Celebration of the Trees

I wanted to join in the singing, but being powerless to do so, I simply felt the music in my heart.

This morning I took a walk after the sun had come out. I walked along the river and joined in the celebration of the trees. As the snow from last night’s storm melted from their drooping branches it felt like walking in gentle rain when I passed under them. I smiled at them and gave tribute to their strength for enduring the burden of snow that left their branches strained and drooping under the weight. Surrounded by casualties of broken limbs that did not survive the night, the sound of the placid dripping to me felt like a celebration song. I wanted to join in the singing, but being powerless to do so, I simply felt the music in my heart and thanked them for allowing me to witness their branches, leaving their burdens behind, raise toward heaven in praise.

Snow in Spring
Apple tree in my front yard with broken branch from an ash tree in the foreground.

I was reminded that only a few short weeks ago, I apologized to the apple trees in my yard for the pain I certainly inflicted on them when I cut off branches that yielded no fruit and pruned others so that the tree’s strength would be dedicated to producing better fruit. I took note of the burden of snow on their branches as I hurried off to work this morning, but as I pulled away I thought I could feel their gratitude. Because of the offensive pruning they endured, they now could feel the vigor of their strength as they strained under the storm’s heavy load they now bore.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:1-8)

Why Do We Avoid Delving into Mysteries?

After having emphasized the importance of revelation in understanding mysteries, Elder Basset then says something that confuses me…

“mysteries

My preparation for Teacher Council Meeting last month led me on an enlightening scriptural journey about “mysteries”.

Under the importance of seeking revelation daily, the teaching manual references 2 Nephi 28:30 (Teaching in the Savior’s Way manual, part 2, “Prepare Yourself Spiritually”, pg 12):

“Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Ne 28:29-30)

The idea of receiving less of the word of God when we reject what we have been given is also emphasized by Alma:

“And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God… And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.” (Alma 12:9-10)

In fact, Alma goes on to say that by NOT seeking the mysteries we subject ourselves to the chains of hell:

“And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” (ibid v 11.)

The discussion from Teaching in the Savior’s Way manual continues and gives a scriptural example from Matthew 13, where we find the ideas taught by Nephi and Alma also taught by Jesus:

“He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” (v 11)

At the October 1841 conference Brigham Young “addressed the Elders at some length, on the importance of teaching abroad the first principles of the gospel, leaving the mysteries of the kingdom to be taught among the saints.” (T&S, Oct. 15, 1841, 578. Quoted from Richard Bushman, JS Rough Stone Rolling, Ch 24 footnote 6, pg 641)

If mysteries are so important, my questioning mind asks, why then, is there an emphasis in the church to avoid delving into mysteries?

Joseph B.Wirthlin counseled, “God has revealed everything necessary for our salvation. We should teach and dwell on the things that have been revealed and avoid delving into so-called mysteries. My counsel to teachers in the Church, whether they instruct in wards and stakes, Church institutions of higher learning, institutes of religion, seminaries, or even as parents in their homes, is to base their teachings on the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets.” (“Deep Roots,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 77)

Note -Wirthlin’s counsel “is to base their teachings on the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets.” which, incidentally teach us to search for the mysteries.

I believe the reason Elder Wirthlin counsels us not to delve into the mysteries in our teaching is because no one can teach the mysteries except God. As Elder W. Mark Basset relates in a recent conference address, referring to the example of Nephi:

“In order to understand the mysteries of God, or those things that can be understood only through revelation, we must follow the example of Nephi, who said, ‘Being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me’ (1 Ne 2:16)” (For Our Spiritual Development and Learning, October 2016)

Later, Elder Basset relates (quoting Dallin H. Oaks) that “our members are sometimes left with basic questions that cannot be resolved by study. … Some things can be learned only by faith” (ibid)

Here it’s worth noting that there is no written record, including the scriptures, which are able to tell us all we must know. We can only know the truth by having it revealed to us from heaven itself (see D&C 76:114-118). The greatest mystery and glorious discovery is to know God and see Him face to face with eternal certainty. (see Lectures on Faith, lecture 2 para 55-56)

After having emphasized the importance of revelation in understanding mysteries, Elder Basset then says something that confuses me:

“We were never expected ‘to have a perfect knowledge of things’ during this mortal existence. Instead, we are expected to ‘hope for things which are not seen, which are true.'” (ibid)

The quotes in this statement reference Alma 32:21, which does not say or imply that “we were never expected to have a perfect knowledge of things during this mortal existence.” To me this statement seems strange in that Alma’s message in this chapter contains instructions how to grow from faith to a perfect knowledge of things. Later in the same meeting, Amulek stood and taught, “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” (Alma 34:32). Why else would scripture tell us that in order to bear God’s presence in the world of glory, we must seek for the manifestations of the spirit “while in the flesh” (D&C 76:118).

