M. Christensen, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a professor of business administration in the business school at Harvard University.

            Brother Christensen made a decision when he was 16 years old that he would not play sports on Sunday. Years later, he learned the difficulty of keeping this commitment. He played center on the basketball team at Oxford University in England. The team was undefeated that season and went through the British tournament similar to the NCAA tournament in the United States.

            The team easily won their games and made it to the final four. Then Brother Christensen noticed that the championship game was scheduled for Sunday. He wanted to keep his commitment to not play sports on Sunday, but he did not want to let his team down. He spoke with his coach about his problem but received no sympathy.

            The backup center dislocated his shoulder in the semi-final game, thus increasing the pressure on Brother Christensen. He knelt down in his hotel room to speak with Heavenly Father. He wanted to know if it would be okay to play on Sunday just this time. Before he even finished his prayer, he received the answer. “Clayton, what are you even asking me for? You know the answer.”

            Brother Christensen told his coach that he was sorry but he would not be playing in the final game. He then went to Sunday meetings in the local ward during the time his team was playing. He prayed “mightily” that his team would win, and they did.

            More than 30 years have passed since Brother Clayton made his choice. President Monson says that Brother Clayton considers his decision to be one of the most important decisions in his life. President Monson then explains that it “would have been very easy” to make an exception to his commitment to never play sports on Sunday. He adds that Brother Clayton’s “entire life has turned out to be an unending stream of extenuating circumstances, and had he crossed the line just that once, then the next time something came up that was so demanding and critical, it would have been so much easier to cross the line again. The lesson he learned is that it is easier to keep the commandments 100 percent of the time than it is 98 percent of the time.”(Thomas S. Monson. “The Three Rs of Choice.” Ensign, November 2010.) 

            We make many small decisions every day that would have little or no consequence in our lives. However, there are important decisions in every life that have enormous consequences. We must teach the rising generation the importance of going to the Lord in prayer about their decisions and following the promptings given. When we make good choices, we can be instrumental in bringing good consequences to our families, communities, and nations.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hearts and Minds

            The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that religious freedom is under attack. We have Muslims pouring into our nation and declaring that the United States is a “Muslim nation.” We have the LGBT faction fighting Christian business owners. We have atheists trying to take “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” off our money.

            Recently Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito spoke at an event sponsored by Advocati Christi, an organization of Catholic lawyers and judges. He reminded his listeners of his dissent in the case where the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal. In his dissent he predicted that opposition to the decision would be used to “vilify those who disagree, and treat them as bigots.” In other words, those who oppose same-sex marriage are vilified and treated as bigots. He said, “We are seeing this coming to pass…. [With a reference to a famous song by Bob Dylan), You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.   A wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs.

            After stating that religious freedom has been recognized in Congress and courts, Judge Alito said, “We are likely to see pitched battles in courts and Congress, state legislatures and town halls. But the most important fight is for the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans. It is up to all of us to evangelize our fellow Americans about the issue of religious freedom.”

            What do you think of Justice Alito’s statement? Do you agree that religious freedom is being attacked? Are you concerned at all about losing this freedom? What are you doing to “evangelize [your] fellow Americans” about freedom of religion? Where is your heart and mind on the topic of religion?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Part 2: Secure the Border - or Not?

            I recently completed a long essay for my writing class. Since I put a lot of time and research into my essay, I thought that I would share it on my blog. I based my essay on a question: How secure should the border be? The first part of the essay provides history and background about the U.S.-Mexico border. This essay will cover some of the arguments about building a border. I found some interesting information that I wanted to share and will include the links in case you want to learn more details than I have included.

            Americans have numerous opinions about securing the U.S.-Mexico border. Some folks think that the border should be wide open to anyone who desires to live in the United States. Other individuals believe that the boundary should be sealed tightly in order to totally stop illegal immigration. Still other people reason that the solution lies somewhere in the middle of the two extreme positions. This part of the essay will discuss a few moderate but opposing viewpoints about the problems and importance of building a fence or wall.

