Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chicken Nuggets

I had to draw some chickens on the fly for my Samoan oral traditions class, as there is an important story in Samoan legend about some very special chickens from which the name of the country may have been derived. Inspired by a particular clipart, I set pencil to paper and came up with these "fowl" specimens.

For those interested in the story, go here and scroll down to number 14.

And, no, I won't be quitting my day job as a full-time student to become an artist.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Building Bridges of Understanding

Steve, my brother-in-law, and one of my best friends from my time at Brigham Young University shared with me today an article about Mormon expatriates. But before I could read it I was distracted by two addresses that were given at a forum at BYU on October 10th, 2006. The first by President Boyd K. Packer, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a special introduction to the second address by Dr. Alwi Shihab, then Indonesian Presidential Advisor and Special Envoy to the Middle East. These two great leaders spoke on the need to build bridges of understanding between the West and Islam.

I was able to attend this special forum assembly and was greatly impressed by the messages that President Packer and Dr. Shihab delivered. I was happy to review their words today, exactly four years since they were given. I share with you a few of their remarks.

From President Packer:

"Ahead of us, indeed already all around us, is the world of Islam. Christianity and Islam will clasp hands in cooperation and understanding or clench fists in confrontation and prejudice....

"It is important that we in the West understand there is a battle for the heart, soul, and direction of Islam and that not all Islam espouses violent jihad, as some Western media portray.

"It is as well important that friends in the Islamic world understand there is a battle for the heart, soul, and direction of the Western world and that not all the West is morally decadent, as some Islamic media portray."

From Dr. Shihab:

"It is worth noting that the Muslim world is too large and too diverse to march to the beat of a single drummer. Many people of the West mistakenly assume that the Muslim world is equivalent to the Middle East. The fact is that the Muslim world extends from Morocco to Merauke, Indonesia, and from Uzbekistan to Cape Town, South Africa. In addition, more Muslims live in China than in the Arabian Peninsula, and more Muslims live in Indonesia than in the entire Arab world combined....

"It is a sad reality that even international efforts to counter radicalism and terrorism often themselves become radical—and, hence, counterproductive. We must, therefore, deal with religious radicalism and intolerance not with brute force but with wisdom and the willingness to address the root causes of these problems....

"For almost a millennium and a half, Islam and the West have been viewed as two civilizations interacting in conflicting dialogue. To reach constructive dialogue and find solutions to the obstacles, it is important to think in terms of actual existing conditions in today’s world of the twenty-first century and not impose concepts and programs from an earlier age....

"...We must always bear in mind that religion is not just an abstract doctrine or simple belief. It has been and continues to be the significant factor that shapes people’s identities as individual persons and as groups. It is...our duty to find the way to harness the potential of religions to motivate their adherents to strive for peace, justice, and tolerance in everyday life and in all walks of life."

There is much more that could have been shared. I encourage you to read their full remarks. President Packer and Dr. Shahib are shining examples of how to successfully participate in interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Their messages are deserving of thoughtful consideration by all.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Unto the Least of These

Yesterday, as I was walking into the University of Hawaii Campus Center, I overheard a snippet of two guys' conversation.

In reply to something the one said that I didn't hear, the other said, "I'm not homeless! How many homeless people do you see who wear Guess jeans and American Apparel?"

I cannot comment on what he said relative to its actual context. But he said it with so much sneering disdain in his voice that it seemed clear that he considered himself much higher in class than any of the ubiquitous Honolulu homeless. And all because he was wearing expensive clothes.

True, Mark Twain did once say, "Clothes make the man," but he qualified his comment by continuing, "Naked people have little or no influence on society." It's the covering of our bodies that's important, not the cost of that covering.

I'm reminded of Paul's first epistle to Timothy wherein he gave this sage advice, "We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content" (1 Timothy 6:7-8). Just a couple of verses later Paul reminds us that "the love of money is the root of all evil."

One of the many reasons why I enjoy studying the Book of Mormon is because it has much to say about social injustice (a favorite theme of Isaiah, too).

For example one writer prophesied that in the last days people would "rob the poor because of their fine clothing" (2 Nephi 28:13).

Another writer continued this same thought, saying, "Ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel...more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.

"Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?" (Mormon 8:37, 39)

Expensive clothing is a quintessential Veblen good--for some strange reason, the more expensive clothes are the more desirable they become as a means to impart higher social status to the wearer. Yet the money saved by not buying costly apparel could be put to actual good use helping those with little to nothing to call their own, including clothes.

Even despite the lousy economy, "the hand of providence hath smiled upon [us] most pleasingly, that [we] have obtained many riches," to use the words of another Book of Mormon writer who then continues, "and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they" (Jacob 2:13).

Instead, our writer informs us, "Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you" (Jacob 2:17).

