Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book Report - Worst Mine Disaster in the History of Britain - Senghenydd 1913

Alexander Cordell's, This Sweet and Bitter Earth (1977).

There are spoilers in the post title and more coming. As the book is out of print and hard to find, I think that's OK. I found my copy searching Amazon used and Abe Booksthe latter is the best for British publications. And I'm glad I don't know all the details of Welsh History before I pick up these books. It helps bring it all home to me or at least to look on it as it is my ancestral abode. And it does come home:

Monday, December 28, 2015

Guest Post: The Atonement Overcomes the Adversary

Yesterday we went with our son, A-5, now a Sophomore at BYU to his church service down in Provo. There were few there during the holiday break. Most, of course, had gone home. Some stayed in Provo because of jobs or the distance or lack of family to go home to. Our son had volunteered to speak in church (it's a layman's church anyway) as he lived close enough to return during the break.

A piano in every lecture hall - for Sunday conversion from Biology to Church meetings.
It is always interesting to see the church school turn over to church services on a Sunday. His meetings were held in the brand-spanking new Life Sciences building. So there we sat in a lecture hall that during weekdays is used for lectures on biology, including every latest discovery of molecular or evolutionary biology, and on Sundays becomes a church house for talks and lessons on the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Somehow it all works.

Now the talk:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

My name is [A-5], I live in the 8th ward and am currently attending BYU studying physics and acoustics and enjoy playing my trumpet at the basketball and football games.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to speak today. I pray that the spirit will guide my words and your thoughts so that we all may be edified and guided with the direction we need in life.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sacred to the Memory of Christmas

"I am the Ghost of Christmas Past."

"Long past?". . . .
"No. Your past."
In the position of Scrooge's nephew Fred, I live in joy with a good wife and wonderful future prospects even without the riches of a reformed old miser of an uncle who will leave me an inheritance. I have an inheritance of family, love, and friends.

And I can't help but think of a good friend lost some years back. She died an untimely death. Unlike Scrooge I am not haunted by regrets. In spite of teenage foibles, I treated her well as she did me. There is nothing to be embarrassed about now.

Our mothers were very close friends and our families spent a lot of time together. Far away from our own extended families, our friends filled that place. We were together on New Years Day, Fourth of July, and especially, Christmas.

1963. This Blogger, C, My Brother, C's Sister.
Our mutual parents thought we made such lovely couples.
C and I went along with it much better than the other two.

1963. C and Her Younger Sister.
Our house. Douglas Fir Christmas tree cut down under
 power lines  somewhere beyond Redmond Valley

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Have Yourself a Bureaucratic Christmas (Part 2, Thanks, Obama)

I think this email means we get half a day off on Christmas Eve:

The President has issued an Executive order excusing employees from duty for the last half of the scheduled workday on Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24, 2015, with pay and without charge to leave, except for those employees who cannot be excused for reasons of national security, defense or essential public need. Employees are excused for one half of their regularly scheduled basic (non-overtime) workday. Employees on a regular and flexible work schedule (i.e., maxiflex) will receive 4 hours of holiday. Employees on a compressed work schedule will receive half of the total number of scheduled basic hours (i.e., if you are on a fixed 10-hour schedule you will receive 5 hours). The holiday time should be coded in Quicktime as 050 - Holiday - Not Worked

Employees who are scheduled to take annual leave for the last half of the scheduled workday on Thursday, December 24th, will not be charged leave for that period of time. If an employee has scheduled "use or lose" annual leave for the last half of the scheduled workday on Thursday, December 24th, and is unable to reschedule that leave for use before the end of the leave year (i.e., January 9, 2016), the leave will be forfeited. When "use or lose" leave is forfeited under these conditions, the law (5 U.S.C. 6304(d)) does not permit restoration of the leave. Employees may donate their excess annual leave to an approved leave recipient under the voluntary leave transfer program.  More information on potential leave recipients is located here:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

What If My Wife Didn't Like Mexicans?

She actually does. This is a hypothetical. As a lawyer, I'm entitled to use them even if I don't really like them (hypotheticals, not Mexicans. I like Mexicans too). But let's supposed my wife really didn't like Mexicans and had certain annoying policies about how they should be treated if they ever came around.

This is an absurd hypothetical as my wife grew up in New Mexico. Which, by the way, is part of the of the United States since 1848 and a State since 1910. And while we're digressing slightly from my hypothetical to true facts, I remember the too frequent question I was asked by people, mainly in Idaho (another state of the Union) that summer I spent with my parents there while waiting for the wedding date. When I told people that my fiancée was from New Mexico, I simply and patiently answered in the affirmative to the frequent rejoinder, "Does she speak English?" . . . . I really tried hard not to cringe.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Keeping the "Merry" in "X-Mass"

I get so tired of the phony "Christmas Wars." There is no war on Christmas. It is not only constitutionally protected by the First Amendment free exercise clause but is a legal, federal holiday since the time of President Grant. (Please see, Federal Holidays: Evolution and Application, (CRS Report for Congress, 98-301 GOV, The Library of Congress, updated February 8, 1999).

The only contrarian stirrings are that the establishment clause does not allow Christians in governmental authority to impose Christmas upon others against their free will and freedom to worship or not as they see fit. So some non-Christians, and freedom-loving Christians alike, oppose state-sanctioned religious displays and expressions as a violation of the establishment clause. The last thing we want is government in charge of Religion - think about it.

