Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Regarding my safety

Dear World,

I won't be giving a whole lot of updates on my blog; probably just a bit now and then to let everybody know I'm still alive and doing well. But today I thought it might be important to say something regarding the rioting in Paris and how it's affecting me. Frankly, I haven't seen any effects from Limoges (where I'm serving right now); we're really far away from Paris. The only effect it's had on us so far is that it's become a common topic of discussion with people we talk to. We are always careful about avoiding situations that could be dangerous, and since we're always indoors at night, there's really not much danger to the missionaries.

Following is an excerpt from a letter from our mission president to parents:

We are aware of the extensive coverage being given by the news media to the events in our mission over the past week and a half. We are certain that these reports have caused you an extra degree of concern for your son or daughter. Therefore we want to provide this report of what is currently occurring and what steps we have instituted for our missionaries’ safety.

As we understand is heavily reported worldwide, demonstrations in the form of burnings of cars and some buildings began in the northeast suburbs of Paris to protest the accidental deaths of two youths by electrocution on Oct. 27 as they ran from the police.

These acts are directed against the police and the French government in general, primarily by immigrants and their descendants who feel they are being denied the rights of French residency and citizenship. They are occurring during the nighttime. At first they occurred only in the northeast suburbs of Paris but have now spread to other suburbs and, to a lesser extent, to Paris itself and other outlying cities. For the most part, they are occurring in neighborhoods of low-cost apartments occupied primarily by the immigrant population.

Accordingly we have taken the following safety measures:

1. All our missionaries are instructed to stay out of the neighborhoods where demonstrations/burnings are most likely to occur and to avoid all gatherings that could turn into demonstrations.
2. Paris-area missionaries are to be home in their apartments by 7:00 PM on weeknights when the heaviest commuter traffic on public transportation subsides unless they have a teaching appointment with members who will return them by private automobile to their apartment after the appointment. On weekends our Paris-area missionaries are to be in their apartments by dark.
3. We are working closely with local priesthood leaders who are assigning suitable members to take our missionaries into their homes if conditions escalate and require it.
4. Each apartment has a week’s supply of food should it become prudent to keep our missionaries in for several days. Missionaries are also to have cash on hand and a reserve of funds on their electronic cards.

-------------------

So, like he said, we're taking appropriate precautions, but it honestly isn't affecting the work where I am. Things are going great. I hope you're all doing well, and I look forward to receiving and responding to your letters.

Love,

Elder Jensen

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

France

Everybody,
 
I'm in France, but can't use email except to family.  I'll have my family members update my blog starting next week.  Anybody can email me at:
 
Anybody else can send snail mail to:
 
Elder James Kenneth Jensen
France Paris Mission
23, rue du Onze Novembre
78110 Le Vesinet
France
 
... and it will be forwarded to me wherever I happen to be.
 
Love,
 
Elder Jensen

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Letter received October 17, 2005

Dear World,
 I'd like to thank everyone for your concern and advice for the trouble I was having a couple of weeks ago. I've heard half a dozen different explanations for the behavior of my companion. Let me first make sure there is no misunderstanding or mistaking the situation, as may have happened due to my limitations as a writer; my few letters over the past two months must naturally give the reader a distorted and sensational glimpse of my time here at the MTC, just as relying on front-page headlines would give us a distorted perception of the "real" world. The truth is, Elder Evans is a great missionary.  He has been since the beginning of our time here, and I know that he will become better and better throughout his mission. We have come to respect and love one another and, for the most part, to understand each other. By following mission rules we've been able to work through the issues that naturally occur when two young men from opposite sides of the earth, with completely different personalities, choose to undertake a work in which they must spend almost every waking moment in one another's presence. We've learned a great deal from one another, and if I had the choice, I wouldn't have wanted to spend that time any other way. So I hope you will not misunderstand when I express frustration with any person or situation here. I am happy to be serving my Heavenly Father, and would have it no other way.

 On to lighter subjects, I got my travel plans this week. I leave for Paris on Monday, 17 Oct. and arrive the next morning, Paris time. [James's new address] Somebody tell Jameson Veit (Heather's brother) that his friend, Elder Babcock, moved in next door to our room, and is in our branch, learning French like a champion.

 I just had an interesting experience that illustrates the point I was mentioning earlier. I got called to the front office, which is a pretty rare occurrence around here. So I was wondering, did somebody in my family die? Did I dod something to get in trouble? Did my VISA get rejected? But no. Apparently I mentioned getting sick (runny nose) some time ago and then last week I mentioned being a little sick (cough) in my letters home, so my Mom called the MTC to find out if I'm okay! I guess she figured I'd been confined to bed for several weeks or something. See how easy it is to misconstrue the situtation based on so little information? How embarrassing. Ah, well, it's a mother's job to worry.

 When I get to France, I'll see if I can post to my blog directly or use email. If not, it may be a couple of weeks before you get your next update.
    
         Au revoir,
                Elder Jensen

[James, I hope you were able to get the info you needed from your Mom! I didn't get your letter until the afternoon of Oct. 17th so I didn't have a chance to warn her to be prepared.]

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Letter from October 4, 2005

Dear World,
 First of all, I'd like to thank Laurie and John Padget (I think that's spelled right) for their postcard from Australia. Did I mention that my companion, Elder Evans, is from Melbourne?

 Secondly, Elder Evans and I resolved our concerns in our companionship inventory this week and we're getting along much better now.

 Thirdly, did you get a chance to watch General Conference this weekend? If not, you ought to look it up on the Internet.

 That is all. God Bless! Que Bieu Vous Benisse!

          Elder Jensen

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Letter from September 29 continued

(I accidentally sent that before I was ready, so let me finish now).

Before I came here, everybody told me that I'd be really annoyed with the other elders because they're all 19-20 years old and immature. Thus far I've found that to be untrue. As stated in my setting-apart blessing, I've been blessed with "the maturity and understanding to be able to understand the other missionaries who come from a variety of backgrounds and levels of maturity . . . the perception to see the good in them . . ." At this point, I'm more concerned that the other missionaries will have the perception to see the good in me . . . and maybe the courage to help me improve.

Ah, well' until next week: A la prochain!

Elder Jensen

Letter dated September 26, 2005

Dear World,

The districts just ahead of us are going to leave tomorrow, which means we'll be the "oldest" French-speaking missionaries at the MTC (I think; at least in our branch). That means there are just a few more weeks before I leave for France! Crazy.

When I'm learning French, I feel like I'm not learning much, but when I take a step back and realize that I understood an entire Sacrament meeting talk, or that I just explained God's Plan of Salvation, entirely in French, I can't help but be amazed at how quickly I've learned as much as I have.

I've finished reading the Pearl of Great Price, and I'll probably start reading the Doctrine & Covenants soon. I'm also trying to memorize a bunch of scripture locations; that's proving to be more difficult than anything else I do here.

