My Temple Recommend – What It Means To Me

Today, I had the biannual temple recommend interview with the stake presidency. Aside from the traditional ad-hoc questions that are added to the interviews (such as asking the women if they read romance novels), and despite my constant criticism of the various church practices and procedures, I actually value my temple recommend quite a bit. In fact, there are three cards that I keep right next to each other, and that I hold a great amount of value to:

  • Driver’s License- My motor vehicle operating license, or “driver’s license” as they are commonly called, is a symbol of civil freedom and privilege. Most of us probably take it for granted, but I don’t. It’s something I’ve been very proud of ever since I turned 16, and was able to legally carry one in my pocket. My safe driving skills and my ability to obey the laws of the land allow me to keep this with me, and allow me to take advantage of driving great distances in little time. Indeed, the driver’s license grants me the privilege of driving a motor vehicle on public roads. I can drive anywhere in my country with it, but entering other countries typically requires both a passport and a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle on foreign roads. As such, the driver’s license as a local reach.
  • Amateur Radio License- The amateur radio license is another symbol of civil freedom, but unlike the driver’s license, my ham license has a very global reach. Provided I follow the rules and regulations set for by the FCC, and I pass proficiency examinations on radio operation, design, and theory, I can transmit on many hundreds of different frequencies using any sort of radio with good operating design, any antenna, and ample amounts of power to carry the transmission. This allows me to talk with people all over the world, in real time, just as though I had called them on the telephone, thousands of miles away. Provided that the person talking on the other end is operating his radio within the laws set forth by his country, we can continue operating our licenses, and continue speaking with people all over the world.
  • Temple Recommend- Finally, my temple recommend is special to me, because it symbolizes my spiritual freedoms and privileges. Because I carry with me a valid recommend, I can enter into the temples, and receive of their blessings. Where my ham radio license has a global reach and impact, my temple recommend has an eternal one. To me, it is a direct symbol of my ability to return to live with God. If I am not worthy to enter the temple, then I am not worthy to stand next to God. So my recommend acts as a switch, that can be turned on or off. If I’m worthy to go to the temple, the switch is on, and I can receive light. Otherwise, the switch is off, and I remain in darkness.

In all three cases, each license yields a specific freedom, provided that I live by the laws that regulate them. With each license, comes freedoms that are otherwise not accessible, such as driving on public roads, transmitting on scarce airwaves, or receiving blessings from the temple. Interestingly enough, each license must also be renewed. I must renew my driver’s license every 5 years in Utah. I must renew my amateur radio license every 10 years in the United States. I must renew my temple recommend every 2 years in the LDS Church. In all 3 cases, I must show that I am still interested in receiving those freedoms, and I must demonstrate that I can use them.

Posted in Temple | Leave a comment

Radio Check

One major part of emergency preparedness is emergency communications. Many people don’t realize that during some sort of catastrophe, local or not, usually the first infrastructure to buckle under the weight of traffic is cellular phone towers. Most cell phones operate within a 2-mile radius of the tower. If the tower is further than this, or behind obstacles, then “dead spots” as they are known, are experienced. Within a 2-mile radius of a suburban city, thousands of people could be living. Tens of thousands if you live in a very crowded, urban city. The towers you’re connected to aren’t designed to maintain that sort of load. Typically, maybe 20% of the covered area of a single tower is connected to it, either downloading data, sending text messages, or placing calls. When the cell phone tower as at 80 or 90% capacity, it begins to buckle under its own weight. Even if the tower can support that sort of traffic, the upstream node it is connected to, and many other towers may not be. The point is, during a critical emergency, cell phones are not reliable.

When cell phones buckle, people turn to land lines. Even then, it’s becoming popular for many people to not have land lines any longer, and just carry their cell phone. For those that do have land lines, many of them may be using VOIP, which stands for “voice over IP”. Basically, it’s a phone over the Internet. So, the fallback pressure becomes immense for land line providers, as well as VOIP providers. So, with your cell phone out of service, your land line may too be out of service.

