Tuesday, June 30, 2015

10,000 Steps?

Turns out the whole 10,000 steps a day idea is a "myth."  At least that's what an article in my local newspaper says. From the article:
That's right, this long-established walking standard -- which roughly translates to five miles -- is not founded in exercise physiology or medical science. It came about 50 years ago because in Japan, where it originated, the number simply helped sell product.

Ten thousand "is a very auspicious number" in Japan, Harvard University Japanese Studies professor Theodore Bestor told Health.com. "That is, it seems likely to me that the 10,000 steps goal was subsidiary to having a good-sounding name for marketing purposes."

What was being marketed? A fancy new Japanese pedometer that hit store shelves shortly before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
So, if I understand this correctly: to sell pedometers, some Japanese marketing person came up with this 10,000 steps idea. Because it would appeal to the Japanese people.

Does this sound familiar at all? Like, how we get into all kinds of things that aren't even necessarily helpful, let alone good for us, because some marketer figured out a way to sell it to us?

Yet I'm still doing it, aiming for 10,000 steps a day, even though I read this article a few weeks ago.

It's a good goal to aim for, though, unless you're starting out from a completely sedentary place. Any movement at all, above and beyond the 6,000 steps an average American supposedly takes every day, will be good for your health. More from the article:
You just need to get moving. The best number for you might be significantly lower than 10,000 -- you should consult your doctor.

Which doesn't mean 10,000 steps isn't a worthy goal, if you're up for it. It may be somewhat arbitrary, but it caught on. As a result, it's been studied and, Humana.com writes, "found to have significant health benefits." And it's not an unrealistic goal for many of us. The average American walks about 6,000 steps per day, which means that if you're average, exercise-wise, you're already more than halfway there and doing pretty good already. So strap on your fitbit -- that's what we call pedometers these days -- and get going.
I love that last bit: "Fitbit" is what we call pedometers these days!

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Throne Verse

Thanks to LDS writer Dan Peterson for this verse and commentary, from his article in the Encyclopedia of Islam:

The Qur’an’s famous Throne Verse (2:255) offers a fine summary of basic Islamic teaching regarding God.

 “Allah! There is no god but he, the Living, the Everlasting. Neither slumber nor sleep seizes him. His are all things in the heavens and the earth. Who is there who can intercede with him, except by his leave? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, while they comprehend nothing of his knowledge except as he wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth. Sustaining them does not burden him, for he is the Most High, the Supreme.”

Perhaps the most popular and beloved passage in the Qur‘an, this often-memorized assertion of God’s universal dominion is a favorite of artists across the Islamic world. Tradition credits it with a special saving power and reports that the prophet Muhammad himself considered it the greatest verse revealed to him. The depth of Muslim devotion to Allah is apparent virtually everywhere in Islamic life, including even in the use of elaborate calligraphic renditions of the word Allah as architectural and artistic ornamentation.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Laniakea: Our Home Supercluster

Check out this video explaining Laniakea:

Laniakea means "Immeasurable Heaven" in Hawaiian. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Can a Good Mormon Believe in Evolution? (Part 2, Biblical Creation Account)

As promised in my post about Adam and Eve, I'm going to write a few comments here about the biblical account of Earth's creation and other accounts we know of.

I've mentioned this before, but I'll mention again that I had a high school seminary teacher who said God must have put fake dinosaur bones on the Earth "to test our faith." When I wrote that post, I found so many links explaining the history of that belief that I couldn't choose one or two. That idea is still being taught in Christian fundamentalist school curricula. If you want to know more, just Google "dinosaurs AND creation" or some such combination.

I'm not condemning people who teach and believe that because I understand this is what they were taught. And if you believe that God literally created the Earth in 6 days, making all the creatures we know now and from historical documents just the way we now understand them, and that nothing could have changed between that creation period and our time, then I guess it's the only possible explanation for the existence of those fossils.

But here are some reasons why I think a good Mormon can accept the fossil evidence while believing that God did create the Earth and everything in it.

First, as I wrote in an earlier post about dinosaur bones, the books of Abraham and Moses in the Pearl of Great Price use different words than those used in Genesis to describe Earth's six creation periods.

I am fascinated by the account of Earth's creation in the Book of Abraham, chapter 4 (here's the link so you can read the whole thing for yourself if you'd like).

