Showing posts from January, 2008

Tribute to President Hinckley

I've been looking all week for a way to pay tribute to President Hinckley. I thought perhaps I would gather all the links to everyone else's tributes but that quickly became too large a list. I thought a link to the first article on the Deseret News from Sunday night with the thousands of comments would be impressive, but it just didn't seem to fit. And then Joel Dehlin, the CIO of the church sent this to me. Thanks Joel, thanks Glenn and thanks to President Hinckley.

Update: Joel's team, including Larry Richman, the ldsWebguy has been busy this past week. They created this new website to honor President Hinckley and this site to President Monson. In addition, the MoreGood Foundation has also created these web sites: President Hinckley and President Monson. All four are well done and worth visiting.

The Electric Universe - Fact or Fiction?

A new image from the far side of Mercury was released by NASA today. It was taken by the Messenger probe that flew by last week before it begins an orbit of Mercury in a few years. It has been sending back a wealth of data about the planet that was not previously known. This image was one of the first of the far side.

Scientists are puzzling over this strange spider shape formed by a set of radiating troughs at the center of Mercury's huge Caloris impact basin. The troughs might be stretch marks formed when the ground here expanded, but their relationship to the crater near the center is uncertain. In other words, the experts have no clue what could have caused this spider-like formation.

I was especially excited to see this image today and I'll bet Dave Talbott was too. To me, it confirms a theory about the electric universe that modern science has completely rejected. This picture looks exactly like what happens when an electric arc is discharged on a planetary scale. Equally …

Has the prophecy in Joel 2:31 been fulfilled?

In October 2001, just after the destruction of the world trade centers and the tragedy of the loss of all the lives of those who perished there, President Hinckley said this in his opening address of General Conference:

"The era in which we live is the fulness of times spoken of in the scriptures, when God has brought together all of the elements of previous dispensations. From the day that He and His Beloved Son manifested themselves to the boy Joseph, there has been a tremendous cascade of enlightenment poured out upon the world. The hearts of men have turned to their fathers in fulfillment of the words of Malachi. The vision of Joel has been fulfilled wherein he declared:

"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew…

If I could only get through those Isaiah chapters!

Growing up in the church I often heard members say that they did not understand Isaiah. I'm not sure if they were just repeating what they had heard others say or if they really felt this way. In fact, I recall a gospel doctrine instructor who started a lesson on Isaiah by expressing that same sentiment. He said that even after reading the manual that he was still not sure if he understood what he had studied that week. It did not evoke a lot of confidence in what he was about to teach.

In my scripture study I have come to the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi. I am not a professional gospel scholar. We have them in the church you know. We pay our CES instructors to study the scriptures so they can explain them to us. Of course that doesn't happen in California where I live. We don't have released time seminary here but we do have full-time institute directors for the three local colleges and university. A good bishop once told me, "Don't be too impressed by their knowled…

Are Mormons Zionists?

I guess it all depends on what you mean by Zionist. If you define Zionism as an international political movement that supports a homeland for the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, then you will have to ask each individual member their opinion. The church does not take sides. Personally, I'm all for the state of Israel having a right to exist. Other Mormons do not feel this way.

Consider this oft-quoted statement from President Howard W. Hunter on the subject: “We do not need to apologize nor mitigate any of the prophecies concerning the Holy Land. We believe them and declare them to be true. But this does not give us justification to dogmatically pronounce that others of our Father’s children are not children of promise. … Both the Jews and the Arabs are children of our Father. They are both children of promise, and as a church we do not take sides. We have love for and an interest in each.” (Devotional speech BYU 1979)

The future of Israel

I have written previously about the futu…

What kind of warnings do we prefer?

There are occasions when I feel especially appreciative of the unique perspectives of life that come from being a Mormon. Let's face it, we see life differently than most people of the world. We have the advantage of an understanding of the purpose of life that is very different. There are times when we can see the hand of the Lord in events that leave others perplexed.

So many in the world are bothered as they read the daily news accounts of trouble and anxiety and fear. Those who write headlines and stories that capitalize on fears and worries know this well. It is gripping to read how we are just a moment away from financial disaster and ruin that could turn into anarchy and despair, isn't it? Those who write this way are experts at this style.

