Points to Live By

Posted on Monday, October 5, 2009 in Let's Get Random

Thoughts from a previous work associate that passed on a few years ago. I just came across them again and thought I’d share.

Personal Axioms:

1. Truth is an absolute which exists independent of perception.
2. There is an ultimate repository of truth from which knowledge may come
3. Our consciousness is a combination of information from both mind and soul.
4. We are at the center of our universe.
5. We always operate on perception.
6. We always choose the alternative perceived to be most beneficial to us.
7. Once we arrive at a desired perception we tend to stop seeking the truth.

Be bold, be brilliant, be brief

A Look Back

Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2009 in Let's Get Random

LDS Church Taking Heat Recently

Posted on Thursday, November 13, 2008 in Let's Get Random, Reviews
Neal A. Maxwell, “A More Determined Discipleship,” Ensign, Feb 1979, 69–73
“Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions. President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had ‘never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional or political life.’
“This is hard doctrine, but it is particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ. . . . Your discipleship may see the time when such religious convictions are discounted. . . . This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. “Resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened….Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel. There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds which was, till then, unconscious of itself. Jesus said that when the fig trees put forth their leaves, ‘summer is nigh.’ Thus warned that summer is upon us, let us not then complain of the heat.”

Perspective on Baptisms for the Dead

Posted on Monday, September 22, 2008 in Let's Get Random

This article was originally published by the Chicago Tribune (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-mormon-jewssep21,0,1284438.story).

Bridging a Jewish-Mormon rift
Grandpa’s baptism opens door

Grandpa’s arms always offered the warmest embrace. But he had an iron fist when it came to being Jewish.

Having watched his parents shun his brother Al for marrying a non-Jew, Grandpa didn’t marry my Christian grandmother until she had converted to Judaism. Later, my grandfather insisted that a rabbi marry my mom and dad. And he boycotted his sons’ weddings when they both married Catholics.

So imagine the shock when I learned that my late grandfather had been posthumously baptized a Mormon.

The news revealed nothing about my grandfather. After all, the baptism wasn’t his idea. Instead, it opened my eyes to the role of free will in the belief system of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called the Mormon Church.

And it gave me a new perspective on a dilemma that generations ago nearly tore my family apart.

For years, the “Mormon side” of the family had been no more than shadowy characters in our genealogical soap opera. The “Mormon cousins,” as they came to be known, were the descendants of my great-uncle Al, who for years supposedly did not speak to his family because of the Christian woman he chose to be his wife.

The whole saga served as a cautionary tale for many of us about placing religious allegiance above family. Moral of the story: Family came first.

Eventually, my great-grandfather made amends with his son Al. But this was late in life, and by this time even my great-uncle had become a grandfather himself. There was something else: Uncle Al had found Mormonism. And so, another faith entered the clan, a faith that valued family and welcomed new converts with open arms.

When I finally met my great-uncle and cousins four years ago, I knew we were related just from the same quirky sense of humor we shared.

We had the same family stories, too, even some of the same photos in the family albums. And it was while flipping through those albums filled with family trees that I learned the news. Next to the names of my grandmother and grandfather were dates of their births, their deaths and their baptisms.

My cousins don’t archive family history for only sentimental reasons. They do so for a theological purpose. The Mormon Church calls on its members to pour their energies into the salvation of all people—including those no longer on earth.

To make sure every human being has a chance to reunite with God and family in heaven, Mormons baptize the dead by proxy, a practice my cousin describes as a sacred “power of attorney.”

Mormons trace their unique custom of baptizing the dead to the New Testament. In one of his letters to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?”

The verse confuses a lot of Catholics and Protestants. But for Mormons it makes perfect sense. They believe Christianity’s intent was restored through their church in 1830. They also believe God would not deny that good news to previous generations. So to be fair, everyone should get another chance in the next life to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that offer is proffered through baptism.

My cousins say they have lost count of how many posthumous baptisms they have performed, estimating the number to be in the hundreds. The church tracks them in the International Genealogical Index, a database of more than 700 million names that includes celebrities, popes and dictators.

