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Monday, September 8, 2008

Global Warming and Polar Bears

Global warming is turning the polar bears green. It is unclear if this is happening naturally or if it is a mutation caused by the extreme temperatures in the Arctic Circle. But there is no question that polar bears are changing color.

The first green polar bear is actually housed in a Tokyo zoo. Make no mistake about it. The evidence is irrefutable. Green polar bears = Global Warming!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Virtue of Obedience

Obedience is best defined in connection with the context in which it is displayed. For example, obedience on the part of a prisoner to the rules of the prison is very different from obedience as demonstrated by a Latter-day Saint in deference to God. It is the obedience to the Word of God of which I speak and have used this post to elaborate on the symbolism and substance of the trait.

Obedience displayed by children of a Heavenly Father is the embodiment of love, appreciation and sense of humility and deference. These characteristics naturally come as a result of submitting to God and acknowledging that without Him we are nothing. Faithfully obeying commandments, scriptural teachings and the leaders that God has appointed on Earth is a way of honoring our Heavenly Father and acknowledging the infinite sacrifice that He provided for His children.

It is true that some mistake obedience for a lack of judgment, intellect or curiosity. They foolishly see their challenges to ecumenical authority as enlightened, noble or progressive. Worse yet, they mock and denigrate those members who seek to faithfully adhere to God's counsel.

The truth is that obedience is superior intellect, transcendent enlightenment and represents the epitome of wise judgment. Understanding these facts is simply a matter of recognizing what saints do when they obediently follow God. Showing obedience to God's omnipotence and infinite wisdom is to acknowledge that knowledge and truth come from one source and that source is God. Obedience naturally results from the earnest pursuit of following commandments diligently seeking to understand God's plan. Through such efforts, these Latter-day Saints grasp the depth of knowledge required to recognize that God's perception of truth is simply beyond their ken.

The life of the Savior and his eternal sacrifice is the single most powerful example of the importance of obedience. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus provided the example for obedience that is as unmistakable as it is poignant. The Savior of Mankind pleaded with our Father in the garden and sought His divine aid. The prayer recorded in the 26th chapter of Matthew provides a clear and unmistakable teaching regarding obedience:

39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and aprayed, saying, O my bFather, if it be possible, let this ccup pass from me: nevertheless not as I dwill, but as ethou fwilt.
Many will insist that obedience to God demonstrates a lack of enlightenment or is somehow intellectually weak. Still more will insist that God has given his children intellect that should be exercised in critically analyzing direction provided by ecclesiastical leaders. Latter-day Saints should be wise of such a ruse that can only lead to offense and apostasy. No good can ever come from attempting to sway other members of the church to oppose God's apostle.

With respect to the question of seeking answers to complex questions posed in our society today it is important to recognize that God has given us a great capacity for thought and analysis. Squandering such gifts is not only unwise but is contrary to the teaching in the Gospel. All men should seek individually and are entitled to receive answers to their questions but such illumination is provided only after men humble themselves and turn to God for answers.

Activities that are intended to contradict or oppose the stated goals of the first Presidency are at their inception foolish and ill fated. A better approach to take when such issues arise is to search one's feelings and determine what is at the core of the contention. As part of the analysis a man must be humble enough to allow for the possibility that he has strayed and that God's apostles and prophet would not be allowed to lead the church astray. With this understanding it is then appropriate to ask Heavenly Father for the inspiration necessary to understand His will rather than attempting to reshape Heavenly direction.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Latest in Blog Roll Technology

As if by answer to a prayer, the people at Blogspot have made a new widget that RULZ! The new feature is a welcome addition to my site and is one that I hope people will make use of. I have to admit the seemingly endless blog links that are posted on some sites are almost overwhelming and seem a bit pointless to me. Seriously, what am I going to do with those lists? It would be a full time job just to view all of the different blogs listed on some sites.

With the new feature I am thrilled to be able to add all of my favorite blogs and then display only the most recently updated blogs. Two very cool benefits occur to me initially:

1. Having these lists with a brief excerpt makes it look like I am more tech savvy than I am.
2. It looks like I have a connect with some of my favorite blogs.
3. I can avoid burning the extra calories required in visiting those different sites to see if they are updated. I'm not training for the Olympics!

To be fair, it's not the Jarvik heart but hey, I'm just a simple blogger.

Proof Texting

I read an extremely interesting post today on a blog that I frequent called Mormon Matters. It revealed something to me that I didn't even realize had been categorized. I encourage anyone who is a regular poster on the internet to read the insightful piece entitled "Proof Texting for Fun and Prophet" by Jeff Spector.

The fantastic article is well done and has important examples that illustrate the point he is making. Mr. Spector's article has caused me to do some personal reflection on how I debate on the internet and how I can improve my discourse. I have no doubt that the article will dramatically improve the manner in which I present arguments and hopefully enable me to identify when the tactic is being used to undercut a position I have taken.

