Photo of the construction paper flag we made with this template to come... as soon as I can figure out what in the world my camera did with my photos!
Yes, I'll get some great recipes on this blog again soon... the reason it's been a bit is the same problem as above.  My camera is taking the pictures and burying them somewhere deep inside its circuitry. Sigh.

I'm teaching Joyschool to a group of children ages 1-5.  That's a huge spread in capability and ability to focus.  The group meets for two hours once a week, and has a focus on incorporating the scriptures into lessons. Since today is Constitution Day, I decided to teach them about the reason and purpose of the Constitution, plus the symbols of our flag and what the Pledge of Allegiance means.  I've learned to overplan and then be flexible- so there's a lot below.  :)

Materials needed

‘The Gift to Choose’ cube in a pretty box
Scriptures (Book of Mormon, D&C)
Constitution paper puppets (page 4 of the link, or see photo below)
Constitution puppet story (same as above)
Pictures of a school, church, plus an envelope
Map of the original 13 colonies
Map of the United States (I have a placemat map)
Marker or crayon
American flag- any size
flag pieces (red and blue construction paper) and silver star stickers (see picture below)
Music for “My Flag, My Flag” 
glue sticks or school glue

Section 1: God gave us the gift of Agency and the U.S. Constitution to protect it

Show the present, let someone open it to find the rolling cube inside.  Tell them that God gave us an amazing gift- the freedom to choose.  Let a few children take turns rolling the cube, read what it says.

Sing Do As I’m Doing (CS, - then ask, did I make you do this, or did you get to choose?

Read, then have them recite this scripture  3x: Wherefore, men are free … to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men (2 Nephi 2:27).

Tell the paper-puppet story of the Constitution (Constitution FHE manual, pg. 4).  God told us that gave us the Constitution to protect our right to choose (D&C 101:77).  We sometimes call this “liberty”.  (Have them repeat the word.)

Time for playing inside: US map puzzle for older ones?  Also let them use the cube and the finger puppets.   Also play outside for 10 minutes if weather is good: look for things that are red, white, and blue.

Section 2: The Flag and the Pledge of Allegiance

Today is a special day- show the colonies map and have the kids point out corresponding ones on the placemat map.   Count them with me while I circle them.

Show the flag, tell them it is a symbol of liberty and freedom.  Tell about the meaning of the 13 stripes (colonies and rays of light), and the stars (heaven and trying to reach it by following God, 50 stars/50states), and the colors (white: being pure and righteous, red: bravery and courage, blue: paying attention and sticking with what is true and right) = a symbol of liberty and freedom. (symbolism explained better in Supplemental Materials, at the end.)

Sing a song: My Flag, My Flag- have them wave their flags whenever you sing the word “wave”, or make up motions or dance.  Bring the music and use the piano, or the CD and a player.  

Tell about the Pledge of Allegiance

Recite it, say why we put our hand where we do, then talk about some of the words:

Pledge: a promise
Allegiance : to be faithful and helpful to it

So when you pledge allegiance to the flag, it means you promise to be faithful and helpful to liberty and freedom.

The United States: our country
Republic: the kind of government the Founding Fathers gave us, where we have power to choose our leaders.
Under God:  God is the most important, and helps the country when we’re righteous.
Liberty: we get to use our agency
Justice for all: the law is the same for everyone, no matter how old, young, rich, poor, or how they live.

End by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance together, then my testimony of God’s wisdom and love in giving the Constitution to us.
Print this to fit a regular-sized piece of paper. Cut out blue construction paper to fit the proper place (mine- 4 3/8" x 3 3/8"). Cut red stripes- each one will need 4 short ones and 3 long ones- red is the first stripe at the top and the last at the bottom. (My red stripes were 1/2" wide, long ones 10 1/2", short ones 6 1/2")
Supplemental materials:

http://www.usflag.org/colors.html "The colors [of the Great Seal] of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness [bravery] & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."

Also this from a book about the flag published in 1977 by the House of Representatives:
"The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."

