Stop The Foreign Invasion of the USA!

April 24, 2006

On one of the email discussion lists that I run, a flame war errupted over the problem of illegal immigration so much discussed in the news these days. I wrote the following to a member with whom I agree about most things, but we disagreed on this topic. I have changed some names to protect people's privacy:

I'm glad you are back, Roberta. Sorry to hear about your modem. I'm also sorry that I was not able to head off the big flareup on the list. It is so easy for feelings to get hurt when we are doing email. Having a thick skin is very useful. Unfortunately it sometimes has to be a very thick skin.

I was telling George that I strongly agree with you about the futility of accomplishing anything on a national level by working to elect Congressmen, Senators and Presidents. And I agree with you about the role prophesied for the Lamanites if the Gentiles or European-Americans in America become ripe in wickedness. However I do not support amnesty of any kind, or anything that even slightly resembles amnesty for those Mexicans who are now living illegally in the USA. I support completely the efforts of Tom Tancredo and the Minutemen to stop the flow of illegal Mexicans until we can create a system that will properly screen everyone who enters the country. There are important security reasons for this. The kind of immigration from Mexico that has been taking place illegally over the last few years is so massive, and is so heavily involved with the Mexican Mafia and other organized crime groups engaged in smuggling illegal aliens into the country, that the very survival of the USA as a sovereign nation is threatened. There should be a legal way for all of these people too come into the country after proper screening. And all illegal immigration should be stopped at once by whatever means are necessary even if it means putting our military on the border, building a wall and setting up mine fields in a DMZ between two fences as we have done between North and South Korea. It can be done. We have done it in other situations. And it works.

Once we have achieved complete control of our border and all immigration that is taking place is occurring legally, then and only then should we address the problem of all those Mexicans who are already here illegally. They definitely should either be deported or encouraged to become legal residents and eventually citizens after proper screening that is at least as thorough as that taking place for the new legal immigrants. Any kind of amnesty, any other method of making currently illegal aliens into legal residents will enormous exacerbate the difficulties of getting control of our border because it will strongly encourage Mexicans and other Hispanics from south of the border to believe that they can become legal citizens if they can only get into the country legally or otherwise. We must avoid sending that message at all costs. The current invasion, and that is exactly what it is: an invasion by a foreign nation, would be much harder to defend against after anything like amnesty were put into place before complete border control is achieved.

Keep in mind that I am not a racist, nor am I opposed to legal immigration. If anything, I believe that legal immigration should be increased, perhaps dramatically. My wife is an Hispanic immigrant of Mayan ancestry from El Salvador. She comes from a large extended family, and almost all of them have immigrated here since she arrived in the early 1960s. Both of her parents are buried in the Provo, Utah cemetery. Some of her family came here illegally in the beginning. And they are all legal today. They have gone to school here, obtained college degrees and post-graduate degrees, married in the temple, raised their families here, sent their children on missions from here, worked hard, supported themselves and one another, and paid their taxes. They are good people who deserve to be here a great deal more than many of the native-born citizens of this country. They are better people than my own parents and siblings who are Anglo-Americans who grew up where I did in Nebraska. But because they are legal, they are not a threat to the survival of the USA. Their coming here was not an invasion of a foreign country.

Mexicans are good people. In many cases they are much better people than we are. They don't get abortions, and they have large families that they work hard to take care of. They teach their children to behave. And their teenagers maintain good relationships with their parents. Particularly in the case of the girls, they have a close relationship with their mothers that is almost unheard of in our own culture. Go to any mall in a large metropolitan area where there is a large Latino population and you will see the Anglo-American teen aged girls running around in unsupervised packs. The Hispanic girls are all there shopping with their mothers. The difference is striking.

But if the USA is to survive as a free country, it has to remain sovereign under our Constitution and Bill of Rights. It cannot be merged with Mexico and Canada as the CFR and the neo-cons in the White House want. Such a merging of our nations would be a total disaster because it would make a full end of rights as citizens and would lead to the rise a huge, totalitarian dictatorship. And failing to secure our borders while continuing to permit this huge influx of Mexicans who are coming here illegally, would lead to this damnable merging of the USA with Canada and Mexico.

Now I agree with you that if the USA fails and is overrun by Hispanics from the south it will only be a fulfillment of prophesies in the Book of Mormon. It will only occur if the people of the USA become wicked and deserving of the destruction that the Jaredites and Nephites experienced. I further agree with you that this is probably going to happen because the citizens of the USA have in fact become corrupt and wicked for the most part. But it does not follow that the failure of the USA is a good thing, or that we should help it along by opposing border control measure to make sure that all immigration takes place legally. We know that the destruction and scattering of the Jews in 70 A.D. was a fulfillment of prophecy. But that does not mean that the Lord approved of the people who did that to them or that it was a good thing that it happened. On the contrary, the Lord has clearly expressed his anger at those who persecute the Jews.

