Monday, January 28, 2008

President Gordon B. Hinckley

My mother called me around 10pm CST last night to let me know that our Prophet has passed away. A very surreal feeling came over me. Still this morning I am filled with sadness and a hint of disbelief.

I know that President Hinckley has joined his wife and is now happier than any of us mortals could possibly imagine. I also know that President Monson, who will be sustained as President of the Church, has been called of God to this office. The Church organization and priesthood continues without question.

But I am sad to lose the man who was Prophet of the Church when I first gained my true testimony of it. On my mission I often explained that before I gained a testimony of Joseph Smith I actually gained a testimony of Gordon B. Hinckley being the Lord's Prophet today.

His positivity and anti-cynical attitude torward the world was something I desperately needed and still need in my life.

He will be known for temple work, being involved in the erection of hundreds of temples, bringing these eternal blessings to the Saints of the world.

I love him and already find myself missing him.

Monday, January 21, 2008


My school semester just started, and as a result I wont be posting as much as I'd like.

This is the first time in my young life that I have stayed up to date on the primaries for the presidential nominees. At first, I found it very fascinating. Now I am just sickened by it and considering giving up on our political system.

Here are my observations -

1. The key to winning the primaries is gaining momentum. The more momentum you have, the more people will vote or caucus for you because they want to support a potential winner. It isn't so much about which candidate's views that state supports, as much as its which candidate does the state feel will actually have a shot to win at the national convention and become the nominee. Some may feel that Ron Paul aligns the closest to their political views, but because he doesn't have a shot they will vote or caucus for John McCain because he represents the parties' strongest candidate.

2. Because of the above the media has the biggest influence on the primaries. They choose who to publicize as the front-runner in the primaries and caucuses. But the media is bias and irresponsible so who they claim is the actual front-runner is not always correct. But by painting them the front-runner they are gaining more votes for the candidate because again, people want to vote for a winner.

3. The media sucks. That is the best way I can think to put it. The AP journalists are the most irresponsible biggoted group of writers I have read. Yet they have the most control on momentum. Shame.

Case in point -

As I have stated on this blog I support Barack Obama. Even though I'm a Mormon I do not support and will not vote for Mitt Romney. But it has been hard for me not to notice the subtle jabs that AP journalists have taken at him.

One article in particular really upset me.

They referred to John McCain as "Senator John McCain." But they referred to Mitt Romney as "Multi-millionare Mitt Romney" and said nothing about him being a former governor.

They said that Mitt Romney had only won 1 state. When this article was written he had won three. I understand that Wyoming and Nevada may not be considered as strong as Michigan, but that article did not state one "major" state, it just said one state. It commended Romney for winning Nevada and proceeded to say "a state known for its gambling, prostitution and illegal activities." It also stated that a political analyst thinks if Romney's strategy is to currently get strong Mormon states to vote for him it wont work.

Give me a break! This is the most bias piece of garbage! But this is our media ladies and gentleman. They have already crowned Mr. McCain the presidential nominee and they are trying to convince the public that other candidates such as Mitt Romney should drop out. What a load of huey!

They don't mention that Romney has won the most states and has the most delegates! No, that would be inaccurate. Yet that is exactly what they are reinforcing in articles about Barack Obama because he is the media's favorite candidate.

How long will America support this crap?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

America, Please Don't Do It!

America, please don't do it.

Please don't nominate Hillary Clinton creating the possibility of the Bush/Clinton Era being extended another 4 years.

Please don't nominate someone so fake, so cardboard and insincere.

Please don't nominate the wife of a former President who did not respond to the several terrorist attacks on this country that foreshadowed 9/11. A former President that was immoral enough to bring his adultry into the Oval Office, stupid enough to get caught and then lie about it.

Please don't nominate someone so self-serving that sways to political opinions based on how it will advance her political career and boast her net worth.

Please don't nominate someone that may force me to vote for Mike Huckabee!*

America, please don't do it.

*I don't think Huckabee will be elected, but that is how much I dislike Hillary!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Criticizing the Council of Nicaea

This past Sunday I taught a lesson on the Godhead. I began my lesson by discussing the LDS belief that God has revealed truth in the scriptures through his Prophets and Apostles. In contrast, I compared this method to the council of Nicaea which led to the Nicaean Creed, one of the foundational creeds of the Trinity.

