Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Friday, June 30, 2006

What Drives Mormon Crickets: Fear of Cannibalism

Studies of Mormon crickets point to fear of cannibalism as a key driving force that makes them keep marching forward when they are in large groups.
That name goes back to the days when the Mormons were establishing farms and ranches to supply their colonies in Utah. The crickets arrived and began devouring their crops.

"The Mormons thought God sent them as a plague of locusts," [according to Patrick Lorch, an insect behaviorist at Kent State University]. "They had a huge problem, but apparently they repented or stopped whatever they were doing wrong, and God sent seagulls to save them from the crickets. That's why if you go to the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City you'll see a monument to the seagull."
With many millions still marching across Nevada and coming into Utah, looks like it's time for Mormons to begin repenting once again. Repent of what? Plenty of things, I suppose. In a time like this, why hold back?

ACLU to American Students: OK to Mention God in Public - As Long as It's Cussing

Thanks to Brittany McComb, the Christian girl from Henderson, Nevada who dared to thank God and mention Jesus Christ in a high school graduation ceremony, speaking as class valedictorian. But not many of the four-hundred people in the audience heard that, since school officials turned off the microphone to spare delicate student ears from hearing the word "God" in a non-cussing context. The school has since enlisted the help of the ACLU to defend its position, which appears to be consistent with the ACLU's unwritten policy: "Nobody should ever mention God in public, unless it's cussing."

Whose Constitution are they "defending," anyway?

Folks, the freedoms fought for in 1776 are being taken away by our own modern order of Nehor and kingmen. The Book of Mormon is becoming more prophetic than ever in the way many of its themes from before the coming of Jesus Christ are being replayed today.

Freedom to Pursue Higher Things

One of the great things about freedom is that individuals can choose to devote their time and resources to the pursuit of higher things, such as the quest for religious truth, advancements in the arts and sciences, or other pursuits that enrich all of our lives.

Thanks to EepyBird.com for documenting one such advance, an awe-inspiring blend of art and science exploiting the marvelous physics of Mentos and Diet Coke. I was first introduced to this phenomenon through SteveSpanglerScience.com, and verified it later that night using ginger ale.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Birth Control: Statement from True to the Faith

I had email today from a member who wasn't sure what the Church's position on birth control was. A handy source for a lot of basic questions on LDS beliefs is the 2004 LDS booklet, True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference. It has many short entries about various topics, arranged alphabetically. It's available at LDS.org (Gospel Library > Church Publications > Curriculum > Home and Family). Here is the short note on birth control, from page 26:
Birth Control

When married couples are physically able, they have the privilege of providing mortal bodies for Heavenly Father’s spirit children. They play a part in the great plan of happiness, which permits God’s children to receive physical bodies and experience mortality.

If you are married, you and your spouse should discuss your sacred responsibility to bring children into the world and nurture them in righteousness. As you do so, consider the sanctity and meaning of life. Ponder the joy that comes when children are in the home. Consider the eternal blessings that come from having a good posterity. With a testimony of these principles, you and your spouse will be prepared to prayerfully decide how many children to have and when to have them. Such decisions are between the two of you and the Lord.

As you discuss this sacred matter, remember that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved. While one purpose of these relations is to provide physical bodies for God’s children, another purpose is to express love for one another—to bind husband and wife together in loyalty, fidelity, consideration, and common purpose.

The introduction to the booklet has this statement from the First Presidency:
This book is designed as a companion to your study of the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets. We encourage you to refer to it as you study and apply gospel principles. Use it as a resource when you prepare talks, teach classes, and answer questions about the Church.

As you learn gospel truths, you will increase in your understanding of Heavenly Father’s eternal plan. With this understanding as a foundation for your life, you will be able to make wise choices, live in harmony with God’s will, and find joy in living. Your testimony will grow stronger. You will remain true to the faith.

We are especially mindful of youth, young single adults, and new converts. We promise you that through regular personal prayer and study of the scriptures and the doctrines of the gospel you will be prepared to withstand evil influences that would deceive you and harm you.

May this book strengthen you in your efforts to draw near to the Savior and follow His example.

The First Presidency

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Concerned Christians' New Rule for Mormons Only:
Links to JeffLindsay.com No Longer Allowed

In a crushing blow to the LDS cause and my ever-frail ego, ConcernedChristians.com has issued a new rule that only applies to LDS posters (and presumably to pro-LDS cronies and Mo' wannabes): links to JeffLindsay.com, FARMS, and FAIRLDS will no longer be allowed on their religious discussion boards about Mormons. And it's my own fault, darn it, for foolishly admitting that I have not been divinely authorized as an official spokesman for God and His Church. If only I had been a little less humble!

The rule has been posted in their Announcements section as "A New Rule for Mormons" and was also posted in a forum for discussing the inferiority of Mormonism.

Here is the declaration from one of their Mormon forums:
After discussion between the Discussion Board administrators, the following rule is now posted in the Announcements Forum:

Although Jeff Lindsay, FAIR and FARMS are considered reliable sources for LDS apologetics to many, most or all Mormons, they all have disclaimers that they don't have the proper authority to officially speak on behalf of the LDS church. Subsequently, they are merely giving their opinions.

