Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What works for me

Everyone needs to adopt their own coping strategies to deal with life's challenges.

My approach to "weight loss" - I don't care. How much I weigh doesn't matter at all. Weighing myself is a silly idea anyway. I don't need a scale to tell me what I already know. Being too fat is the problem.

To me, "weight loss" is a destructive idea. I think it is a euphemism invented to excuse us from too much fat. As far as I'm concerned, I mostly get there from lack of sufficient exercise. Working hard at physically strenuous activities keeps me in fairly good shape. If I'm active enough I can eat whatever makes me happy without laying on too much fat.

I decided some time back that the size of my trousers is the best measure of fitness or fatness. If my size 40 trousers fit, I'm doing okay. If they fall off without a pretty good belt cinch, then I'm even better. If I have a hard time getting them on, I'm headed in the wrong direction.

Way back when I was in high school I had the same standard. It worked pretty well then. I got away from the idea for a while, and it seemed like all my trousers suddenly bloated up to 46 or 48. At that point, everything was wrong. I couldn't bend over to tie my shoes without passing out. It took longer and longer belts to reach around my fat body. Trouser legs started looking like they were made for an elephant. I could not do the physically active things I wanted to do, for fun, because it was just too taxing, too tiring, too painful. It was just no fun, being so fat.

It was pretty hard to get back from that point. Maybe my venture into non compos mentis was good therapy. Gross fatness is always a threat, and I've gone back and forth, back and forth, somewhere between 200 and 400 pounds, many times.

But it seems okay now. I have a pretty good handle on controlling my own indulgence and indolence. All I need to do is think about struggling to button up a pair of size 48 trousers, and I'm motivated to find something to keep me fit.

And I think life is just more fun if I can walk around the block when I want to.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31).

Monday, October 30, 2006

My views as gospel...

Nothing is easier than to identify one's own favorite political, economic, historical, and moral convictions with the gospel. That gives one a neat, convenient, but altogether too easy advantage over one's fellows. If my ideas are the true ones--and I certainly will not entertain them if I suspect for a moment that they are false!--then, all truth being one, they are also the gospel, and to oppose them is to play the role of Satan.

This is simply insisting that our way is God's way and therefore, the only way. It is the height of impertinence.

Nibley, "Beyond Politics", _BYU Studies_ 1974

Sunday, October 29, 2006

2006 hurricanes?

What happened to all the disastrous hurricanes that were supposed to come this year? I haven't heard of a single one yet.

Here's the NOAA wrap-up of the 2006 hurricane season.

2006 Hurricane Season Summary



NAME             DATES        MAX WIND   DEATHS   U.S. DAMAGE
                                MPH                $MILLION
H ERNESTO     24 AUG-2 SEP       75         2          N/A
H FLORENCE     3-12 SEP          90         0          0
H GORDON      10-20 SEP         120         0          0
H HELENE      12-24 SEP         125         0          0
H ISAAC       27 SEP-            85         0          0

Here's a series of 2006 hurricane forecasts, starting from early in the
year and progressing to just a few weeks ago.

2006 Hurricane Forecasts

Last spring these guys were really excited that 2006 would be a huge hurricane season. But as the year passed, few of the major storms materialized. On that basis I think you could safely say that their
predictions are just about worthless.

Today in Sunday School we studied Jeremiah. My observation about Jeremiah was that if someone like that was around today, he would be some kind of cultist fanatic nut case.

The surprising thing was, in spite of all his kooky behavior, Jeremiah was very close with the Lord, and his dire prognostications were correct, and ultimately were all fulfilled.

Compare and contrast Jeremiah with some of the modern authors of the global warming jeremiad. (Algore, in particular.) I think these politicians and scientists are false prophets. Their predictions are accurate only as far as their egos can carry them. If they were honest, they would publish their forecasts with a bit more humility.

Another question that came up today in the discussion of hurricanes.

It seemed that George Bush got all kinds of flak last year associated with Hurricane Katrina. It was almost as if a lot of people blamed him personally for causing the storm.

Does he get credit this year for preventing hurricanes?

Friday, October 20, 2006

How to change things?

In his Messenger and Advocate blog, Guy Murray deplores the current situation in Iraq.

I Am Ashamed

In reply, I proposed that he suggest how he might change current circumstances, given that he could go back in time to a moment of his choice, retaining the knowledge he has of current circumstances.

I thought this might develop into an interesting way to examine current circumstances and how we feel about them.

I haven't collaborated with Guy Murray about this. He may decide it is a stupid idea.

We'll see what happens.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Single Mother oxymoron

In the human family there is really no such thing as a "single mother. The very idea is a nonsensical legal fiction, a semantic contradiction. "Single" and "mother" cannot complement each other, since they denote states that are mutually exclusive in terms of biological functions. Human females that are birth mothers always have a male partner, which means that these mothers cannot properly be termed "single".

More correctly, we might say there are "unmarried mothers", or perhaps elaborate further with "mothers who function absent fathers".

Monday, October 02, 2006

Polly's Peak fire

Instead of listening to General Conference this weekend, I worked on a fire. We got TV coverage and several newspaper stories. They got most of the details wrong, but you get the idea.


Deseret News

Salt Lake Tribune

Interesting weekend.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Summer project

Our project this summer was spraying noxious weeds - Carduus nutans - in upper Joe's Valley on the Manti La Sal National Forest.

The experience was an interesting illustration of the mixture of earthly corruption and transcending beauty. The great mountain peaks surround this high valley, wreathing the area in thunderheads and frequent rain showers. Up here the rainfall is up to thirty times more than the average in the lower valleys. Also the temperatures are consistently much cooler. It makes for a unique and beautiful ecology. And interesting parallel to a common characterization of the temporal world, where thorns and thistles abound to afflict and torment us.

At lower elevations and drier areas, the preponderance of vegetation is dryland species like sagebrush, juniper, and pinyon pines. In wetter areas this phases into aspens, and in cooler and wetter exposures it transitions into spruces and firs. At the highest rocky peaks there are a few bristlecone pines. Throughout this entire spectrum there are certain opportunistic weed species that can colonize and take over an area at a fantastic rate.

Most of our work was searching out areas that are infested with invasive species of thistle. These thistles were introduced from other areas. (Some of you will be interested to know that one of the worst pests is commonly known as "Canada Thistle"! Any suspicion of a conspiracy in this? ;-)

Due to certain usage and traffic patterns in this area of the forest, these foreign species proliferate at an unnatural rate. They crowd out the native plants and make an environment that is unattractive to humans and other animals that use the land. So we have been blasting them with chemical pesticides, to help reduce the invading population.

We spent most of the past six weeks camping out in the forest, hiking through the woods and up and down the mountains, admiring the wonders of nature. And, getting well paid for it!

We met some US Forest Service employees that are great people to know and to work with. Working with fine people makes the job so much more enjoyable. It was a learning experience for all of us, and turned out to be really a lot of fun, which is gratifying in so many ways.

Anyway, next summer we will return to the same forest area, to continue waging war against the encroaching thistles. Striving to restore paradisical glory to this earth, one weed at a time.

