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, June 30, 2019

Constitutional Representation

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns representation of the people. The main flash point for the Revolutionary War was the fact that Great Britain was taxing the colonists without any American representation in Parliament. Most Americans are familiar with the cry of the colonists, “No taxation without representation!”

            Over the more than 240 years since that cry was first heard, Americans have slowly lost the right to be represented. However, this time it has to do with the thousands or even millions of regulations that are imposed by unelected bureaucrats. It seems that Congress has slowly over time relinquished their responsibility to legislate to bureaucracies. At the present time, Congress passes a skeleton-like law and leaves it to the agencies to flesh out the law by writing regulations. That practice may be ending and hopefully soon.   
            Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) introduced a bill on June 12, 2019, that would remedy the situation. While later speaking at The Heritage Foundation Lee made the following statement: “If the Founders’ rallying cry was ‘No taxation without representation,’ ours must be, or must at least involve, ‘No regulation with representation.”

            The new bill was introduced as the third part to a “conservative legislative program that seeks to reduce the size and impact of administrative agencies.” Lee calls these agencies “the headless fourth branch of the federal government.” The bill is titled the Take Care Act. In an article posted at The Daily Signal, Carmel Kookogey reports the following from Lee’s visit

Lee told his Heritage audience that regulatory rules written and enforced by unelected administrators violate Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution, which declares that all laws must be passed through both chambers of Congress and be signed into law by the president.

The proposed Take Care Act, Lee said, would solve this problem by allowing the president to use his constitutional power to remove upper-level agency officers who aren’t “faithfully executing the law.”

Currently, Lee said, executive branch officials may be removed only for committing an act of misconduct such as “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office,” and are protected against being removed for political reasons. He argued that this change would make the bureaucracy accountable to the people again.

“The way to accomplish that goal, while not easy by any stretch of the imagination is itself straightforward,” Lee said. “We need only look to the structural design of the Constitution, and the form of the administrative state equivalent. This is so simple. It’s one of the simplest features of our Constitution, and it’s also the most important.”

            I have a lot of respect for Senator Lee because I believe that he is a strict constitutionalist. He seems to have a strong desire for the United States to run as the Constitution outlines, and his new bill is one of the signs of this desire. He indicated at Heritage that Congress is abusing its legislative power by delegating its main responsibility to “unelected, unaccountable regulatory agencies.”

            “Our constitutional obligation to write laws we have handed over to bureaucrats who are in no way chosen by the people, in no way accountable to the people. He admits that some people are concerned that his bill will give the President too much power, but he would “still rather have the president act as president.” He would rather have a President that he did not agree with “wield the executive power than an unknown technocrat.” Kookogey added the following statement to emphasize Lee’s message.

Lee went so far as to say that a more powerful executive is preferable to the so-called “expert” government administrator, and that’s why Congress should pass his legislation.

“The unknown, nameless, faceless bureaucrat, however well educated, well intentioned, hardworking, and highly specialized, would not have to answer to the American people, not ever,” Lee said.

            Most reasonable people know that there are too many powerful bureaucrats in the federal government. Lee’s bill is one way to reduce their power and possibly decrease the size of the government. I hope that he can convince his fellow Senators to pass the bill!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Second Coming of Jesus Christ

            The Second Coming of Jesus Christ draws nearer every day. Those with “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” are aware that the world is spinning into destruction just as Isaiah and many other prophets have foretold. Here are just a few of the words in Isaiah 24 prophesying of the conditions in the world in the last days as shared by Brent L. Top.

·         The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled (v. 3).

·         The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away (v. 4).

·         The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left (vv. 5-6).

·         All joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone (v. 11).

·         The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly (v. 19).

·         The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again (v. 20).

·         Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed (v. 23).

            There are other scriptures in the Bible as well as in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants prophesizing about the Last Days. We are told that there will be wars and rumors of wars. People will be “weeping” and “wailing.” There will be flies and maggots. Flesh will be falling from bones, and eyeballs will fall from their sockets.

            These prophecies and others tell of terrible times ahead for us, and we have the right to be anxious. However, we need not fear if our faith in Jesus Christ is strong enough. After Top shares the above prophecies, he states the following.