First, this account talks about "the Gods" not "creating" but "ordering" all the things that happen during what we call the creation. For example, in verse 18: "And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed." ("...until they obeyed"! Another brilliant concept which we could speculate on until we go crazy. So we won't.)

Here's another example: In verse 20, the Gods say, "Let us prepare the waters to bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that have life; and the fowl, that they may fly above the earth in the open expanse of heaven." And then in verse 21, the Gods "prepared the waters that they might bring forth great whales, and every living creature that moveth." 

Again, in verses 24 and 25, the Gods "prepare the earth" to bring forth cattle and other animals, and then they "organize the earth" to bring forth the animals, and then "saw they would obey."

Again, in verses 26 and 27, the Gods talk about going down to create humans, and then they go down and "organize" them.

Also, remember that in the King James Version, the word translated as "day," as in "on the first day," and so on, doesn't necessarily mean one 24-hour period. In fact, the Hebrew word "yom" can also mean a general, vague time (as we ourselves sometimes use the word "day"); some unspecified point of time (as in "In Joseph's day"); a period of light (usually a 24-hour day); and I'm sure there are additional meanings, just as there are when we use the English word "day."

In addition, we have other Biblical references to the day being actually a thousand years (see Psalm 90:4 and II Peter 3:8). Does this mean the Earth might have actually been created in 6,000 years instead of 6 days? I don't think so. Those verses apply to still another meaning of the word "yom" or "day."

Finally, in verse 31, the Gods say, "We will do everything that we have said, and organize them; and behold, they shall be very obedient. And it came to pass that it was from evening until morning they called night; and it came to pass that it was from morning until evening that they called day; and they numbered the sixth time."

So all of this was a planning council. And, in fact, in chapter 5 (here it is in case you want to read the whole account yourself), the Gods actually "go down" to Earth and do all those things they were just talking about doing. And, again, they talk about "days" and "nights" and "periods of time" in ways we might understand as we understand them now, but as if they just created those terms at that time, too.

And then the first verse of chapter 5 says, "And thus we will finish the heavens and the earth, and all the hosts of them." So it WAS a planning meeting. The actual time it will take to do all those things is not specified.

Likewise, in the second chapter of the Book of Moses (here's the whole chapter in case you want to read it) we read of a creation that occurred day by day:
And the earth was without form, and void; and I caused darkness to come up upon the face of the deep; and my Spirit moved upon the face of the water; for I am God.
 And I, God, said: Let there be light; and there was light.
 And I, God, saw the light; and that light was good. And I, God, divided the light from the darkness.
 And I, God, called the light Day; and the darkness, I called Night; and this I did by the word of my power, and it was done as I spake; and the evening and the morning were the first day (Moses 2:2-5).

Yet in the third chapter of Moses (whole 3rd chapter here), we read: 

 And now, behold, I say unto you, that these are the generations of the heaven and of the earth, when they were created, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth,
 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air (Moses 3:4-5)
Again, it appears that a spiritual creation preceded the physical creation of the Earth and all its plants and animals and even humankind.

But, you may say, These are just Mormon-specific accounts. Of course they're going to be different. Yet in the Old Testament itself there are other accounts of the creation.

The "Yahweh" and the "Elohim" accounts: 

http://www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/CS/CSYahweh.html (Yahweh)

http://www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/CS/CSElohim.html (Elohim)


Creation mentioned in Psalms: http://www.jesuswalk.com/psalms/psalms-1-creation.htm

List of all Biblical mentions of the creation: http://www.gospelway.com/creation/creation_list.php

Psalm 104: http://tafj.org/2010/08/10/creation-psalms-what-do-they-teach/

(More on this, later.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

End Caps

Definition, according to Mainstreet.com: "...those ubiquitous end-of-the-aisle displays stocked with whatever low-budget food the store is trying to unload on impulse buyers."

More from the Mainstreet article:
Most consumers probably don’t realize it, but end-of-the-aisle displays don’t offer the store’s best deals. On the contrary, grocery stores love to put products on display that offer the juiciest profit margins. They’ll be tricky about it, too. Store managers have been known to “short-size” end cases, forcing shoppers to go to the larger product aisles to find the exact size and flavor of the product they want.

Make no mistake, grocery stores want shoppers in the aisles. So they’re not above using a little subterfuge with end caps to steer consumers into the aisles, where they’re likely to choose more products and spend more money.

The best remedy for minimizing overspending is to have that grocery list handy, stick to it, and research prices on items you know you need (check discount websites or the manufacturer’s own web site to get a baseline).

