Declaration of Independence

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

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Democracy vs. Republic

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the foundation of our government. The Founders of the United States established a republic, not a democracy. They wanted a government that would last, and they knew that democracies do not last long.

            Walter E. Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University, is a very wise man. Whenever I see his name as the author of an article, I always read the article. He recently posted an article at The Daily Signal about the Electoral College titled “Why We Are a Republic and Not a Democracy.” I believe it is worth reading in its entirety, but I will share some ideas from it.

            Williams first reminds us that Hillary Clinton and many of her supporters blame her 2016 presidential defeat on the Electoral College. They think that the President of the United States should be elected by a simple majority vote that is sometimes known as the popular vote. They think that the Elector College system “distorts the one-person, one-vote principle of democracy.” The reason that they have this belief is because “electoral votes are not distributed according to population.”

            Using the examples of Wyoming and California, Williams shows exactly why people want to do away with the Electoral College. Wyoming has about 600,000 residents with one representative in the U.S. House and two U.S. Senators. They have three electoral votes or “one electoral vote per 200,000 people.” California has the largest population with about 39 million people and 55 electoral votes or “one vote per 715,000 people.” “Comparatively, individuals in Wyoming have nearly four times the power in the Electoral College as Californians.” He continues his explanation with these paragraphs.

Many people whine that using the Electoral College instead of the popular vote and majority rule is undemocratic. I’d say that they are absolutely right. Not deciding who will be the president by majority rule is not democracy.

But the Founding Fathers went to great lengths to ensure that we were a republic and not a democracy. In fact, the word democracy does not appear in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or any other of our founding documents.

            Williams shares quotes from several of the Founding Fathers expressing their views about democracy and why they did not want the new government to be one. He then continues his explanation.

The Founders expressed contempt for the tyranny of majority rule, and throughout our Constitution, they placed impediments to that tyranny. Two house of Congress pose one obstacle to majority rule. That is 51 senators can block the wishes of 435 representatives and 49 senators.

The president can veto the wishes of 535 members of Congress. It takes two-thirds of both houses of Congress to override a presidential veto.

To change the Constitution requires not a majority but a two-thirds vote of both houses, and if an amendment is approved, it requires ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures.

Finally, the Electoral College is yet another measure that thwarts majority rule. It makes sure that the highly populated states – today, mainly 12 on the east and west coasts, cannot run roughshod over the rest of the nation. That forces a presidential candidate to take into consideration the wishes of the other 38 states.

            Clearly the Founders did not want our government to be a democracy, and they put many “impediments” in the way of it turning into a democracy. The best idea that I have ever heard for not doing away with the Electoral College is from an unknown source, but it basically goes like this: If there were no Electoral College and the presidency were chosen by a majority vote, then the president would be chosen by the residents of New York City and Los Angeles County.

            I want you to think about that idea. Do you really want to give up your vote for president? Even worse, do you want New Yorkers and the people who live in Los Angeles County to decide who will be your president? I do not, and the Founders did not. This is the reason why they set up the government the way they did. We should be applauding and praising them, not trying to undo their work.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Spiritual Discernment

            I have been reading in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. He was on his third missionary journey and stopped in Ephesus where he received a message from Corinth. He wrote the letter in answer to questions that they had asked him. One question must have been about receiving and comprehending spiritual truth. He told them that spiritual knowledge is only available through the means prepared by God.

12 Now we have receive, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:12-14).

            Paul taught that spiritual information is discerned by the Spirit. The word discerned means examined, tried, judged. In other words, we must study the material, make a decision, and then ask God if we came to the right decision. If we ask in faith, He will let us know if we are right or if we are wrong.

            Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Quorum of the Seventy compared gaining knowledge spiritually with using scientific methods to prove theories. Even though both methods involve studying and making decisions, there is a difference in how they work.

In the scientific world the scientific method is used to learn truth and advance knowledge. It has been extremely helpful over the years and has yielded tremendous amounts of scientific knowledge and continues to push back the curtain of ignorance about our physical world. Learning spiritual things, however, requires a different approach than learning scientific things. The scientific method and intellect are very helpful, but they alone will never bring spiritual knowledge.

Learning spiritual things involves the intellect, but that is not enough. We only learn spiritual things by the Spirit. …

… Answers to spiritual questions are given to individuals who don’t harden their hearts; who ask in faith, believing they will receive; and who diligently keep the commandments. Even when we follow this pattern, we don’t control the timing of getting answers. Sometimes our answers come quickly, and sometimes we must place questions on the shelf for a time and rely on our faith that has developed from the answers we do know. (See “A Pattern for Learning Spiritual Things” [Seminaries and Institutes of Religion satellite broadcast, Aug. 7, 2012]; 

            Elder Johnson explains that we gain answers to spiritual questions in a different manner than we can scientific answers. The important final step is to remember that the Lord determines when we are prepared for the answer and we must exercise patience while we wait upon Him. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gives additional instructions to receiving spiritual answers.

