Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wise Men and Women Still Seek Him

Christmastime always provides the perfect opportunity to reflect upon the many blessings we’ve received over the past year. The most meaningful of blessings are made even more meaningful when considered in the light of God’s greatest gift to us, His children, even the gift of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at this season.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Were it not for the divinity of Christ’s paternity, were it not for the sublime events which we celebrate at Easter—Jesus’ suffering on our behalf in Gethsemane and upon the cross, His death, burial, and ultimate triumph over death through His resurrection—there would be no reason to celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmastime.

But in truth all humanity has every reason to rejoice and to celebrate that Jesus Christ is who He and all the holy prophets said He is: even the Son of God, the Redeemer and Savior of the world. Indeed we may rightly say that wise men and women still seek Him.

May we find the peace and joy that are obtainable only through Him; may we anxiously look forward to and prepare for His Second Advent, when He will come to reign as King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God

I saw this today and thought it looked really interesting. I thought you'd be interested in it too. Looks like my alma mater is up to good things.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm thankful for God and Jesus Christ; for my family and friends; for freedom, safety, and good health; for work and school; and plenty.

What are you thankful for?

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
--Psalm 100



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gross!

I ride TheBus to and from school each day. It's a pretty good system, albeit a very crowded one. When I do get a seat, I try and make use of the time by reading.

Monday started out no different from any other day. I got on the first of the two buses I ride to school, found an open seat on the very back bench, and began reading through a paper I'm trying to write with nine other classmates (don't try that, by the way).

The man I was sitting next to was a friendly fellow. He spoke a lot to me, very enthusiastically, asking me where I was from and how long I'd been on island. He said a lot more but I could hardly understand a word of it. We didn't chat long because his stop was well before mine.

Just a couple of stops before mine, the girl on the same back bench as me suddenly threw up! I instantly felt bad for her but also had thoughts of H1N1 running through my head. I tried not to make a scene as I packed up to get off at my stop. Before exiting, though, I informed the driver of the situation, hoping that the girl's day would get better.

When I stood up from my seat, however, I was shocked to notice something cool on the seat of my pants. I felt behind me and realized that my pants were completely soaked through with who knows what liquidy substance!

It took all the fortitude I had to keep from freaking out as I walked to the front of the bus to talk with the driver about the girl who had thrown up in the back of the bus. I didn't know if I'd sat in water, or soda pop, or urine. All I knew was that I was half-way along my hour-long trip to school and I had to turn back to change out of my soaked shorts.

After I got home and cleaned up and made it to school the rest of the day went just fine. Ever since then, however, I've been a little more leery of sitting in the seats on TheBus.

Monday, October 5, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth, Indeed!

Dear Mr. Gore,

I watched your film, An Inconvenient Truth. It was interesting, though I couldn’t tell if the movie was about global warming or about you. My wife said that the inclusion of your personal story was probably an attempt at connecting with Joe Publics like me. Frankly, I didn’t think we connected very much at all.

In truth, you and I do have some things in common. We’re both guys. We’re also both white. And we’re both married. In high school we both played on the varsity football team and threw for the track and field team. But that’s about where our similarities end.

You see, Mr. Gore, you are old, I am young. You are famous, I am not. You are rich, and, by governmental standards, I am poor. You have at least one car, I have none. You own at least one house with at least 20 rooms. I rent a two bedroom apartment. You probably have air-conditioning; we do not. You probably keep your hot water heater on all day and all night. To save money, we only turn ours on for up to two hours each day. If you do your own laundry, you probably dry your clothes in an ultra-efficient dryer. We can only afford to hang our clothes and dry them in the sun and wind.

The data you present in your film is convincing. I too think we have a burgeoning problem with the effects of global warming. I too believe we’re going to have to change a lot to avoid catastrophes. You made it sound like the governments of the world would bring about these necessary changes. What I find hard to believe is that an educated man such as yourself--who has seen government from its very insides--would still believe that the government can run as efficiently as a top-of-the-line energy-saving refrigerator. You know better than I do that it simply cannot happen.

Instead of increasing the size of an already bloated, sickly government, why not promote increased individual self-government? Why not preach a doctrine of personal sacrifice today for the welfare of our children tomorrow? I listened anxiously to hear you say in An Inconvenient Truth that we each needed to check personal greed, or curtail wasteful commercialism. I waited for you to say that we ought to use fewer resources and live simpler lives. Instead, you surprised me with a remarkable social gospel with the premise that we can have our cake and eat it too--that we can save the earth while living in the lap of luxury.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I found it easy to swallow the gnat of global warming but strained to choke down the camel of your extravagant personal lifestyle. Regardless of whether you ever intended to, you have set yourself up as a messiah to the world. Why not try coming down and living at the level of your most humble potential disciples? Or would you find their way of life to be a very inconvenient truth?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day of Disasters

We are living in a day of disasters. I don't know if I've ever seen news of so many catastrophic natural disasters in a row in so little time.

The Samoan islands were hit by a tsunami on Tuesday morning. The death toll has reached 150 and the need for relief is great.

The Philippines have had serious flooding and now are expecting more as another 'super-typhoon' approaches their many islands.

And an earthquake in Indonesia has left more than 777 dead.

The odds are that you are only one or two degrees removed from the effects of these disasters. Either you have friends and family, or you have friends with friends and family, that are caught in these tragedies.

There are many agencies and organizations working to administer relief to these disaster stricken peoples. Please consider making a donation, however small (remember the true worth of the widow's mite).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Samoan Tsunami: Aftermath

From what I've been able to read in the news and hear from friends, the death toll in the Samoan islands has reached at least 100 with a high chance that it will continue to increase as rescuers pick through the wreckage left by the tsunami that hit yesterday morning.

Now that the tsunami has come and gone, we begin the massive relief and rebuilding efforts in Samoa and American Samoa. Islands in both polities have suffered devastating losses of life and property, but many people and organizations, both on and off the islands, have already mobilized to administer relief to the Samoans.

