Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bizarre Mormon Beliefs . . .

Now that the 2012 US Presidential election is over, most followers of the Mormon faith are glad; first that the election is now in the past tense but sliding in at a close second; ‘the Republican candidate was instrumental in bringing their religion into the national spotlight.’  Most true believers hope the disappointing loss by their “favorite son” will somehow help to dispel many misconceptions about their faith.  Beyond that point, it’s probably safe to say that reflecting on the aforementioned election and perhaps the 1960 election between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon which spotlighted the Catholic faith in a similar lite; we’ve learned that politics and religion, like oil & water, do not make a good mix.

For example in 1960 the public was forced to learned (because of the election), that the Pope was not the Antichrist and the devil didn’t really live just a little below the Catholic Church.

Although in the not too distant past the religious sect commonly known as Mormonism or The Latter Day Saints (LDS) was often classified as a cult by many main stream religious groups; of recent date, and in large part because of election politics, most such groups now agree that the faith / belief is nothing more than another branch of or a type of Christianity . . .

The fact is every religion has its own unique beliefs & traditions.  None the less, here I’ve attempted to provide a list of rather unusual or odd Latter Day Saints (LDS) aka Mormon beliefs. Each Item on the list is based upon LDS scripture taken directly from The Book of Mormon, like the one displayed above, so you can be assured they are authentic. 

While tithes (what some folks call a “church tax”), are not uncommon among religious organizations, rarely are they mandatory.   LDS theology states that in order to make it to the highest kingdom of heaven, you must pay a full and honest tithe.

No coffee, no drugs and no tobacco.   This is one of the most famous pieces of LDS doctrine; it has also brought about many myths about Mormons.

Exclusive to the LDS faith is this belief . . .  In no uncertain terms, every human on earth now was a spirit that resides in the “pre-existence”.  When each of us drops dead, our spirits are separated from our bodies and if we were good they go to “spirit paradise.” If we were bad they go to “spirit prison.” You see, the spirit world exists as a separate place (separate from heaven) for spirits to dwell while awaiting the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Practically everyone who knows anything about the Mormon religion knows they have a Prophet.  What many may not know; is that anything the prophet says in his “official capacity” is considered official church canon / law.  Basically the Mormon faith believes God calls prophets to lead the church . . . So their current leader is believed to be a living prophet, much like Abraham and Moses who are depicted in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible.  Some have likened this to the Catholic Pope, but as a general rule, his ideas / beliefs are commonly considered church “doctrine” as opposed to church “law”.

The Book of Mormon is a book of LDS scripture that takes place right after the stories referenced in the New Testament of The Holy Bible but occurs on the American continent, not somewhere in the Middle East.   It is important to note that the Mormon scripture is not intended to replace the Old or the New Testaments of the Holy Bible,  it simply follows the stories of two tribes who descended from the family of Lehi, a patriarch and prophet who the Mormons believe led his family from Jerusalem to the western hemisphere sometime around 600 B.C.  .. . .. For lack of better terms, you might call it a 3rd Testament .  .  .You see, shortly after Jesus’ resurrection the people of the Mormon faith believe he visited and shared his beliefs / teachings with the peoples of the Americas, who were the direct descendants of Lehi.

The church was founded / started by 19th century American religious leader Joseph Smith, Jr.  His story generally goes something like this:  When Joseph was a young man (in his mid-teens), he took the opportunity to pray and ask heavenly father to tell him which church he should attend. To his surprise he was told he should attend “none-of-the-above”.  To Joseph, this basically meant that everyone had it wrong.

This was soon followed by a vision in which God and Jesus appeared; God directed him to an ancient record in the form of “Golden Plates”.  The Golden Plates, it turns out, are the source from which Joseph said he translated the Book of Mormon, the sacred text of the faith. A few witnesses described the plates as weighing somewhere between 30 and 60 pounds (14 to 27 kg); they were golden in color, and composed of thin metallic pages. They were engraved on both sides and held together with three D-shaped rings.

