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, December 14, 2017

Freedom from Net Neutrality

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the repeal of Obama Administration net neutrality rules. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 on Thursday and along party lines to repeal the rules. 

            The Trump Administration called for a lessening of regulations on the Internet, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai held the vote. In remarks before the vote Pai said: “It is time for the Internet, once again, to be driven by engineers and entrepreneurs and consumers rather than lawyers, accountants and bureaucrats.” Pai defended the repeal of net neutrality by informing his critics that they can still Instagram their food, take selfies with their pets, shop for Christmas presents, binge watch their favorite shows, cheer on their favorite sports teams, and drive memes into the ground. 

            Speaker of the House Paul Ryan agree with Pai and celebrated the end of old rules. “Despite its unassuming name, the Obama administration’s net neutrality regulation threatens the free and open internet that has done so much to advance modern society. … The Trump administration’s action to roll back this egregious government overreach into the most innovative space will benefit all users of the internet.”

            In other words we are all free to use the Internet as we choose as long as we obey other laws. Our use of the Internet will return to the way it was before the Obama Administration decided to regulate the Internet as a utility.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Stories

            Now that we are less than two weeks away from Christmas, I thought that I would share some Christmas stories with you. I think the world needs more stories about the spirit of Christmas. The first story was written by Rian B. Anderson and is titled “A Christmas Prayer – Christmas Eve 1881.” 

            It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read the scriptures.

            After supper was over, I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what.

            Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood – the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?” “You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. “Yeah,” I said, “Why?” “I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading; we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon, and sent me for a sack of flour. I asked “What’s in the little sack?” that Pa was carrying. He said shoes, they’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too, just for Christmas.” We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it.

            We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?” “Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt.”

            Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another, and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen was fumbling with a match and finally lit the lamp….

            What do you think they found inside the house?

            I received this story in a Christmas card from a friend. With some searching I discovered that it is actually a book, so this must be a shortened version. You can get the rest of the story from Amazon or Deseret Book.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bringing Joy to the World

            Today is the anniversary of the birth of one of my daughters. It is also the birthday anniversary for one of her daughters and one of her cousins – as well as several friends. It is a joyful day in spite all the awful things going on in the world.

            The topic of joy in the world brings my thoughts to the reason for the Christmas season. Isaac Watts wrote a hymn titled “Joy to the World,” and his story, as told in a Christmas card, is an interesting one.

In the late 1600s, most worship music in Europe consisted of singing the Old Testament Psalms. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) loved the Bible, yet he thought these songs felt `unnatural’ to sing. After one Sunday service, 15-year-old Isaac complained about `the atrocious worship.’ A deacon challenged him with, `Give us something better, young man.’ He went home and penned his first hymn, and the love of hymn-writing stuck with him all his life.

Later in life, and inspired by the last half of Psalm 98, Watts penned the beloved Christmas carol “Joy to the World” (1719). Watts transformed the old Jewish psalm of praise for historic deliverance, into a song of rejoicing for the salvation of God that began when Jesus came `to make his blessing flow far as the curse is found.’

The music is by an unknown composer using fragments from George Frederick Handel, some scholars say it resembles Handel’s greatest work, “Messiah.”

            Watts’ “Joy to the World” is simple and beautiful. However, the LDS version is different with some words and phrases added/repeated by William W. Phelps (1792-1872) with music by George F. Handel (1685-1759). This version brings rejoicing for the birth of Christ, and it brings joy to my heart.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And Saints and angels sing, And Saints and angels sing,
And Saints, and Saints and angels sing.

Rejoice! Rejoice when Jesus reigns, And Saints their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more will sin and sorrow grow, Nor thorns infest the ground;
He’ll come and make the blessings flow
Far as the curse was found, Far as the curse was found,
Far as, far as the curse was found.

Rejoice! Rejoice in the Most High, While Israel spreads abroad
Like stars that glitter in the sky,
And ever worship God, And ever worship God,

And ever, and ever worship God.

Monday, December 11, 2017

William Shakespeare

            The actual birthdate of William Shakespeare is unknown but is observed on April 23, 1564. It is known that he was born in Stratford-upon Avon, United Kingdom, and baptized there on April 26, 1564. His father was John Shakespeare, an alderman and a successful glover, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning farmer. He was the third of eight children and the first son to survive.

