Monday, June 4, 2007

My Iraq Plan

So here is my plan. Keep in mind that I have no knowledge of military strategy and my experience in politics is very slim.

1. Should we stay or should we go?
I think this is the most important question. A lot of Americans feel that the United States being in Iraq is making it worse. Let's put this to a vote and let the people of Iraq speak. We should allow Iraqis to vote "yes" or "no" to the US continuing to stay and assist in reconstruction. If they vote "no" we leave within 6 months. It's that simple. If they vote "yes," then we move on to step two.

2. It's time for a time-table.
I understand the position of many Republicans that setting a time-table would encourage the insurgency. But who cares? We have tried to help reconstruct Iraq for several years now and the insurgency doesn't appear to be suffering from lack of encouragement. Step two in my master plan is to force the Iraqi government to pass a time-table on how much longer we will stay. The key to this is having the Iraqi government decide, not us. Allowing them to decide will help strengthen foriegn relations because the world will see we are there because Iraq wants us to be there. We will set a time-table for the Iraqi government to create a time-table. The time-table could consist of several years, but at least we would have something concrete.

3. Diplomacy.
After the time-table for our occupancy is set we then go to the neighbors of Iraq and explain our plan. We ask for their assistance so that we can leave Iraq strengthened and able to stand on its own when we leave. We let them know that the plan will fail without them and the Iraqi people will be left open to harm and violence.

4. Stick to the time-table.
Next, we stick to the time-table and leave when the time comes. We leave knowing we did all that we could to help Iraq and its people. I am not opposed to leaving a US command center in Iraq, but we will no longer be in charge of security or support of the country.

So are we ready to elect me as President...yeah right.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Escalation or De-escalation: Same Difference

This past weekend I spent a lot of time playing Empire Earth. For those not familiar with the game, it is a strategy game in which you build up a community starting with a small village and form a powerful army to take over other player's (in my case the computer) territory. I have a few cheats for this game that give you unlimited resources allowing you to quickly build up an army. However, even when using these cheats I find it very difficult to beat the computer.

My two basic strategies have been to send hundreds of soldiers to the computer's territory to defeat them. When some of my soldiers are killed I simply send new ones trying to wear down the computer. My other strategy has been to build up a big fort to be ready when the computer attacks me. My hope is that they will use all their resources to attack my fort but will run out quickly because I am so prepared in my territory.

Both of these strategies have failed.

A couple nights ago I thought about how the proposed solutions to the Iraq war by the current President and by those seeking the office in the 2008 election are no better then my faulty Empire Earth strategy that even my computer's artificial intelligence can defeat.

President Bush continues to preach "stay the course" trying to enstill hope in the country by developing a plan that is centered on troop escalation. Many of the republicans that have thrown their hat in for President have supported this strategy.

Senators Obama and Clinton have made it clear that they want a troop de-escalation, bringing our troops home as soon as possible. I think it is safe to say this option represents how many democrats feel.

While I once felt my personal stance was leaning torward troop deescalation I have taken a step back and realized that no one has proposed a viable and worthy strategy for this war.

I understand that there is more thought behind Bush's troop esclation plan then just throwing more troops into the mix. But ultimately that is all we are doing. More troops=more resources to contain the insurgency. This plan is doomed to fail. The insurgency is not about numbers, its about the ideology and motivation of the men and women that are sacrificing their lives to send a message to the US through roadside bombs, suicide bombers, etc. It is a mental war, not one based on resources.

Bring the troops home? Yes, this will save the lives of many of our soldiers that would have perished had we remained. But for Iraq what does this accomplish? Nothing. Whether or not you were for or against this war (for the record I was not - and I definately side with what Obama has written in his book "The Audacity of Hope" that we rushed into this war without good reason and judgement) we took away Iraq's infastructure and any hope they had for peace when we toppled Hussein's government. A simple sense of doing what is right and just tells me we cannot abandon the Iraqi people.

So when are we going to have a politician and/or presidential hopeful that puts forward a plan that is more creative then throwing a lot of troops at the problem, or bringing them all home? When are we going to have a leader that realizes that this war will be one with not only military force but also diplomacy and an effort to understand the enemy's motivation?

My favorite line by the Republican party when defending the current state of the war is "This war is different from any war we have faced." If it is so different then why are we throwing the same solutions of military force at the problem and not being more creative?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Women and the Priesthood

I want to start this post by bearing my testimony concerning the Restored Priesthood. I have a strong conviction and have received a distinct witness that the authority restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith is the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. I know that it is the authority to act in Christ's name, and especially the authority needed to correctly govern His Church.

In today's Church as in the Ancient Church this Priesthood is only given to males. For reasons unknown the Lord has chosen select people and groups at different times to hold His authority. Aside from possible personal revelation to Prophets not shared through the scriptures or their writings, the reason for this has not been revealed.

As a man in the Church I cannot help but feel we can be a little more sensitive to women on this particular subject. I believe their are many of us that write off too easily those females that have struggled to understand why they cannot hold the Priesthood, or struggle that through this authority the Church becomes a male-dominated patriachal system.

I was guilty of shrugging of these conflicts until an experience on my mission. I got to know and become close with a small member family. Both parents were very liberal in their views of religion, and really anything for that matter. The husband was studying to be a sociologist, and the wife was struggling to become a homemaker putting her degree and career on hold.

While their views were liberal they were valiant and strong Saints. I loved going to their home a feeling the warm embrace of the Spirit. Many in the Church were attracted to the excitement and joy that surrounded these wonderful people.

