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Saturday, April 7, 2012

And The Veil of Temple Was Rent -- Or Was It?

At the risk of bringing the Bible inerrancy troops down on my head, may I suggest that we may have been missing the real point of this story?

The Synoptic Gospels relate the story of the Crucifixion, and at the end,

 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost...And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. Matthew 27:50-51
And the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom. Mark15:38

And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. Luke 23:45

Except that it wasn't. We know that it wasn't because the veil itself is in the Vatican, and has been seen and described by Rabbi Benjamin Blech.

According to

Rabbi Benjamin Blech is the author of 12 highly acclaimed books, including Understanding Judaism: The basics of Deed and Creed. He is a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and the Rabbi Emeritus of Young Israel of Oceanside which he served for 37years and from which he retired to pursue his interests in writing and lecturing around the globe. He is also the author of If God is Good, Why is the World So Bad? and of the international best-seller, The Sistine Secrets.
In A.D. 70, Roman soldiers, under Vespasian and his son Tacitus, sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the
Second, or Herod's, Temple. Determined to kill the God of Israel, Tacitus entered the Holy of Holies, sword drawn.

There was nobody there. No idol, no statue, no representation of God. No one or nothing to break or kill.

Furious, the Roman turned and slashed at the Veil.

The Romans hauled off everything they could lay hands on for the big victory parade in Rome. The event is memorialized in the Arch of Titus. Now nobody knows where all the treasure went, but some of it, including the veil, is in the Vatican.

Fast forward now to September 11, 2001, and the Twin Towers. Among the many heroes there that day there was a rabbi who distinguished himself and was awarded a piece of one of the steel beams. He had it cut and fashioned into crosses and Stars of David.

I was privileged to be present (I think in 2005, but don't hold me to the exact date) when Rabbi Blech presented one of these Stars of David to Vendyl Jones at a gathering of Noahides. Vendyl couldn't say a word. He just stood there and wept unashamedly. Rabbi Blech passed the star around to the 80 or so persons present. We all held it for a moment or two, and believe me, Vendyl's tears weren't the only ones shed. Later he said that no one had seen him cry in public since his mother died.

Rabbi Blech was at the head of the group of rabbis who presented a cross from the 9-11 beam to the Pope. While in the Vatican, he was allowed to examine many of the treasures held there. Among them: the four-inch-thick Veil of the Temple.

The Veil was not "rent in two from the top to the bottom." Decades after the death of our Lord, it was slashed by a Roman sword. The cut is still visible. I sat not 20 feet from Rabbi Blech when he told of seeing it. I believe him.

Now I must ask myself: if the veil was not rent, what effect does this have on my testimony of the Gospel? Is the Bible wrong in this respect? Is this an embellishment added in later years? Or am I reading it wrong?

I believe the Bible to be true "so far as it is translated correctly." My background and education tell me that "translate" is not limited to the precise changing of a word from one language to another. I have often spoken and written of the cultural as well as the linguistic vocabulary of a people. Biblical accounts are packed with layers of meaning. See the raising of Lazarus, the cleansing of the Temple, the smiting of the fig tree. When the Bible speaks of the veil of the Temple, is it telling of a curtain of physical fabric, separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the building?

There is another veil, a much more significant one, the one between the Here and the Hereafter. Until that Passover weekend some two thousand years ago, that veil was closed for us. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, and was later resurrected, that veil was rent from top to bottom. We, all of us, will now pass through it, from mortality to immortality, from Earth life to the Holiest of Holies.

The Jewish Revolt, the sacking of Jerusalem, the tragedy of the Twin Towers, the attendance at a meeting of Noahides. Who would have thought that from the confluence of these events, a Christian would gain an insight of eternal significance. It must be true that

All things work together for the good of those that love the Lord. Romans 8:28

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Across the Pacific in a Year--Without Oars, Sails, or Motor!

A Japanese fishing craft, lost during the tsunami of March 2011, turned up off the coast of North America  in March 2012. No one was on board.

This should quell some of the hysterical glee outsiders indulge in when they read (or, more likely, just hear about) the Book of  Mormon.

