Wednesday, October 24, 2007

California Wildfires Close to Home

I'm one of the fortunate ones who hasn't been required to evacuate my home here in Southern California. I live in San Bernardino County, where several blazing fires have been causing devastation the past couple days. Last night when getting home from work, I was surprised to see a handful of people with cameras around their necks standing in the driveway of my complex and staring at something off in the distance. I glanced over my shoulder and was shocked to see tall orange flames very clearly. After parking, I walked back over to investigate, taking our digital camera and analog video camera with me. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the fire was actually quite far away, and the still camera couldn't zoom in far enough to take a good shot, although I got some good footage on my video camera. It turns out that the fire was in Running Springs, roughly 10 miles away. I found a good map (courtesy of this article) that shows how close the fire is. I live near the "R" in Redlands, near the bottom-right corner of the map below:

San Bernardino County, California Wildfires
For up-to-date information on the fires in San Bernardino County, see this page on sbcounty.gov or search Google News.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Mitt Romney is a Mormon... So What?

I fully realize that the subject of Mitt Romney being a Mormon (that is, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has been written and blogged about countless times. In fact, that's one of the main reasons why I'm writing this article. I find it fascinating (and at times frustrating) that this issue seems to always be raised whenever anyone talks about Mitt Romney. What, if anything, does the fact that Mitt Romney is a Latter-day Saint have to do with his U.S. presidential candidacy? I would like to briefly examine this question and offer some points of consideration.

Why does it make any difference?
Many journalists and bloggers try to spin Mitt Romney's religion as some secretive, mysterious extremist sect that consumes his every thought and makes him incapable of making his own decisions. Non-scientific, loaded polls are often cited as evidence that Americans are concerned about having a Mormon president. I have no doubt that many Americans would be concerned about it, but this is largely a result of the media's typically negative slant when discussing the religion, not to mention pastors' sermons preaching against a church that they would have their parishioners believe is a "cult." (I'll return to that argument in a moment.) Although I do not know Mitt Romney personally, I get the distinct impression from perusing his Web site, watching video interviews and debates, and reading quotes concerning his political views that Romney is a very intelligent individual who thinks for himself and carefully chooses his positions based on what he feels is best for his country. There is simply no evidence to suggest that he has any ulterior motives, nor is there any reason whatsoever to believe that he does.

To Christians

At the third Republican debate, Mitt Romney responded to a question about his religion as follows:

"I think it's a fair question for people to ask, what do you believe? And I think if you want to understand what I believe, you could recognize that the values that I have are the same values you'll find in faiths across this country. I believe in God, believe in the Bible, believe Jesus Christ is my savior. I believe that God created man in his image. I believe that the freedoms of man derive from inalienable rights that were given to us by God."

Having been raised as a Christian, I can attest that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed a Christian church. It is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ as found in the Holy Bible and as revealed to ancient and modern prophets who receive revelation directly from God and His divine Son. Time does not permit me to go into great detail about the doctrines of the Church, but I would direct the reader to be cautious about selecting sources of information on this subject. Many articles about Mitt Romney and specifically about the Church are written by people who have an extremely limited understanding of the teachings of the Church, and much of what is written by journalists in regard to the religion is very confusing. Naturally, the most accurate source for learning what Mormons believe is to seek answers directly from the Church itself. The best online resource is www.mormon.org, an official site of the Church that discusses the most fundamental doctrines and provides answers to frequently asked questions. Another reliable Web site is www.lds.org, the Church's main site. I publish a podcast (a free, downloadable collection of MP3 audio files) called Introduction to Mormonism which primarily consists of talks given by prominent Latter-day Saints, and although the collection is not produced by the Church it may also be a useful resource.

To All

Whether you consider yourself a religious person or whether you believe in no religion at all, Mitt Romney deserves to be recognized for his achievements and qualifications that make him a top presidential candidate. Mitt Romney is a well-educated individual with a keen business sense and a knowledge of politics and foreign affairs that is simply remarkable. He has high moral standards. He is a strong leader. He is a firm believer in the Constitution of the United States. I invite everyone to browse through Mitt Romney's campaign site including his brief biography and his positions on the major issues, and consider him because of who he is and what he stands for.

In closing, I would like to leave you with a few words from Martin Luther King, Jr. that sum up my feelings about considering a candidate for United States president: "I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'"

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