I'm also having some difficulty getting along with my mission companion. We never exactly "clicked," but up until now, we've gotten along alright. We're opposites in just about every way. We're from opposite sides of the globe; I'm a computer geek, while he's always been very sporty; I've got a build that you might call "wiry," whereas he's got the pecs of Arnold Schwarzenegger; I'm cheery and full of smiles, while he's more . . . I think "surly" is the word, but I don't have a dictionary . . .; I constantly feel the need to be doing something constructive, and he sometimes just wants to chill; our communication styles are totally different. In short, the only thing we both have in common is our mission call. Considering all that, it's really nothing shor of miracuous that we've been able to get along with each other as constant compaions for over a month! But last night he told me that I'm really starting to bug hi. That's not so bad, in an of itself, but he then refused to say anymore. FYI Girls: guys hate it when you pull this, "If you don't know, I'm not going to tell you" stunt. It's ridiculous. So I was really surprised when my tough guy companion suddenly clammed up and wouldn't talk bluntly about what I was doing to get on his nerves. I asked him about it again today, and he still wouldn't talk about it. (He said, "You're clueless!" I said, "Yeah, I am. You've probably noticed by now that I'm clueless about a lot of things. I'd appreciate it if you'd be patient enough to help me know wha tI'm doing wrong.") "Don't worry; we're only here for three more weeks," he said. I replied, "Three weeks is a long time at the MTC: besides, if something bugs you, it''ll probably bug my next companion too." He agreed that it probably will. "So you're not doing anybody any favors," I said, "by not telling me."

"I don't have to do anyone any favors," he said. I told him yes, he does--he's a missionary; if he didn't come here to serve others then why is he here? He still hasn't answered.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Letter dated September 19, 2005

Dear World,
It's hard for me to remember what I've written in letters previously, so please forgive me if I repeat myself or forget to mention something. (Mary, thanks for the letter. Keep in touch!)

I got sick for a few days about a week ago, but I'm healthy again now. I'm starting to get tired of the food here at the MTC, but I still have a ways to go before I'm ready for France. The schedule here is pretty unrelenting. Other than about an hour of gym, a few days a week (I'm learning to love volleyball!), we're always either in class, eating, sleeping, studying,, or going to Church meetings, firesides, or devotionals.

Most of my district joined the choir, and it's been nice to be able to sing now and then. It also ensures that we'll have choice seats reserved for Tuesday devotionals. Last week Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke. Nobody is allowed to tell us who's coming to talk each week until they start seating people, but we've heard rumors that the Prophet is in town; how cool would it be if he came to speak at the MTC devotional?! Pretty cool.

In closing, let me just say that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true, re-established church of Jesus Christ. The powers of Prophecy and the Priesthood of God have been restored, and the Saints have fulfilled (and continue to fulfill) ancient prophecies from the New and Old Testaments. Our Heavenly Father wants very much to bless the lives of all of His children here on Earth, including you. Please make sure that you do everything that is required of you, so that He can give you all the blessings of Happiness and Peace that come from obeying the commandments of God and being attentive to His spirit.

I say these things, with love, in the holy name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Signed,
Elder Jensen

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Letter from September 12, 2005

Dear World,
 I think once you've lived a few weeks at the MTC, there's really not much more to talk about. Everything just repeats itself, mostly, except the content of the lessons. The spirit is really strong here. I just got back from the temple. We weren't able to go there last week because of the construction.

 I also just met a friend (Amelia Hardin) from Swing Club. When I saw her and called her by her first name she didn't respond for a few seconds because everyone here calls her "Sister Hardin." It's weird how nobody around here knows anybody else by first name.

 Well, there's much to do today, so I'll close now. Please keep sending letters regularly (or if you aren't, start). Letters are Chicken Soup for the Missionary's soul. I don't think it's possible to understand how important they are unless you've been a missionary. I think I've mentioned how each day here feels like at least two days; a week between letters feels like an eternity.

 God bless you all. You are in my prayers.

Love,
Elder Jensen

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Letter dated August 29, 2005

Dear Everyone,
 This is just a general letter to let you all know how things are going at the MTC. From what I understand, there have been a lot of changes here recently. The infamous "Trees of Life" showers now have dividers in place so that we can shower in relative privacy. "Le bete orange" [the French grammar book used in the MTC, fondly known as "The Orange Beast"] is still exactly the same, except that it is no longer orange.
 
As pretty much everybody LDS knows by now, they've replaced an enourmous amount of reading material that missionaries used to use, with a single book called Preach my Gospel, which covers just about everything a missionary could ever need to know. They've also arranged our schedule so that we have a few hours of "MDT" or "Missionary Directed Time" almost every day. This is basically study time when we're allowed to choose to study in whatever manner is best for us. For instance, sometimes we go to the referral center (basically a call center) and use "Study Hall" mode, where we mostly just study, but if all of the other operators are busy, additional calls can come in to us so that we can help people get free Books of Mormon, DVDs, and have missionaries come to their houses to share our message with them.
 The teachers here are great! Up to this point, I've had Brother Blackman and Brother Richardson, but starting this week Brother Blackmen will teach a different class and be replaced by Sister Moore (I think). I'm sure she'll be good, but it's hard to imagine anyone being as good as Frere Blackmen. He is so inspired, and he has some great stories, plus he's just a great teacher. He's also handsome and single and in serach of an eternal companion, so if any of you ladies are in search of a French-speaking, temple-worthy, returned missionary, bome to BYU and look him up!

 It's been kind of remarkable to see what a small world it is here, Elder Crnich (pronounced "Sir niche) is practically best friends with Jared Hewlett, the crazy-haired kid that was on Brighton's cheer squad with me. After I graduated, the Hewletts moved to Kamas, where Elder Crnich lived. I also met the daughter of one of my co-workers from GE/OEC. Her name is Sister Barker, and she was a year or two behind me at Brighton. Her dad also was one of my dad's good friends in high school, went to the same mission as Liz's mom (actually remembered her [mom] from his mission), and coincidentally, he also showed up at the temple when I went there for the first time.

 I have now been more than two weeks without dancing, and it's taking a serous effort to ignore the withdrawal symptoms ;)

 The international students get to use email while they're here, but the rest of us have to use snail mail. It's okay; I'm getting better at finding time to write letters, and I'm rediscovering cursive . . . dunno if it's any faster though.
 
 Also, because my companion has never been to Temple Square [he's from Australia], he and some others from our district will get to take a field trip down there this Friday, but I'll be staying here with the locals.

 Well, I'd best start writing to my families now. (It's hard, because I'm already a slow writer, and I've got two families to write to each week.)

 God Bless!

[For those of you who speak French and are concerned that James does not realize the importance of accents in the French language, let me assure you that his original letter did contain accents. However, this was typed by Liz, who was unable to figure out how to put in French accent marks. Also note that bracketed words/sentences are Liz's insterted commentary and were not in the original letter.] :)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Letter #1 - MTC Arrival

Dear Family,
I love you very much. I am writing this as I sit in our first
meeting. It's about 3:45 on my first day at the MTC. I'll be writing
this one letter to everybody, because I'm not sure I'll have time to
write anymore today.

After getting here, we went to get our new immunizations. The world
believes that 10 years is enough time between TD shots, but the Church
thinks missionaries need them every 5 years. Plus, of course, they
decided that we need to get innoculated against bacterial meningitis.
I'm not complaining, after I was what happened to my friend Nate
Landon. I'd like to dance with my God-given feet again some day. No
amputations for me, thanks.

After the medical stuff was done, I went to my room and met my
Australian companion, Elder Evans. He seems nice, but we haven't
spoken much yet and I think it'll take a few days to get used to his
accent.

