We can do better

If you had a child that was acting out and being unruly or dare I say violent, how woud you handle it?

Would you simply throw more rules and restrictions at them?

Would you say “now isn’t the time to talk about how to prevent the outbursts”

Would you sit down and talk with them?

Ask them what was going on in their life, what they were looking to accomplish with the outburst, and ultimately what they wanted out of their life?

Would you assume their behavior was fueled by easy access to weapons? Or would you look deeper than that.

This is your kid after all. And you want to help them, and help them long term, and help them move on to something bigger and successful, and understand how to manage and utilize the tools in their life and to navigate the trials and frustrations of life.

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple days especially since I was bullied and I work in a school.

If I had the power I would gather legislators and say “ladies and gentlemen” we aren’t leaving this room until, we have a solid solution to this problem, the only two ideas that are off the table are

1. Taking away more guns
2. Arming the educators themselves

I would also say that legislation couldn’t be discussed until at least 5 potential root causes were identified, and legislation must be centered on those causes.

The next thing I would do is get the input of students themselves I would ask those who had ever had a thought of being violent, why, what they thought it would accomplish, and what they felt the consequences of those actions would be.

I would inquire as to the personal situations of these kids, I would ask them what their goals and aspirations would be, and I would ask them what their stressors are, what causes them pain and hurt and to feel helpless.

My biggest gripe with this is we have a bunch of people crazily disconnected from the situations and experiences of the people who have these thoughts, and we never actually consult and seek to know why they feel this way, what causes them

Because for every kid or adult that foes act out violently, there is at least and hundred more than have had the thought but hadn’t reached the end of their rope, and we never seek their advice.

We don’t have a weapons problem in this country, we have a cultural problem, and a communication problem, and a problem of priorities and expectations.

And most sadly we have a problem with identifying root causes and seeking to solve root causes. The root cause of violence isn’t how conveniently handy a weapon might be.

It is time to stop looking at this from the lens of ideology, and politics, and time to start looking at it through the lens of a parent.

The same way you’d look deep and in a multi-faceted way to help your kid if they were acting out is the same way we need to look at people and society that is acting out.

There won’t be a one size fits all solution, let’s stop acting like such a thing actually exists for this problem


Morning Musings

I was thinking about somethings, and in particular about how my faith has evolved over the past 4-5 years. 

And as I reflected on the way I’ve come to realize that reality and history are much deeper and more complex, and human interaction much more messy than I wanted to believe growing up, I was reminded of something that always used to bother me in mathematics but something that I’ve readily accepted in my everyday interactions with people and history. 

And that is that sometimes in Math there simply isn’t enough data to solve for X or Y or whatever and the simplest terms that you can express things in still incorporate and require unknown variables and expressions. 

This doesn’t make the principles of math errant or false it means we don’t have sufficient data to solve for the variable. 

And yet that is viewed as the acceptable correct thing to do, to say this is the best way to express that equation. 

But we don’t say that doing such is putting that equation on a shelf, or that the equation and the incorporation of the unknown into the simplest terms is mental gymnastics or done to avoid dissonance. We recognize that not every data set provides enough information to solve for each variable. 

I’m really not great at math, but if I’m honest with myself religion is a compilation of various data sets that will one day form a complex and comprehensive proof, but at present there exists in nearly each data set some unknown variable that at present cannot be solved for and thus the proof cannot be completed. 

But we can look for and seek out existing data that will test our theory or hypothesis, and if it is a sound hypothesis or theory then data will come back to us demonstrates our hypothesis to be correct and our theory can be shown to be sound. 

And if we are lucky the data that comes back helps to solve for some of those unknowns, but often it can introduce new variables that we will have to account for and rewrite some equations from time to time. 

I know Christ to be the Son of God as surely and definitively as anyone can based on subjective confirmation methods. And yet that knowledge, is as sound and real and outside myself as is the understanding of 4+4=8. I wouldn’t be more convinced that Christ was the Savior and Son of God if He stood before me than I am now. 

