Monday, September 29, 2008


Happy birthday Kiki!!!
Today is Kiki's 9th birthday. It's easy to remember Kiki's birthday because it is 9/29/1999 and she is the same age as my nephew, Nick. I know it's a little odd to celebrate a dog birthday, but since I don't have kids, my dogs are the next closest thing. My best childhood friend, Annalisa Paul, once celebrated her guide dog's birthday with a party (we were 19, so please give us a break)
Nike was born on 9/27/2002, and so I celebrated their birthdays on the same weekend this year. For their birthdays, Nike got a running leash and Kiki got a new bed. They both got special meals and big bones to chew on. Also, today we went to the Culver City Bone Yard to play. Kiki and Nike like to see the other dogs, but aren't much for playing with anyone other than themselves. And even with the 2-mile run each way, we all still had fun.

So we know Kiki is 9 in human years, but how old is that really? A common calculation in 7 years for every human year: 7 X 9=63. A closer investiation into the subject, and we find that dogs age more quickly when they are younger, and then gradually stabilize. This new information shows Kiki to be 57. But is that accurate? She doesn't seem that old! Our first Christmas as a couple, Steven gave me an amazing present: This is a book about how to keep your dog living healthfully for as long as possible. There is also a questionaire to test how old your dog really is. I re-took the test on line today and here are the results:
"Kiki's DogAge is 42.1!

That's 15.7 years younger than the average DogAge for Kiki's breed. DogAge is the biological age of your dog, measured in people years. Your dog is lucky to have such a good caretaker.

Nike's DogAge is 27.5!

That's 11.1 years younger than the average DogAge for Nike's breed."

I'm glad to hear that my dogs are still young (at least young at heart). The Samoyed lifespan is 12-15 years, which gives Kiki possibly only 3 more left. They grow up so fast. I remember when Nike was a puppy and would fight and play with all his brothers and sisters (He is second from the right). To think that he is nearly a senior canine citizen!

Here's to another 9 years for all of us! Happy birthday Kiki and Nike!!!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Progressive's Biggest Loser Update


As you may notice per the comment made by Chris Crall, my last post had striking similarties to this week's season premier of "The Office". Let me assure you that my office's weight loss competition had nothing to do with the show, and that we in fact, had started our competition over a week ago. It is absolute proof that "The Office" is an accurate portrayal of office life. In case you missed this week's episode (I hope you didn't, because it was amazing), I have included a short recap to catch you up on the plot development. And in case you were wondering, yes, I did write that post while watching this episode.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Serious Gospel Question of the week

Ok, it’s not actually serious. The other day I was preparing for seminary and I was reading the part about Peter’s failed attempt to walk on water and I wondered if the reason that the Savior later referred to Peter as a Rock is because he sank like one.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Progressive's Biggest Loser

Ashlee and Ruby (from the Work Environment Committee) decided it would boost morale to start a weight loss competition at work. Because I am the insanely dedicated runner, it was voted unanimousely that I would head up the campaign as the personal trainer.

We started on Monday with weigh-ins and entry fees. I'm not actually participating in the contest, but it's my job to check the weights and monitor progress. About half the office has gotten in on the fun, but if I have to take any more of my co-worker's weights to my grave, I won't be able to fit in any other secrets!

In my office, we get two 15-minute breaks per day. As part of "Biggest Loser", we are using one of those breaks for short workout session. This week, we have worked abs, legs, arms, and buns; we'll do a nice yoga session tomorrow to round out the week. So far it has worked pretty well. The workouts are convincing people to eat better, feel better, and look better. Even though it has only been a few days, much of WLA PCS has seen small improvements.

This competition has been good for me to balance my workout and have a more well-rounded routine. Along with my marathon diet (no dessert, soda, and limited sugar), I have seen an improvement is well. Hopefully it will mean good things for the St. George Marathon next week (yes, it's next week!).

Web treat of the week: I was on the Biggest Loser website, and found the Virtual Belly Flattener. It shows what I would look like 10 lbs lighter!


