Monday, December 31, 2007

Perpetual Education Fund

I recently wrote about LDS humanitarian services. One of my favorite programs is the Perpetual Education Fund.

Announced in 2001 by LDS Church president Gordon B. Hinckley, the program provides education funds to young men and women around the world. It is patterned after the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, which the Church used to help pioneers cross the country to Salt Lake City in the 1800s. Tens of thousands of Church members received the means to come to Utah, many coming all the way from Europe, and once arriving and establishing a home here paid the money back so that it could be used for others in the same manner.

The new PEF works in much the same way. A fund has been established through the continuing donations of members and friends of the Church. These donations are then used to make loans to young people, generally men and women age 18-30, so that they can get an education in a needed field in their home communities. After graduation, and once employment is secured, the loans are paid back so that they can be used again by others.

When this plan was announced, I rejoiced and along with many others immediately donated to the fund. As a missionary in Uruguay I had often wondered at how fortunate I was to be born in a country that offered so many advantages and possibilities, while many of the people I had come to love did not. The Perpetual Education Fund offered a way for these very people to learn a trade that could enable them to leave their poverty behind and change the course of their family for generations.

The fund has been a great success. None of the donated money is used for administrative costs; all goes towards education. Over 10,000 loans have been made, with the average age of the recipient being 26, 45 percent of whom are women. The program not only offers funds for schooling, but also incorporates training in goal setting, budgeting, and managing finances. Before training, the average income for participants is $135 a month. After training, that increases to $580 per month. Initially, the program has been offered in Latin America, the Caribbean, Philippines, and southeast Africa, but ultimately will only be limited by the number of donations.

As the year ends and we reflect on the past and make plans for the future, might I suggest a worthy cause for our money? By following this link, you can donate to the Perpetual Education Fund and help people in some of the most poverty stricken areas of the world.

Friday, December 21, 2007

O Holy Night

Last year I wrote about the origins of one of my favorite Christmas songs, Silent Night. 1b on my list of favorites is O Holy Night, and it too has an interesting history.

It was written in 1847 in France by a poet named Placide Cappeau, when he was asked by the parish priest to write a poem for Christmas mass. December 3, while on a trip to Paris, Cappeau pondered Luke 2 and pictured himself there on the night of the Savior's birth. Using that imagry as inspiration, he wrote "Cantique de Noel". Though only asked to write a poem, Cappeau felt it should have music, so upon arriving in Paris he asked his friend Adolphe Adam to compose a tune.

The song quickly became a Christmas favorite, though it suffered through some persecution as it was banned by the Church because it's author later became a bit of a rebel with strong anti-slavery views, and it's composer was accused of being a Jew. But the song could not be kept down, and continued to be sung and loved by the masses.

It made it's way to America in 1855 when it was translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight, a Unitarian minister and journalist who was drawn to the implied abolitionist tone of the song. It was Dwight that translated Cappeau's words to say,
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
O Holy Night quickly became a favorite in the US.

Of note is that on Christmas Eve 1906 a Canadian (yes, Canadian) inventor in Massachusetts, Reginald Fessenden, played O Holy Night on a violin for the first ever AM radio broadcast. He also read from Luke 2 and played Handel's "Largo" on a phonograph.

O Holy Night is one of my favorite Christmas songs, but one of its weaknesses is its difficulty. It's often sung by those who should have passed on the opportunity, as demonstrated in this hilarious rendition. Granted, that version was done badly on purpose, but I often prefer instrument-only versions to those that are sung. I enjoy listening to the power of the music, and silently supplying the words on my own.

The Amazing Story of O Holy Night

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


In my inbox this morning...

Here's what the youtube user had to say by way of background:

(A Frank Lozano Production) We have had a lot o... (more)
Added: November 09, 2007
(A Frank Lozano Production) We have had a lot of requests to replay the phone call that Pastor Mike shared during our church service on Sunday, Nov. 11th, 2007.

Here you'll find the video clip that was created just for you. We've placed the video on YouTube so that you can watch it and share with family and friends.

Logan is a 13 year-old boy who lives on a ranch in a very small town in Nebraska. Logan listens to Christian Radio station 89.3FM KSBJ which broadcasts from Houston, TX. Logan called the radio station distraught because he had to take down a calf . His words have wisdom beyond his years.

Since airing the audio of the phone call and now the making of the video clip, it has taken on a life of its own. People are forwarding it all over the world. We encourage you to share the love of Christ with anyone you can.

(**Sky Angel is a family safe broadcasting service that is offered on satellite. KSBJ is a local Houston Christian music radio station. Video clip produced with love by Hear the entire message at

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The SAVE Act

I received this letter regarding the SAVE Act from Representative Jim Matheson in my inbox the other day:
Dear Cameron,

Illegal immigration is an issue that has generated a lot of talk, but not enough action. I continue to look for ways for Congress to make progress on this issue. Recently, I signed onto a bill that I believe offers some common sense fixes to the flaws in our current system. The bill is the SAVE Act--Secure America through Verification and Enforcement.

Our current immigration system is broken. I am opposed to amnesty. People who try to play by the rules are often penalized. We don't know the identity or the whereabouts of millions of people who entered illegally. There is no transparency or accountability when people conduct business under the table.

