Tuesday, December 10, 2013

And we call this Progress?

I miss the days when my friends and l used to play street touch football. You know, the "Dave, you run to the VW, do a button hook, and l'll throw it to you!" I live on a lovely tree lined street here in Whittier. It cries out for a football game. Nothing doing. It's a treelined car park,with the occasional cat or two running across the street.

I miss getting large cardboard boxes, the kind that you packed large Zenith television sets in, or the kind you packed a fridge in, and then making a fort out of it.

There was a vacant lot at the bottom of 11th street and Prospect Avenue, in Hermosa Beach, where l lived until l moved to Torrance when l was 15.  When l lived there Dave Anderson and l would used to get kites, balsa wood paper kites, "The Jolly Roger" was the best, some torn sheets/pillow cases, and two rolls of kite string. Each roll had about 120 yards of string. We'd tie the rolls of string together and let out all of it.

Today there are two houses on that lot, the paper kite is a thing of the past.

I miss playing "war" with your plastic M-16, and pistols. Having an argument as to whether or not you got shot. Although nowadays the air-soft craze has sort of replaced it. It's fine, even for this 52 year old ex-Army noncom, but it's a pail faint echo of the memory of me hiding behind the porch, taking aim at my best friends brother who was hiding under the Ford Truck.

I miss sending $1.25 plus postage to the Johnson Smith Co. And getting those X-Specs. After playing with it for a while, and being amazed that l apparently saw the bones in my hand, l peeled the cardboard lens apart and found that there was a simple feather in between the pieces. The simple things really fired up the imagination of a nine year old.

Imagination. A word largely ignored by todays  kids, in lieu of the X-Box, and other mind rippers.

Mom and Dad used to say, "Turn off the TV, and go out and play." And we did.

But today? Mom and Dad would have to put an ankle bracelet, and have the Amber Alert number on speed dial if they wanted you to walk down the street to the 7-11.

Play "war" in the neighborhood today, and you'd either get capped by the gangs, or have the police and the helicopters hovering overhead.

Isn't progress wonderful?

From 1989-2008 l lived in the U.K. I averaged a return trip home once every five years.

For me it was like watching an old friend die a slow and lingering death, as each time l went to the mall, l saw more and more shops closed and boarded up.

On one of trips l went to went to the escalators on the upper level. Looking down towards the spot where then UA Del Amo should have been, that whole side was boarded up, the lights out.

The next time l made the trip, right where the escalators should have been, that part of,the building had been torn down, and there was a Plexiglas window that allowed me to see a rather sizable crater where the theatre, B Daltons, Orange Julius, McDonalds, and Fredrik's of Hollywood used to be.

Now the place is a pale shell of its former self. The main connection to me was the food court onward. Now, from what l hear, even the food court is being gutted,and "improved".

This is kind of funny in a sad sort of way. It now seems as if the old part of the mall is slowly being eaten away, as you leave the food court and head towards Sears. One can't help but wonder what will happen when the erosion of these decades old memories takes place,on the Sears end in a few years time.

First the Redondo Beach Pier goes up in a puff of smoke. Instead of restoring it with shops we now have a concrete slab walkway, and the breakwater wall is off limits.

Old Towne Mall died. Not with a bang, but with an asthmatic whimper.

Now Del Amo Mall is in the midst of a death rattle or three.

I am not wishing to appear morbid, but we are, collectively speaking, losing something rather important. It must be important otherwise there would not be this interest in this Facebook page, and others like it.

I do miss those days. O there were problems, aplenty, but it was different somehow. We've not lost our innocence, or anything like that, but have become more remote, isolated from each other. It is more convenient to order via the internet, to communicate via Facebook, Twitter etc., than deal with face to face communication, or even take the time to write a letter and wait for an answer a few days or a week later.

We, as a society, have turned into the real life versions  of Veruca Salt. "I want it now!"

I for one miss getting those large hot pretzels with mustard on them, or heading to B Daltons the smell of the books was really something wasn't it?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Coventry, Coventry, Coventry. A Bitter Sweet Moment

 Last month, while I was in England, attending the wedding and sealing of my eldest son Joseph, I had the opportunity to take a walk to the Coventry City centre, to book my coach (bus) trip to Heathrow airport to return to California. It is amazing how much things have changedin Coventry, yet still manage to remain the same, after an absence of only three years.

Cathedral Lanes no longer has that awful tent in front of it. One thing that has remained there for the past twenty years, is the small carrousel inside the mini mall. Both Joseph and Catherine enjoyed that ride.

The indoor market is still the same, bringing back memories of me getting some fresh yams for our UK version of Thanksgiving. Sadly, Coventry City football is heading out of business, their shop in town is closed, only the signage remains.