It seems there is not a day that goes by that we are not warned of the awful approaching doom of global warming, of the stock market crash and resulting anarchy that will surely follow. We are treated to headlines that proclaim the bre…

Latter-day Commentary and Planet LDS

Thanks to John Hesch of KZION Radio who just added my Latter-day Commentary blog to the Planet LDS aggregator. I'm looking forward to more comments and feedback. That's why I write - to connect with other bloggers and blog readers interested in similar topics. I hope I have something unique and worthwhile that will cause you to want to come back occasionally.

I recently added a new widget to my blog. It is called Feedjit. The widget shows people who enter and leave my site, where they came from and how they left. There was nothing to install and nothing to register. It was simple and easy to add. The cool thing about it is that it provides a quick and easy way to see which of my posts have become most popular.

Frankly, I'm surprised at what shows up most often at the top of the list. For example, the most popular entry for today is still my post on "Article VI: Faith. Politics. America." It was just something I threw up there after I viewed the trailer for the movi…

Eschatology - The study of what?

I'm amazed at the interest and response of so many to the YouTube video (beware of the immature, rude and profane comments) about the TU24 asteroid due to pass by the earth in a few days (Jan 29 2008). The best response is from Phil Plait, the author of the Bad Astronomy blog. Phil has a vested interest in all the hullabaloo. He quit his job as an astronomer to capitalize on the interest on the subject with his upcoming book "Death From the Skies." I'm looking forward to reading his book when it comes out.

I learned a new word the other day - eschatology. It means the study of the last days, and in particular, the events leading up to the prophesied end of the world. I like the qualified definition of the word in Wikipedia. The author of the article clarifies that the word can be more correctly translated as 'the end of an age'. I think that many people who have not thought about it do not realize that the second coming of the Savior is not the end of the wor…

Miracles and natural laws

Elder Talmage wrote, "Miracles cannot be in contravention of natural law, but are wroght through the operation of laws not universally or commonly recognized." (Jesus the Christ, p. 148) In other words, what we commonly describe as a miracle such as the healing of the sick, the restoring the sight of the blind or even raising the dead, is done according to natural laws, which may only be known to God.

I accept Elder Talmage's statement at face value. I believe there is always an explanation for miracles, even if it has not yet been revealed to us what is the real source of the miracle. For most people, it is sufficient to say, "It is a miracle. God understands how it works. That's enough for me." I live my life that way too, but I also make an effort to find out if there is some sort of explanation for the miracle. That's not wrong, is it?

Can we apply this same logic to signs and wonders in the heavens from the Old Testament record and the signs that are…

Teachings of Presidents: Joseph Smith

I reviewed again the contents of the book "Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith" this morning. This is the text for our course of study this year and next in our Priesthood quorums and in Relief Society meetings. It is a wonderful thing that the church has prepared and made this book available to the members of the church for our personal study. In my opinion, it is better organized than "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith" compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith and first published by Deseret Book in 1938.

Several people have pointed out that the book contains nothing on the doctrine and practice of plural marriage. It is mentioned in passing on page 22: " 1843 the Prophet dictated the revelation that describes the eternal nature of the marriage covenant. The doctrines in this revelation had been known by the prophet since 1831. As commanded by God, he also taught the doctrine of plural marriage." That's it - the only reference to plu…

How our own Liahona works

I'm sure this point has been made many times and is obvious to any serious student of the Book of Mormon. The Liahona that Lehi found in the desert worked 'according to the faith and diligence and heed' which the family gave it. Countless seminary, institute, gospel doctrine and primary teachers have made the point that the gift of the Holy Ghost works just like the Liahona.

I imagine that some astute instructors have lead a discussion of the three requirements that Nephi identified as being necessary for the Liahona to work properly - faith, diligence and heed. But if you haven't considered it before, join me in my scripture study this morning as I take a closer look at each of the three qualifications.

Faith - This is the first of three actions required to make the Liahona work. Faith is more than just a belief and it starts with trust - a trust in God and in his desire and willingness to bless us. In other words, Lehi and his family knew that this gift was of divine n…

Character and the oath of office

Jeff Lindsay's post in Mormanity yesterday brought up an issue from a former presidential election that was oft repeated at the time. It was refreshing to read it again. It has to do with character. Isn't that ultimately why we vote from who we do in the presidential election? I think I have made it clear who I am voting for in this election. My choice is based on character.

