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Blue Spider's Coffee House

Truth, Love, Beauty and all things Virtuous

Month

September 2012

The Insatiable is Unsustainable

The insatiable is unsustainable. Greed for profits, greed for never ending entitlements and rights, the greed of the rich, the greed of the poor, and the greed of those that govern and the greed of those who are governed. All are the same side of the coin. And this has set us on a course of always grasping and never arriving. Our nation has been on this insatiable course for a long time, whether our color is Democrat or Republican, no party or persuasion is immune. What keeps us even remotely on course is the collective will of individuals with integrity, honesty, charity, hope, faith, those individuals who still believe in freedom and work for their intrinsic values.

This insatible greed is fueled by a maddening, addicting self-illusion of many of our poltical and social elites that we are somehow evolving towards some undefinable secular utopia. This illusion drives our national insatiability speeding us at a reckless pace trying to go every which way but straight. It emanates in thousands of selfishly contradictory and vainly crooked paths. It is not the economy stupid. It is the self-inflicted wounds of the greed of our entitlement nation that is causing us to limp forward into the future. The confusing, unsatisfying cheap pursuit of ease, entertainment and pleasure has replaced the deep, solemn, and enduring pursuit of happiness through moral excellence that has been the underpinning of this nation’s greatness from its beginning.

Maintenance of Freedom

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallanty, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”–John Adams

Unearthed Fragments of Verse

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in heaven…
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind

–God’s Mercy, Frederick William Faber

All things God can do, but this thing He will not:
Unbind the chain of cause and consequence,
Or speed time’s arrow backward….
Wrought out the splendour of His eternity.
There is no waste with God; He cancels nothing
But redeems all.

–Judgement and Mercy, Dororthy L. Sayers

So teach us to number our days,
That we may get us an heart of wisdom.

–Psalm 90, Moulton: The Modern Reader’s Bible, 1895

God will not change; the restless years may bring
Sunlight and shade–glories of the spring,
And silent gloom of winter hours–
Joy mixed with grief–sharp thorns with fragrant flowers.
Earth’s lights may shine awhile, and then grow dim,
But God is true; there is no change in Him.

–In Whom Is No Variableness, Edith Hickman Divall

Before all Time, before all worlds,
Before the dawn of every age, the dawn of every world,
Is God! And He remains
Beyond all coming ages, and beyond
All unthought worlds that yet may be!

–From Everlasting to Everlasting, Namdev, 1270

Slowly the Bible of the race is writ,
And not on paper leaves nor leaves of stone;
Each age, each kindred, adds a verse to it,
Texts of despair or hope, or joy or moan…

–God is Not Dumb, James Russell Lowell

Now Hell has wholly boiled away
And God become a shade.
There is no place for him to stay
In all the world he made…

I sometimes wish that God were back
In this dark world and wide;
For though some virtues he might lack,
He had his pleasant side.

–Man’s Need of God, Gamaliel Bradford

Neutered Political Language: Why Do So Many Smart People Go Crazy For It?

H. G. Wells in his famous essay, Politics and the English Language , called modern political speech “the defense of the indefensible”. According to Wells, political phraseology is developed to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. In other words, political language is designed to neuter language to the point that it loses most, if not all, of its honesty, deep meaning or symbolism. Our modern political language is deliberatley designed to cloak true intentions and hide any real commitment to an idea, and sometimes, as in extremely dishonest totalitarian countries or democracies for that matter, goes out of its way to dastardly cover up heinous practices.

Clearly, language is at its best when it invokes imagery and is deeply symbolic. This differs from clever or nuanced or legalistic language, because symbolic language is rich, open and can clearly be understood by everybody who seeks truth and equally has the ability to cause people to ponder or be moved. This type of language is motivated to lead people to action that betters themselves and others. It is language that leads to individual and collective problem-solving. Symbolic language seeks to enrich others rather than enrich itself. Symbolic language may appear to the disingenious to be the language of obscure mystery because it does take effort or experience to understand it. But to the honest of heart this language is not the language of confusion nor is it the language of flattery or the language that disparges. It’s language that is on a productive and creative offensive and not stridently and shrilling on the defensive. It is the language that has been typically attributed to the greatest spirits in history such as Christ, Jefferson, Lincoln, Gandhi, and yes, even Martin Luther King. Oh where has this rich moral and political speech gone?