I can no more deny that knowledge of my Savior than I can deny 4+4=8 

The same goes for the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, living Prophets, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being God’s kingdom upon the earth. 

And I would make myself just as much a liar to say that 4+4=9 as I would to say that any of the above aren’t what they claim to be.

Lessons from the Exodus

One of my favorite stories from the OT due to its applicability to today is the story of the Spies sent to scout the promised land. 
In the record found in Numbers 13 & 14 The Israelites are encamped just south of Caanan and are poised to enter the promised land. 12 spies (one from each tribe) are sent to gather intel on the region and what the land and people are like.

Caleb and Joshua return and tell if a land of milk and honey, and that they should enter the land straightaway, and that though there are mighty people there The LORD is with them and they will overcome.

However the 10 other scouts while seeing the milk and honey are only able to focus on the perceived obstacles and the size of the task ahead of them and they bemoan their situation complaint against Moses & Aaron, and say but it would have been better for them to perish in the wilderness or to stay as slaves in Egypt, and they say that they should choose a new leader and travel back to Egypt, and they should stone Moses and Aaron, and Caleb and Joshua.

It is at this point that the Lord appears, and asks Moses, how much longer He should be patient with the children of Israel. The Lord says He will destroy them and raise up through Moses, a new and greater nation (essentially here He is saying He will reestablish the promise made to Abraham but rather it will be established through Moses.)

Moses intercedes and the wrath of God in destroying Israel is assuaged, but the Lord makes a decree that none of the current camp of Israel who had seen the miracles and wonders of Egypt and the glory of God at Sinai aged 20 and older shall inherit the promised land, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, and that their children shall inherit the land, but first they shall suffer wandering in the wilderness 40 years, and then they shall possess the land. That because of their complaints and rebellion and insistence on focusing on the problems and complaints they will NT inherit what was promised to them.

And this then begins the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the trial and suffering all because they lacked the faith and trust to stay true to The Lord and His leaders and plan, because they became obsessed with the challenges before them and d focused on the shortcomings they knew rather than in the Power of the Lord to overcome those shortfalls.

Now this event has great applicability both for us personally and collectively as a church.

I think in many ways the modern church stands at this cross roads at the precipice of truly inheriting what was promised, and kept from it by those who desire to return to by gone days and who focus on the shortfalls and challenges rather than the goodness and strength of God that can overcome, and make it possible for us to prevail.

I think it should be recognized that Caleb and Joshua saw the same challenges and those who rebelled also saw the milk and honey, but the difference was Caleb and Joshua trusted the Lord would see them through, and the other railed against Moses, said he wasn’t fit to lead and they needed knew leadership to lead them back to where they had been.

And as a result they were kept.from what they were promised from what they truly had supposed they wanted, and the blessings were put off to the next generation.

We must look beyond the challenges and realize and understand the Lord is with us, and if we want the land of milk and honey, then we must trust the Lord, and His chosen leaders, and give a good report one that recognizes the challenges but also that we have on our side the ability and power to overcome those challenges.

And how we give voice and express our recognition of the mighty host (problem) before us matters, and shapes the response from the Lord in helping us overcome. 

Public Violence is a Symptom

I’ve said it before and will say it again public violence is a symptom. Guns are merely a tool used in perpetrating the violence. 
Public violence is a multi faceted problem, one that can’t be pinned down to anyone source. Nor should we attempt to.

That being said looking to solve public violence by further restricting a single tool, is like someone having bacterial menegitis and all we want to do is give Tylenol to address the fever. 
We have to look comprehensively at solutions to each cause all along the way, and yes ultimately if that means more regulations of guns so be it. 
But we shouldn’t look to curb freedom as the first resort, it should be the last resort hail mary after all other avenues are exhausted utterly and completely. 
You’re welcome to disagree in fact I encourage you to disagree. But do so rationally and objectively, and not emotionally. 

We need to address social services, mental health, culture, media portrayal and messages, and access. Not just access. 