This is why Amateur Radio is so critical. In every emergency, amateur radio operators, or “hams” as they are known, step in to relay communications to and from family members. With amateur radio, or just radio in general, there is no infrastructure that it connects to. It’s 100% decentralized and infrastructure-free. No centralized towers. No centralized control points. No centralized data nodes. No running wires. Each operator has an antenna, a power supply, and his transceiver. Radio operators can be placed in any location, at any time of the day, to relay any amount of traffic, provided he has a good antenna, good radio wave propogation, and enough power to carry out the communication. So, when all communication fails, radio is available.

Unlicensed vs Licensed
There are two types of radio transmitting- unlicensed and licensed. Both types, however, are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It’s important to understand the laws regarding radio transmission, such as maximum power and antenna usage. This post is not meant to explain those fully. You are responsible to learning the laws, which you can get from the FCC directly; nor is this list a complete listing of licensed and unlicensed spectrums. However, here is a list of the more popular radio spectrum that you will likely encounter during an emergency, and some of their laws:

  • Licensed:
    • Amateur Radio
      • $15 per exam. Free renewal every 10 years.
      • Unlicensed operators may use if the licensee is in control of the station.
      • Three classes: Technician, General and Extra.
      • 1500 watts maximum.
      • Radio cost ~$100 and up.
      • 2m and 70cm popular for local communications.
      • Repeaters may be used.
    • General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)
      • $85 per 5 years – no exam required.
      • 1 license covers the whole family.
      • Radios cost ~$50.
      • 5 watt output maximum.
      • Antennas cannot exceed 20′ above the ground.
      • 15 frequencies in 462-467 Mhz range.
      • Repeaters may be used.
  • Unlicensed
    • Citizens Band (CB)
      • Radios ~$40
      • External antennas may be used without height restrictions.
      • Linear amplifiers may not be used.
      • 4 watts AM, 12 watts SSB maximum power.
      • 40 channels in 27 Mhz.
    • Family Radio Service (FRS)
      • Radios as cheap as $5.
      • Antennas must be permanently fixed to the radio. External antennas may not be used.
      • 500 milliwatts maximum power.
      • 14 channels in 462 – 467 Mhz.
    • Multi-use Radio Service (MURS)
      • Radios cost ~$70.
      • External antennas cannot exceed 60′ above the ground.
      • 2 watts maximum output.
      • 5 channels in 151 & 154 Mhz.

Regular Check-ins
In order to ensure maximum communication proficiency, your stake and ward should be practicing regular check-ins with their radios. Generally this is done two ways, and while the end goal is the same- that is, to carry out communication in the event of an emergency, how the communication is relayed is different. The first way is local block captain check-in. The second way is stake emergency communication check-in. The goal of these check-ins is three fold:

  1. Learn how to carry out emergency communications and to whom.
  2. Show that you are not uncomfortable using the radio, its menus, etc.
  3. Show you are available with a radio, in case an emergency hits.

Block Captain Check-in
Block captains are an assignment by the community, but sponsored by the LDS church. The idea is that the LDS ward is broken up into blocks, and a block captain is called from each block, to oversee the immediate needs of that block in the event of an emergency. This assignment can be made to a member of the LDS church or to a non-member. The assignment is non-denominational, and should be supported by your city. Block captains are encouraged to be Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certified. This will allow the block captain to operate on behalf of the city if an emergency occurs.

Block captains should be familiar with all the neighbors in their assigned block. Each neighbor should know who their block captain is. A great way to facilitate this, is by having regular block parties. Each neighbor should have the block captain’s address and phone number(s), including other emergency contact information, such as community leaders and city resources.

