Declaration of Independence

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

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Why Does Our Society Have Double Standards?

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the need to do away with double standards in our society. These double standards are present in numerous categories of our lives. Big political figures get away with crimes that common people do not. Military personnel have careers ruined and are imprisoned when they have a one-time lapse of judgement with classified material. Hilary Clinton set up an internet server in her home and sent classified material – from confidential to top secret – from the State Department over it for several years. So far, she has not faced trial. Donald Trump has been questioned and blamed for years, while other politicians are not even questioned. The most recent display of double standards concerns sexual assaults.

            In 1999 Juanita Broaddrick claimed that President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, assaulted her in 1978. The mainstream media would not cover her story, and the Democrat Party defended Clinton. Broderick had date and place, but no one cared to listen to her story, which she continues to tell. Fast forward to July 9, 2018, when Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by President Donald Trump for a seat on the United States Supreme Court. Several women accused him of sexual assault in high school and college with no witnesses or evidence, and leading Democrats and the media supported them. Between his nomination and his confirmation on October 6, 2018, Kavanaugh and his family were verbally attacked by the media and Democrats intent on destroying him. Kavanaugh’s name was dragged through mud, and his career was nearly destroyed by lying women and their supporters in the media and the Democrat Party. They continue their attempt to discredit his appointment. Now another woman has come forward to accuse an important Democrat politician, and the story is completely different.

            Tara Reade, a former aide for then-Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., is accusing him of sexually assaulting her in 1993. She has date and place, and her story remains the same. Unlike Kavanaugh’s accusers, Reade told other people about her assault near the time that it happened. She told her mother, who allegedly called the Larry King Show to ask how a person would go about reporting a problem with a prominent politician. She told her brother, a neighbor, and fellow workers. There are several people who are on record for acknowledging that she told them about the assault. Yet, the media and Democrats could care less.

            Reade wants to tell her story on television, but she has not been asked to be interviewed by any anchors besides conservatives like Sean Hannity at Fox News. She considers them to be too far right and would like to be interviewed by someone in the middle – media that is not too progressive or Trump-supporting. Reade is still a Democrat and says that she will not vote for Trump in November. Because no one else has called, she is in talks with Chris Wallace, who is at Fox News but less conservative.

Even though Reade was ignored by media and Democrats for numerous weeks, she continues to make waves, and she is attracting attention. Most unbiased people know that there could be truth in her story. There is the fact that Biden is not squeaky clean like Kavanaugh. He has a record of being filmed while touching girls, young women, and older women, and his habit of sniffing women’s hair is legendary. Biden’s manager has denied the accusation to reporters, but Biden has not said a word. There is talk that he will address the problem soon, but will the media ask him the hard questions? Will he be able to give a coherent answer, or will he ramble around with his words until no one understands what he said?

           Biden is an elderly politician who appears to be going senile. Even though he has a lot of experience in government, he does not have the capability to lead the United States and should not have begun his campaign. Even though Reade said that she will vote for him, she wants him to acknowledge the assault. Would she have come forward if he were not a candidate for President?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

How Can We Survive and Thrive during a Pandemic?

            My parents were married on October 2, 1929, just weeks before the stock market crashed and brought about the Great Depression. They spent the first year of their marriage living in a shed. Their double bed nearly filled the available space with just enough room on one side for a dresser. They lived on homemade bread and peaches that my mother had canned. They struggled to rear their large family of twelve children and watched their pennies closely until oil was struck on their property during their retirement years.

            Millions of Americans struggled to survive during the Great Depression and World War II. Amid this societal upheaval, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched its welfare program in 1936.

On its inaugural day in 1936, President David O. McKay affirmed the divinely inspired roots of the Church’s welfare plan: “[The welfare program] is established by divine revelation, and there is nothing else in all the world that can so effectively take care of its members.”

The welfare program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not only a way to help members in temporarily difficult circumstances, but it also stresses self-reliance as a way of life, including education, health, employment, family home production and storage, family finances, and spiritual strength.

            More than 80 years have passed since the beginning of the Church Welfare Plan. A committee was appointed in 1936, and the first central bishops’ storehouse was built in 1937 in Salt Lake City, Utah. That was the beginning of Welfare Square for which construction started in 1938. This same year, the first Deseret Industries thrift store opened in Salt Lake City. Welfare Square was completed in 1939, and its first cannery began operating. The Welfare Square grain elevator was dedicated in 1940, and its milk-processing plant began operations in 1941.

            At the end of World War II, the Church shipped “large amounts of food, clothing, and other relief supplies to Europe.” A regional employment office was established in 1948 in Salt Lake City. In 1963 the “Deseret Pasta Plant began producing pasta,” and a new cannery was completed at Welfare Square. The Church expanded welfare projects and production to Mexico, England, and the Pacific Islands in the 1970s.

            LDS Social Services (now LDS Family Services) was created in 1973 “as an official Church corporation under the direction of Welfare Services.” Welfare facilities expanded in 1976 throughout the United States and Canada, and another bishops’ storehouse was built on Welfare Square.

