Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Banzai Ben

Yesterday, I had the privilege to take my brother, Ben, to the Missionary Training Center. He's going to be serving in the Tokyo Japan Mission. But before that he has three months of intensive study ahead of him as he tries to master the basics of Japanese.

I can imagine, though, the looks on Japanese people's faces when they see Ben in their midst: "Godzilla!" At six-foot four-inches I can imagine that Ben will stick out a bit. I also suppose that he won't find many buildings, or beds, that will accommodate him well. Perhaps they sleep on the floor over there. If so then he's probably going to do OK.


Ben is the tall one in the middle.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Tribute to a Great Man

While I was visiting with some friends last night, I received a text messaged informing me that the prophet-leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Gordon B. Hinckley, had passed away.

President Hinckley's passing wasn't sudden, nor was it unexpected. He was, after all, 97 years old. Nonetheless, the news came as a shock to my system.

Let me put this into perspective a bit. The Church of Jesus Christ has had 15 prophet-presidents since its founding in 1830. All my life President Hinckley has had a very prominent and visual role in the highest tiers of Church leadership. Furthermore, he has served as president since I was 14 years old, so I've looked up to him more than any other living spiritual leader as I've grown up.

I will always remember President Hinckley. He was a kind, compassionate, and gentle man. When he spoke, he did so with great persuasiveness. He never condoned sinful behavior, but he never ostracized sinners.

President Hinckley was a prophet of God. He qualified as such because he possessed the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10). His testimony of Jesus Christ is immortalized in these verses which he wrote:

I know that my Redeemer lives,
Triumphant Savior, Son of God,
Victorious over pain and death,
My King, my Leader, and my Lord.

He lives, my one sure rock of faith,
The one bright hope of men on earth,
The beacon to a better way,
The light beyond the veil of death.

Oh, give me thy sweet Spirit still,
The peace that comes alone from thee,
The faith to walk the lonely road
That leads to thine eternity.

(Hymns, #135, My Redeemer Lives)

I know that President Gordon B. Hinckley was a literal prophet of God. I know this because the Spirit of God has told me so. I will miss him dearly.

Here are some links to videos describing President Hinckley's life and ministry:

President Gordon B. Hinckley

President Hinckley's Testimony

President Hinckley's Bio

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Samoa Part 5: Environment

Samoa has two seasons: hot and wet, and hot and wetter. Since the islands are in the southern hemisphere, their hot and wetter season corresponds with our northern hemisphere winter. The hot and wetter season could also be aptly called the rainy or typhoon season. In the early 1990s, Samoa and American Samoa were devastated by two powerful typhoons within two or so years' time.

In the 23 months that I served in the islands we never experienced the fury of a typhoon. Once one passed within 100 kilometers to the west of Savaii and we had strong enough winds to blow down banana trees, but that's as close as it got.

When I arrived in Samoa it was the end of May, 2001. The hot and wet, or "dry", season was under way. That meant that it still regularly rained but not as much as the other half of the year. With such an ample amount of heat and rain the islands of the Samoan archipelago are lush and beautiful.

During the late 1800s, Germany took interest in then "Western" Samoa as a means for copra and chocolate production. The German business and government leaders in Samoa developed coconut and cocoa plantations as well as planting programs mandating that the Samoans plant so many coconut trees each month.

Today all that remains of the German legacy are some few politically and economically powerful Samoan families which bear German surnames and the vestiges of old plantations. However, the best part is that Samoa was unwittingly beautified by the planting programs as the land is literally covered by old, tall, graceful coconut palm trees which sway in the warm island breezes and provide refreshing green drinking coconuts for weary and overheated missionaries.

To illustrate the coconut palm's usefulness to Samoans an old legend is told of a Fijian king who heard of the beauty of one Samoan girl named Sina. The king turned himself into an eel and swam the distance between Fiji and Samoa to find his intended love.

When he arrived to Samoa, the king found that he could not turn himself back into a man. The king located Sina but rather than marrying her he became her pet eel. She placed him in her bathing pool and there he grew into a monstrosity.

One day Sina went to bathe and noticed that the eel was leering at her. She swore at the eel and fled from it. The eel followed Sina over both water and land. Far from her home, Sina dashed into a council hut seeking refuge among the village chiefs. The eel entered the hut and rose up to tower above the men who cowered in fear of the great fish.

The old king-turned eel explained to Sina his undying love for her. He told her that he soon would die because of the difficulties he had in following her. His only request to Sina was that she would cut his head from his eel body and plant it in the ground next to her house. From the spot where she planted his head would grow a tree whose fruit and various parts would provide food and drink, fiber and lumber, and a host of other useful products for Sina's people. The catch though was that every time Sina or her people drank from the coconut, they would meet the eel in a kiss.