One Sunday, after a combined Priesthood/Relief Society meeting on the blessings of the Priesthood I noticed the wife walking to her car in tears. As she passed me I couldn't help but ask her what was wrong. She turned to me and very candidly said, "I want the blessings of holding the Priesthood. Why can't I as a woman experience this?"

I am sure there are many responses that can be given to this question. I know that many would say that a women does experience the Priesthood through their husband (this explanation not taking into account women that do not marry in this life). But can we really blame or look down upon a woman that wants the opportunity to hold Christ's authority to serve?

In this woman I saw and felt so much sincerity it awakened me to the reality and seriousness of this issue. Since this experience I have always tried to be very sensitive and aware when a sister in the Church is dealing with this conflict.

I am not trying to say that I believe women should hold the Priesthood. As I said before, for reasons unknown God has chosen certain people to hold His Priesthood at certain times. And me in my finite and inperfect state do not challenge His current decree. But a little more sensitivity and understanding I believe would go a long way. And I believe it would also be more Christ-like on our part.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Review of "The Mormons"

I found "The Mormons" to be one of the most accurate productions on the Church produced by an outsider of the faith(which may not be saying much). There were inaccuracies and misleading statements but what I appreciated most about this documentary was its intention. I have watched enough anti-Mormon films to feel and know the chill that comes with the hateful and degrading motivations of its producers. And while I couldn't help but occasionally cringe, I never felt hate or bitterness while watching this production.

A lot of facts and views of the Church were shared. But most of the spiritual and sacred events that motivate our Church (in the past and in the present) were not. This presents almost an empty shell of Mormonism. Which I feel the producer was going for. It seemed she wanted to give her viewers just enough information without overloading them.

A few subjects I was disappointed about were the Mountain Meadows Massacre and Polygamy. I believe that too much time was focused on the Massacre, making it appear to be more of a defining historical event to the Church then it actually was.

Also, I wish the documentary would have focused more on the Church discontinuing polygamy. Right after it explained the Church discontinued polygamy it went directly into LDS Fundamentalists and their practicing of polygamy. This may give a viewer who is unfamiliar with the Church an idea that the Church never stopped this practice.

I could go over each detail I felt was incorrect - there were many. But overall I appreciated this documentary. There were many opportunities for someone to feel the Spirit when certain aspects of the Church were discussed.

Of course it also presented a critical side, but that critical side exists and I am glad they were given a voice.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Best in the West?

It's been a long time since my last post. You must forgive me but I have been spending my spare time engrossed in my second love to the Gospel - sports.

It's NBA Playoff time and my Dallas Mavericks have not been doing so well. I have been a true fan since I was 10 years old. I glory in this because when I was 10 years old the Mavericks were lucky to win 20 out of 82 games a season. Despite the losing record and the ugly uniforms I backed my team year in and year out.

Lately I have received my return as the Mavericks have been playoff contenders. Last year they made it to the Finals, only to choke after going up 2-0 and losing to the Miami Heat. I cannot describe to you how deeply depressed I was for weeks after that series. Unhealthy? Maybe. But I was born to follow sports.

The Mavericks are down 2-3 in their first playoff series since the Finals. They had the best record in the NBA this season, one that broke records, but have succumbed to the Golden State Warriors in what could be the biggest upset of the season.

I have had the opportunity to go to games 3 and 5. This has only fueled my anger towared the Warriors . They play like thugs, and they act like thugs. It almost seems like this series is a battle between sportsmanship and immaturity.
Tonight, if the Mavericks lose they are eliminated. If they win they are tied up and headed back to Dallas for Game 7. They have become the underdogs and most of the media is predicting a loss. But I have faith.
In regards to my usual topic of religion I did watch the PBS special "The Mormons." All I can say at this time is it was a valiant effort to capture Mormonism. I never sensed any motive but to understand and I appreciated it. I wish I had the desire to write a few mroe of my thoughts but I don't. I'm in a stage right now in which I am tired of discussing religion. I feel that I am living the Gospel the best I can according to my beliefs and faith and have no desire to explore them through dialogue with others. I am sure I will come out of this stage eventually. But until then...

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Great Scientist and Religious Scholar

For ages science and religion have opposed one another. If science formulates a theory that appears to conflict with the Bible many Christians immediately dismiss the theory as hogwash or the wisdom of men.

I have never had this problem. Rather I have enjoyed finding ties between scientific theories and biblical teachings. I believe they are abundant.

Sure - there are conflicts. But conflicts arise between scientists. And conflicts arise between churches and religious scholars.

God is both the Great Scientist and the Great Religious Scholar. He knows all scientific truths, and He knows all scriptural truths. He is the Author of both.

I know many view God as a mystical unexplainable Being. Because He is God His ways are incomprehensible. All of this is true, but in viewing God this way are we also robbing Him of His intelligence?

When we think of the Creation, many Christians believed God pointed His finger and the world appeared. But shouldn't we also recognize that God understood the science behind what He was doing? He knew exactly how far the Sun needed to be from the Earth in order to provide us with temperatures we could endure. He knew exactly where to place Mother Earth and the other planets to create a stable universe. We can take great scientists such as Albert Einstein and realize that God is infinitely smarter.

Just as Christians strive to understand God and His ways in regards to salvation, scientists strive to understand the science of His creations. Conflicts may arise but we are all seeking the same thing - the truths of God.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

My head hurts...

My latest muse:

Reality has always existed. It has no beginning. It has no end.

A beginning to reality signifies a time without reality. Out of a void reality could not be born.

