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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Illegal Votes

            The Democrats claim that there are no illegal votes. They especially do not want anyone thinking that people who enter the United States illegally would also vote illegally. Well, another report has surfaced that confirms illegally voting by noncitizen immigrants. This news illustrates the inability of the state to maintain correct election rolls.

            Will Racke at The Daily Signal recently reported that Pennsylvania is does not have clean voter rolls and has not had them for several years.

Jonathan Marks, commissioner for Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, told a state legislative committee that an agency analysis found 544 improper ballots cast from 2000 through 2017.

The election commission says those ballots were cast by noncitizen immigrants who claim they had mistakenly registered to vote, reports the Associated Press. In response to questions from Republican lawmakers, the commission said it was investigating if other noncitizen immigrants remain registered to vote.

The hearing comes two weeks after former Pennsylvania Secretary of State Pedro Cortes abruptly resigned amid disclosures that legal resident noncitizens were able to register to vote while applying for or renewing drivers licenses. After inquiries from Republican state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the Pennsylvania State Department said it had records of 1,160 canceled voter registrations listing ineligibility as a reason and had put the issue under review.

            Just for fun, let’s suppose there are 544 “improper” ballots cast in every state. That would be 50 times 544, which totals 27,200. The total is not a big factor when compared to millions of ballots, but it does show that there is a problem. Does each state have more or fewer than 544 illegally-cast ballots? That is a good question that deserves a fair and accurate answer.

            Another good question is, “What were “they” thinking when they offer voter registration to everyone who applies for or renews a driver’s license? The right to vote is a privilege and an opportunity that should be kept safe and secure, not handed out to anyone who wants it. Republicans have been voicing concern for years about the possibility of noncitizens and illegal immigrants affecting elections. Donald Trump claims that “millions” of illegal votes were cast and created an election integrity commission to investigate any vulnerability in the system.
The commission sent letters to all 50 states in July 2017, asking for specific information such as, names, birth dates, partial social security numbers, and voting history. Racke also reports:

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, declined to provide some of the information, citing privacy issues and “grave concerns your request is a mere pretense for pursuing restrictions on the fundamental right of citizens to vote.”

            Voting is fundamental right of citizens – not non-citizens, whether here legally or illegally. States should revisit their decision to make voter registration so accessible to people who should not be applying for it. States should also do whatever is necessary to clean up their voter rolls to insure that only eligible voters are registered to vote.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Franz Liszt

            Franz Liszt (Liszt Ferencz or Liszt Ferenc in Hungarian) was born on October 22, 1811,
in the village of Doborjan (Raiding in German) in the Kingdom of Hungary in the Austrian Empire. His parents were Adam and Maria Anna Lager Liszt. His father played the piano, violin, cello, and guitar, and he personally knew Haydn, Hummel, and Beethoven.

            When he was six years old, Liszt became interested in his father’s piano playing. When he was seven years old, his father began to teach him how to play the piano. When he was eight years old, Liszt was doing elementary compositions. By the time he was nine years old, he was giving concerts. After listening to him play, “a group of wealthy sponsors offered to finance his musical education in Vienna.” He eventually became a “prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author, nationalist and a Franciscan tertiary.” His Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-Sharp Minor (Orchestra version) can be heard at this site. 

            Liszt eloped to Switzerland with Countess Marie d’Agoult who left her husband and family to be with Liszt. The couple had three children: Blandine, Cosima, and Daniel.

            Liszt seemed to be in good health and to be fit and active even though his feet and legs were swollen with possible congestive heart failure. After he fell on the stairs in a Weimar hotel on July 2, 1881, he was immobilized for eight weeks and never recovered from his fall. He had other ailments – dropsy, asthma, insomnia, and a cataract – in addition to heart disease. He died at age 74 on July 31, 1886, in Bayreuth, Germany, from pneumonia. He was buried on August 3, 1886, in the municipal cemetery of Bayreuth against his wishes.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the simple fact that the two founding documents of the United States – the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution – are one in spirit and work together to establish and preserve liberty for all.