So the next time you see a coconut, take a close look at it and notice how the three dark spots form "eyes" and a "nose". Thus a face appears, the face of the old Fijian king turned-eel.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

7 Promises from Jesus Christ to All Those Who Overcome the World

  1. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)

  1. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. (Revelation 2:11)

  1. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. (Revelation 2:17)

  1. And to him who overcometh, and keepeth my commandments unto the end, will I give power over many kingdoms; And he shall rule them with the word of God; and they shall be in his hands as the vessels of clay in the hands of a potter; and he shall govern them by faith, with equity and justice, even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. (JST Revelation 2:26-28)

  1. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Revelation 3:5)

  1. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God; and I will write upon him my new name. (Revelation 3:12)

  1. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
Note: JST refers to the "Joseph Smith Translation" of the Bible.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Easy-to-use Recommendations for Exercise Programs

Cardiovascular Fitness

Exercise that either maintains or improves cardiovascular fitness and manages a healthy body composition ought to form the basis of all fitness plans.

Any activity that involves rhythmic, continuous contractions of large muscle masses (e.g. the legs) of a pace that can be sustained for periods longer than five minutes is considered aerobic in nature.

Achieving a high level of cardiovascular fitness can be very boring because of monotony. Therefore the key to staying fit is to choose to participate in activities that are fun. If you like running, run. If you like swimming, swim. If you like biking, or jump-roping, or cross-country skiing, then bike, jump-rope, or cross-country ski. Do what you like and you will likely do it often; that is the key.

As a general rule, 20 to 60 minutes of continuous activity is sufficient for most people’s fitness needs. However, in exercising for shorter periods of time a higher intensity is required to obtain the same results as longer-duration, lower-intensity exercise.

Summary:

Mode or Type: Whatever you like
Frequency: 3-5 days/week
Duration: 20-60 minutes
Intensity: Moderate-Vigorous


Strength or Resistance Training

Strength is the ability to exert a force. Many of the activities of our daily lives require the generation of force (e.g. lifting heavy backpacks), so it is important strengthen the muscles responsible for generating those forces.

Strength training is for everyone, male or female, young or old. Women who regularly engage in a strength training program will not become muscular like men because they naturally lack large quantities of the hormone primarily responsible for building muscle. Furthermore, it is never too late to begin strength training. Even very old people have shown remarkable increases in strength by engaging in a properly designed program.

2-3 days of resistance training per week is sufficient to improve one’s strength. Body weight movements like pushups, sit-ups, and pull-ups are great ways to improve strength. Once you can do more than 20 reps consecutively in a set, then it’s time to either add weight or move into the gym.

1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions promote both muscle strength and tone and definition as long as the weight is heavy enough. Use the “guesstimate method” to determine the proper weight for each set. I like to compare this method to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Goldilocks went through the Bears’ home trying out porridge, chairs, and beds. In each case she found that one was too much, one was too little, and one was just right. In the weight room the trick is to find the weight that is just right. To do a set of 10 repetitions choose a weight that is light enough to complete 10 reps but not so light that you can do more. Stated differently, the weight should be heavy enough that more than 10 reps is not possible, but not so heavy that you cannot complete all 10 reps.

Consider the body as 10 different parts: calves, thighs—front and back, midsection—front and back, chest, upper back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps. Choose at least one exercise for each of the mentioned body parts. Next, “chain” exercises together as pairs and perform them alternately. For example, chain together biceps and triceps, chest and upper back, shoulders and calves, midsection—front and back, and thighs—front and back. Then, if your workout consists of 3 sets of 10 reps, do one set of biceps followed by one set of triceps and repeat until you are done with biceps and triceps. Move on to the next pair of exercises. As long as you are not spending a lot of time talking in between sets, this workout should only take 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

Summary:

Frequency: 2-3 days/week
Duration: 15-20 minutes
Intensity: Guesstimate
Sets: 1-3
Reps: 8-12

Thursday, January 24, 2008

In Response to Obesity: A National Crisis

Rich, a friend of mine who is seeking his Master's of Public Health wrote a post entitled, Obesity: A National Crisis. Rich asked for my feedback and so I wrote the following. Feel free to respond to either Rich's or my comments concerning this serious issue that we all face.

Excellent post, Rich! You have accurately identified much of the underlying causes of the nation’s overweight and obesity epidemic.

Dr. Steven Aldana, one of my professors, used to say that Americans’ problem is that we have hypoactive feet and hyperactive forks, thus leading to the energy balance issue.

According to data collected by the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), adults successful at losing weight and maintaining their weight loss exhibit a few behavioral common denominators:

Most report continuing to maintain a low calorie, low fat diet and doing high levels of activity.
78% eat breakfast every day.
75% weigh them self at least once a week.
62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.

(Source: http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm)

I agree that programs need to target adults, and that by doing so a trickle-down effect should occur and result in improved health habits of children. My personal opinion is that adults with children should pick physical activity and exercise options (if at all possible) which align with what I like to call the three F’s of fitness: Fun, Frequent, and Family.

