Feb 22

Donald Drains the Swamp!, by Eric Metaxas and Tim Raglin ★★★★★

This is a children’s book and can be read in under five minutes. It is very funny, and like many of the comics of the past (Roger Ramjet, Rocky and Bullwinkle), were meant for adults as much as for children. It is quite funny, and I only wish it were completely true, that is, that Donald really did drain the swamp. His caricatures are priceless, like the name of one of the dinosaurs in the swamp is the George-o-saurus. Whether or not you like Donald Trump, most will agree that there is a horrid swamp in Washington DC which prevents the common man from really having a voice in his government. Eric makes a very good point in this book about the swamp. Maybe some day the swamp draining will become true.

Regarding the author Eric Metaxas, he spoke at our church once, and I found him to very courteous, humble, and listened well to what others had to say. I disagree with some of his interpretations of history but appreciate the way he interacts in a non-defensive manner when challenged. He is witty, bright, and very engaging, a wonderful person to have representing the Christian faith in today’s toxic culture. He signed the Bonhoeffer book for me which I promptly gave to Dr. King. His biographies of Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce are worth reading though at times I challenge some of his interpretations. His book on Martin Luther is probably his best biography to date, a book that brings the life of Luther into crisp focus and brings out Luther’s temperament and personality, his boldness, and faith, like no other prior Luther biography; it is a must read.

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Feb 14


Reading Genesis Well: Navigating History, Poetry, Science, and Truth in Genesis 1-11, by C. John Collins ★★★★

I had purchased this book from Amazon last November when it just came out, but finally have found the time to read it. I know Jack Collins, and have enjoyed the other books that he has written. Thus, my interest in reading this text.

The title strikes me as a bit offensive. Reading Genesis well? Haven’t we read it well in the past? Is this book offering us the new definitive manner of “reading” Genesis? Is there some novel hermeneutic technique that we will be discovering in the course of this book? Do we read the book of Genesis differently than we read the remainder of Scripture? Is this book a rebuttal of liberal scholarship? Is it a caving in to liberal scholarship? Has Dr. Collins discovered a new version of Joseph Smith’s Urim and Thummin, a translation stone which some angel dude gave to him? Collins answers most of my more critical questions in the text of this book.

Dr. Collins starts his text in full speed. The initial discussion centers around historical literary criticism of the text. I’ve not heard of either Jowett or the 19th century literalists, and know about James Barr but unfamiliar with his attempts at literary theory. Neither does Dr. Collins give a summary of the issues at stake, so I’m left in the dark. In the subsequent chapters, Collins takes a literary critical approach to the first 11 chapters of Genesis, discussing how different literary approaches might lead to different ends in the interpretation of Genesis. Collins avoids the strict approaches which have been taken in the past, such as defining the genre of a literary piece (is a segment of Scripture poetry, strict history, allegory, etc., etc.). As a take-off of CS Lewis, he asks questions regarding the text audience, how they would have seen the world and what they would have taken the text to mean, and how the author might have intended his text to be interpreted by the reader.

In later chapters, Collins works through the pericopes of early Genesis, offering solutions to their interpretation. He then discusses issues of competing thoughts, such as, whether the formation of man was by strict evolution, theistic evolutionism, young earth creationism, and the many variants that fall between. Helpful is Collin’s insistence on differentiating one’s world view (the overall concept of God creating the world) vs one’s world picture (the notion of how we picture the world in our mind at this time). In ancient times, the world was pictured phenomenologically, but then, don’t we still describe our world in mostly phenomenologic terms?

I end up with an ultimate question—how has Collins helped our understanding of early Genesis? Is this a radical new approach to interpretation that Collins offers in this book, or is it a new cloak for traditional means of Genesis interpretation? Several concerns come to mind. Most contemporary authors offer interpretations of early Genesis that are overly concerned with maintaining concordance with the current state of science. Perhaps this approach is brutally chronologically arrogant, offering “science” to high of place in our thinking of Scripture. Do we really think that science has given us a substantive grasp on the nature of the universe, when all of our past ancestors lived in darkness? When science changes, will our hermeneutic change? I don’t say this critical of science, because I am myself a scientist and have a respect for what we’ve learned about the world, yet I also have a cautionary approach for the certain-to-be scientific paradigm shifts that will alter our “view” of Genesis.

Collins is correct that we must not read Genesis from a scientific perspective, especially since the ancient Hebrews did not think with the scientific context that we think. He is also correct that the various pericopes of early Genesis cannot be labeled as strictly poetry or history. Even if they were labeled as history, the Hebrews would have viewed history in a different fashion from the Greeks. So, what do we do with the stories of early Genesis? Is it even necessary to provide a contemporary answer to every story in Genesis that seems to clash with “modern” science? My personal approach tends to be more VanTilian, in that our approach to Scripture must allow that God’s word provides the interpretive framework for seeing the world, rather than our own framework as forming the structure for interpreting Scripture.

I provide a simple example of where I’m left swimming, in terms of interpreting Scripture. Using the first chapter of Genesis, I agree with Collins that the primary intention of the author was to offer the reader a world view, that of God being the creator ex nihilo of all things. Yet, I can’t leave it at that. Is Genesis 1 poetry? It doesn’t read like poetry! Is it history? It doesn’t read perfectly like history! Is it allegory? Perhaps, but then I can’t explain why the author structured the creation narrative in the manner that he did, giving a deception of some sort of historical event. Other events provide very similar questions. God forming Adam out of the dust of the earth; the fall; Adam and Eve being cast out of the garden; the garden????; civilization during the time of Cain and Abel; the flood; the tower of Babel; all of these offer questions as to the nature and extent of what really took place, that only imperfect solutions are available. If readers up to the contemporary epoch had it totally wrong and we’ve just now figured that out, that seems to do discredit God as being a terrible communicator, yet He is the ultimate author of Scripture. Perhaps God messed up???? Do we need to be specialized in literary criticism and ancient languages to grasp the new principles of interpretation of Genesis? If so, then we are trashing the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture. Maybe the Pope was right, that only he and a few of his closest buddies had a grasp on interpreting Scripture—except that Protestants have exchanged the pope for people in academia. I don’t know what to think here in terms of where Collins is eventually taking us. I don’t think that Collins would be willing to offer an ultimate statement on precisely what happened in space/time during the accounts delineated in Genesis 1-11. It is not that Collins has failed, it is that nobody will probably be able to generate a true final statement while we spend our time on earth.

