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

Friday, February 29, 2008

Yes, We Use Electricity, Scissors, and Cars

I received a cute thank-you note from a kind young lady on the East Coast who gave me permission to quote her. I was intrigued by the list of questions she has faced about her faith. It's amazing how little people know about the Church. I was also impressed with the missionary spirit and courage she shows.
I was born into the church and am 15 and a freshman at my high school. I love answering questions and giving information about the gospel, but sometimes it's hard to give an answer that people will believe and, especially for people around my age, that isn't so complicated and boring that they regretted asking you in the first place. I have people coming up to me everyday at my school asking me about all of these weird misconceptions in the church like if we can drink water, eat chocolate, use scissors, drive a car, if we pray for 2 hours a day, if we go to church for 5 hours every day, if we can use electricity, if we are a cult, and the all time favorite question "How many wives does your dad have?". So when I found out that in my Pre-AP World History Geography class that would would be doing a Social Science Fair Project and the topic could be about virtually anything I got really excited! I choose the topic of Religions, subcategory Christianity, and went to my teacher to ask if my idea would be acceptable. I wanted to do my project on common Mormon questions and misconceptions such as are Mormons christians, do they still practice polygamy, and are they a cult. She said it was fine so I immediately began to get my information. For the project, we had to fill 60 8in. x 10in note cards with reliable information. This is where I got stuck. It was really easy to get all of the false information but when it came to finding a website that answered the questions with the truth, it was a NIGHTMARE! I was really disappointed because I thought I was going to have to give up this project, until I found your website. It had EVERYTHING I needed and more! And the best part is everything was true (or at least told from the viewpoint of a Mormon)! I have gotten the majority of my information from your website and it has helped me out so much! I have also learned a lot from your website too. I never knew about the RLDS church before until I read it here and it's a really good thing to know.

I just want to thank you for taking the time to straighten out all of the false accusations and answer all the questions about the church, it has helped me out so much and im sure it has helped out a lot of other people. Thanks for putting the truth out there when no one else will. :)
Thanks! But there are plenty of others working to share the LDS perspective with others. But thanks for using my site! More importantly, thanks for being such a great example of studying and sharing information about the Gospel.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Youth in Need of Role Models: Who Can You Suggest?

"Don't Buy the Cookies" is Jane Chastain's column complaining about the hijacked values in Girl Scouts. She argues that an increasingly politically correct/left-wing agenda in their governing board has led to official endorsement of role models such as Eve Ensler, author of the Va*** Monologues (no, Va*** doesn't stand for Virginia). I still love Girl Scout cookies and recently bought some, in spite of my principled concerns about child labor (a concern for numerous fund-raising events: pity all those poor exploited children forced to go door-to-door, earning nothing as they rake in the bucks for the Big Fund-Raising Industry and, in the case of Girl Scouts, the Big Cookie Industry). My moral objections and principles concerns, of course, are outweighed by my desire to "help the kids," expressed primarily through consuming large quantities of Thin Mints and edging my pancreas ever closer to Type II diabetes.

I don't mean to pick on the Girl Scouts. There are numerous influences on young people of all genders that make me wonder how our society can continue. Our kids need virtuous role models who can succeed, inspire, and impress without taking drugs, uttering profanity every fifth syllable, prostituting themselves on the screen or stage, debasing our currency and morals, backdating stock options, or failing to leave tips in restaurants.

As a trained whiner, it's easy to see the problems in current role models. But who do you see that offers some hope? I'd like to make a list of the top 10 bright spots in modern popular role models for youth. Who should be on it? I started my own list, but couldn't get past Ron Paul and President Thomas S. Monson. There's got to be more. Suggestions?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

First Clement: Wonderful Early Christian Sermon on Obedience and Following Christ

One of the earliest preserved Christian writings after the New Testament is a document known as First Clement. It was written from Rome, possibly at about the same the time that the Apostle John was on the Isle of Patmos. It's a beautiful epistle, one that resonates marvelously with modern LDS teachings, which I believe to be at least partly the result of a divine Restoration of the ancient Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is one passage from 1 Clement 33:4 to 35:5. Warning: based on what our modern critics say about LDS teachings, it's pretty clear that the author of First Clement was also a non-Christian cultist.
Above all, as the most excellent and exceeding great work of His intelligence, with His sacred and faultless hands He formed man in the impress of His own image.