            The Declaration of Independence declared that all political connections between the American colonists and their mother country of Great Britain were broken. It lists all the grievances against the King in order to justify the move to declare independence. The declaration explains that the division had to happen in order for the colonists to establish a fair and just government based on inspired ideas and principles.

            Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, wrote: “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….”

            The U.S. Constitution was written to explain how the ideas and principles of the new government would protect the rights originally bestowed by God. The Founders understood that God is the Supreme Ruler who bestowed liberty and agency on mankind. They also understood that government could have no power unless it was given by the people. The order of power is God, Man, and Government.

            Glenn Beck understands the relationship between the Declaration and the Constitution. He recently said, “The reason why we are having so many problems in our country is because we are trying to cut the Declaration of Independence away from the Constitution. You can’t. They need each other.”

            The two documents are meant to stand together. They support each other as they established liberty and now protect the God-given freedoms that all men should enjoy. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

True Discipleship

            I do not know the reason, but I seem to be hearing the words “disciple” and “discipleship” more often in recent months and years. The words might be spoken more often now, or I may be more prepared to hear them. At any rate, I am more aware that I must become a better disciple of Jesus Christ.

            With those thoughts in my mind, I listened carefully to the words spoken by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf to the women, young women, and girls in the women’s session of the October 2017 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

            President Uchtdorf told a story about three sisters who lived in a distant land a long time ago. The three sisters were named Sad, Mad, and Glad. As you might suppose, the oldest sister was sad about all the disappointments in her life, and the middle sister was mad about the way others treated her. He continued the story as follows.

Then there was the third sister. Unlike her sad and made sisters, she was – well, glad. And it wasn’t because she was smarter or more beautiful or more capable than her sisters. No, people sometimes avoided or ignored her too. They sometimes made fun of what she was wearing or the things she was saying. They sometimes said mean things about her. But she did not allow any of that to bother her too much.

This sister loved to sing. She didn’t have great pitch, and people laughed about it, but that didn’t stop her. She would say, “I am not going to let other people and their opinions stop me from singing!”

The very fact that she kept singing made her first sister sad and her second sister mad.

Many years passed, and eventually each sister reached the end of her time on earth.
The first sister, who discovered again and again that there was no shortage of disappointments in life, eventually died sad.

The second, who every day found something new to dislike, died mad.

And the third sister, who spent her life singing her song with all her might and a confident smile on her face, died glad.

            Acknowledging that “life is never so simple, and people are never so one-dimensional” as the sisters in his story, President Uchtdorf said that “even extreme examples … can teach us something about ourselves.” He then looked closer at the examples.

            The first sister was sad because she “saw herself as a victim – as someone who was acted upon.” It was the things that kept happening in her life that made her unhappy. She gave control over her feelings, actions, and happiness to other people and circumstances. Dear sisters, why should you surrender your happiness to someone, or a group of someones, who cares very little about you or your happiness?

            President Uchtdorf suggested an antidote for this condition. “Remember that you are of the royal house of the kingdom of God, daughters of Heavenly Parents, who reign throughout the universe. You have the spiritual DNA of God… You are in His hands.”

            The second sister, the hater, was mad or angry because “she felt that the problems in her life were all caused by someone else. She blamed her family, her friends, her boss and coworkers, the police, the neighbors, Church leaders, current fashion trends, even the intensity of solar flares, and plain bad luck. And she lashed out at all of them.

            President Uchtdorf’s antidote for this condition is to learn to love our enemies. “We are responsible for our own discipleship, and it has little – if anything – to do with the way others treat us… Perhaps our effort to love our enemies will soften their hearts and influence them for good. Perhaps it will not. But that does not change our commitment to follow Jesus Christ.”

            The third sister was glad. “She represents the authentic disciple of Jesus Christ. She did something that can be extremely hard to do: she trusted God even in the face of ridicule and hardship. Somehow she maintained her faith and hope, despite the scorn and cynicism around her. She lived joyfully, not because her circumstances were joyful but because she was joyful.”

            President Uchtdorf reminded his listeners that the journey through life is full of opposition. None of us will escape from mortality without being challenged in some way. Sometimes, it seems that the tests and trials are too many and come too frequently.

