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.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

American Conservatism

            Soon after liberal progressive Barack Obama was elected, conservative Americans became concerned about the direction that he and the liberal Congress were taking the United States. The TEA Party was born, and conservatives, such as Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Trey Gowdy, were elected to Congress. First, Republicans took back the House of Representatives. A few years later, Republicans took back the Senate. In 2016 Republicans took back the White House.

            Donald Trump did not campaign on being a “conservative” even though he said many things that brought the support of conservatives.  On January 16, 2016, Trump said, “The United States of America is a land of laws, and Americans value the rule of law above all. Why, then, has our Congress allowed the president and the executive branch to take on near-dictatorial power? … What is needed in Washington is a president who will rein in the executive branch and work with Congress to make sure the legislative branch does its job.”

            Comments like these, as well as his promises to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to deport illegal immigrants, helped Trump to win the White House. Even though he never claimed to be a conservative, Americans gave him the opportunity to “Make America Great Again.” If the President and members of Congress do not bring America back from the brink of destruction, Americans will discard them and find someone who will do the job.

            Larry P. Arnn, the twelfth president of Hillsdale College, addresses some of the questions concerning conservatives, conservatism, and American conservatism in his remarks titled “A More American Conservatism”  given in Washington, D.C. on December 2, 2016.

What is conservatism? It is a derivative term: it refers to something outside itself. We cannot conserve the present or the future, and the past being full of contradiction, we cannot conserve it entire. In the past one finds heroism and villainy; justice and injustice; freedom and slavery. Things in the past are like things in the present: they must be judged. Conservative people know this if they have any sense.

What then makes them conservative? It is the additional knowledge that things that have had a good reputation for a long time are more trustworthy than new things. This is especially true of original things. The very term principle refers to something that comes first; to change the principle of a thing is to change it into something else. Without the principle, the thing is lost.

If American conservatism means anything, then, it means the things found at the beginning of America, when it became a nation. The classics teach us that forming political bonds is natural to people, written in their nature, stemming from the divine gift they have of speech and reason. This means in turn that the Declaration of Independence, where the final causes of our nation are stated, and the Constitution of the United States, where the form of government is established, are the original things. These documents were written by people who were friends and who understood the documents to pursue the same ends. Taken together they are the longest surviving things of their kind, and under their domain our country spread across a continent and became the strongest nation on earth, the bastion of freedom. These documents do not appeal to all conservatives, but I argue that they should, both for their age and for their worthiness.

            President Trump appears to be trying to “Make America Great Again” by overturning many of the liberal progressive Executive Orders signed by Barack Obama. He has tried to temporarily close our nation to refugees in order to get control of the situation. He has unleashed the military and is letting the professionals use their training and experience to keep America safe. He is deporting illegal immigrants and trying to get a wall built on the southern U.S. border. He is hindered on every side by liberal/progressive Democrats and Republicans-in-name-only (RINOs). He is taking his message directly to the people of America by his tweets and through the press briefings by Sean Spicer.

            Conservative principles will “Make America Great Again” if Congress and the people will allow them to be tried. America is a land of laws. Our Constitution was written for a moral people. It has guided and protected Americans for more than 200 years and will continue to guide and protect us forever IF we will abide by its precepts.

Saturday, April 29, 2017


            Grace is a beautiful name for girls. I first became aware of the name in my childhood or youth when I learned about Grace Kelly. Now I have a granddaughter with Grace as her middle name. Grace is an attribute that we recognize in others, such as “She was a gracious hostess” or “He is graceful when he dances.”

            Grace is also a gospel principle that many people have difficulty understanding. I thought that I understood it fairly well until I attended Time Out for Women (TOFW) last weekend and learned about grace from Brad Wilcox. Many of his remarks can be found in his book titled Changed through His Grace and in this article titled “What We’ve Misunderstood about Grace.”  In this post I will share the notes that I took at TOFW.

            Wilcox began his talk by sharing a quote given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland at General Conference: “Come as you are but don’t expect to stay that way.” He then proceeded to describe “grace” as “good will or favor given with compassion.” He said that grace is how God engages with us as we strive to become like him. He quoted President Dieter F. Uchtdorf as saying in 2015, “Grace is divine assistance,” meaning that grace can be seen in our lives as it changes us. He quoted Sheri Dew as saying, “Grace is not the Atonement. Grace is the power that the Atonement makes available to us.”

            We read in Doctrine and Covenants 88:33: “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” God does not continue to offer gifts if we are not willing to receive them. Maybe parents can learn something from His example.

            Wilcox shared part of the first verse of the hymn “I Stand All Amazed” with us: “I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me, confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me.” He then explained that there is a difference between “offer” and “proffer.” While dictionaries say that the two words mean basically the same, Wilcox said “offer” means to make something available while “proffer” means to put something in one’s hands. In other words, I can offer food by making it available, but I would proffer it by actually serving it to an individual. Jesus makes his love available to us, but He puts grace in our hands.