In speaking about the sacrifices required to know God, Joseph Smith taught that “For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge”. (Lectures on Faith, lecture 6 para 5)

Can one sacrifice reputation, honor, applause, houses and lands in the spirit world? There is a reason these things must happen “in this life”.

It also surprised me to hear Elder Basset teach that “like Nephi and Alma, I do not know the meaning of all things. Nor do I need to know all things; I too shall forbear”. Does he mean forbear from seeking to know the “mysteries of God until he know them in full”? (Alma 12:10). Nephi’s example suggests the opposite of what seems to be implied by Elder Basset’s statement. Rather than saying he needs no more of the word of God, for we have enough!”, Nephi, in the audience of an angel, was being taught from on high because of his intense desire to know deeper things (see 1 Nephi 11:1-3).

I suppose that even if modern day gentiles resist exercising the faith necessary to be taught by angels (see Moroni 7:36-37), at least it is as Mormon said it would be when he taught:

“But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which [Christ] taught the people. And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken. And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people.” (3 Nephi 26:7-11)

Humanure – A Book Review

The humans who will have learned how to survive on this planet in the long term will be those who have learned how to live in harmony with it.

THE HUMANURE HANDBOOK
THIRD EDITION
A GUIDE TO COMPOSTING HUMAN MANURE
by Joseph Jenkins

Due to concerns over the effects flooding is having with our local sewage treatment facilities, Logan city sent out a bulletin on Feb 10th to residents of Logan and surrounding cities to “PLEASE AVOID UNNECESSARY DISCHARGE INTO THE SEWAGE SYSTEM… Until further notice, we ask that residents please avoid putting… unnecessary water down drains.” Which they said includes flushing. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of my trips to the toilet could be considered “unnecessary”.

I recently finished reading The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins. I found the information simply incredible. If you are looking for an alternative to flush toilets that wastes and pollutes our precious water resources, this book is a must read. Even if you don’t care about the environment, who wouldn’t be at least remotely interested in a fully functioning, completely sanitary composting toilet system that takes care of household human waste, uses no water, does not stink, and actually contributes to a healthy environment?

I’m sure it is because I have such an interest in the subject, but the book captured me. Previous to running across this book I had been considering what it takes to get into a commercially available composting toilet. The $900 to $1200 price tag was a big deterrent (and that’s for a cheap one). I now have built a complete functioning composting toilet system of my own, that does not stink, contributes to the environment, and is easy to maintain, all for less than $100. I like it so well that some days I even feel dismayed at the waste when I have to crap in a flush toilet during the day while at work.

To be sure, it’s not the kind of subject you would expect a normal person to get excited blogging about. But then again, I don’t consider myself normal.

The subject is actually not that abnormal as we read from the book’s introduction:

“This is the third edition of a self-published book. No respectable publisher would touch it with a ten foot shovel. Nevertheless, the book has now been sold around the world, translated into over a dozen languages and published in foreign editions on four continents. It has been talked about on NPR, BBC, CBC, Howard Stern, in The Wall Street Journal, Playboy Magazine and many other national and international venues.”

Discussing the growing concerns that well informed health professionals and environmental authorities have over the environmental dilemma of human waste, Jenkins shares that this may be “why I received a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services praising this book and wanting to know more about humanure composting, or why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote to me to commend the Humanure Handbook and order copies, or why the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection nominated Humanure for an environmental award in 1998.” (pg 196)

In addition to the practical information given in the book, Jenkins has opened my eyes to problems we face as it relates to the bigger picture. Rather than comment further, I’ll let him speak for himself. Here are a few excerpts from the book that I highlighted:

“The world is divided into two categories of people: those who shit in their drinking water supplies and those who don’t. We in the western world are in the former class. We defecate into water, usually purified drinking water. After polluting the water with our excrements, we flush the polluted water “away,” meaning we probably don’t know where it goes, nor do we care.
Every time we flush a toilet, we launch five or six gallons of polluted water out into the world. That would be like defecating into a five gallon office water jug and then dumping it out before anyone could drink any of it. Then doing the same thing when urinating. Then doing it every day, numerous times. Then multiplying that by about 305 million people in the United States alone.” (pg 15)

