Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Brant Gardner on Questionable Book of Mormon Geography

"Too Good To Be True: Questionable Archaeology and the Book of Mormon" by Brant Gardner reviews two recent works on Book of Mormon geography that rely on artifacts now proven to be fraudulent. One of the devastated works, touting a North American model for BOM geography, relies on the ridiculous Michigan artifacts (numerous engraved slate tablets that show Old World symbols and New World scenes). The other work treats the fraudulent Padilla plates as if they were tantalizing evidence for the Book of Mormon. Gardner's review offers an excellent warning against the pitfalls of enthusiasm without substance.

The Father of Our Spirits

This morning I considered the words of Paul in Hebrews 12 today regarding the Christian quest to follow the Savior through repentance and patient endurance as we are taught and guided by the Father of our spirits, our Heavenly Father. As a Father, he wants us to truly be His children and grow up to become partakers of His holiness:
1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
This echoes related thoughts of Paul in Romans 8:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. . . .
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. . . .
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Heavy stuff, and certainly related to the early Christian and recently restored concept of theosis, the divine potential of mankind.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Best Christmas Ever: The Sacred Blessing of Journals!

Yesterday may have been my best Christmas ever. It was certainly one of the least materialistic - very little focus on "stuff" and more on service and family ties. At the end of the day, the real highlight was the time we spent reading from a truly precious gift that we received from my wife's mother, a booklet of text and photos called The Life Stories and Love Story of Floyd and Doreen Larson. It began with a transcribed recording that my recently deceased father-in-law made for his Doreen on Mother's Day in 1974, recounting the story of their courtship and married life together, and expressing his feelings for her. There was such tenderness and respect for her in his words, and so much implicit in the stories he recalled. I was humbled at his example of true manhood, and so pleased that my teenage boys were being exposed to more of the soul of that great man. They were touched, as was I, and learned more about respecting women in that short time than in a dozen lessons at Church.

The numerous details of their lives that he wove together reflected the treasury of information he had kept in his journals. What a rich blessing it was for us to relive some of his experiences and have the richness of detail that comes from dedicated journal keeping.

I hope more of you will start keeping journals and put your stories and thoughts into writing.

Not only do journals provide a rich blessing to your posterity, but the practice of journal keeping reminds you frequently that your life is being recorded and will be reviewed and scrutinized one day. That can help you in making more careful choices. And reviewing your own writings can help you learn from the mistakes of our past. I think there is something about journal writing that helps the human soul seek to be more responsible and more concerned about the long-term consequences of our choices.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas from the Fox Cities Hmong Branch

My wife and I attended the Christmas Party of the Fox Cities Hmong Branch today, visiting with dear friends from the branch my family belonged to for a couple years (we're now with the nearby Neenah Ward). Here are a few young women (not all LDS) in traditional Hmong clothing, shortly before a dance number they performed. (Photo published with their permission.) There is an awesome generation of Hmong youth rising today. I am so impressed with the outstanding young people of Hmong heritage (or any heritage) who have made the difficult but joyous decision to follow Christ. Merry Christmas from them and from me!

I was thrilled to see some Baptist Hmong friends at the LDS Christmas party today. A little known and painful aspect of the Fox Cities Hmong Branch is that a turbulent series of events a few years ago resulted in several families leaving the Church, with several of them becoming Baptists, and even a fine Baptist minister, in one case. (I was in the midst of those turbulent events and still have some scars and deep regrets. Can't say much more than that.) While I rejoice that they are Christian and seeking sincerely to follow Christ in that way, and while I have great respect for the Baptist faith (especially as practiced among those I know in the Appleton area), yet how I miss them from the fellowship of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So good to see some of them again.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Troubled by Torture

It's such a common view that it almost seems silly to share it, but here goes: I'm deeply troubled by the choice of our government to use "aggressive interrogation" techniques in extracting information from suspected terrorists. I'm OK with the threat of execution as a punishment, when it is truly warranted, but the cruelty of torturing someone to deliberately inflict pain is simply evil, and those who conduct such exercises are likely to be threats to the rest of society, in my opinion. The implementation of secret tribunals and grotesque cruelty to prisoners is one of the historic warning signs of a nation in decay. Once basic principles can be ignored because the "end justifies the means," the end is truly near - the end of liberty and domestic tranquility, among others.

Captain Moroni in the Book of Mormon was tough on traitors: "shape up or be executed." But he did not torture them, and once they made an oath to repent, they and other former enemies were treated with generosity. He despised bloodshed and, implicitly, abuse of human rights.

When we apply the tactics of the Evil One in the name of fighting evil, we simply stir up more enemies to carry out their version of fighting evil against us. Everyone is fighting evil in their own way, which is the problem. Evil must be opposed in the Lord's way for their to be lasting hope. And torture doesn't fit.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

People to Keep in Your Prayers: Those Who Defend Our Nation

On a very serious note, I hope many of your will remember the many men and women in harm's way doing their best to honor their oath to serve and protect our nation. Keep them in your prayers. There are so many brave and valiant people out there standing tall for us. I suggest praying not only those overseas, but those defending our borders over here, where the dangers are becoming increasingly severe. In some tragic cases (e.g., the prosecution of Ramos and Compean), more than prayer might be helpful. Perhaps a call to the Whitehouse might help.

And for those overseas, pray that they might be kept safe, that they might find ways to do good, and that they might be kept out of hopeless situations. I guess that means we've got to pray for our leaders as well, in addition to using the powers of representative government to bring about righteous change.

I pray that our young men and young women may be able to choose and fulfill missionary service, if they wish, or to pursue whatever education and career opportunities they wish, rather than having to risk death and disaster caught up in futile foreign entanglements, the very thing our Founding Fathers were so against. As we become more embroiled in the wars prophesied for this era, I fear the return of the draft to fuel the ever growing demand for bodies to throw into the maelstrom of global violence.

Pray for peace.

Draper Stealth Temple Unveiled

Check out the areal photograph of the Draper Utah Temple at LDSChurchTemples.com. What you see - or may not see - is the new Stealth Temple developed by LDS engineers retired from the US Airforce, applying recently declassified stealth technologies to the new LDS temple. "Stealth technology makes new temples basically hidden except for those with special goggles now issued with temple recommends in stealth temple districts," explained an LDS spokesman on conditions of anonymity. "This way, we don't bother the neighbors and are less likely to attract anti-Mormon protestors. Plus we don't have to spend so much lighting up exteriors."

Please, No Camels

In this joyous holiday season, some units might be tempted to go the extra mile in crafting Christmas programs and activities. As a friendly reminder, please remember that Church policy discourages the use of live camels in LDS buildings, especially in the chapel. Having stain-resistant carpet in your chapel does not constitute authorization for an exception to this policy.

Based on certain problems in the past, a variety of other large mammals, small mammals, reptiles and birds may be on the list of suspect species for performances and displays in Church buildings. I'm pretty sure that donkeys and goats are out, and pythons. Probably chickens, too. This may lessen the appeal of local pageants, missionary events, displays, and booths, of course, but there are reasons. Check with your Church leaders first.

More Resources at LDS.org

I'm delighted at how many resources are available for members at LDS.org. For example, LDS.org offers a large collection of scripture-related artwork. The link is for paintings of Christ and other New Testament scenes, and tabs at the top of the page take you to other collections of art work. To view larger image files, click on the link for an individual image and then click on the "Print Image" button. It opens a new window with the full image so that you can print it or copy it. (The button should say "view image," in my opinion.) We'll use some of these in a brief slideshow at our upcoming Christmas Eve Devotional on Dec. 24, 4 pm in the Neenah, Wisconsin Stake Center. Hope you'll join us!

LDS.org also offers online manuals for many courses. For example, they have Teaching, No Greater Call, the valuable resource to help members teach more effectively.
FYI, another page purporting to offer the manual does not function properly.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Evolution: The Film on False Standards of Beauty

Evolution is an amazing short film by the Campaign for Real Beauty. Fascinating. I wonder if the resurrection will be a little like that? (I actually hope not.)

There is an important lesson here that might be worth sharing with those in the Young Women's program (and the Young Men's program as well). Bottom line: be content with who you are or become an expert in Photoshop.

