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.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Economic Freedom

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that any nation can increase their economic freedom by obedience to the applicable rules. The latest example is Egypt, a nation that faced “economic stress and political turmoil” for years.

            According to Christine Lagarde,managing director of the International Monetary Fund, “Egypt is at a turning point in its economic structure and is signaling to investors it is serious about comprehensively reforming its economic system.” 

            There are some solid ways that Egypt has improved its economic system. The Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom shows that Egypt’s general economic freedom increased because it made “improvements in financial freedom, investment freedom and, and business freedom.”

            An article written by Anthony B. Kim and Patrick Tyrrell at The Daily Signal says that Egypt made some impressive improvements in order to increase its economic freedom. 

Reform of fuel and electricity subsidies has been a notable achievement, and market forces now determine the exchange rate. A recently enacted investment law aims to reduce bureaucracy and promote greater foreign investment. And, earlier this year, Egypt’s parliament passed the country’s fir bankruptcy law, which should help viable companies return to business success more quickly.

            The article states that the “reforms are paying off.” It also says that tourism is “rebounding” with “hotel occupancy rates at their highest since 2010.”

            Why should the economy in Egypt be of interest to Americans? The authors quote Jim Phillips of The Heritage Foundation as saying: “Egypt is a heavyweight Arab power that can serve as an effective partner in advancing regional efforts to fight terrorism, contain Iran, and stabilize the explosive Middle East.”

            I believe that any intelligent person will recognize that Phillips gives three very good reasons why Americans should rejoice at the improving economic freedom in Egypt. The economic situation for Americans has improved under the policies of President Donald Trump. We should gratefully acknowledge the efforts of Egypt to do the same for her people.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Time to Prepare

            Many of us have heard of the importance of preparing for what lies ahead. Whether it is a meeting tomorrow or a vacation next week, there is a need to be prepared. The following quote by Benjamin Franklin tells us exactly why preparation is important: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” 

            There are times in life that failure is simply a push to try again. However, there are other times when failure to prepare can reap drastic consequences. Preparing ahead of time applies to many areas of our lives. If we want to bake a delicious chocolate cake, we must insure that we have all the ingredients available. If we desire to do well on a final exam, we must do the necessary assignments, studying, and practice exams. If we plan to enjoy beautiful gardens, we must prepare the soil as well as the plants. If we want to be prepared to meet God, we must listen to the prophets who warn us of the importance of preparing ourselves for life after death. An ancient American prophet by the name of Alma gives the following explanation.

For behold I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 34:32-33).

            Alma is telling us that the period of time between our birth and our death is a time of testing and trial to determine where we want to spend eternity. We cannot spend our lives eating, drinking, and being merry and then expect to be prepared to pass into the next life prepared to enter the glory of God.

            Preparing to meet God is not a small thing. It is something that takes a lifetime of effort and sacrifice. Prophets ask us to increase our faith in Jesus Christ and call us to repentance in preparation to meet God. One such prophet is Joseph Smith who taught the following.

God has in reserve a time, or period appointed in His own bosom, when He will bring all His subjects, who have obeyed His voice and kept His commandments, into His celestial rest. This rest is of such perfection and glory that man has need of a preparation before he can, according to the laws of that kingdom, enter it and enjoy its blessings. This being the fact, God has given certain laws to the human family, which, if observed, are sufficient to prepare them to inherit this rest. This, then, we conclude, was the purpose of God in giving His laws to us…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 54).

            We know that God has given laws and has commanded us to obey them. We also know that joy and happiness come to us when we obey God’s laws; therefore, we can assume that God gave us laws to help us become successful with the purpose of life. Then-Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tells us that God’s “hope for us is eternal life.” He continues this thought.

We qualify for [eternal life] by obedience to covenants and ordinances of the temple – for ourselves, our families, and our ancestors. We cannot be made perfect without them. We cannot wish our way into the presence of God. We are to obey the laws upon which those blessings are predicated….

Brothers and sisters, we live to die and we die to live – in another realm. If we are well prepared, death brings no terror. From an eternal perspective, death is premature only for those who are not prepared to meet God.

Now is the time to prepare. Then, when death comes, we can move toward the celestial glory that Heavenly Father has prepared for His faithful children. Meanwhile, for sorrowing loved ones left behind … the sting of death is soothed by a steadfast faith in Christ, a perfect brightness of hope, a love of God and of all men, and a deep desire to serve them. That faith, that hope, that love will qualify us to come into God’s holy presence and, with our eternal companions and families, dwell with Him forever.” (See “Now Is the Time to Prepare,Ensign, May 2005.) 