            I recently had the opportunity to visit with my older brother and his wife. Both of them are in their mid-80s, and both enjoyed fairly good health until a couple of years ago when my brother’s health started to decline and she became his caretaker. Although his mind seems to be clear and strong, his body is giving out. He seems to have suffered several mini-strokes as his left arm and leg are not very strong. He needs help to sit or stand. Walking on his own or even with a walker is in the past. His mode of transportation is now a wheelchair. He can feed himself, but he needs help to get in and out of bed and to dress and undress.

            Yet, with all the above problems and the accompanying embarrassments and feelings of uselessness, my brother has a wonderful attitude. He never complains about his situation or if things are not done as he would prefer. He expresses gratitude to everyone who assists him in any way. I frequently heard him humming and singing. He has accepted his lot in life and seems to feel no need to hurt others. He is a joy to be around and to serve. He is still a great example to me of how a disciple of Jesus Christ should live.

            President Uchtdorf gave the following counsel to help us through the difficulty of moving forward and upward toward salvation.

Stay on the path!
Never let go of the rod of iron – the word of God!
And when anyone tries to make you ashamed for partaking of the love of God, ignore them.

Never forget you are a child of God; rich blessings are in store; if you can learn to do His will, you’ll live with Him once more!

The promises of praise and acceptance by the world are unreliable, untrue, and unsatisfying. God’s promises are sure, true, and joyful – now and forever…

There may be many things about life that are beyond your control. But in the end, you have the power to choose both your destination and many of your experiences along the way. It is not so much your abilities but your choices that make the difference in life…

I urge you to fill your hearts with gratitude for the abundant and limitless goodness of God…

            President Uchtdorf closed his remarks by leaving his “blessing as an Apostle of the Lord that you will find the strength and courage to joyfully thrive as a daughter of God while gladly walking each day on the glorious path of discipleship.”

            It is not enough to simply be obedient and follow the teachings of the Savior. He wants us to find joy in our journey through life. He desires us to be joyful disciples and will reward us for having good attitudes even during difficult times.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Learning Plan Based on Needs

            Families, communities, and nations can be strengthened by individuals who understand that their learning plan should be based on the actual needs. A person can begin by asking the following questions about the situation: Why? How? What? Why is studying this material important to me? How can I motivate myself to learn this material? What can I do to accomplish this task?

            The World Book of Study Power, volume 1, discusses this subject in an effort to help readers develop a study plan and states that any learning plan should be based on the strengths and preferences of the learner as well as their resources, time, and expectations. Much of the following information comes from the book in direct quote or general ideas. The book gives the following example of how to make a plan. Remembering that the “task is to learn the spelling and definitions of words,” decide which strategy would work best for you?

What would you do if you had to learn the spellings and meanings of several words? Maybe you have a vocabulary test coming up. Or maybe you’re preparing a report on a new computer system and will use lots of technical words that are new to you. You have a week to review for the test or write the report. You’ll be judged on your accuracy.

How are you going to stir your own curiosity and drive to learn these words? What attitude can get you through this? This is probably the most difficult step. Maybe you’re wondering why you have to do this in the first place. Try to figure out a reason ….

Now, think about your strengths and weaknesses as a learner. Think about what you should do and what you should avoid doing.

Learning new words involves memorization. If you learn visually, you may want to read the list of words and their definitions. Illustrating the definitions may help. Or, try drawing a box around the word to see what shape the word forms. If you are a verbal learner, you could use the words to make up a story. If you learn best by hearing things, you may want to tape yourself saying, spelling, and defining the word so that you can play it over and over. You could even make up songs about the words. If you learn best by doing, try using the words in everyday conversation. Maybe somebody will ask you what the words mean – that will give you a chance to see if you truly understand them.

Also think about whether you’ll learn better if you work alone or with a companion. Do you like to work at your own pace? Or does another person’s enthusiasm help get you going? …

Consider what you already know. Which words and spellings already are part of your vocabulary? You don’t need to spend time relearning those words. Which words are similar to words you already know? Apply that understanding to the new words.
Which words are completely new? Look them up in a dictionary. Read the definitions and look at the word histories, or etymologies. Finding out where words come from explains a lot about them. Make a conscious effort to connect what find out to words you already know (page 27-28).

