Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Mormon For President?

I'm not sure how, but I somehow found and enjoy reading their decidedly liberal slant on current events and culture as a countpoint to my decidedly conservative leanings. The following quote from the article linked above is an example of why I enjoy the site.
Romney would not be the first member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to run for the nation's highest office. He follows Orrin Hatch (2000); Mo Udall (1976); his father, George Romney (1968); and not least of all Joseph Smith, who ran in 1844 on a platform of "theodemocracy," abolition, and cutting congressional pay. Despite a strong showing in the Nauvoo straw poll, Smith didn't play much better nationally than Hatch did, and had to settle for the Mormon-elected post of King of the Kingdom of Heaven.
I about fell out of my chair when I got to the last line. How many Mormons would be shocked by that statement? How many would realize that it is true? I wouldn't have until I started reading non-church sources.

I continue to cackle whenever the church's apologists claim that Smith didn't gain anything from his role as prophet other than hardship and persecution. You know, other than never having to hold down a real job, being able to command people in the name of God to build him houses and support him, being able to get loans for the church (and not coincidentally himself as leader of the church), having divinely sanctioned marriages to whoever he wanted, a divinely commanded mansion, a riverboat, power, fame, being King of the World, etc. Other than that there was nothing in it for him.

I sincerely hope that Romney is a front-runner for the presidency because it will force the Mormon church to center stage and bring it the journalistic scrutiny that it so deserves.

Here's another great excerpt addressing whether refusing to consider voting for a devout Mormon represent religious bigotry.
Others, myself included, would not, under most imaginable circumstances, vote for a fanatic or fundamentalist—a Hassidic Jew who regards Rabbi Menachem Schneerson as the Messiah, a Christian literalist who thinks that the Earth is less than 7,000 years old, or a Scientologist who thinks it is haunted by the souls of space aliens sent by the evil lord Xenu. Such views are disqualifying because they're dogmatic, irrational, and absurd. By holding them, someone indicates a basic failure to think for himself or see the world as it is.
Here's the author's take on Joseph Smith and people who believe in him.
If you don't know the story, it's worth spending some time with Fawn Brodie's wonderful biography No Man Knows My History. Smith was able to dictate his "translation" of the Book of Mormon first by looking through diamond-encrusted decoder glasses and then by burying his face in a hat with a brown rock at the bottom of it. He was an obvious con man. Romney has every right to believe in con men, but I want to know if he does, and if so, I don't want him running the country.
She didn't get it quite right. No one saw the magic glasses and I've never seen them described as diamond-encrusted. In fact, I've never read anything indicating that anyone saw him using the "interpreters," as the Book of Mormon calls them, to translate the book. Everyone who witnessed the translation described the rock in a hat method that most Mormons know nothing about. If you buy into miracles and revelation then I can forgive believing in the Urim and Thummim. But as soon as I found out he was using his treaure hunting seer stone it was an immediate deal breaker. There's a good reason the church doesn't tell the correct version of the translation in Sunday school or seminary. Only members sufficiently enmeshed in the belief system would be able to swallow that story. I wonder if Romney is as ignorant of the church's real story as most Mormons are. It goes a long way toward explaining why an otherwise knowledgeable man can believe in such an obvious fraud when you realize that the evidence of the fraud has been carefully concealed from him. However, it still leaves the question of whether you'd vote for a man who'd be willing to avoid looking at contradictory evidence because it conflicts with his personal beliefs. That kind of dogmatism would be decidedly bad for the leader of the free world.

Here's a little more.
One may object that all religious beliefs are irrational—what's the difference between Smith's "seer stone" and the virgin birth or the parting of the Red Sea? But Mormonism is different because it is based on such a transparent and recent fraud. It's Scientology plus 125 years. Perhaps Christianity and Judaism are merely more venerable and poetic versions of the same. But a few eons makes a big difference. The world's greater religions have had time to splinter, moderate, and turn their myths into metaphor. The Church of Latter-day Saints is expanding rapidly and liberalizing in various ways, but it remains fundamentally an orthodox creed with no visible reform wing.
A transparent fraud. I couldn't have said it any better. Why is it so easy to see now and was so difficult to consider for most of my life? This is a question that the nation will have to consider because Mitt Romney and many like him are true believers in this transparent fraud.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Men in Tights, Part II

As promised, here I am chugging along at a comfortable pace in my tights at the Decker 20k.

I joke about my thunder thighs, but they are one area of my physique that I'm actually proud of. I have freakishly big legs. When I reached my peak weight of 165 my waist was 36 inches and my thighs were 32 inches. I'd do 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions on the leg press with 700+ pounds and then do leg extensions and leg curls with about 250. And I wasn't really working my legs very hard at the time. Unlike my upper body, my legs respond to weight work very quickly.

One downside to all of this was that I had to wear Levis 560 loose fit jeans and they were snug on my thighs. Lately the 560s have been getting baggy so last week I bought some 550s which are relaxed fit and my legs actually fit into them with a little room to spare. I tried some 501s for laughs and couldn't get them more than halfway up my thighs. So, all of the running has slimmed my legs down some, but I think my legs respond to running all the hills around hear as strength training and so they still stay pretty big.

BTW, I ran 5 easy miles on Sunday and my legs felt pretty good. Tonight I ran 6 miles pretty hard and I felt great. Really great. I can't believe it's only been a little more than a week since Dallas. I looked at my training plan and I only have a couple more really long runs before the 3M Half Marathon and the Austin Marathon. Everything else will be just putting the finishing touches on my conditioning and avoiding injuries. Oh, and losing some more weight. I reset DietPower this morning and it thinks I should be able to get down to 210 by the marathon. At this point, every pound makes a big difference so anything less than my current 225 will be a blessing.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Just Relaxing

It's hard to believe it's only been five days since the marathon because my body feels remarkably good. Mind you, I haven't even tried to run, but I feel pretty good except for a cold and my lower back going out for the umpteenth time. The cold might actually be allergies since cedar fever cedar has started here in Austin. The back is probably because I haven't stretched since before the marathon and all of the tightness has put unwanted stress on my on my defective lumbar region. No big deal really. But all of the muscle soreness has gone and all my little wounds seem to be healing quickly.

Life is pretty boring at the moment. I've only bought one Christmas present for the most important person in my life and still have get stuff for everyone else. Other than that I'm eating, sleeping, and working.

Anyone know how to configure Windows networks and Linux Samba and make them play nicely? My Linux workstation wouldn't print on the Windows printer last night and I proceeded to waste several late hours last night and more this morning to get it working again. No success and the Windows computers don't even seem to be able to talk to each other correctly. I think I've actually made the problem worse now since the Window machines don't seem to even be able to see the Linux shared directories any more either. I hate Microsoft and their cludgy networking. Why can't they just adhere to standards instead of foisting their crappy bandaids on the world?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Aftermath

Warning: You might find that the following contains too much information. If you continue reading and get grossed out then all I can say is, "You've been warned."

After I crossed the finish line at the marathon I was physically spent. Emotionally I was on cloud nine because I was so happy about how far I'd been able to run at my goal pace but I had no energy left and my body already hurt.

Fairly early in the race, maybe 6 miles in, I felt some chafing in the back of my crotch under my right butt cheek. I think they call that area the gluteal fold. I tried pulling the crotch of my shorts up to make sure that skin wasn't rubbing on skin but it really didn't help. On the downhill to the lake between miles 7 and 10 I started getting blisters on the bottoms of both of my little toes. As the race progressed both of these areas continued to hurt with the toes causing me the most concern. It wasn't a case of lacing my shoes too tight like in the previous race; I'd very carefully laced them this time to avoid that problem. The toes felt quite sore and it felt like I had grape sized blisters in the fold between the toe and the foot. By the end I felt pretty sure that I'd find blood in my socks.

They had a party with a good band in the American Airlines Center along with some food and refreshments for the runners. The stadium is awesome, but all the tables and food were on the stadium floor which meant going down stairs. The steps were shallow, but I was barely able to hobble down. I was walking like a 70 year old man with arthritis in his hips and lower back. My legs had no strength left at all. About all my stomach could handle was a small bowl of pasta salad, a banana, and a frozen orange/banana smoothie. We ate a bit and then we had to get back to the hotel and check out.

When I looked at my face in the bathroom my eyes were surrounded by a mask of salt crystals. As I took off my shorts I was a little dismayed to see the crotch of my underwear red with blood (I warned you). The leg opening of my underwear had worn a series of holes through my skin in several places starting with the middle of my groin around to my buttock. When I got in the shower the salt from the sweat washed into the open sores and burned like pouring salt water into open wounds.

Surprisingly, the toes didn't look too bad. The inside edge of the pads on my little toes had a thin blister along the edge, but no blood and no big blister.

I then put the stopper in the tub and sat down as the tub filled with straight cold water and my wife shuttled back and forth to the hotel ice machine. After several trips with the room's ice bucket hadn't gotten the water cold enough she got an entire waste basket full of ice and dumped that in. I wrapped my shoulders in a towel and shivered as I soaked for 20 or 30 minutes with my legs completely covered in ice water. This is a trick I read about in Runner's World and tried after long runs while training for the marathon last year. Now it has become standard practice for me after any long run. It helps reduce inflammation in the joints and the muscles.

The worst part of the day was the drive home to Austin from Dallas. My hips ached and hurt as I sat there and we had to stop periodically for me to get out and move around. It was a major effort to get in and out of the car and I still had the old man shuffle when walking. I was taking ibuprofen to help with the pain and swelling, but if it was helping it was hard to tell. When I got home I went upstairs and went to bed. Going up the stairs was no fun.

