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 21, 2018

In the Lord's Own Way

            In an effort to “promote economic mobility, strong social networks, and accountability to American taxpayers,” President Donald Trump signed “Executive Order Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility” on April 10, 2018. The order basically tells the secretaries of the Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education departments to review their welfare programs and to propose new regulations within the next 90 days. These welfare programs include food stamps, Medicaid, and housing, and the new regulations hopefully include stronger requirements to receive governmental aid, such as the requirement to work if capable of doing so. The order reads as follows.

Since its inception, the welfare system has grown into a large bureaucracy that might be susceptible to measuring success by how many people are enrolled in a program rather than by how many have moved from poverty into financial independence.

            This Executive Order does not yet give any policy, but it does show that the President is concerned about the number of people in the government entitlement programs. Some people call this a “hard line conservative view” of the entitlement system. It is. However, the conservative view is more likely to help people to achieve independence than the liberal view of keeping people on the “plantation” where the government takes care of all their needs – and they remain in poverty but voting for Democrats.

            About the same time that this Executive Order was announced, I read a talk by then-Elder and now-President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titled “In the Lord’s Own Way.” After describing some of the poverty that he has seen in his travels around the world, Elder Nelson says, “Although reasons vary according to time and place, the poor and the needy have nearly always been present.” He says that the scriptures teach us that “the poor – especially widows, orphans, and strangers – have long been the concern of God and the godly.” There will always be poor people among us.

            In Old Testament times the poor were favored by the law. After the “reapers” would go through a field, the “gleaners” could legally follow along behind to gather whatever grain was left in the field or fruit left hanging on the branches. In addition, the poor were welcome to take whatever food grew in land that was not planted or tilled. In addition, blessings were promised to anyone who cared for the poor.

            The Savior, even Jesus Christ, illustrated this doctrine by giving a parable about caring for the poor. “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). He also says, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me” (Matthew 25:45; italics added. Heavenly Father loves each of His children, and He expects us to help the poor.

            The Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ teaches us that caring for the poor is part of our baptismal covenant.

8 And … as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

9. Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, …

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
(Mosiah 18:8-10).

            There are so many people who are poor and needy. How can we care for all of them? Elder Nelson says that it is possible when we do it in the Lord’s own way. The Lord’s “own way” begins with husbands and fathers taking care of their wives and children. In addition, each family should prepare for “rainy days” by maintaining a year’s supply of basic foods and other supplies necessary for survival as well as extra cash in an emergency fund. This family storehouse can be used in times of unemployment or other emergency.

            If something goes wrong, such as the father cannot fulfill his duties and the family storehouse is empty, the family is to go to the Church – whatever church one belongs to – for temporary assistance. The Church itself should maintain a storehouse by using consecrated funds from which to give assistance (see Doctrine and Covenants 83: 2, 4-6).

            In cases where people are poor because they are idle and unwilling to work, the Lord has given this warning: “Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:42). “Wo unto you poor men … who will not labor with your own hands!” (Doctrine and Covenants  56:17). We are not in a position to judge worthiness, but the bishop does have the responsibility to determine whether or not one is worthy to be given food provided by sacred funds.

            The storehouses and other funds are provided by faithful members of the Church who go without food for two meals every month and give the equivalent amount of funds to the bishop to care for the poor. Because the benefits are limited, the assistance is given for a limited period of time. There is only so much available to help everyone. Elder Nelson further explains.

The Lord’s “own way” includes, first, reliance on self, then on the family. As parents care for their children, they, in turn, may reciprocate when parents become less able. Family pride promotes solicitude for each member, taking priority over other assistance.

If one’s family can’t help, the Lord’s “own way” includes the Church organization. The bishop is assisted by priesthood quorums and good sisters of the Relief Society, organized to look “to the wants of the poor, searching after objects of charity and … administering to their wants.” (Handbook of the Relief Society, 1931, p. 22.)

Members of priesthood quorums … have a duty to rehabilitate, spiritually and temporally, their erring or unfortunate brethren. While a bishop extends aid to one temporarily out of work, the quorum arranges for his employment until fully self-supporting again….

To care fully for the poor, we must help the poor to change. As they are taught and abide doctrines of Deity, spiritual strength will come that enlightens the mind and liberates the soul from the yoke of bondage. When people of the earth accept the gospel of Christ, their attitudes change. Their understanding and capabilities increase.

