Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thoughts on Tolerance

These are some excellent thoughts about tolerance written and shared by my friend Isaac Livingston.  Enjoy.

In today's world, there is a huge misunderstanding of what both tolerance and intolerance really are. Disagreeing with something or someone is NOT intolerance. People have agency to make decisions for themselves, and the point at which it becomes intolerance is when you attempt to keep people from having their r
ight to a certain belief or opinion.

It is judgmental and narrow-minded to say, "If people disagree with me, or with this or that, then they are prideful, rebellious, discriminatory, bigoted, etc." You can insert pretty much any common stereotype into this example. The point is that if you simply condemn others out of hand for not believing as you, and call them intolerant, then it's actually YOU who is really being intolerant.

As with all other things, Jesus Christ is the perfect example. Let me first be clear that Christ did not tolerate sin. The scriptures are pretty clear on that. This doesn't make Him intolerant. He allowed and still allows people to choose paths that are contrary to what He and His disciples taught. See the difference? We also know from scripture that the Savior was tolerant of people who, in their weakness, accepted sin as part of their lives. Remember the story of the woman taken in adultery? The Savior did not condemn her for her sin, but DID exhort her to go and sin no more. She had violated one of His commandments, yes, but He also made it very clear to the Pharisees, and to all of us, that only He had the right to judge her for her actions: 'He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.'

I now turn to James E. Talmage for a great explanation on the subject of tolerance versus intolerance:

"In the state of divided opinion then existing among the people concerning Jesus, it was fair to say that all who were not opposed to Him were at least tentatively on His side. On other occasions He asserted that those who were not with Him were against Him.

Even John, traditionally known as the Apostle of Love, was intolerant and resentful toward those who followed not his path, and more than once had to be rebuked by his Master. And again, while traveling with their Lord through Samaria, the apostles James and John were incensed at the Samaritans' lack of respect toward the Master, and craved permission to call fire from heaven to consume the unbelievers; but their revengeful desire was promptly rebuked by the Lord, who said: 'Ye know not what manner of Spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives but to save them.'

Intolerance is Unscriptural---The teachings of our Lord breathe the Spirit of forbearance and love even to enemies. He tolerated, though He could not approve, the practices of the heathen in their idolatry, the Samaritans with their degenerate customs of worship, the luxury-loving Sadducees, and the law-bound Pharisees. Hatred was not countenanced even toward foes. His instructions were: 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.' The Twelve were commanded to salute with their blessing every house at which they applied for hospitality. In the Parable of the Tares, Christ taught the same lesson of forbearance; the hasty servants wanted to pluck out the weeds straightway, but were forbidden lest they root up the wheat also, and were assured that a separation would be effected in the time of harvest.

In spite of the prevailing Spirit of toleration and love pervading the teachings of the Savior and the apostles, attempts have been made to draw from the scriptures justification for intolerance and persecution. Paul leaves us not in doubt as to the character of the Gospel he so forcefully defended, as his later words show: 'But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.' Let it be remembered that vengeance and recompense belong to the Lord."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Thoughts from General Conference

Since we just had General Conference last week, I thought I would share some of my favorite moments with you.  The personal inspiration that my wife and I received from this General Conference is that just as the bar was raised for missionary service in 2002, the bar is being raised for parents today.  Enjoy these quotes that I found inspiring.

“When it comes to living the gospel, we should not be like the boy who dipped his toe in the water and then claimed he went swimming. As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we are capable of so much more. For that, good intentions are not enough. We must do. Even more important, we must become what Heavenly Father wants us to be…

“The more we devote ourselves to the pursuit of holiness and happiness, the less likely we will be on a path to regrets. The more we rely on the Savior’s grace, the more we will feel that we are on the track our Father in Heaven has intended for us.”
– President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“It is not enough to avoid evil; we must ‘suffer his cross’ (Jacob 1:8) and ‘be anxiously engaged,’ (D&C 58:27) helping others to conversion. With compassion and love we embrace the prodigal (Luke 15:11-32), answer the cries of orphans in hysteria, the pleas of those in darkness and despair (Joseph Smith History 1:15-16), and the distress calls of family in need. ‘Satan need not get everyone to be like Cain or Judas … ,’ said Elder Neal A. Maxwell. ‘He needs only to get able men … to see themselves as sophisticated neutrals.’”
– Elder Robert C. Gay

“Every person is different and has a different contribution to make. No one is destined to fail. As you seek revelation to see gifts God sees in those you lead in the priesthood—particularly the young—you will be blessed to lift their sights to the service they can perform. With your guidance, those you lead will be able to see, want, and believe they can achieve their full potential for service in God’s kingdom.

