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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Changing the World

                It is time once again to make a new beginning.  We have a new month and a brand New Year.  What are we going to do with them?  Will we keep doing the same old things, or will we make a change?  The choice is ours – as individuals, as citizens of this great nation, and as people of the world.  What are we going to do?

                Glenn Beck recently asked his audience “to decide who they are and what kind of country they want to live in.”  He then gave some examples – true stories - to show our choice.   The first example told the story of an employee in a Detroit-area Post Office who stole as many as 2,000 pieces of mail just because she was bored.  The second example told the story of a widow who donated her wedding ring to the Salvation Army with the hopes that it could be used to purchase toys for needy children. The third example was the story of Jonathan Gruber, Obamacare architect, who was grilled by Congress for saying that Obamacare was passed because of the “stupidity of the American voter.”

                Then Beck asked what we were going to choose – light or dark, life or death, good or evil.  “Which are we?”  Are we going to tell the truth?  Are we going to treat other people with respect whether or not we agree with them?  Are we going to lie, cheat and steal?  Will we choose to be better people today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we are today?

                A Canadian city and area gave a good example of how people are supposed to treat other people.  After terrorists flew airplanes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and tried to crash a fourth airplane into the Capital Building or White House, the United States air space was closed to all traffic.  Delta Flight 15 was flying over the North Atlantic Ocean about five hours out of Frankfurt, Germany, when the pilot received word that he needed to land the aircraft as soon as possible at the nearest airport.  The nearest airport was Gander, New Foundland.

                The pilot landed his aircraft at Gander along with more than fifty others.   The city with approximately 10,400 people all of a sudden had approximately 10,500 people to house and feed.  Brittney Cox  tells the experience of the passengers and crew members of how the Canadians made them feel at home and took care of them on the day the world turned upside down.  The Canadians set a good example of how we should treat people in good times as well as emergencies.

                As the world becomes more and more wicked, Christianity is attacked more and more often.  Faith and spirituality are considered to be consumer items to be purchased or sold.  The more Christianity is put down, the more wicked the nation and world become.  I believe the world will continue its downward slide until the majority of the people come to believe in Jesus Christ.  The answer to all of our problems can be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Christians must stand firmly and testify boldly of Jesus Christ. 

                Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:  “The best-recorded fact in all history is the account of the birth and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ on the earth.  His mission was prophesied from the days of our first parents….”

                Elder Perry quoted President David O. McKay (1873-1970) as teaching:  “The responsibility of showing to the world that the gospel of Jesus Christ will solve its problems rests upon the men who make the claim.  … I believe, too, that every world problem may be solved by obedience to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

                “The solution of the great world problems is here in The Church of Jesus Christ.  Ample provision is made not only for the needs of individuals, but also for the nation and groups of nations.  … I grant that we may seem to be arrogating to ourselves superior wisdom, but we are not.  It is simply the application of God’s plan to the world problems.  You who hold the priesthood have greater responsibility today, now that you live in this creative moment in the world’s history, than ever the Church has had before.  I repeat it.  If we make the claim to hold the truth, it is obligatory upon every Latter-day Saint so to live, that when the people of the world come, in answer to the call, to test the fruit of the tree, they will find it wholesome and good.”

                Elder Perry continued:  “The great message we carry to the world is that the gospel of our Lord and Savior has been restored to the earth.  His Church is again on the earth with the power and glory of the holy priesthood.
                “To those so ordained is given power to act for Him as His agents to bring the doctrines, ordinances, principles, and powers to bind on earth as will be done in the heavens.  This is the Savior’s Church.  He directs the affairs of His Church through His chosen prophets.  His prophets in turn teach the gospel to others and testify of Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer. This day and age is the dispensation of the fulness of times, which has been spoken of by the prophets from the beginning of time.  It is the time of fulfillment of all that has been spoken of by the Lord’s prophets and recorded in the holy scriptures.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a new church but the restored Church to the world in this day and age.
                “You are the generation the Lord has saved for this day.  You came out of the waters of baptism with a covenant and a promise to the Lord to represent Him in helping people throw off their worldly ways and return to the blessings promised us if we would follow Him and live His gospel.  You can help your Heavenly Father’s children return to their Christian foundation, develop faith in Him, and return to His ways.”

                Elder Perry then suggested four things we can do to improve the world around us by helping people come back to their Christian faith. 
(1) “Pray daily….  Hold your daily prayers and help others to return to their Christian faith by encouraging them to get on their knees and pray to God.”  (2) “Study the scriptures daily….  Be certain you have daily scripture study. Then help others return to their Christian faith by encouraging them to also study the scriptures daily.”  (3) “Remain worthy to attend the temple….  Live in such a way that your righteous example will demonstrate how to be worthy of temple blessings.”  (4) “Give daily acts of service….  Be an example of Christlike service, and help others return to their Christian faith by encouraging them to serve others….
                “I challenge you to rise to a new sense of commitment.  I challenge you to help God’s children return to their Christian faith and to the strong religious foundation that is so essential for peace of mind and real happiness in this period of mortal probation.”

