Just a test

Posted on Monday, September 29, 2008 in Site Updates

So Cool Website Tracker

This is just a test.  You’re welcome Corey.

Powered Parachuting

Posted on Monday, September 22, 2008 in Sports

So last Thursday night I get a call…”Do you want to go flying?”.  I’m always up for something new, so the next morning I found myself out in the desert staring at the most dangerous looking contraption I’d ever seen (not to mention about a gallon of gasoline was spilled on it while filling it up).

I’d have to say it turned about to be one of the best rides of my life.  It was much more fun than flying in a small plane because you can slow down, get really low and actually sense what’s going on around you.

Check out a few of the many pictures I took.

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.

ESPN Preview of the 2008 Cougs

Posted on Tuesday, July 1, 2008 in Sports

The media continues to hype this seasons BYU Cougars.  ESPN recently provided this preview that toys with the idea of a perfect season.  Personally, I don’t think the Cougs can make it through the season without 1 or 2 loses (away at both Utah & TCU, out of conference games – UCLA & UW).  Obviously I’d be happy if they proved me wrong ;-) .

Check out the article.  It’s a good read, minus some misinformation by the author (roster mistakes, etc.)

Itching for BYU Football to Begin

Posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 in Sports

This will have to satisfy me until the season starts.

Wrightsville Beach, Here We Come

Posted on Friday, May 30, 2008 in Travel

I’m taking the family to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.  We’re off tomorrow morning at 6AM.  The kids are pumped to spend some time at the beach and I’m ready to take a break from work and the daily grind.  So yes, I will be as lazy as possible at the beach house.  As long as we survive the plane ride with our 3 and 5 year olds and don’t get too sun burnt I’m sure it will be a blast.  We went to the same spot 3 years back and have been looking forward to returning.

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.

Go Cougs

Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2008 in Sports

I haven’t missed a BYU home football game since 1998.  Basketball games have been a different story.  I normally only find the time to check out one game a year, but luckily I’ve made it out to the last two home games.

The UNLV game was one of the most entertaining sporting events I’ve been to in a few years.  Normally I don’t enjoy a blowout, but the Cougars had so many highlights that it didn’t matter.  Jimmer Fredette…point guard next year (assuming the rumors are true about him postponing his LDS mission)?

BYU vs Utah.  As always, this game lived up to expectations.  I continue to be amazed that this great rivalry doesn’t get more pub.  Anyway, it wasn’t quite as fun as the recent UNLV game.  However, the favored BYU team just couldn’t put the Utes away.  Of course I’m glad my Cougs pulled out the win, but it did appear to me that the refs weren’t planning on giving the Yewties any favors.  The foul margin was pretty drastic (possibly lack of offensive aggression).  Nice to sweep the U two years in a row during conference games.

Now it’s time to see if the Cougs can finally win a tourney game.

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