Saturday, December 22, 2007

Joy to the World!

The people that walked in darkness
have seen a great light:
they that dwell
in the land
of the shadow of death,
upon them hath the light shined.

For unto us a Child is born,
unto us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon His shoulder;
and His name shall be called
The Mighty God,
The Everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace
there shall be no end,
upon the throne of David,
and upon his kingdom,
to order it,
and to establish it
with judgment and with justice
from henceforth even for ever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts
will perform this.

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together:
for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bugged about "Wiretapping"

I know some continue to entertain serious doubts about the morality of certain government actions being justified under the "defense" clause of the Constitution. It remains a troubling issue, to discern whether it is worse to be under the "protection" of the US Government or to be subject to unannounced attacks by foreign powers.

In the debate about electronic surveillance by the NSA, the US Court of Appeals recently issued a decision to allow the current practice to continue while the merits of the case are heard.

Here's a typical news story:
Court rejects challenge to wiretap program

And a background discussion of issues:
NSA warrantless surveillance controversy

Also, an authoritative press briefing:
Press Briefing by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and General Michael Hayden, Principal Deputy Director for National Intelligence

Several things about the news reporting of this story just drive me nuts, and I can't get past that exasperation.

The technology being used is not "eavesdropping", it is intercepting broadcast data.

This approach to gathering counterintelligence is not new. It has been in constant use since the advent of radio communications.

Publicly broadcast signals are not proprietary. Anyone with the appropriate communications equipment can listen to them.

Since the data being intercepted is a "wireless" broadcast over public radio waves, by definition there is no "wiretapping" involved.

In fact I have a radio set sitting right here beside me that can tune 800MHz cell phone bands. It is perfectly legal for me to tune in the broadcast signals from the public airwaves. I can't understand what anyone is saying because the signals are encrypted. If I knew the encryption key, I could decrypt the signals and hear everything the people are saying.

That I don't really care to do this seems entirely beside the point.

In any case there are obvious differences here between such a practice and the physical "wiretapping" and "eavesdropping" that media reports are so wont to associate. It is a false parallel.

In fact, there is far too much broadcast traffic for anyone to monitor. Imagine trying to scan the Internet continuously. Internet traffic is just a fraction of the data streaming on public broadcast medium. Nobody can monitor all of it, not even Google with their awesome data storage and throughput capability. Not even the NSA, with their antenna arrays and massively parallel data processing.

The fact is, nothing is much changed in this matter since it became a topic of public debate, other than the attention being paid by the media. How did this suddenly become an issue for concern? Just because now you think you know something about it?

I dunno. Maybe y'all have something to worry about. Personally, I've always laughed at the thought of someone monitoring my boring private conversations.

News updates:

Court Rejects ACLU Challenge to Wiretaps

FISA Decision Dictates Death of Americans

Lowry: Democrats endanger U.S. security by opposing terrorist surveillance

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Vegetarians are inconsistent

I am not sure how eating meat from one living creature differs from any other, at least as far as the particular impact it has on other living creatures. Dogs, cows, sheep, chickens, fish -- even plants and microorganisms. They are all living creations of Heavenly Father. If we use products derived from living things of any form, we are necessarily participants in depriving them of life. I find very little strength in artificial distinctions between various life forms, deeming that it is okay to use certain biological byproducts but proscribing others.

The existence of all living things revolves around the cycle of life and death in this world. Those of us who are net consumers live at the expense of the lives of other living things. This is inherent in the nature of our being -- it cannot be any other way, without some major biological transformation. To my way of thinking, it rather trivializes the whole issue if we randomly discriminate with regard to certain peculiar food habits.

Particularly in the context of the gospel, I see no basis for promoting extreme forms of dietary regimentation. Many times the Lord has confirmed that abstaining from meat does not have provenance in the commandments of God. While I have nothing against those who make the personal choice for some form of vegetarian discipline, I think these are deep into unsupportable argument if they start advocating that *not* so choosing or living somehow represents a lower level of moral values.

Eating meat is not sinful, therefore abstaining cannot be regarded as a particularly superior virtue.

As far as raising objections about the way domestic animals are raised, it appears to me that those proponents of certain arguments in this domain have an agenda that they wish to serve first and foremost, and they care very little about the consideration of other points of view, and they care even less about the accuracy of their own propaganda. Near as I can judge, "factory farming" is a pejorative used by people who don't know much about farming. People that farm or have association with farming as a business endeavor generally have a different view.

In this, as in all things, I assume a general axiom of moderation and common sense. Indeed, the phrase "prudence and thanksgiving" is explicit in the Word of Wisdom and strongly implied in most other related scripture and counsel.

The best choices are informed by correct principles...

And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God; For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. (Doctrine and Covenants Section 49:18,19)

Another good passage to study on -- from Doctrine and Covenants 59:

16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Winning the only war that matters

Excerpts from President Gordon B. Hinckley in a recent message to the Church.

"There are two powers on the earth and in the midst of the inhabitants of the earth—the power of God and the power of the devil. In our history we have had some very peculiar experiences. When God has had a people on the earth, it matters not in what age, Lucifer, the son of the morning, and the millions of fallen spirits that were cast out of heaven, have warred against God, against Christ, against the work of God, and against the people of God. And they are not backward in doing it in our day and generation. Whenever the Lord set His hand to perform any work, those powers labored to overthrow it." (Quoting from October 1896 Conference address, President Wilford Woodruff)

In this work there must be commitment. There must be devotion. We are engaged in a great eternal struggle that concerns the very souls of the sons and daughters of God.

We are not losing. We are winning.

We will continue to win if we will be faithful and true.

We can do it. We must do it. We will do it.

There is nothing the Lord has asked of us that in faith we cannot accomplish. (President Gordon B. Hinckley, "An Unending Conflict, A Victory Assured", Ensign, Jun 2007, 4–9)

I sustain and follow the brethren in the example they set with reference to this matter of such grave and immediate concern to our lives.

Let us keep our focus on the testimony of our inspired leaders. We face continuing challenges that will shake the faith of those not prepared. We must stand in holy places, and not be moved.

Remember, in our individual stewardships, there is nothing the Lord has asked of us that in faith we cannot accomplish. A living prophet of the one true and living God has so testified.

I share my solemn witness and testimony that he speaks the truth. There is no power in this world that can stay the hand of God from carrying out His eternal purposes. No host of the destroyer can challenge His work or change the course of His will. What the Lord has spoken will all be fulfilled.

To my friends in Christ, let us prepare and strengthen ourselves, and continue steadfast. We are promised that if we are prepared, we have nothing to fear.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

President Benson and the Book of Mormon message

As I remember President Benson and his prophetic ministry, my recollection is that he challenged the saints to remember this admonition from the Lord:

"And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received-

"Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

"And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.

"And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written-

"That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father's kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion." (Doctrine and Covenants 84:54-58).

President Benson taught that the church was still under condemnation for failing to publish and promote the Book of Mormon. His message invigorated the church to greater efforts, to study and teach the scriptures, and to focus on the Book of Mormon in particular.

President Benson's prophetic message was never exclusively on warning or calling the saints to somehow take action against secret conspiracies. The fact that he mentioned this concern in general conference certainly puts it in a catorgory of matters of abiding interest. But I cannot recall that he ever stipulated that messages about Gadiantons or secret combinations held the same weight of obligation or concern as other gospel messages. To me these messages were always of interest, but more by way of important information. I never felt motivated to get out and start rooting out the Gadiantons.

