the battle for our brains

Jan 30, 2012 by

the battle for our brains

Oh my, this article may just change my life.

Go read it.


Right now.

Then come back.

I love reading the scriptures. I love immersing myself in the ancient words. I love hearing the voice of the Lord. I have always loved them and have been pretty good at studying them, but I could be so, so, so much better. This summer during the whole lump saga I read and pondered every day. I needed the power within them to fill me up, to feed me. Now that I am not in a crisis moment, my study has been lacking and I feel the difference. I need to go back to the level of study I had this summer because I still need to be fed words of truth.

So, did you read the article? Well, I hope so because I am sitting here typing my thoughts as fast as I can even though it really, really hurts my shoulder to type and even though I need to clean the sewing room and even though I need to clean my desk I am still typing because this is a message that needs to get out to the world and into our souls.

“The battle today, between Babylon and Zion, is being waged between the synapses of our brains.”

I am all about synapses. They were some of my favorite things to study in college and I have continued to be fascinated by them since; and now someone is talking about battles (another favorite topic) AND righteousness (another fave) AND synapses. YES!

This is exactly what I needed to hear to get me back on track with some in-depth personal scripture study time each day. My synapses are being inundated with the things of the world, the fast pace of the world, the endless information that is available with the touch of a finger, and I am going to reclaim them and feed them a slower-paced feast of truth. Now, I am not saying all this information is bad…I love it…it’s just that it can be too much. It can limit our ability to focus on the things of God and it can distract us from pondering because God doesn’t beep us when He has a new message for us and He doesn’t shout at us from across the room to pick up the line. He reaches out to us, he calls to us, but he doesn’t demand that we listen to Him the way so much of the world does.

Was the post life-changing for you as well?

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on death and saving

Dec 7, 2011 by

Of appliances, that is.

My refrigerator had some brown sludge underneath it on Tuesday morning. I investigated the freezer and while it was filthy and badly in need of a clean-out and a cleaning, nothing was oozing down the sides and there was no tell-tale drip down to the floor. So, I asked everyone who spilled the brown sludge and what it was. No one claimed responsibility and I chalked it up to one of those weird mom-moments where once again I was cleaning up yucky stuff that shows up in my house that no one has a clue about.

Later that night, I noticed a clicking, whirring, and whining noise. Keziah claimed it was the oven, which made no sense whatsoever. Why would an oven be clicking? Richard investigated and narrowed the sound down to the fridge area of the house. Upon opening the freezer, water and some not-so-clear gunk were drip, drip, dripping down. Plop. Plop. Uuuuggghhh!

We quickly put ice into the fridge to keep things in there cold and Richard ran to the store to buy a thermometer. Unfortunately our efforts with stockpiling ice inside our fridge failed and this morning the temperature was 51 degrees. Right in the middle of the spoilage zone. The bad news is, we have now lost all the food that was in the freezer and almost all the food that was in the fridge. The good news is we didn’t have a ton of food in there to begin with (unlike the time our freezer broke right after we had filled it hundreds of pounds of bananas, berries, and elk meat).

So, this morning I had to deal with a lot of questions. Try to repair it or chuck it and buy a new one? If repair, which shop to book? The cheapest? The fastest? The most expensive? The friendliest voice on the phone? If replace it, how exactly will we buy a new one? Look for a new-used one or a new-new one? Save the sour cream or throw it out? Save Tasha’s yummy rice or assume it will give us food poisoning? Hmmmmmmm.

While I made a gazillion phone calls, scoured the internet for information on what could be wrong, and directed the food-throw-out-or-put-in-the-cooler affair, my children were able to feast on the pears and oranges our church brought over last night – thank you Elder’s Quorum!

The hardest decision for me was to decide to risk having a repairman come out and having to pay a $65 service fee just to find out that it was not, in fact, fixable. Nonetheless, I made just that decision and prayed it would be fixable.

After the girls dealt with all the food, the phone calls had all been made, and most of the questions had been answered…yes, try to repair it, I think it is worth the risk, book with the guy who sounded the friendliest and wasn’t the cheapest, but a LOT cheaper than the most expensive shop, if it doesn’t work, buy a used one for cheap-o off of Craig’s List, save the sour cream, and toss the rice…I decided since the fridge was empty, I might as well clean it thoroughly.

The girls thought I was ridiculous. “Why clean it if it is dead?” and “Seriously, you are going to scrub it clean when it is going to the dump!?!” I replied, “Yes, I don’t want the repairman to have to look at our yucky fridge and I don’t want to send a filthy fridge away and on the off chance it is salvageable, I would like to have a clean fridge.” They continued to think I was nuts. BUT, they helped.

I emptied all the icky water out of the bottom of the freezer. I sprayed and scrubbed and sprayed and scrubbed and became thoroughly disgusted with myself that my fridge was so despicable. I scrubbed up whatever hardened yellow substance had spilled all down the back of the fridge compartment. I emptied out spilled rice and almonds from the non-hooked-up ice maker. The girls washed all the drawers and shelves in the sink and when the inside was spotless we put all the parts and pieces back in. I believe it is the cleanest it has ever been, including the day it was installed by whichever former owner of this house installed it.