            We must prepare ourselves in order to be worthy to be in the presence of God. Having lost four members of my family since last September, I know, as does Elder Nelson, that those left behind are comforted by knowing that their loved one has prepared well for their graduation from this life. Elder Nelson lost his beloved wife of 59 years just months before he gave this talk. He knows that faith, hope, and love bring comfort to surviving loved ones.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Farmer's Blood

            I am a farmer’s daughter; therefore, I have “farmer’s blood” running through my veins. At least, this is my term for it. I created the term farmer’s blood to describe the reason why I enjoy working in the soil. I did not know that I had it until I moved to Alaska.

            My husband and I, along with our two little girls, moved to Alaska 45 years ago. We drove up the Alaska Highway and arrived in Anchorage the first of September. We lived with some friends until my husband found work, and then moved into an apartment. We were in the apartment for only one winter before purchasing our first home sometime in the spring.

            The next winter must have been cold and dark – they all are – because I was more than ready to get outside to work in the yard. The snow was still three feet deep across the backyard when I ventured outside on that early spring day. I rejoiced when I noticed a spot of soil along the back of the house. It was in the corner where the deck met the house and was about two feet or so square. It was obviously the warmest place in the yard! Even though I knew that it was far too early to plant anything or to even dig in the dirt, I felt much better after simply seeing the bare soil and touching it for a few minutes. It was that day when I realized that I have farmer’s blood. Today I learned that farmer’s blood is a real thing.

            I came upon an article today with this title: “Antidepressant Microbes In Soil: How Dirt Makes You Happy.” I was immediately drawn to the article written by Bonnie L. Grant, a Certified Urban Agriculturist! I was hooked by her first two sentences: “Prozac may not be the only way to get rid of your serious blues. Soil microbes have been found to have similar effects on the brain and are without side effects and chemical dependency potential.” She then invites her readers to continue reading in order to learn why working in the soil makes one happy. I certainly wanted to learn more!

Natural remedies have been around for untold centuries. These natural remedies included cures for almost any physical ailment as well as mental and emotional afflictions. Ancient healers may not have known why something worked but simply that it did. Modern scientists have unraveled the why of many medicinal plants and practices but only recently are they finding remedies that were previously unknown and yet, still a part of the natural life cycle. Soil microbes and human health now have a positive link which has been studied and found to be verifiable.

Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? It’s true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier….

            Science has proven that working the soil - or playing in the dirt – relaxes us and makes us happy.  Now we know that “farmer’s blood” is a real thing and involves something called Mycobacterium vaccae. Grant says that one breathes in the bacteria, or it comes into the body through a cut. I wonder if it can be passed from parent to child biologically.  Did I gain a love for the soil in my genes or simply by experience in working in it? Maybe scientists will discover the answer to that question sometime in the future. Meanwhile, I will find happiness and relaxation from digging in my gardens!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Joshua Holt

            My VIP for this week is Joshua Holt. He served a Spanish-speaking mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Upon his return, he went online to meet people to whom he could speak Spanish. He met a woman named Thamara Caleno from Caracas, Venezuela. A relationship developed between the two of them, and he traveled to her country in June 2016 to marry her. His plan was to spend a few months in Caracas, secure visas for his new wife and her two daughters, and bring them back to the United States.

            To say that Holt’s plan did not work out would be an understatement. Holt and his new bride were arrested at her family’s apartment on June 30, 2016. He was accused of stockpiling weapons and being connected with the CIA. Authorities thought that he was in Venezuela to cause problems.

            Numerous U.S. government officials have attempted to get Holt and his wife released from prison but had no success. Finally, a miracle happened! It seems that an aide to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had a contact among the allies of Maduro. Even though Holt’s release seemed unlikely a week ago, Sen. Corker had a “surprise meeting” with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. One day later Holt and his wife were released from prison and on their way back to the United States with the Senator.

            The airplane carrying Sen. Corker, Holt, his wife, and one daughter arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport on Saturday evening. There they were met by Holt’s grateful parents. President Trump later welcomed the family to the White House where Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee and Utah Representative Mia Love jointed them.  

            I join with Holt’s parents and other Americans in welcoming Holt back to the United States. I am sure that he feels great gratitude in being in the land of the free once again. I am also grateful that the prayers and actions of his loving parents have brought such joy into their lives.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Day of Remembrance

            Memorial Day is a national holiday in the United States and has been since 1866. It was originally known as “Decoration Day” and was traditionally observed on May 30. The federal holiday was changed in 1971 to the last Monday in May in order to have a three-day weekend.

            The change in the observance of Memorial Day most likely watered down the meaning of the day. Many Americans have forgotten – maybe never learned – why we have Memorial Day. Some of these individuals and families use the three-day weekend to go hiking, camping, or partying and never give a thought to the real purpose of the day.

