Declaration of Independence

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

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Joseph Smith and Freedom of Religion

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is once again the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. As you most likely know already, freedom of religion is known as the First Freedom because it is listed first in the First Amendment. This amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Well, Congress has not made any laws against religion, but other folks are constantly making problems for people with religious conviction.

            Last week we learned that San Antonio International Airport refused to give a concessions contract to Chick-fil-a because the company made some donations to other business or organizations that do not serve people with same-sex attraction. Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, is now investigating the situation. 

The City of San Antonio’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A based on the religious beliefs associated with the company and its owners is the opposite of tolerance. It’s discriminatory, and not only out of step with Texas values, but inconsistent with the Constitution and Texas Law.

The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken….

Unfortunately, I have serious concerns that both are under assault at the San Antonio airport.

            Not to be outdone by San Antonio, this week the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga, New York, made the same decision. One day it announced that Chick-fil-A would be coming to the airport, and the next day it withdrew the invitation on religious grounds. The airport wants a company that does not “discriminate” against people. Assemblyman Sean Ryan might have something to do with the reversal because he tweeted the following statement. 

We hope in the future the NFTA will make every effort to contract with businesses that adhere to anti-discriminatory policies, and we’re confident another vendor who better represents the values of the Western New York community will replace Chick-fil-A as a part of this project in the very near future.

            Religious discrimination and hostility is nothing new in America as shown in an article written by Spencer W. McBride. Christians have been fairly safe until the past few years, but that has not always been the case. In 1833 mob violence drove more than 1,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from their home in Jackson County, Missouri. The Saints made their way to Clay County, Missouri, but they were driven from their homes there in July 1836.

            The Prophet Joseph Smith went to see Martin Van Buren in Washington, D.C. to ask for help for his people, but the President denied the request. The President gave the reason for his denial as being that it would hurt his chances for reelection. The Prophet then went to Congress for help. Congress held three days of hearings in February 1840 and then declined to help the Saints in reclaiming their property and receiving compensation for their losses. They told the Prophet to petition Missouri for redress, the same state that had expelled his people.

            Meanwhile, members of the Catholic Church were treated just as badly. About 1834 the Catholic Ursuline convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts, was burned to the ground. It seems that people did not like all Irish Catholic immigrants who had recently come to the United States. The government at least condemned this violence, but the Catholics received no financial compensation.

            As a result of the religious persecution against his own people, plus seeing the charred ruins of the Catholic convent, Joseph Smith became an activist for religious freedom. He advocated for peace, equality, and “religious freedom of all people.” He not only talked the talk of religious freedom, but he walked the walk also.

Amid these petitioning efforts, Joseph made strides toward establishing real religious freedom in his own community. As a member of the city council of Nauvoo, Illinois, he introduced an ordinance that “the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-Day Saints, Quakers, Episcopalians, Universalists, Unitarians, Mohammedans [Muslims], and all other religious sects, and denominations, whatever, shall have free toleration, and equal privileges, in this city.” This declaration was passed and entailed more than a tolerance for those affiliated with other churches to reside in the city; it proposed religious freedom in its truest form by extending a guarantee of all citizenship rights regardless of one’s religious convictions. As the First Presidency explained, the Latter-day Saints were signaling that they would “claim no privilege but what we feel cheerfully disposed to share with our fellow citizens of every denomination.”

            The First Amendment guarantees the protection of freedom of religion. However, the government is made up of mere humans, and some of them get their priorities mixed up. President Van Buren was afraid that helping the Saints would affect his reelection, and the members in Congress apparently had the same concerns. Now we have city leaders San Antonio, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, who are pushing their own agendas against Chick-fil-A.

            The Jews have endured persecution for thousands of years. Christians in foreign lands are being murdered by the hundreds, while Christians in the United States are finding it more and more difficult to exercise their freedom of religion.   
            In a letter to a newspaper editor named Wentworth, Joseph Smith outlined the beliefs of his people. That list of beliefs is now known as The Articles of Faith. The eleventh Article of Faith states: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claim the right to exercise our freedom of religion and allow the same freedom to all other people.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

To Whom Would You Go?

            The story of Jonah and the whale is a well-known story from the Old Testament. Jonah is called on a mission to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. As I understand it, this mission would be similar to a missionary called to preach in Iran today. Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh, so he went the opposite direction. He gets on a ship, and the ship runs into a great storm that threatens the lives of every person on board. Jonah somehow realizes that he is the cause of the storm and tells the people to throw him into the sea. Jonah is swallowed by a giant fish. He spends three days in the belly of the fish. He decides at some point to pray about his situation, and the fish vomits him out on dry ground. He goes to Nineveh where he prophesies total destruction if the people do not repent. The people repent, and the city is saved. One would think that Jonah would have been happy to see the salvation of the people, but he was not. The Lord is clearly not pleased with Jonah because He rebukes him.

