Monday, February 25, 2008

One of the blogs I regularly read, "Captain's Quarters" run by Ed Morrissey is closing down, as
he has taken a position as a regular at "Hot Air". I'll adjust the links here before too long.

I also saw that NASA is trying to resurrect an old idea of establishing a lunar farside radio observatory. That's been one of my favorite ideas for some time, and I'd love to see it happen.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Blogging the Book of Mormon 1 Ne 9-10

Nephi recounts that he has made two sets of plates for recordkeeping purposes, both of which were named the plates of Nephi. One set is called for convenience, (as will be noted later) the larger plates of Nephi. These contained, or were to contain, an account of the history of Nephi's people, including the reigns of kings, wars and contention, and so forth.

The other set is called for convenience, the smaller plates of Nephi. This was to give an account of the ministry. The First (and Second) books of Nephi in the current Book of Mormon are taken from this second set of plates.

Back in 1 Ne 1:17, Nephi mentioned part of the plan of his work: First, he would abridge the record of his father, then, he would make an account of his own life and ministry. at the beginning of chapter 10 he announces that he has now finished the abridgement of his father's record and proceeding with his own account, picking up with more of Lehi's prophecies.
Lehi prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and many of its inhabitants carried captive into Babylon, and that many of them would return. Then, in six hundred years, a Messiah would be born. (it's not clear whether this six hundred years was an exact or a round number).

Lehi also spoke of a prophet who was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, and quotes some of the same language used by John the Baptist, ("he is mighter than I, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose"), and said that he was to baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, and hat he would baptize the Messiah. Lehi made a brief reference to the gospel that would be preached among the Jews, that the Jews would dwindle in unbelief, and that after the Messiah had been crucified and arisen from the dead, that Jesus would manifest himself by the Holy Ghost to the Gentiles.

Lehi then makes reference to a metaphor of olive culture, that the House of Israel was to be compared to an olive tree whose branches were to be broken off and scattered throughout the world. Afterwards, they would gathered again, or after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the scattered remnants of Israel would be gathered in, or brought to the knowledge of their Messiah, their Lord and Redeemer.

This is almost the first reference to the theme of the scattering and redemption of Israel, which occurs repeatedly throughout the Book of Mormon. Paul (Romans 11:16-25) used a similar metaphor. Later in the Book of Mormon, a far more extensive allegory is given comparing the house of Israel to an olive tree.

Nephi mentions (As he did on chapter 6) that he is not recording all his father's prophecies, but that he did record many of them in his other book.

After hearing this discourse, he wanted to see, hear, and know of all these things for himself, by the spirit of prophesy. This prompts a digression: first a declaration that the Holy Ghost is the gift of God to all who diligently seek him, in times of old, at the present, and in the future, and that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to them, and second a call to repentance and a promise of judgment on those who seek to do wickedly during their probation.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Law and reason

A reader asked for a clarification on what Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said last week, and why it matters. The earliest reference I was able to hunt down quickly was this one from the Telegraph, but the comments were made in a radio address.
This became a big controversy because of the number of Muslims who have immigrated to England in recent decades and years and who have not assimilated into British society, but have tried to keep their own religion, customs, and language. A number of British fear that their legal traditions will be altered by the uncritical and wholesale adoption of distasteful aspects of Sharia, or muslim law.
This is not a new or uncommon fear. It is part of why the Mormons were persecuted in Missouri: There, the older settlers took matters into their own hands regardless of law and drove the Mormons out. American immigrants into Texas brought their own governmental preferences, culture, and language, and succeded in separating from Mexico, and joining the US, as some evidence that the fear is not entirely without foundation. Now, in the 21st century, the illegal immigration from Mexico provokes similar fears in the US.
I'm not sure that the British legal system, or the American legal system derived from it, is inherently more just in all aspects than any aspect of Muslim law. Certainly there are aspects of Sharia that are repellent. There are also aspects of American law that are unjust and repellent. If were were interested in justice as an idea more than a reflexive adherence to our own traditions, it might be well to study Sharia, compare and contrast it to American law, and see whether there is anything that it would be worthwhile to accept. On reviewing Archbishop William's comments, as close as I can come with a rather cursory search, I think this is what he is saying, and to call his comments a form of "surrender" is bit unfair.
But the whole debate has become so polarized and highly charged politically that it's hard for calm reason to have any influence.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In fairness