            A barrier of some kind, whether it is a fence or a wall, is at the center of the debate because there is disagreement as to how much good a barricade would do. Peter Schrag, a columnist and the author of Not Fit for Our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America, claims that it is impossible to stop all illegal immigration because approximately one-third to one-half of illegal aliens in the United States came legally but “overstayed their visas” (3). He also states that “millions” cross the border “every day to work, study and shop” and that “about 60 percent of U.S. farm workers are believed to be undocumented.” (Schrag, Peter. “Strengthening the US-Mexico Border Will Not Stop Illegal Immigration.” Opposing Viewpoints in Context: Illegal Immigration, 2011.) Schrag shows by his numbers that crossing the border is not the only way for people to live in the U.S. illegally.

            While Schrag says that a fence will not stop all illegal immigration, Robert D. Vitiello, chief patrol agent for the U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, claims that fences reduce illegal crossings at the border. Vitiello says that fences are especially critical in urban environments because aliens “can be across the border and into the community in a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds” He admits that there is no “single solution” to securing the border, even though he sees fencing as an important part of the overall answer. He says that each mile of the border is “unique” and requires its own “balance of personnel, technology, and tactical infrastructure (such as roads, pedestrian and vehicle fencing and lights).” He also asserts that “fencing has proven to be an effective tool to slow, redirect, and deter illegal entries, especially in certain areas where personnel and technology alone cannot sufficiently secure the border.” Since Vitiello is in the business of patrolling the border, his opinion in the debate is important. (Vitiello, Ronald D. “A Border Fence Will Reduce Illegal Crossings of the U.S-Mexico Border.” Opposing Viewpoints in Context: Should the U.S. Close its Borders?, 2010. )  
            Another view comes from Daniel Horowitz, an author of numerous books and articles as well as a defense attorney who comments frequently on criminal cases in the news. He supports Vitiello in his claim that fences are a deterrent to illegal entry into the United States. Horowitz uses the barriers presently in place along the U.S.-Mexico boundary and the wall along the southern border of Israel as examples of the effectiveness of barricades in decreasing illegal crossings. He claims that in the first decade after the 14-mile-long, “double-layered fence (triple-layer in some places)” was built in the San Diego area, “apprehensions fell by 95% as illegals moved eastward” to open border areas. He states that apprehensions fell 96% in the Yuma area in the first decade after a fence was erected there. He says that “suicide attacks perpetrated by Arab terrorists declined by well over 90%” after Israel built “a double-layer barrier with a security zone in the middle.” The Israeli wall is a great example to consider as terrorists are usually quite determined to reach their goal, maybe even more so than immigrants looking for a new home. (Horowitz, Daniel. “Border Fences Work.” Conservative Review, January 25, 2017, originally published in August 2015. 

            Part Two of my essay discusses three solutions to reducing illegal immigration. The three ideas include constructing a barrier to decrease illegal crossings along the southern border, helping Mexico and its neighbors to improve the economies in their nations in order to decrease the need for their citizens to emigrate, and eliminating some of the magnets that draw undocumented immigrants to the United States. This half of Part Two discusses only the possibility and importance of a fence. The second half of Part Two will discuss ways to pay for a barrier as well as helping Mexico and eliminating magnets for illegal immigration.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Secure the Border - or Not?

            I recently completed a long essay for my writing class. Since I put a lot of time and research into my essay, I thought that I would share it on my blog. I based my essay on a question: How secure should the border be? The first part of the essay provides history and background about the U.S.-Mexico border. I found some interesting information that I wanted to share and will include the links in case you want to learn more details than I have included.

            The history and background of the borders of the United States provide the context for understanding and analyzing the debate about securing them. The same security measures should be considered for both borders. However, this essay will consider only the southern border because it is at the center of the debate. Some of the issues involved in the discussion concern security, economy, and compassion. How secure should the border be in order to provide safety and security for all people?

            There is no natural boundary line between the United States and Mexico besides the Rio Grande River, which divides Texas from Mexico. The western border was created on December 30, 1853, by a treaty known as the Gadsden Purchase. James Gadsden, the U.S. minister to Mexico, and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the president of Mexico, signed the treaty. The accord specified that the United States would purchase 45,000 square miles of land from Mexico for the price of $15 Million. The U.S. Senate revised the treaty four months later, reducing the land to 29,670 square miles and the price to $10 Million. The actual boundary line changed several times before settling into its current place with 1,933 miles of border. The boundary issue arose when the United States wanted to build a southern cross-continental railroad and determined the only acceptable route went through Mexican territory. Mexico wanted a border to settle some land issues and to stop Americans from entering Mexico illegally and inciting “rebellions in an effort to gain territory.” (“Gadsden Purchase, 1853-1854.” Office of the Historian - Milestones: 1830-1860.

