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Friday, September 30, 2011



Right now the big question on the blogosphere is: Why do Latter-daySaints go to General Conference?
As several have pointed out, there won't be anything "new." It's just hour after after hour of sermons, interspersed with sermons-set-to-music by the Tabernacle Choir.

Only a relative handful of Latter-day Saints (perhaps 100,000 or so) will actually be in attendance at Temple Square. So perhaps a better question is: why do millions -- members and non-members alike-- tune in on TV, radio and Internet to hear all that?

Again, chances are there won't be anything "new." No new discoveries, no new sales techniques, no new (you fill in the blank) such as we hear at business or science seminars. Only affirmation of things we already know. Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself; and on these rest the Law and the Prophets. Such was Jesus' teaching, and even he was quoting the great Hillel. I doubt that was new with Hillel, either.

The answer lies in the difference between matters of practice and matters of doctrine. Matters of Practice have to do with procedure. Sunday School may be at 10:00 a.m. or at 2:00 p.m. or whenever the local leaders want it to be. In fact, it may be that Sunday School is optional. In its early days, the Church got along without any Sunday School at all. Fast Sunday, now the first Sunday of the month, was once Thursday. Years ago, Alexander Schreiner used to write a four-bar interlude to be played on the organ or piano before and after the Sacrament service (Communion or Eucharist to our fellow Christians); we don't do that any more. We used to stand for the "rest hymn" (now called Interlude) between talks and for the closing song. We don't do that any more either.

Some people seem to think that the Temple service should never change. But it does. It changes to conform to changing technology, changes in societal customs and sensitivities.

In fact we seem to have borrowed an axiom from the geologists: nothing is constant except change.

What doesn't change falls under Matters of Doctrine, chief among these being the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

So tune in. Be comforted. Be admonished. But don't look to be surprised.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tree of Life?

I guess I'm one of those people who were once called "Liahona Saints." I'm always out looking for guidance here there and everywhere. Now don't get me wrong -- I accept the teachings of Church authorities, but always with the caveat probably best uttered by Bruce R. McConkie.

Are all prophetic utterances true?  Of course they are!  … But not every word that a man who is a prophet speaks is a prophetic utterance.  (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p.231.)
 There is a difference between Prophecy and folklore. The following is an example of the way folklore can get out of hand and be widely disseminated:
A special dinner and reception will be held at 5 p.m. on Friday, September 23, featuring speakers from the Utah Mexican Consulate, government officials from Chiapas, Mexico, the Utah state governor's office, the LDS church and West Valley City. The event celebrates the gifting of Stela #5, or the "Tree of Life" stone replica, to West Valley City. The stone has been recreated in precise detail and will be permanently displayed next to the Olmec Head, also a gift from the Mexican state of Veracruz.
Following the reception, the public is invited to the 7 p.m., unveiling of the stone, also at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 West 3100 South, in West Valley City.
Izapa Stella 5 is one of a number of large, carved stelae found in the ancient Mesoamerica sites of Izapa, in the Soconusco region of Chiapas, Mexico along the present-day Guatemalan border. These stelae date from roughly 300 BC to 50 or 100 BC, although some argue for dates as late as 250 AD. Also known as the "Tree of Life" stone, the complex religious imagery of Izapa Stela 5 has led to different theories and speculations concerning its subject matter, particularly those involving Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact. Though discovered and documented first in the 1930s, the stone is particularly noteworthy because of the controversy created by the proposition by Professor M. Wells Jakeman in 1953 that the stone was a record of the Book of Mormon "Tree of Life" vision.

So we must thank the Republic of Mexico for their gift. It is a rare and wonderful work of art. But -- there's always a "but", isn't there? BUT the Tree of Life is, IMHO, a universal symbol. Some have gone so far as to suggest that it is the second tree in the Garden of Eden, and further that as such it represents a foretelling of the Cross.