A recent meme from the conservative side stirring up the wars is this example of "Christian-Conservative Pride" which gives me (a believing and practicing Christian) a real turn-off with regard to conservatism and certain forms of Christianity. It appears to be rather "in-your-face" and I don't recall a lot of pride manifest in that humble stable and the shepherds at the first Christmas.

I actually have some concern about the over-use and over-commercialization of the sacred name of Christ in the out-of-control excesses of the holiday, be they money-grubbing or political. That's one reason why I have no problem with the substitution of the "X" for "Christ" in the holiday originating from the Catholic Mass occurring in December to celebrate the Savior's birth. As good ol' St. Wikipedia tells us:

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Scraping Away the Thin Veneer

I made a terrible mistake. It took me a long time to think about it. It was that in  my pre-blogging days I wrote a guest opinion piece for the Salt Lake Tribune in which I celebrated the signing of Obamacare (no, that wasn't the mistake) and went on to challenge modern Mormons on their wrong-headed beliefs in States Rights (no, that wasn't the mistake either) arguing that many seem to cover their political beliefs with a "thin veneer of religion" to justify them.

That was very offensive to some in my family who expressed it to me in no uncertain terms. They let me know that they are guided by their deeply held religious beliefs that frame their politics. The odd thing is, so am I.

Recently, a person of significant public and private trust who shall be unnamed here proposed a new perspective to me. He said that the sometimes extraordinarily odd and conservative political views of Utah did not represent the true nature of its people. He said something to the effect that if you "scrape of the veneer," and I think he used that word, the "veneer" of politics, that people of Utah really were good at heart.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

LDS Church Statement Supporting Religious Pluralism Includes Islam

My stress point was about to break with the increasingly divisive rhetoric of Republican Presidential Candidate Trump regarding Muslims. Great relief came when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) released a statement supporting religious freedom and pluralism, specifically mentioning Muslims, in an apparent rebuke to Trump and his supporters.

If I can illustrate simply:


Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Videos Not to Be Missed

To get the bad taste out of my mouth from my last posting and "for hate is strong and mocks the song of 'Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men" from some major political figures and their supporters, I share here some really great Christmas messages:

Have Yourself a Bureaucratic Christmas!

Lest anyone think I'm trying to start a war or something, let me remind you that "Christmas" (spelled exactly thus) is a legal and recognized federal holiday ever since President Grant. I just wanted to share a memo that came by email, well, just because:

To:                   All Departmental Employees

From:               __________, Designated Agency Ethics Official

Subject:           Ethics Guidance for the Holiday Season

I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very merry and safe holiday season. Each year at this time many of us participate in holiday celebrations and activities occurring in and out of the office. While this is a time of celebration and joy, we must still be aware that there are ethics rules and regulations which apply to all Federal employees. As a result, the Departmental Ethics Office generally receives a number of questions from employees on the appropriateness of certain holiday activities.

Therefore, in anticipation of the more common questions received by the Departmental Ethics Office, I am providing you with a summary of the ethics rules governing various holiday activities.

Acceptance of Gifts

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ancient Books Become More Real Ankhs to King Hezekiah

There was news this week of an amazing archaeological discovery in Jerusalem. A personal seal of King Hezekiah of Judah (about 739-687 BC) imprinted in clay.

Actual size about an inch across.
(Courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; Photo by Ouria Tadmor)
According to Hebrew University, the writing says, "Belonging to Hezekiah [son of]Ahaz King of Judah." It depicts a winged sun with ankhs on either side. On the reverse there is evidence of strands of binding that likely went around some document.

The image of the ankh really astounded me. I knew it from my grade school fascination with King Tutankhamen and all things Egyptian. (There it is again right in the middle of King Tut's name!)  It is the symbol for "life." As it is often associated with gods, pharaohs, and funerary ceremonies (as most things are in Egypt), it is a symbol of "eternal life."

The winged sun is pretty interesting itself. It doesn't take a lot of extrapolation to interpret a celestial sun directed upward flanked by symbols of eternal life. Tell me if I'm stretching any here.

I'm no Hebrew expert so I have to trust the translation of the ancient script provided. The mix of Hebrew letters and Egyptians symbols are no surprise for the historical era as Egypt was rather dominant in the region with the Kingdom of Judah squeezed between it and Assyria.
And as much as I hate apologetics, I love Hugh Nibley. Am I going too far to notice "the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians?"

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Red, the Blood of Angry Men" - Merthyr Rising 1831

In the category of "I'm-surprised-to-learn-something-new-every-day," the first ever red flag raised as a symbol of social reform in the name of the working man (and woman, even at that time) was in the protest of 1831 when coal miners and iron workers dipped a white flag in goat's blood and waived it as a symbol of their cause against the wealthy mine owners and iron masters of South Wales.

"Fe godwn ni eto" - "We will rise again"
"Merthyr Rising" is the name given for this short-lived movement. The red flag of the nascent unions and social reforms was yet to be associated with Marxism or even Socialism which as an economic/political theory was only just beginning.