Things like this American Cowboys post at Blackfive are why I support the US military and what it is doing in Iraq. What our men are doing isn't just fighting al-Qaeda directly; they are also teaching the people there how to live in freedom without us having to be there. In the meantimes, I find arguments like this one at Council of Fifty rather ignorant, at least of this aspect of our effort.
As I read various political blogs, I'm rather bothered that the level of discourse descends to the level of calling one another vile and vulgar names. There are, occasionally, intelligent and informative comments offered. I'd like to follow more of them, although sometimes they are more than I want to read carefully.
Apparently, in the primary elections in Virginia and Maryland, McCain is ahead, and so is Obama. I don't know that I have expressed a preference on the Democratic nominee except that I don't care for either of them. And since I'm not a member of the Democratic party, I don't have a vote, until November.
I've seen preliminary reports that the "peaceful" protests against the USMC Recruiting station in Berkely are turning a bit less so, now that supporters of the Marines have shown up in numbers. I'll have to watch this: I have had an evil sneaking suspicion that the so-called peace lovers of Code Pink were likely to turn violent in an ugly fashion. But that could be just my prejudice.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Blogging the Book of Mormon 1 Ne. 8

In this chapter, Nephi records one of his father's prophetic dreams. This one, unlike ordinary dreams, is an extended account full of important imagery. Lehi finds himself bidden by a man in a white robe to follow, for several hours through a dark and dreary waste. After praying for God's mercy, he sees a tree in the middle of a large field, a tree, laden with a sweet, white fruit, that filled him with joy when he tasted it. He began looking for his family in order to share it, and saw a river of water running near it. He then saw his wife and two younger sons at the head of the stream, looking undecided about where to go. He called them over to eat the fruit, which they did, and then he fould his older two sons, and called to them, but they would not come. Then, he saw a stright and narrow path and rod of iron leading from the head of the stream to the tree, a large world-sized field, and innumerable people looking for the tree. A thick, dark mist arose, and most of the people lost their direction. Some of them found the straight and narrow path, and by holding onto the rod, reached the tree, ate its fruit, and then looked down, ashamed. Lehi looked for the cause of their shame, and saw a large building, standing in air without a foundation, filled with people in fine dress, who were pointing at and mocking those who were at the tree. Those who reached the tree and heeded those who were mocking left, while the ones who remained ignored the mockers. Other multitudes wandered in all directions: Many feeling their way towards the building, many falling into the river and drowning, and others wandering out of sight on strange roads.
After waking, Lehi called his family to recount this vision, and took the occasion to exhort, preach, and prophesy to his sons, especially his older ones, in fear that it signified they were in danger of being cut off from the Lord's presence.
In later chapters, Nephi returns to this dream and interprets the imagery.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Romney's out

I was wondering what Romney was going to accomplish by campaigning all the way to the convention, since his worse-than-I-expected showing on Tuesday left him far behind McCain. I wondered if it would be better for him to cut his losses and look to the future.
Apparently that's what he decided, too. I think it's a sensible, even a wise move. I'd like to see where he goes from here.