            However, Memorial Day is day set apart to honor the American men and women who died during combat. It is a day for us to ponder and to contemplate the sacrifices made by men and women when they stood between their homeland and the enemy.

            Decoration Day was created after the Civil War to remember soldiers that fought for both the Union and the Confederacy. 

More Americans were lost during the Civil War (620,000) then died in both World Wars combined (521,000). Factor in the differences in population and you can imagine how hard of a hit the war between the north and the south was on the country itself.

            It is altogether fitting that we observe Memorial Day by visiting the gravesites of our loved ones, gathering together as families, and even participating in parades to honor the day. We should make every attempt possible to honor those men and women who left their homes and families in order to protect our homes and families. For those families who lost loved ones in service to the nation, every day is Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Roots and Branches

            I am in the midst of organizing a family reunion to be held in June for the posterity of my parents. Our family holds a reunion every year, and we hold it in the same place every year. We have a silent auction and use the proceeds of it to pay for the site. The reunion is held in an area where many family members live, so we leave housing and transportation arrangements to the individuals who are traveling.

            We use a fairly simple schedule of events, and the chairperson usually needs to plan only the program, activities, and food. This year is different because an older brother passed away in January. He is the sibling that was the most involved in family history work, and he maintained several different categories of lists for the family. The information is most likely still in his computer, but it is not available to me as I live several thousand miles from his home.

            As chairman of this reunion, I realized that I needed a current list of family members and that I would need to create it. I started with a list from my brother dated August 2015 but found a more recent one dated 2017 after I was far into the project. I think that I now have a list of all members of the family.

            Making this list was no easy task because my parents have 12 children, 70 grandchildren, 223 great-grandchildren, 46 second-great-grandchildren, and 1 third-great-grandchild. This adds up to 352 direct descendants – living and dead - and does not take spouses into consideration. Since all 12 children, most of the 70 grandchildren, and about 25 of the great-grandchildren are married, family members easily number close to 425-450 people.  Of course, there will not be 400+ members at the reunion, but I expect to have more than 100 people in attendance.

            With my thoughts and my efforts involved in making a list of individuals and placing them in family groups, I should not have been surprised at my feelings when I studied a talk about roots and branches by then-Elder Russell M. Nelson. Elder Nelson explains that we all have ancestral roots that go back many generations, and each of us received certain genetic markers from our parents – markers that they received from their parents, etc.

            Elder Nelson says that we each have spiritual roots in addition to physical ones, and these roots go back even further. “They shape our values, our beliefs, and our faith. Spiritual roots guide our commitment to the ideals and teachings of the Lord….” He says that we should be grateful for both our physical and spiritual roots. He states that we also have religious roots that go back to the founding of our religion.

Just as our roots determine to a significant degree what we are, our branches are also an important extension of our identity. Personal branches bear the fruit of our loins. Scriptures teach, “By their fruits ye shall know them’ (Matthew 7:20) ….
In much the same way, our religion is known by the fruits of its branches…

            Elder Nelson tells of meeting with government officials in a foreign land. They were so impressed with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its works that they wanted copies of guidebooks and information about different programs. Elder Nelson says that he and his companions complied with the requests as best they could and then changed the focus from “what we do to why we do it.”

I explained with an analogy to a tree. “You are attracted by the various fruits of our faith,” I said. “They are plentiful and powerful. But you cannot savor this fruit unless you know the tree that produces it. And you cannot understand the tree unless you comprehend its roots. With our religion, you cannot have the fruit without the roots.” This they understood.

Fruits from the branching tree of the gospel include “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, [and] faith” (Galatians 5:22). President Harold B. Lee once said: “Beautiful, luscious fruit does not grow unless the roots of the … tree have been planted in rich, fertile soil and unless due care is given to proper pruning, cultivation, and irrigation. So likewise the luscious fruits of virtue and chastity, honesty, temperance, integrity, and fidelity are not to be found growing in that individual whose life is not founded on a firm testimony of the truths of the gospel and of the life and the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Stand Ye in Holy Places (1974), 218-19).
The fruits of the gospel are delicious to those who obey the Lord. We pursue an education knowing that “the glory of God is intelligence” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:36). The blessing of tithing comes by paying tithing (Malachi 3:10).
Rewards are reaped from the Word of Wisdom by obedience to it (Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21). We learn from experience borne of gospel living that prayer, honoring the Sabbath Day, and partaking of the sacrament protect us from the bondage of sin. We shun pornography and immorality, knowing that the peace of personal purity can be ours only as we live according to the laws of the gospel….
Simply summarized, life’s greatest blessings will come to us if our love of Jesus Christ is rooted deeply in our hearts (“Roots and Branches,” Ensign, May 2004). 

