With the Olympics garnering such public attention it is natural that Mormonism will be highlighted in a very favorable manner. Recently Dr. Joe McKeever of First Baptist Church in Kenner, Louisiana wrote the following on the subject. “The January 21, 2002, issue of “The New Yorker,” carries an article on Mormonism by Lawrence Wright. This religion will be much on display in Salt Lake City in a few days, as the Winter Olympics get underway. After giving a history and some impressive data on the church’s membership and influence, Wright tackles the shaky historical foundation for this religion. That’s where his story takes off. No one disputes that in 1835, Joseph Smith–the founding bishop of Mormonism–purchased some Egyptian mummies and papyri that were touring America. Since no one could read the hieroglyphs, Smith announced that the writing on the papyri was actually “reformed Egyptian,” and proceeded to give it his own translation. According to him, these were writings from the patriarch Abraham while in Egypt, revelations that established the preexistence of the soul, declared a plurality of gods, and excluded Blacks from the priesthood. “The Book of Abraham” became one of the foundation stones of the new church. Interestingly, Smith left behind notes on this ancient language in his own handwriting–which provided historians with the smoking gun, so to speak.

After Smith died in 1844, the papyri were sold and were thought to have burned in the Chicago fire of 1871. They turned up a few years ago in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and were restored to the LDS church. Innocently, the leaders called in four noted experts on Egypt to examine the documents. Far from being the writings of Abraham, the papyri contained nothing more than instructions for burying the dead. There was no “Book of Abraham.”
A few church members resigned in disgust. A book in my library defending the Smith translation (the authors are Mormon) says the present papyri is not the material used in the Book of Abraham, but are merely fragments and therefore untrustworthy. “New Yorker” reporter Wright says, however, the fact that Smith left behind “a grammar” of the “Egyptian language” in his handwriting knocks down this theory.

What about this? A Mormon defender dismisses it all. “Very few scholars even believe that Abraham ever lived,” Hugh Nibley says. Amazing. The issue, of course, is not Abraham but the foundation of the Mormon church. Or more precisely, whether it has a foundation. That religion stands on the shoulders of a prophet named Smith who may have pulled one of the great cons of any century. The question is whether anyone cares. Is anyone asking the hard questions?

Robert Millet, a former dean of religious education at BYU, is quoted in the article as explaining, “Being a Mormon is really a matter of faith.”

What about Joseph Smith’s deceit? Millet directs us to check out Bible heroes such as Jacob and Abraham, who both lied and deceived. This is true. We respond, however, that being a Christian is not about the integrity of the people in the Bible, but about Jesus and the trustworthiness of our Scriptures. Being a Mormon has everything to do with the integrity of Joseph Smith. Or the lack of it. We can only hope some people who read the “New Yorker” article will be moved to ask some hard questions. And to stick around for the answers. My limited experience with members of the Mormon religion has shown that most do not like these questions, and that anyone raising them becomes labeled as an enemy of their faith. Far from being their enemy, I should like to be known as a friend of the Truth.” Joe McKeever

Morals Matter

On September 11, 2001, more than the Twin Towers collapsed. A false philosophy fell also. Just as a counterfeit concept was gaining acceptance the tower tragedy exposed it as fraudulent.

In that moment we were dramatically reminded morality matters. Our society was being fed a diet of relativism. The theory that there are no absolutes was being popularized. Situational ethics were being propounded as acceptable.

Proponents of relativism teach there are no absolutes. Right and wrong, good and evil, if there are such things, are relative. Under the banner of tolerance they have declared one idea is as good as another and all are to be accepted as equal. Among youth this is causing difficulty in that some students are saying slavery in America and Nazism in Germany were appropriate because well intended people thought them to be. Regardless of who thought them right they were evil.

Ask a proponent of there being no absolutes if they are sure there are no absolutes and they might well answer, “Absolutely.”

Just as the concept that there is no objective difference in good and evil was catching on the terrorist taught us in an instant there is. The word “evil” once more emerged in public dialogue.

Some savants of New Age spiritualism as well as devotees to Eastern mystical religions assert sin is not real and there are no wrong choices. Darwin spawned the idea “wickedness is no more a man’s fault than bodily disease.” Apply that to the events of September 11, and try to get an understanding of the day. How can anyone now say evil is no one’s fault? The idea to destroy the towers and kill thousands crawled out of the dark cave of some devious mind.

The bleakest period in the history of ancient Israel was described as a time “When all did that which was right in their own eyes.” That is postgraduate relativism.

How can anyone advocate good and evil are interchangeable? “Exhibit A” that refutes this deception was demonstrated in New York. Evil guided the planes into the towers. Good drove the rescue workers, firefighters, and police up the shafts in attempts to save lives. Absolute evil and absolute good faced one another and good stared down evil.

Relativism is judgmental, exclusive, and partisan.

Relativism says if you believe in absolutes you are wrong. That makes it judgmental.

Relativism in saying there are no absolute truths excludes your belief in absolute truths and that makes it exclusive.

Relativism excludes all persons who are non-relativists from their supposedly “right thinking party.” That makes it partisan.