(A hat tip to Kim Komando.)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Willie and Martin Handcart Story to be on PBS, Dec. 18

From news at LDS.org:
Sweetwater Rescue: The Willie and Martin Handcart Story, a documentary by Lee Groberg, will air nationally on PBS Monday, December 18, 2006. The documentary, Brother Groberg's 10th, tells the story of the stranded Willie and Martin handcart companies and those who put their own lives in peril to come to their rescue 150 years ago.
A gut-wrenching story, but I'm glad PBS is covering it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hebrews 1: Majestic Implications on the Relationship Between the Father and the Son

Tonight my family's New Testament reading took us to Hebrews 1. My boys were struck with the clear language about the distinct nature and roles of the Father and the Son, and wondered how it could be squared with modern versions of the Trinity concept. I didn't have a good answer for them - maybe some of you do. Here's the passage:
1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
I find the passage majestic, and unusually clear in indicating that Christ is subordinate to the Father, looks like Him (His "express image"), is seated at His right hand, and has inherited glory from the Father, who begot Him. I find it succinct and beautiful.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Need a Little Help with that Spleen? My Discomfort with the Bicycle Analogy

The bicycle analogy of the Atonement, from Stephen Robinson's generally praiseworthy and excellent book, Believing Christ, has become well known among Latter-day Saints. I've usually just thought of it as a simple way of illustrating one aspect of the mercy of Christ in reaching down to help us overcome our hopeless deficiencies in love (and that's probably how it was intended), but after hearing it read in detail and emphasized in a recent meeting - during one of those moments when I was paying full attention (couldn't help it - the speaker was well prepared and gave an excellent talk) - I became uncomfortable with some aspects of the analogy because of what might be misunderstood.

A friend of mine, Walter Reade (named used with permission) approached me after the meeting and expressed concerns similar to mine. Had the girl had been more industrious or had she found a hundred dollar bill or two, she would have been able to get the bike on her own, with no need for mercy from above. But that is nowhere close to our situation. It's not just that our pennies are numerically short of the price and only get us part way. We are entirely, not just partly, dependent on the Atonement of Christ and His Mercy.

Consider the Resurrection. How much of your body can you resurrect on your own, and how much of it does Christ need to resurrect for you "after all you can do" on your own? Can you handle, say, the legs and the liver on your own, but really need some extra divine help to take care of the spleen, lungs, spine, and cranium? No, we can't resurrect a single particle on our own. It's all grace. (And yes, I recognize that a resurrected body may not have a spleen or liver as we know it.)

So how many of your sins can you erase on your own? Can you gain forgiveness for, say, some mild cursing and a few white lies on your own, but need a little extra help to wipe out the time you flushed your sister's goldfish down the toilet or cheated on your taxes? No, your sins are hopelessly yours, no matter how much fine home teaching you do, no matter how kind you become, unless you accept the gift of grace from the Savior and let Him remove the burden of sin from you.

We have no pennies to contribute to these accounts. The concept of saving up cash and having some kind of difference to be covered is simply inapplicable. We have nothing that can possibly contribute toward the goals of immortality and forgiveness of sin that we seek through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I fear that people might misunderstand some aspects of the Atonement and our relationship to Christ if they take this popular analogy too seriously or too far. I don't wish to be critical of its outstanding author, but simply wish to note that we need caution in using metaphors. And perhaps we need to rely more heavily on the powerful and beautiful words from the Book of Mormon, which has the most majestic information on the Atonement that you can find, in my opinion.

The bicycle analogy might seem to be consistent with 2 Nephi 25:23, which says that we are saved by grace "after all that we can do." Doesn't that mean that grace makes up the difference after we've done our part?

Walter made a great point in citing 2 Nephi 10:24 to provide some insight into what Nephi probably meant:
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.
Even after we are reconciled to God, it is still only through the grace of God that we are saved. It's not that we can be saved partially by doing our best to become reconciled with God and live his commandments. Even when we are fully reconciled, that doesn't do it: it's still the grace of Christ that saves us.

Yes, we must follow Christ. The path of accepting Him and His grace in a covenant relationship calls us and leads us to do all we can to follow and obey, to grow and learn. The gift is offered conditionally, but is not earned, not even partly. Our efforts do not save us in the least - His do. (And yes, I agree with the comment posted below that this is consistent with what Stephen Robinson has been teaching about the Atonement. I certainly agree that his writings represent an important contribution in LDS thought and have touched the lives of many people for good.)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Gathering of Israel, Step One: Let's Try Not Exterminating Israel

As a Latter-day Saint, the gathering of Israel has always been an important concept to me, and it was important to Joseph Smith. While we've seen amazing things happen in the past century in this prophetic focal point, we've still got a long ways to go. The gathering has only begun. And destroying Israel at this juncture would seem to be a set back, so I'm against it (recognizing, of course, that political Israel is not the same as the House of Israel). Parts of the Arab world may be hoping and even working for the destruction of Israel, but I think that's a desire we should not support, at least not with my taxes. And that's why I feel it's fair for me to question the recent Iraq commission and it's recommendations, especially the recommendations about having Israel turn over the Golan Heights to their enemies. Yes, that will solve the problems in Iraq and Iran! Somehow, I just don't see how providing more sites for launching rockets into Israel will bring distant warring Muslim factions into a sweet brotherhood of peace.

But before questioning the conclusions of the Baker commission, I'd like to ask why Americans are not screaming about the choice of James Baker as an unelected official to head this commission. Don't we have elected representatives who can deal with such important topics? More importantly, has anybody in the major media outlets covered the real story here, the obvious and well established connections between James Baker and Saudi Arabia? His law firm, Baker Botts, has been representing Saudi Arabia in law suits stemming from 9-11. His firm is getting megabucks from the Saudis. This is not a rumor from radical subversives living in a cave (who haven't been home taught for the past couple of months, FYI). Just Google "Baker Botts Saudi" and, right after some information from the Baker Botts Website, you'll see this article from MSNBC in April 2006:
April 16 - After months of working below the radar, a huge U.S. legal team hired by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has sprung into action and begun a major counteroffensive against a landmark lawsuit seeking $1 trillion in damages on behalf of the victims of the September 11 terror attacks.

THE OPENING DEFENSE SALVO in what promises to be a bruising legal battle was fired last week when a trio of lawyers from Baker Botts, a prestigious Houston-based law firm, filed a motion on behalf of Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi defense minister. The motion attacked the 9-11 lawsuit as a "broadside indictment of Saudi government, religion and culture." It also argued that, as the third-ranking official of a foreign government, their client is immune from any U.S. legal action and that he should therefore be dismissed from the case altogether.

But in laying out their arguments, Sultan's U.S. lawyers also presented highly detailed new evidence of the Saudi government's role in funneling millions of dollars to a web of Islamic charities that are widely suspected by U.S. officials of covertly financing the operations of Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups.

Backed up by stacks of court affidavits and copies of cancelled checks, the Baker Botts team openly acknowledge in their brief that Sultan has for the past 16 years approved regular payments of about $266,000 a year to the International Islamic Relief Organization -- a large Saudi charity whose U.S. offices were last year raided by federal agents. Sultan also authorized two additional grants totaling $52,000 to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, another Saudi-based group that has drawn the scrutiny of U.S. antiterrorism investigators. . . .

Lawyers for the defendants have derided the entire 9-11 case as a fanciful concoction of conspiracy theories and speculative musings that bear little, if any, relationship to the actual events of 9-11. They also say that much of the complaint involves matters that do not belong in a U.S. courtroom, such as the claim that members of the Saudi royal family are anti-American, seek to export "Wahhabi ideology" -- the country's puritanical brand of Islam -- and that Prince Sultan has "publicly accused the 'Zionist and Jewish lobby' of orchestrating a media blitz against the Saudi Kingdom."

"Surely," the lawyers for Sultan write in their brief, "the plaintiffs do not contend that an American court can or should pass judgment on the religious beliefs or practices of Saudi Arabia or determine whether its government is 'anti-American.'"

But however persuasive (or not) those arguments are, there may be a host of other factors that influence how the case plays out. Despite initial feelers by lawyers for the Saudis, few now expect the State Department to intervene with Judge Robertson to ask that the case be dismissed. (It's a political nonstarter, lawyers on both sides say.) In the meantime, although President Bush and his senior aides have publicly praised the Saudis for their "cooperation" in the war on terror, officials at the Treasury and Justice departments have privately expressed deep frustration over the failure of the Saudi government to impose stricter controls over their Islamic charities and turn over crucial evidence about the murky flow of money to Al Qaeda.

Motley's team and their investigators have been working closely with some of those government officials. A few of those officials, sources say, see the 9-11 lawsuit as a useful tool to turn up the public heat on the Saudis. In that sense, there is a growing view among U.S. counterterrorism officials that it might be a good thing for the case to proceed--no matter how embarrassing it might prove to the Saudis.

To keep that from happening, sources close to the case say, members of the Saudi royal family and the country's wealthiest businessmen--many of whom are defendants in the case--have offered up seven-figure retainers to some of the toniest and most politically connected law firms in the country.