Becoming a Training Professional

Throughout my life I have had a rich and varied set of experiences in the field of education/training and yet how I got to my current position comes down to a series of opportunities that rested on my ability to demonstrate skill beyond what any resume had the ability to reveal. Each opportunity to demonstrate these skills tapped into something within me is a strange alchemy of educator and entertainer. The VP that I report to at my company calls me an "Edutainer". I can't decide if this is exactly the moniker that I want to describe me but it'll do for now.

My very first opportunity to be in a teaching role was at church. I was asked to be the Sunday School teacher for 9-10 year old boys. A calling that is not to be taken lightly. Those boys are all grown up today and I wonder if they remember me. If they do I am sure they recall the odd manner in which I addressed the class, my strange demeanor and undoubtedly recall my completely bizarre methods. My experience with these boys was tiring but was also inspiring and enriching. At the time I didn't have any children of my own so I didn't relate well to the class. To be perfectly honest I was terrified of them. I thought they could see my inexperience and found me somewhat easy to cow into their demands - at least for a while.

In preparing my lessons I often found myself studying for long periods of time and cross referencing all of the scriptures that I would present. My initial lessons to the class were a chaotic mess. In order to correctly envision my stewardship of the class one must imagine a 19 year old holding various scriptures while trying to write on the board and attempting to interest the children in the depth of meaning so beautifully captured by the Apostle John. Simultaneous to the rich gospel message I was delivering were the hoots and laughter of boys standing on their chairs, banging on the door, attempting to pull scriptures from my hand and demanding the treats I had planned to give. This picture eventually devolved into my acquiescence wherein I would distribute the treats and enjoy the 75 seconds of peace soon followed by 20 minutes of hangman.

In short order I changed my tack with the group and took on a wholly new approach. Action would be met with action and I would get through the lessons. I insisted on a renewed reverence in the class and was committed to achieving it. With my newly adopted dictatorial style I quickly devolved into a kind of prison guard over a group of hardened felons that refused to participate. The new approach led to a form of chemical warfare from the boys who somehow seemed to be able to pass gas on demand. They also found hitting one another and throwing things (scriptures, bags, pens, etc.) at one another. I knew the approach had hit rock bottom when I ended one particular class with two of the students in a head lock that had been employed for nearly five minutes. My students not only hated my class but they hated me.

Exasperated and unable to find the right approach I gained inspiration from an unlikely source - the empty Relief Society room. I was at the church one evening for a Temple Recommend interview with the Bishop. There were a number of people in line before me so I went wandering around the church as I was wont to do. Upon entering the Relief Society room I was immediately overcome by the reverence that the room implied. The way in which it was decorated inspired me to use a completely different approach with my class.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Religion of Personal Relationships

Since the time my children were small I have always taught them about the gospel from the perspective of a man that grew up in darkness. I explained that my conversion to the church was my introduction to the Light and that distinction has been extremely evident for me from the day I felt the gift of the Holy Ghost. As I have raised my children in the gospel they have had the Light surround them from the moment of their individual births. This has had a number of inherent challenges that I want to address.

As children born under the Covenant they have been surrounded by people who know the truth about the restored gospel. In a sense they have always been in the Light. Because of this they have had significant challenges in developing a personal testimony in the way that I did and this type of life has its own set of very serious issues. These issues are apparent in the lives of many people who grow up surrounded by Temple worthy and faithful LDS members.

The testimonies of people that grow up as children born under the Covenant develop in a very different way. Like my wife, my children have a testimony that grows not in floods and torrents like mine did but in very small increments like drops of rain. Because of this slow growth they face very different trials that are incredibly difficult for me to relate to and extremely complex for me to help them with. My heart breaks for them as they struggle to understand the gospel and develop a testimony.

In examining the problems that my sons face I have asked them to borrow my testimony and believe that I love them. I have explained that as their father I would never lie to them or attempt to deceive them. As we have discussed their concerns I have pleaded with them to turn to God and ask Him to provide the witness that they require. Sadly, they have returned to me with the same questions and lack of understanding.

April explains that the way for members who grow up in the church to develop their testimony is to find it in many places and not simply wait for it to be revealed. The Spirit is waiting to touch each of us when we study the scriptures, when we provide service, when we pray and when we do all of the many things that God would have us do. Even in the seemingly small acts of obedience there is a testimony to be found. Following the prophet's counsel against seeing rated R movies, choosing our language carefully and surrounding ourselves with uplifting and positive influences are all essential steps in helping to build one's testimony. It is in these small acts that each drop of water comes and by looking for God in all of the many places that He waits for us that we become filled.

In this style of life the fact that the gospel is a religion of personal relationships is never more important. It is important to remember that the gospel is not only defined by God's love and plan for His people but is defined on a personal basis by his love for each individual child. As God waited patiently for me to come to Him and encouraged me throughout my tumultuous upbringing I have seen His hand in all aspects of my life. I know He loves me and I know He has intervened not only when my strength was waning but when my life was in jeopardy.

