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This was visit 16 of 52 in The Trip Around The Sun.


Sunday, August 18, 2002 – Mormon again – in Utah


Have traveled about 180,000,000 miles. (Less than a third of the way around the Sun.)


Thoughts during the week:


Leona and I, at McDonald's during a morning walk, read an article in the newspaper about a screenwriter named Joe Eszterhas. "Smoking was an integral part of many of my screenplays, because I was a militant smoker." Now he says, "Smoking should be as illegal as heroin," and he blames himself for perpetuating a glamorous image of tobacco. "I have been an accomplice to the murders of untold numbers of human beings." "I will try to stop others from committing the crimes I did." He has throat cancer. People do sometimes get this without being smokers, but the statistics clearly indicate that it is probable this would not have happened without the smoking. This and some other cancers are about 17 times as likely for smokers.


I have never considered this a "religious" issue, but rather an issue of "smart vs. stupid." It requires no religion to recognize the science here. Another example of this is the use of seatbelts. They are smart, but not religion.


I wouldn't wish this on anyone, but if Rush ever did contract one of these cancers, he could do a wonderful service by doing as this man is doing, along with John Wayne and Yul Brenner, who did the same - denouncing their past support and advertising of tobacco. (Rush has been advertising that tobacco is neither proven to cause cancer nor is it proven addictive.) Yul said simply, "Please don’t smoke." Rush could say, "My show is no longer about bad liberals and good conservatives, but about those who murder thousands of innocent people for the money in it. I want people to quit smoking - or never start. Don't be a voluntary murder victim. Smoking is addictive and very difficult to stop for many people, and it does cause cancer. I've got it, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn’t have it if I hadn't smoked." Of course, it would even be better if he did this without having the cancer, though maybe not as strong a message.


Then I would be saying, "I'm with you, Rush - right on!" It's also interesting to me that the Church is not actively working against tobacco companies - while concerning themselves instead with whether homosexuals should be able to make contracts of marriage with each other. (Is it because the Democrats are doing this one on the tobacco?)


Another interesting article:  The Catholic Church (United States Catholic Bishops) has officially announced that the Jews have a special and valid relationship with God, and do not need to be converted to Christianity. It would bring tears to my eyes if the Mormons ever made such an official announcement about any other religion. It's too bad for us that the Catholics are getting smarter than we are. We're still as dumb on the issue as Jehovah's Witnesses and extremist Islam. "We are the only ones whose ordinances are honored by God." This is the most dangerous belief on the planet. Our history tells us that we were never very aware that the killing that went on in early Mormon days was largely motivated by reactions to this belief. It is a threatening belief to other people - and non-inclusive. To be sure, the other people were not well people, but it was a naturally reasonable expectation that some people would respond to this belief in that way. Some who hold this belief also believe that once we die, there is no chance to fix things and join their church - that those in other churches will burn in Hell forever. At least we may give ourselves credit for not having that part of this awful belief. We believe that everyone will know - and then choose. The uneducated and threatened, however, are not that aware of our details, and it's easy for them to think that Mormons believe they are the only ones going to heaven.


I think there has been another improvement in this situation for us in the last twenty or so years. I used to hear over and over, "I know this is the only true church." In the branch I grew up in, it was also popular to say, "I know it as well as I know I'm standing here." Now I am more likely to hear, "I know the Church is true." This is better - but the first way is still our official belief. It's not as popular a belief as it used to be. Over the long distance, this is an important part of what brings about change - the words we say over and over. (I call it organizational repentance.) Heber J. Grant said, "That which we persist in doing becomes easier not that the nature of the task has changed, but that our ability to do has increased." This same principle is also true for our ability to accept new thoughts. We practice the thoughts, and they become easier. If they are good thoughts - inclusive and loving - this is a good exercise. If they are bad thoughts, exclusive and uppity, then, unfortunately, the principle still works, and we become more comfortable with the bad thoughts.


This Catholic statement is a wonderful and encouraging step in the right direction for a large portion of the Earth's Christian people. I think it particularly of interest that the accepted group, the Jews, are not even another Christian denomination. It would be a little like Mormons accepting Buddhists as not in need of conversion. (Not quite - but a little.)


Now this is not to say that we or others should not be in the conversion business. If we have something good that another might likely find useful and good in his or her life, we ought to share the opportunity. Not, however, by believing that the other person is wrong while we are right, but that we have something we know is good - and share it. As in the 13th article of faith, "If something (that we do not have) is of good report, we seek after these things." And if we have something of good report, we share it with others - but as an offering, not as a warning. In the mission field, I found myself very motivated when we came upon someone who was unhappy; I knew we had some answers for them. When I found active happy people in other churches, I was not so motivated. That little program on TV, about the minister and his family - I wouldn’t try to convert them, and I believe fully that Mother Teresa has no eternal need to denounce Catholicism and to be re-baptized by someone who can get God to accept it. He accepts her promises to Him and makes His to her without any third party need for authority. The covenants are complete without a third non-principal party. "If you are not against me, then you are for me."


Regarding the poor Catholics lately - with the revelations about child abuse. I think it is necessary that we consider the math. There are about 100 Catholics for every Mormon. If we find 100 Catholics with such a problem, that is statistically equal to finding just one Mormon. We can find one. We can find one Mormon murderer - equal to finding 100 Catholic murderers - or one Mormon rapist, etc. Catholics have taken a very unfair hit by reaping the reputation from the actions of what, compared with their numbers, are a few Priests. Most Priests and Nuns are close to living consecrated lives. They give themselves to the world. Having been to a dozen of their meetings, I wouldn't trade my experience for theirs, but most of them also would not trade theirs for mine. When God looks down on one of His children, I seriously doubt if He says to Himself, "Well Bob is a good son, but he's in the wrong organization. Or, "Judy, now Mary, could have been a wonderful wife and mother, and here she is throwing her life away as a Nun." Sacrifice is a funny investment. Jesus died on purpose at about 33 years old. What might He have done with another 50 or so years? We're not critical of this - so why critical of a Nun who gives up her marriage, etc., to serve? I certainly wouldn't do what they do - be a Catholic Priest - give up family and marriage - I enjoy being a father and a grandfather, but I honor those who do so much and give up so much. I talked with a Nun for three hours once, and was that ever enlightening.


Our son, David, and his wife Becky, have recently delivered a little grandson. This Sunday, we will be in Utah for the little guy's blessing. I certainly am glad that I'm not a Catholic Priest, but God must surely value them for all the good they do.


I think all this negative press has made Catholics introspective and thoughtful about their relationship with the rest of us. In the long run, these tragedies usually result in organizational repentance, which is very hard to come by. That may be part of the reason they were able and ready to make such a statement about the Jews. Now if we could just get the Jews to say this about the Islam and the Christians, etc. And if only we Mormons could be satisfied that someone, somewhere, who is happy with his relationship with the Lord, needs no conversion. I often found that missionaries did not understand the white field that is ready for harvest - and were trying to harvest in fields either not in need or not ready. There are whole missions like this, where the people are not ready. I always resent the green fruit often sold at market. I like it ripe.


The visit:


David graduated from BYU - we went for the graduation exercises - and then on Sunday - for the blessing of his (and Becky's) new baby boy in one of the BYU wards. He has his official name now - Rhys. (Pronounced 'Reese') He's plenty cute. Right now, he's his grandma's boy - but in a couple years or three, he's mine.


I hear you guys are having a Pinewood Derby. I'm seeing a lot of the Mormons lately.


This was visit 16 of 52 in The Trip Around The Sun. – Mormon in Utah


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