The Lord’s prescribed methods of acquiring sacred knowledge are very different from the methods used by those who acquire learning exclusively by study. For example, a frequent technique of scholarship s debate or adversarial discussion, a method with which I have had considerable personal experience. But the Lord has instructed us in ancient and modern scriptures that we should not contend over the points of his doctrine. (See 3 Ne. 11:28-30; D&C 10:63.) … Gospel truths and testimony are received from the Holy Ghost through reverent personal study and quiet contemplation (“Alternate Voices,” Ensign, May 1989, 29). 

            Elder Oaks tells us that we must not contend with each other for more knowledge but seek it reverently and quietly through the Holy Ghost. One important principle that we must remember is that the Holy Ghost will not give us knowledge if we have contention with anyone.    When I have a lesson or talk to prepare or even an essay to write for school, I must insure that there is no contention between my husband and me. On several – maybe even numerous – occasions I have had to put aside my preparations and to go to my husband to solve whatever problem we were having. Once the problem was solved, I could return to my preparations and receive inspiration through the power of the Holy Ghost.

            One truth that I know is that the communication connection with God is quite fragile. It must be maintained faithfully with obedience to the commandments, reverence, and unity. I know that we can gain spiritual information through this channel but only if we follow the Lord’s instructions in doing so.

Friday, January 19, 2018

March for Life

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals, born and unborn, have the right to life. The introduction to the Declaration of Independence states: “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.”

            The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1973 case of Roe vs. Wade that abortion – the murdering of unborn babies - was legal in every state. Right-to-Life activists held its first March for Life in 1974. The 45th annual March for Life was held today – two days before the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade - at the National Mall and attracted thousands of anti-abortion activists in a movement to save the lives of unborn babies.

            Today President Donald Trump became the first U.S. president to address the activists via video conference as he did so from the White House Rose Garden. However, other Republican presidents have addressed the anti-abortion demonstrators by telephone. Here are some of the President’s remarks. 

As you all know, Roe vs. Wade has resulted in some of the most permissive abortion laws anywhere in the world… It is wrong. It has to change. Americans are more and more pro-life. You see that all the time.

            In his remarks President Donald Trump discussed a bill that would ban late-term abortions. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in October 2017 by a vote of 237-189. This “bill includes exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the pregnant woman.” Today President Trump called on the U.S. Senate to vote on the bill. 

I strongly supported the House of Representatives’ pain-capable bill, which would end painful late-term abortions nationwide, and I call upon the Senate to pass this important law and send it to my desk for signing. [He added that the] United States is one of only seven countries to allow elective late-term abortions, along with China, North Korea, and others. [The seven nations are Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States. The U.S. could choose a better group!]

            I am a Right to Life supporter because I believe that all human beings have the right to life from the moment of conception until the Lord takes them home. The right to life itself is a direct blessing from Heavenly Father. He alone has the authority to choose who lives and who dies, and no government can usurp that authority. The right to life is one of the reasons that our forefathers fought for independence from Great Britain, and the loss of it is enslaving us now.

            I urge the U.S. Senate to pass the painful late-term abortion bill, and I urge all Americans to join the Right to Life movement in an effort to overturn Roe vs. Wade. This law is an evil one that arose from a desire to limit the number of African Americans born. It has destroyed millions of lives and should be overturned. We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by bringing the right to life to all people, both the born and unborn.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Freedom from Compelled Speech

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the Freedom of Speech, specifically the freedom from being forced to say things in words or actions against one’s will. The U.S. Supreme Court listened to arguments earlier in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. According to David French at The National Review, it is now “considering whether the government can compel Americans to express or support ideas they find repugnant.” 

            French says that the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra case is much more dangerous than Masterpiece Cakeshop and it “has almost entirely escaped public attention.” He continues with the following comments.

If anything, the violation of the First Amendment in the NIFLA case is more egregious, and the implications potentially more far-reaching. As readers almost certainly recall, the issue in Masterpiece Cakeshop was whether the state of Colorado could compel a Christian baker to design a cake for a gay wedding. One of the state’s principal arguments against the baker’s First Amendment claim was that designing a custom cake wasn’t an expressive act, so forcing him to design a cake wasn’t compelled speech.

The NIFLA case, however, is unquestionably about compelled speech. The state of California has enacted a law, the so-called FACT Act, that requires pro-life crisis-pregnancy centers to prominently place a notice informing clients that California offers low-cost and even free abortions to women who qualify and providing them a phone number that grants quick access to abortion clinics.