On this, the Concerned Christians Discussion Board, we're only interested in discussing Mormonism based on what official LDS authorities (General Authorities), past or present, have had to say regarding LDS history, beliefs, doctrines, practices and the Four Standard Works. According to the Mormon religion, they are the only ones qualified to speak on such subjects.

Therefore, links to Jeff Lindsay, FAIR and FARMS or any other unofficial LDS sources, which don't have the proper authority to teach or clear up any misunderstandings on LDS history, beliefs, doctrines, practices and the Four Standard Works, are no longer acceptable.

Mormons tells us that if we want to know the truth about Mormonism, go to the source. Very well. The GA's are the source, not unofficial apologists giving their opinions.

Hopefully, this will help eliminate some confusion in future discussions.
Ah, now that's the spirit of enlightenment!

It's NOT that they are afraid of anything -- they just want to make sure that only "official" pro-Mormon information is used to defend the faith. It's all about intellectual integrity, you see. Authoritative and reliable anti-Mormon information presumably encompasses a much larger variety of sources (in fact, anything goes, as long as it advances the anti cause). My only beef is that they should also have specified that LDS defenders also may not rely on such non-canonized sources as the National Academy of Sciences, the Biblical Archaeology Society, the encyclopedia, the dictionary, CNN, the Journal of American History, or the American Journal of Human Genetics.

In fact, if LDS claims of divine origins are to be taken seriously, the honest seekers of truth at ConcernedChristians.com would be entirely justified in demanding that LDS defenders only provide tangible evidence delivered directly from God by the angel Moroni to the faithful administrators of that site, preferably accompanied with a dramatic miracle such as increasing ad revenues by 100,000% that week. Then, and probably only then, will they admit that there might be grounds to open their minds and their list of allowed reading materials regarding LDS claims.

Well, maybe it's too late, but if it would help my friends at ConcernedChristians.com, I was really just kidding when I said that my writings weren't guaranteed to be 100% infallible, authorized, and pure LDS doctrine. Now will you let people cite my writings? Please??

The Systematic and Consistent (Original) Book of Mormon Text

Royal Skousen's recent "Changes in the Book of Mormon" at FAIRLDS.org, the transcript of a 2002 presentation, makes an interesting point about the systematic phraseology used in the original Book of Mormon text:
One of the really surprising things is that in many cases, over 100 I've discovered, the original text was without exception in its phraseology; that over time we'd had occasional errors, one or two in a given phrase, so that the current text has what I call wrinkles in it. They don't prevent you from understanding and reading but if you look at these phrases you discover the original was astoundingly systematic. And I wanted to give a few examples of these.

In a sense this is... we have to be grateful for the mistakes people have been making because these mistakes then allow us to discover how systematic the text originally was. The next twelve or so (overheads) will just be examples that I'll go over briefly.

In referring to the present time the Book of Mormon always says 'this time,' it's in the singular, it is never in the plural, even though we say in these times: original text is 61 to 0, however the current text is 60 to 1. The one mistake in 1 Nephi 10:19 "as well in this time as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come" notice the past and the future are in the plural and because of those occurrences of the plural nearby the 1830 printer accidentally set the present in the plural but the Book of Mormon never does this.

The next one, the word 'whatever' never occurs in the original text, it's only 'whatsoever': original text 74 to 0, current text 72 to 2. We have them both; the 1830 printer put in 'whatever,' once in Jacob and elsewhere in Helaman. These are just accidental errors; notice he didn't replace all 74, he just accidentally replaced two.

The next one, people in the Book of Mormon do 'iniquity' they never do 'iniquities' in the plural: the original text 22 to 0, now it's 21 to 1. Jacob 2:35 "ye have done greater iniquity than the Lamanites" accidentally changed to the plural by the 1830 printer.

The next one, to have hope, the Book of Mormon in the original text has the main verb 'have' followed by the direct object 'hope'--18 to 0, there is one occasion where this is actually due to editing by Joseph Smith, he changed it to 'to have hoped' he made the 'have' into what we call an auxiliary verb, the perfect, and he basically made the noun into a verb. He did this in Jacob 5:46 he left all the other examples. This is an example of his own editing showing that he is not the author of the text. He himself did not realize how systematic the original text was.

The next one, 'if it so be that': 38 to 0. Changed in two cases to 'if it be so that' mixing up the order, occurs in the 1852 and the 1849 editions.

The Nephites and the Lamanites, the 'the' is always repeated: 15 to 0. But, in the 1830 edition, in one place the additional 'the' was dropped so the current text reads "and I saw wars between the Nephites and Lamanites". This is the kind of expression which we might expect.

The Book of Mormon only has, originally, 'to observe to keep the commandments' never 'to observe the commandments': 11 to 0. But, in the 1837 edition the words 'to keep' were accidentally dropped out in one case.

'To set a mark upon' someone, never 'to set a mark on' someone, that's what we really expect in modern day English: 9 to 0 in the original, it's now 8 to 1, an 1837 change.

'Thus ended a period of time', they are all in the past tense. We have four places now where it's in the present 'Thus endeth a period of time' and these are in the accounts in Alma--one in the 1830, 1837 for another one, two of them in 1849. It gives a sort of immediate presence in the accounting but the actual text never does this.