I also agree with you that some of the anger about illegal immigration is caused by racist feelings among the Anglo-Americans who already live in the USA. They do not seem to be nearly as upset about all the illegal Canadians and British who are here. And these racists deserve to be punished by God for their racist, uncharitable attitudes. But it is not appropriate to destroy the USA to punish them, not while there are still millions of good people here that need their freedom in order to carry on the work of the Church. If we are to become a lawless people with no respect for the Constitution and our national sovereignty, it should not be because the saints of God have contributed to it. We believe in being subject to rulers and obeying the law. It is fundamental to our beliefs. The people in Washinton and elsewhere in our country who are trying to destroy the sovereignty of the USA by causing the huge, illegal invasion from Mexico are criminals. They are murderers. They are Gadianton Robbers. They are associated with the Mexican Mafia and worse. We should not support them in their efforts to destroy the USA, not even if many of those against illegal immigration are against it for the wrong reasons, racist reasons.

We should do all we can to encourage the government of the USA and the various states to 1) do whatever is necessary to stop the flow of illegal aliens, and 2) take steps to insure that all illegals who remain become legal either by providing them with a path to citizenship or by deporting those who are undesireables. But #1 has to be completed before #2 is attempted. Because doing #2 first or even simultaneously with #1 will make #1 impossible.

Now what is going to happen is not what should happen. I think that we are not going to control our border. The USA will be merged with Mexico. There will be a huge civil war break out, possibly with many sides resulting in general anarchy. We will probably be attacked by foreign nations in the middle of any such civil war. Terrorist attacks and foreign powers will devastate us with nuclear weapons and biologicals that cause horrible plagues that will sweep the land. Mexicans will come north in numbers that we cannot even imagine today. Chinese armed and advised militaries will invade us from the south with tanks and infantry. War will break out with China and other nations of Asia. Asian infantry will invade North America across the Bering Strait forming a huge pincer movement with the invasions across our southern border. It is going to be a terrible mess. And anyone who is not protected by the Lord because of his righteousness is going to be "swept off" the North American continent just as promised so many times in the Book of Mormon for the Gentiles once they are ripe in wickedness. And believe me, they are indeed ripe.

But we Latter-day Saints should not participate in the evil that is done. We should not support and uphold the Gadianton Robbers who are trying to do this and will almost surely succeed. We should be on the side of law, of the Constitution, of legal immigration and against illegal immigration. We should help the good people who are trying to save this country. So that even if they fail, and they probably will, we will be on record as having supported the side of law and freedom against the wicked Gadianton Robber who are trying to destroy the USA.

At least that is how I see it today. My wife is a legal Hispanic immigrant. My children are all mixed race. All of my beloved inlaws, and there are many, are legal Hispanic immigrants. But we should not, we must not participate in the destruction of the USA. All the Mexicans who come here, and all of the Mexicans who stay should be legal. And this invasion from a foreign nation must be stopped by any means necessary.

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The “Different Jesus” of Mormonism

April 24, 2006

My suggestion a few days ago that the traditional Christian doctrine that God is incorporeal is a form of atheism has incited outrage among many and a lot of commentary. I am accused of using a rhetorical device to repeat the sins of other Christians when they insist that Mormons are not really Christian because we teach a "different Jesus." They say I am using an esoteric and obscure doctrine to draw a false distinction. They are wrong.

Once again, this is not merely my opinion alone. It was the opinion of Joseph Smith, Orson Pratt and James E. Talmage. And it is the opinion of the Savior himself. He said this in the First Vision when he told the boy Joseph that the creeds of apostate Christendom are an "abomination." What do those creeds teach? They teach that God is incorporeal, that he does not actually exist in the real, physical universe.

And while it is true that the Mormon teaching is esoteric. It should not be. It is the most fundamental and basic teaching there is about the nature of God. Without this teaching it is impossible to understand his relationship with man or that Jesus is really the Son of God. It is a bedrock teaching. Without it men cannot understand anything else about God that is correct.

Of all the lies about God told by the devil to pervert true Christianity during the Great Apostasy, this one is the most damning. It was this single lie that led away an entire religion from the truth about Jesus Christ and his Father. Every other doctrinal abomination begins with this one.

Yes, there are honest Christians in other denominations that believe in God and have faith in Jesus Christ. But they do so in spite of this false teaching, not because of it. Such honest Christians know instinctively that God is an actual, corporeal being with the exact same body that he showed to Doubting Thomas in the Upper Room. They do not believe in the incorporeal God of the creeds. This is the root reason that so many of them fall away from their own churches and end up joining ours. They have faith in a real, tangible God long before they join us.