My heart goes out to the victims, I hope we can look at ourselves seriously and each side be willing to give and sacrifice for the common good. 

Let us find ways to beat our sword into plowshares and Spears into pruning hooks


In the “Things Christ never said files” we have the concept of Once Saved Always Saved.

In order to illustrate this there is a number of ways that we could go; however, I think that it is only necessary to look at what Christ remarked about endurance, specifically what He said about enduring to the end. There are several places in which Christ talks about this in the NT and the Gospels, one that we might look at is the parable He gives to the Apostles in John 15 where He describes believers as branches on a vine (presumably grape vines).  And just as the branches can’t bring forth fruit of themselves, if you cut a branch off the main vine it withers and dies, so too we must stay connected to Him, the main vine, in order to produce fruit. He then says that those who don’t produce fruit would be cut off.

Now here is where many would interject and say “wait Sarge, those who get cut off weren’t true branches to begin with.” And I say show where Christ makes that distinction in His parable and discourse, He doesn’t so we shouldn’t.  Further this is just a dodge invented to try and skirt around the reality of personal apostasy, and the fact that invariably it happens, hopefully rarely but it happens, and it is a fallacious pile of garbage to claim that well prior to that they weren’t really converted and weren’t sincere.

Especially when we’ve seen the fruits of the Spirit in the lives of these individuals, and real evidences of them having been reborn as disciples of Christ. What is more I don’t think that is a road that any Christian wants to go down, because it could then mean their conversion isn’t sincere despite their feeling like it is and if they were to die in that moment, who knows what would happen to them, such errant dogma actually does the opposite of what it sets out to. (provide security of salvation)  And instead give no one any security because they could be somehow insincere themselves, additional it sets us up as the judges of man’s hearts and that isn’t something we are qualified to do.

Don’t get me wrong there is salvational security and Christ outlines where it comes from, and how we can be confident that we are secure, that is through keeping the commandments and living the life of Discipleship, with His yoke and burden firmly and squarely upon our shoulders. The question isn’t whether “true Christians” can’t fall away, it is a matter of they won’t fall away.
I won’t waste time elaborating on the reality that even though we do this our trust is still in His Atonement and Grace and the power He has to overcome our weakness and not in any personal ability we have to be obedient because remember His standard is still perfection and we will all fall short.  But let’s look at what Christ has actually said on the topic.

Now since Christ didn’t limit His words and revelations to just the Bible neither will I though certainly we will look there, but I would first like to look at modern revelation.

D&C 14:7  And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

D&C 18:22 And as many as repent and are baptized in my name, which is Jesus Christ, and endure to the end, the same shall be saved.

1 Nephi 22:31 Wherefore, ye need not suppose that I and my father are the only ones that have testified, and also taught them. Wherefore, if ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day. And thus it is. Amen.

2 Nephi 33:And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.

Mark 13:13 / Matthew 10:22 13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

D&C 20:25 That as many as would believe and be baptized in his holy name, and endure in faith to the end, should be saved

3 Nephi 15:9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life. 

Now there is something that all of these have in common beyond telling us to endure to the end. They say that those who endure are the ones who will be saved.

That’s the Crux of the matter, Christ said IF we endure THEN we are saved.  Not those who are saved will then endure.

For additional reading on this topic See these additional resources

My Favorite

A great read

Some thoughts on Mercy, and Forgiveness. 

I’d like to briefly discuss a recent … Let’s call it paradigm shift I’ve had, and a bit of back story on how I got there. 

I’m my various dealings and conversations with friends, acquaintances, and critics in life and social media, I’ve run across various bold assertions about my beliefs (LDS) and the beliefs of others, and seen many labels applied to all of them:

Heresy, Apostasy, False Gospel, Idolatry (God crafted in my image) etc. And occasionally, someone will remind others not to judge. 

The reality is, that Christ admonished us that we should judge, but to beware, because we ultimately will be judged based upon what metrics we use to judge others.