Of course, with the advent of 24/7 news coverage and now with social media in full swing, we cannot blame our politicians for being so gun shy about saying anything meaningful or speaking at length about their issues because the media, no matter what bias it exhibits, is unforgiving of lengthy, deep or honest dialogue from our politicians. As Rolf Dobelli pointed out in his article, Avoid News: Towards A Healthy News Diet, “Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time…News is an interruption system. It seizes your attention only to scramble it.” Dobelli contends that news also messes with our memories. Politicians and their speech writers are very aware of this and therefore talk about important issues only in little packets of half truths, seeking to mostly divert our attention by pointing out the faults of the others and hoping something negative will resonate with us.

It is amazing that as a nation how little we demand not only from our politicians but our media when it comes to our large political issues. We should be demanding a full night devoted to a single issue during the last 30 days of the campaign. These lengthy debates would force candidates to eventually drop euphemisms and sound bites as they would become trite after an hour of use and allow them to speak meaningfully. But, the networks would never do that because they know that they would lose big time in the ratings. Because many of us would flip over to watch entertaining cable productions such as “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” or watch reruns of Sienfield rather than watch our politicians actually explain the issues and how they would address them.

So maybe we are at fault as well and I think we are as I watch supposedly the “best and brightest” celebrate ebulliently meaningless and empty words and euphemistic phrases during each party’s national conventions. I ask myself can they be serious? The candidate absolutely spoke on every side of the issue without really saying anything or having done anything remotely close to resolving an issue. But despite the fantasies offered and real contradictions, the crowds at these events go crazy over words that these candidates time and time again fail to deliver on. Do we really believe either of these candidates will solve Social Security, the largest welfare program in the world, during the next four years? Do we really think Social Security will get better or stronger in the next four years? What rational evidence do we have that flames this poltical faith? I have almost come to the conclusion that like most reality TV, everything we see including the cheering at these conventions is scripted because if it isn’t than we as modern and civilized people are certainly no less irrational and foolish than we claim our ancestors were in the past.

Mormons and Negative Media: An Alternative Peaceful Response

I like to follow the news, but I try to not to get too caught up in it and become a prisoner of the moment. But this week, I can’t help but comment on the recent crisis in the Middle East over the film made here in America with depictions of Mohammed, the man Muslims claim to be their founder and their prophet.

First of all, it’s never a good idea to mock or profane what others hold sacred even if you are free to do so. Growing up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) my whole life, or as Mormon, I know that the Mormon Church has been subject to anti-Mormon literature and media since its inception. These attacks have not just come from secularist but oftentimes and sometimes more virulently from people of other faiths.

I understand what it feels like to have people denigrate what you value most as an individual and not only denigrate your belief system but outright lie about it. In fact, the Mormon Church is now the subject of maybe one of the most successful Broadway plays ever, an obscene-laden parody produced by no less than the creators of South Park. The movie, the Innocence of Muslims, as far as scale goes and success pales in comparison to the Broadway play, Book of Mormon. Heck, the play won nine Tony awards. However, the Mormon Churches response was the following:

“The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”

The Mormon Church did not issue any decree for boycotts or protest or call for any violence towards others or destruction of the property. I’ve heard that they even took advantage of the play’s popularity and bought advertising space in the programs with the above press release.

In a commentary , called Publicity Dilemma, released on March 9, 2009, the Mormon Church commented on the recent heightened publicity and portrayals on TV, film and on Broadway stating that some were accurate, some blatantly false, and other were done in “appalling bad taste”. The commentary went on to state that:

“…there is no evidence that extreme misrepresentations in the media that appeal only to a narrow audience have any long-term negative effect on the Church”, and further stated, “that with a global membership of thirteen and a half million there is no need to feel defensive when the Church is moving forward so rapidly.”