Yes, there had been violent revolutions for representative government and "liberty, equality, and fraternity" in the former British Colonies in America and the French Revolution respectively. There had even been workers' protests in South Wales. But this was the first historically documented use of the red flag as part of a social movement.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Fanatical Murders in Colorado Springs

This is so tragic. As now reported, a disturbed, white male believed the manipulated and distorted stories of the anti-abortion fanatics which sent him over the edge to kill human beings, including a police-officer who was an Elder in his Christian Church.

People believe all kinds of things about abortion. I'm not in favor of it as a means of birth control. But it's not my place to judge. As the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints policy against abortion allows the exceptions of rape, incest, “serious jeopardy” to the “life or health of the mother” and when “the fetus has serious defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth” I do not support a legal ban on abortion as it should be left to the woman, doctor, and religious adviser of choice, not politicians or other peoples' religious beliefs.

With those legitimate exceptions, the life of a fetus does not take precedence over the life of a woman. Also, appropriate medical uses may be made of human tissue just as I am a registered organ donor.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Genetic Leap and Spiritual Ties that Love Binds

My wife says that babies come cute so that we'll love and care for them. Teenagers become obnoxious so we're glad to get rid of them when they leave to go out into the world. Everybody loves or should love a baby. Honorable hearts break when babies are mistreated and unloved.

My share of baby-sitting comes this weekend as I'm no shopper so I stay behind with any number of young ones. This year, it's my two, beautiful granddaughters.

The oddest thing was that the younger of my granddaughters seemed so familiar. I knew I had seen that face before. Genetics are weird in that particular traits can pop up in the genetic scramble that makes us who we are physically. And there's something even stranger in the spiritual genetics that can't be defined by science, at least not yet, and seem so real if only by those intangibles of love and feeling that cannot be denied even if not counted and measured.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Starting to Bern

Rolling Stone has a great interview with Bernie Sanders. I encourage you to read the whole thing. And for you Conservatives out there, I want to make special note of a few passages that might even help you.

First of all, how long has it been since we had a Boy Scout as President? Gerald Ford? Bernie was a Boy Scout:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Guest Post: My Son-in-Law is a Star Wars Geek (but in a good way)

My son-in-law, who helped mow up the last of the leaves in the yard today, also shines with today's Guest Post. He is a Star Wars fanatic. He has a great job while pursuing a Masters in Electrical & Computer Engineering and takes good care of our daughter and one of our grandsons. Even if the Gandson grows up to be a Star Wars Geek, that's fine by us. Take it away!:

The Force Awakens Wish List

As soon as the announcement was made for new Star Wars films, I started making lists of things I wanted to see in them.  I could probably talk about Star Wars for days on end, but here’s a few of the most important or most under-recognized things that made Star Wars great that I hope to see in Force Awakens. Disclaimer: I try to focus on things that apply at least somewhat to all six films and tie them all together, but the focus is really on A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, so don’t tell me I’m wrong because of Jar Jar... Also, this list relies purely on the original six films—these items stand regardless of what we may already know about The Force Awakens from trailers, merchandise, etc.  

Star Wars Feels Real

As much as filmmakers try to make it not so, most movies don’t feel real—especially when they involve magic, space travel, and science fiction.  A variety of plot holes, violations of science, and other things constantly remind us what we’re watching is just a movie.  Here are some ways Star Wars avoids a lot of that:

Friday, November 20, 2015

Difficult Family Disputes

I won't reveal any confidences here or name names. I just thought it might be interesting to share some of what I get from extended family with regard to who I am and what I believe. It does make my life a bit of a challenge. But I try hard not to make it any worse. This individual claims not to read my blog so they will likely never see it. If they do, we'll see how that goes down. Following are the text messages about our events yesterday in the Federal Building where I work:
Just FYI I'm OK. Federal building evacuated yesterday and bomb squad took suspected explosive device.
Family Member: 
Good news. Glad you're all ok. It's not right that it's not safe to go to work. Restaurants, stadiums, airliners, malls, hotels, vacations, concerts and office towers are not safe either.
Federal buildings (like Oklahoma City) seem to be a particular target for some.

Republicans, Please, Please, Reign In Your Fear Mongers!

I don't know what else to say! Republican presidential poll leaders are making outrageous statements to spread fear about Syrian Refugees.

I'll just have to let them speak for themselves:

And this:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Blessed Are the Peacemakers"

There is an LDS conference talk that never got the attention it deserved. It was delivered by now President of the Quorum of the Twelve, Russel M. Nelson in October, 2002. I had finished my first ever marathon that morning in St. George and my grandmother and I were watching conference. She was then 92 years old. I remember her saying, "My! I've never heard them speak so directly about current issues!"

For a reminder, October 2002 was the big lead-up to the mid-term elections and Congressional authorization to go to war in Iraq. It was wrong then and few people saw it. My Grandma did and so did I, not just because of this talk, but the talk sure helped.

Elder Nelson's talk was soon overtaken by events and President Hinkley's address of April, 2003 after the war had exploded on the world and some obligation to our troops engaged in battle and civic duty were required. That talk still broke my heart. I think that it is time to share Elder Nelson's talk. We didn't have the same ready access to share thoughts with the world so easily in that day which seems to be freshly relevant.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


From the turmoil across the world arising from the Middle East, somewhere near Syria:

Three knocks are heard on a heavy, wooden door.