What I heard was in the context of general direction to be active in local political interests, and to make sure the church was well represented at that level. Instead of questing for Gadiantons to unseat, I read the Book of Mormon. I believe my wife even read it once, for perhaps the first and only time in her life.

This perception of areas of primary focus is bolstered by the general lack of reiterating any prophetic warnings to read Gary Allen's None Dare Call it Conspiracy, either by President Benson or any of the other prophetic leaders of our time. The fact that it was mentioned once hardly brings it into the range of primary interest.

I think you're pretty well on your own, if you insist on asserting that the church is under any condemnation for not feeling vitally concerned about Gary Allen's message. Whether we accept the counsel and teachings of President Benson or any other latter-day prophets is another thing altogether. I think you're well justified in remembering and being aware of this matter, but you have gone too far when you project your private concerns into the scope of obligations borne by the entire church.

Was there a CFR conspiracy to supress President Benson's statement?

Nah, I doubt it.

My guess would be that his comment about the "Dare" book was off-the-cuff, not in his text notes prepared beforehand. All the talks are supposed to be written down like that, because of programming time constraints for media broadcasts and etc. It seems not everyone is strict about following the prepared text. I'm sure they sometimes jot something in the margin while they're waiting to speak. I always do that with my talks.

I'm pretty certain that the Ensign version of the talk is transcribed from the prepared text. President Benson's talk is not the only one I've seen where the address delivered in conference differed from the later-published Ensign version.

BTW, does anyone recall when Lavina Anderson was on the Ensign staff?

Today the facility with which conference procedings are published is quite speedy. In 1972 it took months to get a text version of conference addresses into our hands. Now we get online versions in just a few days. Dramatic changes have taken place during the last thirty years, not the least of which is an obvious sense of far greater urgency to deliver the message to the ends of the earth. It has become a vital part of the communications from church leaders to deliver
timely counsel to the church.

When I was young, growing up in the Los Angeles area, my dad was in the bishopric for many years. Making the trip to LDS General Conference in Salt Lake City was a common observance. Going to the Tabernacle and sitting at the feet of the church leaders was one of the best ways to hear inspired counsel. Now we tune in on satellite broadcasts without even leaving the neighborhood.

One of the early exercises we undertook on John Redelfs' Zion list was directed toward sharing the conference messages. One of our members took it upon himself to copy his detailed conference notes to the list. Later we took it upon ourselves to transcribe conference talks from _Ensign_. Each of us picked a talk from the conference to type in and share online. Just a short time after we implemented this practice, the church started making the conference texts available online.

It was actually a pretty surprising coincidence. An idea whose time had come. Computers and word processing programs, together with world-wide telecommunications facilities, have truly changed the way we listen to a prophet's voice.

Here is an excerpt from a talk by President Benson in which he specifically addresses the concerns we have been discussing. A great talk -- I think it is perhaps one of the best treatments of these issues, and lays it out in good perspective. His counsel is directed to priesthood holders, but seems generally applicable.

I note that he explicitly asserts that for each of us, "putting our own house in order" is the highest priority. And he outlines a number of things that have been common and consistent in prophetic counsel for many years before, during, and since President Benson's administration.

No true Latter-day Saint and no true American can be a socialist or a communist or support programs leading in that direction. These evil philosophies are incompatible with Mormonism, the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

What can priesthood holders do? There are many things we can do to meet the challenge of the adversary in our day.

First, we should become informed about communism, about socialism, and about Americanism. What better way can one become informed than by just studying the inspired words of the prophets and using that as a foundation against which to test all other material? This is in keeping with the Prophet Joseph Smith's motto, "When the Lord commands, do it." (DHC, vol. 2, p. 170.)

The Foundation for Economic Education at Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, on which President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., served as a board member, continues to supply sound freedom literature. We should know enough about American free enterprise to be able to defend it. We should know what makes it possible for six percent of humanity-living under our free economy-to produce about one-half of the earth's developed wealth each year.

We should know why paternalism, collectivism, or unnecessary federal supervision will hold down our standard of living and reduce productivity just as it has in every country where it has been tried. We should also know why the communist leaders consider socialism the highroad to communism.

Second, we should accept the command of the Lord and treat socialistic communism as the tool of Satan. We should follow the counsel of the President of the Church and resist the influence and policies of the socialist-communist conspiracy wherever they are found-in the schools, in the churches, in governments, in unions, in businesses, in agriculture.

Third, we should help those who have been deceived or who are misinformed to find the truth. unless each person who knows the truth will "stand up and speak up," it is difficult for the deceived or confused citizen to find his way back.

Fourth, we should not make the mistake of calling people "communist" just because they happen to be helping the communist cause. Thousands of patriotic Americans, including a few Latter-day Saints, have helped the communists without realizing it. Others have knowingly helped without joining the party. The remedy is to avoid name-calling, but point out clearly and persuasively how they are helping the communists.

Fifth, each priesthood holder should use his influence in the community to resist the erosion process which is taking place in our political and economic life. He should use the political party of his choice to express his evaluation of important issues. He should see that his party is working to preserve freedom, not destroy it. He should join responsible local groups interested in promoting freedom and free competitive enterprise, in studying political issues, appraising the voting records and proposed programs, and writing to members of Congress, promoting good men in public office, and scrutinizing local, state, and federal agencies to see that the will of the people is being carried out. He should not wait for the Lord's servants to give instruction for every detail once they have announced the direction in which the priesthood should go. Each member should exercise prayerful judgment and then act.

Sixth, and most important of all, each member of the priesthood should set his own house in order. This should include:

1. Regular family prayer, remembering especially our government leaders.

2. Getting out of debt.

3. Seeing that each member of the family understands the importance of keeping the commandments.

4. Seeing that the truth is shared with members of the family, with neighbors, and with associates.

5. Seeing that each member is performing his duties in the priesthood, in the auxiliary organizations, in the temple, and in the civic life of the community.

6. Seeing that every wage earner in the home is a full tithe-payer and fulfilling other obligations in financial support of the kingdom.

7. Providing a one-year supply of essentials.

In doing these things a member of the Church is not only making himself an opponent of the adversary, but a pro-ponent of the Lord.

In the prophecies there is no promise except to the obedient. To a modern prophet the Lord said:

Therefore, what I say unto one, I say unto all: Watch, for the adversary spreadeth his dominions, and darkness reigneth;

And the anger of God kindleth against the inhabitants of the earth;

. . . I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.

I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise. (D&C 82:5-6, 9-10.)

May God give us the wisdom to recognize the threat to our freedom and the strength to meet this danger courageously. Yes, perilous times are ahead, but if we do our duty in all things, God will give us inner peace and overrule all things for our good. God grant it may be so.

(Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, 1961)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Learning to appreciate church history

I was about to post some comments at an LDS blog, but had second thoughts, realizing that my comments would be poorly received there. How much better to share these thoughts and fond memories on my own blog.

I am in my mid-fifties, and cannot recall when I first formed a more comprehensive understanding about Joseph's gift of translation. Must have had roots in early primary lessons. Insights about seer-stones and the Urim and Thummim also developed along the same lines. If there was ever anything suppressed or secret relating to Joseph's use of such instruments, I was never aware of it. Perhaps my experience was different from that of Utah mormons because my more liberal California upbringing. :-)

I remember how entranced I was as a college freshman to discover the LDS Instutute library, a little closet stuffed with books and magazines from wall to wall and top to bottom. I spent many days there reading the big collection of Dialogue, and devouring Journal of Discourses. I read and revisited Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I fell in love with the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, and the writings of John Taylor. I lived vicariously in the fiery sermons of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball.