I have enjoyed reading Jack’s book. He writes well. He is very provocative to the thought processes, and I appreciate that. Not being a literary theorist, or even a theologian, I might have missed a bit of Dr. Collins thesis, and he might read this review wondering what kind of bozo missed some of the fundamental points of his text. Oh well. I will persist in remaining somewhat of a creation agnostic, clinging mostly to the emphasis that Genesis provides a Weltanschauung. When I encounter young earthers, I acknowledge that perhaps they are correct. When I encounter old earthers (which I tend to prescribe to), I acknowledge that they might be correct. When I encounter theistic evolutionists, I pray to God that He would forgive their heresy and unbelief in Scripture.

Which brings me to a point. Perhaps more time needs to be spent at “fencing” in orthodoxy, and defining the boundaries from which a person might go “off the edge” in terms of believing Scripture. Where do we draw the line on the interpretation of Genesis where we accuse the interpreter of unbelief in the text? I’m not a theologian, and will leave that to Dr. Collins to work on.

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Dec 05

Esther & Trump, by Robert Case ★★★★★

This book is the result of a series of Sunday School lessons of which I most fortunate to be a participant. I know Robert well, and would consider him a dear friend. (He might not consider me the same after reading my review!) Perhaps the reader may consider my review as heavily biased, but I have attempted to remain as objective as possible, and thus will also include criticisms of the book. Robert is a compelling speaker and writer, leaving one spell-bound when hearing or reading him. This book was a delight to read, and offered fresh perspectives on Esther. True, it is now trendy to offer fresh perspectives on biblical themes, such as the new perspectives on Paul, Genesis, Jesus, or Isaiah, just to name a few. Where I find most of these new perspectives to be dull and unoriginal if not patently heretical, the same is not true of Robert’s “new perspective” on Esther. He offers a perspective of the book of Esther which is not offensive to a mindset that holds Scripture to be the directly inspired word of God. 

The first several chapters of the book outline the historical context of Esther, mostly by detailing the lineage of Kings of Persia from the fall of Babylon through to Alexander the Great. The character and historical details of Xerxes is elaborated, which is most important in understanding the book of Esther. 

Subsequent chapters offer a textual commentary of the book of Esther. In this section, Robert manages to illuminate aspects of the text which are very clear but completely missed, as we traditionally read the book of Esther with our eyes wide shut. The character of Esther  is shown for what it really is—a person without sexual moral principles, and willing to break the laws of the Torah to achieve her own end. She is NOT a role model of virtue. But then, neither is the Jewish community living in Persia, where their sins are also laid bare. With the absence of narrative evaluative judgements as seen in all other Scripture, we miss those details that Robert Case is able to illuminate. Particularly evil was Mordecai in administrating the slaughter of all of the known enemies of the Jews, which is a story that would best be found in the book of Judges, everybody doing what was right in their own eyes. There is good reason why Esther is not portrayed as a model of faith in Hebrews, even though other quite sinful people like Samson and Gideon are mentioned. 

Toward the end of the book of Esther & Trump, Robert attempts to make a plea for the political nature of this book. He is correct that it is a book laden with politics, in that the story centers around the King (Xerxes) and his appointed officials (Mordecai and Haman, as well as other unnamed personnel). Referring to the Jews in Persia as “the church”, it is made to seem that Mordecai and Esther serve as representative agents of the church. This unfortunately is an extrapolation of the text rather than an overt claim, as we don’t really have a clue how involved Esther and Mordecai were with the Jewish community. If they were highly involved, then they show the Jewish “church” to be quite wayward. There is too much not mentioned in the book to allow strong conclusions to be made. 

Perhaps Esther really is included as a part of the canon of Scripture as a lesson in politics, as Robert claims. Yet, it is troubling that the absence of evaluative judgements leave the reader puzzled as to what amounts to proper interactions of the church and state, rather than to simply have the church infiltrating the state government. Perhaps brought to mind by me is another book I have read in the distant past, the Politics of Jesus, by John Howard Yoder. In the Politics of Jesus, Yoder effectually demonstrates the strong political nature of Jesus and his teachings. With the aspect of pacifism aside (which Yoder does a very poor job defending), there is a strong reason why even the teachings of Jesus offer the Christian or Jew a reason to interact if not participate in a political fashion with the state. Certainly, Case makes a good case from Esther for Christian involvement with state functions. 

The book has problems. There are many typographical errors, way too many sidebar distractions, and arguments on the political nature of the book of Esther which I think could have been better developed. Most distracting though was the title of the book. The book title is misfit, in that Trump is barely spoken of, except in passing toward the very end of the book. Are we to think of Trump as a form of Xerxes? If so, why was Obama not chosen as a far better choice, or Bush, or Clinton, all of which in many ways share more of Xerxes’ characteristics than Trump? If God was obscure in the Esther text, well, so is Trump, and I fail to see a connection between Trump and the politics of Persia. For such a seminal and needed text on Esther, this commentary truly deserves a more fitting title. 

In spite of problems, Esther & Trump still deserves a five star rating. There is great scholarship, brilliance in thinking, and illumination of the text in a way that is perfectly clear once one opens their eyes to what is plainly in the text. Case provides some hints as to why Esther was included in the canon of Scripture. To that end, I highly recommend Biblical scholars to give this book a fair reading.

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Dec 04

Liberalism: Find a Cure, by Mark Dice ★★★★★

This book was just published, and I read it while on vacation in Jamaica. I have found Mark to be most enjoyable to read, and so was delighted when this text came out. The book is perhaps slightly mis-named. He does not focus on many of the problems of the 21st century liberal mindset like economics, political social thinking, the environment, etc. Instead, he hones in only on those delusional aspects of their thinking, thinking that leaves conservatives most bewildered as why certain people are not being confined to an insane asylum rather than being the poster children and darlings of the now liberal press. I am specifically referring to the new liberal trends toward mentally re-designing their personal life, and expecting others to find the new design acceptable. Such things as voluntarily re-defining one’s race, sex, and even species are dealt with at length in Mark’s book. Mark also speaks at length about the new political incorrectness that is sweeping the land, how the names of things like sports teams are found to be offensive, how just about anything and everything from the American past is now considered either racist or sexist, because they reflect a time when values and behavior were differ from today. Mark has a lengthy chapter on the sickness of feminism, and ends by sadly accounting how the most important structures of society, like family, are now relegated to the dustbin of history. 

Mark spends little time in the book describing a cure, but suggests the importance of getting political and getting Jesus. Sadly, I think Mark’s cure is too little and too late. His suggestion of hope through the Republican Party deflects from the truth that both parties have betrayed the American public. Most certainly, we are seeing the death of the Republic, not because we did not stand up for Republican values, but because we have lost our moral base. Mark  hints at this truth at the end of the book.

The book is a great read, Mr. Dice is a delight to read, and I strongly recommend all, liberal and conservative, to read this book. 

