Book Review: The Expanded Canon, Perspectives on Mormonism and Sacred Texts

Book Review: The Expanded Canon, Perspectives on Mormonism and Sacred Texts
Edited by: Blair G. Van Dyke, Brian D. Birch, and Boyd J. Peterson

The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism and Sacred Texts

This is the first in a planned series of volumes, looking to expand our understanding of the LDS canon and related documents. For those familiar with the Joseph Smith Papers Project will understand, the development of modern scripture is quite complex – even in Joseph Smith’s day. We often do not know the underpinnings that create or influence the documents we hold sacred, including the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, and the proclamations and official statements made by the First Presidency and Twelve over the almost 200 years of the Church’s existence. We will see that the Expanded Canon, vol 1, takes a hearty stab at expanding our understanding of events and actions that impacted our perception of sacred scripture today. Continue reading

Book Review: Converting the Saints by Charles Randall Paul

Book review of Converting the Saints, A Study of Religious Rivalry in America, by Charles Randall Paul

Converting the Saints: A Study of Religious Rivalry in America

Back in 1980, I was standing at the railroad station in the southern Bolivia town of Yacuiba, waiting for my new missionary companion to arrive. Having only been a member for a few years, I had never come across missionaries from a Protestant church before. On that night, however, I came across about a dozen Baptist missionaries traveling to their next assignment, among indigenous cannibals. All were very friendly and happy to see a fellow American, except for one. He had been a Baptist missionary in Brigham City, Utah a few years earlier. Instantly, he wanted to debate what he believed was Mormon doctrine, throwing out one controversial teaching after another. Fortunately, he came upon a teaching that I was able to show in the Bible. When he protested it as a bad translation (I was using the KJV), I asked him if he believed scripture was God breathed. When he answered affirmatively, I then said he would have to consider the LDS teaching on the issue as a possibility. He quickly ended our conversation and left.

Upon seeing the title, Converting the Saints, I initially thought it would be filled with anecdotes of preaching to the Mormons in Utah. Happily, I found the book to be this and so much more. Continue reading

The REAL problem with Immigration

Henry David Thoreau once said, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” This is also true of immigration, a long time problem that Washington DC has grappled with for more than a century.

The issue never goes away, because government never really deals with it, but only uses it as political fodder. George W. Bush attempted a compassionate method to deal with immigration, but the Republican Congress voted it down, fearing the next election. Barack Obama promised his constituents that immigration would be the first issue he tacked as president, only to side step it completely until after his second election, when he decided to side step the Constitution in proclaiming DACA as an executive order. It was just too easy for the next opposition president to tear up the paper it was written on.

Neither major party is truly interested in a solution. They claim they do, but it isn’t in their interests to do so. Too many Republican voters fear immigrants, convinced they all belong to the MS13 gang. Meanwhile, most Democrats refuse to do any compromising with Donald Trump, who is willing to give immigration reform if he can get a wall.

Yes, taking kids away from their parents because they committed a misdemeanor crime by entering the country is wrong and tragic. No, it isn’t anything like Hitler’s concentration camps. Both sides are so full of hyperbole and BS that we could fertilize all the cornfields in America (if their BS wasn’t so toxic!). Such stupid speech from both sides paralyzes the conversation. The kids still aren’t reunited with their parents, and won’t be until some tough compromises are made. Remember how Ronald  Reagan and Tip O’Neill used to arm wrestle through tough legislation on Social Security, Welfare, Star Wars, etc.? It wasn’t easy, perfect or pretty, but it created a strong America with a long lasting growing economy. Remember when Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress got serious and passed Workfare and a balanced budget? Again, not a pretty process, but it worked.

Insincerity drives Congress and presidents to make promises that they do not keep. It isn’t just an immigration issue. Remember Obama promising immigration, but instead delivered a massive, expensive health program that almost no one wanted, but guaranteed Neo-socialist control of 1/6 of the economy?