            Even though the boundary between the United States and Mexico was determined in the mid-1800s, there were no efforts for approximately fifty years to enforce it. The U.S. Mounted Guards began to patrol the border to prevent illegal immigration in 1904. They patrolled the entire border from El Paso, Texas, to San Diego, California, in an effort to decrease the flow of Chinese illegal aliens who were “trying to avoid the Chinese exclusion laws.” (“Border Patrol History.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection.) Mounted Inspectors were added to the force in 1915, and military patrols and the Texas Rangers joined the effort intermittently.

            The U.S. Border Patrol was established on May 28, 1924, and the agency received numerous assignments over the years. In the 1960s agents accompanied “domestic flights to prevent takeovers” of hi-jacked aircraft and “assisted other agencies in intercepting illegal drugs” (“Border Patrol History.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection.) Since September 11, 2001, the Border Patrol focuses on stopping terrorists, but “its overall mission remains unchanged: to detect and prevent the illegal entry of aliens into the United States.” (“Along U.S. Borders.” U. S. Customs and Border Protection.) The purpose of patrolling the border has always been security.

            The first barrier along the border was a fence to “protect the fragile environment and livestock from the damage and disease brought by migrating animals” (Krasner, Caitlin. “History of the Border Fence.” National Border, National Park: A History of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.) The success of this fence led to thoughts of a barrier to stop human traffic. The border was completely shut down by agents during the “War on Drugs” in the 1960s. Illegal immigration increased dramatically after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994  because it “had the effect of devastating large sectors of the Mexican agricultural economy by depreciating crop prices” (Krasner 3). Fences were built and patrols increased in the major ports of San Diego and El Paso. These actions forced illegal immigrants into more remote areas where there were no fences and fewer patrols. 

            Since that time, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, increased pressure to close the border, and President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act in 2006 that authorized and funded construction of 850 miles of fencing. As part of the Secure Fence Act some fencing was installed in the Yuma, Arizona, area. Just this year, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order in January 2017 to start construction on a wall along the border with available funds. Even House Speaker Paul Ryan claims Congress will appropriate more funds as needed.

            At present, the border is well established and patrolled. Yet, increasing numbers of people continue to enter the U.S. illegally. The fenced portion of the border is mostly working as it should, and the fence will soon be extended with funds promised to lengthen it. However, a fence alone will not work 100% of the time as people will find their way under, over, or through it. There are numerous prongs in the solution to stopping illegal immigration with a barrier being only one of them. Other parts of the solution include revising NAFTA, working with Mexico and its southern neighbors to improve conditions in their nations, and limiting benefits to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. The next section will discuss some of the numerous issues involved with securing the southern border.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trump Visits Andrew Jackson's Grave

            President Andrew Jackson has been attacked from several directions, and Barack Obama attempted to remove Jackson’s picture from the $20 bill. However, Donald Trump respects Jackson. He recently honored the seventh U.S. President by visiting his home in Nashville, Tennessee.

            Jarrett Stepman explains why Trump’s visit to Jackson’s grave matters in his article titled “Why Trump’s Visit to Andrew Jackson’s Grave Matters” published at The Daily Signal. Trump’s visit took place on March 15, the 250th anniversary of Jackson’s birth. He is the first President since Ronald Reagan to visit Jackson’s home.

            There is a reason why Trump is drawn to Jackson. They are both outsiders who ran for office as a means to restore the United States to the nation created by the Founding Fathers. Stepman says that Jackson “attacked the permanent, entrenched bureaucracy, took action against crony capitalism, and fought to ensure that the ideas of limited government and federalism would survive.” Stepman continues:

   Jackson trusted that America would be strong if the people were strong, and the federal government limited to its proper place. And when the existence of the country itself was threatened, when so-called “nullifiers” threatened to disobey rightly-enacted federal laws and secede from the Union if they didn’t get their way, Jackson moved into action to defend the Constitution he swore to protect.

   For Jackson, the Constitution and the Declaration were at the heart of what he fought to preserve in this country. He wrote to a friend, “I have suffered too many privations in my youth for the establishment of that happy Constitution, and form of government, under which we live ever to violate its provisions, unless when dire necessity compels me; and then only to preserve my country, and the Constitution with it.”

