Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Perceiving God

So, a friend and I are working on a book that we will be calling "Perceiving God". We will be dealing with the issues of how we understand God--his nature, purpose, and our relationship to him. We wish to examine through a multitude of lenses how we can come to know God. We are hoping for responses from others on how they "perceive God" and so I invite any that are still reading, following, or happen to have this blog in their feed to reply in the comments with their thoughts on God. Some questions you might ask are:

Who is God?
What is my relationship to God?
How do I find God?
How am I influenced by God?

These are just a few, but you may write about any aspect of God you choose and are not limited to these questions. You can express this also through any medium you'd like (i/e., answers, story, poem, essay, etc.).

Thank you for you help!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Why it is important that I support Gay Rights

This is something that I have felt strongly about since the 2004 election, (my first time voting), where, (to my eternal shame) I voted for Bush, however, I opposed the proposition that homosexual partners should not be allowed to get married. This seems like common sense to me. Sure, at the time I had not given it much thought to how it would incorporate into my religious views, but I did not see how it could go against them, either, because of some simple truths I firmly believed in.

1. We are all Gods children and he loves us
2. Regardless of religious beliefs we should not force those who believe differently to adhere to our belief systems.
3. All people should have the same and equal privileges regardless or race, religion, or sexual preference.
4. This is not a religious issue. (Maybe the method of how they are married, but not the actual union of two people who love each other and the rights grated at such a union).

Now, 8 years later, I still believe those same things, but more fully, with greater conviction and greater understanding. When you get down to the heart of the matter, it isn't about what religion you belong to, how you feel about statistics dealing with homosexuals and sex or AIDS, but it comes down to freedom, acceptance and love.

What does freedom mean to you? How far are we to believe in freedom? I definitely think there are boundaries. Anarchy seems pretty ridiculous to me. But what about basic rights. Rights to live and love and make the best of our lives and the lives around us? Should those be given to anyone who wishes them? I definitely think so.

But why is it important that I support it? Actively support it, I mean. Well, I think that it is one thing to have homosexual individuals to fight for their rights. We saw this in the civil rights movement. However, it is important that people understand that there are many people, many heterosexual people (like myself) who are standing up for other peoples rights. During the civil rights movements there were many white people who marched with those blacks who were fighting hard for their rights. We need friendly relations, between those who have different views. A catalyst, if you will.

I talk about this with everyone and have no shame in it. I SUPPORT GAY MARRIAGE. Everyone needs to know it, and those who agree need to proclaim it along with me. And those who don't are more likely to listen to someone who is straight. I wish it wasn't that way, but it is. When I talk about it, and people understand that I am married to a beautiful woman and have two wonderful kids, it forces them to question why someone, who it would not really effect, would be so adamant about it; someone who is a Mormon and who loves their God would go against the general Mormon thought and proclaim that Gay's and Lesbians should be married. And if you ask me, I will tell you my opinions on the churches general standing. And I will tell you how those who say we should fight against it are wrong. Because they are wrong.

And when you find your way through all of the haze and confusion of religious influence on this issue, and realize that that is not the important part of the issue, and understand that we cannot base our country on religious beliefs but on moral and ethical guidance and action, you will see that all people should be able to marry and have the same rights, regardless of their race, religion, beliefs or sexual orientation.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Is there a need for a God who intervenes?

As Mormons, I think that we have a very unique view of the nature of God. It is different. It is unlike any other that I know of. It is a uniqueness that answers otherwise difficult questions. And I'm not talking about "who am I," "why am I here," and "where am I going." These have answers. Most people understand these answers no matter what religion or personal belief system they have. They may not have it exactly right, but I think they can grasp it easily enough. But what about harder questions?

One of the hardest, I feel, is the question of Evil. Why is there evil in the world. I think, at times, even Mormons have a hard time with this one. Because there is no reason, (when it comes to Gods relationship to it) to have evil. It is not the only way in which we learn or grow, and often times people  don't get the message or lesson. So why do we have it?

