5/23/17

Pics of Recent Family Milestones

Our Trip to Australia - April/May

... dearie inside sydney cathedral

... us with harbour bridge in background 

... opera house in background 

... with daughters at the taronga zoo


... inside cathedral


Our Grandson's Mission Farewell and Sendoff.  He is the second grandchild/son to serve; the first one (his brother) returns next month. 


"Temple Day"
(front l to r) me and elder; (back l to r) elder's dad and uncle

... brothers (three) and cousins performing during his farewell party
(grandchildren, minus two elders/missionaries)


... farewell sunday 






...day he was set apart


...at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) grounds saying his goodbyes


... saying goodbye to his baby brother

Mother's Day 2017


(l to r) dearie, her mum and Soli (from NZ) after church

... after church



5/17/17

Me and Natura

NATURA

I’m a real pastoral and rustic guy
And definitely ‘til the day I shall die.
Put me in a jungle of concrete towers,
And you’ll find in me a man that cowers,
Cringes and crouches in repulsive awe,
Of man’s modern miracles of perfect flaw.
Clogged veins and arteries of Main Street,
From fuming cars and crowds of hurried feet.
Everyone vying to make a profit and some green
At all costs and means even if to prude and preen.
The hustles and bustles of chaos and confusion,
Emitting potent pollens of poisoned pollution

And so occasionally I escape to catch a breath
Of fresh air so I won’t suffer a silent sudden death.
Here in the mountains I find solace and relief,
Where rivers and streams rescue me from grief.
The clean air, blue sky, green pastures and fields;
Free and friendly and serve as needed shields.
The pretty flowers and preening birds singing
Praises of peaceful miracles and gifts of living;
They calm my fears, soothe my soul in this shrine,
Lifting my spirit heavenward in awe of the divine.

LV ~ 2017



...escape to catch a breath of fresh air


...peaceful miracles



...in this shrine

... calm my fears, soothe my soul


... clean air, blue sky and green pastures


... rivers and streams rescue me from grief

... lifting my spirit heavenward in awe of the divine

... needed shields and gifts of living

... in the mountains I find solace and relief


Faik News IV

Welcome to another edition of “Faik News” ...

Washington (aka the Swamp), the White House and Trump continue to not disappoint in creating and releasing faik news.  Everyday there’s always something from Washington that either makes you cringe and go “Uhmmm, really?” or just makes you rethink America’s place in the world and the seeming compromises - if not the beginning of the demise - of democracy as we understand it.  Is America on the precipice of decline and eventually going the way of all the other world powers of the bygone eras?  ...it's possible.

Anyhow, let’s check on the faik White House press secretaries first.  After Sean Spicer’s blooper regarding the Holocaust for which he profusely apologized, you would think he would learn some lessons to be less faik in his “spicing”. Oh, and not to be outdone, the deputy whose name is Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the female version cut from the same mold.  My question is: "Is there a school of faikery out there that these people attend to learn their art?"  Must be that faik university called Trump University!..lol!

At the peak of all this faikery, we have the press secretaries saying that it was some faiks in the Justice Dept who recommended to the president to fire Comey (FBI Director) only to be repudiated by Trump himself and said it was his choice, and his only, to fire Comey.  A perfect case of faikers outfaiking each other.

So any guesses who the new FBI director will be?  For faik’s sake, let’s have some faik takes: Uhmmm, Ivanka?  She shares the same last name as the president, so a perfect pick. Oh wait, is she Trump’s daughter?  Ok then.  How about Jared Kushner?  Yep.  In that way all the investigations will  “end with integrity” according to Huckebee Sanders.

Some recent polls asked Americans what the first word that comes to mind to describe Trump.  Here are the top three answers (in order) ...[drum roll] ... 1. Idiot 2. Incompetent 3. Liar.  Sorry, I did not faik that - it’s true.  Just ask Google!  And not surprisingly, Comey seems to agree.  He called the president as someone who is "outside the realm of normal," according to the New York Times.

