22 January 2015

Mormon Bible Study: Psalm 2 (part 2)

Psalm 2: The Impotence of Those that Fight Against the Lord

I am following the 2nd Psalm through the Bible, to see what it can teach me. The first lesson was one of hope in Christ, and underscored the absolute futility of fighting against Him.The second citation on my list uses verse seven. Really, only a part of the verse:

Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

Paul uses this as a part of a powerful testimony of Christ. He had come to Antioch, and was invited to teach. It's all recorded in Acts 13:16-43.  He begins by sketching the history of Israel from the Exodus to David, and then from David to Christ. This is bold stuff; the Jews at this time largely had rejected Christ. Paul shows how David knew of Christ, and had understood His mercy. Paul tells his audience:

38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:

39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Acts 13:38-39

It's an interesting passage. Paul is on one of his missionary journeys, and is preaching in Antioch. Antioch is known for being a place where lots of Gentiles were converted, but in this particular instance, Paul is speaking primarily to Jews. He reminds them of their history, and then connects that history to Christ. There's lots of interest, among both Jews and Gentiles, but there's trouble too: the leaders of the Jews are jealous that so many, "almost the whole city together," want to hear about Christ. It is ironic, then, that not only do the Jews reject the message, but they conspire to have Paul and Barnabas expelled from the city, forcefully reminding me of the first and second verses in the 2nd Psalm:

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed...
-Psalm 2:1-2

In spite of the machinations of these people, the city becomes a center of Christian activities, and even a place where persecuted Christians flee. Truly, the Lord is the "king upon my holy hill(Ps. 2:6)". Evil's bounds are set. As I study this chapter, I see that over and over. Evil can only go so far as the Lord permits. Charles Penrose, who was later called to the apostleship, said it this way:

The kingdoms of this world are great and powerful. They have their armies and navies. They are organized after the fashion of man to plunder and lay waste. But all the nations of the earth are in the hands of the Great Eternal. ... They will go ahead and carry out their designs as far as the Lord pleases to allow them and no further. “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?” He that spoke to the wind and the waves can speak to the blast of human passion and the breakers of human wrath, bid them go no further, and say, when He pleases; “Peace, be still.” -Charles W. Penrose, JD 25:338a

Somewhere about this point in my study, I ended up with the following scripture chain, centered on verse 4, which was a difficult verse for me. "Derision" is not a word that I would have associated with the Lord. As I studied, I came to the conclusion that it's all about power imbalance. Those who fight against the Lord set themselves up in opposition to God, Himself. They are so over-matched. A flea would stand a better chance of thwarting an elephant.

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
Psalm 2:4

So here is the scripture chain that I found as I looked through talks given by the various brethren that  have been archived on the LDS Citation Index. I can't take any particular credit for knowing these; these are verses referenced in the same talks that referenced verse four, which I found as I looked at the talks trying to understand the verse:

Jer. 31:12(10-14)

21 January 2015

Examining the State of the Union

Responsible citizenship isn't always fun. For instance, the State of the Union. In German they taught us this word, "totlangweilig." Deadly Dull. Also prone to make blood shoot from your eyes, should you happen to be a Constitutional Originalist. So. Here goes. The speech. Compared to the Constitution.

Text in italics comes from the speech, unless otherwise specified. Bolded text is the Constitution.

"In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan."

 He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; (Article III Section 3)

It is perfectly legitimate for the President to suggest legislation, including the budget. It is, however, also perfectly legitimate for Congress to ignore his suggestions, as they and they along hold the legislative power. If they should chose to ignore it, whining is unbecoming of both the president and his supporters; that's how checks and balances work. The president (regardless of party) doesn't get anything he wants, just because he wants it. He is a president, not a monarch.

"And in the months ahead, I’ll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas."

I suppose there is nothing in the Constitution forbidding it, but this seems rather an unnecessary expense, given that we live in the age of instant internet communications, and a 24-hour news cycle. Post it on the White House webpage. Give a speech. I don't want to pay for your fancy travel, thanks. It's wacky expensive, and I'm tapped. To me, this looks suspiciously like campaigning, and I don't like it when any politician does that on the public nickle.

We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world.  And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record.  Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high.  More Americans finish college than ever before. 

A careful reading of Article I Section 8 will show that there is no authority for Federal involvement in education. None. The legitimate thing to do would be to shut down the Department of Education immediately and return all funding earmarked for that to the people. Or to debate and pass an Amendment authorizing it. Anything else at all is usurpation and lawlessness. Since the odds of the Federal Government limiting itself are infinitesimal, States should immediately begin to Nullify this illegal Federal intrusion.

We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition.  Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices.  And in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.