            The President of the United States and the Apostle of the Lord are both concerned about helping people to help themselves as much as possible. There will always be people who will need a “safety net” – the elderly, the disabled, the chronically ill, etc. However, people who are able to work should be working to meet their own needs. This is the Lord’s “own way” and appears to be the conservative way also. People who are encouraged to work and are helped to succeed will take themselves out of poverty and into financial independence as well as become able to help other people along the way.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Importance of Children

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals understand the value of children. There was a time when families had many children who helped to provide for the needs of the family. Families have steadily decreased in numbers until the “ideal” family consists of only two or three children – or even one or none.

            Richard and Linda Eyre wrote a two-part series on the topic of family size and making the decision on having children. They realize and state several times that the decision to have children and how many children to have is a decision that should be made between the husband, wife, and the Lord. Therefore, it is no one else’s business. However, the Eyres want to make sure that couples understand the seriousness of the decision.

            The first article is titled “Why the First Commandment Ever Given Is So Relevant Today.” The commandment given to Adam and Eve to “multiply and replenish the earth” extended to their posterity throughout time and has never been rescinded. Therefore, it applies to couples as much in 2018 as it did in any previous year.

            The Eyres quote New York Times columnist David Brooks as saying, “people are not better off when they are given maximum personal freedom to do what they want. They’re better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice – commitments to family, God, craft and country.” The Eyres continue with the following paragraphs:

As birth rates decline, many “macro” economic problems result from the declining workforce and the “inverted pyramid” of more and more old people and less and less young people to take care of them and to pay the taxes and social security that support them.

But the real problem is the micro problem of more and more adults who have no children and live apart from children; and who thus miss the greatest joy and learning experiences of life – not to mention not doing their part to create and build the next generation, and to keep the world vital and alive.

            The article continues by sharing a few examples of why children are necessary for a healthy world. There are 224 countries in the world, and the birthrate in 116 of those countries is less than the 2.1 replacement rate. This means that those countries are “running out of people.” The government of Singapore “now pays a $10,000 bonus to each woman who gives birth to a child.” These governments are no longer worrying about overpopulation but are trying to solve the opposite problem – not enough babies being born.

            Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints follow the same trend as the rest of the world. Most members have an “understanding of the Pre-mortal life and the need for all of God’s children to experience a mortal existence, [so] we have a compelling additional reason to bring children into the world.” We understand the importance of families in Heavenly Father’s plan for His children and our eternal progression. “Yet we are experiencing the same trends as the world.” The Eyres end their first article with these paragraphs.

And let us end with two words that we used earlier but want to re-emphasize. One is “replenish.” Children not only replenish the earth. They replenish us – they refresh us and teach us and challenge us and worry us and thrill us to our core. They teach us to love in ways that are otherwise not even imagined. They refine us. And all of that is well summarized in the world “replenish.”

The other word is “Joy”. The joy we find and will continue eternally to find in our children, in our posterity, is the very joy that Nephi [Lehi] said we became mortal that we might have (2 Ne. 2:25).

It is the joy of responsibility and of sacrifice, of loving irrationally and unconditionally, of doing everything for those too small to do anything for us, of seeing new and improved versions of ourselves, of sharing small triumphs and small heartaches that seem very big, of raising them until they leave home and then continuing to love them and care for them until the inevitable day when they start caring for you….

            If a reader has not caught the importance of having children from the first article, the Eyres’ second article should do the trick. It is titled “Why the State of the Family Matters and What We Can Do About It.”  This article begins with a quick review of the main ideas of the first one, discussing how “most developed countries in the world are now losing population” and then moves into its own focus.

And with more and more chosen childlessness, more and more single children by choice, and less siblings and cousins, the social dynamic changes, as does the emotional resilience of kids.

The interesting question for Church members is that, in addition to the economic, social and emotional problems of fewer kids, there also may be a spiritual problem. After all, we believe in a pre-mortal place where spirit children of God are awaiting their turn at mortality. Do they wait longer and longer as people have fewer children? Is the divine timetable threatened?

Trends are hard to buck, but shouldn’t members of the Church be setting their own trends rather than following the trends of the world? …

The problem, of course, is that family is no longer thought of by most of the world as the “basic institution.” Collectively, we seem to think most of individual rights, not family rights; individual freedoms, not family sacrifice and commitment; individual concerns more than family concerns.

