Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Adrian Perry

            My VIP for this week is Adrian Perry. I chose her because she did one of the hardest things that a mother could ever do. I do not know if I would have had the courage to do what she did. Last Tuesday while watching the news, she recognized her son in a surveillance video of an armed robbery and turned him into the police. Why did this mother turn in her son? 

I love him. That’s what you call tough love. Something a lot of more parents needs to start doing.

            Perry’s son is now in jail with $100,000 bail on two counts of aggravated robbery and two counts of aggravated assault. It seems that he was in the act of robbing three people when one of the three pulled out a gun and shot at him. He returned two shots, but no one was hit.

            Perry’s mother heart must be breaking to know that her son performed such an act, but she did not let her breaking heart stop her from doing a difficult thing. She not only turned her son into the police, but she also apologized to the victims for the bad behavior of her disobedient, disrespectful child.”

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Freedom of Assembly

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the freedom to assemble. The freedom of assembly is part of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which says: “Congress shall make no law respecting … the right of the people peaceably to assemble ….” It seems that there are some people who are willing to destroy this freedom for certain other people, such as members of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

            Justin Brannan, a New York City council member  from the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, area, recently tweeted congratulations stating “we’ve successfully chased the @NRA underground in #Brooklyn. Now they’ve gotta sneak around behind our backs and book catering halls under fake names just to have a meeting.” It appears that Brannan was scorched on Twitter for his comment.

            It seems that the Brooklyn Friends of the NRA group were forced to move their meeting several times due to objections by local residents and elected officials. Why is it that Americans have to find to enjoy freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights? What is the matter with people who think that they can deprive Americans of their rights simply because they disagree with their policies?

            The First Amendment guarantees freedom of assembly and freedom of association to Americans. This is our right. Anyone – even a local government official – who attempts to destroy that freedom is acting like the “brown shirts” in Hitler Germany. This is not the American way!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Reverence for Life

            The world watches in shock as Thomas Evans and Kate James attempt to save the life of their son Alfie Evans. Alfie started having seizures when he was one year old, and his doctors suspect that he has a degenerative neurological condition. However, Alfie has never been diagnosed with the condition. He needs a ventilator in order to breathe, and he is in a semi-vegetative condition.

            A long series of legal battles began when Alfie’s parents and the staff at the hospital could not agree on his treatment. The hospital asked the High Court to take away parental rights and to remove Alfie from ventilation. The parents appealed to British courts and to the European Court of Human Rights. The Vatican hospital agreed to treat Alfie, but British courts will not allow his parents to take him to Italy. The judges in United Kingdom ruled that the ventilator should be removed and that the family cannot pursue other treatment abroad. In other words, the British judges have decided to act as God with regards to Alfie and his life.

            All human life has value and should be treated with reverence. No individual, group, or government has the right to deny life to an innocent person. This right is reserved by God, and He alone has the right to decide when a life should end.

            Members of my family recently went through the ordeal of deciding to remove my nephew from life support. He has lung cancer with one lung collapsed from the cancer. He was on life support in the hospital, and the doctors said that he could not live without it. He made the decision to remove the life support. The family was notified, and everyone had an opportunity to tell him goodbye. He was at peace with his decision, and his family accepted it.

            The respirator was removed last Saturday, and my nephew began to breathe on his own with a little added oxygen. He left the hospital and was taken to the comfort of his own home to live out the remainder of his days. He has been home for a week and is still breathing on his own. No one expects him to recover from the cancer. We know that he is in the process of dying. However, he left that decision in the hands of God, and God said, “Not yet.”

          Elder Russell M. Nelson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke in the April 1985 General Conference on the topic of “Reverence for Life.” He tells of the “heavy toll on life” that comes from war and says that over one million Americans have lost their lives due to war since our nation was founded. He continues with the topic of his talk.

Regrettable as is the loss of loved ones from war, these figures are dwarfed by the toll of a new war that annually claims more casualties than the total number of fatalities from all the wars of this nation.

It is a war on the defenseless – and the voiceless. It is a war on the unborn.
This war, labeled “abortion,” is of epidemic proportion and is waged globally. Over fifty-five million abortions were reported worldwide in the year 1974 alone.