Unfortunately my sons have not had this experience. Part of the reason is that they have never had the need to cry out for help in the ways that I had to. In many ways I was lucky that I had such a desperate need for help. Perhaps the road that is always lighted is more of a challenge than the road that is entombed by darkness. I pray that my sons will find a way to discover for themselves the deep and abiding joy that comes only from a loving Heavenly Father and open their hearts to the endless joy that comes form living in His embrace.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Infantry Sword

This is the final image for the Infantry Sword. I added a little corona to the blade and my four year old said it doesn't look very good. But frankly I've never considered him much of an art critic.

Infantry Sword - Step 6

In this step I assembled the scabbard and added some dimension to the main sheath portion. The ornamental elements were placed on the scabbard in their proper place and the design is essentially complete. I can now enhance the sword in a number of ways that I will demonstrate in the next entry.

Infantry Sword - Step 5

The scabbard was simple to create because I simply used the images I had virtually all of the pieces I wanted for the scabbard already available from this image and from others. I want the scabbard to be somewhat ornate so I used the golden plates and helmet from previous images that will serve to enhance the look of the scabbard. I also needed to create the functional pieces of the scabbard. These pieces are for attaching the scabbard to the infantryman's belt and keeping it secure. A chain could be used to pass through these pieces as will be displayed in the next step. For this step I simply wanted to create all of the elements that I would need for the eventual assembly of the scabbard. All of the pieces that will be used are included below. The scabbard itself is simply the blade of the sword slightly increased in size.

Infantry Sword - Step 4

In this step I finished the sword by putting some designs on the blade. This was a simple step because I was able to draw on the lettering that I used to make the golden plates image that I created previously. I wanted the lettering to appear as if it was on a scroll inscribed on the blade so I created that first. This was all done in Adobe Illustrator and then rasterized in Photoshop for posting on the internet. The elements that I used for the sword inscription are included below. With this step complete I have only to create the scabbard to finish the design.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Infantry Sword - Step 3

In the third step of the process I have created a little dimension for the sword, added some basic coloring and added texture to increase the appeal of the image. The sword handle and blade are both made of metal so the coloring is just variations of a metallic theme. The sword is iron so I have used a silver and gray tone set to create the right feel for the metal. On the handle I used a texture design to make it more realistic. I finished out the dimensions by creating a chiseled edge for the blade and added some shadowing on the handle. I did all of this coloring and texturing in Photoshop.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Infantry Sword - Step 2

In the next step I created the remainder of the design for the sword. I placed some ornamentation on the sword handle that could also be used for pummeling with the sword making a more versatile weapon. I also will want to create the impression of a defined blade on both sides of the sword. Adding the line around where the blade is honed will make it easier for me to color the blade to create such an effect. With this step complete I can begin adding color to the image.

Infantry Sword - Step 1

The first step of the sword design involves creating the basic blade and handle of the sword. As with the armor, I use a Roman influence in creating the infantry sword. Anyone that is familiar with the basic layout of a gladius will immediately recognize the similar design. I created the sword basic design in Adobe Illustrator which was very simple and extremely easy to do. In creating the sword I decided to make it heavier toward the tip of the blade. I thought this would make the sword a more powerful weapon and increase its effectiveness.

Site Enhancement - Sword Design

The next installment in my site enhancement project shows the steps that I follow in making a sword. The Book of Mormon covers many of the battles between Nephites and Lamanites and details the struggle that often led to bloodshed between believers and non-believers. The sword is an important weapon from the book of Mormon and it symbolizes strength, courage and the will to protect the weak from the tyranny of the wicked. The sword is also an excellent device in explaining how the refining fire of the Master helps to shape and perfect his tools (i.e., believers).

The sword for my site will be an infantry sword that might have been used by any number of thousands of soldiers. The sword will be decorated with symbols that will tie it to the rest of the site and make it interesting to look at. In creating this object I will incorporate parts of the golden plates and helmet that I previously created.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Soul Survivor Update - It's Not Your Fault

Over the last week or so I have received a number of wonderful eMails from people who have read my book. I noticed a theme appearing in some of the eMails and I wanted to do a blog about because I was worried about the regret that some people were feeling. In the notes I received I saw a tendency on the part of members of the Church to hold themselves accountable for things that they had no control over. Worse yet, they beat themselves up over the issues and have apparently done so for a long period of time.

In the years that I have been a member of the church I have seen Latter Day Saints feel guilt for so many things. They feel guilt for things they do and for things they leave undone. Some even feel guilty because they don't feel guilty enough. As a convert I have witnessed my fair share of guilt from other religions and I would say that Mormons are second to none when it comes to holding themselves accountable. As a people we often take the weight of the world upon ourselves and accuse ourselves of the worst things. This entry is specifically for those people who have an overdeveloped sense of self accusations.

Many members of the church who knew someone in high school reach adulthood feeling like they should have been a better example for or should have done more to help someone else. To those Latter Day Saints I say God bless you and thank you for what you did but please let yourself off the hook. Adolescence is a difficult enough time without having to worry about whether or not you compromised the salvation of another teen. You didn't. In fact that is the entire point of my book.

