Saturday, December 29, 2007

I Just Can't Wait To Be KIng

I do have to wonder what is going on the minds of the impeach Bush/Cheney crowd. In less than
a year, Bush and Cheney are going to be out of office anyway as their terms expire. Even a successful impeachment and conviction wouldn't get them out of office all that much faster than they would be gone anyway.
These activists in Vermont must be drunk on the fumes generated by their own overheated rhetoric. Otherwise, they might be thankful no one else takes them seriously.

We have the full power to issue indictments, conduct trials, incarcerate
offenders and do all other acts which Independent jurisdictions may of right
do," the statement says.

Taken seriously, this would amount to a declaration of independence, which puts them out so far a limb, legally and politically speaking, that they're hanging by the tip of a leaf.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto

I have only been a casual and distant observer of Pakistani politics in general and Benazir Bhutto's life and career in particular: I'm neither one of her champions nor one of her opponents. I simply don't know enough about her to have more than a rudimentary, unformed impresion that's slighly that's slightly more positive than negative.
I am sorry, however, to hear of her assassination earlier today. It is no great suprise that al-Quaeda has claimed responsibility: They have done or tried to do this same kind of thing often enough before. This will certainly change political dynamics in Pakistan, and Afganistan, and India, and Iran, although I'm not expert enough to analyze or predict exactly.
One of the ripples of this political earthquake is the response of Mike Huckabee, one of the Republican candidates for the US Presidency, who goes so far as to apologize for her assassination. Is this merely a verbal gaffe, or does he think we have actually done something he ought to apologize for?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

That recently?

The Stiletto, writing at Blogger News Network quotes Bob Burney as referring to the "notable change in how the Mormons present themselves, beginning about sometime around 2002, around the time of the Winter Olympics. Burney claims that prior to that, for instance in the there was "not a readily apparent note for Mormons to identify themselves as form of Christianity" and "that suddenly, around 2002, they wanted to be accepted as a form of mainstream Christianity....even a peripheral study of Mormonism will reveal that the Jesus of Mormonism isn't the same as the Jesus of orthodox Christianity".

After further discussion of ways in which the LDS church seems to want to hide its distinctive doctrines, he asks the Mormons to "Be candid"

That's fair enough. But the story goes back further than that.

First of all, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adopted that name in 1838, although even this was not a new claim: It was initially organized in 1830 as the "Church of Christ". Although those who did not believe its teachings denounced them as blasphemous liars, few doubted that they at least claimed to be Christian.
Fast forward past the official and unofficial persecution conducted up to 1890 over polygamy. Starting in about the 1900s, Mormonism began to be tolerated and accepted in the United States. Though still marginalized and considered unworthy of serious attention, they were often confused with other Protestant denominations.

It has been noted that as the Mormons began to gain more nationwide attention, for instance with the 1960s run of George Romney for the Presidency, they began to appear to move a little more toward the Christian mainstream. But there is another factor involved. Also about that time, a number of disaffected and former Mormons began work at "digging up dirt" on the Mormons, attempting to disprove and discredit their beliefs. Fawn Brodie, Walter Martin, Dee Jay Nelson, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, and Ed Decker were some of the most prominent names. These were eagerly swept up and their findings swallowed wholesale by the Christian countercult movement, and endorsed by mainstream evangelical ministers. But, while there is some solid historical truth to their claims, there is also a great deal of half-truth, innuendo, distortion, spin, and outright falsehoods in their writings. They demand Mormons meet a high standard of strict integrity which they themselves cannot. For the problems caused by relying too heavily on the testimony of enemies and defectors, one only need point to the war in Iraq.

This is approximately when the "Mormons are not Christians" idea began to gain momentum and publicity. It has since become standard evangelical doctrine. In response, Mormons fiercely resist the charge that they are counterfeit Christians or not Christian at all, but will readily admit and even embrace a claim of not being Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. If Christian orthodoxy is characterized by a Bible plus post-Apostolic creeds, Mormons proclaim themselves to be Bible plus Book of Mormon plus additional revelation: Different, to be sure, but their acceptance of that common core distinguishes them from Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and any other recognizably non-Christian beliefs.

It may indeed be the case that in recent decades, Mormons have shifted noticeably toward an emphasis on the common beliefs that they share with evangelical Christians, It may well be that they took advantage of the increased publicity that the 2002 Winter Olympics brought. They are also taking advantage of the similar increase in publicity that Mitt Romney's candidacy is bringing. But these changes are in the peripherals, not at the core.

In Mr. Bennet's honor

Mr. Bennet of Longbourn, the father of the heroine of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, is described as a connoisseur of human folly. In his honor, I have a few samples gathered.

By way of Michelle Malkin and rcfox, there is a report that the Salem, Massachussets Board of Health, prompted by Health Agent Joanne Scottt, banned bake sales in town. One commentator proclaimed, "Stop the witch hunt! She has been found!" But this benevolent ruling by a wise paternal government is no isolated incident, because a month ago, the Maricopa County Envronmental Heath Division in Arizona did the same thing. Maybe the desert sun really can fry your brains.

