Friday, April 29, 2005

So, who should we strive to be like?

Some of the greatest deceptions of our time are the messages that entice us to become someone we are not. Advertisements and the media urge women to become anorexic, vain, air-brushed vamps - men to become debonair, sensual, power-hungry yet carefree jocks. (That sounds like a candidate for multiple personality disorder diagnosis!) For all of us to lust after cutting edge technology, or lust after the opposite, or any sex. These messages are apparently effective at keeping our economy going strong. They sell products; they keep people motivated to earn and spend on the things that help us become the people in the ads. It matters little that the basest instincts of humanity are invoked to achieve these purposes. This all occurs at the secular level.

I've observed a more puzzling and hypocritcal attitude at the religious level. In Christian writings, the Bible in particular, there are numerous admonitions to become "more Godly", "more Christlike". Most Christians are familiar with the concept of our "Heavenly Father", or "our Father, which art in heaven..." What does that make us, Iguana? No. We are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father; of the one true God. The Bible sets forth a high ideal for our lives and our eternity. We have a heritage and a purpose. But most of today's religions do not take this relationship with God very seriously. They water it down and spiritualize it. They take the reality out of it. They read and quote the words but deny the meaning - they deny our hertitage and our potential.

So when a group of people (LDS) come along who read and understand the words of Scripture for what it says, they are ridiculed and called a blaspheming cult. What are some of the words of the Bible that describe who we are and who we can become?

Genesis 3:22 - "Man is become one of us." Who is quoted here? Certainly not the Iguana! Sounds like God the Father and His son making an assertion.

Psalm 82:6 - "Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the most High"

Matthew 5:48 - "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect." Is this a trick request of Jesus, something that is unatainable? Or was He serious?

John 10:34 - "Is it not written in your law...Ye are gods?"

Acts 17:29 - "...we are the offspring of God."

Romans 8:16-17 - "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."

2 Corinthians 3:18 - "But we all, with oopen face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Ephesians 4:13;15 - "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ...may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ."

1 John 3:2 - "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him..."

Revelation 3:21 - "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." Elsewhere Scripture teaches that in our mortal form we can't even lay our eyes upon Him without being destroyed. And here we have the "overcomers" sitting on God's throne right next to Him. What's different here?

What do these verses all mean? Are they random verses taken out of context, meaning something different from what they appear to say? Or do they represent a central theme of God's word, that God is our Heavenly Father, we are heirs of Christ, are urged to follow him, become like him, and someday sit down with our Heavenly Father in his throne. What does that make us, Iguana?

Are we to take these verses as symbolism, as literary license? God forbid, that would be the road to spiritualize away the person and work of Christ himself! Might as well study "Gone With The Wind" and yearn for Tara! Then instead of Iguana, we could call ourselves Tara-dactyls.

What are the evangelicals and other "orthodox" Christians trying to get at when they disparage Latter Day Saints for taking the words of the Bible seriously? From my study and understanding, they are denying a principal doctrine of Scripture, they are denying the power of God, and believing that we, sons of God, can never be more than sinful humans. They are saying "God forbid that we would become like gods!" In reality, God does NOT forbid that we become like gods. He commands us to!

Many of us see through a mirror so dimly that we think that what we are is all we can ever be. I guess in my career as a planner, I am trained to look ahead a bit. But this is really looking ahead. Certainly we will not reach Godly stature in this lifetime. But to deny that we will ever be capable, or have the hope of achieving the status promised in Scripture is denying God's power. And never to be forgetten is the immutable fact that our Heavenly Father is and always will be our Heavenly Father, the one true God, whatever we might become.

The heading of this article is a link to a wonderful Jeff article titled "The Divine Potential of Human Beings: The Latter-day Saint Perspective." There is even a section in that link titled "Do any objective, qualified, non-Mormon experts agree that early Christians thought that they could become gods?" For those wanting to explore this topic further, that is a great place to start.

