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, April 30, 2022

What Are Your Idols?

            My Come, Follow Me studies for this week took me to Exodus 24; 31-34. The lesson material explained that there were too many meaningful principles in the scriptures to cover all of them and encouraged us to listen to the Holy Ghost to help us focus on the needed truths.

            In previous weeks, the Lord explained to the Israelites what He expected, so He had reason to be hopeful that they would remain true to Him (see Exodus 20-23). They had murmured and wavered in the past, but they made a covenant to be obedient to God when Moses read the law at the foot of Mount Sinai. Their response was: “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7). After they committed themselves to live the commandments, the Lord called Moses onto the mountain and told him to build a tabernacle so “that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8; see chapters 25-30).

            Moses went up to the top of the mountain and learned how the Israelites could have God’s presence among them. However, the Israelites were at the bottom of the mountain making a golden idol to worship instead of relying on God. They had recently promised to “have no other gods,” but they “turned aside quickly” from obeying His commandments (Exodus 20:3; 32:8; see also Exodus 24:3).

            The Israelites’ turn was surprising, but we can understand it better by considering human nature. We know from experience that impatience, fear, or doubt can sometimes overcome faith and commitment. Faith and fear cannot exist in the same place at the same time.

            The Lord did not give up on Israel, but He continued to work with them. This can bring comfort to us as we make mistakes and seek to overcome our sins. God is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6). He wants to help us and stands with open arms to welcome us back to His presence.

            The principle for this discussion is: Sin is turning away from God, and but He offers a way back. By studying the experience of the Israelites, we can learn to avoid similar mistakes. As I studied Exodus 32, I tried to put myself in the place of the Israelites. Moses had led them into the wilderness and had taken care of their every need. Now, he was on the mountain and had been gone for forty days. They did not know where he was or when he would return. They did not even know if he would return. They were afraid and anxious, and they wanted something to comfort them.

            The Israelites turned to the god with which they were most familiar – a golden idol. This was a serious sin. God had commanded them to put Him first in their lives and to not worship any type of idol. By creating a golden calf, they turned from God to a god of their own making.

            This behavior may or may not seem silly or strange to you. However, you may be prompted to turn to one of the idols in your life. President Spencer W. Kimball taught that there are parallels between the ancient worship of graven images and the behavior of people today.

Idolatry is among the most serious of sins. …

Modern idols or false gods can take such forms as clothes, homes, businesses, machines, automobiles, pleasure boats, and numerous other material deflectors from the path to godhood. …

Intangible things make just as ready gods. Degrees and letters and titles can become idols. …

Many people build and furnish a home and buy the automobile first – and then find they “cannot afford” to pay tithing. Whom do they worship? Certainly not the Lord of heaven and earth. …

Many worship the hunt, the fishing trip, the vacation, the weekend picnics and outings. Others have as their idols the games of sport, baseball, football, the bullfight, or golf. …

Still another image men worship is that of power and prestige. … These gods of power, wealth, and influence are most demanding and are quite as real as the golden calves of the children of Israel in the wilderness (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball [2006], 146-47).

            Even though the Israelites’ sin was serious, their story tells a message of mercy and forgiveness. Exodus 34:1-10 tells us that Moses, under direction from the Lord, made two more tablets of stone and carried them up to the top of the mountain. There the Lord wrote the words that we know as the Ten Commandments.

            God was still willing to work with the children of Israel, to help them to repent of their sins, and to become worthy to be in His presence. He is willing to work with you and me in the same way. However, He requires us to put Him first in our lives if we wish to receive the blessings that He has in store for us. 

Friday, April 29, 2022

What Financial Records Should We Keep?

            Families, communities, and nations are stronger when parents teach the basic of money management to their children. An important skill to learn is how to keep good financial records. This is an area that I struggled with and needed some counsel.

            E. Jeffrey Hill and Bryan L. Sudweeks wrote about financial records in their book titled Fundamentals of Family Finance – Living Joyfully within your Means.

Habitually keeping your family’s important personal and financial records organized will contribute to your family’s financial success. Well-kept records help you track how your money is being spent, which will help you create and stick to a budget. Additionally, organized record keeping helps you easily find the information you need to file your taxes. Should an emergency arise, family members and legal representatives may need to access your financial information, and an organized set of records will help them easily find the necessary information (2016, p. 26).

            The authors suggest several documents as important to good financial records. The first document is a family income and expense statement that keeps track of the “past cash inflows and outflows over a specified period of time.” Cash inflows include all the income that is available for family expenses, such as “net wages and salaries, … tips, interest, dividends, royalties, gifts, tax returns, scholarships, and refunds” (Hill & Sudweeks, 2016, p. 28).

            Cash outflows include all family expenses, which fall into two categories – fixed expenses and variable expenses. Fixed expenses include tithing, rent or mortgage payment, car payment, insurance payment, loan payments, and property taxes. Variable expenses include things like food, eating out, clothing, entertainment, and vacations. “An income and expense statement is a record of your family’s past financial history and a budget is your family’s financial for the future.” The next document is “a snapshot of your family’s present financial situation” (Hill & Sudweeks, 2016, p. 30).

