Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Conjure Magic For Them"

The "Holy Priesthood" series will resume after a brief detour.

At this writing, the video below has been viewed over 9.6 million times on youtube.



While I was watching this, I was reminded of a quote by a politician named Gracchus in the movie "Gladiator" (‘edited for TV’ version.) He was talking about how Commodus, Emperor of Rome, had reintroduced gladiator games to Rome.

"I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they'll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they'll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the senate, it's the sand of the Colosseum. He'll bring them death - and they will love him for it."

I don’t subscribe to the idea that mass recreation was deliberately planned by a ruling class, but there’s no question that fame, riches, diversion and self-indulgence are tools of distraction that waste the human energy intended for relevant endeavors. And by utilizing these tools, those who would empower themselves and enslave others often sneak by us when we are least aware, and least prepared, to intervene.

I’m not anti-entertainment. I love to relax as much as the next person! But I have to remind myself that that to which I give the fullest measure of my energy and attention is indeed my god, my object of worship, the leader to which I pledge my allegiance by my acts. The negative ‘leaders’ can be a number of things—sports, shopping, vacationing, food, TV, naps, video games, Hollywood stars, music, etc.

Pursuits that may be benign in moderation become harmful when taken to excess and truly dangerous when placed ahead of matters of eternal importance—honesty, truth, chastity, benevolence, virtue, well-doing, all things which are of good report and praiseworthy, all things that enrich the family and strengthen faith, things which sharpen spiritual intuition and make us alert of the conditions in our communities, country, and planet. In short, all activities that draw us near to God and lead us to act boldly for his will.

Imagine if every rabid sports fan felt as passionately about the fight of liberty over tyranny as he does about New York vs. Boston. Imagine if every shopaholic were as passionate about selfless service as she is about 1-day sales. What kind of world would it be? What type of leaders, personally, publicly, temporally and spiritually, would we choose?

“Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.” 2 Nep. 9:51

Need a lasting break from the grind? “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Holy Priesthood: Misconceptions, Pt. 2

Miss #2: The Priesthood is for and about Mormons.

Let's begin with a clarification. 'The terms "Mormon" and "Mormonite" were first used in the 1830s as pejoratives to describe those who followed Joseph Smith and believed in the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. The term was soon adopted by Mormons themselves, however, and has lost its generally pejorative status.'

'Mormon' is the name of the prophet in ancient America who compiled and abridged the records of his people, the Nephites, into a single, manageable volume. The translation of this volume is the book of scripture we now call The Book of Mormon. So ends the literal association between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the term "Mormon."

Further, the official name of the Church, though conceivably long and cumbersome, serves a defined purpose of its own. The Church of Jesus Christ is what we are. "How be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel" (3 Nep. 27:8). At any time that Christ's church has been on the earth by his authority, it has been called by his name and none other.

The phrase of Latter-Day Saints denotes the dispensation of time in which we now live. Elder David B. Haight said in 1991, "A dispensation is the dispensing of blessings or afflictions by Deity, as appropriate. A dispensation is also defined as a period when God has revealed his mind and will to man. It means 'the opening of the heavens to men; the … dispensing to them the word of God; the revealing to men … the principles and ordinances of the Gospel; the conferring of divine authority upon … chosen ones, by which they are empowered to act in the name … [and] authority of God.'

"The Dispensation of the Fulness of Times is the dispensation which includes all others, both in heaven and on earth. It is the dispensation which will fulfill all of the decrees of a loving Heavenly Father for 'the salvation of [all] men and the redemption of the earth itself.' (History of the Church, 1:xxiii.)

"An inspired Prophet Joseph Smith wrote, 'It is necessary … that a … welding together of dispensations … should take place … from the days of Adam even to the present time.'(D&C 128:18.)"

To this add the words of Russell M. Nelson: "The very first [dispensation] was in the time of Adam. Then came dispensations of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others. Each prophet had a divine commission to teach of the divinity and the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ. In each age these teachings were meant to help the people. But their disobedience resulted in apostasy. Thus, all previous dispensations were limited in time and location. They were limited in time because each ended in apostasy. They were limited in location to a relatively small segment of planet earth.

