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

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Prepare for a Tougher Job Market

"Jobs News Even Worse Than We Thought" by Paul Craig Roberts resonates with what I'm seeing. Our politicians, as they support and actively enable the exporting of thousands of jobs overseas while allowing millions of people to take lower-paying jobs, keep talking about all the great high-end jobs that are being created, thanks to hefty government spending. The reality is that jobs across the spectrum are being lost or salaries are driven down. Is anybody watching out for America, and for the future of your children?

The Church's advice to prepare for the future, be frugal, stay out of debt, and get all the education you can makes more sense than ever.

Of course, you all know that there's really no problem - all these jobs being given to others are jobs that US citizens just don't want and won't take, as President Bush has helpfully explained. Hey, all you engineers, what's your problem? Why don't you want a real engineering job for $7 an hour? And you construction workers, if you all weren't so lazy those $12-a-day jobs could be yours!

Placental Stem Cells: Why Not?

It seems like relatively few debates about stem cells point out how much can be done using placental and cord blood stem cells, cells that are not obtained by killing a fetus. In fact, I just read about a grandfather-to-be who is making a special gift to his grandchildren by paying for the storage of their placental and cord blood stem cells so they could be used later, if needed, to provide medical assistance to his posterity. This commercial service is being offered by LifeBank USA. I'll be looking into this myself. (Disclosure: LifeBank is a subsidiary of my favorite biotech company, Celgene, for which I am a very happy stockholder.)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Please, We Need Even More Publicity for The DaVinci Code!

The local newspapers out here in Wisconsin are utter disappointments, a genuine disgrace to their profession. The Appleton paper, for example, has fallen way behind the rest of the media world by providing only 3 front page stories about the anti-Christian movie, The DaVinci Code - and only two of those were the focus story in full color, and one was just on the front page of the "Life" section of the paper, not page A1. Perhaps I missed a few additional stories inside the newspaper, but it's clear we're far behind the times.

On the plus side, our local media have done a good job of following other basic best practices for the US media, including giving The DaVinci Code far more positive publicity than The Passion of the Christ, depicting Dan Brown's shoddy anti-Christian work as an interesting theory with merit, not suggesting that anti-Christian bigotry might be associated with the work, and not exposing the work for its ridiculous factual errors. One recent article focused on which was better, the book or the movie (answer: "both are worth your money"). Ah, now that's journalism.

See "The Trashing of the Christ," a summary of a report by the Media Research Center, to get a feel for how the TV networks have promoted Ron Brown's work.
The report concludes that one reason for the commercial success of The DaVinci Code movie (as well as the book) was very aggressive salesmanship on the part of the network news divisions. "Network television news stars may boast at seminars that they are tough on everyone, but in real life, their devotion to secularism is almost religious in its intensity."
Yeah, sometimes it kind of makes you wonder what possesses them.

Of course, I'm being too harsh. There are other journalistic priorities to consider, like the Green Bay Packers, reminding us that everything is going to be OK thanks to the new immigration bill, and getting the latest scoop on Hollywood celebrities. Perhaps we'll get a full section devoted to the movie this weekend, so there's still hope.

Update: Several people have expressed the notion that Dan Brown's work is, after all, just fiction and nothing to worry about. One commenter didn't see why I would call it anti-Christian. Here is my response:

I understand that the movie is so drenched in dull dialog, two-dimensional characters, and a ridiculous developments that reviewers simply could not find a way to lavish praise on Ron Howard's work. But the negative reviews about the directing and acting don't detract from the real thrust of the media efforts to give positive attention to Dan Brown's work.

While the novel is fiction, Dan Brown and his supporters insist that it is carefully researched and based on historical fact. And while readers know it is fiction, many of them are being convinced that Jesus was an ordinary mortal, that Christianity is based on a lie, the paganism is a superior religious expression, and that Christian religion is inherently anti-female.

I know of at least one Latter-day Saint family that has been devastated by the impact of the anti-Christian agenda of The DaVinci Code. The LDS mother became convinced that the Church's foundation in Jesus Christ was a foundation on a lie, and that the Church, like Christianity in general, was anti-woman. Great harm has been done.

Most of the opponents of Christianity believe that the Bible is fiction. But it is fiction they dread and oppose, for a book, fiction or not, can shape the hearts and minds of people. References to that alleged work of fiction are largely banned in our schools, and even silently reading that work of fiction in public has resulted in teachers being fired. The book is a threat to what they stand for.

How many of the anti-Christian vigilantes shrug their shoulders and say, "Well, it's only fiction - why not let everybody read it and discuss it?" No, they recognize the power that a book can have. And while I despise the means they use, we should at least learn from them that books and movies can affect a culture.

Christians too often ignore the endless assaults on our faith and culture from the elite of our society. It's time we recognize when we are being attacked and, in a civil and just manner, fight back.

Step one is to recognize that Dan Brown and his many supporters are deliberately pushing an anti-Christian agenda. The divinity of Christ and the foundation of Christianity is under assault. I think Latter-day Saints and all Christians need to understand that and be prepared to speak out against the offensive agenda of Dan Brown.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Of Soccer and Human Trafficking: Shame on Germany, Kudos to a Catholic Group

The German government's open support for prostitution and massive human sex-trafficking for 2006 World Cup in Germany next month has moved a Catholic organization to take action against that travesty of human dignity. The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, C-FAM, has launched a "Stop World Cup Prostitution" campaign. Many thanks, C-FAM, for speaking out.

