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.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

What Do You Know about Gifts of the Spirit?

            In this week’s religion class, I studied Articles of Faith 1:7: “We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.” Two of the doctrines found in this scripture are the place of gifts of the Spirit in the Church of Jesus Christ and the gifts of the Spirit in disciples’ lives. I gained the following insights as I studied this Article of Faith.

            There were several truth taught under the heading “The Place of Gifts of the Spirit in the Church, and I summarized them as follows: Spiritual gifts are abilities given by God to members of His church by the Holy Ghost whenever the true church has been on earth, and they are without number. Each member of the Church of Jesus Christ has at least one spiritual gift, and the gifts are given to bless the individual and to help in serving other people.

            The Lord provides spiritual gifts, such as those in Articles of Faith 1:7, to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through the power of the Holy Ghost to bless the lives of individuals and to help them to serve other people. He gives these gifts whenever His Church is established upon the earth. The scriptures list numerous spiritual gifts, but there are many more gifts available than are listed. In fact, the available gifts are almost innumerable. Every member receives at least one spiritual gift, but everyone has the right to pray for additional ones and/or develop them. There are priesthood leaders who are entitled to the discernment of all gifts. Satan can counterfeit many of the spiritual gifts, so we should pray for the ability to discern the difference and to avoid the bogus ones. We should also pray for the gift of charity because it is the true love of Christ. 

Doctrine and Covenants 46:8-9 tells us that we should “seek earnestly” for the “best gifts” because the Lord gives gifts for the benefit of those who love Him and keep His commandments. Doctrine and Covenants 46:11-12 tells us that the Holy Ghost cleanses, sanctifies, and purifies us as we yield to His influences and receive His gifts. The gifts are distributed among the Saints according to their faithfulness, circumstances, natural abilities, duties, callings, etc. Verse 13 tells us that the gift to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is placed first among spiritual gifts because it is obtained only through revelation.

Doctrine and Covenants 46:13 tells us one of the spiritual gifts from the Spirit is to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The student manual information for this verse says that this knowledge is placed first among the spiritual gifts because it comes only through personal revelation. It also says that every member of the Church of Jesus Christ should have this gift. One of the blessings that comes when the Holy Ghost speaks to our spirit is that “the imprint upon the soul is far more difficult to erase.” I can testify that this statement is true because I have personal experience with it. I forget many things, including impressions from the Spirit, but I cannot forget the imprint made by the Holy Ghost when He testified to me that the Church of Jesus Christ and all that it teaches is true.

            The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:12 that we should “covet earnestly the best gifts,” and Doctrine and Covenants 46:8 tells us to “seek … earnestly the best gifts.” We know that the greatest of all the gifts is charity because it is the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:47). Before we seek more gifts, we should first seek to know the gift or gifts that we already have. 

Elder Robert D. Hales in his talk titled “Gifts of the Spirit” (Ensign, February 2002) reminds us that we are instructed that each of us has at least one gifts and could have more. He also says that revelation for the direction of the Church of Jesus Christ will never be given through the gift of tongues because Satan can duplicate that gift. He tells us to find our gifts through fasting, prayer, and searching our patriarchal blessing. Once we discover our gift or gifts, we should develop them to the greatest extent possible. 

As we seek for more gifts, we should remember that they are without number and not just the ones listed in the scriptures. We should also remember that gifts are given to bless the Church of Jesus Christ as a whole and not for our own gratification. I appreciate the opportunity to study the gifts of the Spirit and why they are given. I will be more diligent in the future about determining my current gifts and seeking new ones.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Can Parents Trust Disney-Pixar to Entertain Their Children?

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when families enjoy healthy recreation activities together. One activity that many parents enjoy is to take their children to movies, and Disney-Pixar animated movies have been loved for many years. However, Disney-Pixar studios have lowered their standards.

            According to Nicole Russell, Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios made a recent announcement that will displease many parents. Instead of family-safe movies like “Finding Nemo” and “Ratatouille,” the studios will produce “Onward” with a lesbian main character for its next animated movie. This production seems to be “a clear effort to normalize the LGBT agenda” at the expense of our children. Russell continued with her explanation.

In “Onward,” Officer Specter is a Cyclops police officer who, according to Yahoo Entertainment, is “voiced by openly gay screenwriter and actress Lena Waithe.”

Though the character has only one scene, she apparently is important to “the emotional arc of the story.” …

While at first glance conservatives might be tempted to chalk up Officer Specter to pressure felt by Disney-Pixar to write a LGBT main character, that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

“Onward” producer Kori Rae told Yahoo Entertainment that the creation of a lesbian character “just kind of happened.” Rae said Officer Specter “opens up the world a little bit, and that’s what we wanted.”

