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Hi I'm Charles

I make music. I write with typewriters. I have a beard. I'm a Mormon.

About Me

Husband to a beautiful and wonderful woman and father of a cute and fun little girl. Aspiring musician and writer: I have played drums in several rock n roll and jazz bands and supported singer-songwriters at the amateur to semi-pro level. I have been writing songs recently, and am also working on a novel. Archivist by profession: I take care of historical manuscripts (mostly from the 20th century) in the southwestern United States. I also enjoy writing with typewriters and quill pens, sealing letters with wax, walking up and down mountains, learning about languages, drinking chocolate and eating chile.

Why I am a Mormon

I was born into the Church but like everyone I have had to find my own conviction ("testimony") and develop it as I have faced life's perplexities. The Book of Mormon has been the strongest factor in keeping my faith through the doubts that I have passed through. Since I was a teenager I have known that it is true. This has formed the foundation of my conviction and dedication to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And it has led me to Christ, reminded me of my debt to Him and the promises and rewards to faith that await beyond current doubts and frustrations. See John 6:68.

How I live my faith

I take care of the library in our local meetinghouse and oversee Sunday School classes in my local congregation (ward). Like nearly all men in the Church, I also am assigned to regularly visit and see to the needs of several families in the ward. I am trying to do this better.

Why is self-reliance important to Mormons? Why do Mormons talk about emergency preparedness?

Charles
This is one of the outward things that get us a lot of attention. Some might say it has to do with our early history when the members of the Church kept getting kicked out of one place or another, but I don't know. Emergency preparedness is really a practical goal that everyone ought to aim for, isn't it? We do have a very strong practical streak in us. It shows in a do-it-yourself mentality that I see as one of our cultural strengths. The adage "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" definitely does come from the pioneer days when people couldn't waste anything. And again, aren't thrift and resourcefulness good values for everyone? You could say it's a Mormon thing, but I see it as one of those universal principles that we just happen to have gotten a reputation for. You could say that since everything we have comes from God, self-reliance is kind of a delusion or illusion. We recognize our total dependence on God (our scriptures say: "Are we not all beggars?"), we don't believe in trusting in the arm of flesh, but we do believe in doing everything in our power to support ourselves materially and achieve material as well as spiritual advancement. This kind of ties in to the pointless "grace vs. works" debate: knowing that what we can do will never be enough to save us doesn't excuse us from still doing it. Show more Show less

Why don’t Mormons drink coffee, tea, or alcohol? What is the Mormon Church’s law of health and proper diet?

Charles
We have what is called the "Word of Wisdom." It's a revelation about keeping the body healthy. It is geared toward "the weakest of all saints" so that's why we stay away from alcohol, coffee or tea: it's a margin of safety, avoiding the possibility of addiction. But besides discouraging the use of some things, it encourages us to eat good and healthy food, including "fruit in the season thereof . . . with prudence and thanksgiving." I could live on fresh ripe peaches for days at a time in late summer. I don't know if you'd call it prudent, but I sure am thankful every time I get to eat one. Show more Show less

What is a “testimony” that Mormons speak of?

Charles
"Testimony" is the word we use to denote our personal conviction of the truth of something. We have regular opportunities to share it verbally in meetings. If you visit one of our meetings on the first Sunday of the month, you'll probably hear the phrase "I'd like to bear my testimony." This is a traditional way of saying "I want to tell you about what I know for myself to be true." This personal conviction is often compared to a tree: it starts out as a seed and grows over time according to the nutrition and care you give it. Show more Show less

Does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints endorse political parties?