One of the oldest recorded accounts of the World-Tree is of Babylonian origin and stems from about 3000 - 4000 BC. This tree stood at the centre of the Universe, which was thought to be somewhere near the ancient city of Eridu at the mouth of the river Euphrates. Its white crystal roots penetrated the primordial waters of the abyss, which were guarded by an amphibious God of wisdom called Ea. He was the source of the waters of life that made the plains fertile. The foliage of the sacred tree was the seat of Zikum, the Goddess of the heavens, while its stem was the holy abode of the Earth-Goddess Davkina and her son Tammuz. Echoes of this imagery can be found in all the mythologies of ancient Mesopotamia.
 Writing in the 12th century, the Icelandic scholar, poet, historian and politician Snorri Sturlunson described the Norse version of this cosmic tree in his epic poem known as 'the Edda'. It is hard to tell how much of the symbolism is derived from actual oral accounts of ancient Norse mythology and how much of it is based on the authors' prosaic fancy. The World-Tree of the Eddas seems at any rate to be a compilation of mythic imagery drawn from various sources. The story has been re-told many times, variously embroidered with more or less fancy details, but essentially it goes like this:
Somewhere, in a space beyond space and a time beyond time grows a magnificent, huge tree, who's branches embrace and uphold the heavens, and who's roots reach deep into the Underworld - it is known as the World-Tree Yggdrasil.
Yggdrasil bridges the three great realms of existence: In its midst lies Asgard, the mountainous domain of the Gods, pierced by the stem of the sacred tree. ... But this microcosm [would] not be complete without the serpent and the eagle, signifying the polarised opposites between the creative and the destructive forces of the Universe. At the very base of the tree lurked the serpent Niddhogg who constantly gnawed away at its roots. Its destructive powers were only kept at bay by an eagle, symbol of the sun, who lived in the upper branchesof the tree from where he continuously warded off the serpent's assaults. Thus, the forces of life and death are kept in equilibrium and the essential life-force of the tree is never damaged.
Sacred Earth

This is not to say that the universal symbol of the tree is completely unrelated to Lehi and his dream. But to put it in reverse order, Lehi's dream may have been based, at least in part, on the omnipresence of the Tree.

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In answer to a request by thousands of my fans -- okay, one of my relatives -- here's some of the info I've gathered on Jon Huntsman, Jr.

Everybody with access to a keyboard has told the world who the writer thinks Huntsman is and what he thinks.

The New York Times has compiled his C.V., as of September 7, 2011.

Jon Huntsman at a Glance

Full Name: Jon Meade Huntsman Jr.

Political Office: Governor of Utah, 2005-2009

Business/Professional Experience: U.S. ambassador to China, 2009-present; chairman, CEO, Huntsman Family Holdings Co., 2003-2004; Deputy U.S. trade representative, 2001-2003; Vice chairman of the Board and Executive Committee member, Huntsman Corp., 1993-2001; U.S. ambassador to Singapore, 1992-1993; deputy assistant secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, 1990-1991; deputy assistant secretary, International Trade Administration, 1989-1990; senior vice president and general manager, Huntsman International, 1988-1992; vice president, firector, Huntsman Pacific Chemical Corp., 1987-1988; product manager, Huntsman Chemical Corp., 1986-1989; state director, Utah Reagan-Bush campaign, 1984; staff assistant, the White House, 1983; secretary of the Huntsman Corp., 1982-1989; special assistant to the chairman, Republican National Committee, 1982.

Date of Birth: March 26, 1960

Place of Birth: Palo Alto, Calif.

Education: B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1987

Spouse: Married Mary Katherine Cooper, Nov.18, 1983

Children: Mary Anne, Abigail, Elizabeth, Jon III, William, Gracie Mei, Asha Bharati

Religion: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)

As he sees himself:

A version of this [following] article appeared in print on September 1, 2011, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Huntsman Urges Stripping Deductions From Tax Code.

On Science: Twitter:To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy. Thu Aug 18.