And when the repairman came, it smelled and looked clean. I didn’t have to die of mortification. And, in the first 60 seconds he was in the house, he determined it was the relay, not the compressor. So, it wasn’t dead, just in need of some help to bring it back to life. $120 later, our fridge is cooling down and sometime in the next several hours we will be back in the business of having chilled food once again.

And it is clean.

This is quite a long post about a silly appliance, but bear with me. All this talk of death and saving and cleaning and emptying really got me thinking today about how much effort Christ goes to to save us. If we will allow Him to do so, He will cleanse us, do anything He can to save us, and He literally brings us back to life. He will not leave us because the repair bill is too high, nor will He call in the cheapest or the fastest or the friendliest repair guy. He will do the work Himself and He will do it by sharing His heart, holding us close, helping us forsake our sins, being resurrected so that we might live again, and never giving up even when we seem like we are goners. He thinks we are worth it. He knows we are worth it.

We just need to believe Him.

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book bonanza: the phantom tollbooth

Oct 18, 2011 by

We started this book as a family read-aloud eons ago. It has taken us fffffoooooorrrrrrrreeeeeevvvvveeeeerrrrrrrrrr to get through it. I don’t know why exactly. We have all thoroughly enjoyed it. It is hilarious. It has humor that made Richard laugh so hard he cried. It has math and language and culture and human nature and so much more.

It still took us forever…actually we still aren’t done. We have two more chapters, but we are determined to finish in the next few days!

Anyway, last night as I was reading, some words from the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason jumped out at me. I believe they are profound and they are just what I needed to hear. Maybe what all of us needed to hear.

It has been a long trip,” said Milo, climbing onto the couch where the princesses sat; “but we would have been here much sooner if I hadn’t made so many mistakes. I’m afraid it’s all my fault.”

You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

“But there’s so much to learn,” he said with a thoughtful frown.

“Yes, that’s true,” admitted Rhyme; “but it’s not just learning things that’s important. It’s learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters.”

Isn’t that the truth! I have made so, so many mistakes in my life. I have beat myself up for them over and over again. At times they have been incapacitating. At times they were all I could think of. At times I have dwelled on them far more than is healthy (is dwelling ever healthy? Probably not!) For the past several years I have been trying to focus on the lessons…what the lessons are, why I need them, and what I am to do with the learning of them. It is a much healthier approach.

I’m reminded of my favorite scenes from Meet the Robinsons. An invention doesn’t work out and the boy inventor is devastated. The family responds with applause. The boy is baffled…why are they applauding him when his idea didn’t work? The mother responds:

“From failure, you learn; from success, not so much.”

Implementing that belief in my life is difficult to say the least, but I keep being hit over the head with this concept, so I am listening and learning and trusting that everything-doesn’t-have-to-be-perfect-right-this-instant and I don’t have to beat myself up for it any longer. I can learn and I can grow and I can give life my best. I can believe deep down in my little toes that the journey is what is important and is what enables me to become the person God created me to be.

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the signs we should be wearing

Sep 3, 2011 by

My dear friend, Jodie, shared this post with me and now I must share it with you. It is deep and powerful and is giving me great pause on this glorious Saturday morning.

Read it, think about it, see if it is a message that resonates with you.

My sign?

I have just been though five months of deep concern for my health and I have no clue what I need to do about the estrogen in my breasts, so if I don’t seem as bubbly and chipper as usual it is because I have been staring cancer in the face. Please be gentle.

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playing his music

Jul 30, 2011 by

I read this article yesterday and can’t stop thinking about it. It has given me so much to ponder. I want it to change the way I see the world, to change the way I see this life, this journey of becoming like Christ. I want these thoughts to infiltrate my being so fully that I treat others differently, that I see each of us learning to play the music of Christ’s life.

I am a pretty capable woman. I can read, write, discuss, lead, teach, organize events, figure things out, make tough decisions, do a back handspring, and lots more. But when I decided to start playing the cello, I was brought face to face with my inability to make music. I could hear the music I wanted to produce in my head, but I couldn’t make my fingers push on the strings in the right way to make anything but groans and squeaks come out of my instrument. I could stare at a note and tell you what it is, but it didn’t really translate into speaking the language of the bass clef. I could dutifully report to my teacher what key a piece of music was written in, but it didn’t actually mean I understand all the nuances of what that meant. Because of this experience, I can really relate to the words of this article. I can see how my learning to play the cello was and is a ssssslllllllooooooowwwwww process, full of ups and downs and all arounds.

Because of this article, I can see how my experiences in becoming more Christlike are a ssssslllllllooooooowwwwwww process as well. I mess up daily. I judge, I cast stones in my mind, I see things from my limited perspective, I refuse God’s forgiveness, I hold on to pain, I forget my blessings, I walk my own path, I struggle to be who I know He created me to be.