Baker Botts, Sultan's law firm, for example, still boasts former secretary of State James Baker as one of its senior partners. Its recent alumni include Robert Jordan, the former personal lawyer for President Bush who is now U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
OK, so here we have a guy from a firm representing Saudi Arabia , with other lucrative ties to the Arab world, who is now appointed by President George W. Bush to guide America's policy involving Iraq and the Middle East. The result points its finger at Israel and, according to one news source, has made the terrorists rejoice. But the media has left us in the dark about the Arab connections to James Baker. Shouldn't we be concerned?

Israel has its problems, certainly, but I'm still leaning toward gathering rather than destroying. Call me crazy.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Investment Tip: Mortality Will Crash, Eventually

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold." - Proverbs 22:1

Even the best portfolio of stocks, bonds, precious metals, real estate, and so forth will eventually have a value of zero - or less, if it costs you your soul or other precious opportunities. So don't invest too heavily in something going to zero. All of mortality will crash, like it or not. No, I'm not saying you need to get out of the mortal market - the Lord will take care of that in His own due time. But be sure your portfolio has a foundation of eternal values so you'll have something left when the final market bell rings. (And until then, stay out of debt, and be ready for a collapsing US dollar. Oh, and do your home and visiting teaching. Cheers.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Zion and Heaven: Why It's Not Enough to Just Be a Nice Person

After a long day on Friday, I was thrilled to arrive home and find that some gracious friends of ours from Taiwan had surprised us with a superb Taiwanese dish they brought over. Inside the exotic banana leaf packaging (my photo doesn't do justice to this beautiful treat) was a delightful mixture of rice, nuts, mushrooms, and other exotic ingredients (they included a bottle of a hot and sweet pepper sauce well suited for this dish). I was so grateful for their kindness. As I chowed down on this expression of friendship from a family of mostly-Catholic friends, I felt that I was having a Zion moment - a little taste of heaven as I experienced a combination of culinary delight and undeserved kindness from wonderful friends willing to share so freely and with such love.

And that's when it hit me. Just being nice is not enough. It's good, but not sufficient for our eternal destinies. When we consider the lofty goals of Zion on earth and heaven beyond, we must realize that it will not be enough to just be surrounded by nice people. No, I believe we will be surrounded by nice people who can cook. If we are to experience heaven on earth or anywhere else, we have a lot to learn from my Catholic friends. Please, I want to be in their kingdom! And based on their love and cooking skills, I think it's got to be Celestial.

Prepare to build Zion, my brothers and sisters, by learning not just the scriptures, but also the skills of cooking and sharing good food. Christ Himself told us to feed his sheep. There is something ennobling and joyful about good food, and I am so grateful that Christ in Luke 24 showed us all the eating is still part of life once we are resurrected. Now let's get cooking!

(And I'd like to point out that if you move into my ward, you'll find that we have a couple of especially Christlike people who are known for just dropping by with delicious food. It's amazing how much ministering they do with food as a divine tool. I have been blessed many times by their kindness, as well as many others in our area. Food: in the hands of the Christlike, it's the path to the human soul.)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Human Fragility and "Lifestyle Choices" - Revised

Update: I apologize if the initial draft of this post came across as too negative. First, I'm surprised to see that some people think I oppose adoption. It's one of the most wonderful things that anybody can do and I am a 100% supporter of it. Many of my favorite people adopt or were adopted, and I admire and respect all those who go through the selfless sacrifice of adoption. I have never said anything against adoption and I think it's a misreading of Kushiner's post, which I cited, to think he's down on adoption. Further, my post was NOT to bash single-parenthood or the diversity of situations that we end up in through the course of life. It was to challenge the idea that all "lifestyle choices" are equal. For example, some hold that a family with a mother and father is no better than any other form of raising children or reproducing. In reality, just as there are ideal ways to raise crops or animals, there are "ideal" situations that ought to be best for raising children or for maintaining relationships - not always possible, of course, as we all know - but to eliminate centuries of knowledge and experience to make all our "lifestyle choices" and divergent personal moral codes "equal" may be satisfying but is founded on error, especially for those choices that contradict basic moral standards. I cannot accept that all choices are equal.

That doesn't mean we should detest the teenage girl who becomes pregnant, or the unmarried couple, the gay couple, or the polygamist commune (well, maybe I'll make an exception for that one) - they all need love and friendship, even when we disagree with their choices. Even the man who abandons his wife and kids for a life of selfish excess. But somewhere along the way, there needs to be teaching from some source about right and wrong to help people make choices more consistent with God's will and plans for them. Someone needs to stand up and say all these choices are not equal, they are not all innocuous, and some are disastrous. To say it all doesn't matter really can be viewed as "stupid," in my opinion. OK, citing Kushiner's post probably wasn't the right way to make that point.

(Ideal is far from where any of us are. There is much that is "stupid" about how I've lived my life. There is nothing stupid about seeking to live the Gospel that Jesus taught. OK, I have a goal of becoming less stupid in how I live.)

I extended Kushiner's thought to the idea that there is also an ideal way for humans to live to have joy, and that ideal is based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
The scriptures teach that there is only one way to find true joy, and that the path is straight and narrow. Alternative choices can be made - oh, the terror of free will! (this does not mean that I am opposed to free will, but that it is a frightening and amazingly bold gift from God given how we all abuse it) - but they have consequences that are not easily avoided. They take us on other paths that lead to other destinations, to places where we are limited and less than we can be. The paths may start off with pleasure and attractions of all kind, but the hovel they lead us to is far from the mansions of eternal life that our Lord has in mind for us, if only we will choose Him.

There is only one path to Eternal Life, and that is through Jesus Christ.
You are free to disagree with that, but don't get vitriolic.

Another update: I'm also rather surprised to see (elsewhere) that I've now been accused of destroying free agency by passing laws to forbid moral choices I disagree with. Hello?? I certainly didn't say anything of the sort here. My general attitude is that once adults have made their choices, we should respect their decisions, though we may disagree. For example, one of my favorite people is gay. He's left the Church and doesn't consider himself Christian, and he knows that my moral views oppose homosexual behavior. But he's got his life and I've got mine, and we respect the decisions we each have made. I have no intent of changing his mind or arguing about religion and morality with him. I enjoy the opportunities to spend time with him and enjoy it when he can spend a few minutes around my family, and my boys know I think very highly of him. The personal choice he has made - or perhaps it wasn't truly a choice for him - is now none of my business. And let me tell you this: Based on who this person is as a whole, based on how he treats others, based on his integrity and kindness and love of other people, he is one of the best people around. That doesn't mean I want laws changed to encourage or reward behavior that I consider immoral or to take other steps to weaken the traditional family, but I have not advocated more laws to areas of moral agency. We do need laws to protect the victims of some of the choices people make (e.g., the unborn), but that was not an issue on this post.

Mass Murder, Religion, and Atheism

"Atheism, Not Religion, Is the Real Force Behind the Mass Murders of History" - so argues Dinesh D'Souza in his her article in the Nov. 21 Christian Science Monitor. Definitely worth a read (hat tip to Mere Comments). I would also refer you to Wikipedia's article on democide, which discusses the thought-provoking work of R.J. Rummel at the University of Hawaii. Rummel shows that government, not religion, has been the greatest source of death and destruction. And the quest for absolute power by non-democratic governments is usually the source of the greatest carnage.

Those who seek world peace by eliminating religion and putting faith in ever-more-powerful government are the fanatics that we need to fear most, for the slaughter of millions to achieve "peace" will ultimately be justified in their ideology and perhaps even necessary to achieve their ends.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Voice of the People as the Voice of God: Missouri and the Dangers of Democracy

Ultimately, the Mormon disaster in Missouri in the 1830s, culminating with the Mormon War of 1838 and the expulsion of the Saints under a vicious extermination order, was a result of democracy. The state of Missouri was not operating as a constitutional republic under the rule of law in the manner envisioned by the Founding Fathers, but had essentially become a democracy, as far as the Mormons were concerned - quite the opposite of what the Founding Fathers were seeking. In a democracy, the voice of the people is the voice of God: vox populi = vox Dei. And when the people speak, it's usually time to run for your life if you're not writing the script.

A sober reminder about the dangers of democracy comes from this excerpt from Richard Bushman's marvelous biography of Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling (p. 344):
After their experience in Jackson and Clay counties, the Mormons felt they must ask nearby settlers for permission to move in. They requested meeting in Ray County, where the desired lands were located, to present their case. Without hesitation, the Ray citizens said no. Mormon migration would "retard the prosperity of the county, check further emigration of any class except Mormons, and disturb the peace." With no assurance of protection, the Mormons had to pull back. Before they left Clay, they wrote the governor about their "fear lest the inhabitants will rise up to mob us, in other places, or in other Counties." They wanted to know whether the governor would "quell these mobs, and help us obtain a location."