But in the Church we should know better! We know that the Celestial Kingdom is a family kingdom and that the Familial order is the very government of God. We know that an individual is not a perfectible entity and that it is eternally married couples and families that will inherit the top level of heaven. We know that all will have the chance to marry and to have children either here or in the Spirit World to follow.

Yet we still shy away from talking as much as we should about marriage and procreation and the stewardship of children – in a weird form of Mormon “political correctness” we don’t want to talk about these things in a Church where half of adult members are single. Actually, isn’t this a reason that we should talk more about it?

            The authors make the point that members of the Church should not be following the world’s example. We have been taught that “where much is given, much is required” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:3). Therefore, members of the Church should be living differently than people who do not have the same knowledge. We should be bucking the trends!

            One interesting fact about all this is that childlessness and small families is a first world problem. People in third world countries are continuing to have large families. As the populations in first world countries continue to decrease, there will be more and more third world peoples move in to replace them. Do we really want our nations run by people with third world mentality? If we do, we better prepare ourselves to become citizens of a third-world nation! The Eyres end their article with the following statement and two challenges.

As we emphasized last week, there should be very individual and unique answers for each family. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each family and each parent and each child has a particular set of needs and capacities. And of course, we are so aware of the many couples and single individuals who desperately want children (or more children) but who don’t have the opportunity for that right now. And the sole purpose of both of these articles is not to give answers, but to help stimulate and motivate the right questions – asked in prayer by each unique individual in each unique situation.

Let us give you two challenges: First, we challenge you to think about this issue on the macro – what is happening in the world to families, and why does it matter to us? …

And secondly: We challenge you to discuss this topic with members of your own family. Are we sucked in by the trends of the world? Are we thinking of this through the Gospel perspective? How will lower birthrates in developed countries and higher ones in Africa and other third world places affect the world? Do you know families who wish they had had one less child? Do you know families who wish they could have (or had chosen to have) more? Should the default switch be on or off? Does an additional child place economic hardships on a family? Are there children waiting to come into your family? Have you found your own individual answer through deep thought and prayer?

            The Eyres leave us with much to consider. The choice to have children – or more children – lies with the husband and wife in partnership with God. Each individual, couple, and family is unique with its own distinctive needs and abilities. What is right for one family may be wrong for another. There is no place for us to judge one another.

            However, we should each consider our own position and ask ourselves the hard questions, many of which are stated above. We can all strengthen our families, communities, and nations by counseling with the Lord and doing our part in replenishing the world.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Freedom from Addiction

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns freedom from addiction. I believe that it is safe to say that all addictions are harmful, whether it is addiction to a certain food or to tobacco or to drugs. However, some addictions will cause more harm than other addictions. If I eat bread, I gain weight. Too much weight can be bad for my health but mostly likely would not kill me. If I were to become addicted to tobacco, I could get cancer – which could kill me.

            In his article entitled “The Great Healing Power of The Book of Mormon” Larry Barkdull discusses his opportunity to help a friend overcome an addiction. He does not say what his friend was addicted to, but we can be sure that it was mostly likely something more serious than eating bread. He opens his article by sharing some counsel that he received from his bishop. “Stopping is not repentance, changing is.” He continues by saying, “Stopping is an act of will-power, which seldom holds up to the unrelenting onslaught of Satan; changing is a function of the Atonement, a divinely infused power allowing one to become a new creature in Christ.”

            Barkdull explains that even though bishops want the sinner to stop sinning, their main concern is bringing about a change of heart in a repentant soul. When there is a change of heart, there is no more desire for the sin.

This “mighty change of heart” is impossible to achieve on our own. Neither bishops nor parents nor friends nor the prophet of God can cause it to happen. Only Jesus can cause a mighty change. Thus bishops and prophets labor endlessly to create the environment for change, begging us to come unto Christ.

            So what tool does a bishop use to invite a ward member to come unto Christ and achieve a change of heart? A frequent tool used by bishops as well as other leaders is to encourage the person to study the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The truly repentant soul will study it diligently.

            Barkdull shares several quotes about the power of healing in the Book of Mormon, among which are some from President Ezra Taft Benson. Here are some excerpts from talks given by President Benson who spoke often about the healing power of the Book of Mormon.