                What do you choose?  I choose to follow the counsel given by Elder Perry and many prophets before him.  I choose to keep my faith in Jesus Christ strong and help others to strengthen their faith in Him.  I choose to pray daily, to study the scriptures daily, to attend the temple often, and to give Christlike service.  Please join me in changing the world by changing ourselves and those in our spheres of influence.  We can make a difference one person at a time.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Beginnings

                It happens at the end of every year:  the old year passes away and a new year begins.  Some things never change, but other things do.  Each year is like picking up a new book with each day representing a page in the book.  What will you write in your book for 2015?

                C. S. Lewis said, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us.  He invented us.  He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be.  … It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

                If this author is correct, we will write better things in the next volume of our life story if we yield our lives to Jesus Christ.  So how does one invite God into one’s life?  The first thing we must do is to recognize He is real, that He lives and that He loves us.  The second thing we must do is to open the lines of communication with God by prayer.  We must be willing to talk with Him because prayer is the way we let Him know our thoughts and feelings.  We learn His will by studying the scriptures and listening to His prophets.  The final thing we must do is to keep His commandments.  The more closely we obey His commandments, the more we allow God to take over our lives. 

                We can have a true “new beginning” if we will allow God into our lives and turn our will over to Him.  He can do more with our lives than any of us can.  May your New Year be the best “volume” in your life!

Monday, December 29, 2014

J.P. Morgan

                John Pierpont“J.P. Morgan was born on April 17, 1837, in Hartford, Connecticut to Junius Spencer Morgan (1813-1890) and Juliet Pierpont (1816-1884) of Boston, Massachusetts.  Morgan began the 1848-1849 school year at Harford Public School; he then transferred to the Episcopal Academy in Cheshire, Connecticut (now known as Cheshire Academy) where he boarded with the principal.  Morgan prepared to attend the English High School of Boston by passing the entrance exam in September 1851.  English High School specialized in “mathematics to prepare young men for careers in commerce.”

                Morgan contracted rheumatic fever in the spring of 1852; he was in so much pain that he could not walk.  His father sent him to the Azores to recover his health.  He convalesced for a year and then returned to the English High School to resume his studies.  After he graduated from high school, his father sent him to a school in Switzerland until he became fluent in French; then his father sent him to the University of Gottingen to become more fluent in German.  He completed that task as well as earned a degree in art history in less than six months.  With his education complete, he went back to London. 

                In 1861 Morgan married Amelia (Mimi) Sturges only to lose her the next year.  He married Frances Louise (Fanny) Tracy in 1865, and they became the parents of four children:  Louisa Pierpont Morgan (1866-1946; married Herbert L. Satterlee [1863-1947]), John Pierpont Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943; married Jane Norton Grew), Juliet Pierpont Morgan (1870-1952; married William Pierson Hamilton [1869-1947]), and Anne Tracy Morgan (1873-1952; philanthropist).

                While in London in 1857 Morgan began his banking career at the London branch of Peabody, Morgan & Co, a banking firm his father and George Peabody founded three years previously.  Morgan moved to New York City in 1858 to join Duncan, Sherman & Company, the American branch of George Peabody and Company.  He continued to learn the banking business by moving from place to place under the mentorship of his father until 1871 when he became a partner with the Drexels of Philadelphia and formed Drexel, Morgan & Company in New York.  Upon the death of Anthony Drexel, the company became known as “J.P. Morgan & Company” in 1895.  Morgan had many partners over the years but always remained in charge.

                “Morgan often had a tremendous physical effect on people; one man said that a visit from Morgan left him feeling `as if a gale had blown through the house.’  Morgan was physically large with massive shoulders, piercing eyes, and a purple nose (because of a chronic skin disease, rosacea).  He was known to dislike publicity and hated being photographed; as a result of his self-consciousness of his rosacea, all of his professional portraits were retouched.  His deformed nose was due to a disease called rhinophyma, which can result from rosacea.  As the deformity worsens, pits, nodules, fissures, lobulations, and pedunculation contort the nose.  This condition inspired the crude taunt `Johnny Morgan’s nasal organ has a purple hue.’  Surgeons could have shaved away the rhinophymous growth of sebaceous tissue during Morgan’s lifetime, but as a child Morgan suffered from infantile seizures, and Morgan’s son-in-law, Herbert L. Satterlee, has speculated that he did not seek surgery for his nose because he feared the seizures would return.  His social and professional self-confidence were too well established to be undermined by this affliction.  It appeared as if he dared people to meet him squarely and not shrink from the sight, asserting the force of his character over the ugliness of his face.  Morgan smoked dozens of cigars per day and favored large Havana cigars dubbed Hercules’ Clubs by observers.”