I just couldn’t resist giving you this teaser…

…grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now. It is not a finishing touch; it is the Finisher’s touch.

It’s all part of the journey…the process to be in tune with His music.

Go read it…really…life changing.

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this year it’s a weed

Jul 9, 2011 by

This Year It’s a Weed—Pull It


When I was growing up in Lehi, Utah, USA, my family had a garden large enough that we rotated the corn and potatoes every year. One day my father told me to weed the corn while he weeded the potatoes. As I worked my way down a row of six-inch-high (15 cm) corn, I found a solitary potato plant growing larger and more beautiful than any of the potato plants on Dad’s side of the garden. I called to him and asked, “What should I do with this?”
Dad barely looked up. “Pull it.”

Believing he hadn’t realized I was pointing to a potato plant, I objected, “But Dad, it isn’t a weed. It’s a potato.” Again, without looking up, he said, “Not this year. This year it’s a weed. Pull it.” So I did.

Since then I have often pondered the wisdom of my father’s words. I have come to realize that obedience is not just making a right choice, but making a right choice in the right season. When I consider all the things Heavenly Father would have me do in this life, doing them at the right time seems as critical as doing them at all.

I was reading in the Ensign (my church’s monthly magazine) today and read this article and can’t get it out of my mind. What are the weeds in my life right now? What wonderful things am I doing that need pulled out for this season? Where does my “growing” energy need to go?

Weighty matters…I’ll share more thoughts when I decide just what is a weed and what is not.

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liber and public virtue

Jul 4, 2011 by

Clear back in 1997 or so, we heard Oliver DeMille speak about education. To say his words changed the course of our life is an understatement. Since that long ago summer day, we have been trying to implement the principles of classics, study, doing hard things, mentoring, and, yes, public virtue. The following words are long, but they are worth the read – as my birthday present to America, I offer them to you in hopes they will inspire each of us to become people who are liber.

Liber and Public Virtue
By Oliver DeMille
A speech delivered by Dr. Oliver DeMille at America’s Freedom Festival on June 30, 2000 in Provo, UT. This lecture is a classic because Dr. DeMille is such a phenomenal and timeless speaker and because of the truths he touches on. Oliver DeMille is a well known author and a tireless advocate for liberty. You may learn more about him at
The Liber
On July 4, 1776 John Hancock, as head of the Continental Congress, signed his name at the bottom of the newly written Declaration of Independence and sent it to the world. The rest of the signers didn’t sign until Congress reconvened on August 2. So for a month John Hancock’s name stood alone declaring independence from the greatest power on the face of the earth.
What motivates a man to voluntarily sacrifice his own safety, jeopardizing his family and all his earthly possessions on the lean hope that his neighbors and nation will support him, and even if they do, that his side has any chance of winning? What motivates a man to voluntarily submit himself to the legal and violent reaction that he knew would come, and which surely did come? There are two phrases which have been forgotten today, but which help explain why a man like John Hancock, and so many others in his generation, would choose what they did at such high cost.
These two phrases were the foundation of freedom on July 4, 1776. In those days, the average farmer or housewife understood both of these phrases, and based on the response to the Federalist Papers, could have debated and discussed them openly. Unfortunately, in the year 2000 (or 2011), neither phrase is widely understood. The first phrase is Public Virtue, the second is Liber.
I have submitted these two phrases to thousands of people in seminars around the nation, and I have often stopped at this point in my presentation and asked how many people could give me a definition of Public Virtue or Liber. A few people have known Liber, and in most seminars several people raise their hand and try to define Public Virtue. A few have even come close.
So what do these phrases mean?
Liber is the Latin word for tree or tree bark, and since tree bark was used to write on and make contracts with, and processed to make paper for more writing and contracts, the word Liber can be associated with those who can read, write and engage in contract. With this definition, in the classical world of Greece and Rome, there were two classes of people: slaves and Liber.
There were varying levels and types of slaves and peasants, and likewise different types of Liber: from citizens to merchants to the aristocracy and royalty. But the fundamental difference between slaves and Liber was freedom, and Liber is the root word of Liberty.
It is also the root of book, libro, and library.
Liberty is the state of being Liber. Liberty is not just the absence of bondage, but the fitness of the individual to act as a citizen.
Liber is also the root of the phrase “liberal arts”, such as in liberal arts colleges; the arts in a Bachelor of Arts or B.A. degree comes from the liberal arts. The liberal arts are the knowledge and skills necessary to remain free. As Robert M. Hutchins, former president of the University of Chicago, put it: “. . . liberal education . . . is the education that prepares us to be free men. You have to have this education if you . . . are going to be an effective citizen of a democracy; for citizenship requires that . . . you do not leave your duties to be performed by others . . . . A free society is composed of freemen. To be free you have to be educated for freedom.”
What are those arts? Well, for the founders they were the arts of reading the classics and thinking clearly and independently. The Founding generation was a generation of Liber, of men and women and children who could read the law and government bills and resolutions in detail and understand and debate them. These regular farmers and housewives read and hotly debated the Federalist Papers in New York in 1788 (while the states were ratifying the U.S. Constitution).
History has proven that freedom is not free. It must be earned. And one of the ways the founding generation earned it was in becoming Liber: getting the kind of education required to remain free. And by education they didn’t mean diplomas or degrees, but knowledge gained from reading the classics of history, law, government, and the arts.
It is true that hardly any schools in our day focus on training people to be Liber, but the classics are still available and all we must do is take them off the shelf, dust them off, and get to work earning our freedom. If our generation loses the understanding necessary to remain free, we will lose our freedom. No society in all of history has avoided this inevitable consequence. Over and over in history, when the people of a nation stop being Liber and just become focused on getting jobs and making a living, freedom wanes and finally is sold.
Unless we pay the price to be a nation of Liber, we will not maintain the freedoms we so cherish and celebrate. That is the first great word that we have forgotten since July 4, 1776—Liber, which means the body of citizens reading the classics and history and knowing what is required to remain free.

