31 August 2005

I am so sorry to see the devastation (again) in the Southeast. We are praying, which is about all we can do right now, so far away. Now I'm the one who can't go to the US to help.

We Made It!

We've arrived safely in Bishkek and are starting to settle in nicely. Today is Kyrgyz Independence Day and we went to Ala-Too Square to watch the parade.

Bishkek really is a beautiful city because it is filled with trees. It seems that there are more trees here than the east coast of the US. It is a surprisingly quiet city, and generally quite clean. People are quiet and friendly.

We still don't have internet access at home, but I just wanted to check in quickly. I have lots of posts percolating in the back of my mind about the last few days.

28 August 2005

23 August 2005

Blogging will be in short supply around here for a while till we have consistent internet access set up in Kyrgyzstan. Or at least if we survive the flight there.

My mother and sisters who recently discovered this blog can have a great time while I'm gone. :)

22 August 2005

20 Crazy Mormons

It is estimated that there are 2,000 to 100,000 Muslim insurgents. This includes the most conservative and liberal estimates.

There are about 1.2 billion Muslims in the world.

There are about 12 million Mormons, which makes the math very easy.

Therefore, we simply need to find 20-1,000 militant Mormons, or people who call themselves Mormons (since anyone can call themselves a Muslim), and we can brand Mormonism a violent religion. How simple.

21 August 2005

I love the feeling when I go into a bookstore and am surrounded by thousands of books. I love to browse the new arrivals, history, world travel, architecture, children's, gardening, astronomy, poetry sections, and more. There are so many things I want to read about.

You know why I love homeschooling? I get to share that love of learning with the most important people in my life. Sure, I could do that even if they were in public school, but it's just not the same when children are gone most of the day. I wouldn't miss the excitment for anything.

20 August 2005

Books

It is getting difficult to pass up the many interesting books that have come out recently. I can't just go to the library and check them out. Right now I'm gathering my final collection of books. I'm counting on being able to pick up classics in English, but I'm not sure there will be much else available (at least that I care to read).

I've picked up a few cheap paperbacks that I've been meaning to read for a long time (Middlemarch, the real Little Women, Crime and Punishment) so I won't have any excuse not to read them, but I really don't have much.

What are some excellent books you've read that would be worth taking halfway around the world to read? Any type- I know I won't be picky there.
Callie had an interesting story in the comments. It's nice to read something pleasant.

19 August 2005

Praise

Why do we feel slighted when someone else is praised? The comments at M* have been interesting. When did we decide we were entitled to praise, or to being praised equally?

18 August 2005

Cemeteries

I think I've mentioned before that I love cemeteries, so spending the last two days at cemeteries in central Utah has been lovely. My husband has quite a number of ancestors there. We visited Ephraim, Mt. Pleasant, Fountain Green, Spring City, Nephi, Emery, and Huntington. We had good luck finding our ancestors (and lots of Madsens in the Mt. Pleasant cemetery).

Cemeteries all have their own style. I prefer the older ones that don't have lots of fancy new headstones, or ones in beautiful locations. The old Pioneer Cemetery in Ephraim, Utah is one of my favorites, along with Afton and Grover, Wyoming, and Swan Lake, Idaho.

A lot of cemeteries have their burials online now, or they have a directory at the city hall or somewhere at the cemetery itself. Even if there is no directory, it is pleasant to wander around a cemetery looking for a ancestor.

(I'm trying to be good and not write about Gaza again. If you distract me with cemetery stories, that will help, since I am rather cross about things right now.)

17 August 2005

Title Goes Here

I very much like chronicler's post about food waste. She says at the end, "I cannot go to Niger," referring to her inability to do much to alleviate the suffering there.

I've made statements like this before, but I wonder what they really mean. What could I do if I went to Niger? What could I have done in Indonesia? What can I do in Kyrgyzstan or in the United States?

Donating money is always a good option, and I'm satisfied with the amount we are able to donate. But still, that seems too simple. I don't feel like I'm really doing anything. I teach my children about the realities of life in other parts of the world, but, important as education is, it doesn't really change anything.

I know I should be satisfied with the little we are able to do and keep in mind that I can't fix food my older son likes, much less trying to solve the food problems of the world. But it would be nice if there were something we could quietly do in Kyrgyzstan to help, if only a little.

16 August 2005

Gaza

I am glad that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is finally here. I don't believe, as some of my Palestinian friends do, that this is likely to be followed by withdrawals from the West Bank and Jerusalem, nor do I think that this necessarily will help promote peace, but I do think this is a wise strategic move on Israel's part.