            The new movie is scheduled to be in theaters in March 2020. Conservative parents would be wise to boycott this movie to show Disney-Pixar that they disapprove of entertainment that pushes the LGBT agenda on children. If the movie is not a success, the studios may think twice before allowing such a thing from happening in future. Parents must remain their guard over the entertainment of their children. By maintaining high moral values in their choices of entertainment, parents can strengthen their families, communities, and nations.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Is It Possible for Us to Save Our Religious Freedom?

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday has to do with religious freedom. The United States Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear a lawsuit filed by Catholic Social Services against the city of Philadelphia. The suit claims that Philadelphia discriminated against the Catholic organization “by refusing to place children with the agency because of its beliefs.” The two organizations have been battling for two years over the issue, but the case will be decided by the Supreme Court later this year.

According to Kassie Dulin at The Daily Signal, the “outcome [of this case] will not only affect the future of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies nationwide, but the religious freedom rights of all Americans.” Catholic Social Services has provided foster homes for children in Philadelphia for more than 100 years and “has developed a stellar record” of service. 

The city forced the agency to close its doors because of its “long-held belief that children do best when raised in a home with a married mother and father” even though it was willing to refer the hypothetical same-sex couple to another foster care facility. As a result of the shutdown, numerous Catholic “foster families have been denied the ability to foster children through the agency they know and trust.” This happened even though “the city faces an unprecedented foster care crisis and has put out a call for more foster families.”

This case is important to all Americans because it “will also affect religious freedom nationwide in three key ways according to Dulin.

First, the outcome will determine whether governments can force faith-based adoption and foster care agencies out of business because of their religious beliefs…. 

Second, this case will allow the court to revisit Employment Division v. Smith, one of the most problematic religious freedom precedents in Supreme Court history. The ruling in that 1990 case gave the government considerable leeway in restricting the free exercise of religion through laws that are “neutral” or “generally applicable.” …

Finally, although this case centers on the interaction between a single city and a foster care agency, it points to a bigger issue of state and local governments struggling to balance Obergefell v. Hodges’ 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage with the Constitution’s guarantee of religious liberty for all.

            It seems to me that a ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services could alleviate damage done in several previous cases. A ruling in favor of Philadelphia would only add to the oppression of governments against religious individuals and organizations.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Is the "Good" of Socialist Societies Worth the Price?

            Most of the Democrat presidential candidates are promising to change the United States into a socialist nation. We are already leaning socialist with many of our public policies, but they want more. Many of the millennials are falling for the promises made by Bernie Sanders and other candidates. However, there is one group of Americans who are not falling for them. That group consists of people who have lived under socialist/communist rule.

            Sebastian Arcos, 58 years old, is the associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University and is spreading his knowledge of the dangers that exist in socialism/communism. He and his family tried to escape from Cuba to find asylum in the United States on December 31, 1981. They were caught in a sting operation, and Arcos was jailed for a year. His father supported the communist revolution, but he was jailed for six years. His uncle had fought in Fidel Castro’s revolution 20 years earlier, but he was jailed for seven years. 

For the sake of argument, let’s ay both the [Cuban] health care system and education system are perfect, which they are not. There have been thousands of political executions, tens of thousands of political prisoners, and 3 million Cuban exiles….

So, the question to ask when we are told to consider the good things is: What is the price for the good?” …

            Arcos expressed surprise with the “talking heads” in our nation that “give Fidel Castro the benefit of the doubt.” An example is Bernie Sanders defending his comments from 1980s praising Castro: “He educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society.” The regimes of Castro and other communist leaders commit “gross human rights abuses” and should not be praised even if they have excellent education and health systems.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

How Important Are Elections?

             Elections are important because they have consequences. One of the consequences of the election of Donald Trump is a revamping of the judicial system in a way that will have a legacy that lasts much longer than his presidency. As of February 12, 2020, the Senate has confirmed 192 Article III judges. These judges include Associate Justices of the Supreme Court Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, 51 U.S. Court of Appeals judges, 137 U.S. District Court judges, and 2 U.S. Court of International Trade judges. 

Some of the 51 Court of Appeals judges are now sitting on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This circuit court has been liberal for many years and had numerous cases repealed by the Supreme Court. With the judges appointed by Trump, the 9th Circuit has flipped to be more conservative, and the consequences of the flip are starting to show.

            Last Monday the 9th Circuit Court ruled that “the Trump administration can continue stripping federal funding from clinics that offer abortions.” The Trump administration declared in June 2019 that taxpayers should not be funding clinics that refer women for abortions. If they do, they should lose funding under Title X. This means that “organizations that perform abortions and make abortion referrals will have to do so in separate buildings from those that receive Title X federal funds. 

            Liberals are, of course, declaring that “this is devastating news” that will hurt “millions” of women. They fail to mention that it has the potential to save the lives of millions of babies. They promise to appeal the decision, which means that the conservative-leaning Supreme Court may have the opportunity to rule on the finding. 

            Obama was right when he said that elections have consequences. We are seeing some of the consequences of the election of Donald Trump. We now have a pro-life president who is fighting the Left on abortion and winning.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Do You Understand the Importance of the Battle of Iwo Jima?