After quoting D&C 98:6-10 Jeff said, "As a nation, our respect for personal integrity and moral character seems to be at a low. Scoundrels can be our celebrities, our leaders, and our heroes, and those who are uncomfortable with that are often put down for being judgmental and intolerant." Indeed, some celebrities are worse than scoundrels, yet they are lifted up.

"Ultimately, it was the moral character - in spite of many flaws - among our Founding Fathers that propelled them to risk their lives and their fortunes for the freedom of this land. It is the moral character of wise leaders that…

Joshua's Long Day

I'm going nuts with this embedded video thing. It adds so much to my blog. Anthony Larson made a 27-minute video some twenty years ago called Joshua's Long Day. It is a telling and intrepretation of the events surrounding the day that Joshua commanded the earth to stand still in Old Testament times. Did it really happen? Watch the three part series and find out.

You can also go direct to Anthony's YouTube channel.

Part one (8:14):

Part two (8:10):

Part three (7:42):

Article VI: Faith. Politics. America.

I received an email from a PR firm for the new movie Article VI that came out today. I normally ignore blatantly commercial stuff like this but after reviewing the trailer I just had to respond. I am impressed. If the movie is anything like the trailer you are going to come away with a distinct impression that the presidential election this year is different from any other.

From the Executive Producer, John Carosella:

"It is our earnest hope that through this film, we can raise the level of inquiry about the role of faith in politics, and catalyze what will be an energizing, provocative, and, yes, combustible debate. Because it's a necessary debate, perhaps never more so than right now.

"In the end, my faith (or yours) is irrelevant to this story. What matters is how America can express her spiritual and moral values in our political process without relying on, focusing on, or forcing those values into a straight-jacket of a particular religion or religious expression.


Embedding YouTube videos in your blog

Anthony Larson has made a series of videos promoting his books and placed them on YouTube. I decided to embed a couple of them here as my first attempt at embedding video. It is not a difficult thing to do. Just highlight and copy the code to the right of the video and then paste in in blogger in the 'Edit HTML' tag.

Mr. Larson does good work, doesn't he? I find them compelling. As a member of the church, they make me want to got to his website and see what he has to say. Here's another one:

And here's a link to his site: MormonProphecy

The desolation of abomination

In my scripture study today I jumped from the Book or Mormon to section 84 in the Doctrine and Covenants, specifically to the last verses 114 to 120. In verse 114 the Lord refers to the desolation of abomination. Is that a typo, a reversal in the mind of the prophet Joseph of the familiar phrase used in the Old and New Testaments of the abomination of desolation?

No, the order and wording of the phrase is intentional and correct. The Lord uses the same order of the words in section 88, verses 84-85. Is there some significance to this order or do the phrases carry the same meaning? You may argue that perhaps they do and I would listen with attentiveness but I think the Lord was referring to a specific event in these verses.

The phrase in the familiar order of 'abomination of desolation' refers to a set of circumstances that will exist in the last days. We know that the prophecy in Daniel and repeated in the New Testament referred to both the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD as we…

The great and abominable church

In yesterday's post I mentioned briefly one of the verses (v10) in 1 Nephi chapter 14 that has always intrigued me regarding the great and abominable church. That phrase has been the subject of much study and debate over the years by many a student of the scriptures. I am certain it has been well discussed in priesthood quorums and Sunday school classes many times all over the church.

Here are verses nine and ten with Nephi quoting the angel:

"And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look, and behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil. 10: And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth."
You are probably aware that in the first edition of the boo…

The power of God descended upon the saints

As we read through the Book of Mormon again this year, I am enjoying my visits to Nephi's chapters on his vision of the future of America. It brings back memories of reading them with my family when I was little, then reading them in Seminary, on my mission, in Institute classes, teaching Seminary and many years of Sunday School. They are all wonderful memories.

There are three verses in chapter fourteen of First Nephi that have always been my favorites. One is where the Angel tells Nephi of the fate that awaits those who dig in that great pit hoping to capture the souls of the good people of the world. Another is the proclamation that there are really only two churches - the church of the Lamb of God and the church of the devil.

The third verse I really love is verse 14 where Nephi describes his vision of the church of the Lamb of God. I am saddened that his main comment is that 'its numbers were few" and 'their dominions upon the face of the earth were small." A…

America is a land of destiny under God

In what surely will be a politically divisive post, I would like to comment on my recent readings in the Book of Mormon. In particular I would like to focus on Nephi's vision of the destiny of America. Nephi makes it very clear that the hand of God was involved in the discovery and the conquest of this nation by the European white settlers who came here for religious freedom.