50 stars- states; 13 stripes- original 13 colonies  (bring in US placemat, color/circle the 13 in front of the kids)

Explaining the Pledge of Allegiance: http://www.ehow.com/info_10043483_explaining-pledge-flag-kids.html

Mormon Messages:  The Freedom to… http://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2009-06-27-the-freedom-to?category=mormon-messages/mormon-messages-2009&&lang=eng

Read a  story  "Do As I'm Doing" at   

Scriptures  D&C 101:77, 80   the Lord caused Constitution to be established for protection and liberty D&C 134:1–5 (Governments are instituted of God for the benefit of mankind)

For an explanation of the need and purpose of the Constitution, see the FHE lessons for the Bicentennial, page 4 

My Flag, My Flag  http://www.lds.org/music/library/childrens-songbook/my-flag-my-flag?lang=eng, also on Youtube (at the :54 mark) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g88bnDkoHbc

My Country  http://www.lds.org/music/library/childrens-songbook/my-country?lang=eng

Schoolhouse Rock “The Preamble”

http://www.usflag.org/colors.html "The colors [of the Great Seal] of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness [bravery] & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."

Also this from a book about the flag published in 1977 by the House of Representatives...

"The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."

50 stars- states; 13 stripes- original 13 colonies  (bring in US placemat, color the 13 in front of the kids)

Explaining the Pledge of Allegiance: http://www.ehow.com/info_10043483_explaining-pledge-flag-kids.html
Upcoming 2014 Utah Legislation-
Ending Compulsory Education

Utah state senator Aaron Osmond has announced that in 2014 he’ll sponsor a bill proposing to end compulsory education in Utah. The announcement got national attention, as Utah would be the first state to have this in a hundred years if it passes.  

There is a bit of panic and a lot of misunderstanding about this. 

“Compulsory education” is not the same as “public education”, and under his proposal, public education would remain solidly in place.  What would change is the parents’ ability to determine what is best for their child, would give teachers more respect by not forcing those who don’t want to be there on them, and would return the role of the state as a supporter of the family—the basic unit of society-- rather than the current view of the family being the supporter of the state. 

The principle involved here is whether or not we will allow parents to make decisions based on their own projected outcomes, or whether they’ll be compelled to do what bureaucrats think best for their children.  I believe the purpose of life is for each person to learn from their own choices and learning and the consequences that naturally follow.  We are much less likely to learn –or value the chance to learn- when we’re forced into anything.  Our current system’s promise is that every person will turn out to be ‘educated’, without regard to individual preference, agency, or voluntary dedication.  They fail, as they must.

I have children in public school, in a charter school, and homeschool.  Even though I’m ‘allowed’ to homeschool, the state requires me to get their permission to take care of my own children’s education, to promise to have them in ‘school’ for a certain number of hours and days, and to teach them the same topics the state Board of Education determined were most necessary.  This is wrong for a few reasons. 

  • Do individuals and families exist to serve the state, or does the state exist to protect natural rights of individuals and families?  
  • My children, not having to compete for attention with 30 other students in a class, can get their work done in fewer hours.  
  • There are multiple reasons for education- and the UBOE’s objectives are not the same as mine.
  • There’s never enough time to get everything done that anyone would like; I want to spend the limited time with my children teaching them things I think most important in helping them be hardworking, loving, responsible people who search for wisdom and reach out to others on their own initiative.

Before acting on your fears that Utah will suddenly be a hotbed of juvenile delinquents and welfare recipients if this law passes, please research the history of compulsory education and what the alternatives yield.  Some good places to start are (please at least watch the video! the same one as embedded above):

In addition, this will help relieve the huge financial burden that comes with our local student population predicted to double over the next 15-20 years.

  According to http://boostup.org we currently have a 24% dropout rate in Utah. I think that this will not change much when ending compulsory education.  Others are worried that some parents are lazy and will not have their children attend- but I believe these parents are highly motivated to have the children at school where others take care of them and leave the parents with free time during the day. 

What about those who worry that children not educated at a school (home-schooled) will end up on the welfare rolls?

Look at the track record of those who ARE in public education!  Two years ago (2011) we had about 32 million households who receive means-tested government assistance like school lunches, Medicaid, and food stamps, and 49% of American household have at least one member who receive some sort of government assistance.  And the numbers continue to climb.  We have a government that discourages personal initiative and effort, and protects us from the natural consequences of our actions, which would yield growth, understanding, and drive.

Here's something else that Oak (the guy from the vid above) has said:
"Why don't parents parent? Because once the state takes that authority from a parent, they are absolved of responsibility. If you want parents to parent again, give them back the authority and responsibility so they are empowered. If their child doesn't want to go to school, it's not the state's job to call the child a criminal and force him/her to school, it's then the parent's job to teach the child (perhaps with the help of concerned family and neighbors) the value of an education. If the child doesn't see the value, he/she won't learn. You can't teach someone who refuses to learn and you only hinder those who are there to learn. Removing compulsory education will help children become self-motivated just like we expect of them in college. It's not going to introduce child labor and sweat shops. It's going to open up new paths in education as educators innovate to provide a reason for those children to be in school."