Though I flunked all my college courses, it was a great preparatory regimen for my mission.

I also discovered the core of authoritative LDS writers, building on the tradition of Talmage and Widtsoe. Hugh Nibley and Truman Madsen were my modern-day heroes. And I learned great respect for the Doctrines of Salvation-Gospel Questions-Origin and Destiny-Mormon Doctrine that added upon the bulwark and legacy of restoration scholarship.

I wish I could go back to those times. Things were so much better then.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Telling the truth

As I see it, there is a serious logical conflict in the expectation that moral values which rightfully govern our normal thinking and actions ought to operate absolutely the same way in extreme cases, under duress, or when there are obvious and serious extenuating circumstances. Surely, when unethical means are exerted in the effort to force individual choice and acts, our basic obligations to simple honesty and truth will quite likely be tempered by other weightier
considerations. A willful and obstinate insistence that "telling the truth" is absolutely mandated in all instances may be more damaging than telling a "lie".

The classic example of this type of moral conflict in our theology is Nephi's dilemma. He is commanded to slay Laban, but protests that he has never taken a human life before. In the narrative we are instructed that it is better for one man to perish than for an entire
nation to dwindle and perish in unbelief.

In Nephi's case, the more immediate instruction modifies his ingrained ethical discipline that forbids killing. In this instance, the rationale for killing Laban is thus logically consistent with the higher intent and purpose of the moral law which proscribes killing.

I personally believe that this apparent conflict demonstrates a kind of flaw which originates in our simplistic approach to expressing absolutes. A perfect expression of the law which forbids killing would be fully informed by the understanding of circumstances under which that more simple framing of the law is superseded.

In some circumstances the absolute insistence on "total honesty" can even produce ludicrous restrictions. We might be prevented, for example, from telling illustrative stories or parables because they are not "true" in the strictest sense.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Firefighting 2007 -- Reprise

Thinking the wildland fire season was over, we parked our engines and washed up our nomex clothing.

Then, last week, some brave and foolish souls were wending their way down Fairview Canyon, a half-ton truck hauling 2 tons of coal. They almost made it down.

Half-mile from the point where the grade flattens out, there is one last steep hairpin curve carved into the side of the canyon. There the brakes failed.

The truck and trailer rammed into a nice flat landing spot on the canyon wall, and just pancaked into a successful stop. Almost miraculous -- none of the passengers were seriously injured. They exited the vehicle, which was standing on its tailgate glued hard against the rock wall, balanced atop trailer and load of coal.

Just as everyone cleared the dangerous area, the gasoline tank in the truck caught fire and the vehicle was engulfed in a ball of fire. The flames quickly spread up the steep slope, through a grove of small cottonwood trees, and continued running up the ridge through scattered oak brush and pinyon/juniper.

By the time we were called in, the fire had spread up the canyon and along the ridge more than a quarter mile. The terrain was near-vertical, so it was not easily approachable. There wasn't much for us to do but stand and watch it burn.

Several firefighting groups attempted to draw out a hose lay up the hill, but the terrain was far too steep and rugged. We suppressed the flames burning close to the road and went home for the night. The fire continued to develop higher up the east side of the canyon.

The next day our group was assigned to stand by at the highway while ground teams started working a fire-break perimeter around the fire. A helicopter with a 250-gallon drop bucket arrived early in the afternoon, and started carrying water drops to selected hot spots, while the ground crews worked on establishing containment lines.

The fire continued to burn and spread higher until Monday, when the two containment lines met at the top of the canyon and tied into an existing road.

We got to assist the helicopter operations on Monday, by replenishing the water supply in the pond he was dipping from. One of the property owners on the side of the hill in north Fairview was nice enough to give us access to his small pond. His name is Wing.

To try and balance out the water we were taking, we brought our 5000 gallon water tender up to put water back into the pond at the Wing ranch. The helicopter was staging right above us. Eventually the helicopter bucket dropped about 30000 gallons of water on the fire, and it was finally snuffed out.

Not a very big fire, as wildland fires go. But it had every potential to threaten signficant damage, far above the 25 acres of scrub oak and juniper it burned. Across the ridge less than a mile away was the city of Fairview. I am certain that many of the residents of Fairview watched those flames atop the ridge on Saturday night with some apprehension. And I hope they breathed a sigh of relief when the smoke plume so near by finally dwindled and disappeared.


A news article from Deseret News:

Wildfires burning in central Utah
Published: November 9, 2007
A pair of wildfires burning in central Utah serve as another reminder that the fire season is not over.

Wildland firefighters were called out to do battle against a 285-acre blaze in remote Millard County earlier this week. A helicopter also was dispatched to contain a 24-acre blaze that ignited on Nov. 3 in steep terrain in Sanpete County's Fairview Canyon.

"Fire season is not over," Karen Feary, a spokeswoman for the Richfield Interagency Fire Center, said Thursday. "We haven't got any rain or snow. We've got cured vegetation out there."

The 24-acre Coal Fire was caused by a vehicle with hot brakes, and it burned in oak brush in terrain so steep, firefighters had to call in a helicopter to help extinguish it. The fire was finally contained on Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday, the Lakeview Fire started in Millard County west of Black Rock. The fire swelled to 285 acres before it was contained, Feary said.

The Lakeview Fire is believed to be human-caused. Investigators have been dispatched to the scene, but authorities said there is nothing to indicate what started the fire.

"It's under investigation," Feary said. "It is believed to be human-caused. We have no lightning."

The absence of any weather is a big concern for firefighters. Despite the cooler temperatures, cheatgrass and other fuels remain dry and ripe to burn.

"Fire danger has increased, and there is a shortage of fire suppression personnel," said Tom Suwyn, a fire management officer.

Firefighters are urging people to be careful in wildland areas, particularly through hunting season.

"We've got cooler days, which mitigates fire activity, but it could still take off," Feary said. "We still have campfires that have escaped on us."

Remembering II...

Perhaps we need yet another review of recent history. Too many seem inclined to very short memory. At the risk of being repetitive, I reiterate my resolution on this matter...

On 9/11, this country sustained the the most vicious and unprovoked attack of evil and destruction ever perpetrated on our shores. On that day, and for many months that followed, the people of this country raised a nearly unanimous voice, affirming that we reserve the right to act to defend ourselves and our land against foreign aggressors, sending unequivocal notice that those who attack us and make themselves our enemy will not escape without consequence. Where ever they go, no matter where they might attempt to hide, we resolve to find them and destroy them. In the face of such unprovoked malice and hatred, this is the only practical response.

Since then, many have grown comfortable with the idea that cowardly enemies can strike and cause harm to innocent noncombatants within our own shores, then withdraw to their dark lairs to hide and plan further evil. To me, this kind of growing complacency seems to border on criminal negligence.

Our obligation is to protect the defenseless. Those who provoked the current situation are responsible for the expense and the deaths. They are the war criminals. Our war is and ever will be with those who could contemplate such dastardly evil. As the rightful champions of freedom and liberty, we can never coexist in peace.

If you knew an enemy was lurking in your own neighborhood, and failed to protect your own vulnerable people, perhaps you deserve whatever comes.

This is an issue that requires some personal reflection and commitment.