            My VIPs for this week are the men who fought bloody Battle for Iwo Jima during World War II. During this terrible battle, U.S. Marines from the 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment of the 5th Division reached “the highest peak and most strategic position”  on Mount Suribachi and raised the U.S. flag on February 23, 1945. This event was captured by Marine photograph Louis Lowery and caused great cheering among the Americans fighting for control of the slopes of Suribachi.

            Several hours later more Marines took a larger flag up the mountain. They were met by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, and he, along with a Marine still photographer and a motion-picture cameraman, recorded the event of the raising of the larger flag. Rosenthal took three photographs that day. His first photograph was of the “five Marines and one Navy corpsman struggling to hoist the heavy flag pole.” This picture “became the most reproduced photograph in history and won him a Pulitzer Price. The fact that the event was captured by motion-picture footage shows that it was not staged. Three of the six Marines in the famous photograph were killed before the end of the Battle of Iwo Jima in late March.

            The importance of this battle cannot be overstated. The three airfields on the island were crucial for the United States to further success in the war. This battle was the fiercest and bloodiest of the War in the Pacific during World War II and the only battle where more Marines were killed than Japanese.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

What Can Be Done to Preserve the Constitution?

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the fragility of the United States Constitution. The Prophet Joseph Smith prophesied numerous times that the Constitution would one day “hang by a brittle thread,” and other prophets have made statements to support his prophesies. I believe that Joseph Smith was and is a true prophet of God, and I can see by current-day events how his prophesies can come true.

            Constitutional scholar Rodney K. Smith wrote a series of articles on the subject “The Constitution Hangs by a Brittle Thread” and I found them interesting enough to share some of his thoughts. Last week I reviewed his article with the subheading of “Joseph Smith’s Prophecy and Our Responsibility” about how the Constitution is “hang[ing] by a brittle thread.” I included some statistics showing that most American adults do not know what the Constitution says. His second article, which I will discuss this week, has subheading of “What Can Be Done about It.” 

            Smith wrote in his second article of “two major fronts” that can be used to attack the lack of knowledge about the Constitution. The first is public education, and the second is education in the home. He tackled the what can be done at the public level in his second article. He wrote, “Public education is critical in the battle to reclaim constitutional literacy.” Those adults who took a civics class in high school and/or college were more literate about the Constitution than those who did not. Therefore, the first step to increasing public knowledge of the Constitution is to require civics education for graduation.

            Smith stated that another source of public education can be found in the media and interest groups even though there will likely be bias in them. “For example, 86% of those surveyed knew that the Second Amendment protects the ‘right to bear arms.’” This is likely because “the National Rifle Association and other interest groups have extensively used the media to increase knowledge regarding the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.” Smith said, “Effective media campaigns can enhance constitutional literacy.”

            Because the mainstream media (“fake news”) and commentaries in social media are often biased, Smith suggests that Americans go to more accurate sources, such as The National Constitutional Center (NCC), the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI), and the Quill Project (Quill).

… The National Constitutional Center (NCC) … “unites America’s leading scholars from diverse legal and philosophical perspectives to explore the text, history, and meaning of the United States Constitution.” It does so by providing a “nonpartisan tool [that allows] learners of all ages to engage with the text of the Constitution, discover how experts agree and disagree about its history and meaning, and explore[s] arguments on all sides of the constitutional debates at the center of American life.” 

The problem with this source is that it relies too much on secondary sources and scholarly interpretations of original documents, often through a scholar’s ideological lens. Nevertheless, for one seeking a variety of viewpoints, NCC is free and easily accessed at

            The Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) can be accessed at and is a better source of accurate constitutional information, because it relies predominantly on primary source material. BRI is regularly used by hundreds of thousands of teachers and presents constitutional materials in three forms: Voices of History, Founding Documents and Resources, and Documents of Freedom. Voices of History provides a free, “digital storehouse featuring the best of [BRI’s] primary source-based lesson plans.”

BRI also offers access to founding documents, correctly reflecting their belief that “secondary sources can help us understand and appreciate what [founding documents] say, but reading them yourself is the best way to understand the purpose of our national government, the liberties we enjoy, and how those liberties affect and shape our society.” Finally, BRI provides a comprehensive digital course, focused on primary sources, written by accomplished teachers. BRI’s fidelity to primary sources makes their free materials a treasure trove of teaching and learning materials….

… The Quill Project [a collaborative effort between Dr. Nicholas Cole of Pembroke College (Oxford) and the Center for Constitutional Studies (Center) at Utah Valley University (UVU)] … can be accessed at no cost at [This project] combines … two codes in a masterful way, making it a unique and powerfully nonpartisan means of obtaining reliable constitutional information and education.