I shall miss the indoor market, Charlie's Plaice, a great fish and chips shop. They have the BEST chicken sandwhich I've had in any of the two countries that I've lived in. Great chicken, soft pita bread, and as much salad as you want, with just the right amount of Mayo. The chips (fries to the Yanks.) are still are great as ever. The price however has skyrocketed. What used to be cheap and good, is now the same price as a "regular" meal elsewhere. A sad sign of the times; however there was still the usua line in the shop, and the same people who fed me all those years ago, are still there. It's strangely comforting for some reason.

I'll miss ASDA if only because l can get a decent size packet of pasta there,  I was able to get half bound bags and larger of the pasta. It was great. I also, for some perverse reason, miss the three pack cans of Tuna. It's more likely a throwback to my days as a divorced man, when l lived on Walsgrave Road. I was able to save some money at ASDA.

I shall miss my friends. It was a shame that the snow caused the closure of church. It would have been nice to see the Reynolds', Tony Gregson, et al. Seeing Brian and Betty Peedle at the wedding on Saturday brought back some tender memories too.

I shall miss, dearly, my best friend, and son, Joseph. Seeing him in the Coventry chapel with his dear Hannah, filled this father with a deep sense of pride and gratitude. Seeing the two of them, both dressed in white, in the Temple of The Lord, having that marriage sealed for time and all eternity, magnified those feelings of mine beyond my ability to properly express myself.

I both worry for the two of them, and am, at the same time, also filled with the sense that they both will be all right. It's kinda like watching your child ride a bike without any stabilizers (Training Wheels) for the first time. You can see the bike wobble a bit, and you just know that for the first few moments that the experience will be a "white knuckles ride" for the both of them, but that pretty soon things will stabilize and settle down for them both.

I love them both, and am eternally grateful to have them, along with my other children in my life.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Funeral Sermon for Guadalupe Cordova Del Cid: The Plan of Salvation

On April 23rd, 2012 my Mother-In-Law, Guadalupe Cordova Del Cid passed away in a hospital in Tucson Arizona.

Three days later, at the request of my Sister-in-Law, Olivia Rodriguez, I was asked to give one of the sermons at the funeral service that was being held in the Douglas Ward Chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She asked me to give the sermon in Spanish. The following text is the English translation of that talk.

The talk itself was very well received. Two days later, my wifes Aunt, Marta asked me to give her the Spanish text of the talk as she wished to have the family and friends in Mexico hear this talk. Marta read the talk in Spanish; I would not have been able to do justice to what was written, due to the need for greater fluency than I have.

Marta was able to expand a little on what I had written due to the Catholic traditions of that area. I told Marta after the service that she put music to my words.

This is a sad yet joyful moment as we remember Guadalupe and the impact that she had in our lives.

We’re sad because we are no longer able to have her with us, to share our lives, our joys and our sorrows. We’re sad because we will miss her love and the things that she has done for all of us.

We’ll miss the comfort that she gave to those who needed that warm hug, or that cheerful smile.

We’ll miss her example. She was active in the gospel, and had a firm commitment to keeping the covenants that she made with Heavenly Father.

It is right to feel that sadness. But we need to understand that that this sadness is only temporary. There is more to this experience than we may realize.

This is a joyful moment however, as we know, from the teachings of the Savior, that her life is still continuing. She is now with her family, her parents, her lovely daughter Lupita. She has a greater work to do now and is able to accomplish more now than she ever was able to while here on the earth.

In the Old Testament, a man by the name of Job cried out: "If a man die, shall he live again?"

This question has been asked by many millions of people. There may be some here today who ask this question and who ask if this life is all there is.

Is there more to our existence than this? What happens after we die? Is it fair for us to live here on the earth, raise a family, do many great things, and then have it end at death? Is this all there is; to live for 72 years and then nothingness? As a nine year old boy who lost his mother I too asked the question: "Why?"

I am grateful for a loving God who, through His Son, Jesus Christ, has given all of mankind the answers to these questions. Our Heavenly Father is a loving Father who, through the scriptures tells us that our: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning"

Through the life of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice in the garden and on the Cross, we now have that promise of a joyful morning tomorrow.

The scriptures tell us that we lived before coming to earth. The Lord told Jeremiah that before he came to the earth, the Lord knew him. We know, through the teachings of Jesus Christ that we lived together as a family. Heavenly parents loved and nurtured their children. Time came however when we had to leave them for a short time. In order for us to have all that Heavenly Father has, we had to come to earth, to gain physical bodies. We had to learn to walk by faith, because we are no longer able to see, hear, and talk with Heavenly Father in person. We needed to know how to walk by faith, which, as Paul the Apostle said, is the assurance of things hoped for.

In order to walk by faith we were not permitted to remember being with Heavenly Father. So a veil was placed over our memories that removed our remembrance of our time with our Heavenly Parents.

The poet, Wordsworth wrote that:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;

The soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting.

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

Our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson said that:

"One purpose of our existence on upon the earth is to obtain bodies of flesh and bones. We are here to gain experience that could come only through separation from our earthly parents."

But what happens after we die? Jesus said that the time would come that all who are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth, they who have done good to the resurrection of the just. This promise is made to all people, and is a free gift.