For thus saith God, Let us make man after our image and after our likeness. And God made man; male and female made He them.

So having finished all these things, He praised them and blessed them and said, Increase and multiply.

We have seen that all the righteous were adorned in good works. Yea, and the Lord Himself having adorned Himself with worlds rejoiced.

Seeing then that we have this pattern, let us conform ourselves with all diligence to His will; let us with all our strength work the work of righteousness.

The good workman receiveth the bread of his work with boldness, but the slothful and careless dareth not look his employer in the face.

It is therefore needful that we should be zealous unto well doing, for of Him are all things: since He forewarneth us saying, Behold, the Lord, and His reward is before His face, to recompense each man according to his work.

He exhorteth us therefore to believe on Him with our whole heart, and to be not idle nor careless unto every good work.

Let our boast and our confidence be in Him: let us submit ourselves to His will; let us mark the whole host of His angels, how they stand by and minister unto His will.

For the scripture saith, Ten thousands of ten thousands stood by Him, and thousands of thousands ministered unto Him: and they cried aloud, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Sabaoth; all creation is full of His glory.

Yea, and let us ourselves then, being gathered together in concord with intentness of heart, cry unto Him as from one mouth earnestly that we may be made partakers of His great and glorious promises.

For He saith, Eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard, and it hath not entered into the heart of man what great things He hath prepared for them that patiently await Him.

How blessed and marvelous are the gifts of God, dearly beloved!!

Life in immortality, splendor in righteousness, truth in boldness, faith in confidence, temperance in sanctification! And all these things fall under our apprehension.

What then, think ye, are the things preparing for them that patiently await Him? The Creator and Father of the ages, the All holy One Himself knoweth their number and their beauty.

Let us therefore contend, that we may be found in the number of those that patiently await Him, to the end that we may be partakers of His promised gifts.

But how shall this be, dearly beloved? If our mind be fixed through faith towards God; if we seek out those things which are well pleasing and acceptable unto Him; if we accomplish such things as beseem His faultless will, and follow the way of truth, casting off from ourselves all unrighteousness and iniquity, covetousness, strifes, malignities and deceits, whisperings and backbitings, hatred of God, pride and arrogance, vainglory and inhospitality.
There is an emphasis on our relation to God, that we are in his image, that we can and must choose to follow Him, and that he offers us blessings beyond imagination in the splendor of eternal life if we will follow Him and obey. But all that talk about obedience and good works is not teaching that we earn salvation. Rather, as I've explained many times here and elsewhere, we obey and strive and follow and endure "that we may be partakers of His promised gifts" - that we might comply with the terms of His covenant to qualify for the infinite gift of eternal life, the gift of grace through Jesus Christ our Lord. It's utter cultic evil to some of our modern adversaries, but it's pure early Christian doctrine, now restored.

There is much more of great value in this early writing. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Enjoying the Benefits of Slavery and Child Labor Without the Guilt

Forbes has a good article on the problem of child labor. American consumers addicted to cheap imported goods buy many products that were made by child labor. Young children may be working 14 hours a day for brutal masters to crank out those stylish jeans you are wearing or to produce the cotton your shirt is made from or to harvest the bananas I enjoy. In addition to rampant child labor on a global scale (over 200 million child laborers! - virtually the backbone of our "global economy"), there are cases where other forms of forced labor may be used to produce the low-cost goods we import.

We have outsourced the slave plantations of the past. We are exchanging American jobs for compulsory labor elsewhere. Such a deal. Now we can enjoy the benefits of child labor and slave labor without the guilt. Do we have a moral obligation to respond? Should we screen what we purchase and avoid giving financial support to those who benefit from modern forms of slavery, whether it is child labor or labor camps?