As we see many of the signs of the times fulfilled right before our eyes – “wars and rumors of wars,” “the whole earth … in commotion,” “men’s hearts shall fail them,” “iniquity shall abound” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:26-27) –  it would be easy to become discouraged, even fearful. Yet the Savior has assured us, “Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:6). Despite the deterioration of society, with the rapid decline of long-held moral and ethical values, the full-scale assault on religion and religious people, and the many ways in which family solidarity and happiness are being eroded, we can be optimistic – even joyous.

            If the Lord wants us to be optimistic about the future, why would He inspire His prophets to tell us that there are frightening events ahead? The simple truth is that He gives us these warnings in order that we might be prepared to face them. The prophet Amos explains that “the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). God wants us to be aware of what is coming, and He sends the messages to us through His prophets, both ancient and modern day. He has prophets and apostles on earth today through whom He gives us His words. Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is one of them, and he gave the following counsel while speaking at a devotional at Brigham Young University on August 18, 2015. 

As we find our way in a world less attentive to the commandments of God, we will certainly be prayerful, but we need not be overly alarmed. The Lord will bless His Saints with the added spiritual power necessary to meet the challenges of our day.

Here is my major theme this morning: As evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory spiritual power for the righteous. As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering them greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling. The gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a brighter light in the emerging twilight.

To understand better, think of these comparisons: If the world were growing more physically dark, He could give us enhanced night vision. If loud noises were constantly in our ears, He could give us a filtering mechanism to block the unwanted sound. If the race we were running was extended, He could give us increased lung and muscle capacity. If the exam we were taking was more difficult, He could quicken our minds….

My brothers and sisters, as evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory power, an additional spiritual endowment, a revelatory gift for the righteous.

This added blessing of spiritual power does not settle upon us just because we are part of this generation. It is willingly offered to us; it is eagerly put before us. But as with all spiritual gifts, it requires our desiring it, pursuing it, and living worthy of receiving it….

Faith is the muscle of spiritual knowledge and power. Faith is a spiritual gift of God, but it is developed and magnified as we eagerly pursue our journey of embracing and following the Savior….

I emphasize once again: As evil increases in the world, the Lord does not leave us on the same footing. In a world that would diminish or discard or impair belief, there is an added spiritual power for those who are willing to set their course on increasing their faith in Jesus Christ.

            As shared by Elder Andersen, there are great blessings in store for those who love the Lord enough to keep His commandments and to prepare for His Second Coming. The only thing that we need to do is to follow Him and watch for Him. As an Apostle of the Lord, Elder Andersen promised that we will receive “added spiritual power” if we will stay on the gospel path and increase our faith in Jesus Christ.

            My thoughts keep going back to the words of the current Prophet of the Lord, even President Russell M. Nelson, in the April 2019 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These are the words with which he closed his remarks. 

My dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ invites us to take the covenant path back home to our Heavenly Parents and be with those we love. He invites us to “come, follow me.”

Now, as President of His Church, I plead with you who have distanced yourselves from the Church and with you who have not yet really sought to know that the Savior’s Church has been restored. Do the spiritual work to find out for yourselves, and please do it now. Time is running out.

            We have the words of many prophets and numerous signs telling us that the Savior will be returning soon. We can be like the foolish virgins who ran out of oil just as they needed it, or we can be like the wise virgins who took extra oil for their lamps. (See Matthew 25:1-13.) The choice is ours, but His return is coming sooner rather than later according to the signs of the times. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Creating a Happy Marriage

            Families, communities, and nations are blessed by happy marriages, but a happy marriage does not suddenly appear. In fact, it does not happen unless both partners are working for it. Some members of the rising generation know of the struggles between their parents and are fearful of marriage. Others believe that one must find the perfect marriage partner or sole mate in order to have a happy marriage. 

            The following post on Instagram by Elder David A. Bednar may be of help to such people or others who are wondering how to create a happy marriage. 

