Category Archives: Religion

O My Father

Today in Church, we sang the Hymn “O My Father”, a hymn I have sung many times before.  However, I never took the time to read and ponder the lyrics.  I did so today and felt the spirit strongly.  I think the lyrics could be my favorite of all our Hymns .

Lyrics for “O My Father”, LDS Hymnal #292, Eliza R. Snow

O my Father, thou that dwellest
In the high and glorious place,
When shall I regain thy presence
And again behold thy face?
In thy holy habitation,
Did my spirit once reside?
In my first primeval childhood
Was I nurtured near thy side?
For a wise and glorious purpose
Thou hast placed me here on earth
And withheld the recollection
Of my former friends and birth;
Yet ofttimes a secret something
Whispered, “You’re a stranger here,”
And I felt that I had wandered
From a more exalted sphere.
I had learned to call thee Father,
Thru thy Spirit from on high,
But, until the key of knowledge
Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there.
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you.

The personal feeling and conviction in the hymn is inspiring.  It also sends me into deep thoughts and ponderings as it is one of the few published works by the LDS Church that refers to a Heavenly Mother, a belief that I whole heartedly subscribe to.  Here is the wikipedia entry for this hymn.

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By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

Since starting this blog, I have discussed with many people the various theological differences between the LDS Church and Christendom as a whole.  Certainly, the differences are significant and, as has been proven many times, there are many conflicts of belief that seem will never be resolved and we often have to agree to disagree.  For the most part, the comments and conversations I have been party to have been civil and respectful.  Both sides seem to be careful to only discuss doctrinal differences while avoiding criticism of the other person’s faith as a whole and for this I am grateful.  However, there have been many times, both here and on other websites (and, I might add, that I experience just living life in an area where Mormons are few) when people have called the LDS Church the “Church of the Devil” or denigrated our Prophet (more than just question such a reality or the need/doctrinal justification for a Prophet).  We are criticized by many as leading our people to hell and blinding folks from the truth. 

I thought about these views and comments as I watched the General Conference of the LDS Church this past weekend.  It was a weekend of wise and joyous instruction, where we were given the opportunity to hear from those we consider Prophets and other leaders of our faith.  It was the first Conference to which President and Prophet Thomas S. Monson was at the helm and leading up to the Conference I was praying for a confirming feeling or impression that he was indeed called and chosen by God himself, but I will get to that later. 

The one thing that struck me about all the messages delivered this weekend was the humility, wisdom, and optimism the leaders of the Church have.  This was most apparent to me as I attended Priesthood session on Saturday night.  The concluding three speakers, taking up all of the last hour, consisted of the First Presidency.  They all spoke about staying on course and repentence, yet they all took it from very different perspectives.  Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke about the need to stay on direct course and how even a one degree deviation off course can lead to us being extremely lost, President Henry B. Eyring spoke about the doctrine of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood and the need for we Priesthood members to be faithful in fulfilling that covenant, and President Monson spoke on obedience to duty and the need for more faithfulness.  In each of these talks we were essentially called to repentance.  But it was not a call in vanity or rebuke, but a call in love and encouragement.  It was readily apparent that one of the greatest concerns the First Presidency has is the increased prevalence of sexual sin (President Monson had an incredible quote about tolerance, but I don’t have it with me, I will do a post on a few of my favorite quotes later).   As I listened to these fine men speak, I realized that the image that critics of the Church try to paint about our Prophet is in no way accurate.  These men who lead the Church do not do so in a quest for power or to feed their vanity. One just needs to watch and listen to their speeches to understand this.  They lead because they were called by God and out of an unbending faith and dedication to him. 

The phrase “By their Fruits ye Shall Know Them” resounded regularly in my mind.  Indeed, people may criticize our faith and our leaders all they want, but they do so blindly and in vain.  I can understand one choosing not to believe our doctrines or that we are the true Church; I will not criticize one who came to such a conclusion after study and prayer.  However the childish and irrational name calling and denigration of the Church is inaccurate and contrary to all evidence readily available to one who takes the time to study and research.  Indeed, the fruits of our leaders are good and sweet.   I encourage all to take the time to read and consider the words of the Apostles and Prophets, especially if you are not of our faith.  Come and see what truths have been restored and know that Christ’s church with the same organization that existed in his time is again restored to the earth.