"Thus a complete restoration was required. God the Father and Jesus Christ called upon the Prophet Joseph Smith to be the prophet of this dispensation. All divine powers of previous dispensations were to be restored through him. This dispensation of the fulness of times would not be limited in time or in location. It would not end in apostasy, and it would fill the world."

We now live in 'The Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.' These are the last (or latter) days of mankind before the Second Coming of Christ. Thus, what we are called in order to distinguish us from other Christian sects is "of Latter-day Saints," but what we are is "The Church of Jesus Christ," for he is the head, as he was during every other dispensation.

This may seem like a detour from the original topic, but it's an important point to understand in order to extrapolate the next.

At the risk of waxing grammatical, we are not 'Mormons,' much the way a tomato isn't actually a vegetable but a fruit, and yet its culinary uses befit the vegetable category. The word 'Mormon' is for our time and place, a cultural reference we neither oppose nor fully embrace. Mormon is not the head of this church. Our doctrine and authority are not Mormon's. The Holy Priesthood is not the Mormon Priesthood.

So what are we, if not Mormons? We are the offspring of God the Father (Acts 17:28-29), and 'adopted' children of Christ (Ephesians 1:5, Mosiah 5:7), who purchased us with his blood that he might intervene in our behalf. This is The Church of Jesus Christ, and it is not just for those called Mormons--it is for every person, living, dead, or yet to be born. This is the Priesthood of God, delivered unto us for the salvation of the entire human family. The only feature that can limit its reach is the refusal of mankind to believe.

Having this information might not expand the borders of your personal 'reach' with the Priesthood. What a world it would be if everyone in it would invite the Priesthood power into his heart and welcome the attendant blessings. But everyone does not believe, and some of those would have others doubt as well, so they drive our doctrines repeatedly into a theological corner with stigmatized terms like 'Mormon,' 'Joe Smith,' or 'gold Bible.'

But a Priesthood holder cannot allow himself or the authority granted him by the Lord to be compartmentalized in such a way, particularly in his own mind. This Priesthood flows like an everlasting spring from the throne of the Almighty God (Rev. 22:1). His ordained servants are the vessel-bearers of this divine power, and they are meant to carry it to the world, as far as the world will allow.

"Mormon, the Prophet Warrior," by David Brickey (cropped)
"The First Vision" in stained glass, SLC Stake Center
"In Similitude," by David Brickey
"Moses Calls Aaron to the Ministry," by Harry Anderson
Wikipedia, "Mormon"
David B. Haight, “Linking the Family of Man,” Ensign, May 1991, 75
Russell M. Nelson, “The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 79–82

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Holy Priesthood: Misconceptions, Pt. 1

A great talk at church recently included a metaphor about Priesthood authority. How would you feel if a man driving an ice cream truck pulled you over for a traffic violation? He may have been well-intentioned, even a great guy. But no amount of good intention would authorize him to issue you a ticket, and any ticket he attempted to set upon you would be invalid. He does not have authority.

I would like to stretch this metaphor a little further. Say this ice cream man does graduate from the police academy and join the force. But then he plasters a police sticker on his ice cream truck, transports criminals next to the Drumsticks and Creamsicles, and engages in high speed chases while a jingly version of "Pop Goes the Weasel" rings out from his 'squad car.' He has received authority, but perhaps he doesn't fully understand and accept it. In his confusion, he confuses everyone around him. And sadly, he never completely engages his newly achieved authority. It lies in him at half-strength; instead of a mouth-popping ice cream soda, he has in him a tepid cola thinned down by melted ice cubes.

So goes the Priesthood holder who doesn't realize, really, what he's got--where it comes from, what it means, how to utilize it. I would like to discuss possibilities wherein a perfectly honorable Priesthood holder might miss the mark.

Given the quantity of great information available on each point, I'll be addressing them in individual postings, beginning with:

Miss #1. The Priesthood is a metaphorical nicety that illicits a faith-based, self-fulfilling response in others.

