Friday, July 27, 2007

Come Come Ye Saints

For those of the LDS faith, July 24th is an important day. On this date in 1847 the first group of Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake valley. From that day forward thousands of Saints crossed the plains in wagons and handcarts to come to Salt Lake City, many coming from all over the world. All of them sacrificed and suffered hardships on the journey; many died. This pioneer heritage is important to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Their stories are remembered and shared often.

But why this preoccupation with the past? Why do we seem to tell the same stories over and over again? Because there is something powerful in remembering.

One part of my Mormon family tree begins with Carl and Karen. They were baptized in Denmark in 1867, and began their journey to Utah that same year. By that time, steam ships had begun to take over the seas, and Carl and Karen were on the maiden voyage of the Manhattan; a trip that took only 17 days rather than the usual 3 months. They arrived in New York on July 4th and saw fireworks for the first time. They then headed west, and arrived in Salt Lake via wagon train on October 5. Carl started work on the Transcontinental railroad. Newlyweds, their first home was a wagon box, and their first child was born there some months later. The family later moved to southern Utah, where Carl got the contract to build the railroad from Richfield to Maysvale, and became a founding member of the town of Elsinore.

Going further back along another branch of the same family tree, there is the story of Freeman's Tavern, owned by Captain Jacob Arnold. Also known as Arnold's Tavern, it served as General George Washington's headquarters in 1777.

Also found in the Arnold family tree is the story of Elizabeth. Her son was in the navy during WWII, and went missing in the Philippines in 1945. In her old age, poor and alone, Elizabeth would walk from her apartment in Oakland to the harbor to watch the ships come in, hoping to see her son finally come home. She watched from the same spot each day, and was finally discovered there, a victim of a heart attack that took her life.

And then there was Grace. Her mother died when she was young and her and her siblings were put in an orphanage in St Louis. She escaped her difficult childhood to go to college and become a nurse. She was an adventurous sort and traveled to Hawaii and on to the Philippines during the Spanish American war. She married at the old age (for the time) of 28, only moving back to the US once her oldest daughter was of school age.

There are countless stories of pioneers, though not all involve wagons and handcarts. In Cameroon, members of the Church set off on a journey of their own. The stories of their trip to the new temple are inspiring. Which I think is the purpose of all these Mormon pioneer stories and celebrations. Inspiration through remembrance. From the Book of Mormon:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall

Last July 24th, I spent the day reading about my forebears. They sacrificed much, and for that I am grateful. A part of each step they took on the journey of their lives is found in me. As their faith grew by obedience and by sacrifice, my own faith is increased. When the time comes to meet them again, it will be a joyful reunion as I thank them for the foundation of faith they left for me.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

This Day In History

July 26, 1947: President Harry Truman signs the National Securities Act, creating the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Samuel Adams

“If men of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honour of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth; if men possessed of these other excellent qualities are chosen to fill the seats of government, we may expect that our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation.”

-- Samuel Adams, letter to Elbridge Gerry

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Did Last Season Even Count?

An NBA referee is accused of fixing games. As a fan of the NBA, I had always thought that at best the refs were just crummy, at worst they were biased towards bigger market teams. But this is pretty incredible. Is this ref the only one? Who else was involved?

ESPN columnist Bill Simmons wrote a great piece about the issue, with all of its implications. He brings up the San Antonio - Phoenix series from this year's playoffs. Guess who was reffing? In a sidebar he points out that shortly after his column was posted a video was put on youtube that shows clips from that series. A series fraught with bad calls and questionable officiating. Here's the clip:

There are now quite a few videos on youtube regarding games this guy officiated. Which is pretty much the whole point of Simmons's column. Now every single game can be called into question. Are the refs bad or are they dirty?

I went to game three of the Western Conference finals between Utah and San Antonio this year. Utah won going away, and it was a bit of a coming out party for Deron Williams. He was unstoppable, and seemed to score and dish at will. In the closing minutes of the game San Antonio emptied their bench before we did. On the very next sequence, one of the new players clobbered Williams and sent him out of the game. Deron was injured on the play, an injury that affected him for the rest of the series, which the Spurs ended up winning handily. Was this ref there that night? Were all of the bad calls and tide turning events caused by someone that needed San Antonio to win?

These are questions that every NBA fan is asking right now.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Laura Ingalls Wilder

"I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."

--Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

This Day In History

July 18, 1969: Mary Jo Kopechne and Senator Edward Kennedy plunge off Chappaquiddick bridge. Kennedy escapes but Kopechne drowns. Kennedy fails to report the incident for almost 10 hours and is later found guilty of leaving the scene of the accident and given a two-month suspended sentence.

July 18, 1972: Jane Fonda delivers an anti-war speech on Hanoi Radio, one of a series of six

Correspondence From Sen. Larry Craig

Dear Cameron:

Because of your previous contact regarding the ongoing war in Iraq, I would like to take a moment to share a brief update on the current debate in the Senate.