            Welfare facilities continued to expand and was praised by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 when he visited the facilities in Ogden, Utah. “If, during the period of the Great Depression, every church had come forth with a welfare program founded on correct principles … we would not be in the difficulty in which we find ourselves today” (quoted by Thomas S. Monson in “A Provident Plan – a Precious Promise,” Ensign, May 1986, 62).

            The welfare program was put under the direction of the Presiding Bishopric of the Church in 1983. In 1985 the Church Humanitarian Services program was started with the Humanitarian Service Center formed in the 1990s. There “surplus clothing and other goods are sorted for shipment around the world in response to poverty and disasters.” LDS Charities was formed in 1996 to help the humanitarian effort in several countries. Welfare Square was renovated from 1996 until 2001 when it was rededicated. Welfare Services started in 2003.

            During the many years when the Church Welfare Plan was put in place and developed, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was busy making other changes. Besides building temples all over the world, the Church was changes program and methods of teaching. The missionary age of service was changed in 2012 to allow young men to enter the mission field at age 18 and young women at age 19. Come, Follow Me was instituted for youth in 2013 and adults in 2018. The curriculum was integrated for all ages in 2019, and individuals and families were encouraged to study at home. Home teaching and visiting teaching programs were retired, and “ministering” was implemented. Other changes were made in organizations and titles. 

            All the programs and changes for more than 80 years helped members of the Church of Jesus Christ to be prepared for the pandemic. Members have repeatedly been encouraged to store food, clothing, supplies, and where possible fuel. We were urged to store 90-days of foods that we normally eat and other foods that will preserve life for a longer period. 

By following this simple practice for more than 50 years, I have felt peace during national emergencies. After the terrorist attack on 9/11, people rushed to the stores and cleared the shelves of food and necessities. I did not even go to the store. When the toilet paper shortage took place in the early days of coronavirus pandemic, I remained in my home. I had enough and to spare, even though I did run out of fresh produce.

Through the counsel of Church leaders, we have emergency savings to carry us through emergencies. However, money is not much use when there is no food in the stores to purchase. Spiritual counsel from leaders prepared us to survive and thrive in isolation. Families were prepared to hold their own Sabbath Day meetings, and worthy priesthood bearers could bless and pass the sacrament to the members of their immediate family.

All the above tells us that proper preparation is the way to survive and even thrive during an emergency. We have living prophets and apostles who receive divine revelation from God to lead and guide us through difficult times. If we follow their counsel, we will be prepared for difficult times and will feel peace.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

What Freedoms Are We in Danger of Losing?

            I have written previously about the three faces of the crisis facing America at the present time. The first face belongs to COVID-19, a virus that spread from China sometime during the winter months. When Americans knew that COVID-19 had raged through Europe and had invaded our shores, we took drastic action. 

           This action was greater than any taken to fight a virus in at least 100 years. We let concerns about health and life monopolize our thinking, and we still lost more than 50,000 Americans to this date. We shut down the country, and only “essential” businesses could remain open. We could go to grocery stores to purchase food and order take out from restaurants. Many small businesses were forced to shut down, and millions of Americans lost their jobs.

            These actions brought the second face of the crisis – the sickening economy. Somewhere between 25 percent and 40 percent of the economy was shut down. The oil and gas industries are staggering because the pumps are pumping with no storage space. Other countries, including Saudi Arabia, are threatening to take advantage of our situation. We hope that the economy will come back and be roaring again soon, but we do not know. Problems with the economy will most likely last far longer than Americans were urged to hunker down at home.

            The third face of the crisis could be the worst and most far reaching. Gary C. Lawrence called this face “the threat of increased centralization of power.” He reminded his readers that this is not first crisis that made people willing to give up freedom for security. I believe that it was a crisis that brought Adolph Hitler to power and the beginning of Nazi Germany.

            When people are afraid and/or suffering, they cry for government to do something. In the current situation, Democrats and members of media were pressuring President Donald Trump to order a nation-wide lockdown. Trump resisted their pressure and cited the Constitution for the reason why he could not/should not/would not do it. However, he called them out on their idea by saying that he had power to remove the lock downs. Then they cited the Constitution and federalism.

We know that there are people who were pushing for Big Government to take over. The states, who are responsible to have their own stockpiles of emergency equipment, were demanding that the federal government save them from their lack of preparation. Trump continued to encourage them to solve their own problems but sent some help from the federal government. Liberals of all types continued to demand action from central government. Trump tried to stand back and let the states handle the problems, but the pressure continues.

            Lawrence described this call for a national shutdown and national control “a desire for uniformity.” Since we are all facing this problem, “we need an overarching plan” and a central figure “to take charge.” He wrote, “Under such panic, people become more willing to give up agency for the sake of solving the current problem” and encouraged his readers to read the sentence a second time.