"Go away! We're full up!"

"But we have traveled such a long way and my wife is in her time."

The door opens a crack. "Where are you from?"

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Dick Cheney's Illegitimate Child - DAESH

It probably isn't helpful to cast blame, but I had to get your attention.

The Second Iraq War (as opposed to the justified and true-coalition sanctioned, First Gulf War) will go down in history as one of the worst blunders of US History. The buck stops at George W. Bush, but his dad, George H.W. Bush, now blames "Iron-butt" Cheney and former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfield. Although there is blame also to the Congress, including later Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry who voted to authorize the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. And, yes, the American public share blame who were whipped into a frenzy by false intelligence of the Bush Administration and the media, led by the New York Times (Judith Miller). So there's plenty of blame to go around (oh, yeah, Tony Blair). And, of course, the buck is now with President Obama and his opponents can blame him all they want. And he hasn't done everything right, but he's trying.

So, why DAESH instead of ISIS or ISIL or Al Queda in Iraq? For a very good explanation of that and the history of the latest terrorist group now claiming to be the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate, see this great article at Vox, Why John Kerry and the French President Are Calling ISIS "Daesh."

ISIS, or Daesh controlled areas as of October 22, 2015, from the New York Times.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

War, Peace, Love, Hate, Evil, Good - - Dr. Who

Hat/Tip to MDeL and Cinemablend for the links, and I was very impressed as well when I saw last Saturday's Episode of Dr. Who.

I also just finished reading Sharon Kay Penman's Lionheart about the 3rd Crusade and Richard I who certainly earned his fame - not just on the battlefield but in the peace negotiations with his Saracen foes - and equals.

Oh, he was no great hero in a human sense about as far removed from Sainthood as a Warrior-King could be. He did know how to make an entrance. After relieving the Siege of Jaffa by climbing up a Templar backstair and then holding off a series of attacks from a much larger force:
Once they realized the battle was over and they'd actually won, Richard's men went wild. Their jubilant celebration stopped abruptly, though, when they saw Richard galloping his stallion toward the enemy. As they watched, first in alarm and then in delighted disbelief, he rode the entire length of the Saracen line and none dared to accept his challenge.
And then he entered a peace treaty without conquering Jerusalem - and Christian Pilgrims were allowed protected entry.

I'd like to see Dick Cheney try something like that.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Standing for Something In the Passionate Middle

From part of an email to Anonymous D last night:
this is a time more than ever where it takes courage to stand in the moderate middle. I feel a loyalty to the brethren without vindictive pride. I feel a loyalty to the humanity of gay families with only a broken heart and charity.
Three of my grandsons have a gay great-aunt on their dad's side. We've spent many family times together including when we first moved to Salt Lake and she and her partner had us over for dinner just down the street in Sugarhouse from where my mother-in-law grew up. The aunt's partner passed away from cancer some years ago and she was mourned by us all, especially my grandsons.

Weak as it is to defend myself by saying some of my best friends are Gay, the fact is that they are. One of my Scouts just married his male partner. I wasn't invited, but I would have gone. I saw his very conservative Mormon family do a 180 turn-around from shock and shame to full support in their attitude towards the marriage.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Sigh. I've tried so hard to stay away from political blogging. But someone has to do it. I had no idea until I ran across something in an article about Ben Carson that he was a devotee of W. Cleon "SKOOZEN" (well, that's how Dr. Carson pronounces the name, and he's a brain surgeon!):

Saturday, October 31, 2015

I experience, therefore, I am.

Only one essay in and I'm already hooked.

I'm still not enough of an intellectual to understand the Great Thinkers that well. I understand a little. And I've read a bit of Kierkegaard (see here and here). So when I pick up this book by a Mormon intellectual attempting to explain Faith and Science from the perspective of an evolutionary biologist or ecologist, and he starts going all Kierkegaardian on me, yeah, I can relate.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Original Intent and Original Witnesses

Apologies for borderline apologetics here, but I was cruising the interwebs and came across a very basic and forehead-slapping idea:
When it comes to the Book of Mormon witnesses, the question is which historical documents is one willing to trust? Those whose faith has been deeply shaken sometimes find it easier to trust lesser evidence rather than the best sources or the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence. But that choice is not a foregone conclusion. It is neither inevitable nor irreversible. . . . Why not opt to believe in the direct statements of the witnesses and their demonstrably lifelong commitments to the Book of Mormon? This choice asks us to have faith in the marvelous, the possibility of angels, spiritual eyes, miraculous translation, and gold plates, but it does not require us to discount the historical record or create hypothetical ways to reconcile the compelling Book of Mormon witnesses with our own skepticism.
(Steven C. Harper, "The Eleven Witnesses," in The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon, 128–129.)

Of course! Just like the original intent of the U.S. Constitution is set out up front, loud and clear in the Preamble and does not require us to go digging deep into 18th Century word analysis of the Federalist Papers or some off-hand remark made by one of the founding fathers to a drinking buddy at the local tavern, we need look no further than the published testimonies of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, including Joseph himself, for an explanation of its origins.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Culture War Is Over If You Want It

With thanks to John Lennon and Elder Dallin H. Oaks, two unlikely yoked oxen if ever there were, I am so very pleased to have my declaration of Peace in the culture wars validated. It was written in 2009 but reflects many years of thought on the subject.