            Wilcox said that “grace” is like scholarships in that it is given to help us improve but it does not actually do the work for us. The Lord gives us a little bit of knowledge. If we accept the principle and make it part of our lives, He gives us a little bit more. We read the following in
2 Nephi 28:30:

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

            This principle is clearly shown in the Parable of the Talents. The master plans to go on a trip. He gives one servant five talents, one servant two talents, and one servant one talent before he left. When the master returned he learned that the five talents had become ten and the two talents had become four, and he praised the two servants. He also learned that the one talent had been buried and had not increased. The master took the one talent and gave it to the servant who had ten. (See Matthew 25.) This principle is also taught in the Doctrine and Covenants where we read: “For unto him that receiveth it shall be given more abundantly, even power” (Doctrine and Covenants 71:6).

            Wilcox compared “talents” with “books” and “kingdom of God” with “library” by sharing how he deals with his grandchildren. He gives each grandchild a book when they are born because he knows books will help develop language. He continues to give books to them as they learn to read. When they report to him that they read a book, he gives them more books. This is the way God bestows His gifts. When we show him that we appreciate what He has already given to us, He gives us more. As we receive ordinances and make covenants with God, we are prepared to receive and make more. Wilcox said that the endowment is a story of how we receive and engage in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Have you been changed by the story?

            Wilcox said that Jesus Christ accepted the Kirtland Temple – flaws and all – and does the same with us. We must remember that change takes time and that change without challenge is not change at all. Wilcox shared an experience from high school when he learned that it did not matter whether he was in the front of the bus or the back of the bus because the bus would take him safely home no matter where he sat. He then emphasized that the important thing for us is to stay in the “bus,” meaning our covenant relationship with God. If we stay in our covenant relationship (the bus), Jesus (the bus) will get us safely home. When we need assistance, we should not look down or to the side, but we should look up for divine assistance. We should look up for grace. Grace is the source of righteousness and worthiness and the power that helps us change.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Becoming Resilient

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals develop resilience. Resilience is the ability to spring back into shape after being bent, compressed, or stretched. It is the ability to recover quickly from a tough experience. For people to become resilient, there must be time and effort invested in the process. All of us need help in developing resilience, and wise parents, grandparents, and teachers will be mindful of building resilience in the rising generation.

            When Sheryl Sandberg’s husband suddenly died from cardiac arrhythmia while on vacation, she was concerned about how her children would deal with his death. She sought counsel from a friend who helps grieving children as well as a psychologist friend and “professor who studies how people find motivation and meaning.” She gained understanding and received assurance that there were actions that she could take to help her children build resilience. She explains the need for resilience as follows.

As parents, teachers and caregivers, we all want to raise resilient kids – to develop their strength so they can overcome obstacles big and small. Resilience leads to better health, greater happiness and more success. The good news is that resilience isn’t a fixed personality trait; we’re not born with a set amount of it. Resilience is a muscle we can help kids build.

And every kid faces challenges. Some stumbles are part of growing up. Forgetting lines in a school play. Failing a test. Losing a big game. Seeing a friendship unravel. Other hardships are far more severe. Two out of 10 children in the United States live in poverty. More than 2.5 million kids have a parent in jail, and many endure serious illness, neglect, abuse or homelessness. We know that the trauma from experiences like these can last a lifetime; extreme harm and deprivation can impede a child’s intellectual, social, emotional and academic progress. As a society, we owe all our children safety, support, opportunity and help finding a way forward.

            I found it interesting that Sandberg did not mention divorce or death of loved ones as hardships. At any rate Sandberg learned from her friends and her studies that she could take certain actions that would help her children to build resilience. Sandberg’s friend who deals with grieving children “said that the most important thing was to tell my kids over and over how much I loved them and that they were not alone.” Sandberg also learned the importance of the following principles in building resilience.

            The first principle is “mattering.” We all want to know if we make a difference to others. Do we matter to them? Do they care about us? Do they depend on us? “Adolescents who feel that they matter are less likely to suffer from depression, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. They’re less likely to lash out at their families and engage in rebellious, illegal and harmful behaviors. Once they reach college, they have better mental health.”

            The second principle is “companioning.” Most parents want to take pain and discomfort from their children. We can kiss away many of their hurts when they are little, but their problems become bigger as they mature. Parents cannot always solve the problems, but they can walk with their children through the problems by listening to them and making sure that they know that they are not alone with their problem. We can “create and maintain warm and strong relationships, communicate openly with children, use effective discipline, avoid depression and help their children develop coping skills and strategies.”

            The third principle is “remembering.” We can help each other by sharing our memories - both good and bad - and by talking about the past. We can share stories about grandparents and other ancestor and stories of our childhood. When we know that we are part of a larger group, we feel less alone. Sandberg says that “Jamie Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas, has found that expressing painful memories can be uncomfortable in the moment, but improves mental and even physical health over time.”

            A thought hit me as I was finishing this post. Many people marvel about the “Greatest Generation,” that generation that fought, survived, and lived through World War II. They did the job that was required and then went on with their lives. What made them so resilient that could bounce back from war when the survivors of other wars seem to have so many problems? Could it have been the relationships with the people back home? Did they know that they mattered? Did they have people available to walk with them through their problems? Were they able to share their good and bad memories? I believe that it was the mattering, companioning, and remembering that made them resilient. It is their resilience that made them so great!

            There is much more information and ideas to support these principles in Sandberg’s article titled “How to Build Resilient Kids, Even After a Loss.” I hope that parents, teachers, and other caregivers will read the article to learn more about building resilience in themselves as well as the rising generation. Resilient individuals will bring strength to families, communities, and nations.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Freedom of Religion

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns a religious freedom case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court heard arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. The case was brought in an effort to determine how far governments can go in banning public funding for organizations affiliated with religions.