I often emphasize the truth that you do not simply “find” the marriage you hope to have. Rather, you create it.    
If you believe you can find a “perfect companion,” you will spend a lot of time searching for a person who does not exist. You should strive to become your best self and to strengthen your faith in and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. Then you will more likely attract an eternal companion who will honor covenants, keep the commandments, and love the Lord.

When you and your spouse remain steadfast on the covenant path, you will have heavenly help to create the marriage you hope to have.

Part of a happy marriage is benefitting from the differences between men and women – to receive strength through and be blessed by differences. We might think we want our spouse to have the same attitudes and qualities that we do, but differences actually strengthen our marriages. When we understand our divine roles, traits, and distinctive capacities as men and women and build on those, we bring strength to our marriage.

            Elder Bednar tells us that we do not “find” a happy marriage but we can “create” one. He also said that we do not “find” the perfect companion but strive to become the type of person we wish to marry. As people tend to attract others who are like them, we will attract the same type of person that we become. Elder Bednar shared a similar message in October 2013 on Instagram.

To any young adults contemplating dating and marriage, please remember: you do not find the perfect partner or the perfect marriage you hope to have; you create it. As an agent, blessed with moral agency, you create the marriage, the family, and the happiness you hope to have, line upon line, precept upon precept, pressing forward along the covenant pathway.

            While speaking at a 2016 date night at BYU-Idaho with her husband, Sister Bednar cited President Gordon B. Hinckley when she added, “You make the comfort and the well-being of your spouse your highest priority.” Elder Bednar said the following: 

You do not find the marriage you hope to have, you create it. Creating it implies some of the work that’s required. A male and a female are supposed to complete each other and complement each other. If you take those characteristics of a female and of a male, then joined together they create a whole….

In a world with technology, many young people engage in an endless search for that perfect person which will guarantee, “I won’t have that heartache in my life.” Question, if you found that perfect person, why would he or she want to marry you?
It is up to each individual to become the kind of person that someone with the characteristics he or she wants in a spouse would be attracted to.

There is no perfect mate, there is no soul mate. Get to work and quit worrying about it.

            Elder and Sister Bednar tell us that we can create happy marriages and homes without being perfect ourselves or finding the perfect mate. We do not have to come from happy homes in order to create a happy home of our own. We do need to determine the type of marriage that we want, become the type of person that we wish to marry, and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. We can bless our families, communities, and nations by creating happy marriages.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Equality of Rights

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the importance of protecting religious liberty while not making LGBT a protected class. The U.S. Congress and some state legislatures are writing bills and/or amending civil rights laws to make sexual orientation and sexual identity as protected classes. They are doing so with the understanding that their bills and amendments would eliminate religious freedom.

            On Friday, May 17, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 236-173 to pass the Democrat-sponsored Equality Act. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi pushed the bill and claimed that it was “not about tolerance” but “about respect for our LGBTQ communities.” She tweeted that “For too long, conversations surrounding America’s LGBTQ community have focused on ‘tolerance.’ But tolerance is a condescending word. As we pass the #EqualityAct today, we take pride in this community and all they have & will achieve.” Racheldel Guidice says that House Republicans do not see it the same way. 

“HR 5 is an enormous blow to religious liberty and our Constitution,” Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., tweeted after Democrats passed the legislation. “The [Equality Act] is anything but equal, and enshrines a federally-mandated belief system that if you don’t agree with it – you’ll be punished. Deeply disappointed in the passage of such a destructive bill.”

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., spoke out against the legislation earlier in the week, telling The Daily Signal, “The Equality Act – or I call it the Forfeiting Women’s Rights Act – takes away women’s and girls’ rights that we fought for for years.”

            If the U.S. Senate passes the Equality Act – which it is not expected to do, the rights of women, girls, and all religions will be swept into the dust bin of history. The same type of bills is being legislated in states. Blogger T.R. Clancy writes that earlier inJune, Michigan State Senator Jeremy Moss introduced similar legislation that is “meant to eliminate religious freedom. He says that “proponents of such amendments tell us as much.” He says that “Senator Moss isn’t even pretending this isn’t the case” and then quotes the following statement from Moss as printed in the Oakland Press. 