Public Virtue
The other forgotten key to maintaining our liberty and prosperity and ability to worship and choose freely is Public Virtue. Benjamin Franklin said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt . . . they have more need of masters.”

Samuel Adams said: “I thank God that I have lived to see my country independent and free. She may enjoy her . . . freedom if she will. It depends on her virtue.”

The founding generation spoke of two types of virtue: private virtue and Public Virtue. Private virtue is morality, obedience to the commandments, doing what is right. And private virtue is essential to freedom: immorality leads inevitably to loss of freedom—personal and eventually national.
Public Virtue, on the other hand, is a totally distinct concept from private virtue, though equally vital to liberty. Most of the people in our seminars who try to define public virtue say something like: Public Virtue is where government officials are moral in their personal lives, or Public Virtue is when leaders pass moral laws. But Public Virtue is even more fundamental than these things—it is one of the things which makes them possible.
In 1776 the term Public Virtue meant voluntarily sacrificing personal benefit for the good of society. Consider the signers of the Declaration of Independence and their closest associates, their wives. The signers and their wives epitomized both Liber and Public Virtue.
Robert and Mary Morris
Like Robert Morris of Pennsylvania. Robert Morris was at a holiday celebration dinner when news came of the Battle of Lexington. The group was astonished and most people soon left for home, but Robert and a “. . . few remained and discussed the great question of American freedom: and there, within that festive hall, did Robert Morris and a few others, by solemn vow, dedicate their lives, their fortunes, and their honor, to the sacred cause of the Revolution.”[i]
Robert Morris was self-educated and guided by a mentor, Mr. Thomas Willing, and became Liber through studying the classics. He started in business at age 21 and became extremely wealthy. In fact, he was known as the Financier of the Revolution. When the Tea Act was passed, Robert Morris openly supported it though he lost thousands of dollars in his business.
When Congress went bankrupt in 1776, Robert Morris loaned $10,000 of his own money to feed and cloth Washington’s “handful of half-naked, half-famished militia.” In their day, this was a fortune. One historian wrote: “When Congress fled to Baltimore, on the approach of the British across New Jersey, Mr. Morris, after [fleeing with] his family into the country, returned to, and remained in Philadelphia. Almost in despair, Washington wrote to him, and informed him that to make any successful movement whatever, a considerable sum of money must be had. It was a requirement that seemed almost impossible to meet.
Mr. Morris left his counting-room for his lodgings in utter despondency. On his way he met a wealthy Quaker, and made known his wants. “What security can’st thou give me?” asked he. “My note and my honor,” promptly replied Mr. Morris. The Quaker replied: “Robert, thou shalt have it.”—It was sent to Washington, the Delaware was crossed [remember the picture with Washington at the helm?], and victory was won!”
On another occasion, when Washington was preparing for his attack at Yorktown, which turned the tide of the war to America’s side, he approached Robert Morris and Judge Peters. Mr. Peters asked Washington, “’What can you do?’ Washington replied, ‘With money, everything, without it, nothing,’ at which time he turned an anxious look toward Mr. Morris. ‘Let me know the sum you desire’ said Mr. Morris; and before noon Washington’s plan and estimates were complete. Mr. Morris promised him the amount, and raised it upon his own responsibility.”
Time after time Robert Morris gave his own resources and raised money on his own credit to keep Washington and his men going. One record remarked: “If it were not [proven] by official records, posterity would hardly be made to believe that the campaign . . . which . . . closed the Revolutionary War, was sustained wholly on the credit of an individual merchant.”
When the War ended, this self-made millionaire spent 3 ½ years in debtors prison after he lost everything. His wife, Mary Morris, who was born to a wealthy family and educated in the classics, watched possession after possession disappear during the War. When Robert went to prison after giving so much to the cause of freedom, she tended a borrowed little farm and walked each day to the prison with her daughter Maria to visit her husband. Robert left prison a broken down old man and died shortly thereafter. The financier of the Revolution, and his family, understood public virtue—voluntarily sacrificing personal benefit for the good of society.
Thomas and Lucy Nelson
So did Thomas Nelson, Jr. a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Virginia. He was Liber educated in the classics under the tutelage of his father and was later individually mentored by the celebrated Dr. Proteus at Cambridge. When the Revolutionary War started, he was called as the head of the military of the state of Virginia. “The sudden call of the militia from their homes left many families [destitute], for a great part of the agricultural operations were suspended.” General Nelson used his own money and resources to support many of his poorest soldiers, “and thus more than a hundred families were kept from absolute want.”[ii]