            The book also suggests that the learner consider the time of day that is best for concentration and the place that would work best for that time. A learner must also consider if soft background music is helpful or harmful for concentration as well as the type of lighting and the temperature needed for good study.

            The learner must understand that long study periods may not be conducive to good results. They might decide to take regular breaks from studying in order to rest body and mind and to return to the task rejuvenated.

            The student must also analyze how their study plan is working. If the plan is too time-consuming or will not work for other reasons, the learner will need to change the plan or even make a new one. If the plan works and the goal is accomplished, a note should be made of the plan and how it worked. If the plan did not work so well, the effective student would determine what could be changed in the future to make the plan work better. Successful learners are not necessarily smarter or work harder. The successful learner is the person who learns to study smarter, but not study longer or harder.

            Parents can best teach their children that learning is important by being a learner. Children watch what their parents do and try to imitate the actions. If a parent would like their child to be a reader, the parent’s example is the strongest teaching model. If a parent would like to change their child’s behavior, they must first look to their own behavior. Parents cannot expect children to behave in ways that the parents do not model. When a parent sees their child doing the desired activities, compliment and encourage them. “I noticed that you were reading. What do you like best about reading?” Parents must also remember that each child is an individual with their own learning pace. The ideal situation is for parents to make learning and studying a way of life for their family and to make it fun. They can help their children develop a life-long love for learning.

            This writer is encouraged by the statement, “Learning how to learn is a lifelong endeavor. The short-term goals are completing assignments for work or school. The long-term goal is growing in wisdom” (page 29). This means that one is never too old to learn better study skills and improve learning habits. Learning new skills and information brings greater confidence and a stronger drive to keep learning. This increased confidence brings increased self-esteem as it strengthens the learner. Stronger and more independent individuals strengthen families, communities, and nations.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Censoring Free Speech

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns freedom of speech. This freedom is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but it is under continuing assault.
The latest assault took place on the campus of the University of Oregon when President Michael H. Schill attempted to give his state-of-the-university speech. 

            Schill says that he planned to announce a $50 million gift to the university that would provide funding for several new programs. He was unable to present his comments because students with “a megaphone and raised fists” protested rising tuition. He posted a recorded version of his remarks online.

            Stating that he has “nothing against protest,” Schill says that he is concerned about the act of silencing other people’s right to speak.

I have nothing against protest. It is a time-honored form of communicating dissent. Often, the concerns students express very much deserve to be addressed. But the tactic of silencing, which has been deployed repeatedly at universities around the country, only hurts these activists’ cause. Rather than helping people who feel they have little power or voice, students who squelch speech alienate those who are most likely to be sympathetic to their message.

It is also ironic that they would associate fascism with the university during a protest in which they limit discourse. One of the students who stormed the stage during my talk told the news media to “expect resistance to anyone who opposes us.” That is awfully close to the language and practices of those the students say they vehemently oppose.

Fundamentally, fascism is about the smothering of dissent. Every university in the country has history classes that dig into fascist political movements and examine them along very clear-eyed lines. Fascist regimes rose to power by attacking free speech, threatening violence against those who opposed them, and using fear and the threat of retaliation to intimidate dissenters.

By contrast, American academia is dedicated to rational discourse, shared governance and the protection of dissent. Historically, fascists sought to silence, imprison and even kill university professors and other intellectuals who resisted authoritarian rule. So the accusation that American universities somehow shelter or promote fascism is odd and severely misguided. (Emphasis added.)

            The protesters are apparently concerned that the protection of free speech also permits neo-Nazis and white supremacists to voice their views. Even though he is opposed to all that these groups profess, Schill explains that “offensive speech can never be the sole criterion for shutting down a speaker.”