This is a time for assessment. We each need to face the mirror reflecting our personal morality and ask if we have bought into rationalism and relativism. Parents need to use this as a teaching time. Obviously the parents of a young William Penn taught their son there are absolutes. In adulthood he framed the issue in these words: “Right is right though all men be against it and wrong is wrong though all be for it.”

Mini Morals Matter

A noticeable change in the moral climate of our society has occurred. A variety of factors have contributed to it.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was a catalyst. When he postulated it he was concerned that some would not only relate to physical science but expressed apprehension some would apply it to social science. Today it has been expanded into a philosophy of relativism. This means there are no moral absolutes. Right and wrong are relative.

Philosopher Fredrick Nietzche declared God is dead. Others have since joined his chorus. He concluded that since God does not exist morality is a matter of personal choice. With God out of the game we become our own umpire, our own judges. That is why there is so very little moral consensus.

Our PC climate has removed the Bible from the public forum as a standard of morality. Without this long standing compass everyone decides for him or her self which direction is north; what is right and what is wrong. Right and wrong are a matter of personal opinion and the only opinion that matters is “mine.”

Yet another influence in the change in our moral climate is insistence on tolerance. The word “tolerance” has even been more sharply redefined. For years it meant I value you and your opinion to which you are entitled but I disagree with it. That is called negative tolerance and is considered narrow minded.

Positive tolerance is the concept that one opinion is as good as any other and should not be rejected.

If God is dead, moral relativism true, and positive tolerance allowed then there is no basis upon which any action by a person can be criticized or condemned. Really?

If true ethnic cleansing, slavery, polygamy, pedofilia, incest, cloning, euthanasia, terrorism, murder, adultery, and rape would garner no moral outrage. After all those are acceptable ideas to those advocating and/or practicing them. Apologies should be offered to Hitler, Timothy McVeigh, Theodore Kazinski, Osama bin Laden, and a host of other radicals. They considered their ideas as good as any, even better.

A brilliant British journalist, C.S. Lewis, acknowledged the root of his denial of the existence of God. He said he professed there was no God because he knew if he acknowledged God existed he would have to confess his guilt before Him. That, he said he did not want to do because he was enjoying his adultery too much. As long as he professed there was no God he did not have to admit to guilt.

It is not adultery in every case but denial is an evasive tactic practiced by many. To admit there is a God means there are moral norms. He is a God of absolutes and ultimates. His created laws of nature prevail for our comfort. Because of the law of gravity we know we are free to jump up because we will come down not float off in space. His moral laws are based on what is good for us and therefore afford comfort. When the rules of the game are known everyone has a standard. Moral laws are no more relative than the rules by which football is played. They are not relative but they are relevant.


It is time to rally around your favorite school’s mascot and cheer the team on to “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y.”

I love creative mascots. Lions, Tigers, Gators, Devils, Wildcats, Bulldogs, Yellow Jackets, etc. are all good but lack creativity that sets them apart. Consider the challenge afforded cheerleaders for the following schools.

Rosemont College in Pennsylvania surely must have rose and white as their colors to go along with their nickname of the Rosemonsters. There is an oxymoron for you. I wonder if their cry is “Prick “um thorns.”

The Banana Slugs of the University of California, Santa Cruz pose a challenge for creative cheers. That reminds me of the snail who drove a supped-up sports car with a big “S” on each door and the hood. When asked why he said he was tired of hearing how slow he was as a snail and wanted to hear them say, “Look at that “S’ car go.”

Right here in Atlanta Oglethorpe University has a clever and aggressive mascot, the Storming Petrels. Looking up a definition of a petrel you will find it is an ocean bird known as Mother Carey’s chicken. It also means one whose coming portends trouble and strife. Translated, “We’re gonna whip you.” With all the bird mascots in Atlanta it is really a very good one.

The Dustdevils of Texas A & M International University in Laredo would meet a formidable opponent in the Golden Gusties of Gustavus Adolphus.

From Cairo, Georgia come the Syrup Makers with their syrup bottles filled with rattling coins.

A contest for the weakest image might feature the Alices from Vincennes High in Indiana against the Morsels of Morse College.

My alma mater had a lion as its mascot. A student contest was conducted to name our new lion. Our school colors were green and gold like Green Bay. Lions are sort of golden color so someone suggested painting a green dotted line down the back of the lion and naming him “Tarealong.” You know, “Tarealong the Dotted Lion.” Fortunately, Roomie won out as the final name. Roomie was a popular biology prof and SEC football official. His untimely death gave the name an advantage.

The Thunder Chickens of Berkeley California intimidates opponents by playing bagpipes. Surely not “Amazing Grace.” However, can bagpipes play anything else?

Delta State University conducted a student poll to select a PC mascot. They decided on “The Fighting Okra.” Wait until the Okra Growers Society hears about that. That is a slippery issue. You can get mugs, T-shirts, hats and other inspiring paraphernalia. Delta State is located in the Mississippi Delta which is popular cotton country. I can’t imagine how okra beat out cotton. How about the Blazing Boll Weevils? They would make a great bowl team.

