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

Monday, June 30, 2008

What LDS Issues Would You Like Discussed in a Talk Show?

I'm doing another two-hour radio show this Sunday evening on K-Talk Radio (AM 630 in Salt Lake City), 5 PM Mountain Time, also available online. I have some flexibility in selecting topics to discuss, so let me know what would you think I should bring up. I'm considering dealing with either science and the Book of Mormon, for example. But there are so many interesting topics I'd love to chat about. Your thoughts?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Why Darwin's Origin of Species May Need to Be Banned in Public Schools

Can you imagine what might happen to a public school teacher who read this concluding passage from Darwin's Origin of Species to a class of students? Especially if it seemed that the teacher agreed with Darwin? The grandeur of life with powers breathed by WHO? Oh my. That's pretty much what some devout Christians with scientific training believe. Here's a book that needs to be banned to protect our children from being tainted with "unscientific" beliefs.

You can see this at Amazon.com for The Origin of Species, Revised Edition, edited by Philip Appleman. Use the "Search Inside" feature and search for "there is a grandeur".

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mormon Persecution in Missouri in 1838 and the Profit Motive

There have been many theories for the intensity of anti-Mormon activism in Missouri in 1838. Religious bigotry, political concerns over the abolitionist tendencies of Mormons, social and civic misunderstandings, Mormon missteps, and economic concerns over the growing influence of Mormons all may have played a role. But new evidence points to the profit motive of the anti-Mormon elements as being more important than previously recognized.

As I mention in my Mormon Answers (LDSFAQ) page on the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, one of the best sources of information about that complex time is the work of Alexander L. Baugh, A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri (Provo, Utah: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History and BYU Studies, 2000). Although Dr. Baugh is LDS and may have his biases, he provides a careful analysis of primary sources and is able to explain why one witness might be more reliable than another in evaluating conflicting reports. And in that work, he does recognize that financial incentives of the anti-Mormon mobs may have played a role. But more significant confirmation of that factor comes from the more recent research of Jeffrey N. Walker in the latest volume of BYU Studies (not yet available online). For an overview, see "Greed Drove 1838 Persecution, BYU Studies Article Says" by Kimberly Reid and James T. Summerhays over at MormonTimes.com.

Never underestimate the power of greed! Sadly, this has been a recurring lesson I have seen in the business world. In fact, greed may be a far more important factor in explaining what really is going on in many areas where religious bigotry is used as the standing explanation. Follow the money, not the hate. But that's a topic for another discourse sometime.

Glenn Beck Speaking Sunday, June 29 at the Marriott Center at BYU

Glenn Beck is speaking on Sunday at the Marriott Center for a patriotic service (7 pm). Though I'm just wrapping up a brief visit to Utah, I won't be there Sunday - wish I could be!

While Glenn is a well-known conservative talk-show host and TV personality professionally, this LDS convert strikes me as someone who has remained down-to-earth (whether you agree with him or not) and has maintained his faith well in spite of the lure of fame.

His conversion story is atypical in many ways, but is also instructive. Here is a video of Glenn discussing his conversion and the peace the Gospel of Jesus Christ has brought him:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"None of the Mormons I Have Met Are Nice"

A relative of mine was recently on a flight to Denver enjoying a conversation with a woman who frequently traveled to Salt Lake City. When she learned that my relative was on her way to Salt Lake, the woman complained about those Mormons in Utah. "None of the Mormons I've met are nice," she said. All bad people. My relative then explained that she was one of those darned Mormons. "What? You're a Mormon? No way! You're not like them - you're very nice and not mean at all!"

My relative inferred that the woman's experience with "Mormons" might more properly be called her experience with Salt Lake City business people in a narrow business area. Surely her sampling of "Mormons" was not representative of typical Mormons - and might have included a lot of people who aren't practicing Latter-day Saints as well as some who have never been associated with the Church.