An ending to reality signifies a void future. Therefore, reality would have never existed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Real Hero

Out of tragedy heroes arise.

As an aspiring teacher I cannot help but shed tears of admiration for the bravery and honor of Professor Liviu Librescu.

Several students involved in the Virginia Tech murders emailed Professor Librescu's family to tell them the story of his heroic act of barricading the doors allowing students to flee from a crazed gunman.

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Librescu's son, Joe Librescu, said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his home outside Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."

Librescu became one of the 33 victims to lose his life in this tragedy that has captivated the nation. One would assume that the death toll would have been much greater had it not been for Librescu's actions.
In a split-second decision this Professor chose to sacrifice his life for others.

A Tragedy

I am very sensitive to stories of murder and death. They are very sobering and cause me to reflect on the value and importance of mortality. I also cannot help but ask the common questions that follow horrible tragedies:

"Why would a loving God allow this to happen?"

"How can someone do something like this?"

Hearing the news of the Virginia Tech murders shook me up. As I think about each victim and the life they have been taken from I feel deep sadness and sorrow for their families. I cannot comprehend what it feels like to lose a loved one so suddenly and so tragically. Even as a spectator from afar it seems surreal and inconceivable.

Although the probability that someone even remotely connected to the victims reads this post I send my love and prayers to the families and friends who have lost loved ones.

I send my testimony and assurance that God is our Father. I know that He is in control, and that despite the unimaginable tragedies we face in this life, we can have comfort in Him.

I know that this life is not the end, but only a small portion of our eternity. We will all be reunited, and realize that this time of death and sorrow is only a brief seperation.

It is normal to ask why God would allow such horrific events to take place. But we have to remember that these loved ones are not alone. They have not passed through this life to a dark and dreary void. They have returned to His presence and His care.

I hope that the families and friends of these victims may hold onto this faith and hope. The country mourns for you. And our Savior Jesus Christ knows your pain and suffering. That He heals you is my prayer.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Visions of Elder David B. Haight

In the Church today it is very rare that we hear the details of our Church leaders' spiritual visions. There are many reasons for this, not the least being the sacredness of these events to the individual.
In this month's Ensign we can read about the visions of Elder David B. Haight's while suffering from an unbearable ailment in early 1989.

The terrible pain and commotion of people ceased. I was now in a calm, peaceful setting; all was serene and quiet. I was conscious of two persons in the distance on a hillside, one standing on a higher level than the other. Detailed features were not discernible. The person on the higher level was pointing to something I could not see.

I heard no voices but was conscious of being in a holy presence and atmosphere.

During the hours and days that followed, there was impressed again and again upon my mind the eternal mission and exalted position of the Son of Man. I witness to you that He is Jesus the Christ; the Son of God; Savior to all; Redeemer of all mankind; Bestower of infinite love, mercy, and forgiveness; the Light and Life of the World. I knew this truth before—I had never doubted nor wondered. But now I knew, because of the impressions of the Spirit upon my heart and soul, these divine truths in a most unusual way.

I was shown a panoramic view of His earthly ministry: His baptism, His teaching, His healing the sick and lame, the mock trial, His Crucifixion, His Resurrection and Ascension. There followed scenes of His earthly ministry to my mind in impressive detail, confirming scriptural eyewitness accounts. I was being taught, and the eyes of
my understanding were opened by the Holy Spirit of God so as to behold many things.

The first scene was of the Savior and His Apostles in the upper chamber on the eve of His betrayal. Following the Passover supper, He instructed and prepared the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for His dearest friends as a remembrance of His coming sacrifice. It was so impressively portrayed to me—the overwhelming love of the Savior for each. I witnessed His thoughtful concern for significant details—the washing of the dusty feet of each Apostle, His breaking and blessing of the loaf of dark bread and blessing of the wine, then His dreadful disclosure that one would betray Him. He explained Judas’s departure and told the others of the events soon to take place.

Then followed the Savior’s solemn discourse when He said to the Eleven: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Our Savior prayed to His Father and acknowledged the Father as the source of His authority and power—even to the extending of eternal life to all who are worthy.

He prayed, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God,and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

Jesus then reverently added: “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:3–5).

He pled not only for the disciples called out from the world who had been true to their testimony of Him, “but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John 17:20).

When they had sung a hymn, Jesus and the Eleven went out to the Mount of Olives. There, in the garden, in some manner beyond our comprehension, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world. His agony in the garden, Luke tells us, was so intense “his sweat was as … great drops of blood falling … to the ground” (Luke 22:44). He suffered an agony and a burden the like of which no human person would be able to bear. In that hour of anguish our Savior overcame all the power of Satan...

During those days of unconsciousness, I was given, by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, a more perfect knowledge of His mission. I was also given a more complete understanding of what it means to exercise, in His name, the authority to unlock the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven for the salvation of all who are faithful. My soul was taught over and over again the events of the betrayal, the mock trial, the scourging of the flesh of even one of the Godhead. I witnessed His struggling up the hill in His weakened condition carrying the cross and His being stretched upon it as it lay on the ground, that the crude spikes could be driven with a mallet into His hands and wrists and feet to secure His body as it hung on the cross for public display.

Crucifixion—the horrible and painful death which He suffered—was chosen from the beginning. By that excruciating death, He descended below all things, as is recorded, that through His Resurrection He would ascend above all things (see D&C 88:6).

