Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My thoughts on the FLDS fiasco in Texas

Personally, I think it was a big mistake for Texas officials to go in and remove all of the children from the FLDS compound based on such sketchy evidence. It sets a very dangerous precedent.

Yes, there is evidence suggesting that some questionable things have been going in inside the walls of the FLDS compound - and we should do further investigation; but, are the children really better off being ripped from their families and thrown into the foster care system?

There have been news stories about how the FLDS church tosses boys out on the street once they turn 18 (so as to reduce the number of men); but, the foster care system does the same thing - to both boys and girls.

An editorial in our local Newspaper pointed out that if 5 of the young girls are pregnant (out of 437 children), that's still much better than the rate of underage pregnancies in the county surrounding the FLDS compound.

They speak of 'evidence' - yet there have not been any arrests directly related to the alleged charges. And, if this 'evidence' is so compelling, why aren't they removing the children from other FLDS compounds in Utah and Arizona?

What's next? Are we going to start removing Amish children? Home schooled children? Any children in a situation which we personally find oppressive and/or repulsive without giving any thought to if we are really helping the children in the long run?

Just my $0.02

UPDATE: Here are the results of the FLDS poll

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Because the prophet said so ...

Few statements raise my hackles as much as the one in the title. In Mormondom, it is the quintessential way to end an argument when you can't come up with anything else. And we're all supposed to just nod our heads in blind obedience. How can you argue against that without being branded an apostate? It's such a cowardly argument - "I can't discuss this rationally because I'm losing the argument - so I'm going to hit my opponent below the belt" or "I've run out of things to say so I'm done talking about this"

We are taught that we need to support our church leaders - both local and church wide. We are not to engage in any evil speaking of the Lords anointed. Bishop H. Burke Peterson said that the 'anointed' applies to all who are working in the kingdom ("Ensign" June 1981). But, does that mean we can't say anything bad about anyone or anything in the church? What are we really saying when we pledge to support our church leaders?

Where is the line separating legitimate criticism and evil speaking? Can't we support our church leaders while disagreeing with them in certain areas? They are human, after all, and subject to the same shortcomings as the rest of us. Infallibility is not part of our doctrine. Yes, I know, we've been promised that the Lord will never condemn us for following the prophet, even if he is wrong. But, is the inverse true? Will the Lord condemn us for not following a prophet when they're wrong? I don't think so.

I've already made my feelings about gay marriage known - which, admittedly, is in direct conflict with counsel given by our church leaders. But, that's not the only thing that I disagree with.
  • I think the prohibition on boys wearing earrings is dumb - not that I have any desire to go get my ears pierced - but I honestly don't see anything wrong when a boy does. And, face it, some guys look pretty dang good in earrings :) And what about cosmetic surgery, teeth whitening, and all of the other things we do to satisfy our vanity? Why are they OK, but an unobtrusive stud in a boys ear signals Armageddon?
  • Whenever there is some sort of youth activity that involves putting costumes on (e.g. roadshow, etc.), it seems we are always counseled that boys are not allowed to wear girl's clothes (sometimes they might add that girls aren't allowed to wear boys clothes). What are they afraid of? If you put a dress on a boy then he will turn gay? Seriously! I'm not advocating that we should all update our wardrobes; but, in a theatrical setting, it can be appropriate for a guy to wear womens clothes, even if just for comedic purposes - and there's nothing wrong with it (and it's not going to turn him gay).
  • The "God Loveth His Children" pamphlet counsels that we shouldn't have openly gay people as friends ("It is better to choose as friends those who do not publicly display their homosexual feelings", p.9). Hogwash! If a person's abstinence from gay sexual relationships is so tenuous that merely having an openly gay person as a friend is going to push them over the edge into the 'gay livestyle' then I have news for you: It's only a matter of time before they make that jump - with or without gay friends. What they need to be teaching us is how to be "in the gay world but not of the gay world." They need to be teaching us how to apply the principals in the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet to our gay relationships. Can we get past the sterotypes? Just because a person is open about their orientation doesn't mean that they are constantly tempting you to go out clubbing with them or something. You just need to choose the right friends.
  • In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" it says "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." I don't necessarily disagree with that statement, but I'm not sure I completely agree with it either. I'm certainly no expert, but it is my understanding that some babies are born with ambiguous genitalia, extra chromosomes or with a pattern that does not concur with external appearances, etc. In those cases the doctor's may counsel with the parents on which gender the child should be raised as (and possibly surgery to make the genitalia match that gender). How does the eternal nature of gender fit when we have humans assigning gender at birth? To be honest, I really don't know how I feel about this. But, there is something about that line in the proclamation that just makes me feel a little uneasy whenever I hear it.
  • When I was in the Salt Lake mission home (yes, I'm that old - I predate the MTC), we had gone through a session in the Salt Lake temple and were then escorted up to the solemn assembly room on the top floor where we could ask any question we wanted. Mind you, I had only been a member of the church barely 2 years; so, my question was probably one that many primary children probably could have answered. The general authority in attendance thought it was a stupid question and he told me so in a "I can't believe you would even ask that" tone of voice. I was crushed - here was one of the Lords anointed telling me that I'm stupid - in the temple - making me feel like I was not worthy to serve a mission. I don't even remember the question anymore - but I remember the incident and the feelings that I had. To this day I believe he was wrong for reacting to my question the way he did. He was being a poophead! Did I just speak evil of the Lords anointed? Do I need to start watching out for lightening bolts?
  • I love Spencer W. Kimball - he was my first prophet. I had the opportunity to meet him in person and shake his hand on a couple of occasions. I served my mission in the same area of the country as he did. I even proselyted in some of the same towns that he did. But, I've never read his book "The Miracle of Forgiveness" and have no intention of ever doing so. I've seen quotations from that book; and, frankly, I consider some of his statements regarding homosexuality to be hateful.