            Missouri has a program to install rubber surfaces made from recycled tires to soften the landing for any children who fall on playgrounds. Trinity Lutheran Church runs a preschool with a playground. The great majority of the students are not members of the church, and the playground is open to the public when the school is not in session. Trinity Lutheran Church applied for the resurfacing funds and was denied in 2012. Their application was denied even though it ranked fifth out of forty-five applications and met the requirements.

            Missouri cited a provision in the state constitution – the Blaine Amendment. Trinity claims that granting the funds would not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. In case you are not aware, this clause prohibits the government from showing preferential treatment to any religion – whether for or against. The church also claims that the rejection of their application violates the freedom of religion clause in the First Amendment as well as the Equal Protection Clause. Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, recently announced that state funds will now be available for religious organizations, seemingly admitting Missouri was wrong to deny the funds.

            Fred Lucas discusses “4 Big Questions About the Supreme Court’s New Religious Freedom Case” in his article at The Daily Signal. The “four key questions” come from legal experts on both sides of the case and are as follow.

1. “What is the impact of the governor’s decision?” Alex Luchenitser, general counsel for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, says that it makes “the case moot” and “deprives the U.S. Supreme /court of making a real ruling. Other experts say that the case can continue if the church seeks damages. The Governor’s decision gives the high court “more options.”

2. “How will the case affect other `Blaine Amendments?’” Missouri is only one state among 37 with Blaine Amendment restrictions on the use of public money in their constitutions. A narrow ruling might not affect the other states or even the Missouri law.

3. “What’s the legal precedent?” The case may be a simple one as “several legal precedents that clearly prevent a religious believer from choosing between his or her faith and a state benefit.” An example given is denying unemployment benefits because an unemployed person is a Seventh-day Adventist. The application was denied simply because Trinity is a church, and the high court has previously said that churches should “be eligible for grants that are available for everyone else.” The case may not be simple because the Court has previously ruled “that Washington state can prohibit state-funded scholarships from going to students pursuing theology degrees.”

4. “What should we expect from Gorsuch?” Justice Gorsuch ruled on three freedom of religion cases while a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Two of the cases were the Hobby Lobby case and Little Sisters of the Poor case, which “challenged the Obamacare mandate that employers pay for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs for employees. Gorsuch sided with the employers in both cases. The third case was Yellowbear v. Lampert, and “Gorsuch ruled in favor of an inmate who said prison officials denied his religious freedom by not accommodating his Native American faith. The current case may be new territory for Gorsuch because it is about funding. Although he supports religious liberty, Gorsuch will most likely hear the arguments and then make a decision.

            The Trinity case could have major implications on religious liberty, either strengthening or weakening it. I hope and pray that the Justices will make the correct decision.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Time Out for Women II

            Yesterday I wrote about a Time Out for Women (TOFW) that I attended last weekend. I explained in that post what TOFW is and shared some thoughts from the speakers on Friday evening. Today I want to share some of the thoughts from the speakers on Saturday morning.

            Hilary Weeks provided the music for the morning session. She is a hometown girl and a graduate of Dimond High School in Anchorage. She shared a few thoughts with each of her songs, and I particularly liked this one: “Hold on to good compliments, and never hold back in giving good ones.” Her music is beautiful and is available to the public.

            Mary Ellen Edmunds was the first speaker on Saturday morning, and she spoke about prayer. She says that the commandment to pray is repeated more often than any other commandment. She suggests that we ask the Lord some questions: (1) Is there anything that I am doing that I should not be doing? (2) Is there anything that I am not doing that I should be doing? (3) Is there anyone I should help? She quotes Sister Patricia Holland as saying, “Prayer may be the hardest work we do.” She shared several scriptures about prayer that teach us how to pray: (1) 3 Nephi 18:20 – ask what is right, (2) Moroni 7:26 – as what is good, (3) Doctrine and Covenants 88:64 – ask what is expedient, (4) Doctrine and Covenants 88:63 – seek diligently, and (5) Doctrine and Covenants 25:12 – remember that the soul delights in the song of the heart. The last two bits of counsel are that we should do something to prepare to speak with Heavenly Father (read scriptures, listen to quiet music, visit a favorite spot in nature, etc.) and make sure that we do enough asking, listening, and thanking.

            Holly Christensen was the second speaker on Saturday morning. She is a local woman who told how she sought for several months to know how the Lord wanted her to serve. Because of her experience as a nurse working with cancer patients, Holly knew that “chemotherapy treatments leave young scalps too sensitive for traditional wigs.” When her friend’s young daughter had cancer, Holly decided to make a Rapunzel wig out of soft, comfortable yarn for her. One thing led to another, and Holly partnered with Bree Hitchcock to organize the Magic Yarn Project, a non-profit organization. As of April 2017 the Magic Yarn Project has provided 1900+ wigs to children in 23 countries at no cost. The wigs were made by 900+ Magic Makers (volunteers) and are inspired by Disney characters. They are magic because they “invite children back to the world of play and daydreaming” and “are a beacon of fun, laughter, and play during a scary time.” The above quotes and more information about the Magic Yarn Project can be found here.