A note of humilty and reality - Just as salvation cannot be presumed based only on the overly simplistic and isolated admonition of "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou wilt be saved", the ultimate "god" status spoken of in Scripture is not a slam dunk, either. Just as they say in the TV infomercials: "Wait, there's more!" There is also the "James" part of Scripture and all the other parts about keeping commandments and helping our neighbor while maintaining a saintly attitude, etc. Most of us lack the faith needed to trust we won't get mugged helping a stranger change a flat tire. And even more of us have difficulty comprehending the possibility of accepting the truth of the Scriptures quoted above, never mind the number of millenia that it might take to realize it. There is a lot of testing and proving to be done through the eternities. But our faith in Christ and our efforts in the here and now in this life is our continual starting point. This brings even more significance to the Biblical mandate to "persevere to the end."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Mocking the Faith of Another

A favorite knee-jerk reaction of a fair number of people is mocking the beliefs of others. Only those who don't believe in anything can avoid being mocked.

Just tonight, after band practice, a very devout Charismatic woman I was conversing with about my donation of a music collection to BYU remarked, "Oh, that's in Salt Lake City, Mormon Heaven." The innuendo was that Mormons don't believe in the same kind of heaven others do, so they created their own. I explained that LDS have a deep reverence for the founding of this nation on Christian principles and that band music refects much of historic Americana. After she remembered I was LDS, she shifted quickly to mock Jehovah's Witnesses about not pledging allegience to the flag. "Yes", I thought, "divert attention from your slip of the tongue by quickly shifting to attacking someone else's faith." But I didn't say that. Instead, I kindly explained to her that Jehovah's Witnesses' reasoning, from Scripture, is that they believe they should pledge allegience only to God, not to a government. She went on to infer they don't believe in obeying laws since they don't pledge. I continued, "not pledging the flag does not mean they don't obey the laws of the land."

Why did I feel compelled to enter into this defensive dialogue with this otherwise sweet woman? Because I think that people who show their ignorance by mocking the faith of others need to be challenged. Faith is faith because it can't be proven. If it could be proven, it wouldn't be faith. It would be indisputable fact. Faith is not fact. It is, as they say "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Review Hebrews Chapter 11.) Even the concept of "fact" has its shortcomings. A thing we understand as "fact" today oftentimes is incomplete or partial truth, or perhaps totally in error. So to make fun of someones' faith is an ignorant exercise.

Even the aetheist who mocks any religion based on their belief that nothing is possible apart from the proofs of science is on very shaky ground. He proves his ignorance by denying the fact that science has yet to prove much more in the future than it has proven in the past. That is to say, much more is yet to be discovered and known than has been discovered and known so far. Acceptance of the "unproven" or the "unknown" involves faith.

Evangelicals in particular find it easy to mock any non-Evangelical, whether it be Catholics, Mormons, or non-evangelical Presbyterians. It is so easy, so much fun, and so common to make fun or belittle or defame others based on ignorance of the concept of faith, or ignorance of the basis for the faith of others. And naturally, instead of taking the time to understand the reasons for another's faith, it is much easier and more fun to mock it.

Today's Christians often have a bad case of amnesia when they engage in deriding the beliefs of others, especially when new revelelation is involved. They forgot that during the time of Christ the Jews had difficulty accepting change. Jesus was mocked and ultimately crucified for claiming a new belief system that was contrary to existing tradition and practice. The prophets of the Old Testament more often than not were in despair because their own people ignored and mocked what they were prophesying.

It is so easy to ignore that history and to apply a double standard by ignorantly mocking those not in agreement with our own beliefs. We all live in glass houses with regard to our vulnerability to attack because of our beliefs. These actions are often called "bigotry", a behavior in the same league as racism, facism and other forms of unjust discrimination.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Conservative Improvement On AARP

My brother recently passed away. One of his pet peeves was large bureaucary that is either deceitful or that makes it difficult to accomplish its purported service. An organization on his peeve list that meet all of these criteria was AARP - the Americans Antagonistic toward the Republican Party, err, I mean American Association of Retired Peacenicks, ummm, PERSONS. There, I finally got it right.