Monday, June 22, 2015


This really happened today in my local Fred Meyer store:

Two "older" women, by which I mean they looked to me like they were way older than me, which means they might have been actually my age, were standing at an end cap (the display at the end of an aisle) with a stack of copies of the new book "Grey."

Old Lady # 1 said, "Don't bother. You already read it."

Old Lady # 2 said, "This is a new one. It's the story from him."

I walked on, quickly, but not in time to keep from seeing Old Lady # 2 pick up a copy of the book and start reading.


The Trumpster

I'm trying not to write about politics, but how could I help this: Donald Trump is running for president. Who is he kidding? Only himself, of course.

Here's Steven Colbert's announcement about Trumps' announcement:

And here are some quotes from Trump's announcement:
I'm proud of my net worth. I've done a great job.
I'm really proud of my success. I really am.
I have the best (golf) courses in the world...I have one right next to the White House.
One of the big banks came to me and said, 'Donald, you don't have enough borrowings. Could we loan you $4 billion?' I said, 'I don't need it.'
I'm not going to brag. Because you know what? I don't have to brag.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote in "Donald Trump has mastered the art of himself":

 "A search of the transcript finds that he uttered 'I' 195 times, 'my' or 'mine' 28 times, 'me' 22 times and 'I've' or 'I'd 12 times...This compares with seven mentions of 'America or 'American,' most of which were references to his holdings."

Ah, here's the article online, so you can read the rest for yourself, including Trump's qualifications for being president. And, to whet your appetite for clicking that link, I'll mention here that Trump thinks he's "actually a very nice person," that "nobody would be tougher on ISIS than Donald Trump," he would "rebuild the country's infrastructure," and he knows "the smartest negotiators in the world."

And here, thanks to the Wall Street Journal, is a transcript of the entire speech.

I heard on the news that Trump paid actors to be in the crowd when he made this announcement. As you read through the transcript, I'll bet you'll see, as I did, exactly when those actors spoke up with their memorized parts.

Finally, here's Trump's speech (the short version, because, you know, life is short!):

Utah for a Week (Part 3)

More Team Sandra Supporters Who Couldn't Make it to Utah

Val and family in Quebec

Utah for a Week (Part 2, The Huntsman 140)

(More photos to come!)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Utah for a Week (Part 1)

Happy Juneteenth

(I copied this from an article on Slate.com by columnist Jamelle Bouie. I've written about Juneteenth before---but because of the stupid computer I'm using now I can't even find that bit, let alone put in a link to it. And can't insert the link to Bouie's article. I'll do that when I'm back at my own computer.)

Today (June 19, 2015) is the 148th anniversary of the first Juneteenth. Why are we not celebrating this day? Instead we are mourning the terrorist killing of innocent black church-goers by a terrorist thug.  And why does the confederate flag still fly in the capital of South Carolina? 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Proving the Book of Mormon by Scientific Methods, Part 2

Thanks to Jeff for his comment on my post about whether the Book of Mormon can be "proven" by scientific methods. He wrote:

"There are some really, really close calls to an irrevocable proof in the Lehite Trail/Frankincense Trail, in Chiasmus, in volcano-tectonic events in Central America described in detail in 3Ne8...

But your point is extremely well-taken. A scientific "proof" over-rates what science can actually do - and totally misses the point."
Exactly, well said. We can read in ancient records all kinds of historical evidences; archeologists can find ancient records written on stones and metal plates; graffiti in the Middle East that makes it look like Nephi and his brothers were there (and that they were graffitists); structures that look like baptismal fonts, temples, and altars; writings about a white-skinned prophet or god who appeared to the people in America and promised to come again; and other artifacts that seem to "prove" that the Book of Mormon is a true set of ancient documents.

But I'm going to say this now, as I among many others have said before:

Even when confronted with a copy of symbols and words written in an ancient language he claimed to be familiar with, a scholar in the time of Joseph Smith refused to acknowledge its authenticity.

Even when confronted with linguistic evidence that the authors of the various books in the Book of Mormon were actually different people; that the language of Joseph Smith's translation is not just some mish-mash of his uneducated acquaintance with the English of the King James Version; that the names and objects mentioned in the Book of Mormon are authentic; that the poetic forms are the same as those used in the Old Testament; non-believers will not accept the book's truth.

