Cleansing the Bloggernacle Vessel

My first introduction to the bloggernacle–before it was even called that–was several years ago when Jeff Lindsay started his Mormanity blog.  I’ve always followed that and have branched out to many other blogs since then.  I’ve seen many interesting, faith-promoting, stimulating, and Christ-centered things online.  I’ve been kindly invited to write at two of the big group blogs (though I have yet to decently follow up on the more recent invitation).  My spiritual life has definitely been enriched by blogs.

But I haven’t seen much good for a long while.  Though it keeps growing in size, readership, and prominence, the overall spiritual worth of the bloggernacle has taken a sharp nose dive recently. 

I’ve been thinking about this all year.  Both in quality and quantity, the parts of the bloggernacle which I frequent have been increasingly disappointing.  New posts come up less often, the material that does get published is less spiritual and less faithful, and more of the links are to things that are practically anti-Mormon.  Comments from people who aren’t regulars tend to be received with quick rudeness and little grace.  Authors who I used to look forward to seem to have disappeared.  I see a drastically growing trend to implicitly impugn our leaders online, and that just isn’t acceptable. 

Continue reading


MSP: Requirements 4a, 6, 11, 12b, & 13-14 = Tenderfoot Done!

I ended up doing exactly what I planned NOT to do: I waited until the last week of my scheduled time to finish the requirements for this rank.  I could have done it earlier, and I had wanted to add the extra time to my next rank, but life got the better of me. 

6. Demonstrate how to display, raise, lower, and fold the American flag.  Last week I emailed the principal of my kids’ school and asked if we could use the flagpole for this demonstration tonight, adding that I have my own flag to use.  He wrote back that it was fine, and this was the first activity in my family’s weekly home evening tonight.

As we drove over, I recounted all the material from the handbook about displaying the flag.  When we got there, I showed the kids how to fold and unfold it, then one kid helped me attach it to the line, while the little kids helped me hoist it up and then down again.  While it flew at the top for a minute, we decided to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  Afterwards, the oldest child folded the flag, as I had shown them all, while I held the other end. 

11.  Identify local poisonous plants; tell how to treat for exposure to them.  I went over the handbook’s section on this, adding my own warning about oleander, which are very popular in Las Vegas.  Of course, one kid pointed out that it was unlikely that any of us would ever eat one. 

Continue reading

Reviewed: Glenn Beck’s Common Sense and Jeff Shaara’s Rise To Rebellion

14589344Two chapters near the end of Jeff Shaara’s historical novel Rise To Rebellion focus on Thomas Paine’s incendiary pamphlet Common Sense.  Shaara even includes a handful of choice quotes from Paine, making sure the reader understands that Paine was the common man’s advocate for independence, as opposed to the sincere but often elite (and therefore sometimes out of touch) leaders at the Continental Congress.  It was Paine’s words more than those of Adams or Henry or Hancock or Franklin that won over the Americans to the cause of revolution.

Is it a coincidence that I read Shaara’s novel at the same time that I read Glenn Beck’s attempt to update Paine’s pamphlet?  Either way, the contrast proved useful. 

Shaara’s Rise To Rebellion is the best historical novel I’ve ever read.  He begins with the Boston Massacre and takes us through the lives, hearts, families, struggles, and triumphs of our Founding Fathers over the course of the subsequent six years, ending with the Declaration of Independence.  He makes Franklin and Adams his protagonists, and suavely works in tons of trivia, as well as bringing to vivid, three-dimensional life the human stories that made their achievements even more awesome.

Here we see John and Abigail Adams trying to squeeze out a bare living as they raise a young family and maintain a loving marriage–it doesn’t help matters that John soon finds himself thrust into the middle of controversy, as he grows increasingly strong in his convictions over time. 

Here we see Franklin as he tries to manage the office politics of England, at the cost of his own family relationships.  He has much to regret despite his fame and fortune, and the chapters near the end where the emotional break between he and his loyalist son are laid bare are genuinely heartbreaking. 

Continue reading

Hilary Hahn Can Write

I’ve praised virtuoso violinist Hilary Hahn here before, but in this post I want to applaud her for another great artistic skill: her writing.

Hahn keeps a journal on her website, where she blogs about touring and concerts, the classical music industry, travel, and some odd and obscure observations about the minute details of life she sees from her unique vantage point.

She is a very excellent writer.  I always enjoy checking out her little essays when I get a chance; my only complaint is that she doesn’t write more often (I’ve often been disappointed to see months at a time lag by without new material).  Her prose is a whimsical joy, her buoyant focus with the keyboard as evident as it is with string instruments.  Truly, talents tend to cluster, and Hahn is generously blessed with gifts in at least these two arts. 

Consider this excerpt from an August post:

I got a little carried away, I suppose, because I didn’t notice the microphone suspended overhead until the tip of my bow halted as if I had hit a wall. I knew immediately what had happened; I practically leaped back, shocked both at the bow suddenly jamming into my hand and at the crack that I heard from the speakers beyond the stage.

The next morning, in the paper, the review mentioned the airborne flock with the equivalent of a literary wink but griped that the burst of fireworks heard from across the park during my opening solo might have been better saved for another day.