This organization has built itself a reputation for carrying on the banner of the 60's anti-Vietnam flower children, drug addicts, and liberal let-government-do-it-all philosophy into the 21st century. They purport to reperesent the interests of older Americans through their products and services, but they are just another marketing strategy for mediocre insurance, and socialist causes. The last AARP straw with me was when I read an article in one of the AARP magazines reminiscing about the good ol' gettin' high drug use days in the 60's. Weren't they just so uplifting and fun! And I will add, and didn't their addictions affect their abilities to think clearly even to this day!

An alternative to AARP that got my attention is USANext. Its' moral and political positions are consistent with my own - the exact opposite of AARP. Any person nearly as old as I am should give this new organization a serious look. And you can still get your motel discounts!

Obligation to Our Children

Any parent who has love and respect for their culture, their country, their way of life, or especially, for their faith and religion, have an obligation to pass this attitude of love and respect for these things on to their children. Otherwise, that cherished value dies with you and your own generation.

If your higher value is that any value, any culture, any faith, any religion is as good as another, then, as a parent, you may legitimately decide to do nothing to pass anything on to your children. Let them discover and do their own thing. Your guidance may not matter a whole lot, because you don't believe a whole lot. Many people feel this way in our culture, which will mean the death of our culture in just another generation or two. And this is entirely what has happened during the past two generations in this country. We've ignored our roots, dismissed the foundational principles of our culture and nation, the who, why, when and where of our own identity. And we wonder why our children's interests and preoccupations and values seem so different from our own.

My knowledge, experience, and faith tell me it does matter what we pass on to our kids - that not all opinions, beliefs, and cultural priorities have equal value. Some are more helpful and some or more destructive than others. This perspective matters when we have the additional perspective than it is vitally important what future generations value and believe. If we care only for the here in now, our concern for the future will logically be a low priority. If we understand that a significant part of our purpose on earth is to do what we can to enhance goodness, nobility, and Godliness of our progeny, then logically, passing these things on will be a high priority.

Focusing on issues of faith, this task of teaching and being an example to our children is obviously more joyful and more effective if both parents are of the same faith. The most effective teaching is teaching by example, by behavior, by attitude, as well as teaching from books. When half of the child's guidance system during the childhood years is missing or is indifferent, this will have a huge impact on the child. And such absence will be a huge disappointment to the spouse who values this nurturing responsiblity. The half of the parenting team who is less committed or leaves this teaching work to the other parent may believe she is being liberal-minded, tolerant, or big-hearted. In reality, she would be doing no favor to her spouse, to the child, or to future generations.

It is true that there can be two Presbyterians, husband and wife, who are, nonetheless, "unequally yoked" - that is, having radically different beliefs and radically different levels of commitment. Following this example, there is the very liberal Presbyterian Church USA, and the very conservative Presbyterian Church in America. Belief systems in these churches are like night and day. One might as well be a universalist, the other Greek Orthodox. On the other hand there could be a Catholic and a Latter Day Saint. While far from ideal, if these two individuals had shared beliefs in scripture, in a literal Jesus as son of God, in God the Father, a literal resurrection, forgiveness of sin, in the benefits of "good works", in the purpose of raising families, in teaching faith principles to their children, there may very well be enough in common to manifest itself in joint commitment to teaching their children well through example and literature.

But, needless to say, this would still be a less than ideal situation. Questions and conflict are sure to arise during the 20 to 25 year process of raising the family. These differences will make it all too easy during this lengthy period of time for differences in faith, practice, and attitudes to manifest themselves in negative body language, arguments, conflicting priorities, hurt feelings, and ultimately, confusion all too easily transferred to and assimilated by the children. Isn't there enough confusion and uncertainty in the world without this confusion and uncertainty coming from the parents?