 The last section of the Book of Mormon, entitled Ether, is the account of a group of travelers who left from the Tower of Babel and came to the New World. According to Ether 6:11-12, it took 344 days to travel across the waters from the Eastern Hemisphere to the Western, nearly the same time it took the Japanese craft to cross.

The possibilities for humor in the name Ether prompted Mark Twain to quip that it is "chloroform in print."

The Japanese boat suggests clues to the answers to two important questions: 1) Can the Book of Mormon be substantiated? and 2) How did the first Americans actually get here?

Now no one is saying that the Jaredites were the first people on the American continents. We don't know when they lived, nor when the earliest inhabitants arrived. Ether claims that these people left the Tower of Babel, whenever that was, and eventually arrived in the New World.

Josephus (Antiquities Chapter 5) tells us that:

1. AFTER this 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[ed] 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:
This by no means "proves" the Book of Mormon to be correct; it does, however, show that it could be correct.

Next: How did those intrepid earliest Americans get here? It was long thought that they walked across a land bridge, Beringia, from Asia. It still seems likely that many of them did, though there are now competing theories. I personally have no credentials to permit me to argue the subject. But common sense tells me that in the time before the enormous diesel engines crossing the great waters, either the Atlantic or Pacific, must have been possible. Why? Because in our day people do it all the time. Sometimes solo.

This is too big a subject to tackle here, so I will defer expressing my personal suppositions to a later time. But I will point out that in 1916, after the breakup in the ice of their ship Endurance, Sir Ernest Shackleton and five men of his crew rowed 800 nautical miles (1,500 km; 920 mi), from Elephant Island to South Georgia, in a 22.5' open boat  across the South Atlantic. This is no doubt the most horrifically dangerous ocean on earth, with hard winds and 8-meter (or more) waves. This feat makes crossing either the Pacific or the Atlantic in warm subtropical areas look like a walk in the park.

So stop giggling and actually read the Book of Mormon. Ether won't put you to sleep.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Posthumous Baptism, Infant Baptism, Circumcision

Are we depriving persons of their right to choose their own religion?

There's been so much chatter, and not only among the chattering classes, lately about baptism for the dead, I began to wonder about some of the practices of other religions. The main objection seems to be that the dead have no opportunity to decide for themselves. Of course we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints see that differently. We believe the dead do have the opportunity to accept or reject the rite of baptism. And BTW, posthumous baptism, even if accepted by the deceased person, does NOT make anyone a Mormon!

Infant Baptism. Mormons don't do this, but many denominations do, because they read in John 3:5:
 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of the water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
 Mormons baptize at the "age of accountability", which is generally set at eight years. Converts to the Church are baptized at that time, no matter how old they may be. Now whether an eight-year-old really has the ability to knowingly choose to enter into baptismal covenants is debatable, and parents may decide to wait a little while if they think it best.

The rationale for infant baptism, as I understand it, is that unbaptized persons, though they have committed no sins, will automatically burn in hell.

So what is hell? Actually, it's the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom, or the Hinnom Valley, which runs along the side of Jerusalem, opposite the Chidron Valley, which in turn runs between the city and the Mount of Olives.
 "Hinnom" became "Gehenna" in Greek, and "hell" in King James English. So if you tell someone to "go to hell," you're sending him on a trip to the Holy Land.

The burnings came about because pagans, and sadly, some early Jews, burned their children alive there as offerings to their gods. Imagine the screams and sufferings of the sacrificed infants, not to mention their mothers. Later on, the Hinnom Valley became the trash dump for the city, and emitted its malodorous smoke as the offal smouldered.

This, in the eyes of many Christians, is the never-ending fate of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Scientologists and Mormons, along with anyone else outside the charmed circle.

The Fires of Hell. Eternal torment. And these same people purport to find posthumous baptism shocking!

Now ask yourself: would you do this to your child, no matter what he had done? Of course not. So give God credit for being at least as good a parent as you are.

Circumcision. This is a ritual not practiced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so not being a Jew, I cannot comment on it, beyond acknowledging its relevance to the Abrahamic Covenant.

Baptism for the Dead. Now we come to what seems to be the sticking-point for all this: choice. Do we deprive people of their free agency in performing this sacrament for them?