Gaza has never been particularly useful for Israel- in fact, the awful humanitarian and military situation there have always been a blight on Israel. The tremendous financial and military efforts Israel expended to protect the settlements in Gaza and control the area never seemed worth it to me. Even though I don't agree with settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, I understand better their importance.

However, I am amazed that Sharon is the one who started this. I have always considered him to be firmly on the side of settlements. It heartens me to think that he may not be as hardline as I have always thought he was.

I still believe that for Israel to be a democratic, secure, and Jewish state that it has to pull out of Gaza and the West Bank and come to an equitable compromise concerning Jerusalem. Israel cannot be considered democratic when many people living in its borders have few rights. However, if they give the Palestinians citizenship, Israel would cease to be a Jewish state. Israel could be more secure, democratic, and retain its Jewishness by withdrawing from these areas.

Is an ideological view concerning Israel's borders really worth jeopardizing the greater goal of democracy, security, and Jewishness? Obviously some think so. But I hope cooler minds win the day.

15 August 2005

Meeting Together Oft

Originally posted at Conversation

We in the Church of Jesus Christ place a high emphasis on meeting together often. I know of few other sects and religions that ask for so much association. But why is this?

And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ. ~Moroni 6:6

Of course this is the most important reason for meeting together- or is it? A group setting is not required to partake of the Sacrament- only one worthy Priesthood holder. Is the Sacrament itself more valuable if we take it with others around us? I don't think so. I think there might be other reasons why we emphasize meeting together often.

And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls. ~Moroni 6:5

Does this come closer? What does it mean to speak with each other concerning the welfare of our souls? How do we do this?

I have appreciated meeting together often more when I have lived in places where my neighbors were not members of the LDS Church. Meeting together on Sundays became more important to me when that was the only chance I had to meet with my fellow Saints. We needed each other.

And of course meetings are not the only ways to strengthen each other. I have had my soul strengthened recently by people outside my assigned ward. Danithew's Book of Mormon blog, Russell Arben Fox's beautiful post, and the women of Conversation have all encouraged me. I was able to meet with five of the women who blog here and I was strengthened by their faith, patience, calmness, optimism, and courage. I am glad that I will have this association while I am far from any Relief Society sisters.

I look forward to gaining perspective on "meeting together oft" while we are in Kyrgyzstan. Even though we will not be able to meet with the other members there in a religious setting, I hope to learn more about why it is important to meet together.

14 August 2005

Starwatching

It is amazing what a few lights can do to a stargazing experience. I knew I had things good in Idaho, but it wasn't till I tried to watch the Perseid meteor shower that I realized how much my hometown has changed since I was a little girl. I even thought it was cloudy because it took my eyes so long to adjust to the washed-out stars.

Add stargazing (even in Boise) to the easy homeschooling laws, mountains, snow, Yellowstone, and friendly people that Idaho offers. Really, who could ask for more? (Well, except diversity.)

13 August 2005

Liberal Territorial Utah Divorce Laws

The Mormon Question also has some details on Utah's early divorce laws. I was aware that they were fairly lenient, but I had no idea how lenient.

The divorce statute enacted by the territorial legislature in 1852 applied to anyone who was "a resident or wishes to become one." It also allowed a divorce "when it shall appear to the satisfaction and conviction of the Court, that the parties cannot live in peace and union together, and that their welfare requires a separation." Utah's law was the most liberal in the country at the time, since divorce usually required adultery or extreme abuse.

In fact, Utah's law was so convenient that Eastern lawyers used preprinted forms that only required names, dates, and locations to get a Utah divorce.

But that residency law would be great for getting in-state tuition.

11 August 2005

Ordering the Ten Commandments and Two New Blogs

An interesting new-to-me blog, Velveteen Rabbi (obviously Jewish), came to my attention today. I like Rachel's perspective on reading the Qur'an. I haven't finished going through the archives, but I read an interesting post about the ordering of the 10 Commandments. I was aware that the 10 Commandents weren't exactly the same for everyone, but this post and subsequent comments filled in the blanks nicely. Dervish (obviously Muslim) had a nice compilation of the Commandments and the differences between the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim versions.

I highly recommend Velveteen Rabbi and Dervish. Dervish has some interesting information on feminist movements in Islam. There is a lot more to discover on these two blogs.

Kumiss

Apparently we will need to aquire a taste for kumiss, a traditional Central Asian drink of fermented mare's milk. There's some question to how alcoholic it might be (depends on the freshness), but it doesn't appear that it's enough to use that as an excuse. Maybe we'll like it though.

You can try it yourself, although this version doesn't use mare's milk.