Accomodations are good. We each get a closet, a few clothes drawers,
a desk with a couple of drawers (one of which has a padlock) and a
bunk. We're sharing a room with another pair of elders, whose names I
can't remember right now, but one of them went with me to San
Francisco for his VISA.

As soon as I got here I started remembering things I'd forgotten.
After I check out which things I can get from the book store, I'll
write you a list and see if you can send them to me.
Please thank Steve and Mila for the money, and Mom please thank
everyone else that gave me money earlier.

Dad, expect a few debits from my checking account here, the first of
which will be about $107, I think, for those vaccinations.
Love,
James K. Jensen

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Yet another "Shame on Walmart"


No wonder the southern baptists hate us so much. I took this picture at Walmart last month, but lost it for a time. You'd think they could have at least taken down the "LDS Inspirational Center" signs, if they're going to use the stand to sell Harry Potter and "hip swag."

Monday, August 15, 2005

Farewell talk

We have all been invited to come home to our Father in Heaven.  Scripture likens the event to a wedding feast.  Our Brother is getting married, and we’ve all received invitations to the reception.  It will be held at the classiest reception hall in all the world, and (knowing that we could not possibly afford to pay our own way) He has paid the price required for each of us to come.  But there are still things that we have to do in order to come.

 

First, we need a wedding gift.  What has Jesus asked us to bring him?  Only a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  This is not just the best thing we can offer; it is the only gift that is acceptable to Him.  It is not expensive, and it is something that everybody in the world can give, if they are willing to.  If you don’t show up with this gift all wrapped up and ready to give, you won’t be allowed in.

 

Next, we need something to wear.  The dress code is something like “all white,” so you’d better not show up in street clothes.  For that matter, you’d better make sure that you’re bathed and that your clothes are clean.  These are things that he told us to do.  Too many people figure, “Hey, this is my brother.  He loves me.  He’ll let me in no matter how I come.”  The fact is, if you love Him, you will surely want to do these things that He has asked of you.  You can do all that you want that you think will make Him happy, but why not just do what He has asked you to do?  Parents, what if you told your kids that they can go to the movies if they clean their room, and when you ask them later whether they’re finished they say, “Look, I drew a picture for you!”?  You would certainly appreciate the gesture, but the child still wouldn’t be able to go to the movies.  Or if you tell your babysitter that you’ll pay her extra if she can have the dishes done and the kids in bed by the time you get home, and when you come home to a full sink and kids running around, she says, “I did some laundry.”  Believe me, God appreciates everything you do for Him, but if you can’t obey the most basic, simple things that He has asked of you, you cannot expect him to give you the rewards that he promised conditionally.

 

You can call Jesus Brother, and you can call Him Lord, but He has said:

 

21 ¶ Not every one that asaith unto me, bLord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that cdoeth the dwill of my Father which is in eheaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not aprophesied in thy name? and in thy bname have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never aknew you: bdepart from me, ye that work ciniquity.

24 ¶ Therefore whosoever aheareth these sayings of mine, and bdoeth them, cI will liken him unto a dwise man, which ebuilt his house upon fa rock:

25 And the arain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and bbeat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a crock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a afoolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that ahouse; and it bfell: and great was the fall of it.

 

Finally, we need to get there.  We’ve been given the address, and we’ve been given the map, but for some reason, this may be the most difficult task for us. 

 

For one thing, men are notorious for refusing to ask directions.  If we think we’re going the right direction, we’ll often refuse to even look at the map.  The problem with this is that we’ve been told there is only one route to the reception hall.  Even if it feels like you’re going the right way, if you’re on the wrong road you will eventually have to backtrack to the point where you left the given route.  The farther you go on the wrong road, the longer it will take you to get back.  Sorry, but that’s just the way things work.

 

Beware the temptation to follow the crowd.  I read a book recently where the main character’s primary navigational method is to find somebody who looks like they know where they’re going and follow them.  He rarely gets to where he was trying to go this way, but he often ends up being exactly where he needs to be.  There’s only one problem: the book is a satirical work of fiction.  Real life doesn’t work that way, as much as we want it to.  It’s so tempting to say, “Look, everybody else in the world is invited to the same party I’m invited to.  If I just find someone who looks like they know where they’re going, I’ll get there just fine.  But we’ve been warned that many, many people will not get there, and this is far too important to risk following somebody who is just following somebody, who is following somebody who felt really lucky to have found a nice wide road that’s less crowded than the one they were on.

 

The trip is much easier if you can pair up with a companion.  This way, one person can navigate while the other is driving.  The passenger can also help to make sure the driver isn’t falling asleep.

 

It is okay to show up early and over-prepared, but whatever you do, don’t show up late. Consider Luke 13, verses 24-27:

 

13:24 “Exert every effort82 to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 13:25 Once83 the head of the house84 gets up85 and shuts the door, then you will stand outside and start to knock on the door and beg him, 'Lord,86 let us in!'87 But he will answer you,88 'I don't know where you come from.'89 13:26 Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.'90 13:27 But91 he will reply,92 'I don't know where you come from!93 Go away from me, all you evildoers!'94

 

Now I’m going to go out there and deliver some invitations.  I hope you’ll consult your maps, the scriptures, carefully, and that you’ll exert every effort to enter through that narrow door on time and well-prepared.  I’ll see you there. 

 

God be with you till we meet again.

 

Mission mailing address

Starting Wednesday (August 17) I will be in the Provo Missionary Training Center. While I'm there, you can send me letters at:

Elder James Kenneth Jensen
France Paris Mission
Provo Missionary Training Center
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604

After about 6-8 weeks of training, I will go to France. As soon as I get a chance, I'll let you know my specific address, but until then, send letters and/or packages to:

Elder James Kenneth Jensen
France Paris Mission
23, rue du Onze Novembre
78110 Le Vesinet
France

Telephone: 011-33-1-34-800-483

During the entire mission, there will only be one day per week that I can read and write letters, send email, and do pretty much everything else not directly mission-related (e.g. laundry). Your letters will be a source of strength and enjoyment for me while I am out there, and I hope you will keepsending them, even if I cannot respond or if my responses are short.

I will not have email access while I'm at the MTC. Once in France, I will at least be able to email my immediate family, but beyond that the rules are set by the mission president and I won't find them out until I arrive. If possible, I will try to keep posting to my blog at http://j2jensen.blogspot.com. That way, you can check up on how I'm doing without me emailing everybody all the time. Even if I am allowed to receive and respond to emails from people other than my family, I may decide not to. If this happens, it's nothing personal; I will just have a lot of veryimportant work to do while I'm out there, that's all.

God bless you all!

Love,

Elder Jensen

PS: Since I don't have email addresses for all of my friends and relatives, please forward this information to other people you know that will beinterested. Thank you.

Update: My darling Liz pointed out a typo. I will be at the MTC for 6-8 weeks, not months as originally stated.

Getting ready

I'm getting all of my final preparations together for my mission.