            Elder Nelson shares data that was current as of 1974. Here is the latest information that I could find. “During 2010-2014, an estimated 56 million induced abortions occurred each year worldwide. This number represents an increase from 50 million annually during 1990-1994, mainly because of population growth.” More than one million babies are aborted in America every year. Questioning how society can legalize killing babies and still profess reverence for human life, Elder Nelson continues.

Yet society professes reverence for human life. We weep for those who die, pray and work for those whose lives are in jeopardy. For years I have labored with other doctors here and abroad, struggling to prolong life. It is impossible to describe the grief a physician feels when the life of a patient is lost. Can anyone imagine how we feel when life is destroyed at its roots, as though it were a thing of naught?

What sense of inconsistency can allow people to grieve for their dead, yet be calloused to this baleful war being waged on life at the time of its silent development? What logic would encourage efforts to preserve the life of a critically ill twelve-week-old infant, but countenance the termination of another life twelve weeks after inception? More attention is seemingly focused on the fate of a life at some penitentiary’s death row than on the millions totally deprived of life’s opportunity through such odious carnage before birth.

The Lord has repeatedly declared this divine imperative: “Thou shalt not kill.” Recently he added, “Nor do anything like unto it.” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:6.) Even before the fulness of the gospel was restored, the enlightened understood the sanctity of life….

But what impropriety could now legalize that which has been forbidden by the laws of God from the dawn of time? What twisted reasoning has transformed mythical concepts into contorted slogans assenting to a practice which is consummately wrong?

            Elder Nelson says, “As sons and daughters of God, we cherish life as a gift from him.” He wonders how we can expect God to help our nation prosper when we break one of His greatest commandments. I also have a question: How can we expect God to look upon us with favor when we allow millions of babies to be killed every single day? We must continue to fight for the right to life for everyone – including sick children and unborn babies – and leave the time of death to God.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Obedience and Wayward Children

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when parents do not over react to wayward children. I recognize as a parent that children are our own flesh and blood, and we want our children to be perfect. I also recognize that few human beings who have ever lived on earth could have measured up to my expectations for my own children. I simply wanted them to be absolutely perfect in every way, and I pushed them to become the best they could be.

            None of my children have reached perfection yet, but all of them are exceedingly good people. I am extremely pleased with my children and the adults they have become. They are all responsible grownups who are doing much to make the world a better place. However, I deeply understand the pains of parents who have seen their child or children walk away from the straight and narrow path of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

            I am one of the parents who panicked and thought that all was lost when my oldest child chose her own path. Since she was an adult at the time and not doing anything illegal, there was not much that I could do about her choices then - or now. I made the deliberate choice to simply love her, pray for her, and appreciate the truly good person that she is.

            I also choose to hope for my daughter’s return to the path, and I receive great comfort and hope from various sources. I continue to cling to the words of prophets and apostles, such as the following quote by Orson F. Whitney. 

The Prophet Joseph Smith declared – and he never taught a more comforting doctrine – that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God” (Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, April 1929, 110).

            Elder Whitney promises faithful parents that their wayward children will return in either this life or the next. He tells parents to pray for “careless and disobedient children” and to “hold on to them with your faith.” This gives me something that I can do, and I accept the challenge! I determined long ago – and I continue to be committed – to live the best life that I can possibly live. As I focus on my own shortcomings, I put my trust in God. I know that He loves my daughter even more than I do, so I continue to exercise faith and hope while praying for her daily. I continue to examine my own life and try to overcome my imperfections.

            I recently found an article by Larry Barkdull that strengthens my resolve to continue in my efforts to be exactly obedient. He writes, “Let us remember that every effort we make to sanctify ourselves has a redeeming effect on the person for whom we are praying.” He continues by teaching the importance of obedience.

God places enormous weight on this “first law of heaven.” In the beginning, God created a master law to which all other specific laws are dependent: “There is a [master] law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all [specific] blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any [specific] blessing from God, it is by obedience to that [specific] law upon which it [the specific blessing] is predicated.” [Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21, commentary added.] Also, “For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the [specific] law which was appointed for that [specific] blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.” [Doctrine and Covenants 132:5, commentary added.]