On Lybia: Monday [Aug 22]: “The impending fall of Colonel Qaddafi is one chapter in the developing story of a nation in turmoil. Qaddafi has been a longtime opponent of freedom, and I am hopeful — as the whole world should be — that his defeat is a step toward openness, democracy and human rights for a people who greatly deserve it.”

On jobs and taxes: “Over the last few decades, our tax code has devolved into a maze of special-interest carve-outs, loopholes and temporary provisions that cost taxpayers more than $400 billion a year to comply with,” Mr. Huntsman said in a speech at a metal plant in Hudson, N.H. “Get rid of all tax expenditures, all loopholes, all deductions, all subsidies, all corporate welfare.”

Mr. Huntsman’s plan, which borrows from both Representative Paul D. Ryan’s proposal and the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission recommendations to reduce the deficit, also calls for sharply lowering both corporate and individual tax rates, as well as ending taxes on capital gains and dividends, positions more in line with Republican orthodoxy.

It calls for simplified income tax rates of 8 percent, 14 percent and 23 percent, but would eliminate popular tax breaks like the deduction for interest on home mortgages.

On China: NYT 9-7-11."updated 6-21-11" No date for lecture given:    Using a high-profile annual lecture on Chinese-American relations to make his final public address as ambassador, Mr. Huntsman said bluntly that prominent Chinese activists had been unfairly detained or jailed, naming Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who is serving an 11- year prison sentence for “subversion,” and Ai Weiwei, the Beijing artist who was taken into custody in April 2011.

The most poignant moment of his remarks came in the question-and-answer session when someone asked what he thought of China’s one-child policy. (The policy was recently in the news when, during his visit to China, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. seemed to condone it.)

“I hate the one-child policy, as do a lot of people there,” Mr. Huntsman said, explaining that “it is robbing the Chinese people of life and opportunity.”

But, he added, his 12-year-old daughter, whom he and his wife adopted from China, was a direct result of the policy.

“I’ve got to say it has given me one of the loves of my life in my own daughter,” he said.

Deseret News 5-20-11
On Israel:KING: Would you tell the prime minister of Israel, go into talks with the Palestinians and start with the premise that you start with the 1967 borders?

HUNTSMAN: I would say you know best how to conduct this negotiation. ... We can't force these issues. We have to make sure that security, economic development, settlements, regional security, the changing nature of the Middle East that we couldn't even have conceived of six months ago, that all of that is taken into proper consideration at the negotiating table. And that's best left up to both the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government.

KING: So the U.S. should pull back, not get as involved? . . .

HUNTSMAN: There's a role for us to play, but I think when we start defining, you know, pre-'67 War borders, we're probably preempting discussions that may get them there eventually and probably will eventually. But they have to take it at their pace and they have to make sure that it's cued up with all of the other issues that matter, as well.

And as others see him:
Sylvia Kronstadt on the ivillage declares that he "should just play a president on tv"  and The fact that he announced yesterday he is soon "going to announce" his candidacy for president -- and that he hadn't even told his wife, who was sitting in the audience, looking shocked -- tells us something about his character as well as his marriage. ...  He is never caught off guard. He is never embarrassed or uncertain. Smugness is his armor. He is like a beautifully designed robot who comes complete with pre-programmed gestures and commentary: "moving forward," "at the end of the day," "sooner rather than later." ...Huntsman is in love with himself. His movie-star poses are all over the Internet, with that perfect hair, the lavender scarf tossed around his neck, his matinee idol smile. He has cut back a bit on his use of self-tanning products following a considerable amount of national media ridicule, but he can’t resist it entirely, and it does fortify his image of glowing vigor. ...Exactly what is it that has made us great, Jon? I very much doubt that it was someone like you. ?"

Sorry Sylvia, but I'm afraid this stuff comes across sounding like a woman scorned.

