Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Israel, Mormons and Ma’aser (Tithing)

Ze’ev Jabotinsky never attained the position of prime minister in Israel – but despite this he is one of the most influential (and controversial) people in Israeli history. Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Shamir and Benjamin Netanyahu – all men who might be considered disciples or followers of revisionist Zionism (the political movement Jabotinsky founded) did become prime minister of Israel and have attempted to implement some of Jabotinsky’s ideas in one way or another. It could also be argued that David Ben-Gurion, who was Jabotinksy’s main political rival, ended up largely adopting and implementing Jabotinsky’s policy of “the Iron Wall” (see also here) – though he never would have conceded being influenced by Jabotinsky’s ideas. Read more »

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Jimmer Fredette Answers A Question

Among other things, ESPN’s John Buccigross asks Jimmer Fredette:

“How old were you when you made that decision and why did you choose to be a Mormon?”

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25 Years Ago – Challenger

wow – 25 years ago, the Challenger disaster happened. I remember it distinctly as I was watching it live in my history class in High School – I remember the shock I felt when it blew up. I feel like those old people when I was young who would talk about where they were when JFK was shot. One of those milestone moments in our lives… The earliest milestone moment was I remember when Reagan was shot – I was pretty young but I thought it was scary. So where were you?

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The Power Of The Weather

Here in the Northeastern US, we have had several large snowstorms since the first of the year. What always amazes me is how quickly the best plans go awry once a big storm hits. We can have all sorts of meetings and travel scheduled for work or in our personal lives and then a storm comes and everything gets cancelled. Of course, this has been a weekly occurrence here in the Northeast over the last month (and I am a bit tired of it). Just today, we had more snow and I had to cancel driving to Boston as the roads were impassable. It certainly puts one’s life into perspective as to the greater forces out there that can step in and completely alter our routines. It reminds me of the power of God to alter our lives when we least expect it…

Note: The funny part about the storms in the Northeast US is that there is always a run on stores to buy bread, milk, and snow shovels… My take is that most people must never have any food in their houses and they throw their snow shovels away after every storm…

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State of the Union

After my post of last week, I’m going to carefully watch the president’s speech. I’m watching with ABC news because I like Diane Sawyer.

And just putting my observations. Think of me as Joe Citizen.

It’s wonderful that they’re mixing up seating. Here comes the Supreme Court judges, six of the nine. And here’s the president.

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Who do you invite to sealings?

Well, Sarah and Brad are being sealed February 5 (Yay!! The baby will be born in the covenant!). They’ve been married almost two years and truly, they’re perfect for each other. They complete each other. She’s level-headed where he’s not; he’s level-headed where she’s not. He calms her down. He doesn’t put up with anything and neither does she. That might sound kind of stupid to say–they’re both strong, let’s say. And I think this is cool–Sarah comes first with him. What I mean is he doesn’t come to our house and suck up to us and hope for our approval. Hers is all he needs. So, even though he says he’s scared of his wife (what self-respecting man isn’t), she’s his main focus. They truly are each other’s best friend and she’s happier than she’s ever been. Knock on wood, you never know, but it seems so right. Read more »

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Field Trip!

Yesterday was a cold and blustery day here in upstate New York. New snow had fallen overnight, and that always messes up the Church parking lot, but also forces many ward members to dig themselves out before they can get to Church. I really wasn’t expecting too many people to be there at the beginning of Sacrament Meeting, but I did notice a pew full of strangers. Not a little one, either, but one of those long center pews. They were a mix of adults and teenagers, and they seemed to know each other. Generally, I like to introduce myself when I can, because I fear we too often overlook people who are attending for the first time, but I was slipping in under the limit myself.

During the opening song, I ran through the possibilities: new family? No–too many of them all at the same age; youth conference or BYU group here to see the site? Maybe–but pretty awful timing and they just didn’t look very Utah. Members from the southern part of the state in town for the hospitals? No–that wouldn’t have been en masse. Luckily, my boys were fussy, so I was quickly distracted from trying to figure them out.

In the course of the meeting, the conducting member of the Bishopric read my mind and revealed the secret of our visitors: they were a Sunday School class from a local church who came to observe our meetings.

I never would have guessed. Read more »

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Depend on the Lord

As a member of Al-Anon, a 12 step group for people with relatives and/or friends who are addicts, I’ve learned about turning my problems, indeed, my life and will over to the Lord. Of course we learn this in church, but I believe that these 12 step groups teach people how to actually DO it.

I try to meditate and pray every day and part of that process involves our daily meditation books which are just chock full of wisdom. Today I read this from

    One Day at A Time in Al-Anon

: “When I am faced with something which it is beyond my power to perform, to decide, or to cope with, I will not struggle with it by myself. I will ask Him to show me what steps to take. This is prayer. Not to ask for anything but guidance.” And includes this quote from Thomas Merton “All true prayer somehow confesses our absolute dependence on God. It is a vital contact with Him. It is when we pray truly that we really are. From our prayers we receive light to apply. . .to our own problems and difficulties.” Read more »

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Pinewood Derby FAIL

Last week our ward had our annual pinewood derby. 14 boys in our pack and 2 of them are mine. Next year I will have three cub scouts.