Monday wasn't too bad. The muscle soreness had set in and was getting worse, but none of my joints hurt and my feet felt fine except for a little soreness from the blisters. Sitting down at work didn't hurt but I'd be really stiff when I'd get up from my chair. I could walk somewhat normally except that my hamstrings were incredibly tight and sore and so I had to take really short steps.

I had scheduled an appointment with my massage therapist ahead of time and after work on Monday I headed in for an hour of body work. The massage was more of a flushing massage instead of the usual deep tissue massage that I get. My feet weren't sore at all. My calves were a little sore, but my lower legs felt pretty good. My hamstrings and quads were incredibly tender and my ITBs (bands of ligament tissue that run from the hip to the knee on the outside of the leg) were tight and sore. My hips were unexpectedly fine.

The massage must have worked because Tuesday morning I got out of bed and could walk normally. This is a little unusual because delayed onset muscle soreness usually hits the hardest 2 days after a hard run. My legs are still sore, which I mostly notice on the stairs, but I'm getting around pretty comfortably. The most bothersome things are the sores in my crotch which I have to sit on at work and which get rubbed by my jeans when I walk. I've also discovered some friction burns on the inside of my upper arms from the sleeve of my shirt and a sore on the outside of my left bicep from my MP3 player, but other than that I'm feeling pretty good today. Actually, I'm feeling much better than I expected because I'm only dealing with muscle soreness and not joint or bone pain.

I'll probably go to the gym tomorrow but I don't plan to do any running until next week. After that I'll have to work back into a training routine and get ready for my next race, a 20 miler, on January 7. I don't plan to run that one hard so my last two real races for the season are the 3M Half Maraton on January 28 and the Austin Marathon on February 22. I'll now be shooting for a sub 4:00 time in the marathon and think that I can do it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

In order to run a marathon, first you have to forget your last one.
I stood there frozen in pain and disbelief. My left hamstring was locked into a solid cramp from my knee to my buttock. People jogged by and encouraged me to continue. Only one more mile to go. But the cramp wouldn't release. I couldn't walk, much less run. Heck, I couldn't move without the muscle erupting in waves of pain. I couldn't possibly come this far and have to stop. Could I?

The previous month has been a bit of a trial since I pulled my calf at the Motive Bison Stamped half marathon. I've had to limit my running and let the muscle recover, but everything felt good going into the Dallas White Rock Marathon yesterday. I had done a proper taper so my legs were well rested. I'd gone off my diet for the last couple of weeks so I was well fed and nourished. I'd completed a 20k run the previous Sunday with no issues and my marathon pace felt very, very easy so it seemed like I'd been able to maintain my conditioning through the injury. Based on previous race results my predicted marathon pace was about 8:57 so I felt that trying to run 9:10 and finish in just under four hours was reasonable as long as the conditions were good.

Anna and I drove up to Dallas Saturday afternoon because I had to pick up my race packet. I thought that the race Expo was at the American Airlines Center because that is where the race starts, but we got there to see Mavericks fans arriving early for the NBA game. After asking the parking attendant we found out we needed to go to the Dallas Convention Center. After wandering all over we finally found the it, but the place was huge and we had to hunt and ask directions again to find out where in the complex it was located. Then it was off to check into the hotel and go to the pre-race pasta party at the Hyatt. Another bit of drama when we arrived because my packet didn't include the tickets that I had purchased for the dinner. A nice lady had mercy on us and let us in anyway and we got to eat some carbs and listen to some speakers. I was still hungry when it was done and since I wouldn't be eating breakfast the morning of the race I decided to stop at Denny's. For the first time ever at a Denny's we had good service and good food. I laid out my gear for the race and settled down for a good night's sleep.

I had a restless night because I kept waking up worrying that I'd sleep in, but soon it was 6 am and time to head out. I was at a loss for a moment because I couldn't find my PowerAde so I had to rush out and buy some Gatorade at a gas station while Anna finished getting ready. With that problem solved I swallowed a couple of gel packets, a large coffee, and a quart of gatorade and I was ready to go. The weather was perfect a 44 degrees with an overcast sky and light winds. The traffic getting into the AA center was good and we arrived with time to spare. I took my last bathroom break and headed to the huge crowd at the starting line.

I gave Anna one last kiss and hug and slipped into the mass of nervous energy to find my pace group. A couple of fighter jets seemed to be shooting through a canyon of skyscrapers as they roared close overhead overhead and then confetti flew and the horn blew and I started the slow shuffle to the starting mats. The balloons carried by the 4:00 pace group leader moved ahead of me and by the time I crossed the starting line I could barely see them bobbing up ahead.

I settled into a comfortable pace and tried to find my marathon pace rhythm, but it was difficult in the crowd and because the road had a slight upward incline. My heart rate was nearly 170 so I slowed down a little and was a little concerned to see the balloons continue their retreat. I checked my watch and ten minutes had already passed and I hoped that I'd missed the first mile marker. After a couple of minutes I knew I had and started looking for the second mile marker without knowing what pace I was running.

When I saw the second mile marker I realized why I missed the first one. They were pretty blue banners mounted on poles and they rotated with the wind. Depending on the direction of the wind they could be pointing straight toward or away from you making them invisible. Despite my heart rate, my pace was about 9:40 or about 30 seconds per mile too slow. I couldn't even see the balloons now as I corrected my pace and tried to get down to a 9:00 pace. This was difficult because the course had a gentle upward slope for the first seven miles as it climbed first through downtown Dallas and then into upscale suburban estates.

My heart rate stayed around 168 throughout the climb but my legs felt ok. I finally crested the hills and the view opened up onto White Rock Lake. I was now grateful for about three miles of downhill running that let me drop down to about an 8:40 pace and finally see the bobbing balloons of the pace leader again. The next ten miles were flat. Bowling alley flat. Flat as an iron. Flat as a pancake. Carpenter's dream flat road for ten miles.

Now I settled into a 9:00 pace and tried to close with my pace group. At the water stops each mile they got closer and closer. As mile 13 went by I'd almost caught up and just a tenth of a mile later I passed the halfway point at 1:59:00, exactly one minute ahead of pace. Now I was running just a few steps behind the pace leader but my legs were getting uncomfortable. Now I was happy to be running with a group because otherwise I might have slowed down. But every time I'd start to drop off the pace I was able to concentrate on smoothing out and relaxing and I was able to keep going. But it was definitely becoming a struggle. Around mile 15 I remember commenting to a fellow sufferer that my legs hurt.

But what could I do at that point? The heart rate I was sustaining was ridiculous. In February my lactate threshold had tested at 163 in a lab setting and I was well above that. But I didn't have the familiar lactic acid burn of fast running. After 15 miles of running I was just sore and tired and I told myself that I'd be just as sore and tired if I slowed down. I told myself that if I walked then I just tighten up and get more sore and have difficulty running again. I told myself I'd keep going for one more mile. And then another. And another as we turned back toward Dallas and could see the skyline and our final destination with less than ten miles to go. That was encouraging and the last few miles around the lake went quickly even as my discomfort grew.

Just before mile 20 I traded the 4:00 goal for survival. The course climbed 180 feet in the first 7 miles. Now it climbed the same amount in less than a mile and my already struggling legs could no longer stay in contact with the pace group. I know that doesn't sound like a very big hill, but after 20 miles the legs feel the additional effort of even a modest rise and this was a pretty good hill. I didn't even consider trying to stay with the group and shortened my stride and kept running at a reduced pace up the hill while my heart rate climbed above 170. By the top of the hill 21 miles had passed and my legs were burning with lactic acid in addition to their previous soreness and fatigue. So I walked and hoped that the muscles would be able to flush out the lactic acid.

The last five miles were down hill, but with the 4:00 goal now out of reach I settled into a more reasonable pace and my heart rate hovered around 160 as I slowed to around a 10:00 pace. Los Lonely Boys started playing Onda and I closed my eyes and ran with the music for a while at a slightly quicker pace. I played air guitar and must have looked funny, but it got me a few hundred meters further down the road. But when the music was done I needed to walk again and shuffled along for almost five minutes.

I started running again around mile 23. Now I had less than 5 km to go and suddenly I was moving past walkers and slow joggers and the crowd which had thinned out was suddenly thick again. I was confused until I realized that they started the half marathon an hour later than the full marathon and that the courses had merged. I almost collided with half marathoners and my legs protested as I had to swerve and change pace to weave through the maze of bodies. I could now hear the contest white noise of the downtown freeways as I entered the urban canyons of the city and my spirits rose in anticipation of the finish. I passed mile 25 and picked up my pace to finish strong. My legs were tired, but knowing that the finish line was so close I could live with the discomfort and pain and knew that my legs had just enough energy to put on one more burst.

And that is how I wound up with a cramped hamstring that refused to uncramp. I flexed my quadraceps as forcefully as I could and raised my toes but everytime I relaxed the hamstring immediately cramped into a rocky knot of pain. So I held my pose and relaxed and waited and bent a little at the waist to gently stretch the overtaxed muscle. I finally tentatively relaxed a little and this time nothing happened. I took a step. Still good. No pain as I began walking and still no pain as I resumed my jog to the finish. Now I rounded the last corner and the finish line was in sight. I couldn't stop smiling as I ran through the cheering crowds that were gathered to greet the finishers and I was overcome with emotion as I crossed the red timing maps that recorded each finisher with an audible electronic beep. My eyes filled with tears as I was welcomed by volunteers who hung a medal around my neck, wrapped me in a space blanket, and gave me my finishers shirt. I stumbled with fatigue and a concerned worker asked if I need medical assistance. I smiled and said no and headed toward the exit to find my wife waiting for me to guide me into the arena as drizzle began to fall.