It’s not new. Throughout history, mankind’s challenge has been how to give a leader – whether tribal chief, czar, king, or president – enough power to create an orderly and safe society, but not so much he becomes a tyrant. Especially when short-term pressures … play a role.

Great thinkers have known for centuries that protection of freedom requires the separation of powers, but it wasn’t until God established the U.S. Constitution that it became fully practiced by a nation. Together with the division of powers in a federal-state system, the Constitution works perfectly in a situation where New York and Massachusetts have different needs than Utah and Wyoming…. That’s why a nationwide shutdown is not only unneeded, but counterproductive. Let individual state governors make the decisions – solve the problems at the level closest to the problems.

Today’s virus-driven clamor for centralization is a direct threat to the guiding principle of separation of powers and thus our freedoms. Though their intentions may be admirable, those who seek centralized power facilitate the expansion of government agencies and/or the creation of new ones.

            We all know that the federal government is essential to provide national security and to preserve our freedom. However, there is a great threat to freedom when the political power is concentrated in the hands of an individual or a small group of people.

            With a Republican in the White House, we may come through this crisis without an increase of centralized power. However, the precedent has been set, and a would-be tyrant may attempt to capitalize on it. The American people mostly went into isolation willingly to help flatten the curve. A Democrat President and Congress may try to use this precedent to force Americans to do something similar in the name of climate change.

            It is important that all Americans stand up for freedom and make sure that the want-a-be tyrants do not get the idea that we will go into servitude without a fight. We must stand up for our freedom and liberty and refuse to give up our agency no matter how dire the circumstances.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Who Is Kristi Noem?

            Kristi Noem is the Republican Governor of South Dakota, and she has been in the news lately for making a stand despite much criticism. She took some heat from critics because she refused to lockdown her state in the battle against the coronavirus. She was one of only a few governors to resist the pressure to issue a statewide lockdown. She gave the following explanation for her lack of action earlier this month.

Our Constitution ensures that the citizen’s right is protected. I agree with the role of our government as set forth in our state and in our national Constitution. I took an oath to uphold these constitutions. My role with respect to public safety is something I take very seriously.

The people themselves are primarily responsible for their safety. They are the ones that are entrusted with expansive freedoms – they are free to exercise their rights to work, worship, and play – or to stay at home, or to conduct social distancing. The calls to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to this problem in South Dakota is herd mentality, not leadership.

            The people of South Dakota expressed appreciation for Governor Noem’s leadership today when they surprised her with a parade in her honor. There were numerous vehicles in the caravan, interspersed firetrucks, construction equipment, and larger vehicles. 

The Governor did not recognize at first that the parade was in her honor, but she expressed her delight with these words, “I am so blessed to serve the people of the great State of Dakota. You folks made my day!”

Sunday, April 26, 2020

What Do Americans Want?

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Most Americans were cooperative when they were asked to hunker down at home for a time to “flatten the curve” of the Chinese coronavirus. Now that the curve has been flattened, we are anxious to get our lives back to normal.

            According to Kay C. James, President of The Heritage Foundation, when commissioners on the National Coronavirus Recovery Commission, asked Americans for comments and ideas on how to combat the economic and health effects of COVID-19, they heard plenty. Americans were concerned about civil liberties because the way some states shut down businesses and prevented citizens from working.

The responses commissioners received don’t just give us a sense of what the American people want but show that they want to be part of the solution. Comments included pages and pages of specific ideas for testing for the disease, isolating the virus, and reopening businesses.

Respondents understand the need to slow the spread of the virus so hospitals can have enough equipment and staff to manage the caseload. However, now that we’ve slowed the spread, they’re anxious to get back to life and work.

They want to reopen small businesses, restaurants, and retail, and they seem willing to make some pretty big changes to do it, like maintaining mandatory social distancing, prohibiting large public gatherings, quarantining people with symptoms, and wearing masks in public consistently.    

            Americans understand that there are public health concerns, but we are just as concerned about the economy. We know that we are capable of doing two things at once. We can continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 and still get the economy up and running. We know that we are fighting two enemies: a disease that spreads quickly and the catastrophe of a depression. Most of us consider the depression to be the worst of the two enemies, but we know that we must defeat them both.

            Americans have several concerns involved in this pandemic. We are concerned about the disease itself. We are concerned about the worsening economy. We are concerned about our civil rights. We know that governments use crises to cease additional power and to drive their agenda. We are not anxious to be a part of any political power scheme. We simply want to stay healthy and bring our lives back to normal. We also want our nation to achieve independence from the control China or any other nation.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

How Can I Repent and Retain a Remission of My Sins?

            The Come, Follow Me study came from Mosiah 4-6 this week. In these chapters, King Benjamin continues his address to his people. After delivering the angel’s message (Mosiah 1-3), King Benjamin looked at his people and saw that they had all fallen to ground (Mosiah 4:1). Verse 2 tells us that “they viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth” and they cried for mercy and to have the atoning blood of Jesus Christ applied to them. They wanted to receive forgiveness for their sins and to have their hearts purified. 

