The Missing Verse

Jesus was the Word, creator of the earth
He is the Prince of Peace, Son of the virgin birth

I penned new words to a primary song earlier this week. Today I composed and published this video on YouTube. Enjoy!

(to the tune of Follow the Prophet)

Jesus was the Word, creator of the earth
He is the Prince of Peace, Son of the virgin birth
In the garden and the cross He suffered for our sin
By faith, grace, and repentance, I can come to Him

Follow the Savior, Follow the Savior, Follow the Savior, don’t go astray
Follow the Savior, Follow the Savior, Follow the Savior, He knows the way

How the fight against porn made me question the need to fight against porn

“Isn’t fighting against something, still encouraging fighting?” I asked… Then I posed, “Is it better to hate war, or love peace?”

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s something inherently wrong with attempting to eradicate evil.

Back in April I was invited to an event for a small group of artists where a presentation was given to promote the battle against porn by an organization called Fight The New Drug.

The movement began as a grassroots campaign from a group of college students who were concerned about the harmful effects of porn.
The movement’s About Page features a video that states, “We’ve made it our life’s focus to raise awareness on the harmful effects of porn”, and concludes with “Join the movement and become a fighter”.

Over time, Clay Olsen, CEO and co-founder, quit his job to do this full time. In 2009 it officially became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and now employs talented people to support the movement and raise awareness.

“mysteries

The presenter, Whitney Van Wagoner (Office Manager for Fight The New Drug), was sporting an attractive red T-Shirt with the slogan, “Porn Kills Love”. During her presentation I pointed out that the words could be switched to say “Love Kills Porn” to give a more positive twist to the message. I questioned the emphasis on “joining the fight”.
“Isn’t fighting against something, still encouraging fighting?” I asked.
I shared a quote that I like from Mother Teresa, “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”
Then I posed, “Is it better to hate war, or love peace?”

“Love Stronger than Shame

Whitney got my point and was quick to agree. Then she pointed out that the movement emphasizes REAL love, with positive slogans like:
Love something that loves you back
Love takes two
Real love is sexy
Keep it real
Live for love

I left agreeing with the good the organization is doing. Nevertheless, after the meeting I continued to reflect on the need for an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the evils of porn. For that matter, what’s wrong with any organization whose mission is to raise awareness about or eradicate the existence of anything deemed “evil”.

Something about capitalizing on fighting against anything “bad” makes me tend to question motives (“non-profit” doesn’t mean that nobody is profiting from it). I’m reminded of the documentary, Pink Ribbons Inc., Capitalizing on Hope.
“The film documents how some companies use pink ribbon-related marketing to increase sales while contributing only a small fraction of proceeds to the cause, or use “pinkwashing” to improve their public image while manufacturing products that may be carcinogenic.”
(wikipedia article, Pink Ribbons Inc.)

I believe it is the nature of institutions to take on a life of their own. Over time they tend to protect themselves and fight to survive just like any other living thing. In the case of Fight The New Drug, for example, if any solution emerged that could actually eliminate porn, it would threaten the life of the organization. There are people whose livelihoods depend on the existence of the organization, and, because it’s mission is to fight against it, the organization requires the existence of porn in order to survive. (Perhaps Mother Teresa really does make a good point)

The story of the March of Dimes gives a better example of what happens when an organization, whose mission was to find a cure for polio, struggled to survive after the cure was found.
“In his book Essentials of Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach, sociologist Professor James M. Henslin describes March of Dimes as a bureaucracy that has taken on a life of its own through a classic example of a process called goal displacement. Faced with redundancy after Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine, it adopted a new mission, ‘fighting birth defects’, which was recently changed to a vaguer goal of “breakthrough for babies”, rather than disbanding.”
Greenwald, Howard P. (2007). Organizations: Management Without Control. Sage Publications, Inc. p. 369. (reference given in wikipedia)

How does this apply to contending for or against [insert your pet thing here]
Women’s rights
Black rights
Gay rights
Someone else’s false religion
Someone else’s false political ideology

Contending is contending, regardless of however noble you feel your cause is. Is it possible to stand for your cause without contending about it?

There appear to be two opposing forces at work, one destructive and the other creative. A destructive force that fights against terrorists and attempts to eradicate them from off the face of the earth only ends up creating terrorists faster than you can kill them, like Hercules cutting off heads of Hydra that multiply faster than he can cut them off. Such is the fate that rises from a mentality that embraces the elimination of evil in the world.

A creative force, on the other hand, seeks to build up instead of tear down. Love is the great healer. The Mother Teresa approach of focusing on the merits of promoting good lead to more than just eliminating evil. One converted to Christ who has “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2. See also Rom 8:1-4), has not only solved a porn problem, but a multitude of evils.

Celebration of the Trees

I wanted to join in the singing, but being powerless to do so, I simply felt the music in my heart.