I stupidly deleted my mile splits before I could record them, but I was with my pace group up until mile 20 so I know I averaged 9:10 pace for the first 20 miles. The last 6.2 miles were slow and I really don't care. I set a personal record (PR) in the half marathon (1:59:00) and a huge PR in the marathon with a final time of 4:17:34 which is an average pace of 9:50. That is an improvement of 43 minutes over my first marathon 10 months ago. I was 56th out of 184 males in the Clydesdale division (over 200 pounds) and 1790 out of 3507 marathon runners.

I was happy when I finished my first marathon, but I'm really over the moon because I felt like I raced this one and really pushed my personal limits. I was nervous going into the race on a number of different levels. Perhaps my biggest concern was whether I could really reach the potential suggested by previous races, books, and pace calculators. A 9:10 pace would have seemed farfetched 3 months ago. While I didn't finish at that pace, I made it 20 miles and I have a new confidence that I can reasonably aim for a sub four hour time in a couple of months at the Austin Marathon.

This post is already long so I'll post about the aftermath tomorrow. I hope this wasn't too boring for you, but it is a big deal to me and I wanted to capture my feelings before the memories begin to fade.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Men in Tights

Winter has descended out of the great white north and assaulted my peaceful Texas town. On Wednesday it was 82 degrees. The next night it got down to 29 and each night since then has gotten down to the upper 20s or low 30s. Tonight it's supposed to get down to 25.

I had a 20k race this morning and it was a brisk 36 degrees this morning at the beginning of the race and only warmed to 42 by the end. This was accompanied by a pleasant 15 mph wind out of the north that in addition to cutting through all of my clothing also made the hills harder than they already were. I actually had to break out my tights for the first time this year. My spandex shorts might not be anything to look at, but I'm hot in black tights; if they were fashionable I'd wear them all the time. I also had on a long sleeve underarmor (prevents bloody nipples, don't you know), a long sleeve technical shirt, a half-zip light weight pullover, running gloves and a hat.

I'd heard about bloody nipples, but never experienced a problem until last race when I wore just a technical shirt instead of my normal spandex shirt. After 13.1 miles the nice smooth fabric had rubbed my nipples raw. They weren't bleeding yet, but they hurt for a couple of days. Some guys put bandaids on them, others use vaseline, I'll just stick to spandex.

I know at least one reader was worried about my obsessive need to continue to run despite my calf injury. I partially took his advice and didn't run after my test run last Tuesday until today. I actually went in and got a massage on Friday which really helped relax the muscles and work out some knots in my recovering calf.

I used today's race as a training run since I'm signed up for the Dallas marathon next Sunday. I was trying to run a pretty even 10:00 pace and wound up averaging 9:52. I picked it up to 9:00 for a couple of miles in the middle to simulate my planned marathon pace and it felt okay. The calf was completely a non-issue despite the fact that the course was nothing but constant hills. The only real issue was a blister on my little toe caused by lacing my shoe up too tight. I had to stop, untie the shoe, and loosen it up after about 10 miles because it was getting really painful. After that, not a problem. The calf was macanudo; not even sore.

I've been tapering down for the Dallas marathon next week and this week will be really light with just a 5 mile run on Tuesday, 2 miles on Wednesday, 4 on Thursday, and 1 on Saturday. The weather next week is predicted to be clear and low 40s which will be perfect. The course if flat and fast and unless something changes I'll be trying to run about 9:10 pace and break under 4 hours. That would knock a full hour off of my previous time of 5:00.

Anyway, I'm at close to full health and I think with another light week I'll be ready to put in a good run.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Merry Smithmas Everyone

If you've never been to the Salamander Society then I highly recommend it unless you are a believer in which case you are likely to miss the humor and be offended. The title of this post links to their Smithmas page.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I haven't really slept well the last couple of nights. Last night I was thinking about spirituality and wondering where my loss of belief in Mormonism has left me. Discovering the lies and deceptions within Mormonism threw all of my religious and spiritual beliefs into question. All that remained was a pretty sensitive hole that I've mostly stayed away from. I've escaped into rationalism and agnosticism but I don't think that that really completely represents who I am and what I believe. You see, last night I remembered that I believed in God and that I believe strongly in the power and necessity of faith.

Those beliefs don't have anything to do with Mormonism or organized religion but I feel like I need to sift through the rubble of my lost beliefs and rediscover the gems that might be there. Otherwise I'll be letting Mormonism rob me of treasures that it has no claims on.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Last week I started running again after being forced to take a week off because of a pulled calf muscle. Everything felt good with no pain and not even any soreness. Then on Saturday I was out on a short, slow run when the calf started getting sore. It got progressively worse until I gave in and walked up the hills. Later in the day it went from being sore to being painful. How depressing.

It would have been nice to have taken more time off, but I have a 20k race this next Sunday and a marathon the week after that so it is critical that I heal quickly. I thought I had until the latest setback.

So Sunday I went to the gym and did 2.5 hours on the elliptical trainer instead of running around the lake. This was followed by 30 minutes of the same on Monday. The calf was feeling better with just a hint of soreness so I ran again yesterday. I figured that if I couldn't do it then I'd probably be in trouble for the race this weekend. I'm happy to report that I was able to run 2.5 miles of warmup followed by four 1000m intervals and another 1.5 miles of cooldown. The calf was sore, but didn't get any worse and it feels good this morning so I think I'll be ok.

Just to be safe I won't do much more running for the rest of the week. The plan is to do the rest of the week's runs on the elliptical trainer with a few short runs on the treadmill to keep the running muscles loose.

Being injured is depressing. I felt great and everything was going really well right up until the injury. Now I have to worry about reinjury and conditioning and whether or not I'll be able to finish up my race series. I suppose it's hard to understand, but in the same way as running and achieving challenging goals make me feel really good, these periods of struggle can be disheartening. I'm trying to make the best of it and I'm grateful that other than this my season has gone very well. Hopefully I'll come through it stronger than ever.

It's been unseasonably warm this week and very humid, but the forecast if for a strong arctic air mass to plunge into central Texas tonight. So, the weather for the race should be in the low 30's. That's a little on the cold side, but it's better than the alternative. I'm hoping that the cool air will stick around for at least a week so that I'll have good conditions for the Dallas Marathon. I'm cautiously hopeful that despite the injury and disrupted training I'll be able to run well in both races.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Resignation Response

A friend just resigned from the church. He was joined by his wife and all their kids. Both were lifelong members and both served honorable full time missions for the church. They were married in the temple and were active in the church along with their kids. I've read about how the church responds to resignations (which it insists on calling "name removal"), but my friend sent me their response. I find it puzzling in many ways and thought I'd share it.

Remember, the church expends huge amounts of energy trying to convert people to the church and is especially eager to convert intact families. So it is really a calamity when an intact family opts to never darken their halls again. At least you'd think so. I don't think that is reflected in the following which feels a lot more like a polite, "What's your problem? If you figure it out then feel free to come back."

The first item is a photocopied letter with a vertical black line down the left side. Apparently the copier needed servicing and the former members didn't deserve the original. I've taken the liberty of inserting comments throughout.
I have been asked to acknowledge your recent letter in which you request that your family's names be removed from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [They did no such thing. I read the letter and it wasn't a request; it was a resignation which the law states was effective immediately which makes the following both false and completely irrelevant.]

I have also been asked to inform you that the Church considers such a request to be an ecclesiastical matter that must be handled by local priesthood leaders before being processed by Church employees. [Why? The church employees regularly send unsolicited membership records to the wards and refuses to take them back so why can't they inform the ward that the members have quit and take the records back? The answer: they can and should, but they want to make sure that members aren't quitting to avoid excommunication. However this isn't even a reason anymore because the church has changed its policies and no longer excommunicates people who have quit.] Therefore, your letter and a copy of this reply are being sent to President [stake president] of the [stake] Stake. He will have Bishop [bishop] of the [ward] Ward contact you concerning the fulfillment of your request. [How long before that communication makes it through the ward grape vine?]

In view of the eternal consequences of such an action, the Brethren urge you to reconsider your request and to prayerfully consider the enclosed statement of the First Presidency. [Is that a thinly veiled threat?]


Greg W. Dodge
Manager, Member and Statistical Records

The next enclosure is a glossy white pamphlet with a black and white photo of the Christus statue on the cover.



Inside it says.
An Invitation to Come Back

We reach out to members of the Church throughout the world in a spirit of love and brotherhood inspired by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our interest and concern are always with the individual man or woman, boy or girl. Our great responsibility is to see that each is "remembered and nourished by the good word of God" (Moroni 6:4). If any have been offended, we are sorry. Our only desire is to cultivate a spirit of mercy and kindness, of understanding and healing. We seek to follow the example of our Lord, who "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38).

To you who for any reason find yourselves outside the embrace of the Church, we say come back. We invite you to return and partake of the happiness you once knew. You will find many with outstretched arms to welcome you, assist you, and give you comfort.

The Church needs your strength, love, loyalty, and devotion. [The course is fixed and certain by which a person may return to the full blessings of Church membership, and we stand ready to receive all who wish to do so.

Sincerely yours,

The First Presidency
In a separate block quote at the top of the second column is the following statement.

Come back. Stand with us.
Feast at the table laid before you in
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
day Saints and strive to follow the
Good Shepherd.
I'd like to parse this, but there's not much to parse. How much time did they take to come up with this? Here you have another complete family quitting the church and this is the divinely inspired last message from the church's prophet? Sorry if you were offended, but we're just trying to do good. I love the touch about partaking of the "happiness you once knew." They're so sure that your experience inside the church was one of happiness, which explains your resignation. And they clearly assume that you are no longer happy since you are quitting.