In other words, California is requiring pro-life professionals – people who’ve dedicated their lives to protecting the unborn by offering pregnant mothers alternatives to abortion – to advertise state-sponsored abortions. California is making this demand even though it has ample opportunity to advertise state services without forcing pro-life citizens to do so. The state can rent billboard space on the very streets where crisis-pregnancy centers are located. It can hand out leaflets on the sidewalk. It can advertise on television and the radio. It can advertise on the Internet or social media. But rather than using its own voice, it is co-opting the voices of its pro-life citizens, forcing them to join its pro-abortion crusade.

And the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the FACT Act is constitutional. To validate California’s oppressive act, its decision carved out a dangerous First Amendment exception for what it deemed “professional speech” – “speech that occurs between professionals and their clients in the context of their professional relationship” – and ruled that the state had much greater leeway in regulating, for example, doctor/patient communication.

            I did not hear about this case until I read French’s article. It appears that there are a lot more Freedom of Speech cases making their way through the court system than we know. The NIFLA case seems to be one that we need to watch. I am grateful for people like David French who are willing to fight for our freedoms. He filed an amicus brief in the NIFLA case and then alerted American citizens. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will stop this plan to destroy free speech.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

People Can Change

            Repentance is the act of changing – changing thoughts, words, and behaviors into better ones. Christians are commanded to repent, and there are many calls for repentance in the scriptures. There are also numerous stories in the scriptures that teach the importance of repentance. Two of these stories clearly illustrate the possibility of repentance for even the vilest of sinners. These stories are the experience of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ (Mosiah 27) and the experience of Saul of Tarsus in the New Testament (Acts 9).

            As I am currently studying the book of Acts, this post will be about Saul. He was a devout Jew who thought that the Christian movement was wrong and wanted to stamp it out. He went about persecuting the Christians and “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). He obtained “letters” from the high priest allowing him to hunt Christians and to bring them bound to Jerusalem.

            As Saul journeyed near Damascus, he suddenly saw a bright light from heaven about him, and he fell to the earth. Then he heard a voice speaking to him.

Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do (Acts 9:4-6).

            I have heard and/or read this story many times in my life. I always considered Saul to be quite wicked because he was persecuting the Christians, and I do not believe that I am the only one to think this way. When I studied these verses this time, I had some different thoughts about Saul. Maybe he was not as wicked as I assumed. Maybe he was just focused on the wrong thing. Maybe something happened to make him more teachable. My thoughts were similar to the following words by President David O. McKay.

Perhaps during those few days of comparative leisure, [Saul] began to wonder whether what he was doing was right or not. Perhaps the shining face of the dying Stephen and the martyr’s last prayer began to sink more deeply into his soul than it had done before. Little children’s cries for their parents whom Saul had bound began to pierce his soul more keenly, and make him feel miserably unhappy as he looked forward to more experiences of that kind in Damascus. Perhaps he wondered whether the work of the Lord, if he were really engaged in it, would make him feel so restless and bitter. He was soon to learn that only the work of the evil one produces those feelings, and that true service for the Lord, always brings peace and contentment (Ancient Apostles, 2nd ed. [1921], 148, as quoted in New Testament Student Manual, Religion 211-212, 295) 

            This statement by President McKay helped me to understand Saul and his story a little better. Saul’s conversion story is more dramatic than most of us will ever experience. Most of us do not go around persecuting the covenant people of God like Saul (his name in Hebrew), nor will we become Special Witnesses of Jesus Christ as Paul (his name in Greek) did. However, we all have the need to change and to become more like the Savior.

            I always thought that repentance took time, but I am thinking in a different way since I read a statement shared by a classmate. The following statement is from a devotional address given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on March 18, 1980, at Brigham Young University. 

You can change anything you want to change and you can do it very fast. It is another Satanic falsehood to believe that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say, “I’ll change” – and mean it. Of course there will be problems to work out and restitutions to make. You may well spend – indeed, you had better spend – the rest of your life proving your repentance by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as it did for Alma and the sons of Mosiah.

            Reason tells us that we can repent of our sins and mistakes just as Saul and Alma the Younger did. They were among the vilest of sinners because they tried to destroy the Church of Christ. For Saul it took a visit from Christ, and for Alma it took a visit from an angel. Both of these men went forward and did great work for God. Paul became an Apostle, and Alma became a Prophet. For whatever reason, God decided that they needed special teaching methods.

            We are given the gift of the Holy Ghost to help us choose the right in this life. When we listen to the promptings that come from Him, we will know what the Lord requires of us to do with our lives. The first thing that He requires is that we have faith in Him, and the second is that we repent of our sins. As we repent, we will be changed into the kind of people that God can use to build up His kingdom on earth, just as Saul the persecutor of Christians became a great missionary and Apostle of Jesus Christ who went by the name of Paul.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New First Presidency

            I was awake early this morning in order to watch a special announcement made from the Annex of the Salt Lake Temple. Elder D. Todd Christofferson announced that Russell M. Nelson is the new Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of God and the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This announcement is not a surprise because Elder Nelson’s succession to the position follows a divine pattern established in the early days of the Church. It is just confirmation of what most of us already knew would happen.