So is Trump still being faiked by the Russians?  He just recently shared some classified information with them.  His National Security Adviser held a brief press conference to say that the president did not share any classified information. (Now wait for it!)  Per WH “protocol” (my parody of Trump’s “words in quotes” tweets), Trump tweeted repudiating the NS Adviser and that he (Trump) DID actually share classified information, and considered it his “absolute right” to do so.  Woh woh ... “absolute” is one word we need to be careful about in how it’s used in a democracy.  The word is associated more with dictators. President, you may have the “right” to share information but it’s NOT absolute! No, nada! So what’s next? Absolute POWER?  He does behave like he actually DOES have Absolute Power.  What’s that maxim again about “absolute power” by Mr. Acton?  Yes. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely!”

And so the “corruption” continues now with the so-called “Comey Memo” which the WH, as always, has quickly dismissed as “faik news”. Stay tuned.  It gets more interesting from here on out.

Ok, enough on Washington, let’s move West to the center of faikery - Hollywood! ..lol!!

So last week I went to see Fast8 (aka “Fate of the Furious”) or “Faik of the Furious” as I would like to call it ..hahaa.  I would really like to write an extended  review/critique of the movie but I abstain. Therefore this short and brief statement and opinion will have to do.

Due to so much "faik", my disbelief was willingly suspended to the max, beyond and back and to the point that I was on the verge of losing all or any leftover disbelief I had planned to suspend to begin with. In other words to the point of a total unwilling suspension. Or better still, rescinding the suspension and returning to find enjoyment in reality which is what, I think, the underpinned universal theme of “family” intends to accomplish.  Though completely overshadowed and rudely paradoxed by the action filled plot and violent content, the family subtext tries desperately - and yet almost futilely - to give some grounding, if not genuine sentimentality, to the movie.

Apparently there’s a huge market and demand for this genre, otherwise it will not have broken the record as being the highest-grossing movie opening of all time ($541 million).

By the way, I liked the touch of Polynesia in the movie when Hobbs’ (Dwayne Johnson) daughter’s soccer team performed a haka simulation.

... my Diesel impression..lol
My man Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson (the Rock) are the principal actors, -- oh and the Brit, Jason Stratham.  Speaking of the Rock, he recently made it known that running for President of the United States is something he may consider.  For me, I say “Why Not?”   If Trump can do it, anyone, and I mean aaaanyone can be President!  Who could be worst than Trump?  At least that’s how some people - celebrities especially - like Oprah are thinking now.  If Trump can be president, especially with all his audacity, mendacity, incompetence, villainy and perversity, then anyone can do it, at the very least pass the vetting stage.

Some responses to the Rock’s POTUS intention are calling for him to just stick with acting.  To these people I say to remember that Reagan was an actor.  And Trump too is/was an actor (in Home Alone and The Apprentice TV Series where the familiar “You’re Fired” line is from).  Though Trump is no longer an actor, per se, he’s still acting.  He’s “acting” as President. In other words, he’s “faiking” it.  LOL!!


5/2/17

Pictures from our Daughter's BYU Graduation

... graduated and already hired as a news editor at one of Utah's major - and very first - TV stations ....





















There was a quite a treat too for our daughter's graduation from a famous singer/entertainer who happens to be our (with dearie) teen idol (with his sister) during our younger days in Samoa.  Re: this post on this blog from back in 2011 that refers to those times when we started listening to Donny and Marie Osmond.  This past Friday during graduation, we got to meet Donny  - and had our pictures taken with him.  Donny had a son who graduated together with our daughter.  How about that?  Coincidence or fate?  ...LOL!  We couldn't have met a much nicer person. Donny is a very pleasant, modest and unassuming guy.










a picture with dearie and our girls





Donny said to us that our children and grandchildren were too young to know who he was.  Then he asked this
grandson if he remembers the Disney movie Mulan (in which he "played" Li Shang). Donny was surprised
when our grandson sang back the theme song which he (Donny) sings ...



4/15/17

Amazing Grace

A Latter-day Saint (LDS) Returned Missionary (RM) wrote to the Samoa Observer to respond to a letter titled "Grace of God not Good Works"  and some snippets of the responses to the RM are given below.  In the letter, the writer makes the points that the LDS Church is not a Christian Church and that people are saved by grace and not by any works.  These are not new claims, at least outside Samoa, though they may be new to part of the local readership. 