Calling this point of doctrine "obscure" or "esoteric" completely misses the point. The importance of this doctrine is infinitely critical. It must not be "obscure" or "esoteric." It is because it has become so obscure and esoteric that the whole world has gone astray. It defines the essential difference between theism and atheism.

Joseph Smith knew this. Orson Pratt knew this. James E. Talmage knew this. Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie knew this. And the Savior himself taught this when he called the creeds of apostate Christianity an "abomination." Those who fight against it or have a different opinion or suppose that it is merely a rhetorical device such as the Mormon bashers use to say we believe in a different Jesus are simply wrong. They do not understand the significance of this esoteric and obscure teaching. It is infinitely significant.

Do we Mormons believe in a different Jesus? Yes we do. Our Jesus actually, bodily exists in the real, physical universe. Theirs does not. A living prophet of God as real as Moses was to the ancient Israelites has confirmed this "different Jesus." Gordon B. Hinckley said,

As a Church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say.

I believe that he is referring to this most basic difference between the God of traditional Christianity, and the real God of Mormonism that actually exists.

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Worshipping Our Stuff Is Idolatry

April 23, 2006

I am not an environmental wacko, not by a long shot. But anyone who accuses me of viewing the world "from a scarcity standpoint," as someone suggested to me today, simply doesn't understand my world view.

I do not agree that my view of people living simple, virtuous lives is "a view of the world from a scarcity standpoint." Scarcity has nothing to do with it. It has to do with being wasteful. Using natural resources is fine. Wasting them is something else altogether. I believe we have built up a civilization that unnecessarily wastes natural resources just so that a few wealthy capitalists can rule the earth with blood and horror. I believe in capitalism. But wicked capitalists are not any better than wicked communists. And ruling with blood and horror on this earth needs to be repented of no matter what the political ideology of those who are doing it.

Also I believe in the free market. But where is this free market? It certainly doesn't exist here in the USA. How could it with the national register filled with hundreds of thousands of federal regulations governing every aspect of our lives from who we can hire to what kinds of labels we have to put on our product to how much water per minute can flow from our shower heads or how many gallons of water our toilets can use when they are flushed? In a nation where "private" corporations are merely carrying out government regulations and every citizen is taxed more than half of his real production, where is this "free market" that everyone keeps talking about? Our market in this country is no more "free" than the economy of Italy under Mussolini. The companies might own all the capital, but the government tells them how to run them. That, dear sir, is fascism. That is not "free market capitalism." In a truly free market, the corporation not only owns all of the capital, they also control all that they own without governmental interference. Ownership, in any real sense of the word, implies control. Unless you are free to buy it, sell it, dispose of it, give it away, or do anything you want with it, then it isn't really yours. In reality it belongs to whomever controls it. And in a fascist state like the one we have come to enjoy in this country, that is the government. The only difference between that and communism is the hypocritical matter of a little piece of paper called a "title" or "deed." The real owner is the government.

I'll believe we have a free market in this country when we go back to letting corporations run their businesses the way they please, not the way the government tells them they must. A private company should be free to hire whom they please, fire whom they please for whatever reason they please, provide safe working conditions if they please or not, and maintain sanitary conditions for their customers if they please or not. People don't have to work in an unsafe work environment in a truly free market, and companies that do not provide such an environment would not be able to find help in a truly free market unless they paid so much that they could not be competitive. People would not eat at restaurants that did not keep the cockroaches and ecoli under control. Doctors that engaged in malpractice wouldn't be able to get any patients, and so forth. But to have the government regulating every little aspect of everything we do is NOT freedom, nor is it the "free market." In a truly free market we would all be free to spend our income however we pleased. In reality, we never even see half of our income because it is all taxed away from us in sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes, corporate income taxes passed on to consumers, gasoline taxes, tariffs, and every other scheme imaginable that is used by local, state and federal governments for confiscating our money and spending it in ways that are completely contrary to our own interests. The people in Limhi's day had it easy compared with us. All they had to do was turn over half of all their corn to pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites. We would all get a big pay raise if that was all we had to pay.

I agree that we can (and should) all live a simpler life (well, I'll exclude those who already have reached this high plateau). But we can't get there from here in a heartbeat, and it would be a shame to have a collapse of society just because someone thinks that we should.