I feel these things are legitimate questions and criticisms. I'm not attacking anyones character, I am merely saying that I disagree with how some of the things done or the way certain things are said. And I'm OK with that. I am comfortable saying that I support my local and church leaders, even though I may not agree with them 100%.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Louisiana crawfish boil

Spring brings with it crawfish season in Louisiana. Although I live in Texas, we're close enough to Louisiana that many of our area grocery stores carry live crawfish (or crayfish, or crawdad's, or whatever you want to call them) during crawfish season. I like crawfish; but, my wife isn't too fond of them; so, I usually just buy a pound or two and cook them up for myself.

But, this year I decided I wanted to have a traditional Louisiana style crawfish boil. So, I bought a 35 pound sack of live crawfish and invited some friends over on Saturday. Now that sounds like a lot. But, truth be told, there isn't much edible meat on a crawfish, so you figure on about 3-5 pounds per person.

Cooking them up is easy - you just need a big pot, and it's best to do it outdoors because it is messy. First you soak the live crawfish in a bucket of salt water to purge them; then you boil them with some potatoes, corn, sausage, and crawfish seasoning (boil for 2 minutes and then turn off the heat and them them sit for 15-20 minutes). I was using a turkey fryer pot which was only able to hold about 10 pounds of crawfish with other stuff; so, we had to do it in batches.

You can see here the tubs we were using to keep the live crawfish in, the bucket we were soaking them in salt water for purging, and the cooking pot back by the fence.

Here is a batch of cooked crawfish - ready to eat. Then everybody just digs in while the next batch is cooking. Here is a link to the recipe I used with instructions on how to eat crawfish. And, in case anybody is wondering, no I don't suck heads (crawfish heads - get your minds out of the gutter).

Louisiana Crawfish Boil

This makes for a very slow and leisurely dinner. We started at about 5-ish and at 8pm we were still out on the deck peeling and eating crawfish. And it's messy, so you need lots of napkins. The crawfish boil seasoning has a bunch of paprika in it which gets all over your fingers and lips while you are eating - like I said, it is messy :)

Somebody pointed out that, since you are spending most of the time peeling shells off, it leaves a lot of time for talking and enjoying the company. I was thinking about that comment, and how we live in such a fast paced society - we hardly ever take the time to just sit and enjoy the company of family and friends.

Our friends also brought food; so, we had quite a bit of crawfish left over (the entire last batch) after everyone had their fill; so, we peeled the rest and made crawfish etouffee for dinner on Sunday - good eats!

Too bad none of my MoHo friends live close to me (even the ones who live in Texas are still a couple hundred miles away). Nobody ever leaves hungry when we throw a party!!! I'm thinking this just might become an annual event in the Abelard household; so, if you're gonna be in Texas next spring ...

Next, I want to dig a pit in my back yard and roast a whole pig - Hawaiian style :)

Seriously, I really do want to roast a pig in my back yard :) Hmmm, I wonder where I can buy a whole pig?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Gay marriage revisited

Vanson recently blogged about Stuart Matis and how the churches active support of proposition 22 in California, to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, was a factor in his suicide. Vanson then went on to say that he doesn't understand why the church is so opposed to the notion, which generated some passionate comments on both sides of the argument. I was composing another comment, but it was getting so long that I decided to make it a blog post; although, this isn't the first time I've addressed this topic.

For what it's worth, I don't get it either. I'm married, I have children - even grandchildren. And, I do not feel threatened in the least by families like Scot (Utah Cog), John (Young Stranger) and others. In fact, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for these families who are able to make a loving home environment in a society that wishes they would go away.

I understand that we need to follow the prophet - and I do follow the prophet: I pay a full tithe, I hold a valid temple recommend, I serve faithfully in my calling. But when I hear our church leaders say that same sex marriage threatens the purposes and sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, I can't help but have this nagging thought in the back of my mind, wondering if it is truly the will of the Lord for them to say such things, or are they are letting their own personal prejudices cloud their vision.

Heterosexual couples are doing plenty to destroy the sanctity of marriage with the high divorce rate, infidelity, spousal and child abuse, etc. How does a homosexual couple in a committed monogamous relationship and having gay sex in the privacy of their home threaten other marriages? Yes, church leaders preach against those topics as well - but not with the same fervor. We're not seeking legislative action to make divorce more difficult, to add legal consequences to infidelity, to increase the punishment for abuse. So, why is same sex marriage being singled out as a political cause for the church?