As Governor of Utah, he did reform the tax code, including, according to the Huffington Post, "a new flat state income tax of about 5 percent, a reduction of the sales tax on unprocessed food from 4.75 percent to 1.75 percent, and nearly $30 million in tax credits for industries such as renewable energy development and mining. ...pushed for money to preserve open space and farmlands, fought efforts to store nuclear waste in Utah, and vetoed a bill requiring environmental groups to post a bond if they file a lawsuit to stop a project ... recognized that the state's reputation as a difficult place to find a drink was hurting tourism and business development. He successfully pushed the GOP-controlled Legislature to change the law."

At the Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Library on Wednesday Sept. 7, Huntsman quickly sidestepped a question about the turmoil in his campaign by suggesting the moderator call John Weaver. Weaver was deeply involved in the bitter rivalries and resignations that followed Huntsman's botched announcement. Such things as a camera shot that missed the Statue of Liberty; spelling his name "John" on the credentials; the lack of a policy director to furnish the white papers; and hauling  the  press to a Saudi plane instead of the campaign plane give the impression of a campaign thrown together without much forethought. And finally, the candidate refuses to put more of his own money into the effort. 
Huntsman indicated that evening that he was losing sleep over the operational side of the organization.

Read more:

Before the debate on Wednesday the press had decided the race for the nomination would be between Romney and Perry. Afterward, nothing had changed. It might be well to remember that at this point in 2008 the frontrunners were Guiliani and Thompson.

Huntsman has the time and the resources to rise to the top tier of candidates. But unless he can get control of his operation in short order, he would do well to wait for 2016.

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Building Your Business On a Budget

Monday, September 19, 2011

O You Beautiful Doll!

One of the women in my ward has made all these gorgeous dolls. Suzanne not only creates the doll itself, head body and appendages, she made the clothes, the hair, the shoes. She even made the tiny little buttons! (Psst! don't tell, but every little sweetie has appropriate underwear, including ribbons and laces).

For 42 years, beginning each January first, Suzanne vowed to learn a new craft every year.

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DNA and the Book of Mormon

Can't we lay this question aside once and for all? Reading here and there that "Mormonism has been proven wrong by the DNA of American Indians"  has itself been shown to be not only wrong but just plain silly for so long that I'm tempted to throw a shoe at the computer every time I see it.

But it persists. So once again:

  • The Book of Mormon does not say that the American Indians are Jews in disguise. It does say that two men, Lehi and Ishmael took their families and left the Holy Land in 600 B.C. Both these men, though they resided in Judah, were of the House of Joseph, not Judah.
  • Mormons do not believe the American Indians are one of the Ten Lost Tribes. As someone has astutely pointed out, if we knew where they were they wouldn't be "lost". As in the case of invaders everywhere, the victorious parties take over the most desirable lands, ports of entry, and other such things. Soldiers, craftsmen or shipbuilders may be taken away, but the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker is left where he is to continue producing food and durable goods for the conquerors. The Soviet Union collapsed in living memory. Ask yourself: Where did all those people go? 
  • DNA has nothing incontrovertible to say about the origins of the American Indian. For one thing, DNA deteriorates over time, especially when introduced into a new group. Lehites intermarried with the existing population. It would be nothing short of amazing to find their DNA here after 2600 years (even if we knew what their DNA looked like, which we don't.)
It's popular, even among some scientists, to say that DNA proves that the American Indian came from Asia. However, as late as 2010, National Geographic reported that:
Nearly all of today's Native Americans in North, Central, and South America can trace part of their ancestry to six women whose descendants immigrated around 20,000 years ago, a DNA study suggests.

Those women left a particular DNA legacy that persists to today in about about 95 percent of Native Americans, researchers said.
The finding does not mean that only these six women gave rise to the migrants who crossed into North America from Asia in the initial populating of the continent, said study co-author Ugo Perego.
The women lived between 18,000 and 21,000 years ago, though not necessarily at exactly the same time, he said. . . . The six "founding mothers" apparently did not live in Asia because the DNA signatures they left behind aren't found there, Perego said. They probably lived in Beringia, the now-submerged land bridge that stretched to North America, he said.