In any case, when someone makes sweeping negative statements about the members of a religious group (or civic, political, ethnic, regional, and other groups that aren't inherently murderous), they might be telling us more about themselves than their actual experiences. Most people are nice, at least in superficial social and business settings. And even those I bitterly disagree with, such as some of the most outspoken anti-Mormons or advocates of disastrous social policies, can be wonderfully nice people with a great deal of social grace and kindness, in spite of some very unkind things they might do or advocate because of their ideologies. So when someone says they've met a lot of people in Group X, and have never found a nice one, this may be a signal that we're dealing with a bigot. And perhaps one who is not always very nice.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"This is not viable. Dispose of it."

On a Christian radio station in Chicago, I recently heard an interview with William Young, author of the popular and controversial Christian book, The Shack. Haven't read the book, but I was intrigued by Young's story of how his mother came to read the book. She was offended by her son's portrayal of God as a black woman and didn't want to read the book, until a friend of hers talked her into reading it. The friend of hers, Howard Nunn (if I recall the name correctly), is a minister who owes his life to Young's mother, and that's the story I wanted to mention.

Young's mother was a nurse helping to deliver babies at a hospital in the fifties. A woman there needed a C-section. The doctor took out the tiny, premature infant, barely one pound in weight, and handed it to Young's mother with these words (if I remember correctly): "This is not viable. Dispose of it." Back then, they didn't have the advanced neonatal support systems we have today, and a baby that premature simply had no chance, or so they thought. The nurse didn't have the heart to carry out the normal procedures and wrapped the hopeless infant up and set it on a window sill (as I recall). The doctor then announced to the family that he was sorry, the baby was too premature and was dead.

When the nurse checked a couple hours later and found the infant was still alive, she was shocked and began caring for it. It was returned to the mother and grew up just fine, apparently, for Howard Nunn would later become a Protestant missionary and work in West Africa and elsewhere.

The doctor was outraged that his orders has been questioned and disobeyed, and treated Young's mother like dirt after that.

Just a reminder about the miracle of life and the horror of our society's massive money-making machine known as the abortion industry. The reality is that many of the fetuses killed in later-term abortions could be viable, even those tiny one-pound creatures like Howard Nunn.

(Corrections are welcome if I've got details wrong - this is based on memory from a radio program I heard a few days ago.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

The "Secret" Mormon Handbook of Instructions

I'm amazed at all the howling about the Church trying to prevent the theft of its copyrighted Handbook of Instructions for Leaders. Critics are scowling about our use of a "secret" book - how insidious. Look, virtually every institution has confidential materials meant for leaders. Don't other churches have training materials and guidelines for their pastors and other leaders that are not meant for everyone to see? And if their critics have a knack for violating not just the principles of civility and basic ethics, but also the law in their theft and publication of someone else's materials without permission, should the victims just roll over or take action to protect their rights?

The Church's efforts to train its many unpaid leaders and maintain uniform standards and guidelines requires instructional materials for those leaders. There are numerous copies of these handbooks floating around in every Stake of the Church. I've read it and think it is a healthy, inspired document that demonstrates that the purpose of the Church is to bless the lives of its members. But details of decision making, use of welfare funds, guidelines on dealing with serious sin, etc., are simply not meant for general consumption.

The latest effort at publishing the LDS Handbook of Instructions doesn't seem motivated by religious bigotry, as it has been in previous attempts by anti-Mormons, but by profit seeking. "We're the good guys trying to expose the dread secrets of Mormonism, and now the Church is so scared that they are suing us! Come see youself and click on our revenue-generating ads." The Streisand effect kicks in here, with the (predictable) action of the Church leading to more publicity and traffic, but if you don't protect your rights, they will be violated by everybody.

As an aside, regarding previous publication efforts by well known anti-Mormons, I have to say that some antis have a disturbing track record of publishing other people's materials. So interesting that some of the voices who cry "plagiarism! plagiarism!" when trying to discount the Book of Mormon have a business model of illegally publishing the material of others.