            The “two codes” referenced above are computer science and the U.S. Constitution. Thomas Friedman explained the importance of these two codes:

… [I]f you want to be an empowered citizen in our democracy – able to not only navigate society and its institutions but also to improve and shape them, and not just be shaped by them – you need to know how the code of the U.S. Constitution works. And if you want to be an empowered and adaptive worker or artist or writer or scientist or teacher – and be able to shape the world around you, and not just be shaped by it – you need to know how computers work and how to shape them….

[T]he Constitution forms the foundational code that gives shape to America and defines our essential liberties – it is the indispensable guide to our lives as productive citizens.

            If Friedman and the College Board are correct about the importance of knowing the code of the Constitution – and I believe that they are, then schools should bring back the civics requirement for graduation. The only way to defend, protect, and preserve our Constitution is to educate our citizenry with the information in it. The best way to have an educated citizenry is to teach the people when they are young and in school. The reason leftists are taking over the education system is that they want to indoctrinate our students in socialism before they can learn about the Constitution and the American way of life.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Why Do You Need to Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ?

            This week I studied two doctrines taught by Articles of Faith 1:6: “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.” Those doctrines concern Church Organization and Membership in the Church. Some of my insights and learning are as follows.

My first insight is found in Third Nephi 27and is the answer to my prayers in my quest to know if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly the Church of Jesus Christ on earth today. After many years of membership in the Church, I had strong belief that it was true, but I had never sought a confirmation from God. I knew all the answers intellectually, so I understood that I had to find an answer that would fit my case perfectly. I found it in this chapter. 

       When the Nephites were seeking to know what to call their church, the Lord told them to call it in His name and to do everything that they did in His name. He said that it would be His Church if it was called in His name and built upon His gospel. The information in 3 Nephi 27:1-12 made sense to me. My quest ended when I read verse 11 about the works of men bringing joy “for a season” and their works following them. I thought of how the Church was organized with six members and had grown to millions despite much persecution and criticism. I knelt in prayer and received a burning in my bosom so bright that I felt as though I was a giant lightbulb with light coming from every part of my being. I can say that I know the Church is true because I now know that I know.

            My second insight is about the priesthood and its position in the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ. Some people wonder how the priesthood could be restored before the Church was organized. D&C 107:8-9 explains why the authority and keys of the priesthood had to be restored before the Church could be organized. “The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices of the church….” The Church could not be organized with a presidency without the authority to do so. The position of the restoration of the priesthood shows that it was not an afterthought. After the First Vision, only the Book of Mormon came prior to the restoration of the priesthood. 

            My third insight concerns the reason why God works through His Church. I appreciate the remarks of Elder D. Todd Christofferson presented at the October 2019 General Conference. His talk about why God chooses to do His work through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is interesting. We know from Moses 1:39 that His work is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Elder Christofferson explained that God first did His work through family-based organizations and enlarged/changed His organization as needed. The Church of Jesus Christ was first organized in the meridian of time with the purpose of preaching the gospel and administering the ordinances of salvation. The Church of Jesus Christ was restored in our day with the same purpose of preaching the gospel and administering the ordinances of salvation with the added responsibility to do the work for both the living and the dead.  I particularly appreciate his three reasons for why we need The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and why we need to belong to it.

·         We create a community of Saints to assist and sustain each other, to “learn divine doctrine,” and to “experience its application” in our lives. An example given is repentance, which is an individual experience that is assisted by fellowship of Church members. Another example is the reminder that we should be converted to Jesus Christ and His gospel, which is facilitated by the Church. A third example is the family, which is strengthened by the Church and can qualify for eternal life through gospel teaching and priesthood ordinances.

·         Jesus Christ works through His Church to accomplish things that individuals or smaller groups could not do. An obvious example of this reason is the humanitarian services given by the Church but funded by donations from members.

·         The Church of Jesus Christ is the kingdom of God on earth. This is the best reason why Christ would work through His Church.

Elder Christofferson stated plainly that we need the Church and we need to belong to the

Church. Although our needs are similar, there may be differences in why we personally feel that we need the Church and need to belong to it. I need the counsel given by the Prophet and Apostles and the continuing guidance that I get from them. I need the various services that come from the Church, such as the gospel study apps. I also need the growth that comes from the experiences of serving in various positions and from participating in the various activities of the Church of Jesus Christ. Without the Church in my life, I could not receive the ordinances that help me gain eternal life. On a more regular level, I could not partake of the sacrament each week to renew my covenants with God. Prior to reading this talk, I had not considered the question of why I need the Church. 

Even though Elder Christofferson gave three general reasons why we need the Church, both the first and the second reasons have multiple sub-reasons in his talk and others that he did not mention. I think that the third reason would include the fact that God knows everything, which means that He knows the best way to accomplish His work today.

In summary, the true Church of Jesus Christ must bear His name and be built upon His gospel. The Church of Jesus Christ must contain the authority and keys of the priesthood, and His Church must be His kingdom on earth.

Friday, February 21, 2020

How Do We Protect Parental Rights from School Districts Intent on Usurping Them?