            Schill continues with an explanation of how “the word `fascism’ has deep emotional connotations for me. It’s the reason for great suffering in my family. Two generations ago, members of my extended family were thrown into concentration camps and murdered in Eastern Europe during the Holocaust.” He explains that he is offended when anyone accuses him of “leading an institution that harbors and promotes fascism,” but that does not justify censoring another person’s right to speak. We must have the freedom to share our ideas, even offensive ones, in order for our society to move forward. The students are definitely misguided in their attempt to stop their university president from speaking.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Another Right Under Assault

            American freedoms are under attack. First, there was the attack on the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.” This assault continues in the demands for more gun control. Then there was the attack on religion. Any action, such as placing a Nativity set on public property or saying a prayer at a high school graduation, came under attack. The very words “In God We Trust” on our currency is under attack. The freedom to use our time and talents – bake cakes, take pictures, provide flowers, etc. – is under attack.

            Then attacks started on the freedom to speak. Protests on college campuses prevent speakers from presenting any ideas that might cause panic attacks in their listeners. These people – often called snowflakes – need “safe places” to hide from ideas with which they do not agree.

            Now the right to assemble is under attack. This, too, happened on a college campus. A group of students – Democrat and Republican - was meeting in a room at the library on the University of California Santa Cruz campus when their meeting was interrupted by other students who did not approve of their ideas and principles.  When a person in authority met with the combined group and asked the intruding students to leave, one of the intruding students said to another student, “Your existence is a disruption.”

            Even though the first group of students invited the second group to meet with them to share their ideas, the second group was still upset. It is obvious that the second group does not want anyone with opposing ideas to assemble to share ideas or even to exist. How sad that there are so many closed-minded students on the university campuses in our nation!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Justice for Kate Steinle?

            On a “beautiful summer afternoon” in July 2015, Kate Steinle and her father were strolling along Pier 14 in San Francisco. Suddenly, Kate fell to the ground and pleaded for her father to help her. She died soon afterwards.

            The trial for Steinle’s alleged killer, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, started this week. Zarate is an undocumented immigrant who had been deported five times and had recently completed time in prison for re-entering the U.S. illegally. He was transferred from the prison to the San Francisco County jail on a marijuana charge. The charge was dropped, and Zarate was released from jail. Even though federal immigration authorities had asked for Zarate to be retained for two days, the sheriff released him in obedience to the city’s sanctuary policy.

            Zarate admitted that he shot Steinle, but he claims that it was an accident. He claims that he found the gun and that it misfired while he was looking at it. The bullet hit the pier about 15 feet from Zarate and ricocheted “almost 80 feet farther to hit Steinle.” The defense will use this fact to prove that Zarate was not actually trying to shoot Steinle, but the prosecution has firearms experts who will testify that he might have been aiming at her and pulled the trigger prematurely.

            The Sig Sauer P239 was issued to a federal agent with the Bureau of Land Management, and it was stolen from his vehicle during a family trip from Southern California to Montana. There is no evidence that Zarate stole the gun, which he claims that he found wrapped in a cloth on the pier.

            In response to the defense attorneys’ claim that the gun misfired, Assistant District Attorney Diana Garcia stated that the bureau’s armory had checked the gun just three months prior to the shooting and found the “very reliable, high-quality gun” to be working perfectly.

            The court arguments at this point seem to revolve around the gun itself. There is little said about the fact that Zarate was in the U.S. illegally. If the border was secure, Zarate would most likely have not been in the U.S. and Steinle would still be alive. This fact needs to be stated over and over even if it does not play a role in the court case. Will this case have any influence on the immigration policies of the United States?” Only time will tell if Kate Steinle will receive justice.      

Monday, October 23, 2017

Niccolo Paganini

            Niccolo Paganini was born in Genoa, Italy, on October 27, 1782, the third of six children of his parents Antonio and Teresa Bocciardo Paganini. His father supplemented his trader’s income by playing the mandolin. Paganini was only five years old when he started learning how to play the mandolin. He had moved to the violin by the time he was seven years old. He earned numerous lesson scholarships due to the fact that his talents for music were quickly recognized.

            Paganini studied with local teachers until his talents surpassed that of his instructors. His father took him to Parma to seek instructions from Alessandro Rolla. When Rolla heard Paganini play, he referred the young boy to his own teacher, Ferdinando Paer. Paganini later studied with Paer’s teacher, Gasparo Ghiretti. Paganini’s composition style was influenced by Paer and Ghiretti even though he did not study with them long.

