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  1. I was talking about its use in general for difficult situations, not specifically about its misuse for sugar-coating insults. Sometimes you may be describing a person with cold, unflattering facts that leave your listener wondering what you think about the person. A quick "bless his/her heart" can be very useful for emphasizing your pity or sympathy for the person. I don't think it's okay to insult anyone, even if they insult you first.
  2. Coincidentally, I just listened to a podcast today of a faithful LDS member who was married in the temple, got divorced, and then decided to marry a 2nd wife. He applied for a cancellation of sealing so he could marry the 2nd wife in the temple. Both he and his first wife had to write letters to the Church (perhaps even to the First Presidency?). No letter was required from the 2nd wife. His request was denied. He was devastated and began calling everyone in sight. He said he pestered one Seventy so much that he was told not to call again. Officials in his stake quietly suggested that he get married in a civil ceremony and re-apply to the Church after a year. Obviously, this podcast only gives a tiny subset of one side of a hideously complex story, so I simply listened without forming any opinions of anything. But the husband's comments led me to think that the Church moves very slowly on these matters.
  3. The best explanation of 666 I have heard: "Emperor Nero" (Latin: Nero Caesar) can be expressed in two ways in Hebrew: NRWN QSR or NRW QSR. Recall that written Hebrew uses consonants only, so that's why we have forms like NRW and QSR with no vowels. The Latin word Caesar was pronounced with a hard C, which is why Hebrew uses a Q. It's also the origin of "Kaiser" in German. Anyway, if you add up the two Hebrew forms for Nero Caesar, you get 666 for the first form and 616 for the second. And, interestingly, some of the oldest manuscripts of Revelation say 616 instead of 666. I'm not a scholar in ancient languages. I'm just repeating something interesting that I heard. As for snakes, sun gods, eclipses, and occluded planets: I would let the missionaries explain the Plan of Salvation first. It's more important.
  4. Update: A few days have passed since I asked the original question. Thanks to everyone to replied. The story took an interesting turn today. I went to a wedding this afternoon. The couple had met on an Oct 31st some years ago, and they wanted their wedding to be on Oct 31st, even though it was Halloween. It was a very religious Protestant service and it was magnificent. At the end, the minister noted that today was Halloween and said that on this day "the veil between the living and the dead is thin" and that "the presence of those who have gone before us is with us right now and I can feel their joy at the marriage of --- and ---." So perhaps the LDS thinking about this veil isn't so scary and unfamiliar after all. ZG
  5. I once knew a software engineer who kept his checkbook in octal to maintain fluency in that number system. He was an assembly-language programmer on some ancient mainframe system. It worked okay until he discovered that his wife was writing checks in decimal.
  6. With one exception, all the deaths among my relatives and friends have been very sudden. My stepfather was perfectly fine one day but rose to his feet and started to say, "I have a headache." He died between the syllables "head" and "ache." (For the final 10 years of his life, his entire diet had consisted of fried chicken, Coke, and ice cream. They didn't even bother with an autopsy.) The exception was a very close friend of mine who died at age 42 of an incurable disease that slowly overtook him. His mom flew out toward the end. At the hospital, she invited all his friends and family to help decide whether or not it was time to let him go. The doctor explained that "death comes as a friend to many people," which gave us the courage to pull the plug. Well, under state law here you can't actually pull the plug on life support. You must dial it way down instead. My friend was gone in 10 minutes. I went home and slept, and when I woke up I found myself seeing everything in black and white. All the color had drained out of my world. I wandered around the neighborhood and felt real anger at children playing. How could anyone play at a time like this? But my grief slowly disappeared, my anger dissolved, I began seeing colors again, and I am comforted now with the memories of my friend's many acts of kindness to me. Reminds me of the atheist's funeral ("all dressed up and no place to go"). But I think we all do have a place to go.
  7. I am a convert. While I was an investigator, some people at church told me they were fasting so that I would make the right decision and get baptized. It made me extremely uncomfortable and actually delayed my baptism by many months. If the bishopric wants to fast so that young people in the ward will make wise decisions as they choose colleges, work, or missions, I think that would be lovely. But making a fast specific to one person and to one course of action strikes me as improper. If a member of the bishopric had said this to me, I would have smiled and replied, "Thank you so much for your suggestion. I'll give it all the attention it deserves."
  8. Yes, I am from Texas and have heard that often. It's very useful. I had a good friend who used the phrase "Can I tell you in a caring and sharing way...?" as a preface to some of the deadliest insults I've ever heard. E.g., "Can I tell you in a caring and sharing way that you are the sloppiest eater I've ever seen and that nobody wants to sit next to you in a restaurant and listen to your slurps and watch food dribbling down your chin and throat?"