In the Book of Mormon a Prophet by the name of Alma said this concerning death and the life that comes after:

Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection – Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of man, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care and sorrow.

A Prophet of God, George Albert Smith said:

"The Lord has blessed us with a knowledge that he lives, and has a body, and that we are created in his image. We do not believe that he is some kind of essence or that he is incomprehensible. If you have received the witness that has come to me and know as I know that our Heavenly Father has revealed himself to the children of men, that he is a personal God, that we are created in his image, that our spirits were begotten by him, that he has given us an opportunity to dwell upon the earth to receive a physical tabernacle, in order that we may be prepared to return into his presence and live eternally with him, I say, if you have received that assurance, then you have a foundation upon which you may build your faith. Take that from you, the knowledge that God really lives, the assurance that Jesus Christ was the manifestation of God in the flesh, take from you the assurance that there will be a literal resurrection from the dead, and you will find yourselves in the condition that our Father's children are in throughout the world, and I ask you, what comfort remains to you then? These are the truths that are fundamental.

"More of my dear ones are on the other side than are here, and it will not be long in the natural course of events before I, too, will receive my summons to pass on. I am not looking forward to that time with anxiety and distress, but with hope and with the assurance that the change, when it occurs, will be for increasing happiness and advantages that we cannot know in mortality.

"When we realize that death is only one of the steps that the children of God shall take throughout eternity, and that it is according to his plan, it robs death of its sting and brings us face to face with the reality of eternal life. Many families have been called upon to say good-bye temporarily to those they love. When such passings occur, they disturb us, if we will let them, and thus bring great sorrow into our lives. But if our spiritual eyes could be opened and we could see, we would be comforted, I am sure, with what our vision would behold. The Lord has not left us without hope. On the contrary he has given us every assurance of eternal happiness, if we will accept his advice and counsel while here in mortality."

Another Prophet, Gordon B Hinckley, said that: "We are not chance creations. We were God’s sons and daughters who shouted for joy. We knew our Father; He planned our future. We went from that life into this. We are here with a marvelous inheritance, a divine endowment. Life is forever. Live each day as if you were going to live eternally, for you surely shall."

Guadalupe has, over her lifetime, done just that. Her life and her beliefs bear witness that she will continue to live all for eternity.

I told my son Lucas that the challenge he has is to live his life in such a way that he will be able to be with his grandmother. The challenge that Lucas has is the same one that we all have to face if we want to live with our family and with Heavenly Father again. It is an easy one to keep.

All we must do is to humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are not as good as we think we are, and that we need the help from a Heavenly Father who is more than ready, and is eager to give us that help.

A wise man once said : "This is not the end; nor the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning."

For Guadalupe, her ending here in mortality, is only the end of her beginning journey to the kingdom of our Father in Heaven.

In the name of Jesus Christ.


Monday, September 13, 2010

We The People

“We the people” three of the most powerful words in the English language.

When these words are used in the United States of America’s constitution, set it apart from any other constitution in the world.

Somehow, over the nearly two and a half centuries of being a Country, “We the People” has somehow diminished to mean nothing more than part of a civics lesson in High School quiz.

When the framers of the Constitution met and as they were working on framing a document that would bring self determining government to the thirteen colonies, one of the intentions was to promote active involvement with the affairs of government. The people were to be responsible for electing representatives to government. The people were to hold those people accountable for their actions, and for seeing that the wishes of the people were carried out.

Over the past few years there has been a growing unrest among American voters that the elected officials in office had somehow forgotten that they were there to represent the people, and not their own special interests.

I don’t think it was ever the intention for “The People” to go on holiday once their votes were cast, but it appears from my own observation that the holiday season is just about over. People have begun to wake up to the fact that without the vigilance of the voter, and needed accountability

Locally in California a small community was outraged to learn that 99% of the city council, the city manager, assistant city manager, and police chief, had voted themselves both pensions and salaries far beyond what could be defined as reasonable.

It also turns out that this was accomplished legally after a referendum was held; however only 400 out of a population of 40,000 voted, with the majority of voters voting in favor of the pay rises. This low number really stands out given that there are only 9000 registered voters in the city of Bell to begin with.

Although there have been recent allegations of possible voter fraud, the fact remains that the vast majority of those registered to vote made the decision not to take part in this special election.

There is a stark warning in the Book of Mormon concerning the consequences of either having an apathetic attitude, or in avoidance of participation in selecting who should represent us in government. We read in Mosiah chapter 29:25-27:

25 Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.
26 Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law--to do your business by the voice of the people.
27 And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.

In the 2008 national elections, the number of voters who took part was approximately 131.3 million ballots or 61%. This is a high percentage, helped I would suggest by the fact there was an African American running for office. People tend to gravitate towards such “history making moments” as this.

According to data provided by the Federal Election Commission, from data drawn from Congressional Research Service reports, the average percentage however is a lot lower than 61%.