We make choices and are accountable for our own decisions. Right or wrong we are accountable for what we do and not for what others do and the lack of an example doesn't let anyone off the hook. The Article of Faith that this brings to mind is "We believe that men will be apunished for their bown sins, and not for Adam’s ctransgression." I think that remembering that is important for at least allowing ourselves the freedom to feel guilty only about the actual things we do or don't do personally.

Moreover, the people that tend to accuse themselves usually have nothing to be ashamed of. The very fact that they are conscious of their behavior leads me to believe that they do the right kinds of things on a daily basis so that the world is a better place for their having lived. It is my hope and prayer that through these challenges that each person that reads my book will remember that choice is a unique and special gift that enables us to be accountable for our own actions and which gives us the chance to choose to embrace God. I hope that this serves to be a useful bit of information for any that have had similar feelings.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Seminars for Vitamin Shoppe

I had the good fortune this week to participate in Vitamin Shoppe's annual product training event. It was an exciting time and we saw more than 150 of their store managers so it was naturally very busy. For my part I was able to give seven separate presentations that focused on brands, quality and antioxidants. I had to speak quickly to get all of the information out but we had a great time. The Vitamin Shoppe people are very smart and very knowledgeable. They had interesting and insightful questions and comments.

The event took place in Orlando, Florida and we stayed at the Walt Disney Dolphin Hotel. It was a great place to stay and I only wish we had more time to look around. We were here for the week and had very little time for ourselves and could barely catch our collective breath. I did get the chance to eat at some very nice restaurants and had great food at the event.

The only down side to the event was my back. Unfortunately, my symptoms have progressed rather significantly and I am in great difficulty even when I walk more than ten or fifteen steps. I had to use a wheelchair in the airport and have used a wheel chair a little bit in the hotel because it is such a huge place. I saw one guy going around the hotel on a Segway so that should give you some idea of the size of this hotel.

The pain in my back when I am sitting still or standing for less than a couple of hours is very manageable. However, as soon as I have to start walking I find that the pain is nearly unbearable. One of the nice men that I worked with at this event told me about a couple of additional supplements that he had experience with that I had not considered. I will try those in addition to my current regimen. I have to do something because I seem to be getting worse rather than better. My doctors are stumped and keep drawing blood to determine what my problem is.

I am not looking forward to begin using a wheelchair but if I don't I am going to be virtually home bound. I have found a philosophical upside to my back problems. There are many things that could be wrong with my body and I could be much worse off. I try to remember the importance of being grateful for the things I have rather than focusing on the negative. This is a new struggle and I know that I would not have been given the burden if my Father in Heaven did not believe in me.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Golden Plates - FX

These are some samples of the different effects that can be added to the graphic. The images below are some of my favorites although there is virtually an unlimited number of effects that can be applied.

Golden Plates - Step 6

Step 6: Now that I have sealed a portion of the book it can be used in the design for my site. I am going to do one more post on this image to illustrate some of the different ways that the image can be enhanced.

Golden Plates - Step 5

Step 5: In this step I have added the text to the pages and the image could be used as is but it is missing an important element. By looking at this image there doesn't appear to be any sealed portion. So in the next step I will "seal" a portion of the plates.

Golden Plates - Step 4

Step 4: In this step I created a basic 19 character alphabet for use in the inscriptions. LDS scholars suggest that the individual characters in the reformed Egyptian that was used on the plates was a very condensed language enabling the Nephites to record vast amounts of information in a relatively small area. With the characters that I created I attempted to simply create a source from which I could create lines of "text" as is depicted in the image below. On the left is the "alphabet" and on the right is text for one of the pages.

Golden Plates - Step 3

Step 3: In this step I added a dull golden color to the plates and added the rings that bind the plates together. The plates are usually depicted with the three connecting rings so I have stayed with that theme. In this step the plates are starting to take on a very familiar look. But they also need to have writing appear on the face of the plates that are visible so I will need to create a system for the reformed Egyptian that was used to record the Nephite history.

Golden Plates - Step 2

Step 2: In the next step I simply stacked the images to create the appearance of multiple plates. It's simply a matter of copying and pasting and putting them on top of each other. I also slightly varied some of the top plates to give it a more realistic feel. Right now they don't look too much like plates but they will get there. In next step I need to color them and add the linkage.

Golden Plates - Step 1

Step 1: To begin creating the plates I simply need to create a basic shape for a single plate. It is on this shape that the entire graphic is based. Taking extra time to make sure that the shape is going to work for the entire graphic is very important. To create this shape I simply start in Illustrator and create a rectangle with rounded edges. Since the plates were frequently transported, hidden and bumped as the natural course of life more than 2500 years ago I assume that the corners were rounded rather than machine squared. My basic image is created and then modified because my graphic is going to depict the plates as seen from an angle and slightly above. The images below show the first plate and then illustrate how it was modified to create the desired effect.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


My blog is called The Sealed Portion which refers to the section of the golden plates that were sealed. This conjures up images of the plates and I want to add an image of the plates to my blog. The next image tutorial series that I will post will chronicle the steps that I use to making the plates.