[T]he legislation will not make exceptions for those whose religious beliefs condemn homosexuality and other lifestyles[.] … That would mean, for example, that a Catholic school that teaches against homosexuality could not discriminate against a homosexual job applicant on the basis of sexual orientation.

Bakery owners and photographers could not refuse to serve a same-sex couple’s wedding on the basis of their religious beliefs.

            It seems to me that the Michigan legislation – if it even becomes law – is unconstitutional if the state does not recognize religious rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on two separate cases that the exercise of religious freedom is protected by the Constitution. Clancy suggests that protection of religious rights may be up to the willingness of the American people to protect.

While judges, politicians, celebrities, academics, doctors and psychotherapists are repeating these lies, it’s been left to religious believers to withstand them. The Catholic Church just released educational guidelines (50 years late, but better late than never) that state unequivocally that male-female sexuality is a “given natural or biological fact.” In the UK it was Muslim parents who put a stop to a school program in which their “[c]hildren are being told it’s OK to be gay.”

And again, though the motivations of the British Muslims and Christian parents are in part religious, they’re not doing these things to force acceptance of a creed on someone else, just the recognition of natural facts: our daughter is not a boy; homosexuality is not normal. Last month Pope Francis rejected the notion that being prolife is a religious position, arguing that abortion is a “pre-religious problem” that “existed long before Catholicism”: “Do not blame religion for something that concerns the human,” he said. “It is not lawful. Never, ever eliminate a human life or hire a hitman to solve a problem.”

            The Muslims and Catholics are not the only religious organizations to defend freedom of religion. In September 1995 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” This document has nine paragraphs defining and explaining the Church’s teachings about many aspects of family life. 

            The Proclamation says that “All human beings – male and female – are created in the image of God…. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” In other words, I was female in my premortal life just as I am in my mortal life, and I will be female throughout eternity. I was created as a female, and I will remain a female no matter what I may think or feel about my gender.

            The same is true of all men and women. Whenever archaeologists find human remains, they are able to identify whether the person was male or female by the bones and the DNA. They do not find any of the numerous other genders that are being created in the minds of people today. So, science, as well as religion, declares that there are only two genders – male and female.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Democrat America

            Have you ever wondered what would happen in the United States if a Democrat won the 2020 Presidential Election? I think that you can get a clear picture if you look back to the administration of Barack Obama. If you cannot remember the Obama years, you just need to listen to what the Democrats are saying to know what a Democrat America would be like.

            Charlie Kirk says that “Democrats are being surprisingly candid about exactly how they plan to unmake America and derail our current progress if voters hand them the keys to power in 2020.” The fact that they are so candid allows us to see their vision for America clearly. He gives numerous quotes for examples. 

            Former Vice President Joe Biden said the following during a recent political event. “[T]he fact of the matter is, there is plenty, plenty of money to go around. The first thing I would do as president is eliminate the president’s tax cut.”

            Kirk reminds us that Trump’s tax cuts saved Americans “an average of $1,400 on their federal taxes in 2018.” Plus, “families with children received an even bigger tax cut from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” He asks Americans if they are “ready to say goodbye to that money in 2021.

            I agree with Kirk that most American families do not have enough money to lose that extra $1,400 every year. He quotes a study that says “60 percent of Americans” cannot “cover an unexpected $1,000 expense. Yet, Biden and other Democrats want to take the $1,400 yearly tax return away. Do you really want to vote for a Democrat?

            As the “Democrat-induced downturn” begins to take hold, Americans will begin to feel economic pain that will increase with each new regulation put in place. Kirk says that the private sector will be strangled with costly mandates and individual liberties will be trampled with rules. Democrats will reverse all the good effects of the economy, and soon you will be seeing family and friends, maybe even you, lose jobs and go on unemployment. Companies will begin to take their companies to foreign nations where there are fewer regulations and taxes.

            Kirk says that Democrats will “implement their open-borders immigration policies, and even more drugs and crime will cross the border. MS-13 gangs will have free rein to terrorize Americans, and drug cartels will bring even more opioids into the country. The entire nation will begin to look like the Democrat-controlled cities -- such as San Francisco and Los Angeles – are now beginning to look like third-world countries.