From the years 1990-2008 the average percentage of voter turn-out was 41.7% In other words, over half of the registered voters, 58.3% in the United States of America, made the decision not to take part in the electoral process over a ten year period. Over half.

Someone once said that if you don’t vote or take part in the political discussion, you don’t have the right to criticize the way that things are going locally, with the State, or nationally.

“We the People” have ended up with exactly the kind of men and women in local, statewide, or national office that we deserve.

It’s time to wake up and take back ground that was willingly given up. It’s time to wake up those elected officials and remind them that they are there because “We the People” elected them to represent us in this Republic.

It’s time for “We the People” to draw a line in the sand and declare that this Republic deserves men and women far better than we have in office.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Burning of A Book: Is it Christian?

From time to time I take part in an online discussion on religion. I have to admit that I enjoy, for the most part, the dialogue that can develop as I discuss with fellow Christians, topics of theology. Occasionally the topic can blend into the secular arena, as well as those areas that religion and secularism seem to blend in.

The events over the past several weeks of a 50 member church in Florida, and the announced plans to do a public book burning on September 11th, has opened up scores of debates and discussions on religious and non-religious forums.

In an effort to learn the mind set of the group that I was with I posted a new topic and asked the question: “Is it ever appropriate for a Christian /Christian Church to either: Take part in Book Burning?

The response was heartening, most took the view that while there is disagreement with the Muslim faith, the burning of the Koran is too extreme and is not representative of the Christian faith. There were a few responses that stood out in my eyes as demanding some sort of response by myself, after all I did ask the question.

The following are both statements that interested me, and my responses to them. I have, due to limitations on that discussion page, had to edit out my reply. Those edited portions have been placed back in their original context.
I don't consider the Koran to be a holy book. If I found a Koran in a box from the same estate sale, I would keep it and have it on hand to mark up/highlight the pages in order to show others (including Muslims) that it is a book of hatred and not love, not religion.
Such emotive rhetoric, as noted above, greatly concerns me.

Pick nearly any part of the first half dozen books of the Old Testament, any translation, and you’ll find tales of genocide, harsh rules that God gave to the children of Israel, capital punishment for wearing cloth with mixed threads, planting crops in the wrong manner, death for touching and eating an unclean animal.

In the New Testament is a story of a husband and wife, who, after failing to give all the money that they had collected to the Church, were struck dead by God.

However, in the Old and in the New Testament are stories of love, redemption, hope, and the words of Jesus Christ.

I would suggest, ever so gently, that we might want to dial back the tone of voice that declares that the Koran is a book of hatred and not of love. If I found a Koran in a box, I’d notice that it has many good things to say about Jesus Christ, that it contains some rather good moralistic values, common sense values to follow, in addition to those so-called negative aspects to it that attention has been drawn to.

Would we have the courage to write the same criticisms against the Bible as we do against the Koran, that it is a book of Hatred, and not of love?

I’m suggesting that while WE may not accept the Koran as containing the words of God, millions do, and our demands for equality and respect can be, and perhaps should be measured against how WE respect the rights of others to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience

They burn Christians, kill Christians, murder their whole families in the 10/40 window all the time. They scream foul when a Christian threatens them with this and the media plays to all of the world's fears. I pray for more mercy and grace on all those who chose not to be in obedience to God's word. "Follow peace with all men and Holiness, without which no one shall see the LORD.
I’d like to gently remind people that our own history as Christians is not without blemish either. And I am not necessarily speaking of the Crusades either.

Christians kill Christians too. The KKK, from what I recall from my history classes, was, in part established by a portion of the Christian community. Anyone who has lived in the South knows how charitable these "Christians" were, and in many instances still are, to people of color.

I think of the way that many within the Baptist community, for example, as recently as the mid 1970's still held onto what is seen as narrow minded bigitory concerning African-Americans. I shudder at this bigoted ignorance.

Our own skirts, as whole, are not without stain and blemish; however it’s what we do TODAY that matters. Repentance does remove those stains.

Finger pointing towards THEM, only serves to remind ourselves that while we are pointing fingers at them, we have three fingers pointing back at us, perhaps reminding us that our own history in this Country as “Christians” isn’t always something to brag or be proud of.

We need to be careful here and perhaps dial back the righteous indignation a bit.

Many of them also which used curious arts brought T H E I R books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
I would suggest placing this particular verse of Acts in context is in order. To wit:

17And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. 19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

It’s a far cry from those coverts, in Acts, burning those materials of their own, as an outward sign of repentance, than from a “Christian” burning a book that is seen by others as being Holy.

My own feelings on this subject are rather tender for some reason.

When I hear the phrase “Book Burning” I immediately think of the books written by Freud, Hemingway, Helen Keller, Jack London, Thomas Mann, H.G. Wells, along with a score of German Authors, biographies of German and Russian political leaders being thrown into a fire in Germany in the 1930's, and the resultant restriction of thought, speech and movement that the Nazi State brought onto an entire country.