If an activity is fun then the reward is embedded within the activity itself, thus negating the need of extrinsic motivation and incentives. A person who is having fun while exercising will naturally seek to repeat the experience which leads one to the second F.

The key to experiencing the long-term results of regular physical activity and exercise is to engage in them frequently. Those registered with the NWCR who experience enduring success were those who participated daily in some form of exercise. More and more we are also realizing the benefits of unstructured physical activities such as walking to work, taking the stairs instead of escalators, gardening and more.

The third F is Family. The family is the basic unit of society. At the risk of sounding cliché let me say that “the family that plays together stays fit together.” Children naturally copy the behavior modeled by their parents, so if a child grows up in a home where frequent, fun physical activity and exercise occur that child is more likely to establish healthy living patterns for life.

The temptation to create incentive programs to stimulate adults’ interest in increasing physical activity and exercise patterns is strong. We naturally get excited about winning fancy prizes. I read a book recently that challenges this paradigm and I think that it’s worth looking into. It’s called Why We Do what We Do, and it’s written by Edward L. Deci. Deci’s primary thesis is that change is long lasting when it comes from within oneself, that is, if one changes because of the intrinsic value of the change not due to any external motivation. Therefore, do I exercise to win a prize or do I exercise because I enjoy it? In which situation will I most likely continue exercising in the long term? Deci would submit that I would most likely persist in my routine if I genuinely like it over the former alternative.

If lasting change is what we want in Americans, then teaching correct principles and letting them govern themselves is likely the best approach. Of course strong social support is good but it should be provided in a manner that is autonomy supportive. Hence, education is the way to increase awareness and knowledge and, hopefully, Americans’ desire to change.

That brings me to another point. Those of us who are in the know, so to speak, are responsible for the dissemination of good information concerning the overweight and obesity problem. Our greatest challenge, in my opinion, is unscrupulous individuals and organizations which prey on the ignorance of the masses. The fight against misinformation is real, the question is, who is winning the fight?

Lastly, I would like to submit a program. May I add it to your list and call it program #3? I propose that city planners expend a little more time and energy planning and re-planning our cities to naturally foster outdoor recreation, physical activity, and exercise. Take Happy Valley for instance. The roads in this region are not conducive to bicycling as a form of transportation. I have friends who bike from Spanish Fork or Springville to Provo and have a heck of a time doing it because this area is so automobile focused. What we need are ubiquitous and wider bike lanes. We need more park space in more areas of town, and on and on the list could go regarding improvements that could be made.

The problem is real and we can’t give up the fight. Good work, Rich.

Samoa Part 4: Arrival

It was 2:something AM when our traveling party arrived at Faleolo International Airport from LA-X. The flight on Air New Zealand took some 10 hours to complete. We unloaded directly onto the tarmac and made our way into the tiny airport building to collect our bags.

Though it was nighttime, Samoa was still very warm. The humidity enveloped us like a moist blanket. When I entered the airport baggage claim area I was suddenly struck by the realization that I was a pilgrim in a strange land. All around my companions and me were large, brown men and women wearing vibrantly colored aloha shirts, lavalava, and puletasi--a stark contrast to the dark suits, white shirts, and ties that we were wearing.

Our eyes scanned the crowded, open air baggage claim for some familiar sight. Soon we spotted some stern looking native missionaries dressed similarly to us. These would take us to the mission home in Pesega in the greater Apia area.

Once our bags were heaved onto the tops of vans, we crowded inside and drove for the next hour or so to town. Minimal street lighting illuminated the sides of the road where I directed my attention, eager to catch a glimpse of my new home. Hedges of croton lined the roadways, a plant that I thought was limited to small pots and interior decorating. But other than that I couldn't see much save the dark outlines of some Samoan- and Western-style fale.

We arrived at the mission home and bedded down in bunk beds located in a small building behind the mission president's quarters. The air in our dormitory was a frigid contrast to the comfortable warmth outside. I quickly learned that Samoans love to sleep in air-conditioned rooms if possible. As we each selected our bunks, dark faces with even darker eyes greeted us with, "Malo," and, "Talofa." We answered in kind, thankful that they didn't inquire any deeper because we couldn't have replied let alone understood the inquiries posed.

I didn't sleep well that first night. It really had nothing to do with the newness and strangeness of the place I was in. I got cold. I didn't have more than a sheet to cover myself, and the air-conditioner relentlessly poured its icy emissions into the one large room that housed us all.

In the end, my bad night's sleep didn't last too long. We found ourselves getting up two or three hours later anyways to the crowing of roosters and the prodding of the assistants to the president. Our first full day in Samoa was going to be a Zone Conference and we needed to be up early to get ready.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Samoa Part 3: History II

One hundred and eighteen years before I arrived in Samoa, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially commissioned Joseph Dean and his wife to travel from Hawaii, where they were serving as missionaries, to Samoa to oversee the building of God's kingdom there.

In 1883, Dean and his wife landed at Aunuu, a small islet of the coast of Tutuila. There they met and were welcomed by Manoa, a Hawaiian man with an interesting story concerning his own journey to Samoa.