Nephite Captain Glyph - Step 6

Step 6: In the final phase I added some dimension to the image and filled out certain parts. I tried to retain some of the look of a glyph because too much detail transforms it into a different kind of image. I am not opposed to creating a completely different image but I want it to at least have the drawing hearken back to the images that are associated with meso-American glyphs. I raised the edges of the image to give it more of a glyph feel as though it was etched in stone. With the image complete I can now add it to my blog design and begin work on the next element.

Nephite Captain Glyph - Step 5

Step 5: I completed the basic head design in step 4 so I can build the helmet for the Nephite Captain. Building armor is one of my favorite parts of the process because it is so fun and there are almost no limits to what can be created. The helmet design is of Roman influence. The basic design is of a Roman centurion helmet but has a few of my own features in it. With all of the main components complete I will now begin creating depth, various patterns and a number of other features that make the image interesting.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Nephite Captain Glyph - Step 4

Step 4: In step four I have begun to help the image start to take shape by adding just a little detail. I also added the rest of the Nephite Captain's hair. I am going to put a helmet on him eventually but I like to create the hair first in the event that I want to use him without a helmet in the future and because I never know exactly how much hair will show when I design the helmet.

For the Nephite Captain I created a hairstyle that is of Roman influence. This is a theme that I often use with the Nephite soldiers despite the fact that we have no idea what their hair styles looked like aside from images from glyphs and drawings from meso-America. When I create Lamanites I tend to adhere more closely to the dark hair and hair styles shown in the artwork that is available. But for the extinct Nephites I feel a little bit more free which is why I also like to add some nicely trimmed facial hair though I don't always add it. Adding these elements is quite simple using Adobe Illustrator because you have absolute control over the image. Anyone, and I mean anyone can create an image like this.

Nephite Captain Glyph - Step 3

Step 3: I am still working with the character in Adobe Illustrator and am able to add additional features. The eyes for my glyphs are done in a very simple way. The eyes of the glyphs are empty like the many of the actual glyphs that I have seen on meso-American architecture. This is perhaps the only area that I am true to the glyphs as I take artistic license with most of the rest of the design. At this stage I have also added an ear and an eyebrow.

Nephite Captain Glyph - Step 2

Step 2: The Nephite Captain I am designing will be an ornament for the blog design and I wanted to make his features a more noble so I changed the basic image by adjusting the jaw line and by modifying the nose. By making these changes I communicate the nobility and courage through some of his features. Examine for just a moment how I changed the looks and how those small changes influence the basic appearance of the Nephite Captain. The image on the left is the basic drawing I did first and the image on the right reflects the modifications that I made.

Nephite Captain Glyph - Step 1

When I create images I often start with a sketch that I do freehand and scan into the computer so that I can create a vector image of the image. I have moved away from doing much freehand as a prelude to creating electronic images even though I do still sketch. I have replaced the sketch and scan process with a Bamboo pad which enables me to draw directly on screen. I do my drawings in Adobe Photoshop and copy them into Adobe Illustrator to create the vector images.

Step 1: Because I have drawn dozens of these faces in the past I can skip the sketch step and go right to creating the image as a vector image in Adobe Illustrator. In less than five minutes I create a simple outline of what the face will look like. It may be of interest that I will exaggerate various features such as the jaw, neck and the nose to help reflect the character of the person that I am drawing.

It is worth noting that this basic image needs some additional changes because I am designing a Nephite Captain and I don't feel like this basic image will work for him. Nevertheless it is a good starting point and gives me the design elements I need to begin with.

Site Enhancement

I am doing some redesign for my blog in order to make it more appealing and more suited to the title. As part of the design enhancement I am going to create a series of postings about the process that I follow in creating images. I will discuss the software, thought process and other relevant information that is involved in the creation of these images. Some of the images that I have planned for the site are:

Nephite Captain
Golden Plates

The first element that I am going to add to my site is a glyph of a Nephite Captain from the Book of Mormon and I will blog the process.

A Fine Line...No More

When an author is involved in promoting his book there is a significant amount of leg work that must be done. I mentioned in a previous post how involved this is but what I failed to mention was that it is an enlightening experience as well. In fact, as a function of this process I had an experience yesterday that effectively changed my public position in a very stark way. For years I have attempted to walk a fine line between secular and spiritual life as I have worked to avoid offending people. In my work I deal with a significant number of people who not only don't approve of my faith but go the extra mile to assure that I know about it. Consequently I have tried to avoid making my faith the focal point of important discussions about spirituality and about any of my professional endeavors. Yesterday I found that a change was in order.