Sunday, September 14, 2008

From Outer Darkness to Early Morning "Cemetery"

Nursery is my life calling. Seriously. I was nursery leader from the time I graduated high school (2003) to a few months prior to my marriage and move to CA (2007). The only reason I had a few months of a change was when my dad was called to be the Suday School president released me to teach the 12-14 year olds and took temple prep classes.

After a year in the UCLA ward, My husband and I were called as nursery leaders after a brief stint as a ward missionaries. Like I said before, nursery is my destiny and I was placed where I belong. I love nursery. Nursery-aged children are sweet and loveable and crazy fun. Despite the fact that we had anywhere from 12-19 little children, most of them boys (including 2 sets of twins), and that there were never enough nursery workers, I truly enjoyed my 8 months in the UCLA ward nursery. I have grown really fond of the children and will miss spending time with them and hearing their young testimonies (they love pointing out the Jesus on the wall).
Though nursery could be physically and mentally draining, the worst part about nursery was that it felt as though we were banished to "Outer Darkness". We hardly ever saw anyone else in the ward, other then the brief times in which they picked up or dropped off their children. This was compounded by the fact that we don't live in the University Village Student Family Housing like everyone else because we have 2 large dogs.

It's been hard because I feel like I haven't really gotten to make very many friends and we don't really hang out with people very much because we are "out of sight, out of mind". Which is why when Steven and I were recently asked to be early morning (yes, I said early morning) seminary teachers, I had a glimmer of hope that during our last year here, I would finally be able to feel like I belong.
Seminary has been great during this first week. We are teaching the New Testament and are hoping to bring our students closer to Christ. We have ~10 (one day we had 11) students in the class, more than half of which are children of bishops and/or the Stake President. Come to find out that 2 children are cousins of our friend Karyna Bouslog, and another one is the granddaughter of my dad's cousin, Garn Wallace.

We had a kick-off/bbq last Saturday in which we got to meet the parents and students. Since we only had about a week to prepare for the year, we spent last Saturday night cleaning out the Seminary closets to sort through the materials. We found many treasures, including a leg massager, several hawaiian shirts and "wife-beaters", 3-year-old handouts, and many books, including "Early Morning Cemetery". We put a lot in the trash, and saved even more for use during our seminary experience. The cupboard looks great!

The major adjustment has been to our time. Steven is busy with his last year of law school and preparing for the bar. For the last 5 years, I have run 5+ mornings a week. Because it isn't safe or realistic to run a 4 am, I asked my boss to change my 9-6 schedule to 8-5 so I would have extra time to run in the evenings. After running 70 miles this week and waking up at 5:15 every day, I was worn out by the weekend. Even so, we are glad to have the opportunity to serve the Lord and his little ones and to help us all become more like Him. Here's to an amazing year!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Creeds, Living Oracles, and Freedom of Thought (Is there a Mormon Doctrine?)

One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may
-Joseph Smith

I am a bit hesitant about putting up LDS-themed posts on this blog. I’m not trying to become part of the Bloggernacle and I don’t want to bore our non-LDS readers. I also would certainly hate for this site to become ‘The Gospel According to Garff’. This blog is definitely not a “Mormon blog” it’s a Steve and April blog. That being said our faith is a significant facet of our lives and our thinking, which are after all, the subjects of this blog. I figure a lot of readers may not be interested in many of the topics we often post about: music, law, history, running, dogs, Los Angeles, etc... And I’m not so presumptuous as to think that everyone reads every post. We all skip the ones we don’t really care about.

I have already done one LDS-themed post;
But though it drew largely upon Mormon sources, it was a topic that applied more to faith and worldview in general and not just to Mormonism in particular. One thing I did in that post that I will continue is that I put in some of my photos because blogs are boring with out pictures.