How many squawling infants have ASKED to be baptized? How many are saying, "May I have a bris please? Please Mama PLease! I want to be like my friend....puh-lease!"

So who makes these decisions? Not the person being baptized or circumcised, obviously. No; it's the FAMILY who decides.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints baptize their own relatives. In the absence of informed consent, the FAMILY members decide this matter.

Now infants grow up; some will remain Christians after their infant baptism. Some will grow up to be practicing Jews. Some will choose another path entirely. But it's their choice. Just as in the hereafter, persons will accept or reject the teachings preferred by their relatives. Mormons simply want to give them that opportunity.

Monday, February 20, 2012

So Just Who Do These Mormons Think They Are?

And why should anyone pay attention to them?

In the Book of Mormon, 1 and 2 Nephi, we read of the highly stressful relationship of the two oldest sons of Lehi with their brother Nephi. This young whippersnapper, though he is the the fourth son, keeps taking over the leadership. On the trek back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates from Laban, Nephi refuses to allow them to return to their father empty-handed. Even a good beating from them can't make him see the clear sense of the thing.

When his bow breaks he makes a new one, enabling him to continue to hunt and bring fresh meat to the cooking fires. Apparently he thinks they are all dependent on him. Then he gets the crazy idea that he can build a ship. Well, actually he does build or at least supervises the building of the ship. So he wants us to load our wives and children and our aged parents on board this thing and set out on the boundless ocean. What if we get caught in a storm far from land? Another beating ... he deserves it.

Laman and Lemuel seem to be constantly angry. The clear supremacy of their position as the older sons is being threatened, ignored. Why should they bow to the authority of their younger brother? Just who does he think he is?

Now go even further back in time to Joseph the son of Jacob. He had ten older brothers. Joseph is the son of Rachel, the greatly-loved wife, and their father keeps playing favorites. Then we are told of a series of dreams,(Gen. 37:2-11), in which Joseph is shown to take precedence over his older siblings.

They react about like Laman and Lemuel would many centuries later. Not daring to kill the smart-alecky little brother outright, they try to rid themselves of him by selling him to slave traders bound for Egypt. Eventually he is proven right of course, and saves them all from famine.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana

We  see the pattern set by Joseph and his older brothers (and indeed by Cain, the elder brother, and Abel, the favored son) and followed by Laman, Lemuel and Nephi repeating itself in the Christian world today.

In the early decades of the 19th Century, a young boy with the everyday name of Joseph Smith had the temerity to proclaim a new version of the Gospel of Christ.

What?? cried the priests of the old traditions. How dare he? How dare he claim that he knows something of God that we don't know? Haven't we been to seminaries? Don't all those letters after our names mean anything to him? We've studied all the commentaries while he can barely read English. His handwriting is so poor that he must have someone else write down what he dictates. And he talks about translating ancient documents!

Now he claims to have seen God, or rather Gods. God the Father and God the Son; separate beings, he says, when we have proclaimed for centuries that "they" are one, that they have no physical, visible bodies. Joseph Smith hasn't even been to church enough to have learned the Nicene Creed!

Then this lunatic had the nerve to try to tell us what to eat, and how to care for our bodies: eat fresh fruits and vegetables, he said, cut back on the meat. No coffee, tea, alcohol or tobacco, either. (D&C: 89) How does he think men can get together and talk things out without a little nip? Know what I mean?

He raved about space-time: Doctrine and Covenants 130:4–5.
Is not the reckoning of God’s time, angel’s time, prophet’s time, and man’s time, according to the planet on which they reside? I answer, yes.
He talked about the conservation of matter/energy:

The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but never destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end. (TPJS 350–52)
O the impertinence of it all!

This farm kid, who'd never been to university, thought he knew things that ...well, you see the problem.

Today there is a great deal of talk about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and their "strange"  "new" ideas. Of course these are not new ideas at all. They only seem new to those who have not familiarized themselves with the very old ideas.

One of our number seems headed in the direction of the White House, and our "older brothers" in Christianity are in panic mode, kicking and screaming as in days long gone by.

Just who do these Mormons think they are? And why should anyone pay attention to them?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Apes or Astronauts: Who's Yo Daddy?