Just ask yourself this --

Which symbol is most likely to help us promote peace?


Or this?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wildfire Tragedy in California

My heart weeps for those so suffering.

Driven from their homes by firestorms, not knowing if they will return to a welcome home, or to a smoking ashen ruin.

The world can be such a beautiful place. Southern California holds some of the greatest delights on earth. But with the beauty and splendor, there lurks insidious danger. The architecture and climate of many S.Cal locales lends itself to this kind of wildland fire event. Native chaparral is adapted to thrive in the xeric environment that is natural to so many of the areas that burned. And the notorious Santa Ana winds, so wild and unpredictable, are born and formed in the natural topography of the region. They come raging downslope, from the high desert toward the ocean, dessicating every bit of moisture from the air and from the plants, and the fuels on the ground. Under those conditions it only takes a tiny spark to start up an incendiary inferno.

In these circumstances most of the firefighters can only stand and watch it burn. The danger to human life is far to high to allow them to protect property. When the winds finally subside, the firefighters can move in and establish containment lines, hold the flames in check, and wait for the fire to burn itself out.

These guys were very lucky.

They got caught by the firestorm on an exposed ridgetop. On realizing that their escape route was cut off and their water supply interrupted, the team leader ordered them to deploy their emergency fire shelters. Fortunately, a helitanker was able to drop water on top of them before the fire became too intense. Their shelters protected them through the hottest period of the firestorm.


Orange County Fire Authority (ORC)
Twelve Firefighters Deploy Fire Shelters – All Twelve Survive Uninjured
October 22, 2007
Santiago Incident CA-ORC-07068555

This Preliminary Summary Report is intended as an aid in accident prevention, and to provide factual information within a short time frame. Information contained within may be subject to revision as further investigation is conducted, and other reports and documents are received.


Twelve OCFA firefighters were advancing a progressive hose lay on a hillside near a road cut along Santiago Canyon Road in eastern Orange County (Unincorporated). Upon reaching the top of the 200-foot hill, their hose line apparently ruptured, causing them to run out of water. As fire encroached upon their position, the firefighters deployed their fire shelters, and all twelve firefighters escaped injury.


A wildland fire was reported near Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon at 1755 on 10/21/07. The Orange County Fire Authority dispatched a watershed fire assignment, and initial reports indicated a 20-30 acre fire. Firefighters held the main body of the Santiago Fire to the west side of Santiago Canyon Road, which was a critical control line for keeping the fire out of the communities of Silverado and Modjeska Canyons.

On 10/22/07 at approximately 1530, firefighters discovered that the fire had jumped Santiago Canyon Road approximately 200 yards south of Call Box SC-13. Two teams of firefighters immediately initiated two separate but coordinated progressive hose lays anchored on the eastern edge of Santiago Canyon road. One hose lay progressed along each flank. The hose team on the left flank consisted of two members from Engine-22, three members from Engine-9, three members from Engine-34, three members from Patrol-16, and one member from Engine-53.

The left-flank hose team had reached (or nearly reached) the top of the 200-foot hill when they lost water, apparently due to one or more ruptured hose lines. With fire below, the progressive hose team leader selected a level site at the top of the hill and ordered all twelve members to deploy their shelters. OCFA helicopter(s) made one or more high-priority water drops on the fire immediately adjacent to the deployed firefighters. The firefighters remained in communication while they were inside their shelters.

Once conditions were cool enough, all twelve firefighters exited their shelters and walked unassisted down the hill to Santiago Canyon Road. All twelve firefighters were evaluated on-site, and then transported to OCFA Fire Headquarters for further evaluation. None of the firefighters required treatment at a hospital.

Recommended Actions: All firefighters should review and practice Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes and Safety Zones. All firefighters should regularly review and practice fire shelter deployment. Commanders should develop procedures for managing deployment emergencies.

Future Reports:

A full report is forthcoming pursuant to OCFA SOP AM 115.02

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Poetry: How shall I serve them?

My friends, my loved ones --
how shall I best serve them?
Toward them, promises laid before God,
my sacred obligation:

To help bear their burdens.
To mourn with them in mourning.
To share their joy and sadness.
To extend compassion and charity
without reservation or hesitation.
To stand as a witness of that Divine One,
the perfect example for all.

How many times I have failed
to serve those in need.

In blind selfishness, I cannot
see the needs of others beyond
my own bitter greedy demands.

What opportunities have passed,
because I could not see.

What great blessings might have been,
if only I had the faith.

Miserable servant that I am,
I continue striving to do my best.
Heavenly Father, please,
accept my flawed offerings,
bless my feeble struggles.

Snowshoes on Rampart Ridge

Looking forward to new tracks in the snow, I am revisiting other stories, written some years ago...

Snowshoes on Rampart Ridge

Bitter cold penetrates with a chill that cannot be dispelled, as we waddle along the trail, bundled in thick layers of clothing, clumsy burdensome snowshoes stealing all grace from our walk. Steaming clouds of frosty breath trail behind. Crusty snow emits weird squeaks and groans as our toes dig in.

We stop for a breather, at a vista overlooking the valley. Night in the deep woods is silent and brooding dark, swathed in a blanket of snow. Nature's array is spread forth before us in the moonlight, hundreds of acres of evergreen pines and spruces and firs, looming black and secretive in the still night air, climbing the hillsides and standing stern and motionless sentinels along the ridge tops.

Crossing a thick stand of brush, we stumble across a resting elk, who springs up in alarm at the disturbance. Which of us was frightened more? With sweeping strides and massive power, plunging headlong through the undergrowth at a thundering gallop, he escapes from our threat, and is gone from view almost before we realize what we are looking at. We stand there for a moment in amazed silence, gaping at each other like wondering fools.

Later on, crossing our trail like a silent wraith, a red fox flashes by and disappears into the chaparral. From time to time we hear a great owl, his muffled query floating across the dark forest, as he glides through the night sky, scanning the snow for prey.

We are the strangers here. This is no longer our world, we find no warmth in nature. We have too long allowed ourselves to be enticed away, wrapped in the insulating comfort of technology. In our complacence, we have been robbed of natural rapport with the forest. Now we stumble as aliens through this seemingly stark wilderness, interlopers for an hour, feeling as if we could barely survive a few miles trek through this unfriendly locale. To every creature of the forest, we are a threat and a foe. We don't belong.

In the end, we circle back to the car, arriving in relief back at civilization, anxiously looking forward to the comforts of home, and a long hot shower.

Symbols in the Snow

I think the fresh snowfall represents renewal. It is a tangible representation of the repentance process. New snow erases the old tracks and ruts, leaving a cold, clear surface upon which to begin again. It is a symbol of surpassing whiteness and purity, so clean and pristine. Waiting to receive whatever new impressions may come, tracks laid down over the smooth white surface. The snow uniquely records our passages and progress, the trail a chronicle of coming and going embedded in icy footsteps.

In my back-yard treks, I follow an established snowshoe trail climbing up to the nearby summit of the mountain. I have found that after each new storm it is far easier to follow the old track to the top, rather than break from the trail on a new course. Under the top layer of unpacked powder, the firmer base of compressed snow offers better support for my ponderous advance.