And at Captain's Quarters, we have a report on a private citizen in La Habra Heights, California buying a fire truck because the city had shut down four of its five fire stations, and the lone remaining station had at least a 12-minute response time to his house.
City: "You can't do that. That's Our Job".
Citizen: "Then why aren't you doing it?"
City: "Prosecute him!"

And for a third helping, in a display of erudition that can only inspire speechless wonder, we have a paper from Hebrew University that claims that the Israeli Defence Force is guilty of not committing rape.

"In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be seen that the lack of military
rape merely strengthens the ethnic boundaries and clarifies the inter-ethnic
differences - just as organized military rape would have done."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Blogging the Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 1-3

After the introduction, Nephi begins his story. First he mentions the role of God in his own life, speaks of his father Lehi and his learning, and claims that this is his own firsthand account. He places his family in Jerusalem during the first year of Zedekiah, king of Judah, which connects the Book of Mormon to the Biblical tradition (2 Kings 24:17). Many prophets came warn the people that they must repent, or Jerusalem would be destroyed, Lehi, the father of Nephi, was disturbed by these prophecies and went out to pray to the Lord. He was shown two successive visions, in which he was told that Jerusalem would be destroyed, but he was to go out and testify of the coming of a Messiah and the wickedness of the people.
Nephi then interrupts briefly to that he was writing on (metallic) plates, and that his father kept many records of his visions and prophecies, which Nephi only summarizes. Lehi was met by
disbelief and mockery, and, it is suggested, death threats.

In chapter 2, Lehi had a dream in which he was commended for his obedience, informed that there were plots against his life, and instructed to take his family into the wilderness. He was evidently a wealthy man, with "gold, and silver, and precious things", all of which he left behind, only taking his family, provisions, and tents. He traveled toward the Red Sea, and found a "river of water". (Those familiar with the region suggest that this was a wadi which happened to flowing at the season when they encountered it: there is more than one plausible candidate) The two older brothers, Laman and Lemuel, are paired together throughout as rebellious and unbelieving, and had a confrontation with their father. Nephi, who was more spiritually inclined, prayed to the Lord about his father's visions and received some sort of confirmation. Laman and Lemuel didn't believe Nephi either, but Sam did. Nephi took this back to God, and was told that if he was obedient, he would become a ruler and teacher over his brothers. This conflict between the brothers, he was told, would continue among their respective descendants.

In Chapter 3, Lehi told his sons that God wanted them to return to Jerusalem to obtain a set of records written on plates of Brass, in the possession of a man named Laban. Laman and Lemuel complained of the difficulty of the task, but Nephi affirmed that if God commands something to be done, he will also prepare a way to do it. The four returned to Jerusalem. Laman and Lemuel went first to Laban, apparently to simply ask for the plates. Rather than give a simple refusal, Laban threw them out as thieves and robbers and threatened to kill them. Laman and Lemuel were about to give up then and there, but Nephi persuaded them to try to trade for the plates. They went to Lehi's abandoned house to collect his gold, silver, and other property (at this point, Lehi had apparently not been gone long enough for others to help themselves) and buy or trade for the plates. This might have worked had Laban been more honorable and less greedy, but he saw a chance to commit his own bit of robbery and set his guards on them.
Laman and Lemue blamed Nephi and Sam (who appears a something of a rather pale shadow of his younger brother), used much harsh language, and started to administer a beating. This beating was interrupted by an angel who told them that God had appointed Nephi a ruler over them and promised that if they would try again, God would deliver Laban into their hands.
Almost incredibly, Laman and Lemuel didn't believe it. They thought that Laban, apparently a commander of fifty in the Jewish military and no weakling himself, was still too much for them to handle.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Non-apologetic Romney

Confutus says: "Nothing is more secret than what no one wants to know."

In her recent piece, "A Californian to the Candidates, Leave Christmas ALONE" Mary Lyon at the California Progressive Report launches something of a diatribe against the Republican candidates Mitt Romneyand Mike Huckabee.
I think her criticism of Romney and his religion is poorly informed. I'm not going to say anything about Huckabee. Her article might have appeared less biased had she included Hillary Clinton, but perhaps as a Progressive Democrat she thinks imposing taxes, spending a hefty percentage of it to support the federal bureacracy, and doling a fraction of the remainder in the form of well-meant but rule-bound social programs is genuine goodwill. I don't. (Not that the Republicans have done much differently lately).
Ms. Lyon seems to have missed the part of Romney's speech where he declared that he would not put the interests of any one church or denomination, not even his own, above what he sees as his public duty, as well as the declaration by the LDS Church that it does not dictate public policy to its members who hold public office.
Romney has quite properly refused to discuss the details of his religious faith. While he may have erred, stricly speaking, in claiming that to do so would violate the prohibition on the religious test described in Article VI of the Constitution, his refusal is nevertheless correct.
Candidates in the United States are expected to be able to make a distinction between their personal preferences and their public duty: between the (possibly narrow)interests of their particular denomination and the general welfare.
If Romney were to discuss or defend his particular beliefs, he would introduce confusion about whether he is prosyletizing or acting as an apologist for his particular denomination, or whether he is campaigning for public office in the interests of all Americans, including those whose religious beliefs differ from his own. Furthermore, anything he says can be seized, twisted, and spun by hostile and self-interested critics, some of whom have many barrels of ink and many electrons to command.
However, while Romney may be limited in what he can appropriately discuss as a candidate, there are dozens of Mormon scholars and apologists who are not candidates for public office and who are ready, willing, and able to discuss the very toughest of questions with anyone who is not obviously trying to entrap them. Though not authoritative, is a good source. More authoritative but also more basic information be found at and


Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blogging the Book of Mormon - Introduction

In the past year, blogs discussing the Bible and the Koran have appeared. With the candidacy of Mitt Romney for President of the United States, and a corresponding rise in media attention to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, I thought I might want to do a similar blog on the Book of Mormon.

Relatively few people have actually read the Book of Mormon. Anti-Mormons are fond of cherry-picking selected quotations to give a misleading idea of what it says, while believing scholars have supporting evidence for some of the claims that seem incredible at first glance. It's not my purpose here to debate or defend accounts of the origin of the Book of Mormon. Rather, I wish to give an introductory summary of what the book itself says and does not say. It should not to be taken as an alternative or substitute for reading the Book of Mormon itself.

Although I am not a professional scholar of the Book of Mormon, I have read it often enough, both from beginning to end and in various parts, to be somewhat familiar with it, and I have also followed various criticisms, commentary, and scholarship.

There have been many changes since the first printing, most of them in small points of punctuation and grammar. Few have been material. I am using the "official" 1981 edition, but I may take not of others when they have been controversial. The Book of Mormon is divided into fifteen books of varying length. The current division into chapters and verses was introduced in about 1923.

The first of these books is named the First Book of Nephi, and subtitled his reign and ministry. It begins with a synopsis of this first book, recounting how one Lehi with his wife Sariah and four sons Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi and another family were commanded by God to leave Jerusalem, travel through the wilderness, and build a ship to travel to a promised land. The author identifies himself as Nephi, the fourth and youngest of these sons.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Two for one

As Hillary Clinton is increasingly relying on her husband's record as President in her own presidential campaign, she is also raising suspicions that Bill Clinton is trying to find a way around the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution. He would be the real power behind the presidency, while Hillary would be something of a figurehead. While I'm not willing to claim that this is in fact the case, since I'm not privy to their inner thoughts, their words and actions to date do suggest it.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mornons and media

I had intended to get right to some useful content, but a medical emergency interrupted for a couple of days.
One of the things that I've observed is that while religion doesn't get a whole lot of play in the press or in world history, in reality it is one of the more important influences of society. Changes in the leadership of various sects and denominations don't get nearly the attention that changes in the leadership of foreign nations do, for instance.
So, just for a couple of comments,
Joel Campbell, in a recent column in "Editor and Publisher" claims that the media, which is dominated by Eastern liberal types, often publishes reports or opinion pieces about Mormonism that are based on lazy web searches or convenient sources, without bothering with thorough reporting, good sourcing and fairness. This kind of sloppy reporting about Mormons has always been an irritant to Mormons, though the candidacy of Mitt Romney for President has brought it forward.
Rod Dreher, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News, led his piece published in the Salt Lake City Tribute with the oft-repeated opinion that Mormons are not Christians. Many Mormons find this puzzling and offensive. After all, they point out, the Mormon Church is actually named the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints", and believe the Bible as far as it is translated. The response of many evangelical Christians is that the Mormons are counterfeit or pseudo-Christian, since they believe in a "different Jesus", and that their beliefs differ so markedly from traditional orthodox Christianity (normative Christianity, as Dreher puts it), that they don't qualify at all. But this has been has been debated ad nauseam, and for now I'm not going to try further to either summarize the debate or resolve it.
But the remainder of the observations of this article, points 3-11, seem to be reasonably agreeable.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

To begin with

This blog is my latest entry into the realm of discussion on the internet. I intend to cover a wide variety of topics, perhaps focusing most on religion and government.

As an introductory description, I am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a Mormon, to use the short nickname. I am fortunate to be a citizen of the United States of America, and in politics, I consider myself a moderate to conservative Republican. I have an Associate of Science from Utah Valley State University (Individualized program) but I have been active for years in self-directed education. I am disabled due to combination of a heart condition (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) and Asperger's Syndrome which, together with my unimpressive work and educational history makes me virtually unemployable. I am also a divorced father of two boys.

My general purpose internet handle is a multiple word play which I leave as a puzzle for interested readers to figure out.