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Dec 04

John Adams, by David McCullough ★★★★★

John Adams is a biography of the man who would serve as the second president of the United States, and who played a seminal role in instigating the Revolutionary War, writing the constitution, and forming the character of our new nation. It never seemed as though John Adams would be a particularly interesting person, but McCullough successfully paints him as a most fascinating character. The book starts with him in childhood, through growing up, starting a law career in Boston, only to be sidetracked by the cry for independence from Britain. Adams led the charge, helped get Washington appointed as commander in chief of the army, and then became the American ambassador to France during the war, and later, to Britain after the war. Serving two terms under Washington as vice-president, he eventually was voted in to the presidency for one term, losing then to vice-president Thomas Jefferson in his bid for a second term. His life afterwards was spent in mostly retirement, working his farm south of Boston, and writing lots of letters. He was eventually able to see his son John Quincy Adams win the presidency. Adams and Jefferson both died on the same day, the 4th of July, both being several of the last living singers of the Declaration of Independence. 

McCullough spends much time exploring many personal details of Adams’ life, including his Christian faith, and how that faith affected the writing of the constitution. You learn that in spite of common goals, the rancorous differences between personalities leaves one wondering how we ever survived as a young nation, though it seems that enough commonalities acted as the glue that held a fragmented society together. Particularly noxious was the fighting between the two parties, the Federalists and the Republicans. The salvation through it all was that even the two  parties had grave divisions, with many party members not strict to their own party. The extensive scholarship of those in governmental service, like Adams and Jefferson, is also noted, at a time when CP Snow’s “two cultures” did not exist, and the arts and sciences were often found mixed in all men of letters. The love of books and reading was assumed among the educated class, and many large personal libraries were noted.

Most notable was the reading style of the book. McCullough has a wonderful way with words, and holds the reader’s interest, leaving the book void of dry spells. I appreciated the extensive research that was performed in forming this book, with virtually every page packed with subtle details and information that would have never been brought out without the remarkable scholarship of McCullough. The author cannot be faulted for not having done his homework. John Adams is an important and valuable read for anybody that loves the USA and it’s history.

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Dec 04

Last Call for Liberty: How America’s Genius for Freedom has Become its Greatest Threat, by Os Guiness ★★★★★

I first read one of Os Guiness’s books in the 1970’s, the Dust of Death. I later purchased one of his books at a book signing (I don’t remember which one!), and when I mentioned how I appreciated The Dust of Death, he snidely asked why I hadn’t read any of his other books. Well, without giving him an answer then, I noted that I generally dislike reading books on contemporary politics or social commentary. (Os excels in the department of politics and Christian interaction in the public square.) With politics now appearing like we have completely lost our country, our true freedoms, and any sense of public civility, this book seemed to be worth reading. Indeed, it was most enjoyable, even though there were a few parts that I tended to disagree with. This book was read electronically via the Kindle app.

Guiness begins by comparing the American and French revolutions, which he labels 1776 vs 1789. The distinctions between the two revolutions were quite notable, with the French revolution having a distinctly secular basis, and based on a contract between the government and the people, and the American revolution with its Judeo-Christian orientation, and based on a covenant between the government and the people. The covenant is fundamental to understanding the nature of liberty, since it requires a Judeo-Christian morality and assumes that the citizens are fallen creatures bound to do wrong. Without integrity and a sense of Judeo-Christian moral right and wrong, the constitution becomes an unstable document that simply will not work in the long term. Much of the book elaborates on the differences found between a secular society and a Judeo-Christian society, and, since the book is about freedom, the book goes into length as to how freedom would be defined differently and enacted differently between the two competing systems. 

Typically, books seem to run out after the first few chapters, the author having stated the fundamental ideas of the book, and then tying up space in order to create a book-length document. Os does anything but that, and the next to last chapter (Question 10) is the crowning chapter of the entire book. This is the only chapter that I will VERY briefly summarize. In this chapter, Guiness essentially demolishes much of the new liberal mindset, developing sound arguments against identity politics, the super-primitives vs. the super progressives, victim politics, multiculturalism, and the like. Quoting Guiness,

With the notion of the melting pot scorned, with civic education abandoned, and with a de facto open border policy in place, there was no unity and no clear national identity to balance the diversity. Indeed, notions such as sovereignty, unity, and identity were themselves viewed as coercive or white colonialism, and therefore to be rejected. Newcomers no longer needed to adapt to their new country or even to gain a legal standing if it was difficult. The country needed to adapt to them, and sanctuary cities were opened. 

Political correctness is attacked…

But political correctness is far deadlier than [a form of amusement]. The term can be traced back to 1930s communism, but its roots go back to the French Revolution and the notion that controlling language is the way to control people.

and

categories such as racism, sexism, and ageism were used to replace sin as the egregious evils of the day that still needed confronting.

Tolerance, political correctness, social justice, social constructionism (i.e., the “right” to re-define the nature of your own existence) all are addressed, and multiple worthy quotes would be spared. As Guiness summaries, 

Man can now be God…[] … for everything is socially constructed, and humanity can therefore deconstruct and reconstruct itself at will.

and

what we call reality is only “reality” as socially accepted, and if it was socially constructed in the first place, then it can be socially deconstructed now–and reconstructed as we wish, whenever we wish, and as many times as we wish. We are free, totally free…

Guiness summarizes with “Freedom is not the permission to do what you want, but the power to do what you ought”. Nobody could have said it better. Guiness speaks at length then of “liberty” as expressed in the sexual revolution and its destructive consequences, which is written so well, I’ll spare a summary but only encourage the dear reader to purchase a copy and read it themselves. Indeed, the sexual revolution has decreased rather than increased our freedom! Quoting Guiness, “Ideas have consequences, but bad ideas have victims.”. Too true. 

My only complaint with the book is that Guiness might have shown how the liberal politics of 1789 France is imbedded in our constitution, and resulted in the seeds of destruction for our country. Indeed, many of the country’s founders, like Jefferson, were endeared to the style and philosophy of the French revolution, much to our detriment. I think that Os could have explored or brought that out better. Remembering that the US constitution was formalized in 1786-7, much thinking in the USA had changed since the start of the revolution in 1776. Secular liberalism already had a creep into our society. Thus, I think that to compare the USA to France in 1776/1789 is a touch unfair. 

Complaints aside, this book was outstanding. Most of his thoughts were already on my mind before reading this book, but Os Guiness has a way of categorizing and clarifying one’s thinking, marking him as truly a genius to be commended. This book is thus not only recommended by me, but suggested as something that should be on each and everybody’s MUST READ list. 