            What did the people mean when they saw themselves as “less than the dust of the earth” (Mosiah 4:2)? It means that they realized that the dust of the earth, like all elements, is obedient to the Lord. Only human beings have agency to obey or disobey His commands, and the people knew that they had not always been obedient. They also recognized that they were entirely dependent on the Lord for life here on earth and for eternal life.

            What does it mean to “apply the atoning blood of Christ” (Mosiah 4:2)? President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that we all sin, and Christ made it possible for all of us to be forgiven of our sins.

We all make mistakes. Sometimes we harm ourselves and seriously injure others in ways that we alone cannot repair. We break things that we alone cannot fix. It is then in our nature to feel guilt and humiliation and suffering, which we alone cannot cure. That is when the healing power of the Atonement will help….

If Christ had not made His Atonement, the penalties for mistakes would be added one on the other. Life would be hopeless. But He willingly sacrificed in order that we may be redeemed….

We can even “retain a remission of [our] sins’ [Mosiah 4:12]. Baptism by immersion is for the remission of our sins. That covenant can be renewed by partaking of the sacrament each week [see Doctrine and Covenants 27:2].

The Atonement has practical, personal, everyday value; apply it in your life. It can be activated with so simple a beginning as prayer. You will not thereafter be free from trouble and mistakes but can erase the guilt through repentance and be at peace (Ensign, May 2001, 23-24).

            Repentance is not easy, but it is worth the effort. Mosiah 4:3 tells us that the Spirit of the Lord fell upon them, and “they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience.” This joy and peace of conscience came because of their “exceeding faith” in Jesus Christ.

            Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that peace of conscience comes from sincere repentance and righteous living.

God wants each of His children to enjoy the transcendent blessing of peace of conscience [see Mosiah 4:2-3]. A tranquil conscience invites freedom from anguish, sorrow, guilt, shame, and self-condemnation. It provides a foundation for happiness….

… You can regain peace of conscience by repenting of personal transgressions that cause you internal turmoil….

Broken law from sin or transgression causes anguish of mind and heart from an offended conscience. Knowing that all of His spirit children save His Only Begotten, Jesus Christ, would unintentionally or intentionally violate His laws, our Eternal Father provided a means to correct the consequences of such acts. Whether the violation be great or small, the solution is the same: full repentance through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement with obedience to His commandments (Ensign, Nov. 2004, 15-16).

            Heavenly Father knew that we would make mistakes, and He provided a way for us to become free from sin through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. However, He did not make repentance easy even though He made it possible. Elder Boyd K. Packer admonished those who seek peace of conscience through repentance to persevere until they obtain forgiveness.

The gospel teaches is that relief from torment and guilt can be earned through repentance. Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fulness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness….

That great morning of forgiveness may not come at once. Do not give up if at first you fail. Often the most difficult part of repentance is to forgive yourself. Discouragement is part of that test. Do not give up. That brilliant morning will come.

Then “the peace of God, which passeth … understanding” comes into your life once again. [Philippians 4:7]. Then you like Him, will remember your sins no more. How will you know? You will know! [see Mosiah 4:1-3] (Ensign, Nov. 1995).

            The Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, wait with open arms for us to turn to them. They want to help us, and They will help us as much as They can without overriding our agency. We retain a remission of our sins by continuing to do the things that we were doing to show repentance of our sins. We communicate with Heavenly Father. We study about His work in the scriptures. We attend sacrament meeting and partake of the emblems of the Atonement of Christ. We serve others and extend forgiveness to all who have harmed us. We continue to repent daily of our sins. In other words, we become Saints and live righteously. We will not be perfect, but we can experience joy and peace of conscience because we are clean before God.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Why Are Strong Family Units Important to Society?

            Communities and nations are stronger when individual family units are strong. This statement makes sense, but its truthfulness can be better shown by comparing a community to a chain. The links in the chain represent family units, and the links welded together represent the community. Every weak family would be a weak link in the chain, but even one weak link would prevent the chain from working at its best.

            In searching for something to write about strengthening families, I came across the web page of an organization titled Strengthening Families Program. The evidence-based program was developed in 1982 by Dr. Karol L. Kumpfer to help parents develop needed skills “to keep their kids from using alcohol and drugs.” It is recognized nationally and internationally and helps both general population families and high-risk families.

            Participants reported a dozen differences in their families through the program. The differences basically fall into three groups. They increased family bonding, parental involvement, positive parenting skills, positive communication, and family organization. They decreased family conflict, youth depression, and youth aggression. They increased youth cooperation, number of prosocial friends, youth social competencies, and youth school grades. I was particularly drawn to a statement as to why strong families are essential. 

The well-being of a nation depends on strong and loving families. They have the job of producing the next generation of emotionally healthy, responsible, educated citizens who are addiction-free and prepared to maintain the physical and social infrastructure of society. Research shows well-trained parents help youth avoid substance abuse and have better life outcomes:

“Strong families avoid many adverse outcomes: substance abuse, teen pregnancy, school failure, aggression, and delinquency.” (Hops, et al., 2001)

Children are a nation’s most valuable asset. They deserve to grow up in a stable, loving family with nurturing caregivers who protect them from abuse, help them become their best selves, and stay addiction-free….