The biographer of the Signers, B.J. Lossing, wrote: “Mr. Nelson made many and great [financial] sacrifices for his country. When, in 1780, the French fleet was hourly expected, Congress felt it highly necessary that provision should be made for them. But its credit was prostrate, and its calls upon the States were [ignored]. Virginia proposed to raise two million . . . dollars, and Mr. Nelson at once” set out to raise the money. “But many wealthy men told Mr. Nelson that they would not contribute a penny on the security of [Congress], but they would lend him all he wanted. He at once added his personal security.”
I have wondered which type of person I would be in similar circumstances—the men who made sure their bank accounts grew during the War, or the Thomas Nelson and Robert Morris type who gave their all. At one point in the war, Washington was losing and his men starving while the British were well supplied from American merchants. I have wondered whether in the same circumstances I would keep selling to the British, or do like so many American farmers and merchants did and burn down my own business, crop or livelihood. Can you imagine voluntarily pouring the kerosene on your shop, and hand in hand with your spouse lighting the match and walking away to bankruptcy—all because your side was so close to losing the war?
Thomas Nelson was elected Governor of Virginia when Thomas Jefferson’s term expired, and during the Battle of Yorktown, the one which Robert Morris funded and which turned the tide of the War to the Americans, Governor Nelson noticed that the American troops were firing at every home in town except his own personal home. The British had stationed a number of their officers in his home, perhaps believing that as the home of the governor and head of the state military it was safe. Governor Nelson positioned himself at the head of his troops and begged them to open fire on his home—and it was shelled by canon fire.
Within a month of this battle, his health broke and he shortly passed away. Thomas Nelson’s biographer wrote that “he descended into the grave honored and beloved, and alas! of his once vast estates, that honor and love was almost all that he left behind him.
He had spent a princely fortune in his country’s service; his horses had been taken from the plough and sent to drag the munitions of war; his granaries had been thrown open to a starving soldiery and his ample purse had been drained to its last dollar, when the credit of Virginia could not bring a sixpence into her treasury. Yet it was the widow of this man who . . . had yet to learn whether republics can be grateful.”
Lucy Nelson had been born wealthy and had helped Thomas make his fortune and rise to the Governor’s mansion. When he died early, broke and destitute, she was left to raise eleven children and eke out a living for three decades alone. When she died at eighty years of age she was “blind, infirm” and still poor, and she willed her only earthly possession, $20, to her minister. The Nelson family understood both Liber and Public Virtue.
Samuel and Eliza Adams
Another man, whose name is more familiar, also personified these forgotten virtues. Samuel Adams was educated by his father in the liberal arts through the classics.[iii] He attempted to go into business several times but he spent so much time studying the classics and reading about government and politics that he nearly went bankrupt in every business endeavor. He finally got a job as a tax collector through one of his political contacts. However, he had a hard time with this job also. As a biographer tells it: “Times were hard, money was scarce, and the collections fell [way behind]. Adams’s enemies raised the cry of [mismanagement].
“Then it came out that Sam Adams had refused to sell out the last cow or pig or the last sack of potatoes or corn meal or the scant furniture of a poor man to secure his taxes. He had told his superiors in authority that the town did not need the taxes as badly as most of these poor people needed their belongings and that he would rather lose his office than force such collections.” This job fell through like his other financial endeavors.
Another biographer wrote: “For years now, Samuel Adams had laid aside all pretence of private business and was devoted simply and solely to public affairs . . . His wife, like himself, was contented with poverty; through good management, in spite of their narrow means, a comfortable home life was maintained in which the children grew up happy and in every way well trained and cared for.”
Sam Adams and his wife, Elizabeth Wells Adams (she went by the name Eliza), and all of their children sacrificed and suffered for the cause of freedom, including a son who was imprisoned. Even the family dog, a big Newfoundland named Queue, got involved in the War. In fact, Queue was “cut and shot in several places” by British soldiers, because every time a red uniform passed by the Adams farm Queue viciously attacked. Perhaps this dog understood the issues or at least the views of his master. As Eliza Adams’s biographer wrote: “[Queue] had a vast antipathy for the British uniform . . . and bore to his grave honorable scars from his fierce encounters.”
