By Study and Also By Faith

An LDS (Mormon) blog representing a search for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Political Landscape, Part 2

Here are three political websites that might give you some information and insight. If you know of a good political website, feel free to post a comment and link to it. It doesn't matter to me if it is "liberal" or "moderate" or "conservative" as long as you feel it provides information or commentary that could be useful to a voter who is trying to become more educated about the issues.

Jewish World Review

Fact Check

Orson Scott Card's Political Website

JWR is conservative leaning, but not 100% so, and it offers some thoughtful commentary. Fact Check, though new to me, appears to be nonpartisan. The Ornery American, OSC's site, has commentary and forums for discussion.

My theory is that the more educated a voter is, the better off we all are.


Sunday, October 24, 2004

A Few Health-Related Websites

In connection with my previous post ("Same Song, Different Verse"), I thought I'd put up a few websites to get you started and let you see some of what's out there. You can also find lots of material at the library, so you can do quite a bit of research without having to spend a lot of money. National Institutes of Health A site debunking myths A medical site that lets you look up various symptoms, conditions, etc. Website of the health magazine

Do a search on any particular condition you want to learn more about. They may have a national organization providing information. Also, look for sites with forums--you can then discuss the condition with others who have it or who have a loved one with it. This can help with information and support, both.

There are all sorts of websites, books, magazines, etc. You can figure out which ones seem sensible and reliable. I am just starting this myself and would advise you what I advise myself--use more than one source! This will help you confirm what's true or false and help you decide which sources are best.

I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. All I want to do is encourage you to learn what you can about your health and take an active role in getting healthy and staying healthy. After all, managing our bodies is a stewardship.


Same Song, Different Verse

Yesterday I commented on all the personal study we need to do in order to become informed, intelligent voters. That got me to thinking about how we need to do the same thing with our health. There is so much information out there, in newspapers and magazines and on the internet, not to mention television and books. Some is true, some is false, and some is a mix of the two.

It is easy to think that we can just let our doctors take care of us and tell us what we need to do. The truth is that our doctors, however good they may be, have a number of patients and a lot of medical information to keep up with. They do not have time to study each one of us and each of our conditions in depth. They do the best they can, but it is up to us to be in charge of our own health care.

The scriptures call our bodies temples. They are a gift from God and we need to learn to care for them and to master them. Our bodies can be like children--they want the ice cream, the chocolate, the sitting around doing nothing. Our spirits need to be the adults and learn what we should do and then guide our bodies to doing those right things. And our bodies are capable of learning to prefer those good things.

Thanks to the internet and other media sources, we have access to everything from general information to technical studies. We should take the responsibility to study nutrition and exercise (and I am preaching to myself here!) and find out what would be best for us. I don't for a moment suggest that we chuck our doctors and our prescriptions, but we can discuss options with the doctor and make gradual changes that can improve our health. One example would be arthritis. It hurts to move, but exercise is one of the best treatments for arthritis pain and stiffness. So we can talk to the doctor about what exercise would be good for our particular needs and how to get started with it.

Another thing we need to deal with is our desire for instant gratification. We want to lose 100 pounds overnight. We want to be able to run a marathon the first day we start jogging. Those things aren't going to happen and wouldn't be healthy if they did. One thing that helps me is to think in terms of nutrition rather than diet, which has a negative connotation of strict regimen and deprivation. Also, good nutrition isn't just about losing weight. It is about getting the nutrients we need so that all our bodily systems are functioning right. Think in terms of lifestyle changes, rather than brief forays into fad diets and other strict, but temporary, changes. Learn what nutrients you need for proper functioning of the brain, the heart, the lungs, the circulatory system. Learn what kinds of exercise give the benefits you need and how they affect the entire body. Learn what sleep, or the lack thereof, can do to those systems.

There can be just as much hyperbole about natural treatments and cures as there is about prescription drugs and surgery. Spend some time here and there learning. Use common sense. Make gradual changes, not abrupt ones. Consult with your doctor. Just as with politics and any other topic we are confronted with, it is up to us.