  9. Some fun quotations I found about gossip: "If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me." (Alice Roosevelt Longworth) "I never gossip. I observe. And then relay my observations to practically everyone." (Gail Carriger) "It’s not technically gossip if you start your sentence with 'I'm really concerned about ___' (fill in the name of the person you’re not gossiping about)." (Brian P. Cleary) "Be warned: A person content to sit with you and criticize others will speak critically of you out of earshot." (Richelle E. Goodrich)
  10. I find that most people are irrational about the use of Spanish in the United States. When I ask my very liberal friends whether English should be the official language of the U.S., they all snarl that official languages are inherently racist and intrinsically evil and that I must be a bigot for even discussing such a wicked idea. But when I ask them whether English and Spanish should be co-official languages in the U.S., they smile warmly and tell me it's a really wonderful idea. Puerto Rico declared Spanish its only official language in 1991. But my understanding is that two years later English was added as a co-official language. Here in San Francisco the ballots are trilingual: English, Spanish, and Chinese.
  11. I am going to a wedding on Halloween. The couple met on a Halloween several years ago, so October 31st has always resonated lovingly for them. At first I thought the whole wedding would have a Halloween motif. I imagined something like a wedding on the Munsters or the Addams Family with cobwebs, ghosts, and bats circling overhead in the mist. But no... it's just a regular wedding. *yawn*
  12. Well... let me tell you a rather horrible story about anonymous gossip that happened to me while I was in the military. Most of the men in my squadron were single, but a few had wives and lived off-base. One morning one of my single friends (let's call him "S") boasted that the night before he had gone out and done some very sinful things that I could not possibly repeat on this site. He was careful not to mention the names of other people who were with him, but he gleefully gave us all other details of his adventure. This was good, high-grade, industrial-strength gossip, which I assumed was true and could be repeated safely because no names were involved. That afternoon I bumped into the wife of another friend (let's call him "M") and repeated, with much snickering, the highlights of the gossip that I had heard from S. It turns out that M was in the group of S's friends from the previous night, and M's wife was able to piece together the whole story from some stray minor facts that I repeated. Thirty-five years have passed since that blunder, and I am still sorrowful over repeating this gossip. I'm sure my carelessness caused a lot of friction in that marriage. Yes, you argue, the marriage itself must have wobbled because of the husband's unfaithfulness, but it's not right for me to make it wobble more. Ever since then, I've pretended that my entire life and all my conversations will be publicly available on DVD form in the celestial kingdom. And without a laugh track, just the raw dialogues. It's done wonders for restraining my gossiping tongue. Read James 3 if you need further inspiration.
  13. Am starting a new thread from the ruins of an older thread about photocopiers that veered way off topic. It's about a book called A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life by Clark L. and Kathryn H. Kidd. It would be hard to exaggerate how useful and wonderful this book is. But there was one section that troubles me. Here it is (p. 259): "There is no greater feeling than finding an ancestor's name through genealogical research, then taking that name to the temple and performing the ordinances on his behalf. Many times, people who attend the temple report that they feel the presence of the person who is being served. The veil between the living the dead is thin in the temple, and the person whose work is being done often manages to convey a sense of gratitude to the person who is serving as proxy. The work done in temples is of great importance to those who have gone before us, and many Church members will tell you of great spiritual experiences they have had while performing genealogy and temple work." If you grew up in the Church, you may be nodding agreeably as you read this. But I did not grow up in the Church, and this passage strikes me as scary and unfamiliar. I wouldn't go as far as using words like "creepy" or "séance," but the passage feels to me like a tiny first step in that direction. It's enough to make me uncomfortable with the whole idea of temple work. Maybe I'm hanging on to parts of the Old Testament that clearly condemn "consulting the dead," as the NIV calls it (Deuteronomy 18:11). Are you comfortable with the way the Kidds describe this? I was going to give this book to the rest of my family because they ask me about the LDS Church now and then, but if they read the section above they would totally freak out.
  14. Thanks for all the comments. Obviously photocopiers aren't a big deal in the great scheme of things, but the topic interested me and I'm glad to hear that the problems might simply come from a ward's wish to save money. Good for them. A friend of mine was in the leadership of a nearby church (not LDS). They rented out the sanctuary to a rather large choir group for weekly rehearsals. The choir had a key to the church office. This group would make midnight runs into the church office and secretly photocopy mountains of sheet music (and I do mean mountains). They broke the monthly cap on copies, which resulted in fantastically expensive overage charges each month. The bookkeeper noticed the high monthly invoices but assumed it was from legitimate church use and simply paid the invoices without alerting anyone. After two years, an audit revealed that the church had been paying almost $9000 a month in overage charges from this criminal choir. Lesson: keep your keys on a tight chain.
  15. Oh come on, I was joking. I did find that passage very odd, though. The rest of the book was warmly constructive, cheerful, and (allow me to say) downright LDS in its friendliness and happiness. Then this jarring digression attacking poor photocopies. Whatever. The only part of the book that troubled me was the section on ordinances for the dead. My own belief is that these ordinances are an act of compassion from living LDS members, who live and preach the Gospel so fully that it spills over into acts of generosity even for those who have died. But the book says that some LDS members go to the temple to do these ordinances and they sometimes feel a spirit of gratitude from the dead and some sort of presence from beyond the grave. Maybe the authors are citing idle folklore as fact, but I'm having a bit of trouble with this.