This will be the first post in a two part series: Deflating attacks on faith. Virtually all anti-Mormon attacks rely on one of two faulty assumptions:

1. Mormonism is Creedal and

2. Church leaders and especially prophets must be perfect.

Once these assumptions are shown to be false not all of the attack, whatever it is, goes away but it does loose most of its sting. I want to address each of these assumptions in this two part series as well as some of the most common arguments that rely on them. The attacks based on the first assumption tend to be a little more ridiculous than those based on the second. These attacks usually involve digging up some quotation from the Journal of Discourses, a general authority or just a regular Mormon and then saying: “Ah ha! That’s what all Mormons must believe.” This fallacious generalization is not unique to attacking Mormonism. “All Christians are crusaders,” “all Muslims are terrorists,” etc… As poor as this line of reasoning is in these and many other similar instances it is especially fallacious when used to attack Mormonism.
Many faiths are Creedal in nature. That is that they have at their core some set of doctrines or principles that must be accepted in order for a person to be considered a full believer. One example is the Nicean Creed. The Nicean Creed is a statement of faith. It is a set of doctrinal propositions that many Christian churches require their faithful to accept in order to be in harmony with their church. There is certainly good reason to do this. Without some sort of creed that is both mandatory and universal to the members of a particular church ideological anarchy could result.
But because so many other religions are creedal in from I think that many people simply assume that Mormonism is as well. But this assumption is incorrect. Mormonism is inherently non-creedal. One of Mormonism’s most central tenets is the rejection of all creeds in favor of the ongoing pursuit of truth. This principle is perhaps best evidenced in the principle of continuous revelation. If you are to embrace the possibility of continuous revelation then logically you must reject all creeds. At their heart creeds are fixed and cannot be changed. They are the final word. To fully accept the principle of continued revelation one must be willing to change their viewpoint at any time in light of any newly reveled truths.
Another example of Mormonism’s non-creedal nature can be found in the faith’s acknowledgment of a diversity of viewpoints among its members. Joseph Smith characterized the Latter Day Saint viewpoint towards diversity of belief when he stated:
“I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine; it looks too much like Methodism and not like Latter-day Saintism Methodists have a creed which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be trammeled” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. VI, 273- 274)

Joseph Smith rejected formal creeds in favor of freedom of thought. This does not imply any sort of relativistic stance towards truth. But rather the idea of a community of believers who aid each other in the discovery of truth “let it come from whence it may.” Mormons are at the liberty of believing and thinking what they please and are a group that is widely diverse in belief and opinion. Just ask a group of Mormons if they believe in evolution. You’ll get a different answer from each one.
Of course many LDS do believe that the Gospel is a set of creeds (from the position I am arguing I have to be careful about being too critical of this view lest I contradict my self by arguing that the fact that Mormonism has no creed is a creed). There are several reasons people often believe that the Gospel is creedal. One stems from the hierarchical nature of the church and some of the steps that it has had to take in order to prevent ideological anarchy. Obviously the church can’t allow people to preach every single idea that they have. The church has to protect the flock from those who might, even inadvertently, lead them astray.
Another source of this confusion is the fact that we often talk of “Mormon doctrine.” When most people think of the word ‘doctrine’ they think of something that cannot change. That is they think of a creed. In this sense of the word I believe that there is very little Mormon doctrine. A better term would perhaps be “Mormon thought.” This term too may be problematic in that it is a little weak. Doctrinal statements in the Church are more authoritative than mere thoughts or opinions even if they don’t rise to the level of creeds.
LDS thinkers often try to explain changes in the church by appealing to a distinction between doctrines and practices. Doctrines are eternal and unchanging where as practices can change. I believe this distinction to be extremely problematic. For one thing it does absolutely no good except retrospectively. You can’t know if something is a doctrine or a practice until it changes. “Is plural marriage a doctrine or a practice?” “Well it changed so it must be a practice.” “What about priesthood being given only to males?” “Who knows? Maybe it will never change, maybe it will.” “What about any other current LDS belief?” “Again, who knows?” In fact, logically speaking, this distinction could only ever pick out practices and could never tell you if anything is doctrine because we can never know what may change in the future. It simply divides all LDS thought into two categories: those that have been shown to be practices, and those that have not yet been shown to be practices.
Another problem with this approach is that someone may decide that something is definitely not a practice but is an unchangeable doctrine. What then happens if the prophet receives a revelation to change that something or the church simply stops practicing or believing in it? I guess it’s time to leave the church and go join the fundamentalists (at least you won’t have to pay taxes anymore). I think that we should not worry about this distinction and instead exercise a little faith and follow the prophet.
Bruce R. McConkie’s book Mormon Doctrine is occasionally given the status of a creed. By the standard definition of doctrine as creedal and unchanging the book fails to live up to its title. In fact according to Gregory Prince in his History of David O. McKay, the prophet was opposed to the publication of Elder McConkie’s work primarily because of its title. He was afraid that members may think that the book was a definitive and authoritative statement of LDS belief or in other words a creed (the prophet also commissioned a committee that reportedly found thousands of errors in the book). Mormon Doctrine instead of being a creed represents the viewpoints and conclusions of a very able scholar and great LDS thinker.
Often the Articles of Faith are seen as a kind of Mormon creed. There is something to this idea. They have the appearance of a creed in many ways. They represent a concise statement of LDS faith. Furthermore they are often treated as if they are a creed. Children memorize and recite them. We pass them out on little cards to people who want to know more about our faith and they were the basis for Talmage’s influential book. But The Articles of Faith were never intended as a creed per se. They were an attempt by the prophet Joseph Smith to explain the faith to a newspaper reporter and were not specifically written to the members as some sort of catechism (though they were later published, along with the entire Wentworth Letter, in The Times and Seasons). Brigham Young actually opposed their canonization in the Pearl of Great Price not because he opposed any of their teachings but because he was afraid that they would be viewed as a creed by Latter-Day Saints. Also the wordings of some of the articles were modified in both 1851 and 1902 (though these changes were minor and mostly grammatical in nature).
As important as the Articles of faith are, like any other belief, they are not an absolute creed. If the prophet revealed something that would modify or even contradict one of them the living voice of the prophet would trump the written word. We are not bound to believe any set of principles come what may. We don’t have to try and accept every statement by every Latter-day Saint from every time and then attempt to justify, explain, and harmonize them. It feels so good not to be trammeled.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

