Monthly Archives: July 2012

8 religious wonders to see in the U.S.

(I promise this is my last CNN link for at least a little while)

Salt Lake Temple Dedication Day

Salt Lake Temple Dedication Day.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mormon_Temple_under_construction_Salt_Lake_City.jpg

CNN has a Summer Travel series and they recently posted about 8 religious wonders to see in the U.S.. I don’t know if it is any particular order, but the Salt Lake Temple is listed as number 6. There is a picture and the following brief description:

The Neo-Gothic Salt Lake Temple, which was dedicated in 1893, took 40 years to construct.

Then further down in the article are a few more paragraphs about the temple and Temple Square:

The Neo-Gothic building, which was dedicated in 1893, took 40 years to construct. Except for some of its hardware and glass, the temple was built completely of native materials. With five floors, six spires — the tallest standing at 210 feet — and a granite facade, the structure is definitely imposing.

I’ve never been to Salt Lake City before other than when I flew in and out of the airport when I was a missionary. There was no opportunity to visit Temple Square, and I’ve never made it back. I hope to visit someday…

A 48-year long experiment of faith?

I taught the Gospel Doctrine Sunday School class this past week and we were covering Alma 3235 (lesson 28). We spent a majority of the time discussing faith and the experiment we are to do.

One thing that has always frustrated me is that people are willing to “experiment” with all sorts of things… drugs, alcohol, alternative lifestyles, etc. However, they often aren’t willing to experiment with the things that matter most. From a Church point of view, they won’t try to keep the Word of Wisdom, or they won’t try to stay morally clean. It’s as if the experiment isn’t worth doing.

I brought up the recent sort-of discovery of the Higgs boson particle (the so-called “God particle”). The existence of such a particle was first proposed in 1964. In July of this year, it was announced that they have probably found it, but they can’t prove it yet. That means that there have been scientists around the world trying to prove the existince of this particle for 48 years. They are getting close (very close), but they still haven’t gotten there yet. Isn’t that amazing?! Can you imagine feeling so strongly about something that for decades you are working towards that goal? Well, that is exactly what we should be doing in the gospel.

The whole chapter is great, but here are a few key points about the experiment:

Alma 32: 27 …awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith…

Alma 32: 40 …looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof…

Alma 32: 41 …nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof…

Alma 32: 42 …because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it…

Do you have a testimony of the Law of Tithing? If not, obey it, then keep obeying it. If you haven’t felt the blessings being poured out on you from the windows of heaven, keep obeying the law. Exercise a particle of faith; look forward to the blessings; be patience; be diligent.

If we are willing to put in the effort, whether it be 48 minutes, 48 days, 48 weeks, or 48 years, God will help us find the results we seek from our experiment. We will be able to get the fruit “which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” It is a beautiful promise!

Study: People tweet more about church than beer

Here is another quick one from CNN

In an effort to look at cultural differences across the United States, a data analysis company selected two words that it felt exemplified an American cultural divide and analyzed their usage on Twitter.

The words: “beer” and “church.”

And according to the study by Floatingsheep.org, Americans tweet more about church than beer, and there is a distinct regional divide between the tweets.

The article also has a map of the United States that shows the density of tweets for those two terms. If you look at Utah, you’ll see that right around the Salt Lake City and Provo area people tweet much more about church. Just north of that is an area where people tweet much more about beer. The so-called Bible Belt apparently tweets a lot more about church than beer.

I don’t know how accurate the study is, or how accurately things are placed on the map, but it is still interesting.

Tattoos and piercings: How young is too young?

CNN has an article talking about “whether young people are too vulnerable to make permanent (or potentially scarring) decisions about their bodies”. Obviously the debate can get rather heated. On the one hand, I’d say that any age is too young to get a tattoo or piercing (other than ear). However, we do let people get baptized at age 8, and this is supposed to be a major decision in their entire life. Thankfully we have direction from our Prophets and Apostles:

Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. Young women, if you desire to have your ears pierced, wear only one pair of earrings.