Even when confronted with the testimony of 11 witnesses who saw and "hefted" the plates, non-believers then and now claim these people were lying or delusional. (Read this post for answers to a fascinating and heart-breaking question, "Does the Historicity of the Book of Mormon Matter?"

Even when confronted with the evidence of thousands of people leaving their homes in the dead of winter to escape persecution for their beliefs in the church, when all they had to do was deny it and turn against the prophet, even now non-believers cannot accept the fact that they knew Joseph Smith was a prophet and they could not bear to deny their beliefs.

I could go on, but why bother. As Jeff wrote, "A scientific 'proof' over-rates what science can actually do--and totally misses the point."

What will it take for the world of scientists and historians and linguists to accept the Book of Mormon? Who cares? Who cares if scholars accept the Book of Mormon on their terms? It doesn't ask to be accepted on those terms. It exists for humble seekers of truth to read it, pray about it, and respond to the witness they receive.

Monday, June 8, 2015

You Be the Judge---and the Scientist

Check out this article by James Clear, one of my favorite bloggers, about how Barry Marshall proved that ulcers are caused not by too much acid in the stomach but by a bacterium.

Marshall proved his theory the hard way: He drank a glass full of Helicobacter pylori and suffered the consequences (nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms of severe gastritis) for two weeks. Finally, he took an antibiotic and, fortunately, he got over the infection.

He and his colleagues found that H. pylori is not only the cause of ulcers but also a precursor to stomach cancer. Nineteen years after they performed that experiment, they received the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Helicobacter pylori
Helicobacter pylori under the microscope. (Photographer: Yutaka Tsutsumi, M.D. Image Source: Department of Pathology, Fujita Health University School of Medicine.)
James Clear writes about this research as an example of "personal science," which he says is  "the idea of executing small experiments on your own with the intention of discovering new ways to solve problems and get results in your life."
Why should we all be personal scientists? Because, he says, "While typical studies are conducted on a large scale and published in academic journals, personal science experiments involve a single patient (you) and are focused on delivering highly practical and useful pieces of information."
We can use the results of our self-experimentation to improve our lives and succeed at work because we'll know what really works for us, not some randomly numbered person in a bell-curve graph in a scientific paper. 
James Clear suggest that personal science "forces you to move past planning," to take risks and try new things; it's "low risk," causing maybe just some discomfort and uncertainty; and it "teaches you the key to true problem solving."
I think he's right, and I've been doing my own experiments on my work habits, what helps me succeed, and how to be happy and productive.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Humans Are Evolving Now! --- Arsenic

Let's say you lived in an area in the Andes fed by a river full of arsenic. What if the arsenic in the water you drink, and that your ancestors have been drinking for thousands of years, has as much as 20 times the safe limit for that poison (as established by the World Health Organization, or WHO).

How can you survive that much arsenic? And how did those ancestors of yours survive through all those centuries until your own modern times?

It may be a classic case of evolution, carried out by genetic adaptation. That's the current thinking, based on a recent study in which molecular biologists compared the genetic structure of women in the Argentine village of San Antonio de los Cobres (SAC) with that of women in villages not served by the river.

Arsenic gets into the groundwater that runs through volcanic rock in the area of the village.

People can metabolize some arsenic, but when levels get too high, our bodies respond. Wikipedia says the symptoms of arsenic poisoning "...begin with headaches, confusion, severe diarrhea, and drowsiness. As the poisoning develops, convulsions and changes in fingernail pigmentation called leukonychia striata, Mees' lines, or Aldrich-Mees' lines may occur. When the poisoning becomes acute, symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, blood in the urine, cramping muscles, hair loss, stomach pain, and more convulsions. The organs of the body that are usually affected by arsenic poisoning are the lungs, skin, kidneys, and liver. The final result of arsenic poisoning is coma and death."

A filtration system was not installed until 2012. Up until then, the indigenous Atacameno people who have lived there for as long as 11,000 years, have survived chronic arsenic exposure.

How did they do that? According to this article in the June 1, 2015, issue of "The Scientist," scientists first found the enzyme that methylates inorganic arsenic as found in the water to form less toxic forms (mono- and dimethylated forms). How much arsenic an individual can tolerate will depend on his/her ability to methylate the inorganic form.