In the Book of Mormon you only 'meet' people, you never 'meet with,' meeting with people sounds like a modern-day bureaucratic system. In any event this one accidentally occurred--1830 edition--Alma is traveling and he... the sons of Mosiah are coming back from their missionary labors with this difficult problem that the... their converts are being murdered. In any event he 'met' the sons of Mosiah on the road he didn't 'meet with' them.

'Conditions' never 'condition', there is no singular condition in the original text, it's always plural: 14 to 0. We have two in the current text: "and we will guard them from their enemies by our armies on conditions that they will give us a portion of their substance" this was changed in the 1920 edition, it was a conscious change, it is marked in the Committee copy. The other one in the 1830 is an accident. We in English expect the singular; it's actually a tribute to the typesetters that they have kept 12 of them because it's so unusual in English to have this plural use for us at least today.

And finally, 'into' one's hands never 'unto' one's hands: the original text was 56 to 0, the current one is 55 to 1. This is one that the 1920 Committee copy isn't marked, it is a typo by the typesetters in Chicago. "Therefore they yielded up the city into our hands" is the original and it was misread as 'unto' so "therefore they yielded up the city unto our hands". When you think about it, it is a little strange it's just a misreading.

Well, these are twelve examples. There are over 90 more, probably over a hundred. I haven't really counted them but it's amazing to me how systematic the text was. And even Joseph Smith couldn't understand how systematic it was.

Tiny Acts of Service Often Lead to Bigger Things: A Good Reason to Give the Missionaries a Lift

While driving back to my office in Neenah, Wisconsin from a meeting in nearby Menasha, I took a different route than normal and saw a couple of missionaries from the local Hmong speaking branch walking along a Neenah road. It looked like it was about to rain and I felt that I should offer them a ride. I turned around, pulled up next to them and offered a ride. They only had about 30 yards to go for their appointment, but I told them that since the appointment had a good chance of falling through (a particular problem in Hmong culture, and a common problem for missionary work in general), I would gladly give them a ride to their next location if the person wasn't home - they didn't have umbrellas and really would need a ride if the rain started.

As I expected, the man they were visiting, actually a member, wasn't home. The rain had just begun, so they were happy to get a ride. Turns out they wanted to take a bus back to Appleton, so I just took them to Appleton (12 minutes away) instead of taking them to a bus station. After I dropped them off, I realized I was close to home and wondered if I should just drive by to see if all was well. No, that would be a waste of time - best to just get straight back to work. But since it seemed odd that I would end up close to home, I silently asked if there might be some reason to drop by and check on things. Contrary to my plans, I felt like I should, and so drove by my house - just a slight detour.

When I saw my house, everything looked OK and I was planning to just drive by and head back to work, but since nobody had answered the phone when I called a few minutes earlier, I was surprised to see my wife's car in the driveway. Curious, I pulled into the driveway and went into the garage and was about to enter the door to the kitchen when I noticed a pile of mail on the step to the door. As I was looking at the mail, my wife came running over to me from across the street. She had just gone over to a neighbor to stay for a while since she was locked out of the house. An unusual series of events had resulted in our daughter-in-law locking the house up and going elsewhere while my wife was away without a housekey. My wife had returned five minutes before I showed up to find herself locked out, and was wondering what to do. Sweet timing! So the missionaries indirectly helped me be a hero. I was quite grateful to have been able to end up in the right place at the right time - with a housekey.

Just one of the many ways the Lord blesses us when we do little acts of service.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Against the Law to Discuss Religion on Public Property? An Incident in Appleton, Wisconsin

Is it against the law to discuss religion on public property? That's what a Wisconsin man was told Tuesday when he wanted to talk to a couple of our missionaries, Elder Layton of San Jose and Elder Tuipulotu of Tonga.

The missionaries were in front of the public bus station in downtown Appleton, where they tried to strike up a conversation with a couple people. Two simply weren't interested, but a man on a bench wanted to talk. They had just begun their conversation when a man in a blue uniform approached them (they weren't sure if he was a security guard or a bus driver). The employee in the uniform stated that it was illegal to do "religious recruiting" on city property and asked them to stop. The man that was talking to them bristled at this demand. "I'm just having a conversation about religion with them. What's wrong with that?" The employee said that the missionaries were trying to get him to join their church, and that was against the law on public property. "I'm not joining their church, I'm just having a civil discussion, and why should that be a problem?" The employee again insisted that it was the religious nature of the conversation that made it illegal. The man then asked a excellent series of questions: "Is it illegal for me to talk to them about politics?" No. "How about science of math?" No. "History?" No. "Well, why should it be illegal to talk to them about religion?" Because that's what the law says.

Now the man the missionaries were talking to was really irked. "Look, I'm an educated man. I didn't go to Marquette University for six years to learn how to be silent. I have the freedom to talk about religion and to do it on city property, and you have no right to tell me not to." The employee again told them that they were wrong and would have to leave, but I guess he felt unable to convince the feisty graduate of Marquette and left. But a few moments later, a second employee in a uniform came over and repeated the mantra or religious discussion being illegal on city property and asked the missionaries to leave. Bless his soul, the bold Marquette graduate repeated his performance of standing up for religious liberty and sent the uniformed employee on his way. The missionaries were able to continue their discussion with the man for another twenty minutes without further attempts at suppressing the religious content of their conversation -- and fortunately were not hauled away in chains.