            Stepman concludes his article: “The president is taking a stand for Jackson with this small gesture, which simply draws the line. It shows the world and the American people that we are proud of who we are and what we mean to be again.”

            Do you think that our current President is like Andrew Jackson in any way? I believe that he is like Jackson in much more than simply being an outsider. Jackson was very patriotic, and Trump is also. I believe that Jackson is one of Trump’s heroes. I believe that this is the reason that Trump went to Jackson’s home to honor him by laying a wreath on his grave for his birthday. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Constitutional Crisis 2

            The Framers of the Constitution organized the government of the United States into three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. They did this on purpose because they wanted to make sure that the power of government was balanced between the three branches. The government works best when the power stays evenly divided, but the liberals/progressives do not care about balance. They want things done their way. An example of their attempts to get what they want can be found in the recent court decisions on limiting immigration.

            President Donald Trump is attempting to close the immigration process to people coming from six nations in the Middle East. The six nations were designated as terrorist spots on a list made by the Obama Administration. President Trump has issued two Executive Orders in his attempt, but liberal judges shot down both of them, claiming constitutional problems. Here are some opinions about the situation.

            David Horowitz has an interesting article at Conservative Review titled “Yes, liberals, we can deny entry to any immigrant AND for any reasons.” He starts his article with this statement and then cites sources.

   What is happening in the courts right now goes beyond any debate over a “ban” on Muslim immigration. The courts have denuded the president of his plenary power over setting the refugee cap, which Trump applied evenly to every country included in his new executive order. Obviously, all the national security problems we have are from predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East. But let’s put that aside for a moment. Even if this was a ban on Muslim immigration, it would be legal. That is settled law of a sovereign nation state.

   Let’s also ignore political considerations for a moment. From a legal standpoint, a nation can set any criteria for letting in any group of people. Through our elected representatives, we can decide to only bring in people with brown hair. We can shut off immigration to those with green eyes or those who are left-handed. The prudence of such a law would have to be dealt with on a political level. Any legal limitation placed on our sovereignty, by definition, means we are not a sovereign nation and that foreign nationals can forcibly control our destiny. This is a principle deeply rooted in the social compact, the preamble of the Declaration of Independence (governance by consent), and the sovereignty of a nation state. Even one who is politically a supporter of loose immigration laws should be alarmed by courts creating a legal limitation to restricting immigration.

            Gregg Jarrett at Fox News says the following in his article titled “Why the law is on Trump’s side with his immigration ban”: “Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate immigration. In 1952, Congress passed a law empowering the president to deny entry into the U.S. to `any class of aliens’ considered to be `detrimental to the interests of the United States.’ In other words, a threat to America and in the interests of national security.”

            The President clearly has the authority to shut down immigration from whatever area he believes is a threat to the national security of the United States. The rogue judges are attempting to wrest power from the President of the United States. Are they doing so under direction from Barack Obama? Is Obama attempting a silent coup about the President? Some people think so!

            The first order was stopped by a judge in Washington and seconded by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The second one was stopped by a judge in Hawaii and a judge in Maryland. The case in Hawaii would have to go through the Ninth Circuit Court, but the one in Maryland may have a chance at a fair review at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. It is possible that a case will end up in the Supreme Court.

            I believe that President Trump is holding off going to the Supreme Court until Judge Neil Gorsuch is appointed as an Associate Judge there. As the Court stands now, there is no guarantee that liberal judges would rule according to the Constitution. Trump’s chances will be much better with Judge Gorsuch on the Court.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Testimony vs. Conversion

            In my scripture study this week I came across the story of Peter receiving instructions from the Lord. Peter already knew by personal revelation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but he was not yet converted as shown by this story. In Luke 22:31-32 the Lord tells Simon Peter that “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that they faith fail not: and when thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

            In the following verses Peter pledges his loyalty to Christ, but Christ tells Peter that he will betray Him three times before the cock crows the next morning. When Peter realized that he had done exactly as prophesied by the Lord, he wept bitterly. He later repented, became truly converted, and strengthened many other people.

            I took the following principle from the Lord’s commandment to Peter: As I become converted in my heart to Jesus Christ, I should follow Peter’s example by repenting of my sins, becoming spiritually strong, and blessing the lives of other people.