Sometime in the mid-1800's a scheming man by the name of Walter Gibson joined the Church in Utah. Gibson made his way to Hawaii where he convinced the saints there that he was the rightful leader of the entire Church because the leaders and saints in Salt Lake City had been destroyed. He had the saints' land deeded to him and he lived like a king at the expense of the Hawaiian faithful. Gibson's plans included the establishment of a kingdom in the Pacific so he ordained apostles and sent them out from Hawaii as missionaries.

Manoa and his traveling companion made their way to Samoa where they had limited success. Eventually Manoa's companion died, leaving Manoa alone to carry on the work by himself. Manoa settled permanently in Aunuu having established a family there. Once while at Pagopago harbor, Manoa found a newspaper which had an article about the Church and its leaders in Utah. Manoa wrote to Salt Lake City requesting that the Church leaders send additional missionaries to Samoa to assist in the work.

Manoa's letter was initially set aside because the leaders in Salt Lake City had never before sent missionaries to Samoa. Later, however, a decision was made to inaugurate the work in Samoa by sending a man from the Hawaii mission (which had since been reclaimed from Gibson, excepting the land) to act as mission president.

When Joseph Dean and his wife arrived at Aunuu Manoa was rebaptized and became an assistant to Dean. A small branch (congregation) was soon established. Thus the Lord's work officially began in Samoa. What started out to be a very small enterprise would later become one of Samoa's largest and most vibrant religious organizations marked by the tremendous faith of its native members.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Samoa Part 2: History I

Approximately 14 degrees south of the equator lies the Samoan archipelago, a total of 14 islands with 9 bearing inhabitants. Once called the Navigator Islands, the Samoan islands are now split between two political jurisdictions: Samoa and American Samoa.

Sometime in the seventeen hundreds white Europeans made their first contact with the Samoans of Tutuila, now in American Samoa. Due to some misunderstanding some of the Frenchmen and Samoans died in a scuffle. Because of this incident at what is now called "Massacre Bay", European explorers largely avoided Samoa until 1830 when John Williams. a missionary from the London Missionary Society (LMS), landed at Sapapalii, Savaii to introduce Christianity to Samoa.

Williams received a warm welcome by Malietoa Vaiinupo an important chief vying to become king over all the islands. Malietoa likely saw many advantages to accepting the white missionary's message as the Samoans associated material prosperity with the new Christian faith. Soon most of Malietoa's followers converted to the LMS brand of Christianity.

Some time after Williams' arrival in the islands, Wesleyan (Methodist) missionaries from neighboring Tonga found success amongst the rivals of Malietoa Vaiinupo. The Catholics soon followed and labored to establish themselves in some Samoan societal niche.

As each successive Christian sect arrived, persecution from the "older, established" sects was heaped upon the missionaries and new converts. But Samoans are known for their firmness and tenacity and the fledgling congregations grew until the whole of the population had been evangelized by these three Christian sects: LMS, Methodist, and Catholic.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Day to Celebrate God-Given Rights

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

So wrote the Founding Fathers of the United States of America as they formally announced to the world that they would no longer submit to the tyranny of British rule. Since that fateful July 4th, 1776, many men and women have fought bravely to ensure that every American was granted these "unalienable Rights" as vouchsafed in the Declaration of Independence.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and many, many others secured by Divine Providence the basic rights and freedom that we enjoy today.

Abraham Lincoln led the nation at a critical junction in its history as it was divided over the issue of slavery and economics. Again, by the hand of God, America was spared and reconstituted while a very important portion of its population, African-Americans, gained their freedom from the oppression of slavery.

Years and years passed and blacks and women still did not enjoy equal status in this nation where "freedom rings." So the suffragists and the civil rights leaders continued to fight for equality.

First, through the efforts of women like Susan B. Anthony women in America can voice their opinions at the ballot box. Then the struggles of men and women like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks brought and end to segregation.

The efforts of these and countless others brought an end to some institutionalized inequalities but inequality still abounds. One look at just the socio-economic landscape of America reveals great disparity between the rich and the poor.

I dream of a day when we all enjoy similar privileges, the same "unalienable Rights." But I do not think that legislated altruism is the answer. I do not believe that robbing the rich to give to the poor solves the problem.

Each one of us has the responsibility to voluntarily relieve suffering and inequity. The government should not have to mandate kindness and generosity. Instead of heavily taxing their people our government leaders should be leading the way in personal giving.

Instead of expecting a dole each able-bodied American should develop a work ethic and go out and earn a living.

Instead of only fighting the war on terror in foreign lands we need to look inwardly and start fighting in earnest the domestic war against those who would destroy the traditional concepts of family and marriage. To preserve the American way and the future of the United States we need to turn our attention to the war on drugs; the war on gangs; the war on pornography.