At least once per month, the block captains should check in with each other on FRS radio. Typically, the stake will assign FRS channels to each ward in that stake. This will prevent interference with other wards during check-ins, and during emergencies. My ward, for example, is assigned FRS channel 5. Then, there would be a “net control operator” in charge of the check-in. His purpose would be to go down the list of assigned block captains, asking if they are present and to checking. Something like:

“Block captain one, please check-in.” (pause for block captain one to check-in)
“Block captain two, please check-in.” (pause for block captain two to check-in)

The net control operator should be keeping attendance of who is checking in, and that should be relayed to the called stake emergency communications chairperson.

Block captains checking in should be loosely aware of their blocks. Basically, knowing whether or not an emergency has hit that block. This is probably not the case, but they should be aware of such situations anyway, and likely will be should an emergency hit. Because FRS radios are cheap (they’re the standard “walkie talkies” you played with as a kid), there should be no reason why every block captain cannot get a radio. In fact, every family should have enough FRS raidos for their family to communicate with, in the event of an emergency.

When an emergency does hit, block captains don’t report back to the LDS church- that’s what home teachers are for. Instead, block captains report to their local amateur radio operator, if one is present. This local amateur radio operator will report to local civil authorities as needed. If a local amateur radio operator is not present, then the block captains need report to the city directly.

Amateur Radio Check-in
Not all emergencies, however, will be localized. An emergency may be very wide-spread, such as an earthquake or flood. Due to the limited nature of FRS, block captains can only carry their communications so far. As such, amateur radio operators should be able to check-in, and relay communications at much greater distances. Amateur radio operators should be in contact with their local block captains, but they should also be in contact with each other, regardless of location.

This is also sponsored by the LDS church, but again, it is designed to help out the community. Amateur radio check-ins should also be frequent, at least once per month. The scheduled “net”, as they are called, should also include and encourage non-member participation. Hams are generally very friendly, and love to socialize and talk on the radio, so this shouldn’t be difficult to encourage non-members to participate.

As with block captain check-ins, there will be a net control operator for the amateur radio check-in. Unlike block captains, this should be a call issues from the stake. Generally, this person will be called to the “stake emergency communications chair”, or something like that. This operator will oversee that the check-ins are done smoothly and timely, with little interference. It is important to understand that all though this is also sponsored by the church, the net control operator script should be non-denominational as much as possible, so as to not alienate non-members. The net control operator script could look something like this:

“This is AE7ST, net control operator. I will begin roll call for our weekly net now, sorted alphabetically by last name. Let’s begin with A-G. Is John Adamson, KZ7ZZZ present?” (pause waiting for KZ7ZZZ to check-in)
“Is Steve Baily, KY7YYY present?” (pause waiting for KY7YYY to check-in)
“Now moving to lastnames starting with H-M…”

Just like with the block captain net control operator, the amateur radio control operator should be keeping roll. Along with the block captain reports that come in frequently, this stake emergency communications chair should have a good idea of who is checking in regularly for each neighborhood. This will give an accurate picture of who can be relied on in the event of emergency communications.

The net meeting should be at least monthly, and can be either simplex, or take advantage of a repeater. Both come with their advantages and disadvantages, and it should be discussed among the other hams participating in the meeting. Advantages of simplex, are not needing to program your radio for offsets to talk to the repeater, and the ability to keep a repeater less crowded during an actual emergency. The big disadvantage is distance. If the stake is large, hams on one end may not be able to hear or communicate with hams at the other end. This is the big advantage of a repeater- if every ham can reach the repeater, then everyone can communicate cleanly.

In my stake, we have weekly amateur radio communications check-in. We chose 146.520 MHz as our simplex frequency to hold the net on. We hold the meeting every Sunday night at 21:00 local time. The net control operator will check-in hams by ward alphabetically (which I disagree with). He’s friendly, and will hold minor chit-chat with each ham as they check-in, asking about their week, and so forth. Currently, we do not have any training during the meeting. Each ham checks in, then general business is covered, and the net ends. The meeting lasts about 30 minutes.