            Has the Lord ever told you to do something that you did not want to do? I have had that experience. There was a time in my life when I wanted to get on an airplane and fly out of Anchorage. It did not matter to me where I went or what I did; I simply wanted to go. I fought this feeling for approximately two years before it left. The reason I did not get on that airplane and leave is because I knew what Jonah eventually learned -- it is impossible to run from God.

            There are, however, people who do turn from the Lord when things get tough. The Jews, apparently, have a prophecy that the Messiah will bring manna from heaven when He returns, similar to the way that God blessed the children of Israel with manna while they wandered in the wilderness. People were drawn to Jesus Christ because He miraculously fed thousands of people with little or no food. However, many of them murmured when the Lord told them, “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:41). Some of those same people turned away from the Lord when He tried to teach them that He was the “living bread” sent from heaven (John 6:51). The Savior turned to His disciples and asked them if they would turn from Him also. Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:6-69).

            Peter and the other Apostles knew that there was no place else to go besides Jesus Christ. An Apostle in our day poses the same question to us that Jesus Christ posed to His ancient Apostles. In his talk titled “To Whom Shall We Go?” Elder M. Russell Ballard explained.

Today is no different. For some, Christ’s invitation to believe and remain continues to be hard – or difficult to accept. Some disciples struggle to understand a specific Church policy or teaching. Others find concerns in our history or in the imperfections of some members and leaders, past and present. Still others find it difficult to live a religion that requires so much. Finally, some have become “weary in well doing.” For these and other reasons, some Church members vacillate in their faith, wondering if perhaps they should follow those who “went back, and walked no more” with Jesus.

If any one of you is faltering in your faith, I ask you the same question that Peter asked: “To whom shall [you] go?” If you choose to become inactive or to leave the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where will you go? What will you do? The decision to “walk no more” with Church members and the Lord’s chosen leaders will have a long-term impact that cannot always be seen right now. There may be some doctrine, some policy, some bit of history that puts you at odds with your faith, and you may feel that the only way to resolve that inner turmoil right now is to “walk no more” with the Saints. If you live as long as I have, you will come to know that things have a way of resolving themselves. An inspired insight or revelation may shed new light on an issue. Remember, the Restoration is not an event, but it continues to unfold.

Never abandon the great truths revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Never stop reading, pondering, and applying the doctrine of Christ contained in the Book of Mormon.

Never fail to give equal time to the Lord through honest attempts to understand what the Lord has revealed….

So before you make that spiritually perilous choice to leave, I encourage you to stop and think carefully before giving up whatever it was that brought you to your testimony of the restored Church of Jesus Christ in the first place. Stop and think about what you have felt here and why you felt it. Think about the time when the Holy Ghost has borne witness to you of eternal truth.

            I have received that witness from the Holy Ghost, and I can say that I know. I know that there is no one besides Jesus Christ who can bless me as He does. I know that there is no other organization besides His Church that can help me to prepare to return to His presence. I am grateful that I took the time and made the effort more than forty years ago to discover the truth for myself. It was this knowledge that kept me from running away from my many blessings when I was sorely tempted to do so.

            I know that Heavenly Father lives and that Jesus Christ is His Son. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on earth today. I know that we are led by a prophet of God, even President Russell M. Nelson. I encourage all of you to gain this same testimony in order that you may stand strong against the temptations of this day.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Teach Children How to Accept Failure

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when parents allow their children to face the pain of loss, rejection, or failure. We have heard for years about soccer, softball, and other leagues award trophies to all the children who play. For some reason, modern parents are afraid to allow their children to be less than the best or less than perfect, so they attempt to make a world that has no winners or losers.

            My own granddaughter showed me a trophy that she received that said “Best Player.” I asked her if she was the best player, and she replied that she was not but all the children got the same trophy. We know of games where there are no official scores kept because parents and officials do not want the losing team to feel bad for losing. These adults do not give the children credit for being able to think and to count. The players all knew which team won the game even if the adults would not admit it. The children were wiser than the adults and could see through the efforts to make everyone the same.

            This bad idea recently showed up in a huge way with the indictments of 33 parents who were part of a nationwide scandal with college admissions. Parents did not have enough faith in their children’s ability to get into college on their own merits – or not enough faith in their own parenting ability to help their children prepare to do so – that they paid up to $500,000 to make sure that their child was accepted at an elite university. It appears that most of the parents were more concerned about the success of their children than the actual students were. The parents might have thought they were protecting their children from rejection or failure, but they might have been more concerned with their own such feelings.

            An interesting article by Jennifer Graham discusses the need for all of us to know “how to weather rejection and failure.” According to psychologists and child development experts,” this is “an important component of emotional well-being,” and parents should be helping children to develop this ability rather than shielding them. Graham emphasizes that it was the parents, coaches, and other adults who were indicted with no students being charged.