Matthew 7:1-2

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (See also Luke 6:37 & 19:22)

Once upon a time I was pretty strident and narrow regarding what I viewed as acceptable standards of belief, not only of others but also of people in my own faith. 

Over time and due largely to reading and trying to apply the teachings contained in the Book of Mormon and Bible. I’ve come to realize, that as one who desires leniency and mercy from God in how I live and believe I needed to do a better job of granting that to others. 

Now don’t get me wrong there are still lines and boundaries that ought not to be crossed, however I’ve come to realize that within those lines and boundaries there is room and allowance for people to hold various individual views on various individual topics. 

As Elder Jeffery R. Holland has said here, the line and boundary drawn is whether they are upholding their covenants and staying faithful to those and to the cause of Christ. 

I won’t get into things and actions that I feel violate those boundaries because that isn’t the point here. 

Rather the goal and focus here is to remind others that what we all want from the Lord is forgiveness, mercy, and a bit of leeway for our own shortcomings and differences compared to Him and His perfection, of which we will assuredly fall far short of. 

It hasn’t been easy adjusting my outlook and changing the way in address and interact with others, and it has no doubt caused others to view me differently and friends to become concerned I’ve changed and potentially am losing my way. 

In truth I have changed, I also don’t fault them for their views and opinions regarding my new found outlook. My only hope is they are prepared and willing to accept the standards they apply to others to be applied to them. 

My prayer is that we all grant each other some leniency, and instead of trying to determine who is right and who is wrong, we look beyond our differences to come together and work towards solutions and the betterment of all, and ultimately the establishment of Zion, a place where unity of purpose is the functioning principle, despite differing ideologies, and viewpoints. 

Angels, Ad Hocs & Assumptions

The ever entertaining Rob Bowman has recently updated an article rife with special pleading regarding the visit of Moroni to Joseph Smith. In the article Bowman discusses how it is quite implausible that Joseph could have a visit from an angel, and yet none of the brothers whom he shared a room with noticed or were awoken by it. He does so while ignoring such Biblical instances of Elisha’s servants and the heavenly army that basically utilize the same principles. 

Firstly let’s recognize that even the appearance of an angel to a human feels like an implausible scenario, so that the implausible did happen, let’s not limit ourselves to having the implausible happen but only being able to happen in a way that agrees with our 21st century sensibilities. 

Never mind that as previously mentioned in the OT and NT there are cases presented where one party is aware of angelic visitors and other parties have no idea they are there. This flaw was pointed out to Bowman previous to his update, and it seems he hasn’t done anything to change that issue or address it. Rather his update spends considerable effort reinforcing the reality of his special pleading. 
He has also incorrectly stated our views on angels or perhaps inadequately stated 

3. In LDS theology, angels are not incorporeal beings that appear to people in temporary visible manifestations. They are understood to be resurrected human beings possessing immortal, glorified physical bodies. Moroni, specifically, is said to have been a resurrected Nephite prophet and the son of the Nephite prophet Mormon; Moroni is identified as the man who finished his father’s book and eventually deposited the gold plates in the hill near Joseph Smith’s home. Thus, a visitation by such a physical being (as distinguished from a vision of such a being) would be presumed to be visible and audible to anyone in a physical location to see and hear unless the account stated otherwise.

Actually Rob in LDS theology not all angels are resurrected beings, there are plenty that are simply spirits, though one should remember here that the physical laws of earth don’t exactly apply to them, resurrected or not, the same way they apply to us. So standing in the air and being visible to only some are well within their abilities. 

One is left to wonder why an angel that is a physical being suddenly operates via different rules than one that isn’t. 

Does Rob have a copy of the employee manual for angelic beings? Would he kindly share why he presumed automatic visibility and audibility?

Was it simply to help his narrative, something put together on the fly as it were to adjust for data or is there something else that lends support for differing rules for Moroni?