A ward in my stake has monthly block captain check-ins. They are assigned FRS channel 2 by the stake, which is 462.58755 MHz with PL tone of 67 Hz. This meeting is every Fast Sunday at 20:00 local time. They have 18 block captains assigned, each with FRS radios, each checking in every month. Again, no training is held during the meeting, and general announcements are usually not discussed. Rather, check-ins are all that are processed, then delivered to the stake emergency communications chair. The meeting lasts about 10-15 minutes, depending on the speed of checking in the block captains.

Hopefully this gives you a rough idea of how emergency communications can be prepared for in your ward or stake, as well as family. Getting FRS radios are cheap. Getting amateur radio licensed might be difficult, but when you pass that barrier to entry, more frequencies and power are available for your transmissions, and you may be able to help in larger scale emergencies. However, it’s important to understand that although the LDS church sponsors these activities, these are community assignments, and reports should go to civil authorities. Home teachers in your ward are responsible for carrying information back to the Bishop who in turn relays it to the Stake President, etc.

Posted in Emergency Preparedness | Leave a comment

I Know I Am True

This is mostly a rant about the silly verbiage in our faith, and how it gets abused so badly, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Things like: “I took out my own endowment”. The endowment ceremony in the temple is not fast food. You don’t take it out. The endowment is a gift. Just like a wedding endowment. It’s something you receive, not something you take out and eat when you get home. Instead, it should be: “I have received my endowment”.

There’s other things like “In the name of thy Son Jesus Christ, amen” when bearing testimony. Are you bearing testimony to God the Father, or to us? If the latter, then it should just be “In the name of Jesus Christ, amen”. Of course, you “bear testimony”, not “bear your testimony”. “I bear testimony that …”, not “I bear my testimony that …”.

One that I don’t think many pay attention to is child blessings where the name is given. There is many faces to this. First, you start off by addressing your Heavenly Father, stating your intention to name and bless the child. Then, after doing so, the prayer should become a blessing. This means that when blessing the child, talk to the child as if they were actually listening to what you were saying. Don’t talk to God. You’re not blessing him. So, it starts as a prayer, then quickly becomes any other blessing. Second, GIVE the child a name. Don’t tell Heavenly Father what they will be known by on this earth and upon the records of the church. Actually take the time to GIVE the child a name. Something like “We take this child in our arms to give him/her a name and a blessing. And the name I give him/her is Adam Smith. Adam, at this time, we give you a blessing”. Even though the naming of a child is not an ordinance, it should be treated like one when speaking. The blessing is an actual gift, so give the child the name, then give the child a blessing.

However, the worst of verbiages in our religion is knowing that a physical object is true. We use it without thinking about it. “I know the Book of Mormon is true”. This probably doesn’t sound out of place to you, because you’ve heard it a thousand times. Yet, have you thought about it? Would you say “I know my computer is true”? Or, “I know this desk is true”? Of course not. That’s silly. Yet, we say it with straight faces with “heavenly nouns”. Well, it’s really strange, and people outside of our faith probably look at us with odd looks when we say “I know that the prophet is true”.

Probably what should be said is “I know the Book of Mormon teaches truth”, or “I know that the prophet will not lead us astray”, or “I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches fullness of the everlasting gospel”. See the difference? To say a noun is true, such as a physical object or person, means that the noun exists in physical space. Of course the Book of Mormon is true- it’s in your hand. Of course my desk is true- I’m typing on it. To say that a noun is false, is to say that it does not exist. Even then, it’s still very strange verbiage.

Of course, as members, we all know what you mean. You mean to say that the Book of Mormon contains truth. You mean to say that the LDS Church teaches truth. But, it’s strange to say that a physical object is true. Computers only do what they’re told; they are completely deterministic. So, one could say that computers always speak the truth. They certainly don’t lie or give you false information. They only give you what they were told to work on. So, you could say “I know computers are true”, but that’s strange.