Elder Tuipulotu, who was a rugby star on the national team of Tonga before coming to the US on a mission, wasn't use to this kind of treatment. "I don't get this. In Tonga, you can talk about anything you want." Maybe the US could learn something from Tonga.

The next day the missionaries went to City Hall to inquire about the law. They were shown relevant portions of the printed law, and saw that there are restrictions on selling things on city property, but not on religious discourse or even proselyting. They were told that as long as they weren't obstructing traffic, there should have been no problem with what they were doing.

Sadly, we live in a society where discussions about religion are frowned upon. Not just frowned upon, but even viewed as illegal by some authority figures. It's part of the slow erosion of religious liberty in a growing current of religious intolerance. Like the Appleton student who was told that she couldn't pick Jesus as the topic of her essay on a historical figure she admired (based on the legal principle of separation of Church and state, you see), the incident at the bus station was just a minor incident, but one that reflects a larger reality that should move us to be more vigilant in standing up for religious freedom.


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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Evangelical Schools and the University of California: "Keeping Out the Christians"

"Keeping Out the Christians" by Naomi Riley describes the efforts of the University of California's admissions system to keep out students coming from evangelical high schools. This article in the latest issue of Education Next (a journal by the Hoover Institute for educators), begins with the specific case of Calvary Chapel high school in Murietta, California. After careful efforts to make three new classes comply with state standards, they found all three classes rejected for reasons that appear to reflect anti-Christian bias rather than fair and objective concerns. The content of the science textbook, for example, was fine -- but the apparent problem was that each chapter began with a verse from the Bible. Think what that would do to make students unfit for college.

The elite minds leading the University of California seem quite concerned about religious education:
Indeed, a list of "helpful hints" from the university suggests stripping religion even out of the religion classes: "Religion and ethics courses are acceptable ... as long as they ... do not include among its [sic] primary goals the personal religious growth of the student." This idea would probably sound odd to parents who send their children to any religious school--whether Catholic, Jewish, or evangelical--since character building is one of the foundations of the education excellence these institutions pride themselves on.
The article points out that evangelical schools are actually doing an excellent job in educating students, and also provide a surprisingly high level of racial integration, contrary to the suspicioun of some that Christian schools will promote racism and exclude minorities.

With students outperforming their public school peers in basic tests, the University of California should be happy to admit students of religious schools. But it seems likely that the UC system will increasingly go after evangelical schools and make it harder for their students to get in unless they weaken the religious aspects of their education.

As a Latter-day Saint, I suspect that students in evangelical schools are more likely to be exposed to anti-Mormon rhetoric than those in public schools. Sadly, the bulk of anti-Mormon literature appears to come from evangelical Christians. But I believe the typical student from evangelical or other Christian schools is much more likely to enter college with not only a decent education in math, science, and other fields, but with faith in Christ, knowledge of the Bible, and high moral standards. I don't think that's something we need to fear.

To the University of California system, I say, "Let those Christians in!"

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Pamela Binnings Ewen: Interesting Journey of a Lawyer from Agnosticism to Christianity

Pamela Binnings Ewen's recent book, Walk Back the Cat, is gathering some national publicity, along with her previous work, Faith on Trial. Pamela is a lawyer in a well-known law firm who went from agnosticism to Christianity based on the impact of evidence. See, for example, her interview at CelebrityCafe.com, or listen to a more detailed radio interview at TheSop.org. Reminds me of some of the enthusiastic efforts of people to apply scientific or logical evidence to support the Gospel (yes, I'm in that group). An interesting topic, always, but one with plenty of pitfalls. Interestingly, the Celebrity Cafe interview touches upon such familiar topics as the reliability of witnesses, DNA analysis, radiocarbon dating, archaeological evidence and lost books of scripture.

Logic and evidence played a major role in her conversion. She noted, for example, that the recorded evidence for Christianity provided by eye-witness accounts far exceeded the legal standards of evidence used to convict people in most trials. But note that she first faced a personal crisis and desire to know if Christianity was true or not before the impact of the evidence could touch her. I think that's how it is for most people: evidence for Christianity or the Book of Mormon will not change a person's views until there is a sincere quest for truth to begin with. For those who aren't seeking, chiasmus, the Arabian Peninsula, the massive credibility of multiple witnesses, and all the other exciting evidences for the plausibility of the Book of Mormon will not bring souls to Christ. But for those sincerely seeking truth, the evidences can be helpful at some stage, perhaps in motivating them to learn more or in overcoming some arguments from enemies of the Church, helping them to move forward in faith. But faith is always needed. That's how it's supposed to be, I'm sure.

The Father of Our Spirits

One of the greatest truths of original Christianity and of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is that we are spirit sons and daughters of Heavenly Father. Paul writes in Hebrews 12:9 that God is the Father of spirits and in Acts 17:28, he states that "we are also his offspring." This connection between God and man helps us understand His love and also our divine potential, including the ability to be joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8). This Fathers Day, let's not forget why God is called our Father in Heaven. It's not just a pleasant metaphor. He is our Father.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mormon Kids Can Talk!