It also lists Holocaust victims, which has led to no shortage of tension between Mormons and Jews. In 1995, Mormons responded to protests from the Jewish community by promising to stop posthumously baptizing Jews without the consent of their family members. In 2004, the church promised to remove the names of Holocaust victims who had been added to the index without consent from their relatives. For many Jews, posthumous baptisms evoke thousands of forced conversions during pogroms and the Holocaust. It’s one thing to offer prayers for someone. It’s quite another to seemingly seal their fate without consent.

But Mormons contend that proxy baptism doesn’t automatically make a person Mormon. As my cousins explained, the baptisms simply give my grandparents a choice.

Choice is a central tenet to the Mormon faith. They believe God chose to send his spiritual children to earth to exercise free will by enduring the test of mortality. That freedom or ability to choose does not end when people die.

Even if people in the spirit world no longer have flesh and blood, they still possess the same ego, personality and intellect, which means Grandma and Grandpa “can turn up their noses at this if they want,” my cousin said. Because Mormons believe baptism and other sacred rites are required to enter the kingdom of heaven, they perform the rites by proxy “just in case.”

I imagined my grandfather downright mad at the arrogance of presuming he would abandon what he had devoted his life to preserving. But when I told my mother about the baptism and braced myself for a flood of emotions, she surprised me.

“Mom and Dad felt that any blessings bestowed upon them . . . long distance couldn’t hurt a thing,” she said.

Turns out, according to my cousins, my grandfather remained close to his brother regardless of the family tumult. He lent his brother the car and cash he needed to marry. And he helped put some of Al’s grandchildren through medical school.

No matter how stubborn my grandfather continued to be with his own children, he always regretted the way his brother had been treated and tried to make up for it until his dying day.

My cousin said the baptism was done out of love, as a way to honor my grandparents. “It is the epitome of not forgetting somebody,” he said.

It does come down to choice. We have the freedom to choose whether religion will unite us or divide us. In the past, my family chose to let it divide. Faced with this revelation, I now realize how torn they must have been. Still, I choose to learn from that mistake and appreciate my cousins’ gesture.

Heeding that lesson, to me, is the epitome of not forgetting.

Tribune reporter Manya A. Brachear covers religion.

No More Cassette Tapes!

Posted on Monday, July 28, 2008 in Let's Get Random

So my wife and I have wanted to go through our boxes of old tapes for years.  We’ve always found a reason not to…until tonight.

So we just spent 3 hours writing down all the songs we wanted from hundreds of old cassette tapes.  Most of them are hers (yeah she’s older…way older…ok, only 3 years older).  We have just about everything from The Dead Milkmen to Pink Floyd.  Luckily, I’ve found mp3s of most of them already thanks to “the power of the internet” (thank you Chris Finken).

Let’s hope our garbage can can hold them all.  We’ll take on the dust collecting CD collection in a few years.

Jose Canseco vs BYU

Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 in Let's Get Random

Ok, so the title is a bit misleading.  As far as I know Canseco has nothing against BYU.  However, he will be boxing a former football player, Vai Sikahema (one of my favorite Cougs of all time).  It’s reported that Vai will be donating his earnings from the fight.  Does anyone else have reservations as to whether or not Joser will do the same?

Check out the news article for more.

Stooping to New Lows

Posted on Tuesday, May 20, 2008 in Let's Get Random

So I’ve always made fun of American Idol fans. The show just came off to me as extremely fake/staged and cheesy. I had never watched more than a minute of AI over the years it’s been on…until recently. Somehow my wife got interested in the show two weeks ago. I watched the final 3 episodes of the season. I realized my mistake just a few minutes ago when I found myself calling in to vote for David Archuleta…4 times (and I don’t even know if you can vote more than once!). It feels good to confess.

You’re not getting a Christmas card from me this year

Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 in Let's Get Random, Rants

So yeah, Christmas cards are a pain. I actually enjoy getting them, but printing them out, stuffing envelopes and scrounging up enough stamps just isn’t my thing. So this year we put together a blog post on our family website with some up-to-date info, pictures and our ElfYourself video. It’s way more interactive and people can’t throw it away the day after Christmas!

no-more-christmas-cards.jpg

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