In 1763 Sam Adams gave the first public speech in the Americas against the British and the first call for Independence. He was so successful in stirring up support for the Revolution, that when the British later offered clemency to all the signers of the Declaration who would recant, Samuel Adams and John Hancock were purposely left off the list. He was an instigator of the Boston Tea Party and was involved in almost every major event of the Revolution. He served in the Continental Congress and the records show that he was involved in almost every significant committee and spoke on nearly every important issue. Once, in response to a suggestion to try to compromise with the British, Samuel Adams obtained the floor and said to the General Council of the States: “I should advise persisting in our struggle for liberty, though it were revealed from Heaven that nine hundred and ninety-nine were to perish and only one of a thousand were to survive and retain his liberty! One such freeman must possess more virtue, and enjoy more happiness than a thousand slaves . . .”
In a time when many people spoke against slavery but owned slaves, Samuel and Eliza Adams urged everyone to free any and all slaves, and then set the example by promptly freeing all slaves the moment they came into possession of them.
In 1774, when Samuel Adams was elected to Congress, he had no money for the necessary expenses, and his absence would likely have left his family destitute. A private letter, written on August 11, 1774, tells the story: some of his neighbors, their names kept anonymous, “asked his permission to build him a new barn . . . which was executed in a few days.”
A second benefactor repaired his house; a third invited him to a tailor’s shop and then had him measured for and purchased him a new suit of clothes which was later delivered to his home. A fourth presented him with a new wig and a fifth bought him a new hat. Three others purchased him six articles of clothing, including a new pair of shoes. Another community member slipped him a purse of money; when he searched it, it contained adequate gold to cover his expenses.
His kinsman John Adams wrote: “. . . Samuel Adams . . . never planned, laid a scheme or formed a design of laying up anything for himself . . . .The case of Samuel Adams is almost without a parallel as an instance of enthusiastic, unswerving devotion to public service throughout a long life.”
Francis and Elizabeth Lewis
Another family that epitomized Liber and Public Virtue was the Francis and Elizabeth Lewis family.[iv] Francis was a signer of the Declaration from New York, was educated in the classics and built a successful business from scratch with the help of Elizabeth.
They both gave their wealth and health for our freedom. “Like Floyd, Livingstone, and Robert Morris, the other New York signers, Francis Lewis was [outlawed] by the British and a price set on his head. The enemy did not stop there. Very soon after they were in possession of Long Island, Captain Birtch was sent with a troop . . . ‘to seize the lady and destroy the property.’ As the soldiers advanced on one side, a ship of war from the other fired upon the house . . . . Mrs. Lewis looked calmly on.
A shot from the vessel struck the board on which she stood. One of her servants cried: ‘Run, Mistress, run.’ She replied: ‘Another shot is not likely to strike the same spot,” and did not change her place. The soldiers entered the house and . . . destroyed books, papers, and pictures, ruthlessly broke up the furniture, and then, after pillaging the house, departed taking Mrs. Lewis with them.” “She was carried to New York and thrown into prison. She was not allowed a bed or change of clothing and only the coarse and scanty food that was doled out to the other prisoners.” She soon died from the treatment and illnesses she sustained in prison. Francis lived without her for twenty-four more years; he never remarried, but lived to know the lonely price of Public Virtue.
The Teachers of Liberty
Consider the contribution of four great teachers of the Founding generation, three of whom were signers of the Declaration: George Wythe, John Witherspoon, Benjamin Rush and a man who is remembered simply as Mr. Lovell. Among them they mentored almost an entire generation of leaders in Liber and Public Virtue. Their students include John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Henry Clay, John Marshall, Hancock, Paine, four future U.S. Presidents, many future Supreme Court Justices, over sixty future governors, senators, representatives and judges, and as Professor Forrest McDonald put it, “enough other Founding Fathers to populate a small standing army.”
Biographer Robert Peterson said that George Wythe’s school alone “produced a generation of lawyers, judges, ministers, teachers and statesmen who helped fill the need for leadership in the young nation.” This was, in fact, George Wythe’s explicit agenda. The curriculum and message of these teachers, both on paper and through example, was Liber, private virtue and Public Virtue.
Roger and Rebecca Sherman