Now allow me to close with my testimony of President Monson.   As I said above, I came into Conference praying for a confirmation of his divine calling.  This was the first transfer of authority in the leadership of the Church that I can really remember.  President Hinckley was a giant among men and one whom I loved deeply.  I also had a great affinity for President Monson, but oddly I found it difficult to hold him up to the same pedastal that I put President Hinckley on.  Saturday night was the first talk he delivered in Conference as the head of the Church.  As soon as he stood and started speaking I felt that still small voice and confirming feeling that he was called of God and leads this Church through direct revelation. 

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D. Todd Christofferson Called as New Apostle in LDS Church; New First Presidency Sustained

Interesting, to start General Conference, following the hymn and prayer, President Uchtdorf explained how and why we sustain Church officers and the Church seems to have changed the way in which sustainings occur.   They had the First Presidency stand and sustain the President, First Presidency, and Quorum of the Twelve.  Once that was conculded they had the Twelve arise and sustain the same, then had the first and second quorum of the Seventy stand and sustain, then had the all area seventies, patriarchs, HP and Elders throughout the world stand and sustain the same, following that they had the Aaronic Priesthood arise and sustain, followed by the Relief Society, then Young Women and all other members of the Church stand and sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as previously consitituted.  It was very interesting and the first time they have done that as I recall.   Funny how things change with the changing of a President.

D. Todd Christofferson was called and sustained as the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve.  Elder Christofferson was born on January 24, 1945 in American Fork, Utah.  He was called as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy at the April General Conference, 1993 and in August 1998 he was called to the Presidency of the Seventy.  His latest assignment was presiding over the North America Northwest and North America West areas of the Church.  In his personal life he supported himself and his family as a lawyer.

Here is an interview Reuters did with Elder Christofersson in 2007.

The members of the Church sustained President Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring, and Dieter F. Uchtdorf as Prophets, Seers and Revelators for the first time

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Muslims Out Number Catholics Worldwide

The Vatican has just reported that Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the largest faith in the world.  Apparently Muslims make up 19.2% of World population, while Catholics make up 17.4%.    This really should not be much of a surprise, I would have been more surprised if Catholicism was still ahead. 

I think there are a couple of key aspects that have been left out of the analysis in this report.  Sure, Catholicism is now outnumbered by Islam, but Catholicism only counts their own members, not members of break off sects (aka Protestantism) or other independent Christian faiths (aka Mormonism, JW, etc).   While it is likely that the number of Muslims includes all Muslims regardless of Sunni, Shiite, or any other affiliation. 

A more accurate comparison would have been to compare Catholicism with Sunni Islam while comparing Christianity as a whole with Islam as a whole.  If done in this way, Christianity makes up 33% of world population while Islam (still) makes up 19.2%.   A significant lead for Christianity.  

However, all is not necessarily well in Christendom.  The Western world, which contains a majority of Christians, have some of the lowest population growth rates in the world.  In some countries, there are nearly as many deaths as there are births in a given year.  Additionally, more and more people from Christian backgrounds are leaving religion altogether as they become more wealthy and have less of a need for religion. 

The growth rates of major Christian religions, such as Catholicism, Lutheranism, etcetera has diminished to a crawl;  really the saving grace for Christianity are the newer religions and movements within the umbrella.  The evangelical movement has gone through a boom period and independent faiths such as Mormonism and the Jehovah’s witness continue to have significant growth rates and are establishing a greater footprint in the community. 

But even the growth of those faiths and movements can’t keep up with Islam.  Undoubtedly, this 14% gap in population between Christianity and Islam will continue to shrink.  At some point in the not to distant future Islam will pass Christianity.  Islam continues to spread, they are essentially experiencing their own modern-day crusade (a topic for another article) and taking over countries as they go along.   Christianity cannot keep up with this.  It is a harsh reality that needs to be recognized and if the Christian world is concerned about there ought to be serious discussion about how to deal with it (and I don’t mean deal with it in terms of War or violence) and adjust.  It is a unique time for the world.  We are indeed witnessing the rise of the East, both the Near East and the Far East.  Could this century be the century of the East? Time will tell.

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LDS Church Leader Urges Caution on Immigration

It appears that the LDS Church is slowly unveiling its position on Illegal Immigration and it appears to somewhat break from the common GOP consensus.  Which consensus, I should explain, is also firmer than mine.  It seems that most GOPers (especially the average voter) is pretty hardcore in their view of illegal immigration; generally they feel that ALL illegal immigrants should be deported, often without consideration of extenuating circumstances. 