Why be concerned about our health? So we can live effective lives and do those things that God would have us do. How can we give and serve if we don't have the strength or energy to do so? How can we live the gospel if we are too depressed to function? How can we enjoy our families and friends if we are too heavy to move? How can we learn if our brains are not working right? I could go on and on, but you can see what I mean. Health is just as important as gospel study and education and political savvy. It is just as important as our social development and character growth. It is basically what allows us to do all those other things.

See? I told you I would be commenting on a lot of different subjects! But do think about this. D & C 59 and 89, not to mention other scriptures and statements by various prophets, tell us that God places importance on caring for ourselves properly. It isn't selfish to take care of one of the gifts that our Heavenly Father has given us. We shouldn't obsess about it, but neither should we obsess about anything else. Think moderation. Think balance. Think common sense. Pray about it. Our Heavenly Father really does want us to come to Him with all our cares and concerns. I am not a health nut and I need to do all the things I have been talking about here, but I think it is an important topic and I do not believe that we have to wait until we are perfect in some area before we can share our thoughts and knowledge about that area. One of the purposes of my blog is to help others with insights that might prove to be just the thing someone needed to hear. And so I share, imperfect though I am.

A toast (juice or water!): Here's to our good health and our common sense!


Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Political Landscape

It is definitely the political season. I confess I am sometimes overwhelmed and confused. There is so much information out there anymore (newspapers, ads, the internet), some true and some false. Among the false info, there is mistaken information and there are out and out lies. My job is to sort it all out and make an informed decision.

I do hope people will get out and vote, but I hope all the voters are making an effort to educate themselves, not just about the Presidential election, but about all the state and local races and issues as well.

In Oklahoma we have a number of state questions that will be on the ballot. I found them at the election board website and printed them off so I could read them carefully and think about them. Political ads were good for letting me know that there are state questions, but the ads aren't that much good for making an informed decision. Each side has their own interpretation. Also, there is a particularly nasty senate race going on here. Both sides are slinging mud like there was no tomorrow. A local news program did a story about how 19% of the voters don't want to vote for either candidate now. They are so disgusted with the negativity. I don't blame them, but I want to vote for a candidate, so it is a matter of sorting out what is true. It is almost a full-time job just to inform oneself to vote! Still, we need to do what we can.

I will be glad when 2 November has come and gone, though.


Saturday, October 16, 2004

Another Dr. Nibley Piece

I have come across another article by Dr. Nibley that I found intriguing. This one is called "Apocryphal Writings and Teachings of the Dead Sea Scrolls." I have linked to where it is online at FARMS.

First, Dr. Nibley talks about how many discoveries of ancient documents have been made just since World War II. Examples include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi library, and the Manichaean discovery. He names a number of others as well.

One of the things that really caught my attention was what he had to say about how these writings had been "buried with the expectation of being received by a later generation." He talks about how they were sealed in jars and buried and all, making it clear that those burying them were not expecting to come back a short time later and retrieve them. True, the writings weren't engraved on metal plates, but they were preserved as well as could be and we do have them now, though not in perfect condition.

The article itself is a fine read. I found myself feeling a little overwhelmed as I read what Dr. N. had to say about the creation, referring often to the documents mentioned above. I thought about how little we really know about what it means for our Heavenly Father to be God--how much He has to know, how much He has to do. I felt a sense of near vertigo as I read of Abraham being shown the stars in the Apocalypse of Abraham. It reminded me of the pictures the Hubble telescope has sent back. Impressive.

The last part of this article talks a great deal about ordinances, including temple ordinances, and quotes from many of these newly discovered writings. That, too, was fascinating reading.

I enjoyed Dr. N.'s listing of the names of the writings he was refering to and thus giving me a list of writings to seek out. I do feel that this sort of "extracurricular" reading is best done by those who have a good grasp of what the gospel is and what it means. As the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith, referring to the Apocrypha, in D & C 91:4-5: "Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth; and whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom...."