“question

“According to a composting toilet manufacturer, waterless composting toilets can reduce household water consumption by 40,000 gallons (151,423 liters) per year. This is significant when one considers that only 3% of the Earth’s water is not salt water, and two thirds of the freshwater is locked up in ice. That means that less than one percent of the Earth’s water is available as drinking water. Why shit in it?” (pg 117)

“question

In his section about wastewater systems, he notes, “My research for this chapter included reviewing hundreds of research papers on alternative wastewater systems. I was amazed at the incredible amount of time and money that has gone into studying how to clean the water we have polluted with human excrement. In all of the research papers, without exception, the idea that we should simply stop defecating in water was never suggested.” (pg 207)

“question

Finally, I liked his ENVIRONMENTAL POTTY TRAINING 101, “Simple, low-tech composting systems not only have a positive impact on the Earth’s ecosystems, but are proven to be sustainable. Westerners may think that any system not requiring technology is too primitive to be worthy of respect. However, when western culture is nothing more than a distant and fading memory in the collective mind of humanity thousands (hundreds?) of years from now, the humans who will have learned how to survive on this planet in the long term will be those who have learned how to live in harmony with it. That will require much more than intelligence or technology — it will require a sensitive understanding of our place as humans in the web of life. That self-realization may be beyond the grasp of our egocentric intellects. Perhaps what is required of us in order to gain such an awareness is a sense of humility, and a renewed respect for that which is simple.” (pg 201)

Contrast this with the cost prohibitive complexities of attempts to use technology to tow an iceburg to be used for drinking water:

For more information, or to buy the book, or to watch informative videos about humanure, visit HumanureHandbook.com.

The Alarming Truth Behind Anti-Mormonism – Response

Here is where the criticism of Christianity against Mormonism has some validity. Is it possible for the emphasis on following the prophet to throw our faith off balance?

I’ve been asked by a few people what I thought of this post by blogger Dustin Phelps, titled The Alarming Truth Behind Anti-Mormonism. At first I read through the material and decided not to take the time to respond, but after being pressed again I revisited Dustin’s post. He makes the following observation:

“And so we find that arguments against Joseph Smith are really arguments against all the prophets…
So, for LDS members (particularly RMs and life-long members), Christianity itself hinges upon the question, ‘Was Joseph Smith really a prophet?’”

I believe this statement is true, but that it is also a sad commentary about modern Mormonism. Here is where the criticism of Christianity against Mormonism has some validity. Is it possible for the emphasis on following the prophet to throw our faith off balance? Our faith must be in Christ, not a prophet. There is a difference between following President Monson because he holds an office, on one hand, and following Christ, who’s voice you hear in the teachings of President Monson on the other. In the first case, you are following a man. In the second, you are following Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life, and no man cometh unto the Father, but by Him (see John 14:6). Brigham Young said it well, “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.” (Brigham Young, 9:150)

Speaking about Crises of Faith in LDS Communities and many critics who love highlighting the Latter-day Saints who choose to leave the Church, Dustin continues,

“They want us to look at our friends and family who are leaving the church and feel alerted to the idea that there is something wrong with the Mormon Church.”

Note that the “They” this statement begins with assumes that somehow there is some organized conspiratorial effort in Atheism targeting Mormons, as if

“… the goal of Atheism is to destroy the agency of man. At least, to the extent possible. Ultimately, this is what anti-Mormonism intends to accomplish.”

I think it ludicrous to assume that the number of people who leave their religion and decide to give up a belief in God suddenly and magically become joined to some concerted organized group united toward evil. Don’t these people, after all, still have agency? Alas, I digress.

The point that we have “friends and family who are leaving the church” should concern us. We don’t need for atheists or non-Mormons to alert us “to the idea that there is something wrong”. It is not hard for us to see this ourselves. It didn’t used to be so common for an active member of the church to know people who were leaving the church, but now more and more, active members are aware of someone they know personally who struggle with a crisis of faith.