            Democrats will institute more socialist laws and do their best to destroy our constitutional way of life. If you liked living in America during the Obama years, you might like living in the new world created by Democrats. I will not.

            I lived through the Jimmy Carter years and the “misery index.” Carter wanted all Americans to just put on a sweater while they keep their heat at 68 degrees in the winter and their air conditioning at 78 degrees in the summer. There was severe unemployment, and foreign nations ridiculed America. Iran held 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days, releasing them just as Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

            I did not think that we could ever have a worse president that Carter until I saw America the conditions brought to us by the Barack Obama administration. The Trump Administration has spent the last two and a half years cleaning up the messes caused by Obama, and people still want another Democrat president. Are they stupid or just insane? They do not seem to realize that the next Democrat president promises to be even worse than Obama.

            My family and I survived the Carter and Obama years, and I do not look forward to more of the same type of president. I hope that all of my readers will vote for Donald Trump. You may not like him personally, but he is doing more for America than all the administrations since the time of Ronald Reagan.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Reparations for Deeds Done by Previous Generations

            Democrats must be desperate because they are calling for reparations for the deeds committed by Democrats hundreds of years ago. The Democrat presidential candidates as well as academics, entertainers, and thought police are pushing for reparations for slavery. Representative Sheila Jackson (D-Texas) sponsored a bill that would establish a commission to study the need for “a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery” and the lasting effects of it. 

            However, they seem to have forgotten history. It was the Democratic South that owned slaves in the first place. It was Democrats, not Republicans, who started a war in order to maintain slavery. It was Democrats, not Republicans, who fought against the Civil Rights amendments in the 1960s. It is Democrats, not Republicans, who fight to keep Blacks on the Democrat “plantation.”

            More and more Blacks are recognizing that the Democrats are simply using them to obtain and to maintain control of power in the nation. Black Americans can see that Donald Trump has done more for them than any Democrat president, including half-Black Barack Obama. Under the Trump administration Black unemployment has reached the lowest level ever. More Blacks are employed now than ever, and many Blacks are waking up to what the Democrat Party has been doing to them for years.

            Talk of reparations is no longer a fringe issue, but no one seems to know exactly what is meant by reparations. The Associated Press says that “Reparations [have] traditionally been defined – and understood by the American public – as ‘some type of direct payment to former slaves and their descendants” by the American taxpayer. Even though slavery in America lasted more than 200 years, there are no former slaves or former slave owners alive today.

            The calls for reparation do not seem to understand that Americans have long considered slavery to be an evil practice. All the way back to the writing of the Constitution, honest and good men did everything that they could to stop slavery. During the Civil War white men fought and hundreds of thousands died in a battle to stop slavery. Politicians and other Democrats should face reality and understand that it was members of the Democrat Party who caused the damage. If anyone has to pay reparations for slavery, it should be the Democrat Party. 

            Americans of both parties have tried to make up for the problems caused by slavery. Yes, many Blacks are still living in poverty, but there are also many Blacks who are wealthier than many Whites. Americans even elected a Black as President of the United States. The fact is that he caused more racial unrest than any previous president. Blacks in Congress, such as Jackson and Representative Maxine Waters, continued to agitate the racial situation.

            Americans of all ages and colors are tired of the provocation of unrest over racial issues. I do not believe that paying reparations will make anything better. The purveyors of contention in our nation will simply find another reason to divide Americans.

            There are many people who are calling for reparations, and numerous others are arguing against them. George Will, a conservative columnist, wants to know who should pay the reparations and who should receive them. David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, argues that paying reparations to African American would simply open the doors for other groups, such as Native Americans and Mexican Americans, to demand the same.

            Frum suggests the following interpretations of reparations that he could support. The first would be a national acknowledgement that slavery was wrong and that Americans should remember and repent for this wrong. The second would be an intensified effort to make sure that all Americans have equal opportunities to succeed, such as better schools, jobs, health care, immigration system, and nutrition for children. In other words, he supports policies that would give all Americans a level playing field but not direct cash payments.