09 August 2005

The Mormon Question mentions in a few places that the Edmunds-Tucker Act against polygamy called for the money confiscated from polygamists and the Church to be used to fund public schools that would train Utah's children for greater independence and judgment than shown by their parents.

Interesting.

08 August 2005

Illegal Church Meetings

I've been interested in the discussion at Feminist Mormon Housewives about Not Ophelia's aunt and uncle who were not allowed to attend the temple since they were not interested in illegally attending church. I can't understand the reasoning behind this at all. Asking someone to do something blatantly illegal to go to the temple?

There is nothing wrong (I might be a little touchy about this right now :)) with having a private meeting at home when meeting with others is not allowed. There is no good reason to have illegal meetings that can threaten even the existence of the Church in some countries. In fact, the often the opposite is true- technically legal meetings are often not allowed when the legal status of the Church hasn't been worked out in a country. That's how it is in Kyrgyzstan right now. I'm appalled that anyone would think it's better to meet in an underhanded way with other members simply to say that you attend your meetings.

I know most people don't have a problem with private meetings. But still, it's always interesting to tell people we're going to try homechurching in addition to homeschooling. :)

Secular and Religious History

I've had The Mormon Question on the sidebar for a very long time. I'm just about finished with it now (I didn't read it for nearly a month because of traveling and moving) and it is fascinating. I'll have a better review of it soon, but the thing I've enjoyed most is the way this book combines the religious and secular histories I'm so interested in. This is not something you'll get in any American history textbook even though polygamy did have a major effect on late 19th-century America.

I'll be moving on to Zion in the Courts next. It's nice that Nate Oman reviewed both these books a long time ago.

06 August 2005

Origami

I never was much of a paper folder until we read about Japan in history with my older son. We checked out an origami book and video and my son and I were both hooked. He turned out to be surprisingly adept for a then-four-year-old at origami and I discovered that I could actually fold all kinds of different things.

And we still love origami. It's quiet, easy to take along, and people are unreasonable impressed with nearly anything my son folds. We have many origami books and everyone knows that origami paper is always a welcome gift at our house.

We had the best luck starting with an origami video. After watching a couple of them, we didn't have any trouble with the beginner origami books. We also have found lots of websites that have been helpful. We especially love paper airplanes. Just as long as they don't end up in the hair of the person sitting in front of us on the airplane. I don't know how to apologize in very many languages.

04 August 2005

Separate or Assimilated?

Wilfried has an interesting post at Times and Seasons about wards being organized for speakers of various languages. While I've enjoyed the discussion, most of my thoughts about this don't relate to Wilfried's specific point, so I didn't want to comment there.

I have some concerns about separating languages into different wards. One is that it can divide families when the native languages of each parent are different. I've known families that have had each spouse attending different wards for 20 years. It never is easy to do that. I also think that the members in a ward with a dominant culture are greatly benefited by interacting with people of other cultures, and that is lost with separate wards.

Also, is this simply a linguistic issue, or is it cultural and racial too? Would the racially diverse members in Trenton have been more willing to attend church if they had had their own ward in Trenton that was almost exclusively made up of minorities? I think so. How far do we go in separating people?

Are separate wards simply a linguistic and cultural necessity (and despite my concerns, I think they are necessary), or are they are a reflection of our inability to accept and accommodate those with significantly different backgrounds?

Finally, what about countries with more than one dominant language? The branch in Kazakhstan is conducted in Russian, and it's almost certain that if one can be established in Kyrgyzstan, it would also be in Russian. But Kyrgyz is the national language of Kyrgyzstan and Russia. If we went into Uzbekistan, this problem would only be exacerbated because of the greater tension between Uzbeks and Russians. What would a native Kyrgyz speaker think of attending a Russian ward? How does this play out in countries like Latvia where the Russians are hated? There are political and cultural dimensions behind these linguistic decisions in many places.

03 August 2005

Fanatic Family History

I've mentioned before that I love family history. But it's not something I'm fanatic about. I've met zealous family historians, and they scare me. Certainly anything can be taken too far, but family history seems to attract people who are rather susceptible to this.

I've known people who wouldn't go to the MTC to send their son on a mission because they were too busy with family history, fathers with full-time jobs and children at home who spend 5-7 hours a day (going on 8 years now) on family history, and people who absolutely refuse to share the research they've done. There are people that you avoid talking to about family history because you know you'll never get out of the conversation.

Why is this? Why do I have to be scared of the family history fanatics?

02 August 2005

Defending and Defining

After the recent bombings in London, there was quite a flurry of reporting of Muslim condemnation of the bombings, but I've heard many people complain that Muslims haven't seemed to condemn terrorism strongly enough. This was also a major complaint after September 11th.