It’s hard for me to fathom that something as disagreeable and, frankly oppressive, can be allowed to happen here, in the United States of America., even if the United States Constitutions First Amendment, governing freedom of speech, doesn’t prohibit the burning of a book.

In 1873, the Comstock Law was passed making it illegal to transport and deliver "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" materials. Comstock claimed to have been responsible for burning 160 tons of "obscene" literature and causing the arrest of over 3000 perpetrators in his lifetime.

In 1935, the library trustees of Warsaw, Indiana ordered that all copies of Theodore Dreiser's novels in their libraries be burned for its obscene and leftist content. As a boy, Dreiser went to school in Warsaw, Indiana.

In 1939 John Steinbeck's landmark novel, "Grapes of Wrath", about the tragic plight of migrant farm workers from the Oklahoma "dust bowl" were burned all over the country for both its political content and "vulgarity."

Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut J.K. Rowling are just a few authors who, over the course of the mid-20th century have had their works consigned to the fire pit because of the words that they’ve written, as if burning a book could remove the idea, or the existence of the story.

Sadly, book burning doesn’t seem to be confined to a Church in Florida. The Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, North Carolina hosts a book burning on Halloween every year.

Their web site, states that:

The purpose of the book burnings/shreddings on Halloween is to collect the "perversions of God's Holy Word", ungodly books by "heretics" and movies and then destroy them because they are satanic. The church believes through them God is helping them "encourage other believers to do what God's Word says in Acts 19
about burning satanic books.
Concerning this year’s book burning, the web site proudly says that:

The annual Book Burning for 2010 will be upon us very soon. This year is going to be much bigger and better. We already have collected more perversions of God’’s Holy Word than we had last year, as well as many books by heretics and
Here’s what they had on their agenda for 2009; one anticipates a repeat of the same for this year:

“We are burning Satan's bibles like the NIV, RSV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, ESV, NEV, NRSV, ASV, NWT, Good News for Modern Man, The Evidence Bible, The Message Bible, The Green Bible, and ect. These are perversions of God's Word the King James Bible.

“We will also be burning Satan's music such as country, Rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul, oldies but goodies, etc.

“We will also be burning Satan's popular books written by heretics like Westcott & Hort , Bruce Metzger, Billy Graham , Rick Warren , Bill Hybels , John McArthur, James Dobson , Charles Swindoll , John Piper , Chuck Colson , Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart , Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham , Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn , Joyce Myers , Brian McLaren , James White, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa , The Pope , Rob Bell, Erwin McManus , Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning, William Young, Will Graham , and many more.

We are not burning Bibles written in other languages that are based on the original TR. We are not burning the Tyndale, Geneva or other translations that are based on the original TR or the KJB.”

And for those who get hungry, after such “holy” work, the web site boasts that:

We will be serving fried chicken, and all the sides.”

An idea should never be feared. Words can convey a great deal of things, love, anger, lust, murder, war, hope, charity, remembrance of family, dreams of a better future, space exploration, and a reminder of our past, and the necessary warnings not to repeat the mistakes of that past.

The burning of a book seems to me, to be an attempt to erase a concept and an ideal. As Orwell and Bradbury have shown us the burning of a book cannot on burn away the idea, once that book has been read. If anything such an act fans the flames, so to speak, of our remembrance and determination to hold on to the very thing that is being destroyed.

Have we reached the point as a society where the very notion of a book frightens us so much that we need to burn it, regardless of how others may see it?

My Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while in its infancy, was subjected to similar treatment that these good “Christian” ministers are doing today.

Not only was the Book of Mormon and the Book of Commandments, which was an earlier edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, burned, but the religious leaders, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others were tarred and feathered. On one occasion acid was mixed with the tar. Men, women and Children were, at gun point removed from their homes, and farms in Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois , solely because of their faith in a book, and in a man who lay claim to being a Prophet of God.

At Hauns Mill in Missouri, an armed militia, or rather an armed mob of several hundred men, conducted a brutal slaughter of the inhabitants. Among the militia were so-called minsters of God.

All this because of a Book and an idea that the Lord had begun His restoration of the Gospel here on the earth.

With all that is going on nationally with the declared outrage of a building site in New York near “Ground Zero”, being used as a center of Islam, this coupled with a book burning, adds fuel to the level of intolerance that is building up.

The atrocities of September 11, 2001 will forever stain the Muslim faith, perhaps as the event of Hauns Mill and the acts of Governor Thomas Ford, in leaving Joseph, Hyrum, Willard, and John, defenseless in Carthidge, will forever stain the States of Missouri and Illinois. However we cannot apply a forty foot wide paint brush and cover the entire Islamic faith, or those two States because of the misguided criminal actions of a few who act, somehow, in the name of the Almighty.

Book burning, no matter what the reason is, in this writers opinion, not the way to combat evil. The burning of a book that is held as being sacred, is not the way to bring people to Christ. If anything, it will only result in ears being deafened, and eyes being shut to those very eternal truths that one would wish to impart upon the non-Christians of the world.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Hardening of a Heart: Was Pharoh Dealt from a Stacked Deck?