            The Paganini family sought refuge in their country property during the March 1796 French invasion of northern Italy. Paganini may have learned to play the guitar during this period. He did not play the guitar for public concerts but preferred to play in private moments. He later described the guitar as his “constant companion” while on concert tours.

            By 1800 when Paganini was 17 years old, he played in concerts in Livorno. In 1801 Paganini was appointed first violin of the Republic of Lucca, but he made a “substantial portion of his income from freelancing.” He apparently was well-known for being a “gambler and womanizer.”

In 1805, Lucca was annexed by Napoleonic France, and the region was ceded to Napoleon’s sister, Elisa Baciocchi. Paganini became a violinist for the Baciocchi court, while giving private lessons to Elisa’s husband, Felice. In 1807, Baciocchi became the Grand Duchess of Tuscany and her court was transferred to Florence. Paganini was part of the entourage, but, towards the end of 1809, he left Baciocchi to resume his freelance career.

            Paganini gained popularity with the local audience but was not known outside the local area until he gave a concert in Milan in 1813. His performance was so outstanding that he attracted the attention of “other prominent, though more conservative, musicians across Europe.”
Pope Leo XII honored Paganini in 1827 with the Order of the Golden Spur, his fame begin to spread across Europe.

            In August 1828 he started a concert tour in Vienna and stopped at “every major European city in Germany, Poland, and Bohemia until the tour ended in Strasbourg in February 1831. He performed other tours in Paris and Britain.

            Paganini composed his own works and modified the works, mostly concertos, written by others. He was a violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer.

He was the most celebrated violin virtuoso of his time, and left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique. His 24 Caprices for Solo Violin Op. 1 are among the best known of his compositions, and have served as an inspiration for many prominent composers.

            This site has a video of Caprice 24, and this site has “the best” of Paganini’s music. 

            Paganini apparently never married, but he had one son, Achille Cyrus Alexander Paganini. The great musician suffered from chronic illnesses throughout his life, and his extravagant lifestyle only added to his health problems. As early as 1822 he was diagnosed with syphilis, and his remedy for the illness increased the problems with his health. In 1834 he was treated for tuberculosis in Paris, and he ended his concert career and returned to Genoa in September of that year.

            Paganini opened a casino in Paris in 1836, but it failed immediately. Left in “financial ruin,” he “auctioned off his personal effects, including his musical instruments, to recoup his losses.” Leaving Paris at Christmas time in 1838, Paganini to Marseilles and then to Nice where his health condition became worse.

In May 1840, the Bishop of Nice sent Paganini a local parish priest to perform the last rites. Paganini assumed the sacrament was premature, and refused.

A week later, on 27 May 1840, Paganini died from internal hemorrhaging before a priest could be summoned. Because of this, and his widely rumored association with the devil, the Church denied his body a Catholic burial in Genoa. It took four years and an appeal to the Pope before the Church let his body be transported to Genoa, but it was still not buried. His body was finally buried in 1876, in a cemetery in Parma. In 1893, the Czech violinist Frantisek Ondricek persuaded Paganini’s grandson, Attila, to allow a viewing of the violinist’s body. After this episode, Paganini’s body was finally reinterred in a new cemetery in Parma in 1896.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Founders and Guns

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This discussion is critical in view of the increasing numbers of liberals calling for more gun control. Why did the Founders consider the “right to keep and bear arms” as being so important as to enshrine it in the Constitution?

            Jimmy Kimmel suggested that the Founders did not anticipate the new technology that makes guns more lethal in our day. However, Jarrett Stepman at The Daily Signal calls the idea a “straw man.”

The Founders did not design the Constitution so that it would only be applicable in their own day. The rights they aimed to protect weren’t tied to a specific time or era, but were timeless and universal.

The Second Amendment was not made up out of thin air. The Founders saw it as a legal expression of a citizen’s natural right to self-defense and preservation, and his ability to resist governmental tyranny.

            Stepman did not stop at the above explanation, but he continued a discussion about the fundamental right to defend oneself.

Self-defense is among the “God-given rights” that the Declaration of Independence refers to. These principles are grounded in Western tradition and are at the cornerstone of our civilization – though they are increasingly dismissed as radical and “fundamentalist” by some in the modern media.