First off, let me be clear: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes no position on Evolution. So to say "The Church believes..." or "Mormons believe.." is nonsense. What the Church and the membership does believe in is free agency. Each person uses whatever information is available to him to make up his own mind. So I choose to believe in Evolution. Scriptures tell us that God created us, but how He went about it or how much time it took is left for us to figure out on our own.

So there are two conflicting theories -- at least. One follows Genesis or Darwin or some combination thereof, and the other follows Erich Van Daniken and his fellows. This second group has several explanations for the appearance of mankind on Earth. 1) The Ancient Astronauts used the Earth as
a laboratory: man is the result of one of their experiments 2) The A.A.s had strong sexual needs, so they mated with animals, particularly chimpanzees, and man is the resultant hybrid 3) Man was created, through genetic engineering, to be a slave to take over the hard labor, such as mining, because the astronauts had grown tired of it.

Put a few relevant terms into your search engine, and you will find endless explanations of our origins and subsequent major events. If you are film-minded, go to and look up the following: Ancient Aliens: Aliens and Evil Places Video Clip (44:13);  Ancient Aliens: Aliens and Deadly Weapons Video Clip (44:12); Ancient Aliens: Aliens and Lost Worlds Video Clip (44:12); Ancient Aliens: Aliens Plagues and Epidemics Video Clip (44:20); Ancient Aliens: Aliens and Ancient Engineers Video Clip (44:13).

                                     HOWARD PHILLIPS LOVECRAFT (1890-1937)

Howard Phillips Lovecraft
(1890-1936) may rightly be called the father of the current extraterrestrial movement. During his New England boyhood, he was fascinated by the adventure stories of Jules Verne, the worlds-in-conflict tales of H.G.Welles, and the horror stories of Edgar Allan Poe. His writing career took off in the heyday of the pulp magazines, long before actual space travel or moon landings. But if Jules Verne could take readers From the Earth to the Moon, and H.G. Welles could describe War of the Worlds, who could set limits on the ETs and their ways?

Lovecraft created Cthulhu, who led his people to Earth, where in time they either vanished under the oceans or returned to their home planet, from which they used telepathic powers to communicate with man. These people set up Atlantis and other ancient civilizations. He was the first to identify his fictional
characters with the ancient gods, using Egyptian, Sumerian and Greek mythology. He encouraged his fans to use his characters in their own writings, and there quickly grew up the "Cthulu Mythos," a term never used by Lovecraft himself. Soon, virtually everyone had heard of these Ancient Ones, even those who had never heard of Lovecraft.

New religions -- Scientology and the Raelian Revolution -- based consciously or not on Lovecraft's ideas, sprang up. Pseudoscience such as Worlds in Collision, by Immanuel Veilokovsky, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings by Charles Hapgood, The Twelfth Planet by Zecharia Sicthin, and Erich Van
Daniken’s famous Chariots of the Gods (1968) are obvious outgrowths. 1976 saw the publication of The Sirius Mystery, in which author Robert Temple claimed that the Dogon tribe of western Africa had received knowledge of the two-in-one nature of Sirius from the ancient Egyptians.

It is clear that neither Lovecraft nor his followers ever expected anyone to actually believe a word of their writings. Lovecraft himself declared,  "This pooling of resources tends to build up quite a pseudo-convincing background of dark mythology, legendry, & bibiliography--though of course, none of us has the least wish to actually mislead readers." They were writing fiction, and having a lot of fun doing it. Who would have guessed that new religions, new ideas about space and alternative theories of science and history would come of it?