True, we "can't get there from here in a heartbeat." And we cannot get there at all if no one wants to go. And I don't believe that many do. They would much rather continue filling up their homes with junk from garage sales and buy "stuff" that will all end up in a landfill in just a couple of years. And for that we work a longer work week with fewer days off during the year than any other people on earth. Gotta have more "stuff." Then we gotta have a bigger house to put it all in. Then we gotta buy a pickup truck to haul it around in. Of course, we have to work ourselves to death to pay the interest on the credit cards we use to get all of it. If some expensive "stuff" malfunctions, just throw it out and go buy more. No reason to have it fixed. It would cost more to fix it than to buy another one. We have to have a color TV in every room but the bathroom, and at least one vehicle for everyone living under the same roof. Does our car have a few dents in it? Gotta buy a new one. Wouldn't want to park a wreck in the Church parking lot during Sacrament Meeting. And we definitely need more CDs, DVDs, video games for our video game consoles, and of course we need home networking equipment for our many computers. It would be a shame if we had to fight with each other over only one. And of course we need more books. We could use the library, but why bother? Just keep buying them for the home. Of course, that means we have to buy more bookshelves. And if we have too many of those, we obviously need to move into a bigger house again. How many expensive pots does your wife need to make a meal? You would be astounded by the excellence of my wife's collection. Each one of her pots is worth more than all of the pots my mother ever owned. I'm not complaining, I love those pots myself. They clean up much nicer and I'm the one who has to clean them. And wow, can my wife ever put gourmet food on the table whenever she uses them. And at a mere 270 lbs I really need more gourmet meals. Heaven forbid I should ever have to eat simple fare that is more healthy for me and not nearly as expensive as the rib steaks that I eat so many of. My couch has to be leather, and of course I can't have one of the regular toothbrushes. I have to have one of those Sonicare ones. And the Waterpick is pretty important too. I wonder how my ancestors ever got along without one? Yep, heaven forbid I should have to do without any of that "stuff" that they keep advertising on the TV. I wouldn't want to be "poor." It's a good thing I can get my shoes really cheap at Wal-Mart. Imagine how awful it would be if I had to pay a hundred dollars for a real pair of shoes. I couldn't afford many pairs that way, could I? You should see my vacuum cleaner. It would do just fine for a 6500 sq. foot home. In fact it would probably be overkill even then. But it sure does a nice job in this little apartment of little more than 900 sq. feet. Fortunately I don't always have to use it. Sometimes I can just use the little rechargeable hand vacuum I picked up at Wal-Mart.

Fortunately, I got rid of nearly 90 percent of my stuff before I moved into this little place a little over two years ago. You should have seen all of the "stuff" I had in that place. It was 2,800 sq. ft stuffed to the rafters with my "stuff" most of it things that I paid a lot for but couldn't get 10 cents on the dollar for when I had to get rid of it to fit into this much smaller place. I made dozens of trips to the dump just to get rid of the stuff I couldn't even give away at the garage sale we held. And we made nearly 1600 dollars in a single Saturday morning selling all the extra ballast at only 10 cents on the dollar. I must have given away 30 boxes of hardback and paperback books to the local thrift store and now I only have a couple of bookcases full of books left.

My wife and I don't even own our own place. We rent. And we always have. I don't ever plan to buy a place either. What's the point? It takes 30 years to pay for it, and by that time you have paid more in interest than the house cost in the first place. Who really owns that house before it is paid off, you or the bank? I've got a friend who says he just rents the house he is buying from the bank. That sounds about right to me. And by the time it is paid off, it is so full of "stuff" you don't have any more room to live in than you would if you were renting a little apartment anyway. How many retired seniors just have to sell their house to have a retirement income anyway? For a lot of people, the equity in their homes is all the retirement money they have. And President Monson was most emphatic in this last General Conference. We mustn't borrow against our equity just so we can buy more "stuff." Then we never will pay it off, will we? I hope I never have to put all of this stuff into a wagon and make a trek like the early saints had to make to Salt Lake City. I don't think I could fit it all in.

In my opinion we live like a bunch of idiots in this country. We worship "stuff." Keeping up with the Jones is all that is really important to most of us. And many of us don't even realize it. We are such slaves of our culture we cannot even see it in ourselves. We used to be "poor," Esperanza and I. Back then we had just as much "stuff." It was just cheaper stuff. But if our "stuff" is somewhat nicer now, it is still just so much ballast, so much baggage. We still aren't going to be able to take it with us when we pass on. And I don't think it makes us any happier just because it is a little nicer than the worthless "stuff" we had during the early years of our marriage.

Shopping and buying "stuff" has become a national pastime, almost an obsession. We do it for the thrill of owning something new and because our money burns a hole in our pocket. Sure we ought to invest it, but buying "stuff" is just so much more fun. Right now I need a new PDA, a newer computer, an external hard drive to keep all the ripped mp3s from all the CDs I bought. Do you realize that my computer won't even let me play Elder Scroll IV: Oblivion? I can't believe it. I don't have the needed minimum of a Pentium III with a clock speed of at least 2.0 GHz. My pathetic Intel Celeron with only 1.7 GHz clock speed just won't cut the mustard. And I've got the needed 512 MB of RAM, but I really should have at least 1 GB according to the box. Gotta get more stuff. Mustn't have an obsolete computer. How will I ever run Vista when it comes out next year?