 “Many people want the government to protect the consumer.  A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.” –Milton Friedman

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." — James Madison

In the War in Heaven, some were willing to trade their agency to choose, for promises of security. Christ’s plan is for agency, personal effort, and learning from natural consequences-- the path that leads to personal, meaningful growth; Satan’s plan is of control and coercion.

"We must be careful that we are not led to accept or support in any way any organization, cause or measure which, in its remotest effect, would jeopardize free agency, whether it be in politics, government, religion, employment, education, or any other field. It is not enough for us to be sincere in what we support. We must be right!” -Marion G. Romney

Summary of my thoughts- I see this as an issue of whether the parents or the state is the ultimate authority over each child, and also as a perfect example of the continuation of the War in Heaven. In addition, scaling back the arm of government to its proper role here will have cost benefits.

There's just over a week left until Voting Day...

And people here in Utah have been asking what they need to know about the proposed Utah constitutional amendments.  There is a state voting website, vote.utah.gov , where you can read what the proposed change is along with a "for" essay and an "against" one, but I think some dialogue is missing.  This is what I'd like others to know about the proposals this year:

Constitutional Amendment A-  Joint Resolution on Severance Tax  

There are a few problems I see with this proposal.
1- the budget shortfall it creates until 2044 or whenever the interest generated catches up to the annual amount pulled out of use.

2- the inflexibility of the mandate.  Do we need RULES for everything?  They tend to discourage the use of reason and common sense in each year's budget.  How about understanding and living by principles instead? Yes, there are ways to access the severance tax fund in an emergency, but this seems too restrictive for the time we're in; see #3:

3- this appears to actually TAKE from future generations:  it takes away our ability to pay down our current debt. According to the Utah Debt Clock, our state has $19.5 billion in debt.  This is where we are truly stealing from future generations.  The greater favor we can do for them is to pay off our debt now, then have our state representatives learn to stay within a budget.   

If you made $40K each year but spent $46K annually, would you put money aside into a low-yield savings account while you were $39K in debt?  Those are the numbers that Utah Debt Clock translates to. 

This proposal would most likely be a great thing if we were debt-free. But we're not.
The smart thing would be to pay off debt as fast as you could with everything available, then live within (= BELOW) our means.  That's how we prepare for the needs of future generations.
My vote: No on Constitutional Amendment A

Constitutional Amendment B- Joint Resolution on Property Tax Exemption for Military Personnel

No 'against' statement was given at vote.utah.gov.  When I called the Lieutenant Governor's office to ask why, they said those 'for' or 'against' statements must be submitted, before a certain deadline, by the senators who voted for or against it.  Nobody submitted the 'against', though there were some who did not vote for it. You can go to le.utah.gov to see who voted for or against this resolution.

This is not a matter of if I/we appreciate military sacrifices or not, though it's painted as such.  It is a matter of if an additional expense is justified in our state budget.  See budget numbers above.

This amendment proposes something that equates to a pay increase.  If it is truly justified, let's have a straightforward pay raise, then, rather than adding further complication to our tax system.  

Are our military people going to be in favor of this amendment?  Most likely.  It would be very tempting to me to push for something that exempted me from paying property tax; the only ones who like the tax are the cities and departments being handed the money to spend.   In addition, this proposal will decrease revenue, leading to "the government taxing entity" increasing property taxes on the rest of us.  I'm tired of being slowly bled to death by 'minor' fees.  They add up.  Furthermore, I will never truly own my own land, as it can be confiscated if I fail to pay property taxes.  It is not fair to say that some of us are subject to that threat and others are not.

Sympathy and gratitude do not justify further mandatory redistribution, especially in a manner that is easier to hide.  

Daniel McCay, a state representative from Riverton, voted against this resolution.  When I spoke with him, he said he voted 'no' because there are better- more straightforward- ways to deal with this than waive tax requirements. He was also concerned that this opens a new door- if we exempt active military, then what about firemen?  Police?  Teachers?  Other public sector workers? 
My vote: No on Constitutional Amendment B

Proposal for Salt Lake County Bond- Open Space, Natural Habitat, Parks, and Community Trails

This is a vote to allow additional debt of $47 million on a 20 year loan, plus interest, plus additional annual expenditures of $581,000, all paid for by tax revenue. General Obligation bonds, like this, are paid for through raising property taxes.