Over the past couple of months, my tracks through the snow have gathered in wandering footsteps of nearly every other creature happening by. Rabbits. Birds. Deer and elk follow the path, herd animals filing serially, each carefully placing feet precisely into the steps of the leader. I never see these creatures in the flesh, but they leave their tracks. I have been mighty curious about how the "footed-ness" of these animals might affect their gait. Do clumsy inept deer ever have trouble staying inside the lines? To my amusement, I sometimes find signs that these animals have as much difficulty navigating through the deep drifts as I. Occasional deep belly-marks. Errant tracks that diverge from the path, then join back. Though I suppose that with them, it is no laughing matter to forage in the desperate cold and barren winter-clad slopes seeking food.

I wonder about whatever unidentified dog-like creature happens to own those frighteningly large canine feet that also trail along in my footsteps. Sometimes the snow records the signs of their predation. Scattered tufts of fur and feathers. Bit of bones. Crimson blood spilled on the cold white snow. How much can such animals read from the tale of _my_ three-foot long treads. Are they ever watching me from among the trees along the bluff? Do they ever follow the scent of my slow and labored passage and dream about spilling more hot blood onto the cool clean snow?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Indelible Tracks

This evening I took a hike up the backyard mountain to look at the fall colors. About half a mile up the mountain, the road runs out and narrows down into a fair hiking trail. A ways further, and it fans out into a dozen faintly defined meanders through the PJ.

If you wander through the mixed Juniperus scopulorum and Pinus monophyllum long enough, detouring around the scattered patches of Arctostaphylos, you can hook back into the mountain road that crosses the saddle and descends into the next valley. Beautiful vistas all around. I usually find the trail virtually untracked by humans, and a nice hillside to watch the sunset.

Some time in the last couple of weeks, an ambitious soul on an ATV took it upon himself to blaze the foot trail through.

Nothing tragic about this. It was always an unremarkable spot, nothing special to distinguish it from mountainsides and ridges all around this area. But it was untracked before. I presume that it never will be again — not in my lifetime.

I’ve seen this happen before in other areas around this neighborhood. Opening one track starts it. Where one ATV operator sees tire tracks, it apparently signals a green light to traverse the same ground.

There’s no reason to make new trails in this area. There are hundreds of miles of dirt trails to explore. Ripping a new one across formerly pristine territory is just senseless destruction.

Fall Colors!

We have had a couple of wintry storms here over the last few days. Frosty mornings. Most of the leaves are gone already.

A project here, every spring, to plant a garden. Last year Dad put up a little plastic greenhouse to see if he could save his tomatoes. In Hideaway Valley, the season is just long enough to grow up huge bushy plants with loads of green fruit on them, then along comes a hard freeze overnight and spoils all.

Last fall, we tried to nurse the plants through early frosts with propane heaters. I am not sure how much the fuel costs, but we probably burned up $50 worth of propane trying to ripen $10 worth of tomatoes. And in the end, they all froze anyway.

This year the vines all froze last week in the first hard frost. I went into the greenhouse and picked off about half the green fruits and brought them in the house. About 10 gallons. I buried the rest of the fruit underneath the dead vines, thinking maybe it will insulate them and keep the tomatoes warm from ground heat.

We haven't had much luck trying to ripen the green fruit. It just doesn't have enough time on the vines here.

I think we picked about three red-ripe tomatoes this year -- but thousands of green ones.

"...True love is the greatest thing in the world-except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe." (Princess Bride)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Another year has passed since that horrific day.

I will never forget the images of the planes crashing into those towering buildings. And the thundering wreckage of waste and destruction. The screaming nightmare of humans leaping from the

I reiterate again today my resolve from that day.

If such a people live on this earth with the will to commit such unthinkably evil harm against the innocent and defenseless, then we can never peacefully coexist.

Either my people or theirs must cease to live.

This has nothing to do with retribution or vengance or bigotry. It is a simple question of survival. As in the days of the flood of Noah, those who would perpetuate such evil must be wiped out, to make way for those who would establish and sustain a more righteous tradition.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Firefighting 2007

Several major fires in this region so far this summer.

I missed working on the Milford Flats fire that charred a huge patch of central Utah in June. We were keeping busy at the time, trying to eradicate noxious weeds in the Manti La Sal National Forest.

In July we had a very close call with the Salt Creek fire that burned within a mile of homes in my neighborhood. I spent a big chunk of time working on that incident. Most of my work involved manning and operating the water tender. It is basically a big water tank on wheels. Water tenders are vital to fire operations in this area because there are so few places with available water resources. The tenders shuttle water from local sources out to the fire to replenish the small water supply carried by tactical firefighting engines.

Indianola Valley Fire Department Tender 18

The water tender can also bring water in to provide local resources for helicopters. There were several helicopters and small planes dropping water and chemical fire retardant on hot spots during the Salt Creek fire.

One of the most impressive aircraft at the fire...

Sikorsky SkyCrane helitanker

Also in use were fixed-wing retardant bombers like this one...

And smaller aircraft...

As well as bucket-carrying smaller helicopters...

Sometimes there is no nearby source for the helicopters to draw water.

So we deploy these big plastic pools that hold 6000 gallons. The water tenders bring water from available sources and replenish the supply in the pool, while the helicopter dips the bucket into the pool and carries another drop to the fire.

For the last week we have been working on the Lowry Canyon fire.

Location of Lowry Canyon fire.

It is a curiosity that the valley east of the fire is named "Japanese Valley". Several stories circulated about an internment camp that was located here during WWII, but I have never heard of it before, and was skeptical. I know about the big camp that was at Topaz, but didn't know of any such in Sanpete County.

The fire started from a lightning strike last week, and was burning in Juniper and Oak chaparral in the wild mountain area between Gunnison and Scipio. No homes or properties were threatened, so the strategy for firefighting was mostly just to keep it confined to the top of the mountain, and prevent it from spreading down through any of the nearby valleys.