            Graham also points out that this problem is found in all circles of parenting. None of us want our children to be sad or rejected. She quotes “experts” who say that it might just be the parents who have the biggest problem with having children who are not the best at everything they do.

            The article suggests several ways that parents can prepare their children to face rejection: (1) “offer comfort and validate the child’s experience;” (2) “make failing safe;” (3) “describe failing as part of a process, not an end;” (4) “let your child know you value her character more than her achievements;” (5) “take a back seat [and] encourage your child to come up with solutions.”

            Children need to learn that losing or failing is not the end of the world. The best place to learn this fact of life is in the safety of the family and the best people to do the teaching are loving parents. After discussing numerous ways that “self-absorbent” parents attempt to push their children to success, the author made the following statement.

Evidence-based research shows that of an array of traits – including things like friendliness, emotional stability and openness to new ideas – the ones that best predict future success in children are honesty and self-control. Those qualities matter more than common sources of parental pride, such as grades or where a child goes to college….

Parents can teach children how to fail in the safe environs of the family by doing things like making sure a child doesn’t always win at board games, then coaching them through loss and rewarding them for behaving appropriately.

            It is important for children to learn that losing, rejection, and failure are part of life.           Children can learn to pick themselves up and become stronger if they are taught how to do so. I know a young man who became captain of his high school basketball team and earned many honors because he worked for them physically and academically. He paid the price to be successful in basketball and academics and has been accepted at the university of his choosing. He had the support of his parents and other family members, but he did it on his own.

            We want the rising generation to achieve their goals and to be successful in their endeavors. However, we must prepare them to accept the fact that life is full of failures. We cannot win at everything we try. We have to learn to pick ourselves up and “make lemonade” with the “lemons” that life gives us. If parents will help their children to accept failure and rejection properly, they will also give their children the tools necessary to become successful. In doing so, they will strengthen their family, community, and nation.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Freedom from Democrat Stupidity

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the fact that Democrat leaders do not seem to have common sense. What baffles this writer is why people continue to support them. We can use Nancy Pelosi for an example. She is the highest-ranked Democrat in the nation, but she slurs her words and has numerous lapses in her memory. Why in the world do people vote for a person who has some obvious problems? What power does she hold over them?

            Monica Showalter writes of three ways that Pelosi’s record “is one of miserable failure.” The first is Pelosi’s unwillingness to fund the U.S. border. She said that a wall is “immoral.” How can an object be immoral? She refused to fund it to the point that there was a shutdown of the federal government for over a month – while thousands of illegals were rushing our border. Besides thinking that a wall is immoral and depriving federal employees of regular paychecks, Pelosi did not take advantage of an opportunity to legalize the DREAMers. She could have given Donald Trump money for the wall and achieved a real victory, but she chose to act stupidly.

            When Pelosi continued her refusal to fund the wall, Trump did the only thing that he had left to do and fulfill his responsibility as President. He declared a national emergency – something that other Presidents have done numerous times without any problem from the Democrats. Barack Obama declared twelve national emergencies – with all of them benefiting other nations. The Pelosi-led House of Representatives voted on a joint resolution to stop the national emergency – while thousands of illegal aliens continued to stream across the border. The House and Senate both passed the resolution, and Trump vetoed it as he promised. The result is that Trump now has $12 billion to build the wall rather than the $5.7 billion requested.

            Pelosi’s third act of stupidity was to try to override the President’s veto and forbid any wall from being built, but the override vote did not have the two-thirds majority necessary. So, Pelosi has tried three times and failed to stop funding for a badly needed barrier along the southern border. Meanwhile, the emergency on the border has continued to grow larger and stronger. The system is almost to the point of failure and the agents are crying for help from Congress. Yet, Pelosi continues to refuse to help the situation.

            Maybe Democrats think that their leader is showing strength, and maybe they will continue to vote for her. However, Pelosi is leading her party down a path that most of them really do not want to go.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Scientific Fraud

            A new scandal is rocking the academic world, and it has nothing to do with admissions. This scandal has to do with the research department. It seems that fraud was taking place among the scientists, but a lab analyst blew whistle. 

            The scientific community is diligent about making sure that they have the correct data. They know that they need to get their measurements and experiments right, so they allow other scientists to check and double-check their work. They do not want any fraud in their midst because it will hamper their work and it will cause people to question their integrity.

            The scandal at Duke University was brought to the light because Joseph Thomas, working as a lab analyst, noticed that a “Duke researcher fudged data to help the university win and keep lucrative grants from two agencies….” Like a good member of the scientific community, he brought it to the attention of his employer and was fired. He went to the government with his claim, but the government declined to take any action.

            Thomas decided to fight the mighty Duke University by himself but on behalf of the government, and he won. Duke is “paying the U.S. government $112.5 million to settle accusations that it submitted bogus data to win federal research grants.” Duke is also paying $33.75 million to Thomas for damages done to him.

