Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

The Perfect College Football Playoff System: 2016 Version

Several years ago I published to the world The Perfect College Football Playoff System.  Since that time the NCAA has taken a few baby steps in that direction.  But this change has not been enough, and this year supplies a pretty good example of the inadaquacy of the current system.  The example is Western Michigan.

The Western Michigan Broncos have had an undefeated season, winning most of their games in blowout fashion.  Their non-conference schedule included two road games against Big 10 opponents, which they of course won.  Is Western Michigan national championship caliber?  We will never really know, since they are not even in the discussion of the current playoff system.  Why not?  Simply because they do not have the tradition behind them.

The perfect college playoff system would remedy this injustice easy as pie, and should be implemented immediately.  I will offer my services to the NCAA to oversee the transition for a fee.  To summarize the perfect system:

  • All conference champions are in (currently 10 teams)
  • Top six ranked non-champions are in (total of 16 teams)
  • Teams seeded 1-16, with 1 playing 16, 2 playing 15 etc.
  • In first round, highest seeded team is home team.
  • Subsequent rounds are at neutral sites similar to bowl games.

This year the perfect system would look like this:

Appalachian St. @ Alabama
Western Kentucky @ Clemson
San Diego St. @ Ohio St.
Temple @ Washington
Western Michigan @ Penn St.
Florida St. @ Michigan
Colorada @ Oklahoma
USC @ Wisconsin

As you can see, the Big 10 is well represented this year.  Second round games would be paired by a committee.  Games could match up a Rose Bowl type matchup with Ohio St. and Washington.  Or an Alabama and Clemson Cotton Bowl.  Regional considerations could be made for a Michigan and Wisconsin game.  Such neutral site bowl games would funnel down quickly to a national championship game.  This is the perfect system.

Typical irrelevant objections include that this would result in to many games.  Hogwash.  These teams would be playing bowl games anyway, and you could easily remove a regular season game if it was that important.  With this simple adjustment, it would only result in extra games for 4 teams.  And the best part is that this year, an undefeated team like Western Michigan gets a chance to show what they can do.

A Response to Stephen Fry Annihilating God

An old friend of mine, whom I will always remember with fondness, posted a link to a video showing atheist Stephen Fry responding to the question of what he would say if he met God.  Mr. Fry’s response addresses the basic problem of evil, and he gives a long winded version of ‘how dare you?’  It is interesting that Mr. Fry says he would prefer it if the God he met were the Greek gods.  These were gods that were flawed, so at least they would have an excuse for the evils we experience.  The commentary in the video also brings up the problem of other religions, and how can believers be so arrogant as the expect that their religion happens to be the correct one.

I am pleased to report that my religious faith was unshaken by this video, and I would like to explain why.

First off, I think what Mr. Fry is arguing against is absolute definitions of the nature and character of God, largely from Protestant Christianity.  My Mormonism has some wiggle room here.  The God I believe in is embodied, and can only be in one place at a time.  My God is fighting against evil right along with us.  There is no absolute and complete control by God over everyone and every thing.  My idea of God could be considered as non-absolute.

In addition to this, I believe life to be a test.  And often this test is quite harsh.  A test that will eventually push us to certain limits, and the important thing is our response to such tests.  These tests must be real, with real consequences, and sufficient force to create real doubt, pain, grief and all the rest.  One may wonder what point life would have if nothing ever went terribly wrong.  I think part of the problem with Mr. Fry, and those who are persuaded by him, is that they insist on impossible expectations for any God to meet.

When it comes to the question of other religions, I feel my understanding of Mormonism provides some unique perspective.  Mormonism has this concept of a long apostasy, where full gospel knowledge and ordinances were not even available.  I conclude that in many cases, our response to life in general can be quite sufficient for God’s purposes, independent of any religious affiliation.

Further, the availability of vicarious ordinances for all, potentially makes Mormonism quite universal in the long run.  It can be okay if an individual lives their life in another religion, or no religion at all.  Eventually opportunity will be granted to all.  So the all or nothing religious test, for everyone, during mortality, does not affect Mormonism in the least.

I cannot speak to the religious experiences, or the lack thereof, of other people. I can only speak to my own.  I have had significant religious experiences, and I must either follow those experiences, or ignore them.  I know that there is evil and suffering in the world – a lot of it.  I know there are a lot of religions out there with competing claims.

I still believe.

My Attempt to Understand LDS Policy Regarding the Children of Same-Sex Couples

It has been a year since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued a policy regarding the children of same-sex couples.  The bottom line of the policy is that married/committed same-sex LDS couples are in a state of apostasy, and that any children of such couples must wait until they are adults before deciding to officially join the church.  There are other details in this policy, but these are the main points as I see it.

After reading a couple of posts on blogs and facebook feeds, I would like to make an attempt to contribute to understanding this policy.  Understanding the policy does not necessarily mean that one celebrates the decision.  My hope is that this policy can be discussed in a reasonable and civil way.  So my attempt to provide an argument to understand the policy is this:

P1  The church has always taught, and continues to teach, that sexual relations outside of a marriage between a man and a woman are serious sinful behaviors.

P2  Married same-sex couples have made a solemn, public, permanent commitment to just such behavior.

P3  Such couples are not likely to acknowledge that this behavior is sinful, nor likely to repent of this behavior.

P4  Children of such couples, who desire to join the church, face an open conflict between church teachings and their parents’ behavior.

C1  Such couples are in a state of apostasy from the church due to this permanent, public commitment that violates church teachings on a serious issue.

C2:  Children of such couples should wait until they are adults before officially joining the church by baptism.