My kids were excited. We worked hard on the cars getting them shaped, sanded, and painted. I spent a couple of hours getting the cars wheels properly aligned, lubricated with graphite, and the cars to the proper 5 ounce weight. It all seemed good. However in my mind I realized that our cars have never been that great and we probably would finish poorly again this year.

I warned the kids at dinner that Daddy was not that great with tools and mechanics and not to expect great things as far as victories were concerned.

Boy was I right about that. We took 14th and 10th out of 14 boys. My kids were upset and after the race we decided that Grandpa would be assisting the balancing of the wheels next year.

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Christopher Hitchens vs. Mormons

In Facebook, a friend of mine posted a link to video of a debate that happened between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens back in November 2010.  You can watch the video here:

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/Blairan

The debate was in regards to the following resolution: “be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world.Read more »

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Putting it Off

My teacher told me this crazy story about where black people can’t sit on the bus.

Weird, huh?

And then some people marched and complained and stuff and then we could sit on the bus.  I think the guys’ name was Michael King, or something?

Martin Luther King Jr.

Yeah–how did you know?

I love wowing my six-year-old with my knowledge; she is always surprised when I know what she has been talking about at school, even though the first grade curriculum is somewhat predictable. Read more »

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Stuffing Things Up Our Noses…

Last night at dinner, my 2.5 year old said “I just stuck a soybean up my nose”. We thought she was kidding as she thinks she is quite the comedian (we were eating soybeans from Trader Joe’s as part of our dinner). A few minutes later she started complaining about her nose hurting. Sure enough, there was a large soybean stuffed up there. I tried to extract it with tweezers and a toothpick (tried to poke it to extract it), but these did not work. She is too young to blow her nose, so we tried to get her to sneeze using Black Pepper – it succeeded in making me sneeze, but not her. We finally took her into the after hours care. The nurse quickly extracted it with the help of some fancy tweezers, so several hundred dollars (luckily we have insurance) and an hour later, we came back home. I asked the Doctor if these types of visits were common and he said, “yes, I have seen crayons, tissue, beans, marbles, food, etc. all stuffed up there. You are lucky you caught it, as I have had parents bring their kids in weeks later after something started stinking and they figured out it was something up the child’s nose that was rotting…” So maybe a soybean is not so bad considering what could have happened.

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We need a different president

The  other night, Obama pre-empted my favorite show to give a speech about the Arizona shooting.  I’ve been trying to watch him every time he appears, to give him respect and attention, my little bit of support because I so want him to succeed.  It’s a race thing.  I want the first Black president to triumph, to do well, to be a credit to our country and to his race.  The day he was inaugarated, my heart just soared, even though I felt some caution and concern.  It was about time.

So I haven’t been sitting around waiting to catch him screwing up.  I’ve prayed for his success.  But you know, I sat there, with my pastrami burger and Sprite, (my turn to make dinner–the bowling alley makes the best burgers!), just home from work and slightly disappointed because I was looking forward to a little humor and relaxation at the hard day of work making the world better for cell phone users, and I thought, “our president sucks.” I’m embarrassed. Read more »

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The Blame Game

I have been disappointed by the blame game that is being played by the liberal and conservative press regarding the recent shooting in Arizona. The Conservatives label the shooter as a left-wing crazy while the Liberals label the shooter as a right-wing nutcase. They blame each other for the negative rhetoric and tone that supposedly caused the shooting. Rick Santorum claims that Democrats are looking to blame the Government and Schools for the shooting, while he thinks we should look at the shooter’s family and friends. Why don’t we place the blame where it really should be placed? On the shooter for his actions…

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First Amendment rights?

I read yesterday that the Kansas wacko Church was going to protest the funeral of the little girl killed in the Arizona shooting. Today they decided it would be a bad idea (you think?). I wonder when does it cross the line (whatever that line is). Whenever things like this are discussed, you hear about Freedom of Speech, but when is it going too far? All you lawyer types that lurk around – when is that line crossed?

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The 13 Articles of Mormon Culture (as reported)

1. We believe in SUVs and minivans as the form of transportation, in knee length shorts (if they are comely), and in multilevel marketing.

2. We believe that church ball players should be punished for their own fouls, and not for unsportsmanlike aggression.

3. We believe that through breadcrumbs, cheese, creamy soups, and rice, all casseroles can be saved through obedience to ward cookbooks and creativity in the mixing bowl.

4. We believe that the first layers and ingredients of The Dip are: first, beans; second, cheese; third, chopped tomatoes; fourth, the gift of sour cream; fifth, olives; sixth, salsa; seventh, guacamole—if you have it.

5. We believe that a Mormon should have a distinguished or a cute name; that it is appropriate to name a child after a church leader or a historical figure (including an ancestor); that alternative spellings and French prefixes improve a name; and that when referring to General Authorities, middle initials should be a part thereof.