Governor Dunklin was less sympathetic than when they had appealed to him during the Jackson County riots. Again he told them to use the courts for redress, but, he admitted, "there are cases, sometimes, of individual outrage which may be so popular as to render the action of courts of justice nugatory, in endeavoring to afford a remedy." He suggested that the Saints themselves must be at fault for the citizens' enmity, but could not say why. As the Mormons said, "not one solitary instance of crime" had been lodged against them in either Jackson or Clay courts. The governor noted somewhat diffidently, "Your neighbors accuse your people, of holding illicit communications with the Indians, and of being opposed to slavery," for which he had no evidence. He was helpless to offer a solution. "All can say to you is, that in this Republic, the vox populi is the vox Dei."
Sorry, Governor Dunklin (and ditto for his successor, Governor Boggs) - that's no republic you described. It's mob rule - the ultimate expression of pure democracy. And the most dangerous form of government.

As an aside, the establishment of "democracy" in Iraq has resulted in the most severe persecution of Christians that that ancient land has seen in centuries. Christians from the oldest continually operating Christian communities are now fleeing, after centuries of being able to abide and worship with some degree of freedom.

Please, let's don't "democratize" any more nations. Or at least let someone else pay for it - we are about to collapse in debt over here from our global democracy efforts. And when collapse happens, when our economy and infrastructure and support systems fail, I fear that all we will be left with is democracy in the streets. But we will be building Zion even then, and where Zion can flourish, there will be hope and relief and care for the poor and needy of all races and backgrounds and faith, if we are prepared. (This is why we must have food storage and lots of it: to feed the hungry in our neighborhoods and cities. There will be many we can bless if we prepare.)

Do not lose faith when the collapse comes, but turn to the Lord with renewed hope, as the Saints in Missouri did in their darkest days, and go forth to build or rebuild Zion. We are on the winning team if we follow Jesus Christ, though we may yet have our Missouris and Liberty Jails.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Death of the Dollar

I hate to bring this up, but many of you just lost about 3% of your net worth in the past few days due to the declining value of the US dollar. And it's likely to get much worse. Clive Maund's "Death Knell of the US Dollar..." provides some of the cheery news of the season that we need as we get out our credit cards for the upcoming pagan holiday season, where Mammon and Lucre are the objects of worship. Hey, if you're going to worship an idol, at least choose one that maintains some value as the dollar declines - or that could greatly increase in value. Silver is still incredibly cheap. Just a word to the wise (and to the rationally greedy).

Meanwhile, get out of debt. Get food storage. Live providently. Save and invest wisely. The insane spending and printing of bogus fiat dollars in the past couple of decades is bringing this nation to an untenable state. When a few major parts of the world abandon the US dollar in favor or euros or precious metals, the dollar will plummet and the Fed will face strong pressures to ramp up interest rates to extremely high levels to maintain foreign interest in US treasuries - and that will only amplify the pain in the economy. We are facing troubled times. Living in debt will only make the pain much worse for you and your family.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Book of Abraham Suddenly Makes More Sense: It's Discussing Geocentric Astronomy

I just watched Daniel Peterson's video on the geocentric nature of the Book of Abraham, and came away with a better appreciation for the astronomy presented in that ancient text. (The video is "'And I Saw the Stars': The Book of Abraham and Ancient Geocentric Astronomy" by Daniel C. Peterson, William J. Hamblin and John Gee, produced by FARMS.) Rather than trying to reconcile Abraham's views with modern science, we can now appreciate that Abraham's discussion of astronomy was based on the ancient geocentric perspective.

In the Book of Abraham, Abraham is looking at the stars from his perspective on earth. The Lord tells him a few things about what he is seeing, not to give him a detailed scientific understanding, but that Abraham might be prepared to converse with Pharaoh. And to achieve that purpose, the Lord explains things using the basic paradigm that educated people of the world had back then, the geocentric perspective. Peterson points to many clues that support this. And once you realize that, all the discussion of one heavenly body being above another and having slower times and so forth all fits beautifully with ancient geocentric astronomy.

Now if Joseph really just made up the Book of Abraham by absorbing cultural influences, one would expect him to have a Copernican perspective. Geocentrism was long dead in his day, but there it is, richly presented in its ancient form in the Book of Abraham.

Here is an excerpt on this topic from the FairWiki entry on the Book of Abraham (see the source for the footnotes):
With regard to astronomy, we find that in Joseph Smith's day "heliocentricity" (as proposed by Copernicus and Newton) was the accepted astronomical view. Nineteenth-century people (including the most brilliant minds of the day) believed that everything revolved around the Sun--therefore the term "heliocentric" (Greek helios=sun + centered). (In the twentieth-first century we generally accept an Einsteinian view of the cosmos.) The Book of Abraham, however, clearly delineates a geocentric view of the universe--or a belief that the Earth (Greek geo) stood at the center of the universe, and all things moved around our planet.

According to ancient geocentric cosmologies and what we read in the Book of Abraham, the heavens (which is defined as the expanse above the earth--no celestial object is mentioned to exist below the earth) was composed of multiple layers or tiers--each tier higher than the previous. Therefore the Sun is in a higher tier than the moon, and the stars are in higher tiers still (compare Abraham 3:5, 9, 17).[34] According to geocentric astronomy, celestial objects have longer time spans (or lengths of "reckoning") based upon their relative distance from the earth. "Thus, the length of reckoning of a planet is based on its revolution [time to orbit around the center, in this case the earth](and not rotation [time to spin on its axis, as the earth does every 24 hours])."[35] The higher the celestial object, the greater its length of reckoning (compare Abraham 3:5). Likewise, in Abraham 3:8-9, we read that "there shall be another planet whose reckoning of time shall be longer still; And thus there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob."

Ancient geocentric astronomers believed that the stars were "the outer-most celestial sphere, furthest from the earth and nearest to God."[36] We find in the Book of Abraham that the star Kolob was the star nearest "the throne of God" (Abraham 3:9). In the ancient, yet recently discovered, Apocalypse of Abraham (which dates from about the same time period as the JSP [Joseph Smith Papyri]), we find that God's throne is said to reside in the eighth firmament (the firmaments, being another term for the varying tiers in the heavens above the Earth).[37]

The Book of Abraham also reveals that those celestial objects that are highest above the earth, "govern" the objects below them (see Abraham 3:3, 9 and Facsimile 2, fig. 5). This sounds similar to the beliefs of those who accepted an ancient geocentric cosmology:
Throughout the ancient world the governing role of celestial bodies was conceived in similar terms. God sits on his throne in the highest heaven giving commands, which are passed down by angels through the various regions of heaven, with each region governing or commanding the regions beneath it.[38]
We find this governing order described in the Apocalypse of Abraham and other ancient sources. All of this makes sense only from an ancient geocentric perspective (such as that believed in Abraham's day) and makes no sense from a heliocentric perspective (which is what Joseph would have known in his day).

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Atlantic Monthly's 100 Most Influential Americans of All Time

The latest Atlantic Monthly's cover story is "The 100 Most Influential Americans of All Time." I was delighted to see that an amazing 28 of them are LDS, if my assessment is correct. And two of them were LDS before they died: Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. (OK, so my tongue-in-cheek comment does express a hope that many people have accepted the restored Gospel since passing away, a hope based on the LDS teaching of missionary work going on in the spirit world and the rather unusual concept of "baptism for the dead.")

Joseph Smith came in at #52 and Brigham Young at #74. Joseph was just behind Margaret Sanger. Interestingly, both envisioned a world in which there were no poor. In Joseph's world, that goal would be accomplished by building up a Zion society in which all shared freely and lived selflessly. Margaret's vision would be achieved by eliminating the poor and unwanted through abortion and eugenics. I prefer Joseph's world over Sanger's.

Friday, November 24, 2006

About the Flower Photo . . .It's from the Isaac Morley Farm

I forgot to mention that the flower photo I use in my header for this blog is from a photo I took in Kirtland, Ohio on the Isaac Morley farm. The flower was from a large tulip tree. It was something of a random shot: I couldn't see the flower well because it was too high, so I held the camera up above my head and took a couple shots before we dashed off. It was a rainy day, so a few drops of water were on the flower.

Just a little reminder for me about the beauty that can occur in difficult places.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Accept No Substitutes: Faith in Jesus Christ is the Only Way

Some substitutes just don't work. To reach our ultimate destination, nothing can substitute for faith in Jesus Christ. Any thing else will fall flat.