In verse twelve of chapter thirteen of First Nephi we read how Columbus was 'wrought upon' by the Spirit of God. In other words, he came to America because the Lord inspired and helped him. The next verse describes 'other Gentiles' who were also 'wrought upon' by the Spirit of God to come to America. These are the Pilgrims and Puritans who came forth 'out of captivity.'

Nephi sees 'many multitudes' of Gentiles, who are mainly European white settlers coming to the land of promise - America - in verse fourteen. He beheld that the wrath of God was upon the inhabitants of the…

Mormon Doctrine - Prophecy and the Last Days

A few posts back I mentioned in passing the 'Prophecy Trilogy' books of Anthony E. Larson. Mr. Larson and I have begun a correspondence that has included discussion of his books, publishing in the LDS market, and the idea of 'strange doctrine'. He didn't call it that but I do. It's strange because it is not something that is taught in Sunday School, Priesthood or Relief Society classes. It is certainly not something you will find in a Primary manual (or is it?).

In other words, what Mr Larson writes about is, doctrinally speaking, college level stuff. Does that mean that it is not something we should study? Of course not. The only problem is that most members of the church are still struggling with the doctrine that is in our official curriculum. However, as Mr Larson is very careful to point out, every bit of what he presents in his books was at one point taught by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young or other early prophets and apostles, backed up by scripture.

Now, I k…

Three effects of the mists of darkness

From this morning's scripture reading: "And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost." 1 Nephi 12:17

I see three things in this verse caused by the mists of darkness or the temptations of the devil:

1. The blinding of the eyes
2. The hardening of the heart
3. The leading away into broad roads

The blinding of the eyes is the devil's ability to cause us to not see the good in the things of the Lord. "What a waste of time," he whispers, "There is so much more in the world to see." People blinded like this often say, "I just can't see the benefit" of a course of action that leads them to the tree of life. They have no vision. They have lost their way. They have been blinded. They run to and fro looking in all the wrong places for that which can only be found in the gospel.

The hardening …

The most important reading of the day

It seems like I read for a living. From the time I get up in the morning until the time I go to bed at night, the majority of my day is spent in front of my computer screen reading or writing. I suppose I read at least a hundred news or opinion pieces each day as well as several dozen technical entries. I even read from my Treo while waiting in restaurants or airports or when riding in the car.

I'm paid to answer people's questions all day so I do a lot of email - receiving hundreds each day and sometime writing as many. As you can imagine I sometimes get a little burned out on reading. I enjoy the challenge of answering questions but keeping up with what is going on in the world can be tiresome because it is always changing, especially in the world of technology.

I guess that's why I enjoy the time I spend in the scriptures. The scriptures are static. They don't change. I can trust them. I rely on them. They are old friends and have always been there for me. My current …

Short chapters are more readable

Carol and I recently finished reading Sheri Dew's new book, God Wants a Powerful People. We bought it when it first came out in October but only finished it just before Christmas. The reason it took so long is that I read it out loud to Carol a few pages at a time each night before retiring. In fact, I can honestly say that I put Carol to sleep each night by reading Sheri Dew.

We enjoyed the book immensely. It is an enlargement of a previous talk she gave on the same subject, which we have on a CD and have enjoyed several times on various trips to visit far-away family. Sheri makes excellent points and illustrates many of them with great stories. I confess that I wish there were more stories because she really tells them so well.

I have only one complaint about Sheri's writing style: Her chapters are sometimes too long. I like to read in small ten minute bursts - that's about all I get before Carol falls asleep. I think about five or six pages per chapter would be just about…

Standards make so much more sense now

When I was much younger and first heard the word 'standards' used in the church I confess that it sometimes had a negative connotation for me. It used to be that when I thought of standards I would think of commandments and then I would think of 'things I can't do'.

In Mutual we had 'standards night' in which we were reminded again of the need to watch the way we talk, the kind of music we listen to, the movies we went to see, our language, hemlines, necklines, tight-fitting sweaters, pornography and of course strict observance of the Word of Wisdom.

I never used to associate standards with safety, security, confidence and happiness, all words that come to mind today. Perhaps I can provide an example that will help explain how living certain standards contributes to true happiness. It has to do with my personal experience in listening to a certain kind of music when I was a teenager. I hope it is not offensive to anyone.

When I was about 11 years old, my br…