                “In 1895, at the depths of the Panic of 1893, the Federal Treasury was nearly out of gold.  President Grover Cleveland accepted Morgan’s offer to join with the Rothschilds and supply the U.S. Treasury with 3.5 million ounces of gold to restore the treasury surplus in exchange for a 30-year bond issue.  The episode saved the Treasury but hurt Cleveland’s standing with the agrarian wing of the Democratic Party, and became an issue in the election of 1896, when banks came under a withering attack from William Jennings Bryan.  Morgan and Wall Street bankers donated heavily to Republican William McKinley, who was elected in 1896 and re-elected in 1900.”

                Morgan continued to succeed in banking circles with few failures.  He was a “financier, banker, philanthropist and art collector who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his time.  In 1892, Morgan arranged the merger of Edison General Electric and Thomason-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric. After financing the creation of the Federal Steel Company, he merged it in 1901 with the Carnegie Steel Company and several other steel and iron businesses, including Consolidated Steel and Wire Company, owned by William Edenborn, to form the United States Steel Corporation.

                “At the height of Morgan’s career during the early 1900s, he and his partners had financial investments in many large corporation and had significant influence over the nation’s high finance and United States Congress members.  He directed the banking coalition that stopped the Panic of 1907.  He was the leading financier of the Progressive Era, and his dedication to efficiency and modernization helped transform American business.”

                J. P. Morgan died in his sleep at age 75 on March 31, 1913, in Rome, Italy.  He left his fortune and business to his son, John Pierpont Morgan, Jr.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Representatives Apportioned Among States

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:  “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State….”  Each state had the right to have all persons living within its boundaries to be counted in the census.

                W. Cleon Skousen explained, “This provision was designed to eliminate the previous arrangement of counting slaves as here-fifths of a vote.  This had not been done as a demeaning gesture against slaves but simply as a compromise over the issue of taxes and representation.  The South wanted to count all slaves in calculating he population for the purpose of determining the number of representatives in the House, but it did not want to count the slaves at all in apportioning taxes `according to population.’  It was finally agreed that slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a vote for both representation and taxation.  The Fourteenth Amendment eliminated this practice.”  (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 724.)

                Paul Moreno of The Heritage Foundation explained, “In his speech of April 11, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln described the Southern states that had rebelled in the Civil War as being `out of their proper practical relation with the Union.’  In setting the terms for the readmission of those states to the Union, the Reconstruction Congress had to deal with several issues in addition to that of the status of the freedmen:  representation in Congress, the political status of high-ranking rebels, and the debts of the United States and Confederate States.

                “The abolition of slavery increased the political power of the former slave states in the House of Representatives.  Under the Three-fifths Clause of the original Constitution (Article I, Section 2, Clause 3), five slaves had counted as three persons; now they would be counted as five persons, though none of the Southern states would have permitted them to vote….”  (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 404-405.)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Holy Ghost

                After Adam and Eve transgressed the law and partook of the forbidden fruit, they were cast out of the Garden and Eden.  They once walked and talked with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, but they were separated from God both physically and spiritually when they left the garden.

                Adam and Eve worked hard in their new world.  They learned to till the earth and perform other tasks in order to provide for themselves.  They began to have children and became the parents of many sons and daughters.  Their sons and daughters began to marry and have families of their own (see Pearl of Great Price, Moses 5:1-3).  The spirit children of Heavenly Father came to earth to inhabit the physical bodies prepared by Adam and Eve and their posterity.

                The new arrivals did not remember living with Heavenly Father because a veil was placed across their mind.  God wanted His children to be free to exercise their agency and make choices without any memories of their heavenly home.  He did not leave His children alone in their world because He sent the Holy Ghost to comfort them and guide them in their daily decision.

                Adam and Eve remembered their experiences in God even though they were no longer in His presence.  They called upon Heavenly Father in prayer, and He gave them further commandments.  They were obedient to all those commandments.  Heavenly Father sent an angel to teach Adam and Eve about the Father and the Son, the plan of salvation, and the gospel.

                The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead, and He has a body of spirit in the form and likeness of a man.  He can be in only one place at a time, but His influence can be everywhere at the same time.  The Godhead consists of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.  The three individuals are one in purpose but not in body.  Their purpose is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).  Heavenly Father stands at the head of the Godhead as our Father in heaven and ruler.  Jesus Christ stands on His right hand and is our Savior.  The Holy Ghost reveals and testifies of all truth; He is the messenger that brings information to us from God.  The Gift of the Holy Ghost ranks among the greatest of all the gifts of God.