Elder Oaks gave a surprising endorsement of basic constitutional principles of the separation of Church and State although I still prefer a solid wall rather than his curtain. But I get the point that influences for good should filter from one side to the other. His speech was released by the LDS Newsroom, the official informational source for newsworthy items all approved at the highest levels of LDS Church leadership, under the heading:

Mormon Apostle Calls for Balance and Accommodation, Not Culture Wars

I encourage you to read the article and watch or read his entire speech attached.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Swan of Usk

Photo taken by me August 20, 2010 in Gwent, Wales.*
Just finished a novel based on the life of Cousin Henry Vaughan, Silurist. It's long out of print but I got it fairly inexpensively through Abe Books, a wonderful resource for anything ever in print, especially from Britain. To be entirely proper here, I must cite it as: The Swan of Usk: A Historical Novel, by Helen Ashton (Collins, London 1940).

As I suspected while reading the book, Ashton was a nurse during the Great War and then, as I hadn't suspected, went on to become a medical doctor. This served her well in writing of Cousin Henry as he served as a surgeon/doctor with the King's forces during the English Civil War. He was a Healer and Poet in some contrast to his twin brother Tom, who was a more swashbuckling Cavalier and then an Alchemist in search of the Philosopher's Stone.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

History of the Welsh Language, Part 2

I had to miss my Welsh Class last Thursday, so my perfect Audit grade is blown. But I am still doing my homework. [I put my homework here because it's so much better with pictures]:

Welsh 101
History of Welsh Language, Part 2

First Page of Genesis from the Welsh Bible of 1588
Elizabeth Tudor, AKA Elizabeth Rex or Regina I, may have inadvertently saved the Welsh language because she was concerned more about maintaining Protestantism as the official religion than she was about anything else. Queen Mary had been Catholic and that was no fun. Cromwell was yet to appear to show that Protestantism could be no fun. But the important point here is that Elizabeth had the Holy Bible translated into Welsh and used in the Established Church (AKA the Church of England but not known as such in Wales). Once the Bible was in Welsh, there was religious fervor sufficient to branch into many forms of Protestantism over the next few centuries. Then World Wars I and II devastated the faith and hope of Christian Europe including the British Isles along with crass, post-war consumerism, and the Churches are now pretty much empty.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Changing History - She Once Was Lost But Now She's Found!

It's a powerful sensation better than even the timey-whimey, wibbly-wobbly fiction of going back to change the past. And it's not so much changing as correcting or filling-in the past. It is an Amazing Grace!

Having finished the life history of my 4th Great Grandmother, Eleanor Jenkins Vaughan, with all the evidence we have found so far and having a nearly complete outline of her biography, it was time to propose corrections to the wonderful Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database for her entry. That database has already helped provide some amazing information as we fleshed out Grandma Elinor's story.

The process was quick and simple. I wish I had saved a screen shot of what I submitted, but the page on the LDS Church History website leads one through the process. It asks for documentation so I gave citations to the ordinances performed for her in 1856 and 1857 from Special Collections in the Family History Library. I also referenced the 1860 Census for Jacks Valley, Carson, Utah (soon to be Nevada) and I attached the page from John Needham's journal obtained from the CHL to evidence her baptism. What the keepers of the Overland Travel want are basic life and death data points. And I am quite pleased with the way it came out.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Close Encounters of the Human Kind

The old Ogden Temple where Anonymous D used to work. Note the still-orange spire of my futuristic youth!
As Anonymous D and I were PONDERING the messages from conference, D agreed to share some of his stories of meeting the LDS General Authorities. He was in a unique position having been employed while in college with Church Security guarding the Ogden Temple. That was a very boring job sitting in the booth, except for the occasional instances of the most interesting excitement. Otherwise, he just read a lot of Nibley.

This was back in the days of Ogden's urban decline after the first attempt at urban renewal when the downtown mall failed pretty miserably. Now, Ogden is on quite a solid rebound! (read about that here). Anyway, not all of these are stories from the Ogden Temple.

Take it away, D:

Saturday, October 3, 2015

LDS General Conference, October 2015

No live-blogging this conference. Please watch live here on YouTube, or live or recorded on here.

I will provide some updates here with commentary.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said that three new Apostles would be called and sustained this conference, but apparently not right away.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

No Shutdown Update 2015

Told ya.

Storms still flash over the Capitol
[public domain from the Architect of the Capitol showing dome repair scaffolding]

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Brief History of the Welsh Language

Just having finished my homework for my Welsh 101 Audit, I thought I might post it here. I had a little fun with it. It's nice to be free in an audit and 58-years-old in a class of mostly freshmen.

A rather more complex map of Celtic Migrations than is necessary for our purposes, but it's kinda cool.
Welsh 101
Brief History of the Welsh Language
Grant L. Vaughn
Sept. 28, 2015

Welsh, the language of the foreigners. But only if you’re Saxon and what do they know? Johnny-come-latelies to the British Isles as they are. And that current Queen is a Saxon from the family of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha having to change their name during WWI to “Windsor” for the War PR so their subjects would forget they were pretty much real Saxons. But I digress. Forget the Saxons, they didn’t add much to the language. (Well, a lot of the fake Welsh words that end in “io,” sort of like the British version of Tex-Mex).