I am appalled at the magnitude of human degradation through Germany's prostitution business, greatly amplified by World Cup soccer. Many women are pressured, tricked, or forced into prostitution to support the greed of big business and ruthless masters. What a terrible thing to legalize.

I hope more Catholics and more people of all faiths will speak out against the crime of prostitution, whether it's legal or not.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

That Polka Worship Thing

My town of Appleton, Wisconsin is experiencing a religious revival that might be something like the revivals that were going on in Joseph Smith's day around the time of the First Vision. But instead of fervent camp meetings, religious zeal in this area is expressed in other ways.

It's not just the Packers and the cheesehead thing. Polka worship is where it's really at. I've previously documented the local Catholic outreach effort through their polka mass program. Now the Lutherans are turning up the heat in the competition for converts with their own polka worship service. It seems to be working well.

Meanwhile, our local LDS leaders are still hesitant about polka. We'll just have to wait until General Conference to do our polka thing in the streets while also running our Octoberfest fundraising booth in downtown Appleton, which then becomes a cornucopia of polka delight for those who venture away, ever so briefly, from the sanctity of our Tiger Paws manufacturing booth.

Update for offended souls: This is meant to poke fun at Wisconsin, not the fun that other churches have with their music. Polka, Packers, cheesehead hats, and brats are just so Wisconsin, and naturally have an impact on local worship. People in Utah need to know what they're missing and hustle out here to Wisconsin. Where else can you find polka on the religion page? Honestly, there's nothing wrong with polka or even with accordions. And in spite of my Scottish heritage, I personally would prefer an accordion and a polka tune on Sunday over almost any hymn on a bagpipe.

(The photo comes from the Aug. 12, 2006 Post-Crescent newspaper of Appleton, Wisconsin.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Reassessing Lehi's Trail

George Potter and Richard Wellington's book, Lehi in the Wilderness (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2003) provides many interesting insights into Book of Mormon issues in the Arabian Peninsula, and I've been a fan of it for some time, but it suffers from some serious flaws, as I have just learned from a recent FARMS publication. The authors offer tantalizing finds, but in spite of their field work and abundant photographs and maps, they may have made some major errors at the beginning of the path they identify. While their candidate for the Valley of Lemuel and the River Laman seem truly impressive, there is a good case that it is too far from the shores of the Red Sea and that the path required to reach it is implausible, as is discussed in the review, "The Wrong Place for LehiÂ’s Trail and the Valley of Lemuel" by Jeffrey R. Chadwick (FARMS Review, Vol. 17, No. 2, 2005). Chadwick proposes that Bir Marsha, a place easily accessed from the coast of the Red Sea and not distant from Potter's candidate, may be more suitable for the Valley of Lemuel, though there may be several other good choices.

As for the River Laman, Chadwick believes that it only need have been a wadi flowing with water at the time of Lehi's sermon to his sons, and that it need not flow continuously. Lehi said that it ran continuously to the Red Sea, not that it flowed continuously, and this can be fulfilled by a path for a wadi that goes into the Red Sea, regardless of how often the path has flowing water.

Much more to discuss - am out of time today.

Chadwick says that the book still has significant value, in spite of some incorrect locations, and I agree.

What's especially interesting, though, is that there is a plausible candidate or two for the specific sites in the Arabian Peninsula that we find in the Book of Mormon - something that would be most unlikely if the book were forged based on what even the best scholars knew in 1930.

Baseball Has Become a Lot More Interesting . . .

Last night after another little league baseball game, my 14-year-old son said, "Baseball has become a lot more interesting now that everybody is talking about the Church." On Monday, one of the team members noticed that my wife was wearing a BYU sweater and asked my son if he was Mormon. "Cool," the Catholic boy said. "That's a sweet faith." He and another team member had done separate school reports about the Mormons, and were interested in learning more. And now other team members have been asking my son all sorts of interesting questions. He's really enjoyed the chance to talk to them about the Church.

(Ever notice how frequently Mormons are the topic of school reports?)

"A sweet faith" - yes, I guess I have to agree.

Interesting how a simple BYU sweater could lead to interesting opportunities to share the Gospel and enhance the enjoyment level of baseball.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Kaleidoscopic Worship

Multimedia tools and other forms of modern technology play an increasing role in modern religion - nothing wrong with that! Out here in Wisconsin, we sometimes have PowerPoint presentations in our training meetings, for example. But our efforts pale in comparison to some other groups.

The above clipping comes from the May 20, 2006 religion page of the Post-Crescent newspaper, where I was frustrated to see that one of our Protestant competitors had decided to show up our missionary musical devotional last week with a special "Kaleidoscopic Worship" service. Sounds mighty interesting - which is a real shame for us!