            Wendy Ulrich was the last speaker on Saturday morning, and she spoke to the topic of gaining self-confidence. She claims that women are less confident than men and gives the following as evidence: (1) Women are less likely than men to express opinions in group settings. (2) Women underestimate ability and accuracy. (3) Women do not rebound as quickly as men from negative feedback. (4) Women are more likely to quit hard classes. Ulrich says that women’s lack of confidence keep us from tackling difficult projects and achieving our potential. She suggests that women develop the following skills in order to increase their confidence.

1. Having a plan and a clear goal increases confidence. What are your deepest desires? What are your values in this situation? What can you do to live those values?

2. Having a learning desire increases the chances of developing or practicing skills. Gaining these skills does not come without failures. More resilient students consider their failures to be learning experiences and opportunities to grow.

3. Accepting that anxiety is normal and goes hand-in-hand with high intelligence. (When Moroni worried about how the Gentiles would accept his writing, the Lord told him that “fools mock.”)

4. Putting our trust in God. He trusts us to learn and succeed.

            Anthony Sweat and Brad Wilcox spoke on Saturday afternoon. I will include their comments about faith, hope, charity, and grace in future Sunday posts. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Time Out for Women. I encourage my readers to plan to attend TOFW when it comes to your location.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Time Out for Women

            Time Out for Women (TOFW) is an event put on annually by Deseret Book Company at various places in the United States and a few places nationally. I attended the event in Anchorage three times over the past 10-15 years, the most recent time being last weekend – Friday evening and all day on Saturday. I invested about 13 hours, including travel and lunch time, in TOFW, and I found my investment paid great dividends.

            I am impressed with the program. Even though TOFW is not a function of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the event started with prayer. That was a great statement to me, and it set the stage for the sharing of many spiritual thoughts and experiences.

            Each year TOFW chooses a theme for its annual tour, and the tour runs nearly all year, from February through November. The 2017 theme for TOFW is “Arise.” A video is available of the best presentations of the tour. The program pamphlet states the following.

We have been expecting you, planning for you, praying for you, and we are so glad you’re finally here. We know women come to TOFW for different reasons. Some of you are seeking answers. Some of you are seeking peace. Some of you are just sincerely seeking a break. We hope you get whatever you are looking for. And we want to invite you to join us in seeking something more.

So, this weekend is a call to ARISE. It’s a call to DISCOVER. It’s a call to BELIEVE that God has plans for your life. This weekend we invite you to see what it means to “Live unto the Lord” (Romans 14:8).

            The theme was taken from a statement made by Sheri Dew, CEO of Deseret Book Company, at Brigham Young University. She says, “It is time for us to wake up to the potential magnitude of our full influence as latter-day women of God and then to ARISE and do what we were sent here to do” (“Awake, Arise, and Come unto Christ,” BYU, 2008).

            As attendees we were invited to clear our minds of “noise, stress and worry” and to open our hearts to the “possibilities.” We were also invited to ponder two questions during the weekend: (1) Where is my greatest personal influence at this season in my life? (2) What is my ministry? Each presenter, whether in words or music, reminded us of the two questions.

            The music for the Friday evening event was presented by David Archuleta. I have to admit that I was not a fan of David previous to this event, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to his music and his comments between songs. I am impressed with this young man and expect him to go far and accomplish much in spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some of David’s comments are: (1) Before singing “Begin” David told us that we should connect with something bigger than ourselves. Beauty comes from light. We must know who we are. Doctrine and Covenants 50:24 tells us that light grows. Doctrine and Covenants 88 tells us that light cleaves to light. (2) Alma 37:6-7 tells us that small and simple things can change the course of the future. Ether 12:25-26 says that fools mock but God will show us our weaknesses in order for us to be humble and become strong. He sang “Invincible” and told us to take a breath and move forward. We do not have to think everything to death. We do not have to be invincible. (3) Music has power for good or evil. His song “My Little Prayer” came to him in a dream.

            The first speaker of the evening was Virginia H. Pearce, the second daughter of President Gordon B. Hinckley and Marjorie Pay Hinckley. She has a master’s degree in social work and is a former member of the general Young Women’s presidency. She starts her talk with a question: What do you plan to do with your life? She states that life is a little different for women and men in the LDS Church. Men seem to have a set pattern as to when they do things: receive priesthood (age 12), go on mission (age 18), obtain education to support a family, get married, have children, etc. There is more ambiguity for women because women tend to live their lives conscious of how their decisions affect other people. She used Eve as an example. Surely, Eve questioned how her decision would affect her posterity and whether or not she had posterity.

            Sister Pierce says that we should consider this ambiguity as an opportunity and gives several suggestions. (1) We can rejoice in ambiguity. We can expect revelation to help in our decisions because revelation is part of our baptismal covenant. Even though revelation is not predictable, its confirmation comes with feelings of joy. She quoted Sister Ruth Renlund who said, “There is no one way to be an LDS woman.” When we are sure of our path, we become less critical of ourselves and of the paths chosen by others.

            (2) When we face ambiguity and review the uncertainties of it, we should remember the talk about “certain women” given by Sister Linda Burton, former general Relief Society president, in the April 2017 General Conference.  “Certain women” center their lives in Christ. “Certain women” willingly sacrifice and keep their covenants. “Certain women” remember and prepare to celebrate the return of Jesus Christ.