I have long supported strong border enforcement, together with a viable guest worker program. I do not support amnesty. The SAVE Act's approach to combating illegal immigration has been endorsed by border security advocacy groups because of its strict emphasis on border security, employer verification and enforcement. Specifically the bill:

-Increases the number of Border Patrol agents by 8,000

-Creates a pilot program to increase aerial surveillance, satellite and equipment sharing between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense

-Increases cooperation between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICW) and state and local law enforcement

-Provides employers with an inexpensive, quick and accurate way to verify employee eligibility

I recognize that many Utah businesses rely on immigrant workers and that an accountable guest worker program in which everyone plays by the same rules is essential. Currently, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses Web Basic Pilot or E-verify. Here's a description. Employers who participate submit information, including a Social Security number, over a secure connection to the Internet. If it checks out, the employer is notified. The system has strengths and weaknesses and improvements are being evaluated.

I will continue to be an advocate for immigration reform that addresses these important areas.


Jim Matheson
U.S. Representative
2nd District of Utah
Here's the text of the bill, which was introduced to the House by Rep. Heath Shuler. You can follow its progress at this website, which also links to other versions of the bill.

It seems to be very much an enforcement-laden bill, beefing up border security and eliminating much of the lawlessness that currently exists with illegal immigration. It would reduce the ability of illegal immigrants to use stolen or bogus social security numbers, and provide employers with a simple way to verify the work status of potential and current employees.

Enforcement, or the lack thereof, is what caused the last round of immigration reform to fail. Opponents worried that it amounted to nothing more than amnesty without fixing the problems that cause illegal immigration in the first place. "Enforcement First" was a standby of immigration reform advocates. So this bill seems to be in response to that call to action.

However, "Enforcement First" necessarily implies that there is more to do. Which seems to be Albert Ruiz's point in his NY Daily News column. He comments on a letter sent from the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform to Congress and explains,
The SAVE Act, among other measures, imposes mandatory electronic employment eligibility verification. It will screen out the undocumented farm labor force, but as the coalition points out, it does not address the question of who will take their place.

The reason is clear: Contrary to anti-immigration rhetoric, there are no throngs of domestic workers lining up at the farm gates to take over the jobs the undocumented have performed for years.
It's a very good point, and one that emphasizes the importance of remembering that enforcement can only be a first step. Once existing laws are consistently enforced, it is very likely that much of the US labor force will disappear.

If the SAVE Act is successful, the next question for Congress to answer is, what now?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Screwtape Letters

I finished up reading the Screwtape Letters a while back, and thought I'd post a few excerpts. It's written by CS Lewis and is a satirical compilation of letters written by a devil named Screwtape to a field tempter offering advice on how best to tempt humankind. It's a really cool book, and I recommend it to all. Here are the excerpts:

He has balanced the love of change in them with a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme.

The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under...Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.

The grand problem is that of "Unselfishness." Note, once again, the admirable work of our Philological Arm in substituting the negative unselfishness for the Enemy's positive Charity.

Don't forget to use the "Heads I win, tails you lose" argument. If the thing he prays for doesn't happen, then that is one more proof that petitionary prayers don't work; if it does happen, he will of course, be able to see some of the physical causes which led up to it, and "therefore it would have happened anyway." Thus a granted prayer become just as good a proof as a denied one that prayers are ineffective.

The long, dull, monotonous years of middle aged prosperity or middle aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity...provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition. If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is "finding his place in it," while really it is finding its place in him.

He did not create the humans - He did not become one of them and die among them by torture - in order to produce candidates for Limbo, "failed" humans. He wanted to make Saints; gods; things like Himself.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Larry O'Donnell on Mormons and Mitt Romney

I haven't had a chance to write down any thoughts on Mitt Romney's speech, but here's what one pundit thought:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Tree Facts

Christmas Trees

3 – Number of seedlings planted for every harvested Christmas tree
8 – average number of years it takes a Christmas tree to mature
50 – Number of states in the U.S. that grow Christmas trees (yep, all fifty of them,including Hawaii and Alaska)
98 – Percentage of Christmas trees grown on Christmas tree farms
2,000 – Number of trees planted per acre
12,000 – Approximate number of cut-your-own Christmas tree farms in the U.S.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mitt Romney's Mormon Speech

Titled, "Faith in America", here is presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's speech from this morning.



Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

LDS Humanitarian Services

Hat tip to Adam for linking to this blog post about Mitt Romney showing up at someone's house, press free, to help dig out a huge tree stump after the California fires. Kudos to Governor Romney for doing some good work. Incidentally, I've dug out a tree stump or two in my time, and it's really hard work. Kudos again.

Which brings me to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' humanitarian and welfare programs. The LDS Church strives to fulfill James' declaration of "pure religion":
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world"
The Church donates man hours, money, food, clothing, and medical supplies to countries around the world each year, and the numbers, $900 million in the last 20 years, are staggering. It's amazing to me to think of the far flung locations that the Church's aid can reach. But even more impressive, and inspiring, is the many ways that service can be carried out in my own home, by me and my family. The Church's organization is such that in addition to local community based service opportunities, we can also contribute items for urgent, specific needs locally as well as globally.

For instance, a small group of LDS members got together four years ago and began making wooden toy cars. To date, they've made 14,000 of these cars, and in addition to passing them out on their own, they use the Church's existing humanitarian groups as a means to get them to children all over the world.

It's wonderful to have so many opportunities to serve, and to know that even small efforts can do much good.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Baseball Quote of the Day

"If the Red Sox get Santana," said an executive of one NL team that's grateful to be in the other league, "they might be the best team in the history of the frigging universe."

From's story on the Boston Red Sox sweeping in and possibly trading for multiple Cy Young winner Johan Santana to add to World Series MVPs Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling, as well as Japanese superstar import Daisuke Matsuzaka.

The rich get richer, but at least it ain't the Yankees.