Friday, September 12, 2014

Quick -- Get Me A Camera That Can't Focus!

A couple weeks ago, I hiked into the Uinta mountain range east of Salt Lake during the Labor Day weekend.  I saw something I never expected to see.  Early in the morning, just as it was getting light enough to make out images, we could hear an animal moving around outside the tent. We had put the rain fly on the night before because it had rained just as we arrived in camp. (It snowed for about 5 minutes at the start of our hike.)  Well, since we couldn't see outside the tent; and since this is is bear country; and since there was something out there; we had to take a look. Not too far from the tent was an indistinct white image. It looked almost like a bear--but not quite. My friend Ben tried taking pictures first; but for some reason he couldn't get the thing to focus. I had brought an expensive camera with me; but forgot to bring any memory cards. So all I had left was my cell phone. It wouldn't focus either. What animal can only be photographed blurry?  Bigfoot.

By the time the sun came up, the goat had wandered off. I wanted a picture of the sun coming up over the mountains, so I walked to the summit of the valley where I got a decent shot with my cell phone of the mountains in the distance.  About 15 feet ahead of me, right at my feet was the Mountain Goat, resting in the thicket, I was close enough to see that he was panting and not at all concerned about me being there. This time the camera focused nicely.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

In Our Lovely Kitchenette

We have some traditions in our family that sort of happened. One of them has turned out to be phantom messages. The white counter top on the breakfast bar in the center of our kitchen became a message center years ago. Rather than leaving messages on scraps of paper, we used erasable crayons and wrote on the counter top. Since we rarely sat down at the table to eat, this island was the social center of our home; and if you wanted someone to get a message, you wrote it out on the counter.  Often the messages would become works of art or literature. I regret not having saved many of these messages. One of our kids would create a limerick, tongue twister or a poem. Soon, another would add a verse or revise it--sometimes with ulterior motives. I remember a few lines that went: 
How many steeds could weed seeds feed 
if weed seeds could feed steeds?  

Once, of the kids changed the grammar on a poem to make it incorrect. Another, seeing the solecism, underlined the error and wrote in the margin, "You can do better than this. See me after class."
Even now, though our children are away on their own, we'll occasionally have a message when we come home. Sometimes it entails toys arranged in disturbing poses--like Mr. Potato Head standing over another Potato Head holding a potato smasher.

Recently, my wife bought a 5'5" teddy bear at Costco and left it in our living room. A few days later, I walked in to the kitchen to find the giant bear seated at the bar with a jar of peanut butter, a knife and some honey. I admit I was startled--more than once. I would forget he was there, walk into the kitchen and see this stranger in the room. A few days later, I came home to find the same bear seated in the family room, legs crossed, reading a book about bears to all the other toy bears in the house. Other books about bears were on the floor--with the notable exception of the pigeon with his book, Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! (not as good as Don't Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus!) Whoever set up this scene knew that pigeon would demand a role.

By morning, the scene had changed again. This time, the bear was seated behind a tripod and camera--with all the stuffed animals lined up for their photo.

Apparently, they were hungry this morning, because they were gathered around the table of the grandkids' kitchenette. The big bear was reaching in to the fridge.  Pooh has a huge bowl; Eeyore is on the floor, excluded from the group--and with only one piece of cereal in a spoon. Max, (from "Where the Wild Things Are") has his foot on the table and only his area is messy.  

Life is good.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why is the MSM So Incompetent?

Yesterday's front page of the Salt Lake Tribune (July 21, 2014) featured an article on "Black Mormon Pioneers." It included several photos with descriptions of each:

This is yet another example of why I have an invincible antipathy for the media. Whenever they publish something I'm already acquainted with, they get it wrong.  Above, The Tribune explains that Elijah Abel was the first black baptized into the LDS Church. Back in 1969, Lester Bush wrote a book review on Stephen Taggart's Mormonism's Negro Policy, noting that Taggart got it wrong when he claimed that Elijah Abel was the first black Mormon convert. He correctly pointed out that in February of 1831, a man known variously as Black Pete and Black Tom was a member in Kirtland, Ohio. (Dialogue Vol. 4, No. 4, p. 87.)