I gave a talk in my home ward on Sunday. I kept trying to come up with ideas for what I should talk about, and even though I liked some of them, none of them seemed like "the talk." Then, as I was outlining the talk Sunday morning, one thought really caught on, and I could tell that that was the one I was supposed to give. So I scrapped everything I’d written up to that point, and just wrote what the Spirit prompted. I finished shortly before it was time to go to church. I really enjoyed the sacrament meeting. My cousin, Chris, had arranged a piece based on “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” and "The Spirit of God" and it brought tears to my eyes as he played it. Everybody seemed to really enjoy the talk and I had several people ask me for copies of it, which felt good because it helped me to know that I’d allowed myself to be guided by the Spirit.

One thing that surprised me was when people started to hand me checks. Apparently it’s a tradition to give missionaries money. It’s nice, because it’s expensive both to serve and to prepare for a mission, but God has provided so many opportunities to earn money and my dad made a significant financial contribution and my girlfriend is buying my car from me and between all of that I expect to have more than enough to last me through the mission. So it was nice to get this money, in a sense, but it felt kind of weird accepting it. Maybe I’ll use it to buy people chocolates while I’m in France.

Blogger has a feature that lets me update my blog via email, and this is the first posting that uses that feature. We’ll have to see how it works out. I’ll ask my mission president if I can continue updating my blog. That way people can keep tabs on me without me having to email people outside my immediate family.

Last glance

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Non-farewell

Since I'll be reporting to the MTC on August 17, I will be speaking in the sacrament meeting at church on Sunday, August 14. It will be in the Winder 3rd Ward, which meets in the Salt Lake Winder West Stake house at:

4551 S 1200 E
SALT LAKE CITY, UT 84117

Sacrament meeting starts at 12:45 PM.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Judge Roberts, 5-4, 98-0, and What It All Means to Scouting

I'm on a mailing list where I receive updates about the Boy Scouts of America, and their continuing battle to receive funding despite homosexual and antitheist activism. This is worth sharing:

Dear Defender of Scouting,

The pending confirmation battle over President Bush’s nomination of Judge John Roberts underscores the increasingly influential role the federal courts are playing in determining social policy in this country.

The reason, of course, is activist judges who are going far beyond the proper role of the judiciary to merely interpreting the law and the clear language of the Constitution. Instead, we see too many judges becoming judicial activists, imposing their own personal agendas and ideologies on society through their rulings.

Probably no group in this country in recent years has been more affected by this development than the Scouts. After all, in the Dale decision just five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Scouts’ right to exclude openly homosexual men from serving as scoutmasters by just one vote, 5-4. This is why the confirmation of justices like Judge Roberts, who clearly is an individual who will strictly interpret the Constitution and refrain from “legislating from the bench,” is so critically important not just to the future of Scouting, but to our country.

As we report below, a runaway federal judiciary can cause great damage to an organization like the Scouts even in the face of overwhelming opposition to such decision. The most recent example of this is the injunction issued in June by Chicago Federal District Court Judge Blanche Manning. If allowed to stand, this injunction would prohibit the Defense Department from supporting future National Jamborees specifically and, by implication, Scouting generally. The Bush Administration is planning to appeal and the Scouting Legal Defense Fund will be filing an amicus brief in support.

It was a preliminary ruling last fall in this same case, originally filed in 1999 by the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), that led Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to introduce the Support Our Scouts Act. Among other provisions, this bill will make it clear that the Defense Department can continue to Support the Scouts. On July 26th the Senate adopted the bill on a 98-0 vote as an amendment to the Defense Department authorization bill.

While this unanimous vote accurately demonstrates once again the overwhelming public support of Scouting, it cannot completely nullify a ruling made by an activist judge on constitutional grounds that the Defense Department cannot fund Scout activities such as the Jamboree. The only sure ways to do that is for Congress to limit the jurisdiction of the courts on Scouting issues or to amend the Constitution. Both are extremely difficult and unlikely remedies.

This means that appointing responsible judges is the only practical way to truly protect Scouting and the critical role it has played for nearly a century in building our national character. And, clearly, the most critical court to focus on is the Supreme Court.

If you have not already contacted your senators with regard to Judge Roberts’ nomination, I hope you will do so. You can find complete contact information for them at the Senate Web site. Communicating our views on this nomination to our senators is one of the most important things any of us can do to defend scouting.

Thanks for all of you efforts in this critical effort!

Sincerely,

Robert B. Carleson
Editor

P.S. You can help defend Scouting even more by making a tax deductible contribution to the Scouting Legal Defense Fund, Click here to make a secure contribution on line or to print out a form to mail in a contribution.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Temple

I went to the temple to receive my endowments on Saturday, as planned. It was a very cool and peaceful experience. Lots of symbolism.

Afterwards, Liz and Chris and I hung out downtown at the library, and then rode Trax back home. Chris taught me to count to 100 in French (a lot more difficult than you might think!) and Liz took a nap. Then we went to see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at the dollar theater (actually, more like $1.50). It was pretty funny, and even though it didn't really stick close to the book's plot, it was very true to the spirit of the book.

Today at sacrament meeting, some friends and I sang an a capella rendition of All Creatures of Our God and King, which I'm told sounded really good. Also, the bishop took some time during sacrament meeting to give a word of encouragement that was really what I needed to hear. He told a story about two pails that were used by a woman to carry water home from the well each day. One of the pails had a leak, so that by the time she got back home it was only half full. The pail apologized to the woman one day for not doing his part.
The woman replied, "Everyone has something different to share with the world."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"Well, have you noticed all the beautiful flowers that have grown along your side of the road, because of the water that you share with them as we walk?"

Sometimes I tend to be too hard on myself for not doing everything as well as it seems they ought to be done. I'd like to start noticing the good that I am able to do, and the things that I am able to contribute simply because I don't do all the same things that other people do.

Friday, July 29, 2005

It's been a while

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. I've been pretty busy doing mundane stuff that wasn't really worth reporting, and my interesting, deep thoughts have been mostly of the sort that I'd rather not share with the world. But mostly my life just hasn't been that interesting.

I've been working for a couple more weeks with GE, and I'll be working until August 9th, if memory serves, which will give me a week without work before my mission. Liz and I have gone shopping for mission prep stuff a couple of times now, and I'm to the point where I pretty much only need a few short-sleeved white shirts and I'll be ready to go!

Tomorrow morning, I'll be going to the Salt Lake Temple. I'm getting pretty excited. From what I hear, it's a very peaceful and beautiful experience. It's sacred enough that Latter-Day Saints don't actually give details on what happens there, so don't expect a very detailed report, but if I get a chance, I'll make a post to say as much as I feel good about saying.

I finished reading the latest Harry Potter book (The Half-Blood Prince) last night. Harry's a lot less whiny in this one than he was in the last book, which is refreshing. It revealed a lot more details about Voldemort and exactly what Harry was going to have to do in order to defeat him. It also did something that I don't think any of the other books in the series have done, in that it didn't quite wrap up everything at the end. I'll just say this: people who just let themselves be spoon-fed will feel one way about a particular character at the end of the book, while those who have been reading carefully and picking up on the hints will come away with a very different impression.

Well, I can't think of much else that's on my mind, so I hope you'll excuse me. Ta.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Internship position

The folks at work have asked me to recommend someone to hire as a regulatory intern this coming year. I don't know who all's looking for jobs, so if you're interested let me know. Of course, I have to actually know you well enough that I feel good about recommending you.