Sadly, our conservative Stake President rejected my plans for a total immersion virtual reality cube multisensory aromatherapy ska/reggae service - even after I cut out the massage therapy portion. (The only total immersion he'll allow is in plain old water with converts dressed in white.) Once again, I wonder how we can possibly compete.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bearded Figures in Mexico's National Museum of Anthropology

The ceramic figure below comes from the Late Classical Period from the Monte Alban site in Oaxaca, Mexico, and is on display in Mexico City's magnificent National Museum of Anthropology. Since modern Native Americans generally lack the ability to grow beards, the presence of bearded figures in ancient Mesoamerica suggests that some genetic features found among ancient Mesoamericans were lost over time (plague, perhaps, or assimilation in other groups?).

Bearded figures are also known from the Olmecs. Here is a sculpture simply labeled as "Bearded Man." The description also notes that Quetzlcoatl is sometimes depicted with a beard.

Here's one more from the Classical Period of the Gulf Coast region, called "Old God."

Hey, I think it looks like Amalickiah! Man, the evidence just keeps piling up around here.

Stone Boxes on Display in Mexico City

In March, my work duties took me to Mexico City, where one evening I had a little time to rush through the National Museum of Anthropology. One thing that was hard to miss was the many examples of ancient stone boxes that were used to house sacred objects such as offerings to the gods. Here is one example from Teotihuacan:

Missionaries Living with Members: A Pilot Program

A couple missions in Wisconsin and Colorado are apparently part of a new pilot program in which some missionaries no longer have their own apartments, but live with local members who meet certain qualifications. The program appears to be aimed at reducing housing costs for missionaries. There is some modest compensation to the members, but much less than market prices for rent. I'd like to know if any of you are aware of the pilot program or have any experience with the concept.

From my perspective, it seems like quite a burden to put on both the members and the missionaries. It's sort of like having distant relatives stay with you for a prolonged period of time, but relatives who have strict rules. For example, the host family can't simply play whatever music they like to listen to when the missionaries are around, and that's one of the least of the awkward issues that can crop up when families share a home with elders.

Might be a great concept for some purposes, but I'm not comfortable with it. Any insights or experiences you care to share?

I suppose one could think that a benefit is the added supervision from having members nearby, perhaps reducing the risks of bad behavior. But it seems like many typical homes could provide an awful lot of temptation when the owners are away - cable TV, Internet access, the old Harley in the garage, etc. Most missionaries are completely trustworthy, but it's hard for me to overlook the risks and inconveniences to both parties.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Music as a Tool to Bring People to Christ: Good News from our Musical Fireside

We recently had a little musical fireside in which four missionaries with outstanding musical talent performed for a group of people in our Stake Center. Two were music majors (including one who was at the Peabody Conservatory before coming on a mission) and the other two had been playing for years. Violin, mandolin, piano and guitar - a nice combination you don't hear everyday.

The highlight of the evening (other than the unplanned entertainment from a cute little girl in a flowing dress who stood in front of the stage and danced energetically and gracefully during much of the music) was probably their special arrangement of "How Great Thou Art." During this number, one long-time investigator reported that she felt the Spirit strongly confirming that she needed to be baptized. She was baptized Monday morning. Music on Saturday, baptism on Monday. Not bad! Sure glad we had that hastily thrown-together event! And I'm mighty grateful for the missionaries who, unbeknownst to me, had been quietly preparing for such an event in case an opportunity arose. They had been practicing together on preparation days for a couple of months since they were all in the same area (three companionships in three nearby wards were involved).

I'm also grateful that the Mission President was supportive and has allowed them to have instruments with them that they can practice occasionally on their missions. One of the music majors said it was interesting to note that he's felt his musical talents grow faster while on a mission, when he has a lot less time to practice, than before his mission. "Less practice, better sound - go figure." This kind of blessing undoubtedly won't be given to all those who sacrifice the pursuit of their musical or other talents for missionary service, but I'm glad it happened in at least one case.

I wonder how often music plays a role in helping people accept the Gospel. It's certainly an important part of worship, and can open channels to the heart and mind that mere discourse cannot.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Find the Gospel Symbolism: Winners Announced

In a previous post, I showed the following photo and challenged people to come up with creative Gospel symbolism based on it. With the deadline now behind us, I had my family provide input to each of the entries. As a result, we came up with a tie for first place and an honorable mention. The winners, who will each receive a silver half-dollar (send me your address!) and instant fame and glory here (send me your photos, if you wish, and a paragraph about you), are Bro. Brandon B. and Josh Maready, with Bookslinger as the honorable mention.

Here are their comments:

Bro. Brandon B.:
Many of us are blessed with talents that we develop, like music and song... however the complexities involved in our display of these talents often misguides us to undervalue and overlook the simple complexities in Heavenly Father's creations. Take an orange, for instance. A simple fruit, that grows on a tree. Heavenly Father created it. Not only did he make it delicious, but makes it easy for us to understand when it is ripe by color-coding it. Green = too soon, bright orange= just right. Sometimes we must humble ourselves and recognize that our talents are not always ripe. As the orange requires water, good soil, and sunshine - our talents will require practice, care, and consideration in order to develop into something truly special. Few pianists will ripen overnight... but with the Holy Ghost's sunshine they will over time.

Josh Maready:
The keys to true happiness lie under the shadow of the Spirit's fruit.

A time and place for everything

Not everything that is good goes together. A fresh ripe orange is good in its sphere, nutritious, tasty, pleasing to behold and to eat.