Even more irritating is the next description  of Jane Manning as one of Joseph Smith's slaves(!) (highlighted in yellow by me.)  Honestly, anyone with passing familiarity with LDS history knows that (1) Joseph Smith never, ever held slaves, and (2) Illinois--was a free state--nobody in Nauvoo had slaves. If anyone reads the article and gets to page A4, they learn she was a "freeborn black woman;" but the misinformation from the front page is what most people will see and remember. 

The article does, however trip over other facts such as claiming that Joseph Smith ordained Elijah Abel to the priesthood. That comes up again and again on the web; but good heavens, a little research beyond Wikipedia is warranted. Elijah Abel was ordained an elder by Zebedee Coltrin and later, a member of the Seventy--also by Coltrin.  

The Wikipedia entry on Abel had that correct a few years ago, but people keep changing it to say that Joseph Smith ordained Abel. People keep changing it to "Joseph Smith" because they really, really want Joseph to have performed the ordinance; but the reference clearly shows Coltrin as the one who performed the ordinance. I changed it back just now; but I bet it won't last.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Response to Dan Campbell

A friend directed me to an essay on a website titled “Mormon Chronicle.” At first blush, this site appears to contain a series of essays by serious members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, a closer examination shows that it’s a forum for disaffected Mormons who have a few gospel hobbies that have gotten them kicked out of the Church or will get them kicked out eventually. It’s a classic example of wolves in sheep’s clothing where they don’t quite fess up to what they’re really promoting.
            When I discuss religion in this blog, it’s generally directed at criticisms of Mormonism from Evangelical Christianity. Although I did write a 10 part series on the history of fundamentalism, I haven’t spent much effort commenting on LDS splinter groups because for me, there aren’t enough of them to justify the time it takes. I do find them fascinating though.
            They’re fascinating because their theology is entirely predictable; and relies on double standards and on recycled canards that don’t stand up to examination. It’s so predictable that I think there is a cause and effect at play. Joseph Smith taught that the Savior’s comment that “an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” (Matthew 12:39) was a literal fact. That is, “for whenever you see a man seeking after a sign, you may set it down that he is an adulterous man.”
            I think that similarly, apostasy will cause people to act and believe in certain ways. They become incredibly inconsistent—assuming that only they are true followers—insisting that certain doctrines are essential while other foundational doctrines can be dismissed at a whim.
            I remember one example of that behavior that occurred in my office about 15 years ago. A fellow was explaining to me how the Church had gone into apostasy and he was now God’s prophet, sent to lead the faithful. He believed that only he and his follower (yes, one other guy) were the only righteous left, the only true disciples of Joseph Smith: everyone else had gone astray. I asked him, “Art, don’t you know what Joseph Smith said about what you just claimed?
            He looked surprised and said, “No, what?”
            I said, “Joseph said, ‘That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.’”
            He looked me in the eye and said, “Well, now, you’re just getting picky.”
            Art, and those of his ilk, claim they are the guardians of fundamental doctrines; but they hypocritically dismiss those who question their authority to be the watchmen on the walls as “picky,” “faultfinders” and “contentious.”
            Brigham Young warned the saints about such wolves, telling the bishops to kick them out of their wards: “They say they believe that Joseph Smith was a Prophet raised up to establish the work of the last days, and bring forth the Book of Mormon; and thus they deceive. But if you will examine them you will not find anything but contradiction to every principle of truth.” (JD 1:84)
            So, with that preface, let’s look at the article of Dan Campbell on Mormon Chronicle, and see if there is contradiction to “every principle of truth.”
[Another essay from September 2012 is perhaps a better example to critique; but the Campbell article appeared this week, perhaps making it more topical.]