I highlighted this contrast by stating God does not present His truth to be voted upon by a group of men without priesthood authority. In times past He has revealed this truth directly to those holding His authority called to lead His Church.

As I said this I realized I was only partially correct.

In today's Church the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meet together to make decisions and discuss issues. At times doctrinal decisions are made. From comments made by Church leaders in General Conference (see President Hinckley's description of the revelation received for the priesthood to be extended to all worthy males) it appears that before any decision is made a unanimous consent must exist.

This process holds more similarities to the council of Nicaea than some may admit.

The council of Nicaea also consisted of men in the Church that were seen as inspired. While the political reasons behind the council are rightfully criticized, its purpose (as far as the Church fathers were concerned), was to confront a heresy attributed to Arius that the Father and the Son were of different substances. The majority of the Church believed they were not, but of the same substance.

During the council Arius lost several followers and when the vote was taken all but two attendees voted against the Arian doctrine.

The similarities between this council and the councils of the LDS Church are:

1. Consisted of inspired men
2. Doctrinal issues and positions were discussed
3. A vote was taken to get a consensus of the Church fathers

Before I scare some of you into thinking I have lost my testimony, I share this insight only to highlight the core item missing - PRIESTHOOD AUTHORITY.

My fear is that we spend too much time criticizing the council of Nicaea and the Nicaean Creed and should be spending more energy into explaining and testifying of Priesthood Authority. In my opinion it is fruitless to point out the flaws in the council. A simple explanation that those men did not have Priesthood Authority should suffice.

What do you think?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Book of Mormon History: Weapons

During my study of the Book of Mormon this year I have decided to research any passages or subjects that raise historical questions in my mind. As I do I will post my findings. Most of this information will be regurgitated from various LDS blogs and apologetic websites that I will try my best to source accurately.

This past week as I have read the Book of Mormon by myself and with my family I have questioned the weapons used in Nephite/Lamanite battles. These weapons, such as the sword and cimitar, resemble those used in early European warfare more then what we know today about ancient Mesoamerica.

An plausible explanation for these anachronisms we find in the Book of Mormon exists. An anachronism is "a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other."[1]

Some of the anachronisms in the Book of Mormon may have been limitations in Joseph Smith's vocabulary when translating the ancient record. For example, a long instrument with a handle swung at an opponent in battle could be described using various words that Joseph Smith was familiar with - sword, club, etc. While that instrument may not resemble a standard European sword, the term “sword” was the best descriptive word or label for that instrument in Joseph Smith’s vocabulary.

If this explanation is plausible then a study of known weapons that existed in Mesoamerica may show parallels between these weapons and what Joseph Smith describes.

There are parallels that exist for both the sword and the cimiter. A possible weapon that could be described as a sword, and was described as such by the early Spaniards was the macuahuitl.

Matthew Roper who has written two compelling articles on swords in the Book of Mormon describes this Mesoamerican weapon –

“A macuahuitl consisted of a long, flat piece of hardwood with grooves along the side into which were set and glued sharp fragments of flint or obsidian (volcanic glass). Several inches of the wood piece were usually left as a handgrip at the bottom, the rest of the instrument having a continuous sharp serrated edge; others had spaces between the blades that resulted in a serrated edge. While most of these weapons were blunt at the top, some were tipped with a sharp stone.” [2]

Roper goes on to state that a possible weapon used for the cimiter would be a curved wood weapon with inset stones described by Ross Hassig, an expert on Aztec warfare.

Roper says the weapon “consisted of a curved piece of hardwood approximately 18 inches long with obsidian blades inset into its cutting end.”[3]

For more information on these Mesoamerican weapons and their similarities to terms used in the Book of Mormon please read Matthew Roper’s FARMS articles.

Swords and "Cimeters" in the Book of Mormon
Eyewitness Descriptions of Mesoamerican Swords

This information makes it possible that the terms "sword" and "cimiter" used in the Book of Mormon are accurate and historically correct. However, it neither proves nor disproves the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

Whether or not there are Mesoamerican weapons that resemble terms used in the Book of Mormon has no bearing on the book's claims besides being a logical explanation for believers.

The only way we can know if the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be is through study and sincere prayer. I have done this, and by the Holy Ghost I know the Book of Mormon is true scripture that testifies of Jesus Christ.

