For You

I hadn’t expected to ever write this out, you know. But for the past week it’s been bothering me every single day, even if I didn’t realize it. And so here I am, just after midnight, writing you a letter to say this:

I forgive you.

It’s taken nearly five years to reach a point where I can say that and mean it. I’m not sure if that’s a testament to the damage you’ve done or to my own stubbornness. Probably a bit of both, I’d venture.

A wise man recently told me, “Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. Forgiveness requires remembering, and in remembering, deciding it doesn’t matter any more.” I realized that I’d reached that point with you when he said that, and right there, I started crying. It was something unexpected, and I found myself at once embarrassed and slightly angry – both of them because of how long it has taken me to understand.

I ran into an old friend of ours at a wedding reception for her sister. Her hair’s not as red as it used to be, and I didn’t recognize her at first – thankfully she still recognized me. She’s doing well. Their whole family is. She mentioned my writing, and that’s what got me thinking – in spite of all of the reasons to write that I’ve found, I keep putting it off.

It made me realize how much time I’ve wasted these past years holding on to being angry, and that it’s that anger that’s kept me from writing, because, much as I know I shouldn’t be, sometimes I still am.

There’s the friendships you destroyed and bridges you burned. There’s the damage done to my family. There’s the hurt at being completely helpless on the other side of the continent as they suffered. But above all that there’s the loss of trust, and my own refusal to trust again.

I think I’ve burnt more bridges in my own inability to trust than you ever could have, and that’s part of what’s made me so angry – not that I let it all get to me, but that I felt helpless to not let it get to me. I felt like an observer watching my own life fall apart, and now I’m living with the wreckage.

And so a lot of that anger was really directed at myself, much as I told myself it was at you, and blamed my problems, my social anxieties, my refusal to see old friends, my inability to make new ones, and my constant self-defeating behavior in virtually every aspect of my life on you.

I often told myself, “There’s no point in dating someone if it just means dragging them into the train wreck that is my life,” – it’s hard to love someone else when you’re having trouble finding a reason to love yourself and your own life, and on top of that having trouble finding a reason to trust them at all. And so I blamed it on the fallout of everything you and your family did.

I don’t blame you any more though. It’s pointless, really. Assigning blame doesn’t change anything. It’s only been a convenient way for me to have a crutch to keep me crippled. Blame doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t make things better, or even anything close to right. It just makes you bitter.

So here’s me forgiving you. Maybe one day you’ll really stop and see the awful magnitude of what you did. Somehow, though, I doubt it. And more than anything, that makes me feel sorry for you, because, “at some point, all of us must sit down to a banquet of consequences”.

I certainly hope that I’m wrong, and being able to say that and mean it is something that truly surprises me. But I’ve been surprised before by stranger things, so maybe I am wrong.

If you were looking for some sort of pithy lessons and sage advice in all of this, or for answers to some deep question, well, I have none to give. I don’t expect you to ever read this – in fact, I don’t particularly care whether you do or not; I’m writing this for me, not you.

This is just me being honest and open about where I am. Maybe someone somewhere will find something in all of this of use to them – that’s the only reason I’m sharing this: so others can learn from my mistakes, and forgive early and often.

I remember. but it doesn’t matter any more, and so I’m letting go now. I’d rather be happy and go on living my life.

Goodbye and good luck,
Mark

In Defense of Truth: Why I Write About The Book of Mormon

For quite some time now, the bulk of my personal scripture study has been dedicated to an in-depth investigation of the Book of Mormon, its origins, and doctrines. A lot of my work is somewhat scattered across several notebooks, which, having recently discovered I have ADD, explains why I could never keep it organized.

The purpose of the bulk of my work has been to find and research evidences of the truth of the Book of Mormon – in short, to develop a library of research “in defense of truth”, hence the title of my little project. But as I said, most of what I have is scattered, and doing all the research is a bit useless if I don’t have some way of keeping track of it. And even if I did keep track of it, what’s the use of having it if nobody knows it? I’m a firm believer that knowledge is best shared when possible.

And so, after a rather long period of thought, I’ve decided to do something a bit unorthodox. In addition to sharing my own personal scripture study, to a certain extent, I’m going to crowdsource it.

That’s right. I’m going to be publishing my work here, and getting input from readers with respect to what to study next. If nobody has suggestions, well, I have a mountain of my own to work through, and I’ll continue to do so.

Down to Business: What I’m Saying

The argument I wish to provide defense and support of:

If the Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith was a prophet, and received power and authority from God to translate it. If Joseph was a prophet, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is what it claims to be, and must also be true.

Transitively, then, if the Book of Mormon is true, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also true.

