Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rameumptom - Weekly Affirmation

I'm struck with some of the similarities in the principles of Zoramite religious thought and contemporary thinking. I guess there truly is nothing new under the sun.

Alma and his Dream Team [1] were blown away by the Zoramite concept of religious worship. Worship for them consisted of a highly ritualized prayer that never changed and lasted about a minute, once a week. Once completed, your religious obligations were finished until next week and you could carry on without feeling further restrictions on how you acted. You were pretty much all set; you were chosen. Best of all, it was performed in a highly visible place: the Rameumptom or holy stand [2]. It would be evident to everyone watching your worship that you were important, chosen, holy and different from all the others that weren't one of the select group.

It reminds me a little of an old SNL sketch called Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley (I've never been able to take Al Franken seriously since--he had more to offer as a comedian than a politician). If you practice telling yourself you're awesome often enough, you begin to believe it. Chris Farley, a true comedic genius, also seized our misguided love-affair with motivational speakers as having all the secrets for successful living in his Mat Foley sketches.

Last weekend, motivational speaker Tony Robbins was at it again and had members of his 4-day self-empowerment seminar walk over red hot coals (and promptly sent 21 participants to the hospital for 2nd and 3rd degree burns). What is more surprising than the reports of howling fire walkers is the fact that many made the walk without injury. One logically concludes that learning how to 'unleash the powers within' can take you over the greatest obstacles of life without the need for God (the seminar doesn't bother to go into the physics of heat conductivity of coals).  The merits of improving our confidence, motivation and self-reliance aside, the underlying message is pretty destructive in the eternal perspective.

Zoramite doctrine went out of it's way to deny the existence of (or need for) Christ. Although believing in God, they saw whatever they did as right (cf. Lamoni) and therefore had no obligation to restrain themselves.  Instead of reliance on God, it was more about self. Success in life was to be gained by self-reliance, self-promotion and self-indulgence; the afterlife was simply not relevant to the pursuits of the day.

The Rameumptom was the grandstand for people embracing an amalgam of philosophies of, Stuart Smalley and Tony Robbins: you're fine the way you are, and with a little training can get along just fine without Christ. Believe in God if you want, but don't let it interfere with the work week.

Alma and Amulek boldly stood up and called them out. All the self-confidence and self-reliance in the world are not enough to redeem your sin.  Simply stated, you need a Savior: Jesus Christ. A faith that doesn't bring about repentance is of no value in exalting man.

Said Amulek:

Alma 34:15-19
 15 And thus he shall bring asalvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
 16 And thus amercy can satisfy the demands of bjustice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of cjustice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal dplan of eredemption.
 17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your afaith unto repentance, that ye begin to bcall upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
 18 Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is amighty to save.

I could certainly use a little more self-affirmation and maybe even a course to help me unleash the power within.  With the Smalley-Robbins approach I become the same person with a series of gimmicks that can be very useful. That's good stuff, but only to the degree that it makes me a better partner with Christ.  With him, I become a new person.  As I call on his name, he promises mercy which will overpower justice, salvation and faith to repentance. In the end I'm not just good enough, I'm good through and through.

[1] Imagine if your zone consisted of Alma the Younger, Amulek, Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Himni, Zeezrom, Shiblon and Corianton!
[2] For an interesting review of the Hebrew roots of this word see Book of Mormon Language, by Brian Stubbs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bow River, Alberta

Ty & I fished the Bow River on July 5 right before SPF 2012; it was a great prelude to the family reunion.  It is the first time I've fished the Bow since I was a Resident a gajillion years ago. Another fine walk down memory lane.

This season's heavy rains and runoff made for high water and challenging fishing, but we still managed to catch about a dozen fish, all thanks to our guide from Country Pleasures. All were decent fish and included rainbows, brown and a big whitefish. When I hooked the whitefish I knew it was a hog--I was certain it was the trout of my life.  I have to admit a was more than a little crestfallen when we pulled a whitefish out of the net. C'est la vie! Prettiest fish had to go to Ty who finished the day with a beautiful brown trout.  Not to worry, I'll be back to take my revenge on him.