A well-made and tuned piano is good in its sphere, capable of producing beautiful music that is pleasing and uplifting.

But they do not go together. One cannot eat an orange and simultaneously play a piano well. One would not want to eat an orange at their piano because getting orange juice between the keys on the keyboard would damage it.

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all who participated. Hope the winners enjoy their prize. (And this, by the way, is a great time to load up on silver as an awesome investment - an excellent dip for wise buyers who understand not only the risks of inflation we face, but the inherent high demand and limited supply of what is both a precious and industrial metal.)

Update: Here are 3 photos of one of our winners, Josh Maready, followed by a few words from him.

Josh speaks:
i was born and raised in southeastern NC (Wilmington area). i served a full-time mission in Portland, Oregon from '98-2000. after my mission, i lived most of my life as a gypsy/nomad/vagabond/undercover missionary/freelance writer/professional skateboarder. between touring as a skateboarder and my traveling to satisfy my wanderlust, i never stayed in one place for too long. i've hitchhiked all over the place (once from ocean-to-ocean) and would still be hitchhiking today, had i not hitchhiked through Orlando, Florida and found my wife working as a hostess at a restaurant. Now i'm semi-domesticated, living in Manhattan, NYC. i still write freelance for a few magazines or do odd jobs. i just recently finished a book about being a full-time missionary, and am in the process of fine-tuning it before i go agent-hunting. hmmm -- what else. oh, as far as i know, i have bragging rights as being the only Mormon who has ever skateboarded across the country. i hold a piece of the world record (you can google "skate across america" or "josh maready" to see some of the details. and if, for some crazy reason, you end up reading the article "Headwind Sucks" online, i did NOT throw the mother-of-all cuss words in there. Thrasher mag did that. i was bummed) for doing it in 21 days. that's about it, i guess. i'm just an average guy trying to fight the good fight.

-josh maready
Awesome! Thanks, Josh! And may you always be quoted without spurious addition of the mother of all cusswords - something I sincerely wish for myself as well.

Now here's something from our other winner, Brandon B.:
I am a young, married LDS convert of about three years. My wife and I were sealed in the Washington, D.C. Temple and live happily and frugally in Eastern Pennsylvania in a Philadelphia suburb far enough away to still have farmland. I am a volunteer firefighter at our local fire company. My favorite hobbies include some amateur photography, camping, hiking, and shooting my pistols at my local gun club. Being a recent convert, I did not serve a mission - but look forward to doing so later in life with my wife as my companion! I enjoy my current calling as the Ward membership clerk, while my wife has been sent to the land of VIPP's (very important primary persons) with the children.

As I work full time at a college, I take classes as well and hope to end up in a law enforcement position in the next couple years. I have lived in PA all my life, and hope to stay here. I'm not a particularly exciting person, however I lead a good and enjoyable life! Mormanity is one of few places that I visit on the internet - a tribute to the quality of Jeff's work and dedication towards the church and other causes that he values. The only other places that I visit often enough to mention are timesandseasons.org , kk.org/cooltools, and glocktalk.com. The prize of silver is wonderful, considering that I plan to invest early and retire young! God Bless!
Thanks a million, Brandon! Sure appreciate your support. And don't sell your silver until it hits at least at least $100 an ounce. It will, perhaps within the decade.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cheap Grace and Easy Amnesty

Some of my favorite experiences in the past few months have involved visiting Spanish-speaking families with our local missionaries, including some families that are here illegally. While I'm uncomfortable with our porous borders, I can understand their quest to find something better for their families. I'm happy for them in general, but there are some nagging issues to face.

In thinking about President Bush's apparent desires to placate Mexico versus the legal path to citizenship and the Constitutional duty to protect our borders (especially in times of war - isn't there some kind of war going on?), it occurred to me that some of my problems with his approach are similar to my problems with what what some call "cheap grace" (in one form, this could be just repeating a prayer to be instantly saved regardless of any prior or subsequent behavior).

Becoming a citizen of the United States has a few things in common with becoming a citizen in the Church. Both require meeting some qualifications, making a covenant, and receiving a change in status through properly authorized personnel. Receiving the blessings of forgiveness and citizenship in the household of God through covenants to follow Christ and the ordinance of baptism is a manifestation of true grace, grace that is offered in a covenant relationship, with some requirements from the recipient (e.g., repentance, faith in Christ, etc.). When the blessings of citizenship are extended to immigrants who meet the requirements, it is also a form of kindness from the United States, though the gate to legal citizenship is much narrower than the Lord's gate.

Some of the same problems that I see with "cheap grace" also seem to apply to the "cheap citizenship" that is essentially being offered by de facto amnesty to illegal immigrants (excuse me - I mean the undocumented illegals - sorry for the lapse into politically incorrect speech) in the guise of President Bush's temporary worker program. To me, some forms of "cheap grace" lessen the appreciation of the recipient for the gift, and often fail to transform the life and behavior of the believer, in contrast to those who accept and live covenants based on following Christ and repenting of our sins. Likewise, I worry that simply granting amnesty and citizenship to those who have flaunted the law and sought for shortcuts will not instill respect for the gift of citizenship and will not transform the recipients into fellow Americans who share respect for our principles and our liberty. And of course, those who waited years to become citizens or even to enter our borders legally will feel robbed and cheated. And then others will be angry to be paying social security and higher taxes and insurance to cover millions who came here illegally and have now brought their families under President Bush's "cheap citizenship" program. It's not a way to build a unified society, that's for sure.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Just Wanted to Crawl Under My Chair . . .