Got to run - need to check my eBay bids for an authentic copy of the 1994 secret handbook of instructions for Southern Baptist ministers. And if any of you can lend me your copy of the secret handbook of instructions for the Red Cross, Planned Parenthood, or the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign, let me know.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Born Again 101: Making a Covenant to Follow Christ

I've had a number of people ask me what I think of "born again Christians." While some of those who use that term are often critical of Latter-day Saints, LDS doctrine is actually all about becoming born again Christians. Here's one of my favorite passages from the Book of Mormon, a scene where a great king and prophet, King Benjamin, has been teaching his people about Christ and urging them to repent and follow Him in a covenant relationship. As we read in Mosiah chapter 5, the people accept his call:
[5] And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.

[6] And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant.

[7] And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.

[8] And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.

[9] And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.

[10] And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.

[11] And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out, except it be through transgression; therefore, take heed that ye do not transgress, that the name be not blotted out of your hearts.

[12] I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.

[13] For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?
A key element of becoming born again is entering into a covenant to follow the Savior. We begin with faith in Christ, then turn toward Him by repenting of our sins and entering into a covenant to follow Him. The cleansing and rebirth of baptism is part of that, but even those who may have already been baptized need to refresh and renew that covenant, and may need to make some major changes in their lives to truly become born again through the power of the Atonement. And then we must retain that relationship and stay close to the Lord throughout our lives, seeking to follow Him all our days, for we are just as free to walk away from the Lord as we are to listen to Him in the first place.

May we all become born again Christians.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Missing Topic in Much of Popular Christianity: Repentance from Sin

Feeling rather dismayed after listening to a televised sermon from the nation's largest mega-church. Protestant Pastor Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church just talked a lot about faith, but not the kind I'm used to hearing about. In my opinion, this morning he wasn't preaching faith in the Savior (which he may preach most of the time, I hope), but faith in yourself, and faith in other mortals, helping them to look past their problems and see that they can do great things if only they will believe in - you guessed it - themselves. I agree that we should encourage others and be positive, but that's about all there was to this sermon. Without the foundation of true faith in Christ and repentance of our sins to follow Him, none of us will come anywhere close to realizing our potential. Maybe that part was last week?

The broadcast looked and sounded like a typical motivational speaker for corporate America, but given to a huge audience (about 44,000 people in the stadium that used to house the Houston Rockets). It could have been Antony Robbins or some other feel-good and believe-in-yourself cheerleader raking in megabucks for an hour or two of inspirational froth. Not that delusional, greed-based froth doesn't have an important place in religion.

I missed the first couple of minutes, so there might have been some heavy references to Jesus and the Bible before I tuned in, but during over 20 minutes of preaching I can only remember one such reference. Pastor Osteen told people that having faith in others is like what Jesus did with Peter. He said that when Jesus met Peter, Peter was rough and used foul language (???). But Jesus looked past all that and believed in Peter, and told Peter that he had the talent, the skills, and the personality to be a great disciple (???), and through this encouragement, Peter was able to go on and become great - presumably by believing in himself. I got out my LDS printing of the Bible and thumbed through the Topical Guide trying to find references to personality, believing in yourself, and Peter's foul language, but I guess we Mormons are using one of those Bibles with a lot of stuff subtracted from it.

I get the feeling that the financial pressures that mega-churches face - just think of the air conditioning costs for such a large church - might have a profound effect on what gets preached. Sadly, I think this is the problem we find in some corners of modern Christianity. A core element of the Gospel has always been that man must repent. We must have faith in Christ and repent of our sins and follow Him.

The repentance of sin part is the sticking point. To actually preach this, one must denounce sin. Not abstract sin, not the sins of other people, but our own sins, even our favorite ones. Ouch. Repentance hurts - it begins with pain, the pain that tells us we are not right with God and have done something wrong that we are responsible for. Yes, it hurts - and good preaching and a true Christian ministry can often induce genuine pain in the hearts of the hearers, especially when they are engaging in serious sin, as Jacob found in Jacob 2 in the Book of Mormon. Such preaching makes people uncomfortable because we all have sin. And discomfort can take a toll on the collection plate. Kudos to those churches and religions that boldly teach repentance, but up here in the northern Midwest, as conservative and religious a place as this is, it seems rare to find a preacher teaching his or her people that it's a serious sin to live together before marriage, for example. It's easy to find preachers who are totally cool with that and can meet with and counsel young people for months who planning their marriage without ever telling them to repent and begin on a stronger foundation by not shacking up first. But not many seem willing to be known for being "intolerant" and "prudish."