As of June 30, 2012, Salt Lake County itself has nearly $254 million in 'general obligation' bond debt.  This one proposal would take us to $300 million in debt. In 2004 we had $106 million in debt.  Let's not make it worse. Last year SL County paid out $21 million in interest (see chart pg. 155).
My vote: No on County Bond

A couple weeks ago I received a newsletter from the American Family Association, titled
"Who Should Christians Vote For?, published October 9, 2012  
I read the letter, read the article it referenced, and then sent a response to both the letter author and article author.  Below are the original newsletter, the article link, and my response.

Please look deeply at the underlying principles in this election and the long-term results of what each candidate proposes.  Will it help limit government to what the Founders intended?  Is it truly Constitutional?   Is it right, or is it wrong?  Is it based on force, or based on choice and natural consequences?  As important as is this presidential race, however, your local elections are even more important: you have much more relative influence in those.  Please really study the candidates and issues, and then vote in a way that will strengthen the moral fiber and accountability of each citizen.  

The newsletter: 
Dear Rhonda,There is some discussion within the Christian community about who to vote for in the upcoming elections. Some are even questioning if they should vote at all. In the race for president, on the one hand you have one man who claims to be a Christian yet supports causes and policies that clearly violate biblical morality like abortion and homosexual "marriage."

On the other hand, we have a gentleman who is a member of church that promotes a different theological doctrine than historical Christianity teaches. What to do?

I have an excellent article here, written by historian Stephen McDowell, president of the Providence Foundation, that answers this dilemma to my satisfaction. It is not short, as it is well thought out and well documented. But it answers a lot of questions in a biblical manner.

I encourage you to read and then send it out to as many people as you can.

Obama, Romney, Other: Who Should Christians Vote for in the 2012 Election?


Tim Wildmon, President
American Family Association

My response:

Dr. Stephen McDowell, 
Tim Wildmon, of the American Family Association, sent me a link to your article "Obama, Romney, Other: Who Should Christians Vote for in the 2012 Election?".  It was an interesting read for me as an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called 'the Mormons'.  While I agree with the conclusion and many of the reasons in the article, I would like to set the record straight on my religion.
 In the article, you state "Mormonism is a non-Christian religion with fundamental theological beliefs that are contrary to Christian orthodoxy.  Mormons do say they believe the Bible and that Jesus is divine and their savior, but this is not in the same sense as Biblical Christianity."  and then later write, "Neither candidate acts like a regenerated believer who meets the qualification of fearing God as the Bible presents.

#1, non-Christian religion
It seems self-evident that a church with a name like the one I belong to would believe in Christ, the Anointed, my Savior.   Mr. McDowell quoted Noah Webster later; I'll refer to the same man's words here.  First off, let's define Christianity.  The 1828 Webster's Dictionary, published by Noah Webster, defines a Christian as "A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety."  I study Christ's life and examples, as well as the teachings of his prophets through all ages, work to obey them, and emphatically proclaim that I am a Christian, as are other members of this church. 

#2, contrary to Christian orthodoxy
Now, about it being "contrary to Christian orthodoxy"; hopefully I've established that we are Christians, so what is the definition of 'orthodoxy'?  Let's go back to Noah Webster: orthodoxy is "a belief in the genuine doctrines taught in the Scriptures". Our church's Article of Faith #8 states, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.  We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.".  In other words, I recognize the Bible as scripture, as well as the Book of Mormon.  I personally believe the genuine doctrines taught in the scriptures and try to govern my life by them.  Admittedly, a problem arises here because our doctrine differs from other Christian sects.  However, each sect's interpretation of doctrine differs from each other; who is to say which one is correct? I believe only the Spirit of God can whisper that to us. We ought to build each other up and look for the good, not tear each other down. The important parts, I believe, are that we recognize our complete dependence on our Savior's grace through his Atonement and our great responsibility to love and serve him and his children.  

#3 Jesus is divine and their savior but ... not in the same sense,
As to our recognizing Jesus as divine and our Savior, the critical points I believe are in harmony not only with the Bible but with most sects' interpretation of them.  Jesus is divine.  He is God, or rather the Son of God.  He is our Savior- he saves us from both spiritual death through our baptism and enabling us to repent and become more Christlike, and from physical death through his Resurrection and the promise of our own.  How is that not a Biblical interpretation?