The gene AS3MT, located on chromosome 10, encodes the enzyme that metabolizes the arsenic. Knowing that, scientists could study the characteristics of AS3MT in individuals living in SAC.  They analyzed single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) using DNA from blood samples of 124 women of SAC. They found a high correlation between the AS3MT allele and levels of methylated arsenic in the women's urine.

They also compared the incidences of the AS3MT allele in the blood and methylated arsenic in the urine of comparison populations of  non-SAC and Peruvian individuals.

According to the "Scientist" article, "Not only did the SAC women have higher levels of protective AS3MT alleles, but these alleles also had longer stretches of homozygosity—a telltale sign of selection (Mol Bio Evol, 32:1544-55, 2015).

The "extremely strong difference in allele frequency .... is almost certainly caused by selection," commented Rasmus Nielsen, a genetics researcher not involved in the study. This "may prove to be the first persuasive evidence in humans of natural selection driven by exposure to a poison."

Ashley P. Taylor, author of The "Scientist" article, reminds us to be "cautious" about the study's conclusions. However, if these results are replicated by other researchers, the study "could spark important insights into human evolution."

Friday, June 5, 2015

Dinosaur Find at MDRS

Researchers at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah discovered dinosaur fossils in Lith Canyon that have led paleontologists to "one of the largest dinosaur fossil finds in history," according to Dr. Robert Zubrin, founder and president of the Mars Society.

And that's not just Dr. Zubrin's pride speaking. Dr. Scott Williams of the Burpee Museum of Natural History, who is leading the dig, said the find is "as significant as Dinosaur National Monument."

Dr. Zubrin, who was leading the EVA (extra-vehicular activity) on Feb. 9, 2002, wrote in his log book that evening: 
“We continued north another 2.5 kilometers and came to a hill too steep for the ATVs. I decided to climb it, though, to get the view of the region to the west. We hiked up and were rewarded not merely with an impressive view, but with the sight of a fair-sized canyon and a passable ATV route to get there.
"So to the canyon we went. This was a wonderful place, with a steep little gorge that exposed millions of years of banded sediments to easy view. I climbed around the rim and had a Eureka moment when I found some bits of petrified wood. These however were made irrelevant within minutes by Heather who found a small mountain made of the stuff – in several varieties no less. But then I found something which really made my day – a bone of stone. It’s the size of a coffee mug, and the indentation for the joint is clearly visible. The material I found it in was Jurassic, so my guess is that it’s a dinosaur.”
The crew named the canyon where they found the fossils Lith Canyon because that same day they also discovered fossilized endolithic microorganisms there. The Mars Society writes:
"While we do not expect to find dinosaur fossils on Mars, the search for fossils left behind by simpler organisms, such as stromatolites, which may have evolved and lived on the surface during the Red Planet’s early warm and wet history, will be a critical part of the science program of the first human missions to Mars. Thus the MDRS field paleontological exploration effort will serve both as a direct analog to learn how to explore on Mars, while playing a significant role in furthering important scientific research on Earth.
Dr. Zubrin said: 
"This discovery really shows how important it is to send human explorers to Mars. We traveled out 5 kilometers that day, a distance that it took the MER rovers several years to traverse, climbed a hill that no rover could climb to obtain a view that allowed us to discover the canyon, then made a spontaneous un-rover-committee-like decision to go into the canyon, then climbed down a descent into it that no rover could manage, and then explored the canyon, using perceptive and intuitive abilities natural to humans but far beyond the capacities of any robotic rover to discover both endoliths and dinosaur fossils. You could have landed scores of rovers in that desert and never made either of those discoveries. Furthermore, now that professional paleontologists are on the scene, those finds are being followed up in a way that is light years beyond the capabilities tele-operated rovers."
He said it was great to revisit the site and see "the wild scene of our first exploration now being worked over by a paleontological camp. In 20 or 30 years, it will probably look like Dinosaur National Monument, complete with visitor center, souvenir shop, and cafeteria."

Looking into the future, no crystal ball necessary, Dr. Zubrin added:
" I can imagine the same succession occurring on Mars. First an astronaut on an early expedition will make and mark a suspected find. Then teams of professional paleontologists and geologists from a Mars base established nearby will come and work the site over, making dramatic discoveries that will change our understanding of the potential prevalence and diversity of life in the universe. Then, the day will come when the place is turned into an exhibit, and Martian kids from New Plymouth will come out on classroom field trips to gawk at the displays in the visitor center of Stromatolite National Park, while some of the teenagers slink off to make out in the broom closet. Life goes on."
Maybe he's a dreamer. But so am I. And I also think we've got to send humans, not just rovers, to Mars, sooner rather than later. 