This morning I took a walk after the sun had come out. I walked along the river and joined in the celebration of the trees. As the snow from last night’s storm melted from their drooping branches it felt like walking in gentle rain when I passed under them. I smiled at them and gave tribute to their strength for enduring the burden of snow that left their branches strained and drooping under the weight. Surrounded by casualties of broken limbs that did not survive the night, the sound of the placid dripping to me felt like a celebration song. I wanted to join in the singing, but being powerless to do so, I simply felt the music in my heart and thanked them for allowing me to witness their branches, leaving their burdens behind, raise toward heaven in praise.

Snow in Spring
Apple tree in my front yard with broken branch from an ash tree in the foreground.

I was reminded that only a few short weeks ago, I apologized to the apple trees in my yard for the pain I certainly inflicted on them when I cut off branches that yielded no fruit and pruned others so that the tree’s strength would be dedicated to producing better fruit. I took note of the burden of snow on their branches as I hurried off to work this morning, but as I pulled away I thought I could feel their gratitude. Because of the offensive pruning they endured, they now could feel the vigor of their strength as they strained under the storm’s heavy load they now bore.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:1-8)

Why Do We Avoid Delving into Mysteries?

After having emphasized the importance of revelation in understanding mysteries, Elder Basset then says something that confuses me…

“mysteries

My preparation for Teacher Council Meeting last month led me on an enlightening scriptural journey about “mysteries”.

Under the importance of seeking revelation daily, the teaching manual references 2 Nephi 28:30 (Teaching in the Savior’s Way manual, part 2, “Prepare Yourself Spiritually”, pg 12):

“Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Ne 28:29-30)

The idea of receiving less of the word of God when we reject what we have been given is also emphasized by Alma:

“And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God… And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.” (Alma 12:9-10)

In fact, Alma goes on to say that by NOT seeking the mysteries we subject ourselves to the chains of hell:

“And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” (ibid v 11.)

The discussion from Teaching in the Savior’s Way manual continues and gives a scriptural example from Matthew 13, where we find the ideas taught by Nephi and Alma also taught by Jesus:

“He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” (v 11)

At the October 1841 conference Brigham Young “addressed the Elders at some length, on the importance of teaching abroad the first principles of the gospel, leaving the mysteries of the kingdom to be taught among the saints.” (T&S, Oct. 15, 1841, 578. Quoted from Richard Bushman, JS Rough Stone Rolling, Ch 24 footnote 6, pg 641)

If mysteries are so important, my questioning mind asks, why then, is there an emphasis in the church to avoid delving into mysteries?

Joseph B.Wirthlin counseled, “God has revealed everything necessary for our salvation. We should teach and dwell on the things that have been revealed and avoid delving into so-called mysteries. My counsel to teachers in the Church, whether they instruct in wards and stakes, Church institutions of higher learning, institutes of religion, seminaries, or even as parents in their homes, is to base their teachings on the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets.” (“Deep Roots,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 77)

Note -Wirthlin’s counsel “is to base their teachings on the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets.” which, incidentally teach us to search for the mysteries.

I believe the reason Elder Wirthlin counsels us not to delve into the mysteries in our teaching is because no one can teach the mysteries except God. As Elder W. Mark Basset relates in a recent conference address, referring to the example of Nephi:

“In order to understand the mysteries of God, or those things that can be understood only through revelation, we must follow the example of Nephi, who said, ‘Being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me’ (1 Ne 2:16)” (For Our Spiritual Development and Learning, October 2016)

Later, Elder Basset relates (quoting Dallin H. Oaks) that “our members are sometimes left with basic questions that cannot be resolved by study. … Some things can be learned only by faith” (ibid)

Here it’s worth noting that there is no written record, including the scriptures, which are able to tell us all we must know. We can only know the truth by having it revealed to us from heaven itself (see D&C 76:114-118). The greatest mystery and glorious discovery is to know God and see Him face to face with eternal certainty. (see Lectures on Faith, lecture 2 para 55-56)

After having emphasized the importance of revelation in understanding mysteries, Elder Basset then says something that confuses me:

“We were never expected ‘to have a perfect knowledge of things’ during this mortal existence. Instead, we are expected to ‘hope for things which are not seen, which are true.'” (ibid)

The quotes in this statement reference Alma 32:21, which does not say or imply that “we were never expected to have a perfect knowledge of things during this mortal existence.” To me this statement seems strange in that Alma’s message in this chapter contains instructions how to grow from faith to a perfect knowledge of things. Later in the same meeting, Amulek stood and taught, “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” (Alma 34:32). Why else would scripture tell us that in order to bear God’s presence in the world of glory, we must seek for the manifestations of the spirit “while in the flesh” (D&C 76:118).

In speaking about the sacrifices required to know God, Joseph Smith taught that “For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge”. (Lectures on Faith, lecture 6 para 5)

Can one sacrifice reputation, honor, applause, houses and lands in the spirit world? There is a reason these things must happen “in this life”.

It also surprised me to hear Elder Basset teach that “like Nephi and Alma, I do not know the meaning of all things. Nor do I need to know all things; I too shall forbear”. Does he mean forbear from seeking to know the “mysteries of God until he know them in full”? (Alma 12:10). Nephi’s example suggests the opposite of what seems to be implied by Elder Basset’s statement. Rather than saying he needs no more of the word of God, for we have enough!”, Nephi, in the audience of an angel, was being taught from on high because of his intense desire to know deeper things (see 1 Nephi 11:1-3).