I never really though about it until a few years ago, after hearing a talk by Tom Honey. Because his ultimate answer followed what we believe, (or what we should be believing, I think) as Mormons:

“When I stood up to speak to my people about God and the tsunami, I had no answers to offer them. No neat packages of faith with Bible references to prove them. Only doubts and questions and uncertainty. I had some suggestions to make – possible new ways of thinking about God. Ways that might allow us to go on, down a new and uncharted road. But in the end the only thing I could say for sure was I don’t know, and that might just be the most profoundly religious statement of all.”
“But what if God doesn’t act? What if God doesn’t do things at all? What if God is in things? The loving soul of the universe. An indwelling, compassionate presence, underpinning and sustaining all things. …In the infinitely complex network of relationships and connections that make up life. In the natural cycle of life and death, the creation and destruction that happen continuously. In the process of evolution. In the incredible intricacy and magnificence of the natural world In the collective unconscious, the soul of the human race. In you and me, mind and body and spirit, in the tsunami, in the victims. In the depth of things. In presence and in absence. In simplicity and complexity, in change and development and growth. 
This is a key idea. While we don't believe in God being an entity, or the representation of empathy, nature and everything, there is room in our gospel for the idea that God does not act. But there are obvious reasons for this that maybe get passed by in our general thinking or view of our religion. So lets think about it.

Why would God not act? First, there are a few key beliefs that need to be understood. All of these beliefs can be housed under the term "complexities". What if, God worked through complexities? What would this bring about? It would give creation. A creation that is ongoing and old. It would give room for scientific theories. The age of the universe, evolution, these things can be explained as part of this question of evil.

So why is there evil? Because if God stopped one act of evil; if he intervened on the behalf of one innocent child trapped in a trunk, one father stuck in a car during a hurricane, he would be accountable for saving everyone. God cannot show favoritism. God cannot say to one person you deserve life and you do not. We are all his children with an equal amount of love. And so he does not do anything. He lets things take their course and guides and persuades us to a better life style. And if anyone is willing to listen than anyone can hear what he has to say. He has methods of sharing this. Methods we know.

We have freewill. We have our agency. And, for me, that means that there cannot be any direct interference with my choices by God. They are mine. But he can help me to understand choice and consequence in which my decisions can be affected.

There is another reason why he wouldn't step in. One that is at the root of our doctrine. It is what we have faith in. It gives us hope and purpose. It is the condescension of God, "the one," Eugene England says eloquently, "who does not look down in judgment upon us from a physical and moral distance but who literally descends with us into moral pain and suffering and sickness." Because of the atonement, there is no need for a God who intervenes. Only one who understands what we are going through and provides perfect empathy for our benefit and the chance to learn, grow and progress through this life and anything after.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An Obligation to the Environment : On Climate Change

In recent years the arguments for and against climate change, or global warming have grown, escalating into a hot topic. It is a debate on whether or not the globe is heating because of human interaction and carbon dioxide levels. But on no front has this argument been so widely fought against than within the confines of religion. Much like the debate over evolution, the argument seems to be stemmed from a disbelief, or and unwillingness to acknowledge certain aspects of science. Where scientific proof shows one way of acceptance towards a subject, many within religion feel that it goes against their own personal beliefs. I argue that global warming, (and by extension, science) can fit and work with religion and that it is the moral obligation of Christians, and even all religions to, if not only believe in climate change, make active steps to help reduce humanities effects on the planet.

It would seem, however, that one must first have an understanding of global warming in order to understand the debates and misunderstandings that continually arise. I wish to briefly describe how it is that science can show that climate change is indeed happening at an exponential rate, and how we can see that it is human caused rather than by the Earths natural cycles. I feel it is important to understand the topic for as Aldo Leopold said, “ We can only be ethical in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in.”1