(I took this photo in Vermont recently, near Stowe. Click to enlarge slightly.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Is Your Airline Rapture Ready?

Breaking news: After a successful pilot program, a major US airline is preparing to officially launch its new Rapture Ready® campaign in which they will assure passengers that 100% of their airborne planes will continue to fly safely in case of rapture. Getting all the pilots on board has not been easy and required several layoffs of recalcitrant Christians. While emphasis has been on the pilots, a high-level source at the airline reports that there has been a trickle down effect in their flight crews with a steady flux of flight attendants also being certified as Rapture Ready®, often thanks to the after-hours help of the pilots. "In case of rapture, not only can passengers expect a safe flight, but they can also count on getting an enjoyable snack of pretzels and orange juice."

I chuckle when I see the bumper stickers on some cars: "In case of rapture, this vehicle will be unattended." Isn't it socially irresponsible for those people to drive?

On a more serious note, we Latter-day Saints don't subscribe to the popular rapture theories of some groups, believing instead that we are going to be here on earth with everyone else as we struggle with the challenges of the last days before the triumphant return of the Savior. But we do take the Second Coming of the Savior very seriously, recognizing that it may yet be very far off.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Fullness of the Gentiles

The term "fullness of the Gentiles" should be a meaningful one for Latter-day Saints, based on its use in two passages in the Book of Mormon, where it is associated with the restoration of the fullness of the Gospel among the Gentiles in the Latter-days. Paul also uses it in a verse that may have been pointing to future Restoration. Interestingly, the term "fullness of the Gentiles" is a literal translation of a Hebrew phrase, "m'loh ha goyim," used in Genesis 48:19 rendered as "fullness of the nations" in the KJV.

In Genesis 48:19, the patriarch Jacob is giving a blessing to Joseph's sons sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and responds to Joseph's objection about treating the slightly-younger Ephraim as if he were the firstborn instead of Manasseh:
And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
Significantly, it is Ephraim that is associated with "m'loh ha goyim," the fullness of the Gentiles/multitude of nations.

Here is Paul's use of the term in Romans 11:25:
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
Earlier in this chapter, he discusses the gathering of Israel and uses the analogy of grsfting in olive branches. From my LDS perspective, I read Paul as saying that the redemption of Israel will not be complete until a future time when the fullness of the Gentiles comes, which I take to be the Restoration of the Gospel among the Gentiles.

Now consider the related Book of Mormon passages. Nephi in First Nephi 15:13-14, links "fullness of the Gentiles" to the Restoration and the gathering of Israel:
13 And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed --

14 And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.
The term is used by Jesus Christ in Third Nephi 16:4, again in the context of gathering the scattered remnants of Israel in the last days:
4 And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer.

5 And then will I gather them in from the four quarters of the earth; and then will I fulfill the covenant which the Father hath made unto all the people of the house of Israel.
One can easily argue that the usage in First Nephi is "plagiarized" from Romans 11, where grafting an olive branch and "fullness of the Gentiles" are both invoked. Or one can understand that both concepts date to much earlier times, with common ancient origins being at play rather than plagiarism (see The Allegory of the Olive Tree, ed. Stephen D. Ricks and John W. Welch (Salt Lake City: FARMS and Deseret Book, 1994)).

Regarding the nations/Gentiles ("goyim"), the link to Ephraim in Genesis and in LDS writings can be puzzling because we tend to associate Gentiles with non-Hebraic peoples. But that term may have a couple different usages. Sometimes it clearly refers to the pagan nations, but other times it can refer to nations descended from Israel or including Israelites. For example in "The 'Gentiles' in God's Plan" (a site of the Canadian British-Israel Society), there is further discussion of the scope of meanings of the term "Gentile":
It is a widely popular view today that the word, 'Gentile,' in our English Bible translations can only refer to non-Israelites, yet the facts prove conclusively otherwise. The following information from leading Bible reference works proves that this word refers instead to 'nations,' representing sometimes the dispersed house of Israel, sometimes non-Israelites, and sometimes both, as in 'all nations'. The word, "Gentile," is an English language substitution for the original New Testament Greek words, 'ethne,' (singular) or 'ethnos,' (plural) and the Old Testament Hebrew words, 'goy' (singular) and 'goyim' (plural).

In teaching that Gentiles can only be non-Israelites, it is held by some that Christ in Matthew 10:6 ("Go not into the way of the Gentiles") was commanding against witnessing to non-Israelites! But in so doing, this makes the Bible contradict itself, for in Matthew 24:14, Christ said the exact opposite: "This gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world as a witness unto all nations [ethnos/Gentiles]." Which is it? Are the "ethnos," or "Gentiles" to hear the Gospel or are they not?

The answer is provided by Messianic Jewish Bible scholar, David H. Stern, in the "Jewish New Testament Commentary," which points out that the word, Gentile has two meanings. (page 531) It was used in a "neutral" sense of any particular nation or nations (which ones to be determined by context), or a "pejorative overtone" as "pagan, heathen." Therefore, it can sometimes refer to "non-Israelites," but not exclusively. Sometimes the singular form, ethne, meant the Jewish nation, and the plural form, ethnos, was used to refer to non-Jewish nations, but again not exclusively. The Jewish nation of Christ's day included large numbers of Israelites, so if the Greek, ethne, and Hebrew, goy, ever refer to the Israelite tribe of Judah, one cannot say that it means non-Israelites!
John Tvedtnes makes some similar points in his chapter, "Who Are the Gentiles" in The Most Correct Book (Salt Lake City: Cornerstone Publishing, 1999, pp. 29-36). He suggests that the mission of taking the Book of Mormon to "Jew and Gentile," according to the cover page, and of taking it to the remnants of Israel among the tribe of Joseph, may really be a unified mission, for "the Gentile" may refer to the tribe of Joseph. The "Gentiles" may be the Ephraimites - after all, the Gospel was restored through Joseph Smith, a "Gentile" and yet an Ephraimite of the tribe of Joseph.

Tvedtnes suggests that the idea that Gospel will not go forth to the Jews until it has gone to all other nations may be incorrect, since the "Gentiles" to whom the Gospel must go forth already includes those of Israel, especially Ephraim.

In any case, I am intrigued by the "fullness of the Gentiles" concept that stems from Genesis 48 and its implications for the Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the Gospel in the latter-days.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Christian Fellowship Breakfast in San Francisco

Yesterday I attended a Christian fellowship breakfast held for those attending the annual meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, a large meeting with over 4,000 attendees here in the heart of San Francisco. The breakfast gathering was small, with only about 20 people, but I was glad that a large portion of the group (three that I knew of) were LDS. I'm happy to report that our strong representation at this early morning Christian fellowship breakfast probably showed other Christians that, no matter what some people say, Mormons really do believe in free food.

The fellowship breakfast was a fabulous couple hours of fellowship and discussion. I was pleased to meet a few significant names in academia and some great thinkers. We heard a speech from an outstanding professor of one of the nation's top chemical engineering departments (I'd like to check with him before putting his name in this blog, just in case) who discussed the problem of anti-intellectualism in the Church. He dealt constructively with four problems he sees in some areas of Christianity:

  1. Teaching that evolution is an evil atheistic myth.

  2. Teaching that stem cell research is inherently evil.

  3. Teaching that Christians should support one particular political party.

  4. Thinking that the Church should take a stand on global warming.

As with most Christians I know in science, the Christians at this fellowship generally accept the idea that modern science has a reasonable description of what has happened in the past. At the same time, they view it as part of the process God used to achieve the marvelous Creation that we behold.

I also strongly agree with the critique of Christians putting faith in a single political party. People need to think critically about the issues and not simply assume that one party is going to be "God's party." From my perspective, one can debate about whether there has been a major apostasy in Christianity over the centuries, but when it comes to politics, there should be no room for doubt: both major parties have apostatized at least in some degree from the principles this nation was founded on -- so why trust them unthinkingly?

I was pleased to meet Robert Enick of the University of Pittsburgh, author of the book, Evolving in Eden. (I'm buying the book - it looks outstanding.) He made the salient point that every step of the Creation process does not need to be miraculous for God to be a good Creator. Using a system that includes natural evolutionary processes does not detract from His divinity and brilliance. This may be a key weakness of the philosophical approach in the Intelligent Design movement, implicitly linking God's skill as a Creator to items in nature that appear to be too complex to have originated naturally. When natural explanations can later be derived, it can be disappointing and challenge faith. Isn't it even more skillful and marvelous for God to have created a system where such complexity could arise with no or relatively few acts of subsequent intervention, rather than one that requires extensive intervention along the way? I really appreciate his perspectives.