A friend of mine, Sam Denton, said he "called the [LDS Church] headquarters and they were able to tell me that all missionaries are accounted for and OK. I also spoke with the emergency response division of the church. They advised they of course are already working on the ground in Samoa to start relief efforts. Their advise at this time was to give to the humanitarian efforts fund or donate in kind donations to Deseret [Industries]."

An official report from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints confirms that the Mormon missionaries in Samoa have all been accounted for, but "two local sister missionaries from the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission serving on the Tongan island of Niuatoputapu, which borders Samoa," are currently missing.

Your prayers and money or in-kind donations are much appreciated. I know that this is a tough time economically for many of us. But think, if you have food and shelter, that is more than many Samoans have at this time.

One easy way to free up some funds is to fast, or abstain from food, for one or two meals and then donate at least the value of the food you would have eaten. The prophet Isaiah said that a true fast is not for the purpose of self-torment, but to administer to the relief of those who need it. He also promised that God would bless those who fasted in this manner. (See Isaiah 58:1-12)

Jesus Christ also taught, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (See Matthew 25:31-46) Another ancient prophet reminds us that "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (See Mosiah 2:17)

For the Samoans, this tsunami is as 9/11 or Katrina were to Americans. Our hearts go out to them. Our prayers ascend to heaven for them. But as faith is an action more than it is a mere passive belief or profession, we will administer to the Samoan people of our substance.

(All photos were taken in American Samoa. Photo Credits: Phil Murphy)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Samoan Tsunami

A large earthquake hit today off the coast of American Samoa, generating a number of tsunamis which struck both American Samoan and Samoa. Deaths have been reported from both polities, as well as significant damages to villages.

In addition to praying for the people down there, we might consider making donations to organizations that are likely to get involved in the disaster relief. Here are two likely candidates:

American Red Cross

LDS Philanthropies

If you can think of others, please let me know.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Man o' War!

Yep, this is for real. Portuguese Man o' War. A lifeguard put up this sign no more than 10 minutes after we arrived. Kailua beach is beautiful, and we hadn't been in the water yet, so we risked the jellies and went for a dip.

After we'd been in for a while I felt a stinging, burning sensation on my left hand. I instantly thought of the Man o' War warning and started looking in the water around me. Sure enough, a small Man o' War with a head about the size of a ping-pong ball and tentacles no longer than six inches was floating in the water right where I expected it to be. Fortunately, the sting was extremely mild. I didn't need any treatment, but I count myself blessed.

We've since been back to Kailua beach park, and we saw a few more Man o' Wars but none in our party were stung. We were approached, however, by a lady whose hand got stung and were able to point her in the direction of the lifeguard tower.

I guess even paradise has its downsides. Still, I'd prefer the risk of an occasional Man o' War sting to the guarantee of another stinging, biting, months-long winter on the mainland.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11

September 11th, 2001 began as any other day in the mission field. At 6:30 am, my alarm went off. I hopped into the shower, dressed, and was studying the scriptures by 7:00 am. After a bit, Elder L. and I decided to go to a small store located around the corner from where we lived to buy some milk and cookies.

We arrived at the store unaware that anything important was happening in our distant homeland, the conditions in Samoa are that idyllic. I perused the aisles until I found myself near an open doorway leading into the store owner’s home. From within the next room, I heard a seemingly disjointed and unconnected series of words: America, terrorist attack, World Trade Center, etc.

None of it made any sense to me. My interest piqued, I peeked my head through the door to catch some more of the report. The shop owner’s son beckoned me to enter. I did so and was confronted by a most confusing image on the TV screen: the World Trade Center towers, clearly on fire, belching thick black smoke into the sky above.

The anchorperson (I cannot remember if it was a man or women) was saying something about the towers having collapsed. I said to myself, They haven’t collapsed; I can see them right there. I knew that the Empire State Building had once been hit by an airplane; surely the twin towers could withstand the impact of a jet liner.

Then the report switched to a video of the towers’ collapse. A wave of shock coursed through my body and I suddenly burst into tears. My slow descent into the chair behind me mirrored the collapse of the first tower. I watched as the second tower fell and soon Elder L. joined me in viewing the tragic news.

We walked to our flat, then made our way to the home of the family slated to make us breakfast that morning. Before we arrived, a mission van pulled up and Elder H., a man in his mid-sixties from my hometown area, instructed us that Salt Lake City had issued instructions for all missionaries to remove their nametags—obvious indicators that we were affiliated with an America-based church—and to remain in their living quarters until further instructions were given.

Elder L. and I took all this very seriously. We went to the home of our breakfast appointment and explained, in broken Samoan—partly because of our greenness, partly because of the emotion—that we needed to forgo the meal and return to our flat. At the time, the thought hadn’t occurred to us that we were, in fact, in the safest place on earth; that no one in all of Samoa would ever dream of harming a missionary, or any other American for that matter. We only knew our orders and risked offending the family by refusing their generosity.

We spent three days indoors and seven days without our black nametags. Once, when we could go back outside, we were mistaken for Jehovah’s Witnesses because we were dressed in slacks, white shirts, and ties, but our signature symbol as Mormon missionaries was gone.

The most difficult part about witnessing such a horrific tragedy was being so far away from family. If I hadn’t yet experienced homesickness (which I had a little), then this plunged me into an acute yearning to go home and get on with life while the world was still semi-sane.

Fortunately, our wise mission president counseled Elder L. and I to work harder and get the Church members to assist us. We did and found ourselves as busy as we’d ever be. Thus our minds were taken off the pain of what we had witnessed and of being so far away from home. Our sorrows were literally swallowed up in a hope in Jesus Christ, whose message we sought to share with all we could.