6. We believe in the same wall decor that exists in many Mormon homes, namely, framed family proclamations, vinyl lettering, inspirational word signs, family photos, pictures of temples and Jesus, and so forth.

7. We believe in the gift of the re-gift, church books, crafts, family photos, baked goods, emergency supply kits, and so forth.

8. We believe in sparkling grape juice so long as it is nonalcoholic; we also believe in bringing root beer and Sprite to ward parties.

9. We believe in all that we have scrapbooked, all that we will now scrapbook, and we believe that we will yet scrapbook many great and important things pertaining to our family, friends, pets, and vacations.

10. We believe in the literal mixing of ketchup and mayo and in the generous application of ranch dressing; that CBAs (church-based acronyms) will be used to describe YM/YW, PEC, the Y, NCMO, and CTR; that Mitt Romney will get Mormons to vote for him any time he runs; and, that the Mormons will enjoy reading Twilight and The Work and the Glory.

11. We claim the privilege of trying to identify common acquaintances with any visitor at church, and allow all other people at church the same privilege, and let them name drop the names of famous members and General Authorities how, where, or what they may.

12. We believe in being subject to scoutmasters, pampered chef hostesses, and the writers of the U.S. News and World Report Rankings for professional schools, and in obeying, honoring, and sustaining Glenn Beck.

13. We believe in being above average, good at crafts, optimistic, and being fifteen minutes late everywhere we go. Indeed, we may say that we follow BYU football; we believe rumors about famous people joining the church; we hope to meet the three Nephites; we have endured many pyramid schemes, and hope to be able to endure all pyramid schemes. If there is anything cheap, free, sold in bulk, or given away when somebody is moving, we seek after these things.

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I want to be part of a Church like that!

I found the following article very inspiring. In the article, the writer, a pastor of a megachurch talks about how his church started thinking that maybe Jesus’ priorities were not the same as their priorities. Perhaps their view of “A middle-class American Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism” was wrong. This caused his church to do things differently – they stopped spending money on their large campuses, gave away their surplus fund to the poor in India, trimmed their budget, and sent many members overseas to serve in underdeveloped areas. The part that struck me was the joy he mentions the church has found in truly sacrificing for others. It is a moving story and worth a read. I then started thinking about our Church. We do require sacrifice of our members – tithing, missionary service, lay clergy, etc. Is this enough sacrifice? Do we really put our funds where they can truly change lives? Do we really need our $50M Temples and other monuments to our faith or could be get by with more modest structures and reallocate more funds to Humanitarian work? What do you think?

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Racism or Raindance?

I had lunch with 4 friends, and we all had a great time, including the black guy. Nevertheless, something had happened that left me feeling quite uncomfortable:

We’d been seated at the table for quite a while, and the waiter still hadn’t stopped by. After someone remarked about how much time had passed, the black guy said, “Maybe it’s me.” The 3 of us laughed, and then he said, “I’m going to get up and wait around the corner and see what happens.” I couldn’t believe he was serious, but he did get up and wait around the corner. I did not want him to get up, and once he did I suddenly became a little anxious for the waiter to take another 10 or 20 minutes to arrive. No such luck. The waiter showed up forthwith, apologized for the delay, and asked what we’d like to drink.
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For those of you skeptical of medicine…

One of the things that has really bothered me as a scientist is the skepticism that some Mormons have about the medical field. There is an assumption that all the Medical industry wants to do is make money at the expense of the health of the citizenry. Many of these folks then turn to nutraceuticals and other forms of treatment (some of which are legitimate, but many are not) for which there is little, if any, data to support their use. Many of these companies ARE making money at the expense of the health of their patrons. Well here is some very interesting data to demonstrate how improvements in healthcare/medicine have improved the lives of children.

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Resolved:
  • Read Sunday School and Relief Society lessons ahead of time
  • Weekly Sunday naps
  • Have clothing for whole family laid out on Saturday evening (including socks!)
  • Make breakfast for the kids rather than allowing them to forage
  • Instead of spending each Sacrament Meeting talk thinking about how I wold discuss the topic differently, try listening to the talk as it is presented
  • Practice ASL
  • Learn more names!
  • Accept primary substitution requests without shuddering
  • Learn the new primary songs and help the kids practice them
  • Attend Mid-week Relief Society Meetings with more enthusiasm
  • 100% Visiting Teaching
  • Be a helpful force to the teachers presenting lessons
  • Involve family in more good works
  • Manage kids in Sacrament Meeting in such a way that I can at least sing the hymns in their entirety
  • Wean 2-year-old from Sacrament snack
  • Walk to Church in fair weather
  • HEAR the Sacrament prayers
  • Write more thank you notes
  • Limit mean thoughts about disruptive Church behavior to only those who really deserve it
  • Be early to Church
  • Encourage oldest child to pay more attention to Sacrament Meeting

These are my New Year Church Resolutions; what are tours?

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