Monday, July 11, 2005

KSL News: 6-Alarm Fire at Wasatch Jr. High

KSL News: 6-Alarm Fire at Wasatch Jr. High
I attended this school in seventh grade. Weird.

Holidays

I overheard some co-workers having a discussion at work today that sounded interesting, so I joined in and asked what the deal was. Apparently, when one of my co-workers was working with another company, she had a manager that was LDS and he decided that instead of taking a holiday on Good Friday like the rest of their corporation, he traded that holiday for Pioneer Day, forcing everybody else there to do likewise. Because of this, she is now adamantly opposed to the celebration of Pioneer Day as a state holiday. "Why does this state shut down," she kept asking, "to celebrate a religious holiday." She was really upset. And I don't just mean bothered--her eye was actually twitching as we talked about it!

I really have a hard time understanding how somebody could get so angry about something like that. I mean, for one thing, I don't even think of Pioneer Day as a religious holiday. In fact, I don't think that the LDS church really has any unique religious holidays. We celebrate Christmas and Easter, just like anybody else. But if we wanted a religious holiday, I would think that they'd have chosen April 6, which has a lot more significance to Latter-day Saints than July 24. Now, it's true that some Mormons celebrate Pioneer Day outside of Utah, but it's also true that some Americans celebrate Independence Day outside of the United States. It's a cultural thing. July 24 marks the passage of the LDS pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley, which I think is appropriate to recognize as a state holiday, considering the impact that it had on shaping Utah's history. Massachussetts observes a few holidays relating to the Revolutionary War, for instance, because of the significant role that those events played in their history. That's the spirit in which we celebrate Pioneer Day. I really don't think anybody ever intended it to be a religious holiday.

Of course, according to a recent Supreme Court decision, it apparently doesn't matter what the intent was. They decided that if an imaginary observer might conceivably feel that something endorses religion, that's enough to prevent the government from sponsoring it on any level. So who knows? Maybe one of these days somebody will get angry and sue the State, and they'll have to stop letting State workers off for Pioneer Day. And then maybe somebody will use that as a precedent to force the entire nation (or at least the nation's government workers) to stop observing Christmas and Easter. Or maybe God will see fit to humble us to the point where we're willing to recognize that we depend on Him, and that our nation would never be what it is today without Him, and maybe we'll decide that atheists can either shut up or move to Canada. Who knows?

What if the armies of the Lord
Picked up and dusted off their swords
Vowed to set the captives free
And not let satan have one more

What if the church, for heaven's sake
Finally stepped up to the plate
Took a stand upon God's promise
And stormed hell's rusty gates

Chorus:
What if His people prayed
And all who bare His name
Would humbly seek His face
And Turn from their own way

And what would happen if we prayed
For those raised up to lead the way
Then maybe kids in school could pray
And unborn children see light of day

What if the life that we pursue
Came from a hunger for the truth
What if the family turned to Jesus
Stopped asking Oprah what to do
-- Casting Crowns

Work and Mission Letter

I went back to OEC today to do some more work for them. I was planning to be done at the end of this week, but they decided they want to keep me on for a few more weeks afterward. Basically, I'll only have one full week without work before I leave. We used to joke that I would have to move to France to get away from that place. Lately it's seeming like less and less of a joke. Of course, they've got a facility in Buc, France, too (which is inside my mission). Ah, well.

When I got home, I found that my mission president had (finally) sent me a letter with details about my mission. Or at least, that was the general idea. It mostly restated what my initial information packet said about things like music and electronic organizers and such. It said almost nothing about what clothes I'll need, so I guess I'll just rely on the other packet for that information. I think it's about time to plan some shopping trips to get everything I need.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Darrell Scott's testimony

Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, addressed the subcommittee on crime of the House Judiciary Committee on May 27, 1999 at the Rayburn House office building in Washington, D.C. This is what he said:

Since the dawn of creation there has been both good & evil in the hearts of men and women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence. The death of my wonderful daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher, and the other eleven children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.

The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used.. Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain's heart.

In the day s that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA. I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA - because I don't believe that they are responsible for my daughter's death. Therefore I do not believe that they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel's murder I would be their strongest opponent.

I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy-it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies! Much of the blame lies here in this room. Much of the blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves. " I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best. This was written way before I knew I would be speaking here today:

Your laws ignore our deepest needs,
Your words are empty air.
You've stripped away our heritage,
You've outlawed simple prayer.
Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question "Why?"
You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed.
And yet you fail to understand,
That God is what we need!

Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, soul, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and reek havoc. Spiritual presences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation's history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence. And when something as terrible as Columbine's tragedy occurs -- politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to erode away our personal and private liberties. We do not need more restrictive laws. Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre. The real villain lies within our own hearts.

As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes-He did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right! I challenge every young person in America , and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999 , at Columbine High Sc hool prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain. Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Hi m. To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA - I give to you a sincere challenge. Dare to examine your own heart before casting the first stone! My daughter's death will not be in vain! The young people of this country will not allow that to happen!
Hat tips: Grandpa Armstrong and TruthOrFiction.com

Friday, July 08, 2005

Newsday.com: U.S. Muslims denounce London bombings, brace for backlash

Newsday.com: U.S. Muslims denounce London bombings, brace for backlash

It's sad that these innocent people have to take steps to protect themselves, but I'm glad that they are doing what needs to be done.

"The main targets of these vile and cowardly acts are innocent civilians," said Aref Assaf, president of the Paterson-based Arab American Forum. "Our condemnations are universal and unequivocal.

"We call on members of the Arab and Muslim community to be especially careful about their surroundings, places of worship and employment, as they may be subject to hate crimes consistent with experiences after such horrific attacks," he said.

Assaf also urged people to refrain from blaming the entire Arab and Muslim community for the attacks.


I, too, would urge anybody who might be reading this to refrain from blaming the entire Muslim community for this. I also want to urge people to refrain from blaming the entire American community for backlashes. There are rotten people on all sides. Let's learn to pull together the good and righteous.

Independence Day Weekend

I went down to Blanding with Liz to spend time with her extended family over Independence Day weekend. It was nice to be in such a quiet, slow-moving town for a while. We went to church and attended a dedication for a monument that the Lymans had put up in the cemetery there, and watched a parade that some of Liz's family participated in. But mostly we just kind of took it easy.





Tractors on Parade

On Independence Day, we drove back in time to enjoy fireworks with my dad's family, and I had some fun playing with the "night mode" on my digital camera.


The next day was my birthday, so I got some nice gifts and an excellent chocolate cake (with binary candles!)


Friday, July 01, 2005

San Francisco

The Church Travel Office arranged for me to fly to San Francisco yesterday so that I could apply for a VISA at the French consulate there. Apparently they're going to be putting something into the VISAs with fingerprint information in it. That means they need to have you show up in person to give them your fingerprints. I didn't get to sight-see, but from what I saw I think I like Salt Lake City better.

On the way back to the airport in San Francisco, we stopped at an In-N-Out Burger. I didn't object when I heard we were going to stop there because (never having been there) I assumed that they had to have something that would accomodate a vegetarian. When we got there, I found out that they only had four items on the menu: Burger, Cheeseburger, "Double-double" Cheeseburger, and fries. I had only had a bagel and a banana for breakfast, and I knew I wasn't going to have a chance to eat another meal until I got back to Salt Lake City, and so I did the sensible thing and ordered a double cheeseburger with fries. Yuck.