The ancient prophets warned us about worshipping the "workmanship of man's hand." It is called idolatry. And we all do it. It is part of our culture. We think we are poor when we haven't the slightest idea what that word means. Poor is missing meals because you don't have enough to buy the needed food. It is getting sick because you don't have a warm, dry place to sleep. It is dying young because you cannot afford to see a doctor, or losing your teeth in your 30s or 40s because you cannot afford to go to a dentist. It is two children taking turns going to school on alternate days because they only have one pair of shoes between them. My wife grew up that way in El Salvador. She got to drink a soda once a year or so, at least half a bottle, but only if she was sick because a soda pop was only for a sick child. Most days they had no food in the house, but they would take the equivalent of a quarter to the open market and buy a piece of fruit or something for their daily meal and feel thankful to Heavenly Father that they had the quarter. I didn't live like that growing up. We thought we were poor because we bought margarine instead of butter and sometimes my mother breaded the ground beef when we had hamburgers. But my kids didn't grow up like that. I don't think my children even know what margarine tastes like. And they never ate any Velveeta. Only hard cheeses were good enough for my kids. But I don't suppose I should beat myself up too much for being so worldly. My parents didn't even have Velveeta when they were growing up. They grew up during the Depression, and they were almost as poor as the rest of the world is now.

Gosh, is gasoline up over $3.00 a gallon? This is terrible! The summer driving season is coming up, how can we afford such expensive gasoline? I don't suppose anyone ever thought about staying home for a change. Oh well, maybe we can cash in some of our frequent flier miles with the airlines. But darn, we will have to wait in line while they go through all of our "stuff" to make sure we aren't smuggling any hair pins or pocket knives onto the airplane. We sure have it rough.

I don't think there is anything wrong with having stuff as long as we don't put it at the top of our priorities. But do we need to be so wasteful? Scarcity isn't the problem. Being wasteful is the problem. This consumer society that we live in is unwholesome, unhealthy. It is bad for our spiritual welfare. It cankers the soul. It saps us of our spiritual strength. It is a constant temptation to forget what is really important in our lives: family, friends, devotion to God and to our Church. We all spend too much time worrying about how to get it, how to keep it once we have it, how to take care of it, how to get more when it is gone, where to put it, how to clean it, where to get it fixed when it is broken, and so forth. It is a never ending source of aggravation and it occupies all too much of our time and attention over a lifetime. Just consider the amount of time we waste watching commercials on television run by people who are trying to sell us more "stuff." I've got a Tivo (of course) and it is amazing how much time I spend just skipping all of those commercials while trying to get to the next part of the program I want to watch. And that is just watching the news. Imagine how much time I would waste if I were to spend more time watching TV shows like the occasional movie or episode of Battlestar Galactica that I watch. At least when I am writing an email like this one I am doing some thinking, and leaving a record of that thought for any of my posterity that might be interested. Heaven help any of them if they should have to wade back through the 13 years of email archives I have saved.

I'm all for drilling the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, but first I want to be convinced that we really need all that oil, or even half the oil we are already using in this country. I'm not worried about scarcity. I'm worrying about us consuming ourselves into a complete spiritual stupor. I'm worrying about our whole society becoming consumers for the sake of consuming, of becoming idolaters who worship their "stuff" more than they worship God. I believe that it is a sickness. And we need to heal ourselves.

I wonder if any of my kids are going to want any of my "stuff" after I'm gone? I doubt it. I have a few old photographs that they might want to keep. And they will want the quilts that my wife has made over a lifetime. But a lot of my stuff is just electronics gear, computer stuff, books, and media that will be obsolete long before I go unless I kick the bucket real soon. I got a couple of nice things from my mother when she died, but it was all beat up with dings and dents from her hauling it around for a lifetime. She lasted much longer than most of her "stuff" did. We would all be much better off if we spent more of our time and money on things we can take with us when we pass on. All this "stuff" just isn't good for us.

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There are two classes of atheists in this world.

April 19, 2006

I really enjoyed reading "Wresting the Scriptures" on the blog, A Bird's Eye View. In it the author makes the point that traditional Christians do not believe that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God. Because of their false belief that God is incorporeal and does not have a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's, when a traditional Christian says that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, he means this in a figurative or literary sense rather than in the literal sense taught by true Christians in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From the perspective of the Restoration, believing the Savior to be God's Son only in some figurative or literary sense is a denial of his divinity. In a sense, this belief makes traditional Christians anti-Christ because they deny the divine Sonship of Jesus of Nazareth.

And although it is not politically correct to point it out, traditional Christianity is a form of atheism for much the same reason. If they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God literally, they also do not believe that God exists literally. Rather he is an incorporeal God.