At the Detroit airport tonight, waiting for a late flight, I just wanted to crawl under my chair as I and about 100 other people near me watched the lengthy CNN special report on Warren Jeffs, the polygamist wanted for several serious crimes. The story did little to explain the difference between Jeffs and the LDS Church. His group was described as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his Texas compound/temple was shown and then followed with images of the Salt Lake Temple. Ugh. But they did fail to show photos of Gordon B. Hinckley surrounded by girls at Young Women's events - let's be greatful for that.

Don Krakauer, author of the nasty rantings in Under the Banner of Heaven, was the expert brought in to discuss polygamy. He did have the decency to note that the LDS Church has long abandoned polygamy, but the editing by CNN would probably have confused a lot of people. As all these people watched this story in fascination, I really felt very little desire to do any missionary work tonight. I guess I could have stood up and said, "Hey, everybody, I'm a Mormon, and I promise I've only got one wife. Just one, really! So, any of you want a free Book of Mormon?"

Well, my poor attitude in the face of perceived public opposition gives me something to ponder. There will be more of this, on other issues. We will be painted in negative light for our stance on the family and on morality, for example, and done with such effectiveness that others will want to cringe and crawl under their seats rather than be identified as a member of a "hate group" or anti-woman cult or whatever the spin will be.

Plus I really don't like polygamy and can't really explain why it would have ever been implemented in any dispensation - too far outside my cultural values and personal paradigms to make sense. There are plenty of things I don't understand, especially when it deals with remote events that can be interpreted in several ways, which is why I really need to rely on the core things I can understand and experience now: the divinity of the Book of Mormon, the reality of prayer, the power of the Priesthood, the goodness of God, the incredible power of the Atonement of Christ, the small but clear miracles that occur when we seek to serve God and follow His commandments, and so forth. Maybe some day other things will make more sense to me, but for now, a lot of faith is still required.

I just hope I can have more strength in dealing with whatever negative publicity and public opposition lies ahead for the Church. It won't be easy. Matthew 24 indicates that even the very elect will be deceived, and I seem to recall that a footnote there indicates that some will also want to just crawl under their chair.


The LDS section at About.com has an interesting post on DNA and the Book of Mormon, which was alluded to in a recent comment on my blog by Doug Forbes (thanks, Doug!). Here is the comment:
The best evidence against anti-Mormon claims about DNA is the 1999 Hammer study. In the current nomenclature, this relates to Q-P36. The presence of Q-P36 in modern Jews is also supported by later research. (Shen 2004 & Behar 2004) Shen also found Q-P36 (a.k.a. M242 a.k.a. 1C) in 5% of Iraqi Jews. He also finds a rare Q sublineage (Q-M323) in Yemeni Jews. This is interesting because it suggests that Q existed in Ancient Israel as well as modern Jews. I've been working on short responces to the anti-Mormon DNA lie that I use a lot on the web. Below is one example.

Assertions that DNA contradicts the Book of Mormon are rubbish. There are a dozen or so male lineages in modern Jews. None of them are unique to Jews and almost all of them are found in American Indians. Some of this can be written off as post-Columbian admixture, but the gulf between a plausible explanation and absolute proof is vast. Furthermore, some shared lineages are undoubtedly pre-Columbian; Q-P36 is a prime example.

For support, I usually cite the following sources to support the accompanying statements.

Despite denials, the genetic link between Jews and American Indians has been established fact since 1999 [1].
[1] Hammer et al, 1999, Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations share a common pool of Y-chromosome biallelic haplotypes (PNAS | June 6, 2000 | vol. 97 | no. 12 | 6769-6774). See [5]
M. F. Hammer - Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and Evolution, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.
The Q-P36 lineage group is found in 31% of US American Indians [2]
[2] Hammer et al, 2005, Population structure of Y-chromosome SNP haplogroups in the United States and forensic implications for constructing Y chromosome STR databases. Page 5 Figure 1
M. F. Hammer - Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and Evolution, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.
[Q-P36 is found in] 5% of Ashkenazi Jews [3]
[3] Behar et al, 2004, Contrasting patterns of Y chromosome variation in Ashkenazi Jewish and host non-Jewish European populations. (Human Genetics, Volume 114, Number 4, March 2004, Pages: 354 – 365). Page 357 Table 2 and Page 362 quote=“Because they have similar distributions as these major founder lineages, albeit at lower frequencies, we suggest that haplogroups G-M201 and Q-P36 are minor AJ founding lineages.”
Doron M. Behar - Faculty of Medicine and Research Institute, Technion and Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, Israel
[Q-P36 is found in] 5% of Iraqi Jews [4]
[4] Shen et al, 2004, Reconstruction of Patrilineages and Matrilineages of Samaritans and other Israeli populations from Y-Chromosome and Mitochondrial DNA Sequence Variation. (Human Mutation, Volume 24, Issue 3 , Pages 248 - 260) Page 251 Figure 1 (M242 a.k.a. Q* a.k.a. Q-P36) also page 249 quote=”Nine of the 30 markers were genotyped only in individuals carrying the following proximal markers: ……..; M242 in individuals with M45”
Peidong Shen - Stanford Genome Technology Center, Palo Alto, California; Department of Genetics
[Q-P36 is found in] a significant number of Iranian Jews [5].
[5] Hammer et al, 1999, Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations share a common pool of Y-chromosome biallelic haplotypes. (PNAS | June 6, 2000 | vol. 97 | no. 12 | 6769-6774) Page 6770 Table 1, See translation for 1C in Y Chromosome Consortium.
M. F. Hammer - Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and Evolution, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.
Have to run right now, but will look at this in more detail this weekend. Doug, care to provide further commentary? Anyone familiar with the Hammer work and the significance of the Q-P36 lineage? The 1999 Hammer study is available here.