Here's a news story from the Salt Lake

Another news article, from the Sanpete County Messenger

Indianola fire dept. back to normal after baptism by fire
By Suzanne Dean

INDIANOLA—The Indianola Valley Fire Department (IVFD) is back to its routine of training meetings and fighting routine fires after a baptism by fire, at least figuratively, this past summer.
Established two years ago, IVFD volunteers, who specialize in wild land fires and fire in urban interface zones, tested their mettle in three state-level fires—Milford Flats, Salt Creek and Lowry fires.
In the Milford Flats fire, said to be the biggest forest and wild land fire in Utah history, and in the Salt Creek fire, which threatened populated areas in Sanpete County, the IVFD firefighters got to rub shoulders with Type 1 teams, the crackerjack national teams that are sent in to fight the most serious fires.
“They were very willing to teach and share, and very appreciative of what we did and how we did it,” said Graciela Torino Myers, IVFD public information officer and volunteer. “We had the satisfaction of being appreciated.”
Three IVFD volunteers spent five days fighting the Milford Flats fire, which led to two deaths and scorched 160,000 acres in Sevier, Millard and Beaver counties.
“Bless their hearts,” Meyers said of the three volunteers. “They came home, took a shower, had one night at home and then were called out on the Salt Creek fire.”
On July 19, several IVFD volunteers, with support from a Utah County fire team, were fighting a routine fire near Eagle’s Landing near the Sanpete-Utah County border.
That’s when they were alerted to a forest fire moving from Salt Creek Canyons up mountain draws into the hills above the Indianola Valley.
“They went from one fire to the other without touching home,” Meyers said.
All 13 certified IVFD firefighters worked on the front line of the fire. Some of them even came off their assignments “with retardant on their uniforms,” she said.
One of their main duties was constructing hand lines, or trenches, to stop the fire’s advance.
They also stood by the county’s tanker truck at the Hilltop command post and supplied water to fire engines from a host of fire departments. Those trucks then drove into the fire area and used the water to put out flames or to wet down vegetation to reduce its vulnerability to fire.
IVFD also played a big role in “mop up,” which primarily involves “cold trailing,” several firefighters walking in formation across burned area feeling the ground to make sure it’s cold.
When firefighters saw a wisp of smoke, they dug at it with picks to cover it with dirt and sprayed the site with water.
“More than one fatal fire has been assumed to be contained, only to blow up later and unexpectedly trap people,” Meyers said.
That’s why there’s an adage in firefighting that says, “A fire department is only as good as its mop-up capability.”
The Salt Creek fire exacted a big commitment from the IVFD volunteers. They left home at 6:30 a.m. to attend a briefing at Juab High School in Nephi, where they got their assignment for the day.
They fought the fire until after dark and then returned to Nephi to do paperwork. They got home about 11:30 p.m.
Since its founding, the IVFD has always brought one of its engines to the Fairview Parade on July 24.
This year, Meyers rode in the parade in a Volkswagen Jetta decked with signs that read, “Indianola Valley Fire Department—Sorry we missed seeing you. Our four trucks and crews are fighting THE FIRE.”
Meyers said she got a tremendous response from the crowd.
The Salt Creek fire not only taught IVFD firefighters new skills but also helped them identify equipment that would support their mission of preventing and fighting wild land and urban interface fires.
The Salina Fire Department brought two “pumpkins” to the fire. The big orange devices look like giant versions of a child’s inflatable wading pool.
The pumpkins hold 5,000 and 6,000 gallons of water. They provided a water reservoir where helicopters swooped down and refilled their buckets.
The IVFD looked into acquiring one, managed to get it, and about a month later took it to the Lowry fire, which burned about 1,000 acres west of S.R. 28 near the Juab-Sanpete border.
The department’s next goal is to get its own fire station in the Indianola Valley, although so far, the Sanpete County Commission hasn’t come up with a way to finance the project.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Lessons from the Trees

A couple of prosaic pieces I wrote some time ago, reflecting upon my relationship with wilderness.

Legacies of Endurance

I made a pilgrimage this weekend to the slopes of Mount Evans, to pay my respects to a grove of peculiar trees that inhabit that locale.

These the pines of a particular breed that choose to live their lives out, at forbidding lofty heights, where other species abjure. Fire and rain, wind and snow, all the elements combine to blast these enduring creatures without pity or respite.

Not the towering graceful beauties of the forest, these. The aged pines are twisted and gnarled into bizarre stunted gnomes. Battle scars from aeons of withstanding the destructive forces of nature cover their flanks.

And yet they endure.

Some of the oldest patriarchs, clinging to life by the thinnest of threads, have witnessed the awesome pagent of an unimaginable span of ages, as time passed before them, hundreds upon hundreds of seasons spinning by, a thousand generations in the lifetime of men.

I consider these trees, with their stunning longevity. They do not complain about the travail or suffering, though many of them have obviously suffered greatly. They do not question their purpose, or falter in the mission -- to live, and keep on living. The trees endure, and do not ask why.

There is an incredible, priceless beauty in endurance. Perhaps it is beyond our understanding today. I feel certain that the trees possess this secret knowledge.

How long will it take us to learn?

Great and Small

Towering firs raise into the blazing blue,
their boughs reaching up in mighty supplication.
Framing the world across mountain tops and airy ridges,
seemingly, holding up the sky.

On forest floor below, humbly graced,
with lacy bracken ferns, lush green, so pleasing to the eye.
Bowed with fronds sweeping low to the earth,
catching the sun's few spare rays.

Climbing Paradise Ridge

I owned the tops of the mountains today. No others tracked the smooth white surface of the cold, clean snow. The mountain heights and I held our secret soul tryst, a chaste and joyous virtue only open to the lone and lonely.

I traverse the high passes, seeming so near to the pale blue sky, bracing against the fierce onslaught of the merciless freezing north wind. Howling gusts sweep up gritty blasts of icy snow grains in a ground blizzard, below a dark horizon troubled by passing storm clouds. As I struggle upward, the icy wind steals my breath away with each passing burst.

In the shelter of the deep shady canyon, I pause before tall green firs swaying and sighing as the force of the gale funnels up the slope, the wind whistling and moaning through the tossing boughs like the keening of mourners. The feet of the great trees stand deeply buried beneath the drifts.

Laboring to slowly climb the steep slope, bundled heavily against the freezing cold, my body is soon dripping with sweat. As the moisture accumulates under my hat and across the back of my neck, a rime of ice quickly forms around my head, into the simulation of a frosted white helmet.

I stop at the summit for a brief respite, in the lee of a swarm of boulders. I comb the ice out of my hair. Over the top of the broad peak, bare crusted snow is sculptured by the wind. The blowing snow appears to form sinuous snakes that writhe and coil and dance like living creatures. A sort of white noise, the continuous susurration of millions of snow grains skittering and slithering along, masks the roaring of the wind and creates a deep dynamic silence. Pressure against my back builds and ebbs from the force of the wild wind.

I have overstayed my welcome. The wind intensifies and the snow turns into heavier pellets that plaster across the front of my jacket and trousers, until I start to resemble an animate snowman. I hasten down the front side of the mountain, and as I pass, drifting snow quickly obliterates the traces of my passage.

Children of Divorce

I've put up a number of links on my personal web pages about divorce. But this article looks interesting by itself.

In online discussion I sometimes find this topic examined, and many of the participants express the sentiment that in cases of Temple marriages that are terminated by divorce, the children "follow the mother".

I've never heard any satisfactory explanation for that reasoning, nor do any who echo the idea know of any provenance. They just heard it somewhere.

Here's an authoritative quote that seems to address the subject:
As to the next question, “What happens to the children in the next life when there has been a cancellation of sealing of the parents?” it is understood that in the case of a cancellation of the sealing of the woman to the man, this does not cancel the sealing of the children to the parents, since they were born in the covenant, which is a birthright blessing. They remain in the status of the sealing to their parents and can never be sealed to anyone else. The decision as to with whom they will go will be determined by the Lord in the hereafter. Regarding being born in the covenant the General Handbook of Instructions states, “Children born in the covenant cannot be sealed to anyone, but belong to their natural parents. This rule is not altered by adoption, consent of the natural parents, request of the child after becoming of age or death of the natural parents.”

It should be kept in mind that to be born in the covenant is a birthright blessing, and that if a child remains worthy in this life of celestial blessings, regardless of the actions of his parents, he is assured of that birthright and is guaranteed eternal parentage. One’s worthiness in this life through living the gospel and keeping the commandments, in this as in all things, is the key to eternal life. (Elder James A. Cullimore,  Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Futility and the purpose of life

Are we just a waste of oxygen? What am I doing that is worth doing?

A few days ago someone at an LDS blog became perturbed at my participation in the discussion, and activated whatever mechanism they use to try to block me from participating. Why did I care? I wasn't aware that I did until I found that the blog did not even prompt me for a comment any more.

Well, it turns out that this blog and most others use a software black box called Akismet that supposedly filters out unwanted stuff. It is supposed to keep spammers from cluttering up the place.

I decided that anyone rude enough to presume to cut me off deserved punishment. So I started researching the Akismet machine to figure out how to break through.