Smith allegedly found the plates on September 22, 1823 on a hill near his home in Manchester, New York.  He said an angel (named Moroni) guided him to the stone box where they were buried, apparently a short while after God told him about their existence. Smith pointed out that the angel at first prevented him from taking the plates; instead, he was instructed to return to the same location in a year.  For one or more of the following reasons perhaps only known to young Master Smith, the next year wasn’t good either because the angel would not allow Smith to take the plates until he obeyed certain specific “commandments”. A young Joseph Smith recorded / stated that the angel required at least the following: (1) that he have no thought of using the plates for monetary gain, (2) that he tell his father about the vision, and (3) that he never show the plates to any unauthorized person . . . Several additional commandments or rules are often recited by others who allege they ‘overheard’ Joseph add them to this short list but only Young Joseph Smith ever knew if they were more . . . In any event, several of those “alleged” commandants are derogatory by their very nature and lends no additional credibility to the story line anyway.

It was several years later indeed, in September of 1827, on his fourth annual attempt to retrieve the plates that Smith returned home with a heavy object wrapped in a frock (a loose outer garment worn by peasants and workers; smock), which he hid away in a box. Though he allowed others to lift the box, he insisted that the guiding angel had forbidden him to show the plates to anyone until they had been translated from their original “reformed Egyptian” language.

From these Golden Plates, Smith dictated the text over the next several years. He did this by using a “seer stone” which he placed in the bottom of a hat and then placed the hat over his face to view the words written within the stone.  Smith published the book / translation in 1830.

According to most leaders of the church, Joseph Smith was, through the power and gift of God, granted the ability to translate the writing on the Golden Plates into what folks now call The Book of Mormon, which is subtitled “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”

According to Mormon lore, when he was finished translating the plates he gave them back to the angel (Moroin) who he insisted “has them in his charge”, so exactly where they may be now, is anyone’s guess.

It’s commonly known that another oddity / rule of the faith that has brought about a great deal of criticism is the fact that any ‘worthy’ white male can be given the priesthood and is regularly given specific duties, but black people were not allowed to hold the priesthood until 1978 and even today, females are not allowed to have the priesthood.

In Later Day Saints theology you can be forgiven for any sin, except two (2). First: Denying the Holy Spirit; and second: Murder.   Now add this to the mix: Heavenly Father / God is believed to be infinitely forgiving, until the second coming of Jesus Christ occurs; following that event, you end up where you end up, no matter what . . . No second chances, ever.

Most Mormons believe that God created multiple worlds and each world has people living on it. They also believe that while several Gods exist, but each God has his own individual universe. It’s important to note that a true believer is only subject to the one God in charge of his or her universe and further, if the highest level of heaven is obtained you can become a god yourself.

Yet another belief that differs from traditional Christianity is the belief that it’s reasonable to perform baptisms for the dead, but only if requested by the family.

Kolob is said to be a star or planet described in the Book of Abraham that is often claimed to be a specific text / chapter within The Book of Mormon.  According to this written record, Kolob is the heavenly body nearest to the throne of God. Kolob is called both a “star” and a “planet” in the text and as a result some LDS commentators consider Kolob to be a planet; it’s of little surprise that there is a serious problem with this “story” , especially since the existence of Kolob has never been proven to exist within the field of astronomy . . . The fact is there is no Book of Abraham within the text of The Book of Mormon at all; however there is a Book of Abraham in the “Pearl of Great Price”, another Joseph Smith publication, which is apparently the source of the story wherein some folks claim a planet called Kolob is the location of  “Heaven”.

Never the less, you may hear on occasion that Kolob is believed to be the “Mormon Heaven” planet, and that Heavenly Father / or God lives there, and is a 6 foot 2 inch, 200 pound white male. Apparently such ideas are pure conjecture by some un-named LDS commentator.  Regardless such flawed information is periodically a topic of discussion and a huge criticism of Mormonism in general.