Consider Roger and Rebecca Sherman.[v] Roger Sherman, was apprenticed as a shoemaker and gained a Liber education reading the classics he placed on his bench in front of him while he worked on shoes. He started with mathematics classics and became a leading mathematician; for example, he did the astronomical calculations for an almanac that was published in New York when he was twenty-seven. He went from mathematics to a study of the law, and became a leading jurist in Rhode Island and later the only man to participate in the creation of and sign all four of the founding documents of the United States—all springing from the books on his cobbler bench.
His wife Rebecca was similarly self-educated in the classics, and when she married Roger she was twenty years old and took over the raising of Roger’s seven children from his first wife Elizabeth. She educated the seven children, plus the eight additional children she and Roger had, and she taught them Liber, private virtue and Public Virtue.
Other Examples
So many other stories could be told:
Like Honest John Hart, who was “hounded and hunted as a criminal” while his wife lay dying.[vi] Or, Richard Stockton, who was thrown in prison, his lands were destroyed, and he ended up literally begging for food and money to keep his family alive.[vii]
Or, Martha Jefferson, who fled with her two-month old baby in her arms to escape the invading British. The baby died soon after, and within two years she herself passed on from illnesses incurred during the conflict.[viii]
Abraham and Sarah Clark
Consider the Public Virtue of one more family, who more than self their country loved: Abraham and Sarah Clark.[ix] Self-educated in the classics, Abraham become known as “the poor man’s lawyer” because of his habit of service without pay. A poor farmer, his reading and study made him prominent and he was elected to Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence with the New Jersey delegation.
The British gave this simple man and his wife perhaps the cruelest punishment of all. They captured two of their sons who were serving under Washington, 25-year-old Thomas and young teenage Isaac, and threw them into the prison ship in the harbor. Then they informed Abraham Clark that his sons would be not be given food until he publicly recanted his signature on the Declaration of Independence. He gladly offered his life, his freedom and all his possessions, but they weren’t accepted. The British demanded that he recant or his sons would slowly starve. Abraham and Sarah determined that they could give up their lives. They could give up their fortune. But they simply could not give away their sacred honor, even to save the lives of their dear sons.
They never signed the recantation.
Imagine, on a 4th of July in 1777, Abraham and Sarah Clark sitting at home meditating on the price of Public Virtue.
What of the Future?
On the 4th of July in 1776 John Hancock, man of Liber and Public Virtue, signed the Declaration of Independence and sent it to the world with his name alone.
On the 4th of July in 1826, as if by divine mandate, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson passed away—on the same special day, only a few hours apart.
On the 4th of July in 1862 a bloody Civil War tested whether this union would survive. On the 4th of July in 1943 Americans gave their lives in Europe and around the Pacific to keep the flag of freedom waving.
On this 4th of July in the year 2000 (or 2011), consider this question: How many Liber are there today in the United States? And secondly, how many acts of Public Virtue fill the courthouses, congressional chambers or governors mansions across this land?
The answer tells us what the future of our freedoms will be.
But more importantly, how many homes are training young men and women to be Liber, to spend their lives in Public Virtue?
I know that we are busy going to school, making a living, enjoying the leisure our freedom gives us. But if we are too busy to read the classics and become Liber, to sacrifice our time and resources to protect our freedoms and build our communities, to stand for something, then we are too busy to remain free. Too busy to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
Think ahead to the 4th of July in the year 2032.
What will America be like then?
The answer depends on three things: how many Liber there are, how many people dedicate their lives to private virtue, and how much Public Virtue we choose between now and then. The future of America depends on whether we are willing to stand for something. To become Liber, men and women of Public Virtue.
I believe that we will still be free on the 4th of July, 2032. If we are, it will be because someone, somewhere, pays the price.
Some of you have tonight felt the call to become men and women of Liber and Public Virtue. Do not ignore that call.
Is the 4th of July—American Independence Day—merely a fact of history or is it your legacy to embrace and perpetuate? Do these accounts of brave men and women fade forgotten into history or will they be passed down generation-to-generation, inspiration for future Liber leaders? The choice is yours. You are the key to future legacy or myth.
[i] The idea of using the signers of the Declaration of Independence as examples of public virtue came from a speech I read by Rush Limbaugh’s father, and I appreciate his speech and the fact that his son has published and distributed it. None of the stories in this speech are taken directly from that speech; most of the stories hereafter, including all of the stories and quotes about Robert and Mary Morris come from two excellent books: B.J. Lossing. 1848. Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (hereafter Signers). Reprinted in 1998 by Wallbuilders in Aledo, Texas, 93-98; and Wives of the Signers, The Women Behind the Declaration of Independence (hereafter Wives), also published by Wallbuilders, 155-168. I have not done independent research to verify the stories in these books. I highly recommend both of these books to students who choose to study further.
[ii] Stories and quotes about Thomas and Lucy Nelson come from in Signers, 188-193 and Wives, 250-254.
[iii] Stories and quotes about Samuel and Eliza Adams come from Signers, 33-36 and Wives, 62-80.
[iv] Stories and quotes about Francis and Elizabeth Lewis come from Signers, 71-73 and Wives, 119-126.
[v] Stories and quotes about Roger and Rebecca Sherman come from Signers, 50-52 and Wives, 92-98.
[vi] See Wives, 144-147.
[vii] See Wives, 132-139.
[viii] See Wives, 240-247.
[ix] Stories and quotes about Abraham and Sarah Clark come from Signers, 90-92 and Wives, 147-149.