            (3) We should slow down because grappling with ambiguity takes time. Take time to steady the course and focus on the essentials.

            (4) Carve out regular quiet spaces and places. Sister Pierce quoted Elder Russell M. Ballard who said, “As an Apostles, I ask you: Do you have any personal quiet time to have a regular personal interview with yourself? We should sit back and listen for the Savior because it is hard for God to talk to us when we are too busy.” She quoted Emma Smith as saying, “I desire to understand myself.” We need the Sabbath Day to renew ourselves. She quoted President Hinckley as saying, “You need quiet times. We are entitled to some time with ourselves. We have one wild and precious life given to us by Heavenly Father.”

            The second speaker scheduled for the evening became ill, and Alissa Parker substituted in her place. Alissa is the mother of six-year-old Emilie Parker who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She shared what she learned from this terrible experience. She quoted
1 Corinthians 10:13, where God tells us that he will send no temptation to us but will help us to overcome it. She said that God promises to give us the tools to get through our trials, and we have to learn to use them. The first thing that she learned was that she had to take care of herself first. She learned to forgive. She quoted Doctrine and Covenants 82:23 where God says to leave judgment with Him. She learned to recognize the tender mercies that were coming from God. She learned that we have a choice to either remain in the dark or to let the light in. She chose to let the light in and was blessed for her decision. She wrote a book about her experiences and shared some of them with us. The book is titled An Unseen Angel: A Mother’s Story of Faith, Hope, and Healing. It was released this spring by Deseret Book. I did not take many notes because my eyes were filled with tears, and I was spell-bound by her story.

            The evening was inspirational and filled some holes in my soul. I came home with a greater appreciation for the strengths of people around me as well as for the great blessings given to me by my loving Heavenly Father. More of my TOFW experience will continue tomorrow.

Monday, April 24, 2017

John Kelly

            My VIP for this week is Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. Kelly is one of numerous outstanding men and women that President Donald Trump selected to head his departments. They are transparent and open about what they do and why they do it.      According to James Carafano at the DailySignal, Secretary Kelly spoke at George Washington University recently and detailed the direction that he is taking the Department of Homeland Security. It appears that he has a plan and is willing to work it. Carafano gives five reasons why he thinks Kelly is the right person to head this department.

1.) Political Correctness Is No Longer Correct. This retired Marine is the right leader for this department because he is “mission-oriented.” He is “plain-spoken, nonpartisan leader who puts the security of Americans above the political squabbles of the day.” “Doing the right thing – politics aside – is the standard at Kelly’s Department of Homeland Security.”

2.) Putting Priorities First. Kelly focused his department on the top three tasks: “combating transnational Islamist terrorism, battling the criminal cartels that are undermining security at the border, and enhancing cybersecurity.” Its other tasks are important, but the department will focus on these three tasks.

3.) Putting People First. Kelly understands the “big problem” of employee morale and “is committed to addressing them.”

4.) Being a Good Neighbor. Kelly is the former commander of the U.S. military Southern Command, and he “earned a reputation as an honest broker, a good friend, and a straight shooter.” He will bring to his new position the same “experience, expertise, and reputation.”

5.) Playing for the Team. “Kelly has established a strong working relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson” who head other departments. He also “enjoys the confidence and support of the White House” as the “president trusts in Kelly’s judgment and leadership.”

            I have not had a good opinion of the Department of Homeland Security. I have high hopes that Kelly can change my feelings toward this department that has the responsibility to keep “America free, safe, and prosperous.” I hope that he does. I also hope that the members of his department do become “Kelly’s heroes.”

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Danger to the Supreme Court

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the dangerous situation in which the Supreme Court currently sits. The Justices that sit on the Supreme Court should not be partial to either political party. They are to judge the law according to the Constitution and not use their position on the bench to support or weaken any politician or party.

            There were great political fights about whether Judge Neil Gorsuch should be confirmed as a Justice for the Supreme Court. Republicans were forced to eliminate the filibuster in order to confirm him. Conservatives celebrated his confirmation, but Chief Justice John Roberts defined the “real danger” that the Supreme Court faces.

            As reported by The Blaze and the Washington Post,  Chief Justice Roberts held a “question-and-answer session at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute” and said that the “partisan hostility” that took place between the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the confirmation of Justice Gorsuch “threatens the sanctity of the court.” The Chief Justice said the following.

I want to point out one thing – that throughout this whole process, the Supreme Court has been quietly going about its business of deciding the cases before it, according to the Constitution, in a completely nonpartisan way. … We’ve done it for the past 14 months with one vacancy, and we’ll do it going in the future now that we have a full complement.

            The Chief Justice continued his comments by stating his real concern about the partisanship that took place in the confirmation process.

It is a real danger that the partisan hostility that people see in the political branches will affect the nonpartisan activity of the judicial branch. It is very difficult I think for a member of the public to look at what goes on in confirmation hearings these days, which is a very sharp conflict in political terms between Democrats and Republicans, and not think that the person who comes out of that process must similarly share that partisan view of public issues and public life.

            The Chief Justice showed his faith in the new Justice by saying that he is “confident” that Gorsuch will not be political in his rulings.

The new justice is not a Republican, not a Democrat – he is a member of the Supreme Court. But it is hard for people to understand that when they see the process that leads up to it.

