Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Blog For Your Sabbath Day: Moses 1:25-42

In the course of doing my Gospel Doctrine scripture study, I perused Moses 1: 25-42 and I was treated to a unique and more thorough perspective on the classic creation story. Here, Moses gets the vision I wouldn’t mind catching a glimpse of, but scriptures and telescopes must suffice.

Here, Moses has been called by God to lead this new dispensation of time, and become the prophet and lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. And like so many prophets called to preach the gospel to a people absent of such knowledge, Moses is given, as it were, the grand tour so that he can see the majesty of Heavenly Father’s existence and purpose, in so far as we, his children, are concerned.

25 And calling upon the name of God, [Moses] beheld his glory again, for it was upon him; and he heard a voice, saying: Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God.
26 And lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel my chosen.
27 And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God.
28 And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.
29 And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof.
30 And it came to pass that Moses called upon God, saying: Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?

Oh, yes. A great, great question...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Just Press Play...

I could sit here, or stand, and type out words to explain the--well, the most famous film score just behind John Williams's 1977 original Star Wars soundtrack, which would be 2001: A Space Odyssey. But reading words that I've bloarched up when you could be listening...

Just press play.

Do keep in mind that some of the music on this soundtrack are NOT the recordings heard in the film. A later soundtrack using recordings from the movie was released through Rhino records in the 1990s. Go here to Wikipedia to get the full poop on the story of the soundtrack's genesis.

And may the force be with you. (Yeah, I know.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Vocabulary & Opening Crawls

Fairly recently I posted about a vocabular enhancer, a simple list of commonly used words and suitable replacements, which I found during my daily stumble through the Internet. Today I've stumbledupon a new vocabulary modification list that concerns taking out your tired old adjectives--those words that modify nouns--and like Carlson from Of Mice and Men with Candy's old mordant dog, you put 'em out of their misery with an anti-misery gun (that shoot them anti-misery bullets) and replace them with fresh blood, or rather, a more sprightly bouncy new adjective that chews on your slippers. I mean, masticates them.

Here's a sample list:

Corpulent: obese
Crapulous: immoderate in appetite
Defamatory: maliciously misrepresenting
Didactic: conveying information or moral instruction
Dilatory: causing delay, tardy
Dowdy: shabby, old-fashioned; an unkempt woman
Efficacious: producing a desired effect
Effulgent: brilliantly radiant
Egregious: conspicuous, flagrant
Endemic: prevalent, native, peculiar to an area
Equanimous: even, balanced
Execrable: wretched, detestable
Fastidious: meticulous, overly delicate
Feckless: weak, irresponsible
Fecund: prolific, inventive
Friable: brittle
Fulsome: abundant, overdone, effusive

Now you can write with a voice that rings just this side of C. Montgomery Burns. Excellent. I mean...uh, fantabulous.

Before we close, let us use some vigorous vocabulary to write an opening crawl for the new Star Wars movie coming out in... 2015? Really?

"It is a new time for the galaxy--" (Time? Ugh! Start over....)

"It is a new era for the galaxy.
In the years since the destruction
of the evil Galactic Empire, 
nefarious men and new conflicts 
challenge the restoration of peace.

"As a new Galactic Republic struggles 

to guide a galaxy of wartorn planets,
a new Jedi Order, established
by Luke Skywalker, seeks out new
recruits to fill its depleted ranks--

Bleah! Here. This guy does it better. He has a story. I don't.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Off The Cuff: If This Is So Great, Why Ain't We Smiling?

I should be overjoyed. I have too many decades of memories of this regime butchering and imprisoning dissenters and raising hell throughout the Middle East with its terrorist minions out and about planting car bombs and assassinating politicians. Watching the rebels tear down the Assad family statue is perhaps a sign that change is truly on its way. 

However, as we all should be well aware of, those joining the rebels are--sadly--Islamists who have affiliations with al-Qaeda, and they're providing much of the liaison between the rebellion and a terrified public looking for guidance and direction. When Saddam Hussein's regime fell back in 2003, hopes of getting out of Iraq in a year were quickly dashed, as we tragically learned that power vacuums suck you back in.