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time now, may remember that I broke with this common view in a piece I wrote last year.   Basically, I think deporting 12 million people is utterly ridiculous, it is an economic and logistical nightmare.  Additionally, we need to consider the impact such a move (deportation) would have on families, especially children born in the U.S. who are now citizens.

Yesterday, LDS Church historian and seventy, Marlin K. Jensen, urged that Utah’s legislature (practically all Mormon) “slow down, step back and carefully study and assess the implications and human costs involved” when confronting the issue of illegal immigration.  He added that such decisions have “significant consequences, (and) I believe a more thoughtful . . . not to mention humane, approach is warranted.” 

I couldn’t agree more.  We need to consider the human implication. 

It is important to point out that Elder Jensen is not advocating one way or another any specific legislation or even point of view regarding illegal immigration.  He is simply urging reflection and serious, realistic contemplation on the impact of various possibilities.  This is a wise course of action. 

I fear that people are so embroiled with emotion regarding this issue, that is clouds sound judgement and realistic/pragmatic thought.   Many right wingers, especially, are verging on pure racism and starting to even allow their hatred for illegal immigration with criticism of all immigration.   This is a dangerous trend.

The best antidote for such irrational movement is simply to take a deep breath, pull back from the problem, and move cautiously; all the while utilizing deliberate and realistic thought and analysis.

For the Church it will be interesting to see what kind of response is received.  There are going to be huge swaths of LDS members, especially throughout AZ, CA, and the rest of the Southwest that are going to be annoyed at best by this, others will likely be outraged.   But I urge all of you who may be upset by this move to remember the role of religion.  Religions in general (should) focus on individuals, not governments.  Thus, the LDS Church is concerned about the impact such legislation will have on individuals, and this includes illegal immigrants, legal immigrants, even all U.S. citizens.   Rational and pragmatic thought, even stepping away from the issue to get an overall view, is nearly always the wisest course.  When we move to fast and are swayed by the emotional upswell of public opinion we more often than not make poor decisions that have more dire effects in the long run.

UPDATE: Further down in the SL Trib article I read the following bit and think it is essential to add to this piece.: “Jensen noted that immigration was not strictly a political issue but a moral and ethical one. And as such, he said, he was not simply speaking for himself or even for the Quorum, a group of Mormon leaders who act as church emissaries. ‘I was assigned to come here by the First Presidency of the Church.’

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Africa’s Vicious Cycle Continues

There is something inherently wrong with Africa.  It seems that no matter how much a country in Africa, specifically sub-Saharan Africa,  progresses at some point it all falls apart and returns to what Africa is apparently used to being: a land of chaos.  I suppose there is a reason it is called the “Dark Continent” and it has nothing to do with the color of the skin of a majority of the people. 

I have a great fascination with Africa and in terms of political/social desires, there is nothing that I would rather see than a generally stable and prosperous Africa.  What a sight that would be to behold.  A continent so ripe with conflict and war, being able to rise above it and enter into the developed world while providing relative peace and prosperity for even the poorest of people. 

In the 80s and 90s it appeared that there was a shift towards this vision.  While many countries continued to reside in hell (Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda), many were stablizing and becoming prosperous.  However, today many of those same countries are or look as if they are regressing and being trapped by the grasp of ethnic strife and war once again or, at least, are in the grip or totalitarian leaders who are destroying their country.

There are three countries that come to mind that have fallen into this trap.  In the 80’s and early 90’s the Ivory Coast was often considered Africa’s shining star.  An example of openness and relative prosperity, however today it is embroiled by war and strife.

Even worse, and I would argue the most serious, is Zimbabwe.  Zimbabwe had a burgeoning economy and was Africa’s breadbasket.  They too were among the most prolific examples of African prosperity all while under the same leader they have today, Robert Mugabe.  Yet around 1998 something snapped in Mugabe (or at least that is how it seems to me), perhaps he became paranoid of losing his power, but he instituded terrible economic reforms and has continued to do so since.   As a result, Zimbabwe is arguably the worst country in Africa, or at least the worst country that was somewhat prosperous a decade ago (it is hard to compare Zimbabwe with Somalia, a country that has always been in chaos).   And through all of this, Mugabe and his government refuse to recognize that it was their policies that caused this devastation. 