Evidence for diverse migrations into the New World also comes from Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) research on living American Indian populations. These studies have consistently shown similarities between American Indians and recent populations in Asia and Siberia, but also unique American characteristics, which the very early crania have also shown. Evidence for only four mtDNA lineages, characterizing over 95 percent of all modern American Indian populations, may suggest a limited number of founding groups migrating from Asia into the New World. Recently, however, a fifth mtDNA lineage named "X" has turned up in living American Indians and in prehistoric remains for which there does not appear to be an Asian origin. The first variant of X was found in Europeans and may have originated in Eurasia. Naturally, generations of conflict, intermarriage, disease, and famine would influence the genetic makeup of modern Native Americans. Further work with mtDNA, nuclear DNA (which is more representative of the entire genome), and Y-chromosome data, the male-transmitted complement of mtDNA, will permit better estimates of the genetic similarities between Old and New World groups and help to determine when they would have shared a common ancestor.

Once again -- DNA, archaeology or any other scientific endeavor is so far unable to prove the Book of Mormon either right or wrong. But if you're going to condemn it, have the grace to read it first.

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     I think everyone dreams of owning their own business.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


This is my first blog, so it seems that a word of introduction would be in order.

I'm a longtime member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), a convert from a family of non-church-goers. So from childhood on I heard a lot about Mormons: they have horns and use carrots for money. But since we now have two Mormons in the Presidential race,  I'm hearing things I've never heard before.

While I am in no way authorized to speak for the Church in any official way, I think a lifetime of study has given me some insight, and I'd like a chance to answer some of your questions.

BTW I do have an M.A. degree, so I'm reasonably intelligent -- at least able to read and write. My field of study, besides religion, is cultural history, which is a blend of history and anthropology. I sincerely doubt that I'm easily misled.

So lets get started. Here are a few things you may like to comment on:

Yes, we Mormons are Christians and No, we are not Trinitarians, though we do believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

We don't practice polygamy (incidentally, plural wives is  polygyny) and haven't since 1890.

There's no such thing as Book of Mormon archaeology, but like many others I could point out a few things that are at least suggestive.

We don't believe the Book of Mormon replaces or conflicts with the Bible. The Bible deals with people in Egypt and the Southern Levant, for the most part. The Book of Mormon tells of people who left that area and came to the New World. You probably don't think a history of Finland would replace a history of Japan. See what I mean?

Then there's those pesky golden plates. In the last few years there have been numerous finds of records on metal plates of different kinds, dating back to Lehi's time and before. Does this "prove" the Book of Mormon is true? No, it's just one of those little things that keep cropping up here and there that make the Book of Mormon story that much easier to accept.

Well, that ought to be enough to get started. Now it's your turn.

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A Horse Of Course

One of the many criticisms of the Book of Mormon is the mention of horses and other animals thought to be anachronistic. I don’t claim to have any stunning new insights, or any definitive “proof” of these things.

However, better scholars than I have written about several of the things about the Book of Mormon that have proven worrisome to some.  According to Wikipedia, ”In early 2009 a major Clovis cache, now called the Mahaffey Cache, was found in Boulder, Colorado,  with 83 Clovis stone tools. The tools were found to have traces of horse and cameloid protein. They were dated to 13,000 to 13,500 YBP, a  date confirmed by sediment layers in which the tools were found and the types of protein residues found on the   artifacts.[4]    “13,000-Year-Old Stone Tool Cache in Colorado Shows Evidence of Camel, Horse Butchering”. University of Colorado at Boulder. February 25, 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2010