According to the authors of the software, it is supposed to be very smart. As far as I can tell, it isn't. Akismet just tries to associate comments with a list of IP addresses and other possible junk associated with spammers.

I have known for some time of software servers that anonymize the IP address of a web browser session. So, being the persistent bother that I am, I experimented until I could post again.

Now that I accomplished that feat, I was nonplussed to realize that I had absolutely nothing to say. So I decided to study more about Akismet.

This defense mechanism reminds me of the Star Trek phaser dilemma when attacking the Borg defenses.

Phasers could only penetrate their shields on the first few tries. After that, the Borg shifted the frequency of their shields to restore attenuation.

Blog operators only have a few parameters they can use to check incoming traffic against known spam offenders. This approach doesn't work at all against those who know how to shift the values of those parameters. It is effective against spam only because the spammers are mostly mindless automatons exploiting easy undefended targets.

I suppose most network users do not know what an IP address is, let alone how to manipulate it. To put it simply, IP addresses are assigned by software, and can be changed or manipulated by software. Internet users with a bit of savvy and ambition can easily switch IP numbers and other software parameters. And for every more sophisticated technique of tracking addresses, there are even more elaborate schemes to conceal them.

My web browser voluntarily offers personal information to web pages I interact with. I have no obligation to do this, nor do I see anything unethical about refusing to freely hand over everything demanded. When blog operators use my voluntary compliance as a weapon against me, they forfeit my willing cooperation. The blog security structure is based entirely on voluntary compliance. Unless they resort to a closed system that only allows comments from established, trusted sources, blog operators cannot do much to block anonymous comments.

Not only that, but I strongly suspect that this blog absolutely depends on anonymity to even operate at all. Many LDS Internet users who operate on the fringe have grown paranoid about someone taking note of what they say in open forums. And rightly so. Ironically, I suspect many of those with such concerns do not exactly subscribe to the principle of common consent. They want license to criticize the Church and speak evil of the brethren without suffering any consequence. This blog is not about to jeopardize the mechanism that affords naysayers a forum in which to offer critical remarks without disclosing their identity.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Creationism and Evolution

In my experience, the vast wastelands of the Internet are not a very helpful source of information on the Church, creation, and evolution.

Those of us just wanting to know what the issues are and what to think, tend to end up shell shocked by the intensity of participants in most of the discussion of relevant issues. While this is hardly an unusual environment for such a topic of controversy and debate, it does present a challenge for someone who prefers to be reasonably informed, reserve judgment, but just wants a bit more information.

Among of the best references I have found to actual Church doctrine and policy on this matter is at the biology department of BYU. Undergrad students at BYU use this information packet for reference. It contains a copy of several authoritative statements on the evolution and origins of man. You can read it without getting battered by proponents from any of the various warlike camps staked out all around this controversy.

One assertion I love to read very succinctly spells out what I want to know -- the real meaning of "evolution"...

Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.

From the information packet at BYU.

Highly recommended.

Healing through Jesus Christ

Interesting discussion in the Bloggernacle pondering whether we might opt to prevent homosexuality by pre-natal treatment.

I have no answer to offer. But the discussion suggested some instructive parallels with the New Testament incident recorded in John chapter 9. Jesus anointed the eyes of the man who had been blind since birth, and told the man to go and wash in a pool of water. The man followed his instructions, and his eyes were opened.

I cannot say from reading the scriptures that the many acts of "healing" performed by Jesus, during his ministry, imply any particular value judgment by the Savior regarding physiological or mental dysfunction. What we can learn from the scriptural accounts is that Jesus had compassion on the people for whom he provided healing ministrations. He granted the healing that they sought from him, in the form of relief from the problems they felt were afflicting their lives.

From my reading in the ninth chapter, there are many details that seem to open more questions than they answer.

For example, I cannot imagine what to make of the disciples query that apparently prompted the healing.

And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

When Jesus administered to the man, the story says he made clay with spittle and applied it to the man's eyes, before instructing him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. I am not sure this procedure was common to his healing ministrations, and wonder why he did it this way. Why not just pronounce the man healed, and make it so?

I have afflictions of my own that I suffer with. Jesus has not deigned to relieve me of these burdens. While I would hypothetically like to participate in the process designed to educate me in true appreciation of God's eternal purposes, I suppose the dim hope always lives, somewhere in the back of my mind, that it might not be quite so agonizingly painful.

Impatient soul that I am, yet I wait on Jesus Christ for healing. I know it will come, in the Lord's own time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


How does honesty become anti-social and pathological?

Reiterating this question for my not-so-friendly friend, Steve Evans, Bloggernacle blogger.

It cannot be that people like Steve simply cannot be bothered to address such questions. But due to an unfortunate miscommunication, he shut me out of his forum before we finished the dialog.

So, in my forum, it remains an open question. Perhaps for Steve, or maybe for some other soul that values truth and honesty.

"I drew a circle that took him in".

Monday, June 18, 2007

Surviving the Internet

One of the great disappointments I have come to realize over time is that faithful church members have, for the most part, lost a presence on the Internet, betrayed by disaffected and abandoned to the control of the devil's minions.

Long ago this point was driven home when the original "Mormon-L" experiment veered off the tracks and established a permanent camp in the parking lot of the "great and spacious building". In spite of every erstwhile effort to drive a silver stake through the heart of the evil beast, it refuses to die, and even flourishes in its own unique niche of darkness and corruption.

More recently, I came to see this particularly in light of a whole infrastructure of LDS-related blogs that sprang up literally overnight, and with breathtaking evolution, were subsumed into an impressive collective referred to informally as the "Bloggernacle", or perhaps more pretentiously, the "Mormon Archipelago".

Sadly, the Bloggernacle has just as soon evolved into a haven for the same folks that gutted and spitted the original Mormon-L forum. I fear most of the participants there are beyond saving. The downward slide has been all the more ironic, because so many of the prominent players seem to think they are in charge of "saving" the church from its mistakes -- unfortunately, most of this is just ark-steadying or some other flavor of outright apostasy.


More recently, as the morning breaks and the shadows flee, I see some hope on the horizon. The appearance of a new web site encouraging development of consecrated Internet resources -- More Good

Dramatic growth and development of resources at

Continued expansion of the Church's online web presence at and related sites.

The collection of valuable resources at BYU also continues to grow and impress. Particularly the transcripts of speeches and devotionals, and the growing library of streaming media resources.

If you haven't been watching, take a look at these sites and see how they've continued to evolve.

The Prodigal Son

Who is the prodigal son, in the parable Jesus taught in Luke 15?

...wasted his substance with riotous living...

And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

The mercy and compassion of this forgiving father is overwhelming. And the despondent hopelessness of the lost son is all too familiar.

It is always difficult for me to read the passage where the lost son rehearses his self-denigration and begging for help -- I can never get past it without bitter tears. How many times have I gone to Father in Heaven with the same thoughts.

The lost son plans to beg the father to make him as a servant. Yet the father is so overjoyed to have regained his lost one that he doesn't even seem to hear, and apparently no thoughts of restitution or justice even entered into his mind.

I wonder, on reflection, how can a father ever forgive such wilful wasting of his hard-earned wealth? And then the thought follows -- how could he not?

Heavenly Father has no desire to punish his children. He is not vindictive or capricious. His greatest joy is in bestowing gifts on his children. His work and glory is in bringing them to everlasting rewards.

Yet the Father's mercy is not unconditional. He does not owe us these favors. We are in the position of the lost son, hopeless to return to Father's house without his undeserved mercy.