A guardian angel...

This week we spent a day on the mountain gathering firewood.

Getting firewood from the forest is a rather involved ritual for us. There are many dead trees in the forest just up Fairview Canyon, only a few miles from us. But gathering the wood from standing dead trees is not as easy as it might seem. It involves felling trees, cutting them up, loading and hauling, splitting and stacking. Hard work but rewarding, and sometimes very enjoyable. But sometimes hazardous too.

We were felling a group of tall skinny spruces on the hillside. One of them turned the wrong way and lodged against an adjacent tree. The 80-foot high tree was suspended there, leaning uphill against its neighbor.

This is a very dangerous situation, to have a precariously balanced severed tree with half a ton of wood, teetering just over your head. Attempting to extricate it, I laboriously sectioned 6-foot pieces of the butt end with the chainsaw, cutting angled pieces that could slide off from each other and release the upper piece.

Unfortunately, the top ended up coming up nearly vertical after I'd sectioned out 30 feet or so of the lower trunk. It was not safe to continue cutting short pieces off.

At that point we made a serious mistake in judgement. We decided to try to drag the butt end downhill, chained to the ATV. My friend Ricky drove the machine up to the tree and wrapped the chain around, and gave it a pull. But the tree was held fast on the ground, and the top started to tip over, instead of pulling out at the bottom. His chain was too short to put him clear of the top of the tree, and the top was coming straight at him.

We yelled to Ricky, "Watch out!", as the tree ponderously toppled over, right onto the ATV.


Ricky responded quickly enough to scramble just out of the way, but it was a very near thing.

The ATV was mangled but repairable.

Ricky was unscathed.

We stood there for a few moments, listening to the ringing silence that followed the resounding crash of big timber.

When we recovered from the shock of such a near catastrophe, we breathed a prayer of thanks for the dramatic delivery of promised protection.

Conference weekend

 Conference weekend is one of the best times of life.

October conference is timed to coincide with a natural sort of winding-down season, looking forward to the onset of winter. Time to take stock of summer events that we were too busy to examine closely through the last few months. In the garden, gathering up the last zucchini and tomatoes. Bringing in firewood to warm the home through the cold snowy months to come.

The mountain colors here look to be notably fine this fall. Maples in the mid-elevations are at their most fiery blaze orange. The higher-up aspens are just coming into their best golden shimmering cloak. Some of the early frost has even colored up the oakbrush.

I anticipate the counsels to come in this conference just as I look forward to the autumn splendor. The best words of wisdom will be delivered to the Lord's disciples in the coming few days.

May our hearts be open and our minds clear to receive the inspiration and beauty of these messages that have been prepared for this very day and time. And may the Lord find us to be ever willing and profitable stewards in His service.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Spinach crises

Difficult to imagine a world where spinach is bad for you. Goes against every cartoon principle of good nutrition created since the world began.

Popeye would be so ashamed.

(Note: Sorry for the long hiatus in blogging. I have been working in the mountains all summer. No Internet hookup. Have to figure out a remedy for that problem.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Marriage amendment vote fails

Another attempt at considering an amendment to the US Constitution failed in the House vote.

The amendment, just like its predecessor, sought to define marriage as existing only between a man and a woman and was a priority for many family-values groups in and out of the Beltway.

This was the third vote in the American Values Agenda, which House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) introduced last month to minimal fanfare. After the amendment fell short yesterday, the Speaker criticized Democrats who opposed the measure and said a majority of Americans support the ban.

“Be assured that this issue is not over and that we will continue to send a message to the American people that preserving and protecting marriage is a priority,” Hastert said in a statement.

House Democrats condemned the marriage vote as a partisan political maneuver after the Senate rejected a similar amendment on a procedural vote last month that prevented leaders from bringing it to a vote.

A lot of the comments I see considering this issue seem to miss the real point. The underlying issue is a semantic question: What does “marriage” mean?

The Family Proclamation answers this, succinctly and unequivocally. I believe the official church interest in this matter is driven by prophetic inspiration, which forsees a developing crises involving of much greater scope than concerns about “alternative” fringe interests.

The final clause of the Proclamation is clearly politically directed, recognizing that legally defining marriage is rightfully a political issue, notwithstanding the sophistry of those who wish to simply disappear the problem by asserting that it is not.

LDS Church leaders urged public support from members in a letter sent to US Church units, to receive a mixed political reaction from supporters and detractors.

Some have suggested that from an LDS perspective, forcing others by law to live by correct principles is what Satan tried to impose. As I understand it, the proposal by Lucifer was that we would not have the option to exercise our own volition. He would dictate our actions. This arrangement would have had little in common with human government and laws which attempt to direct the choices we make under human agency. Under “Satan’s Plan”, there would be no choices.

We are instructed that all beings are endowed with fundamental insight into what constitutes the basis for morality. As moral beings it is our obligation to acknowledge that insight, and to attempt to codify it into a government structure and a legal system that reflect a positive disposition toward things which are “good” and a negative posture toward things which are “bad”. That our laws are an imperfect reflection of the ideal is axiomatic and acceptable, as long as our collective voice agrees that we are pointed in the right direction.

This is the real basis for the “definition of marriage” controversy. Now we experience discord in discussion of these issues because minority interests object to general rules which frame an advantage for others, but fail to address their specific minority concerns. Of course the ideal would be to implement laws which give no unfair preference to any single group, but there appears to be no way to serve that ideal perfectly. The acceptable compromise has long been that general rules which best serve the greatest number should prevail.

To propose to discard rules to which any minority finds marginal objection falls down the slippery slope toward anarchy.

The other day I listened to some ideas from a college student about the sanctity of room-mate relationships, as a strange parallel to the "gay marriage" rationale. It made me laugh. I have actually been campaigning to gain legal sanction for my loving relationship with my 1995 Toyota 4-Runner. For some reason, most refuse to take me seriously. ;-)

I agree that any focus on “gay” interests in considering this issue is off base, even to the point of being ridiculous. The attendent arguments are subterfuge to sidestep the most substantive question regarding the protection of the cultural definition of marriage, which affects vastly greater numbers than any “gay” actions ever will.

Perhaps it would be an acceptable (and infinitely more entertaining) solution, to designate a new government office regulating “gay” interests. Let us create an entire Federal bureaucracy exclusively for serving self-designated “gays”. It would prove once and for all that there aren’t really enough of them to warrant such a fuss.

Again, in my perception all of the discussion of peripheral issues effectively bypasses the vital point.

Perhaps it is more appealing for people to ignore the danger to real marriage, the issue that more directly concerns the vast majority, and instead focus on fringe, virtually inconsequential issues. Like whether “gays” are as good as normal people. Or whether polygamy should be legal.

In proper perspective, these are doubtless legitimate concerns, but should hardly rightfully occupy the top-of-the-list priority for the majority of us.

Very few will ever suffer any negative repercussions if the questions surrounding “gays” are never settled. This thread unravels into the surreal. As one who aspires to be a true disciple in the restored gospel, I try my best to understand direct statements from the First Presidency and to follow their counsel. Ideas forwarded by some in this discussion have thoroughly confused me. I cannot see how such thinking can possibly reconcile with the intent of the official statement.

