Monday, April 20, 2015

Seek and Ye Shall Find...

Ask of God; ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

For everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.  (Matthew 7:7-8)



 God does not force us to believe.  Faith is the product of active seeking.

Belief is something we choose—we hope for it, we work for it, and we sacrifice for it. We will not accidentally come to believe in the Savior and His gospel any more than we will accidentally pray or pay tithing. We actively choose to believe, just like we choose to keep other commandments.  ("Choose to Believe", Elder L. Whitney Clayton, April 2015 General Conference address)
But beware of seeking the wrong thing, because if you go looking, you'll find it. If you're looking for trouble, you've come to the right place.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Bees won't sting idiots

 

Revisiting a theme from Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn...


Jim said bees wouldn't sting idiots; but I didn't believe that, because I had tried them lots of times myself, and they wouldn't sting me.


I'm almost sure Mr. Clemens had a great time thinking about this aphorism, just imagining how many idiots would go right out and try it.

In very revealealing current events, Mr. Obama assures children playing on the White House lawn.  “Oh no, it’s a bee. That’s OK, guys. Bees are good, they won’t land on you. They won’t sting you, they’ll be OK."

Little doubt, Mr. Obama wishes that we would believe with all our fairy-story-loving hearts in the benevolence of bees and other living things.  This all-too-common but wholly unrealistic view of the natural world is the basis for much of the current administration's policies, included the foreign affairs being "negotiated" by Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry with Iran.  But the facts contradict such an optimistic view of the bees, and the world in general.

Bees are "good".  They serve a useful role in nature.  Which commonly includes stinging those they see as threatening to the welfare of the beehive.  Notwithstanding fairy-tale wishes from naive political leaders.  Unfortunately, the bees are totally illiterate, they don't seem to share Mr. Obama's optimistic fairy-story view of world affairs.


Apparently the White House features, among other things, its own politically-correct beehive, that servants at the White House exploit to get honey.  For which it has its own purposes, including beer-making.



Bees do sting idiots.  I've tried it many times. When I give them the opportunity, the bees always sting me with the greatest enthusiasm.  They are apparently believers in the doctrine of non-discrimination - they don't bother to practice forbearance based on their assessment of the idiocy of the subject.  I have no doubt they will sting Mr. Obama and his useful idiots, given a fair chance.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Wastch Wildflowers


Wasatch Wildflowers.

I have been identifying the profusion of mountain wildflowers from A to Z, from photographs submitted by the Hike the Wasatch club over a number of years.  The mountains of Utah become a summer showplace of superlative splendor.   This YouTube slide show is another form of home movies, though the accompaniment is courtesy of the Vienna Philharmonic and first movement of Beethoven's 9th.  The sequence follows more-or-less alphabet sorting of the taxonomic genus names.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

April 2015 General Conference




Summaries of 2015 April General Conference, from Deseret News, 

with personal annotations.


All of the General Conference talks are available at the Church web site shortly after the session ends, either for online streaming, or for download, as video or audio media.  Talks are transcribed to text and available for reading or downloading shortly after the Conference. 




General Women's Session

I failed to take notes during the Women's Session, though my mom gave me permission to watch.





Saturday Morning Session


President Eyring recalled finding a donation slip inside of an old book of scripture, with one dollar indicated as the amounts for each donation category.  It was the equivalent of the widow's mite.
President Boyd K. Packer: "The Plan of Happiness"
 A cookie and a kiss.  Marriage and family within the bounds of gospel teaching are the Plan of Happiness.
Sister Linda K. Burton: "We'll ascend together"
Extraordinary ordinary.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks: "The Parable of the Sower"
The stony heart.  Beware of playing games during the Sacrament. Do things that make our harvest plentiful.
Elder L. Whitney Clayton: "Choose to believe"
God does not force us to believe, He invites us. 



Saturday Afternoon Session


During the beginning of this session, President Uchtdorf conducted the sustaining votes, and financial audit and statistical reports were given.  Interesting to note trends in growth of membership report.