            I found some commentary from the late Elder Bruce R. McConkie that added much understanding to my scripture study. I know that the quote is long, but I believe it is necessary to include it all to show why it deepens my understanding.

   Conversion is more – far more – than merely changing one’s belief from that which is false to that which is true; it is more than the acceptance of the verity of gospel truths, than the acquirement of a testimony. To convert is to change from one status to another, and gospel conversion consists in the transformation of man from his fallen and carnal state to a state of saintliness.

   A convert is one who has put off the natural man, yielded to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and become “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.” Such a person has become “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.” (Mosiah 3:19.) He has become a new creature of the Holy Ghost: the old creature has been converted or changed into a new one. He has been born again: where once he was spiritually dead, he has been regenerated to a state of spiritual life. (Mosiah 27:24-29.) In real conversion, which is essential to salvation (Matthew 18:3), the convert not only changes his beliefs, casting off the false traditions of the past and accepting the beauties of revealed religion, but he changes his whole way of life, and the nature and structure of his very being is quickened and changed by the power of the Holy Ghost.

   Peter is the classic example of how the power of conversion works on receptive souls. During our Lord’s mortal ministry, Peter had a testimony, born of the Spirit, of the divinity of Christ and of the great plan of salvation which was in Christ. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he said, as the Holy Ghost gave him utterance. (Matthew 16:13-19.) When others fell away, Peter stood forth with the apostolic assurance, “We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:69.) Peter knew, and his knowledge came by revelation.

   But Peter was not converted, because he had not become a new creature of the Holy Ghost. Rather, long after Peter had gained a testimony, and on the very night Jesus was arrested, he said to Peter: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32.) Immediately thereafter, and regardless of his testimony, Peter denied that he knew Christ. (Luke 22:54-62.) After the crucifixion, Peter went fishing, only to be called back to the ministry by the risen Lord. (John 21:1-17.) Finally on the day of Pentecost the promised spiritual endowment was received; Peter and all the faithful disciples became new creatures of the Holy Ghost; they were truly converted; and their subsequent achievements manifest the fixity of their conversions. (Acts 3; 4.) (Mormon Doctrine, 162-63).

            Elder McConkie explains that having a testimony of Jesus Christ is much more than being converted to Him. The scriptures tell us that even the devils know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. So conversion is much more than simply receiving personal revelation through the Holy Ghost. Conversion takes not only knowledge but action.

            Another quote explains that we must do something and become a different person. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explains that the words of Jesus Christ to Simon Peter at the Last Supper (see Luke 22:32) “confirmed the importance of being converted, even for those with a testimony of the truth.” He says:

   In order to strengthen his brethren – to nourish and lead the flock of God – this man who had followed Jesus for three years, who had been given the authority of the holy apostleship, who had been a valiant teacher and testifier of the Christian gospel, and whose testimony had caused the Master to declare him blessed still had to be “converted.” 

   Jesus’ challenge shows that the conversion He required for those who would enter the kingdom of heaven (see Matthew 18:3) was far more than just being converted to testify to the truthfulness of the gospel. To testify is to know and to declare. The gospel challenges us to be “converted,” which requires us to do and to become. If any of us relies solely upon our knowledge and testimony of the gospel, we are in the same position as the blessed but still unfinished Apostles whom Jesus challenged to be “converted.” We all know someone who has a strong testimony but does not act upon it so as to be converted….

   Now is the time for each of us to work toward our personal conversion, toward becoming what our Heavenly Father desires us to become (“The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 33). 

            I remember when I heard Elder Oaks give this talk and how amazed I was at the thought that conversion is different than simply receiving a testimony of truth. I immediately understood what he was teaching, but I did not remember hearing the concept previously. Now I seem to see and hear it often.

            When I began the Pathway Program in September 2015 one of the first things that caught my eye was the motto at Brigham Young University-Idaho. It is “Know. Do. Become.” It is not enough for me to know what is in the scriptures. What am I doing with what I know? What am I becoming because of what I am doing?

            Each religion class that I have taken has a “Becoming Project” in which students are required to choose a Christlike attribute to learn about and acquire during the semester. I am amazed at how much more I get out of my scripture study and assignments because I am trying to gain that attribute and become more like the Savior. As I study and learn about the Savior, I am trying to become more like Him but the acts that I am doing.