Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rick Perry 2012?

Dear Readers,

Have you heard that Rick Perry is clobbering Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachmann in the polls? When I first heard that news, I was upset, because I felt like Mitt Romney has been in the race for so long, and he’s been the leader of the pack for so long, and he’s the next in line, so I thought he sort of deserved to be the Republican nominee. I also thought, “Hey, the presidential race has been going on for months now. There have been debates and straw polls and the other candidates have been hitting the trail. Why does this newcomer hotshot Rick Perry get a surge in the polls with the single act of announcing his candidacy?”

But now that I’ve looked into Rick Perry a little, I like him a lot. I can understand why so many people want him to be the next President.

I’m going to make a formal prediction. Rick Perry will be our President in 2013.

Rick Perry will win the Republican nomination, and Mitt Romney will get second place. Then Rick Perry will beat Barack Obama in 2012. That’s my official prediction.

I think the presidential field is pretty much set. I do wonder if Sarah Palin will get in the race. She might. She’s been doing some things lately that make it look like she’ll get in the race, such as this video, and she’s going to give a big speech pretty soon and some have speculated that she’ll announce then, but… I just don’t think the American people will go for her. She was only a governor for a year and a half or so. She did a great job while she was there, but I think she’s more interested in doing TV and books and tea party rallies than she is in becoming Commander in Chief. I mean, she’s written two books recently, she did “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” her daughter was on “Dancing with the Stars,” Plus, the media has smeared her so much that it will be hard for her campaign to convince voters that she’s intelligent and presidential. I happen to think that she is intelligent and presidential, but too many people have a negative impression of her. I wish she would move to Arizona (which by the way, some have speculated that she's already moved here to the Grand Canyon State, incognito) and run against Jeff Flake for Senator. That guy needs some competition.

I don’t think there will be any Democratic primary challenger to the President. Not any serious one, anyway. Obama will crush him or her with little effort.

But back to Rick Perry. I’ll list his pros and cons.


Coyote-killer. My favorite thing about Rick Perry is that he shot and killed a coyote when he was out jogging one day. Seriously, how many politicians do you know who carry a gun? How many politicians do you know who carry a gun while jogging? And how many politicians do you know who carry a gun while jogging and shoot aggressive coyotes? I only know of one… Rick Perry. (Mitt Romney once claimed that he hunted big game, Daniel Boone style, but when questioned further about specifics, he admitted he only shot at small varmints occasionally. Perry 1, Romney 0.

Texan. Another thing I like about Rick Perry is his tough Texan persona. Perry talks loud, he swaggers, he rides a white stallion, and if he don’t like you, well then he’s just gonna punch you in the face! And he looks perfect in a cowboy hat! Mitt Romney could never pull off a cowboy hat. He looks most comfortable in a suit and tie. But lately Romney’s been trying to look a little more casual. Have you noticed? His hair isn’t perfect anymore, and he often goes tie-less, with the top button unbuttoned. Oh, but this paragraph was supposed to be about geographical upbringing, not wardrobe. Mitt Romney is from Michigan and Massachutes. Those are pretty liberal places. And even though Romney was a conservative in those liberal places, they were still liberal places. I’m sure all that liberal-ness rubbed off on him. Texas, on the other hand, is as red as the red meat all those Texans like to eat. (Red meaning Republican, not communist.) Perry 2, Romney 0.

Small Town Boy. Perry grew up on a Texas farm. Romney grew up in a Motor City mansion. Perry 3, Romney 0.

Overtly Christian. Rick Perry is not at all ashamed of his Christianity. He led a prayer rally in which he said stuff like, “Christ is my personal Savior. We Christians want everyone to experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ.” But, of course, I have to go with Mormonism over Protestantism, so the score is now Perry 3, Romney 1.

(I’m going to stop with the scorecard thing because I’m tired of it. It was a silly thing, anyway.)

Global warming. Rick Perry is a global warming denier! That’s soooo awesome! Mitt Romney is a believer… or is he?


Winking at Uninvited Guests. When it comes to the illegal immigration issue, Rick Perry is practically an open-borders type of guy. Tom Tancredo even went so far as to say that because of this issue, Rick Perry is not a true conservative. This isn’t a huge deal to me. Well, it is, but it's not a deal-breaker. I have no assurance that any of the other candidates would do any better with this issue.

Puny Private Sector Experience. Another con is that he doesn’t have much personal private sector experience. Um, actually I don't think he has any private sector experience. He was in the Air Force, he went to college, and then he went into politics. Mitt Romney has way more experience in the private sector creating jobs, growing companies, etc. But even though Rick Perry doesn’t have a lot of personal business experience, he’s very business friendly. He brags about how Texas’ economy is doing great. He’s said that Texas has less than 10 % of the country’s population, but 40 % of the new job growth in the past couple of years has been in Texas. Texas’s population has also been growing, which is a good sign. In fact, if I weren’t such a proud Arizonan, I might consider moving to Texas.