God uses the power of the word of the Book of Mormon as an instrument to change people’s lives….in particular, the instrument He designed to bring us to Christ [is] the Book of Mormon (See Benson, “The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,Ensign, May 1987). 

Do you have members in your stakes whose lives are shattered by sin or tragedy, who are in despair and without hope? Have you longed for some way to reach out and heal their wounds, soothe their troubled souls? The prophet Jacob offers just that with this remarkable promise: “They have come up hither to hear the pleasing word of God, yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul.” (Jacob 2:8; italics added.)…

Success in righteousness, the power to avoid deception and resist temptation, guidance in our daily lives, healing of the soul – these are but a few of the promises the Lord has given to those who will come to His word. Does the Lord promise and not fulfill? Surely if He tells us that these things will come to us if we lay hold upon His word, then the blessings can be ours. And if we do not, then the blessings may be lost. However diligent we may be in other areas, certain blessings are to be found only in the scriptures, only in coming to the word of the Lord and holding fast to it as we make our way through the mists of darkness to the tree of life. And if we ignore what the Lord has given us, we may lose the very power and blessings which we seek. (See Benson, “The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, emphasis added.) 

            Barkdull’s article has much more information in it about the healing power of the Book of Mormon. We can be healed from any addiction by feasting about the words of the Lord, even Jesus Christ, in the Book of Mormon and achieving a change of heart. I know that this book is true, and I encourage my readers to study it in order to be healed from many of life’s afflictions.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Pigs Must Be Flying

            There must be pigs flying in the skies over Washington D.C. because the unthinkable is finally happening! This writer has not been holding her breath while waiting for it but is rejoicing to see something is finally being done.

            At any rate, it appears that the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have finally found their spines. GOP members in the House sent an important letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah John Huber. I could not believe my eyes when I first saw notice of the letter. Then I saw that reputable sources were putting out the information.

            The letter asks the three men to use their respective powers to investigate some fairly powerful people about “potential violation(s) of federal statutes.” These people include Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Loretta Lynch, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page. All of the named individuals had something to do with using their official positions in an attempt to put Clinton in the White House and/or to get Donald Trump out of it. The representatives give the following reasons for the letter. 

Those in positions of high authority should be treated the same as every other American….

In doing so, we are especially mindful of the dissimilar degree of zealousness that has marked the investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, respectively.

            Hallelujah and praise the Lord! Millions of Americans in all walks of life have been wondering why different military personnel were thrown in prison for security lapses while Clinton did not even get her hand slapped for sending classified material over an unclassified server. Hopefully, the investigation will take place soon before evidence is destroyed!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Difficult Week

            This week is not even half over, yet it is already emotionally draining. I learned Sunday evening that the husband of my young niece suddenly passed away. Not even 48 hours passed before I learned this morning that a nephew is on life support and will be taken off of it by next Monday. We do not know when my nephew will pass away from his lung cancer and other health problems, but we know that it will be fairly soon.

            As I pondered my niece’s situation – a young widow with three small children and a high-risk pregnancy – I thought of little else than how a husband’s death would affect any of my daughters. I felt great empathy for my niece and her little family, and I wanted to reach out to her in love and support to help her through this difficult experience.

            Then a different thought came to me. Without taking anything away from this young widow or any other widows, I marveled at the difference in attitudes between this niece and one who recently filed for divorce. Each marriage started with a young couple deeply in love who went to the temple to have their marriage sealed for time and all eternity. In one case, the husband passed away. In the other case, the marriage died.

            Without knowing any of the intimate details about either marriage, I believe that both young women are in similar circumstances and are desperately in need of ministering. However, this does not usually happen for a number of reasons. Family members are immediately alerted to a death, but a divorce takes place quietly without much notification. Both death and divorce leave behind much damage, but it is usually different kinds of damage. 

            Whatever the problems, the survivors of both death and divorce have need for love and support. This is not the first death or the first divorce in the family, but all of them have followed similar paths. Why is it that a divorce is a hushed up matter, but a death is a time of gathering and expressing love? Particularly since both death and divorce leave behind broken individuals and new paths to tread.