Again, a careful reading of Article I Section 8 (It's a key section, and one of the most important for a citizen to be familiar with, in my opinion), will show that much of this is unconstitutional. Health insurance, for example, is not a legitimate concern for the federal government, as it cannot be  sold across State lines, and they may only regulate interstate commerce, and not commerce that takes place entirely with the State.

The Congress shall have Power To... regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States... (Article I Section 8)

Now, claiming that he wants to "stop taxpayer-funded bailouts" is rather disingenuous, since as President-elect, he supported the auto bailouts, and, while it was Bush who signed the first auto bailouts, the mess persisted, and the handoff between the two administrations went, to my eye, very seamlessly, and between the Bush and Obama Administrations' work on not one, but two auto bailouts, taxpayers paid more than 80 billion dollars in bailouts.

Not so incidentally, there is no authority for Congress to participate in commerce of any sort.  They may regulate only, and only when the commerce takes place across State lines. Bailouts are not regulatory in nature; it's participatory. They are, therefore, unconstitutional.

And these policies will continue to work as long as politics don’t get in the way.

It is worthy of note that the current fashion in Washington, when lawmakers of any stripe don't get their way, is to point fingers at the other guy and accuse him of being obstructionist. While there may be some justice to that charge, it's not necessarily an all bad thing that not every initiative comes to fruition. In the heat of the moment, people conveniently forget that we have checks and balances built into our government. We talk about it in Civics Class, and it's generally thought of as a good thing, designed to protect liberty. But when it starts to play out in real life, it's not called checks and balances any more, it's "playing politics" and it's "partisanship" and "obstructionist." But the fact is, it's not supposed to be easy  or quick to make law. On the contrary, each law has to be debated by several different groups, pass through multiple committee hurdles, and then finally be approved by the President and eventually upheld by the courts. This process is lengthy and difficult, and that is by design. It's done that way to protect our liberties from the very human tendency to accumulate power and concentrate it in the hands of only a few. That's not what America is about. So it's ok if the President doesn't get all - even most - of what he wants for the nation. He's just one guy; he's not supposed to have that much power.

As time allows, I'll be back to look at the rest of this speech. There is plenty more to go.

18 January 2015

Mormon Bible Study: The Great Commandment

Probably one of the best known scriptures in the New Testament is found in Matthew:

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.
Matthew 22:36-38

These three verses were the focus of the whole lesson in Relief Society last week. It was my first week back in Relief Society after about four years wandering the halls with disruptive children. It was a fantastic first lesson back to class. The "teacher helps" at the end of the lesson had this to say:

"Be sure you don't believe that you are the 'true teacher.' That is a serious mistake. ... Be careful you do not get in the way. The major role of a teacher is to prepare the way such that the people will have a spiritual experience with the Lord."

-Gene R. Cook

The teacher, a very good friend of mine, did a really good job with that, and the Spirit taught me some awesome stuff. First, I had a look at a cross reference to Deuteronomy, and realized that this wasn't just a stroke of brilliance He had on the spot; this was drawing from a passage of scripture that was incredibly well known. It's so well known that in modern Judaism, it's the beginning of a prayer called the Shema, and devout Jews recite it twice daily.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:

5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.

9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9

The Lord pointed them to the basic, the fundamental, the ordinary, and said it was the most important. But it was such a common answer. The proverbial "Sunday School Answer." I have noticed that while we sometimes feel like they're trite, the Sunday School Answers are actually profound. And so it was this time. Love God. Love God with everything you have got. That's the crux. In every time, at every place, in every thing, Love God. That's what verse seven is describing. When you're sitting in your house, when you're traveling around, waking and sleeping, these things are supposed to be on your mind. This was so important that they were to wear these verses, written down and tied to their body, reminding them to write the principle in their hearts. And in case that wasn't enough, they should also put them on the gate of the house- the entrance, where they will be always visible, helping them to always remember: Love God. 

The Relief Society lesson put President Benson's explanation for why this is so important that they should go to such lengths to remember it right there at the top of the page, in big letters:

“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.”

Interestingly, the lesson spends a good chunk of time talking about charity. I spent a few minutes pondering this, because it surprised me, but as I did so, it seemed very right. We don't talk about it much, perhaps because it is so easy to focus on Christ's obvious love for us, but His love of the Father is no less profound. Charity -the pure love of Christ- includes His love of God. His life story is the story of perfect love for and submission to His Father. In this type of charity, as in all else, He set the pattern.