First, an obvious point. If you are a member of the LDS Church and worthily hold the Priesthood, you believe that Peter, James, John, and John the Baptist themselves visited the early Church founders in order to confer the Priesthood power, which is the power of God and the authority to use it on earth. I only repeat this information because it occasionally gets shifted into the spiritual 'archives' of our minds and loses its semantic relevance. God the Father did not give us his Priesthood as an opiate for the rattled disposition of a man who's had an annoying cold for two weeks. It certainly helps that as well, but back to the metaphor--that's just the watery cola. There are facets and depths to the Priesthood far beyond it.

“I shall never forget the occasion,” said President Heber J. Grant, “when a friend appealed to me, upon learning that the doctor had announced that his daughter, stricken with diphtheria, would die before morning. He asked me to pray for that daughter, and after leaving his office I prayed with all the earnestness of my soul that God would heal that girl. While praying, the inspiration came to me: ‘The power of the living God is here on the earth. The Priesthood is here. Hurry! Hurry! … Go and rebuke the power of the destroyer, and the girl shall live.’

“The doctor waiting upon that girl, said she could not live till morning; but when morning came he explained that he could not comprehend it, and that he believed the girl was going to get well. He could not refrain from expressing his surprise at the change in the girl’s condition over night. The power of the living God rebuked the destroyer.”

The power and authority of God had to come directly from heaven because it was nowhere on earth to be found. It came by the very hands of the ancients to whom it was entrusted. It is the same authority once held on this earth by Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Priesthood is the literal power of God, fitted to the capacity of man, and faith is the completed circuit through which it may freely flow.

Parley P. Pratt offered a physical interpretation of Priesthood power-- relevant, since the Lord told us "all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created" (D&C 29:34). This is fascinating stuff, but a thick current through which to travel. Wade slowly!



"To impart a portion of the Holy Spirit by the touch, or by the laying on of hands; or to impart a portion of the element of life, from one animal body to another, by an authorized agent who acts in the name of God, and who is filled therewith, is as much in accordance with the laws of nature, as for water to seek its own level; air its equilibrium, or heat, and electricity their own mediums of conveyance.

"This law of spiritual fluid, its communicative properties, and the channel by which it is imparted from one person to another, bear some resemblance, or analogy, to the laws and operations of electricity. Like electricity, it is imparted by the contact of two bodies, through the channel of the nerves.

"But the two fluids differ very widely. The one is a property nearly allied to the grosser elements of matter; not extensively endowed with the attributes of intelligence, wisdom, affection or moral discrimination. It can therefore be imparted from one animal body to another, irrespective of the intellectual or moral qualities of the subject or recipient. The other is a substance endowed with the attributes of intelligence, affection, moral discrimination, love, charity, and benevolence pure as the emotions which swell the bosom, thrill the nerves, or vibrate the pulse of the Father of all.

"An agent filled with this heavenly fluid cannot impart of the same to another, "unless that other is justified, washed, cleansed from all his impurities of heart, affections, habits or practices, by the blood of atonement, which is generally applied in connection with the baptism of remission.

"A man who continues in his sins, and who has no living faith in the Son of God, cannot receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of any agent, however holy he may be. The impure spirit of such a one will repulse the pure element, upon the natural laws of sympathetic affinity, or of attraction and repulsion.

"An intelligent being, in the image of God, possesses every organ, attribute, sense, sympathy, affection, of will, wisdom, love, power and gift, which is possessed by God himself. But these are possessed by man, in his rudimental state, in a subordinate sense of the word. Or, in other words, these attributes are in embryo; and are to be gradually developed. They resemble a bud — a germ, which gradually develops into bloom, and then, by progress, produces the mature fruit, after its own kind.

"The gift of the Holy Spirit adapts itself to all these organs or attributes. It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It develops and invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, invigorates, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.

"In the presence of such persons, one feels to enjoy the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of a sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuses a thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy, to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, or sympathy of spirit. No matter if the parties are strangers, entirely unknown to each other in person or character; no matter if they have never spoken to each other, each will be apt to remark in his own mind, and perhaps exclaim, when referring to the interview — “O what an atmosphere encircles that stranger! How my heart thrilled with pure and holy feelings in his presence! What confidence and sympathy he inspired! His countenance and spirit gave me more assurance, than a thousand written recommendations, or introductory letters.” Such is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and such are its operations, when received through the lawful channel — the divine, eternal Priesthood."