"Grace is free. Unmerited favour. You don't earn it, just believe, receive and you are saved. You cannot add to it, or take away from it. Just believe like Abraham did and it was counted to him for Righteousness."

"That's Salvation, now what about reward. Salvation we don't earned [sic] its free ...."

I then wrote the following response (edited/updated), in part, for support of the Returned Missionary:

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are mine and are not made on behalf, or be viewed necessarily as official doctrines and teachings, of the LDS Church.

Grace (of God) is a broad subject since it encompasses the many gifts, blessings and endowments of God to/for man. Some of those have been stated by Elder Vui. Grace in this discussion may be referred to as the "saving/redeeming grace" and its role in the teleological and eschatological goals of man. My comments will focus on this saving/redeeming aspect of grace.

Many of the ambiguities and differences between LDS doctrines and most of mainstream Christianity are often found in semantics (as part of the usual exegesis/hermeneutics) and the different meanings assigned by both camps to the same or similar terminology or concept. The word "saved", for example, can be interpreted differently depending on context. LDS doctrine teaches that everyone will be "saved" (except for the sons of Perdition), and will be assigned to different degrees of glory (re: "many mansions" reference by Christ and “three glories” 1 Cor 15:40-42). But the highest of the three degrees (re: "third heaven" 2 Cor 12:2) is the ultimate goal of the faithful and it's where the word "saved" has the most import, emphasis and relevance. Hence “saved” for Latter-day Saints, for the most part, refers to a future post-mortal and teleological event, mainly after the Final Judgment.

For mainstream Christians, on the other hand, “saved” refers to a life-changing event/episode in one’s life where he/she finds and accepts Jesus Christ.  Therefore "saved' refers to something that has already happened, let alone here in mortality. Oftentimes, it is described in expressions like “being born again” or “saved by the grace of God”.  The downside of this interpretation, however, is that it's possible therefore for a person to be "unsaved" when falling back again into a life of sin. "Saved" carries with it the connotation of a one-time event.  If someone saves you from drowning, it means you're out of such a predicament and never again to end up back in it.  LDS doctrine does allow for something similar where a person is "saved" while still in mortality.  This is referred to in the Bible as making one's calling and election sure, and/or being sealed with the holy Spirit of promise (Emphases mine):

2 Peter 1:
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.


Ephesians 1:
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise....

But this is an exception rather than the rule; and the rule is to "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12)

( NOTE: New Living Translation: "Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear." This translation reflects (re:underlined) what is discussed above with "saved/salvation" as something that happens in this mortal life.) 

So with all that in mind, let me attempt to present my comments with the hopes that each reader can interpret and reconcile such semantic variances accordingly, and at the same time, with the help of the Spirit, can open his/her eyes of spiritual understanding to a much broader nuance and meaning of the overall subject.

First, the claim that grace is literally the unearned, free, and unmerited favor of God is at best too simple and naive, and at worst, misleading and dishonest. The resulting conclusions, therefore, that simple lip confessions and simple belief in Christ are all that's needed for one to be saved (in the kingdom) - without any effort on the part of the individual- are unreliable and dubious. These claims are often taken out of context of the more complete gospel of Jesus Christ. They are also contradictory to the basic tenets and fundamentals of the gospel, as taught and demonstrated by Christ himself. These include - but not limited to - faith, repentance, baptism, bestowal of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.

The literal, absolute, unconditional and free-for-all interpretation and application of grace need to be considered with proper meaning, nuance and context. This most extreme and liberal interpretation means that everyone regardless of the kind of life they've lived, will be pardoned and therefore "saved" in the end, again without any worthy deed by the individual. This will in essence negate any measure or necessity of morality and will also mean that the scriptures, the commandments and the Bible have no purpose, because everyone will ultimately be "saved" by God's grace anyway. It’s free and it’s a gift. Moreover, therefore, the final judgment and hell of Christian dogma are nothing but just myths because they are meaningless, voided and annulled by the unconditional granting of grace.

NOTE: Everyone will be resurrected, which resurrection represents our temporal salvation, brought about by the grace of God through Jesus Christ, and that’s, yes, free and a gift, and in a sense we are “saved”. Our spiritual salvation, on the other hand, in which we stand before the bar of God to be judged, is conditional on faith, repentance, keeping the commandments, good works/deeds, enduring to the end, etc., etc.