I suppose that even if modern day gentiles resist exercising the faith necessary to be taught by angels (see Moroni 7:36-37), at least it is as Mormon said it would be when he taught:

“But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which [Christ] taught the people. And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken. And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people.” (3 Nephi 26:7-11)

Humanure – A Book Review

The humans who will have learned how to survive on this planet in the long term will be those who have learned how to live in harmony with it.

THE HUMANURE HANDBOOK
THIRD EDITION
A GUIDE TO COMPOSTING HUMAN MANURE
by Joseph Jenkins

Due to concerns over the effects flooding is having with our local sewage treatment facilities, Logan city sent out a bulletin on Feb 10th to residents of Logan and surrounding cities to “PLEASE AVOID UNNECESSARY DISCHARGE INTO THE SEWAGE SYSTEM… Until further notice, we ask that residents please avoid putting… unnecessary water down drains.” Which they said includes flushing. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of my trips to the toilet could be considered “unnecessary”.

I recently finished reading The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins. I found the information simply incredible. If you are looking for an alternative to flush toilets that wastes and pollutes our precious water resources, this book is a must read. Even if you don’t care about the environment, who wouldn’t be at least remotely interested in a fully functioning, completely sanitary composting toilet system that takes care of household human waste, uses no water, does not stink, and actually contributes to a healthy environment?

I’m sure it is because I have such an interest in the subject, but the book captured me. Previous to running across this book I had been considering what it takes to get into a commercially available composting toilet. The $900 to $1200 price tag was a big deterrent (and that’s for a cheap one). I now have built a complete functioning composting toilet system of my own, that does not stink, contributes to the environment, and is easy to maintain, all for less than $100. I like it so well that some days I even feel dismayed at the waste when I have to crap in a flush toilet during the day while at work.

To be sure, it’s not the kind of subject you would expect a normal person to get excited blogging about. But then again, I don’t consider myself normal.

The subject is actually not that abnormal as we read from the book’s introduction:

“This is the third edition of a self-published book. No respectable publisher would touch it with a ten foot shovel. Nevertheless, the book has now been sold around the world, translated into over a dozen languages and published in foreign editions on four continents. It has been talked about on NPR, BBC, CBC, Howard Stern, in The Wall Street Journal, Playboy Magazine and many other national and international venues.”

Discussing the growing concerns that well informed health professionals and environmental authorities have over the environmental dilemma of human waste, Jenkins shares that this may be “why I received a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services praising this book and wanting to know more about humanure composting, or why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote to me to commend the Humanure Handbook and order copies, or why the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection nominated Humanure for an environmental award in 1998.” (pg 196)

In addition to the practical information given in the book, Jenkins has opened my eyes to problems we face as it relates to the bigger picture. Rather than comment further, I’ll let him speak for himself. Here are a few excerpts from the book that I highlighted:

“The world is divided into two categories of people: those who shit in their drinking water supplies and those who don’t. We in the western world are in the former class. We defecate into water, usually purified drinking water. After polluting the water with our excrements, we flush the polluted water “away,” meaning we probably don’t know where it goes, nor do we care.
Every time we flush a toilet, we launch five or six gallons of polluted water out into the world. That would be like defecating into a five gallon office water jug and then dumping it out before anyone could drink any of it. Then doing the same thing when urinating. Then doing it every day, numerous times. Then multiplying that by about 305 million people in the United States alone.” (pg 15)

“question

“According to a composting toilet manufacturer, waterless composting toilets can reduce household water consumption by 40,000 gallons (151,423 liters) per year. This is significant when one considers that only 3% of the Earth’s water is not salt water, and two thirds of the freshwater is locked up in ice. That means that less than one percent of the Earth’s water is available as drinking water. Why shit in it?” (pg 117)

“question

In his section about wastewater systems, he notes, “My research for this chapter included reviewing hundreds of research papers on alternative wastewater systems. I was amazed at the incredible amount of time and money that has gone into studying how to clean the water we have polluted with human excrement. In all of the research papers, without exception, the idea that we should simply stop defecating in water was never suggested.” (pg 207)

“question

Finally, I liked his ENVIRONMENTAL POTTY TRAINING 101, “Simple, low-tech composting systems not only have a positive impact on the Earth’s ecosystems, but are proven to be sustainable. Westerners may think that any system not requiring technology is too primitive to be worthy of respect. However, when western culture is nothing more than a distant and fading memory in the collective mind of humanity thousands (hundreds?) of years from now, the humans who will have learned how to survive on this planet in the long term will be those who have learned how to live in harmony with it. That will require much more than intelligence or technology — it will require a sensitive understanding of our place as humans in the web of life. That self-realization may be beyond the grasp of our egocentric intellects. Perhaps what is required of us in order to gain such an awareness is a sense of humility, and a renewed respect for that which is simple.” (pg 201)

Contrast this with the cost prohibitive complexities of attempts to use technology to tow an iceburg to be used for drinking water:

For more information, or to buy the book, or to watch informative videos about humanure, visit HumanureHandbook.com.