            The second important document is a family net worth statement, otherwise known as a balance sheet. A “family net worth statement is calculated by subtracting the monetary value of your family’s liabilities from the monetary value of your family’s assets. This document is used to determine “your family’s financial health and in making financial decisions” (Hill & Sudweeks, 2016, p. 30).

Assets include monetary assets, investment assets, retirement assets, real estate, vehicles, furniture, clothing, jewelry, and electronics. Liabilities are divided into current liabilities and long-term liabilities. Current liabilities include credit card balances and unpaid utility bills. Long-term liabilities include debts that have repayment periods longer than a year, such as auto loans, student loans, and home mortgages. Net worth is found by adding all the assets and adding all the liabilities and then subtracting total liabilities from total assets.

The third important document is a family budget. Once you know your past spending and your current financial situation, you will be in a position to plan for your financial future. President Spencer W. Kimball taught the following.

Every family should have a budget. Why, we would not think of going one day without a budget in this Church or our businesses. We have to know approximately what we may receive, and we certainly must know what we are going to spend. And one of the successes of the Church would have to be that the Brethren watch these things very carefully, and we do not spend that which we do not have (“Finances,” Eternal Marriage Student Manual).

            Hill & Sudweeks gave five repeating steps for effective budgeting. The steps are as follow: “1) Set goals to address family needs and wants, and determine financial resources needed to meet those goals. 2) Categorize your current income and spending (family income and expense statement). 3) Develop your family budget by allocating income to budget categories that will meet your family’s goals. 4) Implement your budget by tracking income and expenses against your budget. 5) On a regular basis (usually monthly), compare your budget to your actual expenses and amend your budget when necessary to achieve your goals” (2016, pp. 32-33).

            When setting your goals, be sure to make them SMART. This is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. “Your family goals should also be written down, because, ‘A goal not written down is merely a wish.’” (Sean Covey) (Hill & Sudweeks, 2016, p. 33). Whatever other categories are in your budget, the authors urge two specific ones – miscellaneous and Mad Money (certain funds set aside for each spouse to spend without needing to account for it). Another important item to remember is to budget for both short-term and long-term goals. Then find a way to keep a budget that works for your family.

            Three important documents for effective money management are income and expense statement, net worth statement, and budget. They can tell you past spending, current financial situation, and future financial situation. Wise parents who learn to keep good financial records and then teach the skills to their children can strengthen their family, their community, and their nation.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Why Should We Defend Liberty?

             The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the call to battle attempts to destroy American liberties. Americans in colonial times battled Great Britain to gain liberty, and Americans today must fight against the Left’s “attempts to restrict our liberties, destroy our culture, and manipulate our society using the imperious power of the government.

            Patrick Henry gave his famous “Give me liberty, or give me death” speech in St. John’s Church, in Richmond, Virginia, on March 23, 1775. Henry was speaking out against British rule over the American colonies, and his words inspired American soldiers and people around the world at later times.

            Carson Holloway shared several examples of other people who spoke out against their governments. His first example is “the brave protesters who gathered in Tiananmen Square in 1989 to take on the despotic, tyrannical Chinese government.” We know that the Chinese government has only gotten worse, but the bravery of those protesters must be honored. Holloway reported that “Many of those Chinese protesters carried signs quoting Henry’s words over 200 years after he appeared at St. John’s Church on March 23, 17775, during the second Virginia convention.” 

The first Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in October of 1774, the British government had imposed a series of taxes and restrictions on Americans, including the Stamp Act, Sugar Act, Townshend Acts, and Intolerable Acts, which the colonists believed violated their rights and their idea of self-government. These acts led to many acts of defiance, including the Boston Tea Party on Dec. 16, 1773, which resulted in the British navy closing Boston as a port and blockading it in March 1774.

            Americans today live lives of freedom because of the bravery of colonists, such as Patrick Henry and other patriots who risked life, liberty, and property to fight against Great Britain. Even as we enjoy the blessings of liberty, we must remember that the fight for freedom conditions. Today we battle against the Left and the socialists in America who desire to destroy our government. We must keep our eyes and ears open to see and hear. We should also remember the words of President Ronald Reagan about protecting freedom. 

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

How Are Parents Fighting Back Against Indoctrination of Their Children?

            Children and teenagers suffered in numerous ways from the lockdowns in the fight against the coronavirus. However, forcing students to stay home and attend Zoom classes may be a dark cloud with an unseen benefit. Parents were also locked down to control the spread of COVID-19, and they became more aware of what the schools were teaching their children. Parents saw and heard things that they did not appreciate.

            Some parents decided to homeschool their children, while other parents decided to fight the school system. Parents in Virginia were instrumental in the election Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin because his opponent did not see any reason for parents to be involved in the education of their children.

            States have joined parents on the offensive against schools teaching sex and gender curriculums to grade school children. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed The Parental Rights in Education law and added fuel to the fire of conversations about sex education. Critics call the Florida law the “don’t say gay” law, even though the word gay is not mentioned in the law.

According to an article written by Julia Dandoy and John Schoof, the Florida law “addresses teacher conduct and material allowed in classrooms [and] postpones any teaching of sexual orientation and ‘gender identity’ until after third grade.” Other states are now passing their own laws “addressing not just education, but the medical field as well.” One of those states is Alabama. 