Short but to the point. I like it!

 

When numbers acquire the significant of language

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a baseball fan. When the book Moneyball came out in 2003, I read it shortly afterward (I haven’t seen the movie yet). Basically, Moneyball is about how the Oakland A’s, a small-market team, used statistics to acquire the right players and build a winning team. At the time I was the Elders Quorum President, and about a year later I became the Bishop of our ward. I couldn’t help but compare some of the thought processes in the book with the Mormon “obsession” with statistics (home teaching percentage, quarterly report stats, etc.)

One part of the book stuck out to me the most:

Bill James did not like the statistic in baseball called error. If you weren’t even close to the ball, it didn’t have a name, but if you had done something, and tried, they called it an error.

The statistics were not merely inadequate; they lied. And the lies they told led people who ran major league baseball teams to misjudge their players, and mismanage their games. James later reduced his complaint to a sentence: fielding statistics made sense only as numbers, not as language. Language, not numbers, is what interested him. Words, and the meaning they were designed to convey.

When the numbers acquire the significance of language,” he later wrote, “they acquire the power to do all of the things which language can do: to become fiction and drama and poetry. …And it is not just baseball that these numbers, through a fractured mirror, describe. It is character. It is psychology, it is history, it is power, it is grace, glory, consistency, sacrifice, courage, it is success and failure, it is frustration and bad luck, it is ambition, it is overreaching, it is discipline. And it is victory and defeat, which is all that the idiot sub-conscious really understands.” What to most people was a dull record of ephemeral events without deep meaning or lasting value was for James a safe deposit box containing life’s secrets.

Lewis, Michael. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2003. 67-68.

It really is one of the problems with statistics. They can mean anything you want them to mean or they can mean nothing. I particularly like the beginning of the last paragraph. When numbers acquire the significance of language, they acquire the power to do all the things which language can do. Seeing some numbers on a quarterly report never made me want to do better. It was always the discussion of what those numbers represented that helped us understand the work that needed to be done.

Here is a simple example. For the longest time we’ve had a significantly larger group of Young Men than Young Women in our ward. Let’s say that in Q1 we had 22 Young Men attend church and 6 YW attend church. Let’s now say that in Q2 we had 21 Young Men attend church (5% drop in attendance) and 5 YW attend church (17% drop). More than once I had a concern expressed to me because of the “big” drop in our YW attendance. If that person who didn’t come in Q2 now comes out in Q3, there will be a large increase in attendance, and there will be comments about how wonderful the work is going.

I think that we need to do a better job in the Church (or at least in the wards I’ve been in) of putting the numbers in perspective and remembering what they really represent.

Let me be clear here, I think that the biggest problem is that we don’t have a better way to look at our progress. I don’t think the leaders were caring more about percentages than people. It’s just that the quarterly report is the only report they had. Without knowing the circumstances in every auxiliary in every ward, it is almost impossible for stake leaders to truly know what is going on.

I guess we need a Mormon Bill James who can get past the stats that “lie” and help us find the “success and failure… frustration and bad luck… ambition… discipline”.

“The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life”

This is one of my all-time favourite quotes. We sometimes can get into a debate about the “spirit” of the law and the “letter” of the law. Which is better? Which is right? Which do we follow?

Apparently this was written to one of Joseph F Smith’s sons who was on a mission. He had asked his dad about whether to anoint with oil with the right hand.

The question you ask about anointing seems very simple to me. I think it is the general practice to pour the oil with the right hand. I suppose because most people are right-handed. But there is no law or rule against anointing . . . with the left. We shake with the right hand. In the endowments the signs and tokens are made and given with the right hand. When we lay but one hand on the sick it should be the right. We take the Sacrament with the right hand. The practice makes the rule. But always remember that it is not the rule, or practice, which gives life or force, but the true spirit. There is no good in splitting hairs nor in tickey-technical rules. “The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.”