Second, in the Bible, "faith" and "belief" are often used interchangeably with little or no major difference in meaning. Both are rooted in two words, "aman" (Hebrew) as used in Abraham's case (Gen 15:6), and from which the word "amen" originates, and "pisteuo" (Greek) as used in most references in the New Testament. Incidentally, both do not mean simple and/or passive belief, or lip confession, as interpreted by most of the respondents. Instead ‘believe/belief" still has its root and gospel connotation in "faith" and/or "trust" which are active, not passive principles. We are saved by grace THROUGH FAITH. And so we ask, "What is "faith?" Faith is believing something not seen, and yet true. More importantly, faith (hence belief) without works is dead (James 2:17-18). Paul reminds the Ephesians this same principle of faith and good works thusly (Ephesians 2:8-10 Emphases mine):

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Now let's pause for a moment, because this is the favorite scripture used by many to justify and support the insignificance and worthless nature of "works" in the whole salvation equation. The truth is that "works" as used in verse 9, is neither inclusive nor exhaustive. In fact, whenever Paul makes reference to "works" (as in the above reference), most of the time he is referring to the "works of the law" (i.e. the "law of Moses") like the animal sacrifices which the people in the Old Testament often depend and resort to for their redemptive powers. Again, the "works" in verse 9 does not mean any or all works. There are certain works that are still “acceptable” for one’s salvation. These are "good works" motivated by faith in Christ as in verse 10. (Most omit this verse because it negates verse 9, hence their whole argument against the relevance of works.)

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

So to summarize the above verses: We are SAVED BY GRACE through FAITH in CHRIST JESUS unto GOOD WORKS. Again faith and good works go together (faith without [good] works is dead). In other words, all works motivated by faith in Christ are good (and needed), but not all good works are motivated by faith. Consider an atheist who can perform works that are deemed “good” yet not motivated by faith in Christ.

Latter-day Saints, therefore, according to their doctrine, do GOOD WORKS because of FAITH IN CHRIST which is in line and in complete harmony with the Bible/scriptures.  Mainstream Christians, on the other hand, do "good" works because they are already "saved" - whatever that means.

Matthew 16:27:
“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Third, grace cannot be exclusively and/or independently considered and explained without the other two components of the triad, namely Mercy and Justice. Briefly, “mercy cannot rob justice” (Alma 42 - BoM), and therefore mercy and grace are extended only on condition of repentance and penitence in order to satisfy the demands of justice.

A simple illustration:

I get a traffic ticket for no insurance and expired license. My court date is set to appear in front of the judge. If by that day, I still don’t have insurance and license is still expired, I will be subject to the full extent of the law and pay all the necessary fines. However, if by that day I have shown some remorse and penitence by reinstating both, the judge will certainly be merciful/graceful and lower my fines. Mercy/grace therefore was extended after all I could do to reconcile and recompense thereby satisfying both mercy and justice.

"We labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (2 Ne. 25:23. BoM)

Now - in extending the metaphor to fit Christ and the role of the Atonement - someone can intervene and offer to pay the fines for me if I can’t pay them myself. Therefore a new contractual arrangement (covenant) is made between me and my “savior” and benefactor in return for his atoning act.  I am now expected to have faith in him and keep his commandments, repent of my sins, etc., to merit his grace. Simply, I still have “works” to do. I just cannot merit the same grace - the whole of it at least - by violating the above conditions.

Lastly, someone in this thread asked “Why is there a book of Mormon?” My answer was: “To compliment and complement the Bible.” For example, in the following Book of Mormon verses, we find inspired counsel and wisdom on both the redeeming and enabling power of Grace. Notice also the conditionality of grace in the “if” parts/conditionals.

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

"And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot."
(Moro.10:32–33.)

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me;" (Ether 12:27)

Sincerely and Gracefully .......................HAPPY EASTER!!
LV

4/11/17

Awwwsumm Awwwstrahleah!!


Sydney, actually.... Our first day ...

...my panoramic shot of the two iconic landmarks on a beautiful evening


hanging out at the dock/marina
fish-n-chips always a favorite

... of the children's too

... yummmmm













...beautiful sunset