            Parents are pushing back and demanding the right to have control over what schools are teaching to their children. Their first targets are “schools and school boards,” but they recognize that the problem is more extensive than their local school district. So, they are examining the “organizations that supply the curriculum and teacher training materials.”

            Dandoy and Schoof concluded their article by sharing “what an ideal proposal would look like” from experts at Heritage Foundation.

In a recent report, Heritage Foundation experts Jonathan Butcher and Lindsey Burke lay out what an ideal proposal would look like. They begin with changing the way schools view students in their care. According to the report, a parent bill of rights must affirm parents as the child’s primary caregivers.

Parents are the ones “primarily responsible for their children’s education and health, as well as their moral and religious upbringing.” Students must also be protected from compelled speech and parents must have the final say regarding health and counseling services that are provided to their child.

To directly address the curriculum developers, lawmakers and parents should ush for transparency in the classroom. This transparency should not only include specifics about the curriculum, but who is providing the school with it.

Parents have a right to know what is being taught to their children, and should have easy access to class syllabi, textbooks, homework, and reading materials. A school should make this easily accessible on its website and learning management system.

            The authors shared good news when they reported that “27 states have put forward proposals for new school choice programs or the expansion of existing ones.” These states understand that “Parents should have the choice to send their child – and their money – to the school that they believe aligns with their values.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Have You Gone to the Store Lately?

            Groceries continue to cost more each week and are noticed by every shopper. I spent more than $100 today and came home with one bag of groceries. I bought airline tickets a couple of days ago and paid nearly twice as much as tickets I purchased three months ago. Inflation is eating up lots of money.

            According to Daren Bakst, the “8.8% year-over-year increase (March 2022 compared with March 2021) is the largest in more than 40 years.”  In lived through the last inflation cycle and remember how difficult it was to provide food for a growing family with the value of my money quickly decreasing. I have much compassion for young families striving to stretch their food dollars. 

            It goes without saying that the federal government needs to stop spending money, particularly paying people to stay home from work. However, one of the greatest ways to help Americans fight this inflation is for Biden to stop his war on energy. Bakst shared the following information.

The latest year-over-year data shows that energy prices rose 32%. This isn’t an anomaly, as the year-over-year increases for each of the past six months have been greater than 25%. Energy is an input that affects sectors across the economy, including the food sector. For example, high energy prices drive up the costs to farmers for a key agricultural input, namely fertilizer. More than 57% of fertilizer used in the United States are nitrogenous fertilizers, and a critical input for nitrogenous fertilizers is natural gas, which can account for 70% to 90% of its manufacturing cost.

Removing harmful energy interventions would help relieve some of the price pressure. For example, the Biden administration should end restrictions on the extraction and use of natural gas, including allowing the leasing of federal land and the Outer Continental Shelf for natural gas exploration and production.

It should also withdraw its new National Environmental Policy Act final rule that guts the Trump administration’s commonsense changes to expedite the development of energy and infrastructure projects.

            Bakst had other ideas for how Biden could bring the cost of energy down, but I do not expect the Biden administration to pay any attention to them. They do not have a history of showing any willingness or skills in making life better for Americans. In just over a year, Biden has taken a good economy down to the lowest level in decades. All the economic gains made during the Trump administration have been lost under Biden. Can America survive nearly three more years of this disastrous presidency?


Monday, April 25, 2022

Who Is Joe Kennedy?

            My VIP for this week is Coach Joe Kennedy who has been fighting a battle for seven years for the right to pray. The Supreme Court heard his case today to determine if public school employees can silently pray in the view of students while on the clock. 

“The only thing I’m asking the Supreme Court is that I get to be a coach, and I get to thank God afterwards,” Kennedy says.

In 2015, Kennedy lost his job as an assistant football coach at a high school in Washington state after taking a knee in silent prayer on the 50-yard line after games.

From the time he began coaching in 2008 at Bremerton High School, about 30 miles west of Seattle, Kennedy made it his practice to thank God after every game.

“I had a covenant with God from the very beginning when I accepted the [coaching] job that I would give him the credit, and thank him after every game, win or lose,” Kennedy told The Daily Signal during an exclusive interview in Bremerton last month.

Eventually, players became curious about what Kennedy was doing at the end of every game, and some asked whether they could join him.

“This is a free country, it’s America, you can do whatever you want to do,” Kennedy remembers telling his players.

            The Bremerton School District eventually learned of the happenings and told Kennedy that he could not pray with his players. Even though no one had complained about the practice, Kennedy agreed to stop it and never prayed with the players again. However, he did continue his silent prayers on the field. Then attorneys for the school district got involved and told him that he could not pray by himself where people could see him.

            The school district offered several private places where Kennedy could pray, but they would be inconvenient and cause him to leave the field and then return to his players. Too much time would be involved. When Kennedy refused to stop praying on the 50-yard line, he was put on administrative leave. “Do not rehire” was stamped on his personnel evaluation. That was the point when Kennedy decided to file a lawsuit.

            The Supreme Court is being asked to consider “a very narrow question”: can a football coach “be fired from their job if [he] engages in a private prayer on one knee at the 50-yard line.” We will know the court’s decision by the end of June.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

How Much Do You Know about Politics?