“God knows our gifts. My challenge to you and to me is to pray to know the gifts we have been given, to know how to develop them, and to recognize the opportunities to serve others that God provides us. But most of all, I pray that you will be inspired to help others discover their special gifts from God to serve.”
– President Henry B. Eyring

“I never cease to be amazed by how the Lord can motivate and direct the length and breadth of His kingdom and yet have time to provide inspiration concerning one individual… The fact that He can, that He does, is a testimony to me… the Lord is in all of our lives. He loves us. He wants to bless us. He wants us to seek His help. As He guides us and directs us and as He hears and answers our prayers, we will find the happiness here and now that He desires for us.”
– President Thomas S. Monson

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Ten Coolest Things I've Seen from the Air

Since I became a road warrior over a year ago, I've taken over 120 flights. For some road warriors, flying is a necessary evil. I don't look at flying that way. Although I feel that landing safely is the best part, I do love to fly.

Part of the reason why I enjoy flying so much is because I get to see this beautiful world from a different angle. The following list are the most amazing things I've seen from the air.

10.  Chicago

Flying into Chicago with a view of downtown is a cool experience, and one I had on only my third flight way back in 2001.  Unfortunately, this happens so frequently, it tends to lose some of it's appeal.

9.  The Stars

The stars aren't hard to see when flying at night, so this isn't exactly a rare event, but there's something about being higher up than Mount Everest when viewing the stars that makes this special.

The flashing lights from the wingtips can however create enough light pollution to block out some of the view.

8. Sunrises and Sunsets

The amazing colors of a sunrise and sunset are somehow magnified when you're in the air.  On one flight, I saw both a sunset and sunrise on the same side of the aircraft.  That was cool.

7. Dams

I've always been fascinated by man made engineering marvels, and none are easier to spot from the sky than dams.  Probably the most impressive that I've seen from above is Navajo Dam in New Mexico.

6. The Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon

One of the things I love about flying out west is being able to see the Rocky Mountains.  They are simply beautiful.  On one trip I even flew over the Grand Canyon.

Nothing helps to understand the sheer magnitude of the Grand Canyon like flying the entire length of it at 450+ miles per hour and watching it go by for a full 30 minutes.

5. Greenland

Last September I was taking the long flight from London to Chicago and noticed we would be flying over Greenland.

As we approached Greenland, I started taking picture after picture.  Along the coast there were mountains and glaciers that were flowing into the ocean.  There was also snow.  Lots and lots of snow.

After passing the coastline, I had to close the window because the snow was too bright.  At one point in the middle of Greenland, I opened the window just to see what there was in the middle.  All I could see in all directions was pristine white snow.  It was the most deserted place on land I've ever seen.

4.  Passing Airplanes

If you fly as much as I do, you will notice another airplane in the sky at some point in time.  This is common as you approach very busy airports and you join the crowd of aircraft in a holding pattern waiting for their turn to land.

Although this is common near landing, I have found it to be rather rare to see another aircraft at a relatively close altitude, because when both planes are flying at about 500 mph you get very little time to see the other plane.

You have roughly two seconds to see the other plane zip by and I feel very fortunate to have looked out my window at just the right moment each time I witness it. Truly incredible.

3. Thunder Storms From Above

There are few sights from an airplane that beat a thunderstorm.  I've been fortunate to fly over two.  Each time the clouds are brilliantly lit as the lightning races through them.

The best time to view a thundering cloud is when it's dark outside.  On one such occasion, I saw a lightning storm as I flew over the rocky mountains.  What an incredible sight.

2. London.

I've had the good fortune to fly to London multiple times over the past year.  The flight pattern as you approach Heathrow takes you right over some of the most famous landmarks in the world.