If faith is important to one of the partners about to be married, it needs to be equally important to the other. Such faith needs to be a shared faith, with each equally excited by and involved in it. It grieves our Heavenly Father to see couples enter into marriage on different faith tracks. He understands the difficult future this will bring the couple, and especially His children through future generations. Love overcomes all only so long as love exists. These differences have a way of eroding love unless one member of the couple either succumbs or converts to the beliefs of the other. Succumbing results in resentment and continuing conflict. Converting involves a change of heart and attitude, and will result in genuine love and commitment to both the faith and the life of the other.

I pray that couples considering marrige will consider these thoughts prayerfully. One of my favorite snippets of inspired literature applies to these admonitions: "Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."

Friday, April 15, 2005

Technology, Longer Commutes, and Family Time

USA Today observed that population is booming in the exurbs, 30 to 40 miles out from the center of cities such as Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Minneapolis (click on the title above for the article). Places like Loudoun County, Virginia, and Clay County, Georgia, are the recipients of these population booms.

The article explains "This spreading out is happening after a decade when the USA grew faster than at any time since the 1960s, spurring demand for millions of new housing units. Despite efforts to contain suburban sprawl and encourage denser development, many Americans are willing to endure longer commutes to achieve their dream of owning a single-family home with a big yard."

This is not a new phenomenon. We have been "sprawling" now since we've begun owning cars, since the homecoming of WWII troops wanting good homes for their baby-boomer families. The joy of sprawl is part of our human nature. Some people think the concept has received a bad rap. There are consequences of every lifestyle density. Certainly the densities of central cities are not without volumes written about noted problems.

One of the unmentioned contributors to this apparent new wave of more far-reaching sprawl is technology: The cell phones, the personal data assistants (PDAs), technical integration with the likes of Blackberrys, entertainment via iPods and satellite radio. These technologies make life on the road both more efficient and more palatable, if not entertaining and enjoyable. To overcome the $3 per gallon gas prices are the hybrids, the Prius', and their clones will be marketed en mass. Sprawl will continue...and many people will like it, maybe even thrive.

The other unmentioned, and not easily quantifiable factor is the growing time away from home and family. More sprawl means longer commutes. Longer commutes mean more time away from home. This is a trend that seems to be continuing for many families. There may be some personal satisfaction for some to be away more, career or otherwise. There may be some significant financial benefit for the family. But there are also very significant social consequences. Less family unity, less guidance for the kid, greater potential for broken homes, the chain of effective parenting and example of family unity broken for future generations.

Some families understand these consequences and are not willing to accept them. Some familes will make housing decisions that enable them to live closer to work and spend more time at home. These decisions will often result in living in smaller or older homes, paying higher taxes, and occasionally attending inferior schools.

The options are many. The decisions are personal. The consequences are long-lived. The values we hold highest will prevail in the decisions we make.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Family members of bloggers can be sensitive to naming names on blogs. Therefore, one of the blogger commandments is: "Thou shalt be sensitive to the desire for privacy of others." Consequently and henceforth, any names you read on this site will be fictitious, non-existent entities, if they appear at all. Ignore any names. Any name of any person you may have read in the past on this site was possibly made up or I may have gotten it wrong.

Fine print disclaimer: The reader of this blog shall disavow knowledge or recognition of any name that has appeared, does appear, or may appear on this site. The management, staff, and writer(s) are not responsible for anything they may have thought or wrtten, past, present, or future. Our fine staff of attornies will be on standby, waiting by their phones, for any hint of association of names with people, real or imagined.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ritual and Simplicity in Sunday Worship Services

My daughter, her Greek Orthodox friend, and I recently attended a Sunday Greek Orthodox church service. This was a first for both my daughter and me. We were told that the particular church we attended was more conservative than most, meaning the service was a bit longer (2 1/2 hours) with a little more ritual than most other Greek Orthodox churches. Nonetheless, the contrast between the extent of ritual in the "typical" Sunday Greek Orthodox Church service and the Sunday Sacrament Service of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) church is quite stark.