I loved some of the responses to my last post on speechless youth. Thanks especially to the comment from Andrea. I'd like to cite part of it to emphasize a couple of points:
I'm 21. I joined the Church when I was about 17, so my first exposure to LDS youth and culture was mainly among that age group. I have to say, I WAS impressed with their mostly superior displays of if not intelligence, then [eloquence]. . . . I also have to say, they spent as much time chatting online and playing video games as the rest of the non-LDS kids out there. I think the big difference with them is the amount and quality of social interaction they had. They spent their time with their families, at youth group, or doing other (mostly) wholesome things with friends. In all of these situations, there are two huge differences I see between what those kids do and what most kids that age do. They are thus

A.) No drinking, drugs, or isolated boy/girl activity. All of these situations reduce the amount of (intelligent) communication needed to pass time and socialize. When a bunch of sober kids get together to play board games, there's a lot more thinking and language development than a bunch of kids that get together to smoke pot. (as a foot note, sober/drug-free kids also do lightyears better than their counterparts in school, helping them develop their verbal skills in the most obvious setting)

B.) These kids didn't swear. Now, being a convert to the church, I can tell you first hand the difference between swearing and not swearing in conversation. Swearing is easier. People instantly know what you mean and they know your emotions with one word. NOT swearing is a much more rewarding way of speaking in my opinion, because you, in a way, forced to use more words and sort of translate what you would say into a much more creative sentence. I think it's awesome, to listen to people, especially young people, have an entire animated conversation without using one swear word. . . .

I have another point to make: Before I joined the Church, I had never given a talk in front of a crowd so large before. And certainly I had never delivered a successful speech, because I suffered from almost debilitating shyness and stage fright (I ran out of my drama class crying and quit before the first week was over, for example) But once I gave my first talk in Church... well, something amazing happened. I can only attribute it to the spirit, because not only did I manage to deliver a decent talk without fainting or wetting my pants, but I could suddenly do things like share my most personal testimony in front of a whole congregation of people without fear. Amazing. I can't tell you how much it's helped me in these transitional years of my life to have the Church to buoy me up that way.

I think Latter-day saint youth have a distinct advantage over their peers for all the reasons I mentioned. I have always been impressed with how well-adjusted children from active homes are because of their opportunities to do things like give talks, pray vocally in class, and sing in front of the ward. I think another thing that helps is social activity in the ward and the very MOST important thing is the involvement LDS parents have in their kids' education and development.

And besides all that, nothing is cuter than a group of 5-year-olds singing "I am a child of God" at the top of their lungs on the stand each month.
Andrea's comment nicely captures some important aspects of LDS culture and its impact on young people.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Technology Leaves Teens Speechless": One More Reason for Youth to Give Frequent Talks in Church

USA Today's article, "Technology Leaves Teens Speechless," highlights the decreasing oral communication skills of many young people who spend hours text messaging or chatting online instead of actually talking to others. It's taking a toll in verbal skills. For example, in job interviews many young applicants can't give thoughtful responses to questions. Employers are noticing. I'm noticing, too.

Fortunately, many active LDS youth are given opportunities to develop their verbal skills by being asked to give short talks in Church. Given the technological speech impairment that many suffer from, perhaps these opportunities need to be more frequent. Perhaps more youth activities need to have some subtle or overt emphasis on verbal skills.

One thing is for sure: in Corporate America, the people who can't talk well rapidly fall behind those who can. In most jobs, you can't text message your way to success, though maintaining a network of business contacts can be extremely valuable. But the ability to talk face-to-face or the ability to give a speech or presentation before a group is vastly more valuable than your ability to chat online.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Warren Aston on the Superiority of Khor Kharfot as a Candidate for Bountiful

In spite of my appreciation for the highly interesting work of George Potter regarding the Arabian Peninsula and First Nephi, I find Warren Aston's earlier approach to be more convincing. Potter proposes a site known as Khor Rori in Oman as the site for the ancient place Bountiful described in surprising detail by Nephi. Warren Aston's preferred candidate, Khor Kharfot (at the mouth of Wadi Sayq), is about 60 miles to the south. Aston compares the two candidates in his recent article in Meridian Magazine, "Finding Nephi's Bountiful in the Real World." This is a valuable article with a number of photographs from the Wadi Sayq area. An excerpt follows:

Both these places have several features in common. Each lies "nearly eastward" of Nahom and can be reached from the interior desert. Both have sources of fresh water. They each have a sheltered harbor and each has cliffs overlooking the sea. We now know that both are within a few miles of an iron ore source. The differences between them, however, are striking.

On the one hand we have Khor Rori, in Lehi's day a populated pagan town and in later times a busy shipping port, with little natural vegetation and no timber at all near the coast. The lack of timber has led some writers to suggest that it may have been imported from India as was done in northern Oman. Even today significant vegetation grows only in small irrigated areas at the coast or many miles inland. Khor Rori is surrounded by the broad and arid Salalah plains reaching inland to the Qara hills. There is no "mount" closer than twenty miles where Nephi could pray "oft."

In contrast, Kharfot, hidden by the steep Qamar mountains, is the most fertile coastal location on the Arabian peninsula. Its fertility stretches several miles on each side of the bay. A variety of wild fruits and wild honey abounds and large timber trees grow -- almost to the waters edge. A prominent mountain stands on the west side of the bay and at its base is an elevated plateau that would be ideal for a small community to live. It is a pristine place, almost certainly uninhabited in Lehi's day.