In conclusion, you are no ice cream man. Get rid of the truck.





Priesthood, “The Power of the Living God”, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 101

"Restoration," by Liz Lemon Swindle

Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1874. 95-102. Originally published in 1855 in Liverpool, England.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"I Am That I Am"

This is a segment from a previous post, but it was near the bottom of a rather long article and I decided it deserved its own attention.




When Moses approached the burning bush and asked God his name, God replied, “I Am that I Am” (Exodus 3:13-14). As a child, I considered this answer either cryptic or trite. Now I realize that it was the only answer. God said in effect, ‘there are certain absolutes, of which I Am the first.” Some things are because they are, and the thread of their absolute truth is woven into the fabric of life.

Jehovah told the people of Israel all that they needed to know, all they were able to endure, when he declared his absolute truth. There is a God. He spoke from heaven. Whether or not they were present to hear his voice didn’t matter, because the Spirit of Truth could speak to them personally, and this knowledge would be no less potent to the heart as a voice to the ears. If they knew God, they could meet every need of a brief mortal lifetime and go on to an eternity of greater learning.

A humanist, whether he knows it or not, does believe in absolutes. But his absolutes come from secular science, books and studies written by other secularists, and the ruminations of his own intellect. He is blind to God not because he cannot know, but because he will not.

“I Am that I Am,” Jehovah declared, and it’s consequently more effort to refuse this first absolute than it is to acknowledge it. A humanist contests that his anger is against religion or religious people, but it isn’t religion from which he can’t escape—it’s from the Omnipotent, Omniscient God, from whose knowledge and gaze he cannot hide nor façade of hiding maintain except with perpetual rebellion. So said the Savior during his mortal ministry: “He that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Luke 10:16). A humanist hates God for being real. As C.S. Lewis, a reformed atheist, said, "I gave in, and admitted that God was God."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Apoca-what?


In the past few weeks, I’ve seen two programs about apocalyptic destruction. The first was 2012, a movie in which the earth is destroyed almost completely by a disruption of the earth’s core that causes massive volcanic explosions and the collapse of tectonic plates. The other was a History Channel show called After Armageddon.

2012 is a popcorn flick. It’s the mother of all destruction movies. It’s a special effects extravaganza—everything gets destroyed. And that’s the fun! After Armageddon is much darker. Survivalism and social studies experts speculate on the worst case scenario—global pandemic; the shutdown of technology, utilities, international trade; widespread famine and anarchy. It’s “the Apocalypse for rubber-neckers.” It’s for people who can’t help but stare at a really big mess. And frankly, I found it pretty creepy.

So we have “There goes the entire Western Seaboard,” and “Here’s how ugly this could be.” The ‘how’ of earth’s natural destruction didn’t interest me as much as the ‘how’ of human behavior during and after, as portrayed in these two dramatizations. While there were flitting and sparse examples of humankindness in the course of these awful events, there was very little venerable quality in the population at large. It was every man for himself, and if he cared to, he might also defend his family. There it ended. Neighbors merely nodded pitifully to one another and fled. The shallowly-formed friendships with those in one’s immediate circle dissolved at the first sign of trouble. And for the most part, a stranger was worth no more than a ‘sorry, dude’ while running off in the other direction.

In 2012, world governments built emergency ships using the money rich people paid for their seat on the boat. Anyone who wasn’t a billionaire was only invited if he offered some talent, genius, or skill that benefited the mission or future society. Everyone else on earth would either have to be smart enough to scramble aboard unnoticed or survive through sheer luck out in the chaos.

Unfortunate suburbanites and groups of churchgoers kneeling in prayer disappeared into fiery chasms in the earth. The only way not to die was to either be on a continent that didn’t collapse, or make it to a global government ark in China and scramble aboard as a stowaway. At the end of the movie, these fortunate few floated their boats to Africa, one of the only land masses remaining, and stepped out onto solid ground to begin a new civilization. Thank goodness man’s ingenuity found a way to save the people officially certified smartest by our brilliant world leaders.