(This was originally posted on 22 May 2208, as Samoa Part 16: 9/11)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hawaii Pics, Again

This beautiful flower is a member of the ginger family (Alpinia sp.), but the Samoans call it teuila. They have a festival for it in early September every year in Apia.


Another shot of our buddy, Gus.


Couldn't tell you the name of this one but it's awesome anyway. These roots belong on Dagobah.


"The solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.


Monday, September 7, 2009

More Hawaii Pics

I'm not sure what this plant is but we liked it enough to photograph it.


Nu'uanu Pali, where King Kamehameha I fought a terribly bloody battle to secure control over O'ahu. Apparently, "more than 400 of Kalanikūpule's [Kamehameha's rival's] soldiers were driven off the edge of the cliff to their deaths 1,000 feet below" (Source). The Pali lookout provides a stunning view of the windward side of O'ahu.


This little pigeon is but one of many of its kind, each only a fourth to a third of the size of an average city pigeon. We have those too, but they aren't nearly as cool as these wee ones. The cooing of these pigeons is also very different from their larger cousins. We were on Skype with Deb's family and they could hear one cooing from outside; of course, the louvers let in a lot of sound anyway.


'Ōhi'a lehua: Anciently, "it was believed that picking lehua blossoms would cause rain" (Source). I picked one once on the Big Island, whose flower this is, and sure enough it rained before too long.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hawaii Pics

This is a view of the Honolulu skyline--Waikiki, I think--with Diamond Head as a backdrop. It's being taken from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, or Punchbowl National Cemetery.


More of Honolulu from Punchbowl.


A Bird-of-Paradise flower. Deb took this photo. I think she did a pretty good job. It looks like the head of a bird. In paradise. Interesting.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bus Stop


I ride TheBus to school every day. I've heard both good and bad spoken of the Hawaii bus system. True, in Honolulu the buses are crowded, but in my two weeks' experience it's worked great.

Yesterday morning I was almost to school. The bus was filled beyond capacity so the driver only took some of the passengers at a stop and instructed the rest that there was another bus on the way.

One woman who didn't make the cut was on her way to work. She and her husband were so angry that they stepped out in front of the bus and refused to move unless she got a spot. The furious driver opened his window, hung out his upper body and screamed at the husband and wife to get out of the way. They wouldn't budge for at least five minutes.

The girl next to me was worried about losing her spot in an O-chem lab she needed. She complained a bit while frantically texting a friend to have the professor hold her spot. A bigger Polynesian man next to the rear door hollered up to the driver to let him out so he, the able Polynesian, could remove the human obstacles. I called Deb to let her know about the awesomeness of it all.

Of course, the couple eventually backed down. I think they realized that an angry bus driver behind the wheel of a who-knows-how-many-ton bus would probably eventually snap and run them over. I made it to school with time to spare. As I stepped down from the bus I looked up the road a bit and saw another bus of the same route. I'm assuming the angry lady got to work just fine, just as our bus driver told her she would.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gus the Gecko

As we settle in our new place in Hawaii, we have been making a lot of new friends. This little guy, a cousin of the Geico gecko, met us by our front door one evening. We named it Gus. After playing with it and taking some photos together, we let Gus go on our back lanai, or porch. Often, when we leave open our door to the lanai , we'll find one of Gus's brothers or sisters or cousins has made it into our kitchen. Deb and I are very fond of the local mo'o, geckos.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nalhan?

Getting settled into a new place requires attention to a lot of little details. Like getting a new driver's license, for example. My jaunt through the Honolulu DMV was remarkably quick and relatively painless, though not without a few moments of wincing.

First, I had to score at least a 24 out of 30 on the written driver's test to pass. I scored a 26. Cutting it a little close, are we?

Second, somehow I managed to forget the ever practical advice to dot all is and cross all ts. I got my license back from the guy at the desk and didn't notice for at least ten minutes that I had signed it Nalhan. The signature appears twice on the front of the license, so if I ever get pulled over by a police officer the first thing I'll hear after License and registration, please, will likely be, What, are you an idiot or something, brah?!

Third, you'd think my mother never taught me how to dress myself because I managed to get to the DMV, work my way through a few lines, barely pass my test, sign my license with Nalhan, and retrieve my newly printed Hawaii driver's license--all before noticing that my fly was down. Sorry, Mom, for reflecting poorly on your ability as a parent. I'll start using again the Things to Do, Check, Secure, and Double-Check Before You Leave the House checklist.


In other news, Hurricane Felicia in the North Pacific is now a category 4 and is on its way to Hawaii. Fortunately, "from Thursday on [Hurricane Felicia] will start to weaken to the point that is expected to be a tropical storm or weak hurricane at its closest point of approach to the [Hawaiian] islands late Sunday or Monday. It's still a little too early to know the intensity or track of this system." (Source)

I asked my friend Josh, a Hawaii native, what he thought about the hurricane. He said comfortingly, "It's hurricane season, man!" On Monday we heard the test sounding of the disaster warning sirens. I asked Josh about it and he replied, "That's the last sound you'll hear before you're hit by a hurricane or other similar disaster." That, too, is a comfort. I remarked that I'd much rather hear the Scorpions' Rock you like a Hurricane, but that wouldn't apply well if a tsunami hit us, would it?

Image credit: www.noaa.gov, specifically here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Aloha!

Deb and I arrived on O'ahu on the evening of the 22nd to begin a major new phase of our life together. Earlier in the year I was accepted to attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa to pursue a graduate degree in Nutrition. My research emphasis will most certainly be Pacific islanders' nutrition- and lifestyle-related health issues. You might be wondering whether we'll remain permanently in the islands. The answer to that depends largely on what job offers come at the end of my program--something that we just cannot foresee at this time. We will go wherever we feel that the Lord wants us to go.