I am not a proponent of socialism. I do not espouse communism either. But I cannot agree with the secular, atheistic, and purely materialistic version of capitalism that now reigns supreme in our nation. Because of selfish motives our land becomes more polluted each day. Hardly a thought is given in regards to the future of our children, grand-children, or even our great-grandchildren and beyond.

Jesus Christ said, "The truth shall make you free." The truth is that we do not need more government we need less. We do not need to rape the land and plunder the seas to survive. We do not need to acquiesce to the demands of those who would destroy the institution of marriage and the family as they masquerade as so-called civil rights activists.

No one ever had the right to do wrong, and no one has the right to do wrong now. Wickedness never was happiness, nor is it now. There is no such thing as a “new morality”. Good old fashioned morality and virtue are not out dated. God is a God of love not lust. He is clean and pure and so is His kingdom in heaven and if anyone wants to enter into it he or she had better repent and become clean like God.

Jesus Christ is the only One who offered Himself as a propitiation for sin. Through faith on His Name alone and repentance of our sins we can be completely reformed. By doing so, we can be free from guilt. We can be free from the tyranny of addiction. And we can be free from death and hell.

God did give His children certain unalienable rights. But with those rights He gave us commandments to love and serve Him with all our hearts, minds, might and strength. Through His Son He taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves—that when we serve others we have served Him. He taught us to proclaim peace and renounce war. He has asked us to take care of the earth and its resources. He has commanded us to repent and come unto Him through the incomparable gift of Jesus Christ. If we do, we will have peace and enjoy our rights in this life, and we will have the promise of eternal life in the life to come.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Samoa Part 1: The Call

When I was nineteen, I put in my application papers to fulfill a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After waiting seven weeks my call, or assignment, came back. I was to spend the next two years serving a mission to Samoa and American Samoa.

On March 21st, 2001, I entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, to begin my experience with some language training. After two months of grueling days filled with studying Samoan, the Gospel, and the scriptures, my seven batch-mates and I traveled via airplane to Faleolo International Airport on the island of Upolu in Samoa.

Two months of language training helped but I was not prepared for the immersion that I was plunged into. Suddenly, I was the minority. I was one of but a handful of white people in a beautiful sea of brown. The Samoans spoke so rapidly I couldn't pick up even the few words that I'd managed to memorize prior to our arrival. The next 23 months were going to prove very interesting indeed.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Brief Look at Mormons

So what is it like being a Mormon? Well, for starters, I like it. Let me clarify a point though. I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon is a nickname that people called church members beginning in the 19th century. Mormon is the name of a man who lived in approximately the fourth century A.D. somewhere on the American continents. He served as the principle writer and editor of the book of scripture known as the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

But back to the initial question. In many respects Mormons are just like their non-Mormon friends and neighbors. We work and go to school. We love God and seek to serve Him to the best of our abilities. We play sports, listen to music, and even watch movies.

I suppose what makes Mormons interesting to the rest of the world are a few theological peculiarities that separates us from the so-called “mainstream” or “historical” Christianity. Unfortunately, some of our fellow Christians believe that we aren’t Christians at all precisely because of these differences.

For example, we do not hold to the creedal belief that God the Father and Jesus Christ are one and the same Being, that is of one substance. We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost (Article of Faith 1:1). But we do not believe in the Trinitarian formulations of the Nicene, Athanasian, or Apostles’ creeds. We believe that God is literally the Father of our spirits; that He has an immortal body of flesh and bones (D&C 130:22) very similar to but distinct from the body of the resurrected Christ of whom the ancient apostles bore record (Luke 24:36-40).

Additionally, we believe that the divine authority which Jesus Christ gave to His apostles during His mortal ministry was lost with the death of the apostles, including the keys of the kingdom to bind and seal things on heaven as they are bound and sealed on earth (Matthew 16:19). But after centuries of apostasy and darkness, God has once again restored the power and authority to act in His Name to earth. This power and authority is called the priesthood.

My next point is that whenever God has established His priesthood power and authority on earth He does so by delegation to at least one man who is then called a prophet. Prophets speak in the Name of God, that is, they are God’s mouthpieces. When people obey God’s commandments which they receive from prophets they prosper. When they don’t obey God’s commandments they don’t.

In 1820 God called a prophet, a young boy from upstate New York by the name of Joseph Smith. It took some time for Joseph to be prepared to receive the priesthood, but in 1830, Joseph Smith, being fully authorized by God, received and followed the commandment to officially organize God’s Church as it was organized by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Mormons believe that since Joseph Smith, the priesthood power and authority including the keys of the kingdom once given to Peter have continued with the prophets and apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Without this power and authority baptisms and other sacred and essential ordinances would not be binding, that is, acceptable to God.

Furthermore, Mormons don’t believe in a closed canon. While we believe that the Bible is the word of God, we also believe that God has given additional scriptures in ancient and modern times. So in addition to the Bible, Mormons believe in and study from the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. We also value the words of the living prophets and apostles as the word of God just as the children of Israel considered the words of Moses to be God-given.