I’m probably beating a dead horse, but it would be nice if we could clean up some of our verbiage. Maybe I’m being nit-picky or a bit silly. Maybe I should just put up with it, and let it go. We all talk silly in all walks of life. But then, I know that the English language is true. :)

Posted in Religion | Leave a comment

Not Always Inspired

This post might shock a few of you, but if you just sit and think about it, you’ll probably agree. Recently, I was having a discussion with my grandfather about inspiration and being in constant communication with the Holy Ghost. Surely, you can live your life in such a way, that if you ever want that inspiration, it’s there. But, does the Holy Ghost always inspire every action you make? No. Of course not. But, what about the prophet? Does everything the prophet do and say, inspired?

No. Of course not. Think about it. Is the prophet inspired by the Holy Ghost when he decides to have Cheerios in the morning for breakfast? Is the prophet inspired to talk to his secretary about something, instead of going straight to his office? What about when playing with his grandkids or great-grandkids? Was playing with the toy trains an inspired action? You could easily say that the Holy Ghost will only inspire you to do things that pertain to your salvation, and the prophet is no different. The Holy Ghost isn’t going to sit here, and tell the prophet every minute detail of every nanosecond of his life, what he should do.

Actions are one thing, but what about things he says? I have no doubt that the sermons he gives over the pulpit are inspired. I have no doubt that when counseling the church on matters of doctrine, he is inspired. But is everything that comes out of his mouth inspired? Surely, he won’t lead us astray. We’ve been told that. But, does the Holy Ghost need to babysit every verbal utterance? No, of course not. You can’t tell me it’s inspired when he tells his wife “I love you”. It’s romantic, sure. But inspired? Maybe habit. Or how about when he expresses his political opinions on things of government. Inspired? Maybe, actually. But, maybe not. The prophet can certainly have an opinion without the Holy Ghost. Of course he can. This doesn’t make him apostate or evil.

So, while I appreciate everything the prophet does for us, he’s not always inspired. The prophet is still human. He has his own personal opinions and attitudes that do not directly conflict the teachings of the LDS Church, and that’s okay. So, while I will certainly follow the prophet, this doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to question why I’m following a certain directive. You should question everything, actually, but I’ll save that for another post.

Posted in Holy Ghost, Prophets | Leave a comment

White Shirts

Recently, my wife and I had temple recommend interviews. We had our interviews with the bishopric Sunday, and with the stake presidency Tuesday night. When leaving the interview Sunday, we were told that if we are not in our Sunday best dress, we would be turned away.

So, in my interview with the stake presidency, I was wearing a light blue shirt and tie, with khaki slacks. After the interview concluded, I was told that “the brethren have told us to remind all priesthood bearers to wear white shirts at their temple recommend interview”. A white shirt? Seriously? Will I be turned away if I am not in a white shirt? Will I be prevented from attending the temple, because I cannot renew my temple recommend, because I was not in a white shirt at the interview??

Now, in my opinion, that is an abuse of authority. My worthiness to attend the temple does not have any bearing on how I am dressed in the interview. It only has to do with how I answer the questions in the interview itself, of which pornography is not specifically listed.

This is not the first time in this stake that I have been told I would be turned away, if I am not dressed according to the standards of my local leadership, and wearing a white shirt. I have been called as a teacher in elder’s quorum. During January, I wore a formal chinese shirt to church to celebrate Chinese New Year beginning Monday. It also happened to be the day I was teaching my lesson. Of course, I explained to the quorum why I was wearing such a shirt, and that I like to show my outward expressions of celebrating other cultures. Well, I guess a counselor in the elder’s quorum presidency was not happy with me.

A few weeks later, I had my PPI with this elder’s quorum counselor. At first, it started well. Then, the questions started getting weird:

Do you say individual prayers every morning?
Do you say individual prayers every evening.
Do you say family prayers every day?
Do you pray before your meals?
Do you read your scriptures every day individually?
Do you read your scriptures every day with your family?
Are you having weekly family home evening?