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the political knowledge of Americans. I am taking a class on American government this semester, so I will share some of the information with my readers from time to time. One of the facts that I learned in my first lesson is that most Americans know little about how politics works or what current issues are under debate.

            After studying about the Constitution and the American government for more than a dozen years, I am still learning a lot and connecting many bits of knowledge. For example, I learned that there were two founding of America. The first founding happened when the Articles of Confederation were written. The Articles did not work with the biggest problem being giving not enough power to Congress. Under the Articles, Congress could create laws, but it had no power to enforce the laws. Congress also had no power to collect taxes to pay for the Revolutionary War.

            Many Americans know that the power of the federal government is divided between three branches, the Legislative, the Executive. Federalism is a word to describe the power of government being divided between the federal government and the state governments. Strong governors in conservative states are currently protecting Americans from the problems in the federal government, at least as much as they can. America does well when the government is in the hands of strong federal government and strong state governments. Under weak leaders, America has problems like we say now.

            The framers of the Constitution understood the importance of strong leaders. In fact, they designed the legislative branch to be the most powerful. After months of debate, the framers designed Congress with two houses, an upper and a lower chamber.

The name for the lower chamber is the House of Representatives. Members of this chamber are required to run for office every other year. Representatives are closest to the people because they are forced to campaign constantly, and they are elected directly by the people in a popular vote.

The name for the upper chamber of Congress is the Senate. The framers assigned the task of appointing senators to state legislatures because they were meant to be representatives for their individual state. Because they were appointed by the state legislature, they could also be recalled by the state legislature if they became mavericks and went off on their own tangent.

The plan put forth by the framers to appoint senators worked for the first 125 years after the Constitution was adopted in 1788. The first attempt to change the system to elect senators by popular vote was made in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1826. However, the idea did not have much support until the late 19th century. In the 1890s, the House of Representatives tried several times to amend the Constitution, but the Senate would never pass a bill.

Several states asked Congress to pass a bill to change the appointment of senators by state legislatures to election by popular vote. Congress did not act until states started to call for an Article V convention of the states. In May 1911, both chambers of Congress passed bills to make the change. After both Houses worked on the bills, they became a Joint Resolution, which was sent to the states for ratification. On April 8, 1913, three-quarters of the states had ratified the proposed amendment, and it became the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

How Do You Prepare for Sacred Experiences?

             My Come, Follow Me studies took me to Exodus 18-20 this week. In previous weeks, I have discussed how the Lord convinced the Pharaoh of Egypt to let His people go and several miracles. The Lord parted the Red Sea with a great wind that blew all night. The children of Israel then walked across the sea on dry ground, but the Egyptian soldiers were drowned in the water that closed behind the Israelites. Then the Lord made bitter water sweet, sent quail and manna for food, and brought water from a rock.

In the third month after leaving Egypt, the children of Israel came to the Mount Sinai. The introduction to this lesson follows:

The Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai was filled with miracles – undeniable manifestations of the Lord’s matchless power, love, and mercy. However, the Lord had blessings in store for them that went beyond freeing them from Egypt and satisfying their physical hunger and thirst. He wanted them to become His covenant people, His “peculiar treasure,” and a “holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6). Today, the blessings of this covenant extend beyond just one nation or people. God wants all of His children to become His covenant people, to “obey [His] voice indeed, and keep [His] covenant” (Exodus 19:5), for He shows His mercy “unto thousands of them that love [Him] and keep [His] commandments” (Exodus 20:6).

            Several principles are taught in this lesson. The first principle, “I can help ‘bear the burden’ of doing the Lord’s work,” is taught in Jethro’s counsel to Moses. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, watched as Moses tried to lead the million Israelites by himself and saw the heavy burden on Moses. Jethro counseled Moses to delegate responsibility to leaders of ten, leaders of fifty, leaders of hundreds, and leaders of thousands and to keep “every great matter” for himself (Exodus 18:22).

This is the same type of organization in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today. Priesthood quorums, young women classes, and auxiliaries lead small groups of people, bishops preside over wards, stake presidents preside over stake, regional presidents preside over numerous stakes, area presidencies preside over various areas, and the First Presidency presides over the entire Church.

The main principle from this lesson that I wish to discuss is “Sacred experiences require preparation.” Exodus 19 tells us that the Lord told Moses to help the children of Israel to prepare to “meet with God” (Exodus 19:10-11, 17) and to keep a covenant with Him (see Exodus 19:5). After three days of preparation to sanctify themselves, Moses led the Israelites out of the camp to the base of Mount Sinai to meet with God.

Moses sought diligently to sanctify his people to behold the face of God, and they tried to do as he told them or at least went through the motions. However, they were not prepared for the sacred experience. The following quote comes from Introduction to the Old Testament as quoted in the Old Testament Student Manual – Genesis through 2 Samuel [2003].

If they had accepted all of the privileges offered them and followed the instructions which would have qualified them to receive the fulfillment of all God’s promises, they could have been accorded the grandest of all revelations: He offered to come down in the sight of all the people and let them hear when He spoke to Moses that they might know for themselves about His will and His law, and believe in Moses’ future revelations from God, and revere the Lord evermore (cf. Deuteronomy 4:10). Note the need of cleanliness and spiritual dedication in their preparation for this great spiritual experience. [Emphasis added.]