            Families, communities, and nations are stronger when children are not forced to live double lives. For healthy families and communities, parents must be involved in the school and private lives of their children and teenagers.

            Fred Lucas at The Daily Signal wrote of a group of parents who filed a lawsuit to protect their parental rights. It seems that the public-school district has a policy where teachers are instructed to “assist and encourage children in adopting transgender identities without notifying – and possibly while deceiving – parents.” 

There are eight families with fourteen parents involved in the lawsuit filed in Dane County Circuit Court in Wisconsin. The lawsuit includes the following statement from Dr. Stephen B. Levine, a distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

For a child to live radically different identities at home and at school, and to conceal what he or she perceives to be his or her true identity form parents, is psychologically unhealthy in itself, and could readily lead to additional psychological problems…. Extended secrecy and a “double life” concealed from the parents is rarely the path to psychological health. For this reason, at least, schools should not support deceit of parents….

Most children are both legally and developmentally incapable of giving informed consent to such a life-altering intervention. And parents, of course, cannot give informed consent if the fact of their child’s wish to assume a transgender identity is concealed from them.

            I believe that we live in a dangerous time when teachers and other adults are attempting to separate children from their parents by indoctrinating them in unwanted ways. Parents must be alert to such problems and take legal action if necessary. Families must be united to be strong and cannot strengthen communities or nations if divided.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Will We Ever See the End of Universal Injunctions Issued by Activist Judges?

            U.S. District Judges continue to issue injunction barring the Trump administration from implementing new policies. The latest such injunction was issued by U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs of North Carolina. The injunction stoops “a new policy that changes how the government calculates the duration of an illegal immigrant’s unlawful presence in the country.”

          The judge was not wrong to issue an injunction because that is a tool that judges use to “stop someone from doing something.” The problem comes from the choice of injunction made by the judge according to GianCarlo Canapara at The Heritage Foundation.

[Biggs] could use an injunction that prevented the government from using the new calculation on the plaintiffs who sued, or she could use a so-called nationwide injunction that barred the government from using the new calculation against anyone, anywhere.

Biggs chose to issue a nationwide injunction. Actually, that’s a misnomer. These are better called “universal” or even “absent-party” injunctions, because they aren’t limited either by their geographic scope or the parties they cover.

Instead, they stop the government from enforcing a law or policy against anyone, anywhere.

            U. S. Attorney General William Barr, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Neal Gorsuch are just a few of the people who have criticized these universal injunctions. What are they and are they legal? The Constitution defines the roles of the judicial branch and says that judges do not “pass laws or set broad policies.” Those roles belong to other branches of government.

Instead, according to Article III, judges decide “Cases” and “Controversies,” which are actual legal disputes between specific parties. Whether civil suits between private parties or criminal cases involving the government, these disputes are brought by the parties, and judges settle them for the parties.

It makes sense, therefore, that when a judge issues an injunction in the process of deciding a particular case, that injunction will not cover more than is necessary.

            That would necessitate the use of common sense, and most conservatives know that common sense is not a trademark of liberals. Liberals judges have usurped authority that the Constitution does not give to them, and the judiciary branch of the federal government is much “more powerful that America’s Founders intended.” Their injunctions do the following.

First, they empower judges to exercise power over the entire government, rather than just the parties who brought a case before them.

Second, universal injunctions give individual district judges far more poser than they ought to have….

Third, they undermine public confidence in the judiciary by giving activists judges near limitless power to undo the laws and policies of the democratically accountable branches of government….

Finally, universal injunctions lead to what Gorsuch calls “rushed, high-stakes, low-information decisions” ….

            The rushed decisions usually end up at the Supreme Court where the question is asked if the court of appeals erred. The Supreme Court needs to remind the lower courts that they have limited jurisdiction and should stop issuing universal injunctions.     

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Does America Have an Expiration Date?

            Cal Thomas, author and columnist, posed a question recently that intrigues me. He asked, “If there were a chance that America’s values and prestige would collapse around the Fourth of July in 2026, what would that change about the way Americans interact?” This question reminds me of a similar question asked of individuals, “If you knew that today would be your last day on earth, what would you do today?”

            Thomas posed his question in a presentation titled “America’s Expiration Date” at The Heritage Foundation. His presentation on February 6, 2020, was based on his book of the same title. The foundation of his book is built on the fact that “eight of the greatest empires in world history” declined “after about 250 years in power.” America declared independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, so it will begin its “theoretical decline by about 2016” if it follows the same pattern as the eight empires.

            In his book Thomas examines the history of the former superpowers, such as the Roman, Persian, Ottoman, and British empires. “While many like to comfort themselves that America is different, or even uniquely blessed by God, there’s no proof that we will escape the fate of other nations that one time believed the same about themselves.”

            Thomas identified some markers that identify America as a nation in danger of decline. He listed “the casual devaluation of human life” and called it “One of the most disturbing of those markers.” He cited “the large number of abortions” daily and “the daily deadly shootings in the inner cities.” 