These differences between the two places can be summarized as follows:

  Khor Kharfot Khor Rori
Much fruit, honey Yes No
Shipbuilding timber Yes No
Nearby mountain Yes No
Flint nearby Yes None known
Unpopulated Yes No

On balance, Khor Kharfot seems a much more convincing fit than Khor Rori. Over the years I have taken scores of seasoned Latter-day Saints to both sites and not a single person has ever felt otherwise. Typically, those who feel otherwise have not actually been to both sites to compare.

In recent email, cited with permission, Brother Aston also notes that "the Potter/Wellington book does indeed add to our understanding of Lehi's Arabia" but has some major flaws after Nahom:
Rather than a nearly eastward route to Bountiful, the Potter/Wellington route "goes E, SE, N, NW! E again and then SSE. In fact a pathway of rolling stony plateaus leads east from Nahom right to the Dhofar coast [both Bountiful candidates are in the Dhofar region]. It leads between two sand deserts and allows travel in a nearly eastward direction, just as Nephi wrote.

This finding (based on satellite imagery and my own travels in Yemen) is one of the major discoveries of recent years but still not recognized as such due to the tendency to not take the prophets at their word. Even the video Journey of Faith fell into what I call the dogleg-route trap when discussing travel to Bountiful.

As for Bountiful, there are no traces of construction of a port at Khor Rori earlier than 300BC and it most likely dates no earlier than about AD 900. Therefore there were no old sailors around to share their expertise with Nephi as the Potter book relies on so heavily. I prefer to accept that he was guided from time to time by revelation as he stated. If you missed it, Meridian Magazine published a summary of my arguments for Khor Kharfot and against Khor Rori last month (see www.ldsmag.com/bookofmormon/060118bountiful.html) so I won't repeat them here. Using green-tinted photos (see p 131) and misplaced photos (p 132) doesn't disguise the fact, known by anyone who has been to both sites, that Khor Rori lacks the vegetation, timber trees and a mountain. Hope you make it over there sometime!
The existence of a plausible candidate for Bountiful - long mocked as an impossibility by anti-Mormons - must not be ignored. First Nephi provides directions that can actually be followed to find reasonable candidates for Nahom and Bountiful without straining the text or requiring great powers of imagination. There has been healthy debate over which of two or three candidates on the eastern Arabian coast might be the real thing. At the moment, I think Khor Kharfot by Wadi Sayq is the place. Thanks to all those who have worked, explored, and written so much to bring these things to light, including the Astons, the Hiltons, and the Potter/Wellington team.

The Condemnation of the Rich

Like many prophets and the Lord himself, the prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon has a stern warning for the rich:
But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their God. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also.
Chances are that this warning applies to many of you, perhaps the vast majority of you. Those surrounded with the luxury of computers and easy Internet access are likely to be among the rich relative to the very needy in our midst and in other nations. So this is a good time to take a moment and reflect: do I look down on the poor? Is my heart on my treasures? "Their treasure is their God."

What a stumbling block wealth can be! It shapes our attitudes about others, it is often pursued at the expense of others (perhaps thereby persecuting the meek), and it becomes the object of our devotions. As a means to bless others and serve God, it can be a tool for good, but so many seem corrupted by the tool that it does become an idolatrous god rather than servant for good.

May we earnestly seek to serve God above all and not be misled by the deceitfulness of riches (Matt. 13:22).

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Just Barely Enough Faith to Stumble into Church Today. . .

I had just barely enough faith to stumble into Church today, but I'm sure glad I did. I almost skipped Church completely in order to get caught up with work. But I knew I had made the right choice just moments after I sat down on a pew (after PEC meeting), when a member of the Stake High Council asked me if I was going to join him on the stand. "Why?" I asked. "Because you're speaking with me today," he said as he pointed to the program, showing my name as one of two speakers. Oh, right - I then remembered a past hallway conversation in which I did agree to be a co-speaker with him in June - but in my rush, I had failed to write it down and promptly forgot the commitment.

I actually had much of a talk ready, partly due to some excellent material from Elder Enzio Busche's marvelous book, Yearning for the Living God, which I had with me (along with a couple other books, as usual). The talk on faith in Christ went reasonably well. Much better than being a no-show.

Work burdens have been quite high recently, though largely self-imposed, I'll admit. I felt a real need to get some urgent work done this weekend. However, to help my wife in her calling with the Stake Primary, much of my time was needed for the Stake 11-Year-Old Campout Friday and Saturday. I took a half day of vacation on Friday, and nearly all my Saturday was eaten up by the camp (dreams of getting some work done at camp or getting out early on Saturday remained mere dreams) - though I really enjoyed it, especially the workshop I taught on identifying plants (mostly edible plants). I was seriously contemplating skipping Church entirely on Sunday, due to my oxen in the mire.

Sure, I had released the beasts in the vicinity of large mud hole that I created myself, but they were definitely in the mire, and I could so easily rationalize my absence today. But then I realized that I needed to worship my Savior more than I needed to go the extra mile for work (though there are times when the ox in the mire is real and cannot be ignored). I'm so grateful that my faith was just barely strong enough to get me through the doors to Church.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Changes in the Book of Mormon

"Changes in the Book of Mormon" by Royal Skousen is valuable reading about the nature of the changes made in the text. What I find especially interesting is the consistency in the wording of various phrases in the original text, a consistency that apparently was not appreciated by Joseph Smith himself.