As you may have suspected, Hawaii is beautiful. By the light of our first Hawaiian sunrise I was able to identify for Deb a number of species of tropical flora: bananas, coconut palm, papaya, etc., plants that I was familiar with during my mission to Samoa and American Samoa. The tradewinds keep the warm, humid air from being stifling. I didn't miss the winter while in Samoa, I don't think I'll miss it here, either.

Honolulu, at 370,000+ people, is the largest city that I have ever lived in. The same is true for Deb, though she grew up near Tulsa, Oklahoma, where it is about as populous as Honolulu. Of course there are drawbacks to urban life, but we are hoping that we can quickly adjust.

Until we sign an apartment contract, our dear friends, Josh and Julie K, are generously hosting us. Josh is local and he and Julie have been here together for the last three years, so they are seasoned veterans on how to get by in Hawaii. So far we've applied to four apartments and have been accepted at two of them. We're going to take the one that puts us in the same complex as Josh and Julie.

Since our focus is on settling in, we haven't done much by way of tourism, though we did visit the National Cemetery of the Pacific, which is a "memorial to those men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces." The cemetery grounds were both solemn and beautiful, filled as they were with many different tropical flowers and trees. The cemetery is huge, making it a humbling experience to think that so many have sacrificed so much to ensure the continuance of our precious liberties as established and vouchsafed in the United States Constitution.

On Sunday we went with Josh and Julie to the Lanakila Ward (congregation) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We felt instantly welcome, though we were little more than complete strangers. The powerful sense of community amongst fellow Mormons is one of the reasons I am grateful to be a member of the Church. In addition to making us feel welcome at their Sabbath services, some of the ward members offered leads to apartments and jobs.

On Monday, we met again with some of the young couples and their children from the ward for a group family night and potluck dinner. Again, as on Sunday, Deb and I were made to feel very welcome as possible new additions to the Lanakila Ward. The ward members are so very diverse: there are many different cultural backgrounds represented, yet the unity in Christ is remarkable.

In short, we are excited to be here and are looking forward to the things to come. We will tell many of our stories and recount our adventures on our respective blogs, mine and Deb's. And of course, we would always love to have visitors!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Healthy Snakes May Prevent Childhood Obesity

We're in the process of moving, which means going through all our belongings and stuff, sorting through it all, and deciding which to keep and which to toss. There's something satisfying about an occasional good, thorough purging.

For the past three years I've been an instructor in various university classes, from the undergraduate exercise physiology lab to weight lifting to water aerobics. Working with students has been a lot of fun, it's part of the reason I'm going on in my own education--so I can keep on teaching.

Occasionally, students would turn in assignments that they wrote on the fly and it was clear that they weren't too careful about what they wrote. Most times the resulting errors were pretty funny. I wish I would have saved them all and compiled them for future laughs. Unfortunately, such foresight usually escapes me.

Here is the choicest gem of them all, one I managed to keep around. Deb and I frequently refer back to it. Writing about physical fitness in school-aged children, one student wrote, "The best way to fight off obesity in your children is to have only healthy snakes and diets in your home." (Emphasis mine)

I suppose if your children are terrified of any kind of snake, especially healthy ones, having one in the home might increase their daily physical activity levels as they run from room to room whilst pursued by said healthy snake.

I have no doubts that healthy snake-induced increases in physical activity coupled with a healthful diet will prove beneficial in fighting the onset of childhood obesity. But always consult with your children's pediatrician before implementing a healthy snake-based physical activity program in your home.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sakura, Sort Of

I know sakura actually refers to cherry blossom or cherry tree. I have a brother in Tokyo and I'm sure he's livin' la vida sakura right now. But that's besides the point.


I was greeted this morning by sadness. The two beautiful plum trees that I've passed under nearly every day for the past four years were greatly damaged by late spring snow.


Most of the snow we've gotten all winter has been light and dry, powder, if you will. It's that way year after year after year in Utah.


But yesterday and today brought a very wet, heavy snowfall. The plum trees in full bloom couldn't handle the extra weight of the snow.


I'd say about half the trees' bulk was lost.


Before the week is through it will all be cleaned up and the trees newly manicured.


By the end of the summer few will remember the damage and terrific loss.


I will remember.


Wet unwelcome snow
In spring breaks beautiful bows.
Sakura, sort of.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Great Day!

Yesterday I formally defended my thesis. A total of eight people showed up to watch the show: my loving wife, Deb, the three professors on my committee, another professor I've worked with on some research, and three of my fellow students.

It was a smashing success, made the more so because I brought some suafa'i, or banana soup, which I've blogged about previously. Try it out. My committee congratulated me on my defense but didn't ask for more. They did, however, all ask for the recipe for suafa'i. The moral of the story? A good bowl of banana soup trumps a boring thesis. Anytime.

But passing (with revisions) my thesis defense wasn't the best part of the day. Not by a long shot, though it was an important segue to what came after: a letter from the University of Hawaii.

"I am pleased to inform you that you have been admitted for the Fall 2009 semester to the Nutrition-PhD program," the letter read. I won't know, however, until May 1st whether I've been selected to be a TA in the undergraduate nutrition classes. Without that funding life in Hawaii would be prohibitively expensive. Please pray for Deb and me that things work out.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He Lives!

"What is the one single event that has most influenced and changed human history? The disciples of Jesus Christ have only one answer, which they proclaim without reservation, indisputably and absolutely: the dying and rising of God's only-begotten Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!"

So wrote Bishop Paul S. Loverde of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington for his Easter Sunday homily. To my knowledge no one before Jesus Christ claimed power over death and no one has claimed it ever since. Sure, there have been plenty of self-proclaimed messiahs and saviors pushing their particular versions of the social gospel on their fellows, but none ever has claimed the power to lay down their lives and take them up again. Only Jesus Christ made and fulfilled that claim. We are the blessed beneficiaries of His labor of love.

I love Easter time. I love the reminder it brings that life should be filled with hope that regardless of how difficult it gets we have the promise that life continues beyond the grave and that all will be made right in the hereafter.

