Thursday, July 31, 2014

First Amendment for Dummies

Sheesh! Talk about by the skin of my teeth. I only wrote this one week ago--but forgot to schedule it!
So, here I am again, a day late and a dollar short. . .
Not polished, but. . .take it for what it's worth.

By Susan Knight
FYI, I don’t support the CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) but I like this flag calligram.


I spoke out about the Second Amendment to the Constitution at the beginning of this month of Independence. I think I shall write about the First Amendment this time around.

The phrase “separation of Church and State” has always given me heartburn because of the way people have turned it around. The First Amendment was not created to protect the State from religion, but to protect the right of We-the-People to practice our religion and not be dictated to by the State.

Most of the immigrants who crossed the ocean to come here, pre-Revolution, did so to escape religious persecution. If you lived in a State or Principality, in Germany say, in the 1500s to1800s, before it became one, big country, you had to belong to the state religion. In Germany, it was Lutheran. In England, it was the Anglican Church. In France, it was Roman Catholic (until the French Revolution), and in Scotland it was Presbyterian, and so on.

America was a place where nobody could tell you what religion to belong to. You could choose—freedom. Even though the idea took a while to catch on, that’s what eventually happened, since the Constitution and the First Amendment made it law. Freedom of Religion and all the First Amendment freedoms, first applied only to the federal government and not states’ governments, who could control religious practices if they wanted to. But in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted and, along with the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment has applied to state and local governments, as well as the federal government, meaning the government—any government—couldn’t dictate what We-the-People chose about religious beliefs.

For the longest while, state religions were adopted in the United States. People who lived in Rhode Island were predominantly Baptist. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the state religion was Puritan for a time. Those who lived in Maryland were Catholic, and so on.

Even though religious freedom was a premise of the Constitution and its First Amendment,  these freedoms could not stop personal persecution. Unscrupulous people did lash out. The early Mormon church is a good example. Even William Penn was convicted of preaching a Quaker sermon which, at the time, was illegal, due to states rights.

Thomas Jefferson saw what was happening and spoke to We-the-People about a big wall of separation of church and state. He remembered what it was like being under the thumb of the English and having to do what the king said. He believed the state should not be able to enforce which religion to join or how one would practice their religion. The state could not "establish" a state religion. This phrase did not mean to prohibit religious beliefs or opinions, or to practice that which went against the laws of the land (the Ten Commandments). For instance, human sacrifice would be against the law of committing murder, so whichever religion practiced that would not be protected under the First Amendment.

Since that phrase, "separation of church and state" has been turned around in this modern world, We-the-People bought into the thinking that religion cannot be involved in anything pertaining to the State, or the government, as it’s now been contrived. People think they can’t pray in schools, or in public anywhere. But that’s exactly what the First Amendment protects—our right to pray in schools, or at City Hall, or to open a session of Congress or the Senate. The government cannot force us to pray, tell us what to pray, or have anything to do with us praying, but it cannot prohibit us from praying.

Any religious denomination has the right to meet in a school. Freedom of Assembly is also protected by the First Amendment. As long as the assembly is peaceful, it’s protected. Yes, seminary can be held in a high school. You might have to hold it before or after school, reserve a room, probably pay for the room, but you can hold it in a public school. I researched this when I taught early morning seminary in Pennsylvania. I opted to have it at my house, though. I lived across the street from one of the high schools in our ward.

Our country is based on Judeo-Christian thinking (not Buddhist, Hindi, Muslim, etc.). Our Ten Commandments form the basis for most of our government laws. If not, it wouldn’t be a crime to commit murder, or to steal. And it wasn’t too long ago it was a crime to commit adultery and adultery was grounds for divorce. Fines and sometimes imprisonment were the punishment. (Adultery is still illegal in twenty-one states.) These are the Judeo-Christian principles as outlined in the Ten Commandments. These beliefs are protected by the First Amendment.