            The problem as described by the Chief Justice is not that the Justices will be partial to one party or the other, but that the people will think that the Justices are political in their judgments. We have witnessed several rulings in recent years – such as the rulings on Obamacare and same-sex marriage – that could look like they are political but maybe not.

            I suppose that there can be differences between “liberal” rulings and “conservative” rulings without politics being involved, but I can see the danger outlined by the Chief Justice. There have been riots in the streets of the nations for the past six months, and some people are still claiming that Donald Trump is not the legitimate president. What would happen in the nation if unhappy groups of people decided that the Justices were not legitimate because they ruled against the interests of those people? I hate to envision the divisions that would form in the nation. We must insist that Congress take the politics out of the confirmation process and vote on the abilities of the judges. Gorsuch would have been confirmed with 100 percent of the votes, and the voting would have been done quickly!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Warnings from the Book of Mormon

            I chose to write about the following principle: The Americas are a choice land, and the nations that live there must serve God or be swept off when they become ripe in iniquity. The more time that I spend in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the more I am convinced that its writers describe our day with the divisions in our nation, the intrigue in the government, and vast amount of wickedness in the world.

            The books of Mormon and Ether tell of the destructions of two great civilizations that once thrived and prospered in the Americas – the Nephites and the Jaredites. Each group was led by the Lord to America, a place that is described frequently in the Book of Mormon as being a land that “is choice above all the lands of the earth” (Ether 1:42). Each group prospered as long as the people were righteous and worshipped the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ. Each group was swept off the land and destroyed when they reached a fulness of iniquity or became rotten to the core.

            The first group – the Jaredites – came to America in the years following the scattering of the people who tried to build a tower to heaven – the tower of Babel. Their history, which is contained in the book of Ether, covers approximately 1500 years. They had years of prospering, and times of wickedness. The last surviving Jaredite was discovered by the Nephites, who left Jerusalem in 600 B.C.

            The first leaders of the Jaredites were Jared and his brother – known as the brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon. The people were righteous because their leaders were righteous. However, some years after the arrival of the Jaredites in America, Jared and his brother became old and realized they would soon die. They asked their people what they should do for them before they died, and the people answered that they wanted a king to rule over them.

            Jared and his brother found the idea of a king to be “grievous,” and the brother of Jared told the people: “Surely this thing leadeth into captivity” (Ether 6:23). The people insisted that they wanted a king, so the sons of Jared and his brother were asked if they wanted to be king. All of them refused except one, and he was anointed to be king before Jared and his brother died.
He was a righteous king, and the people prospered under his rule. However, there were many kings who were wicked, and the people were often brought into “captivity” before their destruction. The Jaredite history is filled with changes between righteous kings and wicked kings, prospering and suffering.

            The prophet Moroni summarized the Jared history into what is now fifteen chapters in the Book of Mormon. He described the Jaredites during one of their last righteous periods: “Never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord. And they were in a land that was choice above all lands…” (Ether 10:28). What causes a great civilization to progress from being a “blessed” people to total destruction?

            We know about the Jaredites because the Nephites found 24 gold plates that contained their record. The history was written by a prophet named Ether, and his book in the Book of Mormon is called the book of Ether. A Nephite prophet/king named Mosiah was a seer who had the ability to translate languages, and he translated the record of Ether. With the history of the Jaredites firmly in his mind, he recognized the problems caused by wicked kings. He convinced his people to change their type of government from a monarchy to a democracy ruled by a system of judges. He hoped that this change of government would save his people from the same destruction of the Jaredites. It did not.

            Even though the people had the freedom to choose their leaders, they did not always choose wisely. When the people were righteous enough to choose righteous leaders, their nation prospered. When the people chose wicked leaders, the nation suffered. Obviously, the secret to being a “blessed” people is to be righteous and to choose righteous leaders. When people have righteous leaders – king, judge, or president, he/she leads the people righteously. Wicked leaders lead their people into wickedness, and this is what happened to both the Jaredites and the Nephites. The Jaredites were destroyed by division and war among themselves. The Nephites were destroyed by the Lamanites, part of the original group that came from Jerusalem about 1,000 years earlier. Both groups were warned numerous times to repent or be destroyed. They did not listen to the prophets of their day.

            Mormon was a Nephite prophet/military leader/record keeper. He was present when his people were destroyed and was one of twenty-four Nephites who survived the last battle. He greatly mourned the death of his people. Mormon recognized the cause of destruction for both the Jaredites and the Nephites – secret combinations under the control of Satan. While summarizing the record in the book of Helaman, he writes about Gadianton and his robbers.

And behold, in the end of this book ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi.
Behold I do not mean the end of the book of Helaman, but I mean the end of the book of Nephi, from which I have taken all the account which I have written [meaning the end of the Book of Mormon] (Helaman 2:13-14).

            Mormon’s son Moroni was the last surviving Nephite who lived for 20 plus years after the death of his father. Moroni wandered around and kept himself hidden from the Lamanites in order to live. He completed his father’s record, summarized Ether’s record, and made his own record. Some of Moroni’s last words were these.

Condemn me not because of mine imperfections, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been” (Mormon 9:31).