Puny progeny. Perry only has two children. Mitt Romney has five. But Michelle Bachmann has them both beat. She has 5 real kids plus 23 foster kids. That's 28 kids!

So... I don't think I'll support any presidential candidates. I think I'll try to support local people like Chuck Gray. But when it comes time for me to vote for Perry or Romney, I think I'll go with Romney. But I won't be too upset if Perry wins. But maybe I'll change my mind before election day.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Celestial Kingdom Found?

Dear Readers,

I read this article, about the recent discovery of a diamond planet- a planet made nearly completely out of diamond- and I remembered these scriptures, Doctrine and Covenants 130: 6-9

"The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord. The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim. This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal..."

So what do you think? Have astronomers discovered a celestial kingdom? A place where celestial beings dwell? A giant Urim and Thummim floating in space? Has Mormon theology been verified?


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why I Believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is True, Part One

Dear Readers,

I’m a proud life-long member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as “the LDS Church” or “the Mormon Church.” Now and then I encounter people who think I’m being deceived, or who think that I’m mentally or spiritually mixed up. I’d like to explain myself a little bit. I’d like to counter a few criticisms of the LDS church.

Criticism from Protestants

This section isn’t exhaustive, of course. Protestants’ complaints against the Mormons are infinite. Nevertheless, here's a good start:

On my mission in West Virginia from 2002 - 2004, the criticism of my faith came mostly from Protestants. Except in rare circumstances, I wasn’t offended with their criticism. I was inviting it. I was showing up at their doorstep with a backpack full of LDS pamphlets and a Book of Mormon in my hand.

I would stand on their porches and quote the Bible. The Protestants would object to the Book of Mormon by saying that the last few verses in the Bible say that there shouldn’t be any more scripture. We would counter by referencing Deuteronomy 4:2.

If that didn’t work – and it never worked - we would say that Bible scholars have confirmed that The Revelation of St. John the Divine was recorded prior to many of the other books in the New Testament, so that proves that John was referring to only the Book of Revelation in Revelation 22:18, and not the entire Bible.

If that argument didn’t work – and it never worked - we would add that John couldn’t possibly have been talking about the whole Bible because there was no “whole Bible” in John’s day. The last book in our modern Bible was a letter addressed to “seven churches,” to contemporary Christians, who probably wouldn’t even grasp the concept of a “whole Bible”. So John wouldn’t tell his contemporary Christians not to add to or take away from the “whole Bible”. It wouldn’t make any sense.

But then the Protestants could argue that maybe John would tell the former-day saints about the “whole Bible” because he was looking into the future, and maybe he was simultaneously prophesying about his day and the last days, kind of like the Olivet Discourse refers the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the destruction of the world in the last days. Or the Protestants could deny that the Bible ever went through a rocky phase where uninspired men declared certain texts to be canonical or apocryphal. They could deny the timeline of the writing and the assembling of the Bible as accepted by current Biblical scholars. I heard Jerry Falwell preach that the Bible as we have it today is exactly the same as it was when God revealed it to ancient prophets. Sure, Falwell conceded, the Bible may have been translated from Hebrew to English, but Falwell assured his congregants that God had his hand on the translation process, and He has ensured that it survived the centuries intact and infallible.

The Protestants might quote the verse that says something like “God is a Spirit, and those that worship him must worship him in Spirit.” This verse would seem to contradict Joseph Smith’s assertion that God has a body of flesh and bones. We LDS missionaries would respond by quoting Exodus 33:11, which seems to say that God does indeed have a body. Or we would use the Bible to show that Jesus was resurrected, and that Doubting Thomas felt the nail prints in Christ’s hands and feet. How could Thomas have seen and felt the Lord’s resurrected body, if Christ was merely a Spirit? Maybe the Protestants could respond to Exodus 33:11 by saying that God normally doesn’t have a body, but if he wants to do a miracle for his own mysterious reasons, he can have a body for a little while. Or they could respond to Exodus 33:11 by quoting Exodus 33:20, which says that no man can see God and live. And then we LDS missionaries could say, “Yeah, the Bible contradicts itself sometimes. That’s why we have modern scripture and modern prophets.”