For his own Easter message, Pastor Chuck Worth of the True Word Christian Church in Franklin, Virgina, wrote,

"Everyone you know was born! Granted, Christ’s birth was miraculous, like no other. We should celebrate it. But there is only one man who ever walked this earth, died and rose from the dead to never die again. That man is Jesus of Nazareth."

In truth, were it not for the miracle of the first Easter Sunday, we wouldn't have any cause for celebration on Christmas day. So continues Pastor Chuck,

"...[O]n [Easter] Sunday morning the hope of every Christian was born. He arose! It is about much more than this singular event. In His resurrection we all have faith that death is not the end. We will one day rise just as He did. In Christ we have our hope of eternal life. In Christ we have the perfect sacrifice to complete the law of God, not do away with it. In His life we may all have life!"

In one of the greatest sermons on Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice that I have ever heard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, one of Christ's living apostles and witnesses said,

"Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said, 'I will not leave you comfortless. [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].'"



Now let me add my voice to the worldwide chorus of Christians who celebrate and sing praises to God for the incomparable gift of His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ. He does live! He is our hope and our joy. The price of discipleship is worth paying, for this is life eternal: that we might know God and Jesus Christ whom He did send. May the dying and rising of Jesus Christ most influence and change you as it has me. I wish you all a very joyful Easter Sunday.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Good Read

I recently began rereading the Book of Mormon and am finding that I am learning and seeing more than I previously have. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is meant for frequent study, teaches of God's interaction with His children, testifies of Jesus Christ's divinity, and illustrates the consequences of righteousness and sinfulness. You can read the Book of Mormon online for free, or you can request a free copy of the Book of Mormon, the Bible, or other media. Here is a nice video about the promise associated with the Book of Mormon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

At Long Last

And the big news is...

My thesis defense is officially scheduled!

The secretary to one of the associate deans in our college of Health and Human Performance emailed the following to 123 people inviting them to my defense. Of course you're invited too. In fact, the whole university of 30,000+ students, staff, faculty, and administration is technically invited. Too bad the room will only hold about 20 people.







Thesis Defense


Nate

Exercise Sciences (Master of Science)

“Development of an Exercise Test to Predict VO2peak in Children and Adolescents”

Committee: Vehrs, Hager, George

April 13, 2009 2:00 pm 119 Richards Building

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why Mormons Build Temples

I'm on vacation so no more posts for a few days. But here is a little video explaining the reasons why Mormons build temples. If you're the reading type you can find more information on the purpose of temples on the official website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Blessings of the Temple

This morning Deb and I went to the open house for the Draper, Utah temple. The edifice is beautiful in both design and purpose.

Before a new temple is dedicated and its doors closed to all but faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, any person, Church member or not, may tour the building and learn more about its sacred purpose in God's plan for us, His children.

Once dedicated the Draper, Utah temple will be the 129th operating LDS temple in the world. Amazingly, in my lifetime I've witnessed that number grow from under 50 temples to where it is today. Truly the Lord is blessing us all by bringing the blessings of the holy temples to peoples around the world.

A temple is different than a meeting house, or chapel. Everyone is welcome to come to an LDS worship service, but temple attendance is reserved for faithful members of the Church.

The purpose of temples is to teach God's children His eternal plan for them. There we learn more fully the answers to "life's great questions" such as where do I come from, why am I here, and where do I go after this life.

The idea of the temple is not a new one. In fact, temples have been the center of worship in all civilizations in all ages of the world. The ancient Jews had the tabernacle in the time of Moses, Solomon's temple and its successor after the Babylonian captivity, and the temple of Herod which stood in Jesus' day. Jesus Himself cherished the temple and honored its sanctity, driving out the money changers on two different occasions. Modern scholars such as Hugh Nibley and Margaret Barker have greatly increased our understanding of the centrality of the temple in ancient religious thought and worship.

I am grateful for the blessings of the temple. When I married Deb, I did so in the Boise, Idaho temple. There we received the promise that if we remain faithful to God our marriage relationship will not end at death but endure for eternity. Knowing how much I love her now and that cultivated love tends to grow, I rejoice in the prospect of staying by her side forever. Through temple worship I have a better understanding of Paul's statement to the ancient Corinthians, "neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:11).

You too may enjoy all the blessings of the temple, God has commanded none to not partake of all that He has in store for His children. Instead, God has given His Son Jesus Christ to stand as the supreme example in whose footsteps we must follow. To learn more about God's plan of happiness, please visit www.mormon.org or ask me a question through the comments feature below.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Good Read

For Valentine's Day Deb got me a book: Mormon Scientist, a biography of Henry Eyring.

Dr. Eyring was a remarkable scientist, publishing over 600 scientific papers in his career. He was also widely known for his unshakable faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. He ardently defended both science and religion, often passing on the wisdom given him by his father: "In this Church you don't have to believe anything that isn't true."

I recommend this book to everyone: to those interested in chemistry, to those who are not; to those interested in prominent Mormons, to those who are not. Why? Because Dr. Eyring lived a life worthy of study and emulation. We can only amass precious little by our own experiences, why not study good admirable lives and learn what others have to teach us?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Self Reliance

Self-reliance is an important principle to Latter-day Saints (Mormons). The ability to take care of one's own needs, and the needs of one's family, is something many of us have long taken for granted. But these hard economic times we are experiencing are bringing the importance of self-reliance into greater relief.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is committed to helping its members and friends of all faiths develop greater self-reliance. Mormons are not an insular people who only take care of their own. We subscribe to and seek to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ on social justice, equating our service to our fellow brothers and sisters of humanity with service to God.

This video illustrates the efforts the Church is making to ensure that people around the world establish the principle of self-reliance in their lives.

The Church provides free resources to anyone interested in increasing his or her self-reliance, including materials on home food storage, managing finances, education and literacy, and employment services. Again, most if not all of these services are available for FREE regardless of one's religious affiliation.