In this context I can see how President Hinckley gets the impression that things might be as bad today as in the evil society of Sodom and Gommorah. While the Lord’s spokesman warns us that the traditional family is under heavy attack, some of us respond by hoping for more fully funded social welfare programs. The damage that accrues from problems with conventional marriages negatively impacts so many countless lives. As the problems multiply it becomes progressively more rare to find a “normal” family untroubled by problems with conventional marriage. Many of these problems are obviously inventions of our contemporary culture, and we could presumably discover effective means to correct them, if we only tried. Yet we are always distracted from the task by hand-wringing about “gays”.

I have wondered if just the open discussion of such trivia perhaps serves a bit of latent prurient interest.

(Speaking first for myself, of course. ;-)

Further discussion of BYU actions against "gay" protesters demonstrating on campus here and here.

I would observe that although it might be so inferred from certain comments on the internet, I would suppose that neither BYU nor the church has any independent civil authority to arrest protesters, or to so act in any other matters under the jurisdiction of civil laws. Offenders would be arrested by law enforcement officers, and answerable for legal violations directly to officers of the court, not BYU staff or officials.

Strangely, we also find homosexual apologists within the church actually looking to the Book of Mormon for proof-texts to represent the righteousness of accommodating homosexual activist demands. It makes little sense -- would we argue that because there is no Book of Mormon passage which explicitly forbids same-sex marriage, then it should be okay?

Indeed, as far as I know, there is no specific mention of proscriptions against homosexuality in the Book of Mormon, but there is explicit recognition of strict cultural observance of the Law of Moses. The Brass Plates apparently contained texts similar to our Old Testament, which offers condemnation for all kinds of sexual perversions in the most specific and unequivocal terms imaginable..

This Old Testament passage characterizes the law under which Book of Mormon society operated.

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.

Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:

And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. (Leviticus 18:22-25)

I strongly suspect no specifics were ever mentioned explicitly in the abridged histories of the Book of Mormon because the editors considered the topic of such abominations too disgusting and degrading to mention. Because they lived with and accepted this law, they already recognized how evil and awful the consequences of sexual immorality, therefore it needed no further elaboration.

Defenders of sexual deviance are ever wont to point out that such perversions have ancient historical roots and have existed in all societies from the beginning of time. This assertion, even if true, hardly constitutes a rational defense or justification for evil practices.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Men and women...

Let me enthrall you with a few trivial incosequential but true factoids about men and women...

Women's hearts beat faster than men's.

Proportional to their weight, men are stronger than horses.

Men get hiccups more often than women.

Men can read smaller print than women; women can hear better.

A bolt of lightning...

Lightning forks across the sky today, thunder rumbles through the nearby canyons.

Read some interesting notes about lightning here.

Are you worried about being struck during a lightning storm? Consider what might happen to swimmers in the water.

Current from a lightning strike will follow the path of least resistance within the area of potential to ground. A human swimmer in open water would probably not intersect such a low-resistance path, except in rare circumstances.

Not so with a person in the bathtub of water. Plumbing fixtures in houses tend to be good conductors of electricity, and might carry electrical potential right down to ya! If you happen to be right in the way, some of the current will pass through you. (Electrifying thought!)

But the bottom line is, the path of a lightning strike is impossible to predict -- no matter where you are standing.

A number of years ago, I was in the middle of a brief but violent thundershower while we were boating on Lake Havasu. In anticipation of strong winds and big waves, my dad and I anchored our boat in deep water offshore. When the storm hit, there were numerous lightning strikes all around us--it literally lit up the sky for a period of half an hour.

However, as far as I could tell, most of the strikes hit on the sand dunes and hills around the lake. Few of them hit the water. I did not spot any dead fish.

The group of our young scouts were not as prudent in their choice of ground to weather the storm. Several of them could be seen scampering across the tops of nearby dunes, with bolts of lightning detonating all around them -- one of even pausing to water the weeds, in defiance or ignorance, or just responding to the urgency of the moment, I cannot tell. Though we thought they looked like prime targets for flash-barbeque, amidst the all the roaring and flashing, none of the scouts were harmed.

I understand this capriciousness of lightning is presumed to be due to the localized accumulation of electrical potential that causes a lightning strike. It may well be that there is a better conductor nearby, but the location of the highest potential seems to be a bigger factor. Among the lightning folk tales we hear so often, some suggest that some type of insulation from the ground, like rubber tennis shoes, may provide a safety factor. But this seems a rather pitiful provision, considering that the electrical charge may have already passed through miles of air, which is a very good insulator.

If you do happen to provide a convenient ground conductor for one of these frightful bolts from the blue, just remember, there is still hope. In wilderness first aid training I learned that the most common outcome from being struck by lightning (other than flash burns) is cardiac fibrillation.

The electrical discharge through the body disrupts the electrical rhythm of the heart pacemaker, with the result that the heart muscles lose their coordinated pumping action, and just flutter ineffectually. Reportedly, CPR can be very effective in sustaining the life of a person in this condition. Ideally, an AED can be used immediately to restart the heart rhythm.

The American Heart Association has recently published new guidelines for CPR and the application of AED devices.

Temple divorce II

Reiterating some thoughts shared elsewhere...

I am vitally interested in these questions. While I have implicit faith that Heavenly Father will eventually help us understand all the implications, I don't know exactly what a divorce means in terms of my temple covenants.

For myself, I suppose that civil divorce from a temple marriage is relatively meaningless, in the eternal scheme of things. This is an act intended to cover a situation that can only exist in this temporary state. I am thinking that perhaps Jesus' words about divorce in the New Testament have strong application to the idea of cancelling a temple sealing. He said that the followers of Moses were given permission to divorce only because they stubbornly and wilfully insisted. I don't believe this was to their credit, and the pervasiveness of divorce in our society has similar significance.

I prefer to think that I stand assured of the blessings that have been promised, if I keep myself worthy, regardless of the acts or worthiness of others. While I cannot imagine exactly how these blessings will come about, I trust that it is so. My temple covenants are eternal. They cannot be abrogated or compromised by decrees of civil law, nor by the faithlessness of others. It is a fundamental doctrine of the gospel that we are accountable for our own acts, and will not be punished for the misdeeds of others.

Yet it stands to reason that we could not have any kind of eternal relationship - as in my case, given the fact that my exwife and I could not even survive a couple of decades of trial here. Alma counsels that "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" and that the same spirit which possesses our bodies now will continue with us in the worlds to come. Our marital relations will not undergo some miraculous transformation at the last day. Impossible to guess now how these difficulties will be worked out, but they must be, and will be, eventually.

It may be that some of our struggle with a rationale for divorced and fragmented families stems from our inability to understand the real nature of celestial marriage. I suppose what we can picture now is a very simplified version of what life with Heavenly Father will really be. We strive to model our earthly families after the form and function of the celestial, as far as we can envision that environment. From my perspective, this is a good thing to look forward to-things can only get better. (And I find myself feeling as though they could not get much worse, just now.)