Anyone for San Francisco in July?

I'm going to be in San Francisco for a few days in July to participate in an outstanding conference on intellectual property. In my role as Corporate Patent Strategist, I've arranged for my employer, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, to be a sponsor of the conference, "Maximizing Returns on Your Intellectual Property Portfolio" by The Wall Street Transcript. I attended one of their IP conferences in January and was quite impressed, and look forward to being involved in the July conference. (Any of you business leaders, attorneys, or others who care about managing intellectual assets would do well to attend!) Our Chief Innovation Officer, Cheryl Perkins, and Chief Patent Counsel, Nick Leach, will be panelists there on Day 2, along with execs from a variety of other interesting companies. K-C is doing some pretty interesting things in terms of open innovation and best practices in IA, and I think it would be worth it just to hear from Cheryl and Nick.

So what does that have to do with this blog? Hey, this blog is all about service to mankind, right? Well, you'll be served well if you join us!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Safe to Be Unpopular?

Adlai E. Stevenson Jr. once said, "My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular." I like that. One thing I appreciate about living in the United States is that it has, in recent years, been relatively safe to be unpopular. It wasn't that safe in the 1800s, when this unpopular religion of mine got a lot of people driven from their homes or occasionally killed. I'm glad those days are over, for now. But I see new blends of intolerance brewing in this country, with some people becoming increasingly outrageous in their contempt of Christianity. And this intolerance becomes especially severe when the intolerant ones wrap themselves in a shroud of morality and tolerance to condemn those who speak against modern immorality. Keep an eye on this - there will be some interesting developments in the future that may raise new questions about religious liberty. Never take your freedoms for granted!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What Is the Truth about 9/11? A Bold BYU Professor Stirs Up Controversy with Science

A respected BYU physics professor, Dr. Steven E. Jones, is stirring national controversy over 9/11. Physics and other fields of science have a lot to say about what happened in New York City that day, and the message is disconcerting. He presents an interesting case that something more than a couple of airplanes brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center - and another building, WTC 7, which many people haven't heard about. If Dr. Jones is correct, the official explanations of the Federal Government simply don't fit the facts, when viewed with the lens of science. While I am no expert in this field, I think he has a compelling case. Americans need to demand that the truth be told and a genuine investigation take place.

You can see a flash presentation of one of his slide shows at http://www.checktheevidence.com/911/BYUStevenJones/Flash/. You can also see a video of a presentation from Dr. Jones.

In the abstract of his paper, "Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Collapse?", Dr. Jones writes:
In this paper, I call for a serious investigation of the hypothesis that WTC 7 and the Twin Towers were brought down, not just by impact damage and fires, but through the use of pre-positioned cutter-charges. I consider the official FEMA, NIST, and 9-11 Commission reports that fires plus impact damage alone caused complete collapses of all three buildings. And I present evidence for the controlled-demolition hypothesis, which is suggested by the available data, testable and falsifiable, and yet has not been analyzed in any of the reports funded by the US government.
For many of us, 9/11 may have been the most dramatic national event of the past decade. Clearly it was an event that has changed this nation and the world. It is vital that the truth about this event be known. Dr. Jones, thank you for having the courage to put truth above your career in speaking out on this vital topic.

9/11 - what is the truth??

Oct. 22, 2006 Update: A rebuttal to many of the assertions from Dr. Jones has been posted at Implosionworld by demolition experts. I find the rebuttal to be credible, and would be interested to know if Dr. Jones has a response to it. Dr. Jones has just resigned from BYU after getting into trouble for some controversial views he has expressed.

I don't know what actually happened and am awaiting further information, but I appreciate the efforts of others to dig deeper. I think it is foolish to instantly dismiss those who challenge official and mainstream views.

Monday, June 05, 2006

BYU TV: Easy Way to View Online

BYU TV can be viewed online through a service offered by PhotoMax (subsidiary of NuSkin in Provo, Utah), http://www.thereelopportunity.com/. You need to use IE Explorer and rapidly install a viewer, but then you can watch BYU TV live. To do this, click on "My TV," and then when the viewer is installed, click "BYU TV." You can then watch it live or watch other programs from the past week using the program guide. You can also watch Park City TV and a few other things. But the BYU TV offering ought to be appreciated by some of you, I'm sure. Kudos to Walter Reade of Appleton, Wisconsin (and owner of AppletonDigital.com, a portal to PhotoMax).

Not only can you watch BYU TV at this site, you can also don your Z-Thrill Virtual Reality Live Helmet and enter a VR environment to play the new Mormon multiuplayer RPG action thriller, Extreme Ammon: Waters of Siebus II, where you can slaughter all your online friends if your faith is great enough. Oh wait, that's not available yet - maybe in the millennial edition upgrade of the site. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Mormon Apologists: Juggling the Truth?

Critics argue that the Mormon apologists - the people who study and write actively to defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ - are just jugglers desperately trying to overcome the downward pull of anti-Mormon logic. If so, I suppose their pro-LDS juggling act might best be likened to this recent performance by Chris Bliss.