#4, "Neither candidate acts like a regenerated believer who meets the qualification of fearing God as the Bible presents."  
While I disagree with some of Mitt Romney's opinions, and feel that our religion supports my viewpoint, I disagree that he acts like an unregenerated man.  How do you recognize a reborn man?  By his fruits, the degree to which the Spirit of the Lord has affected his life and his actions.  You see this in devotion to serving others, which shows his devotion to serving God.  Some of the chapters in the Book of Mormon record the words of a very righteous king in the Precolumbian Americas, King  Benjamin.  After recounting his years of service to his people, he tells them he worked hard to not only not be a burden to them, but to also avoid burdening them with heavy taxes.  He tells them this wasn't to boast, but to point out that he can face God with a clear conscience.  Then he says, "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."   This man, King Benjamin, is one of our scriptural heroes and a prime example of living a Christlike life, and I think Mitt Romney will try to emulate not only some of Benjamin's finest points, but of the example of our Savior.  He has already demonstrated his willingness to help and serve others.

While I agree that Mitt Romney is likely not going to help us return completely to a non-socialist government, I can tell you that he is a Christian, he does fear God and lets that influence his life and choices, and that he has been 'born again'.  He is definitely the better choice between Obama, whose god seems to be the government, and Romney, who recognizes more that the way to true greatness is freedom and serving God and each other.

I bear you my testimony that Christ is our Savior, that he cares deeply about this nation, and that the way to return to greatness is to return to individually having God's law written in our hearts and displayed through our actions.  I invite you to read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and to read through both it and our church's website to find what we really believe.  


September 17th is Constitution Day; the United States' Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787.

How big a deal was this?  Well, Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently pointed out, "After two centuries, every nation in the world except six have adopted written constitutions, and the U.S. Constitution was a model for all of them. No wonder modern revelation says that God established the U.S. Constitution and that it ‘should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles’ (D&C 101:77)” (“The Divinely Inspired Constitution,” Ensign, Feb. 1992, 68) 

The same magazine, this month, asks, "Do Latter-day Saints believe the U.S. Constitution is a divinely inspired document? The Lord Himself answered that question when He declared, “I established the Constitution … by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80).  Since the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who called the U.S. Constitution “a heavenly banner” (in History of the Church, 3:304), latter-day prophets have said the Constitution is divinely inspired, declaring that America by divine design was prepared as the place for the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ. The freedoms and protections enumerated in the Constitution—including freedom of speech, assembly, and religion—made the Restoration possible.

The Church respects the rule of law and constitutional government in every nation and expects Latter-day Saints to adhere to the law, to use their influence to promote and preserve their God-given rights, and “to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 5:286)."

Modern scripture also affirms "that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;  And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil." (D&C 98:5-7)

Another modern prophet, David O. McKay, declared "Next to being one in worshiping God, there is nothing in this world upon which this church should be more united than in upholding the Constitution of the United States! (1956, The Instructor, 91:34) 

Considering the importance of this founding document, both for political and religious reasons, shouldn't we study, understand, and teach this to our children and others?

There is a booklet produced by the LDS church, with "Family Home Evening" lessons about the Constitution, see this post for more on that.  It's out of print, but the post has a link to a pdf.  It's a great place to start.  For links to  ideas, games, videos, and more, see below.  There are lots; pick what will best help you and your family!

Videos and music


Teaching materials/lessons


Scriptures (links from a search on http://www.lds.org/scriptures/)
  •  constitutional law should be befriended, D&C 98:5–6
  • the Lord caused Constitution to be established, D&C 101:77, 80
  • prayer that Constitution be maintained, D&C 109:54
  • Governments are instituted of God for the benefit of mankind, D&C 134:1–5 
  • Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, Matt. 22:21 (D&C 63:26).
  • Be subject to the higher powers, Rom. 13:1
  • Pray for kings and all in authority, 1 Tim. 2:1–2
  • Be subject to principalities and powers and obey magistrates, Titus 3:1
  • Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, 1 Pet. 2:13–14
  • Jesus Christ shall be the ultimate governor of the earth, Rev. 11:15

I grew up with the vague idea that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were kind of the same thing.  Or at least I thought they were written at the same time.  Now that I know more, I want my children to know and understand better the background and history of each.  This way they can better appreciate what our Founders set up, why they did it, and at what cost.

This year I ran across the following quote, which sparked an even greater desire to learn and teach:

“If American freedom is lost, if America is destroyed, it may be by Americans who salute the flag, sing the national anthem, march in patriotic parades, cheer Fourth of July speakers–normally good Americans, but Americans who fail to comprehend what is required to keep our country strong and free
– Americans who have been lulled away into a false security... 

If America is to withstand these influences and trends, there must be a renewal of the spirit of our forefathers, an appreciation of the American way of life, a strengthening of muscle and sinew and the character of the nation. America needs guts as well as guns. National character is the core of national defense.” –Ezra Taft Benson

Hosea  4:6  “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee... seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."   James Madison  Aug 4, 1822

The lesson is below this photo.