I tend to think that intervention must have occurred in many matters and at many points, but who knows? Why get hung up in the details that are muddy to both theologians and scientists?

As for my personal belief in free food, it was sorely shaken in this meeting when a collection plate was passed around at the end. Since the breakfast was not sponsored by AIChE and was done with pricey hotel catering, the suggested donation was $20. Yet I gladly ate that cost, and soon found my faith renewed when I was blessed shortly thereafter with an invitation to a free dinner. Sweet!

(San Francisco is an amazing place.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Righteous Pioneer Women and Their Abortions

I awoke this morning pondering the similarities between a couple a marvelous Latter-day Saint women I have known over the years who I consider to be real pioneers in their generation. Strong, righteous, faithful women who are true leaders and who touch the lives of many people. And these women also share the common feature of a painful past involving, among other things, the tragedy of abortion. It was their decision, and based on what I know, I see no easy way to paint it as anything but a sin. The abortion did not make them stronger or better. It was a terrible setback that caused them much loss, grief, and enduring regret. What did make them stronger and truly liberated women was repentance, turning to the infinite mercies of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to repent and move on with their lives. And how majestically they have moved on.

There are many in our midst who have had or will have an unnecessary elective abortion. May they get the help they need early to consider other alternatives. But when they don't, let's recognize that the woman has not sold her soul, but may be on the path to truly finding it (ditto for the men involved). Today's target of malicious gossip about sexual immorality, abortion, or other sins, may be far closer to God than any of the gossipers, and may be tomorrow's righteous pioneer woman that future generations will hold up as a role model, perhaps not knowing the grief she had to encounter on the way.

I love chapter 8 of John, where Christ defends the woman taken in adultery. Others wanted to condemn her and even kill her for her terrible sin (notice that the man was left unaccused). Christ, our God and Ultimate Example, gently turned their pointing fingers toward themselves. With majestic love and gentleness, he rescued her, healed her, lifted the condemnation, and sent her on her way. All of us need to ponder His example more thoughtfully and improve our ability to love those in our midst who face unusually heavy burdens of sin and guilt.

Internet P0rn and Violence

A recent article in Slate makes the statistical argument that Internet porn may be correlated with a decrease in rates for the violent crime of rape. One interesting critique of the study discusses some of the data that the study neglected to interpret, suggesting that the data need not imply a benefit from porn, but may be consistent with a shift toward rape that is less likely to be reported (e.g., with acquaintances as victims rather than strangers).

In any case, to live the best life you can, stay away from porn of any kind and live high moral standards.

One more tip: stay away from creeps obsessed with sex. (Get them out of your community now by sending them to Washington - one of the benefits of our democratic process.)

Hat tips to Walter Reade and Mike Parker.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cutting a Little Slack for Ex-Mormons

In spite of having long spoken in defense of the Church against the criticisms of the "antis," including some outspoken former members, I'd like to confess that there is room for increased respect and tolerance among LDS ranks for those who have left us and even rail against us. And I personally wish to improve and be less hasty in judging intents and criticizing positions of those who have left.

Remember the story in the Book of Mormon about the Nephite group who leaves Zarahemla to go back and live in the original land of Nephi? They spied on a Lamanite group living in the area, and the Nephite leaders prepared to attack. But some of the Nephites saw that those Lamanites were decent people and argued that it was wrong to launch an offensive war against them. Bloodshed erupted among the Nephite group and a handful of survivors returned to Zarahemla, their expedition having been a tragic failure.

I offer a weak parallel to this story in pointing out that many ex-Mormons, even some who show a lot of bitterness toward the Church, may be much more honorable people that we have realized, and may have entirely logical reasons from their perspective for leaving. In fact, it is not hard to find reasons to reject Joseph Smith or Brigham Young or any past or modern prophet, or to find doctrines and practices that one can strongly object to.

Many who leave do not do so because the moral standards were too high or because someone snubbed them at Church or because tithing was too painful or they just got sick of home teaching or were victims of gossip or had a serious moral sin that they wouldn't quit. It is understandable, in fact, that people would get upset over polygamy or several other things in LDS history or even in the Bible that would lead them to reject the Church or organized religion in general. There are certainly powerful arguments to be made and often no simple answers.

I am sad that they left. I think there are rich spiritual dimensions to the LDS experience that they will miss, or perhaps were already missing during their time of membership in the Church. I had one person tell me, after twenty years of membership in the Church, that he had never experienced a real answer to prayer. That pains me. I wish their experience could have been more like mine. No, I can't explain polygamy, either in Joseph's day or Old Testament times. It makes no sense to me and aspects of it offend me, even if some of the marriages were "dynastic" marriages that did not involve living together as man and wife. All sorts of things offend me, from the Old Testament right up to 2006. But I cannot deny what I have experienced, and indeed, what I know. There is a power and a reality to core parts of the Gospel. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. The Book of Mormon is real and divine. The Temple is divine. Prayer "works." The gift of the Holy Ghost is real. The blessings and miracles associated with Church service are real.

Something is going on here that cannot be explained by any hypothesis that begins with Joseph as a charlatan who fabricated the Book of Mormon. That doesn't mean we have to agree with everything the Church has done, but there is at least something going on that needs to be considered.

But there are other ways of looking at the external evidences, and plenty of ways to miss the evidences of the divine. Those who leave because of their interpretation of history or evaluation of the evidence may be entirely sincere and rational. In fact, that may apply to the vast majority.

Those who choose to leave may still be our friends and neighbors. They may still be reasonable, kind, loving people with differences that we can accept. I hope we can have some degree of mutual respect and less nastiness.

Given the fallibility of man, it is almost certain that some things that any person accepts as truth will be wrong. In the end, the most important thing has got to be the gift that is the greatest of all, charity. May we have it in abundance, even toward our enemies, even toward those who choose to revile us and accuse us of all manner of stupidity. I need it more, and apologize when I have been too rash or harsh or quick to judge those who have offered criticisms here.

May we feel charity even for those who shout at us and wave garments in our face. But may we also see past our religious differences and realize that some of those who leave our Church do not stand shoulder to shoulder with those who taunt and defame us. Some feel we have been duped and defrauded, but mean us no harm and respect the good that they can see in us. We need not assume the worst in them, and instead should see the best that we can.

When I was a teenager, a friend of mine converted to the Church, and I was very happy for him. Then he ran into anti-Mormon literature and was swayed and began to speak against the Church and had his name removed. Understandably, my bishop encouraged several of us to be careful and to avoid religious discussion with him. I was uncomfortable with him and we grew apart. But now, many years later, we've teamed up again, though we are states apart. He's an amazing person, vastly interesting, and though we differ in many topics, I am pleased to count him as a friend. He is no longer an "anti" but quietly tolerates my religious beliefs (with a few good-natured jokes, of course), though he thinks it's all a lie and believes there is no God. I realize that he is every bit as important to God as I or any member of the Church, and perhaps more so, given what he has endured and overcome.

In appreciating him and his friendship, it is so clear that there is much more to life than simply whether one is or is not a member of any particular religion. Yes, the Church of Jesus Christ is divine and is a marvelous tool meant to bless the children of this planet, but there is much outside our tiny Church that we have yet to appreciate. This life is a journey, and there are treasures to be uncovered for all and in all who seek the Good, even when they - or we - have gotten some things wrong along the way.

May we be civil one to another, even as we debate our religious views and contend for the cause of truth as we see it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cult, Countercult, or Countercult Cult? My Head Is Spinning....

The Christian Apologetics Index reports that CRI's Countercult Leader Hank Hanegraaff Supports a Cult of Christianity. The article leaves my poor head spinning as countercultists accuse fellow countercultists of supporting Christian cults.

Can't we all just agree that we are all cultists and done with it? That's fine if we stick to the basic definition of cult: a religious organization or movement.

Podcasts from the Inimitable Kerry Shirts: The Backyard Professor

Kerry Shirts of LDS apologetics fame has a blog with some excellent podcasts on it: The Backyard Professor. I hope you'll enjoy his discussions of the Book of Abraham and other topics, including thoughts from Margaret Baker.

Thank you, Kerry, for your many contributions!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Got a Missionary? Don't Forget to Write

Letters are becoming rare in our e-society, but there is still something about a physical letter that can't compete with electronic communication. Compare a meaningful physical letter with the 10-second glance at a screen to read a hasty email during the few moments each week that a missionary has access to a computer. OK, the missionary might only spend 10 seconds with the letter, too - but those 10 seconds can be taken at leisure later, and might become 20 or 30 or 100. So I suggest that parents and friends include an occasional physical letter in their communications. Just a thought.