            According to most biographers, Shakespeare was most likely educated at the King’s New School in Stratford that was located less than half a mile from his home. His school most likely “provided an intensive education in grammar based upon Latin classical authors.”

            Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in November 1582 when he was 18 years old and she was 26. The couple became the parents of three children: a daughter named Susanna in 1585 and twin son and daughter, Hamnet and Judith in 1596. Hamnet died at age of 11 from unknown causes.

            There is little known of Shakespeare until 1592 when he entered the London theatre scene. Sometime between the birth of the twins and 1592, “he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men.”

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were primarily comedies and histories, which are regarded as some of the best work ever produced in these genres. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances and collaborated with other playwrights.

            Shakespeare became a poet, playwright and actor. He is “widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the `Bard of Avon’.”

            Shakespeare apparently retired to Stratford at age 49. He died there three years later on April 23, 1616. Some people think that April 23 was chosen to observe his birthday because it is the day of his death.

            Some famous Shakespeare quotes are as follow:
            “All that glitters is not gold.”
            “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”

            “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns free speech, religious liberty, and same-sex marriage. All three of these topics are involved in one very important case. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in the Jack Phillips case. The question to be answered is: Can Colorado force Phillips to go against his religious beliefs in order to create a custom cake for a same-sex couple?

            Phillips’ attorneys argue that he wants to use his creative talents to “speak messages that he agrees with, while still welcoming all customers into his store.” He should be free to do so because the rights of free speech and religious liberty are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The opposing side basically argues that he does not have these rights when dealing with same-sex marriage.

            Emilie Kao posted an article at The Daily Signal that gives some highlights of Phillips’ argument. 

1. Mutual Tolerance Is Essential in a Free Society. … Justice Anthony M. Kennedy [said], “tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual. It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs” [because they “compared Phillips to a racist and a Nazi]. …

Kennedy also pointed out there were other cake shops that would have accommodated Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the same-sex couple who requested a cake for their wedding.

In a similar line of questioning, Justice Samuel Alito pointed out that the state of Colorado had failed to demonstrate mutual tolerance when it only protected the freedom of cake artists who landed on one side of the gay marriage debate – namely, the state’s side. …

2. Compelled Speech for Everyone. … At one point, Justice Stephen Breyer followed up on a question from Justice Neil Gorsuch about whether a cake artist could be forced to create a cross-shaped cake for a religious group that shared the beliefs of the KKK. Cole [ACLU lawyer representing the couple] responded that if the cake artist did so for the Red Cross, then yes, the artist would have to do so for the religious group as well.

[Justice Samuel Alito asked a similar question.] In the exchange with Alito, the Colorado solicitor general said that cake artists could not discriminate on the basis of identity, but could discriminate on the basis of messages. Gorsuch later responded, saying that’s exactly what Phillips has argued.

3. Disagreement Does Not Equal Discrimination. … During the oral arguments, the court appeared to recognize what is patently obvious from the facts. Phillips welcomes all people into his store, encourages them to buy off-the-shelf items, and will make custom-designed cakes for them provided they don’t ask for items that violate his beliefs….

4. Orthodoxy Determined by the State. Finally, the oral arguments revealed the scope of how far the state of Colorado is willing to go to impose its views of marriage on citizens. In one line of questioning from Roberts, Colorado admitted that it would force Catholic Legal Services to provide a same-sex couple with legal services related to their wedding even if it violates Catholic teachings on marriage.

            Free speech and religious liberty are hanging on the Supreme Court’s decision on this case. The entire case seems to be built on a liberal agenda to further destroy religious freedom. There seems to be no thought about the loss of free speech because liberals only approve of free speech for their side.

            Phillips is a business man who seeks to earn his living by using his creative talents. He desires to do so “in a manner consistent with his deeply held religious beliefs.” In doing so, he has turned down other requests to create custom cakes expressing ideas that go against his conscience – such as “Halloween and divorce, anti-American themes, and even anti-gay messages.” He does not turn down the business because of the person, but always because of the message.