Ultimately, the purpose of this body of work is to provide a defense of the truth of the Book of Mormon. The reader is free to do what they will with the information.

A photograph of the English-language edition of the Book of Mormon
Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Let me take a moment to state here, once and for all, that I am not attempting to prove the Book of Mormon to be true. Not only is this beyond my capability, but I do not believe it can be done with present knowledge, as we know that we must walk by faith in this life, and an absolute knowledge would remove the need for faith.

If the reader wishes to know beyond doubt that the Book of Mormon is true, they must follow the counsel of Moroni:

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Moroni 10:3-5

In plain language:

As you read the Book of Mormon:
1. Remember the mercy of God from the creation of Adam until your time
2. Ponder God’s mercy

When you receive the Book of Mormon:
1. Ask God in the name of Christ if it is true.
2. Ask with a sincere heart and real intent
3. Ask having faith in Christ

I understand the word “receive” in the Biblical sense – that is, to accept (as into a house), welcome, or to make one’s own. (See Strong’s Number G1209, particularly definition 2c, and Mark 9:37)

Target Audience and Ground Rules

As I hadn’t originally intended to share much, if any, of this, I’d like to make it clear now who my intended audience is. I write to the willing and honest enquirer, who searches for truth. In saying “willing and honest”, I mean two things:

1. The reader comes to the text with an open mind, with a desire to learn, willing to put forth the effort to understand things from another point of view, and acknowledging that while they are entitled to their own opinions, and they may potentially be relevant, this does not give them right to attack or belittle the author or work.

2. If the reader has questions, the motivation behind them is a sincere desire to understand the doctrine, text, or relevant history, and not to nitpick imperfections, actual or perceived.

I will be writing as much to myself as to anyone else, because I include myself as a “willing and honest enquirer”.

Since this is essentially a giant research project, odds are I’ll probably go back, update, and revise articles from time to time. For the sake of transparency, I’ll try to make it clear when I do this, what changes I made, and why.

This brings me to my ground rules. If you are reading, I ask:

1. You honestly try to understand the doctrine and relevant historical details.
2. You refrain from ad hominem attacks. I will not tolerate them, and all they do is make you look like an angry child who wants their ice cream.

In return, I promise:

1. To recognize that my word is not definitive on any subject. I am not an expert on Semitic languages, United States history, Church doctrine, or ancient scripture.
2. To cite my evidences as often and consistently as I can, and do the best that I can to write clearly and understandably.
3. To use sources that are as neutral as possible. (In practice, this means I’m going to be referring you to Wikipedia a lot.)
4. To accept your honest and sincere input, direction, and critique, and respond to it to the best of my abilities.
5. To admit when I have no answer to a perceived issue.

My Method: The Book of Mormon and Other Sources

The bulk of my arguments and evidences will be based directly on Book of Mormon text, commentary, and analysis. This includes addresses and published materials by the LDS Church and Brigham Young University. I will try to use online, publicly accessible material, as much to allow the reader to verify my information as because I’m a poor college kid and don’t want to spend $300 to order a book about the history and current status of the public library in the United States – perhaps at some point I’ll write about why I choose that particular example, but I’m trying to prioritize my time.

Attacks have been historically made upon the character of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon itself, various doctrines of the Church, and the notion of the Church as a cult. While many of these arguments may seem persuasive and convincing, the reality is that the central message of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored by the latter-day prophet Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon is proof of this Restoration. Many proffered criticisms are completely irrelevant to this. You can know the truth of the Book of Mormon by the power of the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:3-5, quoted above).

Breaking down the work, the task is to determine whether or not the Book of Mormon is “true”. This means:

1. translation of the work was performed with divine aid and direction, that
2. the work is a true history of an offshoot of Israel upon the American Continent, and that
3. the doctrine and promises it contains are consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’m going to be presenting my arguments from a logical standpoint, hence why I specifically said I’m not trying to prove the Book of Mormon itself to be true. That requires faith, which, unfortunately, is somewhat outside the realm of modern computability theory. At the very least, it lies beyond my understanding of computability theory.

Conclusion: What I’m Not Saying

The goal of my work is to present convincing evidences to the reader with respect to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, and allow the reader to come to their own conclusions. For future reference, I will keep a running record of these evidences, and where possible, rebuttal of objections to them (including indication of whether or not they’re relevant to my work) on this article.

However, I am not writing to rebut others’ arguments. I am also not writing to brainwash anybody, or to be a source of antagonism. I’m also not writing for the sake of idle debate. I’m not writing about the need for the Restoration, the evolution of the modern Church, or anything that does not pertain directly to my central argument. In the course of writing, some of these topic may be touched on, and I may even write some articles to give some historical background, but they are not my main focus.

