31 July 2005

Multiply and Replenish the Earth

I see the discussion concerning the number of children a family ought to have is still continuing. I've thought a lot about the phrase "multiply and replenish the earth," and taken literally, it seems to me that a couple who has 3 children would fulfill this commandment nicely (actually, two would probably do, since isn't the replacement level at just under two children?).

So why do some get in such a snit about it? Why would the Lord give a commandment that simply cannot be fulfilled by so many people? Does that imply something about the commandment? Is a couple who chooses (one who is not infertile) to adopt instead of physically giving birth not fulfilling this commandment? (This brings up a lot of assumptions about adoption that I wish were challenged more often, but that's another post.) Why do we assume that the inability to have children, either completely or for a limited time, must always be a sore trial or the couple isn't righteous?

I just can't imagine that the interpretation of this commandment is quite as simple as some make it out to be.

28 July 2005

Living in Idaho

We moved to Idaho six years ago and have loved living here. It is sad to think of leaving here, maybe forever, in a couple of days. Idaho is a much more interesting state than a lot of people think. It's a lot more than potato fields, Republicans, and wackos in the north (you might say the Republicans are the wackos, but northern Idaho is much less Republican than the rest of the state).

But the thing I like most about Idaho is the quiet and the slower pace. Even Boise is relatively quiet and slow compared to other states' major cities. This was glaringly obvious after our stay in Washington a few weeks ago. I remember the feeling when we lived in New Jersey.

I am a Western girl. The East is exciting and I'd be happy living there, even for an extended period of time (my one gripe about the West is the lack of diversity, but even in Idaho, we've enjoyed the company of Saudis, Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Palestinians, and Mongolians), but my heart will always be here with the mountains, the geysers, the green valleys, the red rock, and the black lava of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. This is where I belong.

27 July 2005

Rexburg Temple Groundbreaking

Still plugging along on getting things ready to leave. We managed to get the passports expedited so that we might get the visas in time (really, you need a little more than 6 weeks before having a trips overseas confirmed).

But packing is still what's going on here for a few more days. We extended our stay a little because the groundbreaking for the Rexburg Temple is on Saturday. I wish we could be here while it was being built. It looks like it will be a beautiful temple- with a little different style than many of the recent smaller temples built in the US.

26 July 2005

Sister Robinson

The day before we moved from Trenton, New Jersey, my husband visited Bertha Robinson in the hospital. She was a recent covert, a widowed woman in her 60s. We had just finished giving her the new member discussions a few days earlier. She would come to our little apartment and rock our newborn baby while we discussed the gospel. She was a wonderful woman.

When my husband got to the hospital, she exclaimed, "I told my friend someone from my church would be here!" She was so pleased to see him and they had a nice chat, and then said good-bye.

Sister Robinson was the only new convert in the year we spent in that ward who stayed with the Church for more than a week or two. My husband and I spent a lot of time with the missionaries that year because I was the only ward missionary in our ward. We had 8 companionships working in the ward when we moved in. It made for a busy year.

But it was hard to not get cynical when it seemed that our efforts came to nothing. Like I said, Sister Robinson was sure someone would come visit her in the hospital. But my husband was the only one who did, and we moved across the country the next day. We have never known what happened to Sister Robinson since then.

Was there more we could have done to help the new converts in that ward? The Church as a whole is not retaining members well. A recent SL Tribune article discusses the problem, but this is something we've known for a long time. So, what can individual members do?

One of the most effective programs I've seen is one that my sister has participated in in California for many years. She helps new members start on their family history, usually in addition to another calling, but also, for a few years, as a ward missionary. She spends quite a bit of time working with new converts preparing them to go to the temple to do baptisms. She loves it.

But programs aren't always the most effective tool. Simple friendship from members who honestly love the new converts is invaluable.

US Appears to Hold Manas

As soon as Bakiev was elected, he started calling for the US to pull out of its airbase in Manas. Donald Rumsfield has been in Kyrgyzstan for the last few days and, according to this article, has secured indefinite US use of the airbase.

I'm not too picky one way or the other about US military bases, but I am glad Bakiev changed his mind. I prefer to have the country I'm in have a somewhat positive policy toward the US.

Family Size

I've been following some comments over at M* about the decline in Utah's fertility rate. It's altogether too easy to come up with pat answers to why this is the case- Matt Evans is doing an excellent job at coming up with these types of answers.

I honestly can't think of any women I've known who have chosen to have less than 8 or 10 children who have made the decision purely out of selfishness. Julie came up with 5 different reasons why a couple might not have more children or might choose to have fewer children overall. I'd add two more from women I've known personally- the wife doesn't want any more or she feels like she emotionally can't handle them.

According to Matt, my family is selfish. We're skipping of to travel for a year instead of having more children. In fact, we've been deliberately not adding to our family for the past two years. We couldn't have more children for the two years before that. And now our youngest be at least six (and quite possibly older still) before we have another child, if we are able to. We have our reasons for waiting and I am perfectly comfortable with them. While I don't feel like I've been personally judged very often, it always bugs me a bit when I hear people make categorical statements like Matt's.