There are several problems with this complaint. First, there is no one leader of Islam that can make a general statement against terrorism. There are quite a variety of Muslim leaders, clerics, and imams. You might think that a cleric in Mecca should have more clout than, say, an imam in New York, but that isn't necessarily the case. The hierarchy in Islam isn't really comparable to anything we have in Christianity, so it's not fair for us to expect Muslims to deal with the accusations in a similar way. Our perception of Muslim condemnation of terrorism has to be entirely dependent on the media. There are all kinds of Muslims saying all kinds of different things. Most Christians don't know which ones are important enough to listen to, so we end up relying on the media. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.

Why should Muslims have to spend their time defending themselves against accusations of violence anyway? As I mentioned before, Mormons are familiar with this. I get tired of explaining that we are not polygamists, that those who practice polygamy are not Mormons, etc. People of any religion should be allowed to define what they are instead of trying to defend themselves from accusations of what they are not.

Just as we shouldn't profile, we shouldn't require that Muslims spend their time condemning something that is not supported by Islam. This is not to say that a stronger stand against terrorism by Muslim leaders shouldn't be taken. It simply means that we Christians shouldn't be the ones requiring it. Islam is a very tolerant religion (something I like very much about it) and I would hate for a feeling that intolerance is necessary to appease Christians.

01 August 2005

Targeting Muslims

I've been lucky that I haven't traveled much since September 11th (in fact, my first flight since then was just a few weeks ago), so the greatly increased security at airports has had little effect on me. However, I've read plenty of stories about people who have been very unhappy with airport security, and for good reason. No one wants to be searched, and it can be especially hard on children.

Many people wish that young Muslim men were more specifically targeted in these searches since most of the recent terrorist action has been by young Muslim men. It sounds reasonable, but I cannot agree with any type of racial profiling like this. It's unconstitutional and simply unfair.

If this actually became the policy, I can only imagine what the uproar would be if Christians, Hindus, and Jews with darker skin ended up being targeted as well. How can a security guard in the New York subway know the religion or ethnic group every person belongs to? This is a problem in Israel since many Jews there look like Arabs (and technically are Arab, since their native language is Arabic). I wonder if the Hispanic man who was shot by London police recently wouldn't have been under such suspicion if he had been white. It is not right, and can even be dangerous, to profile racially.

I would think that Mormons would be especially sensitive to this. We are all tired of being profiled ourselves as polygamists, ultra-conservatives, wackos, or any number of odd things. Sure, there are some weird Mormons out there. There might even be more weird Mormons proportionally than there are weird Catholics, Protestants, or Muslims out there. I don't know. But I do know that I don't like to be lumped in with anyone. I hope I can't be defined so easily.

And that's why I am willing to be searched if I'm the one who randomly is tagged. If we're going to do searches, we all must be a part of it (I'm not necessarily convinced that searches are even helpful, but that's not the point here). There is no fair way to do it otherwise.

And it is still safer to ride the subway than to drive a car. The threats are relative. The media have a great deal to do with our perception of our safety.

Blaming Islam

With the recent bombings in London, there has been a new spat of people concluding that "something is wrong with Islam." The perception seems to be that there is something in Islam that allows or even encourages certain adherents to murder as many innocents as they can.

I cannot disagree more. There are many reasons why I do not believe that Islam is inherently more violent than Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other major religion. One-sixth of the world is Muslim. If there were a "problem with Islam," we'd be in far worse trouble that we really are.

I'll sometimes hear people picking certain verses out of the Qur'an as proof that Islam is violent. There are violent verses in the Qur'an, but picking them out doesn't give an accurate picture of the book. To contrast this, here are a few verses from the Old Testament:

O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. (Psalms 137:8-9)

And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city [Jericho], both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. (Joshua 6:21)

Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod: waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the Lord, and do according to all that I have commanded thee. (Jeremiah 50:21)

But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. (Deut 20:17)

Taking these scriptures out of context (and there are plenty more examples in the Old Testament of the Lord commanding violence) and promoting them as examples of the violence inherent in Judaism or Christianity seems ludicrous to us. But we see people doing the same with Islam today.

(Sadly, we've already mailed our copy of the Qur'an off to Kyrgyzstan, so I can't quote anything from it right now. But there are many beautiful and inspiring verses in the Qur'an, some of which I have (usually) hanging in my home.)

There is quite a bit more I have to say about this but I don't have time tonight. I'll see if I can add more tomorrow night concerning Muslim condemnation of terrorism, the diversity of Islam, racial profiling, and juding people's motives.