[All these books, and hundreds more, are available for purchase at our online store. Click on the Starlight Doorway, and put in a title, author or subject. Besides hardback editions, many are available in economical Dover paperbacks, online, and are even FREE in online editions.]
                                             Erik Von Daniken (1935--)

Däniken is a co-founder of the Archaeology, Astronautics and SETI Research Association (AAS RA), and designed the theme park Mystery Park in Interlaken, Switzerland, that first opened on 23 May 2003. Däniken's first book, Chariots of the Gods?, was an immediate best seller in the United States, Europe and India, with subsequent books [that] "according to von Däniken, have been translated into 32 languages and together have sold more than 63 million copies." Wikipedia
But how did Lovecraft get into the current UFO/ET craze? Von Daniken cites the German translation of Morning of the Magicians, (Aufbruch ins dritte Jahrtausend) as his basic source for Chariots of the Gods. "Morning" came about in this way: Besides the American pulp magazines, Lovecraft  was published regularly in the French magazine La Planete. In 1960, two editors there, Louis Pauwls and  Jacques Bergier, compiled his fictional concepts and presented them as reality in a book they called Le Matin des Magiciens (Morning of the Magicians). Thus did Lovecraft's make-believe construct enter the world of  pseudo-science. This citation is seldom noticed by American readers, probably because few read either French or German.  To this day,  Von Daniken keeps writing, appearing on TV, and making money from the gullibility of those who want to believe him, presenting the ideas he plagiarized from international jokesters.

We cannot doubt that Von Daniken knew what he was doing when he published Chariots of the Gods, and since. His conviction and jail-time served for embezzlement do not serve to make us confident of his honesty.

Even the History Channel (as previously noted) has been running a block of programs featuring Von Daniken and several other "experts" on the idea of ancient astronauts. Add to this Roswell, Area 51, chupacabras, Sasquatch, and the whole UFO scenario. Jason Colavito even wrote a book entitled The Cult of Alien Gods.

People's devotion to this idea is indeed cult-like.

It was actually a surprise to me to discover that it was Lovecraft’s imaginative horror stories that started the reading and writing public on the road that led to Chariots of the Gods, The Twelfth Planet and in time to The DaVinci Code.  If citations on the I-Net are any clue, Lovecraft is still a lot  more widely read than Van Daniken: while Van Daniken gets a listing of 34,500 sites, Lovecraft scores 1,790,000. Put him on my bucket list for reading.
But we must remember one thing: no one can prove a negative. If these writers can't prove that ETs have landed, we certainly can't prove that they haven't. One of my favorite phrases: the preponderance of evidence. I personally prefer ancient primates to ancient astronauts.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Romney's Mormonism -- Today's Absurdities

It's a sad state of affairs indeed when democratic government requires an informed populace, and instead must depend on those who don't have the capacity to tell the difference between what's real and what's just clever propaganda.  Linda K. Brown, Baltimore
Mitt Romney has just won the Florida primary
. This guarantees we will continue to be treated to a new batch of opinions, ranging from uninformed to misinformed to just plain vicious, from the other contenders and their supporters. Others make us suspect that columnists, bloggers and commentators (not to mention supposedly informed journalists), find it easier to write a few eye-catching lines than to actually check out the facts on anything.

For instance, we often see writers contend that Romney has no plans beyond winning the Presidency. Please, they say, tell us what you want to do. How will you handle job creation, tax reform, (fill in the blank?)

Well here's a clue, Sherlock. Romney's website  has more information than you can absorb in one sitting.

Or you can just go on wading in the Slough of Despond out there. Here are a few of the absurdities from just a few random sites this morning:

Comments on racism:
Washington Post 1-31-2012
The LDS church has neither formally apologized for the priesthood ban nor publicly repudiated many of the theories used to justify it for more than 125 years. . . . Perkins and other black Mormons say the church's silence not only irks many African-Americans, it could also become a loud distraction for the nation's most prominent Mormon: Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination.
John Aravosis, America blog 11/07/2011 and 1/13/2012
I knew about the racism. And keep in mind that the Mormons didn't change until they faced a boycott. I did not know, however, that the Mormons to this day - Romney included - refuse to fully expunge themselves of their racist past. As the article notes, this is an issue that's going to dog Romney for the campaign, at the very least with the black community, but really anyone who has an issue with racism.  (Of course, the Mormons are extremely homophobic as well.)
Mormon bishop says his church is responsible for gays’ emotional wounds. Good.  And he's right.  Sadly, we're still waiting for the leadership in Salt Lake City to understand that they're not just on the wrong side of history, they're on the wrong side of morality and the wrong side of smart politics.  And until they figure that out, we'll be holding them accountable more and more each day.  If Romney wins the nomination, I don't see how the Mormons avoid having a nationwide discussion about their religion, about the abduction of souls, the history of racism, and about their jihad against gays and lesbians.  And we probably ought to have a serious, and public, discussion about money too (just where it's coming from and where it's going). . . There's a reason that some people have issues with Mormons. It's because the Mormons have issues with us. The day the Mormon church stops being one of the largest purveyors of hate and bigotry in America today is the day the Mormons earn the right to complain about how they're treated by their own victims. Calling yourself a religion is not a get-out-of-jail free card to exonerate you from your own hateful actions. PS And I didn't even get to what the Mormons are still doing to Jews, and did do to African-Americans. 
The opposing view, posted by Moroni on January 31, 2012 at 11:42 PM in response to Time for Mormons to Come to Terms with Church History Post by Joanna Brooks
Just one story: I recently (in the past year) met the first converts from Jamaica (very Black); when they joined they knew they were not of the "tribe" that held the priesthood. The brother, active in another Christian church prior to his LDS conversion, knew the Bible well, and knew that in the Bible only one tribe could participate in the ancient priesthood. He simply couldn't fathom why some of his fellow Blacks thought the Church policy not allowing him to hold the priesthood as "racist." He was very grateful when the Church extended the blessings of the priesthood and the temple to his Tribe. What does "Come to Terms with" mean?

And on the Church's supposed homophobia:

Steven Wilson is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He joined the LDS Church about 13 years ago and has served in various church callings, including as an ordinance worker in the Oakland California Temple. Wilson is also gay, and he has AIDS. ..."The church is not hostile toward people with same gender attraction," Densley said. "It simply teaches that sexual relations should only be shared between a man and woman who are married to each other. This law of chastity applies to homosexual and heterosexual people alike. Single members of the church are expected to abstain from sex regardless of their sexual orientation. And married people are expected to remain faithful to their spouses, even if they feel strong temptations toward people to whom they are not married. "The mere fact that we are tempted," Densley adds, "does not mean that we have no choice but to submit."
Romney is not concerned with the very poor:

Romney not concerned with the poor
John Hayward 02/01/2012

There’s one other wild card, and Romney slapped it down on the table during a CNN interview Wednesday morning, during a disastrous interview in which he said, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”  There’s a bit more context to his remarks, but you won’t be hearing any of it during the next round of attack ads, and the media is already buzzing that it might have been a fatal mistake. The road ahead for Romney--February is Romney's to lose.
A "bit more context"
"I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it," Romney said in an interview on CNN's "Starting Point."
"I'm not concerned about the very rich; they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America. The 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling," Romney said. When asked to explain by CNN host Soledad O’Brien why he wasn't concerned for the "very poor," Romney clarified that he believes the poorest Americans have a safety net, while the middle class faces more uncertainty.
"Magic Underwear" -- Again??

Jen Thames  College News Jan 31 2012
Now here is a conundrum: Why is the news media talking at length about Romney’s taxes and Newt’s big mouth when what they really should be discussing is the Republican presidental candidate's Secret Magical Underwear?
Yup, you read that right: secret magical underwear. Mitt Romney is Mormon. The sanest candidate running for the republican nomination, Jon Hunstman (he just dropped out) was also a wearer of the wonder whities. Yet not a whisper, not even a joke about the magical protective underwear that all Mormons are expected to wear as part of their faith. Now how can this be? Where is Barbara Walters when you need her? Why did it take the voters of South Carolina to point out that wonder whities are just a little freaky? .... Both Mitt and Ann Romney went to college at Brigham Young University. At Brigham Young is secret magical underwear on the list of mandatory college supplies?
Wait a minute. "Not a whisper?" "Not even a joke?" Makes you wonder what college students read online that they have missed this.

 "What the &*%$ is this supposed to mean?" [Sorry. I tried to think of a better category.]

BLH557 Comments How Romney won Florida by Tony Lee 01/31/2012 Daily Events
Tony rightly points out that having the history and people knowing and believing the history are equines of multiple light frequencies.

Well, enough nonsense for one day. If you have questions, ask your Mormon friends and neighbors. Or log in to or   Hold on: this election cycle can't last forever.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lehi's Dream and the Tree of Life

Why you will never hear a complete explanation of Lehi's Dream in Sunday School.