            Campbell takes issue with the teaching of LDS leaders that the prophet cannot lead the Church astray. While that seems to be the premise of his article, his first paragraph deals with allegations that apostasy is prevalent, and that the Church’s articles dealing with the Book of Abraham and Race and the Priesthood are the Church’s attempt to claim that everything’s OK. He clearly thinks otherwise because he’s aware that many people are still going inactive and pornography is a problem in the Church.
            While his observations have no connection to the thesis of his article, they do set the stage for him to build an illogical connection— a non sequitur: since some people apostatize and others struggle with sin, “all is NOT well in Zion.”
That’s another logical fallacy called a “straw man.” Weak arguments address a fictitious foe—one that is particularly easy to vanquish; because no one would ever support the premise he postulates.
The presence of sin in the lives of members of the Church, and the rates of inactivity and individual apostasy have no connection to whether or not the Church as a priesthood body can fall into apostasy. The matter at hand is whether or not the Prophet, the head of the Church, can lead the Church astray—or even if God would allow such an action to result in the apostasy of the Church; and the loss of the keys of the priesthood.
Campbell claims that this idea of a final dispensation “gained legs” when the Church stopped plural marriage. In reality, each prophet gave instruction on this most important doctrine beginning with Joseph Smith.  Campbell discounts these statements because he isn’t aware of them appearing before 1906.The premise of this theology is the backbone of the restored gospel; and will be discussed below.
            Campbell continues in a straw man argument—proposing that what “one might conclude” is actually the position of the Church. He suggests that we believe that everything in the standard works: chapter headings, footnotes, Bible dictionary, all constitute church doctrine; but he disagrees. He notes that the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants once included the “Lectures on Faith” and claims that these lectures were canonized as scripture; but removed in 1921 without authority by Church leaders.
            A distinction has always existed between the revelations received by Joseph Smith and other items which have been incorporated within books of scripture published by the Church. The assignment given to several men to gather together sections for the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants specified that the items to be published were to be “taken from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the revelations  which have been given to the church up to this date  or shall be, until such arrangement is made.” (Conference Minutes, September 1834.)
            It should also be noted that the word doctrine has taken on a more specific meaning since the time of Joseph Smith. Whereas today it is understood to refer to canon it has not always been the case.  Even Bruce R. McConkie would have easily conceded that his book Mormon Doctrine was not canonical despite its title.  In February of 1835, Joseph Smith referred to “doctrine and covenants” (Conference Minutes 27 Feb. 1835) as decisions made by the quorum of twelve. The bound book of Doctrine and Covenants didn’t exist until August of that year.

The preface of the 1835 D&C pointed out that there were two sections making up that book:

The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of Lectures as delivered before a Theological class in this place, and in consequent of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work.

The next paragraph explains:

The second part contains items or principles for the regulation of the church, as taken from the revelations which have been given since its organization, as well as from former ones.

Clearly, there was a distinction made between the revelations and the lectures: one was canonized, the other was included for instruction. However, Mr. Campbell makes a false distinction here, when he suggests that members should be “admonished” to treat statements such as Wilford Woodruff’s testimony regarding what God showed him in vision as apocryphal. He takes umbrage at the fact that the lectures were removed without the vote of the Church. Yet, he doesn’t seem as concerned that Oliver Cowdrey’s article on marriage was also removed from the actual revelations without the vote of the Church.
John Taylor noted: “You cannot say that you submit to the law of God while you reject the word and counsel of his servants.” (JD 7:325.) Many true doctrines have appeared in the uncanonized advice and counsel of the prophets. It's dangerous to one's salvation to dismiss them as merely apocryphal.
Campbell rejects Joseph’s promise that by staying with the majority of the Twelve and Church with its records “you will never be led astray.” He does so claiming it has no source before 1906. The question in my mind arises, “What date would satisfy him?” The 1906 statement comes from someone who claimed to hear it in person in Nauvoo. Does the passage of time invalidate the testimony of an eyewitness to an event? If 1906 is too late, how about 1883? Lyman Littlefield’s testimony appeared in the Millennial Star of that year. He wrote:

Once in Nauvoo I heard the Prophet declare to the people how they might always know where to find the true church. He gave it as a guide for them ever afterwards, and said the day would come when they would need it. He said: “factions and parties will arise out of this church, and apostates will lead away many. But in the midst of all this, keep with the majority, for the true leaders of God’s people will always be able to have a majority, and the records of the church will be with them. [Millennial Star, 45:389]

How about 1889? Edward Stevenson, another eyewitness recalled:

At the time of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph, the Saints were being gathered and were building a Temple, baptizing for the dead, etc., which work unceasingly has been kept up by those who under the leadership of the Twelve came to the Rocky Mountains notwithstanding the various factions which have separated themselves from the true Gospel tree.  The writer heard the prophet say on a stand at the east end of the Nauvoo Temple, that the time was coming when there would be many dissensions from the Church.  "But," said he, "I now see the time which I have long desired to see.  Let me go where I may, the Gospel tree is planted never more to be rooted up, for there are those present who are prepared to carry on the Gospel, whatever may become of me."  He also said: "I will give you a key by which you may never be deceived, if you will observe these facts:  Where the true Church is, there will always be a majority of the Saints, and the records and history of the Church also."  [Infancy of the Church p 5. January 1889.]