                The Holy Ghost’s mission is to testify of the Father and the Son.  He bears witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind.  He bears witness that Heavenly Father is indeed the father of our spirits and that we are all brothers and sisters.  He helps us to understand the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.   Moroni taught, “By the power of the Holy Ghost [we] may know the truth of all things” Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Moroni 10:5).  It is by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know that Jesus is the Christ.           When the Holy Ghost speaks to us, He has such power that His teachings become a part of us.  President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:  “When a man has the manifestation form the Holy Ghost, it leaves an indelible impression on his soul, one that is not easily erased.  It is Spirit speaking to spirit, and it comes with convincing force.  A manifestation of an angel, or even the Son of God himself, would impress the eye and mind, and eventually become dimmed, but the impressions of the Holy Ghost sink deeper into the soul and are more difficult to erase...”  (See Answers to Gospel Questions, II:151).  He also said, “Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:48).

                Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost and are instructed to “receive the Holy Ghost.”  Through this great gift we can receive testimony and guidance from God through the power of the Holy Ghost if we are worthy to be in His presence.  The Holy Ghost is a special messenger and witness of God.  I am very grateful for this great gift and the opportunity I have to receive personal revelation from a loving Father in Heaven to help me make good decisions.  I love to feel His presence with me and miss Him when I move away from Him.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Road Map for Life

                Families, communities, and nations can be strengthened when parents teach their children to set worthy goals.  By helping their children set goals for themselves, they are encouraging their children to reach a little higher and become a little better.  Without goals, people remain as they currently are or drift steadily downward.\

                Traveling through life without setting goals is like making a road trip without using a map.  We could waste a lot of time going up and down different roads to see if any of them lead to the desired destination.  The same is true with goals:  we could waste a lot of time in life without setting goals and possibly never reach where we really want to be.  On the other hand, by using a road map and/or setting goals, we can reach our destination. 

                Bishop John H. Vandenberg explained goals in a very plain manner by saying “if you don’t know where you are going, it doesn’t matter which road you take” (Improvement Era, June 1966, 533 or Conference Report, April 1966, 92).

                “Every successful vacation  is largely the result of goals.  For example, after we decide where we are going, we select goals to help us know where we are now, where we are going, and how we are going to get from where we are to where we want to be.  Goals give purpose and direction to our actions.  They help us improve our lives and achieve heights we did not think possible.”

                What is a goal?  A goal could be a standard one wishes to attain or a destiny one desires to reach.  A goal could be a skill or an ideal.  A goal is something we wish to accomplish.  Some goals are short term while other goals are long term.  Some goals are even eternal goals.  A properly set goal needs to be clearly defined in writing with a time frame for accomplishing it.

                Even God sets goals.  When God spoke to Moses face to face, He explained His most important goal:  “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39).  

                If setting goals is important to God, who can doubt that we should also set goals?  This knowledge does not come to children unless it is given to them.  Parents who desire to teach their children to set goals may want to use this family home evening plan.   The plan gives ideas on how to teach a lesson on setting goals and lists some suggestions for goals for different ages.  By helping their children learn to set and reach worthy goals, parents can strengthen their families, communities, and nations.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Free to Live

                The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that mankind is free because Jesus Christ provided the way to escape this world.  Jesus Christ was born in a stable and reared as the son of a carpenter; however, He was the Son of God and came to earth to save all mankind.  We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ because of the man He became as well as His mission.

                Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of Heavenly.  He is the only person on earth who had a mortal mother an immortal Father.  He inherited mortality from His mother and was subject to hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, and death.  He inherited divine powers from His Father.  Because of His divine qualities, He had the power to lay down His life and then take it up again.  He was the first person to be resurrected and made it possible for all mankind to be resurrected.

                There were few witnesses when Jesus Christ came to earth the first time; when He comes again, He will come “with power and great glory” and all mankind will witness it (Doctrine and Covenants 29:11).  The Second Coming of the Savior will be the beginning of the Millennium, a time when the Savior will “dwell in righteousness with men on earth a thousand years” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:11).

                No one knows when the Savior will return, not even the angels in heaven, but He promised to give us signs of His coming.  The signs have begun.  The scriptures tell us that we will see (1) earthquakes, tempests, thunder, and lightning, and seas heaving themselves beyond their boundaries. Storms; (2) the sun turning dark and the moon turning into blood; (3) wars and rumors of wars.

                The scriptures also tell us that the Savior will return in glory, so much glory that the “sun shall hid his face in shame” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:49).  The signs are here and growing in frequency.   Are you ready to meet the Savior?  Are you like the wise virgins who brought extra oil for their lamps or are you like the foolish virgins who brought no extra oil and expected to borrow it from others?

                “For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived – verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:56-57; see also Matthew 25:1-13).

                Even though our Savior came to earth the first time as a Baby, He will come again in great glory.  Everyone on earth will see Him and know He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  We are all indebted to our Savior for making it possible for each of us to live truly free! 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Focus on the Savior

                Celebrating the birth of Jesus the Christ is the purpose of Christmas; therefore, He is the reason for the season.  Our focus should be on the Savior of the world, particularly at this time as we celebrate His mortal birth.

                Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president, explained:  “When our focus is on Jesus Christ, we clear away the rubble that obscures the path, and we build a foundation for our families on the rock of our Redeemer.  The winds will blow and the mighty storms will beat upon us, but we will not fall.”

                Sister Wixom and her counselors, Sister Jean A. Stevens and Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, suggested three building blocks to help us focus on the Savior and strengthen the foundations of our homes.  Those three building blocks are prayer, scriptures, and temples.  

                Sister Esplin explained, “Our Heavenly Father isn’t concerned with how clever, brilliant, rich, or famous we are.  He loves us because we are His children.  He has given us a lifeline to Him – it’s called prayer.”  She continued, “Prayer is essential in building a Christ-centered life and a Christ-centered home.”

                In explaining the power of searching the scriptures, Sister Wixom quoted Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve:  “Scriptures are like packets of light that illuminate our minds and give place to guidance and inspiration from on high.”  She continued, “Those packets of light illuminate minds and help build a foundation upon the `rock of our Redeemer….  They testify of Jesus Christ, and through the power of the Holy Ghost, individuals come to know Him as they read.
                “When reading the scriptures becomes a daily habit, we are drawn to searching them and we love them….”

                Sister Stevens discussed the power of the temple and explained that the temple and family history work are central to accomplishing the Lord’s work of salvation.  “I can imagine that the Lord, with His infinite power, could design a way to bring salvation to all His children without directly using our help….  But for whatever reason, He did not.  Could it be that our participation in temple and family history work is designed to not only save our ancestors, but to save us and our children as well?”

                Individuals receive great blessings by focusing on temple worship and family history work, and even little children can receive great blessings.  Some ways to teach children about the importance of temples is having a picture of a temple in each child’s bedroom, singing songs about the temple, sharing stories about ancestors. 

                Sister Stevens continued, “The blessings of the temple are available to us all – young and old and everybody in between….  It is in the temple that we remember who we really are and see with clarity who we really can become.  In this we will feel the Lord’s love for us in a personal way.  It draws us to Him.”

                We all have our priorities in how we spend our time, energy, and resources.  We can see our priorities clearly by determining where our focus is.  If our priorities are prayer, scripture study, and the temple, we will focus our time, energy, and resources on those three priorities.  We may think they are our priorities, but we will be mistaken unless we focus on them.   If our focus is on the Savior, we will put Him first in our lives.  He will be the center of our lives, and everything else will revolve around Him.

                I have personally discovered that my life runs much more smoothly when I focus on the Savior.  My days run smoother when I start them with prayer and scripture study.  My weeks go better when I attend the temple.  In order to focus on the Savior, I must write prayer, scripture study, and temple into my daily and weekly schedule. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

God So Loved the World

                “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  The first gift of Christmas was a Baby, the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father, who gave His Son to us that we might have everlasting life.  We celebrate Christmas because the Son of God came to earth as a Baby and gave His life that we might live for eternity with our Father and Elder Brother.

                Christmas brings a special feeling, the Spirit of Christ that spreads throughout the world and touches all, even those who may not know what it is or even desire to know.  The Spirit of Christ reminds us of the immeasurable love of our Heavenly Father and His Son.  It reminds us of our need for a Savior.  It leads us to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ and to become more like Him.  It helps us to follow in His footsteps and become more holy. 

                On that holy night more than 2,000 years ago, shepherds on the plains of Judea witnessed a heavenly sight.  An angel appeared to the shepherds and told them of the birth of the Savior.  Suddenly “there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:13-14).

                As we celebrate Christmas, may we reflect upon the first gift of Christmas, even Jesus Christ.  May we truly discover this gift and make it a part of our lives.  May we embrace this gift and strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ.  May we share this gift as we follow in the footsteps of the Savior.  May we be like the heavenly host who sang hymns of glory to God for His special gift to all mankind.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Joseph Smith

                Joseph Smith was born on December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont, to Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith.   The family moved from Vermont to New Hampshire to New York, each time looking for a better farming situation.  Joseph received approximately a third-grade education and new how to read, write, and basic arithmetic. 

                As a young man Joseph was caught up in the great religious excitement in the area around his home in Manchester, New York.  Young Joseph – then just fourteen years old – wanted to know which church he should join.  While studying the scriptures, he came across James 1:5 and read:  “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” 
                Joseph realized that he needed wisdom and decided to “ask of God” as James counseled.  Early one morning in the spring of 1820, Joseph went to a secluded place in the woods and knelt down in prayer to ask God which church he should join.   He had no sooner started his prayer than he saw a light descending from heaven and saw two Personages.  One of them called him by name and said, “This is My Beloved Son.  Hear Him!” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith – History 1:15-17).

                As soon as Joseph recovered from his shock, he inquired which of all the sects were right and was told that he should “join none of them, for they were all wrong” (Joseph Smith – History 1:18-19).