At the prearranged signal, the sounding of the trumpet “exceeding long,” the people trembled in anticipation and awe, but apparently they were not fully ready to come up “in the sight” of the Lord on the mount where Moses was, for the Lord told him to go down and warn them not to come up. Hints as to why this was so are found in the next chapter, 20:18-19, and in Doctrine and Covenants 84:21-25. But even though their hearts were not fully prepared to endure His presence, they did hear the voice and the words of God as the Ten Commandments were given, as will be seen later when we study Moses’ review of these great events in his valedictory, in Deuteronomy 4:10, 12, 33, 36; 5:22-26. [Emphasis added.]

(The presentation of the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets is recounted a little later in the narrative, in Exodus 31:18; 32:15, 19; and a second set of tablets, prepared after the first set were broken, and are spoke of in Exodus 34:1 ff.).

            President Russell M. Nelson and the Twelve Apostles are striving to prepare members of the Church and all people for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. We know that His coming is close because we are seeing lots of the prophesied signs, but we do not know how close. The real question is, will we be prepared to see Him?

            It makes sense that we can judge our personal readiness for the Second Coming by how prepared we are to receive sacred experiences. We must do more than go through the motions because our hearts must be sanctified, our bodies and spirits must be clean, and our spiritual eyes and ears must be open.

            We all know people who have sacred experiences in the temple or in sacrament meeting or some other place. When I hear of them, I wonder why I am not having such experiences. This lesson opened my eyes to the reason: I must prepare to receive them. There are several questions in the lesson that I have pondered this week:

·         What do you do to prepare for sacred experiences in your life, such as attending the temple or partaking of the sacrament?

·         What can you do to more fully prepare for these experiences?

·         Think of other spiritual activities that require preparation, and ponder how your preparation can affect the kind of experience you have?

            The lesson motivated me to prepare better for my weekly temple session on Friday. I went to bed earlier the previous night so I could be awake and alert. I took the time to have my morning devotional of a hymn and a sincere prayer. I listened to Exodus 18-20 as I ate my breakfast and listened to a conference talk about keeping the commandments as I dressed and did my hair and makeup. I turned off the radio in the car as I drove to the temple.

            I did my best to prepare my heart and mind for a sacred experience, and I received one. I did not see any great manifestation, but I did feel the Holy Ghost with me as I performed service in the temple and throughout the day. I also received answers to several of my own questions. I know I can enjoy more spiritual experiences as I am prepared to receive them. I can prepare by devoting valuable time to studying the scriptures and counsel of living prophets and apostles, kneeling in sincere and grateful prayer, and striving to keep myself clean and worthy. I know that you and I can receive wonderful spiritual experiences by sanctifying ourselves in preparation to receive them.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Why Are Goals and Plans Essential to Financial Health?

             Families, communities, and nations are stronger when parents lead their family in setting financial goals and in creating a financial plan. Children are never too young to learn that money is a tool to be used with wisdom and good judgment.

            Jesus Christ taught His followers to set goals and make plans when He said the following: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28).

            President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often speaks about goals and the importance of using them to achieve success. He made the following statement in Preach My Gospel:

I am thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life.”

            President Ballard emphasized that setting goals and working a plan is the process for reaching our potential. Another prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson gave the following counsel:

Plan for your financial future. As you move through life toward retirement and the decades which follow, we invite all … to plan frugally for the years following full-time employment. Be even more cautious … about “get-rich” schemes, mortgaging homes, or investing in uncertain ventures. Proceed cautiously so that the planning of a lifetime is not disrupted by one or a series of poor financial decisions. Plan your financial future early; then follow the plan (“To the Elderly in the Church,” October 1989 General Conference).

            President Benson counsel reminded of the importance of a road map when traveling the highways. We know where we want to be, and the map shows us how to get there. Financial goals are where we want to be, and the financial plan tells us how to get there.

E. Jeffrey Hill and Bryan L. Sudweeks wrote a textbook titled Fundamentals of Family Finance – Living Joyfully within Your Means. In the first chapter, they taught the importance of families setting goals and creating family finance plans to meet those goals. They gave six steps to follow for setting financial goals and creating financial plans.

Step 1: Decide what you are about. [Determine what your core values are.]

Step 2: Evaluate your financial health. [Where are you financially now?]

Step 3: Define your family goals. [This is where you write down your goals and attach a cost to each of them. Also, determine the obstacles that may be in the way.]

Step 4: Develop a plan of action. [Think long term. What will your family need in the future? Develop a budget, track purchases, plan for managing debt and eliminating it, and plan for insurance. Write your investment plan and follow it. Plan for children’s college, missions, and marriages. Plan early and live your plan.]

Step 5: Implement your plan. [Use common sense in making your goals and creating your plan. Work towards your goals every day. Stay positive.]

Step 6: Revise your plan, as necessary. [Do not be surprised when you need to adjust your plan because people and goals change. Review your goals annually at minimum and assure that your goals and plan agree.]

