Monday, July 31, 2006

Romney's Niggardly Fox Paws

If you'd read the story, you'd know a tar baby
is a fictional baby made out of  sticky tar
to teach a rabbit a lesson.
Only a racist would think tar has anything to do with humans.
The commonwealth of Massachusetts, has engaged in niggardly budgeting practices that left pieces of highway falling on the heads of local commuters. When Mitt Romney, the very white governor, commented that the circumstances forced him to take drastic action, though he'd prefer to wash his hands of this tar baby, the neobigots at the Associated Press tarred him with the brush of racism.

So let's call a spade a spade: If a man lives a life where he never encounters racism, it may never occur to him that a picnic with watermelon and fried chicken is the modern equivalent of a lynching. To those of us who consider that all mankind shares the same spiritual DNA, and that race is an antiquated social construct, the blowback is puzzling. It's no longer honorable to be blind to race, or even to refuse to be racist. Neobigots -- those who benefit financially from raising up the dark spectre of racism -- now expect everyone to learn how bigots speak in order to avoid using words that sound vaguely like something in their English-to-Racist lexicon. 

So study up, boys and girls. Fill your head with racial slurs, so that you never inadvertently use a word that sounds something LIKE a racial slur. (It's sort of like learning German in order to avoid accidentally sounding like a fascist, or learning Arabic so that you don't sound like a terrorist. Because that's not racist at all.)

What a bunch of boobs. We like a robust debate, but this one just titillates. Damgummit. Now we're sexists.

-- The Practical Mormon

Ancient Rabbis Foretell Mormonism

Y'all know what the Midrash is, yes?

We think maybe someone oughta see this....So we're telling you, in the expectation that someone out there in the bloggernacle will want to pursue it.

Perusing, and reading in the Judaism section from Tales and Maxims from the Midrash, we ran across this:
"The 'four carpenters' to whom the prophet [Zechariah] also refers, are Elijah, Melchizedek, the Messiah of war, called by some Messiah son of Joseph, and the true Messiah. These Messiahs are referred to in the 32nd chapter of Isaiah, and their existence is constantly mentioned. Seven or eight Messiahs are sometimes said to be promised in the words of the Prophet Micah (5. 5), 'Then shall we raise against him seven shepherds and eight principal men,' but it is held that there will be but four (Zech. 1. 20), and these are they: Elijah the Tishbite, an unnamed man of the tribe of Manasseh, Messiah of war--an Ephraimite, and Messiah the Great, the descendant of David.--Midr. Song of Songs 2."
If we're reading that right, the five most significant prophets are Jesus Christ, Elijah, Melchizedek, Joseph son of Joseph (an Ephraimite), and an unnamed Manassehite.

Perhaps this one?
And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren. (Alma 10:3)
Are we radically off base?

--The Practical Mormon

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Let's Smear the Jews

It's their fault. For standing in front of bullets.Gil. Mayor of Seattle. Buddy. You anti-Semite bigot:

Let us get this straight.

Some self-proclaimed Muslim nutjob rides into town Friday afternoon, just before the start of Shabbat, and starts mass shooting Jews. So your response is to put on extra guards to protect Islamic mosques from "retaliation"? Would that be because our little Jewish community in Seattle has shown some proclivity to spend its Friday nights marauding?

We're enraged on behalf of our Jewish neighbors, who are too busy on Friday nights to be bothered responding to you.

Here's an idea: Apologize to the Jews. And in light of the local Islamic community's It's-All-About-MeTM response to this outrage, double the guard on both Jewish and Christian holy sites. We're just sayin'.

--The Practical Mormon

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wherein We Comprehend God -- Or Vice Versa

Our correspondent asks:
Does our Father in heaven really hear our individual prayers? How does God hear everyone's prayers at the same time in different languages and then answer them? I don't think that he does. I believe that there are ministering angels who have the authority to answer prayers and intervene in our lives and then report back. If I'm way off on this, then maybe you could shed a little more light on this subject.
To which we replied:

Dear Brother:

I once had an experience I'll relate to you; perhaps it will shed some light on your question.

When I was 18 years old I was in a horrific car wreck. A friend and I were on our way to a Young Adults conference, and we encountered a drunk driver on the Interstate. Five cars, high speeds, and we were caught in the middle of the whole thing. The entire car was compacted to about half of its original size, and the only non-smashed places in the automobile were the two small spots where my passenger and I were sitting. But this isn't a story about a miraculous survival -- though I do happen to think it was miraculous.