Lehi would have been completely familiar with the Tree of Life. When God speaks to man, he uses language man understands. If he were to speak to me today, he would use English -- not the language of the heavens. It is no surprise, therefore, that he spoke to Lehi through the symbolism of the Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life is found in virtually all times and places of the earth. It takes its place alongside the cross, the spiral and the swastika as a truly universal symbol. Some have suggested that it is the second tree in the Garden of Eden.

The first tree undoubtedly represents the law -- not just the Law of Moses, as it is called, but the law of all human interaction. It may be called ethics, morality, Natural Law; but whatever it is called, it is clearly symbolized by the apple, the pomegranate, the fruit first sampled by Eve and then given to Adam.

The second tree was forbidden to Adam and Eve. It may be seen as the Cross; he who eats of the fruit of that tree will never die. More accurately, their spirits would never die; Christ brings us the Resurrection. The cross is truly the Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life is symbolized by the Jewish Menorah, with its lighted branches. For Christians, it comes to us in the form of the Christmas Tree. It may take a moment to make the connection; we tend to think of the Christmas tree as being of German or Scandinavian origin. But in The Golden Bough Sir James George Frazer (1854-1941) says
THE WORSHIP of the oak tree or of the oak god appears to have been shared by all the branches of  the Aryan

In the Book of Mormon Jacob 5 and in the New Testament Romans 11:16-25, we read the parable of the olive tree. Joseph Smith called Doctine and Covenants 88 an

 "olive leaf . . . plucked from the Tree of Paradise, the Lord's message of peace to us." John 15:1-5: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. ...I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."
The sacred tree turns up just about everywhere. The Celts, the Basque, the Greeks and Romans, Asians, Mayans and Australian Aborigines. We speak of our family tree, and on a wider scale, the evolutionary tree.

It is easy to see the tree as a sacred symbol; drawing nourishment from the earth, its leaves and branches scattering its truths to the sky.

Books continue to be written on this subject. All I've given you here is hint, a nibble. Go on the Net and enter "tree of life" or "sacred tree" with almost any ethnic, cultural or geographic modifiers you can think of. Get a coke or a cuppa and sit down for many a long evening of fascinating research.

And that, boys and girls, is why you will never hear a complete explanation 
of Lehi's dream in Sunday School.

The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion: A New Abridgement from the Second and Third Editions (Oxford World's Classics) by Sir James George Frazer
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Muhammad and the Golden Bough: Reconstructing Arabian Myth by Jaroslav Stetkevych
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(You will find more than 25,000 titles on the subject in the Saints Alive! store)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Was There Really Ever a Prophet Named Lehi? And Where Did He Preach?

The Book of Mormon is the prescribed course of study for the year 2012. It opens with the Prophet Lehi, discouraged by the failure of the people to receive his teachings, taking his family into the wilderness; eventually they will cross the ocean to the precious land of promise.

So far we have had two classes. The teacher displayed the usual fanciful depiction of a man standing on a kind of raised stone dais, presumably shouting his message to the crowd at his feet. Someone in the class suggested that perhaps Lehi really spoke to small gatherings of his friends; no one raised the possibility of the city gates.

Now the city gate was more than just an opening in the wall. It was a large building, two or three stories high; most had two chambers on the left and two on the right. Solomon's gates (trust him to do everything bigger and better than anyone else) had three chambers on each side. The gate served for defense of the city in time of war. In peacetime, it was the center of the community, like the county courthouse or city hall in our day. Here the elders assembled, and here the people came to have disputes settled. Stephen was tried here and stoned "outside the gates."

Women, too, were acknowledged here. Proverbs 31 says "her husband is known in the gates. . . let her own works praise her in the gates." [italics added].

I suggest that Lehi, like most of the other prophets, delivered his message in the only plausible place: the city gates.

But was there actually a prophet named Lehi? 

A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Israeli archaeologist Dr. Joseph Ginat. Dr. Ginat told of his experiences in seeking a prophet named Lehi, apparently well known among Israeli archaeologists but not mentioned in the Jewish scriptures. On a trip to Salt Lake City in 1970, he was introduced to the Book of Mormon, and there on the very first page, he found his missing prophet. He further told of a place called Beit Lehi (House of Lehi), about 22 miles south of Jerusalem.