After Armageddon was quite a different story. It followed a couple and their adolescent son through a disaster scenario, beginning with a global flu pandemic and ending in a dusty small-town farming community. Some of it was highly plausible. Given that the onset event was a fatal disease, it would be very dangerous to stop for a fallen stranger, especially since the dead littered the streets and the dying were contagious and terminally ill. Throughout this pseudo-documentary, sociology experts, survivalists, and professors presented their theories while seated in narrow hallways and dank basement rooms. (Apparently the disaster has already struck their neighborhoods.)

When did I begin to take issue? When someone introduced that ‘you too’ will be reduced to robbing, plundering, and killing in order to ensure your own survival. “A world without law and order, forced to abandon your home—where would you go? What would you be prepared to do? How would you survive?” This family does resort to killing someone for food. They come upon a warehouse protected by gunmen who refuse to share the food, and when they attempt to steal some, they wind up shooting someone to avoid getting caught or killed.

Along a roadside, they notice a man sitting next to his car, bleeding from the head. The father is a paramedic. He gives the man a compress and an antibiotic injection, bids him good luck and leaves him there. This works out to their advantage in the end, as the man appears later in the story to rescue them. Consequently, their luck improved by leaving him behind, injured and vulnerable. He could easily have had his vehicle stolen, been robbed of whatever survival goods remained, and died there alone in the street. However, thanks to some sloppy medical treatment and a quick well-wish out of a passing car (oh, and thanks to some dumb luck, since faith and mercy don’t really appear in this scenario) he makes it and turns out to be their salvation.

And then we enter the ‘compound’ part of the story. They and their head-injured companion join up with a town guarded by militia and a sheriff. In order to eat, they must endure the fundamentalist preacher’s rant. It’s about the terrors of the Biblical Apocalypse and how special they are for having been spared. “Let’s eat!” he finally says. At some point, armed gunmen come into town and rob some of the foodstuffs. The two apprehended robbers are put face down in the street and shot in front of the entire town. Let that be a lesson to the rest of you! Food is power, and the people who have it are only too glad to use it as a tool of unrighteous dominion over their neighbors.

Mealtimes are scant, because these Christian militias are pretty good at storing some food, but apparently not that great at growing it… or if they are, they cause the newcomer family to eke it out on their own. The paramedic cuts his hand while picking apples. (?) His wound becomes infected, and without antibiotics, he dies.

Twenty five years later, the adolescent son is shown in the typical futuristic white linen tunic and pants. Survivors are building the garden-variety, space age, curvy concrete building with round windows. The big cities remain abandoned. Greenery begins to return to… the desert, as we all know that desert climates become grasslands after a global flu pandemic. Or maybe they all moved to greener pastures. That’s not really addressed.



So, what didn’t happen in 2012? Apocalypse. What didn’t happen in After Armageddon? Armageddon. In Webster’s Dictionary from 1932, 'Apocalypse' is defined only as ‘the last book in the New Testament.’ The 2010 definition is “one of the Jewish and Christian writings of 200 B.C. to A.D. 150 marked by pseudonymity, symbolic imagery, and the expectation of an imminent cosmic cataclysm in which God destroys the ruling powers of evil and raises the righteous to life in a messianic kingdom.” No Messiah appeared in either scenario. Survivial or demise depended solely on the individual’s strength and daring. And on the other side of disaster, there was no salvation. There was just a scrap of civilization attempting to rebuild.

“Armageddon : the site or time of a final and conclusive battle between the forces of good and evil”. There was no good or evil at war in either of these stories. Some people believe that earth is good and people are evil, and that the earth attacking Man is an allegorical Armageddon. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it--make literal prophecy into allegory? While the adversary of truth would love to convince us that scripture is meaningless, he more often succeeds in convincing us that scripture is impressive metaphor to which many meanings can be assigned. Because of this, we need fear none of the meanings, for ‘who can know?’

Let’s go back to 2012. Didn’t I just say it’s only a popcorn flick? What could be more benign? Aren’t I reading way too much into it, if this is the extent of its value? I’m certainly not telling anyone not to see it. I actually think you should see it. But when you see it, really see it. Wonder about material like this. Let it make you curious about true end-time prophecy. Be encouraged to dig a little deeper. Do these movies teach you something about secular society, whether they outwardly intend to or not?