            One might ask, what is the problem with science fraud? Well, scientists build upon the work of other scientists. If any scientist submits faulty work, then other scientists will build upon it and have faulty results. The consequences can be a matter of life and death. If the science is good, it can save lives. If it is bad science, then people will suffer.

            As an example of problems caused by faulty science, we need look no further than the scandal of parents being afraid to vaccinate their children. In 1998 Andrew Wakefield, along with twelve other scientists, published a paper in the Lancet, claiming that there was a connection between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism in children. Even though the study was done with only twelve children, parents immediately became alarmed and stopped vaccinating their children.

            The scientific community immediately conducted its own studies and found no proof that the MMR vaccine causes autism. They refuted the link between the MMR vaccine and autism, but the damage was already done. Even though autistic tendencies are diagnosed about the same time that children received the MMR vaccine there is no proof of causation between the two events.

            Ten of the twelve co-authors of the paper filed a “short retraction of the interpretation of the original data.” The retraction stated, “no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient.” This retraction was accompanied by a Lancet admission that Wakefield et al had not disclosed that the study was “funded by lawyers who had been engaged by parents in lawsuits against vaccine-producing companies.” 

            The Lancet did not charge Wakefield et al with charges of fraud or misconduct, but it did retract their paper completely in February 2010. An earlier investigation had found Wakefield et al “guilty of ethical violations (they had conducted invasive investigations on the children without obtaining the necessary ethical clearances) and scientific misrepresentation (they reported that their sampling was consecutive when, in fact, it was selective).” A big problem was that the Lancet published their retraction “as a small, anonymous paragraph in the journal, on behalf of the editors.” 
Wakefield et al were found to be “guilty of deliberate fraud (they picked and chose data that suited their case; they falsified facts).

            The fact that Wakefield et al were declared guilty of fraud has not stopped parents from being afraid of the MMR vaccine. The problems caused by this fraud continue to cause division among Americans. Even though my children vaccinate my grandchildren, I have friends and children of friends who are terrified to get their children vaccinated. My son, who is a doctor and has spent the last 15 years working in a hospital emergency room, told me this week that he has never seen a complication from a childhood vaccination other than a fever. The rampant fear among parents is the result of scientific fraud in spite of the diligence of the scientific community.

Scientists who publish their research have an ethical responsibility to ensure the highest standards of research design, data collection, data analysis, data reporting, and interpretation of findings; there can be no compromises because any error, any deceit, can result in harm to patients as well [as] harm to the cause of science, as the Wakefield saga so aptly reveals.

            As one can quickly see from the Wakefield case, fraud among the members of the scientific community has wide consequences. This is the reason why the good scientists allow their peers to check their experiments and review their papers before publication.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Trump and Israel

            Nearly 20 years ago I was teaching a group of high school freshmen. Our classes started at 6:00 a.m., and most of the students came most of the time. I do not actually remember what we were discussing, but I remember saying to my students one day, “Keep your eyes on Israel.” I have followed that advice, and I know that at least one of my students has also.

            Today my eyes have been on Israel because the first news I heard this morning was a news briefing with President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After both leaders took their turn to say good things about the other, Trump signed an executive order officially recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

            Netanyahu thank Trump immensely for his “two-fold act of historic justice.” Trump first recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Israel has always considered Jerusalem to be its capital, but other nations put their embassies in Tele Viv to prevent problems with other Middle Easterners. Numerous other U.S. Presidents campaigned on moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, but they never did. Trump said that he would move it, and he did. Now Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Both moves are well past time.

            In thanking Trump for the recognition, Netanyahu said, “your proclamation comes at a time when Golan is more important than ever for our security” and cited threats of attacks by Iran from Syria. He explained, “Israel won the Golan Heights in a just war of self-defense, and the Jewish people’s roots in the Golan go back thousands of years.”  He also said that Israel “shall never give it up.”

            Israel was formed as a nation in 1948 against the wishes of the Arab states in the area.
Following this recognition of Israel as a nation, there were “several decades of political tension and military conflict between Israel” and the surrounding states. This tension continued until June 1967 when Israel took serious action during a conflict known as the “Six-Day War.”

The Six-Day War was a brief but bloody conflict fought in June 1967 between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Following years of diplomatic friction and skirmishes between Israel and its neighbors, Israel Defense Forces launched preemptive air strikes that crippled the air forces of Egypt and its allies. Israel then staged a successful ground offensive and seized the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria….

            The United Nations brokered a cease fire, but there was little doubt that a big change had taken place in the region. The Arab states signed a resolution that they would not recognize or negotiate for peace with Israel. Instead they launched a surprise attack on Israel while the nation was celebrating Yom Kippur on October 6, 1973. This battle lasted for about three weeks and is known as the Yom Kippur War. It took Israel several days to mobilize completely. Then they pushed the Arab armies back and retained the Golan Heights, but it was at great cost in soldiers and equipment.