San Francisco Part 2

When we last left our heroes they had just completed their 15 hour odyssey to the city of Walnut Creek…

We capped off the evening with some quality visiting with Dave and Georgia who were real saints to wait up for us. The next morning (Saturday) April and I got up early and drove into S.F. via the Bay Bridge. We had a little time before our ferry to Alcatraz so we hiked up to Telegraph Hill.
We took a boat out to Alcatraz

I considered just leaving her in there but eventually decided against it.
Thankfully this is not the same Michigan Avenue that I grew up on.

China Town
Riding the cable cars took me back to my mission when we used to “sabit” or hang off of the jeepneys.
The Steepest street

Lombard Street

We watched the sunset beyond the Golden Gate.
On Sunday we headed up to Sacramento to Visit with Dagny and Christian Kelsey. We went to church with them. We were just going to head over to their place for lunch and then head home but we got to talking with them and their friends Matt and Sydney until midnight. Fortunately they had an inflatable bed. So we headed back down the Grapevine first thing Monday.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

If you go to San Francisco…

Part 1: The Drive Up

April and I spent the long weekend up in the bay area. On Saturday we drove up the scenic Highway 1.
First stop; Hearst Castle.
This was the “ranch home” of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. April pointed out that he was the bad guy in Newsies. The castle is beautiful but I could never have been comfortable living there. It would be like living in a museum.

A few miles up from the castle is Elephant Seal Beach

Up towards Big Sur we had the good fortune to need to purchase the country’s most expensive a gas in a little town off the power grid called Gorda.

That’s right; $6.20 a gallon.

We took a side trip off Highway 1 for the scenic but fogged-in 17 Mile Drive through Pebble Beach.
We then stopped in Monterey to see the wharf for sea lion watching and some sea food.
We got into Dave and Georgia’s house in Walnut Creek at 11:00 PM. We started out at about 8:00 AM. So that adds up to: 15 hours of travelling, but with a lot of detours and stopping.