Of course, your family may only need some of these pieces, or something different, or a shorter version, or longer.  Pray to know what they need.  God cares about what we learn and teach!
FHE lesson on The Declaration of Independence

Sing a song: God Bless America,  or My Country, 'Tis of Thee

Have an opening prayer

Introduce the topic:  Hand everyone something little like pennies (or pieces of cereal, or jelly beans).  Give them several, based on how much they helped today, or if they did all of their chores (so they feel ownership).  Tell them they are like the 13 Colonies, and you’ll be England.  Take some of the pennies back and give all of them to one person.  How do they feel? 
Explain that when a government takes money from you without you getting to have a say in where it's used, it's called "taxation without representation".   The colonists knew it wasn't right, England's own Constitution even guaranteed them a say in how tax money was spent.  (With older children, you can explain more about the Stamp Act of 1765, or the Boston Tea Party in 1773.)

Have someone read D&C 134:1-2, the LDS Statement of Belief on government:

We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.

 We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

Ask: What was wrong with how the colonies were treated?

The colonies had been fighting with England for a couple years already.  At first they were fighting for their right to be treated fairly, but by the summer of 1776 they decided that the only good solution was to become their own nation.

July 4th, when they finalized the Declaration of Independence, became the birthday for The United States of America.  It was the beginning of our nation but the bigger deal was how our leaders claimed that right- not from men, but from rights given to all mankind by God.

“The Declaration has three parts—the famous Preamble, a list of charges against King George III, and a conclusion. The Preamble summarizes the fundamental principles of American self-government. The list of charges against the king presents examples of the violation of those principles. The stirring conclusion calls for duty, action, and sacrifice.” ( -The Heritage Foundation- great article!!)

Read The Declaration of Independence! (see a photo of the original here.)

Words you might need to explain or discuss:

self-evident -they prove themselves true

unalienable -cannot be given up or taken

pursuit of happiness- living to your full potential, bettering yourself and your situation

evinces -shows or proves

Despotism -(1828 Webster’s: ‘Absolute power; authority unlimited and uncontrolled by men, constitution or laws, and depending alone on the will of the prince)

Encourage application

Read or relate the following: John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife Abigail:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

(Note: A rough draft of the Declaration of Independence was written in June 1776;  July 2nd  is the date the Continental Congress  unanimously voted for separation from Great Britain.  The Declaration was modified a little, then read and approved on July 4, 1776, though it may not have been signed until August.)

Have someone read 1Thessalonians 5:18  In every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Ask: How can you show that you remember and are grateful for our nation and freedoms?  
Bear your testimony of the great blessings God has given us.

Closing song: America the Beautiful
Closing prayer
Choose one or more activities (or do one of these each day for a week):

-Make paper pinwheels 

-Watch a Mormon Messages video: What Freedoms Are you Grateful For?

-Ring a “Liberty bell”-  Hang a bell from a rope.  Take turns telling each other some blessing that you’re grateful for; each person gets to toss a beanbag or ball at the bell for every blessing mentioned.

If you don’t have a bell, you can make one out of cardboard or cardstock, or punch two holes in the bottom of an empty soup can (run a piece of yarn, string, or  a twist tie through the two holes; you can hook onto something for a clapper at the same time), or  make a bell from a porcelain or glass cup.  One of my children drew a large bell,  taped it to a thread, which was tied onto the ceiling fan pull (I asked him to draw a bell and find some way to hang it someplace) ... the game was a big  hit with them!  (I did have to remind them the goal was to RING the bell, not DESTROY it.)

-Write a Family Creed

-Make and hang a sign saying "Remember" over the inside of your front door.

-Decorate your table, living room, or porch with flags and red, white, and blue.

-Eat red, white, and blue foods:

Blue and white tortilla chips with salsa (red!)


(originally from 6/11/10)
This last week I moved my bookcases around (thanks to a great organizing suggestion from a neighbor) and found a treasure:

In 1987, to celebrate the Bicentennial of the signing of the Constitution, the Church published a 14-page booklet with Family Home Evening lessons on the Constitution and the Founding Fathers.  I had a copy hiding amongst our books.  It's also available online.  The lessons are great for teaching simply and powerfully what is at the heart of our country's existence.  At the following website, halfway down the page you can click to download this in pdf format. http://www.latterdayconservative.com/articles/family-home-evening-lessons-for-the-bicentennial-of-the-constitution    

Use it, teach it, spread it around!  We've been told often (especially the last couple LDS General Conferences)  to teach our children truth; this is a great way to see that they are being taught the truth about our nation's birth.