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Reconciling the Impossible - The At One Ment

As part of an ongoing dialogue between Anonymous D and me, I leave here a challenge with a simple answer but which requires some serious thought and self-awareness if you are prepared. Some may just call it trite or silly religious babble. I lovingly call it hope because of my faith in Christ.

Many things constantly before us seem to be in irreconcilable conflict:

Political, social or philosophical Right versus Left or Conservative versus Liberal.

The religious concepts of Justice and Mercy, Grace and Works, and Good versus Evil.

All gaps in knowledge regarding Science and Religion.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Personal History Confirmation from Down in the South of Brazil

I have a really good friend who happens to be my Home Teacher. He is assigned in our Priesthood Quorum, with our Bishop's approval and encouragement, to visit our family monthly with a teenage companion from the Teachers' Quorum They provide a brief, spiritual message and report back to our lay priesthood group as to how we're doing. He's available for spiritual needs, furniture moving, and other friendly services. My wife likes to give him cookies. We have him over for dinner and holidays now and then.

I've known him for quite a few years as we met him in our youth most likely in the Language Training Mission in Provo, Utah. But I got to know his good soul on our mission out on the Gaúcho Frontier in Rio Grande do Sul.

I was a zone leader in the São Borja District of members. We lived in Alegrete which was most central and my companion and I traveled by bus, to the cities of São Borja, Uruguiana, and Rosário do Sul to help the two missionaries in each of those cities and interview their candidates for baptism. It was in Rosário where my friend worked. For some reason, probably to save daylight hours for missionary work, we often traveled at night. Those rides were miserable sometimes having to stand in the blue haze of cigarette smoke for the two or three-hours they took.

Rio Grande do Sul State in Brazil
São Borja Zone, Porto Alegre Mission, 1977. The center, however is Alegrete, the heart of Gaúcho Brazil.
Alegrete and Uruguaiana are now Stakes. São Borja remains a Mission District. And there's a Temple in Porto Alegre!
Alegrete-Rosário do Sul, 107 Km. Alegrete-São Borja, 189 Km. Alegrete-Uruguaiana, 145 Km. Uruguaiana-Porto Alegre, 631 Km.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Magnets and Fevered End-Time Dreams of the Extreme Right Wing

First of all, both Anonymous D and I believe in some things that others find absolutely foolish. Our spiritual life experiences are unique to each of us even if we do have some common ground and understanding. There may be a follow-up post on some spiritual epistemology and religious oneness that we have been discussing. For now, I wish to draw attention to a matter that has fascinated us both and upon which we do not call "fraud" but urge extreme caution and a strong dose of common sense.

We've been nearly obsessed with the recent end-times prophecies of an LDS woman, Julie Rowe, who claims a near-death-experience vision and has been writing books and giving seminars. The upcoming blood moon this weekend figures into it as does some really weird right-wing fears of UN troops coming to America to help restore order after major disasters (beginning next week) because our troops will be over-extended overseas. The UN, of course, will send troops from North Korea, Russia, and probably Iran because the Canadians and Mexicans, even the Brits, are somehow too busy. And, of course, it almost writes itself that the UN Troops will turn on us true Americans and we will have to go hide in the hills in tent "cities of light."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Greatest Threat to Freedom of Religion

No, it's not any "sinning" that threatens Constitutional order. It's people who classify who is and who is not "religiously qualified" under our Constitutional system. Hint: Read the Constitution, Article VI, Clause 3:
no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Republican Presidential Candidate Ben Carson just blew that test. He doesn't think a Muslim would qualify to be President under the Constitution:

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Back to Trump's Future


There is a great "Back to the Future II" meme floating through the interwebs:

While the resemblance of Uncle Bernie and Doc Brown is pure-- if entertaining coincidence. I now realize that it was no coincidence that the movie-makers based the future (now past) evil Biff of 2015 on a figure who in 1985 was destined to become the bully Biff of the Republican base in the very same year as future Biff!!

OK, I realize that's a heavy shift of weight in the time/space continuum. But just look at the hair

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I Will NOT Vote for Hillary!

I know I've sworn off political blogging for a while. But this actually helps explain one of the reasons. It may even win me some love back with many friends and family. But then, probably not. Because I'm not voting for any of the Republican clowns who are even worse than 2012 which I didn't think could even be possible. And not that it makes much difference in Utah anyway.

No, my reason is simple.

The Iraq War was wrong.

It was wrong before it started. It was wrong while it was going - except that we did need to support our troops while it was going which we failed pretty miserably thanks to Rumsfeld, Cheney, and W who wanted war on the cheap. And the Iraq war was wrong now as almost everybody admits.

And I knew it was wrong long before it started and throughout. I think Hillary did too and that's one reason why I oppose her and will forever. And dang it, Joe Biden voted for the war too. Hillary admits it was wrong now as she goes all tough on Iran even with grudging support of the President's negotiated agreement.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Life History of my 4th Great Grandmother, Elinor Jenkins Vaughan

Elinor's possible birthplace, Stowe, Whitney-on-Wye, Herefordshire, England - just a stone's throw from Wales.
Elinor Jenkins Vaughan
Mormon Handcart Pioneer of 1856
 Born 25 December 1789, Died about 1861
©by Grant L. Vaughn, 4th Great Grandson, based on Collaborative
Research with Judy Vaughn Atwood, 3rd Great Granddaughter

December 25th is Christmas. No one ever forgets their birthday if it falls on that sacred celebration. Elinor[1] was a Christmas baby. The problem is that the year is not completely certain. At various times in her life, Elinor gave her age indicating birth as early as 1777. However, we have the record of her Christening as 7 February 1790[2] and it is most likely that she was born in 1789.