I think so, but it is a difficult task, akin to the increasingly difficult task of buying "made in America" products. Some patriotic Americans buy American-brand vehicles instead of "foreign made" Toyotas, not realizing that the Toyota may be much more "made-in-America" than the car they bought instead (I drive a Camry). Or they may buy products with a "made in USA" label that were almost entirely the result of labor in foreign countries, with a final touch or two added in the US to barely qualify for the label.

The other day I saw some frozen salmon I almost bought. The packaging indicated that the fish was caught by "vessels flying the US flag" off the coast of Alaska, and that it was being sold by a US company (Beaver Street Fisheries in Florida, as I recall). Most of the fish being sold in American grocery stores these days comes from Asia, and there are some reasons to be concerned about imported fish, especially Asian farm-raised fish. So I picked up a few packs of this frozen salmon and almost bought it - until I saw one more little line on the back of the package indicating that it was a product of a foreign country. Hmmm, wonder if the US flags were fakes? Deceptive packaging.

Should we care at all where our products come from and what kind of labor was involved? Perhaps in some cases, but it is a difficult and discouraging task to sort things out. Forbes offers a slideshow with some tips for consumers, but I would prefer action taken at a Federal level to put up more serous barriers to the import of goods based on exploitation of children, political prisoners, slaves, etc. But not until I've finished my Christmas shopping for this year.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ice Storm

It's a first draft and will probably be deleted, but feedback is welcome. This describes an experience I had tonight. Appleton was hit with a blanket of ice from freezing rain this morning, followed by about 8 inches of snow tonight. As I was shoveling snow on our sidewalk by our large and mostly infertile plum tree, I was amazed at the curious sound the ice-encrusted tree made in the breeze, a sound of tension and friction and crackling. And then I noticed the beauty of the clear ice on the bark and a delicate little icicle hanging from one branch. What a sweet photo that would make! But something went wrong.

My experience made me ponder a few things, and I thought I would write it up somehow. Here's the first draft:

Ice Storm: The Transgression

Rain this morning moistened the bark of my plum tree

Then froze and made it captive, a wonder

Glistening, completely sheathed and caught up

In this rite of winter, a garden of delight.

As the wind brushed the paired ice and wood

They tinkled and crackled with life

Like a bed of puffed rice on a churning sea of milk.

So unexpected, this call, this voice of ice against bark, -

Was it the sound of friction, or perhaps the yielding of ice

As the tree sought to bend where ice could not,

Or the squeaking of wood pressed to new forms -

I did not know, but I was curious, and listened

Until the breeze faded, and the night was still.

The ice shimmered in the streetlight, most brightly

On a limb near me, where an alien icicle grew from a whisper of ice

And flared out below, a crystal plumb-bob defining up and down,

Or a divine fruit clinging to a brittle stem.

I would return, I promised, in due time to this gift,

And bring lights, reflector, tripod, and camera

To capture this delicacy and celebrate the beauty of ice and bark.

But I must wait and first shovel this sidewalk, my duty.

I soon stopped, as the memory of the sound of crisp ice against bark

Made me curious anew: I reached back to touch, just once, to touch and feel

And stir that tingling voice of two natures moving as one.

Unthinking, hurried, a random twig - and then I heard the breaking

Of a sacred thread and the gentle crunch of a fruit falling into the snow,

A promise unkept.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Alcohol and Fiat Money: The Cause of and Cure for Most of Our Problems

"Alcohol: the cause of - and solution to - all of life's problems" is a statement attributed to America's most influential philosopher and ethicist, Homer Simpson. And with the actions of our Federal Government in recent months, I think his statement also applies to fiat money - money that is created out of nothing by a government no longer required to have actual backing behind the paper. Got pain? Let's create billions of dollars from thin air - or thin paper - to bail out debtors and bankers, and hand out a few fistfuls to the masses to fuel more binge spending binge. The drinks are on the house! Your house. And your income and savings.