Rob would have us believe that Moroni can find away to stand in the air but doesn’t have the ability to only appear to Joseph. An odd assumption, notice also Bowman admits his conclusion that Moroni would have been naturally visible to the other brothers is an assumption, and the only supporting data for that is basically that he thinks it must be that way.(Again he must have a copy of the angels employee manual or maybe the union agreement) And yet in the same breathe he accuses Mormon apologists of forwarding ad hoc responses. 

(Phone rings) “Hello”

(Voice on the other end) “Yes Hi, is this Kettle?”

“Yes this is the kettle what can I do for you?”

“Yeah this is the pot and I was just calling to let you know you are black m’kay!” (Hangs up)

Now this type of hypocrisy and double standards is a hallmark of Bowman’s work, but let’s not dwell on it let’s move back to his article. 

Bowman spends the next portion of his article trying to act like his special pleading regarding Joseph’s brothers isn’t special pleading because in the example used against him where Elisha sees the chariots of the Lord standing with them and his servant doesn’t (see 2 Kings 6) the servant is mentioned and in Joseph’s claim his brothers aren’t. 

So see guys it isn’t special pleading still because…. oh wait you mean Rob is still making an allowance for the miraculous on a tale he feels is true while not making room for that same miracle with Joseph and therefore it is special pleading whether one story explicitly mentions the there or not?

Again remember it is Bowman accusing LDS apologists of ad hoc responses, and yet Bowman only asserts the invalidity of comparison between Joseph and Elisha AFTER his special pleading has been pointed out to him.

Of course you’ll have to forgive Joseph for not mentioning his brothers considering how they played no role in the experience and Joseph is detailing what transpired between him and Moroni. 

Apparently it seems angels only have the power to conceal themselves when everyone who is there later gets mentioned. That’s important information to know I’m glad Rob filled us in on that tidbit. 
But let’s break down how Rob arrives at this supposedly none special pleading non ad hoc solution. 

The narrative makes it quite clear why he did not at first see the supernatural forces: they were not naturally visible beings. 

Yes, and in Joseph’s case glorified resurrected beings from heaven are just always walking around town naturally visible to anyone… Oops my bad again they aren’t. So right off the bat we have two scenarios with the same premise going on let’s continue

Elijah’s servant had to be granted the ability to see those supernatural beings. Notice that the servant is not rebuked for lack of faith or anything along those lines; his not seeing the supernatural beings was not his fault, because they were not natural entities that would be normally visible to human eyes. 

See it was Joseph’s brothers fault because Resurrected glorified beings from heaven are floating around town visible to everyone like we previously established so the brothers of Joseph not seeing Moroni is totally on them and their failure to just use their natural eyes. 

God had to “open his eyes” to see them. The fact that the account reports that the servant at first did not see the supernatural army and then did see it is explained in the account itself as involving the miraculous. The reader is not forced to this explanation ad hoc to resolve some external difficulty; it is what the text actually says.

Yes God had to open their eyes to see it. But God didn’t have to open Joseph’s eyes to the vision cuz Resurrected glorified beings from heaven are just floating around town for everyone to naturally see all the time. 

I would like to take this moment to thank Rob for outlining his special pleading in perfect detail and showing the say reader just guilty of hypocrisy and double standards he is. It was actually quite humorous as I read though I was like 

Anyways Bowman instead of solving the problem of special pleading in his update merely served to outline exactly how he is guilty of it all while arguing that he wasn’t doing it, that’s good stuff 

If you want to check Rob’s actual article to see his assumptions presumptions and double standards in action do so here

Sometimes I feel like Bowman’s articles need a waring sign like this

Or as another associate of mine said

“What he’s doing is very clever.  Since Joseph Smith didn’t mention how his brothers were kept from seeing the vision, ANY theory put forward to explain how that could be possible can, and will,  be dismissed as “ad hoc.”  In his reasoning, the very act of trying to explain it defeats the explanation.  Ergo, no explanation can exist; ergo, he needs do nothing else to win the debate other than state his starting assumption.

What a hack.”