At that time, the only discovery had been an ancient oak tree near a well encircled by stones. Beduoins told him that the tree and the spring marked the spot where, long before Mohammed, a prophet named Lehi blessed the people of both Judah and Ishmael. About a quarter of a mile away is a cave with inscriptions dated to 600 B.C. and rock art depicting a man with raised arms. Another carving  depicts a sailboat.

Since then, a foundation has been established and archaeologists have uncovered a large multi-layered complex. The site was apparently inhabited from 600 B.C to the Mameluke period, around A.D. 1500. There are the remains of a Byzantine church, several columbaria, olive and wine presses.

Some have speculated that the cave here is the one in which Lehi's sons hid when fleeing the servants of Laban. I personally wonder whether this were not in fact Lehi's home in "the land of Jerusalem." 1 Nephi 3 mentions going "up" to the home of Laban, then "down to the land of our inheritance" to gather up their gold and silver and precious things. Obviously, their home was not in Jerusalem, but somewhere nearby.

Photos, site reports and videos may all be seen at

Yes, Virginia, there really was a Prophet Lehi.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why Electors Instead of Popular Vote?

2012 is the year in which the United States chooses a President for the next four years. This is hardly news to many of you, but the Internet reaches everywhere in the world, and there are probably millions of people who do not know this (and possibly do not care).

Really, U.S. citizens may ask? Yes, really. Do you, for example know how our nearest neighbors, Canada and Mexico, choose their leaders? How about Afghanistan, Albania or Azerbaijan? And that's just three of those nations whose names begin with "A".

So understanding how chaotic our elections must appear to others, let's take a moment to sort of summarize this quadrennial raindance.

Like all good stories, it starts with "In the beginning."

In the beginning was the Declaration of Independence.

It is true that these were not new ideas; they reflect the views of John Locke, among others. Neither was rebellion agaist the English anything new. See any history of Ireland, Scotland or Wales. Jefferson brought them to life with his exalted and unforgettable words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

There followed the American Revolution, and after much deliberation, and a few failed experiments, the Constitution of the United States.

N.B.: The Constitution was adopted by the consent of the delegates, not by the consent of the people at large, who were given no opportunity to vote on it.

Q. When did the United States government go into operation under the Constitution?
A. The Constitution became binding upon nine States by the ratification of the ninth State, New Hampshire, June 21, 1788. Notice of this ratification was received by Congress on July 2, 1788. On September 13, 1788, Congress adopted a resolution declaring that electors should be appointed in the ratifying States on the first Wednesday in January, 1789; that the electors vote for President on the first Wednesday in February, 1789 . . . On March 3, 1789, the old Confederation went out of existence and on March 4 the new government of the United States began legally to function . . . however, it had no practical existence until April 6, when first the presence of quorums in both Houses permitted organization of Congress. On April 30, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as President of the United States . . . [emphases added] 
April 6th holds a special significance for Latter-day Saints; it was on April 6th, 1830, just 41 years later, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized. Mormons believe that without the nation, the Church could not have come into existence.

There is an order to all that God does, for He is not a God of confusion

We may ask ourselves, Would it not be more "fair" if the person with the majority of the popular vote won the election? Consider that the President is the President of the United States, and only by extension the President of the people. Note that the Constitution was adopted by the majority of the delegates. Thus today, the President is elected, as was George Washington, by the electors of each State.

The manner of choosing their electors is left to the States; most States choose by holding Primary Elections; some hold a caucus. Texas does both.

Nothing is said in the Constitution about political parties. In theory we could have not only three but twenty-three, if the people so desired, or in fact none at all. It would be hard to imagine an election if people could not group together somehow to make their wishes known.

The Church takes no position politically. That doesn't stop you or me from lectioneering all we want to. It is vitally important that we cast an informed vote. Our ballot is a precious heritage from centuries past, the product of sacrifice by men and women of good will. Don't waste it; don't be a spoilsport and stay home if your candidate doesn't win your party's nomination. Just make up your mind to work a little harder next time.