So that’s my take on the Freedom of Religion part of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Do you know the other protections we have under the First Amendment? Take the quiz below and see how you do.
One of my favorite movies has a wonderful scene about the First Amendment. Even though it wasn’t specifically about Freedom of Religion, I thought I would include it. It gets me every time.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

That Time I Found a Four-Leaf Clover and Nothing Happened

by Andilyn Jenkins

“Ya know, I’ve never found a four-leaf clover. And I’ve looked,” I remarked to Aaron as I pictured myself at ten combing through clover patches in the park around the corner from my house.

“That’s because they don’t exist,” Aaron replied matter-of-factly.

“Oh. Are you sure? I mean, they would be a mutation. ‘Cause clovers should only have three leaves. But mutations exist,” I asserted, leaving X-Men intentionally out of my support case.

“Good point. I don’t know. I’ve never seen one,” Aaron swayed.

“Me either. I guess that’s why they’re lucky,” I reasoned.

Can You Find A Four Leaf Clover?? by NarutoFreakazoidT
                                                                            I found this picture here.

In the Redwood Forest admiring the gigantic trees dusting the clouds from the sky, Aaron and I shuffled along the tourists’ dirt path. Thick patches of clovers blanketed the forest floor, so I scanned their ranks to pass the time while the kids squealed, raced, climbed, and tripped around us.

“Wait. Is that a four-leaf clover?” Right next to the edge of the path, the clover waved up at me. Its fourth leaf was tucked behind one of the other leaves just enough that I couldn’t be sure until I plucked it from the ranks. I held the stem in one hand and fanned apart the heart-shaped leaves with my fingers. One. Two. Three. Four.

“Aaron, it’s like the clovers heard us talking and rewarded me for believing in them,” I giggled.

“Well then, leprechauns are definitely real,” Aaron teased, darting his eyes around the Redwood roots. And in that moment, I felt like I pinched faith from a two-year-old. I looked inward and saw a child hugging her good-luck charm, believing in leprechauns, magic, and eaves-dropping clovers.

My luck didn’t exactly change. My baby still woke up in the middle of the night. I still stubbed my little toe on the kitchen counter—twice.  I still gained four pounds after eating nothing but pies, cinnamon rolls, Costco muffins, and homemade vanilla ice cream for a week (go figure).

But for the rest of our vacation, I always said yes to ice cream with fresh peaches. I sat on the floor just to snuggle the dogs. I played with my daughter’s princess sticker book while she napped.

And I felt pretty lucky.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Too Many Serious Things

by Terri Wagner

Most of the time I can watch the news with some degree of peace. Lately, I find myself reading about such tragedy and sorrow, I find little peace. I try to remind myself we are in the last of the last days, be patient, look to the prophet, pray, and remember we have been through this before in the war in heaven. Today, however, it seems overwhelming.

For today, I want to be sad
to reach out with love to those who are in a very bad place
I want to hug heroes
and pray like Nephi in Chapter 7 of Helaman who knew his country was in dire straits.
Just today I want to remind myself of the importance of free will, and why that can sometimes take the face of evil.
And then tonight I will whisper these words to myself

"I am sore wounded but not slain
I will lay me down and bleed a while
And then rise up to fight again"

...and let tomorrow bring back the comfort that is always just a prayer away

Saturday, July 26, 2014

My Little Kindle Friend

When we first came to Memphis for our mission, I met Marguerite. 

She comes to church each week, dripping in costume jewelry and colorfully coordinated outfits.

We've been to her house several times—once for my husband to unstick her bathroom window after painters had done some work for her. They had painted the window shut. A putty knife and a little elbow grease corrected the problem.

We took the young Elders over another time to get her patio furniture out for the summer.

Her house has a musty smell laced with cologne. It's tidy, but it's so cluttered with stuffed animals, pictures of her past life, and tables set for a party with full service dinner and glass ware that she never gives it a good cleaning. 

She invited us over this past week because she needed help with her Kindle. While we were on the phone, setting a time, she volunteered, "I cain't be friends with most women."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because, if I talk to their husbands, the wives get jealous and think I'm making a pass at their men."

I smile. She is so cute! I just love her.

We go to her house. She invites us in, and we sit on the couch across from her collection of Christmas cards and ornaments while she gets her Kindle. 