President Uchtdorf responded calmly to dissidents shouting dissenting votes during the sustaining of General Authorities.  He was unperturbed, noted their objection, and at the end of the proceedings, instructed them to bring their objections to their local Stake President.

The disturbance indicates a basic misunderstanding of the principle of Common Consent.  Although it is intended to be a democratic process, it was not implemented to facilitate demonstrations or protests. The protocol is intended to help settle disputes peaceably and without rancor.

Most Church members recognize the sustaining vote as an opportunity to fulfil the obligations bound by sacred covenants.

Elder David A. Bednar: "Therefore they hushed their fears"
The peaceable things of the Kingdom.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson: "Why marriage, why family"
Quote from Bonhoeffer, "The Office of Marriage".
Elder Wilford Andersen: "The music of the gospel"
"I could teach you to dance, but you have to hear the music".
Elder Dale G. Renlund: "Latter-day Saints keep on trying"
"Twas I, but it's not I".   God is disappointed when we fail to recognize the struggles of others.
Elder Michael T. Ringwood: "Truly good and without guile"
Blessed is he that endures to the end.
Elder Quentin L. Cook: "The Lord is my light"
Sunflowers grow in inhospitable soil.  We flourish and become beautiful as we follow the sun.


 

Priesthood Session


Elder Ulisses Soares: "Yes, we can and will win!"
The adversary tries to deceive us with mists of darkness.  (Elder Soares delivered his counsel in Portugese, but English translation was broadcast simultaneously.)

Brother Larry M. Gibson: "Fatherhood — our eternal destiny" 
High time to examine our hearts, and make a course correction.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: "On being genuine"
The Potemkin Village.  We have left our first love.  God has power to breathe life into you.  It cannot happen if we hide behind a façade.
President Thomas S. Monson: "The priesthood — a sacred gift"
Come, ye sons of God.  Determine our duty.  Military service priesthood interview.


Sunday Morning Session


My nephew went, with a group of young people from his ward, to the Conference Center this morning before the session, to attempt to counteract some of the dissident protests being staged around the Conference.  Rumored to be many gatherings planning to conduct noisy disruptive demonstrations.  The counter group plans to loudly sing LDS hymns together to overwhelm and bury the tumultuous noise of angry dissenters.

The Tabernacle Choir was accompanied by two ladies at the organ - something I have never seen before at General Conference.

President Thomas S. Monson: "Blessings of the temple"
New temples in Haiti, Ivory Coast, Thailand.  Though President Monson exhibits signs of age over the past several years, he gives no indication of serious infirmity, and his address was as enthusiastic and energetic as ever.  This has been an issue of some concern in certain venues.  I hope such doubts are pacified.
Sister Rosemary M. Wixom: "Returning to faith"
A constant quest to learn "Why?"  Church is not a place to put on a perfect face.
Elder Jose A. Teixeira: "Seeking the Lord"
Life is not confined to a four inch screen.
Bishop Gérald Caussé: "Is it still wonderful to you?"
Children, to Bishop Causse:  We have lived here all our life, and we have never been to the Eiffel Tower.
Elder Brent H. Nielson: "Waiting for the prodigal"
How to respond to those who have lost their way.  All of us are lost, and need to be found.
A fictitious tree branch fails to distract. Brotherly hands helped me to safety.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: "The gift of grace"
On this day, our lives changed.  We grow from flawed and limited beings, by the Grace of God.


Sunday Afternoon Session


Jesus used His agency to choose Heavenly Father's plan.
"Hang in there" is not a principle of the Gospel.
Unless we step back a little we cannot appreciate the forest.  Focus on a single jigsaw puzzle piece will not bring the entire picture into perspective.
Interjected by President Uctdorf:  Sorry, President Monson.  I made a switch to my native language!