Not since a famous troublespot in Mormon history, the 1837 failure of a church bank in Kirtland, Ohio, have so many left the church, Jensen said. ‘Maybe since Kirtland, we’ve never had a period of – I’ll call it apostasy, like we’re having now,’ he told the group in Logan.” (Elder Marlin Jensen of the First Quorum of the Seventy, Special Report interview, Jan 31, 2012)

The time has come to change how we address what used to be subjects that were sensitive or off-limits. Elder M Russell Ballard told CES Educators in an address in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on February 26, 2016, “Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue.
Gone are the days when students were protected from people who attacked the church. . . .”

Dustin continues:

“So, to be clear, it’s not that we have discovered new information about Joseph Smith that has suddenly changed a lot of people’s minds about the Restoration. The criticisms you hear today are the same criticisms that have been peddled for decades and longer.”

I would disagree. I think it’s the discovery of new information about Joseph Smith that has been withheld from the standard curriculum of the church that “has suddenly changed a lot of people’s minds about the Restoration”. To grow up being taught a story your whole life, only to discover later that the picture changes from an image of Joseph Smith translating from the plates with a drop cloth between him and Oliver Cowdry, to an image of Joseph Smith with his face in a hat, can trigger some cognitive dissonance in someone who’s testimony is founded in a narrative they’ve been taught since childhood.*

Healthy criticism, by itself, is not evil, but in fact necessary for growth. It is possible to entertain critical opinions which differ from traditional historical opinions and not lose your testimony. Once the varnish comes off the institution of the church, for many, faith dies. But that is not necessary. Nor is it inevitable. It is possible to see the frailties of men and still also see the hand of God.

Some of the greatest criticism leveled against our faith is based on truth, and we shouldn’t be afraid to correct our own misunderstanding when we encounter that. True religion ought to be a search for truth, even when it is uncomfortable.

“question

Perhaps what I take issue with most from Dustin’s post is the all or nothing approach, as if there were only two options, Mormonism or Atheism. As I began composing my thoughts I ran across another blogger (who posts anonymously) who has responded to Dustin’s post. Because this author’s viewpoint would be considered apostate by the church I have taken liberty to soften some of the language in this quote. Although I do not agree with everything he says, I quote him because of how appropriately he has addressed the main message of Dustin’s post:

“Those who do have a foundation in Christ, that leave the church either find another Christian denomination to worship with, or they do home-church. Either way, they remain steadfast in Christ.

Those who leave Mormonism and eventually find themselves identifying with atheism were either cultural Mormons who participated in the [church] for social and entertainment reasons, or they were cultural Mormons who had a belief system founded upon prophet worship and subjection to human priesthood authority.

It only makes sense that disenchanted members … who never had Christ as the center of their belief system, become atheists. Why would they bother looking for Christian options if they never truly believed in Christ and him crucified?

The really deceptive thing about the narrative being presented in the article is that it implies that there are only two paths from which a doubting Mormon has to choose.

According to the article, one path choice is to hang on to belief in modern day Mormonism with all of it’s problematic doctrine and history and related cognitive dissonance.

The other path choice is to be swallowed up in atheism.

That is pure sophistry.

The article subtly leads the reader into the false conclusion that there are only two realistic paths that a Mormon can choose when they enter into a crisis of faith. Towards the end of the article the author shares the thoughts that go through his mind during his darkest moments of his own doubts. During these moments of despair he opines to himself,

‘Ultimately, I must decide to take one path or the other.’

Really?

Your only two choices are between the [LDS] church or atheism?

I call bullshit.

There are lots of other paths one can take.”
(https://onewhoiswatching.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/the-alarming-truth-behind-anti-mormonism-by-dustin/)

Aside from the concerns I’ve expressed from Dustin’s post, he does bring up an important point I will conclude with:

“No, crises of faith aren’t a Mormon problem. They’re a Humankind problem, a civilization problem. Faith itself is weakening in Western society.”

Mormon would agree. He poses the question, “has the day of miracles ceased? Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men?” and then declares “…it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.” (Moroni 7:35-37)

It seems most saints are more akin to Hugh Nibley’s description of his grandfather, a member of the First Presidency, who said that if he ever saw an angel he would “jump out the window.”

As one insightful blogger has observed:

“I think there is a tendency to avoid discussing any contemporary occurrence of the miraculous in our individuals lives within the Church because of the frequent association of such things with deceivers and the deceived. In contrast to that fear, Moroni affirms that angels appear only to those with “a firm mind.” (Moroni 7: 30.) How odd it is that we have this juxtaposition: On the one hand, in our day it is viewed as being evidence of a weak mind, or dubious character, and on the other Moroni asserts it is evidence of a “firm mind.” One or the other has to be incorrect.
I think such things are experienced less because we talk of them less. As we talk of them less, we increase our doubts about such things. Doubt and faith cannot coincide.