                In 1823 Joseph Smith again knelt in prayer to ask his standing before God.  He was visited by an angel named Moroni sent from the presence of God.  Moroni told Joseph of an ancient record containing God’s dealing with ancient Americans.  Moroni instructed Joseph over a period of four years.  Joseph retrieved the ancient record in 1827 and soon began translating the record into English by the “gift of God.”  (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Title Page).  The translated manuscript was published as the Book of Mormon in March 1830.  On April 6, 1830, Joseph organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became the first president of the Church.

                Joseph Smith married Emma Hale on January 18, 1827.  They had a loving and devoted relationship and became the parents of eleven children (two by adoption), six of whom died in infancy.

                During his thirty-nine years of life, “Joseph established thriving cities in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois; produced [several] volumes of scripture; sent missionaries throughout the world; orchestrated the building of temples; served as mayor of Nauvoo, one of the largest cities in Illinois, and as general of its militia, the Nauvoo Legion; and was a candidate for the presidency of the United States.”

                Angel Moroni told Joseph Smith that his name would be known for good and evil.  This was true during his mortal life and is still true today.  Joseph Smith is hated by his detractors and loved by his followers.  Joseph Smith was persecuted from 1820 until he and his brother were killed by a mob on June 27, 1844, in Carthage, Illinois.

                In honor of Joseph Smith’s birthday on December 23, you might want to hold a family home evening about him and his life of service.  You can find a wonderful family home evening at this site.  

                I know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God.  I encourage you to study the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ and ask God if it is true.  If you ask God in the name of Jesus Christ with a sincere heart and real intent, the truthfulness of the book will be manifest to you by the power of the Holy Ghost.  The manifestation may not come suddenly because you will have to prove to God that you truly desire to know if it is true.  It did not come suddenly to me, but it did come.  I know the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Equal Protection of Laws

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:  “… nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  This provision states that every person – both citizen and non-citizen - living within the United States is entitled to the equal protection of the law.

                W. Cleon Skousen explained, “It is impossible to provide equal protection against the violation of the law, but once a law becomes operative as a result of a crime or a tort, the law should be equally administered regardless of race, sex, religion, citizenship, or national origin.”  (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 723.)

                David Smolen of The Heritage Foundation explained, “The Equal Protection Clause is one of the most litigated and significant provisions in contemporary constitutional law.  The meaning of the clause is bound up with the entire drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction and, in particular, with slavery and emancipation.  Thus the Equal Protection Clause can be understood only as an organic part of the Fourteenth Amendment and in the broader context of all the Reconstruction amendments.”  (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 398-399.)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Fall of Adam and Eve

                President Ezra Taft Benson once said that no one understands their need for the Savior until they understand the Fall of Adam and Eve.  Since that is the topic of today’s post, I hope both you and I understand their fall better so that we will appreciate the Atonement of Jesus Christ more.  The Creation, the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ are the three great “pillars” of eternity.  Each of them played an important in the great plan of salvation.

                Jesus Christ and His associated created this beautiful earth.  After forming and organizing the earth from some available matter, after separating the land from the darkness, after separating the light from the darkness and hanging the sun, moon, and stars, in the sky, after planting the millions of plants to make the world beautiful, and after creating all the animals, birds, insects, and fish – after all these creations, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ created Adam and Eve.

                Heavenly Father chose Adam and Eve to be the first people to live on the earth (see Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:34).  Their mission on earth was to bring mortality into the world and to become the first parents on earth (Doctrine and Covenants 107:54-56).

                Why did God choose Adam and Eve for this great mission?  They were some of the noblest of all Heavenly Father’s spirit children.  Adam was called Michael the Archangel (see Doctrine and Covenants 27:11; Jude 9).  He was chosen by Heavenly Father to lead the righteous in the battle against Satan (see Revelation 12:7-9).  Eve was chosen to be the helpmeet of Adam.  They were foreordained to become the parents of the human race on earth.

                Even though the scriptures are silent about Eve before she entered the Garden of Eden, I believe that we can safely assume that she was a choice daughter of God.  Adam called his wife Eve “because she was the mother of all living” (Moses 4:26).  She was given to Adam by God because God said that “it was not good that man should be alone” (Moses 3:18).  As Adam’s wife and helpmeet, Eve shared his responsibility then and will share his eternal blessings.

                Adam and Eve were not yet mortal when they were placed in the Garden of Eden.  They could not have children.  They did not know about good and evil.  They could not die.  According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, they had physical life because they had physical bodies made from the dust of the earth (see Abraham 5:7).  They also had spiritual life because they lived in the presence of God.

                Heavenly Father performed their marriage ceremony and commanded them to have children and to manage the resources of the earth.  He said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Moses 2:28).  God gave them permission to eat from every tree in the Garden of Eden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  He told them they would die if they ate from that tree” (Moses 3:17).