            The Golan Heights are critical to the security of Israel. It is a rocky plateau that overlooks the rest of Israel. Army tanks on the Golan could do great damage to Israel. 
Southern Syria and the capital Damascus, about 60 km (40 miles) north, are clearly visible from the top of the Heights while Syrian artillery regularly shelled the whole of northern Israel from 1948 to 1967 when Syria controlled the Heights.
The Heights give Israel an excellent vantage point for monitoring Syrian movements. The topography provides a natural buffer against any military thrust from Syria.
The area is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater form the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply.
The land is fertile, and the volcanic soil is used to cultivate vineyards and orchards and raise cattle. The Golan is also home to Israel’s only ski resort.
            Syria wants the Golan back, and Israel offered to return part of it in US-brokered peace talks held in 1999-2000. The price of return was peace, but there was a big problem. Syria wanted Israel to withdraw completely from the land won in 1967, but Israel could not give up their security. They could not return to the pre-1967 border because Syria would then control the east bank of Israel’s main source of fresh water, the Sea of Galilee – besides being able to shoot down on northern Israel.
            This is why Trump’s proclamation of Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights is so important. Israel has held the area for more than fifty years, and Trump thought that it was time. However, this proclamation also came with a price. Hamas fired several rockets from Gaza into Israel, and Israel retaliated with airstrikes across Gaza. Netanyahu cut his visit to Washington, D.C. short and went home. Hamas later called for a cease fire. For the time being, Israel is staying strong, but we still need to keep our eyes on Israel. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Unnamed Female Student

            My VIP for this week is an unnamed female high school student because she stood up to the demand for “tolerance.” It seems that this young woman was changing her clothes to participate in a gym class when she heard a man’s voice. She alleges that “her privacy was violated and that she was subjected to sexual harassment” because this transgender person was in the locker room and observing her.

Lawyers for the student posted a video online describing what they say happened. The unnamed female student appears in the clip and said “while I was putting on my pants I heard a man’s voice, so I turned around, and he’s standing there on the opposite aisle looking at me. I glanced down and could tell that he was wearing women’s underwear and what was underneath it.”

She added: “When I knew that a man was looking at me, I felt very violated and very scared – especially looking at me while I’m getting dressed.”

            I believe that this young woman should be commended for voicing her discomfort. It seems that she is one of the few people who are living in reality. She recognized that there was a man in the girls’ dressing room, and she was uncomfortable with his presence. She knew that he was a man because of his voice and “what was underneath” the women’s underwear. In addition, he was watching her dress. No real female watches another woman get dressed. We each want privacy, and we are willing to allow the other person to have privacy.

            There is no reason why girls and young women should have to become “more tolerant” about males in their restrooms and locker rooms. It is time that their feelings are taken into consideration and not just cast aside with a demand for tolerance.

            School officials offered a solution – wait outside until the transgender individual leaves the locker room. This means that the biological girl is late for gym class and late for her next class as well. She still loses in the name of tolerance.

            Attorneys filed a federal complaint in behalf of the young woman and her parents. I hope that every single girl in a similar circumstance files a complaint. Somehow, federal authorities must receive the message that normal females are modest and wish to dress and undress without uninvited spectators.

            If schools want to be fair to all students, they will arrange to have separate facilities for females, males, and transgender individuals, or they can simply add stalls with locking doors. This would allow transgender individuals to be in the restroom or locker room of their choice, and still allow other students to dress and undress in privacy.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Trump Exonerated

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the end of the Russian collusion investigation.  After 675 days of investigation, 500 witnesses, and 2800 subpoenas, special counsel Robert Mueller reported that there was no collusion between Donald Trump or his campaign and Russia. The investigation began as soon as Trump won the 2016 presidential election with the apparent hopes of overturning the election results, but it is over.

            The Democrats counted on Mueller to find something – anything – that would get rid of Trump, and now they are in mourning. They had high hopes of removing Trump from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Their hopes are now dashed, but they are not yet willing to give up. There is still talk of impeachment even though no crimes have been committed.

            Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) is the current chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and he suggests that there is “significant evidence of collusion.” Schiff is the same person that claimed months ago that he had seen the evidence. It is obvious that the Democrats will not allow Trump to be free of investigation. In fact, they would rather tie the President up with investigations than to support him in protecting the nation.

            It is good that the Mueller investigation is over, but the fact that Mueller found no collusion will not stop the Democrats from searching for some reason to get rid of Trump. While they are working so hard to end Trump’s presidency, they are not doing the work of the people. It is time to vote all Democrats out of office and send them home.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Disintegration of the Family

            The family is the basic or core unit of society and eternity. When the family unit is strong, society is strong. When the family unit is weak, society is weak. We are living in dangerous times because the family unit is growing weaker. The family is being pulled apart by the many forces pulling at it, and this destruction of the family is weakening the integrity of society. This disintegration of the family did not happen overnight or without warning.