Being self-reliant brings peace of mind; it frees us up to increase our service to others. And when we are in the service of our fellow men and women, we are in the service of God.

Additional Information:

Article on easy home storage.

Article on self-reliance.

Church Humanitarian Services.

Welfare and Self-Reliance.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Towards Greater Equality

Yesterday evening I experienced something that has caused me to think a little and I'd like to share my thoughts and then have you respond with any and all ideas that come to you while you read this post.

Deb works at one of the local grade schools. She has made friends with a number of the children and sometimes will come home with the announcement that we should go to a play, or a music program, or a science fair to show support for these kids.

Last night we went to the science fair. Children from all over the district gathered with their cardboard displays to show off their talents as budding young scientists. It was fun to see a number of the same old projects being done back in my day and to see a number of genuinely creative experiments.

It was really easy to spot the displays that probably had a lot of parent involvement and represented a higher socioeconomic status. They were crisp. The written portions exhibited good grammar and clarity of thought. Most of the experiment titles were very clever.

Then there were the displays done by children who likely had little, if any, parental assistance. They were poorly organized, sparing in details, and often indicated that English was the students' second language.

When it came to the awards ceremony, I watched as at least two prizes went to children whose fathers are university professors; I know because I know their fathers. I'm not saying that their fathers did the work for them, so I'm not crying foul play. I'm talking about a much bigger problem.

I left the science fair grateful that Deb and I both have college degrees. We'll likely give our children better educational guidance than we would otherwise have been able to.

But parents without much education, or parents who don't speak English, or parents who don't take an active role or interest in their kids' schooling will many times watch as kids from better educated, more affluent families take home the prizes from the science fairs.

Here are the questions I'd like us to discuss:

How do we level this playing field?

How do we diminish or eliminate this disparity?

What can we do to help others help themselves and their own families?

What did your parents do well to help you on your way to educational and eventual career success?

I'll start our discussion by posting the first comment. Please, I'd like your feedback.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Mead and Samoa

Back in the day when the Nurture vs. Nature war was going full tilt, Franz Boas, the most eminent anthropologist of his time, sent 23-year-old Margaret Mead to do some field work in Samoa. A short time later she returned to the States and in 1928 published her startling book Coming of Age in Samoa.

Coming of Age in Samoa was a smashing success for at least a few reasons: 1). its preface, written by Boas, very strongly endorsed Mead's conclusions, 2). it was uncritically accepted by scholars and laymen alike, and 3). Mead's conclusions were that free love was the rule in Samoa and Samoan girls didn't suffer, like their American counterparts, from the storm and stress associated with adolescence. Mead went on to generalize that all youth wherever would benefit from following the Samoans' lead.

It wasn't until 1983 before anyone seriously challenged Mead's conclusions, and when he did, Derek Freeman started an uproar in anthropological circles. For a while, Freeman was considered the anthropological Antichrist, attacking as he was the conclusions of Mead--the 'Mother-Goddess' of anthropology, but now his work concerning Mead is much more widely accepted.

I've recently read most of Freeman's Margaret Mead and Samoa (1983) and all of his Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead (1999). Both are fascinating and I'd recommend them to anyone interested Samoa, anthropology, or good old-fashioned scientific controversy.

I've learned a few lessons from Mead's work in Samoa that should prove helpful to any aspiring scientist. Mead could have avoided posthumous embarrassment at the hands of Freeman had she or her advisor, Franz Boas, done three things before publishing Coming of Age in Samoa:

1. Checked her conclusions against her own field notes,

2. Checked her conclusions against the extant ethnological data,

3. Checked her conclusions by returning to Samoa for additional study.

Freeman makes it clear, however, that not only did Mead not do any of the above mentioned things, she insisted in the preface to the 1973 edition of Coming of Age in Samoa that revision was an impossibility:

"Some young critics have even asked me when I am going to revise this book and look unbelieving and angry when I say that to revise it would be impossible. It must remain, as all anthropological works must remain, exactly as it was written, true to what I saw in Samoa and what I was able to convey of what I saw; true to the state of our knowledge of human behavior as it was in the mid-1920's; true to our hopes and fears for the future of the world." (Emphasis mine)

So, instead of revisiting and revising her terribly flawed work, Margaret Mead doggedly upheld its conclusions for the rest of her life. Perhaps Mead thought she'd lose her credibility if she ever reversed her stance.

Contrast that attitude with Hugh Nibley's: "Everything...is being reappraised....I refuse to be held responsible for anything I wrote more than three years ago. For heaven's sake, I hope we are moving forward here! After all, the implication [is] that one mistake and it is all over with. How flattering to think in forty years I have not made one slip and I am still in business! I would say about four-fifths of everything I put down has changed. Of course! That is the whole idea; This [research] is an ongoing process...." (Source)

We have to reappraise and revise all the time, of necessity, or else we are liable to be made to look like fools. There's no shame in admitting a mistake; it's bar none the best way to correct our course and start moving in the right, or a better, direction.

Dr. Paul Alan Cox, an ethnobotanist who has done extensive field work in Samoa, has a differing view than both Mead and Freeman:

"Noncompetitive, lenient, and somewhat promiscuous [Mead's conclusions]. Authoritarian, competitive, and touchy [Freeman's conclusions]. Margaret Mead's and Derek Freeman's descriptions of Samoans seem worlds apart. The longer we [Dr. Cox and his family] lived in Falealupo, the more I wondered if what one sees in Samoa is merely a reflection of one's own preconceptions." (Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rainforest, pg. 68)

Enter another piece of advice for budding young scientists: be careful of preconceptions; science is supposed to be unbiased and objective. But since it's nearly impossible to completely remove one's biases and subjective views, one must lay all of them on the table before stating one's conclusions.

I agree with both Freeman and Cox: the Samoans are not to be characterized as the libertines Mead made them out to be.