The message would appear to be this: Praying people don’t get saved when the world crumbles. No God from heaven is coming. This is all just a planet turning on its inhabitants, as it is inclined to do since this earth is a mere anomaly in the universe and intelligent life formed here by simple, natural, even accidental means. It’s the philosophy shared by Korihor of old, that “every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength” (Alma 30:17). You survive only if you save yourself. This is the humanist philosophy.

The director of 2012 is a German filmmaker named Roland Emmerich. By way of background, he acknowledges that his interest in mass disaster is a way of “increasing awareness about both global warming, and the lack of a government preparation plan for a global doomsday scenario.” He is a regular financial supporter of what is described as “U.S. progressive politics.” He is openly gay and advocates for LGBT rights. And he keeps self-described “outlandish” collection of art, including murals and portraits of dictators and communist figures, World War II relics, and images of religious icons in compromising and offensive positions.

Of 2012, he says, "I think seeing the world destroyed makes us aware of what we are actually destroying every day with our reckless behavior on this planet. I think that is the appeal, at least in our movie—to see this as a wake-up call, and for audiences to leave the theatre and see everything safe and normal and to be aware there's still time to save things."

(In the movie, a massive solar flare causes an unusual heating of the earth’s core, which spawns disaster. As far as I know, global warming doesn’t cause solar flares, so… I don’t know. I didn’t end the movie feeling like I should ride my bike to the store and put out the recycling. But that’s beside the point.)

In 2012, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil, are all destroyed. Emmerich refrained, however, from destroying the Kaaba—a cube-shaped building at the heart of Mecca, one of Islam’s holiest sites.

“Well, I wanted to do that, I have to admit," Emmerich says. "But my co-writer Harald said ‘I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie’. And he was right. ... We have to all (in the Western world) think about this. You can actually let Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is. So it's just something which I kind of didn't [think] was [an] important element, anyway, in the film, so I kind of left it out."

He’s repeated in interviews that he’s against organized religion. “At one point, we discussed some part you could not save. For example, the Sistine Chapel and the famous painting where God and Adam touch fingers. I said, ‘Oh great, we have to show how this gets destroyed.’ Then we said, ‘Well we are already there, why don't we have the church fall on people's heads?’ I am against organized religion so that is how we thought of it. The message is never pray in front of a big church. Pray by yourself.” And pray in Africa, the last surviving land mass. Because anywhere else in the world, you’ll still be obliterated, even praying by yourself.

I enjoyed 2012 for its popcorn-y qualities. It’s great if you want some big surround-sound booms on a Saturday night. But whatever you see in the media, regard the source and counsel with the Spirit of truth. Really see. Even frivolous fun may have something new to teach you. And you may find that some of it wasn’t as frivolous as you thought. Don’t let your fragile human intelligence carry you to a far-off destination without your express permission—and the blessing of the Lord.



The Absolute Truth

When Moses approached the burning bush and asked God his name, God replied, “I Am that I Am” (Exodus 3:13-14). As a child, I considered this answer either cryptic or trite. Now I realize that it was the only answer. God said in effect, ‘there are moral absolutes, of which I Am the first.” Some things are because they are, and the thread of their absolute truth is woven into the fabric of all humanity.

Jehovah told the people of Israel all that they needed to know, all they were able to endure, when he declared his absolute truth. There is a God. He spoke from heaven. Whether or not they were present to hear his voice didn’t matter, because the Spirit of Truth could speak to them personally, and this knowledge would be no less potent to the heart as a voice to the ears. If they knew God, they could meet every need of a brief mortal lifetime and go on to an eternity of greater learning.

A humanist, whether he knows it or not, does believe in absolutes. But his absolutes come from secular science, books and studies written by other secularists, and the ruminations of his own intellect. He is blind to God not because he cannot know, but because he will not.