            In September 1995 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published its document titled “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” This document explains the importance of marriage and family to society and warns of serious problems if the family disintegrates.

            Some of the forces that are taking such a terrible toll on families come through technology. Technology replaces family ties with relationships formed on social media. It causes parents to spend more time on their cell phones or computers than they do with their children. It causes even worse problems when it brings evil into our homes with games and pornography. Pornography is an insidious evil that destroys individuals, marriages, and families because it destroys the ability to feel and love in constructive ways. It invites and then imprisons its victims in its realm of darkness and causes them to disconnect with life as it really is. Pornography is so bad because it comes right into our homes whether or not it is invited, but misuse of other types of technology is also serious.

            When people cannot see the difference between the real world and the fake, they often trade the good for the bad. In a powerful address about technology entitled “Things as They Really Are,” Elder David A. Bednar of the Council of Twelve Apostles outlines many problems caused by the misuse of technology. He explains that technology has the ability to make things look so real that it is difficult to see the difference between reality and simulation, and many people trade the good for the bad.

We live at a time when technology can be used to replicate reality, to augment reality, and to create virtual reality. For example, a medical doctor can use software simulation to gain valuable experience performing a complicated surgical operation without ever putting a human patient at risk. A pilot in a fight simulator repeatedly can practice emergency landing procedures that could save many lives. And architects and engineers can use innovative technologies to model sophisticated design and construction methods that decrease the loss of human life and damage to buildings caused by earthquakes and other natural disasters.

In each of these examples, a high degree of fidelity in the simulation or model contributes to the effectiveness of the experience. The term fidelity denotes the similarity between reality and a representation of reality. Such a simulation can be constructive if the fidelity is high and the purposes are good – for example, providing experience that saves lives or improves the quality of life….

… However, a simulation or model can lead to spiritual impairment and danger if the fidelity is high and the purposes are bad – such as experimenting with actions contrary to God’s commandments or enticing us to think or do things we would not otherwise think or do “because it is only a game.”

I raise an apostolic voice of warning about the potentially stifling, suffocating, suppressing, and constraining impact of some kinds of cyberspace interactions and experiences upon our souls. The concerns I raise are not new; they apply equally to other types of media, such as television, movies, and music. But in a cyber world, these challenges are more pervasive and intense. I plead with you to beware of the sense-dulling and spiritually destructive influence of cyberspace technologies that are used to produce high fidelity and that promote degrading and evil purposes.

            There is good technology, and there is bad technology. Our duty is to retain our ability to discern between the two of them. We must choose the technology that helps us to become better educated, to communicate with our immediate family, to keep our extended family close, and to build and strengthen the Church. We should avoid any technology that weakens our marriages and families or that brings distance between ourselves and God.

            Satan knows that the family is central to God’s plan for the happiness of His children, and he will do anything to keep us from becoming eternal families. We can keep our families strong by following the principles outlined in the proclamation on the family. I know that families can be together forever if we stay on the covenant path back to our Heavenly Father.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Gender, Inclusion, and Empathy

            Families, communities, and nations are stronger when all members of the rising generation are helped to reach their full potential. We all lived in heaven with Heavenly Father before we came to this earth. We lived there as male and female. Our gender was important there, it is important here, and it will be important in the next life. Our gender remains the same. Because I am female here on earth, I know that I was a female in heaven and will continue to be a female in the next life.

            Since God makes no mistakes, there is no reason for a boy to think that he is a girl, or a girl to think that she is a boy. Yet, it seems to be happening more and more as time goes on. Social scientists are discovering that children get these strange ideas because of the way that they are treated. This is particularly true for those children who are a little different. Scientists have found no proof of a gene that makes a person gay. Whether or not someone becomes homosexual depends on how they are treated as children and youth.

            Most little girls play house and want to be just like mommy, and most little boys want to grow up to be just like daddy. When my children were little, their toys were all together on the toy shelves. The girl things were there right beside the boy things, yet the girls chose to play with dolls, dishes, etc. and the boys chose to play with trucks and cars. When my son wanted to play with his older sisters, he played with his He-man characters while his sisters played with their Barbies. They all played with the more neutral toys of blocks, puzzles, etc.

            Little girls want to “mother,” and they are willing to mother just about anything. If the only thing they have is a truck, they will wrap the truck in a blanket and pretend that it is a baby. Little boys want to be rough and tough. If the only toy that they have to play with is a doll, they will make it into an Army guy and make it do tough things. This is the way that we are created because our gender came with us into this world.

            What happens if the little boy does not like to rough and tumble but prefers to do quiet things like art and music? He is still a boy. His difference in taste only means that he has a more sensitive side than most boys. However, studies have shown that he wants the intimacy of being included in the group of boys. If he is allowed to form healthy relationships with other boys, he grows up feeling like a man. If the closeness he desires is not there, he will start to crave it. This desire to be intimate with other males can cause him think that he is gay. If he acts on this way of thinking, he will be convinced that he is gay.