[1] Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary
[2] Journal of Book of Mormon Studies - Volume: 8 Issue: 1 Swords and "Cimeters" in the Book of Mormon by Matthew Roper
[3] Ibid.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Why I Support Barack Obama

After the Iowa results came in I wanted to post my thoughts on Barack Obama's victory. Before I do this I want to explain why I support Barack Obama.

I consider myself an indepedent. While I believe that political parties are a necessary evil, I cannot morally align myself with either party because my political views don't fit in a small labled box.

I am strongly pro-life. I believe that abortion rights in this country have been abused and this has resulted in the brutal deaths of millions of unborn children. I cannot imagine the wrath of God we are incurring by this practice. But having a republican majority in power has not proven to overturn Rowe vs. Wade, so I do not consider it a primary issue when evaluating presidential candidates.

My views on homosexuality are in alliance with the LDS Church, but I have a hard time giving the Government power to define marriages. After all, was this not what the Government did when they used polygamy as a tool to confiscate Church property and inprison many of our pioneer forefathers?

I believe that morality is important and in a very restricted measure should be a focus of our government. But with a system in place that is simply corrupt and unjust I have a hard time believing that voting for a candidate based on the moral stances of the political party they are affiliated with is an effective way to cast your ballott.

I do not want to see my paycheck reduced by increasing taxes for ineffective government programs. But there are many social issues that the Bush administration has failed to get a handle on (healthcare, social security, etc.) , and I don't mind proposing social ideas and possible government programs to fix them. Who knows, maybe on of those government programs would be effective?

But most of all, I want change. Yes, change - the cliche of politics and the focus of Obama's campaign.

Of all the candidates, republican or democrat, that are proposing change I believe Obama has done the best job of explaining how this can be accomplished. To me, he has proven that his aspirations for change are more then just a political rally-cry to round up votes.

Foreign Policy - In my opinion, one of the biggest and most important hurdles the next President will have to jump over is foreign policy.

Republican candidates aren't willing to completely alienate themselves from the Bush administration by admitting that we have cut ourselves out of the global picture by our war efforts, refusing to talk to nations we disagree with and making decisions without the sanction and support of the UN.

Democratic candidates such as Clinton and Edwards have not presented an actual plan to reestablish our relationship with foreign nations. Clinton has often referred to her experience as a key strength in foreign policy. But Clinton has supported the government and voted for some of the very actions that have hurt our global image.

What Obama has said:

“When I am this party's nominee, my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq; or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran; or that I supported Bush-Cheney policies of not talking to leaders that we don't like. And he will not be able to say that I wavered on something as fundamental as whether or not it is ok for America to torture — because it is never ok… I will end the war in Iraq… I will close Guantanamo. I will restore habeas corpus. I will finish the fight against Al Qaeda. And I will lead the world to combat the common threats of the 21st century: nuclear weapons and terrorism; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. And I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, "You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”

To read about his plan on foreign policy click here.

This plan includes forming a diplomatic effort to establish communication with current countries the Bush administration has decided to "cut off" including Iran and Syria offering economic gain for their cooperative efforts instead of empty threats.

I am not naive enough to think that by simply talking to these nations will we solve terrorism or other global challenges. But I do strongly feel that you have to start somewhere, and making the choice to discontinue communication with a nation because they aren't doing what we tell them is simply not a good start. Also, Obama has presented an extensive plan with many facets to restore our positive global image. I invite you to click the link above.

Politics As Usual, and Lobbying - America is sick of the government being run by lobbyists and special interest groups. As more Americans become educated on who is really behind the decisions being made in Washington our government will be weakened by cynicism, inaction, and anger. This will have a major impact on the stability of our nation. I believe it already has.

Somebody has to stand up and improve the situation. I believe that Obama will do so. I do not expect immediate overnight changes. But I do believe out of all of the candidates, again, he has done the most to show he is serious through his proposals.

Obama wants to do the following:

-Centralize Ethics and Lobbying Information for Voters: Obama will create a centralized Internet database of lobbying reports, ethics records, and campaign finance filings in a searchable, sortable and downloadable format.

-Require Independent Monitoring of Lobbying Laws and Ethics Rules: Obama will use the power of the presidency to fight for an independent watchdog agency to oversee the investigation of congressional ethics violations so that the public can be assured that ethics complaints will be investigated.