There is a simple method to see what CO2 levels were throughout Earths history. In glaciers we can take samples of air which have been trapped in the ice, (air bubbles). With these we can measure the amount of CO2 in the air at the time the bubble was formed. We can see rises and falls from roughly 150-280 ppmv (parts per million by volume) CO2, spanning 400 thousand years. The trend being a change every 50 thousand years. This change greatly depends on the Earths orbit. The orbit of our planet fluctuates, as well as pivots on its axis much like a top, causing the earths temperature to rise and fall, thus giving us ice-ages and warm periods: low amounts of CO2 create a cooling, and give us an ice-age, and the opposite happens with high measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, since the industrial revolution the level of CO2 has gone from the average of 280 up to 360-380 ppmv. An unprecedented amount. Again, the more CO2 the more heat, with an average temperature raising anywhere from 1.5C to 4C each time the carbon dioxide levels double.2

However, there is still doubt that this increase is caused by human interaction by those that are skeptic of climate change or even science and the scientific method. And so, how does science show that it is human caused? We can record the types of CO2 in the atmosphere. There are three major CO2 bases we record: 4CO2, 13/12CO2, 14CO2. CO2 base 13/12 comes from very old and dead plants. CO2 base 14 comes from volcanoes, etc. CO2 base 4 comes from newer plants. We can see that in our atmosphere there is mostly high concentrations of 12/13CO2. This comes from fossil fuels, or very old plants and shows not only is there much, much more CO2 in the atmosphere than any other time in the Earths history, but that it is human caused3

Again, it seems that, regardless of how you feel about the subject, the issue of global warming is very strongly tied to religion. Why is that? Why is there so much debate within a religious community on the validity of scientific discovery? It is because religion is a source of moral growth, it is something that can bring about change in massive levels and can help people to grow morally. These morals affect us in our daily aspects and in what we constantly deal with. When it comes to daily issues we are able to make decisions according to our moral character. Global warming has become a major concern and topic, thus calls on us to act as we see morally fit.4

The environment is tied to us emotionally and in many ways we grow through it and learn from it. This is an important aspect of our moral obligation to the environment. My relationship with the environment spawned at an early age. From as far back as I can remember I would go, with my father and older brother, on “Journey's of Discovery.” During these outings, (which carried from walking up a river for several hours to riding our bikes during downpours), we were taught to understand and love nature. We grew close to the ecology of life, and as Henry David Thoreau would attest to, we would “suck out all the marrow of life.”5 We were in nature, and nature was a part of us. This is an important point that needs to be made whenever discussing nature, I feel: becoming a part of nature is a necessary step in understanding science's roll in the environment. In Steven Peck's, The Mormon Organon, he says that “[an appreciation to nature] allowed me to look into the wild creatures eyes and see them as others—as a kind of self that was similar to me and yet different . . . Part of coming to know nature came from being in it.”6

However, modern life has moved us away from the environment. With our cities and houses, with few plants and often times small yards we bring a sterility to our lives and exclude an understanding and appreciation for ecology. Unfortunately, this eventually brings about apathy towards our environment. We can measure the affects that this apathy has given us easily, namely global warming. This apathy can be seen as a side effect of moral choice through religious fervor. Many feel that they have no obligation to the environment, believing that it is not a moral issue. Unfortunately, this leads to skepticism in science and of scientists.

With our dependency of fossil fuels we will never be able to stop the effects of climate change unless drastic measures are made. Currently the U.S. Has 5 percent of the worlds population, but uses 25 percent of the worlds energy, and is the largest CO2 producer. Automobiles are responsible for a third of the CO2 produced.7 It is obvious that steps need to be taken, but the biggest question that tends to be asked seems to not be how, but why? (This stemming, again, from religious doubt).

The United states has many moral issues that it faces constantly. However, while still being a superpower in the world today, as well as having the largest economy, the U.S. has fallen far behind on what is one of the biggest challenges of our time. This is something that affects all walks of life. While global warming is an international issue, it is a particular moral challenge for Americans because of the statistics listed above. Without our concerted effort to address this, there is little hope it can be solved. Every one of us in the U.S. contributes to this problem. We pollute, but we ask environmental organizations to clean up after us and solve our problems. It is time for every segment of our culture to integrate care for earth into its policies. And as a mostly Christian nation we should feel even stronger moral obligation to the stewards of the Earth.