I will always wonder, though: If I was really a good person, perhaps these evil things would not have happened to me. During the time when I was happily married - and it was quite a long stretch - I often expressed in prayers my gratitude for such a good marriage. What can I say now? Thanks for the memories, it was good while it lasted? I just don't feel as if "Better luck next time" is a very comforting thought.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

What to think about women?

Two current news articles together form an interesting backdrop for questions of the day.

Why are women outperforming men on campus?

Are they? Some authorities think so.

"Yes, there are a lot of guys doing well, even exceptionally well, in college. But the trend is otherwise. Women now make up 58 percent of those in our colleges and universities; in some places, their ratio is 2 to 1. They are a majority in graduate schools. And they win most of the places on honors lists. (Yes, men are more likely to graduate from college than they were two decades ago, but socially speaking that's not the achievement it was two decades ago.)"

The editorial confuses quantity with quality, which has been a misdirected focus of the liberal-minded affirmative action crowd for most of my life. It was thought that numbers equated with representation, therefore if there were fewer women in college, they were poorly represented. Of course we understood that the reason was patriarchal discrimination.

If that was true then, what is the cause of the current female overpopulation in colleges today? It seems that the promotion of women's causes has nothing to do with it. The editors opine that men are absent from college today because they're lazy and play too many video games.

That answers it for me.

Another fascinating editorial offering from the Wall Street Journal.

If you're married to clergy do you have to host church teas?

While this discussion extrapolates only loosely to mormon culture, it opens some fascinating questions for me. Some of the ideas I have been dwelling on for decades.
Second-wave feminism was, for clerical wives, a double-edged sword: No longer were women accorded honor and respect simply because they were married to a minister. And some clergy wives, reading "The Feminine Mystique" along with everyone else, began to rethink all those hours they had devoted to polishing the church silver. A role that had once seemed noble began to seem, well, exploitative...

...The problem with a facile feminist critique of the role of clergy wife is that it misses the real beauty of the collaboration sometimes found in clerical marriages. There is something wonderfully seamless about their lives--their work and their marriage is all of a piece. Husband and wife are profoundly knitted together, and their shared calling offers something of a rebuke to the hyper-individualism that characterizes so many American marriages. Indeed, they may set a nice example for the flock.

"The Bishop's Wife" makes an interesting parallel, doesn't it? Actually, the entire final paragraph tips up a red flag with regard to all contemporary marriages. There used to be beauty in collaboration. The clergy wife did not require separate recognition to lend a sense of self-worth. She and her spouse were literally "as one". Traditional marriage used to be based in similar axioms. This is truly an indication of what value has been sacrificed in the name of equalizing the competitive plane for women.

I've been following another parallel thought in a blog discussion about hyphenated-names for women. When I see these, to my irreverent and bigoted eyes, they always end up mapping into something suggestive of lesbians.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Firefighting II

 We have a newly formed community fire brigade, Indianola Volunteer Fire Department. Our crew is designated as Sanpete County Fire Station 18. We are assigned to cover the eight local subdivisions and all of the public and private lands in the north end of Sanpete County.

We have a 1000 gallon tanker truck with pump that we call our light water tender, and a pickup truck with 200 gallons that serves as light brush truck. Next week we are getting a 5000 gallon water tender that is being retired from a Moab fire department. Eight residents in our community are certified for wildland firefighting, and we have a number of other enthusiastic but less formally qualified volunteers.

On Thursday night we responded to a fire alarm in our area. Six members of our department reported to the fire scene at Skyline Mountain Resort with our two engines. It was totally dark by the time we arrived at the fire. There were about 20 vehicles of various types there, with 50 or so firefighters working to put down the flames.

A campfire had gone out of control at one of the many cabins in the area. It started spreading in the deep cottonwood fluff that accumulates like snowdrift in the shady canyon bottom under all the tall old cottonwoods. People who own these homes obviously love the big old trees, but they also make for a serious fire hazard. Anyway, apparently big clumps of burning fluff were drafted up by the quickly growing flames, spinning away on the draft, and spreading more than a dozen spot fires along about half a mile of the canyon bottom. Our crew pulled into one of the nearby home sites and put out one of the bigger spots just alongside the stream. It was burning in a big pileup of dead logs alongside the stream. There was also a nearby cottonwood tree that was actively burning all along the trunk up to about 40 feet high. The tallest flames were too high up for us to reach with our water, and it was too dangerous to run chain saws in the dark to cut it down, so we hosed down what we could reach and stayed away out from under the burning tree.

We worked on putting out flames and wetting down hot spots until just after midnight. Then rolled up the hoses and came home.

Then, on Friday morning we went back to do the mopping up. We spent several more hours in the canyon, searching the area for remaining hot spots that might flare up again.

In fact the entire Skyline Drive area of the Manti-La Sal Forest is currently in a stage where old dead trees predominate. People love those big old trees because they are so picturesque, but most don't realize that they represent a forest nearing the end of life. Sooner or later the whole forest will burn, mostly all the range over 8500' elevation, an area over 100 miles long and 30 miles wide. All those aging Engleman spruces and subalpine firs -- old and susceptible to bark beetles. The growth habit of this forest ecosystem tends toward cycles of new growth, maturation, senescence, bark beetle infestation, fire, and regeneration, over a period of a couple of hundred years. Right now, we are waiting for a really big fire. There has not been a very large scale fire on this range in recorded history.

Some forest ecologists believe humans have disturbed the natural cycle by putting out fires too quickly. Not too long ago this interrupted cycle balanced out the logging and clearcutting practices we used to harvest timber. But timber cutting is much curtailed these days, as many environmental groups find such fault with cutting down forests, and tend to sue everyone that tries. The US Forest Service has been developing a "fire use" policy for some time now. The idea is to let moderate to small wildland fires burn, with emphasis on monitoring and containment to protect developed areas. Some think it is already too late, and the only thing that can happen now is massive fires all over the west, on the scale of the Yellowstone conflagration.

The Millburn and Oak Creek areas are our neighbors -- the southern end of our Indianola Ward, though our communities are separated by an undeveloped mountain ridge between us. Happily for them, their firefighting duty is covered by the Fairview FD, which is better manned and equipped for the job. Up until a month ago, we had to rely on Fairview to cover our fire calls. In most cases their response time for this area was almost an hour. Mostly they would show up to help comb the ashes. We're hoping to do a lot better, given some time and a bit of practice.

This summer we are bidding on a work contract up in the Joe's Valley area. The project is to spray weedy species that thrive in areas where cattle have heavily overgrazed for many years.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Female genetic study

This is one of the most intriguing bits of information yet, from current studies of the human genome.

In female mammals, most genes on one X chromosome are silenced as a result of X-chromosome inactivation. However, some genes escape X-inactivation and are expressed from both the active and inactive X chromosome. Such genes are potential contributors to sexually dimorphic traits, to phenotypic variability among females heterozygous for X-linked conditions, and to clinical abnormalities in patients with abnormal X chromosomes. Here, we present a comprehensive X-inactivation profile of the human X chromosome, representing an estimated 95% of assayable genes in fibroblast-based test systems. In total, about 15% of X-linked genes escape inactivation to some degree, and the proportion of genes escaping inactivation differs dramatically between different regions of the X chromosome, reflecting the evolutionary history of the sex chromosomes. An additional 10% of X-linked genes show variable patterns of inactivation and are expressed to different extents from some inactive X chromosomes. This suggests a remarkable and previously unsuspected degree of expression heterogeneity among females.