This point was driven home to me by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost when I was first investigating the Mormon faith during my junior year of high school in 1962. I was profoundly enlightened while reading The Articles of Faith, by James E. Talmage, when I came across this teaching of Orson Pratt in the footnotes to the chapter on the nature of the God-head. To this day, it is one of the most important paragraphs of written English I have ever read:

9. Immaterialists and Atheists—"There are two classes of atheists in the world. One class denies the existence of God in the most positive language; the other denies his existence in duration or space. One says 'There is no God;' the other says 'God is not here or there, any more than he exists now and then.' The infidel says 'God does not exist anywhere.' The immaterialist says 'He exists nowhere.' The infidel says 'There is no such substance as God.' The immaterialist says 'There is such a substance as God, but it is without parts.' The athiest says, 'There is no such substance as spirit.'  The immaterialist says 'A spirit, though he lives and acts, occupies no room, and fills no space in the same way and in the same manner as matter, not even so much as does the minutest grain of sand.' The atheist does not seek to hide his infidelity; but the immaterialist, whose declared belief amounts to the same things as the atheist's, endeavors to hide his infidelity under the shallow covering of a few words. * * * The immaterialist is a religious atheist; he only differs from the other class of atheists by clothing an indivisible unextending nothing with the powers of a God. One class believes in no God; the other believes that Nothing is god and worships it as such."—Orson Pratt, in pamphlet Absurdities of Immaterialism, p. 11.

Of course, there is little difference between believing there is no God, and believing in a God that is nothing. Do traditional Christians really believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Well… not really. They believe it only in a figurative or poetic sense. Do they really believe that there is a God? Well… not really. They believe in an incorporeal God, or in other words, a God that does not really exist in any meaningful sense of that word. They believe that Jesus is the Son of God only in literary or poetic sense. And they believe in the existence of God only in a mystical, incomprehensible sense.

No wonder miracles have ceased among them. No wonder they no longer receive revelation from heaven as they did anciently. Faith must be terribly difficult to achieve when the object of your faith only exists in some mystical, figurative or poetic sense. And of course, where there is no faith or very little faith, there can be no miracles.

When Satan first persuaded men to believe that God was some incorporeal essence that fills the immensity of space, that He is everywhere but nowhere in particular present, he accomplished a truly great work of evil. He destroyed the very foundation upon which all faith in God must be based, an understanding of and belief in his actual existence in the real universe. In accomlishing this great deception, the devil laid the foundation for the great rise to supremacy of secularism in the modern world, a secularism that threatens to sweep most of mankind away at the Second Coming, an event very similar to what occurred anciently in the Great Flood.

Secularism is caused by the almost universal loss of faith that God is an actual man that exists in the real universe. And that loss of faith is the result of this false doctrine that God does not have a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's. It is a false doctrine taught by and believed by virtually all of mankind with the sole exception of believing Latter-day Saints.

How thankful I am to my Heavenly Father that he brought me out of darkness into light when he shared this wonderful "mystery" with me so many years ago. If it were not for Joseph Smith, and the wonderful truths that he revealed to the world, I would not know anything about Jesus Christ. At least I would not know anything about him that is correct. I would not even understand that he really is God's literal, actual Son, his Only Begotten. But for Joseph Smith, I would be an atheist or an agnostic.

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Who is David R. Stone?

April 7, 2006

Who is David R. Stone? I never heard of him before Sunday afternoon this past weekend when he delivered my favorite talk in General Conference. But today he is a new hero of mine among the great men who guide and direct the Savior's true Church and the Kingdom of God on earth. His talk Zion in the Midst of Babylon touched my heart more deeply, and thrilled me more completely than all but a few talks I have ever heard during the forty-three years I've have been a member of the Church since converting from the Baptist faith when I was in high school. He spoke about how culture affects our attitudes and values in ways that we are rarely aware of, and how our inability to see ourselves from a perspective outside of our own culture prevents us from growing in the gospel as well as we could.

In 1970 while reading the Book of Mormon during a period of upheaval in my life, I was inspired by the Holy Ghost to learn more about Native Americans because of the promises made by God to the descendants of Lehi in the Americas. In various ways I undertook to immerse myself in the various cultures among the Lamanites. And in 1978 I married a Lamanite of Mayan descent who grew up in the Latin American culture of El Salvador. Esperanza helped me to see my own culture through the eyes of someone reared in a very different way than I was. And because she was a "Mormon nun," she helped me to see how this new education could be applied to living the gospel better.

What is a Mormon nun, you may ask? Well, we were both living in Los Angeles and were in our middle thirties when we started dating in 1977. Her friends jokingly called her a Mormon nun because of how deeply she was involved in the LDS faith. She not only served twenty-four months as a full-time missionary for the Church when she was only eighteen years of age, long before she ever had a chance to go to the temple, but also she was employed as a professional social worker with an MSW for LDS Social Services. Not only that, her Church calling was serving for twenty hours a week in the Los Angeles temple as an ordinance worker. How or why the Holy Ghost was able to persuade her to marry a sinful man such as myself I have never been able to understand.