Have faith in Christ, repent and be baptized. It's the basic message of Christianity. And one that still needs to be restored in many quarters.

We also need to do a better job of emphasizing this message in some LDS quarters. It's too often that we have sacrament sermons that are also contaminated with pop psychology and feel-good fluff off the Internet rather than being rooted in scripture, where the call to repent is one of the most repeated messages of all. You'll get plenty of calls to repent from the leaders of the Church, especially in General Conference, but how are we doing in our own circles of responsibility? Are we helping our families and those we are responsible for to understand the need to repent and the dangers of sin? True faith in Christ leads to repentance, something we can't afford to stop teaching.

But there were some things I really like about Pastor Osteen, compared to some other dangerously influential preachers these days: (1) he doesn't hate America, (2) he doesn't encourage his audience to hate America, and (3) he doesn't make money by telling his audience that they are all oppressed victims who have no hope unless an all-powerful paternalistic government steps in and takes care of them (at the expense of their freedom, of course - but the part about becoming slaves is often left out). So while I found it to be a troubling sermon, it wasn't as disturbing as some other sermons I've heard recently.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hello Taiwan!

It's so exciting when a wild, long-shot wish is granted. I've been hoping that my son Benjamin Lindsay would get a mission call to Taiwan. His call to the Taiwan Taipei Mission came today and he's so excited - almost as excited as I am. Hello Taiwan! What a wonderful language to learn, and what a wonderful people to teach. I'm just thrilled!

My mission was in German-speaking Switzerland, which was an incredible and amazing experience. Would love to live there! But I especially want to spend a lot of time in China some day. This mission call will motivate me to really get more serious about studying Mandarin, which I took for a couple years back at BYU and have tried to keep up over the years - still so far from fluent. But what a fabulous language!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Little Champions

I took this photo at a recent "final performance" of my almost two-year-old granddaughter's "Little Gym" class, just after each of the young participants received a medal for their numerous accomplishments (including being able to do the "monkey jump"). All wonderful little champions in their own way. Can you guess which one is my amazing and almost always happy granddaughter?

One thing I love about the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is the insight it provides on little children. We learn that they come to this world pure and precious, with souls that are spirit children of God, having come to us from His presence, with a veil of forgetfulness covering memory of their premortal existence. They come with divine heritage and divine potential, here to experience mortality. In this realm they will obtain the sacred gift of a body in the image of God that one day will be resurrected, and endure a brief mortal trial. Those who die in their infancy are redeemed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and have no need for baptism or repentance, but are innocent before God.

The precious, divine gift of children imposes great responsibility on us adults to protect, love, and nurture them and help them understand who they are, why they are here, and what they must do to have happiness and eternal life. We also learn that it is a great blessing and privilege to have children in a family, whom God has entrusted to our care. May we cherish them, protect them, and teach them well, that they may all remain champions in God's eyes - through the power of the only real champion, Jesus Christ, whom they and all of us are called to follow.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Divinity is in the Details

We recently had an anonymous poster bring up the old anti-Mormon claim that the many witnesses of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon never physically saw the plates but just had some kind of a purely spiritual/hallucinatory experience. But the repeated affirmations of the witnesses and the many statements they left behind indicate something quite different. Critics must ignore a vast expanse of consistent detail in the historical record to offer the myth that they never actually experienced the physical reality of the plates. In this case, the divinity is in the details: details that point to the physical reality of the sacred ancient gold plates of the Book of Mormon. One important contribution in dealing with anti-Mormon efforts in this area is Richard Lloyd Anderson's article, "Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses (PDF) (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2005.