Her parents were William Jenkins and Jane Apperley. The place was Stowe [also “Stow”], Whitney, Herefordshire just across the border from Radnorshire, Wales, on the north side of the Wye River as it flows from the green Welsh hills onto the rich, broad, and green farmlands of Herefordshire.

Jenkins is a solid Welsh name while Apperley is not. Her mother Jane’s family name originated in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire and is of Anglo-Saxon origin.[3] The Jenkins name is very common on the Welsh border. We do not have much information on Elinor’s parents. However, she gave their names and her birthplace herself when she received her own LDS Temple Endowment in 1856 in Salt Lake City, Utah.[4]

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Joys of Scouting

Two Cubs building their Rain Gutter Regatta boats
"Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?" 
Pictures speak by thousands but Joni Mitchell nailed in just a few.

Early last night I helped my wife in her role as Cub Committee Chair out of sheer joy and love for her, and also for Scouting. We almost lost it. And I've never appreciated it more.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement Wednesday from the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles regarding the Church’s relationship with the Boy Scouts of America:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints appreciates the positive contributions Scouting has made over the years to thousands of its young men and boys and to thousands of other youth. As leaders of the Church, we want the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to succeed in its historic mission to instill leadership skills and high moral standards in youth of all faiths and circumstances, thereby equipping them for greater success in life and valuable service to their country.
In the resolution adopted on July 27, 2015, and in subsequent verbal assurances to us, BSA has reiterated that it expects those who sponsor Scouting units (such as the Church) to appoint Scout leaders according to their religious and moral values “in word and deed and who will best inculcate the organization’s values through the Scouting program.” At this time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will go forward as a chartering organization of BSA, and as in the past, will appoint Scout leaders and volunteers who uphold and exemplify Church doctrine, values, and standards.
With equal concern for the substantial number of youth who live outside the United States and Canada, the Church will continue to evaluate and refine program options that better meet its global needs.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Basic Principles of the Gospel -- in Japan

My Son, A-5, gave a talk in another ward as a "traveling elder" with the Stake High Counselor last Sunday. He shared the text with me so I could post it here:

Minasan konnichiwa!

A-5 on the left
My name is Aaron Vaughn. Recently, I've returned from serving a mission in Nagoya Japan. I grew up down the street in the Centerville 3rd Ward. This summer, I've just been working with the Bountiful City Parks and Rec, and I will be going down to BYU this next week to play trumpet in the marching band and to study Physics and Japanese.
I'm grateful for this opportunity to speak and share some of the experiences I had on my mission regarding how the gospel changes lives.
First, I want to ask, what is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The first answer that often comes to mind is the 4th Article of Faith. “The first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” While those are all very important parts of the Gospel, in True to the Faith, we can find a more compact definition. It reads, “The gospel is our Heavenly Father's plan of happiness. The central doctrine of the gospel is the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” In Japanese, the word for Gospel, 福音, is made from two characters. “”which means happiness, and “”which means sound. So literally, the gospel is a sound of happiness.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

"Fools give you reasons, Wise men never try."

The Utah Shakespeare Festival at Cedar City was great this year. We enjoyed good times with good friends and saw three plays. Only one was Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2. People are oddly apologetic for the historical plays and they are the reason I love Shakespeare (even if some of the history is subject to debate).

The greatest moment was when I met one of the actors who happened to sit in the row behind us in South Pacific.

My new buddy, Falstaff, and I
Yes, that's John Ahlin who played Sir John (Jack) Falstaff in Henry 4.2 the night before! And I impressed the actor by introducing myself as a descendant of Davy Gam (Dafydd ap Llywellyn) who is named in the lists of the dead in Henry V.

The character of Falstaff was my first introduction to the higher forms of the performance arts. It was in fourth grade when we had the blessed opportunity of loading up on school buses to attend a kids' program at the Seattle Opera. It was a few scenes from Verdi's Falstaff including a revelation of a bit of stagecraft with Falstaff falling off a bed and his corpulent body switched out for some brightly colored cloth matching his clothes. (Why Falstaff would be hiding in bedrooms they never quite explained). And that's all it took for me to fall in love with a stage full of music and action.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Granfer Ben "Died of Women" in Salt Lake City

While still a gratuitous polygamy joke, it is one of the best I've heard:
Handsome devil, apparently, handy with the mountain fighters and spare-time on the females. . . .
And when Brigham Young's people came to the Top Towns on speculation, he was off to Salt Lake City and the Latter Day Saints. No sight nor sound of him since--must have died of women, I reckon.
'There are worse ways of dying,' said Dewi, and I saw my father give him a queer old look and a sigh.
This is from Song of the Earth, by Alexander Cordell, the conclusion to the historical fiction trilogy of the Mortymer and Evans Families in the southern valleys of Wales during the harsh Industrial Revolution. Revolution? Should be "Revolutions," plural.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Grant V's Big Adventure

In Washington DC for a work-required conference, I had to travel to Main Interior to meet with someone on another work matter and call a Judge. So I hopped in our agency limo and headed downtown.