Thomas stated three steps for rebuilding morality in our nation: (1) “focus on forming the next generation, especially by removing them from public schools and liberal institutions of higher education,” (2) “encourage people to look at government welfare programs ‘as a last resource, not a first resource,’ especially by encouraging saving,” and (3) “talk to their friends and neighbors about important issues in order to close the partisan gaps in public discourse and to combat the power of the left-leaning mainstream media.” Thomas is not the only one concerned about the moral state of America.

Blogger Charles Pope discussed “The Eight Stages of the Rise and Fall of Civilizations” in his essay posted in October 2016. “Sociologists and anthropologists have described the stages of the rise and fall of the world’s great civilizations. Scottish philosopher Alexander Tyler of the University of Edinburg noted eight stages that articulate well what history discloses. I first encountered these in Ted Flynn’s book The Great Transformation. They provide a great deal of perspective to what we are currently experiencing.” The eight stages discussed above follow with the names from Tyler’s book in bold and Pope’s comments in regular print.

1. From bondage to spiritual growth – Great civilizations are formed in the crucible. The Ancient Jews were in bondage for 400 years in Egypt…. American culture was formed by the injustices that grew in colonial times. Sufferings and injustices cause – even force – spiritual growth. Suffering brings wisdom and demands a spiritual discipline that seeks justice and solutions.

2. From spiritual growth to great courage – Having been steeled in the crucible of suffering, courage and the ability to endure great sacrifice come forth….

3. From courage to liberty – As a result of the courageous fight, the foe is vanquished and liberty and greater justice emerges. At this point a civilization comes forth, rooted in its greatest ideals….

4. From liberty to abundance – Liberty ushers in greater prosperity, because a civilization is still functioning with the virtues of sacrifice and hard work. But then comes the first danger: abundance….

5. From abundance to complacency – To be complacent means to be self-satisfied and increasingly unaware of serious trends that undermine health and the ability to thrive….

6. From complacency to apathy – The word apathy comes from the Greek and refers to a lack of interest in, or passion for, the things that once animated and inspired….

7. From apathy to dependence – Increasing numbers of people lack the virtues and zeal necessary to work and contribute. The suffering and the sacrifices that built the culture are now a distant memory….

8. From dependence back to bondage – As dependence increases, so does centralized power. Dependent people tend to become increasingly dysfunctional and desperate. Seeking a savior, they look to strong central leadership….

            This list of eight stages to the rise and fall of empires looks a whole lot to me like the pride cycle as found in the both the Bible and the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ. A simplified version of the pride cycle is as follows: Blessing and Prosperity leads to Pride and Sin, which leads to Chastening, which leads to Humility and Repentance, which leads to Blessing and Prosperity and the cycle begins again. It is important to note that no civilization is forced to follow the entire cycle. Individuals and groups of people can “check” their pride by humbling themselves and repenting without going through the chastening. 

            Two great civilizations in Ancient America fell into the pride cycle and destroyed themselves. The Jaredites came from the Tower of Babel (2242 B.C.) and became a thriving and prospering nation. However, they went through numerous pride cycles until they literally destroyed themselves. The second group is the Nephites. Lehi and his family left Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and later split into the Nephites and Lamanites because of pride and wickedness. Both groups went through numerous pride cycles until the Lamanites destroyed the Nephites about 420 A.D.

            America is following in some of the same steps as other great civilizations of the world. However, America has a Constitution that was inspired by the Lord and written by wise men raised up by the Lord to establish this nation. I have no doubts that America will go through some difficult times because of corruption and wickedness, but I believe that America will be saved by adhering to its Constitution. This nation will be saved by the prayers of righteous people who will protect and preserve the Constitution.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Who Is Brett Wagstaff?

            My VIP for this week is Brett Wagstaff, a police officer with the Lone Peak Police Department in Utah. Wagstaff was on patrol duty when a 911 call came in at 2:12 a.m. on January 28. The call came from Shannon Bird, the nursing mother of a six-week-old baby and five other children and the wife of a husband who was out of town.

            Bird awoke in the middle of the night to nurse her hungry baby and discovered that her milk was gone. She had no way to feed her hungry baby and no one to go get baby formula. She also had five little children asleep in their beds. What was she to do? She called her husband to help her brainstorm. She tried calling neighbors and her brother, but no one answered. She considered leaving the children alone in the house and decided against it. In desperation she called 911.

            A recording of the 911 call tells us about the call. Bird explained her situation of no milk for her screaming newborn, husband out of town, and five sleeping children. The call went out, and Officer Wagstaff and Officer Konner Gabbitas answered it. They immediately purchased a gallon of milk at a convenience store and took it to Bird. There they discovered that the baby was too young to drink regular milk and needed infant formula. They left the gallon of milk and went to buy formula at Walmart. They returned with the formula and would not accept any money for it. Bird was surprised that they went to get the formula. In fact, she wanted them to patrol the street and watch her home while she went to the store.