If 1889 is too late, how about 1870? In that year, Orson Hyde claimed this was a doctrine taught by the prophet Joseph:

Now I look around this congregation, and contemplate that there are, perhaps, some ten or twelve thousand persons, and it may be more, I do not know, there is a very large number; then when I think that numerous as we are here we are but the representatives— not more than a tithing of those left behind, of the same stripe, it reminds me of the words of Joseph the Prophet, when he said, “Brethren, remember that the majority of these people will never go astray; and as long as you keep with the majority you are sure to enter the celestial kingdom.” (JD 13:367 May 5, 1870.)

How about 1861—and this time by Brigham Young:

He said the Lord would not permit him nor any other man to lead this people astray.  If the leaders were to do wrong the Lord would take them away.  If an Apostle did not magnify his Calling the Lord would remove him and; not permit him to lead the people astray.  But I shall not apostatize.  You need not any of you look for that for I had the promise long ago that I should not do that.  Neither shall I go to hell.  [Wilford Woodruff’s Journal 5:586-587, July 28, 1861]

Or 1850?

Let me tell you it is the truth of the Lord God Almighty, and if a man will not do right, God will remove him out of his place forthwith. I never was afraid of Joseph, although many would falter and feared Joseph would go astray.  I did not serve Joseph, but I patterned after the doctrine the Lord has revealed through him.  There was no possibility of Joseph leading the people astray.  If I thought that God would suffer a man to lead a righteous people astray I would not serve him, I would leave him and seek another; I serve the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob, the god of our fathers; he has called Joseph and will never let him lead this people astray, but when he has done his work he will take him to himself.  I never was afraid of my friends, and you need not be; the Lord Almighty will never suffer his people to go astray, unless they as a people want to follow iniquity; never, no never, no never.  [Brigham Young, Millennial Star 12:275-276, April 6, 1850]

This is the only quotation that includes a qualification—that if the people want to follow iniquity, they could go astray. It does not allow for the prophet to lead them astray; only that they could go there if disposed to follow wickedness. I suppose at this point Mr. Campbell might claim that they have gone astray and he and a handful of dissenters are left among the righteous—but I have already noted the Prophet’s conclusion on that point and I don’t want to appear to be too picky.

Suppose that they do choose to go astray? If they go astray, does that mean that the keys of the priesthood are taken from the prophet? The prophet who has the promise that he will never fall? The answer to that question was given by Brigham Young—who called the premise “nonsense.”

If we have any lack of confidence in those whom the Lord has appointed to lead the people, how can we have confidence in a being whom we know nothing about? It is nonsense to talk about it. It will weaken a person quicker to lose confidence in those who dictate the affairs of God's kingdom on the earth, than to say "I do not know whether there is a God or not, and I care nothing about Him." A man or woman will not be prepared to be taken by the enemy, and led captive by the devil so quickly for disbelieving in a being they do not know about, as for disbelieving in those whom they do know. (JD 4:298)

Mr. Campbell claims that accepting testimony of these witnesses is a big problem; and that it contradicts scripture.  He then offers a few prooftexts [note: prooftexting is not proving what you’re claiming—it’s the bogus use of citations to establish a point.] indicating that following God is the only safe course. Of course that’s true; but he appears to be ignorant of the fact that following prophets and apostles is the way we follow God. "And we will prove them herewith to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;" (Abr. 3:25)
            He has gone back to Protestantism. By discarding the prophets and apostles of today, he is also—by the same logic—discarding Joseph and Brigham.

He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me; and he that rejecteth you rejecteth me, and he that rejecteth me rejecteth him that sent me." (Matt. 10:40)

It was after citing that statement of the Savior that John Taylor explained, “You cannot say that you submit to the law of God while you reject the word and counsel of his servants.”

The Doctrine and Covenants warned, “…they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;

Now, I don’t know Dan Campbell from Adam. But I suspect he’s already come face to face with the reality of that passage.