And finally, although there was polygamy in the 1800’s, it hasn’t been a part of the main stream church for more than 120 years.  Today (2012), there’s more than 14 million Mormons worldwide; more members reside outside the United States than inside.  Some say if those numbers were reversed, Mitt Romney would have won the election against Barack Obama in 2012 . . . Just Joking, no one is really saying that . . . not aloud anyway.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Angels Have Wings

The Prince’s Sarcophagus

Angels are often depicted as compassionate celestial beings who act as intermediaries between that place many folks perceive as Heaven and the place we all call Earth; some folks simply describe them as guardian spirits or a guiding influence during significant junctures in one’s life.

Angels have appeared in works of art for thousands of years. Beings perceived as Angels appear in ancient Mesopotamian (think Sumerian) and early Greek art; many scholars believe such depiction were the inspiration for other popular angel images, such as those that are commonplace in Christianity. Modern day descriptions of Angles are typically described as “winged” supernatural beings or spirits, usually humanoid in form; they’re often depicted with wings on their back, a really neat halo, and dressed out in robes and various forms of glowing light; there’re found in various religions and mythologies throughout the world.

The appearance of Angles has varied over the years.  The earliest known Christian image of an angel is absent wings.  On the other hand, the earliest known representation of angels with wings is depicted on the “Prince’s Sarcophagus” carving portrayed above; it was discovered in the 1930’s near Istanbul, Turkey and is generally attributed to the reign of Theodosius I (379–395); he is noted for being the last Roman emperor to have ruled both the eastern and the western halves of the Empire, although he was Emperor of the west for only the last 3 years or so of his Reign.

Most scholars believe that Angels are depicted with having wings because the word Angel (Greek ἄγγελος – aggelos) means messenger, wings are said to promote the perceived concept of swiftness of the message from heaven to the individual who is receiving the message. Wings just represent swiftness, nothing more . . . The western idea of wings, and halos for that matter, originated through ancient religions and mythology.

Images of angels looking like human beings, but with wings, were an ancient idea that illustrated caring compassionate spirit beings that came from a “higher place” or the place many folks perceive as the “heavens.” Wings, you see, are perhaps the easiest way to convey the idea of angels zipping back and forth or as some might say up and down from the spirit world to Earth and then back again. You probably recall that many ancient gods were often depicted as birds or as having wings.

Having said all this, you might be wondering if angles are an outdated concept or belief.  If that  is your current way of thinking, consider this: A 2002 study based on interviews with 350 people, mainly in the United Kingdom, reportedly said they have had at least one experience in regard to angels; several types of descriptions or experiences were mentioned; such “visions”, sometimes in the presence of  multiple witnesses, include warnings being conveyed; a sense of being pushed, touched, or lifted, usually to prevent a dangerous situation or an accident; and now and then the scent of a pleasant fragrance, generally in the context of someone’s death.  As for Angles being witnessed visually, the angels were described as appearing in various forms, either that of the modern “classical” (human features with wings), or in the form of beautiful or radiant human beings, or on some occasions as beings composed of  or surrounded by light.

As for the United States, a 2008 survey performed  by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion located in Waco, Texas and published by TIME magazine; polled 1,700 participants.  It found that 55 percent of Americans, including one in five of those who say they are not religious, believe that they have been protected by a guardian angel during their life-time. An earlier Pew poll in August 2007 found that 68 percent of Americans believe that “angels and demons are active in the world”, and, further, according to four different polls conducted in 2009, a greater percentage of Americans believe in angels (55%) than those who believe in global warming (36%).

Not to be out-done a 2008 survey of more than 1,000 Canadians found 67 percent of those good folks believe angels are real, winged or not winged.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Man’s Best Friend!