Anyway, I made it back safely. I'm afraid I don't have any pictures to share; there were only a couple of things I thought picture-worthy, and I saw them while I was in high-security areas where I figured people might get upset about me starting to take pictures. For instance, I thought it was hilarious to watch one guy in his big, baggy gansta clothing, going through the security point at the airport. See, you have to take off your belt, among other things, when passing through that metal detector, and I thought it was just a hoot to watch this guy trying to be discreet and "cool" about trying to keep his pants up when they kept falling down around his knees. Fortunately, his shirt hung most of the way down his thigh, so we were spared any indecent exposures.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

This Land Was Your Land

http://www.freestarmedia.com/hotellostliberty2.html

The CEO of Freestar Media is looking to take advantage of the recent Supreme Court Ruling on eminent domain, to purchase the land owned by Justice David H. Souter, in order to build a hotel there. The ruling allows the city to sieze personal property and sell it for a company to build on, if it will benefit the community as a whole through increased tax revenue and the like.
The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.
If they can pull it off, I'd plan a special trip just to stay there. That ought to increase their tax revenue.

Hat tips: My good friend Dan, and the World Net Daily

Mary's ideas

Again, Mary has provided some thought-provoking ideas that I think are worth addressing as a new blog posting. And again, I disagree on certain points. Regarding Pakistan, Mary's suggestion for what Bush should be doing to affect changes:
First, Pressure the president to let the woman travel. Tell him He is the one giving Pakistan a bad image, not her.
A recent San Francisco Chronicle article says:
"I am very happy. I feel that justice will be mine," she told The Chronicle later as she relaxed at a women's refuge in Islamabad. "I feel like going outside and running in circles."

The ruling was a crucial victory in a three-year legal saga that highlighted abuses against women in rural Pakistani society, stirred outrage around the world and, more recently, led the Bush administration to chastise President Pervez Musharraf, a key ally in the war on terror, for trying to muzzle Mukhtaran and prevent her from traveling to the United States.

...

The outrage finally reached the White House. Bush administration officials often turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in Pakistan, a key ally in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, but this time Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri to complain about a situation her spokesman described as outrageous. The travel ban was lifted, though Mukhtaran's movements are still restricted by the heavy security that surrounds her everywhere she goes.
Again, this is the SFC--hardly a bastion of conservatism. While the Bush administration doesn't consider it their duty to babysit Pakistan, it's not like they're being completely oblivious. In this particular case, the Bush administration has already done what you suggested and it appears (again, in this case) to be making some significant ground. I do think that we ought to be encouraging Pakistan to make more sweeping changes; they certainly have problems that need to be addressed. Overall, though, I see hope for this democracy that has made, and continues to make significant steps toward becoming a responsible and contributing member of the world community. If I were the president of the U.S., I think I'd rather focus on working with them rather than telling them how to run things. This argument applies to starting schools over there, too. Working to stabilize the region politically and building the Trans-Afghan pipeline will help Pakistan to focus on improving their own position. This doesn't really compare to Iraq, where no amount of help that we could give would have benefited the people there without removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.

Another comment from Mary:
And Honestly, Bush himself wouldn't even need to do this, but rather encourage the public to do so.
I think you're right, that this is the way to go about things. Allow and encourage American individuals and companies to make voluntary contributions, rather than spending tax money, which is forced out of people, to help other nations. Our nation's government gets criticized now and then for not contributing to relief organizations and such in an amount proportionate to the nation's wealth. What people don't realize, though, is that part of the reason for our nation's wealth is that we don't tax our citizens and businesses to death, which allows them to make contributions out of their own pocket, which they do in sizeable amounts. Somehow I doubt that Bush's simple encouragement would get the amount of media attention that you suggest, unless more liberal elements sieze it as a reason to criticize Bush for not being willing to put his (i.e. the nation's) money where his mouth is.

Another "brilliant Idea":
During the 3 months of school that teachers have off, have the US govt. pay their plane ticket to some country, where they then teach during their off time.
Smart, but there's only so much a person can do in 3 months; you'd barely get started on something before you have to leave. This is probably why LDS missionaries are called to serve for 1.5-2 years. So instead, why not have a program where well-educated, civic-minded people can go for a couple of years and teach people and help them to build bridges and other things that will help to better their community for the long term? Oh, yeah, it's called the Peace Corps. But then, what will those poor, civic-minded schoolteachers do all summer? How about serving the community at home, like the USA Freedom Corps suggests. You may remember, Bush announced the creation of the Freedom Corps in his State-of-the-Union address in 2002. Funny thing is, I never heard about it in the media after that speech. Perhaps if we paid really close attention to everything Bush said and did, we'd get a different picture than when we just listen to headline news.

Conclusion:
I don't see bush as promoting almost any programs that are this self-less.
Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it's not there.

Monday, June 27, 2005


The Ordeal

Flower

Pictures!

We celebrated Fathers Day on Thursday because Dad was out of town on Sunday.

Megan's really a nut.


Katie's a sweetie.




Friday, June 24, 2005

More comments on news

Bush recently spoke up in support of nuclear power plants. I think this is a good thing. Americans in general are far too afraid of nuclear technology, and by preventing the development of nuclear power plants we force ourselves to rely on greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels, including oil from the Middle East. I wish that we could support the production of nuclear power plants without having to offer investors government-sponsored "risk insurance" as Bush has suggested, but considering the way certain people have used lawsuits and other forms of interference to block the production of nuclear power plants, I don't see any better way. If lawmakers can think of something else that is equally likely to work and less burdensome on taxpayers, more power to 'em! But something has to be done. I may tease France about some of their political views, but they've been productive enough to build 56 nuclear power plants in the time that the United States has been too afraid to build even a single one.

Mary's rebuttal

My great friend, Mary, responded to my last blog posting with some excellent points that I wanted to share.

Firstly, let it be noted that the article I linked to regarding the Kyoto agreement was not an article written by reporters for the Washington Post, but rather a letter to the editor from the Senior VP and Chief Economist of the American Council for Capital Formation, a conservative organization that tends to favor big business, and whose board of directors includes people from several big businesses who would probably stand to lose big if the U.S. signed on to the Kyoto agreement. It was written in response to an editorial written by the Washington Post which said (among other things) that "the White House may soon be the last institution in Washington that doesn't believe that the threat of climate change requires something more than new adjectives." They pointed to the discovery that a White House official had doctored environmental reports in order to downplay the role of pollution in global warming. This official then retired and (suspiciously) got hired by Exxon. The editorial was mostly focused on supporting legislation to allow Congress to continually re-evaluate the caps on greenhouse gases. I haven't done much research on the topic, but it seems pretty reasonable to me. While I think that the Washington Post often goes out of their way, both in editorials and news articles, to cast Bush in a bad light, I also think it's commendable that they are willing to print a critical letter to the editor, even when it's from such an obviously biased source.