            My parents sacrificed much to make sure that their “fruit” grew in a good environment of love and respect. They gave roots in the gospel of Jesus Christ to each of their children, and they expected all of us to pass that knowledge to the next generation.

            I recognize that there are several members of the family who have drifted away from their religious roots, but I know that there are many family members who have strong religious roots that are sunk deep into rich gospel soil. I know that my parents are concerned about their descendants who are wandering, but I also know that they receive great comfort from those who are strong. I know that they are pleased with the unity among their children and children’s children. Roots and branches are important to each of us. They make for strong and loving families. May we keep them strong!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Five Personal Objectives

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when adults and the rising generation share high standards. Mothers and fathers, grandparents and teachers should live good principles themselves and then teach the youth to set and maintain these same high values. Living a life of principle and value will bring joy and success to anyone who does so.

            I set a goal to read the seventy General Conference addresses given by Russell M. Nelson between the time that he was called as an Apostle and when he was sustained as the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am about halfway through my quest. In a recent study session I found the following quote that I felt prompted to send to my teenage grandchildren.

            I am sharing the quote on my blog for the good of others. I know that blessings will come to anyone who achieves the five personal objectives set by then-Elder Nelson. Those blessings will extend to strengthening their families, communities, and nations.

To magnify your callings in the Aaronic Priesthood, you young men [young women also] should shape your personal efforts toward five personal objectives to:

    . Gain a knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    . Be worthy of missionary service.
    . Keep yourself morally clean and qualified to enter the holy temple.
    . Pursue your personal education.
    . Uphold Church standards and be worthy of your future companion.

How can you remember those five objectives? It’s easy. Look at your hand. Let your pointer finger point to the scriptures. From them gain a better knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then live in accord with His teachings. Let your middle finger remind you to be worthy of missionary service. Let your ring finger remind you of marriage, endowment, sealing, and blessings of the temple. Let your end finger remind you that pursuit of an education is a religious responsibility. Let your thumb go up, reminding you to uphold the standards of the Church and be worthy of your eternal companion. The realization of these five objectives will bless your lives.
(Russell M. Nelson, “Personal Priesthood Responsibility,” October 2003)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Freedom from Corruption

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the fact that the U.S. government must be free of corruption in order for Americans to be truly free. As long as elected and appointed federal leaders can become rich while serving in Congress and other governmental posts, there will be corruption in government.

            One way to stop corruption in Congress is to pass a constitutional amendment to limit the number of terms of office than any person can serve. As yet, Congress has done nothing about limiting their terms of office, but there is a movement in the land to bring an amendment to their attention. Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to “drain the swamp” and get rid of the corruption in Washington, D.C. He appears to be giving his best effort, but the swamp creatures are fighting back. They recognize that Trump poses a danger to their continued feasting at the government trough, and they started to fight against Trump even before he became president.

            President Trump heard reports on Sunday that detailed how an FBI “informant” made multiple contacts with members of his campaign. Trump immediately demanded an investigation and said that he would make a formal order on Monday. 

            On Monday President Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray. He asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to determine if Trump’s campaign was surveilled for political purposes and the source of the order. Here is the statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

Based on the meeting with the president, the Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign.

            Trump, Rosenstein, and Wray agreed that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly should “immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with congressional leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested.” The DOJ sent the order to the inspector general within hours.

            We can hope that the inspector general is not tainted – and does not get killed – as he goes forward with his investigation. We can also hope that the investigation brings out the truth. It would also be helpful if the information that was requested by the overseeing committee in Congress would be forthcoming from the DOJ.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rising Generation Faces Problems

            There are all kinds of information in the news about problems caused by the rising generation and their futures. We all know about the numerous teenagers who decide to shoot up schools and kill classmates. These youth go through the justice system and hopefully receive true justice. However, there is apparently a limit on what they can receive.

            The suspect in the latest school shooting has been charged “as an adult with capital murder and aggravated assault on a peace officer.” However, he cannot face the death penalty for the crimes or may not even receive a life sentence. 

But the 2005 high court ruling that bans execution of criminals younger than 18 and a 2012 ruling about juveniles facing life in prison means that [the suspect] could be up for parole after 40 years.

“The courts ruled based on the idea that those 17 and younger don’t have the cognitive development to appreciate right from wrong,” said Michael Radelet, a University of Colorado at Boulder sociology professor who has testified in more than 75 death-penalty cases. “Cases like this that are especially violent and an enigma make some people think they are more deserving of death, but the ruling is about the development of the juvenile brain.”

            The above referenced teenage suspect will not lose his life and may receive parole from prison after 40 years. He has not been tried and sentenced, so we do not know what his punishment will be. However, another teenager recently learned how his behavior last summer will affect his future life.