            Human beings have been discriminating against people who are different from them for thousands of years. My own ancestors were driven from their homes – right here in America – because they had different religious beliefs. We must admit that slavery was wrong, and we must do all in our power to overcome the effects of it. However, I do not believe that Americans who had nothing to do with slavery should have to pay money to other Americans who were never slaves. It just does not make sense, so we can assume that it is simply a political ploy by the Democrats to win votes. I hope that Americans will open their eyes and realize that a Democrat president would simply sell America down the road again – just as Barack Obama did.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Selina Soule

            My VIP for this week is Selina Soule, a female high school athlete who believes that biological men who should not compete on female sports teams. Soule filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights because two transgender runners took first and second place at a major track meet and caused Soule to lose opportunities to be seen by college coaches. In an interview with Kelsey Bolar, Soule told her story for the viewers.

In the indoor season at the state open championship, I came in eighth place in the 550-meter dash. The top seven qualify for the finals of the 55-meter dash, and the top six qualify for the regional New England meet. I came in eighth place overall, but I would have been sixth place because the first two spots are taken by two transgender athletes.

            Soule is a senior in high school and invested years in training to compete for spots on college teams. She is the type of woman that Title IX was designed to protect. This law insured that “women were free of sex discrimination in education, and, secondly, in athletics so that they could have the opportunity to compete, to move to the next level, to compete for scholarships, and potentially even launch their own athletic careers.” However, numerous school districts and athletic associations see nothing wrong with forcing females to compete against biological males who identify as female.

            Any thinking person should be able to see that biological males are bigger, taller, and stronger than females and have more muscle mass. There is no way that most biological women can fairly compete against biological men. The main reason that Title IX was passed was to give female athletes a level playing field. Now biological males are dominating female athletes in some areas.

            The reason that Soule is speaking out and filing a complaint is that she wants fairness to be returned to all female sports. Women, like Soule, are not being heard by many of the powers that be in the sporting world. However, Soule’s story is being heard. The Daily Signal published her story, and the documentary received “2.65 million views on YouTube and 3.8 million views on Facebook.”

            Bolar says that the documentary is the “highest performing video we’ve ever published in the five years The Daily Signal has existed.” Comments on the two sites are “overwhelmingly positive” – even from transgender individuals, but there are negative responses. I am grateful that Soule has the courage to make this stand in behave of all females. Women have fought for equal rights for too many years to lose any of them over this issue. I hope more women will make a stand for equal rights.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Separation of Church and State

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns that sometimes overrated idea of Separation of Church and State that is not even in the United States Constitution. Atheists and other non-Christians have been fighting Christian symbols and beliefs for many years. The first one to fall was prayer in school. The Supreme Court issued its decision on prayer in school in Engel v. Vitale on June 25, 1962. Prayer was taken out of school, and the crusade against Christianity has continued ever since.

            The latest religion-based ruling came recently about a cross that was erected in Bladensburg, Maryland, nearly 90 years ago to honor approximately 50 men from the community who died during World War I. Many of the men were buried in France, and their loved ones desired a place where they could go in their grief to remember and to mourn the loss of their loved ones. There were multiple fund-raising events before a 40-foot “Peace Cross” was finally erected in the community. “At its base sits plaque inscribed with the names of each of the men who did not make it home. The seal of the American Legion is also found on the cross along with four words: ‘Valor,’ ‘Endurance,’ ‘Courage,’ and ‘Devotion.’” (All details and quotes are from this same source.)

            The cross stood for 90 years without anyone objecting to it. In fact, it was often the staging ground for other events, such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day celebrations. Then the American Humanist Association decided in 2014 that “the cross violated the Establishment Clause due to its location on public property and the expenditure of city funds for its upkeep.”

            It did not seem to matter to the opponents of the cross that it was erected on private land, land that was taken by Maryland by eminent domain. The State wanted the land to expand a nearby highway, and the land grab included the parcel where the cross is located. Even though Maryland owned the land, there were no objections against the cross for another 50 years.

            The case finally reach the Supreme Court, and it issued a recent 7-2 decision that the 40-foot-tall cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, could stay. The decision on this case is sure to impact decisions about other religiously-based monuments in America.

            The fact that the Court ruled 7-2 should make a big statement. Only Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented on the case. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion for the majority of the court.