            The same thing happens to little girls who are a little less feminine and do not want to wear ruffles and lace. If she is able to bond with other girls even though she is not as feminine, she will grow up knowing that she is female. When either a boy or girl starts to think that they are the other sex, it is because they want the intimacy with people of their own sex. This happens long before they have any desires to participate in sex. This is one reason why we need to teach our children and grandchildren to be kind and include all people. It is this lack of inclusion and closeness that is driving many of the rising generation into homosexuality.

            There are also a few other ways that children can be made to think that they are the opposite sex. Many children who have been molested start to have these thoughts. This does not mean that all people who become homosexual have been molested or that all people who are molested will become homosexual. It simply means that this is one way that children get a same-sex attraction.

            This kind of thinking can also come from a father that treats his daughter like a son or a mother who tries to make her son into a daughter. Adults who mess with the minds of children are in a class of evil all by themselves. However, we must all be careful how we treat children and youth in order to help them to reach their potential as a son or daughter of God.

            Children need to have both male and female role models in their lives. Most little boys who are able to bond with a strong male – like a loving father – will grow up to become a strong male. Most little girls who have a strong female – like a loving mother – will grow up to be a strong female. However, there are other forces in their lives, such as the children in the neighborhood or at school.

            Children can be mean. They exclude other children and say and do mean things. This is one reason why we must clamp down on bullying and meanness. If boys are telling another boy that he is “gay,” he will start to believe them. If they include him in their group, he will feel that he is one of the boys. The same goes for little girls. We need to teach children from a young age to include other children. This site gives ten suggestions of how to teach children to have empathy for others. 

Tip 1 – Empathize with your child and show empathy towards others. This is all about role modelling empathy and being mindful of your own responses to your child’s emotions. The easiest way to do this is to be reflective of the emotions your child displays and validate how they are feeling….

Tip 2 – Teach children to effectively manage their emotions and self-regulate….

Tip 3 – Use every day opportunities to address perspective taking. Children are all born with the capacity to show empathy, we just need to nurture it. You can use moments from everyday life to encourage caring and compassionate thoughts through “perspective taking.” Talk openly about how another may feel when you identify situations that elicit an empathetic response in books, movies, at the park or in your home….

Tip 4 – Help children discover what they have in common with others. Empathy is stronger towards people we have things in common with. Encourage inclusion, diversity and warmth by helping your child discover what they share in common with people of all different perspectives….

Tip 5 – Encourage kindness, thoughtfulness and compassion for all living creatures. Prioritize these traits across all situations and to all living things….

Tip 6 – Help children develop the ability to read emotional cues. Empathy requires children to identify how others feel, not only based on their own emotional insight but also on the other person’s emotional cues – not every person reacts and feels the same in every situation….

Tip 7 – Develop cognitive awareness of empathy using literature. Books are an essential tool for aiding emotional development, as they help children relate to and remember important life lessons, such as being kind to others. While you are reading you can engage in empathy building by: discussing the character’s feelings and emotions, pointing out the facial expressions or body language of characters, asking your child how they would feel if it were them, asking your child what they would do if this was their friend or classmate.

Tip 8 – Engage in emotional awareness games and play. Using games and play to teach emotional awareness helps increase a child’s emotional vocabulary bank and assists them to be more mindful of big feelings in themselves and others….

Tip 9 – Encourage younger children to develop empathic concern during imaginary play. By engaging in play with your child you can role model and encourage empathetic concern….

Tip 10 – Encourage and praise emotional sharing. Last but not least, it is important to keep the lines of communication open when it comes to emotional sharing. Your child needs to be reassured that it is okay for them to experience both negative and positive emotions. They should also feel safe to express all emotions to you….

            As we teach and live with our children and grandchildren, we must remember that each one is an individual and different. “They learn differently, respond differently, [and] have different personalities and different levels of emotional awareness.” Yet each is child of God sent to earth with a distinct gender that stays with them for all eternity. Each child deserves to be included and accepted as their own person. We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by helping each child to feel secure in their own gender and included in the group.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Freedom to Succeed in College

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the process of being accepted at a university and why it is important. The college application process is meant to decide who is prepared to succeed as a university study and who is not. Since there are only so students admitted to any given university each year, there is a process to determine who should be invited to join the student body. When the process is corrupted, the wrong students are admitted, and the best prepared students are admitted. This means that the student who played through high school but has wealthy parents could be admitted, while the student who worked hard in high school and would do well in college is not. Corruption in the process hurts both.