I write to present and elaborate upon what evidence exists within the Book of Mormon and within our own body of knowledge. Ultimately, I write in an effort to expand the breadth and depth of the reader’s faith in Jesus Christ, and invite them to “come and see“.

If you wish to contact me feel free to use my contact form.

100 Movies to See

Similar to my list of 100 books to read, I’ve started a bucket list of movies. Those listed below are taken from IMDB’s top 100 movies of all time.

To date, I’ve seen 19 of these. Note that there are a few of them that I will not watch, and the list is subject to change.

Up Next

  • Sunset Blvd.
  • A Streetcar Named Desire

The List

  1. The Godfather (1972)
  2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  3. Schindler’s List (1993)
  4. Raging Bull (1980)
  5. Casablanca (1942)
  6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
  7. Gone with the Wind (1939)
  8. Citizen Kane (1941)
  9. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  10. Titanic (1997)
  11. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  12. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
  13. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
  14. Psycho (1960)
  15. Vertigo (1958)
  16. On the Waterfront (1954)
  17. Forrest Gump (1994)
  18. The Sound of Music (1965)
  19. West Side Story (1961)
  20. Star Wars (1977)
  21. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  22. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  23. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  24. Chinatown (1974)
  25. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  26. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  27. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  28. 12 Angry Men (1957)
  29. Chicago (2002)
  30. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  31. Amadeus (1984)
  32. Apocalypse Now (1979)
  33. Gandhi (1982)
  34. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  35. Gladiator (2000)
  36. From Here to Eternity (1953)
  37. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  38. Unforgiven (1992)
  39. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  40. Rocky (1976)
  41. Some Like It Hot (1959)
  42. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
  43. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  44. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
  45. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
  46. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  47. My Fair Lady (1964)
  48. Ben-Hur (1959)
  49. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  50. Jaws (1975)
  51. Patton (1970)
  52. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
  53. Dances with Wolves (1990)
  54. Braveheart (1995)
  55. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
  56. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
  57. High Noon (1952)
  58. The Apartment (1960)
  59. Platoon (1986)
  60. The Pianist (2002)
  61. Goodfellas (1990)
  62. The Deer Hunter (1978)
  63. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
  64. The French Connection (1971)
  65. City Lights (1931)
  66. It Happened One Night (1934)
  67. A Place in the Sun (1951)
  68. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
  69. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  70. An American in Paris (1951)
  71. Annie Hall (1977)
  72. Rain Man (1988)
  73. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  74. Out of Africa (1985)
  75. Good Will Hunting (1997)
  76. Terms of Endearment (1983)
  77. Tootsie (1982)
  78. Fargo (1996)
  79. Shane (1953)
  80. Giant (1956)
  81. Jurassic Park (1993)
  82. Network (1976)
  83. Nashville (1975)
  84. Wuthering Heights (1939)
  85. The Graduate (1967)
  86. American Graffiti (1973)
  87. Pulp Fiction (1994)
  88. The African Queen (1951)
  89. Stagecoach (1939)
  90. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
  91. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  92. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  93. Taxi Driver (1976)
  94. Double Indemnity (1944)
  95. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
  96. Rear Window (1954)
  97. The Third Man (1949)
  98. North by Northwest (1959)
  99. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

100 (or more) books to read before you die

The inspiration for this page is taken from the Art of Manliness list of must-read books, which I have made part of my list of 100 books to read before you die. Eventually I’ll get around to publishing my own recommendations, but here is a public record of which books, from that list, I have finished. The idea isn’t to finish the books and stop reading forever, but to have a place to come back to when I don’t have anything that strikes me as interesting.

Feedback from family has encouraged me to add some titles to the list, and so, based on their suggestions and a few wikipedia articles, I’ve added some titles to my list. Don’t expect this to stay at the number it’s at (found here and here).

If you’re curious about past books I’ve read, I’ve reviewed a fair amount of them on goodreads.com, and the link to my profile is in the footer of this page.