Here we are in the midst of economic shocks caused by the sub-prime crisis and the associated popping of the housing bubble. Markets are nervous, stocks are down, and the banking industry is bleeding. This pain can be traced in large part to the loose monetary policy of our government, which for years used artificially low interest rates and massive creation of money from nothing through the miracle of the fractional reserve system of the Federal Bank. Cheap, easy credit was created under Greenspan's reign, driving up demand for homes and allowing banks to give out home loans to people who barely had a pulse. With property values rising, the cheap loans allowed people to make loads of money by buying homes, which reduced the risk of defaults for the lenders. It was easy money - and strongly inflationary.

But once interest rates climbed again to more reasonable levels, and once the higher rates at from ARMs kicked into gear, many of the home owners who couldn't possibly afford their mortgages in the first place now - surprise - couldn't afford them after all. Defaults. Pain. Loss . I know a woman whose husband is an essentially unemployed drug addict, and she has extensive health problems and a low-paying job with a houseful of children - but she was able to get loans for a new van and a "Greenspan" home. Amazing.

Bubbles must come down. The longer they are artificially sustained, the harder they may fall. This one may yet offer much greater pain, even with the $140 billion recently injected into the economy and the current redistribution of wealth campaign to stimulate spending of the masses. The money creation is aimed at bailing out the banks and bailing out the debtors at the cost of those who have tried to live frugally and save instead of spending like crazy. Our problems are ultimately caused by this nation's spendthrift ways, both at the level of government as well as at an individual level. And the solution to the pain is to drive this nation further into debt and encourage people to spend more, more, more. Alcohol and fiat money, the cause and cure of most of life's problems.

Ether 9:11 should give us pause. When the ancient Jaredite nation was on the verge of disaster, as power-hungry maniacs gained a stranglehold on the government with their secret combinations, they resorted to giving out money as a way to gain power over the masses: "Now the people of Akish were desirous for gain, even as Akish was desirous for power; wherefore, the sons of Akish did offer them money, by which means they drew away the more part of the people after them."

Our Founding Fathers must be rolling over in their graves. It used to be that proposals for massive deficit spending, redistribution of wealth, and government handouts of money to the masses would get one labeled as a socialist and a threat to the Republic. When McGovern proposed giving everyone $1000 in his 1972 Presidential campaign, America rejected the socialist offer and handed him a 49-state loss. Now this kind of binge drinking of debt and power is an unstoppable habit for Republicans and Democrats alike, with bipartisan efforts resulting in checks being sent out as we speak. It may feel great for a while, but the end result is disaster.

So how's your food storage coming along?

We are facing more than inflationary "headwinds" now. We are riding in a swift current of inflation. Look at the price of gold, for example. It is now at $900 an ounce. Last year when I expressed my concerns about inflation on this blog, it was under $700. Silver has gone from around $13 an ounce last year (congrats to those who took my advice to get some!) to $17 now. Oil is approaching $100 a barrel. Wheat, milk, etc., are ascending rapidly. Congrats to those of who who have been investing in wheat, Mormon style. The value of your food storage is skyrocketing. Our dollar is tanking as inflation eats away at our money.

The most frightening words I've heard in a long time come in this amazing video clip from Ron Bernanke about 5 minutes into the clip. He explains that a weak dollar is not a problem because the only effect it has on Americans with dollars is to make the price of imported goods go up. That's incredible. This is one of the most powerful men in the world, an unelected ultra-powerful official entrusted with the well being of our economy (contrary to the principles our nation was built upon). Does he not understand the basics of our economy and the impact of trade in the global economy? If the dollar drops by 50%, nearly ALL of our goods are going to become more expensive. This is true even goods that are entirely domestic in origin, because as long as the rest of the world can buy them at a discount, foreign demand for those goods will increase and drive up the price. But he wants us to believe that inflation is not a problem. Frightening. Utterly frightening. It would be scary if he were just ill informed, but surely he knows exactly why his statement is absurd. And that's what really scares me. Well, this is a good time to prepare for a difficult future. Get out of debt, get all the education you can, save as much as you can, and don't keep it all in dollars that will lose 10% of their value or more in the coming year. Provident living and preparing for the future is a key theme for Latter-day Saints, and it should be for all of us.