While my car was being totalled, I was completely aware of everything going on around me. It was as though all time came to a stop, and I was for an instant able to comprehend all things. I heard and saw the glass of the windows shattering around me, and for a brief moment I was aware of the individual pieces of glass -- tens of thousands of them -- and I knew where they all were, and where they were falling. I could sense the metal crumpling, and I knew how the car was absorbing the energy of the impact. I was aware of how everything was being destroyed. But all those pieces of glass! For that moment, I knew every one of them, all at once, and all individually, and was completely aware of what they were doing.

Less than five seconds later, it was all over...but for that moment, I had this incredible experience of what it's actually like to comprehend all things. Astonishingly, nobody was seriously hurt. Neither my friend nor I were wearing seatbelts (and this was in the 70s -- pre-air-bag days) so I was pretty bruised, and she had a concussion and spent the night hospitalized for observation, but all the dozen or so people in the wreck essentially walked away from it. It was bizarre.

So, to answer your question: Do I think God utilizes angels in a reporting system? There's no doctrinal reason why He wouldn't. Does Christ command us to pray to the Father? Yes, He does. And is God capable of hearing all of our individual prayers. I know He is. I know He is aware of everything that goes on in the Universe. All at once, all simultaneously, all in its own language. And not just individual human beings. Monkeys. Rocks. Blades of grass. And shattering glass. It all acts in obedience to God; it all "returns and reports." There's not anything that God doesn't comprehend -- and I mean "comprehend" in all of its definitions.

--The Practical Mormon

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

When We're 'N Sync, We're Happy, and We Sing As We Go...

Failed moon missionary Lance Bass
OK, so 'N Sync band member Lance Bass is happy. He's just come out of the happy closet. Here's the full quote:
The thing is, I'm not ashamed - that's the one thing I want to say. I don't think it's wrong, I'm not devastated going through this. I'm more liberated and happy than I've been my whole life. I'm just happy. (Seattle Times, 26 Jul 06)
Now this IS big news. Because after that whole astronaut fiasco, we were a little worried Bass might be UNhappy.

So rest easy tonight, America. Lance Bass, failed astronaut, is happy.

-- The Practical Mormon

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

False Doctrine Watch

It's a metaphor, dude.Your friendly neighborhood Practical Mormon is married to a wonderful spouse who isn't. Mormon, that is. So each week we (by which we mean The Practical Mormon) sit in meetings, breath bated, hoping nobody spouts false doctrine in front of our better half. Week after week we're disappointed.

This week's offerings:

* From the youth speaker: "I know that kids today have it a lot harder than kids did in the past." What? You broke your french-manicured nail on the Tivo button? This was the Pioneer-Day-themed meeting, so it's only natural that we'd be dissin' the orphaned kids who walked barefoot across the frozen plains after burying their parents. Right?

* In the same vein, a bizarre political screed from the final speaker: "Our American forefathers weren't terrorists like the Arabs and Palestinians. They were fighting for freedom and for higher ideals. They were true patriots. Our forefathers, and the people who fought for our freedom, are the real heroes of blah blah blah." The PIONEERS. It's Pioneer Day! Remember them?

* In Gospel Essentials: It was the Sacrifice lesson (#26). Teacher: "We should be willing to give up something to get something better in return." In response to which our spouse commented after class: "That's not sacrifice. That's investing. I'd gladly give up my '98 Honda tomorrow for an '05 model today."

* From the teacher again: "Jesus said it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, but we know that in ancient times, the needle was..." We could keep quiet no longer. "Urban legend," we barked. Thankfully, teacher back-pedaled and got back to the real lesson. But not for long.

* From the missionaries: "Most people think the scriptures say 'Money is the root of all evil,' but if you look in the Joseph Smith Translation, you'll see that it says 'Love of money.'" We shook our head furiously at the missionary, who responded by actually looking up the scripture and discovering he was dead wrong.


Your friendly neighborhood Practical Mormon has our work cut out for us.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Metaphysics of Mormonism

So the bitty one, newly eight, asked: "How does God create things?" Playing Socrates, we asked back: You want the simple answer, or the answer that will make you smart? She picked B, so with input from her teenaged sister, we worked it out. It went something like this:

The MoRabbi: The word "spirit" has several meanings. Can you name one?

L'il Bit: The Holy Ghost.

MoRabbi: Good. Next?

L'il Bit: The Spirit in your body.

MR: You mean, your self?

LB: Um, yes.

MR: The Spirit in your body has two parts. Can you name them?

Teenager: The Intelligence, and the spirit body.

MR: What's the Intelligence?

Teenager: The eternal, uncreated part of you. Your individuality.