When the Soviets fell, along with their satellite powers, Hell rose from its anchored depths, where it had been kept in check through years of dictatorial pressure, and it went on a rampage of countless wars throughout eastern Europe. As we've seen in Russia, adaptation to democracy after centuries of oppression through czars or Soviets isn't so smooth, not when their president is a former KGB with severe trust issues. It still doesn't take much to get yourself thrown into a prison in Russia. 

My cup isn't exactly overflowing with confidence. History may repeat itself. It usually does.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Sabbath Tweet

Clicking HERE for Elder Bednar's CES address.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Blog for Your Sabbath Day: Tithing

From the dawn of time, from the moment Adam and Eve hastily beat an exit from the Garden of Eden, Lucifer, the Adversary, understood the natural man and what a millstone that would be around our spiritual necks, weighing so many of us down, sinking millions to our spiritual deaths. Well, so did our Heavenly Father. He knew that Man, this spirit and body veiled away from his presence, would be wracked with insecurities, would be engaged in that great battle between Needs and Wants, where the wants become needs, and the needs get lost in the shuffle of life.

In the Old Testament--early in our human story--we see this very breakdown when Cain’s offering of the first of his field is rejected of the Lord. Cain has no faith in the future Atonement of Jesus Christ, spoken of by Father Adam, unlike his brother Abel whose faith is full in his offering of the firstling of his flocks to his Father in Heaven. But if Cain has no faith, why then is Cain making any sort of offering? Why not stay home and keep that offering and use it for his own personal needs? Because he’s showing off his wealth, and this is his downfall, the reason for his lack of faith in the Atonement. He’s proud and competitive for the product he’s toiled so hard to grow. For Cain, the public offering openly demonstrates to his family and his neighbors, his prestige. When the offering is rejected, he views this as a rejection of himself. Cain, as a son of God, becomes a son of man. His view of the world, his portion of it, is aligned with the power and wealth he has accumulated. Therefore he begins his infamous slide into depravity.

"Oh, What's Another Word for That Word": Add Variety to the Commonly Used Words in Writing

I wish I was this brilliant and innovative, but over at I...uh, stumbled upon this list of synonyms for words most commonly used by students in their papers. As an Engrish teacher--I mean English teachur, I fou--

Okay. Let me start over.

As an English teacher I found this list to be, uh...a great way for my students to find--you know--different words for the same old...feelings, again and again. For teachers such as myself, the list is very simple, the words very common, and it's all a row, based on its spelling. ALPHABETICAL! (That's the word I was looking for.)

Now, for you writers out there at your laptop screens or legal pads scribbling fan scripts for Star Wars: Episode VII, you might need a punch-up or two in the vocabulary department when writing that opening crawl. Well, let me say that this list is really, really...

Hold on. Let me check the list...

Great - noteworthy, worthy, distinguished, remarkable, grand, considerable, powerful, much, mighty

Just let me say that this list is really remarkable. Now, follow this link right HERE and do what you will with it. I'm fairly certain it will...

Help - aid, assist, support, encourage, back, wait on, attend, serve, relieve, succor, benefit, befriend, abet

...succor your efforts. In a platonic way.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

MinutePhysics: How Big is the Universe?

Watch this and fall in love with science. Then go to minutephysics at YouTube and get married to it by subscribing. Then be unfaithful by ogling the other science sites that are its friends. (I'll stop there.)

To Start Your Day: Obey! (Please...)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Space Elevator Gets a...Lift

When has the idea of an elevator up into space NOT held our imagination? Yes, many years, even decades, and the notion has not left our imagination. Consider this article by Claire Evans:
"...although it's been a pipe dream of armchair theorists since the 1800s, it just made one giant leap into a whole new world of plausibility. Why? Because the Japanese, perhaps afraid of being eclipsed by the mighty progress of commercial space travel companies, or the showboating of the nascent Chinese space program, have decided to build one, for real. It's a smart pairing. Japan is a pioneer in the kind of precision engineering that a space elevator requires, and their space program, JAXA, is a small but powerful operation, excelling in X-Ray astronomy, satellite-based Earth observation, and building smart modules and components for the International Space Station."