    “Ol’ Drum”  
24/7 Sentry; Johnson County 
Court House in Missouri 

It’s long been argued that to find a real friend, “man” or “mankind” need only go to the dogs. Once there, he’ll find . . .  .  . . . Yep, “Man’s best friend”; as we all know this motto / slogan is intended to honor dogs; generally referring to all breeds as a whole. But did you know the phrase is believed to have been “coined” by way of a dramatic courtroom speech made by attorney, George Graham Vest in Warrensburg, Missouri in 1870 who said in part, “The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.” The phrase was, as time passed, shortened to “man’s best friend”.       

Born in Frankfort, Kentucky, Vest was known for his skills in oration and debate. A lawyer as well as a politician, he served as a Missouri Congressman, a Confederate Congressman during the Civil War, and finally as US Senator for the great state of Missouri from 1879 to 1903 (4 six year terms). He is best known for his “a man’s best friend” closing arguments from a trial that court records show occurred on September 23, 1870.

The following is all that remains of the famed speech, it was most likely taken from the court records of the small Missouri town of Warrensburg in Johnson County, Missouri.  Boldly, throughout the trial, Vest promised that he would “win the case or apologize to every dog in Missouri.” Most folks were somewhat surprised when Vest elected to ignore earlier testimony that was given during the trial; you see, when his turn came to present his final summation to the jury, he made this speech on behalf of his client; a local farmer who was suing his brother-in-law for 50 Dollars US (which was the maximum amount he could sue for such a grievous offence), for damages after allegedly shooting his beloved foxhound “Old Drum”.

“Gentlemen of the Jury: The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us, may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer. He will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

If fortune drives the master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death”.

This short address, which is credited for winning the case, is often described in the category of being powerful, persuasive, motivational and inspirational. The speech not only reflects excellent powers of oration, it remains famous even today because it so perfectly describes man’s best friend, the ever faithful dog.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Long Lost Dogs

In a broad generalist sense the three most common reasons that dogs become separated from their families include: opportunistic journeys, simple wanderlust, or blind panic.

An opportunistic journey by your dog often occurs when a gate or door is inadvertently left open. Only a select few dogs will remain in their yards or at their homes in such cases; the fact is that most dogs simply can’t resist the temptation to explore when given the opportunity. In this instance your dog might not actively “plan” to leave home, but their noses just lead them on an expedition that will often take them blocks or even miles away from their abode.

Wanderlust is a common problem especially with male dogs of any breed. These dogs will vigorously attempt to escape by climbing, digging, or wiggling to escape confinement areas; dogs inflected with this trait are sure to become “lost dogs” especially if allowed to “roam free” in the back yard for example.  They will also bolt out a door or pull to get away from their handler every time the opportunity presents itself.

Blind panic is a situation in which the “flight” instinct (from the hardwired “fight or flight” response to stimuli) kicks in and a dog quickly determines that running is the best option, yep, this is really a “reaction” that’s commonly call blind panic. This often happens for one of three reasons: xenophobic (skittish) temperament, loud noises like thunder & gunfire, or a traumatic incident like being involved in an automobile accident. Such dogs are difficult to catch since they will travel far and fast, and avoid human contact, even with their own masters!

Regardless of the character type your lost critter may possess, for many people pets become cherished members of the family, so when they are lost it can be very stressful indeed since tragic endings are not uncommon. Much too often, after searching nearly everywhere, posting / fliers on every corner and after checking all the local shelters families are forced to give up hope of ever seeing their furry, friend again and conclude the worst has happened to’ em out there in the mean ol’ world, alone and on their own. However, in some rare cases, the will of the lost dog to return to its family is too strong to give up, and against all odds, they somehow find their way home no matter what it takes. Call it luck, willpower, the power of love, or a mix of all three; here’s a few inspiring examples of happy reunions of lost dogs and their families in a just a few parts of the world.