This does have some really fascinating implications.

Here's a fun article that discusses the function of X inactivation in producing tricolor female cats.

One thing that makes the new chromosome study so intriguing...

"Early in embryogenesis in mammals, all but one X chromosome are functionally inactivated through a process called X chromosome inactivation. Because this inactivation occurs randomly, all normal females have roughly equal populations of two genetically different cell types and are therefore a type of mosaic. In roughly half of their cells, the paternal X chromosome has been inactivated, and in the other half the maternal X chromosome is inactive. This has a number of important biological and medical implications, particularly with regard to X-linked genetic diseases."

This article reflects conventional thinking about X inactivation. But the latest study indicates that it isn't nearly this simple -- in human females, the X inactivation is incomplete and shows quite a range of variability. Apparently even in the cells within an individual.

Blascho's Lines revealed under UV

Part of the import is that alleles which are heterozygous may be pathogenic -- something like the possible adverse results from conditions like trisomy. It is pretty confusing to me when I try to think of exactly what happens when multiple different alleles in the same cell are actively transcribing to produce the same protein, but if they're very different, it seems obvious that the results will not be good.

At the very least this might explain why I have such a hard time understanding the female of the species.

Anyway, where this is taking me --

Imagine an organism with such fundamental characteristic capriciousness built in, from the level of chromosomes on up.

Little wonder that women should reserve the right to change their minds. Their very constituent cells are explicitly built, from the ground up, upon that very theme.

In more recent studies of genetic variation, it has been observed that males of the species exhibit a wider range of genetic variability than females, and this accounts for major gender differences in the relative level of intelligence.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Popular misconceptions regarding agency

From a General Conference address.  (May 1992 Ensign,  Our Moral Environment, President Boyd K. Packer)
While we pass laws to reduce pollution of the earth, any proposal to protect the moral and spiritual environment is shouted down and marched against as infringing upon liberty, agency, freedom, the right to choose.

Interesting how one virtue, when given exaggerated or fanatical emphasis, can be used to batter down another, with freedom, a virtue, invoked to protect vice. Those determined to transgress see any regulation of their life-style as interfering with their agency and seek to have their actions condoned by making them legal.

People who are otherwise sensible say, "I do not intend to indulge, but I vote for freedom of choice for those who do."

Regardless of how lofty and moral the "pro-choice" argument sounds, it is badly flawed. With that same logic one could argue that all traffic signs and barriers which keep the careless from danger should be pulled down on the theory that each individual must be free to choose how close to the edge he will go.

The phrase "free agency" does not appear in scripture. The only agency spoken of there is moral agency, "which," the Lord said, "I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgement." (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78.)

One of the mistaken ideas we often hear associated with the "free agency" term is that it implies some ideal state of borderline anarchy. I'm pretty sure this idea has been sorely abused since Joseph Smith spoke the words, "I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves."

Joseph never taught that it was wrong for those who know and follow the correct principles to "impose" their ideas of righteousness on others. Support for government and respect for the law are explicit principles in church doctrine. The most common associated complaint we hear from those of liberal persuasion is that we cannot exist with true freedom unless people of faith keep their mouths shut about their beliefs. We shouldn't be forcing our religion on others. We cannot legislate morality. Blah blah blah.

Apparently they believe God expects everyone to make up our minds and commit to good or evil in a sort of moral vacuum. Heaven forbid that we should ever pass laws that actually reflect the true values we understand based upon commandments of God. Unthinkable -- that would be depriving others of their "free agency"!

It seems almost a cliche among those who favor this thinking that implementing laws which impose moral values epitomizes "Satan's Plan". Thus the ultimate evil consists of telling someone else how to follow the laws of righteousness. If there ever was a more backward approach, it is difficult to imagine what it would be.

One of the most important teachings I know on this issue is found in 2 Nephi  chapter 2. The idea of opposition is very well understood, but another important principle stands out:

Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. (2 Nephi 2:16)

Clearly an important implication here is that "enticement" is an essential element in our exercise of agency. This rather contradicts the notion that true agency requires us to operate from an exclusively intrinsic base, with no external forces influencing our choices. Most of us with experience at the primary level of church education understand very well that we must be guided in our choices by the Holy Ghost -- "Choose the Right" is our motto. We choose the right by inspiration. This is our "enticement" to good. And of course there are also always evil enticements drawing us the other way.

This is the cost which enables our agency. There is no principle in the gospel that can be construed to dictate that the environment in which we are required to practice our agency must be free from rules and laws that guide our thinking and acts. Indeed, a clear view of church history with regard to civil government would seem to indicate just the opposite. The church has always promoted strong government and the passage of laws based in principles of righteousness.

In fact, under the common misapplication of the term, "free agency" actually exists nowhere. Many of us live in bondage of various forms that constrain our ability to freely make choices. I believe we must ultimately be judged for our actions based on the options available to us, and the enticements we were subject to at the time.

Elder Packer's point is a legitimate one. Moral agency is never "free" in any way. It always comes at a cost, and it is always compromised by the enticements of the world.

What is "temple divorce"?

The term seems to be rooted in Mormon folklore.

On divorce in Mormon culture from Encyclopedia of Mormonism

I have never heard a satisfying explanation for "temple divorce", and in fact I'm not sure the church even uses such terms formally.  Elder James A. Culimore considers this question in a 1975 Church publication.

Temples are not about divorcing. "Divorce" itself, it would seem, really has only temporal connotations, so in terms of binding covenants sealing for time and all eternity, it does not seem like the appropriate term.

I understand the church offers an administrative action referred to as "cancellation of sealing". But I am still not sure I understand what that means. How can an eternal covenant be "canceled"?

Do the participants kneel together at the same altar in the temple where their sealing was pronounced, and somehow un-promise?

Specific counsel from Elder Dallin H. Oaks somewhat illuminates this discussion, which frequently generates more heat than light.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The real threat...

Difficult to predict where attempts to legitimize homosexual marriage will lead. Though there currently seems to be very strong popular opposition, it seems like such issues have a way of being forced upon us without being ratified by the majority. If we have legalization of homosexual marriage, then homosexual marriage would no longer be a subset of a sexual relationship outside of marriage.

This is one of the points that can be confused, because as of today, church policy is based on the "legally and lawfully married" standard. I believe there are even church members who have set their hopes that the church would be forced to recognize and even perform such marriages, under the law of the land. I think this will never happen. If what is legal and lawful under civil laws becomes something that is obviously contrary to the laws of God, a change in policy would be needed to draw the obvious distinction.