            Even though a call for baby formula is rare and maybe a one-time event, the police department considers it just another way to serve members of their community. The mother needed some help, and the police officers came to her rescue.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Does the Constitution Hang by a Brittle Thread?

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the fragility of the United States Constitution. The Prophet Joseph Smith prophesied numerous times that the Constitution would one day “hang by a brittle thread,” and other prophets have made statements to support his prophesies. I believe that Joseph Smith was and is a true prophet of God, and I can see by current-day events how his prophesies can come true.

            Constitutional scholar Rodney K. Smith wrote a series of articles on the subject “The Constitution Hangs by a Brittle Thread,” and I found them interesting enough to share some of his thoughts. This week we will cover his article with the subheading of “Joseph Smith’s Prophecy and Our Responsibility.” 

            Smith began his article by quoting several people who were witnesses for the statements made by Joseph Smith. According to a 1976 Ensign article written by D. Michael Stewart of the Department History at Brigham Young University, Joseph Smith prophesied numerous times that “the United States and the Constitution would be imperiled and [would be saved]. The first known record of the prophecy dates to July 19, 1840, in Nauvoo, [Illinois], when the prophet [taught], ‘[W]hen the Constitution is on the brink of ruin this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.” Other people claimed to hear the Prophet make this statement or similar ones with two of them being Eliza R. Snow (Constitution will hang by “a single hair”) and James Burgess (“constitution and government would hang by a brittle thread”).

            Acknowledging that he is “particularly fond of the statement made by Brother Burgess,” Smith said that “we live in a time when understanding of the Constitution has become ‘brittle’, ‘hard but liable to break easily’ as defined in the Oxford Dictionary.” He continues by saying that this statement “describes the perilous predicament prevailing in America today. Understanding of the Constitution is at all-time low and is declining rapidly according to sobering recent studies.” Smith gave the following information from surveys.

38% of Americans could name all three branches of government [2013].

26% of adult Americans could name all three branches of our national government [2017].

One in three adult Americans could not name any branch of government outlined in Articles I-III of the Constitution.

15% of Americans knew that the First Amendment protects religious liberty.

14% knew that it protects the freedom of the press.

3% knew that the right to petition the government is protected.

37% of American could not name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.

48% of Americans were aware that the First Amendment protects the “freedom of speech.”

            I am sure that you realize that none of the figures given above are above 50%. This means that most of adult Americans do not have a good knowledge of the Constitution. More Americans recognize the names of famous artists of all kinds and sports figures than know their rights under the Constitution. Smith quoted the following statement from James Madison, the Father of the Constitution: “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

            The fact that most American adults do not know what is in the Constitution tells us that the Constitution “hangs by a brittle thread.” We cannot protect and preserve something that we do not know and understand. This lack of knowledge among Americans is the reason why politicians continue to take away liberties and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Constitution. The most important thing that Americans can do is to study the Constitution and understand what it says.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

What Are Priesthood Keys and How Important Are They?

            I learned a lot about priesthood authority, priesthood keys, and priesthood power this week as I studied the fifth Article of Faith. Articles of Faith 1:5 states: “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” The two main doctrines contained in this Article of Faith are priesthood authority and priesthood keys.

            The lesson material for this week provided three separate statements about the priesthood authority. I combined the three into the following: “The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God” (True to the Faith) given to worthy male members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to bring the blessings of the priesthood to all people.” I am amazed at the number of sisters in the Church who feel left out because they do not hold the priesthood. I look at the situation a bit differently: I carry enough responsibility in my family and Church callings that I do not desire to carry priesthood responsibility too. In fact, I have all the blessings of the priesthood without any of the responsibilities that a priesthood holder does. I believe that I have the best of both worlds.

            Joseph Smith-History 1:68-72 tells us that John the Baptist ordained Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood on May 15, 1829. This priesthood includes “the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” (verse 69). John told them that he acted under the authority of Peter, James, and John and that the Aaronic Priesthood would not be taken from the earth until the sons of Levi make an offering to the Lord in righteousness. Joseph and Oliver baptized each other but could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost because that authority is not part of the Aaronic Priesthood. The power and authority to bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost comes through the Melchizedek Priesthood. 

            An article titled “A House for Our God” gave some interesting perspectives about the Kirtland Temple. For one thing, I did not previously realize that this temple took so long to build. Joseph Smith was rebuked on June 1, 1833, for disobedience to a commandment five months earlier to build it, and the Kirtland Temple was dedicated on March 27, 1836. This means that the temple took more than three years to build. Another insight I gained from this article is that the story about the Saints “sacrificing” their china to make the temple shine is not true. Yes, broken dishes were added to the stucco, but they were fragments taken from refuse piles and not from the cupboards of the sisters. In other words, they were dishes that were already broken. Another insight for me is that the Lord did not specify everything about the temple. He specified the dimensions and functions of the building and some of aspects about its appearance, but he left other details to the leaders and builders to determine by their experience and ideas.