To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all-consuming and all-encompassing. It is no lukewarm endeavor. It is total commitment of our very being--physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually--to a love of the Lord. The breadth, depth, and height of this love of God extend into every facet of one’s life. Our desires, be they spiritual or temporal, should be rooted in a love of the Lord. Our thoughts and affections should be centered on the Lord. “Let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord,” said Alma, “yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever” (Alma 37:36).

-Ezra Taft Benson

But how do you do it? How do you get there? The Lord showed us that too.

"In word and in deed Jesus was trying to reveal and make personal to us the true nature of His Father, our Father in Heaven. He did this at least in part because then and now all of us need to know God more fully in order to love Him more deeply and obey Him more completely. As both Old and New Testaments declare, “The first of all the commandments is … thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first [and great] commandment. Little wonder then that the Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God.” “I want you all to know Him,” he said, “and to be familiar with Him. We must have “a correct idea of his … perfections, and attributes,” an admiration for “the excellency of [His] character."
-Jeffrey R. Holland, The Grandeur of God

It's the first, the greatest, the most fundamental of the commandments. It is the root of our strength. It should shape every thought, every action, every moment.

Love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 


17 January 2015

Weekly Wrap-up: Playing in Snow

Monday, the Daddy came home and did a little late-night painting with Hero and the others. Hero has been asking, and waiting very patiently, but Daddy is working a lot. This week, he expects to put in 60-70 hours, and that's becoming the norm. We are praying for a new job opportunity, but in the mean time, we take our Daddy time when we can get it. Including staying up late.

In history, we're continuing to work our way through the American Revolution. We read about the Boston Tea Party in Johnny Tremain, and we worked on reading the Declaration of Independence itself, using this book. It's great because it's the original text of the Declaration, but broken into bite-size chunks, with a single phrase on each page, so it's easy to talk about what the big words mean. And there's plenty of those!

Wednesday, we finally had all the gear, the milder temperatures, and snow, with minimal sickness: all at the same time! We headed outside and the kids had a blast! There hasn't been nearly as much snow as usual this winter, so this was a treat. 

We also had some breakthroughs in Japanese. The kids are happy and learning, so I am happy, too. 

Even though it's January, and last week was absolutely miserable, this week was very mild, and we made it out to our park for a short nature study. We looked at cattails and animal tracks and stomped snow and had a lovely time. 

And that's the highlights of our week! You can peek at what other weird, unsocialized homeschoolers are doing, if you like. I hope your week was as lovely as mine!

16 January 2015

Trying Something New

I'm pretty excited with a new development in our Japanese language studies. There are two parts to what we do. One is that I try to use Japanese around the house as much as I am able, and encourage my kids to use what they know as well. This, my gut tells me is the more important of the two things, but the second is that we have some kind of instruction on grammar and vocabulary. Only, finding something that works for Hero(8) has been tough. He didn't like Mango, and he *really* doesn't like the podcast lessons that work so well for me; they're just too fast-paced for him. So, yesterday, when I was at Half-Priced Books, I grabbed a book about learning to read Japanese.

It's pretty cool; teaches things very incrementally. And we sat down and started writing. With my fancy brush pens that we haven't used in a long time. And both boys were totally on board with the idea, but Hero was really liking it. Instant success. A small enough amount of information - he controlled how far he went in the lesson - that he could handle integrating it. They had arranged it so that, with only 2 letters, he could write 3 words. He liked that. Even Dragon could do that, though he keeps writing the one letter sideways.

So, I got to thinking about it. I have been really resistant to the idea of getting a textbook and learning lists and doing things that way. But. This looks really promising. Only, when I read in the front of the book, this one is light on grammar, and recommends getting another to shore that up, so that you can really understand the sentences, once we have enough letters to start writing phrases and sentences. So I dusted off my first textbook that I used to use in college. Really, I don't like it. It's dry, and some of the dialogs have always struck me as being just plain dumb. (Are these socks nylon? Cotton? I'll take it.) But he doesn't have to learn the way I do, and he is much happier using the texts than he is with the podcasts; their pace is just too fast for him. And I prayed about it - it was in praying that I remembered that I have it, because I haven't looked at it in ages - and I think it's going to work. And that's pretty exciting.


15 January 2015


Last week, we were reading about the health benefits of sourdough. Which are cool. The cultures in the sourdough are supposed to neutralize phytase, as well as make a bunch of vitamins in the wheat much more readily available for the body to use. It's good stuff, and it an be pretty tasty, too, if it's not too sour.

Only problem is, I have tried several times to make the stuff, but never could get the hang of it. 