From above I've seen Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Canary Wharf, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Hampton Court Palace.

Also, around London, in the English countryside there are numerous grand estates and country manors, which can be just as amazing as the famous landmarks.

1. The Reflection of the Moon in the Florida Everglades

Recently I flew into Miami from Mexico City. I was looking out my window at the beautiful western coast of Florida as the sun was setting. My heart was full of gratitude for this beautiful world when something caught my eye.

There was a well lit spot on the ground following our plane. After a bit of head scratching, I realized it was the moon's reflection in the water of the Florida everglades.  I tilted my head upward and sure enough there was the moon.

It's hard to express what delight I felt for seeing the beauty of the everglades in such a unique way.  I was impressed and awe struck.

The feeling that I had that night is the one I hope to have every time I fly when I open my window and look out at this amazing planet.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Google Maps - My Odd Hobby

I started making my own maps with Google Maps about 9 months ago.  My first map was used to keep track of sights I wanted to see while I was in Spain for two months.  It worked really well, so when I thought about keeping track of all the places I've worked in my life, I turned to Google Maps.

I have had a map addiction since I was a young kid.  When my family moved to rural Ohio when I was in 4th grade, I remember taking an Ohio road map with me on the school bus marking the roads we were travelling so I knew how I was getting to school.  I remember staring at my family's Atlas of the world for hours on end.  I also remember making maps of fictitious places such as those you see in the beginning of fantasy novels.  Honestly, this is part of reason why I spent an entire summer reading fantasy novels and I remember that before picking up a new novel, I would scrutinize the map.  In my mind, a good story must have a good map.

So what is a good map?  My friend Dan Miller got me into tracking all of the counties I've visited in the US, but this felt somewhat misleading.  Just because I've touched a county (or parish or borough) doesn't mean that I've actually visited the county.  At least in my mind it was misleading.  However, keeping track of the roads that you've been on would better reflect where you've actually spent time.  The more roads highlighted, the better you know the area.  So back in December, I started a new map on Google Maps that shows all of the roads I've been on.

This is quite an undertaking and I've learned a ton about Google Maps since starting this.  Here are some things I've learned:

Google Maps limits the number of items displayed at once to 18-20.  Then it starts a second page and so on.  This is tough when trying to see what roads have already been marked.  Fortunately, all maps created with Google Maps can be downloaded to Google Earth where everything will be displayed at once (mostly).  It is somewhat inconvenient to be switching between Chrome and Google Earth to see what still needs to be marked in a region, but it's better than guessing.

Google Maps recently launched a Maps GL, which is supposed to improve the map experience.  However, I haven't been able to get Maps GL to work with the road map I've been creating, so I use standard maps and even that has some glitches.  However, overall It works pretty well.  The glitches usually come in the form of a mis-rendered map (lines look odd or don't show at all) and poor mouse navigation (I click on one spot and it thinks I'm clicking a different spot).  When this happens, I generally refresh the screen and everything is fixed, but it is a hassle to then reopen the map and relocate where I was marking.

Google Earth has a limit to how many items it will show in a single map, so once I reached that limit all the other roads I marked didn't show up.  I just started a second map and downloaded that to Google Earth as well.

Here's a list of the maps I've created, their meaning, and links to the map.

Roads Travelled:  A list of roads and rails and trails travelled.  highlighted by primary method of travel.  Blue is by car, Green is by foot, Red is by above ground train, Black is by subway (just to show the links from one place to another).  Map 1:  Google Maps, Google Earth (better)  Map 2:  Google Maps, Google Earth

Virtual Résumé: A list of all the locations I've worked.  This was one of my first maps.  Map:  Google Maps, Google Earth

Countries I've been to:  A shaded map of the countries I've been to.  Google Maps, Google Earth

Air Travel Map:  A direct line from airport to airport of all flights I have ever made (as far as I can remember).  Google Maps, Google Earth

My first tourist map:  This was for a single day trip around part of Spain.  This came in very handy.  Look at this map in Google Earth and download my Panoramio photos link to see some of the pictures I took on this trip.  Google Maps, Google Earth, Panoramio photos

Let me know your thoughts.  My map tracking is somewhat of an odd hobby.  Let me know what your odd hobby is.