            A 15-year-old young man in Oregon has been ordered to pay more than $36 million in restitution for starting the Eagle Creek Fire last year. The fire started on September 2, 2017, and burned 48,000 acres of forest land. There are eleven different victims with various amounts of restitution amounts. These range from $5,000 to an individual and all the way up to $1,048,877.52 to Union Pacific Railroad, $1,643,035.38 to Oregon State Fire Marshall, $12,500,000 to ODOT, and $21,113,755 to US Forest Service. 

            The teen’s attorney considers the number to be “cruel and unusual” punishment, but the judge does not believe that it violates the Constitution. He believes that it “is clearly proportionate to the offense because it does not exceed the financial damages caused by the youth.” Since the court realizes that the teenagers cannot pay the full amount right now or even in his lifetime, “an affordable sum” and payment schedule will be created.

If the youth wants to appeal this judgmental, there’s a lawful mechanism for him to do that, then they’ll get a statewide answer from the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court,” Phil Lemman, Oregon Judicial Department spokesman said.

The court can grant a full or partial satisfaction of the restitution after 10 years if the teen completes probation, does not commit additional offenses and complies with payment plan.

“The goal in this is to not get every last dollar the youth will make or ever will, but it will provide a structure so victims are acknowledged in their loss and the payments are made so that the youth has the ability to do that, and also to reform him, and also to deter criminal conduct,” Lemman said.

            The law will decide what the final amount will be, but it sounds like a lot will depend on the future behavior of the youth. He recognized his guilt when he pleaded guilty to the charge. Hopefully, he is up to the burden that he will carry. His parents are not being charged at this time, but they may be sued by one or more of the victims.

            My heart goes out to these young people and their families. If the brain of a 17-year-old is not developed enough to make rational decisions, what does this say about the brain of a 15-year-old? How many more teenagers will mess up their lives before this madness stops?

            I am the mother of six children, and I know that all of them did stupid things when they were teenagers. I cannot see any of them becoming a school shooter, but I can see them do something rash like playing with firecrackers in a dry area and starting a fire.

            Now I have grandchildren who are teenagers. They all have parents who are involved in their lives daily. They seem to be well grounded and responsible. They attend church and are active in school activities. They receive good grades as well as win awards. However, I know that teenagers do irresponsible things. After all, they are young, and their brains are not completely developed. How do we help the rising generation to become well-rounded and responsible adults without being saddled with problems like the teens referenced above?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Royal Weddings

            Unless you have been living in a cave for the past weeks and months, you know that there was a royal wedding on May 19, 2018. Prince Harry, younger son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana of Great Britain, married Meghan Markle of the United States.

            Nearly 30 million Americans watched the royal nuptials on 15 networks. This number was up considerably from the 23 million who watched the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011 on 11 networks. In 1981 just more than 17 million Americans watched on 4 networks as Prince Charles married Lady Diana in 1981. 

            So, what makes the difference in the number of Americans interested? Surely, we must count improvements in modern technology as a big reason. Maybe people were turned off by the formalities of the weddings of the heirs to the throne and liked the scaled down plans of Harry and Meghan better. Maybe it was the fact that Meghan is unabashedly proud of her mixed race heritage and a wonderful example to other girls and women of color. Surely, it is the ultimate Cinderella story! However, it could be the fact that Meghan was an actress for a few years and had her own following before she married a prince. Maybe it is the fact that people do not remember another American actress who married a prince.

            Grace Patricia Kelly began her acting career in 1950 at age 20. “She appeared in New York City theatrical production and more than 40 episodes of live drama productions broadcast during the early 1950s Golden Age of Television.” Other important facts about Grace Kelly are as follow. 

In October 1953, she gained stardom from her performance in director John Ford’s film Mogambo starring Clark Gable and Ava Gardner, which won her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination in 1954. Subsequently, she had leading roles in five films, including The Country Girl (1954) with Bing Crosby, for which her deglamorized performance earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress. Other films include High Noon (1952) with Gary Cooper, Dial M for Murder (1954) with Ray Milland, Rear Window (1954) with James Stewart, To Catch a Thief (1955) with Gary Grant, and High Society (1956) with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

            As you can see from the list of accomplishments and the names of major co-stars, Grace Kelly was among the top actresses in the United States. In fact, she met Prince Rainier III, the sovereign of Monaco, when she led the U.S. delegation to the Cannes Film Festival in April 1955 where he invited her to come to his palace in Monaco for a photo session. There were some delays and complications – including a French actor in her life, but Kelly eventually went to his palace on May 6, 1955.

            Kelly returned to the United States to work on The Swan – acting the part of a princess. She also began correspondence with the prince. Prince Rainer arrived in New York City on December 16, 1955, on an officially designated “tour of America” that was scheduled to last for two months, and there was much speculation that he was looking for a wife. The prince met Kelly and her family while on his tour – and proposed three days later. “She accepted, and the families began preparations for what the press at that time dubbed “The Wedding of the Century.”