Jesus Christ died in the literal sense in which we will all die. His body lay in the tomb. The immortal spirit of Jesus, chosen as the Savior of mankind, went to those myriads of spirits who had departed mortal life with varying degrees of righteousness to God’s laws. He taught them the “glorious tidings of redemption from the bondage of death, and of possible salvation … [that was] part of [our] Savior’s foreappointed and unique service to the human family."

I cannot begin to convey to you the deep impact that these scenes have confirmed upon my soul. I sense their eternal meaning and realize that “nothing in the entire plan of salvation compares in any way in importance with that most transcendent of all events, the atoning sacrifice of our Lord. It is the most important single thing that has ever occurred in the entire history of created things; it is the rock foundation upon which the gospel and all other things rest,” as has been declared.

David B. Haight, “The Sacrament—and the Sacrifice,” Ensign, Apr 2007, 14–18

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Religious and Science Harmony: Genesis 1:21-26

This past Family Home Evening my wife taught a lesson on the Creation of this Earth. She went through each day, explaining what was created. As she did this in a manner that our 3 year-old daughter could understand I realized I had never paid attention to the order in which the Earth and its inhabitants were created. As I listened to her lesson I made a few observations that I would like to compare with the theory of evolution.

Please read the below passage of scripture and pay special attention to the sequence of events:

21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. -Genesis 1:21-26

Creatures of the sea>Creatures of the land>Humans

The evolution timeline follows a very similar sequence. The first multicellular organisms to form through evolution appeared in oceans. There is believed to have been 500 million years of fish and proto-amphibians.

After the formation of the ozone layer excursions onto land were made possible. Through evolution land creatures rapidly filled the earth.

After billions of years of the evolution of land creatures the human species evolved into what it is today.

I find it interesting that the sequence of evolution and the sequence of biblical creation hold many similarities. I am sure my comparison has holes (for instance where do birds fit in), but as a non-expert of evolution I am appreciating both the scientific views and religious writings of the history of this Earth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Headlines: Don Imus

When you think of "nappy-headed" does Imus's stellar hair not come to mind before the Rutgers women's basketball team? Mr. Imus has no credibility or place making comments in regards to people's hair.

In all seriousness, we need to work together to eliminate the use of rascist derogatory terms. And there is NEVER an excuse to refer to a female or females as hos. Unacceptable.

Click Here For Story

Monday, April 9, 2007

Testimony Through Revelation

I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday's priesthood lesson on testimony. A few of the quotes from President Kimball hit me like a ton of bricks!

There are people who pride themselves on their keen minds, who think they can delve into mysteries, but they can never define or explain or understand the spiritual things through their logic or through their mental processes. The spiritual things can be understood only through the Spirit. It must come through the heart and that is where the testimony is lodged. -Spencer W. Kimball, H. Stephen Stoker and Joseph C. Muren, comps., Testimony (1980), 167–68)

This quote hit me the hardest. Too many times in the Church I feel like our communication is too heavily intellectual. Many times our conversations are filled with musings of the mind, and not enough exploration of the Spirit. One is not the antithesis of the other, but without a healthy balance of both conversations about the things of the Spirit are robbed of their effectiveness and sincerity.

This is the one area that LDS blogging has left me hungry for- more spiritual, testimony-building dialogue. I know some would write this off as overly positive, insincere fluff, but I believe with a healthy balance of intellect and Spirit the internet could be used to fulfill two missions of the Church - proclaim the Gospel and perfect the Saints.

Testimony meetings are some of the best meetings in the [Church] in the whole month, if you have the spirit. If you are bored at a testimony meeting, there is something the matter with you, and not the other people. You can get up and bear your testimony and you think it is the best meeting in the month; but if you sit there and count the grammatical errors and laugh at the man who can’t speak very well, you’ll be bored. …-Spencer W. Kimball New Era, Aug. 1981, 6–7.

We are probably all guilty of rolling our eyes, or getting bored when someone bares a testimony. I am sure that the leadership of the Church would agree that many members bear testimonies that are too long, and in some cases not testimonies at all. But our responsibility is to be in tune with the Spirit and take away from every testimony what the Lord desires us to. As tough as it may be to swallow, I believe if we find ourselves bored or frustrated during testimony meeting the fault is ours.

Maybe a testimony that is goes on and on, with the member complaining about their life and situation is really a invitation for help. Maybe a testimony that becomes a travelogue from an elderly couple in the ward is really a invitation for someone to listen. Or maybe a testimony in which the member says a few flighty, gospel-unsound comments is really a invitation for more attention and better instruction.

Some of our good people get so terrified at triteness that they try to steer around and away from their testimonies by getting out on the fringes. Don’t you ever worry about triteness in testimony. When the President of the Church bears his testimony, he says, “I know that Joseph Smith was called of God, a divine representative. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” You see, the same thing every one of you says. That is a testimony. It never gets old, never gets old! Tell the Lord frequently how much you love him. -Spencer W. Kimball, H. StephenStokerand Joseph C. Muren, comps., Testimony (1980), 167–68)

There has been a lot of discussion regarding the use of the words "I know" when bearing testimony among members of the Church. This phrase has been examined, ridiculed and criticized by many. I have been guilty of this, at times believing that we should try to elaborate and be more specific as to what we believe. But while I read the above paragraph the Spirit whispered to me that saying "I know" when meant sincerely, can be the best phrase to use.

I believe that someone can gain absolute knowledge by means of the Holy Ghost. They may continue to struggle with their intellect and logic, but we can receive a witness and know gospel truths.