Then there is the rather obvious statement that they need you as a member. That's rather obvious since nearly every good thing that comes out of the church is the result of its unpaid volunteers and almost despite the best efforts of Salt Lake.

I also love the statement about standing ready to receive you back. There is an underlying threat there because the church's handbook of instructions clearly directs that former members are only allowed to be rebaptized into the church after searching interviews. I suspect that a lot of groveling and humble pie would be required before it happened and before you'd be restored to full fellowship in the church.

Finally there is the reference to the feast laid out for us in the church. Funny how I felt starved, not feted, suffocated, not refreshed.

Somehow I just don't think they get it. People don't leave because they are offended, unless you count being offended at being lied to and taken advantage of. They leave because the church has a crappy product and they've finally seen through the lies. Conspicuously absent is any kind of admission or willingness to consider that perhaps the church did something wrong or that the church could improve. No where do they request input from the former member about why they are leaving or how the church could better fulfill their needs or where the church may have gone wrong in accomplishing their mission. The problem is clearly with the former member, not the church.

What in this is supposed to make a disenchanted member reconsider their decision? What are they supposed to prayerfully consider? The emptiness is stunning when you consider that an entire family that had selflessly served the church their entire life is trying to quit.

Personally, I think that they already know why people are quitting and are completely unwilling to do anything about the reasons. Once a person notices that the emperor has no clothes and stops playing along it is futile to get them to pretend again.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Why I Want to Lose Weight

I just got these pictures from the Bison Stampede. My gosh look at those thighs! They were all taken after I pulled my calf. You can tell by the straightened right hand which for some inexplicable reason made it easier to force my gimpy right leg along by pumping that arm furiously with my hand chopping at the air.

The next one is me rubbing my right hip/ass because the way I was running made it hurt.

The last one is me hobbling across the finish line and desparately looking for a place to sit down.

By the way, the spandex shorts aren't a fashion statement or anything, merely a concession to the realities of having 30" thighs attached to a 36" waist. From the waist down I'm built more like a linebacker than a runner and if I wear regular shorts on a long run then the insides of my thighs get rubbed to the point of bleeding.

Monday, November 20, 2006

On The Road Again

At the gym on Friday I tried running on the treadmill. I made about 3 tentative strides before I stopped because of the pain in my calf. But on Sunday I managed 3 very comfortable miles on the track with just a hint of sensation in the calf near the end and a little soreness in the afternoon. This morning I did six hilly miles through the neighborhood without any discomfort or pain so I think that the calf is well on its way back to full health after only a week of layoff. It's funny that after only a week off my legs felt really dead yesterday and today even though I was training in the gym.

As a sign of faith that my leg would heal quickly I signed up for the Dallas Marathon on December 10. So now I have one more week of regular training before I start the pre-marathon taper. I signed up for Dallas so I could get two marathons in this season. Depending on how I feel and what the weather is like I'll either use it as a long training run or try for a good time. If everthing isn't perfect then I'll just take it easy and finish. I just want to get some more experience at the distance before the Austin marathon in February.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Injuries To Lose Weight?

I was a little disappointed about my injury during Sunday's race spoiling what I was hoping to be a huge PR (personal record). Given the amount of initial pain I was also worried about how it would affect the rest of my marathon season. Immediately after the race I started applying RICE therapy to the injury (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). I augmented that with regular doses of ibuprofen as an anti-inflamatory. I took Monday and Tuesday completely off except for short, hobbling walks with the dogs. On Wednesday and today I went to the gym and worked out on the recumbent stationary bike and elliptical trainer to maintain cardio fitness. I've also kept the calf wrapped in an ACE bandage. I'm happy to report that as of today I can walk without a limp and the calf is just sore, not painful. I can even raise up on my toes as long as I do it slowly (no jumping, running, or stairs yet). I suspect that within a few days I'll be able to resume running. If I can run without pain then I should be able to get back to a normal running schedule.

Going to the gym has reminded me how useful and effective the bike and elliptical trainer are for training when you are suffering from injuries. That helped me to decide to renew my Gold's Gym membership for another year. I think that I'm going to start doing some gym workouts to my weekly schedule, probably on "rest" days, to augment my running without adding any more pounding. Last year knee and hip pain had me doing very little running and yet I was able to actually improve my race performances with little more than regular gym workouts on the elliptical.

I was also surprised to weigh in at 223.4 this morning. At the start of my latest diet (10/11?) I weighed 231 so this represents a substantial loss. So far it is just a trough and my average weight is probably still around 227, but I think I've finally scaled the calories back far enough and consistently enough that the weight is starting to come off. I'm not really even dealing with many hunger pangs or cravings any more. The worst is first thing in the morning and right before bed. Other than that I'm just constantly eating healthy stuff each time I feel hungry during the day. I'm still hoping that I can get down to 210 my the end of the year which is beginning to look like a stretch. Dietpower is currently estimating 222 but that will change if I can continue to follow its advice.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Why Thanks For Asking

You know, I was ready to accept yesterday's calf injury as just one of those things that happen to 42 year old men that write checks that their body can't cash. Then someone asked me what I thought I did wrong. Had I ramped up my mileage too quickly? Was my body overtrained?

At first I was taken aback. What!? Me? Nope. I did everything right. Then I started explaining my program and what great care I've been taking to ramp my mileage slowly and give my body plenty of time to recover after ramping up mileage or after running hard. And as I confidently described my program I kicked myself as I realized that I did NOT follow my program last week. In fact, I made what I realize now was a critical mistake with perfectly predictable consequences.

Here's my program. It revolves around a weekly long run on Sunday that is done at an easy pace. I started out at 10 miles and added one mile a week until I worked up to 16 miles. After that I would only increase the mileage one mile every other week and on the other week would run less than the previous week. This created a cycle of one week with slightly higher mileage than two weeks before followed by a week with lower mileage to allow my body to recover.

I take Monday completely off as a rest day and then run on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Tuesday is always done at an easy pace to allow my legs a chance to recover from Sunday's long run. On long weeks it is a short run of 3-5 miles. On short weeks it is 6-8 miles. Wednesday and Thursday are quality runs run at a harder pace. The quality runs are either tempo runs, long runs with accelerations, or interval workouts at the track. After two hard days I take Friday off to let my legs recover. Then on Saturday I do a short, easy run of 3-5 miles depending on how long the next day's long run is going to be.

So, what did I do last week? I ran 14 miles on Sunday which is short for me since my long run is now 20+ miles. But I missed my Tuesday run because I had to get up at 5:00 am to go to San Antonion and watch my sons perform in the state marching band contest. Since I didn't get home until late I didn't get up and do my Wednesday run either. I was worried about missing over 10 miles of running and how that would affect my long-term fitness so I decided to do my planned Tuesday and Wednesday runs on Thursday and Friday. I ran 7.5 miles on Thursday at an easy pace. On Friday I did a short interval workout at the track with two easy miles followed by two hard 800 m intervals at 6:40 pace and an easy cool down mile. It all seemed reasonable. That way I'd only be missing the 7 mile run that had been planned for Thursday that was supposed to include accelerations. So, I figured I'd actually be doing less than I planned and I'd be fine for Sunday's race. In fact, when I went out for an easy 3 mile run on Saturday I felt great. I felt even better on Sunday morning for the race. I felt perfectly rested and prepared.

So, you can see where I screwed up, can't you? I ran three days in a row without a rest day in the leadup to a grueling half marathon. One lesson I learned is that you can't always feel the accumulated damage and micro tears in your muscles that accumulate from training. Despite feeling great, I'd torn down the muscles without giving them sufficient time to repair and rebuild themselves. Instead of coming to the race with strengthened muscles, I'd started with muscles that were on the edge. That's why my training plan calls for planned rest days at regular intervals and regular easy weeks.

Lesson learned? It's better to skip a planned run than a planned rest day. I violated the one rule I've been trying to follow this year: train to rest. In other words, train hard so that your body can rebuild itself stronger when you give it sufficient rest.

The good news is that my calf is feeling much better today and I'm not limping so badly.

BTW, thanks Matt for making me think. You asked the right questions and forced me to not accept my self-justifications.

Live Bookmarks

Have you discovered live bookmarks yet? I don't know if Microsoft Explorer supports them or not (I just checked and I don't think it does) because I use Firefox because it is superior in all ways to Microsoft's outdated little web browser. In Firefox, when you are browsing a blog with an RSS feed (don't worry if you don't know what that is) you'll see an icon at the right end of your address bar that looks like an orange speaker. Click on that and it will pop up a little box titled, "Add Live Bookmark." Just click okay and let it create it in your "Bookmarks Toolbar Folder." Now it will show up in a tool bar under your address bar and when you click on it, it will show you the titles of the most recent posts on that blog. That allows you to quickly see if the blog has any new entries without having to actually go there. You can put all of your favorite blogs there and quickly scan through them. Try it and I promise you'll like it.

If you're afraid of using Firefox, don't be. It will automatically import all of your Explorer favorites and can peacefully coexist with Explorer. Plus it has some cool new features such as tabbed browsing and live bookmarks that will make your web browsing a much nicer experience.