Currently in queue

  • The Bhagavad Gita

The List

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Completed 2005
  2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde Completed February 2013
  3. Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss Completed 1999
  4. The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer Completed 2005
  5. Catch‐22 by Joseph Heller Completed 2006
  6. Lord of the Flies by William Golding Completed 2005
  7. The Bible Completed 2006
  8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Completed 2005
  9. Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky Completed 2008
  10. The Art of Warfare by Sun Tzu Completed 2016
  11. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Completed 2007
  12. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien Completed 1999
  13. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain Completed 2000
  14. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen Completed 2000
  15. Animal Farm by George Orwell Completed 2002
  16. Hamlet by Shakespeare Completed 2006
  17. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe Completed 2000
  18. The Pearl by John Steinbeck Completed 2004
  19. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson Completed 1999
  20. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Completed 2006
  21. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Completed March 2013
  22. Cien años de soledad by Gabriel García Márquez Completed December 2013, in original Spanish
  23. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Completed November 2008, now to do it in French!
  24. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  25. A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  26. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  27. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
  28. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  29. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  30. The Strenuous Life by Theodore Roosevelt
  31. The Rough Riders by Theodore Roosevelt
  32. Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris
  33. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
  34. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  35. Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
  36. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  37. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer
  38. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  39. Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
  40. The Thin Red Line by James Jones
  41. From Here to Eternity by James Jones
  42. Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  43. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  44.  The Bhagavad Gita
  45. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
  46. Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard
  47. Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
  48. Epic of Gilgamesh
  49. One Thousand and One Nights
  50. The Quran
  51. The Torah
  52. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  53. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  54. 1984 by George Orwell
  55. The Republic by Plato
  56. The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
  57. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
  58. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  59. How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  60. Call of the Wild by Jack London
  61. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  62. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  63. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  64. American Boy’s Handy Book
  65. King Solomon’s Mines by H Rider Haggard
  66. A River Runs Through It by Norman F. Maclean
  67. The Island of Dr Moreau by H G Wells
  68. Malcolm X: The Autobiography
  69. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  70. All Quiet on The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarq
  71. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  72. Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans by Plutarch
  73. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  74. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  75. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  76. The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden
  77. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
  78. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  79. The Histories by Herodotus
  80. The Frontier in American History by Frederick Jackson Turner
  81. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
  82. Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  83. Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
  84. White Noise by Don Delillo
  85. Ulysses by James Joyce
  86. The Young Man’s Guide by William Alcott
  87. Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
  88. Seek: Reports from the Edges of America Beyond by Denis Johnson
  89. Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
  90. The Book of Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry by Christine De Pizan
  91. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
  92. The Politics by Aristotle
  93. First Edition of the The Boy Scout Handbook
  94. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
  95. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  96. The Crisis by Winston Churchill
  97. The Naked and The Dead by Norman Mailer
  98. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  99. Beyond Good and Evil by Freidrich Nietzsche
  100. The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison
  101. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  102. Essential Manners for Men by Peter Post
  103. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly
  104. The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn
  105. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  106. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  107. Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  108. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
  109. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
  110. Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose
  111. Paradise Lost by John Milton
  112. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  113. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  114. Faust by Goethe
  115. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  116. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  117. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Believe in good things to come

I’ve received multiple requests of late from friends and friends of friends that I continue writing as I did while I was in Chile. It’s rather unfortunate that I’ve been so slow to respond, because writing has always been a wonderful respite for me, and an incredible chance to reflect on the things that have happened recently in my life. I’ve been thinking a lot about Jeffrey R Holland’s talk “Good Things to Come“, and am picking myself up to start again. So here’s to starting anew and trying again. Shall we?

I’ve begun seriously studying Portuguese, and it is nothing short of wonderful. It reminds me of faces from Santiago, and some of the adventures I had there. I also recently, after quite some deliberation, decided to change my major to computer science, and this semester I’m gathering together the materials I need to apply for the animation emphasis. In November and December I took a class on 3d animation and fell in love with the material.

Sitting here in a cafe, watching cars pass and staring across the street at the gas station, all I can really think about right now is the journey of life. I’m planning a trip back to Santiago for this summer. Nobody else from my family will be coming along. It has been nearly two years since I got back, and not a day passes that something doesn’t remind me of the people and places there.

Time passes. People change. We make mistakes. We try to pick ourselves up and make the best we can with whatever we have. For each of us that means something different, but the story doesn’t really change all that much.

But who de we bring along on our journey? Do we really stop to look around and appreciate those who, for one reason or another, are thrust into our lives (or us into theirs) and appreciate them for who they are? Imperfect, yes, but beautiful each in their own right. Each bearing scars and stories not so different from ours that make them who they are. Perhaps the most beautiful part of life is that we can grow and overcome. No, it isn’t always easy, but it can be done.

I’m not a big believer in coincidence, especially when it comes to the people in my life. God is in the little things as much as big. Those memories have held me through the hard times that have happened in the last couple of years. We are blessed with both wonderful memories and terrible tragedies in this life, but the choice is ours what to do with them. Even the tragedies can be a blessing when viewed in the right light. They can lead to unexpected adventures, and the people who come along with us for the ride are often the ones we most come to love and understand, and it is in those dark, dreary moments that our memories of good times past, combined with our hope, can carry us through and give us the strength to press forward and believe in the good things to come.