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Apr 21

During my brief layover before getting back on my bicycle to resume the TransAmerica Route with Russ, I have had the opportunity to read books on cities that have influenced by life the last 50+ years. I plan on a 5-6 day bicycle trip the long way down to Portland, taking the train home, but have been interested in the history of both Seattle and Portland. Though I have lived in the Seattle area longer than Portland area, I still consider Portland my home. But, Seattle has a stronger “sex” appeal as a city. Though not exactly true, it has tried to paint itself as the most cosmopolitan and dynamic city. Contrariwise, Portland is the more artsy, colorful, environmentally friendly, and more comfortable place to live. True, it doesn’t have the Space Needle, but then, it doesn’t need a Space Needle. That’s my bias. It has nothing to do with the judgment of these two books. Both books paint a history of its city from its settlement by white man to the present day.


Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle, by Murray Morgan ★★
Murray Morgan grew up in Seattle, but lived for the most part outside of Seattle, and is most remembered in Tacoma, by having a bridge in Tacoma named after him. He also wrote a history of Tacoma, and is buried in Tacoma. Yet, Seattle consumes his interest in this book. Starting with settlement by Doc Maynard, a somewhat sleazy if not incompetent merchant, Seattle fought hard to achieve supremacy over rival cities of Tacoma and Portland for the ascendency as the “great” city in the Northwest. Morgan paints a very patchy history of the city, mostly dwelling on various personalities that shaped the city. Unfortunately, these characters were all somewhat dubious personalities, either more in the show business, disreputable souls, or socialists/communists. Perhaps Morgan’s choice of characters only represent his own thinking and personality, or perhaps Seattle is best described by these persons; I’d like to think the former and not the latter. From John Considine and his efforts to establish brothels in the Skid Road area to Dave Beck and his corrupt leadership of unions, one is left with a bad taste of the city. Morgan does a very poor job of describing Seattle, its development and expansion, its physical development (such as the building of the locks, or the dismantlement of several of its downtown hills), its more reputable founding fathers, and the factors that molded Seattle into the city that it is. Morgan writes well, and it was easy to get through the book, but one was left wondering about the actual history of Seattle outside of what Morgan describes. Perhaps Seattle truly is the sleaze town that Morgan describes, but I’d rather think otherwise. I long wistfully for a solid history of the city of Seattle. It is sad that Morgan suggests that this book has been sold to school children as a credible history of the city.
 

Portland in Three Centuries, by Carl Abbott ★★★
Portland in Three Centuries is a different sort of book than Skid Road, written in perhaps a bit drier style, and yet significantly more informative. The book could have used maps for those uninformed as to the geography of Portland, yet each region was familiar to me, with many familiar names of historical figures that form community place names, though I was unfamiliar with the historical grounds for those names. Abbott has written other histories of Portland, Oregon and the surrounding areas. In this account, he was able to carry through history into the twenty-first century. He occasionally compares the personality of Portland with that of Seattle, as they are two radically different towns, even though they are both Northwest cities. Particularly, Portland has been far more environmentally sensitive, and possessing a far more stable economic base. Both have had their issues with corrupt politics, with dealing with race issues, with issues regarding trade unions, with the sleaze element and red-light districts, with fires and natural disasters, but Abbott does not linger on the problems, but rather, presents a dynamic city, eager to confront problems before they become unsolvable. A simple example is transportation issues, where Portland has been able to build a quality public light-rail system while Seattle picks its nose. I was amused that even in the 19th century, Portland was known as a bicycle town, and today stands as one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world.
Next week, I will be bicycling away from Puyallup, hitting the coast in Washington and riding down to Astoria, and then taking the Banks-Vernonia trail to Hillsboro, where I hop the MAX light rail to downtown Portland, and from there to Union Station (hopefully with a brief stop at cousin Dee’s world renown Ovation coffee shop) before coming back to Tacoma after the five day adventure. With my arrival in Portland, I will celebrate my love for that city, which I have known since moving there in 1964. In childhood, I dreamed of a bike trip from Portland to the coast, but now will be able to fulfill that dream, assuming I am not attacked by the weather, as my most recent other bicycle escapade.
 