I think the arguments for homosexual marriage are contrived, but then I also feel that this whole discussion passes by most everything that really matters. If homosexuals wish to attempt false emulation of the true order of marriage, so what? They cannot through rule of law or by practice become something that they are not. They will simply be like the false priests of pharaoh who aspired to the priesthood, though it was denied to them (cf Abr 1:27). Counterfeit marriage, like a counterfeit priesthood, will never be recognized or blessed by Heavenly Father.

I am certain that even if it were legal, homosexual relationships would never achieve the kind of importance in the structure of social relationships that traditional families do.

Of course, the real matter of importance is how such issues reflect on traditional marriage. The move to legitimize perverted sexual relationships is just one facet of this problem. Traditional marriage, is weakening in many other areas, some of them with much greater significance.

The normalization of widespread divorce and illegitimacy, to name two items, are real threats to social stability. As these problems escalate, we are effectively performing a huge experiment with human populations that far transcends the potential impact of global warming. In the space of one or two generations, every human life will be a product of this experiment. There are no controls or predictions on possible outcomes. Unlike global warming predictions, there are few scientists that even seem to recognize that any such threat exists, let alone to create theories and computer models and argue at conferences.

With us, unlike the rest of the world, we have the witness and warning from inspired prophets. They have foreseen the calamities of the last days. Perhaps some of the worst trials are for us yet to face, if the time comes that we cannot even promote true moral values and correct principles to children.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Memorable moments of early fatherhood

Mental image of firstborn son Jim. (He used to share my name. I don’t know what he calls himself today.)

At the instant of birthing, he emerged with skin colored bright blue. Shocked, unexpected, wondering what went wrong. The first breath, feeble cries, and quickly turning healthy pink. The most incredibly full and dark mane of thick black baby hair running halfway down his back.

Weeping with joy, filled with the most intensely overwhelming emotion.

A photo of son Jim, just a toddler. In an unsupervised moment, him standing in the unfinished basement room, the current family project. Beaming brightly, his little hands and arms raised high, coated an inch thick up to the elbows with heavy yellow sheet rock mud.

Hustles off to the shower.

A handful of boys at play in the sandbox. Son Robert, five or six years old. Shouting, “By the Power of Greyskull!!!”. Unsheathes a long butcher knife from hiding down the back of his t-shirt, and strikes a pose emulating the tv hero He-Man, brandishing the knife as his invincible weapon, threatening his foes in the sandbox.

Frantic parental intervention.

Another vignette of Robert, several years older. Unaware that he is being observed, standing on the sidewalk contemplating as neighbors drive by. He finds a big rock and launches it at Randy Jones passing in his truck. Strikes a bullseye. Randy stops abruptly with a squeal of tires. Looking at me — “Better do somethin’ ’bout that, slick.” “Oh yeah, I will”. Randy continues on. Robert takes to his heels, dad following into the house at a slightly more leisurely pace.

Intensive father/son discussion on why we don’t throw rocks at cars.

A landscape moment. Striving to make the desert blossom. Mother and children huddled around the front porch, watching in shock as dad wrestles with the ditch-witch that won’t. Frustrated and enraged beyond control, temper long-lost, cursing and swearing a blue streak.

At a later sandbox session, father overhears the interplay where one of the children announces that his name is “Dammit”.

Sincere father/son discussion about how we sometimes say things that we know we shouldn’t.

Son Thomas, eleven, suffers a serious leg fracture at the roller-skating party. Shocked at such an unexpected turn, the father secretly weeps tears of fear and anguish. “Father in Heaven, please, let the pain and suffering come to me — please spare my children!” Thomas spends miserable months in wheelchair and full cast

What a fragile thing our lives really are.

Son Joseph, the most sensitive of the boys. He is so enthralled with Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers that he has a prolonged tantrum when his games are interrupted.

Some soul-searching for an answer. The game is retired.

Dad goes to summer camp with the older boys. Along the hiking trail, son Robert is separated from the party for a brief time. Searching, praying, franticly looking for some clue that he might have passed this way, through the thousands of acres of wilderness surrounding. Shortly thereafter, as he is found — “I couldn’t find you guys anywhere!”. Trying not to show the tears of relief and gratitude.

Dad and son wrap their arms around each other, for a brief instant understanding and acknowledging everything that it means to be dad and son.

Discussions about what to do when we are lost.

Son Joseph, retired to his bed early, suffering from flu, feverish. The rest of the family is eating dinner together.

Some strange signal from the children’s room alerts that something is wrong. “Distress! Help!”, the urgent message, unuttered, yet clearly received.

Hastening into the room. The child’s body is distended and racked with convulsions. His skin is dusky, ashen gray — impossible. No living person can turn that color. Shock condensed into one horrified frozen moment.

Suddenly comprehending the need to act, a frantic summons issues for ambulance and paramedics. Confusion over what to do, not knowing what might be wrong.

Then, a few quiet seconds, like the eye of the hurricane passing over.

Father gently takes the infant son in his arms. He quietly pronounces a priesthood blessing.

Moments later, the paramedics arrive and the calm is broken. Amid noise and haste, the child was carried away to the hospital.

Tense hours followed. Doctors performed diagnostics and made recommendations.

But everything turned out okay. And the father knew, assured from the moment of the blessing, that it would be so.

And I believe that somehow, though he was unconscious, the son knew it as well.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Looking back at Mormon-l

It has been many years since my encounter with Mormon-l, once hosted at Brigham Young University email servers. The way some of the former members talk about it, you'd think it was a den of evil snakes, right from the start. Yet, at the time I first engaged there, it was one of the most enthralling and uplifting experiences I had ever had, in any church-related activity.

After nearly forty years of church membership I felt like I was suddenly lit on fire with the spirit of the gospel. Ever before that time, my attention to the church seemed shallow and perfunctory, and probably so routine that it became rather boring. Most of my church associates invested neither time nor interest in the issues we discussed every day on the list. The only similar experience I ever had prior was with teaching young adult gospel doctrine, where some of the kids wanted to learn! the gospel. The enthusiasm level on the list seemed comparable. The Mormon-l experience was new and exciting.

I had a lot of positive impressions from those early days of email. For all the earlier decades, it had felt as though I longed for a group of intellectual peers with a common interest in the gospel. Especially dealing with contemporary issues. The talk tended toward sophisticated ideas, and often prompted intense critical thinking. I studied things that had not so captured my attention since I was a college student.

Initially, Mormon-l seemed like a dream come true. For me the experience was a reawakening and a rebirth.

The problems we encountered really evolved fairly slowly. Gradually the list membership came to represent certain interests that I had never before encountered in the church. I will never understand why that group acted as such a magnet. But at the time there was a very popular interest among that class of people with liberal thinking and feminist philosophy. It seemed to me that we were suddenly in a war with a race of space aliens who seemed to harbor a vicious hatred for everything I thought I loved. But it wasn't like that every day, nor all at once.

Some of the people involved in supporting and promoting the original list were just as shocked as I was by the way things evolved. As things started going downhill, I had conversations with charter list members and with the list sponsor. They were uniformly sympathetic at the consternation and complaints, but that did not alter the tone or direction of discussions.