Just so I'm clear, I don't have any problem with the doctrine of a celestial marriage, between a man and a woman in the temple, being the only marriage that will be recognized beyond the grave - that all other marriages (same sex or opposite sex) are only for mortality. But, when the church steps in and actively opposes those who are simply trying to have their unions legally recognized and be granted the same legal rights and privileges as their heterosexual counterparts (as it has in California, Hawaii, and other places) then I believe the church has crossed a line. I'm not saying the church should recognize same sex marriage - I just think we need some separation of church and state, and a little more "Live, and Let Live" attitude.

I once got caught up in these things. While living in California back in the 80's, I heeded the calls of our local church leaders and went door to door seeking signatures for an earlier bill to oppose same sex marriage - something I am now deeply ashamed to admit. But, no more - I now let my heart govern my actions. Usually my heart agrees with the church, but when it doesn't then so be it. And, if other members of the church choose to consider me 'less than faithful' when I question the motives of church leaders then that's their prerogative - God knows what's in my heart. And, in the end, that's all that really matters.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Day of Silence

As a teenager back in the 1970’s, because of my involvement in band and lack of interest in sports (and, perhaps, my penchant for using pens with green and purple ink rather than the proverbial blue and black), some of my fellow students tagged me as a queer. As such, I was shunned, teased, pushed and shoved. Once I came to school to find “FAGGOT” spray painted on my locker door. So, while I was in denial at the time, I have an inkling of what gay students go through.

Sadly, with recent events, like that of Lawrence King, it seems the situation has only worsened. To combat this trend the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is sponsoring a Day of Silence on April 25, 2008 as part of their ongoing mission to help ensure our schools are a safe environment for all students.

I was reminded of those unpleasant memories after reading about the American Family Association (AFA) efforts to oppose the Day of Silence by bullying schools into banning the event and encouraging parents to keep their children home that day (since schools receive federal funding based on attendance).

It is duplicitous for the AFA to oppose the Day of Silence while claiming to support families. They cast it as a veiled attempt to promote the ‘homosexual agenda’; however, if organizations like GLSEN aren't going to look out for the welfare of gay students then who will? It causes me to wonder if the AFA, and similar organizations, are being run by the same kind of bullies who were taunting me and others all those years ago.

No student deserves to be harassed regardless of where you stand on the issue of gay rights. That’s why I, as a concerned parent and grandparent, have sent a donation to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to help support the Day of Silence scheduled on April 25, 2008 and I encourage others to do the same.
Development Department
90 Broad Street
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10004

And, just in case anybody was thinking that, maybe, we should be supporting the AFA, according to Wikipedia ...

The AFA Journal published a controversial article which praised the destruction caused by hurricane Katrina and claimed the storm was "[an] instrument of God's mercy" and "wiped out rampant sin."

Donald Wildmon, the founder of AFA, has stated that he believes obscene content on television and in movies is a result of the media being controlled by Jews, who intentionally place anti-Christian messages and activities into their programming to undermine Christianity. He further characterizes Jews as more supportive of homosexuals than "average" Americans.
Chief among the efforts of the AFA are:
  • Compulsory recognition of Christmas in seasonal print advertisements
  • Criminalization of homosexuality
  • Lobbying to oppose equal-rights and hate-crime legislation that would benefit homosexuals
  • Advocates censorship of print and electronic media
  • Contends that homosexuality is a choice and sexual orientation can be changed through religious teachings in "ex-gay ministries"

So, for the folks at the AFA, I leave you with this parting thought most eloquently expressed by Aaron Tippin.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Amazon recommends

These were in my latest "Amazon recommends ..." email (based on my Amazon purchasing habits and the items in my wish list):
  • Once There Was a Bull-Frog 10th Anniversary Edition
  • Basic Structure Modeling: For Model Railroaders (Model Railroader Books)
  • Pampers Sensitive Baby Wipes Refills, Case Pack, Four - 210 Count Resealable Packages, 840 Total Wipes
  • The Digital Photography Book, Volume 1
  • Realistic Model Railroad Building Blocks: An Introduction To Layout Design Elements
  • Westcott 43" Optical White Satin Collapsible Umbrella
  • The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
  • The DCC Guide

Thursday, April 3, 2008


[eeyore voice] I guess I've been tagged, here is my 5th sentence:
The originating requirements process defined in this chapter takes explicit account of this need to have and define a large tradable region in design space for the systems engineers to search with quantitative techniques utilizing the priorities of the stakeholders.

tag: Beck, Max, Peter, Sean, & Evan

This is from p.123 of "The Engineering Design of Systems Models and Methods" by Dennis M. Buede. Sorry, I'm sitting in my home office. I don't keep a lot of terribly interesting books here.

Battlestar Galactica

April 4th 2008 is the premier of the fourth and final season of Battlestar Galactica. For all of you Battlestar Galactica fans, the following is an 8½ minute recap of seasons 1-3. The video is worth watching even if you're not a fan.

The video I originally posted is no longer available. Hopefully this one will stay up for a while.