If one believes “rights” come from government, not God or nature, it is easy to see why those like Kimmel believe this ever-evolving set of rights simply needs to be legally updated from time to time.

But this is not how the Founders thought, nor is it what they conceived when they decided to protect the blessings of liberty for themselves or their posterity….
This logic of self-defense has been at the heart of recent Supreme Court rulings that have sided with the right to bear arms.

            Stepman continues his discussion with an explanation about technology and why more gun control will not make Americans safer. He closes his post by explaining that more gun control has done little to decrease gun crime.

Americans are simply unwilling to surrender their God-given rights based on dubious claims that the government can make us perfectly safe from evil-doers…. So while those on the left … make passionate pleas for this country to “do something,” like pass gun control to stop violence, few besides the already-converted are going to buy it.

            Even though liberals are slow to realize it, Americans are not stupid. We can read the news reports about the many gun deaths in Chicago even though there is strict gun control there. We can read about the relative safety of Switzerland where every citizen carries a gun. We can read of the atrocities that have taken place in nations after their governments took “control” of all the guns. No, Americans are not stupid. More and more of us want our guns and the right to use them in self-defense.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Coming to Know Jesus Christ

            I recently started listening to the scriptures and General Conference talks while going about my tasks. I find that the practice not only increases my knowledge but also calms my spirit and keeps my thoughts more appropriate.

            One day I listened to a talk by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and found it so enlightening that I listened to it several times. He gave this talk in the October 2016 General Conference. It is titled “If Ye Had Known Me.” 

            Elder Bednar begins his talk by reminding us of an eternal principle: The only way that we can receive “the saving grace of the Son” is to do “the will of the Father.” After giving His Sermon on the Mount the Savior said the following.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23). 

            After reading the above scripture, Elder Bednar gives the following explanation before moving on to the parable of the ten virgins where there is similar wording.

Our understanding of this episode is enlarged as we reflect upon an inspired revision to the text. Significantly, the Lord’s phrase reported in the King James Version of the Bible, “I never knew you,” was changed in the Joseph Smith Translation to “Ye never knew me” (JST Matthew 7:23).

            Elder Bednar summarizes the first part of the parable where the ten virgins are waiting for the bridegroom to come. The cry comes that he is on his way, and the virgins trim their lamps. Some of them brought extra oil, and some of them left to buy oil.

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage; and the door was shut.

Afterward came also the [five foolish] virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not (Matt. 25:10-12). 

            Giving a similar explanation, Elder Bednar shares the inspired revision in the Joseph Smith Translation. “I know you not” in the King James Version was clarified by Joseph Smith to say, “Ye know me not” (JST Matthew 25:12). His following words are what caused me to listen to his talk numerous times. I would love to discuss this talk in Relief Society or with my oldest sister in order to gain further enlightenment.

The phrases “Ye never knew me” and “Ye know me not” should be a cause of deep spiritual introspection for each of us. Do we only know about the Savior, or are we increasingly coming to know Him? How do we come to know the Lord? These questions of the soul are the focus of my message. I earnestly invite the assistance of the Holy Ghost as we consider together this vital subject.

            According to Elder Bednar we come to know the Savior by doing the following actions:
(1) Exercising faith in Him, (2) Following Him, (3) Serving Him, and (4) Believing Him. We come to know the Savior by doing the things that He does and becoming like Him.

            I realized from Elder Bednar’s remarks that there is no way that Jesus Christ does not know each one of us. Joseph Smith says the following about his first vision when the Father and the Son appeared to Him.

… I saw  a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

… When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (Joseph Smith-History 1:16-17). 

            Just as Heavenly Father knew the name of Joseph Smith, He knows your name and my name. He knows us. He will never say, “I never knew you” or “I know ye not.” However, it is very possible that He could say, “Ye never knew me” or “Ye know me not.” Coming to know the Father and the Son is not something that happens overnight or without effort.

            Exercising faith in Jesus Christ will sometimes take us right to the edge before an answer comes; sometimes we just have to keep moving in spite of not having a firm answer. We must not only believe in the Savior, but we must also believe Him. We must believe His words and put our total trust in Him. We must be willing to do whatever He asks of us – to go wherever He wants us to go, to do whatever He wants us to do, and to become what He wants us to become. We can best serve Him by serving the people around us.