To be clear, I have never felt ashamed of being Mormon - quite the contrary. I have included my faith in a central way in my book and it is the core of my spiritual life and informs my temporal life in limitless ways. But I behaved in a way that held back in order to avoid confusing important issues and in an attempt to keep specific doctrines out of the fore in lieu of more general themes. That was up until the day before yesterday. Yesterday, I came to understand that I had to make a choice. If I am to be completely forthright about who I am I must invariably discuss my faith, its guiding effect on my life and how any success that I have enjoyed in my life has been the result of my adopted faith and the covenants I have made with my Heavenly Father.

The turning point was simple enough. In fact, the person who was the catalyst had no way of knowing any of the points but they were instrumental nevertheless. The change resulted from an email that I received from someone who was not critical of my book but was critical of my faith. Among other things she said was this:
"I can’t help but wonder -- I’ve studied much about Mormonism, and cannot see how one who is inside of it, even to writing a book about it, cannot see clearly the holes and fallacies in it that lead to despair.......?"
I must admit that I was taken aback and could not for the life of me figure out what would have prompted such a note.

One thing that has always been a source of confusion for me is the condescending nature of many people who oppose the teachings of the LDS church. They often seek to lecture me on the tenets of the faith as if I am completely unaware. I find it strange to be "instructed" by people who often have a minimal understanding of the church and its history but feel as though they are scholars on a subject upon which my life is built. I don't know how often this happens to other members but it is fairly common for me. I must give the impression that I don't know anything about the church. Alas, I digress.

The email that I received helped to clarify something that has always troubled me and I realized that my faith is and will always be the defining descriptor of my life and work. LDS author, LDS researcher, LDS father are all important descriptors of me and I can think of no better way to be known. With the realization that I cannot and should not attempt to walk the line between secular reputation and religious reputation I have opted for a public life that embraces being Mormon as publicly as I embrace any of my other roles. I must also say that with this realization has come a bit of embarrassment. Not for what I have done but for what I have left undone. In walking the line that I have for these many years it could have given some the impression that I am reluctant to speak about my faith or that I somehow don't ascribe to it the way that I should. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To make my new stance very clear I gave considerable thought to how I would have responded to an email like the one I received versus how I actually did respond given my improved stance regarding my faith. The recipient of my email did not foresee the way I would respond but it heartened me to stand firmly in the place where I belong. My response included the following text:
I was not raised in the LDS church but came to it after years of searching for the true gospel. Having been outside of the church for my formative years and living as I did amid the chaos that surrounded me with the drugs, violence and the sex trade I sought for guidance and help on an almost continual basis.

I know the distinct difference that being a member of the LDS church has had on my life, the life of my sweet wife and on the lives of our four sons. But seeing the fruits of a tree is only part of the picture. When I was converted, I was converted by the power of the Holy Ghost. The truth of the gospel was made manifest to my heart not merely by understanding the atonement of Christ in a factual manner but by feeling the amazing gift that He so willingly offers.

I first grasped the way that the Holy Ghost teaches spirit to spirit by studying the Bible for many years prior to knowing anything about Mormons. In fact, when I first met with the missionaries I had hoped to dissuade them from continuing to follow the Mormon faith. Somewhere during the meeting I had what might be described as an experience somewhat like Saul on the road to Damascus. After the LDS missionaries explained the basics of the gospel, I turned to God for answers. As I sought out His guidance I felt a powerful sensation and an undeniable truth that Jesus is the Christ, that He lives and that the Book of Mormon was in fact “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” I knew then that what I was learning was not just correct but essential and I could not deny it. To deny the powerful sensation that God had given me after following the admonition in James 1:5 would be to deny the Master himself.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Promoting My Book

It may sound strange but I think promoting my book may be more involved than writing it. The promotion that I have going right now is the "Signed Copy Giveway." I have a contest posted on my website for people to submit entries in order to win a signed copy of Soul Survivor. I am planning to have it go through mid June but that depends on whether I get anyone to enter the contest. Other steps that I have taken to promote my book are:
  • Asked friends and friends of friends to promote the book on their blog by promoting the contest
  • Created a MySpace page and am trying to get friends
  • Created different graphics that can be used to post on various websites
  • Sent my book to a few news outlets and sent emails to a number of radio stations and TV stations in hopes of getting a story
I anticipate that my book will show up on at some point in June and perhaps that will help but I'm not going to rely on osmosis to get the word out. Some of the books have sold already but I need to increase awareness in a more significant way.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Soul Survivor

At long last my book is ready. Soul Survivor has been a labor of love for me for a number of years and the process of making it ready for print has been both painful and cathartic. My book is now available and I have chosen to make it available through the publisher Lulu. There is both a print version and an electronic version available for download. The summary of the book can be viewed from the Lulu site by following this link Soul Survivor on Lulu.

The front cover of the book is pictured below:

Latest News and Coming Events

I was recently asked to provide a series of presentations to various audiences in Florida during the Vitamin Shoppe seminar in June. I am thrilled about this opportunity because it looks like we will be focusing on vitamins for the presentation. In the nutrition world vitamins are about the least "sexy" subject to present but I am hopeful that I add some zazz to the presentation that will make it interesting. Nutraceutical is one of the sponsors for the event and will have a large booth and a private room for my presentation. I have worked with many of the a large retailers such as Vitamin Cottage, Whole Foods, Henry's and Boney's but I have never worked with Vitamin Cottage on this level before and I am grateful for the chance.