These statements demonstrate the Mormon Church’s confidence in what it is but also demonstrates its confidence in its mission and purpose, and an understanding of what its collective energy and resources should be focused on. But what is not so apparent in these statements is the Mormon Church understanding of freedom and how much the Church values freedom, not only as a political concept, but as a key concept to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Freedom is essentially the power and the ability to choose for oneself the course one will follow in all fields of activity. In the book, Mormon Doctrine, it states that “freedom of conscience…is the greatest freedom of all.” Only the greatest good for the individual and society can happen in a society that has the utmost respect for freedom of conscience. The Mormon Church has prospered under this freedom and understands that freedom is one of the most important parts of the Gospel taught by Jesus Christ. Christ understood that without freedom the individual, hence society, cannot prosper and grow and that the individual cannot truly come unto Him wholeheartedly. It also should be understood conversely that one of the greatest evils is to force people to do good or force them to make correct decisions.

Unfortunately, freedom without an equal portion of virtue, compassion, mercy and responsibility can produce some incredibly heinous evils. However, it should be noted that many of the governments without or who have limited political and religious freedom have been able to produce some of the greatest evils mankind has ever witnessed.

I believe, however, based on my experience that any religion or belief system can survive negative media portrayals, especially obscure ones, without resorting to violence and intimidation. A religion does not demonstrate its power through war, violence, murder, and the destruction of property, but by the change in heart and the good it produces in people’s lives.

Even though I know no Muslims, I can’t believe that every Muslim acts like those portrayed on the news. Like any group, I am sure there are many individuals who defy the group stereotypes we have in the West of Muslims or defy the violent images we see on the news. I am sure there are many Muslims who are trying to build up strong families, seek truth and hold to universal values of freedom, honestly, peace, and unselfishness.

Beast or Immortal Soul?

“Either we have an immortal soul, or we have not. If we have not we are beasts; the first and wisest of beasts, it may be, but still true beasts.”–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

On Love

Love is orderly. Love needs a strong structure to survive for the long run or for that matter to survive at all. However, love prospers in an environment where the freedom of thought, the freedom to search for truth and happiness exists, or in other words personal growth is allowed to take place. Love is not a fleeting fancy or a selfish satisfaction like lust or infatuation. Love is unselfish and concerns itself with self-control but utmost its concerned about the spiritual well-being and spiritual growth of others.

Love is not about caving in to a desire or satisfying a pleasure. Love is not an addiction. Love is not sex and sex is not love. This counterfeit definition and fugacious practice only leads to dysfunction, insecurity, broken hearts, and broken families and unhappiness. Love has a natural order it follows and boundaries it respects. Love itself is the composite of all other virtues and does not trample lesser virtues or eternal order or individual freedom to exists. You cannot trample honesty and loyalty and or the eternal union of the family structure and call that emotion true love. Love is an interconnected private and public commodity and individually we cannot see all the consequences, the ripple effect, of ignoring its rules. However, ignoring it rules is something that we can all witness socially as we see public contention, public confusion and a lack of public order on the rise and we all can say something is amiss in our society. The lack of love in a society, nevertheless, is not something that money or clever social engineering can fix.

Love cannot be created by man-made wealth or rules nor can the lack of love be remedied by governments or social programs or be redefined by special interest groups or the lawyers. Love is literally not of this world, but is of the eternities.

Christiana Frandsen: A Danish Woman’s Faith

“…at ved sma og enkle ting bliver der udretter store ting….”—Almas Bog 37:6[1]

 An ancestor I am very grateful for is my great great Grandma’s mother, on my father’s side. Christiana Frandsen (maiden name Larsen).

About a year or two ago, I was asked to teach about women and their importance in my life at Church. I wanted to do something different rather than blab on for 45 minutes about how great my wife and my mother are. I wanted to find out something more about the women further back in my family history. I chose two women. One from my mother’s side of the family, the Bradburys, and one from my father’s side.

On the Bradbury side, I choose my grandmother because she had just passed away and the funeral was a very positive and uplifting experience. On the Hansen side, I had to dig back a little further and I happened upon a pivotal story in my family’s history of Christiana Frandsen.