Over the years I have learned from comparing my cultural prejudices with hers and contrasting both with what the Lord expects from us who hope to rear our families in a Zion culture that is distinct from either. For instance, did you know that in some cultures we Anglo-Americans are viewed as worshipping money? It says right on our coins and currency, "In God We Trust" as if the money itself was our God. And American women are known as bossy and immodest when viewed through the eyes of Hispanics reared in other cultures. Our men are more likely to gossip than Latin men. And we are prone to remain silent when our conversation turns critical of friends and family who are not present. We may even join in the criticism never thinking how disloyal that is. People reared in Latin American families are far more offended by such disloyalty than we are. Even our sense of humor is different. "Put down" humor is not a part of their culture. Among them a put down is just exactly that, a put down. Such humor is regarded as an insult, not something to laugh about.

On the other hand, there are some unattractive aspects of Latin American culture too. Hispanic men are far more likely than we are to have a double standard when it comes to marital fidelity. Among them it is OK for a man to be unfaithful to his wife. It is part of being macho or manly. But heaven forbid that the wife should have eyes for anyone else. She is supposed to be the picture of perfect chastity and remain true and faithful to her husband regardless of how many adventures he may be having outside the marriage covenant. Also, being thought "dangerous" or willing to shed blood on the slightest provocation is a much bigger part of Hispanic culture than among Anglo-Americans. This is relflected in their love for the "sport" of boxing which is even bigger among them than NFL football is among us. This love for fighting is even greater than among the Irish when they first immigrated to the USA.

Latin American cultures do not place the stigma upon living with their children in their old age that is commonplace among us. Whereas many of our elderly consider it a shame to need the care of their children, and place a high premium on maintaining their "independence" because they don't want to "impose" on their children during their declining years, in Latin America there is no such thing as Social Security or pension programs for the common people, and both parents and children expect to live together when the parents are too old to work.

Perhaps related to this cultural difference is our Anglo-American aversion to mothers-in-law. It is even a part of our humor where mother-in-law jokes are at least as common as lawyer jokes. In Latin American Hispanic families there is no comparable prejudice against mothers-in-law. Curiously, among some Native American cultures here in the USA such as the Apache and the Navajo, the mother-in-law traditions are even more pronounced than among the greater Anglo-American culture. An Apache or Navajo man is not even allowed to speak to his mother-in-law.

Why do we Anglo-Americans usually think of Lamanites as poor, benighted souls who need to be lifted up out of their degraded condition? Does it ever occur to us that we may seem in need of being lifting up ourselves from their point of view? And when we seek to love others as the Savior wants us to, could that mean receiving such help as well as giving it? Is there anything we can learn from these other cultures that we so often think are inferior to our own?

We live in a telestial world. And every culture, our own included, is a telestial culture. There is much improvement needed in all of them if we are ever to become a Zion people with pure hearts and of one mind.

As Latter-day Saints we need to give thought to these things. I have pondered them for many years. And for this reason Elder Stone's talk was right on target for me. It spoke straight to my heart. What was your favorite talk in the General Conference we just had? Why did you like it so much? How has it affected your thinking?

You may see a video of Elder Stone's talk here, or download it as an Mp3 here, or read it on the web as an HTML webpage here.

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When Logic and Reason Does Not Apply

April 3, 2006

On an email discussion list where a few of my friends and I talk about things Mormon, one of our more perspicacious participants has pointed out that many do not feel it worth the effort to try and understand Elder Eyring’s and the Savior’s teaching that we should become like little children in the sense that we submit our will to the Father by saying “Not my will by thy will be done.”  They want to know why we hear stories in Fast Meeting about people who prayed to God to find their lost glasses and found them, but others suffering from life threatening illness also pray for help and die anyway.  It doesn’t seem logical.

I feel that perhaps the Lord can divinely intervene to help a person find his glasses in one instance, but knows that he will only injure a person, eternally speaking,  by helping him survive cancer in another instance.  Why can’t they both be true?  Logic doesn’t work very well when we don’t see the big picture.  And to see the big picture we have to know more about the premortal and postmortal life than has been revealed.  I believe that a lot of people misuse logic in the way they apply it to questions involving faith.  While the truth is always perfectly logical, it is not always perfectly logical when it involves the “substance of things hope for which are not seen which are true.”  Reality extends beyond the data that we have available for analysis using human logic.  And a misuse of logic can destroy faith in things that are true not only in others, but in the person using the logic.

We know that some of the most intelligent and educated people in history have used their logic to arrive at the conclusion that there is no God.  That is a fact that is beyond dispute.  So if there is a God, they are using logic to arrive at a false answer.  What is wrong with such a use of logic?  Perhaps they are beginning from a false premise.  Perhaps they are using inductive logic when they should be using deductive logic.  Logic and reason are highly useful, but not when they lead us to false answers.  And in such cases, if the logic is perfect, something else must be wrong.