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Jan 26


The Book of Mormon | Doctrine and Covenants | The Pearl of Great Price, by Joseph Smith
I had a recent Mormon student working with me who piqued my interest in actually reading the book of Mormon. I had several hard copies of the Book which I got at various Marriott hotels, but decided to download this from Amazon.com and read it on my Kindle. Most of it was read while I was at work.
First, let me say that I mean no harm and hold no hatred towards Moronis. The same was true when I reviewed the Koran. I have many friends (and even relatives) that are Muslim and Mormon, and unhesitatingly state that they are good friends and dear relatives without reservation. I don’t let particular religious biases cloud my judgment of a person. The same is true of my mix of political friends, who are far left, far right, far middle, off the edge, conservative, liberal, feminist, anti-feminist, pro-Nazi, anti-Nazi, Communist, Fascist, Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, etc., etc. To all, I mean no harm, and read these texts in a hopefully non-prejudicial fashion. Yet, my rose-colored glasses are Reformed Protestant Christian with Amish type roots. I can’t help that. That’s who I am. But, it does affect how I read anything and everything. Finally, I will call Later-Day-“Saint” folk Moronis because the warrior-become-angel Moroni seems to get more honor in the LDS faith than the warrior-become-whatever man Mormon. Back to the text at hand.
Looking at the text itself, it is very sloppily written. Joey (Joseph Smith) should have had a better proof-reader. I am told that this text has been “corrected” and altered substantially from the initial writings of Joey to the present day version that we read, but there are still problems with mis-spellings, grammatical errors, and a very sloppy style. Supposedly, a number of people wrote individual books of the book of Mormon onto the plates translated by Joey, yet the writing style remains exactly the same, all the way through the entire trilogy. The various texts of the Old and New Testaments all have differing styles, and sometimes even books of the OT have different style (look at Genesis, Isaiah) which have led to criticism of different authorship. There is nothing of that in the Trilogy. It matters not that there is a single translator, as Martin Luther single-handedly translated the Christian bible, yet the styles of the authors remain explicit. The only plausible Moroni explanation was that “god” was giving verbal dictation style inspiration to the various authors of trilogy, as well as a verbal dictation of the translation. But, that creates other questions. If the translation was verbally dictated by “god”, why does god speak 16th century English in the 19th century, why does he get it wrong and needs to be corrected, why did Joey even need the plates, the Urim and Thummin, and the translation stones to create this stunning trilogy?
There is a sense of extreme dullness in reading the trilogy. Unlike the Christian bible, the trilogy constantly reflects back to defend itself. Perhaps Joey figured people just might question him for the legitimacy of his writings? There is no real prose, no poetry, no shift in styles, nada! College English classes will offer books of the Christian Bible as examples of great literature, even though they may not believe that literature, but nobody except a Moroni school would dream of suggesting that the contents of the book of Mormon is great literature. It just isn’t.
Dullness is compounded by confusion in reading the text. Joey had no imagination in nomenclature of people and places. Many OT and NT characters are used in the book of Mormon, like Adam, Moses, Amalek and Jerusalem, just to name a few. The names that he created are multiple. There are two Moronis, two Mormons, multiple Almas, Helamans, etc., etc., etc. Joey doesn’t even give a means of differentiating the BC Moroni from the AD Moroni. They all just kind of blend in. Perhaps, Joey would have ultimately developed the concept of reincarnation in his theology, had he not have prematurely died, to explain this faux pas in his writing. Joey has multiple place names and descriptions of the land. Yet, there is not a shred of a clue as to where these fictional places might be. We now know where the hill Cumorah existed in upstate NY, but even there, there is virtually NO archeological findings to substantiate the claims. Even the large stone pit which held the plates for 1500 years is strangely gone. Otherwise, there is not a single identifiable place name in the new world consistent with Joey’s fantasy world. This is a substantial problem. Truth is verifiable. The writings in the book of Mormon are NOT verifiable. Let the reader draw his own conclusions.
Joey has a problem with chronology. The book of Mormon was written from about the year 600BC until 400AD. It was written entirely in the Americas with absolutely NO contact with the Eurasian continent. Yet, there are multiple quotes from the New Testament, and even from Old Testament text written after 600BC. Lengthy quotes are given of Jesus, even before Jesus supposedly appeared in 34AD to the American continent. Paul and John are frequently quoted, long before they were ever born. Mormons might argue this to be a manifest of “inspiration” to the ancient scribes of the book of Moroni, but I argue that even the NT and OT don’t do this.  Animals exist in Joey’s fantasy world, like horses, that never existed until European settlers after 1492AD. The fraudulent nature of the book of Mormon is just so blatant as to strain one’s credulity. More examples of chronological faux pas’s are found in the text review.
Joey gives lengthy quotes of Scripture. He especially loves the book of Isaiah, which is quoted in length. I did not cross-read his version of Isaiah with the Scripture text we have now, but do know that Joey jumps around all over the place when quoting. It is not a straight quote out of Scripture. It is Joey’s version. The quotes of Jesus are practically verbatim from the King James Bible. But then that is understandable. Jesus spoke King James English in ancient Palestine; don’t you know that?
The Mormons love to call themselves Christian, but from my reading of the Trilogy, they are definitely not Christian. In fact, they are very anti-Christianity. The Jesus that they describe is a non-historical fantasy, and the name “Church of Jesus Christ…” refers to a much different Jesus than walked in Palestine 2000 years ago. In the D & C. Joey stresses clearly that all Christian churches just have it wrong, and yet uses their bible, and much of their liturgy and doctrine for his own church without arguing how the church got it wrong. Joey often talks of “my gospel”. He is totally correct. Paul in Galatians 1:8 (ESV) states “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed”. The Mormon gospel is a MUCH different gospel from the Christian gospel, and Paul’s words stand as they will. In the BOM, Joey frequently speaks of the “atonement” of Christ, even the “infinite atonement” of Christ, but NEVER EVER tells you what that atonement was, why it was, or what it accomplished… it is simple religious “god-speak” in the Moroni sense of the word.
Conclusion: The reading of this Trilogy did not persuade me to become Mormon, but actually bred a bit greater resentment of Moronis. The reason for my resentment is the deception that Moronis offer. They are not forthright and honest about their belief system, but feel like they need to break it in slowly, especially when witnessing to those of the Christian persuasion. They are not honest with themselves about their belief system. Though their schools have apologetic departments to defend the Moroni faith, their ultimate defense trickles down to their “burning in the bosom”, a feeling that they get that persuades themselves that they are correct. I have a burning in the bosom that they are wrong. So, who is correct, me or them? I’m willing to proffer a defense of my faith based on rationality. The Mormon faith will never have a Francis Schaeffer. They can’t, since their faith is indefensible.  No belief system will be able to absolutely prove the legitimacy of their claims, including the belief systems of atheism, agnosticism, what-ever-ism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Nose-picking-ism. We believe what we do based on fundamental presuppositions. The question for anybody is to examine what are your ultimate presuppositions, and to decide whether they have a logical consistency to them that can be discussed. The burning-in-the-bosom ploy just doesn’t work for me.
So, I conclude with the notes I jotted down as I read through the Trilogy. My comments are simple observations and my preliminary reflections of the text.

The Book of Mormon

Introduction

The introduction includes signed testimonies of three, and then eight witnesses, followed by the testimony of Joey Smith attesting to the veracity of these writings. Joey discusses how he managed to obtain the plates that contained these writings, which were buried on a hill, and then proceeded to translate the plates. The plates were then removed from Joe’s possession by angels. The plates themselves are accounts written by a group that escaped the Babylonian captivity and sailed to the Americas, writing their history for posterity.

Nephi 1

This first book is 22 chapters, and the account of Lehi, his wife and four sons, one being Nephi, on their departure from Jerusalem and journey to the Americas. They all took Ishmaelite wives, and struggle is noted between the “godly” Nephi and his troublesome brothers. The book was translated in the 1820’s (roughly), though the English used was King James 17th century English (which, incidentally, was quite annoying to read). It is written in first person, with Nephi repeatedly noting that he was writing this chronicle. While the plates were supposedly written at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 600+B.C., numerous chronological faux pas’s are noted by me. He often spoke of the Christ, who was still in coming. He spoke of the church, which didn’t exist until the Christian era. He loves to quote Isaiah, but also extensively quotes New Testament Scripture, especially the words of Christ and the writings of Paul. I guess one has to assume that Nephi was being retro-inspired, since Jesus and Paul had no access to these plates. There is the presence of fine steel and compasses, neither of which existed in 600 BC. They found horses and other animals in the new world (America) which didn’t exist until the European explorers and settlers brought them to America. He speaks frequently of baptism, which wasn’t a practice until various sects began the practice in the last century before Christ. Finally, Joe spends much time putting words into Nephi’s mouth about the “great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth”, and then wonders why standard Christians have a little problem with Mormonism. Joe suggests that another “pure” church will come which is holy and righteous, implying that it will be the Mormon church. He fails to explain how 12 apostles essentially formed a whore church. Oh well. Joey didn’t do his homework before picking up the pen.