MR: Can it be created or destroyed?

TA: I don't think so. It's eternal. (D&C 93:29-30)

MR: But it has a home, right?

LB: Yes. It lives in the spirit body. (Abraham 3:18-19)

MR: What does the Prophet Joseph say about the nature of spirit?

TA: Spirit matter is like physical matter, but it's more fine and pure, and can be discerned only with purer eyes. (D&C 131:7)

L'il Bit: What does that mean?

Teenager: It means you can only see a spirit with your spiritual eyes. You can't see it with your physical eyes.

MoRabbi: What do we mean by "a spirit"?

TeenAger: I guess, grammatically, you'd say "spirit." When we say "a spirit," we really mean "an intelligence, clothed with spirit." If your physical body is made up of physical matter, then your spiritual body is made up of spiritual matter.

MR: So your spirit is the combination of your intelligence and your spirit body?

L'il Bit: Yeah!

MR: Yes, but that's probably not the best name, is it?

TA: No, it's probably confusing to most people. They don't think about the difference between their Spirit and their spirit body. (1 Cor. 15:44)

MR: Do we have a name for the Intelligence, combined with the Spirit body, combined with the Physical body?

LB and TA together: The soul! (D&C 88:15)

MR: Good job! So we have a collection of words that get used interchangeably in English, but should be distinguished from one another. Those words are: The Spirit, a spirit, spirit matter, spirit body, and soul. I'm going to propose a solution to this confusion. Have you heard of Kaballah?

TA: Yeah, it's that Madonna thing with the red string bracelets, right?

MR: Sigh. No, that's a perversion of Kaballah. Real kaballah has a lot in common with Mormonism. I'm going to borrow some Hebrew words from the Kaballists so that we can differentiate those confusing words. Ready?

Kids: Sure.

MoRabbi at the whiteboard: Kaballah uses six words to describe six levels of "Soul Consciousness." They're pretty good words, and while we don't use them in exactly the same way that Kaballists do, the words are very helpful in explaining the plan of salvation. Here goes:
• The first word is nefesh, which we would compare to the Mormon-English word Intelligence. Kaballists use it to describe the lowest level of consciousness.
• The second word is ruach, which is comparable to the Spiritual Matter of D&C 131:7. Kaballists say that ruach is in divine service to God, and operates on the complementary emotions of love and awe of God. In other words, ruach might be said to be perfectly obedient to God, which corresponds exactly with the Mormon understanding of spirit matter.
• The third word is neshama, describing the combination of nefesh and ruach into an individual spirit. Kabbalists say the neshama is "the notion of coming into being from nothingness, rather than structured, quantified existence."
• A fourth word, tzelem, describes the mortal Soul -- the combination of intelligence, spirit and physical body -- in D&C 88:15. That's the word we use to describe our present state. Kabbalists say tzelem is "The soul enclothed within the body as a reflection of the Divine Form."
• The fifth word is chaya, which we could compare to the soul separated at death from its physical, mortal body. The Kabbalists say the primary activity of the level of chaya is to use intellectual comprehension in order to commune with God as He transcends the worlds.
• The sixth and final level, yechida, describes the spirit in its resurrected, immortal state living in the presence of God.

There's one more Hebrew term you should know: Ruach HaKodesh, meaning The Holy Spirit, or the Holy Ghost, whom we call the Comforter.

MR, setting down the markers: Now here's the part where you have to think. How did God create those neshama, those bodies of spirit housing the intelligence?

TA: I think He must have called them into being.

MR: Excellent. How did He do that?

TA: Intelligence cleaves to intelligence (D&C 88:40), and God is the highest intelligence (Abr. 3:18-22).

TA to little sister: It's almost like intelligence sticks to greater intelligence like magnetic filings stick to a magnet!

MR: What else do we know about God and intelligence?

TA, quoting: "The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth." (D&C 93:36)

MR: Meaning?

TA: God must be God because He is the essence of truth and light.

MR: What's the inverse of that?

TA: Truth and light must engender God.

LB: Huh?

TA: It means God, truth, light and intelligence always go together.

MR: How does the spirit get into the physical body?

TA: It must be the same way as the Intelligence gets into the spirit body. Maybe the spirit is called into the physical body, just as Intelligence is called into the spiritual body. They can be separated, but it's not their natural or optimal condition. (Heb. 4:12)

LB: The intelligence goes into the spirit body because it's obedient, and because that's where it wants to go. The spirit body goes into the physical body for the same reason.

MR: So do we have an idea now of how God creates things?

Kidlets, chirping: Yes!