If you haven't already, I would suggest that you read this chapter and apply its truths to your life.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Interesting Scripture Correlation: Exodus 21:12-13 and 1 Nephi 4:11-18

In my personal scripture study I am reading the Old Testament. Currently I am in the Book of Exodus. A couple of days ago I read this passage which peaked my interest:
12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

13 And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.
-Exodus 21:12-13

As a family, we are currently reading the Book of Mormon. We are in 1 Nephi chapter 4 and just finished reading about the slaying of Laban. Last night I was intrigued when I read this passage:
11 And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.

12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.

14 And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.

15 Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.

16 And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.

17 And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.

18 Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.
-1 Nephi 4:11-18

I find it interesting that the slaying of Laban is in harmony with earlier commandments given to Moses and the people of Israel. And just as it says in Exodus that God will provide a place for the person to flee, Nephi was able to flee to the wilderness for safety without being caught.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Cheney and BYU...

My humble two cents...

I have been surprised at the reaction of some BYU students and church members when it was recently announced that Vice President Dick Cheney would be giving a Commencement Address.

Some students and members against the address say that having Cheney give it violates the LDS Church's long standing policy of political nuetrality. Having Cheney speak shows the Church supports his views and policies.

On the flip-side, some supporting the address have pointed the finger at non-supporters declaring that they are challenging Church leaders and apostatizing. Since the First Presidency of the Church must be aware of Cheney speaking, their approval is comparable to modern-day revelation.

The Church released a statement in response to the controversy. In regards to political nuertrality the statement said:

"Whatever the personal views of individual students or other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the invitation is seen by the university's board of trustees as one extended to someone holding the high office of vice president of the United States rather than to a partisan political figure."

Cheney giving a Commencement Address is not an admission or declaration of support for his views or platform, but for his office of Vice President.

The 12th Article of Faith states:

12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Some may disagree with this approach to government - to obey, honor and sustain. However, this has been the Church's long standing policy alongside of political nuetrailty. Having Cheney give the address is in harmony with political nuetraility and the 12th Article of Faith.
To those who support Cheney speaking I would say it is not wise bind every decision by Church-owned institutions to "Thus saith the Lord." To point the finger of apostasy at those that disagree with the Cheney giving the address shows a misunderstanding of revelation in my opinion.

Did the Lord reveal to President Hinckley that Vice President Dick Cheney should give a Commencement Address at BYU? I doubt it, but the truth is we don't know. And unless someone is privy to a statement by the Church that Cheney being invited to speak was a decision made by the Prophet himself we shouldn't tie this decision to him.
I have been amazed at some comments by Church members saying that those in opposition to Cheney speaking need to be quiet because when the Prophet speaks, we need to listen.

My personal opinion is that having the Vice President speak is an honor. I disagree with many actions and choices made by the Bush Administration. However, to have someone who holds the office of Vice President speak at a Commencement Address is good exposure for the Church and shows its support for the US Government.
Those that have a problem with Dick Cheney don't need this address to protest him. They should have been protesting him long before this announcement, and I am sure they will continue to after it.
I would hate to see those in opposition hold actual rallys and protests during the graduation ceremony itself. To me this attacks free speech, and also damages the signifigance of this special event for those students graduating.

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Tag.

Yesterday I reflected on the importance of Elders and Sisters of the LDS Church wearing the missionary tag while serving their full-time mission.

I believe that the missionary tag serves several worthy purposes:
  1. It helps those who may be interesting in the LDS Church recognize those ordained and qualified to teach the Gospel.

  2. It helps the Church become more recognized in the public.

  3. It helps missionaries remember who they are and what they are doing

The third reason listed may be the most important of them all.

I strongly believe that the missionary tag does as much or more in protecting the missionaries than mission rules. It is a constant reminder to them of their callings and expectations.

I will share a story that helps illustrate this. One night on my mission I awoke with an asthmatic attack. I reached for my inhaler but it was not there. I got up and searched the apartment but it couldn't be found. My breathing became heavier and my wheezing louder. My companion called the Mission Medical Coordinator. She first advised us to call 911. I told her that I would be fine if I could just get a replacement inhaler. Knowing that, she advised me to go to a 24 hour drug store and purchase an inhaler. We both threw on our dress clothes with tags and left.

It was 3 a.m. and my companion and I felt very uncomfortable as we drove the dark and lonely streets in the middle of the night. Neither one of us had been out past 10 p.m. in a long time. I began to realize how horrible it would look if a member saw two missionaries driving out at 3 a.m. I started to become very aware of the tag I was wearing. Every time I saw it looking at me in the side mirror of the car my worries would grow stronger.

Of course we were not doing anything wrong, and following the direction of our mission leaders. Of course if a member would have judged us harshly the fault would be theirs. But I became very aware of how important the missionary tag is in keeping Elders and Sisters out of trouble and reminding them of who they are and what they are doing. They are representatives of the Church and of Jesus Christ.

Yesterday I couldn't help but wonder if we as members need tag. Do we need reminders of who we are and what we should be doing? We are members of the Lord's Church and also represent Jesus Christ.

Missionary tag or not, I hope that I can live my life continuously remembering what I stand for and who I represent, my Savior.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sometimes you just need to "flee"...

Most of the time it is wise to face our trials head on. But sometimes I believe it is better to "flee." I was reminded of this principle recently when I read the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife.

6 And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.

7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.

8 But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;

9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.