Enter Facebook. A while back I joined a group called Wild Fermentation, so this time, rather than just randomly trying recipes, I asked the group, figuring it'd be right up their alley. And it was. And they gave me a number of useful tips. I'd been trying to treat it like Amish Friendship Bread, and of course that didn't work very well. Made a real mess of my bread, actually. But my new friends taught me some things, like sourdough wants to be a fair amount more moist than white bread, and how much start to put into a batch. And it worked! I made some, and it had a very mild tang to it, a great crust, and it was easy! 

So here's my recipe. It's almost the same as this one that I started with, only I don't have fancy flour like she does. 

2c whole wheat flour
1.5c all-purpose flour
1.5-ish cups water
1/4c sourdough start, grown and bubbly
1t salt

When you feed your start, it gets happy and grows. You'll also see air pockets if ifit's in a clear container. That means it's ready. Add 1/4c to all the other ingredients. You can use a dough hook, or, if like mine, yours is broken, you can also get away with using the paddle on your stand mixer. Mix thoroughly. You should get a moist, shaggy ball of dough. Adjust you water and flours until it's just a touch too sticky to handle with ungreased hands. Oil your hands, and move it to a glass bowl that's been greased or sprayed well with pam. Leave in a warm place 6-8 hours or overnight. I turn my oven just barely on, not even to where it says "warm," since my kitchen is chilly in the winter. When you are ready, preheat your oven with your cast iron Dutch oven inside. Move your dough, carefully, to the hot pan, shaping a bit before you put it in. Bake at 400F for 30 minutes in a pan with a lid, then uncover and cook another 10 - it will smell divine when it's done. Oh, and the lid is pretty important: I did another batch without the lid, and the crust was thick and over done. The bread itself was still pretty good, but the crust wasn't at all. With the lid, it's great.

09 January 2015

Weekly Wrap-up: The Very Cold One

New Year, new(renewed) habits. I realized that I've been missing the Weekly Wrap-ups, so here's another one. Two weeks in a row. Yay me.

So. Our week. Wow, it's COLD up here in the frozen north! This, being the First Week of January, has been very cold. A friend posted on Facebook today that it's -35F. Local schools were delayed, but not closed. I'm trying to create a little cocoon of warmness, so I'm not looking. (Unless my friends intrude on my little denial thing, and go and post the temperature!) We have not been out all week. I love homeschooling extra-lots because I don't have to go out. I hate being cold. I'm not checking the weather much; I don't want to know. Give me my warm socks and my hot chocolate. Books. Blankets. Warm stuff. I'm thinking happy thoughts about all the icky bugs out there in the snow and the wind. They're dying. One of my friends told me, "There's always New Mexico." I declined; they can keep their scorpions and other poison things. I'll put up with the cold for a week.

Figures, though, that my daughter would pick this week to decide that she has to be potty trained. We're talking tantrums when I put a diaper on her. And, like her brothers before her, she does best if she runs around mostly naked. Yeah, she's spent some time this week yelling at me for putting clothes and diapers on her. She's making progress, but it's not as fast as it would be in May or June, when I wasn't worried about her freezing her gizzard while she figures out the whole Potty Thing. I'm betting it won't take too long anyway. She's doing great.

Tuesday, I fed my sourdough start on the leftover flour from when I got really excited about flouring my counter top for some bread I made. On Wednesday, I was pondering what I wanted to do with it when the bag came open while I was absent-mindedly mushing the ziplock bag. I'd just fed it; it was full and happy. Oops. It got all over my hand-- and Tigress was standing right underneath, trying to get a better view of what I was doing. She got more than she bargained for! And I got so involved in cleaning her up that I never anything baked that day. 

I took her and gave her a shower, of course, but since she didn't seem too traumatized by the while thing, I couldn't resist a couple pictures. Gotta love camera phones. This will make a cute scrapbook page!

"Mom. It's on my hand." She was much happier in the shower. 

We did well on our book work this week. Hero is starting a new phase of learning. Over the holiday break he finished the last of the Harry Potter series, and is a good, strong reader. So I'm starting to give him materials to read on his own. We tried it out this week, and it seems to be going well. I'm pretty excited about this development. Here's a selection of what he and I worked on this week. 

It was a good week for violin practice, too. The boys have a recital coming up at the end of the month, which is pretty exciting. It's their first recital, and the first time I've been a parent at a recital, rather than a teacher. 

Even Dragon is going to play. I'm not sure he really understands what the whole thing is all about. He may turn shy on me, when the big moment comes. Though he did his part in the Primary Program a couple months ago, so he may be ready! He'll be ready with his music, in any case. 

They're both doing very well. Which is how our week went. 

08 January 2015

Executive Orders

I'm a little slow, as it typical for me: I can't do Mothering the way I think it ought to be done, and keep up with blogging about politics in a timely fashion. But I still think about freedom, and the effects of our politics on it. Recently, Obama used some Executive Orders(EO) to get some immigration reform done-- without Congressional approval. There was a lot of conversation about that, and I have my $.02 as well.