This line of questioning went on and on for about 15 minutes. I thought it was strange, personally, but I guess this is a personal priesthood interview. Maybe this is how they are supposed to go. When I served in the elder’s quorum presidency, I certainly didn’t handle them this way. I was more interested in how the elder was coming along in general with his family, and how the families he home teaches were doing. My interviews never went longer than 10 minutes, if I could help it.

This interview went approached an hour.

After the line of questioning, I was then told that our previous stake president, who has since been released, issued a line of rules that all members of the stake needed to follow. Some of these rules were:

  1. No drinking caffeine.
  2. No watching television when you travel.
  3. You must be in Sunday best dress attending temple recommend interviews.

The list went on. He began to tell me this list contained some 30-45 items of things we were expected to follow as members of the stake. I thought it strange that the stake would be so anal retentive on rules and regulations. So far, the interview wasn’t going well. It was just strange. Then, in my opinion, it took a turn for the worse.

He started getting nervous. His voice was shaky, palms were sweating and he was avoiding eye contact. He was about to tell me something that he didn’t want to, but had to. What could it be? It turns out, by me wearing a chinese formal shirt to church, to celebrate Chinese New Year, this caused quite the ruckus with the quorum presidency, and likely the bishopric. In my interview, I was told that when I am teaching, I must be in a white shirt and tie. I am not allowed to wear any other shirt. While he appreciated my celebrating another culture, if I were to show up to church without a white shirt, on the day I was to teach, I would be turned away, and told to go home and change before I can come back.

Needless to say, I was offended. I was upset. Now, for the first time in my life, I understood what it must feel like to to leave the church because someone offended you on your choice of clothing. As odd as it sounds, if I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I would have turned away. I would remain home, and not attend church for some time. However, I have a testimony of the truths taught in this church, and I have too much respect for my family to not set an example for them. But I felt that pain.

What is it with white shirts and our church? I understand the symbolism, and I can accept that when performing ordinances. But, attending meetings or interviews? I thought the important thing about the Gospel of Jesus Christ was just that- the gospel. Last I checked, white shirts weren’t part of that gospel. Unless, of course, we’ve gone back to living the Law of Moses. Now, I understand the need for best dress on Sunday. I even understand why missionaries and positions of leadership are asked to wear white shirts. But, I don’t understand it for the general population.

What is it about white shirts that is so important? Why will I be turned away from teaching a lesson if I am not in a white shirt? Why will I be denied renewing my temple recommend if I am not in a white shirt? I’m not trying to kick against the pricks, I just don’t understand the importance of white shirts. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Posted in Religion | 1 Comment

Rated R Movies

Recently, I got in a discussion with my family about R-rated movies. It seemed to be unanimous in this discussion that it is LDS doctrine that you do not watch R-rated movies. Doing so could jeopardize your eternal standing with your Heavenly Father, and your ability to become exalted. Yet, it’s not asked in the temple interview questions. It’s not in any youth pamphlets, gospel doctrine books, sunday school manuals, or any other literature produced by the LDS Church. So, I raised my skepticism that this seems to be a Mormon-living-in-Utah-culture thing, like not having the ability to drink caffeine, although that seems to be less of an issue than watching R-rated movies.

Now, to be clear, I take no reservation against those who have made it a personal decision to not watch R-rated movies. An old friend of mine does not watch any rating higher that PG in his family. I commend him for his decision. No, my issue is with the judgement of those in Utah, who think to themselves that you are lesser than they, because you watch R-rated movies. So, I set out to set the record straight. What exactly is the LDS Church’s position on watching R-rated movies? Turns out, there isn’t one.

On one occasion in 1986, President Ezra Taft Benson, while addressing the youth of the church, made a reference to watching R-rated movies. His talk is titled “To the ‘Youth of the Noble Birthright'”. Taken in full context, here is what he said:

Young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, remember the scriptural injunction “Be ye clean who bear the vessels of the Lord.” (3 Ne. 20:41; D&C 38:42; see also Isa. 52:11.) Remember the story of Joseph in Egypt, who hearkened not to the wife of Potiphar and maintained his purity and virtue. (See Gen. 39:6–20.)