11 And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.

12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. -Genesis 39:6-12

What are the "potiphar wives" that stand in our way? What temptations should we "flee" from? I can think of a few:

  1. Pornography (print and internet)
  2. Inappropriate thoughts of lust
  3. Entertainment that provokes sexual thoughts and desires
  4. Situations in which our sexual morality may be compromised

These are a few temptations I can think of, and I am sure there are more. When we are faced with these "potiphar wives" lets remember the story of Joseph, drop everything and anything we are doing, and "flee" to moral safety.

If you are on the computer and have a desire to view pornography, turn off the computer and flee. If you are experiencing inappropriate thoughts flee from them by concentrating on prayer or the scriptures. If you are viewing entertainment that causes you to have inappropriate sexual thoughts and desires flee from the entertainment. And if you are in a situation where your morals could be compromised flee from the situation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Jacob and Esau: A Lesson in Forgiveness

Last night I read one of my favorite Old Testament Bible stories. It is the story of Jacob and Esau's reunion during Jacob's journey back to Canaan.

Jacob and Esau were twin brothers, Esau being the eldest. Esau was favored by his father, the great Patriarch Isaac, son of Abraham. Jacob was favored by his mother, Rebekah, who was told by the Lord:
Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. -Genesis 25:23
In normal circumstances Esau would have received both the birthright and first blessing from his father, Isaac. However, Esau traded his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of pottage, and was tricked out of his blessing when Jacob impersonated him.

This angered Esau - so much that Jacob had to leave the land of Canann and dwell with his Uncle Laban for several years. After being tricked out of Isaac's first blessing Esau said in his heart, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob."

After several years with Laban, the Lord commanded Jacob to return to Canaan. By this time Jacob had four wives and eleven sons. He had also become wealthy and had many servants, cattle and sheep.

During his journey Jacob was told that Esau was approaching to meet him. This struck fear in Jacob:

9 And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:

10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.

11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. -Genesis 32:9-11

With good reason Jacob feard Esau because of what had transpired between these two brothers in the past.

To try and pacify Esau Jacob sent many sheep and cattle as a gift. As Esau approached Jacob went ahead of his women and children. What happened was unexpected and one of the greatest scenes of forgiveness and love in the Bible:

4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.

5 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.

6 Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves.

7 And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.

8 And he said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord.

9 And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. -Genesis 33:4-9

The first time I read this scripture I remember weeping as I felt Esau's spirit of forgiveness and love.

It is my desire that I can approach others that have wronged me with the same love and forgiveness as Esau. May we all strive for this, making the world a better place.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mental Illness

This post is meant to be a positive response to articles written by one of my favorite bloggers, Steve M. from Within The Bubble. I consider the author of this blog one of my best "cyber-pals" and love his perspective on the LDS Church. While we disagree at times, I feel our conversations have been very productive and I have come away from our dialogue enlightened.

I disagree with his latest series titled "Mormonism and Mental Illness." I believe it is too negative and does not highlight the Church's current stance and efforts concerning mental illness, specifically depression. He has promised a third installment to his series that will detail the Church's efforts, but I can't resist the opportunity to post my own thoughts and quotes.

To learn about the LDS Church's current feelings about this issue all one has to do is go to the Church's official website ( and read through the "Ensign" and other official Church publications. Here are a few points and comments made in these magazines over the recent years:

In what I feel is a powerful and well-written article titled "Myths about Mental Illness" Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy tackles the myths that exists among others, even members of the LDS Church, about mental illness. Please allow me to highlight his points:

1. All mental illness is caused by sin...

The truth is that many faithful Latter-day Saints who live the commandments and honor their covenants experience struggles with mental illness or are required to deal with the intense pain and suffering of morally righteous but mentally ill family members. Their burdens—and they are many—can be lifted only by love, understanding, and acceptance.

2. Someone is to blame for mental illness...

Ascribing blame for mental illness causes unnecessary suffering for all concerned and takes time and energy which would better be used to increase understanding of what actually is happening—to get a complete assessment and proper diagnosis of the illness involved, to understand the causes, to get proper medication and learn behavioral and cognitive techniques that are part of the healing process. As victims, loved ones, and all the rest of us increase our understanding, then patience, forgiveness, and empathy will replace denial, anger, and rejection.

3. All that people with mental illness need is a priesthood blessing...

Without in any way denigrating the unique role of priesthood blessings, that ecclesiastical leaders are spiritual leaders and not mental health professionals. Most of them lack the professional skills and training to deal effectively with deep-seated mental illnesses and are well advised to seek competent professional assistance for those in their charge who are in need of it. Remember that God has given us wondrous knowledge and technology that can help us overcome grievous problems such as mental illness. Just as we would not hesitate to consult a physician about medical problems such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, so too we should not hesitate to obtain medical and other appropriate professional assistance in dealing with mental illness.

4. Mentally ill persons just lack willpower...

The fact is that seriously mentally ill persons simply cannot, through an exercise of will, get out of the predicament they are in. They need help, encouragement, understanding, and love. Anyone who has ever witnessed the well-nigh unbearable pain of a severe panic attack knows full well that nobody would suffer that way if all that was needed was to show a little willpower. No one who has witnessed the almost indescribable sadness of a severely depressed person who perhaps can’t even get out of bed, who cries all day or retreats into hopeless apathy, or who tries to kill himself would ever think for a moment that mental illness is just a problem of willpower. We don’t say to persons with heart disease or cancer, “Just grow up and get over it.” Neither should we treat the mentally ill in such an uncompassionate and unhelpful way. -Alexander B. Morrison, “Myths about Mental Illness,” Ensign, Oct 2005, 31–35

If this article does not tackle the misconceptions in the LDS Church that Steve covers in his series, I don't know what would.