            We can “learn to be more wise” than the Jaredites and Nephites by recognizing that there are secret combinations controlling events in our day. Secret combinations include gangs, terrorist organizations, and secret governments. We can also be "more wise" by listening to the Latter-day prophets and apostles who often warn about secret combinations. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke in the October 1997 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and explained the threat of secret combinations that exist in our day.

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

If we are not careful, today’s secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and just as completely as they did in Book of Mormon times. Do you remember the pattern? The secret combinations began among the “more wicked part” of society, but eventually “seduced the more part of the righteous” until the whole society was polluted (Helaman 6:38)….

The Book of Mormon teaches that the devil is the “author of all sin” and the founder of these secret combinations [Helaman 6:30; see 2 Nephi 26:22]. He uses secret combinations, including gangs, “from generation to generation according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of men” [Helaman 6:3]. His purpose is to destroy individuals, families, communities, and nations [see 2 Nephi 9:9]/ To a degree, he was successful during Book of Mormon times. And he is having far too much success today. That’s why it is so important for us as priesthood holders to take a firm stand for truth and right by doing what we can to help keep our communities safe” (“Standing for Truth and Right,” Ensign, November 1997).

            Following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke in the October 2001 General Conference. This is a long quote, but it is spoken by the prophet of the Lord. He begins his talk by announcing that the United States’ missile attack on Afghanistan has started.

I need not remind you that we live in perilous times. I desire to speak concerning these times and our circumstances as members of this Church.

You are acutely aware of the events of September 11, less than a month ago. Out of that vicious and ugly attack we are plunged into a state of war…. For the first time since we became a nation, the United States has been seriously attacked on its mainland soil. But this was not an attack on the United States alone. It was an attack on men and nations of goodwill everywhere. It was well planned, boldly executed, and the results were disastrous….

Now we are at war. Great forces have been mobilized and will continue to be. Political alliances are being forged. We do not know how long this conflict will last. We do not know what it will cost in lives and treasure. We do not know the manner in which it will be carried out….

Those of us who are American citizens stand solidly with the president of our nation. The terrible forces of evil must be confronted and held accountable for their actions. This is not a matter of Christian against Muslim…. It is terrorist organizations that must be ferreted out and brought down.

We of this church know something of such groups. The Book of Mormon speaks of the Gadianton robbers, a vicious, oath-bound, and secret organization bent on evil and destruction. In their day they did all in their power, by whatever means available, to bring down the Church, to woo the people with sophistry, and to take control of the society. We see the same thing in the present situation….

Occasions of this kind pull us up sharply to a realization that life is fragile, peace is fragile, civilization itself is fragile. The economy is particularly vulnerable….
Great are the promises concerning this land of America. We are told unequivocally that it “is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12). This is the crux of the entire matter – obedience to the commandments of God.

The Constitution under which we live, and which has not only blessed us but has become a model for other constitutions, is our God-inspired national safeguard ensuring freedom and liberty, justice and equality before the law.

I do not know what the future holds. I do not wish to sound negative, but I wish to remind you of the warnings of scripture and the teachings of the prophets which we have had constantly before us….

Now, brothers and sisters, we must do our duty, whatever that duty might be. Peace may be denied for a season. Some of our liberties may be curtailed. We may be inconvenienced. We may even be called on to suffer in one way or another. But God our Eternal Father will watch over this nation and all of the civilized world who look to Him. He has declared, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord (Psalms 33:12). Our safety lies in repentance. Our strength comes of obedience to the commandments of God. [Emphasis added.]

Let us be prayerful. Let us pray for righteousness. Let us pray for the forces of good. Let us reach out to help men and women of goodwill, whatever their religious persuasion and wherever they live. Let us stand firm against evil, both at home and abroad. Let us live worthy of the blessings of heaven, reforming our lives where necessary and looking to Him, the Father of us all. He has said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10).

Are these perilous times? They are. But there is no need to fear. We can have peace in our hearts and peace in our homes. We can be an influence for good in this world, every one of us… (“The Times in Which We Live,” Ensign, October 2001).

            We learn from Elder Ballard and President Hinckley that there are secret combinations in the world. They work under the direction of Satan, whose sole purpose is to destroy civilization and the Church of Jesus Christ. We must defend ourselves against them in every possible way. However, the most effective way is by repenting of our sins, obeying the commandments of God, putting our trust in God, and living the gospel of Jesus Christ as completely and perfectly as we can. God has promised safety and security in this land if we are righteous. There is only one way to destroy the power of the secret combinations of Satan, and that is by righteousness. The Nephites and the Jaredites were destroyed because they became “ripe in iniquity” and were no longer worthy to receive the blessings of God. We can be wiser than they if we will humble ourselves, listen to the prophets, and live righteously.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Search for Happiness

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals are happy. Wise parents, teachers, and leaders will teach the rising generation how to find happiness by their words and examples.

            I have often wondered in recent weeks and months about the level of hate and unhappiness in the world around me. I question the speed with which riots happen and the numbers of protests taking place in our nation. Why is there so much unhappiness?