Because God is a God of truth and cannot lie, the promised blessings for obedience to any specific law are certain under the terms of the master law. “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” [Doctrine and Covenants 1:38.] The Lord binds himself to deliver the promised blessings associated with every obeyed law: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” [Doctrine and Covenants 82:10.] …

Clearly, increasing our level of obedience increases our level of sanctification, which empowers us to petition and receive blessings in behalf of our loved ones.

            This statement tells me two things: (1) I must be as obedient to God as I can possibly be. (2) I must start asking the right questions in order to receive the answers that I need. Some of these questions may be: What specific blessings should I be asking for? What specific law do I need to obey in order to see all of my children walking the straight and narrow path? What specific sin do I need to give up in order to receive this blessing?

            Indisputably, the above statements say that I must be exact in my obedience to all of God’s commandments. I must be faithful in keeping the covenants that I have made with Him. I must also be obedient to specific laws in order to receive specific blessings. It is only through obedience that I can reach a level of sanctification that will bring blessings into the lives of my children and other family members. Clearly, God has a plan whereby all His wayward children can travel the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life with Him, and this includes me.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Freedom from Terrorism

            The war against terrorism has been a part of our lives for many years. Terrorism came to America’s shores on September 11, 2001, when approximately 3,000 people lost their lives in New York City, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. This was not the first terrorist attack against us, but it became important in the way that the US fought terrorism.

            To begin with, the United States determined that it would deny “terrorists a safe haven from which to plot terrorist attacks.” This is the main reason why the United States went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is also the reason that Donald Trump is “holding Pakistan accountable” for its part in the destabilization of that region of the world.

            President Trump made a campaign promise to destroy ISIS, and he unloosed the reins on the Armed Forces to do so. Thus, the “territorial integrity of ISIS’ `caliphate’ in Iraq and Syria” has eroded. However, ISIS is now looking to join another group of terrorists in Afghanistan. Nathaniel DeBevoise at The Heritage Foundation explains this problem. 

As the territorial integrity of ISIS’ “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria erodes, the terror group now finds itself looking to its contingent group in Afghanistan, known as the Islamic State in Khorasan, or IS-K, in order to maintain its operations.
In the northern Afghan province of Jowzjan, IS-K has been actively recruiting fighters associated with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic Movement of

But the terror groups in Afghanistan are hardly unified. As ISIS makes inroads there, competition among various groups is emerging, with each seeking to tap into a common pool of militants.

This growth of militant organizations makes the Trump administration’s new aggressive strategy all the more vital.

            DeBevoise continues his article by explaining why the United States and its allies must be aggressive against terrorism. One way that the US has been aggressive is to remove “the cumbersome, Obama-era restrictions on the use of U.S. air power” and to give “commanders on the ground … broader authority to use airstrikes as they see fit” – a change that has “already produced an obvious result.” He then proceeds to relate some of those results and then says:

This new Afghan strategy is a breath of fresh air in what is now America’s longest war. This new approach may be exactly what is required not only to prevent ISIS from establishing itself in the country, but to break past the security stalemate that has characterized this conflict for so long.

The Trump administration should measure its success in Afghanistan incrementally, based on conditions on the ground and with an eye toward the future. As a Taliban commander once mused, “You [the West] have the watches, but we have the time.”

We would be wise to consider that statement and disavow any lofty, short-term expectations in favor of a realistic outlook that embraces the true, protracted nature of America’s longest war.

            I believe that America must understand that we are in this war for a long time. We must defeat terrorists totally and never give them a “safe haven” where they can plan future attacks on us. We will never be free from terrorism until we totally destroy it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Educational Fraud

            The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) recently released a report card on the state of education within the education. NAEP assesses “what America’s students know” and what they “can do in various subject areas.” In other words, they know where true education is taking place and where it is not.

            The 2017 report card tells us that approximately one-third (37%) of high school seniors are proficient in reading and approximately one-quarter (25%) are proficient in math. The figures are worse for black students, who tested 17% proficient in reading and 7% in math.

The above information is “only a fraction of the bad news.” The worse news is that our high schools are giving high school diplomas to students who do not know what they need to know. 