The most shocking one is the Zizzers of West Plains High School in Missouri. They are represented by a lightening bolt.

To all, regardless of the name by which you are know: “GO TEAM!”

Martha Stewart On Lying

Martha Stewart sold 3,928 shares of ImClone stock December 27, 2001. June 4, 2003, she was indited on nine federal counts. It was alleged she lied to the Grand Jury. One count was later dropped. March 5, 2004, Martha Stewart was convicted on all counts. The verdict in essence said she lied. There has never been a more classic example of the poetic proclamation by Sir Walter Scott: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive.” Our nation has been on a slippery slope since our first president allegedly said, “I cannot tell a lie,” till we had a president who lied under two oaths.

As a child I was told by an old man, “One lie is the pappy of another.” He meant when a person tells a lie they have to tell others to cover it. The imperative is not to tell the first one and thus avoid the entangling web. Many people have become so accustomed to lying they are depicted as having the conscience seared, meaning insensitized. Of Saddam Hussein, Porter Goss, House Intelligence Chair, said, “He is good at denial and deception. I am not sure he even knows what truth is anymore. I think he has been surrounded by yes-me and sycophants.” Such persons can lie and convince themselves it is true and that they have convinced the hearer it is true. They can so lie to themselves they can pass a lie detector test.

Socrates spoke of “…taking good care that in my zeal I do not deceive both myself and you, and like a bee depart, leaving my sting behind.” A House subcommittee estimated that 1 out of every 3 working Americans is hired with educational or career credentials that have been altered. We are suffering from an epidemic of lying. John Gardner, founder of Common Cause notes, “Duplicity and deception, in public and private life, are very substantially greater than they have been in the past.” Lying is a virus that has infected our society.

Under two oaths our former president lied. It became a noticeable thread in the fabric of his life. Even worse several man-on-the-street interviews were filled with people saying in various ways, “It’s no big deal.” If we each had a Pinocchio tendency for our nose to grow every time we told a lie extreme make over would be needed frequently. Or, if we were stricken like the character in the movie “Liar, Liar” who could not lie our social order would be changed. Lying is a big deal. It destroys truth and consequently the ability to trust. The loss of trust results in suspicion, and insecurity, while it impairs relationships. Truth is an absolute.

Where there are no absolutes there is no basis for these imperative traits. “Spin” is a method of twisting a fact to make it appear as something it isn’t. It is the most clever way of lying. Spinology offers graduate degrees. Had George Washington been a graduate of this school of thought he likely would have said, “No, I didn’t chop down the cherry tree” while holding the mental reserve of “I cut it down.” Liars redefine words in their minds while allowing others to consider what is being said in light of accepted understanding of the words. Our society has bought into relativism so fully most persons high school age and above don’t believe there are absolutes. That is, no absolutes of right and wrong. To them truth is relative to time, place, and who is telling it. That is an ideal seed bed in which lies can proliferate.

However, ask a person who professes not to believe in absolutes if they are sure there are no absolutes and they will likely say, “Absolutely.” William Penn, founding father of the state of Pennsylvania, said, “Right is right though all me be against it and wrong is wrong though all be for it.” When truth breaks down in society trust and confidence are lost. Standards of right and wrong are forfeited. Culture becomes cheated of an essential virtue. Truth has such significance that without it as a basic level of societal morality breaks down.

No form of government or personal relationships can survive without it. The disintegration of society is inevitable without truth as a core value. Truth is the eye of reason. Without it we are blind. A lie is a form of theft. In robbing others of the truth we take from them the capacity to make right choices. A lie has to be shrouded unlike naked truth. There are few areas of life in which the Golden Rule is more needed: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” No one likes to be the victim of a lie. Therefore, we should not make others subject to lies. Many seemingly agree with the little boy who said, “A lie is a very present help in the time of trouble.”

In giving legal testimony the witness swears “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Persons have become adept at twisting truth, fabricating facts, and finagling figures to the point purgery is more often overlooked. This oath calls for integrity. The word “integrity” comes from the root integer which means “whole.” In math an integer is a whole number. A person of integrity is a whole person given to honesty and devoid of duplicity. When the court ruled Martha Stewart lied it was saying in that instance she was acting without integrity. She got caught in the entangling web of deception.

In response to Martha’s actions the public has strong opinion. Some want her to get the maximum jail time. Her status as a celebrity makes her more culpable in their thinking. Others want her let off without jail time. This may be explained by the principle of you approve my sin and I will applaud yours. It is an indication of having done what she did and not wanting it considered wrong. In teaching us it doesn’t pay to lie Martha is paying a price greater than her significant wealth. There is a canyon of consequences between a lie and the truth. Be certain to be on the right side.

We need to keep posted on the marque of our minds the ninth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness….” (Exodus 20:16). This is expanded in Leviticus 19: 11, “You shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie to one another.” Feed your conscience on the fact, “There are six things which the Lord hates,” and one of them is “a lying tongue” (Proverbs 6:16, 17). Resolve, “I will not be a fool, for I will speak the truth…” (II Corinthians 12: 6).