The dialog was eventually predominated by what I characterize as "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed". That, and a constant thread of base humor that seemed so incongruous with the original tone of the list. I thought there were several major list contributors who so prided themselves on being open-minded that they had basically allowed their brains to fall out.

Some of the feminist activists on the list were as distressed about the developments as I was. I felt like Lynn and David Anderson were my friends, but there was a great wedge of difference driving us apart. Terry Day was very kind to me personally, but many of his general comments on the list were insufferable. It was as if a great crowd of these people had followed some path and suddenly ended up in the great and spacious building, mocking the faithful saints of God.

I think the original Mormon-l served a good and useful purpose. But I had no doubts when the time came to move on. When my friend John Redelfs invited me to his new email list, I felt like a lost soul walking into the light again. And in spite of some bumps here and there, the Zion list experience has been fulfilling, far beyond my expectations.

Even a lifesaver for me, in more than one instance.

Martin's Cove settlement

The ACLU continues to harass the church in cases with very little basis for preserving "civil liberties".

This week in an out-of-court settlement the church basically agreed to demands from the ACLU to cease any form of acknowledgement that the historic Martin handcart company was actually a group of faithful Mormon pioneers, and in the future they will be referred to as habitationally-challenged communal seekers of a higher metaphysical plane, seeking refuge from traditional patriarchal tyranny".

ACLU lawyers demanded that all signs and artifacts related in any way to Mormon faith be removed at least a mile from the site, which will be designated a "religion-free zone". Visitors to the area will be subject to random interrogation to ensure that harmful religious ideation is not being wantonly encouraged or promoted. All persons or vehicles entering or leaving the monument site will be subject to security checks, and any religious contraband will be confiscated. Those criminals apprehended in the act of speaking about the Mormon religion will be subject to fines and imprisonment. First-time offenders will be permitted to attend an ACLU sponsored anti-religion sensitivity training course in exchange for shorter jail sentences.

ACLU lawyers praised the agreement, saying that it was a significant victory for first-amendment rights, marking a new era of progress in the fight for freedom from religion.

Martin's Cove settlement

Thursday, June 08, 2006


We had a forest fire in our back yard yesterday.

I mean, it was a fire. And it was in the forest. That makes it a forest fire -- right?

Okay, it was really little, for a forest fire. But it was all ours. :-)

Dad and I were working in his garden about 3 p.m. when a huge clap of thunder nearly knocked us out of our boots. (Fortunately I was wearing Tevas.) We saw the flash of lightning on the mountain. After a moment of stunned silence we looked at each other and both said, "Wow, that one was CLOSE!"

Shortly thereafter, dad noticed a smoke plume tendrilling up from the trees on the mountainside north of us.

We called the local fire chief of our just-getting-started volunteer fire department, and notified him that a wildland fire was in progress within our jurisdiction. I hurried and got my boots on. Then my dad and brother-in-law and I loaded our firefighting gear and shovels and chainsaw into the SUV and went wheeling up the mountainside trying to spot the fire.

We found access to the area that was burning, from a rocky road high up on the mountainside, then hiked down through the pinyon pines and junipers searching for the fire. It smelled smoky all around us, but the fire was actually several hundred yards from the road, so we scrambled down the hill covering the area in a search pattern.

As we located the fire and arrived at the spot, there were flames smoldering in the light debris on the ground, and one single old juniper, trunk about 18" in diameter, was actively burning along the trunk and several major limbs. It was clear that lightning had struck the old tree near the top, some 15 feet up. A big stripe of bark was peeled away and blown to oblivion, and a deep scar marked the burning trail running down the trunk. One of the large limbs on the side of the tree had been nearly detached by the blow, and as it burned it was spreading burning twigs into the ground fuel. The ground fire involved a circle at the base of the tree about ten feet across.

We scattered the burning fuels on the ground with our shovels, and smothered the flames with dirt. But much of the fire involved the burning tree, higher than we could reach. So we fetched down the chainsaw and proceeded to fell the tree.

The saw had been pretty well used for last years firewood season, so the chain wasn't in very good shape. Juniper wood is very dense and hard, so we made a long job of it.

I discovered that the chainsaw exhaust port very thoughtfully directs the exhaust stream away from the operator. Which in our case, by coincidence, also happened to be in the general direction of a big tree trunk that was currently on fire. We'd smother the flames down and saw a bit, then the exhaust stream would fan up the flames again. Made it pretty interesting for a while.

While we were gnawing away at the tree, one of the neighbors showed up on his 4-wheeler. He had a better chain on his saw, so we turned it over to him, and finally got the tree tipped over. Naturally it hung up six different ways, so it still took a bit more work to finally put the trunk onto the ground, but we eventually prevailed.

In the mean time, our local fire department team had started up the big tanker truck and were lumbering up the hill. Two local firefighters brought backpack sprayers down to mop up the fuels that were still hot and smoking.

It looks to be a lively fire season shaping up in the area.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Write it down

In the opening chapter of Mosiah, one of the striking ideas raised is that even Lehi would have forgotten to instruct his people about many important truths, if they had not been written down.

Book of Mormon, Mosiah 1:1-5

Last spring I had some time to wander through several areas of Utah's remote deserts. Several times I stopped to look at petroglyphs and rock paintings left by some unknown people ages ago. Some of the figures are suggestive of the familiar, but most of them are only vaguely recognizable at best. It takes a bit of imagination to try to project meaning into these images. Who can guess what the artist was trying to communicate?

Our translations of the scriptures are testimony of King Benjamin's prophetic wisdom. I think it is no coincidence that the publication of scriptures corresponds exactly with the advent of the greatest epochs of expanding human knowledge over the course of history. If it isn't written down and available for study, it will all too soon be forgotten.

Answers to prayers

Why are we sometimes frustrated or doubtful about praying to God?

I cannot speak for others, but can add some personal reflections.

My suspicion would be that there are people who are honest enough about themselves to understand why God would not respond to their personal prayers, though these may be uncommon. This is where I usually count myself. If my prayers don't work it certainly isn't God's fault. I generally apply Mark Twain's model as presented in Huckleberry Finn to help understand why my prayers fail -- "You can't pray a lie." Twain's wisdom, illustrated through Huck Finn's experience, is an insightful glimpse into many attributes of human nature.

Huckleberry Finn on prayer -- recommended. You Can't Pray a Lie

I will also acknowledge that I am not expecting to change the order of the universe simply by taking the thought to ask. It would seem that one of the prerequisites for granting prayers is that my request has to be in accordance with the mind and will of God. The essence of successful prayer seems to be in asking for the right things. I believe Elder Eyring touched on this point in his conference address.
Heavenly Father, it doesn’t matter what I want. I don’t care anymore what I want. I only want that Thy will be done. That is all that I want. Please tell me what to do.  (Henry B. Eyring, As a Child, Ensign, May 2006)

For those of us who have on occasion dedicated our most fervent pleas, as in the case of asking for God to heal the sick, the nature of answering seems very different from the case where someone found their glasses through divine guidance. Where I prayed and people died anyway, I found assurance that the passing of loved ones was will of God, and that in the sight of Heavenly Father, the death was neither an unforeseen tragedy nor an untimely event. While my prayers did not save the life I prayed for, they did return a greater understanding that helped me through the sense of loss and mourning. In this I suppose I trust Heavenly Father to bless me with what I need, not necessarily what I ask for.