The image, by the way, is my photograph of a portrait by British artist Richard Cosway (1742-1821) of Margaret Cocks, later Margaret Smith, painted in 1787, part of the fabulous collections at the Huntington Library in Los Angeles, one of the highlights of our recent family vacation in California. (I also got to meet Mike Parker there. Another bonus!)

Friday, November 03, 2006

LDS Apologists Daniel Peterson, John Tvedtnes Cleared of Drug Charges from Anti-Mormon Critics: Conclusive Negative Test Results

After submitting themselves to extensive drug testing, prolific LDS Apologists John A. Tvedtnes and Daniel C. Peterson, both of BYU, have been completely cleared of allegations from anti-Mormon critics regarding improper drug use. Test results show no trace of mental steroids have been used. "Their mental performance has not been artificially enhanced with illicit mental steroids," said the physician who conducted the testing. Anti-Mormon critics remain skeptical and continue to insist that some kind of unfair competitive advantage has been obtained.

Encouraged by the results (and publicity) from the testing of Tvedtnes and Peterson, amateur Webmaster and junior apologist Jeff Lindsay also submitted himself for mental steroid testing and received a clean bill of health - with no need to give a blood sample. "There was no need for chemical testing in this case," said the physician. "It's rather easy to discern that he's not on mental steroids of any kind." Mr. Lindsay underscored that point with his response: "Yippee!"

Monday, October 30, 2006

The God Squad on the Mormons

Rabbi Marc Gellman and Monsignor Tom Hartman have a nationally syndicated religious column called "The God Squad." In their latest column, they comfort a worried Methodist parent whose 18-year-old daughter is about to join the Mormons. They write:
We love Mormons and we love the Mormon Church. The church's required year of service for young people is by far the most impressive spiritual youth activity we've ever seen. We're also extremely sensitive to the prejudice directed against many smaller religions (although Mormonism and Islam are the fastest-growing religions in America). Mormons are Christians and they are part of the community of faith that helps the world heal itself from sin.

(Printed in my local newspaper, The Post-Crescent, on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006, p. E-3.)

Nice of them to offer a positive view on the Church. A couple of details could be corrected. For example missionary service is not "required" and is not a year, but either 18 months (women) or 24 months (men). I'm also not sure that it's one of the top two fastest growing religions in America anymore, but there are so many ways to compute growth that I'm sure you can find a way to do that. For example, do you report average growth rate over the past 5 years, 20 years, or 100 years? DO you filter out extremely small organizations where adding 100 members might result in a 500% growth rate for 2005?

But I do appreciate the authors calming down a worried parent who is getting overwhelmed with the fear spread by anti-Mormon literature. Fear and shock is what it's designed to generate, so I really appreciate some calm voices from outside.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Law of Christ: A Quick Note

"Law" - the very word seems so antagonistic to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the minds of some people. The idea that there could be "laws" of the Gospel that need to be obeyed is said to be a denial of what Jesus Christ did. In my opinion, this misunderstanding is largely fueled by a focus on Paul's writings in which the term "law" is usually shorthand for "Law of Moses," not an attack on the concept of laws and commandments per se. The law - meaning the Law of Moses - has been done away. But there is still a law of Christ, or a law of the Gospel, which followers of Jesus Christ are asked to follow.

If the concept of a "law of Christ" is anathema to what some of our critics call "historic Christianity," then I guess Paul himself would have to be among the pre-historic Christians, for In Galatians 6:2 he admonishes us to "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." In fact, Paul spends a good deal of time telling Christians what they need to do, what sins they need to avoid, and how they need to obey, in order to better follow Christ and to avoid falling away from the grace that the Gospel offers. Yes, there is a law of Christ, and the word "obey" is still part of Christianity. Those who wish to follow Jesus Christ will seek to repent of their sin, be baptized in His name, and strive to obey His teachings and, yes, His law, relying on His merits and grace to be saved. We access that grace by entering into a covenant relationship with Him and seeking to follow Him.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Mormon's Encounter with Gus Dur, The Indonesian Muslim Leader

"Ponderit has an instructive story about a Mormon's encounter with a Muslim cleric in Indonesia, Gus Dur, who would fly to Salt Lake City and receive a blessing from President Hinckley and later become President of Indonesia. If any of you are familiar with details of this story and care to comment or can verify, I'd appreciate hearing from you. I would also like to learn more about the relationship between Muslim leaders and the Church. In today's tense climate of religious misunderstanding and anxiety over Islam in particular, I welcome anything that might lead to mutual respect.

BYU Gets Aggressive: The Lawsuit against Pfizer

BYU is suing Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, claiming that BYU was cheated out of a share of the massive revenues that resulted from sales of Celebrex, the anti-inflammatory medication that grew out of the inventions of BYU's Professor Daniel L. Simmons. See details in articles at the Salt Lake Tribune and also the Deseret News (with a hat tip to Julie Smith at Times and Seasons). According to the Deseret News, "The complaint alleges both fraud and misappropriation of trade secrets and says BYU and Pfizer's predecessor company Monsanto had a contract to develop such drugs together. The pharmaceutical company instead terminated the contract 'under fraudulent pretenses,' hid information that BYU was entitled to about patents and profited handsomely while shutting the university out, the lawsuit says."

While I cannot say anything about the merits of BYU's case, as a patent strategist and research scientist in a major corporation, and as a former professor (Institute of Paper Science and Technology, now part of Georgia Tech), I can say that many universities have gone from being rather naive and gullible, when it comes to intellectual property, to being sophisticated and aggressive. Part of this is an outgrowth of the the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 which requires universities to actively protect and retain the intellectual property resulting from federally funded research. While the act may not directly affect much of the work done at private universities like BYU, it has led to a dramatic change in the policies, attitudes, and programs in universities across the nation, with spillover effects for international universities as well.

BYU has one of the nation's best Technology Transfer Departments, in my opinion. They have done excellent work in helping professors to seek patent protection for their inventions and in helping to find commercial partners to license BYU inventions. BYU also generates a lot of startups. BYU is among the top universities in terms of patents, licensing revenues, and start-up companies generated per dollar of research money invested. And the recent law suit against Pfizer shows that the University is serious about its intellectual property. Could the lawsuit scare off some companies who might fear that a university partner will sue them later? I doubt it, unless the company is hoping to take advantage of the university.

My corporate experience shows me that collaboration with universities will become increasingly important in this world of "open innovation." And success for any corporation in the long run will require working hard to respect the rights of universities or other partners, ensuring that deals are more than just fair, but provide positive win/win outcomes that will make the corporation be viewed as a partner of choice for future innovations. It's something my employer is working hard to do ("partner-friendly intellectual assets"), and something that many others must do to succeed.

While universities have made a lot of progress, there is still a need for professors and students to better understand intellectual property. The rush to publish research is often antagonistic to intellectual property protection. I encourage students and professors alike in any technical area to invest some time in understanding the basics of patents and other forms of intellectual assets in order to recognize inventions and pursue appropriate protection.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The "Say I Do" Wedding Drive Through

(Click to enlarge.)

Las Vegas offers some fast, convenient, and inexpensive ways to get married - but these marriages can be a real gamble. The smart money in Vegas settles for marriage in only one place, the Temple of the Lord, where a marriage can be sealed by the same power and keys Christ gave to Peter. A marriage so sealed on earth can be sealed in heaven.

The concept of eternal marriage is one of the most ennobling and inspiring doctrines of the Restored Gospel. How grateful I am for the supreme blessing made available in the Temples of the Lord.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Best Show in Vegas - and My New Favorite Celestial Room

Tonight I had a break from the rigors of an intellectual property strategy course I'm taking in Las Vegas, leaving me with enough time to participate in a session at the LDS Temple here. Best show in town! A bit pricey when tithing is considered, but unlike most of the attractions here, you're almost certain to leave this establishment better off than when you came.

It's a pretty temple from the outside, but the majesty of its celestial room caught me by surprise. What fabulously beautiful architecture! Bold lines, gentle curves, sweeping diagonals, an intricate sun theme, beautiful windows and lighting, in a bright, open, and very light presentation that cheers the heart.

The Las Vegas Temple gets my award for Best Celestial Room. And it's literally just minutes away from Paradise - without any need to depart from your mortal body. (Paradise is a poorly named unincorporated township next to Las Vegas that includes much of the Strip.)

It was built in 1989, yet looks as fresh and new as if it had just opened. It's on the western eastern foothills overlooking the city and can be seen from many parts of town. In fact, I can see it from the window of my cheap hotel room on Las Vegas Boulevard (comfortably away from the main Strip).