Besides her courageous story, to me this story demonstrated just how important the  translation of the New Testament from Latin into people’s native language was to my family’s history. Christiana’s story fulfills what Erasmus hoped for when in 1516 in the preface of his Greek translation of the New Testament he wrote:

“…I would have those words translated into all languages…I long for the plowboy to sing them to himself as he follows the plow, the weaver to hum them to the tune of his shuttle, the traveler to beguile with them the dullness of his journey….Other studies we may regret having undertaken, but happy is  the man upon whom death comes when he is engaged in these. These sacred words give the very image of Christ speaking, healing, dying, rising again and make him so present, that were he before your very eyes you would not more truly see him.”[2]

The New Testament was first translated into Danish in 1524.[3]

In my opinion it is no coincidence the Europe’s rise from the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment coincided with the lay person’s ability to search the Bible and to freely come to their own understanding of the truth. The significance of this was beautifully captured nearly 600 years ago by Nicholas of Cusa:

“To know and to think, to see the truth, with the eye of the mind, is always a joy….As love is the life of the heart, so is the endeavor after knowledge and truth the life of the mind. Amid the movements of time, the daily labor, perplexities, and contradictions of life, we should lift our gaze fearlessly to the clear vault of heaven and seek to ever obtain a firmer grasp of…the origin all goodness and beauty, the capacities of our own hearts and minds, the intellectual fruits of mankind throughout the centuries, and the wonderful works of Nature around us; but always remembering that in humility alone lies true greatness, and that knowledge and wisdom are profitable only in so far as our lives are government by them.[4]

Early Life 

Christiana Larsen Frandsen was born May 14th, 1838 in Tversted, Hjorring, Denmark, the fifth of ten children, the third of four daughters born to Lars Christian Mikkelsen and Ane Christiandatter. Lars Christian was a very well educated man for the time and the area. After his initial schooling, his father, Michael Larsen, wanted him to study for the Baptist ministry. Lars studied toward this goal for four years, but just before he was to graduate he decided that he did not have the right to become a minister, much to the dismay of his father, because he felt that there was much evidence that the Gospel taught in the New Testament had yet to be fully restored and he decided not to go through being a minister for the Baptist Church.

Despite this belief, Lars continued study of the Bible and shared his conclusions with his children about the full Gospel not being restored. Meanwhile, Christiana Larsen had married in 1862 to Hans Christian Frandsen, a fisherman from Skagen, Jutland, Denmark.  Hans Christian was born and raised a devout Lutheran. This would become a source of contention for the couple as Christiana was more free-thinking about religion.

After several years of marriage, Lars came to visit Christiana and she told her father, “I haven’t denounced my religion and I faithfully go every Sunday with Hans to the Lutheran Church. But we do have disputes about religion. Hans is so sure that the Lutherans are right and sometimes our house is like a house divided against itself as it says in the Bible.” [5]

Lars put his arms around his daughter and told her that she was right to honor her husband and attend church with him. But told her that if she would live a good life that she would live to hear about the true Church of Jesus Christ.[6]

Image Old Skagen pointing toward the North Sea probably not much different than Skagen’s look and outlay at during Chritiana and Hans Christian’s life there.

Christiana Meets the Mormon Church

Several years later, Christiana had a seamstress come over to her house and help make clothes for herself and her children. This seamstress happened to be a convert to the Mormon Church.