In lieu of scientific evidence in the last twenty years many countries have made drastic changes in how they treat the environment. Many, like Holland and Denmark, rely on biking and public transportation for almost all of their transportation needs. This is because of environmental awareness that has come because of this issue of climate change. In fact, many other nations have hit this issue head on, educating their people in an academic fashion within universities.8

While relying on scientific research as backing, having an understanding of that process, it seems that in recent years, many have moved from a purely scientific argument for the environment and climate change to a more ethical approach, or rather, arguments geared towards a more ethos approach in the dealings of ecology. This seems to have been done greatly in part to help bring the science or ecology of this issue into the same setting as religion.9 And so, looking at the issue morally, brings us a perspective that relates to an obligation that we not as individuals, but as humans, as a culture or society have to act on global warming. “We search for an ethics that appropriately “follows nature.” We want to optimize human fitness on earth, and to do this morally . . . a comprehensive ethics needs to account for the goods of culture, of right and wrong withing personal relations, a humanized ethics.”10

This view is an interesting one. Because, while there is still some doubt of global warming, and some have taken a political stance on the subject, and others have claimed that the science behind global warming is incorrect, these arguments become invalid in the face of moral obligation. This is because, when we take a moral approach to global warming we can bypass the question of how, and move on to the moral question of why. This view not only makes the how unimportant, it allows for the moral approach to be driven by several rolls. Our roll to ourselves, personally, our roll as a culture, or as apart of humanity, and finally, our roll to the environment.

In each of these rolls there is one common factor that needs to be removed in order for us to understand our moral obligation and why we even have an obligation in the first place. “Nature, in other words, is always ventral to our spiritual and cultural self-understanding, since it instructs us first about our own nothingness, a discovery that then tempers our acceptance of our significance. . .[there needs be] a thorough debunking of the specialness of humanity.”11 This leads to the idea that awe and wonder are our human privilege, and not specific knowledge of possession.

And so, while having a knowledge and understanding of the current climate change issues is important in order to fully comprehend our environmental needs, the outcome is rather more significant as it leads us to act morally in the face of climate change.

Here is where religion and science make a unique alliance. In 1998, a conference brought many religious and science minded individuals together to discuss the issue of global warming. Among the proceedings it became obvious to all present that this issue was, while based in science, a moral issue. An issue that directly related to religious belief and teaching, giving those religious leaders present at the conference a sense of the imperative to do something about it. As a result of the conference, religious leaders around the worlds agreed in saying,
We believe a consensus now exists, at the highest level of leadership across a significant spectrum of religious traditions, that the cause of integrity and justice must occupy a position of utmost priority for people of faith. Response to this issue can and must cross traditional religious and political lines. It has the potential to unify and renew religious life.”12
It is within the moral code of all major religions to address this issue of global warming, and do everything in their power to support a cleaner Earth. In fact, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had taken great steps recently to green its architecture, making it abundantly clear that this is done as a religious institutional action because of climate change.13 Many other organizations are counteracting this religious view that climate change is unimportant and can be disregarded either because of a non-belief in scientific theory and discovery, or an apathetic view towards our planet, feeling that their own religious beliefs do not specify or give reason to act on climate change. However, “to dismiss the science outright because it conflicts with or presents complications for a world view that has largely been shaped by economic, partisan, or ideological values is neither religious not ethical.”14

The science behind climate change is accurate. However, regardless of ones own interpretation of facts or unwillingness to find truth in scientific theory the moral action that is required because of climate change is not excused. Religious belief makes us accountable for our actions and as part of that, we must understand our roll on the Earth. Without religious backing, we still have a moral obligation to the Earth and to all of its species in order to insure a better place to live, to thrive and to progress. Viewing climate change as our moral obligation rids us of the debate of rather the science is accurate or not, and holds us to a higher standard of humane living. That is, to treat it as a threat and ethically move forward with that understanding and do all that we can to make our ecology, our planet a place in which all things living there can thrive and grow.