The atrocious National Assessment of Educational Progress performance is only a fraction of the bad news. Nationally, our high school graduation rate is over 80 percent. That means high school diplomas, which attest that thee students can red and compute at a 12th-grade level, are conferred when 63 percent are not proficient in reading and 75 percent are not proficient in math.

For blacks, the news is worse. Roughly 75 percent of black students received high school diplomas attesting that they could read and compute at the 12th-grade level. However, 83 percent could not read at that level, and 93 percent could not do math at that level.

            Williams calls it fraud for high schools to graduate students who do not have the education that the diploma testifies they do. He says that the diploma is basically a certificate of attendance. He then says that this is not the worst part of the educational fraud.

Fraudulent high school diplomas aren’t the worst part of the fraud. Some of the greatest fraud occurs at the higher education levels – colleges and universities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of white high school graduates in 2016 enrolled in college, and 58 percent of black high school graduates enrolled in college.

Here are my questions to you: If only 37 percent of white high school graduates test as college-ready, how come colleges are admitting 70 percent of them? And if roughly 17 percent of black high school graduates test as college-ready, how come colleges are admitting 58 percent of them?

It’s inconceivable that college administrators are unaware that they are admitting students who are ill-prepared and cannot perform at the college level. Colleges cope with ill-prepared students in several ways. They provide remedial courses. One study suggests that more than two-thirds of community college students take at least one remedial course, as do 40 percent of four-year college students. College professors dumb down their courses so that ill-prepared students can get passing grades.

Colleges also set up majors with little analytical demands so as to accommodate students with analytical deficits. Such majors often include the term “studies,” such as ethnic studies, cultural studies, gender studies, and American studies. The major for the most ill-prepared students, sadly enough, is education. When students’ SAT scores are ranked by intended major, education majors place 26th on a list of 38.

The bottom line is that colleges are admitting youngsters who have not mastered what used to be considered a ninth-grade level of proficiency in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Very often, when they graduate from college, they still can’t master even a 12th-grade level of academic proficiency.

            The figures quoted by Williams are appalling! How can an employer hire anyone when they know that two-thirds of white high school graduates are not proficient in reading or math and even fewer black students? Is it any wonder that one in three college graduates find employment as janitors, parking lot attendants, bartenders, or taxi drivers? To me this is not the saddest part of the fraud.

            The worst part of this educational fraud, at least in my mind, is that the least prepared students are those that go into education. Williams says that “education majors place 26th on a list of 38” when “SAT scores are ranked by intended major.” This is sad! We need the best and the brightest of students to be teaching the rising generation!

            Where did the dreams for the rising generation go? When did our nation forget the reason why education systems were created in the first place? Could this be the reason why more and more children and youth are being taught by their parents in their homes?

            The following statement by John Adams to his wife tells us how he felt about lifelong learning. It also explains why we must do something about the fraud in our education system in order to help the rising generation to become better prepared to take their places in the world.

It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives. (Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 29 October 1775

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Storms and Power

            Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska experienced a powerful wind storm on Tuesday. The wind started Monday evening and blew for about twenty-four hours. The high-wind warning ended at 7:00 p.m., but there were still gusting winds near my home this evening. 

            The wind, gusting to more than 80 MPH along the hillside near my home, damaged homes, blew over power poles, trees, and fences, and generally blew anything away that was not tied down. I felt my house shutter numerous times as gusts of wind hit it. I chased my garbage dumpster down the street but lost several other items. We lost some small branches from our trees, but we have not found any real damage to our property.

            To make the windstorm even worse, power was cut to thousands of homes, including mine. I was not too concerned about the power being off during daylight hours. My main inconvenience was being unable to warm my cooked apples in the microwave oven. I was not worried when the power was still out after the sun went down, but I did experience more inconveniences.

            I had to open and close the garage door by hand. I tried to flip several light switches while in the midst of finding headlamps, flashlights, and fake candles. I was sort of prepared for a power outage because I had spare batteries for the candles and other lights. However, I was super grateful to have electricity once again.

            The power outage reminded me of a talk titled “Protect the Spiritual Power Line” given by then-Elder Russell M. Nelson in the October 1984 General Conference. Elder Nelson shares a personal experience of cutting the electrical cord to his clippers while trimming a hedge and then makes the following statement. 