Recently, on a profesisonal web page I visit from time to time, a question was placed in the discussion area that caught my interest.

I was reading Exodus 7-8 again this morning and was wondering why God decided to harden Pharaoh's heart prior to Moses going to him to request the release of the children of Israel. Exodus 7:3 says " And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt". Was this done to prove that He is God? I know in latter verses it was said that Pharaoh hardened his own heart and did not allow the children of Israel go. E.g Exodus 8:15 "But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said." But why did God initially harden Pharaoh's heart?”

Let me try to answer this question.

Perhaps part of the reasoning behind the hardness of heart was to help better develop the faith of Moses, as well as the children of Israel.

I have to disagree with the concept, that some have, that God just made an already evil man, just a bit more evil. This removes the gift of choice/agency/dealing with right from wrong that all the Lords' children are given. Using that theory, God must have made the Hitlers of the world just a little crazier, for some devine reason.

I don't find anything in recorded scripture that lends credence to that notion.

Pharaoh had the agency to let the children of Joseph go, but, because of pride, as well as a refusal to accept the word of the Lord from a Prophet of God, events went the way that they did.

Passover came as a by-product of this refusal, which was in turn brought about by the very words of Pharaoh, when he condemned the first born of every house of the children of Israel to be slain. His own words condemned him.

The by-product of this final horrific plague, that was turned on the first born of Egypt, was that we now have an event that is comparable to the sacrifice of God's First Born for the children of the Lord. The prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving that accompanied that first "Passover" are now echoed all over the world for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all people. The burden of sin that was heavy upon our own shoulders, has now Passed Over us, due to the atonement of Christ.

The Lord worked through Moses, and Pharaoh, on different levels, in order to prepare a nation of Spiritual of illiterates, a.k.a. the Children of Israel, for a transition from idol worship, and a secular perspective, towards that of a higher eternal form of worship.

On one level both the Children of Israel AND Pharaoh, had to see with their own eyes that the power of God was far, far greater than that of Pharaoh.

Consider that most of the plagues that the Lord called down, could either be duplicated by the "magicians" who were in the service of Pharaoh, or explained away. However, the final miracle could not be explained nor duplicated, by man, that of the parting of the Red Sea.
On another level, Moses, through these experiences learned to trust in the arm of the Lord more, and less on the arm of man. And even then the lesson wasn't fully learned, as we know from his later experiences in the desert.

I don't believe, and I would suggest that the Bible doesn't teach us, that we are used from time to time as puppets of God.

We have our agency, we can choose to turn right or turn left, to stand, or to sit. We can choose to commit sin, or to walk away from it

Some are born with that ability limited due to mental illness etc., however, I don't think that God will dictate who will have that limitation and who will not. Things happen naturally, and in accordance with the devine nature of the creative process.

Sometimes however the Lord will use a particular circumstance to further His work and His will. It's in these circumstances that we end up working with Him, even if we're not aware of it at the time

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Trouble At River City

The Scene: River City USA.

A group of people gathers around Professor Harold Hill, a wise sage of the west who has come into town to perform an act of "compassionate" humanity.

'HOLD ON! My friends either you are blind, or you do not know of the danger of having the "Mormons" living here in this "Christian" community!!

'WHAT?!?!' the crowd cries in shock.

'That's right, friends, the "Mormons" are right here on this very town!! Why the whole thing would make a grown man weep if it weren't so serious!'

'Tell us Professor!' the crowd cries. 'Oh, please tell us about those "Mormons," are they really that bad?'

'Bad?' the Professor says. 'Bad? Why my dear people, if you're not careful they'll deceive you in to thinking that they've got some sort of new fangled Bible or something or other.' The professor looks at the crowd gathering around him. 'Why, it's a good thing I got here in the nick of time. Let me tell you about the 'Mormon' Church, why it's a den of sin, and delusion.'

The gathering crowd gasps in horror. 'Professor,' asks somebody in the crowd. 'Tell us more about this new Bible, Please!'

'Friend, it's a good thing you asked me about it instead of one of them!' The Professor puffs out his chest. 'Why I spent the last ten years reading about it!' 'I have read books written by some of the best minds in River City that tell me everything about the book!' The crowd listens intently. 'The people, who have written about the subject, have heard so much about that Book of Mormon, that it would make a grown man or woman blush with embarrassment. 'The crowd pushes forward, eager to hear all the "truth" about this "new Bible." Hill looks at them with cunning eyes. He thinks that he's got them.

From out of the crowd a young lady, looking a lot like a young Shirley Jones, pushes her way through the mass of people, making her way towards the front. Hill spots her, and focuses his attention upon her. The woman is Marion, the librarian. Hill figures that if he can win the town intellectual over to his side then his job is more than halfway finished.