It wasn't really that big of an adventure as I started out at Main Interior some 30 years ago and somehow managed the commute back then. It's just that as I age, my life takes on more epic meaning and I have a Samsung S-6 to document the epicness:

Aparrently they are still working on our federal employee limo service

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Fires of Nantyglo - "Rape of the Fair Country" by Alexander Cordell

Above is a memorial to men killed in the Chartist Uprising of 1839. Many Survivors were convicted of crimes and sent to Van Diemen's Land - Tasmania, Australia.

The historical novel by Alexander Cordell hits close to the home of my ancestors at the forges on the other side of the Blorenge from Llanfoist where they lived. The forges are where they worked as puddlers. 

It's still not known how they became puddlers in the midst of industrial turmoil and desperate poverty. It may have been that they were hired to replace striking workers like those demanding voting rights and parliamentary reform in the tragic assault on Newport - the characters in Cordell's historical novel. No sign yet that the Vaughans were involved in Chartism as they remained, alive, and not shipped to Australia - (except we're trying to track down one son-in-law, William Delahay, who disappears from the records in Wales and may have ended up there or in New South (very south) Wales. His wife, Catherine Vaughan, may have been baptized a Mormon. Elder Needham's journal is not clear on this point.) 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

More Family Tetons, er, Totems

I visited my Aunt today up on the hill and noticed another piece of my Dad's artwork I needed to photograph. They deserve more professionalism than I can give, but hey, I've got to get what I can. And they're pretty great paintings!

The Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA
(c) 1975, Larry K. Vaughn
There is nothing to say on the beauty of the rendering of the subject but to thank my Dad. l also thank Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Antiquities Act, and the secret negotiations with the Rockefellers that resulted in a National Park. (Look it up.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Scouting and Bullying - the Gay Policy

As a Scout, I was bullied as a Gay. There were some bullies who called me "fag," "faggot," "little faggot," and "queer." These words out of the mouths of bullies are becoming as socially unacceptable as the "N___" word. And, thank Heavens!

Scouting isn't about bullying. It should be the exact opposite as a place for team-building and citizenship skills in a diverse society which is the ideal of melting-pot USA. And there still is a lot of bullying.

It probably is a natural inclination for groups of boys to ostracize the outcast. I still hear modern Scouts "jokingly" (actually, bullyingly) call each other "Gay" --the targets no more Gay then I was as a teen even if a bit of an outcast or loner. My role as leader has been to nip that in its bud, stop it in its tracks, whatever it takes to kindly yet forcefully teach that such talk and bullying behavior is unacceptable.

And Scouting isn't about sex. Well, at least it's not supposed to be. But I've heard the crudest language and sexual jokes among Scouts and sometimes leaders. On an excursion to Philmont Scout Ranch years ago, there was a Playboy passed around. Sure, I looked. And I played with the cards bought in San Francisco Chinatown with bare-breasted women on them. We kept making jokes about the "stacked deck." OK, not by best moments, but far from the worst as well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Rush of Historical Preservation

Jane Vaughan Lewis Johns - early 1860s
Aunt Jane is smiling.

No, she really is! She may not be the most beautiful person in the world what with the Vaughan nose and all. It's the same nose that's on her brother's face, the only two siblings we have in photos from that generation (well, so far).

John Vaughan, to the right, is my paternal, 3rd-Great-Grandfather. That's the best copy we have of the picture. It's from an old-style, wide-typewritten, pedigree chart. My Collaborator-Cousin has already put out a notice to search for the original.

That's why I donated the miraculous picture of my 4th-Great-Aunt Jane to the LDS Church History Library today. [oops, I miscounted generations on the form].

It's pretty easy to donate. I've done it before with cousins on my Mom's side with our Great-Grandmother's journal.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Standing for Something (You Don't Agree With)

We have some really good friends who are dedicated home-schoolers. I don't agree with home-schooling. I think that in spite of the best intentions, no parent is able to provide the wide diversity of specialized knowledge that a variety of teachers can in the public schools. It also tends to undermine the purpose of public schools which is to give every child an opportunity for a basic education to be a functioning member of a self-governing democratic republic. The socialization skills with children of different backgrounds also help in the melting-pot ideal of America.

Still, we love our friends dearly. We never debated our differing views on home-schooling. I'm not even sure of their actual reasons for doing it.

At their request, I once participated in a conference where home-schooling families got together to hear presentations on a variety of subjects. I was asked to do a session on the Founding Mothers concentrating on Abigail Adams and her influence on husband John through their rich trove of correspondence. It was fun!

Monday, June 29, 2015


As I continue to walk my own fine line not fighting for or against same-sex marriage. Most of the criticism I have received is from those on the "against" side who seem to use the teachings of the Prophets to condemn me for "not hating gays enough." I don't think that's the message of the Prophets at all.

Anyhoo, I thought I would like to note that there are a lot of messages popping up on the internets linking Gay Marriage to Communism. Even on claimed LDS affiliated sites. Yep, more evidence of the paranoid style in American politics.