Update: In my opinion, the presence of these markers in native Americans is not relevant to the Book of Mormon. In the 2005 Hammer et al. study, there was no effort to reduce the effects of admixture and no intent of understanding ancient roots. The Native Americans studied clearly had ancestry from modern Europeans - so why is it interesting that they shared some genes with European and Middle Eastern groups?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"If Only 10% of These Charges, Are True, The Church is False" - The Fallacy of Quantity Versus Quality

In one of my first experiences in helping to teach the Gospel out here in Wisconsin, we had a new convert in our home who had been given volumes of anti-Mormon literature by her former pastor. She came in with a stack of books, relying especially upon a thick tome that I think was written by the Tanners. She asked one pointed question after another, all of which had reasonable answers, in my opinion. We dealt with them one at a time, turning to answers from the scriptures, when appropriate, or making points based on logic or other sources of information. After about 40 minutes of this, she grew impatient and said something like, "Look, maybe you'’ve got answers for the questions I'’ve raised, but there are hundreds more arguments in this book. How can the Church be true when there are so many arguments against it?" I said that itÂ’s easy to make arguments against anything. I reminded her of the days of early Christianity when there were numerous false witnesses against Christ, when there were paid witnesses who said that the tomb had been raided by Christians to fake the Resurrection, when all the elite religious leaders of the Jews spoke against Christ, and when the whole Roman world seemed to speak against Christ and the Christians. There were volumes and volumes of arguments against the Church back then, too. "If you were living them, how could you see past the massive arguments and recognize the divinity of the Son of God and the truth of Christianity?"

Unwilling to acknowledge the importance of a spiritual witness, she returned to her anti-Mormon books. I pointed out that while we had examined only a few of the arguments, the ones she had raised had reasonable answers, and some even demonstrated a lack of integrity on the part of the authors. Her answer surprised me: "I don'’t care. Even if only 10% of that book is true, that'’s enough to prove the Church is false."

Ah, the fallacy of quantity versus quality, a key tool in the Adversary'’s arsenal. Impress them with shear volume, wear them out with endless attacks, and many will succumb, overwhelmed by the image and impression of strength.

I recently received a letter from a former LDS member explaining why he and his wife were leaving the Church. In that letter, he acknowledged that there may be "excuses" to deal with each anti-Mormon argument when taken individually, but that taken together as a whole, the case against the Church is overwhelming. He then lists a barrage of arguments, mentioning DNA and the Book of Mormon, anachronisms, 4,000 changes in the Book of Mormon, racism, polygamy, the Temple and masonry, etc. -- problems that each can be dealt with if one takes the time to understand the issues and examines the assumptions behind them. Even then, one must be willing to recognize that there always will be some gaps in our understanding and that no amount of evidence and study will remove the need for faith or replace the power of a witness from the Holy Ghost. But there are answers, sometimes powerful answers that turn apparent weaknesses in the Book of Mormon, for example, into strong evidence for authenticity. But such insights do not come from a superficial glance at the text and related literature. Sadly, he has become another victim of the fallacy of quantity versus quality.

There are tough arguments, indeed. DNA and the Book of Mormon is a great example of this. And for a meaningful understanding of the issues, one must identify assumptions and evaluate information from a variety of perspectives. In so doing, one can come away with a better understanding of what the Book of Mormon is and what it is not. But the Adversary would have us just fold based upon a superficial examination: "Yikes, a guy with a Ph.D. says the Book of Mormon is phooey. Indians are Jews -- oh my!"

The Gospel is true, and the Book of Mormon is a divine, authentic book of scripture, in spite of whatever mountains of books and brochures against it the enemy can mount. And Jesus is the Son of God, no matter how many false witnesses and Ph.D.s and celebrities take a stand against Him. It'’s not about who can shout the loudest and longest, but Whose gentle voice we listen for amidst the senseless shouting of men.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Caring for the Needy: The Lord's Way vs. Satan's Counterfeits

It seems like there is a counterfeit version of nearly everything that comes from God. Government, priesthood, miracles of healing, scriptures, spiritual experiences, sacred ordinances, marriage and family, and so forth all have their counterfeit versions. And even the basic concept of caring for the poor with an organized welfare system has its own demonic counterfeit when corrupt and vile organizations exploit poverty and hunger for their own gain. The sexual exploitation of children by United Nations workers is a classic example of this. The problems in Liberia right now are just a tiny piece of long-standing pattern of horrific abuse and one more reason why the world will not be made safer by turning over ultimate power and sovereignty to a massive international organization based on the principles of global socialism, which is another example of Satan's counterfeits. Giving the corrupt elite even more power is not the way to peace.