Continue reading


When I was an undergrad, my parents were on a vacation on the east coast and found a UNLV tie, which they got as a present for me.  This is now my most cherished tie, and not just for sentimental reasons.  I’m sure nobody could find one like it anymore. 

See the gun that he’s carrying?  In 1997, the school redesigned the mascot (“Hey Reb”), mostly by taking away the gun.  He hasn’t been seen with it for over a decade.  A bow to political correctness, I suppose.

By the way, I’ve always wondered why our mascot is a Southern rebel.  Nevada was created as a Union state, after all.  Is it because we’re to the south of our primary rival, the blue-wearing UNR? 

At any rate, I love my gun-toting Rebel and will always cherish this tie.


The Single Purpose of All Education

Something we read in my English 101 class on Tuesday brought up the question of why we go to school.  You would think that after these poor kids had been through 12 or 13 years of it already, someone would have explained it, but no.  Actually, you’d really wonder why students themselves had never demanded an explanation, but apparently not.

School is not for giving you vocational skills or to develop character or to keep you out of trouble.  We all go to school for one reason.  Think about it: all the major aspects of each discipline do the same thing; they have one general goal in common.

English: outlining writing; defending a thesis with evidence in an organized composition; grammar and diagramming sentences

Math: applying formulas; solving equations

Science: using the scientific method

History: creating timelines; finding causes, effects, and connections between events

Art: using perspective, proportions, and other techniques

See the pattern? 

Continue reading

The Left Needs To Make Up Its Mind About Conservative Leadership

Once again, the political and cultural left in this country has been haranguing us with two contradictory mantras this year:

On one hand, conservatives have no official, strong, unifying leadership.

On the other, the massive protests by conservatives are the work of carefully orchestrated planning by scary conservative leaders.

You can’t have it both ways, media!  Either American conservatives have nobody in power representing them effectively, or they not only do have leaders, but leaders who are masterminding an impressive series of unified protests. 

Make up your mind and get back to us.

The Teachings of the Bishop

I had the idea while I worked with our last bishop to keep a careful track of his teachings, saving my notes from ward conference and fifth Sunday combined lessons, his ward newsletter messages, etc.  It’s actually strange to think how relatively rarely we hear our bishops address us directly.  Sadly, I never got around to it, so now all I have are a few notes and my understanding of major themes from his ministry (emergency preparedness and priesthood leadership in the home, perhaps paramount). 

With a new bishop in place for about a month now, I’ll more diligently keep track of his teachings.  After all, we’re familiar with taking notes on General Conference and even stake conference, but how often do we keep and study notes on whatever our bishops–our primary, immediate leaders–counsel us to do?  We’re used to books about the teachings of prophets and general authorities, but if everybody is ultimately supposed to be a prophet (Numbers 11:29), and if the words of our priesthood leaders represent the Lord’s will to us (D&C 1:38), couldn’t we think of our local leaders in terms of what their collection of teachings to us would be?  (In fact, I used this as a discussion topic in a lesson once–shouldn’t all of us think of what the collection of our teachings would be like, or should be like, and minister accordingly?)

David O. McKay’s “Ten Rules For Happiness”

I love this list, from former LDS Church President David O. McKay (1873-1970):


By President David O. McKay

1. Develop yourself by self-discipline.
2. Joy comes through creation — sorrow through destruction. Every living thing can grow: Use the world wisely to realize soul growth.
3. Do things which are hard to do.
4. Entertain upbuilding thoughts. What you think about when you do not have to think shows what you really are.
5. Do your best this hour, and you will do better the next.
6. Be true to those who trust you.
7. Pray for wisdom, courage, and a kind heart.
8. Give heed to God’s messages through inspiration. If self-indulgence, jealousy, avarice, or worry have deadened your response, pray to the Lord to wipe out these impediments.
9. True friends enrich life. If you would have friends, be one.
10. Faith is the foundation of all things — including happiness.

Cherish the Living

A student in one of my classes killed himself last night.  The news was delivered in a staff meeting held before school started today. 


He was clearly in a bad place in life, but not visibly any more so than many of his peers.  Just in these first four weeks, he missed more classes than he attended, was late to a couple of others, and always appeared very tired.  He was uninvolved in his work in class, missing most of it, but he did do some of it, and he did it pretty well (if he were only being graded on the work he’d turned in, he’d have a B).  He asked me questions a few times, and I could tell that he was bright and mature; he just seemed unmotivated. 


His father actually emailed me a couple of weeks ago, asking how his son was doing.  I responded that the young man had been missing a lot of class.  After that, he came a little more often.  Today I thought of replying to that address again to offer my condolences to the father, but I haven’t done it.  I’m not sure it would be appropriate.  He has too much grief on his mind to care about noticing the sympathy of strangers. 


I have no idea why this boy committed suicide.  I assumed the reason for the disconnect between his apparent potential and his substandard performance was drugs.  His appearance was that of a typical stoner, and it would explain the sleepiness.  I could be wrong, and I hope I was.  Surely, I can see now, his problems must have gone deeper than that.  I’ll never know what the story was there, but even though I didn’t really know this kid at all—I only ever saw him four or five times—I was shocked to hear about his death.  Suicide is always shocking; the death of young people always tragic.