Consider carefully the words of the prophet Alma to his errant son, Corianton, “Forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes.” (Alma 39:9.)

“The lusts of your eyes.” In our day, what does that expression mean?

Movies, television programs, and video recordings that are both suggestive and lewd.

Magazines and books that are obscene and pornographic.

We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading.

It seems very clear to me, that the edict for the youth to not watch R-rated movies has a purpose: to not “participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic”. In fact, a great deal of that sermon is for the youth to pay special attention to the distractions of life, and to “not pollute your minds with such degrading matter”. It’s a clear warning shot to the youth, to understand what sort of world they live in, how impressionable they are, and how to counteract it.

There is no edict to abstain from watching all R-rated movies to the general population of the LDS Church.

Now, one could argue that many R-rated films contain this sleaze and filth, to which I agree. I would even agree that it is more likely you will find this filth and sleaze in an R-rated movie, than a PG-13. However, I would also argue that President Bensen would put PG-13 movies in that category as well. Today, we have the Internet in its full glory. The Internet doesn’t have a rating, yet it is trivial for youth to search out this sleaze and filth. Should we as an LDS Church avoid the Internet, because it is not rated (NR)?

Leaders of the LDS Church have made it very clear where they stand with regards to moral cleanliness. Pornography, masturbation, adultery, fornication, immodesty, suggestive entertainment, etc. has all been very clearly communicated over the pulpit. But R-rated movies? It’s just not there.

Posted in Politics, Religion | 4 Comments

Temple Recommend Interview Questions

I recently just had my temple recommend interview with a member of the bishopric. I’ve been in these many times before. So, after being asked if I lived the law of chastity, you can imagine my surprise when I heard the following question:

In the past two years, have you viewed any pornography?

I’m sure I had a confused look on my face.

No, but why do you ask? I just told you I live the law of chastity.

In my opinion, this is an abuse of position. According to Elder Dallin H. Oaks, in the 2005 General Conference had this to say about pornography being raised in the interview:

Some have suggested that pornography should be a separate question in the temple recommend interview. It is already. At least five different questions should elicit a confession and discussion on this subject if the person being interviewed has the spiritual sensitivity and honesty we expect of those who worship in the house of the Lord.

This seems to be a direct call to bishoprics and stake presidencies worldwide to not worry about it. Don’t ask it. It’s already in the interview in at least 5 different questions. And, the counselor was not inspired to ask the question. Turns out, he asks that question to everyone. My wife received the question, and I learned of others in the ward who had been asked that as well.

This is not a new interview question. It’s not in the handbook. This is a result of President Gordon B. Hinckley raising awareness for the issue many times in General Conference and other meetings in the LDS Church. I have had bishoprics clarify that the Law of Chastity includes not entertaining pornography, as well as masturbation, but never has it been raised as a separate question. It seems that stakes and wards are taking it in their own hands to determine what should be asked in the interview. It’s one thing to be led by the Holy Spirit. It’s another to make up your own questions.

Posted in Temple | 1 Comment

Back From Haiatus

It’s been 5 years since I’ve blogged here, and during much of that time, this blog has been offline. There were some reasons for that, namely that the DB got corrupted, and I wasn’t motivated at that time to fix it. However, I’ve got it repaired, and got everything back online.

The motivation for bringing the site back up was the recent news that Harold Camping has been making regarding The Rapture. I would like to provide commentary on what an LDS member thinks of this situation, and what the doctrine of the LDS Church is. Those posts will be coming up in the next few days.

Anyway, for those astute readers who still have my feed in your RSS reader, I’m back!

Posted in Mission of the Church | Leave a comment

A Lofty Aspiration

My wife and I have decided that we are going to read the ENTIRE Standard Works by the end of the year. This means, the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price in that order.