Add caption

Sunday, July 15, 2012

TDF & Clean Competition

Another rider from Cofidis booted out of the TDF, all while the names of who's who of American cycling for the last decade are tossed about as dopers. Paul Riddle took 2nd in Saturday's local triathlon behind a guy who has been sanctioned by USA Cylcing! It makes it hard to still believe in the spirit of the sport.

But there is still a few of us die-hard tifosi out there (as evidenced below, Mochi is the number one tifosa in the house). When guys like David Millar of Team Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda[1] win, it feels like there is hope.  

Now that is a well-trained cat

She's liking Tejay Van Garderen for White Jersey


Millar is a 35-yr old Scot, and an admitted doper from cycling's prior era of officials turning a blind eye to the endemic plague of performance-enhancing drugs. He served a 2-yr suspension for using EPO in 2004 (when he was riding for . . . who else but Cofidis . . .) and ever since has been working as an advocate of clean cycling. Stage 12 was his reward, winning the 226 km stage on the line after an monster breakaway in which they were off the front of the peloton most of the day.

After the stage, an exultant Millar said:

“I operate best in adversity, I’ve got quite a bit of experience of making a mess of my life, but if you can learn from that it will toughen you up mentally. It was nice to show everybody that we are still here."

I love this guy. Bravo! There's still plenty to cheer about, so Mochi and I can hang in there for the last week.

[1] Ryder Hesjedal, who also rides for Team Garmin Sharp Barracuda, became the first Canadian ever to win a Grand Tour when won this year's Giro d'Italia.

The Present World

I'm still thinking a lot about Demas . . .

For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world [νν], and is departed unto Thessalonica . . . 2 Timothy 4:10 

It is noteworthy that νν (Strong's G 3568; pronounced noon), which is here rendered 'this present world' is frequently translated as 'now' in the KJV. Demas’ downfall seems to been a full-on love affair with now—this  present world. Early morning bike rides, desert monsoons and killer sushi rank right up there with the enticing of Thessalonica. I'd have to concede that I'm pretty high on this present world.  Perhaps I’m on the same slippery slope that lured away Demas.

Consider a couple of examples how the Savior used νν:

Blessed are ye that hunger now [νν]: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now [νν]: for ye shall laugh.  
Luke 6:21

Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now [νν]! for ye shall mourn and weep.
Luke 6:26

Was Demas then relegated to a dour, anhedonic existence devoid of rainbows? Is the same true of us? I think not. It’s not about the enjoyment of νν, but rather about νν becoming the center of our world. This pursuit has many names: hedonism, non-theism, humanism, and secularism.  All suggest that directives from God shouldn’t encumber the enjoyment of life in the νν.

Herein lies the problem: it’s not all monsoons and rainbows. What happens when life becomes far less pleasure than pain?  It’s the unfortunate reality for the overwhelming majority of people.

The Savior’s use of νν is all about perspective. Those whose priorities are centered on νν face great disappointment when they encounter the realities of eternity. Man is intended to have more than just transitory joy as he struggles weekend to weekend.  And, although I try to take great pleasure in νν, I try to remember its wonders are trivial compared to those we are promised in eternity.

But to be a disciple of Christ forces us to shun some of the pleasures and distractions of νν and suffer for his sake.  In the words of Paul:  

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present timeν ] are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 
Romans 8:18 


Monsoon season in Las Vegas is awesome. We've had rain for a couple of days.  There's something magical about rain in the desert that's hard to describe to non-desert dwellers. Robyn I & saw a complete rainbow the other evening (and found our pot of gold in the hand of a Mexican sushi chef named Juan at our favorite haunt: I Love Sushi) and a proper downpour and lightning storm that night.  The bike ride Saturday was cool and clean--a real rarity in August.