Let it also be noted that my blog posting was written late at night after a week of not much sleep. Most of my other comments were (relatively) well-thought-out, but the Kyoto agreement comments were pretty much off-the-cuff, and I definitely should have dug in a little deeper before making any comments. So thanks, Mary for keeping me in check. You've certainly done more research regarding the Kyoto Protocol and environmentalism in general than I probably ever will, and I welcome your insights.

I do take exception, however, to the implication that I think we should "be allowed to have our own dirty secrets." The point of my posting, as a whole, was to say that I think the world's priorities are pretty messed up. I absolutely do not think we should turn a blind eye to the dealings of our own government. As Jesus said, we oughtn't to be so intent on telling our neighbors about the specks of dust in their eyes that we ignore the beams in our own eyes. But neither do I think it is right that the people all over the world are so very focused on the motes in America's eye that they ignore everything good that America has done. Don't get me wrong--we had ought to strive for perfection. As Jesus pointed out, a shepherd will leave all of his sheep to go and find the one which is lost. We do need to focus on our blemishes, so that we can work on scrubbing them out, but we oughtn't to magnify them to the point of distortion.

Once while I was in the bathroom of a hotel, I noticed they had this nifty little mirror on a swivel arm so that women could see their faces better as they primped themselves. Looking in that mirror, I felt like a blossoming teenager again, self-conscious about every pimple on my face. Then I looked in the regular mirror and realized that I hadn't become ugly overnight; this mirror was just shaped in such a way that I could clearly see every pore on my face. I felt sorry for girls that used that sort of mirror on a regular basis, because it magnified every imperfection to the point that it gave the user a grossly distorted view of themselves.

Looking around in today's world, that is what I see happening to America. We are not perfect, by any means. There are a lot of people who do a lot of selfish, greedy, perverted, and intolerant things. But we've been put under this magnifying glass, and we've made ourselves pretty darn transparent when compared to just about any nation at any other time in history. As a result, we see in ourselves (and the world sees in us) so very many imperfections that it seems at times impossible to feel good about ourselves. But when I study history and gain a more realistic perspective of the world we live in, I can't help but marvel at all that we've got going for us as Americans. I realize that even if a lot of people allow greed and sloth and hatred and perversity to govern their lives, that number dwarfs in comparison to the number of good, upstanding, hard-working, and generous citizens in the United States. And I strongly object to anyone that claims that Americans work to increase the level of liberty in "just the [situations] that make our lives easier."

And you're right, Mary, that the so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction were never found by coalition forces. Despite the fact that the world was convinced at the time that Saddam was hiding--if not actively producing--chemical and/or biological weapons, it has now become evident that by the time we invaded, he'd gotten rid of them in one way or another. But there was never any question whether he had them in the first place, or whether he'd be willing to use them. He had them, and he used them on his own citizens, which is what prompted the U.N. to require a full disclosure of the locations of his remaining weapons. It was his lack of full disclosure that prompted the U.N. to warn him of dire consequences if he did not comply. If nobody did anything when he continued to ignore these warnings, then how could anybody in the world respect the warnings of the United Nations? This is where I see irony in the comments made by these U.N. experts, after the United States has proven the hard way that it's not always right to "take well-founded allegations as proven in the absence of a clear explanation by government." And now they are worried about acting immediately or else "we won't have any credibility left."

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Mary. I hope you'll continue to do so in the future. It's definitely a blessing to have friends who "approach things from a different perspective and belief system." It makes me examine my own beliefs more closely, which is always a good thing.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Today's News

A 1991 United Nations Security Council Resolution decided that Iraq must "unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision" all of its chemical weapons and such. In 2002, they unanimously passed another resolution offering Iraq a "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations." That's 11 years of pussyfooting around, and when the U.N. Security Council was going to suggest setting a deadline for Saddam to comply, France declared they'd veto any resolution giving Iraq a deadline. We know now that France was benefiting from the Oil for Food Scandal. Bear in mind that Saddam had killed thousands of his own citizens with chemical weapons. In 2003, the United States decided not to wait for the other U.N. countries; they accepted what allies they could gather, and then set out to oust Saddam.

Now the United States has been holding about 520 terrorism suspects at a place called Guantanamo Bay. The Red Cross has been allowed to interview the detainees and inspect the facilities. Their reports included allegations of torture and mistreatment of the Koran. The U.S. Government is going out of their way to provide suspected Muslim extremist terrorists with copies of the Koran, not to mention spending millions of dollars to provide them with "proper" Muslim meals, and they took this report from the Red Cross seriously and actually took corrective action to prevent these things from happening in the future. After Newsweek printed an article alleging serious desecrations of the Koran (which they later retracted), the military launched another investigation that revealed 5 cases of Korans being mishandled (2 intentional) and 15 cases of the detainees desecrating their own Korans, including trying to flush them down the toilet. The government has also conducted investigations into allegations of torture (obviously mostly allegations made by detainees and ex-detainees), and have found Guantanamo to be "being operated at very high standards." But people continue to compare the place to Nazi death camps and Soviet gulags, so some experts at the U.N. have blasted the U.S. Government for not responding to their request to be allowed to conduct an investigation of the facility.

Some quotes:
But one investigator, Algerian magistrate Leila Zerrougui, said: "The time is up. We have to act now. If not, we won't have any credibility left."

"At a certain point, you have to take well-founded allegations as proven in the absence of a clear explanation by the government," Nowak said.
It's kind of funny, in light what the U.N. allowed Saddam to do for over a decade.



Remember how the U.S. (specifically the Bush Administration) took so much heat for refusing to sign onto the Kyoto agreement? Well apparently the EU is having a hard time keeping their commitments, while "the United States has done a better job of reducing the amount of energy used to produce a dollar of output than the European Union has."



Now, while Democrats are busy fighting the Patriot Act and Republicans are busy trying to amend the constitution so that Congress can make it illegal to "desecrate" (i.e. burn) the flag, the Supreme Court decided that local governments can kick citizens out of their homes to make room for shopping malls. So while the Democrats are worried that the law enforcement agencies are going to start spying on people for fun, and the Republicans are trying to outlaw a very legitimate (albeit wrong) activity, the judicial branch of our government opened the door for cities to remove "problem areas" by inviting Wal-Mart to come in and kick the residents out. Has the world gone mad?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Hi ho, hi ho...

... it's back to work I go.

Well, I've been re-hired at GE Healthcare for a week. I was surprised to find how hard the folks here had to push in order to get permission to bring me back for a week. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, though. GE is such a gigantic company that it's next to impossible to break the corporate mold and actually get something done. I was actually really surprised when they told me they'd been able to get permission to bring me back. I guess I didn't realize how hard they were willing to pull for me.

Monday after work, Liz and I went to Nate Landon's birthday party. Nate is a neat guy who organized the Lindy Exchange a few years ago (and actually took some heat because of a little-known law about dancing after 2 AM). Recently he had a nasty bout of meningitis and they had to amputate some fingers, half of one of his feet, and a fair portion of one of his legs. I had no idea that meningitis could do that. Anyway, he's home from the hospital now, though he'll be going back to get some prosthetics and such. So a bunch of us Swing Kids went over to his house to wish him a happy birthday and hang out at his house. After that, Liz and I went to see Robots at the dollar theater with Mary and Dave Jones. It wasn't spectacular, but it was a lot better than I'd expected.