            MGM Studio released Kelly’s last film, High Society, in 1955. “Kelly wore her own engagement ring in the film and sang a duet with Bing Crosby, “True Love,” a song with words and music by Cole Porter.”

            There was much preparation for this royal wedding, including repainting and redecorating the palace. The wedding day finally arrived, and the wedding was attended by many famous people, including Aristotle Onassis, Cary Grant, David Niven, Gloria Swanson, and Ava Gardner. Thirty million people watched the wedding on live television.

            To satisfy the requirements for both the nation and the Catholic Church, there were two wedding ceremonies for Prince Rainer and Kelly. They were married in a civil ceremony on April 18, 1956, and a religious ceremony on April 19. The couple embarked for their seven-week Mediterranean honeymoon on the royal yacht. They eventually became the parents of three children: Caroline, Albert II (the current ruler), and Stephanie.

            Kelly held dual citizenship, American and Monegasque. In spite of having 142 official titles that corresponded to those of her husband, she was known simply as Princess Grace of Monaco. She suffered a stroke while driving home to Monaco on September 13, 1982, and died the following day.

            I was a child when Grace Kelly married Prince Rainer, and I remember the excitement of Americans that one of their own was marrying a prince. I can understand American excitement with the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan, but I hope that we will remember that Grace Kelly and Meghan Markle are not the only Americans to marry royalty. In fact, there have been ten other American women who have done so. Meghan is merely joining a small but elite club! 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Gina Haspel

           My VIP for this week is Gina Cheri Walker Haspel. She was confirmed on Thursday, May 17, 2018, to be the first female director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). She was confirmed by a vote of 54-45 with Senator John McCain not attending due to illness and two other Republicans voting against her. They were offset by six Democrat Senators voting for her. The controversy about her role with “enhanced interrogation techniques” caused many questions about whether or not she would be confirmed.

            Haspel served previously as the Deputy Director under Mike Pompeo – the second female to serve in that position. When Pompeo resigned to become U.S. Secretary of State, Haspel became the Acting Director of the CIA.

            Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He spoke on the Senate floor in support of Haspel’s nomination to become the next Director of the CIA – the first woman and first career member of the organization to do so. He highlighted her “distinguished career” and pushed “back against partisan opposition.”

She has done an outstanding job at the CIA. She began working at the CIA in 1985 during the closing days of the Cold War. She was stationed literally all over the world – in Africa, for example. She recruited and handled agents and survived a coup d’├ętat. She worked with government partners during the first gulf war. She ran different CIA stations around the world. She started with the Counterterrorism Center at the CIA on September 11, 2001, and essentially has spent her life since that time focusing on keeping our country safe.

Let me just end by saying that here is how it is not supposed to work. We have a very dangerous situation, like we had after 9/11. We asked our best and brightest to risk their lives to defend this country, to do really tough operations all around the world. We go tell them to do things. This body is briefed on it. We tell them it is legal, and then later, we said: do you know what? Now we are going to hold that against you.

            Maybe Sullivan’s comments had some effect on a few Senators. Maybe they did not. However, the U.S. Senate finally got its act together and confirmed a proven leader. After the voting was over and Haspel was confirmed, Sullivan congratulated his colleagues in the Senate.

I was proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to confirm the first woman who will have risen from the ranks of the CIA to lead the agency. … Gina Haspel is known throughout the intelligence community and the national security establishment as a person of determination, intelligence and honor. I’m confident that she will lead the agency with the kind of integrity and resolve that is necessary during this time of complex global threats. She has devoted her life to our country – we are grateful and will give her all the help she needs to lead the best intelligence-gathering agency in the world.

            The fact that Haspel is a female should have brought votes for her – especially if the Democrats really do support women! The fact that she is a capable woman, one that has the support of the workers in the CIA, should have brought even more votes. There should not have been such a circus around her nomination and confirmation. It appears that most of the Democrats want to cause problems for Trump so badly that they would willingly pass over a qualified leader. It is time for them to learn to put loyalty to country before loyalty to party!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Trump or Resistance?

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is a question: How much damage is being done to the Constitution by the battle between President Donald Trump and the Resistance? Much of the resistance comes from supporters of Barack Obama that are imbedded in the federal agencies as well as the entire lame stream media. Resisters started protesting as soon as the results of the presidential elections became clear, and the resistance is continuing to hobble the Trump administration.

            The Resistance is slowing the accomplishments of the Trump administration, but it is not stopping it. Glenn Beck says that the Resistance has “Trump derangement syndrome.” He believes that this “syndrome” will lead to Trump winning in 2020 by a “landslide.” Democrats have been counting on a “blue wave” that would restore their power in Washington, D.C. However, they have watched their “lead” slowly decrease over the past several weeks.