In surveying the extensive literature on the witnesses, it is overwhelmingly clear that these people saw and experienced something real. We can see that we are dealing with plates that weighted about 60 pounds, were made of fine, thin sheets of a deep yellow metal with engravings on both sides, and bound by 3 D-shaped rings. A miraculous spiritual experience did play a role for three of the witnesses, who not only saw the plates, but saw the Angel Moroni showing them the plates and testifying that they were of God. But though this was a spiritual experience, spiritual as well as physical eyes did the beholding. It was a real experience, not one imagined in religious frenzy. And for the many other witnesses of the plates, they were seen and handled in plain daylight and were obviously real and physical. Not one of the witnesses ever denied their testimony, even though some would have differences with the Church and leave, even in bitterness. In spite of that, none would ever deny the physical reality of what they experienced. That's an amazing level of corroboration.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Book of Mormon as an Authentic Historical Document

One of our dinner guests a while ago was a professor at a local university who had specialized in studying historical documents. Her conversion story began with reading the Book of Mormon out of curiosity, and being impressed with the numerous details indicative of being an actual historical document as opposed to modern fiction. In fact, far more than the writers of the Bible, the Book of Mormon pays great attention to explaining the historical sources of its documents. We don't have an omniscient narrator who can read minds or describe events going on that he could not have known about. We have editors and authors who meticulously state who they are, what there sources are, and why we should care about what they have to say.

The abundance of internal evidence about the Book of Mormon's status as an authentic ancient document was an important starting place for the conversion of at least one non-LDS scholar. Maybe it's something you should keep in mind as you read the document for yourself.

Evening Update: I see we have someone raising the old canard about Tolkien's writings having just as much of a "historical" sense as the Book of Mormon - an argument that I think can be most sincerely offered by critics who have read neither Tolkien nor the Book of Mormon. Look, you don't have to accept the Book of Mormon and you're free to dismiss it as fiction. But for those who are interested in understanding its nature, I would ask this in response: Can anyone seriously fail to grasp the world of difference in these books, and genuinely think that they are somehow cut from the same literary cloth, or that a reference to them could possibly be relevant in a discussion of the Book of Mormon? If Joseph had instead written The Hobbit or The Silmarillion, with all their fascinating detail (and even with the epic language in The Silmarillion and the occasional "and it came to pass") would anyone fail to recognize right away that it was obviously a modern novel written with modern literary devices and conventions, no matter how old the story purports to be, and no matter how skillful Tolkien was in creating his own fictional world? Intricate and fascinating, but a modern creation of enjoyable fiction, not anything close to what could be seriously imagined as a historical document - much less a sacred historical document.

The entire nature of the Book of Mormon, with its complex but carefully described historical origins, its detailed and complex authorship, its varying styles and tones, its shifting but logically organized timelines reflecting different original texts edited together into a rich composite, is so unlike the typical literature in Joseph Smith's day. The critics would have us believe he was a sponge who soaked up and spilled out the material of his day. This doesn't come close to explaining the Book of Mormon, other than a small fraction of direct quotes from the Bible used by Book of Mormon authors. And it doesn't come close to explaining the internal evidences that this book is an authentic ancient document, not a modern novel written as if it were ancient.

For those unfamiliar with Tolkien, here two beginning pages from the beginnings of The Hobbit and The Silmarillion (first page of the "Quenta Silmarillion" section - it's what was easily pulled off of Google Books). Click to enlarge and read. Compare that with the matter-of-fact nature of a historical document that sets forth who is speaking, when, etc., and its concern about preserving information, etc., such as we find, for example, at the beginning of the Book of Mormon (see below) - not to mention the insistence on multiple eye-witnesses to substantiate its reality. For my professor guest, the strong historical flavor of the Book of Mormon, so unlike the fictional writings of the nineteenth century, convinced her that she was dealing with an authentic historical document that demanded attention, not immediate dismissal. This allowed her to open her mind and read sincerely - the last thing some of our critics want any of you to do.