            Take an eternal view of your family. Set your goals high and reach for the stars. The most important goal that any of us can set is to become like Jesus Christ. As we follow His teachings, He will help us achieve our goals and show us where we need to adjust our plan. By learning and teaching how to set financial goals and create a financial plan, parents can strengthen their family, which will in turn strengthen their community and nation.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Is Freedom of Religion Under Attack?

             The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the need to protect freedom of religion. According to Dennis Prager, a recent attack on Judaism and Christianity was from The New York Times and took place at the most holy time of the year for each religion. On Good Friday – the eve of the Passover – the “Times published an opinion piece on God, the Bible, and Passover” and “mocked all three.” 

             As usual, the two copies of his column – one in the print edition and one in the digital edition – were written by one person who was upset with his religion. Shalom Auslander is “a Jew who is bitter over his ultra-Orthodox upbringing in Brooklyn.” The main idea of his writing is that it is time to “give up God.” Prager gave the following highlights for Auslander’s words.

Auslander begins his column with a brief explanation of the name “Passover” – God passed over the homes of the Israelites on his way through Egypt, slaying all firstborns. The author follows that introduction with a proposal: “In this time of war and violence, of oppression and suffering, I propose we pay over something else: God.”

He then proceeds to depict the rabbi at his yeshiva as a sadist who reveled in the suffering of the Egyptians, “young and old, innocent and guilty.” This rabbi, he claimed, even told his yeshiva class that during the first plague – which caused the waters of Egypt to turn into blood – “Mothers nursing their babies … found their breast milk had turned to blood.”

Auslander then adds: “‘Yay!’ my classmates cheered.”

Prager proceeded to explained that he had “studied in a yeshiva until the age of 19"

as well as “written three volumes of a five-volume commentary on the Torah (“The Rational Bible”). In addition, he wrote “the best-selling Haggadah in America (according to Amazon), “The Rational Passover Haggadah.” Obviously, he knows “a fair amount about this subject.”

            Prager explained that he “never heard a Jew say that Egyptian mothers’ milk turned into blood.” This was a new idea to me also. The chapters in Exodus tell us that water turned into blood but did not mention mothers’ milk. If Auslander was not lying, he certainly wrote something that is bizarre and not heard previously.

             Auslander wrote that his classmates cheered when the teacher spoke of the deaths of the Egyptians. Prager stated, “this is the very opposite of how Jews have been taught to relate to the sufferings of the ancient Egyptians.” He then gave three examples.

First, according to the Talmud – the holiest Jewish work after the Hebrew Bible, written nearly 2,000 years ago – with regard to the Egyptians drowning in the sea after God split it to enable the Jews to cross it, God admonished his angels who sang a song of rejoicing: “My handiwork is drowning in the sea and you are singing before me?!” Every Jew who attends yeshiva is taught that. Every.

Second, also nearly 2,000 years ago, the Midrash (a collection of stories and commentary that interpret the Hebrew scriptures) explained why Jews are to recite only half of the Hallel (psalms of thanksgiving) during the days of Passover following the Seder: “We cannot sing a full song of thanksgiving for the salvation of our people, which was purchased so dearly with the sinking of the pursuers into the Red Sea.”

Third, for at least 100 years, and some say many more, the reason Jews have given for the symbolic spilling of wine from their cups while reciting the 10 plagues during the Seder is that we are to symbolically diminish our joy when retelling the Egyptians’ suffering.

            Prager shared more information from Auslander: “If ye were mortal, the God of Jews, Christians, and Muslims would be dragged to The Hague. And yet we praise him. We emulate him. We implore our children to be like him… Perhaps now is a good time to teach our children to pass over God – to be as unlike him as possible.” Auslander continued by saying that children should jeer, “Boo!” “when they hear biblical stories about God.”

            In closing, Prager drew two conclusions. The first is that The New York Times would join Auslander in the hope that children would boo God. Since the time of Marx and Lenin, leftists loathe the traditions of traditional Western religions and Judeo-Christian values. Prager separated the liberals that affirm religion from the left who hates it. “The left understands that the only viable opposition to it consists of Orthodox Jews, traditional Catholics, evangelical Protestants, and traditional Mormons.” Prager’s “second conclusion concerns cowardice.”

It is close to inconceivable that The New York Times would publish a column mocking Allah, Muhammad, and the Quran during the month of Ramadan (or, for that matter, at any time of the year).

It is now Ramadan, and the only articles I could find in The New York Times about the Muslim holy month are about food: “15 Recipes for Observing Ramadan” and “Where Breaking the Ramadan Fast Includes Caribou,” an article about Muslims in Anchorage, Alaska.

Why is there no New York Times piece mocking Allah or Islam? There are, after all, plenty of disaffected Muslims like Auslander, the disaffected Jew, who could write one. The answer is The New York Times is deathly afraid of incurring Muslims’ wrath, but it has no fear of incurring the wrath of Jews or Christians. For good reason.

            Prager concluded his article by saying that Auslander’s column tells us more “about The New York Times and the left than it says about Judaism or the Bible.”

I suppose that every religion – besides Islam – have disaffected members who write terrible words about their former religion. There are plenty of former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who write “anti-Mormon” garbage. Anyone who is sincere in their seeking to learn about any religion should go to the source and not listen to someone who is bitter about their experience.