Is Our Universe the Only One? (Well, there's the Star Trek universe...)

The Daily Tweet

A Pee Chee Folder, a Shoe Box of Baseball Cards, and a Fan Trailer

Let me set the stage: it's late 1998 and I'm in a theater lobby waiting with my two daughters to see The Rugrats Movie, and when I look up I see hanging on the wall a very large poster. There are no words on this advertisement, only a young boy standing amid sand dunes dressed like Luke Skywalker.  It takes me a few moments but I soon notice the boy's shadow, how it stretches out into the shape of Darth Vader. This wasn't my first clue that this film was on its way. Still, I nearly pee my pants with glee. But I am waiting for the movie trailer...

On the advent of that film's teaser trailer a CNN article (11/20/98) put it this way:

"Star Wars" junkies eager to catch a glimpse of the first prequel, your wait is over: 75 theaters in North America got to show a sneak preview [italics mine] of the trailer for "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" among the trailers shown before other full-length feature movies.
The preview will appear nationwide on Friday. But loyal fans who paid close attention to the official Star Wars Web site learned there would be a sneak preview Tuesday in some theaters across the country.
Some people are apparently paying the full price of a movie ticket just to see the two-minute preview. Variety reported that nearly two-thirds of the 500 people in an afternoon showing of "The Siege" in Los Angeles walked out after seeing the trailer. Movie theaters across the country reported other fans doing the same thing.
Asked to comment, one fan who saw the trailer in Washington said "Unbelievable. I consider myself a harsh critic, but after the trailer I was applauding."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shooting From the Hip: Wrangling for Ideas

No caption necessary, am I right?
Gonna shoot from the hip. I haven't done this in a while. Usually I have an idea and I sequester it and think it through. I come up with some supporting angles in which to hurdle this concept through time and space. But now, I'm just letting it out, letting it loose, letting it run wild--

But not too wild. Gotta have some plan. Gotta have an angle. No one likes sloppy writing. No one enjoys the too-glib approach, sounding like you love to hear yourself write.

But I love to hear myself write, to let an idea spin out of me; it's like wrangling a wild animal. Heaven knows I've done that a few times in my youth. Growing up in Yakima on a mere acre, we city folks from Las Vegas tried to be sons and daughters of the soil, or at least of the flock. Yeah, we grew hay, cut and bailed it; stacked it I did, like Abel, but like Cain we raised animals and drew the ire of God upon us with rabbits that ate their babies ("Hey, we were gonna eat those!"), calves that wouldn't eat and had to be force fed with a tube rammed down their throats, and sows that wouldn't give suck and their piglets having to be hand fed all summer, day and night. Especially night.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This Debate. (Here we go again...)

Oh, it is so on...
Atheists remind us pew-sitting scripture monkeys that religion is the pure invention of Man's mind--all of it, including the part about the "Jewish Zombie". I wish to avoid bitterly complaining about the lack of civility towards religion. But if I think about some of the religious right's more infamous spokespeople, who come off like the carnies lined up at the state fair to cajole us into a try at the ring toss or a quick gander at the two headed cow fetus stored in the back, well then we probably deserve a great deal of that heat.

Still, the hatred and mockery of religion (not too strong a description), while rooted in a foundation of dismay I can agree with, has strayed of late into the territory of hyperbole. What I see is a new wave of atheism ramping up out there: a full on frontal attack to not correct but to dismantle faith in God. Amusing and inventive billboards and multi-media campaigns. Take no prisoners. Maher, Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens once led the charge with the same intensity as Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps and the late Jerry

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Blog for Your Sabbath Day: Spiritual Ownership

"But Daddy...I want it naaaaaoooooooow!" 