Beginning of the Book of Mormon:

An account of Lehi and his wife Sariah and his four sons, being called, (beginning at the eldest) Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi. The Lord warns Lehi to depart out of the land of Jerusalem, because he prophesieth unto the people concerning their iniquity and they seek to destroy his life. He taketh three days' journey into the wilderness with his family. Nephi taketh his brethren and returneth to the land of Jerusalem after the record of the Jews. The account of their sufferings. They take the daughters of Ishmael to wife. They take their families and depart into the wilderness. Their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness. The course of their travels. They come to the large waters. Nephi's brethren rebel against him. He confoundeth them, and buildeth a ship. They call the name of the place Bountiful. They cross the large waters into the promised land, and so forth. This is according to the account of Nephi; or in other words, I, Nephi, wrote this record.
1 Nephi 1

[1] I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.

[2] Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.

[3] And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.

[4] For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.
Right from page 1, we have the first author in the book of Mormon explaining who he is, who his parents are, when and where he lived, how he is preparing the text, and what the political situation is as the story begins. It's not the voice of an omniscient narrator or an entertaining novelist. It's the voice a Jewish man, Nephi the son of Lehi and Sariah, in Jerusalem in 600 B.C., writing a sacred historical record with his own hand. And we have this kind of flavor throughout the text - without a trace of the romanticism of Joseph's era or any of the conventions of the modern novel.

Read it, ponder it, take it seriously for at least a moment or two, and find out for yourself.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Maize and Sunflowers: Evidence of Ancient Transoceanic Contact?

Carl L. Johannessen, Professor Emeritus at the University of Oregon, has authored several papers on New World plants such as maize and sunflowers that appear to have been in Asia before Columbus, suggestive of ancient transoceanic contact between the Old World and the New World. Interesting stuff - and widely ignored. Sunflowers, by the way, have been in the news recently because of new evidence about their early use in Mesoamerica, not just in the northern parts of the New World.

Not directly relevant to the Book of Mormon, but there are several interesting points of tangential interest. Plants provide some of the most interesting evidence for ancient transoceanic contact between the Americas and the Old World.

Another interesting post on corn and ancient India is Maize and Sunflowers in India.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Zimbabwe Vindicated!

For those of you who are interested in eating and plan on using money in the future to purchase more food, you might be interested in a short article by Adrian Burridge. Adrian briefly takes a hilarious but terrifying peek into a public statement from the central bankers of Zimbabwe, whose economic policies are now VINDICATED. You see, the path they began taking years ago - with much derision from other nations - is precisely the path the the Western central banks are now pursuing. They suffered "demonization" for this economic course, which has destroyed the welfare of the nation and wiped out hope, audacity and all, for millions who now face an inflation rate in the kazillions. Since the policies that led to their difficulties are similar to policies our government is taking, it might make sense to consider the long-term consequences - and make sure you continue your food storage program.

Don't mean to be alarmist or anything, but I do sleep better knowing that my readers have a better chance of feeding their families and their neighbors in the future. Remember: FOOD GOOD. STARVATION BAD. GET FOOD. For those of you caught up in the in-depth coverage of Presidential candidates, maybe I should out it this way: Food is even better than hope, change, experience, and being a war hero. Vote for food. Buy food now.

The Zimbabwe dollar used to be about equal to the US dollar a couple decades ago. Today, one US dollar is worth 594,187,320 Zimbabwe dollars. A year ago, the inflation rate was 1200% (see a news video from April 2007). Today it's at least 24,000% (that's the rate we had in February, per CNN. Could similar hyperinflation happen here? We have a lot propping up the dollar - but when a nation chooses to devalue its currency and use printing presses to satisfy insatiable appetites for spending, it cannot continue this forever without disaster. We are on a dangerous path.

Here's part of Adrian's article:
The first quarter monetary policy update from Dr. G. Gono, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe COMMENDS his peers, the world over. Referring to the United States and the United Kingdom. Dated April 30th, 2008. Pages 8 through 12 – Point 1.14 to 1.29. (http://www.rbz.co.zw/pdfs/2008%20MPS/AprilMPS2008.pdf)

Permit to quote. (I especially like his use of bolding – I added bolding where he did).
1.14 Equally also, our thrust has been founded on our unwavering belief that extraordinary circumstances must be confronted through extraordinary interventions and not through half baked or even wholesale 16th century economic dogmas that have been long discarded in their founding countries.