He assures us that if we seek for riches we will find them, but we are reminded of the true reason for seeking after riches: "For the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted" (Jacob 2:19).

Yet another reminds us that "if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need"--in short, "if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men" (Alma 34:28-29).

Ultimately, as Paul said, "we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out" (1 Timothy 6:7); or, as Job put it, "Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither" (Job 1:21).

Therefore, as the Book of Mormon counsels, "Do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy" (2 Nephi 9:51).

Instead, "I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants" (Mosiah 2:26).

Then, come the day of judgment, "the King [shall] say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

"Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

"When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

"Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:34-40).

Friday, June 25, 2010

If You were Mormon or Moroni

It dawned on me today that the greatest sermons in the Book of Mormon were given, for the most part, to members of the Church, or to recent dissenters, or to apostates. Very little of the text comprises teaching or preaching to so-called "non-members"--those who were not, and never had been, members of the Church--perhaps the work of the sons of Mosiah among the Lamanites being the most notable exception.

If you were compiling the Book of Mormon today using sources from 200 years ago to the present, what sermons would you include in the "hundredth part" of our history, written and redacted for the instruction of generations to come?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Samoan Sayings

I've gotten a lot of hits on this blog where the visitor had searched for Samoan sayings or famous Samoan sayings or Samoan proverbial sayings and the like, mainly because of a couple of posts (here and here) wherein I related a number of them to gospel principles. I hope all those who've landed on those pages were able to find some of what they were looking for.

In the years since my mission to the Samoan islands I've wanted to buy a particular book of Samoan sayings. It's a classic, but it's out of print and I've never gotten around to purchasing an old used (likely beaten up) copy. I'm talking about Schultz's Samoan Proverbial Expressions or Proverbial Expressions of the Samoans, whichever you prefer.

Well, in honor of all those who have landed at this site looking for more Samoan sayings than I had to offer, I now present the mother lode: all 560 of Schultz's collected expressions--all for free.

Here we have the ultimate collection of ancient Samoan wisdom and allusions to their myths, legends, nature, and material culture. Samoan sayings or proverbs are a key component to chiefly rhetoric. This handy-dandy reference is a veritable pearl of great price for anyone hoping to make any sense at all of what chiefs really mean when they say something like,

183. E sau le fuata ma lona lou. When the breadfruit harvest comes, the lou will be found, too.

The lou is a long pole with a crook at the end, used in gathering breadfruit. After the harvest the pole will be laid aside or thrown away. For the next harvest the old lou will be fetched again or a new one will be made. Thus, there is a lou for every harvest.

Upu fa'amafanafana. Consolatory words used at the death of a matai: Every generation has its chiefs and orators.

But, you have to be careful. Schultz's great work isn't infallible. For instance, the following example tripped me up about 18 months into my mission:

375. E toa e [sic] le loto, 'ae pa le no'o. The will is strong, but the hips are broken.

The spirit is strong, but the flesh is weak.

It seems innocuous enough, except that in this case no'o doesn't mean hips, it means bowels. And pa doesn't mean broken, it means burst.

A little background is in order: I was serving in American Samoa at the time and had come down with the flu. After visiting with a doctor at the hospital, my fellow missionary, a Samoan, and I were dropped off by some other missionaries at the furthest point in our area so we could make some visits.

We stopped by one family's place and they had prepared the customary meal for us. I ate but little for I had no appetite. The woman who retrieved my tray of food commented on how little I ate. I attempted to smooth over the insult with an apology, which translates as follows: "In truth the desire to eat a lot was there, but as the saying of old men goes, 'The will is strong, but the hips are broken.'"

My Samoan missionary companion burst into laughter. I was startled somewhat and asked him why. That made him laugh even harder because he realized that I'd made my mistake in complete innocence. He asked me where I had heard that saying. I told him that I'd found it in my dictionary, the author of which had drawn from Schultz's earlier work. He asked me if I knew what it meant. I answered in the affirmative, telling him what its figurative application was supposed to be.

He assured me that in that sense of it I wasn't wrong. It was the literal meaning that I hadn't understood. He asked me if I understood the word pa. Yes, I said. He asked if hips, as in hip bones, burst. I had to admit they don't. He then asked me if I knew what was located near the hips which could burst.

It took me a second to think his question through. Then, in a burst of inspiration, it dawned on me what I had said: "The will is strong, but my bowels have burst."

The thing about Samoans is that they have a splendid sense of humor; fortunately, one that can even accommodate a little inadvertent potty humor from an unsuspecting foreigner.

Enjoy the Samoan sayings.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Some Thoughts on the Book of Mormon

I finished rereading the Book of Mormon today, and was impressed by a few things.

I've been impressed by the Lord's urgent plea to us, His latter-day children, to avoid falling into the same traps as did the Nephite and Jaredite peoples which led them to destruction.