The impatient Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a demanding sort of little girl; her impatience was coupled with an insatiable greed. Every bobble that lit her fancy she demanded it right then, right there, and with each passing moment she was made to wait, her temper flared to new heights of frustration. Homer Simpson, a notorious shirker of responsibility, devised a way to get out of a community service project during a work outing: just to get out of picking up roadside trash, he spent 600 dollars on a life sized mannequin and faked his own death (albeit briefly). As Bart pointed out to his father, Homer would have saved money--and time--by actually showing up for work. Nonetheless, so opposed to work Homer always is that the cartoon oaf was willing to roll up his sleeves to get out of lifting a finger. Extreme examples these are, certainly. Between the empty hands of these characters and the object of their desires lays a chasm unfilled with the recipe for success: work, labor, effort. Call it what you will, but neither Homer nor Veruca have any appreciation for the concept of ownership.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Blog For Your Sabbath Day: Scripture as Literature

"How can you have any pudding if you don't--"
From time to time I've had the unique experience to interject the creation story into my English curriculum. Now, why I would do such a thing has nothing doing with a covert desire on my part to spread Christianity among my students. When I introduced the Judeo-Christian creation story to my students, invariably it wasn't the atheist, agnostic, Wiccan, gay-lesbian, transgender who--you might think--raised their voices in protest at having religion "shoved down their throats", thus violating the separation of church and state that I support. Au contraire, I have consistently found this batch rather open-minded and receptive when teaching them how to thinking than rather what to think. When presented as literature, we find the study of religious scripture an exciting intellectual venture in understanding human nature.

The blowback I'm alluding to came from the small contingent of Christians whose parents, upon hearing of my assignment, immediately went to DEFCON 2, flushed the bombers from their bullpens and lobbed a nuke or two at my teaching credentials. Their objections rested on how I bookended my study of the first few chapters of Genesis with other creations stories from Native American legends and other ancient literature. Somehow this constituted pulling down their God (and mine) to the level of fictional comic book characters. Before you could say "burned at the stake" I was assuaging the fears of my principal, and when the squawking was loud enough I did a little one on one with the superintendent. This has happened only twice in my short teaching career, but it illustrates how study of religious text in public schools is a touchy subject. Nonetheless, the study of the creation story in Genesis is a great way to teach kids how to read, particularly in the use of reading strategies. This should only be pulled off as part of a comparative lit unit along side the texts of other faiths. One thing to have angry Christians lined up at the high school office, another entirely when it's the ACLU.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Blog for Your Sabbath: Warriors in the Saturday of Time

Hey, Latter-day Saint youth. Why you attended church on Sunday is the question I want you to think about. Was it of your own volition? More than likely you felt compelled by greater forces: parents, home teachers, ward leaders, all who insisted you be there, for your own good. You showed up, more or less, because your friends were there. For most years that’s what got me to church for nine o’ clock sacrament meetings, what hauled me out of bed for early morning seminaries, to endure laborious service projects and activities. My friends were there. Girls I liked were there. But to attend for the spiritual enlightenment? This wasn’t a main pursuit, although at times it turned out to be a fringe benefit, especially when a particular youth speaker might touch my heart and cause me to contemplate my future.

1974 Album Cover

You are the future of the church, a new generation full of youthful strength and vigor. But hey, that’s what the general authorities of my youth told me twenty-five years ago. Back in my youth there was a musical written by members of the church called Saturday’s Warrior. You may have heard of it. I saw a performance of it while serving my mission in 1986. When it was first performed back in the early 1970s it proved to be a very popular musical among Latter-day Saints. I’m not so much interested in discussing the ins and outs of the musical’s plot. I do want to explain the musical’s title.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Blog for the Sabbath: Calculated to Exalt

President Lorenzo Snow
Which came first...the chicken or the faith? I ask this tongue in cheek. Today's third hour lesson comes from Teachings of the Prophets: Lorenzo Snow: Learning by Faith. I'm assuming this means that a type of learning, secular or otherwise, comes by faith, that is, using faith to learn. Or is it learning about those matters that are strictly spiritual? To the saints President Snow explains:
"In this system of religion that you and I have received there is something grand and glorious...The whole idea of Mormonism is improvement—mentally, physically, morally and spiritually. No half-way education suffices for the Latter-day Saint."
On the books, yes. Those are the rules of the road. Gather as much knowledge as one can.
"It is profitable to live long upon the earth and to gain the experience and knowledge incident thereto: for the Lord has told us that whatever intelligence we attain to in this life will rise with us in the resurrection, and the more knowledge and intelligence a person gains in this life the greater advantage he will have in the world to come [see D&C 130:18–19]."