Mormon Respect For Women

I just love how Mormons adore, honor, and respect women. All you have to do is ask them. They'll proclaim their respect just as vigorously as Muslims. I'd forgotten about this little fact until reminded of it on RfM: women used to be prohibited from praying in sacrament meetings. And this wasn't some anachronistic 19th century thing. Blacks were actually allowed to have the priesthood before women were allowed to pray in sacrament meeting. Don't believe me? Check out the linked summary of President Kimball's accomplishments from the church's own web site. The date was September 29, 1978. The announcement of the policy change for blacks was on June 9. Amazing.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Stomped By a Calf at the Bison Stampede

Short version. Everything was going spectacularly until just after mile seven when I felt a pop in my right calf and simultaneously a pain in my right hip followed by an excruciating pain in my calf. This was followed by 6 miles of pain and a slow finish. Still I finished. My time was 2:09:53.9 which is an average of a 9:55 pace. Not bad since I ran the same race in 2:09:41.0 last year without an injury.

Mile 1: 8:34.3 avg=158 end=157
Mile 2-3: 17:10.3(8:35.1) avg=162 end=161
Mile 4: 9:05.8 avg=162 end=165
Mile 5: 8:44.6 avg=167 end=175
Mile 6: 9:46.5 avg=169 end=172
Mile 7: 9:51.8 avg=170 end=167
Mile 8: 10:32.6 avg=162 end=159
Mile 9: 10:25.9 avg=154 end=166
Mile 10: 9:02.7 avg=163 end=161
Mile 11: 9:46.1 avg=164 end=142
Mile 12-13: 25:52.0(12:56) avg=142 end=158
Mile 13.1: 1:05.8 avg=160 end=161

Longer story:

I woke up at 5:15 am and checked the weather. The temperature was a crisp 42 degrees which rose to a perfect 49 degrees by the race start. The race started at 7:30 and I quickly settled into a comfortable pace and was pleased to see the first mile go by in 8:34. Mile 5 included a long steep downhill followed by the beginning of the first steep hill and I was surprised that the two averaged out to an 8:44 mile. The next couple of miles were just survival but as I crested the big hills in the middle of the course my legs recovered almost instantly and I was able to pick the pace back up. The big hills were followed by a few small rollers and while I was going up a small hill my calf suddenly gave up the ghost. It was really strange because there was no warning, no tightness, and no soreness. I was just running along trying to keep up a good pace and as I my right foot landed, bang!

It hurt so bad that I considered dropping out of the race but if I didn't finish then I'd be out of the distance challenge. So I walked along to see if it would loosen up. The pain in my hip made me wonder if it was actually the calf muscle or it was referred pain from my sciatic nerve. I tested it out by starting a slow jog. I was limping but I was gradually able to pick up the pace and smooth things out. By mile 10 I was back down to a 9:04 pace and I was at about an 8:40 pace when I hit a gentle rise right before the 11 mile marker. Even though it wasn't even a hill the extra stress was too much and the calf suddenly exploded in pain again. While I was stretching out on the sidewalk a policeman came running up to make sure I was ok. I must have looked like I collapsed.

With two miles remaining I couldn't run any more. It felt like I had a steak knife stuck in my calf. It was really frustrating because otherwise I felt terrific and I was so close to the end and if I could only get jogging again I could still beat my time from last year. But when I tried running again the pain was too much. I simply couldn't raise up onto the ball of my foot. But I figured out that I could lock my ankle with the toe up, rotate my leg outward, and jog along without using my calf. It still hurt but it was manageable. I hobbled over the last couple of miles at a ridiculous pace but I finished.

So now I'm barely able to walk and wondering how long it will be before I can run again. I don't think I did my calf any favors by running 6 miles on it after it pulled. I'm pleased at my conditioning and my pace for the first half of the race and am quite confident that I could have kept it up for the whole race, but I'm bummed about the injury.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Watch Out for the Bison Stampede!

Tomorrow I'm racing in a half marathon, the Motive Bison Stampede (linked in the title). My last race went really, really well and for some reason that has made me really worried about the race tomorrow. I averaged 8:35 mile pace in that 10 mile race and based on that a pace calculator predicts that I should be able to run the half marathon (13.1 miles) at an 8:38 pace.

By comparison, last year I ran this race at a 9:54 pace. Have I really gotten that much faster? I'm having trouble believing it, but today I ran a couple of laps at 8:40 pace and it was very comfortable. So I'll find out tomorrow.

One notable feature of this race is a HUGE hill at around mile 5 that is very steep and about a mile long. A half mile later there is another good sized steep hill. Half of the race is still left after those hills and the danger is that you kill your legs on the hill and suffer for the rest of the race. At the bottom of the linked map is an elevation profile that shows the hills. The key to this race is the hills between mile 4 and mile 7. The rest of the race is pretty smooth.

I get a lot of experience running hills in my neighborhood. A lot of people make the mistake of leaning back when going down hills to control their speed. This has the unfortunate effect of pounding your legs and killing your leg muscles. The right way to run down hills is to lean forward and try remain relaxed and smooth while controlling your pace. This allows you to pick up your pace without much additional effort. Going up hill isn't big mystery. You lean forward slightly and shorten your steps to try to keep you leg turnover up and try not to have a heart attack.

My my plan is to run 8:45 pace for the first 4 miles, pick up my pace down the big hill at mile 4 to keep my heart rate up, keep my heart rate below 175 going up the next two hills, and then try to run an even 8:40 until mile 10 after which I'll try to finish at around an 8:35 pace.

It's been hot this week but a cold front came through last night and cold air has continued to blow into the area. The predicted low tonight is 35 degrees so I think that conditions for the race will be close to perfect for me. I've read that 55 degrees is the ideal temperature, but I've had my best performances in the low 40s. I think it's because I'm fat and have more insulation. Anyway I'll probably be running in shorts and a long sleeved technical shirt with running gloves and a hat.

Useless statistic of the day: I ran 696 miles in 2005 and have run 810 miles so far this year. At least that is what my Nike running log says.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Is It Possible to Be Civil?

As much disrespect as I have for the Mormon church and its leaders, I don't go out of my way to do the moral equivalent of sticking a thumb in the eye of every Mormon I come across. I try to treat them the same way that I would like to be treated and I try to remember that I was once an over zealous believer.

I wasn't a bad person then and I don't think I'm a bad person now. I was and am trying to do what I feel is right. Part of that is trying to understand what is right and then trying to do it. I suck at it, but I do try. I think that most religious people are in a similar situation; they are trying to do what they believe is right.

I was at the bookstore getting a running book today and browsed through the religion section. I was mostly interested in finding some books on Islam. My recent email war with my father has made me acutely aware of how ignorant I am of one of the world's major religions and one that is having a huge impact on social and political events. While browsing I browsed a lengthy tome on the historicity of Jesus that would have made Jeff Lindsay pround. I also found a few books on Islam that ranged from apologetic to harshly critical.

Am I entertaining any notions of converting to Islam? Hardly. So why read? Because I feel that part of what is right is to understand people and their world view. Part of it is also so that I know how to properly respect their beliefs and culture.

A couple of recent events have really bothered me. One was some posts reveling in the fall of Ted Haggard. Another was a post on an exmo mailing list by an exmo Christian preacher who told of showing temple garments to meetings and the laughter it elicited. In the first case I said that I felt sorry for Haggard and in the second I stated that I didn't think that it was civil to publicly belittle and mock what other people consider sacred. Neither of my responses were well received. Apparently I'm alone in having some empathy for Mr. Haggard and his fall from grace. One respondent told me that Mormon temple garments have more in common with Nazi symbols than a Jewish yamulka.

I really, really dislike tele-evangelists and the cult of personalily that surrounds the leaders of some of the mega churches. It's just as unsettling as the same phenomena in Mormonism and many other religions. The demonification of homosexuals is also a mystery to me. I have a brother in law that it gay and he's one of the nicest, most decent people I know. But, to me, there is just something unseemly about taking pleasure in the suffering of another person or in the extreme lack of sensitivity that is often shown for people that believe differently. Maybe it is based in a desire for revenge for past and present wrongs. If so, it's a manifestation of the least and lowest of our character.

So, I'm sorry for how homosexuals are treated. I try to stand up for them and their rights whenever I get a chance. But that doesn't mean that I think it is good or healthy for me to take an eye for an eye when I get the chance. I'll continue to try to counter the influence of idiots like Ted Haggard. But I won't take pleasure in his suffering, as easy as that might be. And I'll speak out against Mormonism and try to point out the facts as I understand them. But I won't be going out of my way to shove it in the face of other Mormons and treat them in a way calculated to offend them.

One final note. I know that the comments were made on blogs and mailing lists that are intended to let people vent so this really isn't meant as a criticism of the people involved. I'm actually sorry if my defensive comments there and here upset people. It's more a reminder to myself to not let my feelings to cause me to lose empathy for the people around me who may deeply believe very differently than me.

Confused? Sorry, no time to edit right now.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Why We Compete

Losses are usually sobering events that cause us to take stock of ourselves and reassess why we compete. My sons competed in the Texas 5A State Marching Band Competition yesterday in San Antonio's Alamodome. The competition is held every other year and two years ago they took the runner up spot. They worked very hard again this year and put together an outstanding show. They scored very well in the area competition a couple of weeks ago and that seemed to bode well for state. The preliminaries started at 8:00 am and continued until 5:00 pm as 31 teams put on their shows for the judges. Our band performed very well, but when the ten finalists were announced they didn't make it. This was quite surprising because four of the five bands from our area did make the finals even though we outscored all of them except one in the area competition.