Some other practices and beliefs make Mormons seem peculiar. We don’t drink alcohol, smoke or chew tobacco, and we don’t use illegal drugs. We don’t shop on Sundays; instead we go to Sabbath meetings for three hours to take the sacrament and to learn about Jesus Christ and His teachings. We give 10% of our income as a tithe, or voluntary donation, to the Church to build temples and chapels and to maintain institutions of higher learning like Brigham Young University. Each month we fast, or go without food or water for two meals and give money to help the poor, sick, and assist in worldwide humanitarian efforts generated by famine, earthquakes, and much more.

By far the most important belief of us Mormons is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He bore our sins and iniquities; He died on the cross; and He rose again on the third day. Jesus Christ lives! And because He lives all of us are ransomed from the grave and death. We will all be resurrected too and become immortal. If we repent of our sins then we can be clean from the same by the Grace of God and Christ, and we can live in God’s and Christ’s presence forever in their Kingdom.

So now that you know a little bit more about Mormons’ beliefs feel free to engage us in conversation about what we believe in or anything else. We really are a friendly people.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

On the Existence of God

Is there a God? Some say yes and some say no. I suppose that those are the only possible answers to the question of God's existence. I respect each person's right to believe as his or her conscience dictates. I'd like to discuss, though, for a bit what the natural conclusions are of belief either way.

What if there isn't a God? What would that mean for us individually and collectively? Individually it means that I have no accountability for my thoughts, words, or actions to any power higher than man-made governments. I can think, say, and do anything that I want within the limits of established law. That sounds nice, doesn't it?

But if there isn't a God then there surely isn't any Supreme Law. If that be the case then there is no clear right or wrong answer to any question. That would mean that murder is only wrong because some majority said so. If there is no God then there isn't any inherent sanctity to life, not even human life. Why should humankind make such meddlesome laws and then dogmatically enforce them on everyone? If my prosperity in this life is dependent on my own personal strength and killing someone is the best means of securing greater prosperity, then far be it from any man-made government whose laws are arbitrarily set and artificially imposed to keep me from prospering.

Doesn't that sound horrible? But that is exactly the scenario that we would find ourselves in collectively if there really isn't a God. Society would crumble around us. Every man, woman, and child could fare in life only according to the "management of the creature"; everyone would prosper according to their genius, and conquer according to their strength; and whatever we did would be no crime (Alma 30:17). Utter chaos would reign for a short while and then tyrant after tyrant would rule the masses in grinding cruelty.

If there is no God life would surely have much greater suffering than we currently see in this world. But if there is no God, then what happens when we die? We would cease to exist. Our individual personalities would be annihilated. Our present sociality would vanish. There would be no continuation of families or friendships. All would end to forever be forgotten.

Let's look at the other side of the coin. What if God does exist, then what? By definition God would have to be all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever present. God would have a Supreme Law by which all Creation is governed. If there is a God and a Supreme Law, then there is a clear right and wrong answer to every question. If there is a God then humankind would know, because not knowing of God is almost, if not as bad as there not being a God. If humankind knew of God then that could have only come by direct manifestation of God to humankind. If that is so then earthly governments are in imitation of the Government of God (to the extent that man-made governments fail they are not inspired of God). That being the case then moral law is not arbitrary and artificial, and everyone is ultimately accountable to God. If every person individually feels accountable to God then that will reflect in everyone's thoughts, words, and deeds. What follows is the possibility of peace in this life. Furthermore, if there is a God, an afterlife suddenly enters into the picture. And so the line of logic flows.

Belief in God doesn't seem so bad after all, does it? While many deride the existence of God and insult those who believe in Him there are many more who are silently hoping that there is a God. I know that God does exist. I know this through the only established means by which such knowledge can be obtained: revelation--by the still small voice of the Holy Ghost, which is a topic for another post.

You can know too that God exists. Pray to God and ask Him to reveal Himself to you and He will. But remember, if you ask for such knowledge and you get it, then what naturally follows is obedience to God's laws, a discussion of which also must be saved for another post.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why be fit? Why not?

For the last three years I worked at a place called Y-Be-Fit. Y-Be-Fit is a wellness program that provides services to a campus community of approximately 35,000 people, including students, staff, faculty, and administration. The primary purpose of Y-Be-Fit is to provide information and services that can help clients understand the principles of good health and physical fitness.

Typically when a new client enters the program we start with the data collection phase. We administer some fitness tests to assess the five health-related components of physical fitness, namely, body composition, cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength, muscle endurance, and flexibility. Additionally, the client is instructed to fill out a 3-day food intake diary so that we can perform a nutritional analysis of average daily calorie intake with a specific breakdown of the primary nutrients (carbohydrate, protein, and fat). Furthermore, we send the client to a hospital to get a cholesterol screening done. And finally, the client fills out a lifestyle and health appraisal survey.