            “A House for Our God” from Revelations in Context was enlightening on several levels. I was originally surprised that the Saints took so long to build the Kirtland Temple. Then I read where the Saints thought that they were building something more like a schoolhouse than a temple. It took chastisement from the Lord to put them on the right track. I wonder how often I receive revelation and do not understand the importance of it. I could be building “schoolhouses” instead of “temples” in numerous areas of my life!

            In studying D&C 84:6-43 this week, I noticed several things that I did not remember seeing previously. The thing that I noticed was that the line of the Melchizedek Priesthood was given from Moses to Adam. We are told that this priesthood is without beginning or end and that another priesthood was bestowed on Aaron and his posterity. Verse 20 tells us that the power of godliness is in the priesthood ordinances and that “no man can see the face of God, even the Father and live” without the power of godliness. This scripture teaches us that Moses tried to prepare the Israelites to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, but they hardened their hearts. When Moses was taken out of their midst, the Melchizedek Priesthood was also taken. This means that the Israelites were left without the ordinances that bring the power of godliness. 

            This scripture also teaches that John the Baptist was ordained to the priesthood when he was eight days old and baptized in his childhood. It supports the Brethren in their decision to allow young men to be ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood at age 11 rather than wait until age 12 because there apparently is no exact age to be ordained. However, John must have been 8 years old when he was baptized because there is a designated “age of accountability” before one can be baptized.

            Every man who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood has the power and the authority to use that priesthood. However, the keys of the priesthood are held by specific individuals. Keys are held by the presidents of the Deacons Quorum, the Teachers Quorum, and the Elders Quorum. The Bishop holds the keys to the Priests Quorum and the ward, and the Stake President holds the keys to the High Priests Quorum and the stake. The Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds all the priesthood keys that have been restored to earth. The person holding the keys designates how the other members of a quorum will use their power and authority. For example, a father who is a member of the Elders Quorum has the power and authority to baptize his child; however, he must receive permission from the Bishop to perform the baptism. While priesthood authority and priesthood keys must be bestowed upon a man, his priesthood power depends on his personal righteousness.

Friday, February 14, 2020

What Is China Doing in America?

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday has to do with stopping infiltration of anti-America influences. The United States of America has been a strong and prospering nation for more than 200 years because our government is based on the Constitution. Yet, the cultures and business of other nations are encroaching upon our constitutional way of life.

            One such cultural influence is shariah law. Middle Eastern immigrants come to America to prosper, but they bring their culture with them. Culture in and of itself is not bad. However, when the culture can be bad when it comes into a nation and insists that laws be changed to accommodate that culture. This is what is happening with shariah law.

            Another foreign influence is coming from China. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently warned the governors of 40 states that China had infiltrated their states. He says that Chinese communists are in our school systems, meetings, and even business dinners – and Americans are totally unaware that it is happening. Tony Perkins wrote about this Chinese “invasion” with the goal of penetrating “U.S. security, education, and financial system” to “create chaos.”

“It’s happening in your state,” Pompeo insisted, “with consequences for our foreign policy, for the citizens who reside in your states, and indeed for each of you… The Chinese government has been methodical in the way it’s analyzed our system… It’s assessed our vulnerabilities, and it’s decided to exploit our freedoms to gain advantage over us at the federal level, the state level, and the local level.”

These are often Chinese diplomats, the secretary explained on “Washington Watch,” initiating these operations. Men and women, serving here in the United States, who are quietly “leading and executing programs that present a risk to American businesses, to American’s privacy, and to Americans’ … security.” And the worst thing about it, he said is it’s not “on people’s radar screens.”

“It’s one thing to pressure the secretary of state of the United States of America.” It’s quite another “to go after a high school principal,” Pompeo argued. “It shows depth. It shows systematization. It shows intent.”

            According to Perkins, Barr said that we want students from other nations, such as China, to come here to learn, but “these aren’t always groups with benevolent intentions.” 

Our communities are partnering with education associations, not realizing they’re actually “controlled and directed by the Chinese Communist Party.” We think they’re coming here to teach Mandarin, when in fact, they’re deeply tied to the regime and its sinister ambitions.

And those relationships are paying off. The Chinese, he warns, have quietly built a foothold with local school boards, K-12 administrators, and county officials that’s giving them a powerful voice they should never have.

            There are specific instances where China has used their power in America. A high school in Illinois were pressured by the Chinese to “disinvite an official from Taiwan” for a climate panel. The speaker of a state legislature received a letter from China’s Consul General “demanding that a U.S. leader not engage with Taiwan.” 

Perkins gives numerous other examples of how China has permeated America. It should be obvious that Americans must become much more aware of the influence of foreign nations that is being put on local, state, and federal officials. None of these foreign nationals have the good of America in mind as they infiltrate our many public systems.