“Isn’t that one of life’s great lessons?” I thought. “Power, if misused, can cut into the very source of that power.”

Just as the careless use of electrical power can sever the source of the power, so is it possible to misuse spiritual power to sever our spiritual power line. We would then lose that which enables us to generate success in our lives. Proper use of our spiritual power line allows us to learn, to labor, to be obedient to law, and to love. While these capabilities lead to fulfillment, at the same time they also carry risk.

            Elder Nelson then proceeds to discuss how we can misuse the various powers mentioned above and cut our personal spiritual power line. It is a powerful reminder to keep our spiritual power line connected to Heavenly Father.

            Just as I could not see how well I was peeling my carrots in the half-light of battery-operated candles, we will have difficulty seeing the path we should take in life if we allow our spiritual power line to be cut by the storms of life. I did not really enjoy operating in the dark and/or half-light of no electricity, but this experience reminded me of the importance of keeping the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ operating brightly in my life. This is a good lesson for me.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Ida B. Wells

            I originally chose to make Ida B.Wells my VIP for this week because of this statement:
“On May 4, 1884, 71 years before Rosa Parks inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott, civil rights pioneer Ida B. Wells refused to give up her seat on a train, fueling her impassioned fight for equal rights.” That is quite the statement! I wonder if Rosa Parks received her inspiration from fellow African American Ida B. Wells! I became more and more impressed as I studied about Wells. She was quite the woman, no matter the color of her skin.

            Wells was born into slavery on July 16, 1862, in Holly Springs, Mississippi. After being freed from slavery by the Civil War, Wells lost both of her parents and a sibling when she was 16 years old during an epidemic of yellow fever in 1878. With the help of her grandmother, she was able to find work as a teacher and keep all of her siblings with her. She moved to Memphis, Tennessee, with some of her siblings for a better paying job as a teacher, but she was soon the co-owner of a newspaper, The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight. 

In the 1890s, Wells documented lynching in the United States. She showed that lynching was often used in the South as a way to control or punish black people who competed with whites, rather than being based on criminal acts by black people, as was usually claimed by whites. For her reporting, which was carried nationwide in black newspapers, her newspaper office was destroyed by a mob of white men, and subjected to threats she left Memphis for Chicago. In Chicago, she married and had a family but with the support of her husband still pursued her work writing, speaking and organizing for civil rights for the rest of her life. She was also active in women’s rights and the women’s suffrage movement, establishing several notable women’s organizations. Wells was a skilled and persuasive rhetorician and traveled internationally on lecture tours.

            Wells became a powerful woman as a “journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist, Georgist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement.” In addition, she “was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. She arguably became the most famous black woman in America, during a life that was centered on combating prejudice and violence.”

            With all of these accomplishments, I find it amazing that so little is known about Wells. One may well ask, why is so little known about her? Well to make a long story short, Wells was a conservative Republican, and her story does not fit the liberal story line.

            Wells spent the last 30 years of her life working on urban reform in Chicago where she married and raised her family. She started an autobiography, Crusade for Justice in 1928, but she never finished it. She died at age 68 on March 25, 1931, in Chicago of kidney failure. She was buried in the Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago, which was later integrated by the city.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Deep State Coup

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the Deep State coup attempt against President Donald Trump. It appears that there are numerous people, inside and outside of the Department of Justice, who are part of this secret combination. However, it seems that the more they attempt to smear Trump, the more they expose themselves.

            Doug Ross lists “10 Key Insights from Today’s Deep State Coup News” in his journal entry. His insights are as follow:

(10) Lisa Page [is] a cooperating witness against the Deep State. (9) Andrew McCabe freaked out about reports of his conflict of interest with respect to the Hillary Clinton email investigation. (8) Andrew McCabe is a sleaze-bag and “actually ripped other DOJ officials for the leaks that he had orchestrated. (7) Why hasn’t McCabe been indicted? He lied to the FBI – the same crime that Michael Flynn and Martha Stewart were charged with. (6) The priorities of the FBI are out of control. (5) J. Edgar Comey told President Trump about the Russian dossier but failed to inform him that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC paid for it. (4) J. Edgar Comey, Part II: Comey claims in his book that law enforcement’s job is “to keep our leaders in check” – a fact not taught in Civics class. (3) Obama vs. Trump on Executive Privilege: Fast and Furious with its hundreds dead vs. Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels. (2) Edgar Comey, Part III: Comey compares Trump to a “mob boss” but says nothing about the Clinton syndicate. (1) Is the whole thing with Cohen tied to his lawsuit against Fusion GPS?