If everything is going perfectly, just wait.  Can you see the hand of God in your life?  Our faith grows as we anticipate.  The skeptics will be silenced.
Learn our duty.  How could we be content with anything less?
There was a musical interlude, with the Tabernacle Choir singing a Primary song, "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus, accompanied by two ladies at the organ!

Fundamental attributes of our Divine nature.
How will I change?  How do we hallow the Sabbath?






Friday, April 03, 2015

Name that Freedom Contest




From the Federal RFRA:


SEC. 3. FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION PROTECTED.

(a) IN GENERAL. -- Government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b).

(b) EXCEPTION. -- Government may burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person --

(1) furthers a compelling governmental interest; and

(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

(c) JUDICIAL RELIEF. -- A person whose religious exercise has been substantially burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government. Standing to assert a claim or defense under this section shall be governed by the general rules of standing under article III of the Constitution.


Relevant language from the "controversial" Illinois RFRA asserts:


Free exercise of religion protected. Government may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person (i) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and (ii) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
 
I'm hosting a contest to coin a new term that symbolizes "malcontents who harbor unreasonable fears about free exercise of religion." Something short and pithy, like counterpart to "homophobe". Or totally perverted new meaning, like the kidnapped and innocuous "gay".

Any suggestions?

The term should be appropriately politically-incorrect, and tastefully free from any hint of profanity.  Any portmanteaus will be considered, as long as it meets  the requirement for concise brevity.



Thank you. 



Wednesday, April 01, 2015

April Conference: Expecting stormy weather


Stormy weather conditions usually prevail at General Conference time in Salt Lake City.

Since the Mormons came to settle in the Salt Lake valley, the atmosphere tends to be rather unsettled, especially at the April sessions.  Conference goers expect storms to be hanging around, sometimes rain, sometimes even snow.


An interesting survey of General Conference weather trends was conducted several years ago, published in Deseret News.

Researchers found that April sessions of General Conference tend to be stormy and overcast, with measurable precipitation 64% of the time.

In keeping the tradition, today on Thursday 2 Apr 2015, it is raining and light snowing throughout the valley.  The National Weather Service for SLC has issued a "hard freeze warning" for tonight.


  That will be the end for our spring flowers.





Unrefined


Unrefined aint.

This is an impossible contradiction in terms.

Just for the sake of argument, I would assert that the real "unrefined" looks more like this...


As a token to honesty, perhaps the factories that produce this refined sugar ought to say it is "less refined".  But that wouldn't sound nearly as attractive or trendy.

It is probably inaccurate even to assert that this stuff is "unrefined".
 


But in this instance the source of the sugar is nectar from flowers, and all the processing is done inside this tiny little factory...


Inside the honey stomach of the bee is where much of the work is done to transform the plant nectar into honey.  Raw honey contains the following enzymes: diastase, invertase, catalase, glucose oxidase, acid phosphatase and inulase. These enzymes are infused by the bees to transform nectar into honey.  After the worker bee regurgitates the processed nectar into a cell of honeycomb, the moisture content is reduced by convection, which workers facilitate by fanning their wings to circulate air throughout the hive.






Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Church Attendance survey

What moves us to go to church?

Results of a recent survey said something about the church-going habits of the American people, ranked by states.

Not necessarily that I believe numbers are simple indicators of individual religious devotion, but it does certainly go to one aspect.

Understanding the why might be as important as the actual number returned in the survey.

Do residents of Utah and the Southeast tend to believe that church attendance is their best use of Sunday?  Does my regular attendance at church make me a better person than I would otherwise tend to be?  Perhaps devotion to Sunday church services indicates people who find something meaningful therein.  If so, why is it not a more uniform metric?