Here’s what lds.org had to say about the booklet (Ensign, Nov. 1987, 102–3)

Booklet Published

The Church has published for its members in the United States a special booklet explaining the divine significance of the U. S. Constitution and its principles.

The First Presidency has asked that the booklet be used as the subject of family home evening lessons by all member families in the United States.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were inspired men the First Presidency said—men who produced a document that the Prophet Joseph Smith called “a glorious standard” and “a heavenly banner.”

In a preface to the new booklet, the First Presidency stated the purpose of the publication:

“In commemoration of this important event, we are providing this booklet, which contains three family home evening lessons, activity ideas, and a copy of the Constitution. We encourage you to prepare and teach each lesson prayerfully so that family members may feel the divine significance of the Constitution in their minds and hearts.”

Some 1.3 million copies of the booklet have been printed and are available to congregations throughout the United States. Local leaders may order copies through the Salt Lake Distribution Center.

TV Special

“America, the Dream Goes On,” was the title of a one-hour variety special spotlighting the U. S. Constitution. The show was produced by Church-owned Bonneville Media Communications.

The television special featured singing by the Tabernacle Choir and Marie Osmond. LDS actor Gordon Jump portrayed Benjamin Franklin. Another prominent actor, Harry Morgan, was host and narrator. The show was televised nationally in September (1987)."

* * * * * * *
Chicken Nachos     6 servings

1 can cheddar cheese soup (or make 1 cup of white sauce and stir in ½ c. cheese)   
1/2  c. salsa   
1   c. cooked chicken,  diced  (I use my frozen or canned chicken)
1   10 oz bag   tortilla chips    
        chopped tomato, optional    
        sliced olives   
On low, heat together soup, salsa, and chicken.   Serve over chips; top with tomato and olives.
Hi everyone,

Are you ready to vote? I felt I should share some statements our church leaders have made.  Below, you will find some great web resources to help you be informed on the candidates, ballot items, and judges in our area.  I’m sure there are more out there; these are the ones I’m aware of.

Joseph Smith said: "Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground, and when the Constitution is upon the brink of ruin, this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction."  In other places, Joseph referred to this time being when the Constitution would hang by a thread.  What is this last thread that is holding up the Constitution?  President Ezra Taft Benson told us that this “our franchise (a right granted) to vote."

John Taylor said that the Elders of Israel (remember that women couldn’t vote, yet) should “understand that they have something to do with the world politically as well as religiously, that it is as much their duty to study correct political principles as well as religious” (Journal of Discourses, 9:340)

“It is time, therefore, that every American, and especially every member of the priesthood, became informed about the aims, tactics, and schemes of socialistic-communism. This becomes particularly important when it is realized that communism is turning out to be the earthly image of the plan which Satan presented in the pre-existence. The whole program of socialistic- communism is essentially a war against God and the plan of salvation—the very plan which we fought to uphold during ‘the war in heaven.’” (Ezra Taft Benson, Secret Combinations, Conference Report, October 1961.)

Also see Ezra Taft Benson, The Constitution- A Heavenly Banner, and D&C 98:6-10 

This year there are four proposed amendments to the Utah Constitution, a number of races including the State Board of Education, a proposition for a bond, and 37 judges to vote on. If you go to https://vote.utah.gov/  you will find a box at the bottom of the page that says "What's On My Ballot?".  Click on this and it will ask you some basic questions that verify if you are a registered voter.  After this, it takes you to a screen that shows exactly what will be on your ballot when you go to vote.  There are lots of links there to learn more about everything on your ballot.

Vote.Utah.gov - you can click on race by judicial district. You can find your district at https://secure.slco.org/clerk/elections/index.cfm    

 Full Listing of Utah Candidates 

Project Vote Smart 2010 Ballot Measures,  or  Constitutional Amendments 

2010 Voter Information Pamphlet

As for voting on the judges, they each have a 'scorecard', found online on the Utah Voter Information Pamphlet, staring on page 37.  The scores are determined by the Utah Judicial Council, see http://www.utcourts.gov/committees/members.cgi?comm=1 for who this includes.  Please read what their definitions are, because that affects the judges' scores (for instance, their definition of 'integrity' doesn't completely match mine).     Good luck, do your homework, and go vote!

 + + + + + + + + +

Here are some simple things to do with Halloween candy, from Living On A Dime.com:

"After the kids are done Halloweening, I grab 24 candies for each child to save for a countdown to Christmas instead of buying the calendars in the stores. I usually keep them in a bag but you can get the kids to decorate shoe boxes or stick the candy to a calendar with tape."