Tuesday after work, Kristen (another swing kid) brought her dying laptop computer over for me to fix up. After trying some basic stuff with it at Nate's house the day before, I was convinced it would take a clean reinstall of Windows to get it really working right, which meant I first had to back up all of her files to my external hard disk, and then reformat her hard disk, reinstall Windows with its Dell drivers, upgrade it to Windows XP Pro (which for some bizarre reason takes about as long as installing Windows XP Home in the first place), and then install any programs that she'd need and finally copy all of her files back to her computer. It took most of the night, mostly due to transferring her large music collection back and forth, but we finally got it running really smoothly, complete with Antivirus software and a couple of anti-spyware programs to keep her computer protected in the future. I always get such a rush out of making computers run smoothly. I think if I'd been born 50 years ago, I would've been really into cars.

Anyway, now I'm just sitting here waiting for some guy in Milwaukee to return my voicemails, emails, and/or chat messages from the past two days, so that I can get on with the project I'm working on.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Pack Meeting

Casey and Cy got some awards and rank advancements at their pack meeting last night.









Now that is one happy kid!

Salt Lake City Library Pictures

After stopping by Liz's work to give her flowers on our 16 month dating anniversary, I walked around the Salt Lake Library for a while, enjoying the sites. This is what I saw...




























Monday, June 13, 2005

Sacrament talk

Following is the talk I prepared for Sacrament meeting yesterday. I paraphrased a bit as I spoke, but stayed pretty close to this:

Brothers and sisters,

I’ve been asked to speak to you today regarding missions. As I prepared this lesson, I pondered on why it is that missions are so important.

Matthew 12:36-37 says:

36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

I pray that the Lord will give me the words that you need to hear today. Please forgive me if I misspeak.

In the Old Testament, a “wise woman” who understood the nature of God’s mercy said the following:

14 For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him. (2 Sam 14:14)

It is for this purpose that God called Jonah to preach to Nineveh, a city full of people ripe for destruction, but people whom nevertheless God had prepared to hear His word.

I’d like for you all to pull out your scriptures and turn to Jonah. It’s a very short book, so you should be able to follow along pretty easily. Everybody knows the story—especially if you watch Veggie Tales—but the scripture itself provides important insights that I wouldn’t want you to miss.

While you’re pulling out your scriptures, here's a brief history lesson:

In Jonah’s time, Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and was described as “an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.” If we take this to mean the time it would take to walk around the city, then it has a circumference of about 60 miles. Nineveh rested on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, across from the modern city of Mosul, Iraq. Modern translations of Genesis state that it was founded by Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah. Nimrod (according to the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus) was a tyrannical dictator, who convinced his people that their happiness came from their own courage and that submission to God was a sign of weakness, and oversaw the building of the Tower of Babel so that if God decided to send another flood it wouldn’t be able to reach to the top of the tower. This all happened long before the time of Jonah, but I thought a little background would be nice.

Located midway between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, Nineveh benefited greatly from trade in the area and grew into a great city. We see a classic example of the pride cycle here, where the people of Nineveh became so great that they turned to evil ways.

So God asked Jonah to leave Israel, where he was loved and respected, and go to preach to a very wicked people in a distant land. We can only guess at what Jonah was feeling when he received his call. Why did he flee? Nobody likes to be told that they’re being evil; perhaps he was afraid that he would be killed, or imprisoned in Nineveh long enough to witness God’s wrath firsthand. I know I’d be a little apprehensive about walking into a city that I knew was going to be destroyed in 40 days. Or maybe Jonah didn’t want to give the people of Nineveh a chance to repent. It wasn’t a matter of laziness; in order to escape his mission call, he tried to sail away as far as he could in the other direction. The way he acted, we almost have to wonder if he wanted Nineveh destroyed and figured that preaching would only give them a chance to escape the wrath he felt they deserved.

Whatever his reasons, Jonah did what he could to get away and learned that, in the end, you really can’t run away from God. He was swallowed by a “great fish,” which we generally understand to be a whale, and he lay in the belly of the whale for three days.

Now, take a moment to imagine what that must have been like, laying for three days, breathing the rank gases inside this whale, probably lying in a solution of sea water and digestive juices of some sort, tosses about by every movement of the whale in the sea. Even had he dared open his eyes, there would have been no light to see by, neither from sun, nor moon, nor stars. It must have been hell! It’s no wonder in chapter 2, he says, “out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” The word he used there for “hell” is the Hebrew word for the spirit world. Jesus later compared this three-day period to the time that He would be in the spirit world after His temporal death. Jonah understood that he had sinned, and that if he had died at that point he would have been experiencing the anguish of the spirit prison. But when he was vomited out onto dry land, he realized that it was by the grace of God that he was saved from death.

In this experience of an unwilling prophet, we can catch a glimpse of God’s plan for all people. The fact is, we all are sinners. We do things we know we are not supposed to do, and we think thoughts that we know are not of God. And yet, for those willing to submit themselves to God’s will, He has extended a hand of mercy. Will our sins be without consequence? No. There are always consequences for sin, and we find that—in this world or the next—our sin will cause us to experience the anguish of having turned from our God: the anguish of being separated from His light. And yet, by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have been saved from death. We will be saved from temporal death—where our spirits were separated from their bodies—because Christ exercised power over his own death to become resurrected. And because Christ atoned for our sins, we can also be saved from a spiritual death—where our spirits are separated from our Heavenly Father.

After this experience, Jonah traveled into the heart of Nineveh and told the people there that God was going to destroy them in 40 days. They believed, fasted, and repented. So why wasn’t Jonah happy? It sounds to me like he was bitter about the fact that God was willing to relent. Maybe he was upset because God had led him to issue a prophecy that hadn’t come true. Or maybe he hated the people of Nineveh so much (whether because of their past deeds, or simply because they weren’t Hebrew) that he didn’t want them to receive God’s mercy. As we have seen at several points in scripture, God used the example of a plant to represent human beings. He showed Jonah that these plants bring Him joy when they grow strong, but that there is a worm that causes them to sicken and die, which brings Him great anguish. Jonah felt more remorse for the loss of a little plant than he did for a city of over a hundred and twenty thousand people!

Brothers and sisters, we have all been called to preach to the world: “Every member a missionary.” But in order to really live this commandment, our actions must stem from a desire to rescue our fellow man. When we truly come to believe in the worth of souls, how can we desire anything but to stamp out the worm that is plaguing them? Brothers and sisters, ask God to help you to develop a greater love and compassion for your neighbors.

I will be leaving in mid-August, and after a short time in the MTC I will go to share the good word of our Lord’s mercy with the people of Paris, France. In the past, I’ve had many occasions to laugh at the many ways in which the French are different from us, but when it all comes down to it, they are just as much the sons and daughters of God as you and I. Please pray for me as I prepare myself to serve this mission, that the Lord might move the hearts of those I teach, and that I will have enough of a Godly perspective to appreciate the results. Also, please make a serious and concerted effort to share the gospel with those around you, and to act as a sign of God’s compassion for them. Even if it’s just a matter of bearing your testimony to someone that needs to hear it. As you do this, know that you and the world will be greatly blessed because of your obedience. Just as we need to show our faith in God by acting on His word, we also need to show our love for one another by sharing with them those things which bring us joy.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.