Scott Kenney, ed., From Prophet to Son: Advice of Joseph F. Smith to His Missionary Sons, p. 93.
Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:103.

The practice makes the rule, but the rule doesn’t give force. Only truth or the Spirit gives force. I guess according to President Smith, the debate is over… the Spirit wins!

The Lord’s Baseball Game

There are a lot of “faith-promoting” stories, poems, and analogies out there that just don’t do anything for me. However, occasionally I come across something that is quite excellent, or something that I just generally think is “cute”. This is one that I thought was cute (I’m a baseball fan, so I guess I was a little less judgemental of this).

I’m not sure where I first read this (I think it was an email forward). I’ve looked online, and the phrase “the lord’s baseball game” is found 49,000+ times, so I don’t even know who to give credit to. If you know who the originator of this is, let me know.

Here, for your reading pleasure, is “The Lord’s Baseball Game”:

Freddy and the Lord stood by to observe a baseball game. The Lord’s team was playing Satan’s team.

The Lord’s team was at bat, the score was tied zero to zero, and it was the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs. They continued to watch as a batter stepped up to the plate whose name was Love.

Love swung at the first pitch and hit a single, because Love never fails.

The next batter was named Faith, who also got a single because Faith works with Love.

The next batter up was named Godly Wisdom. Satan wound up and threw the first pitch. Godly Wisdom looked it over and let it pass: Ball one. Three more pitches and Godly Wisdom walked, because Godly Wisdom never swings at what Satan throws.

The bases were now loaded. The Lord then brings in His star player. Up to the plate stepped Grace. Freddy said, “He sure doesn’t look like much!”

Satan’s whole team relaxed when they saw Grace. Thinking he had won the game, Satan wound up and fired his first pitch. To the shock of everyone, Grace hit the ball harder than anyone had ever seen. But Satan was not worried; his center fielder let very few get by. He went up for the ball, but it went right through his glove, hit him on the head and sent him crashing on the ground; then it continued over the fence for a home run!

The Lord’s team won!

The Lord then asked Freddy if he knew why Love, Faith, and Godly Wisdom could get on base but could not win the game. Freddy answered that he did not know why.

The Lord explained, “If your love, faith, and wisdom had won the game you would think you had done it by yourself. Love, Faith and Wisdom will get you on base but only My Grace can get you Home. Psalm 84:11, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

What Church RSS feeds to I follow? (3 and a half years later)

I was looking through some old posts and saw one from January 2009 about what feeds I follow that are Church-related. I have a much shorter list than I used to. Many of the blogs that I used to follow haven’t been updated in a long time. Many others are coming to me through the Nothing Wavering listing, so I don’t need to follow them on my own

As a side note, Mormonopia used to be on Nothing Wavering, but isn’t any more. I was never given a reason why it isn’t listed, and I’ve filled out the form 3 times on the site and haven’t heard back from anyone. It’s unfortunate, as I was getting a fair amount of traffic from them. I really noticed when I was doing my General Conference reports for this April. I still had thousands of visitors, but only about half as much as I’d had before.

Anyway, here is what I follow:

If you are interested, you can download a Zip file that can be extracted and imported into Google Reader.

You can also find individual links here:

Brick of Mormon Stories — LEGO-Illustrated Book of Mormon Stories

It is hard to keep small children interested in reading the scriptures. You can only read the scripture story books so many times. A few years ago I was looking around, and found Brick of Mormon Stories. It is a book that has a short story about many of the events in the Book of Mormon, and then it has a picture of a LEGO scene depicting the event. It is pretty cool. My oldest two sons are LEGO fanatics, and they just loved it. If you are looking for a new way to read the scriptures with your kids, then you should definitely check it out.

Back to regular posting this week

As I mentioned in my previous post, we bought a house and have been busy moving. Things are finally getting under control (it took a bit longer than expected), so I will be back to regular posting this week.