The statement continues by discussing how addiction harms families as well as the children’s brains. It also discusses the importance of adults protecting children and teenagers.

            I know that there are numerous organizations that can help families, but the simplest, most basic one is an understanding of what it means to be a parent. We are individuals before we become a couple and have children. This means that we are responsible to take care of the individual needs first. We will have a more difficult time being good parents if we are physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually sick. Therefore, the first step is to take care of ourselves.

The second thing of importance is the relationship between the parents. A wise man once said that the most important thing that a father could do for his children is to love their mother. The same is true of the mother. If the relationship between the parents is good, then each of them will be more capable of developing healthy and strong relationships with each of their children. 

Healthy relationships between parent and child is one of the greatest tools to keep children and teens from straying. I remember as a child and youth knowing that I could please my parents most by keeping the commandments of God. At that time of my life, I was more interested in pleasing my parents than pleasing God, and I stayed close to God’s teachings by doing the things that made my parents happy. I know that we can strengthen our communities and nations by strengthening families.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Should Parents Be Free to Determine What Their Children Learn?

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the right of parents to determine where their child(ren) will go to school. Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet directs the Child Advocacy Program at the Law School. She believes that homeschooling is “dangerous” because parents who choose to homeschool their child/children seek “authoritarian control over their kids.” Harvard will host a summit on homeschooling in June.

Since the coronavirus has taken education out of the hands of educators and put it in the hands of parents, there may be more parents who choose to homeschool their posterity. In fact, the coronavirus may be a blessing in disguise when it comes to education. 

In an article by Jarrett Stepman titled “The Left’s Long War on Parents Over Schooling Their Kids,” he quotes Bartholet as saying “that parents of homeschooled children tend to be ‘extreme religious ideologues” who don’t believe in science, keep women subservient, and believe in white supremacy.” Wow! She hit all the points in that statement. She did a take down on people who believe in religion, women who believe in being team players with their husbands, and white people. She even put scientists on notice. Stepman noted that Bartholet is merely “perpetuating a malicious and lazy stereotype” and then gives the following quote.

As Mike McShane, the director of national research at the nonprofit EdChoice, writes: “In 2019, the National Center for Education Statistics published results from a survey of homeschoolers who found that the number one reason for homeschooling was not ‘a desire to provide religious instruction’ (that came in third) or even ‘a desire to provide moral instruction’ (that came in seventh), but rather ‘a concern about school environment, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure.’ Number two was ‘dissatisfaction with the academic instruction at other schools.’

It’s true that many homeschooling families tend to be religious, but this absurd and, frankly, bigoted view of who they are reveals exactly what Bartholet wants when she calls for ending homeschooling.

What Bartholet clearly worries about is that homeschooling undermines Tolerance, with a capital “T.”

Her mindset is that public schools are a vital component of the state to carry out vast, progressive social engineering. If even a small minority of young people don’t accept the left’s views on say, sexuality, transgenderism, religion, or American history, according to this way of thinking, then they need to be indoctrinated to embrace these views.

The public schools, at least in the way Bartholet portrays them, are simply a tool to “veto” any potentially troubling beliefs of parents.

                I hope that parents are paying attention. Do you want your children indoctrinated or educated? Elites like Bartholet fear that parental control over what their children learn is detrimental to the progressive agenda. Do you want your child attending a school that is a “tool” to pit your child against your teachings? Tolerance – with a little t – is one thing. Indoctrination is a completely different game, which none of us should be playing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Can the Economy Be Saved?

            President Donald Trump is adamant that the cure for the coronavirus should not be worse than COVID-19 itself. He is anxious about getting the nation open and the economy moving forward before parts of it start to die off – such as the oil and gas industries and the farmers. However, he is strongly against Georgia opening for business. There are some states, such as Alaska, that were not hit as hard with the coronavirus as other states and can cautiously move forward. Apparently, the President does not think that Georgia is ready yet.

            Walter Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, said that “one of the first lessons in an economics class is everything has a cost.” Trump could have kept the nation open and kept the economy booming instead of shutting everything down to fight the coronavirus. The economy might have remained robust, but the health care system might have been overwhelmed and the workforce dwindle because of sick workers. There is a cost to everything!

No one knows what might have happened, but we do know that oil futures sank below zero. Speculators were paying people to take crude oil. The oil and gas industries are struggling as shown by the low cost of gasoline. We currently have too much oil in our nation with all storage facilities full and no one traveling or heating homes. Oil wells can be capped, and oil drilling stopped. However, they cannot easily be opened again, and the nation could find itself with no oil in the middle of a war. There is a cost to everything.