Last week I conducted a training seminar for two days with new sales people for Nutraceutical. I was using a brand new training format that I just designed for the event and I felt that it worked out very well. It is a nice looking presentation and takes advantage of the way adults learn and provides a number of take aways for the participants. The new sales people were all very sharp and I learned quite a bit from them even while conducting the training.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Herb Seminars at Vitamin Cottage

It was a productive week last week because I had the opportunity to conduct herb presentations for the great people that work at Vitamin Cottage. They were very kind to me and made me feel welcome. We discussed a variety of different herbal subjects and core concepts. We also had the chance to discuss some very effective herbs and how they are frequently used.

Some of the most fun I had was conducting the organoleptic tests to show how difficult it is to tell herbs from one another when they are in their ground form. This was fun and useful because it gave us the chance to taste herbs and talk about what tests are used to identify herbs. One of the most important tests that we discussed was Thin Layer Chromatography and how it is applied.

I had a great time and the people that work at Vitamin Cottage are some of the most well informed and knowledgable people I have done presentations for. I look forward to having another chance to present subjects to them in the future. For an outline of the materials covered please drop me an email.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Going to the Doctor Can Be a Pain in the BACK

Some of you may know that I have a herniated disk and have tried a number of different therapies to reduce the pain associated with it. On the recommendation of my doctor I went to a back specialist to discuss another option. I was appalled at my interaction with him.

During the meeting with the doctor I was my usual cordial self. I was friendly and outgoing and did my best to put him at ease. I know a little bit of James goes a long way so I was trying to ease him into the situation.

While he was busying himself with my records and familiarizing himself with my history he asked several questions. He had the personality of a dead house plant but no matter. I wasn't there for his personality but for his expertise. It was when he actually started to speak to me that I learned how lacking in genuine interpersonal skills that he was.

I have been spoken down to many times in my life as have most of us. Generally speaking the people that speak down to me aren't discussing such an important issue as my back. Nor am I paying these people to do something important that will affect the quality of my life. His condescending tone and apathetic approach to my existence prevented me from allowing him to treat me.

After he made his recommendations, which actually seemed like a good strategy, I told him that I didn't think we were connecting. I went on to say that I thought his approach was good but that the relationship wasn't working between us. His expression during my statement did not change. It was as if I had asked him what time it was. His reaction surprised me. He said "Oh. OK." He then stood up and walked out of the room.

One of the fundamental precepts that I live by is the importance of treating people with dignity and respect. All people. I struggle to understand how any care giver could be so disrespectful as that man was and think he would be able to help his patients heal. I am sad that he seemed so completely unmoved by my comments but then again, perhaps he didn't want me for a patient after all.

I am not posting his name because I don't want to do the man any harm. However, if you are planning to see a back doctor in Ogden, UT you will need to be careful.

Good health to you all.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Stress Presentation Overview

What is Stress?
Stress is the reaction to any stimulus that upsets the normal function of the body and/or mind. The key point is to acknowledge that stress is the reaction that a person has to an event rather than the event itself.

Segerstrom and Miller 2004
Conducted an important analysis of stress research over the last 30 years.
Meta-Analysis of 293 studies and 18,941 subjects

Stress Categories
Internal Conditions
External Circumstances
Internal Imbalances

The Stress Reaction
Physiological reactions to stressors
Important chemical functions
Supplements used to help manage stress

What Triggers Your Stress Response?
Exercise/Intense physical labor
Environmental pollution
Emotional stress
Psychosocial Stress
Crisis of values, meaning and purpose
Misaligned core beliefs

How Do You React to the Stressor?
Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Cortex (HPA) axis

Cardiovascular/Respiratory Reaction
Address cell, brain, immune, digestive issues
Reduce stressors – stress hormones

Cellular Reaction/Glucose-Lipids
Fuel reserves are tapped
Serum glucose
Serum fatty acids
Inhibition of cell sensitivityto insulin:
Increased serum glucose
Increase serum lipids

Brain Reaction
Increased mental alertness
Improved reaction time
Nerve tissue degradation
Increase in free radicals
Exhaustion of important nutrients

Immune Reaction
Natural resistance enhanced
Counters allergies and inflammation
Thymus impact
Cellular and Humoral responses
Production of antibodies and T-lymphocytes
Specific attacks that arerequired to kill off pathogens are slowed
Susceptibility to allergies & infections

Digestive Reaction
Inhibits digestion
Inhibits gut motility and secretion
Increases the metabolic rate – nutrient depletion
Relaxed urinary bladder
Stomach/Pancreas tug of war
Improper breakdownof bulk food materials
Poor digestion and assimilationof nutrients

Free Radicals/Oxidative Stress
Unstable molecules

The Anti Stress Supplements
Picking a formula
Closely review the formula
Reviewing the serving sizes
Assessing the quality of company

Identify the key sources of your stress
Take action to reduce the impact of the stressors
Surrounding yourself with supportive people
Determine the serving size you need in a stress formula
Identify the best company you can buy from
Create a plan to deal with the stress and stick to it

Friday, March 7, 2008

Feedback on "The Anatomy of Stress"

I received such a kind and wonderful note from Lainy Dietrick after completing a series of training presentations at the Good Earth chain in Utah that I wanted to include it on my blog.