Certainly there are better reasons that others to limit your family size. Fear can play a big part, and it's not good to make decision based on fear. But I prefer to think people know what they're doing, and that it's none of my business. The only people that I know well enough to judge are my husband and me.

And you can't really whine at me about poaching because no one's going to come here to continue the discussion and leave M*.

25 July 2005

Ala Kachuu and Arranged Marriages

The Chicago Tribune had an article yesterday on ala kachuu. Much of it is familiar if you've read other articles and websites about ala kachuu, but there are some interesting stories in the article. Kleinbach's research is clearly making a bit of a splash in an area where more information was sorely needed.

You know, there are all kinds of forced marriages. Technically, under Islamic law, the bride is required to give her consent. Whether she gives it freely is another issue. And, as a side note, arranged marriages are not always forced marriages. There are all different levels of arranged marriages. A friend of ours is trying right now to get asylum in the US so that she doesn't have to return to Central Asia where her father has arranged a marriage for her. She refursed another marriage before she came here. Another friend of ours (he's a professor at a university in the UAE and in his 30s) didn't marry a girl because his parents didn't approve of her.

Arranged marriages are not doomed to failure or unhappiness though. We've known quite a few couples whose marriages were arranged and they are happy with functioning families. Love marriages aren't a sure indicator of success, as we all know. It seems to me that balance is important- there are many factors that can help to make a marriage successful.

24 July 2005

Happy Pioneer Day

Today, in addition to think about the early Mormon pioneers from the 19th century, I've been thinking a lot about the new converts (modern pioneers) we've met from Central Asia. It's always amazing to think about these individuals. One was converted as a direct result of his participation in the 2002 Winter Olympics. Several others were Muslim before they joined the Church. They have some difficult paths ahead of them, but it strengthens me to talk to them.

The Glorious Wars of the Past

There was a rather interesting discussion today on the WTM Boards concerning feel "on edge" with the way thing are in the world today. There also was a bit of discussion concerning modern history and how it is more difficult to study because of the wars in the last 150 years.

I hear this a lot, and one of the posters on the board gave what I think is a reasonable explanation, "War of old seems glorious and engaging; war we "know" is just disturbing." We do tend to glorify historical wars, and it has always bothered me.

Why should we have more of a problem with the Persian Gulf War than the mass slaughter of the Canaanites by the Israelites? Genghis Khan was far from merciful to those who opposed him. The Assyrians and the Crusaders were brutal. And there are many more examples. Do we simply not understand history? Why do we glorify the awful things in the past? Why do we think that our world today is so much more difficult than any other time in the past?

Modern wars have had devastating effects on many people. I am not saying that modern wars should bother us less than ancient wars. It's simply that I don't understand why there is a double standard concerning our portrayal of war. I think we do ourselves a disservice in many ways as a result.

23 July 2005

More on Bride Kidnapping

One of the things I found most interesting about ala kachuu is that the women in the kidnapping family are often the ones who end up forcing the kidnapped girl into the marriage. This was especially apparent in the documentary; it was not comfortable to watch the women- the ones who should have understood the difficult position that the girl was in- push her the hardest to accept the marriage.

It's also important to remember that ala kachuu is not the same in every case. For some couples, it's more like eloping and planned by both. In fact, some of the research suggests that the more traditional form of ala kachuu was much more consensual. But most kidnappings are not consensual now even though they usually result in a marriage. Most girls (and their parents) feel that they have to accept the marriage because of the shame of being kidnapped. She is not necessarily raped; simply being in another man's house overnight is enough to shame her, even though she has no control over what has happened.

22 July 2005

Bride Kidnapping

While we were in Washington last week, we met a researcher, Russell Kleinbach, who has been studying bride kidnapping (Ala Kachuu) in Kyrgyzstan for the last 6 years. I had read about bride kidnapping in a variety of books, but none had a lot of information about the topic because so little research has been done. It was fascinating to see his presentation on the data they've collected and the film done by Petr Lom on the subject.

It is usually assumed that Ala Kachuu was a tradition in Kyrgyzstan (and some other areas of Central Asia and the rest of the world). Kleinbach's new research argues that, even though it is an ancient custom, it had never been widespread until the Soviet years. Research today indicated that around 50 percent! of marriages in KG now are a result of bride kidnapping. Of those, about 1/3 are consensual. Most girls who are kidnapped feel that they must marry their kidnappers or she will be shamed and never able to marry. She and her parents feel as if there are no other choices.

Kleinbach has started a campaign to educate people in KG on bride kidnapping. Ala Kachuu is illegal in KG; you can be put in jail for five years as a punishment. But their research shows that few Kyrgyz realize that it is illegal. They never found anyone who had been charged with a crime as a result of the law. They have also put together pledges for women and men against kidnapping.