We all make decisions and weigh costs against benefits. We do it in our private lives. Businessmen do it to stay in business, and politicians do it to get votes. We all take risks of one sort or another. Trump took a risk when he shut down the country. Are the lives of Americans worth a crashed economy? Trump obviously thought American lives were the most valuable, but his real goal is to save the most lives while doing the least damage to the economy. Thus, his anxiety about getting the economy open again. Williams examined the government’s response to the pandemic caused by COVID-19 and found it wanting.

The first thing to keep in mind about any crisis, be it war, natural disasters, or pandemics, is we should keep markets open and private incentives strong. Market solve problems because they provide the right incentives to use resources effectively. Federal, state, and local governments have ordered an unprecedented and disastrous shutdown of much of the U.S. economy in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

            That is the viewpoint of an economist, but other agree. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), a medical doctor, said on the Senate floor that it is time to open the economy and stop the government handouts. He said that we cannot afford to keep borrowing money to keep the economy going even if more lives are lost. Williams quoted epidemiologist Dr. Knut Wittkowski who said that prolonging the shutdown will lengthen our time to develop “herd immunity,” which is the only way to kill the virus without a vaccine. He also quoted Dr. David L. Katz who argued that the battle we are currently fighting could be worse than COVID-19 itself.

            Williams said that the “bottom line is that costs can be concealed but not eliminated.” He said that the “absolute worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic, and possibly its most unrecoverable damage” is the power given by the people to governments at all levels. Americans were willing to stay at home until the curve was flattened, but most of them are now demanding to be set free. There are many Americans who are willing to give up freedoms in exchange for government benefits, but there are also millions of patriots who want to go back to work and to keep their freedoms. They do not want politicians to have any more power over them.

            Millions of people all over the world fasted on Good Friday in response to an invitation from President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We fasted to ask God to help us bring the coronavirus under control, to protect the caregivers, to strengthen the economy, and to normalize our lives. We have been blessed in that the number of cases began to decline before our medical facilities were overwhelmed. We have been blessed by the abilities and services of numerous companies to provide protective gear for people in the medical field. Now we need a big blessing to save our economy. We must get our economy up and running as quickly as possible, or our lives will not be anywhere near normal. Please join me in praying that states will be able to open for business and that Americans can return to work. May God bless us with another roaring economy, and may God bless America and people all over the world!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

When Will Your State Open?

            All fifty states in the United States of America have been closed for about a month. President Donald Trump is anxious to get America open and working again. More than 20 states are looking to open, while other states are hanging back. The State of Alaska announced on April 15 that health care facilities and health care providers could began limited non-essential medical care on April 20.

            Today Governor Mike Dunleavy announced that other parts of society can open for business on Friday, April 24 – with Anchorage not opening until next Monday. Barbers, nail salons, hairdressers, and other such businesses can began opening their businesses with limited contact. Stations in salons must be separated by at least six feet and limited people in the salon. Of course, face masks are urged for all people as well as proper social distancing.

Restaurants can open for limited businesses. They have been open for takeout and delivery, but they can now open for limited inside service. Tables must be spaced at least ten feet apart with only people from a single household at each table. Retail stores can reopen with limited customers and proper social distancing between customers. Charter boats can began taking people on fishing trips but are limited to 25 percent capacity if the people are not from the same household. Bars, movie theaters, etc. will remain closed for now. Groups of no more than 20 can meet for church, weddings, funerals, etc. Face masks and proper social distancing are encouraged at all events.

State officials will watch carefully to see if cases of coronavirus continue to decrease or began building. They expect more cases as society reopens, but they will continue to open or shut back down depending on the number of cases going forward.

Alaska seems to be making a wise move. The coronavirus is not going anywhere, and the state and nation cannot survive being shutdown much longer. COVID-19 will be here whether we open now or three months from now. If the numbers remain manageable, the governor will continue to reopen the state in phases. President Trump suggested opening in three phases, but Alaska will use five phases to reopen. We will be taking things slowly, watching the numbers, and making necessary adjustments as we go.

Even though Alaska is beginning to open, Governor Dunleavy recommended that the vulnerable in our population continue to shelter in place and take things slower than younger and healthier residents. Since my husband and I are both in the vulnerable category, we will be staying home for a while yet. Even though my hair is much longer than I usually wear it, I will postpone a visit to the hair salon for a few more weeks. I am getting accustomed to my COVID-19 hair do and can put up with it for a longer time period. The can-do spirit of Alaskans will beat this coronavirus and rebuild our economy!

Monday, April 20, 2020

What Is Your Perspective?

            One definition of perspective is a point of view or attitude, the way we look at something. A good perspective of the current quarantine could make all the difference in how we deal with it. We can look at the forced togetherness at home as something terrible, or we can look at it as an opportunity to spend time with our loved ones in strengthening our relationships. It is up to us how we look at it.

            President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) always had a positive attitude. He had a cheerful smile and wonderful sense of humor. His spirit was invincible, and he always looked on the bright side of things. He was known to say, “It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out.” Even though he faced adversity and discouragement at times, he was optimistic and happy.