At this time, the Mormon Church (or Jesu Krisit Kirke) had been in Denmark for over 25 years. The Church in Denmark had been opened by the young apostle Erastus Snow and Peter O. Hansen who landed in Copenhagen in June 1850.[7] And, the Book of Mormon was published in 1851 in Danish and year later the Doctrine in Covenants, the first non-English publications of these scriptures. The Church also began publishing a periodical, Skandinavens Stjerne (Star of Scandinavia).[8] Denmark became one of the most flourishing missions for the Mormon Church in the nineteenth century.[9]

 Image

Danish Temple in Copenhagen built in 2004

Despite the guarantee of religious freedom in the Danish Constitution, signed by King Frederick VII in 1849. Danish society as a whole was not favorable to the Mormon Church, especially since Lutheranism was more than a religion, but part of their cultural identity. In fact, it would not be until 1970 when the Danish government would officially recognize the Mormon Church as a Christian Church and also allow the Mormon Church to perform marriages. Ironically, this coincided with the Danish government’s decision to legalize pornography and make it widely available.[10]

Many early members suffered persecution, destruction of property or exclusion from their family, friends, and neighbors for joining the Mormon Church.  Many also encountered opposition from Lutheran ministers, schoolteachers, and gangs of Danish rowdies.[11]  A typical experience would be of one Peder Isaacson who was ready to immigrate to America in 1854 and he traveled to his mother’s home to bid her farewell but was met with disappointment when his stepfather refused to let him in the house because he was “one of those Mormons.” Peder never saw his mother or sister again.[12]

Up until Christiana had met the seamstress, she and Hans like many others Danes had heard unfavorable things about the Mormon Church. Christiana knew Hans was very prejudiced towards Mormons. Despite this her intellectual honesty got the best of her and she and the visiting seamstress had many discussion about religion. He daughter Irene wrote the following about this experience:

“Mother was a great reader of the Bible (Bibelen)…she and her seamstress had much to talk about. The lady told Mother many things to which Mother would reply, ‘That isn’t in the Bible’. The seamstress would reply that it was and would get the Bible and show her where it was in the Bible. Mother was dumbfounded. It dawned on her that the seamstress knew more of the Bible than she did.”

Some of the things the seamstress may have discussed with Christiana that would have been different than what she had been taught by the Lutheran Church would have been the Mormon doctrine that family relationships and marriage continued beyond this life. We can only imagine for someone who had recently lost a son and her father that these words would have brought peace and hope to her heart to know that lost family members were not lost eternally.[13]

Other doctrines distinctly different than Lutheran doctrine that the seamstress may have exposed Christiana to would have the Mormon beliefs of a pre-existence, the organization of Christ’s church during his mortal life, modern revelation, and priesthood authority.

   Image  Skagen Lutheran Church

 Lutheran doctrine as Christiana would have been taught stated there was no pre-existence and that Christ did not organize his Church during his mortal ministry but that was done after his death. Like many Protestant religions, Lutherans taught that all the revelation ever needed for this world is contained in the Bible and that no more revelation is needed for mankind as all pertinent and relevant revelation is contained in the Bible. Similarly, Lutherans also believed that divine authority is given to man through the Bible.  Any person acting in accordance with God’s will as revealed in the Bible is acting with Divine authority.[14]

After several discussions and remembering what her father had taught her about restoration of the true Church, Chirstiana decided to follow her heart and join the Mormon church. Her daughter Irene describes her mother’s conversion:

 “Mother didn’t mention any of her discussions with Father, but the rest of the family would often talk about these things when he was away. One day, the seamstress invited Mother to a cottage meeting to hear the missionaries’ message. Mother went, but cautioned us children not breathe a word to Father. Mother was very impressed by the message and became anxious to join the Church. It was not much longer after that meeting that a hole was cut in the river and she was baptized on January 3, 1877 (A 135 years ago). About a month later, Anna the oldest daughter was baptized on February 24, 1877 at the age of 11 years old.”

One evening Hans Christian was coming home from work when two friends told him that his wife and daughter had joined the Mormon Church. Hans Christian was distraught. He had never heard a good word said about the Mormons and had heard many tales how they would take innocent girls and women to Utah to become plural wives.

Christiana was sitting in the front room reading the Bible when Hans Christian came through the front door. She looked up from her book and knew in a split second somebody had told him. Hans Christian walked over to the center table where Christiana was seated and raised his hand as if he were going to strike her, but as he raised his hand he broke the lamp shade and cut his hand. Christiana ran out of the door and over to her sister-in-law’s house.