Can a Good Mormon Believe in Evolution? (Part 1, Adam and Eve)

A friend recently asked me this very question. "Doesn't the Bible say Adam and Eve were created as the first man and woman and placed in the Garden of Eden? So how can you believe that those fossils of humans that supposedly lived before Adam and Eve did were really humans? And how can you believe in the story of the creation, and still think that Adam and Eve evolved from something else before that?"

Good question! Some people try simply to avoid reconciling their understanding of the Bible with science by not thinking about it. They essentially, as Henry Eyring once said, "...keep their religion in one pocket and their science in another."

Maybe they're afraid that they'll lose their testimony. And, certainly, the way the scientific ideas are sometimes expressed, as if it's a contest between religion and science, with the winner's success leaving the loser without any followers.

But it's not a contest, not a battle, and we don't have to avoid thinking about science and religion. We can maintain our integrity as believers in the Bible while still thinking about what science has taught us since the Bible was written.

In fact, I don't think God expects us to avoid thinking about science (or anything!), even when science appears to show evidence contradictory to some Biblical teaching.  I think God wants us to keep learning as much as we can about this magnificent Earth he has created for us while we keep worshiping Him.

There is no official church position on evolution, so I do not confuse the personal opinions of some church leaders on this subject (for instance, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, quoted in the Fair Mormon article) with church doctrine.

The church's official documents on the theory of evolution do not appear to me to contradict the idea that humanoids could have existed before Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden.

Here's one, a 1025 First Presidency letter, which reads, in part:
"'God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them.'

"In these plain and pointed words the inspired author of the book of Genesis made known to the world the truth concerning the origin of the human family. Moses, the prophet-historian, who was "learned" we are told, "in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," when making this important announcement, was not voicing a mere opinion. He was speaking as the mouthpiece of God, and his solemn declaration was for all time and for all people."
The letter doesn't say whether any human-like creatures existed before that. And it doesn't have to, does it? President Harold B. Lee has pointed out that we don't know enough about the details of God's creation of the Earth and its inhabitants to compare it with evolutionary theory:
"Perhaps if we had the full story of the creation of the earth and man told to us in great detail, it would be more of a mystery than the simple few statements that we have contained in the Bible, because of our lack of ability to comprehend. Therefore, for reasons best known to the Lord, He has kept us in darkness. Wait until the Lord speaks, or wait until that day when He shall come, and when we shall be among the privileged either to come up out of our graves and be caught up into the clouds of heaven or shall be living upon the earth likewise to be so translated before Him. Then we shall know all things pertaining to this earth, how it was made, and all things that now as children we are groping for and trying to understand."

More recently, President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote:
"What the church requires is only belief that Adam was the first man of what we would call the human race. Scientists can speculate on the rest."
So, until such time as we know "all things pertaining to this earth, how it was made, and all things that now as children we are groping for and trying to understand," why not keep learning everything we can about what science knows, so far?

Because, as an L.D.S. scientist (Lawrence Berkeley Lab researcher David H. Bailey) who has published many articles about science and L.D.S. beliefs, writes: 
"The LDS Church has a great scientific tradition, including notable, respected researchers in virtually every field of modern science. Indeed, our motto is “The glory of God is intelligence.” Why not just acknowledge that science and religion address two very different sets of questions, and that the methodology in one arena cannot settle controversies in the other?"
I will be elaborating in subsequent posts on the issues of why the Biblical account may seem to contradict current understanding of Earth's development and that of its creatures; what science can teach us about evolution, not only of humans but of other creatures on the Earth; and what this might or might not have to do with religion.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Are Mormons Christians?

Yep, I keep coming back to this from different directions ---only because the accusation that Mormons are not true Christians keeps coming back from many directions. And this idea does not come from your ordinary everyday believing Christians. It comes from the educated theologians.

Why? I don't know. But I'm going to present here the anti-Mormon ideas along with the truth about our beliefs.

I've found  a link to two articles on this issue through Daniel D. Peterson, an L.D.S. scholar whose blog I recommend for anyone interested in the L.D.S. church and its relationship to other religious groups.

One article, by Gerald McDermott, Jordan-Trexler Professor or Religion at Roanoke College and author, with Robert Millet, of "Claiming Christ: A Mormon-Evangelical Debate," claims to show why Mormons are not really Christians. The other one, by Elder Bruce D. Porter, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, shows why we are indeed Christians.