The Senate is now in its second week of debate on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. This legislation authorizes funding, policy changes, and other activities for our military for the coming fiscal next year. While many important military and defense needs have been and will be discussed, the war in Iraq has become the main focus of debate. As you well know, this war has been a very contentious issue in America over the past few years, and there are people on both sides of the issue who feel very strongly about our presence in Iraq. This week we will be debating a number of amendments to this bill, including an amendment calling for more time to allow the troop our increase to assist in stabilizing the country, which I will support. I am anticipating a very open and possibly heated debate on this issue, and I can assure you that I will be engaged in that debate.

Throughout the upcoming debate, I will be maintaining a journal of floor activity on this bill to help keep Idahoans informed. You will find this journal on my website by following this link:

Again, thank you for sharing your concerns. As soon as the Senate comes to a resolution on this bill, I will send you a full summary of our actions.


United States Senator

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bruce C. Hafen, The Atonement: All For All

This earth is not our home. We are away at school, trying to master the lessons of “the great plan of happiness” so we can return home and know what it means to be there. Over and over the Lord tells us why the plan is worth our sacrifice—and His. Eve called it “the joy of our redemption.” Jacob called it “that happiness which is prepared for the saints.” Of necessity, the plan is full of thorns and tears—His and ours. But because He and we are so totally in this together, our being “at one” with Him in overcoming all opposition will itself bring us “incomprehensible joy.”

Bruce C. Hafen, “The Atonement: All for All,” Ensign, May 2004

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Hypocrisy or Necessary Evil?

Live Earth. An Inconvenient Truth. Both brainchildren of former Vice President Al Gore. Both designed to bring awareness of human caused global warming.

Of course, there has been a bit of blow back.

Critics of the movie point to Mr. Gore's personal energy use. Critics of the concerts point to their energy consumption. Does that matter?

First, a bit of history. An Inconvenient Truth won an Oscar, and the very next day a conservative think tank issued a press release criticising the amount and cost of the Gore family home's energy consumption. The Tennessee Center for Policy Research said that the Gore home uses 20 times more energy than the average household. Cries of hypocrisy were embedded in the release, and spread through the various media outlets. Many rose to the vice president's defense, including Keith Olbermann. Even though I was not moved by Mr. Olbermann excusing the energy use because VP Gore has a really big house, plus a guest house, these defenders bring up some very good points about how the think tank analyzed the raw data. Bottom line, though, Al Gore does use more energy than the majority of Americans.

Live Earth suffered much the same fate as VP Gore's house. It was a well-intentioned effort to spread the global warming message that also generated a lot of criticism. Critics spread the word that all those concerts all over the world would generate a huge negative environmental impact that would obviously be at odds with the concerts' message. This time, however, it wasn't just think tanks on the offensive. PETA sent Mr. Gore a letter criticising the meat items being served at the concerts, citing a UN study which shows that the meat industry causes more global warming than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. PETA maintains that the single biggest cause of global warming is meat, and that is where our efforts should be focused. Interestingly, these warnings were met with indifference, despite the United Nations data. Bottom line, concert organizers made huge efforts to reduce their environmental impact, but there was no way around it.

Does all this matter? Is it hypocritical to use so much energy while advocating reducing the world's energy use? Does the good of spreading the global warming message outweigh the negative? Do the ends justify the means?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Boise St Still Won

So a video game commercial came on the other day, and I was happy to notice that it was reenacting the winning, overtime, come from behind, statue of liberty play from Boise St's win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. It was such an incredible moment that I was pumped to see it again.

Then they went and changed the ending:

Are you kidding me?! Seven months later and people still won't accept that the Broncos won the best game ever played. Get over it! You lost. You lost to Boise St.

And no amount of video game playing can change it.

Ah, victory.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Study and Gain Testimony

"President Heber J. Grant declared: 'It is our duty to teach
our children in their youth. . . . I may know that the gospel
is true, and so may my wife; but I want to tell
you that our children will not know that the gospel is true,
unless they study it and gain a testimony for themselves'
(Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham [1941],

(President Thomas S. Monson, "If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear,"
Ensign, November 2004, 115)



Today is the 7th day of the 7th month of 2007.

That is all.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Declaration of Independence

"The Declaration of Independence . . . is much more than a political
document. It constitutes a spiritual manifesto--revelation, if
you will--declaring not for this nation only, but for all
nations, the source of man's rights. Nephi, a Book of Mormon prophet,
foresaw over 2,300 years ago that this event would transpire. The
colonies he saw would break with Great Britain and that 'the power of the Lord
was with [the colonists],' that they 'were delivered by the
power of God out of the hands of all other nations' (1 Nephi 13:16,

"The Declaration of Independence was to set forth the moral
justification of a rebellion against a long-recognized political
tradition--the divine right of kings. At issue was the
fundamental question of whether men's rights were God-given or
whether these rights were to be dispensed by governments to their

This document proclaimed that all men have certain inalienable rights.
In other words, these rights came from God."

Ezra Taft Benson, "Our Priceless Heritage," Ensign, Nov. 1976

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Screwtape Letters: Flippancy

I have begun reading The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, and I have found it to be incredibly insightful. One chapter in particular has resonated strongly with me because it reminds me of many encounters I have had while travelling the tubes of the internets. Rather than try to summarize the chapter and most likely fail to relay its message, I will copy one of its paragraphs which does a pretty good job of getting the point across:

But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy; it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practise it.