In an Ensign article titled "Easing the Burdens of Mental Illness" Dawn and Jay Fox write:

Sometimes good parents of mentally ill children are told by the unknowing that perhaps the child’s illness could have been avoided if they had practiced better parenting skills. Yet scientific evidence shows that there is a strong biological component in many of these disorders. For example, research performed by Brigham Young University professor Erin D. Bigler shows actual differences in the brains of those with various mental disorders. Dr. Bigler believes that “major psychiatric disorders have physiological underpinnings.” 9 These illnesses may develop in even the best of environments...we can help people find the resources they need. LDS Family Services, which can be accessed through one’s bishop, offers support and professional counseling to individuals and families within the context of Latter-day Saint values and, if necessary, makes referrals to hospitals or other treatment centers. -Dawn and Jay Fox, “Easing the Burdens of Mental Illness,” Ensign, Oct 2001, 32

This article explains that mental illness is not the result of bad parenting, but that there is conclusive evidence that it is tied to biological factors. It also directs people the seek professional counseling and medical assistance.

In response to the question "“My friend seems really depressed, and I’m afraid she might even be thinking about taking her own life. What should I do?” the Church's youth Magazine "New Era" responded:

Depression is a symptom of mental or emotional illness. Just as she would go to a doctor to be treated for a physical illness, she can talk to a professional who can help her understand the nature of epression and teach her ways to cope with it. Whether she is a member of the Church or not, she can get spiritual help. She can pray, get a priesthood blessing, and find comfort by reading the scriptures. Testify to her that the Lord loves her and can bless her with peace. -“Q&A:Questions and Answers,” NewEra, Feb 2007, 14–16

I find the comparison of mental illness and physical illness to be very correct and accurate. I think that most medical professionals would agree with this.

In 2004 in an article titled "When Your Child Is Depressed" Sean E. Brotherson writes:

To understand and identify chronic depression when it
occurs is the first step toward making a difference. Parents should be attentive to depressive symptoms in children of any age, but particularly as they grow older, when the condition becomes more common and the consequences more serious. It is important to recognize that chronic depression is a specific illness that often requires intervention just like diabetes or pneumonia. Fortunately, it is highly treatable, and most individuals respond well to a combination of spiritual and social support, medication if necessary, and therapeutic guidance.-
Sean E. Brotherson, “When Your Child Is Depressed,” Ensign, Aug 2004, 52–57

He also says:

"Depressive symptoms may occur due to a lack of certain brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, that affect an individual’s mood and perception. This is often referred to as a chemical imbalance in the brain. Parents should also understand that when a young person lives contrary to the way he or she has been taught, this can lead to inner conflict and despair (see Moro. 10:22). This can be resolved through repentance. However, it should not be assumed that most cases of clinical depression are caused by unrighteousness."

This article mentions many avenues of helping childen cope with depression, including medication and counseling. It also strikes at the myth that clinical depression is caused by unrighteousness. A child can be depressed because of living contrary to the Gospel, but this should not be assumed, and serious mental illness should always be considered.

In the article "Rising Above the Blues" the author writes:

Depression is real. There are many misconceptions about
depression. Here are a few of the falsehoods you might have heard, along with the truth about this serious mental condition:

False: All teenagers are moody. They don’t have real depression.
True: People of any age can suffer from depression. While it is true that the teen years bring many ups and downs, those who suffer from prolonged depression have a very real health problem.

False: Teens who say they’re depressed just need to snap out of it.
True: That’s like telling someone to perform surgery on himself. Depression is not a phase. It is a serious illness. Those who suffer from depression should see a doctor to find out how to begin treatment.

False: Telling someone that your friend is depressed is betraying a trust.
True: A real friend would do his best to make sure his friend gets help. Depression takes away motivation, and your friend might not recognize that he or she needs help or care about getting help. It’s up to you to be a good friend."-
Shanna Ghaznavi, “Rising Above the Blues,” New Era, Apr 2002, 30

I could continue and share more qoutes and comments in official Church publications about mental illness, but I believe this will suffice. From these articles we learn that chronic mental illness is not due to sin, but a true illness that must be treated by health professionals. This stance is in complete harmony with how many psychologists and doctors view mental illness.

To help battle mental illness the Church offers counseling services through its "Family Services." From the official website of this organization we learn that:

LDS Family Services has 57 offices throughout the United States and 12 international offices in Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Chile, and Brazil available to provide counseling services to individuals, couples, and families. The professional counseling staff hold a master's degree in the behavioral sciences at a minimum.,12283,2129-1,00.html

Bishops and Stake Leaders are directed to refer members to professionals in LDS Family Services whenever a member of the Church comes to them with signs of mental illness.
There is a charge for these services however for many less fortunate members the Church absorbs the costs. I do not have a dollar amount on how much the Church covers, but I would not be surprised if they were spending millions and millions of dollars annually.

The Church is actively publishing articles that present a correct and well-informed view of mental illness. Ecclesiastical leaders are counseled to direct members that show signs of mental illness to health professionals immediately. The Church is also spending millions of dollars to pay for the counseling and assistance of many of its members through medical professionals. In my opinion, this puts the LDS Church at the forefront of other religious organizations in how they are handling mental illness and the Church deserves credit and praise.

Can the Church improve? Yes. Every organization connected with mental illness, religious and secular, should be striving to improve in how they deal with mental illness. The more important question is if the Church is improving. I think it is clear that it is.