And they who are of the High Priesthood, whose names are not found written in the book of the law, or that are found to have apostatized, or to have been cut off from the church, as well as the lesser priesthood, or the members, in that day shall not find an inheritance among the saints of the Most High. (D&C 85:11)

For additional information see the following older posts:

Nuts and Bolts of Polygamy

Friday, June 27, 2014

Soccer - Fútbol - Calcio

It didn’t look so bad in real time, but when you freeze frame it…..Wow!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Women and the Priesthood

With the discussion about "Ordain Women" and the recent excommunication of its organizer, I wanted to report to you my wife's inspired insight. She explained to me that in the fulness of time, women will be in charge of the priesthood -- not just women but good looking women. 

 "...and babes shall rule over them."
 (Isaiah 3:4)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

What about all these fake scandals?

Real scandals are not getting press in the Jurassic media. But, we’re only talking about 2 years of emails—not 4 minutes of tape that Rose Mary Woods “accidentally” erased for Richard Nixon. That was really big news back in the 1970’s.  

The IRS claims to have lost several years’ worth of incriminating emails that would either demonstrate criminal activity or exonerate IRS employees. Americans should be livid about this; but for the most part they won’t even hear about it unless they read conservative news and blog sites.

It has gotten some daylight with “scandal” generally in quotes--as though it's only a scandal for partisans.

·  How about the news of Hillary Clinton’s cavalier attitude on how she helped the rapist of a 12 year old girl get off with a metaphorical slap on the wrist?

The Washington Free Beacon (an excellent news source) publicized audio tapes they got from the University of Arkansas Library, of Hillary laughing about the matter. The Beacon points out how 40 year old accusations against Mitt Romney allegedly bullying a boy in high school got all kinds of breathless coverage in all the media—but this? Nothing.  The University of Arkansas did revoke all library privileges from the Beacon, but let’s see how far that goes. The Beacon’s attorney wrote a great letter in response to their persona non grata status and the library’s demand that the Beacon suppress the audio tape the Beacon uploaded to YouTube. If Mitt Romney’s treatment of an Irish Setter is newsworthy, what about the Democrats’ leading candidate for the presidency’s treatment of a 12 year old rape victim and the candidate's callous laughter about helping the rapist beat the rap?

A little older news that you might not have caught:

Anti gun proponent and Democrat California State Senator Leland Yee was arrested this past March for firearms trafficking, corruption, money laundering, drug distribution and murder for hire.

Didn’t hear about it?  You won’t find it in the national news. It’s merely a local story. Lee had contacted undercover agents looking for “shoulder fired weapons or missiles.”  The local story includes a statement from Yee’s neighbor, Linda Laufer, explaining the cause this problem: “I think there’s way too much money in politics.” As if the money in politics is what made Lee turn to the dark side?Let's assume that they get rid of all the money in politics. Will that stop criminals for looking for money illegally?

While the media refuses to cover real news, the New York Times this week announced that Republican Governor Scott Walker is guilty of illegal campaign activities:
The latest to get caught doing so is Gov. Scott Walker, Republican of Wisconsin. According to state prosecutors, he was at the helm of a broad and illegal fund-raising effort that involved coordinating with outside spending groups and even controlling them.
Problem is, that's fake news. Those allegations have been thrown out of both state and federal court.  Governor Walker released this statement today about the smear campaign of the entrenched media:
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.”
The truth on the widely covered “John Doe” is that two judges, one state and one federal, reviewed the accusations of partisans within a Democrat District Attorney’s Office and determined their theories have no merit or basis in law.
Each of these judges explicitly issued judicial orders that these partisan prosecutors must end their investigation immediately.
These are the truths that need to be stated over and over again to fight the slander directed at me and our campaign by my political opponents.
Still, many in the media proceed as though the opinion of the partisan prosecutors is new information and ignore the truths I have stated above. It is not. It is old news that has already been discounted by two judges. No charges. No case.
In reaction to the information that was released to the public and seized on by the media, the federal judge just this week sharply criticized the prosecutors. He said that they are now seeking "refuge in the Court of Public Opinion, having lost in this Court on the law."
Watching the media frenzy it is clear that this is what happens when someone takes on the big government special interests. They push back. No wonder so many politicians are afraid to make tough decisions.
I will not back down. We will continue to fight using the truth to keep the hard working taxpayers of Wisconsin in charge of their state and local governments. We will continue to fight to make life better for the good people of Wisconsin.
For a good rundown on why this smear is so bad, check out Law Professor William Jacobson's summary on his blog Legalinsurrection