Many people seem to forget how illogical virtually all religion is if it is analyzed only by the available data arrived at by the gathering of empirical data.  Using this approach, a person would have to discard virtually all of the Bible, the Book of Mormon and other scriptures.  They would have to deny the miracles that take place daily in our own lives.  But they would also have to deny the miracles recorded in scripture that took place in ancient times.  Limited to perfect logic and observable data, how could anyone believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the First Vision, the existence of prophets, the validity of prophecy, spiritual gifts, revelation in ancient times or continuing revelation today?

It takes a wise man to use logic wisely.  In the hands of a spiritually incompetent person, logic merely creates doubt and the loss of faith.  And by definition faith is about things that are true that cannot be observed, weighed or measured.

Can we weigh or measure love, or honor, or duty, or virtue, or courage, or friendship?  Does our inability to measure these things and analyze them by the application of good logic to empirical data suggest that they do not exist?  I don’t think so.  The heart can know things that the mind cannot even conceive, that science cannot detect, and to which logic cannot be appropriately applied.

Logic is a wonderful thing, a very useful tool.  But there are many people who do not understand its proper limits.  And they allow it to influence their thinking more than is good for them or their understanding of reality.

I have always wondered why we give God credit for everything that is “good” in our lives but blame the devil or ourselves for everything that is “bad.”  Is not God all powerful?  Is he not omnipotent?  And if so, is not everything either the result of something that he causes or allows to be caused?  If that is true, then he is ultimately responsible for all outcomes, good and bad.  And he is just as responsible for evil as he is for good.

Mormon doctrine solves this apparent contradiction by teaching the doctrine of agency, and a Plan of Happiness in which each of us is free to choose between good and evil, and God allows the devil to tempt us so that we have a choice to be made.  For without an available choice, how can we really be free to choose between good and evil?

We also know that God’s perfect knowledge of all things, his omniscience extends into the future as perfectly as it does the present and the past.  But somehow his foreknowledge of every act we will ever make, every word we will ever speak or every thought we will ever entertain, is not predetermined because it is the result of our agency to choose.  I accept this, but I find it very hard to understand.  If what we are about to do is already done at some point in the future, in what sense are we free to choose?  I accept that we are, but I do not understand it.  The reason I do not understand it is because I am not omniscient myself, and because of the veil of forgetfulness that was pulled across my mind when I moved from the premortal life into this mortal one.

For me an understanding of reality is an exercise in deductive logic starting from the foundational assumption that there is a God.  I use this as a starting point because of an epiphany that I experienced in March of 1965.  In that epiphany I understood completely and beyond all argument that there is a God, and that it is impossible that there is not one.  Further, the understanding that I received was not communicated to me in English, and it is cannot be accurately translated into English even though that is the only language that I speak or think in.  Yet  because God has revealed to me the fact of his existence in a manner that is beyond further consideration or arguments to the contrary, I believe it even more completely than I do the evidence of my own senses, or the consensus opinion of the rest of the world.  It is the single “rock” or revelation upon which I build all the rest of my understanding of reality.

Others it seems have never had such an epiphany, nor desired one apparently.  For them it is a matter of faith that God exists rather than a matter of perfect knowledge.  And for this reason, they judge the validity of all things upon what they can actually see, hear, feel, taste and smell.  They apply their puny minds and their imperfect grasp of logic to the data collected from these five senses, and if the conclusions demanded by their logic conflict with this or that religious claim, they are cast into doubt.  Their approach to an understanding of reality is based upon the gathering of “facts” and attempting to see patterns based upon those facts using inductive logic.  Unfortunately, this approach often leads them to false conclusions because they are unable to see, hear, feel, taste and smell a significantly large subset of the the universe to understand the facts they gather.  They are like computers working to solve a problem with insufficient data.  People of a scientific bent are especially prone to this problem.  Because they are unable to develop a mathematics to deal with such very real things as love, courage, friendship and so forth, they are forced to ignore most of what is real in their consideration of reality.  It is unfortunate that they studied so much mathematics and related topics at the expense of languages, literature, art, philosophy and so forth.  They are crippled by their lopsided educations.

Am I crippled by my lopsided education having neglected mathematics and related subjects?  You bet.  I’m sure that is why I am confused so much of the time.  There is a lot of the big picture that is missing for me too.  And while I can see and understand things that they cannot.  There are undoubtedly things that they can see and understand that I cannot.

Ultimately, only God really knows what is going on in the universe. Even the devil, smart as he is, doesn’t know it all.  And all the rest of us understand even less than he does.

None of us have any basis for being proud of our learning.  All of us are wandering around in the dark to a certain degree.  And we will be until we are exalted and inherit all that the Father hath, even to the inheriting of all that he knows.