Enough pontificating! You get the point.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

It is Better to Give...

I've always loved this story, now portrayed in video. I hope you enjoy it too.

Friday, February 6, 2009

That's Astronomical!

As a boy I used to have a recurring nightmare where my mind was forced to comprehend the size of infinitely large objects. I hated those dreams! The human mind is not programmed to comprehend infinity.

The United States' government is currently attempting to pass a $900 billion dollar stimulus package. In some minds it will be a nightmare if it doesn't pass, in other minds a nightmare if it does. Let's try to comprehend together what $900 billion represents in different units of measurement.

Time

If each dollar of the stimulus package were a second of time, then $900 billion would equal

15 billion minutes,
250 million hours,
10.4 million days, or
28,538.8 years.

If I lived that long I wouldn't die until the year 30,519--move over Methuselah, you spring chicken!

Weight

$900 billion is equal to 90 trillion pennies.

The combined weight of 90 trillion pennies is 225 billion kilograms (kg)!

That's the equivalent of

2.25 billion people my weight (100 kg), or

41,246,562.8 average male African elephants!

Distance

90 trillion pennies set end-to-end would extend for 1.7145 billion kilometers,

Or enough distance to circumnavigate the earth at its equator 42,780.15 times;

That's equal to 11.46 Astronomical Units (AU), or 11.46 times the earth's distance from the Sun.

That's further away from the Sun than the planet Saturn.

90 trillion pennies stacked on top of each other would be

139.5 million kilometers or .93 AU, almost the distance between Earth and the Sun.

Conclusion

We could consider more but I have other things to be doing. Any way we figure it, though, $900 billion is a lot.

Friday, January 23, 2009

You're Thinking of Doing What?!

Life is filled with crossroads. I am at one of those crossroads right now as I put the finishing touches on my thesis and prepare for graduation in April.

What should I do once school is over? Do I plunge myself into a weak economy with fewer and fewer jobs? Nah, I think to myself. That doesn't sound like fun.

Instead, I've decided to go for more schooling, this time at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, provided I get accepted.

If you've been following the frustrating experience of my thesis, you may be wondering why I would ever get back into the system once I'm finally free of it. That's a good question.

For starters, I don't feel like I'm finished with schooling. That is, I don't feel like it's time to stop just yet. There are greater things for me just over the horizon.

Additionally, if you've been following this blog you know that I'm really into Samoa and its people and language and culture and food. I don't know that I've ever specifically mentioned it in any of my posts but Samoans (and Pacific islanders in general) are quite susceptible to the chronic diseases associated with a Westernized diet and lifestyle. I'd like to gain the education and experience necessary to be able to do something about this in ways that are harmonious with indigenous cultures.

Furthermore, the late Gordon B. Hinckley, a man I consider to have been a prophet, repeatedly taught that we should get all the education we can get.

“Get all of the education you can possibly get. Education is the key which will unlock the door of opportunity, and the Lord has laid upon you the responsibility to secure an education.” (Source)

“Be smart. The Lord wants you to educate your minds and hands, whatever your chosen field. Whether it be repairing refrigerators, or the work of a skilled surgeon, you must train yourselves. Seek for the best schooling available. Become a workman of integrity in the world that lies ahead of you. I repeat, you will bring honor to the Church and you will be generously blessed because of that training.

“There can be no doubt, none whatever, that education pays. Do not short-circuit your lives. If you do so, you will pay for it over and over and over again.” (Source)

My wife has to continually remind me that there are many good interpretations of the phrase get all the education you can, that it isn't referring to a one-size-fits-all, PhDs-for-everyone kind of plan. I know she is right, of course. She is my wife, after all, and a wise one at that.

But as we have counseled with each other, Deb and I both feel good, that this plan to go to Hawaii, provided they accept me, is a good plan.

And so, despite the difficulties I've faced with my thesis and the inevitable hardships of a PhD, I feel great at the prospect of continuing my education, especially if it will make me more able to serve my fellow brothers and sisters in the great human family.

(Photo: My Hawaiian bruddah, Josh, and me on the Big Island of Hawaii, May 2005. Great times!)

Monday, January 19, 2009

RE: Doomsday!

I recently wrote, here, about the federal government's $1.3 billion Hollywood stimulus package but thought I'd briefly revisit the idea.

A New York Times piece, which read more like an article from the Onion, recently reported that the feds, including the nascent Obama administration, are calling for a delay in the scheduled February 17 switchover from analog to digital TV.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, D-West Virginia, a proponent of the switchover delay, indicated his concern that a February 17 switchover "is going to hit our most vulnerable citizens — the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and those with language barriers — the hardest."

My heart bleeds too, Mr. Senator, but it does so more along the lines of doing something to ensure that "the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and those with language barriers" get the food, shelter, clothing, love, medical attention, and education they need, not a government promise of subsidized digital TV.

I'll tell you why I feel this way, Mr. Senator. Everyone is talking about how bad the United States' economy is, how we're headed for some tough times. Yet the federal government's move to provide mind-numbing television brings us alarmingly close to Aldous Huxley's idea of "amusing ourselves to death," as found in his novel Brave New World.

Perhaps you hadn't considered it this way, Mr. Senator, but during this recession what we need is less TV watching and more wealth producing labor. Let me illustrate. The New York Times piece indicated that 7.8 million American households were without a digital TV converter box as of December 2008. The Economist reported that in 2005, the average American household daily watched 8.18 hours (8 hours, 11 minutes) of television. The current, federally mandated minimum wage is $6.55 per hour.

What then is the gross value of a year of TV watching given the aforementioned numbers? 7.8 million American households x 8.18 hours TV watching per day x $6.55 per hour x 365 days per year = $15,239,413,000!

Again, that's $15.2 billion, Mr. Senator; enough to make even a Rockefeller smack his lips a little, don't you think? Yet the federal government is providing the incentive for the American people to sit on their duffs instead of going out and generating the type of wealth that would buttress the failing economy.