It is a wondrous thing to read many things on many topics and see how they begin to connect.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Reading Dr. Nibley

I have a lot of reading to do to catch up with many of you as far as reading Dr. Hugh Nibley's work is concerned. Still, I can't say I'm too unhappy about that! It is interesting reading and I am learning all sorts of new things. Perhaps I appreciate it more now than I would have when I was younger. He writes interesting pieces and refers to other books and authors and topics that can be researched further.

One recent article that gave me a very different perspective on early Christianity was "The Passing of the Primitive Church: Forty Variations on an Unpopular Theme." I had never considered before reading this piece that the early church, that Jesus Christ had established, did not expect to survive, and that their references to 'the end' might be to the Great Apostasy rather than to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Dr. Nibley comments on a number of things in this piece, including ways the church members acted and spoke and what it indicated about their expectations for the future. For example, they did not refer to the church "as a lusty infant but as an old and failing woman." Why? Because they knew it would not survive for long.

In fact, as Dr. Nibley puts it, "Church history seems to be resolved never to raise the fundamental question of survival as the only way of avoiding a disastrous answer, and the normal reaction to the question—did the church remain on earth?—has not been serious inquiry in a richly documented field, but shocked recoil from the edge of an abyss into which few can look without a shudder." After all, if later church leaders wished to show direct links with the early church, they would want to avoid any consideration of this possibility at all.

This is an interesting article, even if its contents are not new ideas to you as they were to me. The article appears in Volume 4 of Dr. Nibley's collected works, Mormonism and Early Christianity. It is also on the FARMS website, which I have linked above. I have the 1999 version of GospeLink and it is on those CDs as well, if you happen to have them (and I expect it is on any later versions, as well). Since I have become so interested in early Christianity, I will be reading the entire contents of that volume as I can. Too bad I have to go to work and lead a normal life, too! It cuts into my reading time.

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Monday, October 11, 2004

Heroes: Some Early Morning Thoughts

Although I am not one to be a fan of celebrities and I don't recall ever seeing anything he acted in, I was saddened to learn of the death of Christopher Reeve. He overcame a devastating injury and its resultant paralysis to create a new life for himself. He had dark moments, I have read, but he did not give into them. He and his wife, Dana (another hero), persisted not only in physical therapy, but in getting out there and speaking, acting, directing, helping others.

Helen Keller came to mind this morning, as well. She was blind and deaf from an early age, but, with the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan (also a hero), she created a fine life, an exemplary life for herself. She wrote, she traveled, she spoke, she served.

As I think of these, I think also of the quiet heroes many of us know--the friends, the relatives, the neighbors--who also persist in spite of trials and afflictions, sometimes devastating. And there is no shame in getting help. Christopher Reeve had his Dana, Helen Keller had her Anne Sullivan. We all have God.

To me, these are true heroes, people who persisted and overcame and set a wonderful example for us all. They show us what true courage is.

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Saturday, October 09, 2004

Early Christian History

A friend recently introduced me to the fascination of early Christian history. Before that, my focus had been on medieval history with occasional forays into America's colonial history and other time periods. I had previously had a vague idea that the earliest Christians were a homogeneous group, believing the same things, teaching the same things. Now I am learning that they were as varied a group as you can imagine.

Early Christians were converts. They brought their previous beliefs and notions with them into their new religion. It colored their interpretation of this new gospel they had accepted. Toward the end of the first century and later, there began to appear many writings. Some of these were by Jesus' Apostles, some were by other Christians. Not everyone wrote under his own name, either. As time passed, these writings were copied and recopied. They were edited, sometimes unintentionally by those doing the copying, sometimes intentionally by those who wanted to make the teachings more compatible with their own views. These writings were all separate, not bound together in books, so some Christians had some teachings and other Christians had other teachings. After a considerable amount of time and much discussion and debate, we ended up with the canon of scripture that we now have in the Bible, but with the Apocrypha and other writings still available.