So was Christ weak-minded or of “a firm mind?” Was Saul of Tarsus deceived or a deceiver, or instead a godly man who received notice from heaven? What of Joseph, Alma, Moses, Peter, Mary, Elizabeth, Agabus, and John?

Today we prefer our miracles at a distance. When we do accept the occasional miracle, we want it to be separated by culture, time and reduced to written accounts from the deceased. We think it’s safer that way. Society trusts that when the miraculous has been reduced to history alone it can then safely be the stuff from which PhD’s and theologians extract the real meanings. After all, our scientific society only trusts education, certification and licensing; not revelation, visitation and ministering of angels. Well, even if that is not as it should be, it is at least as Nephi said it would be: “They deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men. Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.” (2 Nephi 28: 5-6.)”

 

* [There is a challenge in communicating with the written word. A language barrier between written vs spoken word does not capture body language and voice inflection. I write with a certain intention of meaning in mind, but I cannot control the tone with which one chooses to read what is written. Though it may be read one way, my intent is not to condemn or be harsh toward the church.]

My 2016 Election Opinion

I apologize in advance for any offense this post may give to anyone who reads this, but I’m going to weigh in with my political opinion.

I’ve never been so much on the fence as I have been this election. In the past many times I have simply boycotted the process out of disgust. Other times, when I did decide to vote I voted 3rd party. When I have been asked how I’m voting this election I had to honestly say I’ve been undecided.

“question

At first, when I was sure I would be voting 3rd party again, I was confronted with the question that if I was forced to decided between the only 2 candidates who stand a chance at winning this election, which would I choose? The question alone left me internally conflicted, but I admit I leaned liberal. Later as the debates heated up I felt amazed at the sheer mockery and insult to the intelligence of the people we have in these two choices. All sense of decency and fairness has been abandoned in order to polarize. There is no recognition of virtue in the other opponent. If you trusted the partisan press you would believe the two major political parties of this nation have insanely chosen to offer us a stupid criminal or a dangerous egomaniac. I couldn’t see myself in good conscience voting for either one. I have oscillated between either not voting at all, voting 3rd party, or trying to reconcile choosing between the two major candidates.

“Who did you say you were voting for again, Dad?”

“The hands down best choice for our nation do not stand a chance at winning”, I responded.

At this point, as I now approach the polls, I offer the following insights from my study of the issues at hand. I believe our nation’s biggest concerns have less to do with who occupies the White House. The potential justices nominated by the next President to serve on the US Supreme Court may have greater effect on your life, liberty and property than will the President. As I go to vote I am considering the likely selection to be made by the only two candidates who stand any chance of being elected.

And by the way, throwing a vote away for some symbolic gesture, as recent polling suggests Utah is now willing to do, means abdicating the decision to others (if this election is close). This seems foolish, given the enormous importance of the role the next President will have in filling the US Supreme Court.

Some of the issues that will invade every aspect of our lives which the Supreme Court has or will be asked to decide include:

  • The constitutionality of Obamacare.
  • Regulation of property rights.
  • How broad or limited are Second Amendment rights (right of citezens to “keep and bear arms”)
  • The question of churches being subject to public accommodation laws, i.e. being required to allow men into women’s restrooms even if minor children are in the same bathroom. The Massachusetts Attorney General is threatening to litigate this very issue.
  • Everything from how you are investigated about an alleged crime, to how you are charged with an alleged crime and how you are to be prosecuted for the alleged crime is up to the Supreme Court. That court alone determines the extent of governmental power, and what steps are necessary to protect your rights against self-incrimination, due process, protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and right to legal counsel.
  • Recently a divided Federal Appeals Court upheld a law requiring the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor to provide abortion and contraceptive care, contrary to Catholic Church teachings. The decision means the Little Sisters of the Poor face up to $2.5 million a year in fines.
  • The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. Federal agencies are spying on citizens at an unprecedented level because of Internet, email, smart-phones and social media. The Supreme Court will be asked to determine what, if any, limits the Constitution provides to citizens under this Amendment.

The president will have a term of at most 8 years. Once confirmed, a Justice of the Supreme Court serves for life, unless impeached and removed from office. We should choose wisely.