“I Am that I Am,” Jehovah declared, and it’s consequently more effort to refuse this first absolute than it is to acknowledge it. A humanist contests that his anger is against religion, but it isn’t religion from which he can’t escape—it’s from the Omnipotent, Omniscient God, from whose knowledge and gaze he cannot hide nor façade of hiding maintain except with perpetual rebellion. So said the Savior during his mortal ministry: “He that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Luke 10:16). A humanist hates God for being real. As C.S. Lewis, a former atheist, said, "I gave in, and admitted that God was God."

Humanist propaganda is as hazardous to the mind and spirit as narcotics are to the body. But by the time you realize what it’s done to your perspective, you may already be thanking it and willfully marching into the darker mists.

There is human kindness. There is bravery, heroism, selflessness, faith, and miracle. There are ways to prepare for disaster, survive, and not fear. And should the Lord see fit to bring you home, there is a better existence than this worth preserving. Secure your soul, and you’ll have a life no disaster can destroy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The U.S.A. in a Nutshell



This photograph is a human "Statue of Liberty" comprised of World War I soldiers. Click to see larger. More information can be found at http://www.snopes.com/photos/patriotic/liberty.asp

Look What You Did, Christopher!
by Ogden Nash

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two,
Someone sailed the ocean blue.
Somebody borrowed the fare in Spain
For a business trip on the bounding main,
And to prove to the people, by actual test,
You could get to the East by sailing West.
Somebody said, Sail on! Sail on!
And studied China and China's lingo,
And cried from the bow, There's China now!
And promptly bumped into San Domingo.
Somebody murmured, Oh dear, oh dear!
I've discovered the Western Hemisphere.

And that, you may think, my friends, was that.
But it wasn't. Not by a fireman's hat.
Well enough wasn't left alone,
And Columbus was only a cornerstone.
There came the Spaniards,
There came the Greeks,
There came the Pilgrims in leather breeks.
There came the Dutch,
And the Poles and Swedes,
The Persians, too,
And perhaps the Medes,
The Letts, the Lapps, and the Lithuanians,
Regal Russians, and ripe Roumanians.
There came the French
And there came the Finns,
And the Japanese
With their formal grins.
The Tartars came,
And the Terrible Turks -
In a word, humanity shot the works.
And the country that should have been Cathay*
Decided to be
The U.S.A.

And that, you may think, my friends, was that.
But it wasn't. Not by a fireman's hat.
Christopher C. was the cornerstone,
And well enough wasn't left alone.
For those who followed
When he was through,
They burned to discover something, too.
Somebody, bored with rural scenery,
Went to work and invented machinery,
While a couple of other mental giants
Got together
And thought up Science.
Platinum blondes
(They were once peroxide),
Peruvian bonds
And carbon monoxide,
Tax evaders
And Vitamin A,
Vice crusaders,
And tattletale gray -
These, with many another phobia,
We owe to that famous Twelfth of Octobia.
O misery, misery, mumble and moan!
Someone invented the telephone,
And interrupted a nation's slumbers,
Ringing wrong but similar numbers.
Someone devised the silver screen
And the intimate Hollywood magazine,
And life is a Hades
Of clicking cameras,
And foreign ladies
Behaving amorous.
Gags have erased
Amusing dialog,
As gas has replaced
The crackling firelog.
All that glitters is sold as gold,
And our daily diet grows odder and odder,
And breakfast foods are dusty and cold -
It's a wise child
That knows its fodder.
Someone invented the automobile,
And good Americans took the wheel
To view American rivers and rills
And justly famous forests and hills -
But someone equally enterprising
Had invented billboard advertising.
You linger at home
In dark despair,
And wistfully try the electric air.
You hope against hope for a quiz imperial,
And what do they give you?
A doctor serial.
Oh, Columbus was only a cornerstone,
And well enough wasn't left alone,
For the Inquisition was less tyrannical
Than the iron rules of an age mechanical,
Which, because of an error in '92,
Are clamped like corsets on me and you,
While Children of Nature we'd be today
If San Domingo
Had been Cathay.

And that, you may think, my friends, is that.
But it isn't - not by a fireman's hat.
The American people,
With grins jocose,
Always survive the fatal dose.
And though our systems are slightly wobbly,
We'll fool the doctor this time, probly.


*'Cathay' is the Anglicized version of "Catai" and an alternative name for China in English.