Have I stated that tactfully enough?

The problems were already bad enough back in 2004 when some degree of public outrage was expressed over the growing reports. But as WorldNetDaily put it in 2004, sexual abuse was not the only recent scandal involving the UN and Africa:
The new charges of rape and pedophilia by U.N. troops and workers in Congo are not the first scandal involving U.N. workers and troops in Africa.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's tenure was marked by scandalous charges that he played a leading role in supplying weapons to the Hutu regime that carried out a campaign of genocide against the Tutsi tribe in 1994.

As minister of foreign affairs in Egypt, Boutros-Ghali facilitated an arms deal in 1990, which was to result in $26 million of mortar bombs, rocket launchers, grenades and ammunition being flown from Cairo to Rwanda. The arms were used by Hutus in attacks which led to up to a million deaths. The role of Boutros-Ghali, who was in charge at the U.N. when it turned its back on the killings in 1994, was revealed in a book by Linda Melvern. In "A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide," Boutros-Ghali admits his role in approving an initial $5.8 million arms deal in 1990, which led to Egypt supplying arms to Rwanda until 1992. He says he approved it because it was his job as foreign minister to sell weapons for Egypt.
By their fruits ye shall know them.

We continue on the path to surrendering increasing amounts of US sovereignty to international institutions outside the principles of the Constitution. We are on a path toward massive loss of liberty. The Gospel will still roll forth, but what challenges we face in the future as a nation too obsessed with pleasure and entertainment to care about the vital gift of liberty, a nation happy to hand it all over to others in the name of security and prosperity. Rome, Germany, Russia, and China have been down that path. Book of Mormon peoples faced related challenges, and wrote powerful prophecies for our day that we cannot ignore (Ether 8, for example).

May God bless America and kindle a spirit of liberty once again.

Gospel Symbolism Challenge - and Prizes!

Some teachers are able to take many situations and find Gospel parallels or symbolism. So here's a challenge to you, based on one of my random photos. How could you use this image to teach some Gospel principle? The winner should include references to more than just the piano or just the fruit. First prize? Fame and glory, including a paragraph or two about you and/or a thought you wish to share and/or a photo you wish to share, all posted here (subject to editorial approval for good taste).

OK, I'll also throw in a 1964 90% silver Kennedy half-dollar which has almost $5 of silver right now - but if I'm right, will soon have much more silver than that without gaining any mass (I do that solely to encourage the wise out there to start investing in silver while it's still so cheap - I'm serious). Honorable mention for second place will also be made. Contest ends May 15 (the same day my Appleton Mystery Photo Contest ends, also with silver prizes).

(As with most photos here, clicking will enlarge it slightly, though the original image has much higher resolution still.)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Those Marvelous Musical Missionaries

We had a wonderful baptismal service today for a very intelligent and inquisitive woman, someone we're all very proud of and excited to see join the Church. The service was really uplifting for me. Part of the joy of the event came from the marvelous musical missionaries of the Appleton, Wisconsin Stake. Four sets of Elders serving in four local wards bring amazing musical talents that came together today to offer one of the best musical moments of any baptismal service ever. Several are serious musicians. One of them, Elder Hofer, is planning on an advanced degree in violin performance. He and the other elders sang and performed a stirring arrangement of "How Great Thou Art" using violin, guitar, piano, and mandolin (yes, the mandolin! and it really fit in nicely).

The Bishop and I were so impressed that we made plans to have a ward fireside featuring this musical missionary group next Saturday night at 6:00 PM in the Neenah building. We had to act fast and book them before transfers occur in a couple weeks, possibly moving some of this group to remote parts of the mission. The fireside will be a tribute to mothers (maybe we can get that out of our system on Saturday night and focus more on the Gospel of Jesus Christ on Mothers' Day? - just a thought! no offense to all you moms) and a missionary event, with other wards in the area invited to attend, if they wish. We've already got Stake approval for the activity and have communicated with the other units in the area. Hey, you're all invited. Come on over!

Oh, about that baptismal font. Not as bad as I thought. I was there at 6:00 AM to fill it, and was largely done by about 8:10 AM in time for our 9 AM service. Not too bad. Of course, I did mess with the hydraulics to adjust a strange Bell and Gossett "circuit setter" contraption in both lines that was restricting water flow. I changed it to allow a higher flow rate and the water heater kept up fine. Maybe I've just voided the warranty on the whole building, don't know. Anyone know what those devices are for? Wait, was that a tremor I felt? Why is the floor here starting to buckle? Oh no, its---
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Friday, May 05, 2006

Let's Teach More About the Content of the Temple to Prepare Our Members

Just got a note from someone saying that one of the reasons his wife left the Church was that she was bothered by the expectation to make sacred covenants in the Endowment ceremony that she had not had time to think about. She felt their presentation was rapid fire and in an intimidating setting. That pains me. Out here, when I've taught temple preparation classes, I've discussed the basic nature of the major covenants of the Endowment to make sure people are prepared to make and keep them. Isn't that what everyone does? Obviously not clearly enough.