Of the various churches I've attended, the Greek Orthodox service was on the ritual extreme side (give it a 10) on the Simple (1) to Complex (10) ritual continuum. I would classify the typical Roman Catholic service as a 6-8, a typical Presbyterinan or Baptist service a 3-5 and typical LDS service a 2-3.

Ritual has been an important part of both Jewish and Christian worship through the centuries. The earliest Christian church services had both extremes: the simple house church meetings as well as more complex, ritual laden temple-like services. As the Catholic church evolved, the content of the Sunday services changed from the dual nature (teaching/fellowship and worship ritual) to primarily worship ritual. Only in the last several decades has a portion of the Catholic service reverted back to some teaching (homiles and Scripture readings in English.) Protestant church services range between a balance between teaching and worship ritual to primarily teaching and simple praise.

The LDS Sunday services, or Sacrament Meetings as they are called, are comprised of taking the sacrament of bread and water as the symbol of the spirit of Christ, and talks about the gospel, faith, or work of the church in general. The LDS church is unique in that it reserves the most sacred, ritualized elements of it's "liturgy", so to speak, for the separate "Temple work." So, while the Sunday services are kept relatively simple, the occasional "Temple trip" events are rich in ritual. I have not yet experienced the LDS Temple.

The wisdom behind this arrangement is to avoid profaning the sacred by not having extensive, routine weekly rituals in ordinary semi-public places that most churches tend to be. When highly ritualized worship is repeated over and over, every week, my own experience is that it would soon lose its' significance - its' emotionally reverent feeling - its' feeling of connection with our Heavenly Father. The highest forms of worship are reserved for the most sacred place - the Temple, and not as a routine, but as very special events a few times a year.

The true Gospel of Christ is not considered to be contained in routine ritual so much as in the benevolent actions coming out of a loving heart mimicking Christ's teachings. That is a principle teaching of LDS. I believe that excessive ritual can easily lead to complacency, presumption, and ultimately dilute our sense of God's presence in our lives.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Music and Worship

OK, here is an opinion that leaves a lot of room for people to disagree. My opinion on this could very well be on the bottom of the opinion food chain. It is a subjective topic, and I am not basing my opinion on history, science, or expert opinions but only on my personal feelings and experience.

Here it is: My opinion of the best style of music for worship is music that contains harmonics that resonate with the soul (I'd like to see a study of this; I think there is such a thing!), strings of phrases that cresendo with the spirit of the lyric, dynamics that are not jarring and irritating, but express unity, wholeness, and reverence, loudness and dissonance used sparingly for emotional effect, and instrumentation that is not harsh and grating, but blend and modulate together in a manner that elicits closure, peace, hopefulness and reverence. A pleasing and uplifting melody, using intervals of thirds doesn't hurt, either. (Think of the last movement of Beethoven's 5th - not a hymn, but certainly uplifting.)

This I would contrast with much of the "praise" music used in modern "worship", where the church experience is more of a rock concert experience than a worship service. The scream of the overdriven electric guitars, the heavy percussion beat, and the irreverent effect of the overly amplified vocal have to have God grabbing for his earplugs. A number of years ago I had a debate with a near 20's teenager about this kind of music used in worship. He considered it a cultural and generational preference. His opinion was as long as the lyrics are worshipful, it doesn't matter what the rest of the music sounds like. I respectfully disagreed. I believe the lyrics, and the melody, and the harmonies, and the instrumentation, and the phrasing and dynamics are all an essential part of the whole. They all work together to bring a worshipful praise experience.