Friday, October 20, 2017

Why Study?

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals understand the importance of studying in their lives. As I discussed last week learning can take place without the effort of studying, such as infants who learn to crawl, walk, talk, and feed themselves. They do no studying, yet they learn a great deal. However, in order to understand information, one must study.

            A book titled The World Book of Study Power, book one of a set of two, has a section about the reasons studying is important to succeed in school, at work, and in life itself. Since I am now a student, I want to learn good study skills and am sharing what I learning with you. The following is what I learned from reading the above referenced book today.

When you study, you search for understanding. You read, take notes, listen, and try to remember because you know that you can learn and understand complex ideas, concepts, and subjects. Studying is a means to understanding….

Every time you learn something, you prepare yourself to learn more. For example, you must learn to count before you can learn to add or subtract. And you must learn to add and subtract before you can hope to master more complex mathematical principles. The more you learn, the more you are able to learn. That’s because by learning something, you expand not only your knowledge but your self-confidence. Every time you complete that circuit, you deepen your understanding of the world (pages 20-21).

            The book states that there is a wide variety of “steps to learning” that we must climb in order to study effectively. These steps are called “strategies,” and the learner must “know what strategies you have to choose from, how to use those strategies, and when to use a particular strategy” (page 21).

            When one learns something new, their mind changes “to new ways of thinking or acting” causing one to change their approach to learning. A suggested example of this change is looking for a library book. One can search for a book by walking up and down each aisle looking at the books, or one can use the data in the library’s computer. Learning to use the information in the computer changes the procedure to find books in the library (page 22).

            Since studying is supposed to help learning to take place, it stands to reason that one must study effectively, and to study effectively means that one must understand how they learn. The book uses Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison as examples. Einstein was a “pioneer in physics,” yet he failed math. Edison was a “great inventor,” yet he was labeled “addled” by his teacher. Both men were highly intelligent, but they performed badly in school because they learned in ways different than the normal student. Students do their best when they understand “how to learn.”

What Einstein and Edison did know about themselves – and what you can find out – was how they learned best, what they had to do to reach their goals, what resources they had, and how to get the job done. You can learn to direct your studying so that it pays off. To do so, you must organize your thoughts and time, channel your energy, and connect whatever you’re learning to what you already know (page 23).

            Because learning does not just happen even though one has the desire to learn, one must prepare to learn, such as warming up before exercising. This warm up includes the following (sometimes summarized) elements:

. Yourself: What do you already know? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

. Criteria: What are you expected to achieve? How much time do you have? How will you be evaluated? How will this project help in the future?

. Resources: What do you need to complete the task? Where can you go for help? What materials should you use? Where can you get the books or equipment needed?

Task to be performed: Do you have to prepare a report, take a test, master a new computer program, or give a demonstration?

Strategies: What must you do to successfully complete each task? Can you break down your task into smaller steps? How and when can you take those steps?

            Preparing oneself to learn gives one a structure or outline to check progress as well as a timetable to complete the task. The above checklist also helps one to know how one learns the best, the most important preparation for learning.

            “Everybody learns different things in different ways. How you learn depends on what you learn.” Some of the different types of learning are: (1) kinesthetic learning or doing (riding a bicycle); (2) tactile or feeling (kneading bread); (3) auditory learning or listening (singing, playing a musical instrument, or learning to appreciate music; (4) visual learning (learning about the stars and planets). You should note that these types of learning come from our senses.

Your senses bring all kinds of information to you. Without realizing it, you are learning all kinds of things in all kinds of ways. Usually, if you’re learning for your own satisfaction, you instinctively let the task guide you. Without thinking about it, you choose the best way to learn…. Break down any task into smaller parts. If you take one bite at a time, you’ll be able to enjoy each one (page 25).

            As parents, grandparents, and teachers our task is to help children and youth to understand how they learn best. This knowledge will come in both formal and informal teaching situations. By helping the rising generation to learn how they learn best, we can strengthen individuals, families, communities, and nations.