I honestly doubt that it has anything much to do with competing to be the best or most hypocritical piousness.   But it certainly might.
And when thou prayest thou shalt not do as the hypocrites, for they love to pray, standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.  (3 Nephi 13:5)

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Sexual politics in Utah just got real



In the Feb 06 2015 Salt Lake Tribune, Paul Mero submits a remarkable article correlating with the recent Church news conference.  It stands out in honesty and candor like few other related comments I have seen.  I have copied the entirety here because I think it merits serious reflection.  I think the Salt Lake Tribune does not seek to promote or provide balanced discussion in the public square, and is not a worthwhile venue to publish such an article.
In light of the local euphoria over the recent statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding religious freedom and nondiscrimination, fully anticipating this euphoria to be temporary once the reality of what was actually said starts to sink in, I was reminded of the Hans Christian Andersen classic The Emperor's New Clothes.

You remember the story. Con men convince an arrogant and narcissistic king that they can make him a suit of clothes so special, so enlightened, that no mere common person would be able to see the suit. Of course, the king's sycophants weren't about to admit that they too were unable to see the clothing for fear of being marginalized as "hopelessly stupid." Once on public display, it took the innocence of a small child to reveal the obvious — the king "isn't wearing anything at all."
In its collective wisdom and painful honesty, the LDS Church, like the observant child in the classic story, just lifted all pretense from the serious debate over religious freedom and nondiscrimination. They said, for all intents and purposes, the emperor has no clothes. Sexual politics in Utah just got real.

With characteristic humility the LDS Church spokesmen told the truth: Resolving inherent legal conflicts between religious freedom and nondiscrimination will be very difficult. And I would add probably impossible to the liking of all opinions.
The legal conflict between religious freedom and nondiscrimination is inherent because those who cherish religious freedom view it much differently than those who cherish nondiscrimination and vice versa. Seasoned gay advocates know what I mean, as do seasoned defenders of religious freedom. Even as the LDS Church spokesmen uttered their words, seasoned observers knew that, far from drawing closer connections between the two issues, the divide had just grown wider.

The good news for sincere seekers of sound public policy is that the LDS Church's statements create an environment of honest dialogue. There is no more room for gay activists to imply LDS Church support for "activist sinners" (as opposed to repentant sinners) where none really exists. Nor is there room for social conservatives, like me, to imply that sexual politics can be simply ignored any longer.

The truth, now facing the Utah Legislature, is that nondiscrimination is forever linked with religious freedom in Utah. The delusion of Sens. Steve Urquhart and Jim Dabakis, that nondiscrimination is an absolute and independent civil right, has been laid to rest now by the LDS Church. More precisely, nondiscrimination is forever tied to the huge exception of individual conscience. In other words, there is no true religious freedom unless it applies equally to both religious institutions and their adherents.

Another delusion was settled, at least for the time being, by the statements of the LDS Church. Sexual politics is not viewed in the same pantheon of rights such as historic civil rights about race or sex. Despite sincere outreach to people with same-sex attraction issues, the LDS Church and most of Utah view homosexuality in terms of behavior. Race and sex (maleness and femaleness) are viewed as innate. For better or worse, homosexuality is largely viewed as something people do, not as something people are. This is precisely why the LDS Church cannot doctrinally satisfy gay activists who yearn to have their sexual relationships viewed as "worthy." And this is precisely why gay activists no doubt cringed when Elder Dallin H. Oaks punctuated during the Trib Talk interview that lifelong "chastity is not unique" to the human experience. His conclusion is unacceptable to gay activists — go ahead and "be gay" just don't engage in sexual relations outside of legal marriage defined as between a man and woman.

I appreciate this candor. It's refreshing even if it might make a prudent nondiscrimination bill more difficult to craft. Only one nondiscrimination bill with a clear provision for individual conscience can satisfy the constraints just imposed in principle by the LDS Church. Perhaps clever legislative attorneys can accomplish what LDS Church leaders, in the wisdom of Solomon, won't even attempt to address in the law. Good luck to all.

Paul Mero lives in Sandy, Utah, and can be reached at paulmero@msn.com.

I am uncertain about why Mr. Mero chose to publish this article in the Salt Lake Tribune.  It will certainly not be well received, or ever be thoughfully considered in that venue.  In fact it probably serves only to provoke more angry and threatening responses from the gentle readers of that journal.