Nephi 2

Nepthi 2 is a continuation of the chronicle of Nephi 1, 33 chapters long. It is divided into a narrative section and a moral section. The narrative details the rebellion of Nephi’s brothers against Nephi, and how he fled into wilderness to escape his brothers. Joe attempts to provide some theology in this narrative section, such as hypothesizing what would have happened in the fall never occurred. To him, Adam and Eve would then not have had children. Odd, because Joey had many wives, and I’m sure he used them plentifully in a sexual manner. Intermingled are words from Nephi’s son Jacob. The majority of Nephi 2 is not narrative but moralistic and theological statements, with a very large section of Joey quoting from the book of Isaiah. Even then, direct quotations from the writings of Paul are inserted by some miraculous means. Joey frequently uses the word “Jew”, a term in the year 600BC that did not yet exist, but was first used in the post-exilic period. There are phrases that Mr. Smith frequently repeats again and again and again, often many times in the same chapter, such as “wars and rumors of wars” (taken from Matt 24:6). He repeatedly speaks of “infinite atonement”, a simple nonsensical phrase, described for mankind, making Joey a universalist. Yes? Mr. Smith waxes at length about Nephi discussing how he was going to preach, prophesy, and write about the Christ who was still 600 years to come. I consider this to be anachronistic sloppiness at its worst. It would be quite easy to detail numerous other anachronisms and simple sloppy writing and thinking in this text. It makes it VERY difficult for me to believe that anybody could believe this nonsense.

Jacob

The book of Jacob is short, at 7 chapters. It is written by Jacob, the brother of Nephi. There is little narrative, and it is totally Jacob preaching to his brethren. Oddly, the content and style are virtually identical to that of Nephi. Perhaps it was actually from the same person (Joey Smith????). Inconsistencies include Jacob suggesting that he was a priest, even though Nephi condemned priests, and Jacob condemning multiple wives, even though early Mormon practice was to have multiple wives. Jacob inserts in the middle a tale of the vineyard which goes for MANY pages, and ultimately making no sense, especially since vineyards are used to make wine, which Mormons don’t drink. The last chapter was a story of Nephi contending with a doubter of Christ (still 600 years in the coming!!)

Enos

Enos was the son of Jacob, and in a short 1 chapter book describes the struggles between the people of Nephi and their brothers (the enemy) the Lamanites. He describes also some falling away of Nephites. It engages in the same stylistic writing of Nephi and Jacob, and similarly makes chronological mistakes, such as quoting New Testament passages. Oh well!!! I guess some people will believe anything!

Jarom

Jarom was the son of Enos, and also wrote a short, one chapter book. He details the continuing struggle between the Nephites and Lamanites. Jarom notes that he didn’t have but small plates to write on, so had to keep things short. Thank God for that!

Omni

This one chapter book involves brief statements by Omni, his son, and on for a number of generations. During one generation, it was noted that another group of people were discovered in the “promised land” (America), who had also come across the ocean by boat from Jerusalem after its fall, but ended up with another language and belief system than the Nephites. By the end of the book of Omni, the plate was reported as “full”.

Words of Mormon

This is an account of the past by Mormon, who describes when Benjamin was king and engaged in a great but victorious battle against the Lamanites, bringing peace to the land.

Mosiah

I almost thought that Mr. Smith was running out of creative juices, that his muse had dried up, but now he again has a 29 chapter book. The tale is now very rambling and hard to follow, so pardon if you don’t follow my accounting. Mosiah was the son of king Benjamin. The books starts by recalling the end of Benjamin. Benjamin called the people of Nephi to the temple to speak to them. This happened just before AD 0. Oddly, 2:32, Mosiah is called the father of Benjamin-not sure if that was a mistake of Joey’s. Benjamin speaks at length moralistic platitudes, transfers power to Mosiah, and then dies. Mosiah sends out a scouting party that encounters another city apparently in struggle against the Lamanites. They have plates that need interpretation. The king was Zeniff, who was good. His son was Noah, a bad king. Battle persisted during this time against the Lamanites. Alma,a good guy, leads a group to settle elsewhere, but is harassed by the Lamanites and eventually returns to Mosiah’s city. Alma’s son, also named Alma, becomes chief priest. Interspersed is much moral dialogue, mostly sloppy quotes from the Old and New Testaments.

Alma

Alma was the son of Alma (Joey was having a hard time being original about names, using many Biblical names like Noah and Gideon. The book starts out with the deaths of Alma #1 and Mosiah, and the development of “heretical” preachers. Joe S. notes in the second chapter that the Lamanites were given dark skin because they were cursed of God. Alma, after battling the heretics with the Lamanites, establishes himself as high priest, and builds cities, setting up a “godly” empire, stamping out wickedness, etc. Alma goes about his country preaching, and often encountering resistance. Much of the first portion of the book is filled with moralistic preaching, the central aspect of Alma details the 39 years of war with the Lamanites, taking over cities that the Lamanites had conquered. In the end, several of the Nephite heroes were dead, Alma dies, Moroni dies, and Helaman dies. This book was long and tedious to read. Most of it did not read as a credible account of any real struggle that had occurred. many times, Joey reuses names, such as Judah, Ammon, Amalikite, etc. making the reading even more confusing. I’m not sure how Mr. Smith is going to get Moroni back into the picture in order to bury all the pages of much still unwritten parts of the book of Mormon. I wait anxiously…

Helaman

The Helaman that wrote this book is the son of Helaman. The book has 16 chapters, thus, shorter than Alma. It starts with Helaman as the chronicler, but he dies in the third chapter, and the chronicles are taken over by Nephi, the eldest son of Helaman. Through preaching of Nephi and imprisonment while surviving through fire, the Lamanites become good people, and the Nephites evil. Wow! By the end of the book of Helaman, Nephi is the judge of the wayward Nephites, and the Lamanites through the prophet Samuel is preaching to the Nephites to repent. There is no mention of particular sins of the people, just that they practiced great iniquities. Samuel mentions that the Christ is about to be born, and will come to the Nephites/Lamanites to preach to them. Thus, the end of 90 years of the judges.

Third Nephi

3 Nephi was a tedious book to read, 30 chapters long. This Nephi was not the first Nephi, but the son of Helaman the son of Helaman. The story starts with continuous wars between the Nephites and Lamanites, who sometimes unite each other to fight the Gadianton robbers lurking in the woods surrounding the Nephite and Lamanite towns. War against the Gadianton robbers leads to victory for the Nephites. Mormon then writes of their history, of which I can only presume that this was a different person Mormon than the Mormon mentioned in previous books. Again, the Nephites turn evil, civil unrest occurs, Nephi preaches in vain. The year 34 AD arrives. The land gets darkness for three days, and great physical upheaval occurs that destroys many of the cities, the city of Moroni and others sank into the depth of the sea, and many die. Then, Jesus appears, and he preaches. And preaches. And preaches. Between, he ascends to heaven. Then reappears. Then re-ascends. Then reappears. Etc. Etc. Lengthy quotes of the sermon on the Mount were given, as well as a few quotes by Paul. I guess Jesus needed Paul’s help. Twelve apostles are chosen by Jesus. I guess these apostles were counter-apostles to those chosen in Judea? It was a blessing to end this book.