Yes, Mr. Senator, my heart bleeds: in part for the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and those with language barriers; in part because the government's subsidies for digital television are greater than its support for graduate students; in part because this controversy is indicative of a decaying society.

On the bright side, however, this unfolding drama should, no doubt, prove worthy of a good made-for-TV movie. I hope everyone can get a digital converter box by the time it airs.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Year in Blogging Statistics

Being the budding young scientist that I am, and an exercise scientist at that, I have a natural propensity toward numbers and performance statistics. So on 17 January 2008, I began collecting stats on this blog to see where my readers were coming from and how long they spent on the site and what content they were reading most, etc.

I am pleased to report that in the past year I have had 3,172 visits by 1,657 visitors from 603 cities in 46 countries and territories;

That those visitors have spent a total of 91 hours, 37 minutes, and 23 seconds reading from the Book of Nate, each visit averaging 1 minute and 44 seconds in length;

That the most time spent in a single visit was 35 minutes, 38 seconds, whereas the least time spent was 0 minutes, 0 seconds;

That 89.22% of visits are from folks in the United States and 94.66% of the time spent is also from the United States;

That these numbers are piddly compared to other blogs, which can get thousands, even tens of thousands, of visits daily;

But that I've had a ton of fun blogging in the past year, and I thank all you readers for making this a success!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On Dishes

I'm not a big fan of having to do the dishes by hand. Though doing so does free the mind to think about things.

So as I was doing the dishes today I remembered that in Old Samoa the people used very few dishes in their food preparation. They mostly used sticks and leaves and rocks and fire to do their cooking, all of which nature, or a little muscle, provided.

I couldn't begin to count the number of banana-leaf dinner plates I used when I was in Samoa. Clean up was a breeze!

I thought I'd give you a taste for what dinner preparation might be like for many of the meals we ate in Samoa. The amount of work that goes into a nice traditional meal is one reason why Samoan men and boys are quite muscular. I suppose that makes up for not having many dishes to wash.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Things Will Always Get Better if We Live and Love the Gospel

The world these days is a pretty wild place to live in. But speak with any octogenarian, or read a history book, and you'll realize that it's been that way for a very long time.

That's why I particularly liked the optimistic perspective in the following statement by Howard W. Hunter, fourteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's proof positive that the Lord's prophets are not all about doom and gloom.

"In my lifetime I have seen two world wars plus Korea plus Vietnam and all that you are currently witnessing. I have worked my way through the depression and managed to go to law school while starting a young family at the same time. I have seen stock markets and world economies go crazy and have seen a few despots and tyrants go crazy, all of which causes quite a bit of trouble around the world in the process.

"So I am frank to say tonight that I hope you won't believe all the world's difficulties have been wedged into your decade or that things have never been worse than they are for you personally, or that they will never get better. I reassure you that things have been worse and they will always get better. They always do—especially when we live and love the gospel of Jesus Christ and give it a chance in our lives."

(Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 202.)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Facts and Figures Relating to the Book of Mormon

140,000,000: copies of the Book of Mormon distributed since 1830

275,000: approximate number of words in the Book of Mormon

5000: copies produced in the first edition printing of the Book of Mormon

3000: dollars it cost to print the first edition of the Book of Mormon

531: pages in current Latter-day Saint edition of the Book of Mormon (compare to the 403 and 1184 pages respectively of the LDS editions of the New Testament and Old Testament)

239: chapters in the Book of Mormon

107: languages in which the Book of Mormon is currently available

60 – 90: working days it took Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon (compare to the 7 years it took for the King James Version of the Bible)

24: age of Joseph Smith when the Book of Mormon was published

1: number of translators of the Book of Mormon – that's right, only Joseph Smith as he was inspired by God (compare to the 47 scholar-translators for the King James Version of the Bible)

Begin your reading of the Book of Mormon here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Flowers in Winter

One of our dear friends, Whitney, is a professional photographer. She's done amazing work with our engagement and wedding photos. You can see her work on her blog, which I highly recommend as you may want to employ her skills yourselves.

Quite a while back I told Deb that I really wanted a few specific prints of some of Whitney's other work. So, Deb got them, framed them all nice-like, and gave them to me for Christmas.

With Whitney's permission, I present to you the amazing photos Deb gave me.






These are amazing. Seriously, visit Whitney's blog...and then hire her or purchase from her.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Doomsday

For some, February 17th, 2009, means Doomsday. At least it could if you don't get your piece of the $1.3 billion the federal government set aside to assist Americans in the analog to digital TV switchover.

But things are looking grim for avid TV devotees. According to a report on msnbc.com, there's no more money left in the program, and "for millions of people it's too late to get a government coupon to help pay for the converter boxes in time for the deadline."

While Americans suffer through the worst recession since the Great Depression, the feds are struggling to deliver on their promise of 'two converter boxes for every home.' "Thousands of people are now on a waiting list, as Congress scrambles to find a way to allocate more money to the program."

It looks as though Americans will have to find new ways to pass their extra time created by the advent of digital TV. A rediscovery of books may be a good place to start. Or--going out on a limb with this one--vis-a-vis interaction with fellow human beings.

According to the Economist, in 2005 American households watched an "average of 8 hours and 11 minutes [of TV] every day." In other words, in this time of economic recession when money is tight, the average American household is spending enough time in front of the boob-tube to account for another full-time job!

Well, what are we going to do about it? I'll tell you what, if you or your children watch any TV, even if it's just an hour a day, why don't you pay me a dollar for every hour watched? I don't have a TV so I don't have an extra 8 hours and 11 minutes hanging around every day, but I would like to pay for my schooling.

If you think this is a good idea--me helping you to break the TV habit, you helping me to get a TV-free education--let me know in the comments and I'll set up a PayPal account so we can make the transaction. Deal?