            My thoughts went elsewhere today after learning of the expected death of my nephew. I pondered the circumstances surrounding the two deaths. One death was sudden and without warning, whereas the other one has been on the back burner for years. The first gave no opportunity for closure, whereas the second nephew has an opportunity to exchange affection and goodbyes with loved ones and friends. There are other differences in the two deaths that will have lasting effects on the survivors. Yet both widows will be surrounded by friends and family members as they move into the next phase of their lives.

            I thought also of the difference in support offered to those people with physical illnesses and that proffered to those suffering from spiritual sickness. When we hear that a ward member or neighbor has been diagnosed with cancer, we are right on the spot with offers to provide transportation to doctor appointments or with a casserole. However, an acquaintance can die spiritually without many people taking notice. Why is it that we are so afraid to assist when a person is spiritually ill?

            All this pondering has given me much to consider. I hope that I will be more kind and understanding to all those who lose spouses for whatever reason. I hope that I will be able to minister to them more and to do it without being judgmental. I also hope that I will be more sensitive to the difficulties of all people, whether they are suffering from the death of a loved one, a divorce, a physical illness, or a spiritual sickness. It does not really matter why people suffer because they still need love, support, and ministering.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Barbara Bush

            I chose Barbara Bush for my VIP this week. She highly deserves the recognition because she is a classy woman. She has shown that it is possible to have a happy marriage and family and still be a strong woman.

            The 92-year-old matriarch of the Bush family has battled bad health for several years. Her family announced this week that she would seek no further medical treatment for her congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

            Mrs. Bush met her husband when she was only sixteen years old, and the couple was soon engaged to be married. President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Bush have been married for 73 years and apparently have been in love for their entire married lives. This is quite an achievement in these days when many marriages end in divorce.

            Mrs. Bush holds a unique position that maybe only one other woman in history shares with her. Mrs. Bush was married to one President of the United States and is the mother of another President. She has another son who was a successful governor of Florida. She obviously had a positive influence on all three men who became leaders in our nation, and she should be honored for it. I wish her and her family much peace and comfort.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

How to Defend the Second Amendment

            The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is the Second Amendment once again. There has been much written over the past two months about the Second Amendment from both sides. There are plenty of people on the left side who think that guns rights should be limited, and there are many more on the right side who say, “Not so fast!”

            Every single time that gun rights are threatened more people join the National Rifle Association (NRA) and purchase guns. If the leftists were really smart, they would realize that they encourage the purchase of the very guns that they are calling to restrict!

            There are many people, including this writer, who wonder what they can do different in defending the Second Amendment. Robert Curry thinks that he has the answer and posts his idea at the American Thinker site.  He says that “we need to remember what the Constitution does” in order to “understand the Second Amendment as the Founders did.” He continues with this idea.

It [the Constitution] defines how the federal government is to function – and the very purpose of its design is to secure our unalienable rights. Consequently, unalienable rights are senior to, on a higher level than, the Constitution and, of course, any amendment to the Constitution….

            Curry is saying that our unalienable rights come from God, not the U.S. Constitution. He continues by saying that the Second Amendment could be taken away, but we would still have our unalienable right to protect ourselves. He says that we should look at the Ninth Amendment to understand both the First and Second Amendments.

            The Ninth Amendment says, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This means that Americans have certain rights whether or not they are listed in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

            Curry says that the Ninth Amendment “was intended to insure that enumerating some rights would not have the effect of narrowing our understanding of the vast range of our unalienable rights.” Curry then explains how his idea about the Ninth Amendment affects the First and Second.

Now, let’s consider the First Amendment before moving on to the Second. Please notice how it begins: Congress shall make no law …. Abridging the freedom of speech ….” The very first words of the very first amendment are “Congress shall make no law.” No rights are here grated to the citizen. They cannot be because those rights are unalienable, that is, already possessed by the citizen.

The First Amendment follows the logic of the Constitution as a whole; it restricts what the federal government – in this case, Congress – can do.

So does the Second: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” That “shall not be infringed” is strong language and perfectly clear. To infringe is to trespass, to intrude, to encroach. “Shall not be infringed” in plain language means “No Trespassing.” And it is the government that is warned to keep out.

            Curry has lots more interesting information in his article,  but I particularly like his reasoning for why our rights do not come from the government or the Constitution. He tells us that the Constitution is there to protect our God-given – or unalienable – rights. Since these rights come from God, neither man nor government has the authority to take them away.