Fourth Nephi

4 Nephi is just one long chapter. I’m not sure why Joey made it a separate book from Third Nephi. This book spans about 3-400 years, and incredibly, Nephi wrote it, even though he lived a normal length life. Oh well! The Nephites and Lamanites are all converted to the Mormon church, and live happily. But, as the years go by, they fall away and turn wicked again. Oddly the robbers of Gadianton reappear. Geez? Ammaron (another Ammaron than he who was mentioned previously) preserves the “sacred” records.

Book of Mormon

The book of Mormon is 9 chapters. Ammaron informs Mormon of the sacred records (this is a different dude Mormon than the Mormon mentioned earlier, unless he was “reincarnated”). The book starts by mentioning the continued war going on between the Nephites and Lamanites. Three of the Nephite apostles are wicked away to heaven, but the book does not mention who they were. War continues with Mormon as general of the Nephite army, and he also becomes responsible for the plates. Mormon then refuses to continue on as general of the army, carnage continues, Mormon again accepts generalship of the army, and “prophesies” that the Lamanites some day will be preached to by the Gentiles (how would they even know who the Gentiles were, as they were living in the Americas for 1000 years!). The Nephites gather in Cumorah (now in upstate NY!) and the Lamanites wipe out the Nephites. Mormon hides the plates in the hill Cumorah. I’m not sure how the remainder of this book and the following two books made their way into the plates, save perhaps by some “miracle”. Mormon carries on his preaching, even though the Nephites were utterly destroyed. Oh well! By now, my credulity has been strained to the maximum anyway. And, the moon is made of cheese, isn’t it?

Book of Ether

Ether is 15 chapters long, and is an accounting of 24 plates incidentally discovered hundreds of years ago BC, during the reign of Mosiah. These plates were written in abridged form by Moroni. Mr. Smith needed more stories, and more fictions to create, so here is the book of Ether. It is the record of the Jaredites, who started at the tower of Babel. For some reason, their language was not “confounded” at the tower, so that they could understand themselves. Mein Gott! Jared went to live in Nimrod, but the Lord has a few long chats with Jared, who has Jared go down to the great sea, build a boat (with holes in the top and bottom), and sail across the sea (to America). Wow!… just like Lehi did with his family a thousand some years later. Absolutely incredible! Jared reveals that God actually is made of flesh and blood, JUST like us! Jared was given stones that glowed in the dark, allowing him to see the way across the ocean to America. This account was instructed to be written by Jared, but to be preserved unseen by man until the coming of the Christ. It is mentioned here that these works were written in reformed Egyptian, a language not known or used by any language group on earth, but that the story was recounted by Moroni from memory. Why didn’t he just translate the 24 plates? Perhaps this explains how Mr. Smith got everything… “memory”. On reaching the “promised land”, they quickly appoint a king (even though there were only 22 people), the king of who does well, but many generations later, the kings turn wicked. Many place names and personal names were identical to the Lehi generations and settlements, which is incredible, since the Jaredites had unconfounded language, as compared to what Lehi would have spoken. A number of stories are told, such as a Smithian version of Herod vs John the Baptist. It is here that Smith notes how the Jaredites had many horses, elephants and other animals which never ever existed in the Americas until after 1492. The book ends with a great battle between the people of Shiz and Coriantumr, where they destroy each other. Every other sentence starts with “and it came to pass” which I needed to know repeatedly, especially when at the end, Shiz’s head is struck off but he continues breathing! Ether quickly buries the plates chronicling these events and the book ends.

Book of Moroni

The book of Moroni is a fitting book to end the Mormon Scriptures, as it was written by a moroni for a bunch of moronis, and is 10 chapters long. Moroni continues his story, starting with the end of the Jaredites, and getting back to the story of the Nephites being destroyed by the Lamanites. These chapters start very short, and detail church liturgy, followed by lengthier chapters reiterating previous moral behavior. He spends a chapter refuting infant baptism and original sin. Chapters are closed with the phrase “I am now done writing” but then resumes in the next chapter. Moroni ends with some final words and passes away.
 

Part 2: Doctrine and Covenants

There are 138 sections and two additions to this section. These were obtained by “special revelation” to Mr. Smith on various occasions and in the company of various people. Each section introduces the occasion and circumstances of the revelation, and attests that this is directly the word of God to Joe.  The first few sections start by attesting that the book of Mormon and this Doctrine and Covenants are the very words of God, and MUST be heeded. A number of sections then find Joey with a problem in that one of the men with Joe, Martin Harris, took some of the translation pages and lost them. Joe astutely realized that perhaps when he “re-translated” the plates, that they might come out much different, proving that the translation was a joke. Joey wiggles through this one, later re-befriending Mr. Harris. Section 19 was written as a specific reprimand of Mr. Harris to repent and shape up. This brings an interesting concept to mind. Throughout the book of Mormon, and now here, conformity to the head of the church is mandated without any questioning or hesitation. The book of Mormon frequently speaks that the main “sin” of the people was that of contention. This is evolved into a church that is intolerant of any questioning. You don’t dare question whether the “leader” or “apostle” truly received a message from God. Thinking ist verboten!!!! In section 28, some other dude was receiving revelation through a special stone, and was immediately shut up by a prophecy that ONLY Joey would be getting revelations. Whoa, dude!!!! But then, Joey was assassinated or committed suicide, and in several instances, some very embarrassing doctrines and practices of the church needed to be fixed, so, lo and behold, more “divine” revelations were given. The first was in 1890 when certain leaders realized that polygamy was a problem, and so the “Lord” decided that the Moronis should stop the practice. The second was in 1978, when it became apparent that negroes, orientals, and other races would be a financial boon to the church, that they were suddenly (MIRACLE!!!!) permitted to become members and priests in the church. The sections show a sharp turn toward becoming really bizarre about 1836, when Joey was jailed in Missouri. It is at that time that he started introducing some VERY strange doctrines, like that God exists in the heavens as flesh and blood, that humans are spirits brought down from the nether world to be humans, the doctrine of baptism for the dead, etc. Many other doctrines known to the Mormon church alone have not been mentioned in either the book of Mormon or D&C, such as the origin of Satan (as a brother to Jesus), the necessity of lineages, family practice, etc.
The D&C is a very strange document. It sections are both short and long, most of them being orders (from God???) about minor decisions, such as Mr. X needing to donate money to build a church is town Y, or a temple which should be built in town Z with such and such dimensions, or some transgression of a member (the transgression is never specifically mentioned). Only toward the end is there mention of certain doctrines peculiar to the Mormon church. I get a very strong feel that this is a deceptive ploy of Joey to control other people’s lives, as all you need to do is to tell them God commands this. It does great harm to the true gospel. Another peculiarity is how often “god” got it wrong, such as commanding Joey to build a temple in Far West, Missouri, only to have the Moronis expelled from the state. Joey, of course, quickly attributes it to the sin of the Moroni believers, an oddity, since God NEVER does that in the entirety of the Old and New Testaments. The book of the D & C seems to do more than anything to persuade me not only of the inconsistencies of the Moroni faith, but of the positive evil that they reflect. I will forever find it harder to forgive Moronis for being a touch naive about their faith, as it is so clear than this is a totally artificial religion demonstrated by the D&C.