Preparing people for the Temple must mean preparing them to make and accept the covenants to follow Christ and seek to build up the kingdom of God. And people better know about those funny garments as well! Come on, let's don't let people come back from the Temple all surprised about everything. The better prepared they are, the more profound their first experience will be. It is a different place, a step back into an ancient world based on covenants and sacred symbols, and people need to be prepared. Otherwise it will just seem corny or overwhelming or boring, when in reality it is magnificent.

And it wouldn't hurt a bit to have people read some non-LDS literature as part of their preparation. Mircea Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane, for example, is a nice place to start.

Repentance: An Unusual Christian Concept?

One LDS person who talks with lots of people about religion told me that he likes to point to our emphasis on repentance as a primary factor distinguishing us from other faiths, and he often brings this up early in conversations on religion. I was initially surprised by his view, but I guess I will admit that in this part of the world, I don't hear a lot of discussion about repentance coming from ministers of other faiths (and certainly not from members of their congregation), but I miss most of their sermons, to be sure.

But to the extent that repentance from sin is not emphasized in some other faiths, can that be taken as clear evidence of a doctrinal drift from the days of early Christianity? Frankly, I am sometimes amazed at how little the world understands sin and repentance, and wish a little more would be said to motivate people to come unto Christ through faith AND repentance.

Just for the record, I think y'all need to repent, myself included.

Of course, our approach to repentance is informed by the knowledge that humans do have sufficient free will to choose God or reject Him, and that we can choose to repent (with His help - in fact, only through the power of the Atonement) and come unto Christ. Repentance involves some effort on our part - it's not automatic once the mind acknowledges the divine Sonship of Christ.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Fewer Baptisms, Please" - The Impact of a New Building Design?

While the Appleton, Wisconsin Stake is mighty proud of its new Stake Center where the our new Neenah Ward meets, there have been a few surprises about this modern, spacious building that make me miss the old Appleton building to the north where my family used to meet. The new building in Neenah, for one thing, has the most amazing design for the baptistery. The baptismal font is next to the Relief Society room where doors can be opened to allow people to observe baptisms. Or perhaps a baptism - the layout of the font is going to discourage the use of the plural form.

In the new-fangled layout, there is only one way for a person in the Relief Society room to get to the font to be baptized. Instead of simply opening a door in the room that leads to the font, one has to leave the room, walk down the hall, turn a corner, and enter a men's or woman's bathroom. To get to the door that leads to the font from the bathroom of choice, one must open the door to a stall area where a bench is located. That's OK, one can lock the stall to keep others out, but after the person is baptized, they will need that stall area to themselves to change into dry clothes. This can take several minutes. Meanwhile, others of the same gender who wish to be baptized will have to wait outside the stall or wait inside the font area with no place to go. And if there are people in the font area, the person changing is unable to lock the door to the font from the bathroom side, creating an uncomfortable situation. We can provide some added privacy by adding a curtain or something, but it sure seems to discourage having multiple baptisms on the same day. And yes, we can just wait until everybody has been baptized, and then let the baptizer escape, and then let the wet converts wait in line to use the stall area that has the bench for changing. Certainly far less efficient than the much older building in Appleton, where two people can be changing without blocking the flow of traffic in and out of the font, and where there is access to the font area directly from the Relief Society room. Ah, the old golden days of Church architecture!

In addition to the frustrating layout, the water system poses another problem, at least from the perspective of a Ward Mission Leader. The disincentive? Three or more hours required to fill the font. That's according to the specs we were given, and after my test last night, I think it will take at least three hours. (Update: it only took a couple minutes over 2 hours since the new font is smaller than the Appleton font, and since I changed a setting on a strange "circuit setter" device that was restricting hot water flow for some reason - two hours is just fine, frankly.) The baptismal font water flow rate for this fancy new building may be a little less than a typical shower faucet in a US home. We had about twice the flow rate in the old Appleton building. The water heater couldn't quite keep up, so it took 90 minutes to fill a font to keep the water comfortable warm with a reduced flow (or periods of high flow followed by rests to let the heater reheat). Not sure why it has to be so slow here. Fortunately, I'm the only one who needs to suffer. Well, some of the early Saints had to chisel there way into ice water to be baptized, so my woes are minor.

(Update: One more oddity is the lack of an efficient way to clean the font after use. Our old building had a hose with a spray nozzle that could be connected to the faucet to spray down the font to clean it, but the faucet here does not permit coupling to a hose. There's another suggestion for the folks designing buildings.) As nice as this building is, I'm surprised that a lovely, high-end, spacious new building would have both a layout and a water system that does not reflect decades of experience in the practical details of baptizing people. In fact, the layout almost suggests that baptisms should be rare and non-plural events. We intend to make it otherwise.

Wish me luck in filling the font for our 9 AM baptism this Saturday! And no, I'm not whining - just rejoicing in the exciting new learning and waiting experiences ahead.

Of course, this may be a custom oddity of our building, so I hope it's not a standard flaw being implemented in many units. But if you are getting a new building, my advice is to have your leaders carefully look over the blueprints and insist on a baptistery that allows multiple people to be baptized conveniently, and insist on hefty hydraulics to allow warm water to fill the font quickly, and to allow a good way of cleaning the font after each use.