In looking over my usual poliitical blogs, I see there's a flap going on over remarks made by the Archbishop of Canterbury. I'll have to look into that a bit further. I don't have a high regard for the Anglican church in the first place. I could go on about what I think its moral failings are, but since I haven't studied it carefully, I should probably stay safe and refrain from a public demonstration of ignorance, prejudice, and folly.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Not-so-super Tuesday

I stayed up until late watching election returns on the Internet. I'm disappointed at Romney's poor showing. He won in the Western states, and in Massachussets, but came in second or third everwhere else, sometimes a poor third. I was surprised to see Huckabee do so well.
So, while I continue to support Romney, I have no hope that he's going to be the next Presudent of the United States. Over at Mormon Mentality, One commenter, Seth R in Comment #22 has one analysis that looks right to me. I also tend to agree with AHLDuke at Weightier Matters.
I haven't liked John McCain since I lived in Arizona, but if he's the nominee, I'll hold my nose and vote for him. As I've said before, I really don't trust that Bill Clinton won't be the power behind the Presidency, and I have no wish to see him in the White House; I don't trust either Hillary's or Barak Obama's foreign policy sense, and I don't care for the Democrat philosophy of government.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Blogging the Book of Mormon 1 Ne. 5-7

Apparently, Leni's sons took longer than expected going back to Jerusalem to get the plates, because Sariah became convinced that they had perished in the wilderness. Lehi assured her that it was not so, and seems to have been more concerned with their encounters with Laban.
Nephi's account mentions that he had been told they would be let to a land of Promise, but this is the first time Lehi is recorded as mentioning it.

Lehi searched the brass plates, and summarized their content: The five books of Moses, a record of the Jews from the beginning down to Zekeiah's reign, and a genealogy of Lehi's ancestors. Although Lehi lived in Jerusalem, he was actually a descencent of Joseph. Nephi records a prophecy by his father that the brass plates would never perish nor be dimmed any more by time, but that they would go to all the "nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples" of his posterity.

Nephi then stops to explain that he is not giving an account of his father's ancestry, but his purpose in writing this particular record is to persuade men to come to God and be saved.

After examining the brass plates, Lehi then told his sons that the Lord had said it was not expedient for them to go into the promised land alone, but that his sons should marry first. Accordingly, Lehi's sons went back to Jerusalem to persuade one Ishmael with his five umarried daughters and two married sons to come out of Jerusalem with Lehi. Ishmael agreed, and they set out for Lehi's wilderness camp. On the return journey there was a division in the party: Laman and Lemuel, Ishamel's two sons, and two of the daughters wanted to go back to Jerisalem, while their parents and other three daughters, Nephi, and Sam wished to continue.
Nephi told them that if they did, they would die with the rest of Jerusalem. He throws in a reference to Jeremiah's imprisonment (Jer 32:2, Evidently Jerusalem had not yet been besieged). Laman and Lemuel took offense and tied Nephi up to leave him to die in the desert. Nephi escaped his bonds in a miraculous fashion (though not the impressive display of strength he had asked for), and again intefered. This time, he persuaded one of the rebellious sons and a daughter to side with him, and they in turn pursuaded Laman and Lemuel. All was forgiven (though not forgotten), and the party returned to Lehi's wilderness camp. Nephi records that they offered sacrifices and burnt offferings. This was the third time they had done so: First when they arrived, second on their return with the brass plates.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Blues, rebellion, and sickness

Alright, it's time I pulled myself out of the funk that Mitt Romney's loss in Florida Tuesday sent me into. He hasn't given up yet, and I intend to support him, miniscule as my support may be, as long as he's in the race.

Also last Tuesday, the Peace and Justice commission of the city of Berkely, California recommended that the City declare the US Marine Corps recruiting station to be uninvited and unwelcome intruders, and the city did so. Now, the USMC is committed to defend the constitutional rights of these people against all enemies (especially foreign ones). But when protesters delare agencies of the United States Government to be unwelcome in their town, and actively impede its operations, they are abusing those rights. They have a foot on that fine line that separates legitimate disagreement from treason. There are things worse than war.

One of them is Al-Qaeda's use of women with Down Syndrome as "suicide" bombers. I have a son with Down Syndrome, and I've met quite a few others. The thought of someone using one of these simple minded but generally innocent, outgoing and cheerful people to commit wholesale murder of people who are minding their own business is absolutely sickening. The people who do this kind of thing are not fit to live in human society: they should be hunted down and quickly sent home to God to be rewarded according to their works.