-Support Campaign Finance Reform: Obama supports public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. Obama introduced public financing legislation in the Illinois State Senate, and is the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold's (D-WI) tough bill to reform the presidential public financing system.

Obama has presented an extensive plan to correct our current situation. I invite you to read about it by clicking here.

Healthcare - Is there anyone in America who is satisfied with the current healthcare and health insurance situation our country faces except that ones lining their pockets with the money of the American people while denying medical claim after claim?

Obama again has an extensive plan to overcome this serious problem -

Obama's Plan to Cover Uninsured Americans: Obama will make available a new national health plan to all Americans, including the self-employed and small businesses, to buy affordable health coverage that is similar to the plan available to members of Congress.

National Health Insurance Exchange: The Obama plan will create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals who wish to purchase a private insurance plan. The Exchange will act as a watchdog group and help reform the private insurance market by creating rules and standards for participating insurance plans to ensure fairness and to make individual coverage more affordable and accessible. Insurers would have to issue every applicant a policy, and charge fair and stable premiums that will not depend upon health status. The Exchange will require that all the plans offered are at least as generous as the new public plan and have the same standards for quality and efficiency. The Exchange would evaluate plans and make the differences among the plans, including cost of services, public.

Employer Contribution: Employers that do not offer or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees will be required to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan. Small employers that meet certain revenue thresholds will be exempt.

Mandatory Coverage of Children: Obama will require that all children have health care coverage. Obama will expand the number of options for young adults to get coverage, including allowing young people up to age 25 to continue coverage through their parents' plans.

Expansion Of Medicaid and SCHIP: Obama will expand eligibility for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs and ensure that these programs continue to serve their critical safety net function.

Flexibility for State Plans: Due to federal inaction, some states have taken the lead in health care reform. The Obama plan builds on these efforts and does not replace what states are doing. States can continue to experiment, provided they meet the minimum standards of the national plan.

Okay...I could go on but this post is long enough. My overall reason for supporting Obama is not only does he recognize the problems America faces but he has taken the time to form and communicate his plan to overcome them. All other candidates, in my opinion, have done a poor job of showing how they will turn this nation around. All they have provided are the nice polished PR snippets to win votes.

That is why I am for Obama.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Confining Box That Is LDS Cinema

Recently, I watched the film "The Work and the Glory III: A House Divided," part 3 in a series of films based on the popular historical fiction novels by Gerald Lund, a Seventy in the Church. After the movie I discussed with some friends certain elements of the movie that did not represent LDS standards.

This movie is rated PG and there isn't much to be ashamed of. There is a lot of cigar smoking (those corrupt Missourians) and one of the lead actresses flaunts her cleavage quite well.

In the film's defense I cited historical accuracy. At that time many men smoked cigars, it being common among upright gentlemen. It was also customary during that time for women to wear dresses that purposely highlighted certain parts of their figure.

But the point was made that if LDS artists want to make films that appeal to the general membership of the Church they should find ways to tactfully work around these conflicts and uphold the current standards of the Church in their work.

This led me to reflect on the current box we place LDS cinema in. My fear is that our culture in the Church has created a situation in which making a successful LDS-themed film that draws in many members of the Church while being acclaimed as an overall good movie is impossible.

Case in point - if an LDS artist produces a film that upholds all Church standards and could be played in the cultural hall for a youth activity it is usually received as flat and boring. Many feel it is the Church's job to produce these films anyway. But if an LDS artist produces a film concentrating more on their creativity and expression than Church standards it is seen as controversial. And in many cases the film maker is criticized.

Richard Dutcher made ripples in the bloggernacle when he announced he was leaving the Church. Prior to this news I bought States of Grace (aka God's Army II) and fell in love with it. At first, I was caught off guard by the controversial situations it presented. But after I had some time to ponder the movie's meaning I realized that the overall message of the film was the Grace of Jesus Christ and that His Atonement extends to all.

I do know that Dutcher received a lot of criticism for this film. Sometimes I wonder if this criticism from members of the Church was a part of the overall reason he left. Did he come to the conclusion that in order to find true joy in film making and have the freedom to express himself he would have to remove himself from the confining box of LDS cinema?

I pose this question - Does the culture of our Church make it impossible for an LDS film maker to produce a successful film that appeals to multiple audiences?