                Satan did not know God’s entire plan for His children and thought he could destroy the work of God by tempting Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit.  He lied to Eve when he told her that she would not die, but he was honest when he told her that she would “be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Moses 4:11).  Eve yielded to Satan’s temptation and partook of the fruit.  Adam was not deceived.  When he understood that Eve had partaken of the fruit and would be kicked out of the Garden of Eden, Adam chose to partake of the fruit also.  Something in the fruit changed their bodies into mortal bodies.  The event is called the fall of Adam.

                God forced Adam and Eve to leave the Garden of Eden because they partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They then entered the world that we know, one much different than the Garden of Eden.  Their new physical condition was mortality.  They could have children, and they and their children could experience the problems of mortality – sickness, pain, and physical death.

                Because of their fall, Adam and Eve also experienced spiritual death.  This means that they could no longer walk and talk with God face to face.  After their fall, Adam and Eve were separated from God both physically and spiritually.

                Some people believe that Adam and Eve committed serious sin by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Latter-day scriptures tell us that the Fall of Adam and Eve was actually a fall forward.  It was a necessary step in God’s plan for His children; it was also a great blessing for all mankind.  Remember, Adam and Eve could not have children in the Garden of Eden:  if they had not partaken of the fruit, none of us would even be here.  Our blessings include physical bodies, the right to use our agency in choosing good or evil, and the opportunity to gain eternal life.  We would have none of these blessings if Adam and Eve were still in the Garden of Eden.

                Eve understood at least some of the changes that took place because she said, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed [children], and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11).

                Lehi, an ancient American prophet, also understood and explained:  “And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen [been cut off from the presence of God], but he would have remained in the Garden of Eden.  And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; … And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.  But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.  Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (Book of Mormon – Another Witness of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 2:22-25).

                I personally am grateful for courage of Adam and Eve in eating of the fruit.  Eve was deceived by Satan, but she did what had to be done.  Adam was not deceived but intentionally chose to stay with Eve.  Together, they made it possible for us to receive physical bodies, gain necessary experience, and prepare to return to Heavenly Father’s presence.  I look forward to the day when I have an opportunity to thank Mother Eve for her great gift to all her posterity!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Real Story of Rudolph

                Families can be strengthened by sharing holiday traditions, both spiritual and temporal.  They can share their traditions with friends and neighbors and strengthen their community.  By strengthening their families and communities, parents can strengthen their nations.

                Most of us have heard about Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer.  Most of us enjoy singing about him leading Santa’s sleigh to deliver Christmas presents on a foggy Christmas Eve.  Do you know how the story came to be?

                “Rudolph came to life in 1939 when the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward company asked one of their copywriters, 34-year-old Robert L. May, to come up with a Christmas story they could give away in booklet form to shoppers as a promotional gimmick.  The Montgomery Ward stores had been buying and distributing coloring books to customers at Christmastime every year, and May’s department head saw creating a giveaway booklet of their own as a way to save money.  Robert May, who had a penchant for writing children’s stories and limericks, was tapped to create the booklet.

                “May, drawing in part on the tale of The Ugly Duckling and his own background (he was often taunted as a child for being shy, small, and slight), settled on the idea of an underdog ostracized by the reindeer community because of his physical abnormality:  a glowing red nose.  Looking for an alliterative name, May considered and rejected Rollo (too cheerful and carefree a name for the story of a misfit) and Reginald (too British) before deciding on Rudolph.

                “He then proceeded to write Rudolph’s story in verse as a series of rhyming couplets, testing it out on his 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, as he went along.  Although Barbara was thrilled with Rudolph’s story, May’s boss was worried that a story featuring a red nose – an image associated with drinking and drunkards – was unsuitable for a Christmas tale.  May responded by taking Denver Gillen, a friend from Montgomery Ward’s art department, to the Lincoln Park Zoo to sketch some deer.  Gillen’s illustrations of a red-nosed reindeer overcame the hesitancy of May’s superiors, and the Rudolph story was approved.  Montgomery Ward distributed 2.4 million copies of the Rudolph booklet in 1939, and although wartime paper shortages curtailed printing for the next several years, a total of 6 million copies had been distributed by the end of 1946.

                “The post-war demand for licensing the Rudolph character was tremendous, but since May had created the story on a `work made for hire’ basis as an employee of Montgomery Ward, that company held the copyright to Rudolph, and May received no royalties for his creation.  Deeply in debt from the medical bills resulting from his wife’s terminal illness (she died about the time May created Rudolph), May persuaded Montgomery Ward’s corporate president, Sewell Avery, to turn the copyright over to him in January 1947, and with the rights to his creation in hand, May’s financial security was assured.  (Unlike Santa Claus and other familiar Christmas figures of the time, the Rudolph character was a protected trademark that required licensing and the payment of royalties for commercial use.)