Wait, that's not Chris Bliss - it's, it's . . . Daniel Peterson of FARMS!

I'm glad some people don't drop their faith and let the rest of us down when faced with the apparent gravity of anti-Mormon attacks. Keep looking up and keep, well, juggling or whatever you call it.

A Glorious Future: Excitement Stirred by Hymn No. 41

Hymn No. 41, "Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise," was our opening hymn today. I was stirred by the reference to the great Millennium when the Lord returns and Enoch's group rejoins us. What glorious days are ahead! Truly eye hath not seen nor ear heard the wondrous things that the Lord has prepared for those who wait for Him.

It's so easy to get caught up in the duties and trials of daily life, but there will be dramatic and glorious changes one day. When the Lord returns, may we all still be on the winning team and take part in all the joy and in the glorious things that will be revealed. May we not let the little diversions and trite temptations of the present distract us from the future blessings ahead. May we be strong and faithful, that when the Lord returns, He will welcome us as friends and faithful servants. We have no need to be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Generation Gap

In my last post on the Xbox Generation, I received this anonymous comment:
This is ridiculous. I think this post just shows a glaring generational barrier. You just don't get it. People play Xbox. People play PC games. PlayStation. DS.
I think it is one of the follies and conceits of youth to assume that there is a generational barrier ("old people just don't understand life!") whenever someone older expresses concern about what the young are doing. What, older people didn't have leisure activities when they were young? We didn't have temptations, ways to waste away our lives and stunt our progress?

Look, video and computer games were not invented in the last five years. They been around for a couple decades, though they are much better now, of course. Television and movies have been around for decades. Game playing has been around for centuries. And so have addictions and vices of all kinds.

We have an Xbox. I enjoy some of the games on it. We've got Super Nintendo and had the original Nintendo and Play Station. We've long had computer games and all sorts of games in my family. I have kids who enjoy such games. And we've all learned that we need limits and controls. Strict limits to keep such things to a small corner of our lives.

As a former bishop, young men's president, and friend and associate of many people, I have many years of experience watching people harm their lives in various ways. Games out of control have been a common theme. Smart, cool young men who spent their free time absorbed in video games, Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, poker, computer games, and Risk (one of my favorites when I was younger) seemed to harm themselves. These games were OK when they were for occasional social activities, but when it became their obsession, they missed out on so much of life. I've seen several people with great potential - almost always men - lose so much through their obsessions with games.

In the 1980s, I knew a Ph.D. student who become so obsessed with a stupid role playing game on a Vax computer that he spent too many of his hours in graduate school playing games rather than doing the computational modeling work his advisor thought he was doing. He ultimately lost his Ph.D. and lost a job he had accepted. I hope he has changed - people can change - but what a tragedy that was for him and his family.

I have seen similar patterns with other young men and adults who became too hooked on video and computer games. I've seen them drop out of school, neglect duties and responsibilities, fail in work, and become far less than they could be - and I've seen this over and over for years.

The abuses of some does not condemn games in general, just as the destruction caused by immorality does not condemn sex itself. But without controls, when something gets out of control or takes over too much of a persons life, harm follows - and video games seem especially adept at drawing people into spending - no, wasting - vast portions of their lives.

We older people, suffering from our generational blindness, see large portions of the younger generation unable to carry out a meaningful conversation, unable to pursue intelligent goals, unable to socialize and pursue marriage and career responsibilities, in part because they have become slaves to addictions that include the self-absorbed and often dark world of video games.

Enjoy them, but with caution and strict limits. Don't let them become your life or your only form of recreation.

Back to the general issue of the alleged generation gap: the tendency of youth to immediately reject advice from the older generation, when it challenges the norms and favorite behaviors of the young, is akin to the tendency of the modern world to reject the advice of our old modern prophets and especially the advice from those especially ancient geezers in the scriptures. What could Mormon and Moroni know of our day? "How dare they criticize us - they know nothing of modern life and just don't get it." It's a deadly form of pride, coupled with pride's best friend, ignorance.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Generation Xbox: The Decline of Dating at BYU and the Rise of the Xbox Eunuch

A young friend of mine going to school at BYU told me of many female complaints about the impact of the Xbox on social life at BYU and among Mormon singles in general. Allegedly, an embarrassingly high percentage of single LDS men would rather play with the Xbox than have a social life. And some pretend to have a social life by hanging out somewhere and playing Xbox, rather than undertake the rigors of dating and courtship.

I fear there is something to this report. I know a non-LDS student out here in Wisconsin who is heavily into the Xbox, and in fact just won a $9,000 "scholarship" for his Xbox skills. His parents were on his back for all the time he spent playing Xbox Live across the Internet, associating with questionable strangers. His reply was something like, "Hey, there's no need to worry about a bad influence from all these Xbox buddies - they are all Mormons out in Utah!" Well, I'm not sure if that's good PR or not.

LDS men, come on! Get a life, socialize, date, and abandon your electronic addictions. Men, think!! Do you know what's going to happen if most of you drop out of the dating game and become Xbox eunuchs? I'm scared out of my wits just thinking about the implications. As far as I can tell, the only reasonable option will be for the Lord to reinstate polygamy.

Now that ought to make your game controller shake.