Help Wanted: Dear Abby for Mormons and Those Dating Mormons

One of my many problems is life is that my LDS FAQ page on Love, Dating, and Marriage comes in at #1 on Google for search times like "Mormon dating," "Mormon marriage," and "Mormon love" (sorry - it's only #2 for "Mormon sex"). And that means that whenever somebody gets a crush on a Mormon, falls in love with a Mormon, or considers marrying a Mormon, they are likely to find my site - and, sadly, likely to send me an email asking for advice. Apart from being a highly questionable source of advice on anything (see, dear critics, I've been listening!), I'm also out of time.

I really try to answer email, but it has become a flood. And the ones seeking advice on dating, marriage, love, and sex often are lengthy and very personal. There is the obligatory paragraph about how they met the person, then one on why the person is so wonderful (you Mormon singles really rock, let me tell you that!), another couple about what they have heard about Mormons, a few more about the concerns that have been raised by their parents or friends, some more on their own religious background, maybe a little on the weather and the presidential primaries and their struggles they are having with a diet or a difficult teacher (sometimes this optional section is skipped, thankfully), and then a series of questions seeking advice on three or four issues. These are important requests for help by real people at real turning points in their lives sometimes, and I would like to be able to help more but just can't do that consistently.

So do we have a reliable "Dear Abby" service from a trusted source for people interested in relationships with Latter-day Saints? Anyone who would like to volunteer to handle some of these emails? When I can't handle them, I'd like to just send them to someone who could do a good job, preferably someone with experience advising young people in the Church and beyond. They really do matter, but I can't handle them all. Partly because it takes so long just to read them - they really are quite lengthy. But always interesting and almost always sincere.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Second Clement on the Resurrection , Obedience, and (Perhaps) Our Premortal Existence

The oldest complete Christian sermon outside the New Testament itself is writing often called Second Clement. For those of you who despise Latter-day Saint views on faith, grace, and works (i.e., the idea that we gain access to the full blessings of grace by following Christ, repenting of our sins, keeping His commandments, and enduring in faith to the end), you probably shouldn't read this (ditto for most of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers - writings from the first couple centuries of Christianity by church leaders who had been influenced directly by the early Apostolic tradition). But for those who enjoy reading good ol' fashioned "mostly Mormon" doctrine from ancient sources, it's definitely enjoyable reading. It sounds an awful lot like many modern LDS General Conference talks (though there are some differences, to be fair). Turn on some Tab Choir background music while you read for best results.

Here is one interesting excerpt of many to consider:
And let no one of you say that this very flesh shall not be judged, nor rise again. Consider ye in what state ye were saved, in what ye received sight, if not while ye were in this flesh. We must therefore preserve the flesh as the temple of God. For as ye were called in the flesh, ye shall also come to be judged in the flesh. As Christ, the Lord who saved us, though He was first a Spirit, became flesh, and thus called us, so shall we also receive the reward in this flesh. Let us therefore love one another, that we may all attain to the kingdom of God. While we have an opportunity of being healed, let us yield ourselves to God that healeth us, and give to Him a recompense. Of what sort? Repentance out of a sincere heart; for He knows all things beforehand, and is acquainted with what is in our hearts. Let us therefore give Him praise, not with the mouth only, but also with the heart, that He may accept us as sons. For the Lord has said, "Those are My brethren who do the will of My Father."
Implicit in the discussion of being in the flesh and resurrecting again in the flesh is the understanding that there is something that is actually in this flesh of ours, namely, our spirit. We follow the pattern of Christ who was originally a spirit and then was clothed with flesh and rose with his flesh. The writer may be treating our original existence as spirits as common knowledge, as did the Apostles when they asked Christ if a certain blind man was born blind because he had sinned before he was born (John 9:1-2).