We started about 6-8 weeks ago, and we have not been 100% faithful in keeping that goal. However, it is only 11 pages per day. Just reading out loud, it takes about 30 minutes. Not too bad.

Why do this? Last year, President Gordon B. Hinkley challenged everyone to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. We did not do it, so have decided to take it a step further this year by reading everything cover to cover. We’ll make it.

The best part? As I am going along, I am putting a small checkmark in red ink to every reference to Jesus Christ, keeping running totals by chapter and book. Ultimately, I would like to see what the final count is once we finish. These references include nouns, pronouns, symbols and metaphors both in the first, second and third persons.

Right now, I should be at Judges chapter 1, but rather, I am at Numbers chapter 1. So I am a little behind. I’ll catch up.

Posted in The Scriptures | 1 Comment

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Guess what came in the mail today? After almost 8 months of waiting, I finally received my Qur’an. I cannot believe it. I had completely forgotten about it. Well, maybe not completely forgotten, but given up definitely

You should see it. You should feel it and heft it. It is beautiful. It is trully a marvelous book. Even if I don’t agree with it’s teachings 100%, I will trully cherish this book.

The book is nearly 3 inches thick. It has a georgous cover with full color glossy pages. Looking through the book, it is extensive. The prologue, foreward and first 20 or so pages cover the meaning of the Qur’an, a little bit about its translation, and such. The most impressive part of the book however, aside from the message, is the extensive amount at which the publisher tries to get the reader to understand how to pronounce the Arabic vowels and consanants.  Included with the book are a letter from CAIR and a bookmark with an Arabic vowel and consanant pronunciation guide.

I would like to type what came from the letter.

“This is a book that We have revealed to you (Prophet Muhammad) so that you may lead mankind out of the depths of darkness into the light.” (The Holy Quran, 14:1)


Thank you for requesting your copy of the Holy Quran, Islam’s revealed text.  This is an important step toward understanding and coming to appreciate the universal teachings of Islam.

I hope you will take the earliest opportnity to read its verses and reflect on their meaning, thus doing your part to promote mutual understanding and tolerance of religious diversity in America.

As you may know, Muslims regard the Quran as the inerrant Word of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh centure CE.  Coveyed by the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad in Arabic, the word “Quran” itself means “recitation.”

Translations of the Quran are an approximation of the Arabic revelation, though the larger themes of monotheism, justice and brotherhood transcend the limitations of language.

Muslims are taught from an early age to treat the Quran with great care and respect.  For example, Muslims avoid placing the Quran on the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or in dirty or wet areas, as this is considered inappropriate treatment of a holy text.

Many Muslims hold the Quran by taking it in both hands as one would a valuable piece of art and keep themselves in a state of ritual purity, washing before opening the holy book.

Just as Muslims are expected to treat the religious texts of others with the utmost respect and courtesy, so too do we hope that you will take the information above into consideration when handling the Holy Quran.

I hope you find your Quran both educational and spiritually uplifting.  Congratulations on doing your part to encourage greater interfaith understanding and mutual respect at this crucial time in our nation’s history.  If you have any questions about handling the Quran, call CAIR at 202-488-8787, or email

Nihad Awad
Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations

CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 31 offices and chaperts nationwide and in Canada.  Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Well, I am excited.  Not only to read the holy text, but to talk about it with friends and family.  I am most certainly not questioning my testimony in the LDS Church, but rather, looking at expanding my cultural and religious knowledge.

When serving my mission in Toronto, Canada, the most warm and inviting people were those of the Muslim faith.  They were always willing to invite us into their homes and feed us.  Heck, we had more “dinner appointments” with Muslims than members of our own church! :)  In fact, while serving, I received a paperback Qur’an.  I have studied much of it, and have enjoyed what I read.

Anyway, I hope that other LDS members, and Christians in general, can also expand their religious and cultural paradigms.  Just because we belong to one faith does not mean we cannot be elightened by another.

Posted in Religion | 1 Comment