'Why my friends did you know that they believe that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book ever written?' The crowd gasps. 'Why they even say that a man could draw nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of that book than by any other book!' 'What?!?' The crowd gasps again.

'Yes that's right, my friends. That's what they say. It beggars the mind! I have a book right here in my hand that was written by somebody over one hundred years ago. In it the author says that there are over 4000 changes to that book! The author did a word count and found that some words were actually changed and even removed from this book!' Hill takes a deep breath and continues.

'Yet the "Mormons" would have you believe that this book, the Book of Mormon, is the most correctly translated book ever published!' 'How in the world can they say that when there are over 4000 changes in it?!?' 'Not a single person in the 'Mormon' Church denies it!'

'And do you know what else the "Mormons"' want you to do?' Hill cries out in mock outrage.

'No, tell us professor, what do those "Mormons" want us to do?' Four men in the crowd cry out in Barbershop harmony.

'Why they not only want you to read it for yourselves, but they actually want you to pray about the fool thing and ask God, if it is really a volume of scripture!' 'My friends have you ever heard of such a foolish thing as that?!' 'Does it make your blood boil, well I should say!' 'Imagine, wanting you good people of River City to take time out of your busy lives and actually read a book that is supposed to come from God.' The crowd murmurs in amazement.' And then they actually want you to pray to God, who is pretty busy enough as it is, and ask Him if the Book of Mormon is scripture!'

'It's a good thing that I got here when I did my friends. I can save you all that trouble, and tell you that based upon the books that I've read about the Book of Mormon, that it is entirely false and that it contradicts the Bible!' Hill puffs his chest with prideful glee. 'Oh my friends, I've done you a service today, yes siree!'

'Oh thank you Professor!' Some women in the crowd say in harmony. 'It's a good thing for us that you are here!'

'Why my friends, we all know that It is evil and a-wicked to ask God to give us a witness of his word by the Holy Ghost.' Somebody in the crowds shouts, 'Amen!'

Hill, picking up on that says with as much conviction as he could, '"The Almighty has given us common sense and nearly two thousand years of Christian knowledge to fall back on. Surely you don't believe that He wants us to bother Him with every little trifling detail!'

The crowd murmurs in agreement.

'Excuse me, Professor Hill,' Marion the Librarian says as she pushes her way to the front of the crowd and stands directly in front of Professor Hill. 'But it says right here in the Bible that it is all right to pray for things.' Marion opens the Bible up to the twenty-first chapter of Matthew and reads:

22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. (Matt 21:22)

Hill looks upon her with condescending eyes and says, 'My dear, it's obvious to all of us that you've not understood what you've read.' Some of the crowd nod their head. 'Why my dear, if you'll re-read that verse, you'll notice that there is not any mention of the Book of Mormon or of looking for knowledge.'

'But Professor Hill, it says All things , surely that would include the Book of Mormon as well.' Hill begins to look a bit uncomfortable as those around Marion start to shake their heads in agreement.

Hill smiles down on Marion. 'My dear, even if that were true, and I'm not saying it is mind you, but even if that were true, the fact remains that the Book of Mormon contains 4000 changes to it since its first edition in 1829!' The crowd, most of them at least say, 'That's right!' and, 'It must be a phony to contain all those changes in it' Somebody in the back of the crowd says, 'If it came from God then there wouldn't be anything wrong with it wouldn't it?'

Hill smiles, he's back in control. Or is he?

'Professor Hill?' a voice from the crowd calls out. 'Yes, my friend.' 'What about the different Bibles that are in the world today?' 'How do we really know which one of them is the best one to read?'

'Why my friend, it's easy, those Bibles are put together by some of the best minds in the world today, using copies of copies of original copies taken from an original manuscript that is over several thousand years old!' 'Read about these translations and you'll not find a single story about God sending His heavenly messengers to help out with the translations.' Some in the crowd, not as many as there were before though, nod their heads in agreement. 'These committees are some of the best that money could buy!'

Marion the Librarian says, 'Professor Hill, about those changes to the Book of Mormon.' Hill looks deeply into her blue eyes. 'Yes my dear.' Marion blushes slightly, takes a breath and continues.' Isn't it true that all those changes to the Book of Mormon had nothing to do with doctrine but were merely corrections to errors that the printer made when publishing the Book of Mormon?' 'In fact, wasn't the Book of Mormon originally written, without any punctuation at all?'

The crowd begins to look at Marion and wonders if she is on to something.

'My dear, surely if the Book of Mormon is "true" then God would "inspire" "Joe" Smith to spell correctly and have better grammatical skills!' The crowd laughs, well that is to say, some of them laugh. More than a few are not so sure any more.

Marion takes out her Bible opens it to Matthew chapter 16, verse 13 and reads:

13 Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?

'Professor Hill, do you notice anything wrong with that verse of scripture?' Marion asks.

'Why no, my dear.'

'Professor, I am surprised!' Marion says shyly. 'In this sentence the verb 'am' is a 'be' verb which makes the whole sentence intransitive, and an intransitive sentence never takes an object.' 'Either the Lord was a poor speaker, or there is something wrong with the translation.'