Republicans promised us a quick war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but then messed up the systems, so that they collapsed even further into chaos. Now, we are in eternal warfare on several fronts, where we sometimes are fighting against Iran, and sometimes with them! The prison system is filled with victims from another war, the war on drugs. While some states and many doctors now recognize the importance of cannabis in pain relief for cancer, PTSD, and other illnesses, Jeff Sessions continues to act like marijuana is worse than the opioid crisis that the FDA created.

Democrats have made many promises too, as long as we keep pumping tons of money into the system for them to gleefully spend. Trillions into the Dept of Education has not lifted test scores and has left us ranked about 25th in the world in science and math. The War on Poverty is no better than before LBJ  began federal spending over $22 trillion.

Social Security, which was patched by Reagan and Tip O’Neill, needs a major overhaul. It is now losing money, which is bad, given LBJ and following presidents often borrowed from our big SS bank account to pay for their huge reelection projects.

Oh, and Medicare/Medicaid are in critical condition, too. It isn’t a secret. Neither is the $21 trillion deficit. But Congress doesn’t seem to care, as long as they can kick the can down the road.

The problem isn’t Immigration, Medicare, SS, endless Wars, or Donald Trump. Those are the leaves we have long been hacking at. The root problem is government is too big. It is so unwieldy that they can no longer fix the problems they create with their own legislation! Too many in Congress have been in office for decades, holding onto power as oligarchs, and using our tax money to buy power from lobbyists and others.

The solution is an easy one: We need to fix the Fed, as it is unwilling to fix itself. Fortunately, the Constitution has given voters in the fifty states a method to do this. Article V of the Constitution allows the states to call for a Convention of States. Several states have already voted for a convention.

The convention has a short list of things it wishes to accomplish:

  1. Term Limits for Congress
  2. Balanced budget
  3. Impose limits on the Federal government’s power

It requires 34 states to convene the convention. 38 states must approve of each amendment, for it to move forward on the ballot.

With more power returned to the States and the people, the economy will thrive, and government oversight and regulation will decrease.

Imagine states having more individual power over immigration. California could bring in all the immigrants they wish, while other states can prohibit them, according to their needs. We don’t need the federal government to do it for us. Texas can build its own wall, thank you. Colorado can legalize marijuana without Jeff Sessions’ wraith darkening the skies.

I hope you will join me in joining the Convention of States, and contacting your state legislatures, demanding them to pass the Convention of States in your state.


Book Review: To Defend Them By Stratagem, by Michaela Stephens

Book Review: To Defend Them By Stratagem, Fortify Yourself with Book of Mormon War Tactics, by Michaela Stephens

While there are deep scholarly looks at the battles in the Book of Mormon (e.g.; Warfare in the Book of Mormon, by Hamblin and Ricks), this is perhaps the first book I’ve read that examines the war chapters in order to assist us in our daily battle against sin and temptation.

The book contains about 40 short chapters, each looking at events involved in the various wars, including preparation for war, strategies for winning war, and reasons each side had for war.  Chapter headings include: King Benjamin’s Nearly Invisible Battles, Clash of the Worldviews, King Noah’s Paranoid Panic Mode, The Back-story to Captain Moroni’s Meteoric Rise, Hard Things First, A Type of Christ – Frees the Prisoners of Gid, Coriantumr’s Blitzkrieg, and too many more to mention here. Continue reading

Book Review: Exploring the Apocrypha by Jared Ludlow

Book Review: Exploring the Apocrypha from a Latter-day Saint Perspective, by Jared W. Ludlow

While making his translation of the Bible, Joseph Smith asked the Lord whether he should include the Apocrypha in his translation.  The Lord responded that there were many good and true things in the Apocrypha, but also many interpolations of men, and so Joseph was not to translate it (D&C 91). Instead, the Lord said that a person guided by the Spirit could gain much value out of reading the Apocrypha.

In Exploring the Apocrypha, Ludlow discusses the history of the Apocrypha and gives an overview of each of the books. Continue reading