Part 3: Pearl of Great Price

This is a hodge-podge of writings first assembled in 1851, later experiencing a number of additions and revisions. It seems to be a work in progress of the church. It starts with a fanciful “re-translation” of the first 5 chapters of Genesis, formed somewhat creatively by the wishful imagination of Joey Smith. I don’t mean to be cruel, but it is stated as a “translation”, which means that you are reading something in one language, and re-stating what has been said in another language. So, what was it translated from? Where did the extra text come from? Where did the creative new “interpretations” come from? Truth of the matter, it’s all a hoax, as is seen again in the next section on Abraham. In this section with the following facsimiles, Joey obtained some Egyptian script obtained from a traveling road salesman, and allegedly interpreted the Egyptian script. Unfortunately for Joey, this was soon after Champilion had broken the code on the Rosetta Stone, but before anybody was able to efficiently translate from Egyptian hieroglyphics. In the facsimiles, Joey details the events of what was going on, but left the hieroglyphics for the illustrations intact, allowing any Egyptian scholar to confirm the validity of the translations, which (of course) Joey had totally wrong. In the Abraham translation, he again repeats several early chapters in Genesis which were translated in Moses, but now the translation has much more added, including additions that describe a plurality of gods that counseled to create earth. Oooops! I guess he thought we wouldn’t notice. The Old and New Testaments show very ancient forms, and very unsubstantial changes over time. Joey shows that the book of Mormon, the D&C, and the Pearl are constantly changing as the church prophets discover mistakes and errors in their sacred texts. The PGP then contains the start of a translation of Matthew. I presume that if Joey hadn’t committed suicide by jumping out of a window, he would have eventually translated the entire old and new Testaments. There is no explanation as to what he was translating from, and I can only assume that it was his personal form of “re-inspiration” of these texts. Unfortunately again, the texts are so significantly deviant from the earliest extent copies we have of Matthew, that there is only a fleeting resemblance. It was Joey’s way of discrediting the entire volume of the Old and New Testament. The PGP finally included an autobiography of Joey as a kid, and his discovery of the “plates”. It ends with the articles of faith of the Moroni church, which is a lie, because they tacitly assume much more must be believed in order to go directly to the celestial sphere. The so-called Moroni prophets are constantly inventing new doctrine which also must be believed.
A final summary of the Mormon trilogy is stated at the beginning of this post, so look up for my assessment.
For my Moroni readers, Joey, throughout the trilogy, calls for repentance. He is relentless. He doesn’t tell you what you should repent of, save for being contentious against the high priest. The LDS system cannot tolerate dissension or questioning of their faith since they have no answers. I will tell you what you really need to repent of, and that is of your belief in the LDS church.
As a kid, we had a book of Mormon in our AC church library, and the librarian (Rosalie D) astutely had the checkout card label the author as Satan. A few people took issue with that, but I believe Rosalie had it right. Your angels of light were none other than demons from the pit of hell. Why would the devil wish to make a peaceful, loving, family friendly religion? Simple. Anything that could distract one from the true Gospel is fair play for the nether world. All of my Muslim, atheist, liberal, conservative, Commie pinko freak, or whatever-they-are friends have a much greater chance of passing through the pearly gates than you do. So, I beg of you LDS adherents: repent.
 
 

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Jan 18


Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, by David Williams ★★★★
This is a wonderful historical accounting for how Seattle was massively reshaped, making it the city that it is. Large hills were completely removed, tide flats filled in, and the shoreline extended in the early reshaping of the city. Williams starts with prehistoric times, thenoffers an early history of the city including its founding by Arthur Denny. He notes Seattle’s original geography, and then details the decisions, and oftentimes absence of decisions, that led to the restructuring of the geography. It is now hardly imaginable that the shoreline was much further in, that many of the hills of the city existed that are now flattened or completely removed, that the drop in the Lake Washington shoreline by 3-6 ft with the placement of the ship canal completely changed the nature of the communities and industries that surrounded the lake, that the filling in of the Duwamish tide flats and many other flat lands adjacent to water now seem to be a natural part of a long pre-existing landscape. Williams takes a look back at all of this earthly rearrangement, and asks whether it was necessary or prudent, and whether the good was greater than the harm. These are questions that are not easily answered but always very worthwhile asking. Unfortunately, cities often get it wrong, Seattle with its audacious remodel of planet earth, as San Francisco’s grand decision to build the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. Hindsight is a curse. Williams details how Seattle is now engaged in multiple tunnel projects, as well as rebuilding its waterfront which seems to be deteriorating, the new waterfront taking into account massive hypothetical rises in sea level. Who knows whether a future author will equally past judgement on current Seattle decisions?
There is only one detail I really didn’t like about the book. Williams writes as though he was doing a television script, which would work best for how the text stands. Though he includes a moderate number of historical photos, he also assumes that the reader is very familiar with Seattle. In order for me to grasp what he was saying, I needed to sit in front of Google maps, and search for every location described in the book. This slowed the reading down considerably. Many geographical features, like some of the hills of Seattle, simply could not be found. Maps are sorely missing in this book, which makes it a much less fascinating text. Hopefully the second edition of this book adds the missing maps.
I wish to thank Sarah B for recommending this book. My love for history and the environment fit well with this text.

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Dec 12


Martin Luther, The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, by Eric Metaxas, 480 pages ★★★★★
A recent review reported on three other histories of Martin Luther, read in light of the 500th anniversary of the nailing of the theses to the Wittemburg castle church. This book arrived after Reformation Day, and so I was delayed in getting it read. I read it as an autographed hard cover text, and not on the Kindle. The book is well written, and the reading flows quite easily. The book has a different focus than Roland Bainton’s magisterial text on Luther, Here I Stand, one of the books reviewed a month or so ago. Metaxas was wonderful in providing a more detailed physical history of Luther than Bainton. You were told which towns he traveled through, which people he befriended, the content of the conversations and debates of the time, small details that color the story of Martin Luther. One was told more about the mindset and thinking of the man Luther in Bainton’s text. The two texts stand as complementary, supplementing each other on the life of Luther, and both are worth reading in order to grasp the man Luther.

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