Anyone seeking information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should link to this website. It contains current information as well as historical information. Also, you could stop the young men in dark suits, white shirts, and ties or the young women in dresses – both of which wear name tags with the name of the Church.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

What Are Parental Rights in Education?

            Eyes are on Florida Governor DeSantis because he signed the new Parental Rights in Education law. However, other states are introducing similar legislation in response to parental dissatisfaction with the education of their children. According to Maggie Hroncich, Alabama, Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, and Indiana have joined the fight to stop teachers from teaching the gender ideology to young children. 

            Parents want transparency in the classrooms of their children, and they are asserting their rights as parents to make decisions for their children. Hroncich linked to a report from The Heritage Foundation where I found the following quote:

Lawmakers around the country are considering parents’ bills of rights that affirm that parents are their children’s primary caregivers, prevent schools from compelling students to affirm ideas that violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, require schools to receive parental permission before administering health services to children, and authorize parents to view the list of books and instructional materials for K–12 classrooms.

            According to the report from The Heritage Foundation, four components should be included in any parental bill of rights: (1) Affirm that parents are their children’s primary caregivers, (2) Protect children from racial discrimination, (3) Require that schools receive permission from parents before administering health services to students, and (4) Allow parents – and taxpayers – to view the material that educators are teaching students.


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Are We Through with Masks?

            The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask mandate was due to expire on April 18 but extended it to May 3, 2022. However, a Florida federal judge overturned the mandate yesterday for public transit and planes. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle declared the mandate to be “unlawful because it exceeded the statutory authority of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and because its implementation violated administrative law,” according to CNN.

            According to Herb Scribner, questions remain about how overturning the mandates will affect “airports and train stations across the country.” One of the questions pertains to whether the Justice Department will appeal the ruling. 

            I was relieved to hear that the judge had overthrown the mandate because I plan to travel before May 3, 2022, the day that the mandate was to be cancelled. I am through with all the mandates given out by the various governments. If I feel vulnerable, I will wear a mask, or I will stay away from large gathering. However, I choose to exercise my agency and my freedom to choose for myself.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Who Is Neil Patel?

            My VIP for this week is Neil Patel. Patel is a co-founder of The Daily Caller (an online news outlet) and The Daily Caller News Foundation (a nonprofit that trains journalists, produces fact checks, and does investigative reporting. I did not choose him as VIP because of either of the news outlets. I chose him because he had the courage to outline the failures of the Biden administration. In his article on this topic, Patel lists the ways and events that historians will use to define the Biden failures. 

            Patel put Joe Biden at the top of his list. Historians will recognize as they study the Biden disaster “a president who is clearly just not up to the job” and “not up to the job.” Biden is a “weak president,” and Patel listed several reasons without designating a single cause.

Is Biden such a bad POTUS because of his age? Age alone cannot be the reason for Biden’s failure. Russell M. Nelson, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is 97 years old and as energetic and alert as men 20 to 30 years his junior. Could Biden be suffering from cognitive decline? He shows numerous signs that Americans have seen in parents and grandparents as they declined cognitively. Could Biden just be unqualified? Definitely. He has been in the federal government for fifty years, but he has nothing to show for his time in the Senate, in the office of Vice President, or as President.

Americans do not want or deserve a weak POTUS, but we have one. Not only do we have a weak president, but we also have a less than qualified vice president and staff members who push Biden with their “rigid, left-wing ideology.” The lamestream media recognize Biden is weak and desperately “keep propping him up.” In spite of the media’s attempts, the polls show “Biden’s approval ratings are at all-time lows.” His low ratings reflect the dropping support from the “normally rock-solid Black and Hispanic base of the Democratic Party.”

The disaster in the Democrat Party does not mean that Republicans will definitely win. We all know that Republicans have a habit of turning a sure win into a loss. However, Independents and Democrats do not like what they are seeing from Democrats and are moving toward Republicans.

Most Americans are unhappy, and they are shocked at how fast America has fallen so far under the direction of the Biden administration. Patel mentions the divide in America that continues to widen as Biden and his administration move left. He also mentions how “Biden immediately dismantled many of former President Donald Trump’s border security policies.” We had a secure border with “policies that were working,” and Biden changed all the policies and left the border wide open. More than a million people have entered the United States with millions more heading toward our southern border.

According to Patel, Biden’s biggest problem is not the disaster at the border. His biggest liability is “the rising prices hammering the American people. Knowing the political price they are likely to pay for skyrocketing inflation, Team Biden is desperately trying to spin this away as the ‘Putin Price Hike,’ but Americans are not accepting their spin. Americans are not blind, and they see the prices of fuel and food going higher and higher. Bill Clinton won the presidency using the slogan “It’s the economy, Stupid,” so the Republicans can possibly pull out a win.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

What Is Federalism?

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the principle of federalism. Federalism is a principle in the United States system of government where two or more levels of government make laws for the same territory. The federal government makes laws for the entire United States, states make laws for their individual state, and cities make laws for local issues.

The Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell Law School published an article at this site stating that "the Constitution has established a system of ‘dual sovereignty’.” Under this system, certain powers were given to the federal government, while all other powers were reserved for the states or the people. States have surrendered some of their powers but retained others. In their article, the LII offered the following explanation. 

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution contains the Supremacy Clause, which reds, “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” This effectively means that when the laws of the federal government are in conflict with the laws of a state’s government, the federal law will supersede the state law.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution describes specific powers which belong to the federal government. These powers are referred to as enumerated powers.

The Tenth Amendment reserves powers to the states, as long as those powers are not delegated to the federal government. Among other powers, this includes creating school systems, overseeing state courts, creating public safety systems, managing business and trade within the state, and managing local government. These powers are referred to as reserved powers.

Concurrent powers refer to powers which are shared by both the federal government and state governments. This includes the power to tax, build roads, and create lower courts.

            Two of the powers given to the federal government are determining who is allowed to enter into the United States and protecting the states against invasion. Under the Biden administration, the federal government are failing to fulfill the two responsibilities listed. As they have done in other situations, states are standing up to the federal government about its plan to end Title 42.

The Biden administration is planning to roll back Title 42 in about five weeks. According to Samuel Mangold-Lenett, there are eighteen Republican attorneys general (AGs) who are “locking arms in a display of unified opposition” to the administration’s plan. They have joined in suing the federal government to force Biden to keep Title 42 in place. 

            Mangold-Lenett stated that the lawsuit to stop Title 42 was originally by the AGs of Arizona, Louisiana, and Missouri. Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming have now joined the lawsuit. This is one example of federalism. The attorneys general are doing all they can to protect the residents of their states from the impact of millions of illegal immigrants bringing diseases into America.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Where Can We Find Peace and Joy?

            My Come, Follow Me studies for this week took me to many Old Testament scriptures as well as scriptures in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament scriptures and the Book of Mormon scriptures contained prophecies of the coming Messiah, and the New Testament scriptures contained a record of the fulfillment of those prophecies. It is fitting that we studied about the Atonement of Jesus Christ this week because tomorrow is Easter, the day that all Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

            The lesson was introduced with a reminder that the life of Jesus Christ “is central to all human history” (“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles”).  The introduction continued:

What does that mean? In part, it surely means that the Savior’s life influences the eternal destiny of every human being who has ever lived or will ever live. You might also say that the life and mission of Jesus Christ, culminating in His Resurrection on that first Easter Sunday, connects all of God’s people throughout history: Those who were born before Christ looked forward to Him with faith (see Book of Mormon - Jacob 4:4), and those born after look back on Him with faith. As we read Old Testament accounts and prophecies, we don’t ever see the name Jesus Christ, but we do see the evidence of the ancient believers’ faith in and longing for their Messiah and Redeemer. So we who are invited to remember Him can feel a connection with those who looked forward to Him. For truly Jesus Christ has borne “the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6; italics added), and “in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22; italics added).

            The lesson contains many principles, but the principle upon which I will focus is the simple fact that you and I can find peace and joy through the Savior’s Atonement. Jesus Christ made peace and joy available to us through His atoning sacrifice, and He has offered joy and peace to all who come unto Him throughout time (see Moses 5:9-12). Verse nine tells us the following.

9 And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.

            God will not force any of us to do His will because He allows us to use our agency to make choices. If we choose to come unto Him, He will redeem us and make it possible for us to enjoy everlasting joy and peace.

As I started this post, the words of a hymn came to me, so I will share them with my readers. The hymn is “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” with text by Emma Lou Thayne, and music by Joleen G. Meredith.

Verse 1

Where can I turn for peace?

Where is my solace

When other sources cease to make me whole?

When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,

I draw myself apart,

Searching my soul?

Verse 2

Where, when my aching grows,

Where, when I languish,

Where, in my need to know, where can I run?

Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?

Who, who can understand?

He, only One.

Verse 3

He answers privately,

Reaches my reaching

In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.

Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.

Constant he is and kind,

Love without end.

            Ancient and modern prophets and apostles have taught that we must turn to Jesus Christ for redemption. We celebrate Easter because He overcame death and sin, and He made it possible for each of us to do the same. President Russell M. Nelson taught the following in October 2016 General Conference (Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2016, 81-84).

Life is filled with detours and dead ends, trials and challenges of every kind. Each of us has likely had times when distress, anguish, and despair almost consumed us. Yet we are here to have joy?

Yes! The answer is a resounding yes! But how is that possible? And what must we do to claim the joy that Heavenly Father has in store for us? …

My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. (Italics added.)

When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation, … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening – or not happening – in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy. We feel it at Christmastime when we sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” And we can feel it all year round….

How, then, can we claim that joy? We can start by “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” [Hebrews 12:2] “in every thought” [Doctrine and Covenants 6:36. We can give thanks for Him in our prayers and by keeping covenants we’ve made with Him and our Heavenly Father. As our Savior becomes more and more real to us and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase.

Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings God’s power into our lives….

            So, let us focus our lives on Jesus Christ, the Source of joy and peace. I invite you to learn more about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. He completed His sacrifice that we might have joy. Easter season is a time of celebration because Jesus Christ overcame death and sin and made it possible for us to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for eternity.