In 2011, the Northern Great Basin Prehistory Project reported that Obsidian projectile points, bifaces, flakes and scrapers were recovered  with horse bones in basal sands dated between 13,000 and 14,600 cal. BP……However, a second horse phalanx was recovered from an adjacent 1×1 meter  excavation unit at a depth of 210-215 cm. It produced an AMS date of 13,140 cal. BP.
Dennis l. Jenkins
Human coprolites from this deposit have produced AMS                           radiocarbon dates as old as the camel astragalus. Radiocarbon dating                of  twigs, urine, bone, coprolite, cordate and charcoal have produced                more than 40 dates ranging from 1240 to 16,190 cal. BP. Artifacts and             coprolites found in well-stratified and soundly-dated contexts have          produced C-14 dates between 14,170 and 14,340 cal. BP…… At this point, we have proven that people occupied the caves during the time that camels and horses were present in the region. We are now working to  demonstrate that people had a part in the deposition of  their bones in the Paisley Caves. ….by Dennis L. Jenkins  Director, Northern Great Basin Field School.

Now this does not tell us there were horses in the time of the Jaredites or the Nephites. The only chronological reference to the Jaredites is that they left the Middle East at the time of the building of the Tower of Babel. And indeed Josephus tells us that “After this (the Tower of Babel) they were dispersed abroad, on account of their languages, and went out by colonies every where; and each colony took possession of that land which they light upon, and unto which God led them; so that the whole continent was filled with them, both the inland and the maritime countries. There were some also who passed over the sea in ships, and inhabited the islands.”

Then we have the problem of words which cannot be translated in any reasonable way. Can we know what animal is actually meant by the term “horse” in the Book of Mormon? What is the English equivalent of “enchilada,” for example? Michael Ash discusses onomastica in the following:
 First, it is important to remember that the Book of Mormon is not an ancient text–it’s a nineteenth-century translation of an ancient text. When we, as modern readers, read texts from ancient or foreign cultures, we often misunderstand what the ancient or foreign author was attempting to convey. Some of the things that seem “plain” to us are not so “plain” upon further investigation or once we understand the culture that produced the text…….When translators run into the problem of untranslateable words, they resolve the issue by way of several options–such as adaptation, paraphrasing, borrowing, and more.10 The same thing happens when people find it necessary to label new and unfamiliar items–what is known as cross-cultural onomastica  (onomastica refers to the names we assign to people, animals, or things). Anthropologists and linguists tell us that when a society encounters foreign floral and fauna, they often “loan-shift” words–they expand familiar terms to include unfamiliar items.11 Loan-shifting can also happen during the translation of one language to another.12 Two languages need not resemble each other phonetically in order for loan-shifting to occur.1

Instead of creating entirely new words for unfamiliar things, sometimes people tend to “translate” new things into their own language by expanding their current words to include the new item. …This problem is not limited to ancient societies. The American “buffalo,” for example, is actually a bison and is only distantly related to the water buffalo and African buffalo (the two true buffalos).14 What most Americans call a “moose” is actually an elk, “elk” are actually red deer, and “antelope” are not real antelopes.15…..When the Maya saw the European goat they called it a “short-horned deer”18 and when the Miami Indians, who were familiar with cows, first encountered the unfamiliar buffalo they simply called them “wild cows.” Likewise the explorer DeSoto called the buffalo “vaca” which is Spanish for “cow.” The Delaware Indians named the cow “deer,” and a group of Miami Indians labeled the unfamiliar sheep “looks-like-a-cow.”19The reintroduced Spanish horse was unfamiliar to the Native Americans and so it became associated with either the deer or the tapir. When Cortes and his horses arrived, the Aztecs simply called the unfamiliar horses “deer.” 20 One Aztec messenger reported to Montezuma: “Their deer carry them on their backs wherever they wish to go. These deer, our lord, are as tall as the roof of a house.”21

See the complete article at

Horses and other animals are by no means the central message of the Book of Mormon. It is, as its Title Page proclaims, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”

The Mormon Church distributes free copies of the King James Version of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. For your free copy of the Bible, go to Free Holy Bible and for a free Book of Mormon, go to Free Book of Mormon.

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