Perhaps the most disappointing is what is currently going on in Kenya.  Kenya WAS as late as last fall Africa’s proud country.  The one that Africa could show the world the potential they have.  Granted, things have never been as prosperous as the West there, but they were a far sight better than most of the rest of Africa and became the standard bearer of success.  Yet, for some reason, Africa’s nature would not let it be.  Just like with the Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe (and throw Nigeria in there), Africa is pulling Kenya back to what it is apparently supposed to be; Chaotic. 

As a result of a contested and likely corrupt election, huge swaths of minority tribal people are dissatisfied and are partaking in ethnic cleansing of the Kikuyu people.   It is in sharp parallel with the Rwanda genocide in 1994, except that it has not overtaken the whole country.   All is not lost yet in Kenya however, the President can take a nearly unprecedented step for Africa and step up and either resign and call for new elections or bring all sides together and forge a new political and power sharing agreement.  But even this is no guarantee of success. 

What a complete shame and disappointment.  Will there ever be a country in Africa that will be able to rise above the fray and stay there?  I don’t know, but there are reasons for optimism.   Right now, Botswana is doing incredibly well.  They have a stronger economy and higher GDP than even South Africa (last I checked) and have a stable, though relatively totalitarian government.  Their biggest issue is AIDS; an issue that can easily bring down the country. 

Ghana, too, is a strong country with decent leadership, though with it’s own corruption issues.  However, what Africa needs immediately is stability and security, they can deal with corruption later, but stability is essential for international investment, key to fixing Africa. 

So the question now becomes, can Botswana or Ghana continue it’s rapid rise?  Can countries recently embroiled in strife, yet now seemingly out of it and improving, like Liberia and Uganda, continue to hold together it’s fragile stability?  Or will the curse of Africa strike again and tear these down.  My guess is that only one or two of them make it out alive and I would put my money on Botswana and Liberia. 

Africa is a sad yet fascinating place.  One that probably has so much more to offer in terms of U.S. national interest (which it takes for the U.S. to care about truly helping a country) than we realize.  The question is, will any country there stablize enough for us to find out?  Will the tribes put aside their differences for the good of the whole?  I doubt it.  Certainly a small handful of countries can pull it off, but as a whole Africa looks doomed with little hope.  I pray that I am wrong, but this latest failure in Kenya shows that chaos and genocide are only a moment away.

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Mitt’s Out, What now?

What a fun and exciting Presidential campaign this has been.  The GOP had a solid group of strong candidates running for the nomination this year. For me Mitt Romney was the best candidate for President in a long time, he just wasn’t able to pull it through.  When I started this blog I did not intend it to be as Mitt and election heavy as it ended up being.  Now that Mitt is out I have two questions that need to be answered: Where does Mitt go from here?  Where does this blog from here.

Well, the first question is the more difficult one.  Mitt is going to stay involved in politics in some way or another and I ultimately think that he will run again in 2012 if a Democrat wins the Presidency.  Between now and then I could see Mitt becoming head of the RNC or going to work for a conservative think tank.  But most importantly, he will devote a lot of time to his family.  Undoubtedly, he missed a lot with them over the last year and a half, he will want to make that up. 

So where does Dry Fly go.  Well, we are going back to the original idea for this site in the first place, with a few modifications.  One thing I learned working on this blog was that people don’t care about non-U.S. issues, not one bit.  However, that is where my passion lies, I love international affairs and politics, so I am going to write about issues of great importance or that are just interesting that are international in nature.  Also, I am going to follow closely the Presidential race, but I am not endorsing a candidate yet.  Obviously, I lean towards McCain, but he has a lot of convincing to do and some will depend on his running mate (it better not be Huckabee!).   Finally, we will write about general U.S. political issues.   The hope is that it will continue to be a place where those of you who check it out regularly will continue to come and also that we will provide interesting writing on a variety of subjects.  To this end, I am looking for 2-4 more people who would be interested in blogging here.  If you are interested in what it entails, email me at dryflypolitics@gmail.com and send along a writing sample.

One more thing, we will keep you up to date on Mitt and his doings, especially if he stays involved in politics.  Personally, I am praying that he runs in 2012. (By the way, you don’t need to be a Mitt fan to blog here. I am taking down the Mitt banner next week, I am keeping it up through the weekend as my own personal tribute).

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Filed under Election 2008, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Mormon, Mormonism, Politics, Progress, Progressive, Religion, Republicans, Romney