Despite his initial outrage, it would not be long before Hans Christian would join the Church. Soon afterwards Anna Amelia, who had been baptized with her mother, had a dream where her older brother Lauritz Christian [15] visited her and had told her that “you and Mother are on the right track.  Pray for Father and he will come around.” This visit bolstered both Anna’s and Christiana’s testimonies and gave them much needed hope.

Several incidents occurred within the next few months that helped soften Hans Christian’s heart. The first occurred when Irene Elizabeth, one of the younger daughters, broke her arm. Hans and Christiana tried to comfort her but nothing seemed to work. Finally, Christiana suggested that they get the missionaries. After some argument, Han’s surrendered ‘Well, have it your own way’.

Anna ran and grabbed the missionaries and they ran immediately to the Frandsen household. After the missionaries had administered to Irene Elizabeth she got down from her father’s lap and opened the door with her bad arm and told everyone outside the house “Now I will be alright!” Not too much longer the youngest Laura Christine contracted Whooping Cough. Again, Christiana called on the missionaries and they ministered until Laura Christine and she never had another spell. Unbelievably, several months later Christiana herself contracted, at that time the sometimes fatal Scarlet Fever[16] and called on the missionaries to give her a blessing and she too recovered.[17]

Irene notes that “this was the starting point for my dear Father. He began to ask them questions and began to see the Lutheran Church was the same as other Protestant Churches of the day.” However, his epiphany finally came when he and his brother Mikkle and another fisherman went out to sea and were caught in a big storm.

Image

The three men attempted to make it back to shore, but were rebuffed time and time again by the large, icy waves of the North Sea. Meanwhile, both families were beside themselves knowing the possible sad outcomes of such incidents. Christiana called together both families and each person took turns praying all through the night. By morning the North Sea had calmed down and the men were able to return safely to shore. Hans Christian and Mikkle were greeted with much rejoicing and thankfulness by their families. When asked how they were able to survive such a terrible storm, Hans Christian explained that an angel of the Lord had been beside them all through the night. That God had saved their lives. After many witnesses in a very short period of time, Hans Christian was baptized May 14, 1877.


[1] “…that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass….”—Alma 37:6, Book of Mormon

[2] Durant, Will, The Reformation: A History of European Civilization from Wyclif to Calvin: 1300-1564, Simon and Shuster, New York: 1957, p.285

[3] Ibid., p. 628

[4] Ibid, p.257

[5] Refers to Matthew or Mattaeusevanganliet 12:25: “…og en by eller et hus i splid med sig selv kan ikke.”

[6]  Lars Christian Mikkelsen passed away in 1874 at the age of 75.

[7] Highlight of the Church in Scandanavia, Ensign, July 1974, The Church of Latter Day Saints website (see how to cite).

[8] Experience Denmark to Manti, One Man’s Experience, Jensen, Richard L., Ensign, January 1980, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

[9] Friends in Denmark, Friend,October 1975, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints website.

[10] In Denmark, a Quiet, Vibrant Faith, Liahona, March 2006, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

[11] From Denmark to Manti: One Man’s Experience, Ensign, January 1980, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

[12] From Denmark to Zion, Gaunt, LaRene Porter, Ensign, August 1999, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

[13] Lutheran doctrine taught and teaches that no family relationships exist in the afterlife and that marriage is only good for this life and terminates when either one of the spouses pass away

[14]  Ibid.

[15] Lauritz Christian Frandsen was the oldest child of Hans Christian and Christiana Frandsen. He passed away at the age of 12 on December 3rd 1875.

[16] Apart from a fever and a sore throat, Scarlet Fever is characterized by the strawberry color of tongue and sunburn like rash.

[17] A vaccine for Scarlet Fever was developed in 1924 and later on treated with penicillin.

So Many

So many stars in infinite space—

So many worlds in the light of God’s face,

So many storms ere the thunders shall

cease—

So many paths to the portals of Peace.

So many years, so many tears—

Sighs and sorrows and pangs and prayers.

So many ships in the desolate night—

So many harbors, and only one Light.

So many creeds like the weeds in the sod—

So many temples, and only one God.

Frank L. Stanton