Do members of the Church, even leaders have misconceptions about mental illness? Yes. There are members of the Church (and I would speculate some leaders) that are not as well-informed about mental illness and have misconceptions. This may be caused by early writings of others, including Church leaders that do not recognize mental illness as an actual medical condition. But members and leaders of the Church should not be relying on old material that is not in harmony with the Church's current stance and efforts. They are in error. We cannot blame a member's misconceptions on the Church itself, when it is doing all it can to provide correct and accurate information about mental illness to its leaders and members.

Steve shares personal and poignant experiences in which his leaders attributed his mental illness to sin. This is tragic, and I can understand someone having dissatisfaction for the Church's views on mental illness after having these experiences.

However, I have heard many stories of bishops directing members to health professionals, sometimes paying for this assistance. I personally struggle with mental illness and have had several bishops and a mission president refer me to health professionals immediately, at times paying for it. I feel that my story and others who have had their leaders direct them to professionals is the norm.

The Church should and will continue to educate its leaders on proper procedures regarding mental illness. Mistakes will occur, but I firmly believe the Church is doing all it can and will continue to.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Oh, repent, and he’ll forgive.

"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." - Isaiah 1:18

Today I feel the desire to sing a hymn based on the above scripture written by W.W. Phelps titled "Gently Raise the Sacred Strain." The words to this hymn were written in the early 1830s and were included in the first official Church hymnbook compiled by Emma Smith in 1835. Please allow me to share these words of Grace and Repentance:

Gently Raise the Sacred Strain

Gently raise the sacred strain,
For the Sabbath’s come again
That man may rest,That man may rest,
And return his thanks to God
For his blessings to the blest, For his blessings to the blest.

Holy day, devoid of strife—
Let us seek eternal life,
That great reward,That great reward,
And partake the sacrament
In remembrance of our Lord, In remembrance of our Lord.

Sweetly swells the solemn sound
While we bring our gifts around
Of broken hearts, Of broken hearts,
As a willing sacrifice,
Showing what his grace imparts, Showing what his grace imparts.

Holy, holy is the Lord.
Precious, precious is his word:
Repent and live, Repent and live;
Tho your sins be crimson red,
Oh, repent, and he’ll forgive. Oh, repent, and he’ll forgive.

I first encountered this hymn while serving my full-time LDS mission. I was sitting in a chapel in Chapel Hill, North Carolina attending a Sacrament meeting. As I began singing these words my heart became very heavy. I acknowledged my sins in my heart and in my mind asked the Lord for forgiveness.

Tho your sins be crimson red,
Oh, repent, and he’ll forgive. Oh, repent, and he’ll forgive.

These words filled my soul with an indescribable joy as I felt the Savior's Love and Grace flow from Heaven. As I partook of the Sacrament I knew that I had been forgiven of my sins through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I knew that His Mercy had purified my spirit that was once as red as crimson. I knew that through continual repentance and faith it would become and remain as white as wool. These emotions flowed from my eyes as tears.

I know that these promises and blessings of forgiveness are available to all of us that find ourselves lost in sin. We can all be purified and redeemed through the power of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Death and Harley

This week I received a call from my wife informing me that our daughter's beta fish, affectionately named Harley, passed away. His death was not pretty - the result of our daughter's desire to take a bath with her fishy friend.

As my wife put our weeping baby girl on the phone my heart broke as I heard her say, "I don’t want Harley to die. I don't want him to leave."

In her three years of innocence our daughter was having her first experience with the dark and mysterious part of life known as death.

To console her, my wife decided to have a funeral for Harley. She took a rock from outside and with our daughter's help painted it. The painted rock included the name of the fish and a bright rainbow. My wife than dug a hole outside where she placed the fish, and held a short service in which our daughter was able to express her feelings about this loved and missed beta.

Later that evening as my daughter and I sat on the couch she asked me if Harley was going to come back. Searching for answers I responded, "Harley will always be with you." I pointed to her heart and let her know that this is where Harley is now.

As poetic and wonderful as my comforting advice may have sounded I couldn't help but wonder why I told her this. Do I really believe that pets (fish even!) have spirits, and that these spirits continue to have an influence on our lives after they are gone? As one co-worker joked after I told him about my advice, can pets we treat poorly haunt us?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But what I believe I was doing was trying to comfort our daughter by sharing my beliefs and what has consoled me when I have lost someone close.

I know through my personal trials and spiritual experiences that death is not the end of the soul. It is only the beginning of the next stage of our eternity. While we are separated by the veil of mortality and death, I believe we can still be influenced and assisted by our loved ones that have passed on.

As a great prophet once taught:

"Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death. The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time...” -Alma 11:42,43
This Resurrection is made possible by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Said he:
"...I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die..." -Gospel of John 11:25-26

As a Latter-day Saint, not only do I believe in eternal life, but I believe that eternal life with our families is possible and what God desires for all of His children.

Lately I have witnessed a lot of friends and acquaintances lose family members. While I am blessed to not be dealing with the direct loss, it has caused me great pain as I ponder how I would handle losing a close loved one - my spouse, a parent, a sibling, even a child. I have dealt with death in the past, but it's effects have not weakened with time.

While I feel strong in my knowledge and testimony of eternal life am I strong enough to overcome the trial of uncertainty and despair in the shadow of death? Will I be able to stay in control of my emotions and feelings as my faith is tested? Can I look down at my loved one who is gone and know that I will be with them again?

While our daughter still brings up Harley, with the passing of time and her parent's words her wounds have healed. I hope that I can have as much strength in the words of the Savior, as my daughter has in mine.