            Beck recently called out the media for their bias in covering President Trump. He cited the “Trump derangement syndrome” and told the media that they had driven him to become a Trump supporter. Beck was a “never Trumper” before the election, but he has had enough of the extreme bias. He recognizes Trump’s numerous success stories and says that he will vote for Trump in 2020 because the behavior of the media and the rest of the Resistance has pushed him over the edge.

            Blogger David Prentice compares the situation between President Trump and the Resistance to the volcano erupting in Hawaii. He recognizes that some “lava” has been flowing and destroying everything in its path, but he believes that the problem will be blown wide open soon. He is screaming “Code Red” because he believes that the Resistance is going to get much worse.

Code Red. It’s about to blow…. That’s hard to believe, but just watch. Yes, they have been spewing destruction in their wake for well over two years now. Destroying property, lives, states, cities, nothing escapes their toxic brew.

The trigger for the eruption of the last years has been Trump. How dare he beat them, their agenda, their candidate? Doesn’t he know who they are? For that insolence, he, his family, his friends, his associates, every member of his administration, his voters, literally anyone who says one good thing about him must have lava poured on them 24/7. Maybe forever.

This has been non-stop since he won. Unfortunately, it’s about to get worse.

            Prentice seems to have the same attitude toward the Resistance as Beck. The “lava” that he speaks of is the ever-present negative attacks. President Trump has had some huge successes, but the media fails to report them. “To the leftist media, nothing good comes from Trump. It’s all terrible. So they continue to spew rivers of lava 24/7. They continue to lie, make up narratives, sources, stories, anything they think can derail Trump….”

            Like Beck, Prentice says that the “journalists” consider Trump to be “horrible, stupid, and evil.” He says that the Resistance is going to get worse because the Inspector General (IG) report is coming out. It was supposed to be out in March, then April, and now May. Either the IG is being hobbled also, or he continues to uncover more information.

            The most recent tactic by the Resistance is to pretend that spying on Trump was a good thing. It seems that the more investigating that takes place, the more swamp creatures are exposed. Prentice suggests that President Trump knows more than he is letting on about the whole deal.

One by one all these bad apples have been exposed, demoted, fired, outed, and reported on by real journalists named Sara and John. Does anyone really think that Trump hasn’t had a hand in that? Brennan, Clapper, Comey, McCabe, Yates, the whole lot of them … are losing.

… The IG report is the next big explosion. It’s quite clear the Mueller appointment is not what the left hoped…. Even without the leftist media reporting on these horrifying bureaucratic shenanigans, the American public, well over half believe Obama wrongfully spied on Trump.

Trump knows all this. He knows who the bad guys are, and how bad they were….

… The ever-increasing lava-spewing by the MSM will no longer help them. I am surmising there are players who have turned to plea bargaining and have spilled the truth out. I am thinking that all of them are going to start jumping ship like the rats they are, beginning with the IG report. There’s going to be Hell to pay. The public will hear the IG report….

Code Red for the left. Worst cognitive dissonance ever. They have no clue what is about to hit them.

            Some people call the Resistance “the swamp.” I call them secret combinations, and I pray daily for their exposure and for their power to be destroyed. Secret combinations are inspired by Satan, and their main goal is to destroy freedom. The best way to destroy the freedoms of America is to destroy the U.S. Constitution. This is the goal of the Resistance, and they do not care what they have to do to reach it.

            Apparently, President Trump understands the goal of these secret combinations. He stands firm and continues to move America forward in spite of the road blocks thrown into his path. I pray for his protection and for the safety of all those who are striving to protect and preserve the Constitution of the United States. May God bless President Trump and may God bless America!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Righteous Living

            The Prophet Joseph Smith was living in Kirtland, Ohio, on May 6, 1833, when he received a revelation now known as Doctrine and Covenants 93. This revelation explains how to become righteous enough to be prepared to meet God. The first verse of this section states:

Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.

            Section 93 covers numerous areas of righteous living. Some of the topics discussed in this section are: “John bore record that the Son of God went from grace to grace until he received a fulness of the glory of the Father” (verses 6-18), “Faithful men, going from grace to grace, shall also receive of his fulness” (verses 19-20), and “Christ received a fulness of all truth, and man by obedience may do likewise” (verses 29-32).

            I find it quite interesting that the revelation discusses the process of gaining righteousness and becoming worthy to see God face to face and then ends with a commandment to the leading brethren to set their house in order (verses 41-53). Verse 43 is as follows: "And now a commandment I give unto you – if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house."