Charles
No. You will find Mormons in both mainstream political parties in the United States, and in other political parties as well. We have a reputation for being politically conservative, but there are many members of the Church in good standing who hold liberal political views, like me. This is especially true as the Church expands world-wide, and bring in converts from more diverse political backgrounds than were common among the members before. If you spend enough time with Mormons you will probably come in contact with some kind of political discussion, and you may hear someone say: "I don't understand how people in such and such a party can be members of the Church." Don't take it as an expression of official Church opinion or policy. And just because someone who happens to be a member of the Church may advocate a particular political philosophy or party over the radio or TV, don't assume that the Church as a whole officially promotes that person's views. I have never been told by anyone with authority to judge my membership status in the Church which political parties or philosophies I may or may not hold or belong to. To attend the Temple, a member of the Church needs to assert that he or she does not belong to any groups that teach things contrary to the Church, but the specifics of this are left between the individual member and God. The Church has spoken out officially on some political debates. We believe in encouraging moral principles in our societies as a way to promote stability and peace. Questions of sexuality and the family have been a particular concern due to our belief in the importance of families. The Church has gotten a lot of media attention for its involvement in political questions that touch on these matters. This still does not mean that the Church requires its members to belong to a specific party or vote a specific way. It is true that some wish the Church would come out in more vocal support of their political views on other matters. This is because Mormons are imperfect human beings and are susceptible to letting temporal political philosophies gain the upper hand in their minds over eternal principles, just like other people are. We have been taught recently not to allow our political opinions divide us, nor to fall into the trap of attacking "straw men" of other people's opinions. There was a wonderful talk about this in the April 2006 session of our General Conference. You can read it here: http://lds.org/general-conference/2006/04/instruments-of-the-lords-peace?lang=eng&format=conference In our most recent General Conference there was another talk that touched on the same subject: http://lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/pride-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng What the Church explicitly does promote are "just and holy principles" such as are found in the Constitution of the United States -- and in any good government anywhere in the world. Some of these have been identified in official Church publications as: 1. Religious Freedom and Independence from Government 2. Freedom of Belief and Expression 3. Equal Justice under Law (See: Arvo Van Alstyne, "“Just and Holy Principles”: An Examination of the U.S. Constitution", Ensign, Aug. 1987, 6, read here: http://lds.org/ensign/1987/08/just-and-holy-principles-an-examination-of-the-us-constitution?lang=eng) Show more Show less

How are modesty and chastity related? How can parents teach their children to be modest in dress, language and behavior?

Charles
A passage in the Book of Mormon talks about people who "did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely." (Alma 1:27) "Comely" is just an older English word for "attractive". It's right and proper for us to look good to each other. From a modern revelation we read: "Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion." (Doctrine and Covenants 59:18-20) With judgment, not to excess: this is modesty. The word is often used to mean not showing off too much skin but it really means not showing off too much in general. In a wider sense, it's about knowing boundaries and respecting them. Why would you want to present yourself in a certain way? Is it for a reason that is just, kind and constructive, or is it for narrow-minded, selfish or troublesome ends? I want to teach my daughter to consider this, rather than just policing the lengths of her skirts in a way that might seem arbitrary. I want her to consider the reasons for how she dresses and govern herself by correct principles: you have things that should only be shared in certain times and places and in certain conditions (marriage being one obvious example where chastity is concerned). Until those conditions are met, you have every right to keep these things to yourself, and nobody has the right to take them or demand them from you. I also want her to know where her responsibility ends and the responsibility of others begins. We don't hold with draping women in big shapeless tents every time they leave the house. Show more Show less

What is the Book of Mormon?

Charles
The Book of Mormon is the product of God's dealings with imperfect people who tried to live His commandments and preserve records and revelations for our benefit. It is a book that contains enriching universal truths, tantalizing tidbits of history otherwise forever lost, and doctrinal exposition. The people who wrote it and the people they wrote about did good things and bad, had strengths and weaknesses. We can learn from all of it. It will grow a tree with fruit of understanding and joy in your soul. It makes the audacious claim of miraculous origin that calls you to exercise faith in what you can't see. It serves as "Another Testament of Jesus Christ." And it is an especially direct testament. Unlike the Bible, it was translated in the 19th century directly from the original manuscript, which had been hidden for some 1400 years. Can we look at the gold plates the book was written on? No. But we can't look at the papyrus that Matthew wrote on either. The Bible comes to us through thousands of years of copying, revision, debates as to authenticity etc. If you believe that it has survived in a state that is at all trustworthy -- and we do -- then you believe in miracles. The Book of Mormon asks you to have faith in another miracle: that an original text of "plain and precious things" was kept by the hand of God from being lost, and was translated directly into English by a modern prophet through the power of God. When you feast on these "plain and precious things", the Holy Ghost works in you and you know that they are true. Show more Show less

Why is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called Mormons or Mormonism?