For nearly a century, the Bladensburg Cross has expressed the community’s grief at the loss of the young men who perished, its thanks for their sacrifice, and its dedication to the ideals for which they fought.

It has become a prominent community landmark, and its removal or radical alteration at this date would be seen by many not as a neutral act but as the manifestation of “a hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions.”

            There is no doubt that the cross originated as a Christian symbol and keeps that meaning. However, it has added secular meaning in World War I memorials. It also has historical importance because it is a reminder of loved ones and their sacrifices in a long-ago war. It has become a part of the community and represents veterans from all the foreign wars following World War I.

            The U.S. Constitution, and the Religion Clauses of the Bill of Rights in particular, was written to bring people of all beliefs or no beliefs together, and the Cross in Bladensburg has fulfilled that purpose for many years. It is only in recent years that the small minority of people who take offense with the cross and other memorials have had power to do anything about their offense. I agree with the opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch who discussed how tired he is of hearing the “I-take-offense” reason for suing.

In a large and diverse country, offense can be easily found. Really, most every governmental action probably offends somebody. No doubt, too, that offense can
be sincere, sometimes well taken, even wise. But recourse for disagreement and offense does not lie in federal litigation. Instead, in a society that holds among its most cherished ambitions mutual respect, tolerance, self-rule, and democratic responsibility, an “offended viewer” may “avert his eyes” … or pursue a political solution.

            Justice Gorsuch suggests that offended people take their gripe to Congress instead of filing a legal case with the courts. Justice Brett Kavanaugh seems to believe in the same course of action because he added in his opinion, “This court is not the only guardian of individual rights in America.”

            Even though millions of Americans call the court decision a win, there are some people who say that the Supreme Court did not go far enough. Emilie Kao at The Heritage Foundation gave credit to the Court for its decision but added some criticism.

While the court decided this case correctly, it did not clarify its own confusing and contradictory standards for deciding other Establishment Clause cases. Even though four justices criticized the long-discredited 1971 decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman and its “shortcomings,” they did not vote to overturn this distortion of the Constitution.

The Constitution as written, not the personal views of judges, should guide how the American people express their religious faith in the public square.

            Most Americans agree that memorials should be protected and that our religious heritage, history, and symbols are an integral part of the founding of our nation. However, other faith-based monuments are in danger until the Supreme Court scraps the “Lemon test.” Justice Clarence Thomas writes the following about Lemon.

Nearly half a century after Lemon, and, the truth is, no one has any idea about the answers to these questions. As the plurality documents, our “doctrine [is] in such chaos” that lower courts have been “free to reach almost any result in almost any case.” Scores of judges have pleaded with us to retire Lemon, scholars of all stripes have criticized the doctrine, and a majority of this Court has long done the same. Today, not a single Member of the Court even tries to defend Lemon against these criticisms – and they don’t because they can’t… It is our job to say what the law is, and because the Lemon test is not good law, we ought to say so.

            While Christians and millions of other Americans are rejoicing at the decision for this case, we should not – and cannot – rest on our laurels. The American Humanist Association declared after the decision that “Our legislative efforts will be redoubled.” Conservatives and all people who are willing to fight to protect and preserve our Constitution need to stay awake and alert. The Constitution has served our nation well for more than 235 years and will continue to do so if we will but protect and preserve it.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

When Thou Art Converted

            In my recent “Come, Follow Me” study I gleaned the principle that conversion is an ongoing process. Peter had walked and talked with Jesus Christ. He witnessed miracles and learned doctrine. Yet the Savior said until him, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32; italics added). Peter had a testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but he was not yet converted. What does it mean to be converted to the Lord?

            Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about testimony and conversion in the October 2012 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He defines testimony as being “personal knowledge of spiritual truth obtained by revelation. A testimony is a gift from God and is available to all of His children.” He says that anyone can gain a testimony by seeking one through study and prayer. He adds that “Fundamental components of a testimony are knowing that Heavenly Father lives and loves us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that the fulness of the gospel has been restored to the earth in these latter days.”