            When days are dark and times are hard, it is easy be discouraged and downtrodden. However, we can choose to think about our blessings instead of our difficulties, and the day will not seem so dark and dreary. I have seen the following information numerous times, but I ran across it again this morning.

IF you have food in your fridge, clothes on our back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75 percent of the world.

IF you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week.

IF you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture or the horrible pangs of starvation, you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.

IF you can read this message, you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read at all (Canadian Red Cross Brochure, as cited in LDS Church News, May 14, 2017).

            We can look at our glass and see it as half-full or half-empty. It is up to us to determine whether we will be positive or negative about life. Boyd Matheson, an opinion editor at the Deseret News, wrote about the prevailing attitude about the pandemic and its effects on society and the economy. He agreed the novel coronavirus and recent natural disasters have changed many things. Schools are closed as well as bars and restaurants that are open for pickup and delivery. We have no sporting events, concerts, movies, church services, or other large gatherings. We are counseled to stay at least six feet away from everyone that does not live in our household. People are saying that this is the “new normal,” but Matheson does not agree.

            Matheson calls this time a “new now.” We are enduring a serious situation and have made many changes in our daily routines, but Matheson says that thinking of this as the “new now” is the “right and proper way to minimize the angst, stress and fear of it all.”

            All of us are uncertain about what the future will bring, and the wrong perspective can bring uncertainty and anxiety, particularly if we think that the “new normal” will continue forever. “If you buy into that thinking, you are much more likely to panic than prepare, react rather than respond, and be driven by fear rather than faith.”

            Matheson reminded his readers that storms do not last forever. Even the fiercest wind and the heaviest rain eventually stop, and the sun comes out. People adjust to the “new now” and move forward with their lives. Matheson closed his article with these words. He spoke on the same topic for a podcast found here

Living in the “new now” puts us in control of our emotions and ensures we focus on the things we can do today. It is difficult to rally to a perpetual “new normal,” but people can wrap their heads around the idea of rallying to take on a “new now.”

Yes, school will restart, healthy communities will be restored, restaurants will return, sporting events with big crowds will thankfully arise. High school dances, international travel, religious gatherings, high-fives and big hugs will all resume.

While suffering will be present in what feels like a dark and discouraging national and international moment, a magnificent forward-moving morning of stillness and newfound strength will follow, bringing with it yet another “new now” for all of us to embrace.

            I like Matheson’s idea of a “new now” rather than a “new normal.” It shows me that he is optimistic and positive. It tells me that he likes to look at the bright side of things rather than the dark side. I am an optimist, and I believe that God is an optimist. It seems to me that He can take anything bad and turn it into something good. (An example is that of Joseph being sold into Egypt where he became second in command of the nation and prepared to save his father and all his posterity during a time of severe famine.) I am anxious to see what God is making out of this pandemic, and I trust that it will be wonderful.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

How Does Federalism Work?

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is federalism, the type of government found in the United States, Canada, and several other nations. A federal government system consists of a division of powers and the co-governing of two governments. The first government is the central – or federal -- government, and the second one is state government. 

The central government regulates what happens in all the states in the nation. It provides the monetary system for the nation to avoid the problems that would be caused by every state having different money. It also provides military to protect the nation from enemies from outside. The federal government determines the day for national elections – the first Tuesday in November. It provides the federal court system, while the states provide for their state courts. The powers of the central government are limited to what the Constitution says that it can do. 

There was a recent discussion about whether President Donald Trump or the governors of the states had authority to lift the restrictions put in place by the states to control the coronavirus. Trump declared that “When somebody’s president of the United States, the authority is total,” but he received immediate pushback from both Democrats and Republicans with the Tenth Amendment being quoted as evidence. This amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” 

In an interview with The Daily Signal, John Malcolm was asked about the President’s statement. “I think that the president is wrong in what he had to say, with only one limited exception.” He then gave the following explanation.

The limited exception is that if he wanted to order federal employees and military personnel to go back to work, the governors could not stop that from happening. State officials cannot, under the Constitution, stop federal officials from executing federal policy. But that is the only exception.

Our Constitution sets up a federal government of limited and enumerated powers. And the only time in which a president could exercise that sort of extraordinary power would be if our nation faced an imminent attack from a foreign nation, or if thee was an outright rebellion, an insurrection going on in the states, and the states were fundamentally incapable of enforcing their own laws.

            Malcolm continued by stating that the president and the federal government had power to control who enters our country if they have the coronavirus. They control interstate travel and can stop people from entering or leaving states if they have the coronavirus. They control the movement of goods and commerce between states. However, “it is the states government officials, usually governors, who exercise [what is] known as residual police power to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the inhabitants of those states … to issue their stay-in-place orders, [to close down] nonessential businesses, [to prevent] large gatherings, and the like.”