The issue is not that he uses EOs, but how he uses them. What he is doing -creating immigration reform- is legislative in nature, and therefore, it is out of line. All legislative power has been delegated to Congress - and none of it to the President. It's the very first power granted; the first thing addressed after the Preamble.

All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.
-Article I Section 1

It really doesn't matter what vehicle he uses, whether it's EOs or memoranda, or whatever: the President is not to create law. That's not a legitimate thing he can do. If he tries, it is usurpation. When the Federal government overreaches itself, and take upon itself to do things outside its authority, it isn't law at all, though they would really like us to think and act otherwise.

The powers of government are separated for a number of good reasons, not the least of which it to prevent too much power accumulating in the hands of a single person. Allowing the President to do things which are legislative in nature destroys the careful balance of power in our Constitution, and that balance exists to safeguard our freedoms.  A number of people rightly pointed out that he is not the first to employ this sort of overreach, and I have friends who have tried to make excuses for him on those grounds. Really, it is immaterial who did what with them in the past. Those who, like Obama is doing, have used it to do things that are legislative in nature, have done so in violation of our law, and should have been called on the carpet for it. Considering that it endangers the balance of power, and the check and balances, impeachment is not an outrageous thing to be looking at. We are duty-bound to uphold the Constitution. Nearly every prophet has said so. That includes condemning gross overreach such as the one currently being undertaken.

I repeat that no greater immediate responsibility rests upon members of the Church, upon all citizen of this republic and of neighboring republics, than to protect the freedom vouchsafed by the Constitution of the United States.
-David O. McKay (Conference, Apr. 1950)

In my reading of the original debates by the Founders when they were writing the Constitution, it appears that Congress is responsible for uniform rules of naturalization only and the Founders intended that the several States would retain broad powers over immigration, including who, when, and how, with the federal government responsible only for uniformity in naturalization, to prevent some of the issues that had occurred under the Articles of Confederation, such as States being forced to give the rights of citizenship to all residents of another State, including both resident and illegal aliens. The limited naturalization powers delegated were designed to eliminate that problem, and the wide federal control of immigration we currently have is clearly not what was intended by the Founders, nor has it been authorized by an amendment, so it is also technically overreach. I have blogged about that before. That post goes more into detail on this topic, with the relevant passages of the Constitution.

However. Even if you grant, for the sake of argument, the legitimacy of federal involvement in immigration, failure to act effectively on it is not nearly so serious as a breach in the separations of powers. Failure to act does cause problems. Problems which both parties share the blame for, and which do need to be addressed. But it does not threaten the very structure of our Republic. We fought a war in 1776. It lasted 8 years and took a heavy toll in blood and treasure in order to get those powers
separated. The separation of powers is fundamental to the difference between a monarchy and a republic. A monarch may both create law and see it enacted. He does so by divine right. He is responsible to nobody. A president, on the other hand, is an executive only. He does not create law; he executes law that has already been debated and approved by Congress. His powers derive their origin from the inalienable rights of the citizens to life, liberty, and property, and are not intrinsic to his person. It's not the name of the thing -EOs are not an awful thing if they are used correctly and judiciously- it's the nature of the thing. If it creates law, its legislative in nature, and out of bounds. The president may suggest measures, but if he doesn't get what he wants, that's ok. We call that checks and balances, and it's part of the design of our government.

Another thing I've seen a number of times, given as a justification for the overreach, is the votes that both Boehner and Reid have declined to bring to a vote, but that's actually the Constitution working as intended. We call that "checks and balances" when we take Civics class, and it's not at all a crime. The federal government is intended to be a slow machine. It's also supposed to be quite small. Most things are supposed to be handled at the State and local levels. The level of Constitutional ignorance in our country is breathtaking; it is taught so incredibly poorly, when it's taught at all.

Absolutely, every other president that did legislative stuff, however they did it, should have been impeached. But that's water under the bridge now. We The People (and our representatives in Congress) failed in our duty to uphold the Constitution then. That is no excuse for continued failure. Obama's immigration by Executive Order is illegitimate. There is no Presidential authority for this sort of action. He was, as his supporters like to point out, a teacher of Constitutional law; he knows very well what the powers of his office are, and chooses not to stay within them. For his usurpation he should be removed from office, and his measures should be defunded immediately by the House. Should they ever come before the Supreme Court, they ought to be struck down as the illegitimate usurpation that they are, and each of the individual States ought to be taking immediate steps to nullify his actions. Complacency is not how we retain our freedom.


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