            You may or may not agree with Ross’s insights. However, he is not the only one wondering why McCabe has not been indicted. Hans von Spakovsky at The Daily Signal is wondering if the Justice Department will treat McCabe the same way others have been treated.

The new report from the Justice Department inspector general concludes that McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, lied to then-FBI Director James Comey, to other FBI agents, and to officials of the Office of the Inspector General. Some of those lies came when McCabe was under oath.

What did he lie about? Unauthorized disclosures about the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation. The information was leaked to a reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

The inspector general has completed his work. The question now is, will the Justice Department prosecute McCabe? Or, put another way: Will the FBI and the Justice Department follow the same rules they apply to members of the public who lie to a federal agent?

            This secret combination known as Deep State must be exposed, and their power must be destroyed. They are attempting to impeach Trump or to limit his ability to overcome the destruction of past administrations. If they are not exposed and destroyed, they could overthrow our constitutional way of government.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

In the Lord's Own Way

            In an effort to “promote economic mobility, strong social networks, and accountability to American taxpayers,” President Donald Trump signed “Executive Order Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility” on April 10, 2018. The order basically tells the secretaries of the Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education departments to review their welfare programs and to propose new regulations within the next 90 days. These welfare programs include food stamps, Medicaid, and housing, and the new regulations hopefully include stronger requirements to receive governmental aid, such as the requirement to work if capable of doing so. The order reads as follows.

Since its inception, the welfare system has grown into a large bureaucracy that might be susceptible to measuring success by how many people are enrolled in a program rather than by how many have moved from poverty into financial independence.

            This Executive Order does not yet give any policy, but it does show that the President is concerned about the number of people in the government entitlement programs. Some people call this a “hard line conservative view” of the entitlement system. It is. However, the conservative view is more likely to help people to achieve independence than the liberal view of keeping people on the “plantation” where the government takes care of all their needs – and they remain in poverty but voting for Democrats.

            About the same time that this Executive Order was announced, I read a talk by then-Elder and now-President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titled “In the Lord’s Own Way.” After describing some of the poverty that he has seen in his travels around the world, Elder Nelson says, “Although reasons vary according to time and place, the poor and the needy have nearly always been present.” He says that the scriptures teach us that “the poor – especially widows, orphans, and strangers – have long been the concern of God and the godly.” There will always be poor people among us.

            In Old Testament times the poor were favored by the law. After the “reapers” would go through a field, the “gleaners” could legally follow along behind to gather whatever grain was left in the field or fruit left hanging on the branches. In addition, the poor were welcome to take whatever food grew in land that was not planted or tilled. In addition, blessings were promised to anyone who cared for the poor.

            The Savior, even Jesus Christ, illustrated this doctrine by giving a parable about caring for the poor. “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). He also says, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me” (Matthew 25:45; italics added. Heavenly Father loves each of His children, and He expects us to help the poor.

            The Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ teaches us that caring for the poor is part of our baptismal covenant.

8 And … as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

9. Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, …

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
(Mosiah 18:8-10).

            There are so many people who are poor and needy. How can we care for all of them? Elder Nelson says that it is possible when we do it in the Lord’s own way. The Lord’s “own way” begins with husbands and fathers taking care of their wives and children. In addition, each family should prepare for “rainy days” by maintaining a year’s supply of basic foods and other supplies necessary for survival as well as extra cash in an emergency fund. This family storehouse can be used in times of unemployment or other emergency.

            If something goes wrong, such as the father cannot fulfill his duties and the family storehouse is empty, the family is to go to the Church – whatever church one belongs to – for temporary assistance. The Church itself should maintain a storehouse by using consecrated funds from which to give assistance (see Doctrine and Covenants 83: 2, 4-6).