I was impressed by the idea that by faith we can become the "sons and daughters of God"--a topic which demands elaboration by further study.

I was again impressed by Moroni's 8 exhortations, all found in Moroni 10:
  1. Remember how merciful the Lord has been to the children of Adam from the very beginning
  2. Ask God if the Book of Mormon is true
  3. Deny not the power of God
  4. Deny not the gifts of God
  5. Remember that every good gift comes of Christ
  6. Remember that Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that spiritual gifts will never cease or be done away so long as the world shall stand--except through unbelief
  7. Remember the words of Moroni because at some point in time we will know, without a doubt, that he didn't lie
  8. Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him
I was impressed by the stark contrast presented in Moroni 9 and 10: that is, the contrast between consummate evil and lack of civilization (chapter 9), and the standard of virtue and righteousness Moroni gives us (chapter 10). It's as though the diamond of Moroni 10 is set against the blackness of Moroni 9, thus we can more readily see the brilliance of the light of Christ as it shines forth through Moroni's final testimony to his brethren.

I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God! I rejoice in this knowledge and pray that I may live true to it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Food for Thought

In the news, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are advocating taxing foods like pizza and soda pop in an effort to decrease obesity among Americans.

Given my education in the exercise and nutritional sciences one would think I'd be turning cartwheels at such a brilliant suggestion by such esteemed scientists.

Far from turning cartwheels, however, instead I'm shaking my head at the latest manifestation of scientist advocated intrusion into our personal lives. Apparently, these scientists and the lawmakers that buy into their tax-fat rhetoric have little to no faith in Americans' ability to face and overcome the growing obesity-related problems in the way they have overcome problems for over two hundred years: by hard work and the grace of God.

Whatever happened to that indomitable American spirit which enabled our forefathers and foremothers to break free from monarchical tyranny and establish a new nation, abolish the barbarism of slavery, and fight for the survival of democracy and freedom in this land and around the world? Whatever happened to the American work ethic which fostered the industrial and agricultural revolutions, landed our astronauts on the moon, and tamed a wild and oft times barren American continent?

In short, have we come so far from the American ideal that we are no longer masters of our own fate or captains of our own souls? Must Congress decide for us how to control our obesity problems?

Perhaps this thought by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can offer insight into the crux of the matter: "Self-discipline has eroded and societies are left to try to maintain order and civility [and citizens' health] by compulsion. The lack of internal control by individuals breeds external control by governments." (Source)

Our problem isn't the fact that pizza and soda pop exist and are widely available and aggravatingly delicious. Our problem is that we have diminished self-discipline, a lack of internal control.

Americans everywhere, Rise up! Claim that glorious heritage bequeathed to you. Pursue the American dream. Accept responsibility for your actions, including the act of eating. Realize that we are free to choose but we are not free to choose the consequences.

Understand that in this universe governed by immutable laws that there is no getting around the laws of thermodynamics: If you put calories into the body they will either be put to use to keep you alive and well or they will be stored, primarily as fat.

And finally, for those who are able to enjoy pizza and soda pop responsibly, tell the scientists to get to work solving world hunger and the lawmakers to find a way to reduce the national debt and to stop trying to make food more expensive than it already is.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Toward the Building of a Better World

I haven't blogged much lately, mainly because I'm busy with school and life in general. But I'm reading good things and thought I'd share a thought with you from something I'm reading.

As a student of science, naturally I enjoy reading the writings of scientists. Most of that which I read, however, is in the form of textbooks and journal articles. Both are interesting and necessary in my development as a scientist, but at the same time it's refreshing to occasionally read a work written by a scientist who is able to step away from the nitty-gritty technical aspects of his or her field and talk about the big picture--the so-called "grand scheme of things"--and do so in a manner that inspires the human soul.

Henry Eyring was just such a scientist, and is the source of today's thought:

In times of uncertainty, such as the present, the increasing effort to understand man's place in the grand scheme of things proceeds at an accelerated pace. That understanding is a problem not alone for the laboratory; many of its answers will be found in the realm of the spiritual. It is important that all men of good will use their energies, their talents and their learning in their chosen fields, mutually assisting one another toward the building of a better world--that world which men of faith in all ages have envisioned and toward which they have labored.

Henry Eyring. The Faith of a Scientist. Bookcraft, 1969, pg. 3.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Of Course You Should Pray for It!

Well, the new semester is underway and that means commuting on TheBus. I've had "plenny"--as the locals say--adventures riding TheBus to and from school.

Today's is brief, but golden. As I boarded this morning I overheard a man speaking to another passenger from across the aisle. He said,

If you want something, like win the jackpot in Vegas, of course you should pray for it!

I would have chosen a different example than the filthy lucre coming out of Vegas, but nonetheless I admire the man's willingness to pray about everything that's important to him.