The Protestants would also say that all you have to do to go to heaven is be saved, by letting Jesus come into your heart, and really the only Bible verse you need to know is John 3:16. But then we LDS missionaries would say, if all you have to do is believe in Christ, then why was Christ baptized? And why does it say that if a man is not “born of water” (i.e. baptized), he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven? And if all you have to do is accept Jesus into your heart, why is it that Christ organized a church with priesthood power? And what’s with all the temple ceremonies and animal sacrifice in the Old Testament? Wouldn’t it seem inconsistent that all those who lived before Jesus’ time had to follow the complicated and extremely strict Law of Moses to receive salvation, and all those who lived after Jesus’ time just had to say, once in their lifetime, “Jesus, I’m a sinner. Come into my heart and save me! Save me by your blood!”

After having many of these Bible-bashing types of conversations with Protestants for two years on my mission, I identified with Joseph Smith, who wrote of his spiritual searching that led to the First Vision: “the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.”

Yes, in my experience, rarely was a religious question settled by appealing to the Bible. But you know, sometimes these Bible-bashing sessions “worked,” depending on what your definition of “worked” is.

But what “worked” more on my mission, what led to more conversions, was the Spirit touching people. What worked more was people taking Moroni’s challenge in Moroni chapter 10, in the Book of Mormon. The people had to humble themselves before God, read the Book of Mormon and pray and ask to know if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true. Then people were really converted. It’s strange the way that works.

Criticism from Secular Humanists

These days, I find myself wanting to counter criticism about the Church that come from secular humanists. And with the term “secular humanists”, I want to include agnostics, lukewarm Christians or the lackluster children of casual Christians. You know, the folks who wear crosses but flaunt their un-Christian lifestyle, like Snooki. I want to respond to the criticisms coming from the enlightened ones of the modern age, the folks who consider themselves “cultural Christians” but not “religious Christians.”

I’m going off on a tangent here, but Christianity has taken a few jabs in the news recently, because Anders Breivik, a so-called Christian right-wing extremist, killed 85 people in Norway.

Did you hear about that? Did you remember that? The news comes and goes so quickly it’s hard to keep track of it all.

I don’t think Breivik’s horrific actions caused any Christians to question their faith, but still, it’s comforting for Christians to know that Breivik did not consider himself a “religious Christian.” The following is copied and pasted from this great article.

Breivik writes in his manifesto that he is not religious, has doubts about God's existence, does not pray, but does assert the primacy of Europe's "Christian culture" as well as his own pagan Nordic culture. ... [He also] affirms: "As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings. ... Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I'm not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe."

"As this is a cultural war, our definition of being a Christian does not necessarily constitute that you are required to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus," he writes. "Being a Christian can mean many things; That you believe in and want to protect Europe's Christian cultural heritage. ... It is not required that you have a personal relationship with God or Jesus in order to fight for our Christian cultural heritage and the European way. ... It is enough that you are a Christian-agnostic or a Christian atheist (an atheist who wants to preserve at least the basics of the European Christian cultural legacy (Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter)). The PCCTS, Knights Templar is therefore not a religious organisation [sic] but rather a Christian 'culturalist' military order."

Over and over again, Breivik goes out of his way to make clear to readers of his manifesto that he is not motivated by Christian faith. "I'm not going to pretend I'm a very religious person, as that would be a lie," he says. "I've always been very pragmatic and influenced by my secular surroundings and environment.

I hope that people who have followed the recent Oslo massacre story understand that Breivik was not really Christian. The term "Christian" shouldn't merely apply to those belonging to a culture whose dominant religious force has traditionally been Christianity. Being Christian should mean that one believes that Jesus was divine, and that one strives to be like Jesus Christ. My favorite definition of Christian is "a follower of Jesus Christ."

I love that dialogue in the movie Walk the Line when Johnny Cash is trying to sell his Folsom Prison concert idea to a tubby record producer. The producer says, "You're fans are Christian folks. They don't want to see you singing to a bunch of murderers and rapists, trying to cheer them up." Then Johnny Cash says, "Well they aint Christians then." Johnny Cash understood that being Christian meant holding certain beliefs and attitudes. Being Christian was not really a matter of being born into a Christian culture. Johnny Cash understood that Christ visited those in prison, and He dined with publicans and sinners.

OK, end of tangent. It’s people like Breivik (minus the homicidal tendencies) that I want to respond to. I want to explain why the LDS Church is true and and why the LDS Church is good. I want to go after the whole quasi-religious crowd, the agnostic crowd. I want to go after those who deny miracles, who explain away scripture as merely a product of its time and culture, who explain away dreams and visions through psychology, who reduce everything to scientific explanations. I want to go after the folks who just aren't interested. I want to go after the anthropologists.

But… that will have to wait until another day. It’s past my bedtime, and I want to post this, or else it will sit as another ignored Word document in my folder labeled “blog material” for months and months and never get published.


Fun With Real Paint!