I got there after the sun went down, but was still able to get a few photos. Here's one:

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Can You Name the Smallest and Largest LDS Mission? My "Small World" Experience in Las Vegas

Today in the 5th Ward of the Meadow Stake in Las Vegas, Nevada, I attended a wonderful sacrament meeting featuring a returned missionary AND his recently-released mission president from an unusual mission. Before I tell you about what I heard, see if you can guess the mission. It may be the largest and yet smallest mission in the world. Largest in the sense that it's 3000 miles wide - pretty much the size of the continental United States. Yet it may also be the smallest mission in another geographical sense. Also of note, there are nine native languages spoken in this mission, but at least some of the languages that some missionaries must use there are not taught in the MTC.

Made your guess?

Answer to follow after the next paragraph.

Let me first say that sacrament meeting in the 5th Ward was a welcome spiritual refreshing after having to wait for about an hour to get my luggage and escape from the Las Vegas airport, where I was surprised at the barrage of sexually oriented ads that assaulted the eyes wherever I looked. Downtown New York and Chicago are absolutely tame compared to Las Vegas, at least based on what one encounters in the airport - not to mention the revolting soul-sucking society-trashing industry of gambling that is provided at every turn. Away from the airport and the strip, there is refuge still to be found in the shelter of Latter-day Saint meeting houses.

So in the 5th Ward, I heard from Kyle Wong, recently returned missionary, and his former missionary president, Philip Pulsipher, who completed his three-year service in July. President Pulsipher kindly came out to Las Vegas from St. George to participate with Kyle. And they came from which mission? Perhaps you guessed it: the Micronesia Guam Mission, which occupies a huge swath of the earth's surface, nearly all of which is water. There are nine tiny island groups, including Guam, Yap, and Saipan, all so small that the cumulative land area makes it one of the smallest missions in the world, if not the smallest. (Anyone know for sure?) And among these islands, there are nine languages, including Chuukese, the language of the tiny island of Chuuk (formerly known as Truk).

Elder Wong left the MTC thinking he was an English-speaking missionary, but soon found that he was going to be serving on Chuuk and would be speaking Chuukese. No MTC preparation is available for this one. A great challenge!

Brother Wong's spiritually uplifting experiences on his mission and his accomplishments there were given added credibility by the powerful words of his mission president. What an unusual homecoming! President Pulsipher could offer his perspectives about how he saw Kyle grow, and what the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ did for him and his companions as they sought to follow the Lord and bring others unto Christ.

I was intrigued to learn that one island where Elder Wong served had only 500 people, and it seemed that they all knew the missionaries, had all been contacted, didn't like the Mormons, and nothing more could be done. But with faith, Elder Wong and his companion moved ahead and soon found one, then two, then three people who were touched by the Spirit and became members of the Church.

I spoke with both of them afterwards. My "small world" experience came in speaking with President Pulsipher. His brother is in Appleton, Wisconsin, my home town, and he helped one of my sons get a great job that helped him prepare financially for his mission - a mission here in Las Vegas.

On top of that, one of the missionaries serving in the 5th Ward area, Elder Tuise, is from Samoa, and in the MTC met the Samoan elder that would go to Appleton, Wisconsin and win the hearts of many people there, Elder Tuipolutu. The latter is from the same ward as another Samoan that was one of my son's outstanding missionary companions in Nevada.

Many interesting connections. And an interesting mix of experiences today in Las Vegas, one of the spiritually darkest and brightest cities in the world.

P.S. (Oct. 16, 2006) - The first speaker was Kyle's father, former bishop and current ward mission leader (also my current calling in Wisconsin). Since the program that Sunday was on missionary work, Brother/Bishop Wong was speaking in his capacity as ward mission leader and not (just) because he was Kyle's father. And he was true to that assignment, giving a great and inspiring talk from the scriptures about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, much more focused on the Savior than on any mortal in the building that day. All the talks in that meeting were solid, inspiring, based on scripture, and focused on helping people grow in their faith in Christ. What a delight!

Kyle's father has chimed in here with a very kind comment to this post (comment #6).

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Intolerance of the Tolerant Ones: UK Offers a Glimpse at America's Future

A fourteen year-old girl was arrested in England for racism when she objected to being put in a discussion group with non-English speakers by her teacher at school. The full story in the UK's Daily Mail suggests to me that this is a case of politically correct intolerance gone wild. As you read the excerpt below, ask yourself how this might translate into religious issues over here one day.
The teenager had not been in school the day before due to a hospital appointment and had missed the start of a project, so the teacher allocated her a group to sit with.

"She said I had to sit there with five Asian pupils," said Codie yesterday.

"Only one could speak English, so she had to tell that one what to do so she could explain in their language. Then she sat me with them and said 'Discuss'."

According to Codie, the five - four boys and a girl - then began talking in a language she didn't understand, thought to be Urdu, so she went to speak to the teacher.

"I said 'I'm not being funny, but can I change groups because I can't understand them?' But she started shouting and screaming, saying 'It's racist, you're going to get done by the police'."

Codie said she went outside to calm down where another teacher found her and, after speaking to her class teacher, put her in isolation for the rest of the day.

A complaint was made to a police officer based full-time at the school, and more than a week after the incident on September 26 she was taken to Swinton police station and placed under arrest.
Could the day come when holding moral values based on Christian religious beliefs could get a person labeled as an intolerant bigot in need of punishment, or a victim of mental illness in need of a cure? Sure - that day is already here, especially for those who object to homosexual behavior. Could we get to the day when expressing those beliefs or resisting attacks on those beliefs could get a child thrown in jail? We're not there yet, but beware the insane intolerance of the ones who see themselves as the guardians of the highest virtue in their book, tolerance.

And could we see the day when Christians who oppose a social program or PC teachings teachings on moral grounds could be more than just called mentally ill, but also be accused of a hate crime? Or even be accused of being an "enemy combatant" and locked up without a trial? (BTW, why are we all sitting back so silently as our Constitutional rights are stripped away?) Indeed, the Book of Mormon may offer another prophetic insight into where we are going. Recall that in the years before the great visit of Jesus Christ to Nephite society, the government had become so corrupt that prophets and those who preached of the Messiah were secretly put to death in violation of the requirements of the written law (3 Nephi 6:22-30). The intolerance of the elite toward the pre-Christian "Christians" was truly insane. I hope we don't get too far down that track, but we'll see ever growing religious intolerance from the elite dwellers of our modern "great and spacious buildings," as Lehi saw in his amazing vision. Watch out.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Las Vegas: LDS Events?

Say, I'm going to be in Las Vegas Sunday and am wondering if there are any interesting firesides to attend or afternoon services you might recommend. If so, let me know here or at jeff at jefflindsay.com. (I arrive around 11 a.m., as I recall.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Preparing for Economic Trouble

Politicians and economic pundits are celebrating the health of our economy, boasting of a vibrant Dow Jones Industrial index that has reached an all time high. There are some good reasons to question the conventional wisdom and to prepare now for economic trouble in coming months. First of all, the "good news" of this all-time high requires studied ignorance about one of the most important factors in our economy: inflation. Peter Schiff in "Don't Buy the Dow's New High" shows that taking inflation into account, the levels of the Dow and other major indexes are well below their levels in 2000. The average investor may think he or she has made substantial gains in mutual funds, bonds, and stocks, when in fact, after adjusting for inflation, wealth has been lost.

Second, the new high in the Dow appears to be based on heavy recent buying in just seven of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow, while more broad indicators are pointing to trouble, not health in the market. The Dow is an easy index to manipulate if people with access to big bucks want to generate some good news. Now I don't know why anybody would want good economic news right before the November elections, but there is a divergence in reality between the economic news we are getting from economists and the actual performance of most stocks. Important indicators are pointing to trouble ahead, not the least of which is the strong down trend in the housing market, which has often been a powerfully accurate indicator of where the general stock market will be about twelve months in advance. There are many reasons to brace for trouble. Some are discussed by Roger Wiegand, who sees evidence for stagflation.

The same pundits who praise the health of the economy say that the bull market in commodities (gold, silver, oil, etc.) is over. I believe the opposite is true. Temporary corrections do not break commodity bull markets. If you had put your money into gold or silver instead of stocks in 2000, you would be far ahead of any major index on Wall Street. I suggest you diversity now and brace for a serious recession ahead. In your 401(k), for example, consider having components in the energy sector, precious metals (e.g., the GLD and SLV exchange traded funds), some foreign stocks and bonds to help hedge against a weakening dollar, and some cash, inflation-adjusted bonds, and some sectors that do well in recessions (perhaps pharmaceuticals or biotechs?). I'm just an amateur, so do your own research and make your own decisions - these are just suggestions to help protect your vanishing wealth.

And please, get out of debt, and get all the education you can.