Of course the importance of collecting so much data at the start is to establish some baseline values for each component assessed so that 1. the client knows where he or she is at, and 2. the intern working with the client knows which components need improvement and how to create a plan to do so.

After the data collection and analysis phases are finished then the intern and client work together for three months meeting weekly to set and track goals, discuss health-related concepts that may be unfamiliar to the client, and to provide a system of accountability for the client.

Finally, when the three months of one-on-one consultation have been completed, the client is put through the same physical fitness tests as in the beginning to show what changes have occurred between the start and finish of the program.

Now, what I loved about working at Y-Be-Fit was the people, my clients. I had some tremendous experiences trying to help the generally middle-aged clientele. One man came into our office desiring to lose weight. He had about 40 to 50 pounds that he could stand to lose. He asked me what type of exercise is good for weight loss and I told him about aerobic exercise. He decided that he would stationary bike for an hour each day, seven days a week. Sometimes he would put in two to three bouts of cardio per day. In the year and few months since this man started the program he has lost approximately 60 lbs! The best part is that he and I only met together once a week for three months. He has managed to keep off the weight on his own for over a year.

Another man I worked with came in with the same desire: to lose weight. We talked about ways to improve his diet. He liked to eat snacks of calorie rich foods, aka, junk food. We discussed that he didn't have to give up the concept of snacks altogether but he could really benefit from substituting healthy snacks for his sweets and things. Over time he not only gained control over his snacking, he managed to improve all aspects of his diet. For exercise this man walked for an hour; that's all he did! He didn't do anything else besides change his diet and walk every day for an hour. In the course of six months he lost between 30 and 40 lbs and in the almost two years since that time he's kept it off.

What did these two men have that set them apart from many trying and failing to lose weight? I submit that their best ally was their persistence, their consistency. These men didn't make excuses. They didn't find reasons not to change. They found exercise and eating programs that they enjoyed and were able to maintain in the long-term. These men didn't fall to quick fix schemes. They didn't have an aversion toward good old-fashioned work. These men each had an internal locus of control and plenty of intrinsic motivation. My encouragement and other's amazement at their changes wasn't their motivation. I didn't have to bribe them to change. They came to me, I taught them a few tricks, they did all the work, and now they're reaping the benefits to the present day.

I don't share these success stories to build myself up. I share them to show that change, remarkable and permanent change, is possible. You or I or the person down the street can all change. The desire to change must come from within oneself or the change will not be permanent. Change requires a tremendous amount of work. It requires constant, consistent, persistent work. There are no miracle cures for overweight and obesity. If it took thirty years to put it on, wouldn't it make sense that it would take more than three weeks to take it back off?

When I go to the grocery store I often see those magazines at the check out stand promising rapid weight loss with some miracle diet, or special herb combination, or whatever. It's all a lie! Fat loss requires one to expend 3500 calories for every pound lost. The most anyone should try to lose, unless one is medically supervised, is 2 lbs of fat per week. That's a 7000 calorie net deficit per week. In other words, If you want to lose 2 lbs of fat per week, you must expend via physical activity, or reduce via modest calorie restriction 7000 calories above and beyond what your body needs to survive per week. Put another way, to lose 2 lbs of fat per week through exercise alone one would need to walk 70 miles each and every week!

The problem is many people aren't willing to put in the work necessary to get real, lasting results. People want a quick fix. I'm sorry to say, there aren't any good quick fixes when it comes to fat loss.

All of the best things in life require toil to achieve them. Hard, honest toil. And if you're ready to work, I'm ready to work with you.

I am not an advocate of trying to look like super models. In this age of computer manipulation most super models in real life don't look like super models. Instead of trying to look like someone else, why can't we be thankful for the bodies that we have?

There is nothing wrong with wanting a fit, healthy body. Barring serious disability I think that any person is capable of being physically fit. What is the secret, the great grand key? Improving the composition of our daily intake of food and moving more. More fiber, more water, less fat. Don't over consume. Avoid junk and fast foods save on rare occasions. Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes in abundance. Move, move, move. You don't have to get an expensive gym membership. You don't need fancy workout clothes. You don't need to buy the latest and greatest nutritional supplement. Just move. Make it fun, frequent, and include the whole family. It's not that difficult. In fact it's much more fun than the alternative: decreased quality of life and possibly premature death.

If you are ready to improve the quality of your life like the two men I mentioned earlier but need more specifics, please let me know. I cannot do the work for you but I can inform you and point you in the right direction.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Writer's Block Already?

The most difficult part of blogging, I suppose, is coming up with something original to write each time. If I were only writing semiannually then there'd be a a heap full of things that I'd be itching to write about.

But today while the Michigan primaries raged on I spent most of my time doing school work. I taught two beginning volleyball classes and read a lot from a book about scientific writing. I did make two not-so-startling discoveries today: I still don't know all the rules for punctuation, and the grammar check in Word insufficient for my needs. I can only hope that the writing class that I'm taking will help solve my dilemma.