If that is not an answer to prayers, I don't know what is.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The deceivers who tangle the web...

Interesting SLTrib article today, from outspoken church critic RB Scott.

Mixing religion and politics: Oh, what a tangled web . . .

Ron starts off on the wrong foot with his blatantly inappropriate and offensive poetic title, and just naturally flows down hill from there.

He flatly -- and mistakenly -- insinuates that church leaders are practicing deceptive tactics in order to play a political game. Stirring up controversy, sowing the seeds of confusion and discord -- these are exactly the kind of reaction Ron always seems wont to provoke.

President Hinckley is not a liar by any definition. He needs no defense from people like Ron, who always manage to twist things to serve their own point of view.

I personally am certain that Ron will find, sometime in the future, that editorializing against the church carries a far greater cost than he can afford.

I have been following the reaction of various church members toward the First Presidency statement. It makes a fascinating study.

For the most part, in the general body of the church I think there is little controversy or question in our minds. When Church leaders counsel us to act, we act. Since we already support and sustain members of the first councils of the church as prophets, seers, and revelators, when they speak with authority, critical analysis can wait.

There are many, however, for whom some deliberation is apparently warranted. They demand to test inspired counsel against the philosophies of men, to satisfy their own intellect, or simply to show their own politically-correct approval or disapproval.

Whatever the reason, this small but vocal minority can always be noticed in such matters. They take the forefront in media coverage. They seem to love to "be seen of men". And, I believe, because they hear their own voices echoing in the silence, they presume to represent the rest of us.

I have no objection to others voicing their opinions, but I take exception when they presume to issue moral or intellectual judgments against the church or in opposition to Church authority. Those of us in the silent but faithful minority need to participate in the public forum, so as to avoid leaving the impression that dissenters and dissidents represent any significant segment of the faithful disciples. While it goes against my natural inclination to be outspoken, I have learned through sad experience that if we fail to protest when we are misrepresented, many of those who view things from without will assume that we have no opposing views and nothing to say in such matters. Apparently, from the legalistic perspective, it is true that "Silence gives assent".

In case any are mislead by the attempts so sow doubts about the legitimacy of religious groups engaging in political activism, at this link some of the guidelines are nicely illustrated.

It is a specious red-herring to insinuate that the tax-exempt status of the church is in jeopardy, or to suggest that the church would fail to take imperative action or unequivocally express an official position on issues with clear moral implications. This misinformation has often been perpetuated by the doubters and naysayers as justification for advocating non-involvement or avoidance of politically sensitive issues, but it is clearly contradicted by the facts. Those asserting that the church is putting tax-exempt status in jeopardy are apparently more interested in sowing the seeds of doubt than any loss of tax status.

When there is an issue upon which the voice of the Lord has been heard, the church will let it be known, in clear and unmistakable terms. Those with ears to hear, let them hear.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Advocating righteousness: No Apologies Necessary

I have seen a surprising picture developing out of recent controversy regarding LDS Church leaders supporting the proposed constitutional marriage amendment. It would seem that there are a number of people associated with the church, who feel guilty to promote unequivocal opposition to homosexual behavior.

In fact, a whole lot of them seem downright apologetic.

And, in fact, there are a significant number who presume to criticize the church for its continuing opposition to anything resembling approval for or sanction of homosexual "lifestyle".

It is a confusing position to advocate, because many of the proponents feel justified by their understanding of principles of "compassion" or "tolerance". They seem unable to discern how temporary concessions under that "compassion" rationale ultimately compromise the quality of life for everyone involved. Every experience through the history of human existence testifies that it is never compassionate to compromise with evil.

To me this ambivalence is difficult to reconcile. In my experience the church has never offered the slightest concession to those entangled in sexual deviance. Such sinful misconduct has always been unacceptable and condemned in the strongest terms. It is my understanding that church membership is automatically severed for individuals engaged in homosexual behavior. To me, this policy seems unremarkable and consistent.

I don't expect anything to ever change in this respect. But it would seem that quite a number of church members are even hopeful that it will.

Who thinks we owe the sinners an apology for advocating repentance and righteousness?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Health care is sick

Why do we spend so much on health care?

According to Henry J. Aaron, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in his editorial "A Healthcare Prescription That's Hard to Swallow"  the US currently spends 16% of GNP, more than $2 trillion, on health care costs. Some projections predict that costs will exceed 30% over the next 25 years. The article does not answer the question, but it does present some of the unpalatable diagnosis.

In many other countries with less expensive health-care systems, costs are controlled through various means that are also available here, and "the result typically is dramatically less surgery, less high-technology medicine and much lower healthcare spending — but not poorer overall health outcomes. The British, for example, live slightly longer than Americans yet spend 40% less per capita on healthcare than we do."

On the other hand, I have heard that many of the wealthy natives of countries that economize in health care costs come to the US to get their doctoring, whenever they want something expensive.

Is it too troubling for such a wealthy society to admit that we assign a dollar value to human life and the quality of life? The Terri Schiavo case certainly raised public awareness and sensitivity to end-of-life issues, but it seemed to quiet down soon after she died. Doubtless there are many other similar cases that never get such public scrutiny.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Intolerance? What intolerance?

Think your culture is repressive and intolerant?

News article this weekend relates the murder of several tennis players in Iraq. Reportedly, they were killed for wearing shorts.

ABC News story

Extremists had distributed leaflets warning people in the mostly Sunni neighborhoods of Saidiyah and Ghazaliyah warning people not to wear shorts, police said.

Wearing shorts by youth are prohibited because it violates the principals of Islamic religion when showing forbidden parts of the body. Also women should wear the veil.

No one claimed responsibility for the slayings, which come amid worries that Islamic extremism is spreading in the war-torn country.

Sunni cleric Eid al-Zoubayi denounced the attack.
Islamic religion is an easy religion and it allows wearing sport shorts as long as they don't show the forbidden parts of the body, so the acts that are targeting the sport are criminal.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Illegal immigrants

The US Senate has passed an immigration policy bill that includes
provision for widespread naturalization of currently illegal residents.

Immigration legislation

I tend to agree with Utah Senator Orrin Hatch in opposing the measure --

In clear language, granting amnesty rewards the lawbreaker, pure and simple.

Something must be done to deal with this problem, but giving it all away is patently unfair to those who have respected the law and attempted to immigrate legally. I do not understand the rationale for granting an easy path to citizenship to those who violated the law to gain entry to this country. It seems a strikingly bad start for new citizens.

My nephew's wife is a native of Korea. Even though she is married to a US citizen and has children who were born in this country, it took her many years to become a naturalized US citizen. Apparently she could have saved herself much trouble if she had only found a way to circumvent the laws and sneak in illegally.

Some commentators note that the current House proposals differ dramatically from the Senate bill, and will require extensive reworking to arrive at a compatible solution. It seems there are several House bills addressing immigration concerns, none of which contain the "amnesty" clause for current illegal residents.