            In cases where people are poor because they are idle and unwilling to work, the Lord has given this warning: “Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:42). “Wo unto you poor men … who will not labor with your own hands!” (Doctrine and Covenants  56:17). We are not in a position to judge worthiness, but the bishop does have the responsibility to determine whether or not one is worthy to be given food provided by sacred funds.

            The storehouses and other funds are provided by faithful members of the Church who go without food for two meals every month and give the equivalent amount of funds to the bishop to care for the poor. Because the benefits are limited, the assistance is given for a limited period of time. There is only so much available to help everyone. Elder Nelson further explains.

The Lord’s “own way” includes, first, reliance on self, then on the family. As parents care for their children, they, in turn, may reciprocate when parents become less able. Family pride promotes solicitude for each member, taking priority over other assistance.

If one’s family can’t help, the Lord’s “own way” includes the Church organization. The bishop is assisted by priesthood quorums and good sisters of the Relief Society, organized to look “to the wants of the poor, searching after objects of charity and … administering to their wants.” (Handbook of the Relief Society, 1931, p. 22.)

Members of priesthood quorums … have a duty to rehabilitate, spiritually and temporally, their erring or unfortunate brethren. While a bishop extends aid to one temporarily out of work, the quorum arranges for his employment until fully self-supporting again….

To care fully for the poor, we must help the poor to change. As they are taught and abide doctrines of Deity, spiritual strength will come that enlightens the mind and liberates the soul from the yoke of bondage. When people of the earth accept the gospel of Christ, their attitudes change. Their understanding and capabilities increase.

            The President of the United States and the Apostle of the Lord are both concerned about helping people to help themselves as much as possible. There will always be people who will need a “safety net” – the elderly, the disabled, the chronically ill, etc. However, people who are able to work should be working to meet their own needs. This is the Lord’s “own way” and appears to be the conservative way also. People who are encouraged to work and are helped to succeed will take themselves out of poverty and into financial independence as well as become able to help other people along the way.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Importance of Children

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals understand the value of children. There was a time when families had many children who helped to provide for the needs of the family. Families have steadily decreased in numbers until the “ideal” family consists of only two or three children – or even one or none.

            Richard and Linda Eyre wrote a two-part series on the topic of family size and making the decision on having children. They realize and state several times that the decision to have children and how many children to have is a decision that should be made between the husband, wife, and the Lord. Therefore, it is no one else’s business. However, the Eyres want to make sure that couples understand the seriousness of the decision.

            The first article is titled “Why the First Commandment Ever Given Is So Relevant Today.” The commandment given to Adam and Eve to “multiply and replenish the earth” extended to their posterity throughout time and has never been rescinded. Therefore, it applies to couples as much in 2018 as it did in any previous year.

            The Eyres quote New York Times columnist David Brooks as saying, “people are not better off when they are given maximum personal freedom to do what they want. They’re better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice – commitments to family, God, craft and country.” The Eyres continue with the following paragraphs:

As birth rates decline, many “macro” economic problems result from the declining workforce and the “inverted pyramid” of more and more old people and less and less young people to take care of them and to pay the taxes and social security that support them.

But the real problem is the micro problem of more and more adults who have no children and live apart from children; and who thus miss the greatest joy and learning experiences of life – not to mention not doing their part to create and build the next generation, and to keep the world vital and alive.

            The article continues by sharing a few examples of why children are necessary for a healthy world. There are 224 countries in the world, and the birthrate in 116 of those countries is less than the 2.1 replacement rate. This means that those countries are “running out of people.” The government of Singapore “now pays a $10,000 bonus to each woman who gives birth to a child.” These governments are no longer worrying about overpopulation but are trying to solve the opposite problem – not enough babies being born.

            Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints follow the same trend as the rest of the world. Most members have an “understanding of the Pre-mortal life and the need for all of God’s children to experience a mortal existence, [so] we have a compelling additional reason to bring children into the world.” We understand the importance of families in Heavenly Father’s plan for His children and our eternal progression. “Yet we are experiencing the same trends as the world.” The Eyres end their first article with these paragraphs.