            This case is a big one that will have lasting effects on Americans and their freedoms. The Court’s decision in this case can either protect liberty and “foster more civil dialogue on marriage” or destroy freedoms and further divide Americans. Hopefully, the Justices will get this case right!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Seeking Jesus

            Matthew begins his gospel by telling of the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary and her acceptance of her divine calling to be the mother of the Son of God. Matthew also tells of Gabriel’s visit to Joseph, the marriage of Mary and Joseph, and a brief mention of the birth of Jesus Christ. (For more information I encourage you to turn to the book of Luke.) The next chapter in Matthew tells of the visit of the wise men.

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2. Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him (Matthew 2:1-2)

            The wise men travel far to see the newborn King. We do not know how many wise men were in the group, but we do know that they were guided to Bethlehem by a new star and they came to worship the new King. The Bible Dictionary describes them: 

… Who these men were we are not told, but it is certain they were not ordinary men. That they were privileged to search out the Son of God and give Him gifts, and that they were spiritually sensitive and knowledgeable, suggests that they were actually prophets on a divine errand. The customary identification of them as astrologers is a gross misrepresentation. They evidently were holy men from a land east of Palestine.

            We do not know who the wise men were, but we do know that they were seeking the newborn King of the Jews. We also know that they traveled a long distance and that they brought much needed gifts to the Baby. Their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh came just prior to the quick escape into Egypt and undoubtedly helped to finance the family while there.

            President Ezra Taft Benson prepared the December 1993 First Presidency Message with the title of “Keeping Christ in Christmas.” His message was based on a talk given in the First Presidency Christmas devotional given on December 1, 1985. He begins his talk by saying, “Without Christ there would be no Christmas, and without Christ there can be no fulness of joy. After quoting many scriptures about Jesus Christ, President Benson says the following.

And now, my beloved brothers and sisters, what must we do this Christmas season – and always? Why, we must do the same as the Wise Men of old. They sought out the Christ and found Him. And so must we. Those who are wise still seek Him today.

            The message continues through the years. For the First Presidency Message for December 2017, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, also spoke on the topic of seeking Christ. He begins his message with these words.

To all who wish to understand who we are as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I would like to offer a starting point defined by these three words: We seek Christ.

We seek to learn of Him. To follow Him. To become more like Him.

Every day throughout the year, we seek Him. But especially at this time of the year – Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of our beloved Savior – our hearts are ever more inclined to Him.

            President Uchtdorf discusses the various people who sought Jesus – the shepherds, the wise men, Simeon and Anna in the temple, and the believers among the Nephites and Lamanites. Towards the end of his message, President Uchtdorf suggests that we all ask ourselves the question: “How am I seeking Christ?” This is a good question!

            I would answer the question by saying that I seek Christ when I pray and try to discover what He would have me do. I seek Christ when I study the scriptures and listen to the words of modern-day prophets and apostles? I seek Christ as I strengthen family relationships.

            I seek Jesus at this time of year by trying to make Christmas about Him. I decorate with Nativity sets. I send Christmas cards with appropriate pictures of His birth. I play Christmas music that reminds me of Him. My family enacts the Nativity on Christmas Eve, and we celebrate His birthday by singing “Happy Birthday” to Him and serving angel food cake. Every single thing that we do on Christmas Eve points to Christ.

            How do you seek Christ?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Pay Attention!

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals learn to pay attention – not only to what they are studying but also to the conditions around them. Once one learns how their brain works, they must also understand that there are other influences that either improve or diminish one’s ability to study and learn.

            As part of a personal effort to improve my own study skills, I am reading a book titled The World Book of Study Power, volume 1, and I am attempting to share a little of what I learn with my readers. Teaching others what I have learned helps to solidify the information in my own brain and is, therefore, a valuable learning tool. Most of the information that follows, including quotes and ideas, come from this book.

            The ability of one to study and learn is influenced by many things: personal feelings, surrounding sounds, the light and temperature in the room, and many other things. The key is to keep the distractions to the minimum.

You are affected by different things in different ways at different times. You aren’t always hungry or upset, tired or excited. You don’t have to be perpetually cheerful and energetic, but you should be aware of what helps or blocks your concentration. To get the most out of studying, you must manage the environmental, emotional, sociological, physical, and psychological stimuli around you (p. 60).

            One must pay attention to what one is doing, whether it is driving a car or writing a report. In order for one to gain the most from studying, one must focus attention and eliminate distractions. People who study and gain more knowledge strengthen families, communities, and nations.