The events remind me that the true reason for competition is to motivate us to reach our potential. It's nice to win, but if you've done your best then that is the real goal. As nice as it is to win, it is more important to stretch ourselves and accept the results with grace.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Blogging the Bible

I just wanted to put a plug in for a blog from Slate called Blogging the Bible. The author is blogging about the Old Testament right now and his comments are very interesting. It's funny to be reminded about how outrageous the Bible can be, especially the Old Testament. I find it particularly ironic to be reminded about how violent and bloodthirsty Jehovah and his prophets and followers were in light of how much press the violence of militant Islam is getting. Click on the title for a link to the blog.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Blaming the Victim

While I was running around Town Lake and trying to think about anything except the humidity, I recalled something from Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series that made me flinch. Since his hit Ender's Game series Card has made a living recycling Mormonism as Sci-Fi/Fantasy stories. I think it stands on its own and plays pretty well to non-Mormons, but if you are a Mormon or know anything about Mormonism then you read the books and go, "Oh come on! Couldn't you come up with your own ideas?" Specifically the Ships of Earth series retells the Book of Mormon as an intergalactic odyssey and the Alvin Maker series gives Joseph Smith his older brother's name and recycles a lot of stories and ideas from early church history including a Moroni-like visit and an incident very reminiscent of either the Fanny Alger or Nancy Johnson stores.

It was this last one that made me do a double take. At the time I read the book I didn't really know anything about the non-faith-promoting parts of Joseph Smith's story. In Card's book a teenage girl becomes obsessed with Alvin Maker to the point where she starts fantasizing about him and then telling her fantasies as if they were real. Rumours begin to fly and pretty soon Alvin finds himself run out of town and chased by accusations of taking advantage of an innocent little girl. Of course, all of this is the work of a hidden adversary trying to block Alvin's great work with lies and Alvin is completely innocent of all wrong doing and is only guilty of trying to make the world a better place.

I found this comforting at the time I read it because Card is very good at telling stories and building characters with realistic emotions and motivations so he makes it seem very plausible that these types of awful accusations could be heaped on a perfectly innocent man.

The problem is that now I know about the overwhelming evidence that shows that Joseph Smith, unlike his fictional twin, was completely guilty of all of the accusations and much worse. He "married" 16-year-old Fanny Alger to cover up what Oliver Cowdery characterized as a dirty affair. It seems likely that he either propositioned or had an affair with youthful Nancy Johnson which precipitated his tarring and feathering by the Johnson boys. Lending further credence to the Johnson affair is the fact that he had a well documented plural marriage to Nancy Johnson in the later Nauvoo period when Smith became more brazen in his practice of polygamy which would seem to follow a pattern of his marrying girls and women with whom he had been close since the Kirtland period.

Anyway, Card seems to have followed the pattern that has often played out when powerful men are accused of misdeeds: he blames the victim. Faced with accusations of polygamy and adultery starting in Kirtland and continuing throughout his life, Smith publicly and violently denied the accusations. He did so repeatedly and when people persisted he blackly attacked his accusers and slandered and attacked them to destroy their reputations and bring them down.

A classic example is when he proposed to Orson Pratt's wife while Orson was away on a church mission. When he returned his wife told him and he was rightly furious and confronted Smith. Smith denied everything and instead rounded up witnesses to testify that Mrs. Pratt had in fact committed adultery with John Bennett, once a member of the First Presidency of the church and now a virulent apostate and enemy of Smith and the church. He forced Pratt to choose between believing his wife and believing in the prophet of God. Sadly, Pratt was driven to the point of suicide but eventually chose Smith over his own wife. Nevertheless, Pratt was continually reminded throughout his life that he, for a short time, chose his wife over the prophet and despite being restored to his apostleship and in the quorum of the twelve by Smith, was later demoted by Brigham Young to prevent him from being able to succeed to the presidency of the church.

Anyway, it just struck me how easy it is for Mormons to dismiss the ugly facts about their church's founder without knowing all of the facts and instead blame the accusers.

P.S. One more note on the Johnson lynching. Mormons like to point to this as an anti-Mormon mob while carefully avoiding the speculations surrounding Nancy and the fact that some of the lynchers were family members in the house where they were living. They also don't point out that the mob brought a doctor for the express purpose of castrating Joseph Smith. Now why on earth would they want to do that? Again it seems to speak strongly that something sexual, not religious, was at the bottom of their motivations.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Migraines Make Me Grumpy

Maybe more than grumpy. How about unliveable. Last night on the way out of work I started getting one. I stopped for dinner and another one started. The football game was miserable because I felt chilled and every sound chafed my nerves. Then this morning I awoke to the feeling of a pick in my brain. And the day has continued pretty much the same. The pain tailed off once I got moving, but I've been incredibly sensitive and irritable about everything.

But UT won against Oklahoma State so things aren't so bad.

And I've now blogged every day this month. I'm just one of the sheeple.

I'm going to collapse and try to sleep.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Ok. The well's dry today so I'll just tell you that my weight was 226.2 this morning. Not a big deal except that when I started my diet on 10/11 it was 231 and since then it hasn't been dropping much despite running a lot and restricting my calories to the point where I'm constantly within 15 minutes of being hungry again. I loaded up a bit last Friday and Saturday in preparation for my 20 mile run on Sunday and my weight was actually 232 on Monday and didn't drop below 230 until yesterday. So 226.2 is spectacular news and puts me back on track for my goal of 210 by 1/1/07. At least as long as I don't weight 230 again tomorrow...

One thing I've noticed in the past is that my weight doesn't come off steadily. Instead my weight will get stuck for a long time and then suddenly it will just drop like a step function. It's like my body is trying desparately to retain its weight until it just can't take the lack of calories and then gives up and tries to maintain a new, lower weight. So, I'm hoping that this is it and my body has reset to a new, lower weight.

Dieting sucks, but at least Dietpower gives me a convenient way of tracking my calories and figuring out exactly how much I can eat each day. Yes, this is a shameless plug for a weight loss product that actually works. I used it a couple of years ago to drop from 265 to 230 over about a year. Since then I've half-heartedly tried to lose more weight without using it and while I didn't gain weight, I didn't lose any more either. So I started using the program again last month and have been trying to religiously log my weight, exercise, and food every single day. I'm gradually honing in on an eating pattern that works and keeps me on track. The main adjustment this week was realizing that by mid afternoon I was already hungry and by supper time I was ravenous and couldn't control my eating. So I've started packing two lunches to work and having a second small lunch in the middle of the afternoon. This has made it a lot easier to have a small supper without feeling like I am going to famish.

Lately I've been entering everything I'm going to eat for the day right after I weigh each morning. That way I know if I have room for any snacks or if I can have a bigger lunch or dinner. It's nice to know that you still have a few hundred calories left in the budget for something tasty. Last night it was Yoplait Key Lime low fat yogurt with frozen pineapple chunks and rasberries. It really hit the spot and was only about 150 calories. It was also the first dessert I've had in about a week. It is also helpful when it comes to controlling portion sizes. Instead of skipping something I can use the program to tell me how much I can have. Then I use a measuring cup or scales to keep me honest. It's a little bit of a pain, but I'm getting used to it.

The whole point of this is to try to be at around 200 pounds when I run the marathon on 2/22 next year. My training is going great and the brainiac at UT says I should be able to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time if I get my weight down. If so it will probably be a record for most improvement in a year by a 42 year old.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Why I took Russian at BYU

I grew up in a very conservative Mormon family that was inevitably staunchly anti-Communist. We had family prayer every morning and evening and a staple of those prayers was praying for the leaders of the church and pleading that all of the countries of the world would allow the missionaries to come in and teach the true, restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The fall of communism and the breaking down of the iron curtain were necessary in order for the gospel to fill the earth and for everyone in the world to have the opportunity to join the kingdom of God.

I remember hearing that church members needed to proactively learn foreign languages in order to demonstrate faith so that we would be prepared when the Lord opened up new countries. Then Ensign had an article in October 1982 on this very topic and it must have inspired me because I signed up for Russian at BYU. Russian was a 5 credit hour class which meant that it met for 1 hour every day of the week and took as much or more time than most of my core engineering classes. I wound up taking 3 semesters of Russian as a freshman and sophomore at BYU before getting called to Bolivia on a mission where I learned to speak Spanish.

Russian was hard. It has a completely different character set based on Greek. It's grammar is very different from English and has everything conjugated. They don't only conjugate verbs, but also nouns, adverbs, and adjectives. It is also a highly irregular language with exceptions to every rule, just like English. Finally, it isn't based on Latin or German so the words lack common roots with English so learning vocabulary is very difficult because if you don't know the word then you can't Russianize an English word.

The church used to require prospective missionaries to complete a language aptitude test. This was a test that was given orally by playing a cassette tape. The whole test was based on an artificial language that was made up for the test. It consisted of telling you certain words and phrases and then saying something and asking you what it meant. With high school Spanish and 15 hours of college level Russian under my belt I thought that the test was kind of fun and pretty easy. I found out later on my mission that I had one of the highest scores on the test of any of the missionaries in our mission.

Spanish was easy by comparison. It shares a common Latin root with English and it becomes easy to figure out which English words have Latin roots and convert those words to Spanish equivalents. The grammar is very regular and even the exceptions to the rules are regular. Pronunciation is a piece of cake because everything is spelled and pronounced phonetically. I picked it up very quickly in the Missionary Training Center and quickly became conversational in it when I hit Bolivia.

Anyway, it's fun to know something completely irrelevant like Russian although it's difficult to explain to non-Mormons what possessed me to take it. By the way, I never really learned much Russian or became even borderline conversational. Did I mention that it's hard?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Spiritual Growth

A while back I received an email form the Young Men's presidency in our ward with the following quote.
As a presidency we would like to thank everyone that participated in our youth temple trip last saturday. It was a wonderful success and I believe everyone grew spiritually from it.
Maybe I'm being difficult or maybe I've already started to forget, but what does this mean? When I was a believer, we were taught that the peaceful feelings we felt were a witness of the Spirit confirming that what we were doing was right. So, if we went to the temple and felt good about it then it confirmed that we were on the right path and strengthened out testimony of the church. For a church member, a growing confidence in the truthfulness of the church and its teachings seems to equate to spiritual growth.