The main arguments against our being Christians are that we don't believe Jesus was the Savior, that we don't believe that he atoned for our sins, and that we don't believe in salvation through works.

Here's what  Brother Gerald McDermott, has to say about why Mormons are not Christians. He agrees with Elder Porter that we believe in works and faith in much the same way other Christians do, and that we are not Arians; and he refutes the argument made by many anti-Mormons that we care more about Joseph Smith than we do about Jesus Christ. He even notes, "Christ or his ministry is mentioned on the average of every 1.7 verses in the Book of Mormon."

What he has against the church is, first, Joseph Smith's story about Heavenly Father and Jesus appearing to him, or, as he says, "whether [God] spoke to Joseph Smith in a way that reinterprets what he said to the first-century apostles."

Ah! That old chestnut!

 Second, he doesn't believe that the Book of Mormon is authentic.

Ah! That old chestnut, too!

He quotes extensively from the Book of Mormon, especially the parts about Jesus's preaching in the Americas. I guess he does that just to show he's familiar with the book... because he goes on to write that this is "unlikely." 

And why it is unlikely? Because, he writes, that "while there are many extant manuscripts from the ancient world attesting the existence of four gospels [referring to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament] that arose independently --- hence at least four independent voices --- there is no other record from the ancient world outside the Book of Mormon that speaks of this Jesus, and none of the eleven witnesses claimed to be able to translate the writing on the plates."

Also, he says the testimonies of "the Palestinians date from the same century as that of Jesus," while "the single testimony to the American Jesus comes eighteen centuries later."  He also claims there are "inconsistencies between the Palestinian Jesus and the American Jesus."

Finally, he claims "intratextual inconsistencies ... between the Jesus of the Book of Mormon and the Jesus of later Joseph Smith prophecies."
The kindly Brother McDermott concludes by granting that "individual Mormons" will not be barred from "sitting with Abraham and the saints at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We are saved by a merciful Trinity, not by our theology." But he still can't stand us. "For if Christianity is a shoot grafted onto the olive tree of Judaism, Mormonism as it stands cannot be successfully grafted onto either."
 I agree with Brother McDermott that "individual Mormons," as well as individual non-Mormons and individual anti-Mormons, will be saved not by their theology but by a just but merciful God, through the atonement of Jesus Christ and our own repentance and acceptance of Him as our Savior.

Elder Porter, in a spirit not of argument but of careful rapprochement, explains why we are indeed Christians. He quotes from the writings of Joseph Smith, the Bible, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants. Briefly, to summarize some of his statements:

Joseph Smith, the founder of the church and first prophet of the Latter Days, said, "“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” 

Elder Porter also notes that we "revere the Bible as the word of God and the scriptural foundation of Christianity." While we are "mostly literal minded" in our interpretation, we also realize that some passages are not meant to be taken literally, but are symbolic or figurative; we also realize that some of the passages may be translated very differently than in the texts available to us today.

But we also accept the Book of Mormon as the divinely revealed word of God, as the Bible is, and a second witness of Jesus Christ. This inspired book of writings by several ancient prophets clarifies many biblical teachings and even may be said, as Elder Porter says, to "enlighten" some teachings.

True, we do believe that God's son, Jesus Christ, is an individual, separate from God the Father. We don't accept the Nicene Creed or any other statement that the Father and the Son are "of one substance"; we believe they are united "in mind, purpose, will, and intention," as Elder Porter writes.

Every belief that we have about the Godhead is substantiated by scripture. For example, John wrote, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him” (John 1:10). Joseph Smith wrote, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us” (D&C 130:22).

We believe in salvation through God's grace. Quoting from in the Book of Mormon:

"Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (2 Nephi 6-7).  And that's not all. The Book of Mormon is full of statements by prophets that while we must repent and do all that we can do in order to be saved in the Kingdom of Heaven---and then must rely on God's grace and Christ's atonement.

I think I'm repeating myself here, but I guess that's okay because I'm just bearing my testimony that I do know the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are true, are not in conflict with the Bible, and will lead us on a path of happiness back to God's presence. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Lily Tomlin and FDR on Doing Something

"I always wondered why somebody doesn't do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody." – Lily Tomlin

 "It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." – Franklin D. Roosevelt