The fact is that the President does not have the authority to lock down the nation or to lift the restrictions declared by the various governors. This authority belongs to the state and/or local governments. Trump obviously understood his limitations by the next day. He introduced the instructions for ushering in the three phases of easing restrictions and reopening businesses, and then he conceded that the governors have the authority to take the action. “You’re going to call your own shots. You’re going to be running it, we’re going to be helping you.”

The various governors use their authority to act in different ways. The governors of Alaska and Hawaii shut down their states soon after the coronavirus was known to be in America. Other states waited to issue stay-at-home orders. Still other states, such as South Dakota, never issued any stay-at-home orders at all. Some governors issued mandates, and others strongly urged their residents to hunker down at home. However, some governors proved the truthfulness of this scripture:

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men [and women], as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion (Doctrine and Covenants 121-39).

            New York City was hit hard by COVID-19, and Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to keep schools closed until next fall. Governor Andrew Cuomo says that de Blasio does not have that authority. The answer is in what the state laws say. Cuomo issued an executive order that requires everyone to wear a face mask. Does he have authority to impinge on the people’s freedom? He probably has as much authority to tell them to wear a face mask as he does to tell them to shelter in place. If only Jews or only Blacks or only Whites were ordered to wear face masks or to stay home, the order would be unconstitutional.

            Residents of Michigan are rebelling against the orders given by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. She told the people in her state to stay at home and banned travel between residences – whether it was a vacation home owned by the person or the home of a neighbor. She probably has authority to make that order, but the residents of her state have the right to vote her out of office at the next election. It may or may not have been a smart move on her part. I believe that this governor was abusing her authority.

            The governor of Mississippi ruled that residents in that state could not attend Easter services even though they stayed in their cars with the windows rolled up and listened on their radios. He sent troopers to give the people $500 tickets for attending, and his authority is being challenged in court. This governor was most likely going too far because his orders infringed upon freedom of worship guaranteed by the First Amendment. The governor could institute social distancing rules and mandate no meetings for all residents, but he could not shut down churches totally if the people were obeying the rules. The only way that the governor could get away with this order is if he shut down all drive-in businesses as well as the churches. The fact that churches were singled out makes this action unconstitutional.

            The coronavirus pandemic threw the whole country into confusion. We do not know why Trump argued that he had total authority. He may have been confused, or he may have pulled a fast one on the media. They had been pushing him to lock down the whole country, but he used the Constitution as his reason for not doing it. Now he was saying that he had authority to lift the states’ restrictions, and the media argued that he did not have the authority. The media could not have it both way: They could not insist that he lock the nation down if they did not give him the authority to lift the restrictions. We never know why Trump says or does what he says and does, but we do know that the media always ends up looking like fools.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

How Do You Hear Him?

            Individuals have heard the voice of Heavenly Father only a few times in the history of mankind. He does not speak often, but He testifies of Jesus Christ when He does speak. We have records for several of the introductions. They began early in the New Testament, continue in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and continue in our day.

After he baptized Jesus Christ, John the Baptist heard a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John heard a voice out of a cloud say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5). When He spoke to the Nephites in ancient America, the Father said, “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name – hear ye him” (3 Nephi 11:7). In 1820 the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to a fourteen-year-old boy named Joseph Smith, and the Father introduced His Son with these words, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith – History 1:17). Two hundred years the Father’s invitation remains the same. “Hear Him!”

            God continues to speak to His children on earth and calls out to us “Hear Him!” When we take the time and open our hearts to listen, heaven opens. God speaks to us through the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost, but He speaks in different ways to different people. How do you hear His voice?

            It was the day before Easter when I discovered an Easter study plan with the title “Hear Him.” I knew that I was late starting the plan, but I decided to do it any way and came away blessed. The purpose of the plan was to help individuals and families to reflect on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ through studying the last week of His life. The plan presented a daily devotional created on a specific topic and included a scripture, a quote from a latter-day prophet, a video, a hymn, an idea for an activity, and a study question.

            The topic for the first day (which would have been Monday of Easter week) was “Hear Him by Removing Distractions. The scripture for this day was the testimony of Joseph Smith proclaiming, “I saw two Personages… stand above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith – History 1:17). The prophetic statement was made by President Russell M. Nelson:

There are a few wonderful occasions in the scriptures when our Heavenly Father personally introduced His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, with a specific charge to “Hear Him!”

Today, this most important invitation from our loving Heavenly Father to listen to the voice of the Lord and to follow His teachings is extended to us….

I invite you to think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him? 

The video was “Jesus Cleanses the Temple,” and it depicted Jesus Christ driving the money changers and animals from the temple. He was removing the distractions, so that worshipers could use the temple as it was intended to be used. The music was “Slow Down,” a musical number written by Chuck Girard and performed by Sissel with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square. All of us are busy and try to do two or more things at a time. In order to hear the Lord’s voice, we must slow down and listen. I practiced slowing my life down by meditating and seeking to hear the voice of the Lord.

I had an enjoyable experience as I listened for the voice of the Lord that day and every day for the next week. I will share more of my listening experiences in coming weeks.