Faced with judgment for what we do in the flesh, the call is to seek charity, to turn to God, and to repent. Through repentance and doing the will of the Lord, we will be accepted as His children and gain the blessings of eternal life.

A few paragraphs earlier he teaches something similar:
This, then, is our reward if we shall confess Him by whom we have been saved. But in what way shall we confess Him? By doing what He says, and not transgressing His commandments, and by honouring Him not with our lips only, but with all our heart and all our mind. For he says in Isaiah, "This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me."

Let us, then, not only call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He saith, "Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that worketh righteousness." Wherefore, brethren, let us confess Him by our works, by loving one another, by not committing adultery, or speaking evil of one another, or cherishing envy; but being continent, compassionate, and good. We ought also to sympathize with one another, and not be avaricious. By such works let us confess Him, and not by those that are of an opposite kind.
And later:
Let us then practice righteousness that we may be saved unto the end.
If you enjoted Second Clement, be sure to try First Clement and the Didache, and many other early Christian writings. Loads of fun!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Revising the Inconvenient Scriptures: Noah, the Environmentalist and Animal Rights Activist

At the end of 2006, a group of German scholars released a new politically correct Bible that tones down "divisive" teachings and shows enhanced sensitivity to several groups such as feminists and homosexuals. God's gender is no longer such a sore point: instead of praying to "Our Father," Jesus (the "child" of God, never "Son") gently urges us to pray to "Our Mother and Father who are in heaven." The devil, of course, remains fully male.

While our politically correct scholar friends have made genuine progress in updating the inconvenient scriptures, much work remains to be done to overcome the heavy hand of the patriarchy and big business on the Word. Here is my little contribution to progress:
In the next edition of the Politically Correct Bible, we will learn that Noah actually was a passionate environmentalist, an animal rights activist, and a woman. Noah was deeply concerned about the massive clouds of smoke and greenhouse gases being generated by the right-wing patriarchy with all their abusive animal sacrifice ceremonies. With the help of her unnamed partner, a gay vegan multi-racial male with skills in carpentry, ship building, and energy conservation technology, she worked to organize the people in peaceful demonstrations against animal abuse, and personally liberated dozens of endangered goats scheduled for sacrifice. But her civil disobedience resulted in jail time and a misogynous smear campaign, fueled by the Big Animal Industry and powerful patriarchal energy industry that provided the fuel for animal incineration to appease right-wing corporate gods.

Inspired by Gaia, Noah learned that the smoke and greenhouse gases from widespread animal sacrifice and other wasteful uses of energy were causing global warming. Fearing that the ice caps would melt and cause catastrophic flooding, Noah and her partner crafted a giant ship, The Earth Goddess, and began the ultimate exercise in diversity: gathering up hundreds of animal species to prevent their extinction should mankind destroy much of the ecosystem with climate change and flooding. Big business and right-wing politicos scoffed, but she was undaunted.

After many years, Noah's prophecy of catastrophic flooding came true. Fortunately, when the ice caps began to melt and great glacial lakes were suddenly released, Noah and her animals were safely and peacefully living in the arc, where even the carnivores embraced their inner vegans and learned to make do with tofu-based mock carcass and other treats. Noah rejoiced that the animals were saved, and rejoiced even more that the flooding, tragic as it was, had helped solve the other major crisis that had troubled Noah: human overpopulation. With the elimination of the human race and the rescuing of diverse animal species, there was now hope for the Earth.

The story would have ended happily at that point, were it not for that one fatal character flaw of our heroine, Noah, and the thing she had for that darned vegan male she brought on board. Turns out he wasn't completely gay after all, and thus the cycle of human population growth and environmental havoc began all over again a few years later. But perhaps we can learn from the mistakes of the past.