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burns in me

Jun 28, 2011 by

I bought the Jenny Phillips – Every Breath CD for $2.99 back at Passover time when I was looking for an Afikomen gift and have been listening to it ever since. The first time I heard “Burns in Me” I was swept away. I listened to it again and again and AGAIN right then. I couldn’t get enough of it. At first, I focused on the cello music at the beginning of the song. Then I started focusing on the phrase “There is no time, it seems” because at the time I was right in the middle of Blythe’s Shakespeare play rehearsals and was worn right out with all the things I needed to get done on a daily basis. Then I started focusing on the phrase “How quickly I can fill my life with less important things” and since I was so concerned about breast cancer, I started really evaluating how I was spending my time and making a plan to make sure I spent my time on the essentials, not the superfluous. I recommitted myself to personal scripture study and to really nurturing my children’s souls. Then I started focusing on the part about thinking we are strong. That first part of May, I felt anything but strong. I felt powerless and I was literally barely hanging on. As my communion time with God became longer and longer each day, I began to feel peace again. I began to feel His great love for me. I have listened to this song over and over again for the last two months and loved it each time. On Saturday night, I listened to it again while driving home from the LDS Holistic Living Conference and it hit me with more power than it ever had before. I was thinking about this lump in my breast and what I need to do about it and what this whole journey is supposed to teach me. The answers came in these words…they might not mean anything to you, but they mean the world to me.

There is no time it seems
We’re rushing to meet everybody’s needs.
There is no time to breathe.
How quickly I can fill my life with less important things.

I’m hungry and I’m empty till your words reach deep inside.
I humbly drink from waters deep that fill me with life.
Your teachings have the power that I seek
and the Spirit of the things I read, burns in me.

Sometimes we think we’re strong.
Pushing on through days that seem so long.
I try to carry on, but without the daily bread of life
I’m barely hanging on.

I’m hungry and I’m empty till your words reach deep inside.
I humbly drink from waters deep that fill me with life
Your teachings have the power that I seek
and the Spirit of the things I read, burns in me.

I pray, I ponder, I’m thirsting.
I read and know that You hear me.
I pray, I ponder, I’m thirsting.
I read and know that You hear me.
I pray, I ponder, I’m thirsting.
I read and know that You hear me.

I’m hungry and I’m empty till your words reach deep inside.
I humbly drink from waters deep that fill me with life.
Your teachings have the power that I seek
and the Spirit of the things I read, burns in me.

They mean God knows. He knows me and my fears and my hopes and my needs and my family’s needs and I am safe in His hands. Not safe in terms of nothing being wrong or anything like that…just that I am really, really safe with my God…regardless of what His plan for me is, it IS what is best for me even if I can’t see how it will all work out.

They mean He has the power to save me. The power to heal my body, to eradicate this tissue from my life. More importantly, He has the power to heal my spirit and to teach me exactly who I am, what I am worth to Him, and how I can return to Him.

They mean the atonement is real. It’s real for me and it’s real for you. I’ve always known there was a way back to Him, but trusting that I could really make it back to Him has been so hard. I have no doubt that others can, its just me I have questions about.

They mean His words are what heal me. His words are what bring me peace. Nothing I do can give me the peace, the healing, the strength, the perspective, the love that I need. Only His and as I immerse myself in His word I will be filled with exactly what I need.

I wish you could hear the cello.

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the wussification of our youth

Jun 23, 2011 by

Especially our girls.

We can do hard things. It’s true, we can.

So can our youth.

So can our youth of the female variety.

It seems like frequently girls’ activities at our church are geared towards pampering them instead of challenging them. Case in point…yesterday was Blythe’s 4th Year Hike, traditionally a fairly rigorous hike and overnight camp where the girls carry all their gear, dig their latrines, lash together shelters, start their own fires, cook their own meals, and work on orienteering skills. At least that is how it was when I was a girl.

This year, our Stake cancelled the 4th Year Hike. How does something that has been going on for decades in thousands of congregations around the world just get cancelled? And why? I don’t know why, but I was none too thrilled when I found out. Well, our local ward (congregation) decided to have their own 4th Year Hike, but instead of having the girls carry their gear, dig latrines, lash shelters, start fires, etc, they carried water, snacks, and a rain poncho. Lunch was even provided for them! Then, instead of sleeping in some remote wilderness setting surrounded by wildlife, fresh air, and the peace that only nature can bestow, they drove back down to town and slept in one of their leader’s backyards…except they ended up not sleeping in the before mentioned backyard because it started raining! Why can’t we expect the girls to sleep in the rain? Blythe has spent her whole life sleeping in the rain…and the hail…and the snow…and the cold of the Wind River and Uinta mountain ranges. It is part of life and in my mind is an essential part of developing toughness…and perspective.

Blythe called and told us to come and get her. The event was cancelled because of the rain.

How can we expect our young people to fight the battles of their lives, to endure the sobering realities of adulthood, to keep going when all they want to do is give up, if we don’t even expect them to carry their own gear and make it through a little rain?

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