  1. Aldo Leopold, A Sand Country Almanac (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 214
  1. Wolfgang Cramer, Alberte Bondeau, F. Ian Woodward, I. Colin Crentice, Richard A Betts, Victor Brovkin, Peter M. Cox, Veronica Fisher, Jonathan A. Foley, Andrew D. Friend, Chris Kucharik, Mark R. Lomas, Mavin Ramankutty, Stephen Sitch, Benjamin Smith, Andrew White, Christine Young-Molling, Global Change Biology, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 357-373, April 2001.
  1. Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, Bloomsbury Press, New York, pp. 169-215 (2010).
  1. George Hadley, Faith and the Ethics of Climate Change, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp. 12, (2011).
  1. Thoreau, Henry David, Walden, ch. 2, (1854).
  1. Peck, Steven, The Mormon Organon, Lulu Press, pp. 72, (2010).
  1. Sagan, Carl, Billions and Billions, Ballantine Books, pp. 145, (1997).
  1. Andrew Jamison, The Making of Green Knowledge: Environmental Politics and Culture, Cambridge University Press, pp 3, (2001).
  1. Andrew Jamison, The Making of Green Knowledge: Environmental Politics and Culture, Cambridge University Press, pp 170, (2001).
  1. Holmes Rolston, Environmental Ethics, Temple University Press, pp. Xi-xii, (1988).
  1. George Hadley, Faith and the Ethics of Climate Change, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp. 26, (2011).
  1. Carl Sagan, Billions and Billions, Ballantine Books, pp. 170, (1997).
  1. Kristen Moulton, LDS Church Shows Off Its New 'Green' Prototype,” June 4, 2010, 4947867173/church-lds-meetinghouse-davies.html.csp.
  1. George Hadley, Faith and the Ethics of Climate Change, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp. 15, (2011).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pillar of Salt -- Some Unfiltered Thoughts on God

I am looking out the window at my work as the sun rises. I can't see the sun but can only see it's light hitting the golf course just out side. I feel like, although I've worked here for a year and a half, I have never look like it does now. To the north, up near where I live there are grey clouds. All low to the ground. The orange sun reflects and lightens a tree near the window and the back drop of grey is breath-taking. There are buildings of red brick that shine with such a deep orange I feel like I've never seen them before. And maybe I haven't. Maybe there are a lot of things I haven't seen before.

I wonder often who God is. What is his relationship to us? Does he laugh at me when I do something dumb like not un-clipping my bike pedals and fall in the driveway as I try to step off my clipless pedals? It's funny to me. Does he sometimes look at sunrises, sunrises that he has seen over and over all throughout this universe and still, sometimes, look at it with such new eyes? Or is he beyond that? Is God jaded? After seeing super novae, and blackholes a simple sunset couldn't be as beautiful or awe inspiring? What is it that keeps him going? Is it learning? Growing? Us? I have a hard time believing that it would be us.

 Love is strong, I work two jobs (one full time) and go to school full time for my family whom I love. I love them more than anything. But does that mean that I am happy at work? I would gladly quit and go to school full-er time, if I could. But I can't. Does God sometimes, when seeing the pain in the world feel such sorrow that he wishes he could leave?

Who is God that he should magnify man?

I've grown beyond questioning these things. I feel one thing, I feel that he is a father figure to me. It's hard to be close to him like I am to my own Dad, but still, I can feel that it is there. I can feel that he cares for me and have felt it deep within me in times when I've asked or have needed to hear it. But who is he? Who am I to him? Am I one of billions? of trillions? How could i be special with a daunting number as that? What could make me special? All I am in all this vastness of eternity is a speck on a pale blue dot.

I named this blog for these reasons. Perhaps it was because at the time, over a year ago, I wan't too comfortable with questioning the very nature of God. I compared my self to Lots wife, looking back to that place where all their friends and possessions were and doubted or questioned for only a second. There are somethings that I questions that I don't think there is an answer to. There can't be, because we are all different and I can't believe there is only one road to God. I can't believe the straight and narrow is only one direction in which we line up one by one and walk. It must be different. God is a father and will do all he can to help us and be with us.