How many of us yet vainly continue in hunger, when limitless bounty is within reach? Why fill our bellies with the husks of swine? Perhaps for some, the day of reckoning has not yet arrived, and we are still in the process of wasting our substance. How ironic, for those of us who, through our own willful choice, enter the mire to wallow with the swine.

I have been there myself, many times. As it seems, at the time it was the only alternative. Yet when I come to myself, as the son in the master's parable, I realize once again that the promise of forgiveness and being cleansed is open to all of us.

The fatted calf awaits. There is still time for us. Let us repent and return to the Father's house. He ever receives the prodigal son with open arms.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Reason and accountability

This is a better theme for serious "Father's Day" discussion than the perpetual silliness that goes on here, for example. So many participants in the "Bloggernacle" just seem to love to muse and moon over meaningless questions.

I've wondered for a long time how men could surrender themselves to the bland impotence that so characterizes such discussions, amongst the obsessively politically correct, and elsewhere. To me, it seems to represent a concerted effort to betray most of the meaningful things that distinguish us as men.

We can focus in on the one of the particular points of doctrine that so offends, especially at this weekend event that at least theoretically used to be about celebrating "fatherhood", but is now more commonly used as an opportunity to denigrate.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World proclaims, among others:
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.
The Proclamation is dynamic and bold -- and that offends quite a few people. Though it is not politically correct, it should go without saying that men have a unique role that differentiates them from women. This axiomatic premise parallels Melvin Udall's stereotyped thinking, in the film "As Good as it Gets".
Receptionist: How do you write women so well?
Melvin Udall: I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.
There are fundamental differences between men and women, males and females. Some institutional implementations are founded upon those ideas, and they function successfully to the degree that those sex differences are recognized and properly accommodated. While Udall's encapsulation may not perfectly characterize the kernel of the fundamental difference, he does far better than most, in this age of unreasoning antipathy toward the male of the species.

Check some earlier comments that relate to this issue, in fascinating and intriguing ways.

(Interspersing some replies from that other blog discussion...)
Melvin Udall was held up in the film as a generally reprehensible (and somewhat insane) human being — that was the point.
Yes, I think I understand why you felt we were intended to regard the character of Udall as “reprehensible” and insane. But in fact, his most offensive trait in the film seemed to be a rather painful and brutal degree of honesty.

How does honesty become anti-social and pathological?

(Other blog reply...)
Jim, let me ask you a yes or no question: do you believe that in order to describe women, you “think of a man… and take away reason and accountability”?
I could discuss this question at some length, but first, you must answer a yes or no question: Do you believe in the “divine design” reflected in the Proclamation?

Your antipathy for this line of thinking makes me uncomfortable to pursue it further. Sorry for disturbing the peace. Please feel free to ignore my comments, if it will make you feel happier.

(Other blog reply...)
Cobabe, don’t confuse antipathy for you with antipathy for the Proclamation. Consider yourself persona non grata until you answer my question, you coward.

And to show you that I’m not a coward, I’ll answer your question, you loathsome wuss: Yes, I believe the “divine design” part. Now what?
(Further quote from "As Good as it Gets"...)
Carol Connelly: Do you have any control over how creepy you allow yourself to get?
Melvin Udall: Yes I do, as a matter of fact. And to prove it, I have not gotten personal, and you have.
Yes, I obviously thought I saw something instructive in Udall’s unusually hyperbolic thinking. Of course it is not correct to so simply characterize differences between men and women — doesn’t do it justice at all. That would be an interesting and complex subject in itself.

Then too, I see this with the understanding that Udall is a fictional character, a sort of composite caricature of someone manifesting psychiatric dysfunction. Udall is not a real person, neither is the thinking reflected in his fictional character an accurate portrayal of o-c disorder. His character is as exaggerated as his statement about how he writes women.

The sad fact is that Udall is able, in his twisted sense, to readily identify an important truth that our politically correct society cannot countenance. Udall is honest about his perceptions. Many of the rest of us have to pretend to deny what is fundamentally true. Those laboring under this bizarre obsession/compulsion are perhaps more seriously mentally afflicted than Udall himself.

Perhaps, when we look at the Family Proclamation, the reductionist approach is somewhat problematic. The initial selection of one phrase in isolation from the rest of the Proclamation may detract from the obviously holistic intent of that instrument. As I read it, the Proclamation intends to advocate for a particular balance. All members of a family are included and to be considered as a unit, notwithstanding the different contributions each member brings to the group. Regarding the individual pieces, particularly from a defensive or antagonistic perspective, probably distracts us enough from the original intent that the real message of the Proclamation is compromised.

Men and women do not exist independent of each other. Rather, their different roles complement each other to create a relationship that works to satisfy the specific and individual needs of all its members.

"Unrighteous dominion" is almost an automatic reaction for many liberal-minded LDS Church members in this context. One of the considerations that generally seems to be neglected when we invoke “unrighteous dominion” is that it would seem to imply that “righteous dominion” is also a possibility.

In fact, I would suggest that “righteous dominion” predominates in almost all cases, and “unrighteous dominion” is, for practical purposes, a temporary and transitory state. I suspect most of us wander into that territory from time to time. Thank God we have the opportunity to repent and correct our mistakes.

One more thought — unrighteous dominion. It is not just a man’s territory. Anyone can tread there.

In the church there is a peculiar tendency to become blind to this, perhaps because the scriptures make such a dramatic point in condemning the problem as manifested in the ranks of priesthood. For priesthood-holding men, unrighteous dominion has certain unpleasant implications that do not affect non-priesthood-holders. But abuse of authority is an egregious sin, in any case — whether the offender be a man or a woman.

I further extend my previous comments about “dominion” in general. Under the guiding principles of the gospel, it is our prerogative to have dominion over our individual stewardships. This applies to men and women, fathers and mothers — and children, in a more limited sense. One of the challenges of mortality is to learn to administer our dominion according to righteous principles.

Each of us has a unique assignment that constitutes our stewardship. This principle is taught in the parable of the talents. Dominion over our own stewardship is righteousness inasmuch as it is guided by gospel principles. It is a reflection of the eternal stewardship we look forward to, modelled after Heavenly Father’s eternal kingdoms.

I think it is instructive to compare phrases like
…reinforcing the norm of gender-disparate economic power
Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If I were to make it the subject of intensive study, which one of the philosophical approaches these statements epitomize would seem likely to yield the most productive result — e.g. happiness, fairness, prosperity.

I don’t share any grave concerns about catering to the lunatic fringe on either side of the “iron rod”.

Innovative contemporary sociological theories modelling marriage relationships are all just nicey-nice. Gay and lesbian stuff is, well, enticing, I suppose, for a select minority. But the majority — more than 95% of us, I would guess — will be best served by striving for obedience to the correct principles outlined in the Proclamation. Notwithstanding the popular clamor for "diversity", there is no reason for most of us to experiment with any of these distasteful distractions or perversions from the “divine design”.

And, I presume for those who, like me, occasionally come to themselves, and find themselves straying outside of the ideal — if you’re like a happy pig, pleased to be wallowing in mire, well and good for you.

But if you're unhappy, and cannot understand why, perhaps you would be interested to see my further elaboration on this idea. If and when you come to realize how you have been mislead and cheated, and can see how far off the path you have strayed, please make an effort to repent and seek forgiveness, and set your steps to return to the true church.

Prodigal sons, as ever, will be welcomed back to the fold.