She can't get it off D&C 84. She read a verse from that section last week as part of the Relief Society lesson, and she got stuck there.

We practice touching Moroni (softly) in LDS tools. She is delighted to get back to the library. She laughs. Then we practice finding her Sunday School lesson. When we turn to the Teachings of the Presidents, she asks, "Now which prophet are we studying?
I tell her, "Joseph Fielding Smith."
She scrolls down to Joseph F. Smith. "Is this right?"
I help her find Joseph Fielding Smith.

We practice changing from one screen to another, but she still gets mixed up.
So I say, "If you don't know what to do, punch Moroni and start over again."

We try this several times, and it works. She needs a simple rule to help her begin again.

We laugh and have an enjoyable visit. I try to figure out why admire her so very much. 

*I come up with the fact that she is action oriented. The world doesn't pass her by. She's part of it, and having a great time along the way.

*She seems undaunted in her quest to join the electronic age. Even though she gets confused and doesn't know what to do, she keeps going. Her positive attitude is catching. 

*Her youthful mind-set keeps her involved in life around her, and gives her kind of a crazy flair that's fun.

*She has a strong testimony of the gospel since her conversion forty years ago. She drives herself to the temple every week (a little scary) and motors to church every Sunday (also a little scary).

*She makes things happen in her life, and that's a great attitude to have..

Friday, July 25, 2014

Don't Be Afraid of Social Media

by Marsha Ward

Last Saturday I gave a class at a writers' retreat held at the Merritt Center and Lodge in Payson, Arizona, by the Rim Country District of Arizona Press Women, (now known as Arizona Professional Writers). On the program it was called "Don't be afraid of social media to promote your work." I expanded the topic to include other online tools for marketing yourself and your products.

I introduced the concept of "1,000 True Fans" being a goal to work toward to ensure a living wage from writing. I wrote about that here. We talked about the importance of having an Internet presence of some sort, either a website or a blog. I challenged the participants to quantify their readership by using a worksheet to identify who "follows" them on whatever social media outlets they use or what lists of contact information they have assembled. I encouraged them to commit to use at least one social media or other outreach to their readers, whether it be a Facebook Page, a blog, live events, a newsletter, or Twitter. Then we had a lively question and answer period to end it all.

To my great relief, the class was received well, and I got a lot of comments from the attendees. I even sold a couple of books afterward. It was a good day.

What social media or other methods do you use to become and stay engaged with your readers?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Appreciating the Risks

by Kari Diane Pike

What's on your bucket list? Only in the last couple of years have I had the courage to put on paper the things I want to experience in this life. My list changes almost daily. More often than not, opportunities arise that I had never before considered and I'm learning to grab hold and take the ride. Then I add it to my bucket list and check it off. Is that cheating?

One of those crazy opportunities came up last week when I arrived at my Dad's house in Spokane, Washington. My step-sister invited me to join her and her daughter in an upcoming Dirty Dash. When all was said and done, eight of us "Newcomb" women descended upon a local thrift shop and outfitted ourselves with tacky, Dirty Dash worthy outfits and running shoes. We signed the required release waiver which, after giving warnings about risks of injury, attacks from wild animals, and the certainty that this would be a tough run, ended with this statement:

"All such risks being known, assumed and appreciated by me."

Being in the Dirty Dash turned out to be a lot like my life's journey. Just like the warnings in the release waiver, I can just picture myself in the pre-existence being taught about the many experiences I might encounter during my mortal existence. Some challenges probably sounded pretty scary, but I was so excited to get a body and experience mortality, I was willing to go through hard times. I was taught that I would get dirty and that there would be pain. No one gets through life unscathed. But our older brother Jesus Christ promised He would help us and make it possible for is to be clean again. I can imagine that waiting in line at "the starting gate" must have been full of anticipation.

First, we had to stand in line and wait for our turn to run. I wonder what I did while I waited for my turn on earth. What did the group before me say? What am I teaching the generation following me?