Charles
It's because of our belief in the Book of Mormon. For a while I disliked the nickname, but I have come to feel it is appropriate. Here's why: Mormon, the man who compiled most of the book that has his name, was devoted to living his religion even in a hostile environment and a society sliding into selfishness and violence. His faithfulness earned him respect from the society around him sometimes, but he did not seek the praise of others, nor did he hesitate to break from his society's practices when they were against his religion. He was willing to give his life in the service of his people even when they were unrepentant, because he had faith in God's eternal purposes. That's an example I think we all should emulate. Show more Show less

What do Mormons believe about the nature of God?

Charles
We believe that God is the literal parent of our spirits and that therefore each person living on the earth is of infinite worth and of infinite potential the potential to become as God is. Think of that next time you get a snippy clerk at the checkout line.  Joseph Smith taught explicitly "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s the Son also but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us." Doctrine and Covenants 13022 The implications of this really set us apart from other current Christian denominations. Show more Show less

What are some things that tell you there is a God?

Charles
There are times when I can see and feel God's hand in all things, but not in a simplistic way of say, imagining some invisible hand pulling strings to directly cause every event I observe. Carl Jung wrote in his _Memories, Dreams, Reflections_ that he always took God's existence for granted. I identified with this statement, because God's existence has generally felt self-evident to me, but my understanding and appreciation of it have changed over time. More than just the order of matter in the universe, the richness of the human psyche and the complexity of its phenomena tell me that there is a God, and a God who is much more intelligent and sophisticated than the limited images that humans have imagined their gods to be throughout history. Even the advancements we make in technology, with their great potential for harm or good, point out the things that conscious intelligence can do. We get in trouble because we get arrogant and don't consider that Someone might have developed an intelligence far, far above our own. Show more Show less

How can we stop the spread and influence of pornography?

Charles
To be honest, I'm not sure we can - I mean, there's no way we're going to shut down every press or website devoted to the stuff. We *can* limit its influence in ourselves and in our families, and in our communities if we get enough like-minded people together. Rather than crude methods of political or economic force, what's really effective is educating people to live with moral discipline and to look at their fellow human beings with respect, instead of seeing other peoples' bodies as commodities to extort selfish pleasure from. I don't see the pornographic mindset as limited to making sexually explicit pictures, books, etc. I also see it in the pressure put on girls to conform to unhealthy standards of beauty. If all parents can help their daughters to feel comfortable with how they are and ignore such damaging messages, and not to let others treat them as objects, then I think we will go a long way towards limiting pornographic influences. Show more Show less

Who wrote the Book of Mormon?

Charles
People. People who lived in the Americas from long, long ago up to the fifth century A.D. Some of them wrote much, some little, some compiled and edited what others had written. They were all motivated by the mission to preserve a special record that would be preserved even if all their other records were lost. These people had prophecies and revelations. They also had their own human weaknesses and biases, and although they tried to write according to their understanding of the truth and the inspiration they had been given, they also recognized that there would be imperfections. See Mormon 8:12: "And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. " Show more Show less

Why is it important for us to take care of our bodies? Why are our bodies called temples of God in the Bible?

Charles
Our bodies are not to be despised as gross prisons for our captive spirits, as some people have taught. We believe in a literal resurrection of a perfected physical body, united forever with a spirit that exists in agreement with the body. That spirit we also believe is a literal offspring of God, with infinite potential. But we do believe that the mortal body has appetites that are self-destructive if indulged in the wrong way. During our mortal life we learn to moderate our bodies' appetites: to direct them in the ways that bring fulfillment of eternal potential, since we look forward to an eternal existence within them. One of the prophets in the Book of Mormon put it this way: "see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love" (Alma 38:12). Show more Show less

Are Mormons Christians?

Charles
I think it's cute that this question still should get asked. We differ radically from Christianity as it has developed in some fundamental ways, so it's no wonder people still classify us as separate. Our divergence from the majority of current Christianity has to do with things like the nature of God and the human soul rather than the need for a savior or Jesus Christ being that savior. Some people, trying to be clever, have switched the wording of the Book of Mormon's subtitle to say "Testament of Another Jesus Christ." This sort of thing is nothing new. Disagreements over Christ's nature and who the "real" Christians are have gone on since the first century. People fight over their opinions of the identity of a living God based on their interpretations of fixed texts in dead languages. No, thank you. We're blessed to live in a time where people are less likely to get burned at the stake for believing differently than the majority.  Show more Show less