I find that learning about all this, plus all the histories and commentaries that were written then and still being written today, is what you might call a mind-boggling pleasure. One recent book that discusses these topics is
Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew by Bart D. Ehrman. In it, Bart D. Ehrman discusses discoveries, deceptions, forgeries, and the various beliefs of various groups of Christians. He speculates some on what might have been the result if a Christian group with different views and different sacred writings had prevailed. It makes for fascinating reading.

I am delving into all of this a little at a time and plan to post bits and pieces of what I learn as I go along. I am still very interested in medieval history and that will figure in some posts as well. The more I think about it, the less inclined I am to focus my blog on any particular subject. The whole world is just too intriguing!

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Friday, October 08, 2004

A Few Comments on History

History is one of my favorite subjects for study. It brings to life people and events of the past. We can learn, too, by their examples, both good and bad. We can see that Action A brings Consequence B. We can see that Choice C eliminates the possiblity of Choice D and think about which is better.

Reading history is an excellent exercise for the mind. Not only do we have a panorama of activity spread before us, but we must sort out truth from error. Every person who writes history must choose which people and events to highlight and which to downplay or even ignore. They have their personal biases, at least on a subconcious level, and those enter in to their selection of what to write about and how to present it. As readers, we have our own biases as well. So, whether the writer merely has personal biases, perhaps subconcious, or whether he has an agenda, we have a job to do as we study.

One of the most important things we can do is read history from a variety of sources. We can read finely focused monographs and we can read volumes describing entire eras. We can read different authors describing the same events. We can seek primary sources to go with the secondary sources we are studying. Most of all, we can think through what we are learning and where it is taking us. We can ask questions of the author in our minds and look for his answers in his writing. We can evaluate events and their consequences. Learning history can give us a great deal of insight into the human condition.


Thursday, October 07, 2004

Try Some Other Blogs as Well

For anyone who is browsing through the blogs, let me direct you to three others written by my friends, one of which has links to still more blogs. Enjoy!


Let Us Reason (includes links to other blogs)



Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom

I consider knowledge, understanding, and wisdom to be a set of three steps leading onward and upward.

First, you have knowledge, the accumulation of facts and figures, if you will. It answers the who, what, when, and where questions.

Second, you have understanding wherein you move past the basics into the intermediate and begin to fit those facts and figures together to answer the how and why questions.

Third, you have wisdom wherein you get into the advanced and answer deeper how and why questions. You put what you know into action. You apply it to solve problems, to live a better life. You pass the routine and get into the creative.

I see this three-step process at work elsewhere. Granted these are somewhat arbitrary assignments of meaning and not all original, but it helps me understand and it helps me see accomplishment as possible.

Take self-discipline, self-control, and self-mastery. In the first, you gain control over your actions, doing those things you need to do whether you feel like it or not, and not doing those things that would be wrong, at least at the moment (saving play until the work is done). Moving on to self-control, you bridle your words, as well as the deeds of self-discipline. Then in self-mastery, you control your thoughts and get past the patient building of habit into the producing and creating of your life.

Thoughts, words, and deeds also make a three-step process. Thoughts lead to words lead to deeds. They work from the inside out and the self-discipline trio untangles them from the outside in.

Faith, hope, and charity can also be viewed in a similar way. The reason I have been pondering these "threes" is to understand them better and to use them better. Dividing them up helps to see possibilities and to set goals, leading to improvement and accomplishment.

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I have recently been reading the blogs of some friends and have become interested in blogging. At the moment, I don't have a narrow focus for my blog. That may come later. For now, I am going to be commenting on any number of things and writing about my efforts to improve my mind. Those efforts will, I hope, lead to an improvement of my life.

My faith and interests color my perceptions and I seek to sort out what is true among my many thoughts and impressions. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Perhaps. But we always have to try, and it is in the trying that we grow and learn and become educated in the truest sense of the word.

I look forward to comments from readers as I write in the days and weeks ahead.

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