Dear Readers,

Lately I got the idea that I wanted to be a painter, a serious fine-artist painter, so I moved to Paris and took up smoking. Just kidding. No, but really, I found a bunch of art supplies from this lady I found on Craigslist, and I've been tinkering around with the stuff, and look, I made this painting yesterday morning:

It's oil on canvas, 22 x 26 inches.

I also bought a gallon of cheap gesso at Hobby Lobby, which is like this primer that you're supposed to coat a canvas with before you really start painting on it, and I'm not sure that I'm applying it right. It's too thick. I've tried watering it down, but then the water and the gesso don't blend very well... hmmm... I just had an idea... maybe if I used the kitchen mixer to mix the gesso and the water, it might mix more consistently. But then again, maybe the paint would splatter everywhere. And I doubt my wife would appreciate me using the kitchen mixer on paint. And I doubt I would appreciate a chunk of gesso in her next batch of brownies. (Yes, Dr. Monica Brown, my feminist-lit professor, though I received a B in your class, which theoretically is above average, I now pass my days oppressing my weaker-vessel-in-residence by confining her to domestic toil! And most of the time she cooks barefoot! And I am not ashamed!)

I'm also having trouble adding the right amount of paint thinner and turpentine with my oil colors when I'm painting, and I still get a lot of the terminology mixed up. Like what's the difference between "mineral spirits" and "turpentine" and "paint thinner" and "medium" and "solvent?" The books I checked out from the library use those terms a lot, but I don't understand them. Now I'm wishing instead of, say, "English as a Second Language Methods and Materials in the Secondary Classroom" I had taken an oil painting class in college.

And now that I'm working at a movie-screen making factory, I kind of wish I had taken a wood shop class, a metal shop class, or a business class. Those classes have so much more real-world application than my liberal arts classes that fulfilled the "global diversity" requirement, such as "Advanced Crosswindings: Thought Journeys into Post-colonial Literary Multiplicities, 1900 - Present." I just made that class title up, but I wouldn't be surprised if it shows up in a public university's course catalog someday.

I've been watching a bunch of You-Tube videos about how to paint. And my favorite guy to watch is Bob Ross. He must be the happiest guy on the planet. Well, now that he's dead, I should say that he must be the happiest guy in the Spirit World. I love that guy.

Bob Ross makes everything look so easy! But he has all these colors that I don't have, and he also has this stuff called "liquid white" that makes everything work wonderfully, and I sort of want to go buy it, but, seeing as how my painting hobby is already grossly over budget, I might have to make do without.

So I thought of a cool way to support my painting habit. I'm going to sell my paintings! See, lately I've been looking at some of the modern/abstract paintings that people spend hundreds of dollars on, and I've been thinking, "I can do that!" So I put my first painting, the one pictured above, on Craigslist for fifty bucks. And one person responded and seemed interested, but that didn't go anywhere. So, maybe none of my paintings will sell, but I can console myself with this thought: if my artwork doesn't sell, it won't be because I'm a lazy, untrained artist; it will be because I'm misunderstood. And if I am lucky enough to be misunderstood, then I am a true artist indeed, even truer than the profiteers who peddle their paintings to all the rich ignoramuses out there who think they know what good art is.


P.S. Leave comments and tell me my painting is brilliant and masterful, or else I'll cry.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Flowers Sure Are Pretty

They’re all fluffy and stuff.
They wave around, all wavy.
Like, look, I’m waving my hand
waving like these flowers are waving.
Ocean waves are wavier, of course,
but let’s not get distracted.

Sometimes flowers are orange,
sometimes flowers are yellow,
and sometimes flowers are orange again.

They come from the ground,
mixed with a little bit of sky.
Today there are thousands of flowers.

Go ahead, give them a sniff.

Explosions! Explosions!

If you walk on this little part of the sidewalk
you wanna know what happens? BAM!
There’s an explosion!

If you drink this cup of orange juice
you think nothing will happen to you
but really what happens is WOOSH!
There’s another explosion!

And then if you don’t pay any attention
to the explosion then the explosion
just gets EXPLOSIVER and starts exploding
out words, like in everybody’s mind:
“Since you don’t pay any attention to
my extra explosive exploding explosiveness
you leave me no choice but to

But then he looks at this little girl
holding a teddy bear and she says,
“Please mister, Wubbles doesn’t want to be an explode!”
Then the explosion remembers that
he had a Wubbles when he was a kid so he stops
exploding for a minute and then somebody
says, “Ha! I knew you were bluffing!”
even though the guy only said it in his mind
but the explosion can read minds so then
the explosion mutates into a black hole
because he secretly had that power all along
and he simultaneously sucks and explodes
in the whole entire universe and EVERYBODY DIES!