1.15 As Monetary Authorities, we have been humbled and have taken heart in the realization that some leading Central Banks, including those in the USA and the UK, are now not just talking of, but also actually implementing flexible and pragmatic central bank support programmes where these are deemed necessary in their National interests.

1.16 That is precisely the path that we began over 4 years ago in pursuit of our national interest and we have not wavered on that critical path despite the untold misunderstanding, vilification, and demonization we have endured from across the political divide.

1.22 Here in Zimbabwe we had our near-bank failures a few years ago and we responded by providing the affected Banks with the Troubled Bank Fund (TBF) for which we were heavily criticized even by some multi-lateral institutions who today are silent when the Central Banks of UK and USA are going the same way and doing the same thing under very similar circumstances thereby continuing the unfortunate hypocrisy that what's good for goose is not good for the gander.

1.26 As Monetary Authorities, we commend those of our peers, the world over, who have now seen the light on the need for the adoption of flexible and practical interventions and support to key sectors of the economy when faced with unusual circumstances.

1.27 Of course, in the short term such interventions are without doubt inflationary but in the medium to long-term they trigger and propel economic growth and development that everyone craves for.

Later on in the document you learn the unsecured lending rates were raised to 5000% from 4500%. Page 46.

Of the 309 registered microfinance/money lending institutions only 184 are still operational. Page 61.

In other words bank failures and hyperinflation appear to go hand in hand.
To the Saints and all others in Zimbabwe, I'm so pained at that is happening to your beautiful nation. May there be real change, real hope, and real help shortly. And to all of you living in more prosperous circumstances, prepare now to help your family and others overcome whatever financial crises are brewing. They can come swiftly and unexpectedly.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Being Sincere Is Not Enough

Some more random thoughts inspired by some random photographs . . .

At a hard-to-find tiny Korean restaurant near the Chicago Temple, my wife took this photo of me next to the sign on the restaurant's wall. "We Prepare and Serve Foods with Our Best Sincerity." Fortunately, the chef had more than sincerity going for him. He also had skill and the right ingredients, tools, setting, and support staff to offer an excellent meal. But too often, we excuse people such as politicians, celebrities, pop psychologists, and ministers who serve crazy and dangerous courses in the realms of politics, economics, civics, business, and morality, with little more going for them than "sincerity" and "passion." Never mind that there is no depth of knowledge and evidence behind their proposals, never mind if it has brought ruin and bloodshed where others have feasted on the same fare elsewhere, never mind if every policy change they are calling for has been implemented with nothing but failure over the past 50 years - these sincere folks will tell us that we just haven't gone far enough along their yellow bricked road to see the Utopia they offer.

We shouldn't be shy about challenging popular notions that have nothing behind them but "sincerity." That includes harmful notions about morality, marriage, economics, social policies, etc. Sincerity is nice, but it's best when coupled with logic and substance, not insane hope alone or platitudes aimed at the gullible. And sometimes, we need to realize that the apparent sincerity of some might hide a highly insincere motive based on profit and power.

And yes, this cuts multiple ways. I'm sincere in what I believe, but my beliefs are inexcusably wrong and if I've resisted the efforts of the Lord to get me in the right path, being sincere in my stubborn and foolish ways won't help a lot - at least not as much as really listening to the Lord, and developing the skills and knowledge to properly live my life and fulfill my duty here. Isn't that what we all really need to be doing?

Anyway, it was a fine meal, sincerity and all. It's in a little strip mall just behind Szechuan Cuisine on Milwaukee Avenue close to Lake Street in Glenview. It's not the big Seoul Garden place - which is very nice, but twice as expensive as my authentic little hole-in-the-wall. Hope it's still there - it's been a few months since that meal.

Sunday, June 01, 2008