                “`Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ was reprinted commercially beginning in 1947 and shown in theaters as a nine-minute cartoon the following year, but the Rudolph phenomenon really took off when May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, developed the lyrics and melody for a Rudolph song.  Marks’ musical version of `Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ (turned down by many in the music industry who didn’t want to meddle with the established Santa legend) was recorded by cowboy crooner Gene Autry in 1949, sold two million copies that year, and went on to become one of the best-selling songs of all time (second only to `White Christmas’).  A stop-action television special about Rudolph produced by Rankin/Bass and narrated by Burl Ives was first aired in 1964 and remains a popular perennial holiday favorite in the U.S.”

                For more information about the real story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer follow this link.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Freedom to Choose

                The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that God gave us agency or the freedom to choose.  We know this because He revealed it to His prophets.   Heavenly Father wants His children to have the opportunity to obey His commandments because they choose do so and not because they are forced to obey.  This is the reason He bestowed the gift of agency on each of His children.

                Agency is an eternal principle.  We were free agents in our pre-earth life, meaning we had power to act for ourselves.  One of the purposes for our life on earth is to prove that we can make good choices.  If we were forced to choose the right, we would have no way to show what action we would choose if given the opportunity.

                Heavenly Father also desires His children to have happiness.  He knows that people – including little children – are happier when we make our own choices.  When we are persuaded rather than forced to do something, the unpleasant tasks seem to be more acceptable.

                We made our first choices as spirit children while living in the presence of our Heavenly Father.  He called all of us together in a grand council meeting to explain His plan for our salvation and eternal happiness.  We all used our agency to choose to follow Jesus Christ.  We know this because we have physical bodies of flesh and blood.  Those who chose to follow Satan never received physical bodies and never will.

                We know agency was one of the main causes of a great war between those who chose to follow Jesus Christ and those who chose to follow Satan.  When Heavenly Father asked for a volunteer, Satan said that he would bring all of us back to the presence of our Father.  He would take away our agency and force us to do good things.  When Heavenly Father rejected Satan’s plan, Satan rebelled and was cast out of heaven with all his followers.

                Agency is a necessary part of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation and happiness for His children.  We need agency in order to be tested, and we must be tried to see whether we are worthy to be like Heavenly Father.  During His creation of man in his mortal state, God said, “We will prove [test] them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3:25).  Without the great gift of agency, we would not be able to prove ourselves. 

                When we choose to live according to the law of God, we strengthen our agency.  When we make right choices we increase our power to make more right choices.  As we obey each of the commandments of Heavenly Father, we become free to learn and obey other commandments.  We grow in wisdom and in strength of character.  Our faith in Jesus Christ increases, and we find it easier to make right choices.

                We all made the right choice in heaven and came to earth for further testing.  Heavenly Father wants us to grow in faith, power, knowledge, wisdom, and every good attribute.  We can continue to grow if we keep God’s commandments and make right choices.  As we learn and understand, we will become more like our Heavenly Father.

                Agency requires that there be a choice.  We cannot truly choose unless we are presented with at least two options.  This is probably the main reason why Heavenly Father allows Satan to tempt us to do bad things.  God revealed this very thing to Moses:  “I caused that he should be cast down.  And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice” (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 4:3-4).

                Satan continues to oppose the work of God and does everything he can to destroy God’s work.  He does not love us or desire that we accomplish anything good.  In fact, he wants us to be his slaves, and he uses many disguises to take us into captivity.  He is so miserable that he desires that all of us are miserable like he is. 

                When we choose to follow Satan, we limit our choices.   The following example shows how this works.  Suppose you saw a sign on the seashore such as the following:  “Danger – whirlpool.  No swimming allowed.”  We could consider this to be a restriction, but we would be wrong because we still have many other choices.  We could choose to:  (1) swim somewhere else, (2) play on the beach, (3) watch the sunset, (4) go home, (5) ignore the sign and go swimming, or (6) make any other choice.  If we chose to go swimming and got caught in the whirlpool, our choices would become very limited very quickly: try to escape, call for help, or drown.

                In order to fully understand agency, we must understand that we are free to choose a course of action, but we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.  We are responsible for our actions because we have agency or the freedom to make choices.  Consequences are a natural result of any choice – whether good or bad.  If we touch a hot surface, we will be burned.  If we jump off a cliff, we will get hurt.  It is like picking up a stick:  if we pick up one end of the stick, we automatically pick up the other end of the stick also.  Whenever we make a choice – any choice – we also choose the consequence of that choice.  Choice and accountability go together hand in hand. 

                Heavenly Father gives us commandments in order to direct us away from the dangers of Satan and moving toward eternal life.  Commandments are like a fence at the top of a cliff:  they keep us on the road and moving forward.  One of the commandments is that we should “watch and pray always” that we may receive Heavenly Father’s help in making good choices.  If we are trying to live the commandments of Heavenly Father, He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we have the power to resist.  If we continue to make good choices, we will eventually gain exaltation, progress eternally, and receive a fulness of joy.