            Then-Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says that this revelation “represents one of the many powerful validations of the integrity of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He did not delete from scripture words of stinging rebuke, even though some were directed to himself” (“Set in Order Thy House,” Ensign, November 2001). Elder Nelson then proceeds to explain how we set our houses in order.  

To set our house in an order pleasing to the Lord, we need to do it His way. We are to employ His attributes of “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, [and] meekness” (1 Timothy 6:11). Each father should remember that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41).

Parents are to be living examples of “kindness, and pure knowledge, which … greatly enlarge the soul” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:42). Each mother and father should lay aside selfish interests and avoid any thought of hypocrisy, physical force, or evil speaking. (See 1 Peter 2:1.) Parents soon learn that each child has an inborn yearning to be free. Each individual wants to make his or her own way. No one wants to be restrained, even by a well-intentioned parent. But all of us can cling to the Lord.

            The same day that I studied the talk by Elder Nelson, I read an article titled “Living Righteously in a Wicked World” by Elder Peter F. Meurs of the Seventy. He uses the life of Abraham as an example of how we can remain righteous even though we live in a wicked world. He discusses the following ways that Abraham remained righteous. 

Consistent Choices: Abraham consistently chose righteousness. He followed the Lord’s prompting to move to Canaan. He built altars, worshipped, and offered thanks on arrival. He went into the mountains to pray. He followed inspiration that saved his family. Faced with conflict, he sought resolution by suggesting that his family and Lot’s family physically distance themselves from each other.

Evaluating Opportunities: After surveying the land, Lot chose to live on the plains near the city of Sodom. The land, well-watered and beautiful, appealed to him…. Lot later moved into Sodom….

Lot’s experience reminds us of the need to periodically consider allegiances and priorities. Are our symbolic tents pitched toward the Lord’s house or toward the seemingly enticing pleasures of the world?

To the Rescue: When Abraham “heard that his [nephew] was taken captive, he armed his trained servants” and rushed to save him. “He brought back … Lot, and his goods, … and the people” (Genesis 14:14, 16).

After the rescue, Abraham met with the king of Sodom and later with Melchizedek, king of Salem….
… Melchizedek “brought forth bread and wine.” Abraham recognized him as “the priest of the most high God” and willingly “gave him tithes of all” (Genesis 14:18, 20).

Abraham demonstrated his love for the Lord and his brethren. On learning of Lot’s capture, Abraham did not say, “[He has] brought upon himself [these trials]” (Mosiah 4:17). Instead, he responded with love.

Despite Warnings: When the Lord told Abraham of His intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah “because their sin is very grievous,” Abraham asked if He would spare the city if 50 righteous souls could be found. Abraham continued asking – 45, 40, 30, 20 – finally asking if God would spare the city for the sake of 10 righteous souls. We see the Lord’s love for individuals when He confirms that if 10 can be found, “I will not destroy it” (See Genesis 18:20-33)….

Lot had made his choice to live in Sodom, and the influence of the wicked city was taking its toll on his family. Despite repeated warning, Lot was slow to respond….
What a tragedy! Lot’s choices – to live near Sodom, pitch his tents toward Sodom, move into Sodom, and return to Sodom after being rescued by Abraham --- had taken their toll. Even after being warned by angels, Lot could not convince his sons-in-law and his daughters of the pending destruction. Lot’s wife seemed so connected with life in Sodom that she could not resist the temptation to look back.

Although the Lord and Abraham clearly wanted to help Lot and his family, Lot’s choices, made over a long period, left his family weakened and unable to respond.

            Elder Meurs shares how Abraham was consistent in making good choices and evaluating the opportunities that came to him. He discusses the love that Abraham had for Lot when he went to rescue him and his love for God when he paid tithes to Melchizedek. He then explains that we have the opportunity to choose how we will respond to the counsels and commandments of God. He tells us how we can apply Abraham’s example in our lives.

Like Abraham, we can choose to live righteously. The Lord has provided stakes of Zion as places of refuge for Saints to gather. He has provided ordinances and covenants that protect and strengthen us. He has blessed us with temples where we can draw closer to Him and perform sacred work in behalf of our ancestors.
All of us struggle to cope with negative influences of the world. From Abraham and Lot we can learn the power and protection of choosing to live righteously, of choosing to avoid places where we or our families may be subject to great wickedness or temptation, and of choosing to always keep our tents facing toward the temple.

            We can choose to follow the example of Abraham and live righteously. One of the ways that we can live righteously is by making and keeping sacred covenants and by marrying in the temple for time and all eternity. As we teach the gospel to our children and grandchildren and create a righteous family, we put our house in order. Like Abraham, it is a matter of making consistent choices, evaluating the opportunities that come, rescuing other people, and paying attention to any warnings from God and/or His servants.