I believe it is being dishonest and irreverent to use irreverent music to lure the rock-concert-goers into a church service. It is like using people dressed as hookers to give the sermon. Sure, Jesus taught to meet the people where they are. Yes, we should meet people where they are in our day to day lives to attract people to Christ and to our churches. But we shouldn't dip down into the morass of dissonance and disunity to worhip our God who is by His nature a being of harmony and unity. The instrumentation and style of music is the vessel to carry the words of praise and worship. Worshipful words delivered by an irreverent vessel are irreverent in a worhip service, or in any setting.

Example of a wrong scape goat

A local newspaper reported that a group of bicyclists, pausing 10' off the road pavement to assist one of their group repair a flat tire, was struck by a vehicle driven by a drunk driver. Several among the group of bicyclists were run over and seriously injured. A photograph shows the van driven by the drunk in a drainage ditch 30' off the road pavement, with one of the cyclists trapped underneith in the mud.

The news story goes on to quote a representative of the bicycle community that "we need more bicycle paths along our roadways." In the context of this story, this is a dumb statement - a thougthless and ill-conceived opinion. More bicycle paths would be nice, but they would have done virtually nothing to prevent this assault by a drunk driver. The drunk drove 30' off the street, for Pete's sake. The best designed bike paths are seldom built more than 10' from the travel lanes.

A more relevant, educated, helpful, and enduring opinion would have been "we need to do more to keep impaired people from driving" or "people need to have more self-control and consideration than to drive while impaired" or "people ought to refrain from getting drunk and be more responsible." That is the point of this news story. The newspaper reporter and the person he quoted had the right to their ill-timed and irrelevant opinion. But it was both poor journalism and poor choice of timing on the part of the cyclists to crusade for a pubic amenity that would do nothing for the people run over by drunks.

Friday, April 08, 2005


The name of this blog is Muccings...a play on my last name "Mucci." Most Blogs contain the musings, rambling thoughts and opinions of their owners, sooo.

Speaking of opinions, like belly buttons, every has one. Many among us believe that everyone's opinion has equal worth, equal value, deserve equal attention and respect. I will break the trend and strongly disagree. Not all opinions are created equal. Some of us give more thought to our opinions than do others. Some opinions are based on more accurate, or more helpful, or more timely, or more pertinent, information. The clarity or manner of expression and the time honored usefulness of opinions also affect their value.

For example, many parents assume all opinions are of equal worth when it comes to raising our children - it's no longer "father knows best" but "child", "peer", or "public school" knows best. We wind them up, give them money, send them off to friends and school, and vow to respect their opinion, no matter what it might be. Our own opinions are held in check - we don't want to offend or lose their respect. Hogwash! We have a 20 to 30 year head start on these new people. Their experimental behavior and opinions can't have half the value of our experience. We owe it to them to make our experience and our opinions known - even well into their adulthood when most older parents are brainwashed by most media into believing we lose our value as intelligent beings. This causes our future generations to lose the wisdom of the past. We wonder why there is a disconnect between our generations. I believe it is because the older generation is intimidated or brainwashed into believing that their opinions have less value.

All opinions have the right to be expressed. But not all opinions have equal value. Not all ideas or philosophical concepts have equal value. They do, however, have value and merit insofar as they are part of the marketplace of ideas. They all have the right to compete for recognition based on reason, truth, merit, helpfulness, and longevity of worth. The best opinions rise to the top over time. The weakest ones sink in the morass with most others. There are the "politically correct" opinions that seem true and appropriate at the time, but are they. Are they really true or good? Perhaps for the moment, to support a need or greed of the moment by one or more special interests. However, if they survive over time, then their worth is proven.

That aspect of longevity of worthiness of ideas and opinions is a good delineator between "conservative" and "liberal". A conservative holds to ideas and opinions that have withstood the test of time; a liberal tends to put experience and tradition in the background in favor of the new, unproven, and "politically correct." Mark me as a conservative. There is so much good and truth that we have forgotten over the generations. There is so much energy expended relearning the lessons of the past.