Candy Bar Milk Shakes

1 cup mini candy bars, chopped
2 cups (1 pint) ice cream (chocolate or vanilla)
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
1 1/4 cups milk

Chop candies in a blender or food processor.   This is easier if they are partially frozen. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until blended. This makes a thick shake. Add 1/4 cup milk for a thinner shake. Makes 2 milkshakes, about 16 oz. each, or 5 shakes if you make them 6 oz. each!

 Happy Constitution Day!   It was signed on September 17 in 1787. For a wonderful article on it, see “The Divinely Inspired Constitution”, Dallin H. Oaks, at http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=729d94bf3938b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD     It has three main sections: its amazing creation and ratification, inspiration (what parts in it are divinely inspired?), and citizen responsibilities.  You’ll finish it with a renewed sense of appreciation and wonder.

 Shifting over to food now, are you finding enough things to do with all the wonderful produce right now?  I had to laugh when I saw a big, abandoned zucchini right in the middle of the road last week.  All those urban legends came to mind about people’s desperation to get rid of the squash.  (Freeze it!  Dry it!  Slice it and pretend it’s pasta in recipes!)

 I have two main recipes I make when I need to use up odds and ends:  soup, and pizza.  You can make pizza just about as fast as running down to Little Caesar’s, and it’s much better.  I make a batch of bread every week (the six-loaf batch holds us, and fills the oven), and as often as not, bread-baking day is Pizza Day.  This way I already have the dough, so it’s a no-brainer for dinner.  If you make the dough in the morning, you can keep a chunk in the fridge until almost dinner time.  If you’re making the dough that afternoon, you can let it rise, punch it down, let it rise, punch it down,….repeat until you’re ready for it!  Or even just use it without letting it rise first.   One loaf’s worth of dough (1 to 1 ½ lbs) is a good amount to fill a 12x18 cookie sheet.  To keep it from sticking to the pan, either grease or oil it, or sprinkle it with cornmeal or Cream of Wheat (coarsely ground wheat).  If you like a crispy crust, preheat the cookie sheet with 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil on it.  Or bake it on a  pizza stone.  Roll the dough out, and bake it at 425 degrees (really, any temperature between 325 and 450) until it’s just set (no longer doughy), then add toppings and bake or broil until the cheese is melted.  You can even bake some crusts ahead of time; bake for 5-10 minutes at 425, cool, wrap, and freeze.  The Basic Bread recipe is also posted on this site.

My basic pizza sauce is:  

one (8 oz) can tomato sauce

garlic powder (1/2 tsp.) or minced garlic (1-2 cloves)

a couple shakes of black pepper

spices: total of around 1 tsp. of whatever sounds good- oregano, basil, thyme, fennel seeds (great but go LIGHT on this one), rosemary

But what it really looks like, when I cook, is: open one can of tomato sauce, and to the top of the can add a couple shakes each of garlic powder and black pepper (if I feel like it), and then a few shakes each of 2-3 kinds of my ‘green spices’ (the ones listed, above).  Stir it, kind of, then spread it on the baked crust.  Sometimes I have part of a jar of spaghetti sauce sitting in the fridge.  That makes a good pizza sauce, too. So does barbecue sauce.  Or Alfredo.  Whatever you have that needs used.

If you have a bunch of tomatoes, you can use a bunch of them on the pizza, sliced or diced,  and skip the sauce.  You already know the standard toppings; other topping ideas are:

-       Shredded zucchini (yes, really.  Especially if it’s hidden under the cheese)

-       Shredded carrots (hides  especially well under Cheddar)

-       Chopped up spinach or chard leaves

-       Onions or green onions,  bell peppers

-       Leftover bits of meat  (whatever lonely thing is sitting around gets added to our pizzas)- ham, deli meat, bacon, summer sausage from last Christmas (those things last forever!), crumbled hamburger patties, chicken, etc.

And of course you can always look at your favorite pizza chain’s menu to get more topping ideas.

You can also make breadsticks or dessert sticks/pizza out of the dough.   To make simple breadsticks, roll out the dough, cut into strips with your pizza cutter.  Bake, then brush with melted butter, sprinkle with Parmesan and garlic powder.  Dip in spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce.  For dessert sticks, roll and cut them the same, but roll in melted butter and then in a mix of cinnamon and sugar.  Then bake.  Dip in applesauce or drizzle with glaze (1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1-2 Tbsp. milk or water)