If there’s any breed of dog that would be able to find its way home over rugged terrain and great distances, it would be the Siberian husky. The only other dog that could come close is undoubtedly, Muttley from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon Wacky Races, but then he travels about in a race-car, making it an argumentative issue. Beyond making that precarious point, there are many critics of Moon the dog’s greatness, who insist that the only way Moon could possibly have found her way home to Ely, Nevada must have been to hitchhike. Their speculation stems from the well documented fact that Moon traveled no less than 77 miles to find her way home to Doug Dashiell, her owner. Dashiell had taken his three dogs on a trip and on the way back, at Railroad Valley, Nevada he briefly let them out of his truck to stretch their legs and make pee-pee when Moon simply took-off like “a-bird-with-a-jet-in-her-butt”, as Dad used to say. After hours of fruitless searching, Dashiell was sure he would never see Moon again. 

Dashiell was wrong. Amazingly, the dog managed to travel the distance back to Ely. The dog crossed desert, the White River, and the Ward Mountain ranges. Dashiell hypothesizes that she survived for the week she was missing by feasting on rabbits. 

Max the Airedale Terrier amazingly managed to travel a rather large distance to return to his loving owner, crossing harsh terrain and managing to not get eaten by predators.  Two-year-old Max was lost when his owner’s convertible was involved in an accident in Sterling, Connecticut. When Bill Clark’s car was struck by another vehicle, in a moment of panic Max dashed from the back seat of the car, across the trunk, and off into the woods. After returning home to Coventry, Rhode Island, Clark launched a search campaign for the dog that spanned weeks, without success. As fate would have it, every desperate lead, from friend or stranger, lead to a dead end. 

Then, one Tuesday, Clark returned from work to find Max sitting in his back yard, having found his way home from almost 50 miles away. Upon examination by a vet Max was discovered to have no injuries whatsoever, and the only mark of his nearly month-long journey was a weight loss of 11 pounds.

3 December 2011  . . . Must have been an incredible journey, with all the makings of a holiday blockbuster.  But you’ve gotta wonder if this pouch was lost or simply running away. Petunia the dog went missing from Virginia and reappeared eight years later and 3000 miles away in California, but we’ll probably never know how or why she made the voyage.

“She was very thirsty and very hungry when I found her,” said Meg Eden when interviewed by CBS channel 13. Ms. Eden went on to say “I’m just happy she took the right fork in the road and found me.” 

Ms. Eden looked after the dog overnight then took the dog to animal welfare officials who straight away scanned the pet for a microchip; staff members were amazed to find she was registered, as an American Staffordshire terrier, to a clinic in the state of Virginia.

The Virginia clinic made contact with the dog’s owner, Kristen Pruitt of Fredericksburg, Virginia (49 miles {79 km} south of Washington, D.C.), who confirmed that her family dog, Petunia, went missing in 2003. She also recognized Petunia from photographs.

Finally, the account of Prince’s unbelievable journey isn’t just the oldest story found here; it’s also the most mysterious.  It goes something like this: James Brown (no relation to the late Godfather of Soul) was a private in the First North Staffordshire Infantry Regiment of the British Army during WWI in 1914, left his wife back in Staffordshire, England with their Terrier, Prince.  He traveled to France to fight on the front at the outbreak of war with Germany. Several months later on September 27th of the same year, Brown’s wife sent him a telegram telling him that their beloved Prince had gone missing. 

Private Brown wasn’t too awfully surprised upon receiving the telegram, in light of the fact that Prince had already joined him in the trenches, apparently ready to take on the Germans, though it’s not too difficult to determine how well an Irish terrier would do if pitted against a German shepherd. Prince’s story is one of the most baffling examples of animal travel we’ve found. In order to find his way to Brown, he had to cross the English Channel, a formidable milestone in and of its self by anyone’s standard. Never-the-less, Prince’s story remains shrouded in mystery, primarily because of the lack of reliable reporting at the time it occurred. If the story is wholly true, it may stand as the most amazing dog journey in history.