I think this is a secret beyond so many others. God needs us. And God wants us to be with him. I think we're lucky. I think we are luckier than we could ever know. And I think there are some among us (maybe me) that take advantage of what luck we feel we understand. Or maybe we disregard this, telling our selves that we need to follow the letter of the law to exactness. That leaders of the church are never wrong and that all answers to life are found in the scriptures. I think we can understand God through the leaders and scriptures. But I think we need to look outward.

I think God still, occasionally, see's a sunset or sunrise and smiles. I think he, like us, needs something simple like that to remind him of some kind of beauty. Some type of beginning or ending. I think that if he saw me fall in my drive way he laughed. He laughed that I forgot to do something so simple and routine as un-clipping my shoes.  He laughed at my shock or surprise. And he laughed at me while I too laughed at me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Why is it that people make mistakes?  In my life I have done so many things I regret. Many I have not admitted for shame and fear. I watched, because of anger at the mission, the fourth Harry Potter with my companion, on my mission. It may not seem like a big thing now, and admittedly, it isn't. But while on my mission I felt a great sense of shame because of that one simple thing. When I was eight or nine my brother and I made fires in the woods, threw trash in rivers and broke windows, all mistakes, all because we were being children and were trying to figure things out. I've lied to my parents and friends, needlessly grown upset at my wife and kids, and crashed my parents van. I once stole a crystal-like thing while in elementary school and sense then have never stolen again. And through these experiences and many other like them I have learned something on what it means to be human. 

I don't write these things as some form of penance, but merely because I feel that most everyone is going to have the same experiences. People grow and learn and mistakes push us to learn in ways uncomfortable, but most likely are the most effective. I feel as is a mistake can be categorized more along the lines of repeated folly rather than one accident.  How is it that we so willfully are blind to our reactions to others? There are times when I am upset with my wife, or am struggling with my kids not wanting to go to bed when something carnal in me wants out. I think it is this was for everyone and part of being human is learning to overcome those things. To overcome those urges and grow from them. When they succeed in escaping my soul, my humanity can feel it. Like some creeping thing worming its way to my skin. Why do I let this happen?

Maybe that is another part of being humane, or rather, being ethical, moral. Seeing the worse we can become, having even a small taste and coming away from it a whole, and still good, person. You see a version of yourself, something ancient, something easy and still choose the higher road.

In this we should be proud of our mistakes. Take joy that it is a mistake and that we have come back from it to recognize it as such. We are beings of mistakes. They build and enlighten us as long as we allow them to. Never forget this.

I love my kids and my wife and family and friends. They are important to me. I think of things I've done and still, years and years later I regret them. I drug my little brother, Nate, out of my room where me and some friends (his included) were hanging out. It was my room and I didn't want him in there. Why? I don't know. I may never know. But I did it. I have felt so sorry for that, but through it, and others, I have learned to be more loving and patient and accepting of others. Once, through excitement I grabbed my wife in a bear hug, while she was pregnant, and lifted her off the ground. I cannot express the sorrow I felt in being so careless as to jeopardize the health of that 7 month embryo. I still regret it. 

I am still unsure as to why I am admitting these things. Maybe it is to prove a point. Most of you reading this know my, and most of you have probably not known about most of these. (Maybe except the fire one, that ones pretty popular). I am a man of mistakes, but through them I have not become a bad person, or an immoral man. I feel that I am a pretty good person, trying my hardest to overcome any hard things, (mistakes or challenges), and trying to find joy in life that is worth celebrating and remembering. Nate and I are close. Extremely close. The same goes for all of my family. We all get along all the time. I've seen many families that don't but we are not one of them. I love my kids and I do everything I can for them. I am patient and loving towards my wife. I love her and will always love her. I do not steal, I help others, strangers, when I can, and I do not catch forests of fire. These and many other things are a result of  my mistakes. 

Take joy in them--in over coming them--I am trying.