            Elder Bednar defines conversion as being “a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the Savior’s Atonement.” He says that “True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God (see Acts 3:19; 3 Nephi 9:20) and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ.” He continues by saying that “Conversion is an enlarging, a deepening, and a broadening of the undergirding base of testimony. It is the result of revelation from God, accompanied by individual repentance, obedience, and diligence.” He adds that “Any honest seeker of truth can become converted by experiencing the mighty change of heart and being spiritually born of God (see Alma 5:12-14). He later makes this important distinction between testimony and conversion.

Testimony is the beginning of and a prerequisite to continuing conversion. Testimony is a point of departure; it is not an ultimate destination. Strong testimony is the foundation upon which conversion is established.

Testimony alone is not and will not be enough to protect us in the latter-day storm of darkness and evil in which we are living. Testimony is important and necessary but not sufficient to provide the spiritual strength and protection we need. Some members of the Church with testimonies have wavered and fallen away. Their spiritual knowledge and commitment did not measure up to the challenges they faced.

            Using the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Elder Bednar taught how a “testimony is spiritual knowledge of truth obtained by the power of the Holy Ghost” and “Continuing conversion is constant devotion to the revealed truth we have received.” There are ten virgins who are invited to a wedding feast. According to latter-day prophets, these ten virgins represent members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All of the virgins took lamps with them, and five of the virgins took extra oil. The bridegroom came later than expected, and the virgins fell asleep until someone cried that he was coming. The virgins all arose and trimmed their lamps. They found that the oil in their lamps was gone. The five wise virgins refilled their lamps with their extra oil, but they did not have enough to share with the five foolish virgins who left to buy more oil. Meanwhile, the bridegroom came, everyone went into the wedding feast, the doors were locked, and no one else could enter.

            Elder Bednar asks us to think of the lamps as “lamps of testimony” and the oil as the “oil of conversion.” He gives more understanding about this parable with the following words.

Were the five wise virgins selfish and unwilling to share, or were they indicating correctly that the oil of conversion cannot be borrowed? Can the spiritual strength that results from consistent obedience to the commandments be given to another person? Can the knowledge obtained through diligent study and pondering of the scriptures be conveyed to one who is in need? Can the peace the gospel brings to a faithful Latter-day Saint be transferred to an individual experiencing adversity or great challenge? The clear answer to each of these questions is no.

As the wise virgins emphasized properly, each of us must ‘buy for ourselves.’ These inspired women were not describing a business transaction; rather, they were emphasizing our individual responsibility to keep our lamp of testimony burning and to obtain an ample supply of the oil of conversion. This precious oil is acquired one drop at a time – “line upon line [and] precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30), patiently and persistently. No shortcut is available; no last-minute flurry of preparation is possible.

“Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom” (Doctrine and Covenants 33:27).

            Elder Bednar closed his talk by promising that “as we come to a knowledge of the truth and are converted unto the Lord, we will remain firm and steadfast and never fall away…. We will be blessed with bright light from our lamps of testimony and an ample supply of the oil of conversion.” He says that “as each of us becomes more fully converted, we will strengthen” others around us.

            I was moved by studying Elder Bednar’s counsel about being converted unto the Lord
Jesus Christ. He says that “Testimony alone is not and will not be enough to protect us in the latter-day storm of darkness and evil in which we are living.” I felt a certain urgency to strengthen my testimony by continuing conversion, and I was reminded of the closing words from the current prophet of the Lord, even President Russell M. Nelson, in the April 2019 General Conference of the Church. We have been told for years that we are living in the last days, even the last hour of the last days, but the Prophet’s words showed urgency.

My dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ invites us to take the covenant path back home to our Heavenly Parents and be with those we love. He invites us to “come, follow me.”

Now, as President of His Church, I plead with you who have distanced yourselves from the Church and with you who have not yet really sought to know that the Savior’s Church has been restored. Do the spiritual work to find out for yourselves, and please do it now. Time is running out.

            The Prophet is asking us to fill our lamps of testimony with the oil of conversion and then to obtain extra oil. He emphasizes that we are each responsible to attain our own oil, and he urges us to do it now because “Time is running out.” The Bridegroom will come soon, and we must be ready to go into the feast with Him -- or we will be locked out like the foolish virgins.