I see things differently now. For one thing, I never felt good about the temple. At best I felt nothing. At worst I was completely overwhelmed with feelings that something felt wrong. It is all so foreign to everything else you experience as a church member outside of the temple. It seems to me like an "Emperor's New Clothes" kind of experience. Expectations are set, you are told what to expect to feel, and you either feel it or pretend to. If you don't, you certainly don't say anything about it. You can't really talk inside the temple and you are forbidden to talk about it outside except in the most tangential way.

I'm also disturbed by this implicit definition of spiritual growth. It seems so shallow and self-congratulatory; spirituality as a measure of how deeply you believe that you have a truth that the rest of the world lacks and that you have completely erased all doubts to achieve a level of self-assurance that is completely unjustified by facts or reason. I'm not sure exactly how I'd define spirituality, but I'm pretty sure that that isn't it or how going to the temple increases it.

Finally, how would it be possible to have an unsuccessful temple trip? I suppose if your car broke down and you never made it then that would qualify as a failure. But you go, you dress in white, and you get repeatedly baptized on behalf of deceased people. It's not that difficult so I'm not sure how you could have anything other than a successful temple trip. From a leadership standpoint I guess the point is to get the kids to drink the kool-aid and enjoy it so I guess if the kids didn't enjoy the experience then that would qualify as a failure. So success is you made it and felt good about it. I guess that if you can convince them that they "felt" the presence of the deceased then that would make it even better since it would show that you've captured their imaginations and gotten them involved in the fantasy world of religion.

It's sad how much time and effort is spent on such activities that could be spent on something more substantive and actually useful for the members.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


20.4 miles today and it sucked mightily. The weather was good, but I don't think that my legs have recovered from last week's 10 mile race and the lack of sleep this week. My legs were dead from the start and I had some minor aches but after about an hour I felt ok and settled into an easy pace. The point of these long runs is to just cover the miles to build endurance so running fast isn't the point. After about 14 miles my camel back ran dry and it became a struggle to keep moving. I was just out of gas so I switched back and forth between running and walking. Strangely, my feet really ached when I was walking, but felt fine while I ran. Anyway, it's over. Next week will be shorter, 12 to 14 miles, and then I'll taper for a half marathon the following week.

Yesterday my sons competed in area marching competition and did very well. Their band finished first in the preliminary competition and second in the finals so they are off to state. The performances of all of the bands were just amazing and I find it remarkable that they did so well against such good bands. They will compete in the state competition on November 7 in the San Antonio AlamoDome where they hope to win the state championship.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's Been Hectic Around Here

Wow, it doesn't seem like it's been that long since I posted but things have been a bit hectic and I just didn't get time to write anything up. A couple of weekends ago I went up to Dallas to meet a friend and go to a Cowboy's game. We had a nice evening eating, goofing off, and watching Rich Franklin get his face rearranged in a UFC title fight. Seriously, he took a knee to the face followed by a kick that left his nose centered under his eye. Pretty ugly. Anyway the Cowboys won the following day against the Texans and I somehow avoided the rain on the ride back from Dallas. It was a close call because it started pouring buckets as I pulled into the garage.

Other than that, my life has revolved around running and working. I did a 19 mile run a couple of weeks ago and then prepared for a 10 mile race last Sunday. The weather was perfect for running: 49 degrees and crisp. The only negative was a gusting, swirling 20 mph wind from the northeast that had me bundled up right until the 7:45 am start. Since the temperature was ideal I decided to set a 9:00 min/mile pace for the race. That's the same pace I'd run at the previous 10k race, but I felt that I could hold it for 10 miles under favorable conditions.

I continue to be amazed at how, with practice, I can accurately judge my pace. I set out at the start into a stiff, cold wind and my split at the first mile marker was 9:00.1. I had run the first mile within a tenth of a second of my goal pace and my average heart rate was only 156. Too slow. I was feeling good and picked up the pace to get my heart rate over 160. The next mile took 8:38 and my average heart rate was only 162 so I was in good shape. The race was held on a new tollway that is due to open this next weekend. It was a one time course that had us running 5 miles out and back along a pristine new divided highway that had never seen traffic. It was flat with the only hills being the gentle slopes as we went over ramps and overpasses. We started in north Austin heading north on Loop 1, then turned east on Hwy 45, crossed I35 in Round Rock and turned around near the Dell headquarters to retrace our path back to the toll booths where we started.

The miles continued to fly by at a pace that is pretty quick for me. Mile 3 took 8:52, mile 4 took 8:45, and I made the turn after covering mile 5 in 8:32. For reference, I ran my last 5k (3.1 miles) race at an 8:35 pace so I was flying (for me, not for real runners). My pace slowed a little in mile 6 to a 9:08 as I ran up the slight incline to cross I35 again. I was a little worried about whether I could hold the pace, but my heart rate was still averaging only 164 so I decided that with the wind at my back and "only" 4 miles left I could afford to pick it up even more. Mile 7 took 8:40 with an average heart rate of 164. I pushed my heart rate up closer to 170 and finished miles 8 and 9 in 8:21 and 8:22. My legs were burning now and I was breathing so hard that spit was creating a biohazard cone in front of me. I felt like easing up, but I could see the toll booths now and so I picked up the pace even more and hoped that I didn't fade before the finish. I was trying to catch the runners ahead of me, but they were finishing strong too. As I picked up the pace so did they. I passed several people only to have them ease back past. With about 300m left I picked up the pace even more and my interval training kicked in and allowed me to finally stride past people before I crossed the red timing mats after covering the last mile in 7:33.

In the end I finished the 10 miles in 1:25:51 and an average pace of 8:35 min/mile and an average heart rate of 164. This was a PR (personal record) over my previous year's 10 mile by almost 11 minutes and I'm thrilled at the results of the training I've been doing for the last three months. It's discouraging to do all of the hard work and then not see an improvement like in the 10k at the beginning of the month. But this time the conditions allowed me to perform at my best and get an accurate gauge of my fitness level.

My next race is a half marathon (13.1 miles) on November 12. The course is VERY hilly, but based on this race I'm pretty sure I can run it at a 9:00 min/mile pace which would again be a PR for me at that distance. This year I'm healthy and feeling good and wondering how much faster I can get before the marathon in February. Time will tell.

Anyway, after the race I had to hop on a plane to San Jose to teach a 2 day class. I was very stressed out over this class. I had never taught it before and I only had 5 days notice. I'd already been through the material, but it's different if you've never taught it before so on the flight on Sunday and in the hotel I was busily reviewing the material so that I wouldn't freeze during the lectures. In the end everything turned out well and the students gave me high marks in their evaluations. I even managed to catch my flight on Tuesday evening and get back to Austin at 1:00 am Wednesday morning. Now I'm just trying to get my sleep back onto a somewhat normal schedule and make it through the next couple of days of work.

Oh, it's also marching band competition season for the high schools. Last weekend my sons competed in the regional competition and their band scored division 1 honors and advanced to the area competition this next Saturday. If they finish in the top 4 in the area, out of 22 schools, then they'll advance to the state competition on November 6. They were state runners up two years ago (the state competition is only held every other year) and they look and sound even better than then so we have high hopes that they'll be able to win state this year. They have a good chance, but they are facing some extremely tough competition.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Poor Lake Travis

I thought I'd get some pictures of Lake Travis before it fills back up. The white band around the sides are usually covered with water and the islands are usually completely submerged. The lake is about 50 feet below it's full level and only one boat ramp is still open.

I tried to post this earlier, but Blogger kept having trouble uploading my photo until today.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It's Raining

When most people think of Texas, they think hot and humid. What they often fail to consider is that Texas is huge and has several different climates. All of Texas is hot, but the humidity is mostly confined to the Gulf coast and the east. West Texas is actually the eastern-most part of the Chihuahuan desert which stretches from Mexico to the Pecos river in Texas and then transitions to the Texas hill country that spreads east until it abruptly stops at interstate 35 which splits Texas roughly in half. Austin and San Antonio are right on the edge of the hill country and most of time their climate is dominated by the arid desert to the west. Austin is green, but that is an illusion for the tourists and visitors. All the greenery is provided by live oaks and scrub junipers which are evergreen trees that are well adapted to arid climates. If you go hiking in the woods you will realize that very little grows in the rocky "soil" under the trees except patchy grass and prickly pear cactus. So while Austin is definitely hot, it's usually not very humid.

People talk about droughts as if they are noteworthy. But when you are on the edge of a desert, a drought is the status quo and wet weather is the exception. Austin is currently a couple of years into the current drought cycle. Lake Travis is as low as I ever remember and over the summer sand bars first became small islands, then large islands, then islands connected by spits, and finally virtual peninsulas running from the shore out to the middle of the lake. I stopped by the county park on Saturday to see how low the water was and was surprised to find no water at all. The entire boat ramp ends at dry land and the whole branch of the lake is dry as far as I could see. The lake is currently 25 feet below its average level for October and falling. The lake is several hundred feet deep in the main channel so we're not in danger of running out of water soon even if it has become nearly impossible for boaters to get to the lake.