It brings to mind the words of the great Louis Armstrong:

I see trees of green........ red roses too
I see em bloom..... for me and for you
And I think to myself.... what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue..... clouds of white
Bright blessed days....dark sacred nights
And I think to myself .....what a wonderful world.

The colors of a pretty the sky
Are also on the faces.....of people ..going by
I see friends shaking hands.....sayin.. how do you do
They're really sayin......I love you. +’

I hear babies cry...... I watch them grow
They'll learn much more.....than I'll never know
And I think to myself .....what a wonderful world

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Meet" Enough?

Sometimes a scriptural phrase will catch my attention and I can't let it go, and before I know it I'm off on a tangent.  So it is again.  This time it's a phrase that Alma was fond of using: meet for repentance. As Alma scurried about the cities of the Nephite nation trying to fortify the church, he used this phrase repeatedly. This phrase is unique to Alma in the Book of Mormon. [i]

In all 4 of Ama's uses of 'meet for repentance', he tells the saints that they need to bring forth works (Alma 5:54Alma 9:30) or fruit (Alma 12:15Alma 13:13) that live up to a high standard.  At first blush, it appears to be another example of a scriptural theme that turns up the shame coefficient by forcing us to realize that we're not doing enough to earn our keep. [ii] With further study, though, I'm not sure my initial impressions were correct. 

The word meet is used here in an archaic way.[iii]  A number of Hebrew words translated as meet in the KJV fit roughtly in the context of Alma's usage. [iv]  Yashar means 'what is right or what it due' and 'asah means 'to do, fashion, accomplish or produce'. Finally, the Greek word axios means 'befitting, corresponding to, or congruous'.  Alma's request to bring forth works and fruits meet for repentance can be restated as bring forth works and fruit that accomplish or produce repentance, or do things that are congruous and befitting of repentance.

As I read through the passages again, I'm impressed with a couple of things:

Alma 9:27, 30
27 And behold, he cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance, through faith on his name.
30 . . . [therefore] ye ought to bring forth works that are meet for repentance . . . 
  • we tend to think of repentance leading to baptism, but here baptism is the gate that enables repentance and redemption
Alma 12:15, 33-34
15 . . . all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.
 33 . . .  If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;
 34 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.
  • Christ, in his mercy, saves all who believe in his name and bring forth fruit that produces repentance
  • Having repented we lay claim on this mercy for remission of sin and eternal rest
Alma 13:10-11, 13
10 . . . it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish; 
11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
13 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.
  • For those high priests which Alma held as an example to the Nephites, it was faith and repentance that led to righteousness. Works of righteousness followed, and they were sanctified and redeemed
  • Alma instructs the Nephite saints to therefore follow this example and do likewise
For my world, the perspective of the passage in Alma 5:54 is critical.  The saints in Zarahemla, having embraced the gospel and implemented its principles, were sanctified by the Spirit, and continued the process of repentance.  From Alma's perspective they were all set, even though their struggles in life were ongoing. In Alma's words: 'they do bring forth works meet for repentance'. It seems to me that it is the repentance that is essential element, and that the fruit and works are a means unto an end.

[i] Moroni expounds on the same theme but uses his own style in Moroni 6:1; D&C tends to use meet for the kingdom (D&C 84:58D&C 88:24D&C 101:100); the KJV-NT uses the phrase in Matthew 3:8 and Acts 26:20.
[ii] This is a theme I've considered for years; I have a couple of related posts: Profit vs. Loss and It’s All About Who You Know.
[iii] Although translated directly into English, the Book of Mormon was revealed to Joseph Smith, Jr in the default scriptural language of the KJV.  On occasion, I therefore find it useful to look at the Hebrew (and sometimes Greek) meaning of archaic KJV-style words that appear in the Book of Mormon. Scholars have used these Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon as a further witness to its veracity. 
[iv] I love the online version of Blue Letter Bible which has a free concordance and study tools that will allow you to see the original Hebrew and Greek words for the English word that appears in the KJV.