The crowd begins to look at Marion in a new way. Suddenly she is beginning to make a bit of sense.

'Professor Hill, I read that it took approximately eighty days for an unschooled young man to produce a 300,000 word, 552 page volume of ancient America without any outside assistance. In fact he only had three years of formalized education, and you expect a grammatically correct translation.' Some in the crowd are beginning to get more interested. 'Being a wise scholarly man, Professor Hill, you of course know that it took 54 learned scholars from Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminister, four years to write and translate the Authorized King James Version of the Bible, and there are still grammatical errors in it!'

'What errors Madam Liberian?' Hill asks.

'Professor, I really don't want to intrude, after all, this is your meeting...but since you asked, perhaps when you retire for the evening you might want to look at: Gen.43:25, Gen 18:2, Gen 42:2, 2 Kings 19:35, John 4:2, Luke 23:32, and Acts 19:12 to start with." "There are literally dozens more that I could show you.'

'Marion!' shouts out a chubby man who looks like Buddy Hackett . 'Are there any errors of translation attributed to the Lord himself?' 'Yes there are.' 'The Lord's prayer is wrong. Remember when Christ is supposed to have said "Lead us not into temptation"? 'This contradicts the book of James when he says, "God is neither tempted, neither tempteth he any man."

'Don't you see, all this means is that the Bible is not nearly as perfect as some would have you believe!' A shocked murmur runs through the crowd. 'This does not mean that it is not inspired, only that some human error has crept in, despite the best intentions in the world.' 'Surely we should also be as charitable towards the Book of Mormon.'

Hill is getting a bit desperate now. He's losing his audience. 'If what you say is true, what use is the Book of Mormon anyway?' Hill has a gleam in his eye, he's on to a new idea!. ' I've heard it said that the Book of Mormon doesn't tell us anything new, or anything that is not already in the Bible!'

Marion flips through one of the reference books that she brought with her from the library. 'Alexander Campbell , who founded the Church of Christ said this about the Book of Mormon:

"..It decides all the great controversies: Infant Baptism, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, Church government, the call to ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, even the questions of free masonry, republican government and the rights of man."

'Now, Professor Hill, I don't claim to be as wise as you are, but it seems to me that the Book of Mormon isn't as empty as you say it is.'

Just then, a little boy, looking a lot like a young Ronnie Howard, but without the lisp, spoke out. 'Professor.' Hill looked at the little four year old, thinking that the kids' question would be an easy one. 'Yes son?' The boy looked up at Hill and said, 'Have you actually read the Book of Mormon?'

Hill smiled and said, 'No my boy I haven't.' The boy looked puzzled. 'But professor, how do you know if the Book of Mormon is wrong if you've not read it for yourself?' 'Ma always tells me, if I want to know how to spell a word, to look it up myself in the dictionary, she figures that's the only way that I learn for myself.'
Hill begins to suspect that the good folk of River City are a bit more smarter then he gave them credit for.

Just when he thought it couldn't get any worse, Marion speaks again. ' Correct me if I'm wrong Professor, but wasn't it Lord Bacon who said;

"Read not to contradict and confuse, not to believe and take for granted...but to weigh and consider."?

'Forgive me, but if you rely upon the words of others to tell you about the Book of Mormon, but have not read it for yourself to see if the objections are valid ones, how honest is it for you to claim to be an expert?'

The crowd begins to see Hill in a new light. 'Say, the lady's right.'

Hill begins to perspire. 'Hey Professor!' Somebody from the crowd yells. ' You mean to say that you haven't read the thing and yet you're telling us what it's about?' Others in the crowd begin to murmur and say, ' How do we know that you're telling us the truth?' Others say, 'Rather strange if you ask me, claiming that something is a fraud without having first hand knowledge, sounds like prattling gossip if you ask me.'

'Friends, friends!' Hill almost shouts. 'I'm just like you!' 'Trust me! Listen to me, and you'll not go wrong!'

The towns people begin to look at Hill differently, it's as if somebody has told them that the emperor hasn't been wearing any clothes after all.

'Marion,' Says the chubby Buddy Hackett look alike. ' Do you have any copies of the Book of Mormon in the library?' ' If it is as important as you say it is I guess that it wouldn't hurt for me to read it for myself and then make up my own mind.'

Marion nods her head in agreement. 'I've got a few copies in the Religion section, I've had them for a while now.'

'You know, he's right maybe we ought to read it to see what all the fuss is about.' People begin to say. At this moment in time attention turns away from Harold Hill and the crowd drifts away towards the Library.

Hill is left alone. Somehow it went wrong. He had imagined that in the end he would have convinced many people to avoid the Book of Mormon, and that he would have ended up with the girl Marion at his side, marching down the main street leading a big parade of people who were grateful for his wise help. He would've been a hero!

But then again this is real life and not some sort of 1960's musical.

Isn't it?