I hope there is value in laying out the argument this way.  I suspect that those who really hate this policy simply disagree with P1.  And while I am sure this policy may sadden some people, I do think there is potential wisdom in it.

Why Typical Exit Stories Don’t Bother My Faith (Much)

I have had the opportunity to read several exit stories of ex or disaffected church members in recent years.  While I am bothered by the pain the individuals appear to have gone through, and the pain they are causing others whom they share these stories with, I am not bothered by the content of these stories very much.

I expressed in a recent post how many of these exit stories sound almost exactly alike.  This post was viewed a lot without much comment.  What little comments there were did not deny the ‘template’ nature of these exit stories (the similarities are so complete that they really do seem like plagiarism), they merely point out that believers are often guilty of using templates themselves.  This has some truth to it, but it is somewhat beside the point.

Since these exit stories are so template-like they are fairly easy to categorize.  And after reading a couple of recent examples, I have observed that they follow a common argument:

P1 – If the church is true and lead by prophets it must be absolutely perfect in every respect.

P2 – There are examples (history, practices, teachings, etc.) that show imperfections.

C – The church is neither true nor lead by prophets.

My rejection of the argument is based on premise 1.  Why must prophets and apostles, or the church they lead, be absolutely perfect in every respect?  Any claim from scripture to this is a bizarre over interpretation and ignores scriptural examples to the contrary.  Holding such an impossible standard makes prophets into being much more than human beings, which is simply unreasonable.

These template exit stories make such a claim to reason, yet I find their basic argument fundamentally unreasonable.  To restate it – Any flaw, or set of flaws, or perceived flaws, associated with the church at all means that the church is neither true, nor lead by prophets.  This seems so unreasonable, unscriptural, and unoriginal, that the argument does not bother me much.

In fairness, this does beg the question of just how many flaws can there be and still maintain a credible claim to truth or authority?  I suppose what some would call a tipping point in the number or type of flaws might vary.  But I would say that much depends on where your faith/testimony lies.  I have faith in the existence of God, Christ as Savior, the Book of Mormon as an inspired text, and the restoration of priesthood authority.  None of this is based in the least on perfection from human beings, or an organization that they run.  So I feel my tipping point would be extremely high, and perhaps even non-existent.  Which is why the content of these templates does not bother me very much.

In What Way is the Gospel for Everyone?

In my participation in online gospel discussion I often come across the claim that the gospel is for everyone.  It is usually invoked in the context of criticizing the church or its’ members for not being inclusive enough in their acceptance of a wide enough range of beliefs and behaviors.  Taken to logical conclusions, this would lead to a doctrine of anything goes, where all beliefs and behaviors are equally valued and embraced.  While I do believe that the gospel is for everyone, I do not believe that a radical inclusion of any belief or behavior is what the Savior had in mind when he described his straight and narrow way that few will find.

To me, participation in the gospel is based on the individual being willing to change in order to follow its’ teachings.  This comes through faith, being born again, putting off the natural man, repentance, etc.  It does not come from demanding that the Savior change His teachings to include your erroneous beliefs and sinful behaviors.

Certainly the church and its’ members should be kind and welcoming to all.  We should also be patient as fellow saints and those who are considering becoming such work on their discipleship.  We should acknowledge that some people have unique circumstances that may make some aspects of gospel living difficult.  Our invitation to follow Christ should be universally extended to all.  And we should be sure the invitation is to follow Christ and his teachings, not to follow a radically inclusive wide and broad path.

Why Do So Many Exit Stories Sound Alike?

Like many, I have had the experience of reading a few exit story letters of people leaving the Mormon Church.  Most of these come from people I don’t know directly through social media and the like.  I am sure that there are folks who feel quite sincere, and are open and honest in their explanations.  It also seems reasonable that many people will have similar reasons for leaving the church.  But it seems suspiciously odd to me that so many of these stories sound exactly alike.  It is enough to make one wonder if there are sample letters or templates out there for individuals to base their letters on.

There are such templates – a simple google search reveals.  And unsurprisingly they read just like the few exit stories I have read.

Intellectual integrity is a common appeal in almost all such letters, which seems a tad ironic in a letter that borders on plagiarism.  And it is difficult to take the list of grievances seriously, when the list reads like many other lists containing the same old criticisms that have been addressed well and often.

Again, I am sure people have their reasons for wanting to leave, and I am also sure these reasons will overlap.  But it would be more interesting to read if these letters had some originality to them.  Following the templates takes the shine off whatever sincerity or integrity they would like to express.

Sheldon Cooper and the Immortality and Eternal Life of Man

I was recently watching a re-run of the television show ‘Big Bang Theory’.  In this episode, Sheldon Cooper (the genius theoretical physicist who likely has something like Asperger Syndrome), regrets that he will likely die before sheldonscientists figure out how to transfer his consciousness into a robot so that he can live forever.

Sheldon, among other things, is something of an atheist who frequently ridicules his mother’s devout Christian faith.  And while he has legitimate questions about some aspects of her fundamentalist (likely Southern Baptist) beliefs, he seems oblivious to his own version of faith in man’s science.

His hope is not significantly different from the Christian hope of immortality and eternal life.  He acknowledges that there is something real yet mysterious about our conscious self.  He assumes that this consciousness is eternal in its ‘ nature.  And he hopes that if this consciousness can be transferred to a permanent body, then immortality will be his to enjoy.

This hope is not unlike the Christian hope in a resurrection, where our spirits can be transferred to a permanent body.  And while Sheldon has faith that someday mankind will figure out how to pull this feat off, his mother, and Christians everywhere, has faith that there already is something of a master scientist who already has it figured out.


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