"To whom it may concern:

Regarding training and seminars that James did for our five Good Earth stores.

He did and excellent job of explaining the subject not only giving information but doing it in a very entertaining way, that both staff and customers enjoyed very much. He was extremely well prepared and picked a good subject. He did a good job of educating and not coming across like a salesmen. He really went the extra mile. The weather was very bad and made it almost impossible to get to the American Fork store. But he persevered and did a wonderful presentation for the one customer that made it. I almost didn't make it home that day so I know how bad it was. No matter if we had a few customers or many he was gracious and made every attendee feel special in all of our stores. ... Thanks for your continuing support.

Lainy Dietrick
Good Earth"

Stress Presentation Frequently Asked Questions

There were a number of questions that came up as a result of having a short amount of time to devote to questions following the presentation entitled "The Anatomy of Stress". In this area of the site I have provided a set of the Frequently Asked Questions. I will add to it as I think of additional questions that came up.

The model on this screen is the Stress Continuum. Click on it to see a larger image of it.

Q: How long should the stress reaction last?
The duration of the stress reaction is a function of the type of stressor that is involved. For example, the stress caused by getting a speeding ticket is going to last significantly less time than the stress caused by the death of a loved one. The key is to limit the impact of stress and to avoid chronic stress. The effects of chronic stress cause the long term negative effects described in the presentation. Therefore, it is important to take the steps that are essential in limiting the stress reaction such as meditation, counseling, behavioral changes and surrounding yourself with people that are going to be supportive and helpful.

Q: Should I take a stress formula in addition to my multi-vitamin?
It depends on the potency of both the stress formula and the multi-vitamin. In many cases the B vitamins that are included in stress formulas are beneficial and necessary for restoring the nutrients that are exhausted by chronic stress. However, it is important to avoid taking excess amounts of any nutrient to avoid a potentially toxic level and to avoid wasting money. If you feel unsure about how much of any nutrient is safe then you should speak with a qualified practitioner. Never guess with something as important as your health and never take a lot of a nutrient when a little will do.

Q: I have pain in my abdomen. If I take these supplements will this pain go away?
A: If you have pain in any part of your body then something is wrong. The pain is the body's mechanism of telling you that there is a problem. If you have experienced stress for long enough to have developed pain in your abdomen then it is unlikely that a supplement is going to be sufficient to help you. Be sure to err on the side of caution and see a nutritionally oriented practitioner so that you can get the help you need. Remember, supplements are designed to work as a way to supplement a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle. They are not designed nor do they function as a substitute for medical care. Once you have identified the cause of the pain, you can and should use supplements as part of the strategy for recovering and maintaining your health.

Q: I have stress from an experience that happened a long time ago. Will the supplements in your presentation help with that?
A: No. Stress that continues to cause problems years after the event are unlikely to respond to a supplement regimen. For example, if the stressor that happened years ago was related to emotional, physical or sexual abuse can cause continued stress that must be addressed with the help of a qualified counselor. Investing the time and money in getting issues like this resolved will pay off in the future and give you a chance to enjoy years of happier and healthier life.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Stress Seminars in Colorado

Wow! What a wonderful week. We spent this week in Colorado conducting more presentations on the Anatomy of Stress. Our host was Vitamin Cottage. They are a wonderful group of people and made me feel very welcome. Tonight was the largest audience at 50+ people in attendance. I was fortunate to spend some additional time after each presentation interacting with attendees and answering questions. I was inspired and impressed by their stories and by the active participation in managing their own health. I always learn a lot from the participants and hope that they find benefit in the information I provide. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to interact with such wonderful people.

There is a significant amount of useful information about stress management and the physiological effects of chronic stress in the work of Seegerstrom and Miller. These researchers did yeomans work on the subject and I am greatly indebted to them for conducting their work.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Stress Seminars in Utah

I had the good fortune of conducting four seminars in Utah last week to various groups. The opportunity was exciting and created its own amount of stress for me but in a good way. Looking back on the week I realize that there is a considerable amount of need for this particular presentation and am excited to have two other engagements booked for March in Colorado on the same subject.

The good people at The Good Earth Stores in Utah were very helpful and did a wonderful job in promoting the effort. Lainy Dietrich was superb and very insightful. Her efforts were crucial in making the presentations successful. Lainy also allowed me to conduct herb presentations for her staff in the mornings of the days I did the stress presentation. I am going to post a summary of the presentation if I can get to it.