Anyway, I woke this morning to the sound of thunder and rain. The irony of living on the edge of the desert is that even though it doesn't rain often, when it does it really pours. That's why we have Lake Travis. Or rather, that's why they have a series of dams along the Colorado river. When it rains here, it comes down hard and since it is very hilly and the hills have almost no topsoil the water runs to the lowest spot and very quickly turns gullies and streams into rushing rivers, rivers into raging torrents, and anything in their path into flotsam. Some of the dams, like Longhorn dam which forms Town Lake in Austin, are required by law to maintain the water level within a couple of feet no matter what the weather. Others like Lake Travis are there to hold back the storm surge and prevent flooding. What inevitably happens is that over the course of several years the water level in Lake Travis will drop and drop and drop. Then a series of storms will fill the lake in a matter of days with enough water to supply the area with water for the next several years of drought. It is truly amazing to see the lake level rise 50+ feet in a few short days and then see all of the flood gates open as the flood waters can no longer be contained. At that point Lake Austin and Town Lake go from being lazy lakes with little current to strongly flowing rivers as all of the dams start releasing water down stream to prevent flooding.

Unfortunately, the days rains only added up to a little over an inch so very little water reached the lakes and the level will keep on dropping until the winter monsoons hit. The Pacific ocean has an El Nino which usually means a warm, wet winter for Texas, so I'm expecting the drought to end soon and the next drought to start around Memorial Day of next year.

Mormon Relgious Intolerance

In the recent general conference, Boyd Packer, the president of the church's quorum of twelve apostles, made the following statement:
There has been no end to opposition. There are misinterpretations and misrepresentations of us and of our history, some of it mean-spirited and certainly contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Sometimes clergy, even ministerial organizations, oppose us. They do what we would never do. We do not attack or criticize or oppose others as they do us.

Even today there are those preposterous stories handed down and repeated so many times they are believed. One of the silliest of them is that Mormons have horns.
He then gives a cute story where someone asked this question at a meeting of clergy from different religions. It is very clear that this was all just innocent joking and wasn't any kind of legitimate question. But I guess he expects people to believe by association that the other objections to the church are just as frivolous and silly because he doesn't even attempt to address any real issues such as Joseph translating the Book of Mormon with a rock in a hat. Instead he addresses the stupid assertion made by many other churches that Mormons aren't Christian. By carefully choosing caricatures, he encourages members to believe that they don't have to worry about anti-Mormon beliefs because they are ridiculous and easy to discredit.

But let's get back to the first point. The modern Mormon church has changed its spots and no longer openly attacks other churches, but I pulled the following quotes off of their web site from their modern scriptures. As far as I know, they are still the official doctrines of the church.
1 Nephi 14:10
10 And he said unto me: Behold there are save atwo churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the bother is the church of the cdevil; wherefore, dwhoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the ewhore of all the earth.
I don't know, but I can see how Baptists and Lutherans and Catholics might feel like that constitutes an attack. TSCC may have discovered that quoting that one publicly is bad public relations, but it is still church doctrine.

How about the following quote of God from the first vision:
Joseph Smith-History 1:18-19
18 My object in going to ainquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.”
I would say that the core doctrine of the church is clearly articulated in these verses: TSCC is true and every other one is false. Again, I can see how other churches might consider it an attack when the church teaches that God said that their churches are all wrong, their beliefs are an abomination, their ministers are all corrupt, that their hearts are far from God, and that they deny the power of God. I think you'd have difficulty coming up with a more scathing attack on any religion, but this is against ALL religions except the one Joseph founded.

So, excuse me for not joining Boyd's little pity party. He rules over an army of around 60,000 missionaries whose primary mission is to teach the above doctrines and save people from the corrupt religions of the world so that they can join the one true church. Cover it with honey if you want, it's still a shitcake for non-Mormons throughout the world and it's asking a little much for them to not resist TSCC.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Reactivating Inactive Members

I have some free advice for TSCC on reactivating inactive members.
  1. Find out why people really go inactive instead of believing your own propaganda.
  2. Stop blaming the inactives and look at yourself.
  3. Address the problems that you find.
A thread on RfM refers to couple missionaries being given the impossible task of loving inactives back into the church. This seems to presume that the problem is with the inactives or perhaps the members. It seems to ignore that maybe, just maybe, the problem is that being active in the church is very unappealing for a large number of reasons.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Develop a trained, professional, paid clergy whose full-time task is to provide competent, compassionate leadership and counseling.
  2. If members must give the sermons, let them choose their own topics.
  3. Dump the correlated class curriculum or relax the requirements so that intelligent teachers can develop their own lessons that are adapted to the needs and interests of their students.
  4. Eliminate failed programs such as home teaching that just create work and don't provide results.
  5. Do true community service instead.
  6. Provide support for critical member needs such as sex education, family planning, parenting classes, substance abuse programs, etc.
  7. Stop worrying about dogma and start worrying about helping your members be happy fulfilled people. First step: actually talk to them and listen to their input.
  8. Address the doctrinal and historical problems of the church instead of hiding them and lying about them. My list is right here on my blog. Whole web sites are devoted to former and inactive members and their reasons for disbelief so it's not hard to come up with a list. But I think I know why there is no official, church sanctioned answers to those questions.
Of course, I have no fear of helping the church out here. All of the above suggestions run counter to their core values and culture and will never be considered, much less implemented. And they'll continue to wonder why they are having such difficulty. The short answer: because church activity sucks.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Will You Deny Christ?!

I and tens of thousands of others have had personal experience that is "evidence" that God lives - will you deny that? - that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior and redeemer of all - will you deny that?
Man, I've been away from the church too long. How could I have failed to recognize that question and it's significance? I almost flippantly replied to it without realizing what a serious question this is to Mormons.

First please excuse me for presenting a little Mormon doctrine.

Doctrine and Covenants 76:
31 Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and asuffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power—
32 They are they who are the asons of bperdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born;
33 For they are avessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity;
34 Concerning whom I have said there is ano bforgiveness in this world nor in the world to come—
35 Having adenied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having bcrucified him unto themselves and put him to an open cshame.
36 These are they who shall go away into the alake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels—
37 And the aonly ones on whom the bsecond cdeath shall have any power;
38 Yea, verily, the only ones who shall anot be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath.
39 For all the rest shall be abrought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the btriumph and the glory of the Lamb, who was slain, who was in the bosom of the Father cbefore the worlds were made.
40 And this is the agospel, the glad btidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—
41 That he acame into the world, even Jesus, to be bcrucified for the world, and to cbear the sins of the dworld, and to esanctify the world, and to fcleanse it from all unrighteousness;
42 That through him all might be asaved whom the Father had put into his bpower and made by him;
43 Who aglorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of bperdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.

Please excuse the two monumentally long run-on sentences. Apparently God has the same limited education as Joseph Smith or at least lacks to power to enable to Joseph Smith to speak in any words other than his own. Let's stick to the ideas. This is where the doctrine of "sons of perdition" is spelled out for Mormons. Note that all other sins, even murder, will be forgiven, but not those who deny the Son. It consists of rejecting Jesus after having had a perfect knowledge of him. It is also known as the sin against the Holy Ghost because Joseph Smith taught that a man can only see God and live if he is first quickened by the Holy Ghost and that the witness of the Holy Ghost is what makes the vision a sure knowledge. Verse 43 also says that the Father has to reveal the Son, but who knows what that means. Maybe like in the New Testament where the disembodied voice of the Father testifies while the Holy Ghost descends? Those that reject Jesus after having a sure knowledge will be cast out with Satan and all his angels and will never be forgiven or redeemed or ever experience the presence or power of God.

I regularly hear former Mormons who think that Mormons will label them as sons of perdition. But such Mormons would be extremely ignorant of their own doctrine because it presumes a sure knowledge of Christ that is outside the experience of any members that I know.

Becoming a son of perdition is a really hard thing and would require an extremely dense person, not a particularly wicked one. Wyhy would someone confronted with a sure knowledge of the truth deny it? Why would they reject God when witnessing his full glory with the overwhelming power of the Holy Ghost confirming it? I mean, there's evil and then there's just stupid. After all, there are plenty of believers who commit horrific sins so believing in Christ doesn't necessarily preclude willful wickedness. In fact, it's almost as if the more wicked you are the more you have to gain my believing in Jesus since he will, in the end, forgive and forget as long as you bow down at the judgement day. The ultimate sin, it turns out, isn't to be a mass murderer on the scale of Stalin or Hitler; it is to want to be independent and not subservient to Jesus.

I know it is currently all the rage to criticize militant Islam and its founder for being a barbaric, religiously intolerant religion that promote violence, but is this really any better? Here we have God saying, bow down and worship me or else you will suffer forever. Why does he care so much? Does Jesus have a large ego? If he loves his children so much couldn't he just confine the rebels without having to torture them? Heck wouldn't he be more merciful if he simply put them out of their misery? Why keep them around? It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

I'm sorry, but it sounds a lot more like a doctrine concocted by egotistical men to try to convince people that if they don't join the church then they risk eternal damnation. It's also an open threat to those in the church who have been elevated to the inner circles and experienced the mysteries and most sacred ordinances that there is no escape and that if they try to back out then there will be no coming back. Ever.

Anyway, would I reject Christ and God? No. I'm open to the possibility that they exist, but I've never had any experiences that I would consider undeniable proof. For that matter, I've never had any experiences that I would consider even weak evidence since I've learned that those experiences have perfectly normal explanations.

I would hope that if there is a God, he is more concerned with how we live our lives and treat the world around us than what religious dogma we subscribe to. In other words, if a person's behavior is the same, what should it matter whether his is atheist, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Christian, or Muslim? If the purpose of religion is to develop morality and good living, then why is God so concerned if the end is reached in different ways? What kind of God would exalt a righteous Mormon and reject an equally righteous Muslim? Not a God that is worth worshipping.