            I opened my news feed recently and found two articles having to do with happiness.
The first article was a talk titled “The Quest for Happiness” given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This talk was given at Brigham Young University-Idaho on September 23, 2014. It was printed in the September 2016 New Era. He begins his talk with this paragraph:

I do not think God in his glory or the angels of heaven or the prophets on earth intend to make us happy all the time, every day in every way, given the testing and trial this earthly realm is intended to provide. As President James E. Faust (1920-2007) once phrased it: “Happiness is not given to us in a package that we can just open up and consume. Nobody is ever happy 24 hours a day, seven days a week” (“Our Search for Happiness,” Ensign, Oct. 2000, 2). But my reassurance to you today is that in God’s plan we can do very much to find the happiness we do desire. We can take certain steps, we can form certain habits, we can do certain things that God and history tell us lead to happiness.”

            In the body of his talk Elder Holland discusses four actions we can take to increase our own happiness and to help others to find more happiness.

1. Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Above all else, ultimate happiness, true peace, and anything even remotely close to scriptural joy are found first, foremost, and forever in living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Lots of other philosophies and systems of belief have been tried. Indeed it seems safe to say that virtually every other philosophy and system has been tried down through the centuries of history. But when the Apostle Thomas asked the Lord the question young people often ask today, “How can we know the way?” (and at your age in life that really translates, “How can we know the ay to be happy?”), Jesus gave the answer that rings from eternity to all eternity, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. … And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do. … If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:5-6, 13-14)….

2. Choose to Be Happy. Second, learn as quickly as you can that so much of your happiness is in your hands, not in events or circumstances or fortune or misfortune. That is part of what the battle for agency was over in the premortal councils of heaven. We have choice, we have the power to make our own decisions, we have agency, and we can choose if not happiness per se, then we can choose to live after the manner of it. Happiness comes first by what comes into your head a long time before it comes into your hand….

3. Don’t Be Negative, Mean, or Angry. You can never, worlds without end, build your happiness on someone else’s unhappiness. That is what bullying is. That is what catty remarks are. That is what arrogance and superficiality and exclusiveness are. Perhaps we think if we are negative enough, or cynical enough, or just plain mean enough, then expectations won’t be too high; we can keep everyone down to a flaw-filled level and therefore our flaws won’t be so glaring. Happy people aren’t negative or cynical or mean, so don’t plan on that being part of the “manner” of happiness. If my life has taught me anything, it is that kindness and pleasantness and faith-based optimism are characteristics of happy people. A related step along the path toward happiness is to avoid animosity, contention, and anger in your life.

4. Work Hard and Study. …If you want to be happy in school, or on a mission, or in a marriage – work at it. Learn to work. Serve diligently. Don’t be idle and mischievous. A homespun definition of Christlike character might be the integrity to do the right thing at the right time in the right way. So don’t be idle. Don’t be wasteful. Do the right thing at the right time. “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). “Be industrious, and … labor,” including laboring for and serving others, one of the truly great keys to true happiness.

            Elder Holland counsels us to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, choose to be happy, don’t be negative, mean, or angry, and work hard and study. He closes his talk by testifying that God desires His children to be happy and will help us as we use our agency to seek happiness.

            The second article concerns the secrets of happiness that we can learn from Hawaiians. A recently released Gallup poll had the headline, “Hawaii Leads U.S. States in Well-Being for Record Sixth Time.” This poll proves that Hawaiians are the happiest people in the United States. Therefore, they can teach me some of the secrets to finding happiness.

            Cameron C. Taylor is the author of the article titled “5 Secrets for Happiness We Can All Learn From Hawaiians.” The author uses the “five principles of aloha: puliki, `aka, aloha, `aina, napo`o `ano o ka la and ohana” to explain Hawaiian happiness.

1. Puliki is the Hawaiian word for “embrace.” Hugs are the Hawaiian handshake, but a Hawaiian hug is much more than a greeting. It is an expression of love, trust, hospitality, and family….

2. `Aka (laughter) is a very important part of Hawaiian life. Hawaiians understand that laughter is one of the greatest emotions and is a pure form of communication with God. Life should be filled with laughter….

3. The literal translation of aloha `aina is “love of the land,” but as with all Hawaiian words, the definition cannot be captured with a few words of translation. The phrase aloha `aina is a connection with God and His creations. Nature is a great gift from our Creator and is much more than physical objects….

4. Napo`o `ana o ka la. While in Hawaii, it is fun to see people gather each night and watch the setting of the sun in silence. Each sunset is an opportunity to watch God as He paints on His heavenly canvas and is a clear reminder of the immensity of God’s power, creations, and grace. Watching the sunset helps us connect with God and helps us hear God speaking to us….

5. Ohana (family) comes from the highly reverenced word `oha. `Oha is a word for the ancient taro root from which all taro has sprung. The taro plant was a staple of life to the ancient Hawaiians and was a main source of food and medicine. The word ohana signifies that all people come from the same root – God….

            The counsel given by Elder Holland and the examples of the Hawaiians support each other. Just as Elder Holland counsels us to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Hawaiian principles teach us that God created this beautiful world for us and reminds us of His power and glory with each sunrise and sunset. Just as Elder Holland counsels us to choose to be happy and not be negative, mean, or angry, the Hawaiians teach us to laugh, hug, and treat each other as family. Elder Holland counsels us to work hard and study, and the Hawaiians teach us to enjoy nature. I enjoy nature by working in my yard and studying how to make my gardens more lovely and more productive.

            There is an old saying that shows the importance of using our agency to seek happiness. It is, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by choosing to be happy and teaching this skill to the rising generation.