Tragically, the male also wasn't completely vegan, and among the many male weaknesses he had, he simply couldn't result a thick juicy steak. Thus came the extinction of the mammoth and several other species.

(If there is any point to this facetious post, it is to remind us that cultural and political pressures can result in corruptions to a text and certainly to how a text is interpreted. The corruption of some parts of ancient scripture is an important theme that I'll address again soon.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Another Tribute to President Hinckley

I'd like to share a touching tribute to President Gordon B. Hinckley from Glenn Beck. He puts it so well. I'm so puzzled by those who get a kick out of mocking a man like President Hinckley who lived such a Christlike life.

1000 Posts! Celebrating or Bemoaning Four Years of Blogging

After four years of blogging here at Mormanity, I've just hit my 1000th post. Happy birthday! If you're new to Mormanity (mormanity.org or mormanity.blogspot.com), this is a solo blog on LDS themes by someone who really enjoys being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more often known to the media by nicknames such as "the Romney religion" or occasionally "the Mormons."

Thank you to my readers for visiting and also for actively participating in the comments of my posts. For your information, this blog currently gets about 38,000 page views per month. On a typical day, the 1,200+ page views include per day include about 800 to 1000 "unique visitors" according to StatCounter.com, and about 250 returning visitors. Good bloggers and Webmasters don't share stats, I've been told.

While the traffic for this blog is much smaller than for my Website, I'm finding that I'm spending more time working on the blog than the Website, leaving me with even less time to answer the flood of email my Website generates. It's largely because blogging creates much more of a sense of a living community. Things change daily. The conversation in the comments area is more dynamic and certainly more public than what happens via email. Gaffes get immediately pointed out. Good writing gets immediately ignored (so I've heard from those who write that way). All told, it's a much more engaging medium for an author than Webpages or the two books I'm working on. And did anyone say obsession? No, I'm not that weak. It's an intelligent choice, not an addiction, right?

As a quick review, here are some of the topics I've been covering, with a few sample posts listed (several links are based on search terms and will return a collection of related posts):

1. Book of Mormon: Insights and Evidences for Plausibility
2. Social Issues and LDS Religion
3. Responding to Critics on Doctrinal Issues
Well, that's just a handful, but perhaps it gives some idea.

Again, many thanks for reading! Hope I'll be around for a few more thousand of these.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Public Service and the Beehive

Can you guess the major city where I took the following photo? Notice the beehive at the center of the ornate window. Hint: It's in a beautiful, historic building with the words "Public Service" above the entry. The beehive is a great symbol not just for "industry" as it is for the State of Utah, but also for selfless service, which would seem to be more relevant to the Gospel of Jesus Christ than "industry" (in the sense of hard work and productivity). The building's current use is linked to the theme of light and power, and the association of light with the beehive in the photo also suggests several Gospel themes. And who knows, perhaps even the parking ramp in the background invokes some kind of religious symbolism. Can you suggest a Gospel-themed caption? A brief flicker of fame could go to the person with the suggestion I like best.

(Click to enlarge. Close up of the beehive is below.)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

How Many New LDS Blogs Since Elder Ballard's Talk?

A reporter from one of my very favorite national news sources asked me how many new LDS blogs sprouted up after Elder Ballard's recent talk about using the Internet to better reach out to the world. Based on what I've seen and the email I've received, I'm guessing about 40-50 blogs that are still functioning, though there may be hundreds of hard-to-find embryonic blogs that are still hidden behind the organ pipes of the Bloggernacle. Do you have better data or a better guess?

What percentage of the new LDS blogs would you said are aimed at defending or promoting the Church directly? I'm guessing that about 70% of the "Ballard blogs" can be labeled as "missionary oriented/defensive/apologetic," while others might be less direct "let your light shine" kind of blogs. That percentage should be much higher than occurs in the Bloggernacle in general (the community of LDS-themed blogs). Any good source of stats?