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Blog for the Sabbath: Tender Mercies of Repentance

"It may not be the end of the world...but you can sure see it from here." The proximity to the end, the cessation of days, the termination of breath--we've seen the apocalypse played out in literature and cinema. How apropos this saying is when the armies of the Chaldean juggernaut bears down on Judah. Through an endless parade of prophets like Zephaniah, Nahum, Lehi, and Jeremiah, the kingdom Judah was warned to repent. Now, it is too late; the nation will not divert from their present course. The hammer has already fallen and in Jeremiah 21: 8-10 what bears down on them is clawing at their door:
8 And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I set before you...the way of death.
9 He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence...
10 For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.
Let us summarize: Jerusalem WILL be destroyed, wantonly, in extreme prejudice. In last week's Sabbath I wrote at moderate length on the degenerative state of both Judah in Israel and the Nephite-Lamanite contingent in the Americas and the threat of judgements to be poured out on them by the Lord. Nonetheless, allow to me to go the other direction with Jeremiah 21: 8-10 and illustrate the tender mercies of the Lord:
8 And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I set before you the way of life...
9 He that...goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.
10 For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.
In the Lord's tender mercies, he understands better than we that amongst the wicked are those unrighteous who do not delight in the desecration of humanity, they who retain a glimmer of the Light of Christ, they who through the adverse conditions would humble themselves sufficiently to start anew. For these individuals the Lord's caveat allows them to live, to walk the earth, and who wouldn't want to stay alive, to avoid starvation, torture or execution? Not follow the commandments, perhaps, but continue breathing with the hope of a better tomorrow? Absolutely! Many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Judeans, took the Lord up on his offer, fled beyond the walls of Jerusalem and they surrendered, crying and wailing to the Chaldean armies for mercy. As the Lord promised, the invaders held back their blades from upon the supplicants but immediately carried them captive out of the promised land and back to Babylon.

Unfortunately as time settled, these ex-pats clung to the assumption that they had completed their allotted consignment, and had suffered sufficiently and therefore the Lord would work out their release. False prophets among them, like the cursed Shemaiah, heaped false hope upon them to get gain. To put the kibosh on this momentum of hopelessness, Jeremiah sent the Lord's word through courier, a message of reality: Brace yourselves for a long stay. In Jeremiah 29:
10 For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
70 years?! If one were 10 years old at the time, they would reach the delicate age of 80 years before returning to Jerusalem. For anyone older, those chances of physically returning alive back to the promised land drop off rapidly. To soften this bit of sour news, the Lord gave this commandment:
5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
6 Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.
7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
Peace? How is that possible so far from home in an alien land and culture...for seventy years? Why bother starting anew with the painstaking process of constructing a new city? Why press on with their lives, taking spouses, having children to raise up? By doing so, the Lord promised Judah they would have peace in their lives. How? The Lord's purpose placing them in such circumstances is to prepare them for a higher calling.
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
14 And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
If Judah desired to live, well then, their existence among the Babylonians in peace was a prerequisite. If they needed to have the creature comforts of life, to have the joys of human existence through familial relationships, their focus must be outward, forging a state of heart, mind and soul towards the Lord. By staking a life in a hostile environment, their natures would evolve as they worked side-by-side with their neighbors. Judah would seek the Lord and eventually find him, and when they came calling he would answer and lead them back.

Such is the process for all of us: flee the wicked state we are enveloped within, fall before our state of guilt, surrender to repentance and start anew.