            The surprise is always who the new president will choose as his counselors. President Nelson chose Dallin H. Oaks as his first counselor and Henry B. Eyring as his second counselor. Since President Oaks (as second in seniority) is also the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, M. Russell Ballard is the Acting President of the Quorum. The new president, counselors, and acting president were sustained and set apart on Sunday, January 14, 2018, in the Salt Lake Temple.

            As I read through the announcement posted on the Church’s website, I marveled at the ages of the men that the Lord selected to lead His Church. President Eyring is the youngest of the four men at age 84. He is followed by President Oaks at age 85, President Ballard at age 89, and President Nelson at age 93.

            I also marveled at the education and secular experiences of the four men. President Nelson is famous internationally as a heart surgeon and medical researcher. President Oaks served as the president of Brigham Young University and then as a justice for the Utah Supreme Court. I remember when these two men were called as Apostles. I think what touched me most was the fact that they were giving up fame and fortune to serve the Lord as His special witnesses.

            President Eyring was the president of Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) before his call to the Twelve. He previously served as first counselor to President Monson. President Ballard was a successful businessman before his call to the Twelve. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor to President Monson, resumed his position in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and has already received assignments that he is “uniquely qualified” to handle.

            The new First Presidency and the Acting President of the Twelve definitely qualify as “old, white men,” but I am not concerned about their ages. They each have served for many years and gained valuable experience that will help them succeed in their new callings. It matters not how long they serve. They each appear to be healthy at the present time and could serve for a number of years. However, we all know that they could be called home at any time. Meanwhile, they will be doing whatever the Lord called them to do. I love them and will sustain them in their new positions.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Martin Luther

            My VIP for this week is Martin Luther. I chose to do a little research on him because I am studying the Reformation this week in my humanities class. Since he started the Reformation, it is only fitting that I should study him.

            Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Saxony – then part of the Holy Roman Empire and now part of Germany. His parents were Hans Luder (or Ludher, later Luther) and Margarethe, his wife. He was baptized the next morning. His mother was a “hard-working woman” and his father was a miner until he rose through the ranks to be a leaseholder on copper mines and smelters. Martin was the oldest son of several brothers and sisters.

            Hans Luther wanted Martin to become a lawyer and sent him to three Latin schools. Martin would later describe his education there as “purgatory and hell.” In 1501 Martin was 17 years old, and he entered the University of Erfurt. Four years later in 1505, Martin received his master’s degree. Martin, as an obedient son, entered law school even though he was drawn to theology and philosophy. He soon left law school. He decided that he was not that interested in philosophy because reason alone could not bring a person to God. Divine revelation and scripture study were increasingly important to him.

            Luther was returning to the university on July 2, 1505, on horseback when he was caught in a thunderstorm. A lightning bolt struck near him and frightened him so badly that he thought that he was going to die. He cried out to Saint Anna to save him and promised that he would become a monk. He later left law school, sold his books, and entered St. Augustine’s Monastery in Erfurt on July 17, 1505 – less than two weeks later.

            Nearly two years later in 1507 Luther was ordained to the priesthood in Erfurt Cathedral. He started to teach theology 1508. He received a bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies in March 1508 and another bachelor’s degree in 1509. He received a Doctor of Theology degree in October 1512. Two days later he became a member of the senate of the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg. In 1515 he became provincial vicar of Saxony and Thuringia.

            About this same time the Catholic Church began selling priesthood offices or indulgences. Luther wrote a letter of protest of the indulgences to his bishop. “He enclosed in his letter a copy of his `Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,’ which came to be known as the Ninety-five Theses.” He did not intend to confront the church but was searching for answers to questions such as the following in Thesis 86: “Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?”

            Luther continued his studies of the scriptures, and by 1520 he was convinced that the Church was corrupt. He wanted to reform the Church from within but could not. The Pope warned Luther to withdraw a large percentage of his 95 statements, and Luther would not. Luther was excommunicated on January 3, 1521, by Pope Leo X, who issued an order that no one was to help him and could even kill him.

            Luther escaped and headed to his home town of Wittenberg. Frederick III had “masked horsemen impersonating highway robbers” intercept Luther in the forest near Wittenberg. They took him to the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach was he was safe. While there he translated the Bible from Greek into German, married and had several children, and introduced congregation singing to the church.

            Martin Luther suffered from a multitude of health problems and died at 2:45 a.m. on February 18, 1546, at age 62, in Eisleben, the city of his birth. He was buried in the Castle Church in Wittenberg, beneath the pulpit.