The highlight of the day came at 11 am, when President Henry B. Eyring spoke at the BYU campus devotional. His message emphasized God's power of deliverance. He mentioned that in many instances God's power of deliverance does not take away trials but enables us to endure trials well. This is a true principle.

As an exercise scientist I understand the concept of trials and opposition well. If you come to me and ask me to train you so you'll be stronger, I will sit down with you and write a strength training program. I'll take you into the weight room and make you lift heavy objects until, over time, your body adapts and becomes stronger. God needs a people which is strong in faith. A person doesn't get strong muscles by not lifting. Likewise, a Christian will not get strong who is not called to shoulder some trials in a lifetime. If we think that we are deserving of eternal life without being called to pass through grueling personal experiences which all the prophets and saints have had to bear in times past then we are simply fooling ourselves.

Jesus Christ bore the heaviest possible burden and did it so that we could come unto Him and be sanctified in Him and ultimately be saved by, through, and in Him.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Exercise What?

I get asked plenty of times in any given week what it is I am studying and going to do for my career, or profession, or what-you-will. I tell such inquirers that I am studying exercise science and after a brief pause the most common follow-up question goes something like this, "I was playing such-and-such sport and did this-and-that to my wrist, ankle, knee, etc., and was wondering what is wrong with it and what I should do for it?"

In truth, I couldn't tell someone what was ailing him or her if my life depended on it. I haven't been trained extensively, hardly at all for that matter, in injury assessment. With such an admission I'm often suddenly defensive, for the logic naturally follows that if I am not able to help a poor suffering soul figure out what's wrong with his or her wrist, ankle, knee, etc., and yet I persist in calling myself an exercise scientist then there must be some serious deficiency in my very person and I haven't yet justified my earthly existence.

The truth is exercise science is a very large field and I occupy only a small fraction of the space available. Whether or not I occupy that space well is an entirely different question. When the opportunity presents itself in the form of a disillusioned injured friend I generally take it to disabuse him or her by explaining that within the field of exercise science I am specifically studying exercise physiology, or that portion which concerns itself with the acute and chronic responses and adaptations to sports, exercise, and physical activity. In other words, I am interested in things such as heart rate response due to exercise, or glucose metabolism during distance running, or skeletal muscle motor unit recruitment patterns during a rigorous bout of weight lifting, etc.

More specifically, my interests in exercise physiology include a wide range of topics such as sports nutrition, endocrinology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and so forth, each illuminating my understanding a little more relative to the absolute marvel that is the human body.

As for my career plans my plan is to pursue a doctoral degree in exercise science thus taking care of at least the next three to five years. After that I could teach, research, consult, or train, or do a combination of any of those options.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Sabbath Day

From the top of Mt. Sinai thundered the commandment, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8). Though the record is scant undoubtedly God's people have kept the Sabbath day holy since Adam and Eve's time. In fact the Sabbath is intended to be a perpetual covenant between God and His people throughout their generations, a sign between them that He is their God and they are His people (Exodus 31:12-13, 16-17).

On the Sabbath day we rest from our temporal labors and turn our attention more fully to the work of God. This will no doubt please my dad: the Sabbath has become a delight to me. I have grown a lot since the time when I thought that all we could do on Sunday was "sit on our butts and pray." Admittedly, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that such was my idea of Sunday activity.

The Sunday worship meetings that my wife, Deb, and I attend last for three hours. We each attend a meeting with either the men's or women's organization to which we belong. Additionally, we have Sunday school for further instruction in the holy scriptures. Finally, we attend a sacrament meeting wherein we commemorate the Lord's institution of the sacrament of bread and wine, now water.

While the whole of the Sabbath day is truly rest for the soul, the sacrament particularly has specific significance and importance. We eat of the bread and drink of the water in remembrance of the body and blood of Christ who gave His life to redeem the world from sin and death. Additionally, partaking of the sacrament is a renewal of our baptismal covenants to take upon us the Name of Christ and to keep His commandments.

For the balance of the Sabbath day Deb and I will generally relax a little, study the scriptures, visit with friends from our ward (congregation), and talk with our family members on the phone. Now that I better understand the meaning and purpose of the Sabbath, I have come to look forward to it each week.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Joining the fray

I've decided to start a blog. Until recently I had never seriously considered blogging as something that I wanted to do. But then I read an address given at a Brigham Young University--Hawaii commencement ceremony by Elder M. Russell Ballard which called for college-age men and women to use the so-called New Media to promote a greater and more accurate understanding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our beliefs, and doctrines. So a portion of this blog will be lent to that noble purpose.

Additionally, I'd like to think that this blog will help my friends and family see what I'm up to from time to time. I'm currently a student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, which means I'm busy, and I am notoriously bad at keeping in touch with friends and family. Hopefully this will help in my expanded efforts to keep loved ones in the loop.

Finally, this blog is open to anyone who wants to read it. Questions and comments are always welcome, I just ask that you don't post anything obscene or otherwise distasteful.