And let us end with two words that we used earlier but want to re-emphasize. One is “replenish.” Children not only replenish the earth. They replenish us – they refresh us and teach us and challenge us and worry us and thrill us to our core. They teach us to love in ways that are otherwise not even imagined. They refine us. And all of that is well summarized in the world “replenish.”

The other word is “Joy”. The joy we find and will continue eternally to find in our children, in our posterity, is the very joy that Nephi [Lehi] said we became mortal that we might have (2 Ne. 2:25).

It is the joy of responsibility and of sacrifice, of loving irrationally and unconditionally, of doing everything for those too small to do anything for us, of seeing new and improved versions of ourselves, of sharing small triumphs and small heartaches that seem very big, of raising them until they leave home and then continuing to love them and care for them until the inevitable day when they start caring for you….

            If a reader has not caught the importance of having children from the first article, the Eyres’ second article should do the trick. It is titled “Why the State of the Family Matters and What We Can Do About It.”  This article begins with a quick review of the main ideas of the first one, discussing how “most developed countries in the world are now losing population” and then moves into its own focus.

And with more and more chosen childlessness, more and more single children by choice, and less siblings and cousins, the social dynamic changes, as does the emotional resilience of kids.

The interesting question for Church members is that, in addition to the economic, social and emotional problems of fewer kids, there also may be a spiritual problem. After all, we believe in a pre-mortal place where spirit children of God are awaiting their turn at mortality. Do they wait longer and longer as people have fewer children? Is the divine timetable threatened?

Trends are hard to buck, but shouldn’t members of the Church be setting their own trends rather than following the trends of the world? …

The problem, of course, is that family is no longer thought of by most of the world as the “basic institution.” Collectively, we seem to think most of individual rights, not family rights; individual freedoms, not family sacrifice and commitment; individual concerns more than family concerns.

But in the Church we should know better! We know that the Celestial Kingdom is a family kingdom and that the Familial order is the very government of God. We know that an individual is not a perfectible entity and that it is eternally married couples and families that will inherit the top level of heaven. We know that all will have the chance to marry and to have children either here or in the Spirit World to follow.

Yet we still shy away from talking as much as we should about marriage and procreation and the stewardship of children – in a weird form of Mormon “political correctness” we don’t want to talk about these things in a Church where half of adult members are single. Actually, isn’t this a reason that we should talk more about it?

            The authors make the point that members of the Church should not be following the world’s example. We have been taught that “where much is given, much is required” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:3). Therefore, members of the Church should be living differently than people who do not have the same knowledge. We should be bucking the trends!

            One interesting fact about all this is that childlessness and small families is a first world problem. People in third world countries are continuing to have large families. As the populations in first world countries continue to decrease, there will be more and more third world peoples move in to replace them. Do we really want our nations run by people with third world mentality? If we do, we better prepare ourselves to become citizens of a third-world nation! The Eyres end their article with the following statement and two challenges.

As we emphasized last week, there should be very individual and unique answers for each family. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each family and each parent and each child has a particular set of needs and capacities. And of course, we are so aware of the many couples and single individuals who desperately want children (or more children) but who don’t have the opportunity for that right now. And the sole purpose of both of these articles is not to give answers, but to help stimulate and motivate the right questions – asked in prayer by each unique individual in each unique situation.

Let us give you two challenges: First, we challenge you to think about this issue on the macro – what is happening in the world to families, and why does it matter to us? …

And secondly: We challenge you to discuss this topic with members of your own family. Are we sucked in by the trends of the world? Are we thinking of this through the Gospel perspective? How will lower birthrates in developed countries and higher ones in Africa and other third world places affect the world? Do you know families who wish they had had one less child? Do you know families who wish they could have (or had chosen to have) more? Should the default switch be on or off? Does an additional child place economic hardships on a family? Are there children waiting to come into your family? Have you found your own individual answer through deep thought and prayer?

            The Eyres leave us with much to consider. The choice to have children – or more children – lies with the husband and wife in partnership with God. Each individual, couple, and family is unique with its own distinctive needs and abilities. What is right for one family may be wrong for another. There is no place for us to judge one another.

            However, we should each consider our own position and ask ourselves the hard questions, many of which are stated above. We can all strengthen our families, communities, and nations by counseling with the Lord and doing our part in replenishing the world.