Right from the beginning of the race, there was mud. We saw five injured runners before we even started our journey. Then we had to run along a hot, dusty road. I never thought I would welcome crawling on my belly through narrow culverts in a foot of muddy water. The eight of us stuck together and helped each other get over, under and through each obstacle. One of the biggest challenges, in my opinion, was waiting in line to slide down the ginormous water slide. Patience has always been a trial for me. But we cheered each other on.

My ten-year-old niece, Sara, taught me what it really means to have courage. Her body shook. Tears channeled over her mud-streaked cheeks. Her breath came out in sobs. But she climbed over those barricades and conquered the ten-foot rope ladders. At first I yelled encouraging words to boost her confidence, but as she took on each test, my cheers became more and more sincere. By the end, I had tears running down my cheeks as I watched her eyes spark with the joy of accomplishment.

We finished the race strong, holding hands and running through the last mud puddle. We finished together and we finished strong.

The daring, darling, Dirty Dashers!

Later that evening, my fourteen-year-old niece asked her older, more experienced cousin about high school and if it was going to be hard. Megan answered Shayley with wisdom beyond her years:

"High school is kind of like the Dirty Dash." It's as hard or as easy as you choose to make it, and as fun as you want to make it. The more effort you put into it, the more worthwhile your experience is going to be."

Just like life. And thanks to a muddy, tough race through the forest, I appreciate the risks more than ever. I am grateful for this glorious chance to experience mortality. And I am thankful for the Savior's gift that enables me to overcome the challenges and be washed clean from all the mud.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Shooting Quivers and Individual Piglets

by H. Linn Murphy

It really snags me when I'm reading along in a perfectly good book and I come BANG up against a glaring fallacy or misused word or continuity error.

The other day I was reading a book and the main character shot things with her quiver. Any self-respecting archer or person who has read much about archery will know that a quiver is the case which holds arrows, not the arrow itself. Another place the author called the hilt of the sword the helm. A helm is a helmet and worn on the head. Those are very small mistakes, but they take the reader out of your story. The reader can't forget that mistake. Once a friend of my daughter wrote a story with her in which she was describing a medieval feast. Her words: And they all had individual piglets. My family has never forgotten those words and it's been well over a decade since they were written. I doubt that's how she wished to be remembered, but she'll never live that down.

One of our family hobbies is to try and spot continuity errors in movies. But while you're looking for errors, you aren't participating in the story. In effect, you've put yourself out of the scope of the piece.

Get yourself a really good dictionary. For those words you don't quite feel you know for sure, look them up. Also there are some excellent thesaurus programs which will allow you to use words in new ways and to check the ones you're using. They aren't always just for finding new words.

Even a work of fiction needs its research, especially if it deals with a time, place, or situation unknown to you the writer. I'm writing a book right now about a girl who studies honey badgers in Africa. I've never been to Africa, nor have I ever seen a honey badger up close. So the research I'll need to do will be extensive. Already I've spent some time researching honey badgers and Johns Hopkins University where my main character works prior to getting her grant. I'll need to research camps in Africa and about the area where we'll put this camp. I want to know everything about my subject I can so I don't come off looking ignorant.

The other thing I do besides exhaustive research, is to run through the book several times. I do maybe nine full book checks before the manuscript goes to Beta readers. I want to catch ever single misspelled word, misused word, extra space, and every chance to tighten up. I want to put a book out that I'd be proud to have my name on. It's called learning the craft. We owe our readers a well-crafted book. We owe them our best work and the benefit of as much education as we can cram into ourselves.

We also need Beta readers. We need people with fresh eyes who will spot the things we're too close to notice, as if we're looking through the wrong end of the binoculars. They'll catch those fallacies or plot holes. And we need to listen to them and let them a point. Your Beta reader is the mouth of the reader.

Listen to your editor. They may make some unpopular decisions on things to cut or change, but they generally have your book at heart. Make sure you find an editor who will work with you, but you also have to work with your editor. I keep a slag heap for things I have to cut that I think might be useful elsewhere. That makes cutting things not quite so painful. I also always remember that I have the original manuscript...:o)

Write on! And keep your quiver on your back.