Continue reading

The First Four Weeks

The first four weeks of school are over.  Some thoughts:

  • As students transition into using new vocabulary words in their own writing, they seem to have an instinct for using unfamiliar words as adjectives.  I find myself reviewing parts of speech much more than I’d like to at the high school level.  Most teens need to be reminded that parts of speech are not interchangeable.  The first word of our first unit is “adulterate,” the verb meaning “to corrupt or make impure.”  Without closer guidance, they’ll just use it like this: “He was a really adulterate guy.”  Of course, if they’re talking about Bill Clinton, I guess I could give them half credit.
  • I usually don’t like open house, the annual night where parents come in to meet their kids’ teachers.  I never know what to do up there, not that it ever makes any difference, anyway.  Life goes on as if it never happened, and I forget everyone I met as soon as I go home.  This year, though, one parent thanked me for assigning  a list of options from which students have to choose for their independent reading this quarter.  “If you hadn’t assigned these,” she said, “the kids would never read them.”  It’s nice enough to get a compliment, but it’s even better when a parent understands the reasoning behind what I do!
  • Yesterday, a college student called me to say that he’d missed the last two weeks of class because his grandmother died.  He offered to bring me a note from his parents.  I told him that was unnecessary. 
  • Every year I notice this: before our morning announcements, kids in an honors class will all stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance together.  Kids in non-honors classes rarely will.  It’s a very stark, and very absolute, difference.  This begs a chicken-or-the-egg question: is a student’s citizenship influenced by their academic performance, or is their academic performance influenced by their citizenship?  Or are both, perhaps, shaped by the same factors in the home environment…
  • Continue reading

An Open Letter To Senator John McCain

Dear Senator McCain:

First of all, thank you for your long service to your country.  Your heroism in war and your career as a leader distinguish you in the hearts of your fellow citizens. 

However, none of those things guarantee that anything done in the present will automatically be the right choice.  Surely you must be aware that many, if not most, American conservatives have strong reservations about much of your political record, especially some of your most recent legislation and the manner in which you campaigned for president last year.

Your failed presidential campaign resulted in the election of Barack Obama, who in just over half a year has drastically altered the shape and scope of our government, by already spending more than every other president combined, by nominating a host of radicals to positions without real accountability, and by seizing the reigns of such fundamental areas of private life as commerce and health care. 

Despite such scary changes, you have continued in “town hall” appearances over the summer to compliment and even cheer this president, just as you often did–to the consternation of your party’s base–during last year’s campaign.  That irresponsibly inappropriate friendliness was just one of many, many things so critically wrong with your campaign that it was a foregone conclusion long before November that you would lose.  And yet you continued on in this manner, ignoring the chorus of voices urging you to fight, to represent the desperate cries for help you heard along the campaign trail.

In short, your stubborn cluelessness as a presidential candidate enabled Barack Obama to win. 

That’s why, Senator McCain, I am asking you to apologize to the American people for running for president.

Continue reading

MSP: Tenderfoot Requirements 8, 10b, and 12a

Yes, I have been working on my project, but I’ve been very busy with school starting.  Here’s what progress I’ve made recently:

8.  Know your patrol name, give the patrol yell, and describe your patrol flag.

Since my patrol is my family, I figured our patrol name would be “The Huston Family.”  Silly me.  When I discussed this with everyone, we had just watched an old episode of a certain great 80’s show that we’d borrowed from the library, so everybody quickly decided that we would call ourselves “The H-Team.”  Our yell is based on an old inside joke we share–when people ask for comments or feedback from us, we respond with the most random, inane thing we can imagine: “I like pie.”  This is our yell.  “I like pie!”  Inspiring, no?  Surely it will strike fear into the hearts of any opponents that we might meet in some game. 

We brainstormed a list of things that should be on our flag, and I slapped some related clip art together from the list.  We made our list last Monday, but I just made the “flag” today (in Microsoft Paint).  A copy is printed up and “flying” on the wall of our kitchen.  Here it is:



Continue reading

A Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,


I thank Thee for Thy mercy and patience with me,

for thy perfect grace, which I don’t deserve or fully understand.


Father, please forgive me for my selfish indulgences,

for my rebellions and ingratitude.

Please help me to repent and turn more fully to Thee.

Please help my heart to change.


I would be Thy man and live Thy way.

But I can’t do it on my own.

I’ve tried and failed.

I need Thee, Father.

I need Thee that I may see the glory of Thy plan and creation,

to do Thy work and serve Thee.

I need Thee just to be happy.


Father, I feel so full of regret,

of weakness and cold, hard hearted pride.

Please help me to be open to Thy Spirit,

and to see others as Thou sees them,

as my brothers and sisters,

to love them and be there for them,

and I need Thee to open my eyes to the joy

of purity and virtue.

Please help me to see potential and hope.

Please help me to seek after these things.


Continue reading