There is much more information on Ala Kachuu on the internet, especially in the sites I linked above.

19 July 2005

Sort of Here

We're back for a bit- but blogging will still be light because now we're packing. I've only just started and I'm already tired of it. I've never enjoyed packing, but this time is particularly bad. Why bother putting all this stuff in boxes only to leave it in a storage unit for who knows how long?

I really was hoping the house would have burned down while we were gone.

But, in cheerier news, we had a good time in Washington, as always. And I thoroughly enjoyed Harry Potter. It made the flight home quite nice.

09 July 2005

Presidential Elections

The elections in KG will take place tomorrow (well, they'll be about done be tomorrow morning in our time zones). The next few days could make the difference in whether we're able to go. We're hoping for a peaceful outcome and one that will allow more stability and freedom for Kyrgyzstan.

Here are some links:

Outlook for Kyrgyzstan is bad, whoever wins at polls

Kyrgyzstan Approves 80 Foreign Poll Observer Groups, Rejects CIS Monitors

Transcript of debates

Uzbek refugee issue to pose an immediate post-election test for KG

Will a mandate for stability come with Bakiev's probable election?

Not an easy future for the new leader

08 July 2005

Brother Gillespie

I wasn't very aware of the bombings in London yesterday, partly because we're not at home right now. I never keep up on the world well when I don't have a computer available all the time. (I can't stand TV news at any time or in any place.)

But the real reason I wasn't aware of the happenings in London yesterday was that I was at a funeral of an old family friend. I was glad to be in town so I could go. He was one of the first people to live in Orem, back when 8th East was a dirt road. We'd go to his house often as children to swing on his tire swing and hear him talk about when he was little.

He took us on drives around Utah Lake and now, whenever I hear a meadowlark, I think "Utah County is a pretty little place" because of Brother Gillespie. He hosted my sister's wedding reception in his beautiful yard. He was an ordinance worker in the temple for many years, and we loved it when we happened to see him there.

Of course, like everyone, Brother Gillespie had a lot of trials in his life. One of the things I like about funerals of people I'm not related to is to hear about how they dealt with their trials and just to learn more about them. Brother Gillespie was a quiet and unassuming man, but we loved him. We'll miss him, but I do believe that he is happier now.

Sackler Gallery Again

The Sackler Gallery has just received a gift of Central Asian textiles. The article just linked also explains how the textiles are made. I told you it was a good museum.

07 July 2005

I was so sorry to read of the bombings in London today. We are praying that our friends there are safe.

Books

I finally updated the books on the sidebar. I haven't been doing much reading lately since we've been bouncing around for several weeks. Harry Potter and Little House on the Prairie make for nice traveling books when I don't have much time to read.

But my husband did something he's never done before- he bought me a book. (Despite being an attorney and a professor, he doesn't read for pleasure.) He's been doing research for his classes in KG and found The Mormon Question. Here is an interesting review of the book. I find it fascinating to read about the changes in Constitutional interpretation through the years. (I'd love it if my husband ended up as a Constitutional Law professor.)

So I have something to read till Harry Potter comes out next Saturday. ;)

05 July 2005

Patriotism

We celebrated the Fourth of July yesterday with a Ukrainian and an Uzbek. They are both here as students and both are grateful for the opportunity they have to go to school here in the United States. But they want to return to their homes after they are finished with school.

Peggy mentioned yesterday in the comments of another post that patriotism is a feeling of deep humility and gratitude for the country you live in. I liked that. But I would also add that it is also partly a feeling of love for a place and knowing it is where you want to live.

Many of the people we've met from all over the world who are living in the United States are very grateful for the opportunities they have here. Some have chosen to become citizens and only visit their native land. But most have come here with plans to return home. They want to go back. They love their homes and their families, and those homes and families are not here in the United States. Even the refugees we've known who have needed to get out of their countries want to go home.

It was interesting to talk to an Iraqi family who were in Jordan illegally 10 years ago. They hated many of the thing the Iraqi government was doing. But they loved Iraq. They were hoping for the time that they would be able to return there safely. They had no desire to become citizens of any other country.

I consider myself to be a patriotic American. I have always had an interest in American history, government, and politics. But I know that the United States isn't the best place for everyone to live. I firmly believe that the freedoms we have here would be beneficial for anyone. But there is more to life than that. Is America the best country in the world? For me it is. I am an American. For Akram, Stas, Fotima, Ghaleb, Adnan, Lada, and many others, it's a wonderful country with many opportunities, but it's not the best country in the world. Our country is where our heart is.

04 July 2005

America the Beautiful

My favorite patriotic song is America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates. I've heard the song criticized because it seems to focus simply on the natural wonders of America, but you could only have that complaint if you haven't sung the other three verses. (I also happen to like the second and third verses of the Star-Spangled Banner. Too bad we never get to hear them.) I am particularly fond of the last two lines of the second stanza and the first two lines of the fourth stanza.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

The original version of the song was somewhat different:

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
For man's avail
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!