            Last week The New York Times published an article dated March 12, 2019, about a racketeering scheme used by wealthy parents to insure that their children were admitted to elite universities. In the “largest-ever college admissions prosecution” the U.S. Justice Department charged fifty people in six states with corruption. There were thirty-three parents, admission officials, and coaches charged in the “nationwide bribery and fraud scheme,” but no students or universities were indicted. Twelve of the fifty charges were for racketeering. 

            This week we learn of other corruption in the college application process. This corruption involves the 500-word essay known as the personal statement. It seems that “helicopter parents or expensive college-prep counselors who cater to the 1 percent” have found a way to corrupt the personal statement. The Daily Beast interviewed “eight college application tutors” and found that their job was to edit, alter, or rewrite personal statements. These essay editors “painted the portrait of an industry rife with ethical hazards, where the line between helping and cheating can become difficult to draw.” 

One consultant, a 22-year-old Harvard graduate, told The Daily Beast that, during his senior year in college, he began working as an essay editor for a company that hires Ivy Leaguers to tutor applicants on a range of subjects. When he took the job in September 2017, the company was still young and fairly informal. Managers would send him essays via email, and the tutor would revise and return them, with anywhere between a 24-hour and two-week turnaround. But from the beginning, the consultant explained, his managers were “pretty explicit” that the job entailed less editing than rewriting.

“When it’s done, it needs to be good enough for the student to go to that school, whether that means lying, making things up on behalf of the student, or basically just changing anything such that it would be acceptable,” he told The Daily Beast. “I’ve edited anywhere from 200 to 225 essays. So, probably like 150 students total. I would say about 50 percent were entirely rewritten.”

            The personal essay may be the most important part of the application because it is personalized – at least it is supposed to be. According to this site, it is often easy to tell whether the essay was written by the applicant or the parent, so this may be one reason why would-be university students are going to places where real students are doing the work. 

The paradox of the overzealous editing of the college essay by many helicopter parents is that they don’t know what a college essay is really about. Unlike the other parts of the application, where high grade point averages and SAT scores reign supreme, the essay is less about being impressive than it is about being authentic.

It can take some convincing for many kids and parents to believe that when it comes to writing the essays, in particular, college admissions officers care about who students are. The essay should reveal their personalities, passions, dreams, weird talents, favorite foods, sickest playlists, inexplicable loves and undeniable quirks….

The college essay is about the true things students want the colleges to know about them that can’t be seen via grades and standardized tests. Are you kind? Resilient? Curious? Creative? Are you any fun? And contrary to popular belief, it’s not about unattainable standards or curing cancer. In fact, a good test of a college essay is: Can the writer convince the reader that she would make a great roommate.

            The bottom line of both types of corruption is that teenagers are entering universities unprepared to learn at that level. They get accepted to the university, and then they have to take remedial classes to learn the stuff that they should have learned in high school. Meanwhile, the universities have turned away other teenagers who are well prepared to study at the university level.

            This site claims that the current “college admission scandal grew out of a system that was ripe for corruption.” Two of the ways that allowed children of wealthier parents to enter college is through athletic teams and testing. Most college athletes are chosen because the college coaches saw them play at some tournament or camp. Two of my daughters played on traveling soccer team for the explicit reason to be seen by college coaches. From personal experience, I know that it takes money for athletes to play on such teams and to travel to tournaments and camps to be seen. This means that athletes from lower-income families, who may be the better players, are never seen by college coaches. “The pipeline system is far better at identifying the best payers rather than the best players.” 

            A second way listed by the site that money plays a role in college applications without doing anything illegal is in studying for the SAT and/or ACT. For a cool $l,000 any high school student can prepare for the tests and be guaranteed that they will receive higher scores. There are less expensive ways to study for the tests, but none of them carry such guarantees. This is a second way that wealth can help students get into elite universities without fraud.

            The site lists a third way that parental money can help children get admitted to a university of their choice – donations. If the donation is large enough, the student will be admitted. I heard rumors that such a thing happened with a young man that I know. This is perfectly legal even though it may not be considered ethical or fair. So the wealthy parents indicted in Operation Varsity Blues may have donated their half million dollars and had a building on campus named after them. Instead, they are facing corruption charges.

            I understand that some of the children of the cheating parents have dropped out of school because of the scandal. They realize what the scandal says about their preparation for college, and they do not want to face the other students. The bottom line is that many people are affected when corruption is allowed to taint the college admission process. The students who are unprepared and yet are admitted are not ready for university work and will have to face the consequences at some point. They may also face the embarrassment of knowing that their parents did not have enough faith in their ability to allow them to get into college on their own capabilities. The students who are prepared but rejected will have to attend a different school and possibly receive a lesser education, which could affect their careers.

            The end result is that the worth of a degree is devalued whenever the qualifications for said degree are lowered to enable the lesser prepared students to receive one. I am grateful to know that each of my children entered college on their own merits and received their degrees because they earned them fair and square. They worked hard during high school and were ready to attend the university. Their educations are blessings in their own lives and in their families as well as for many other people in their spheres of influence.