Providing 90 Seconds of Joy

20130730-105124.jpgI was on the train this morning for my weekly trip up to Salt Lake, and I was using my laptop browse for news and other rather meaningless stuff. Out of the blue a boy about 10 comes and sits next to me and asks if I have any car racing games on my laptop because they are his favorite. It is immediately apparent that this boy suffers from diminished mental capacity. Right after the boy sits down his father follows apologizing for his son’s intrusion and trying to usher his son away from me. I could tell from the son’s body language that he was happy where he was and didn’t want to leave this cool laptop he’d found, and there was even a hint that a temper tantrum might have erupted if the dad insisted on him moving.

If this had happened during last week’s trip, I would have let the father take his son and been glad to be relieved of chatting with this boy, praying that he didn’t have the tantrum that he looked like he was about to have. But, I couldn’t allow myself to feel burdened over this interruption this week. During my own personal mourning over our collective loss of Kidd Kraddick this past weekend, I decided to watch a number of videos on his Kidd’s Kids channel. I was in awe at how simply and effortlessly he could extend love and compassion towards so many medically and mentally challenged children.

So this week, I instead assured this boy’s father that his son’s presence was no intrusion and was welcome. I asked the boy about his favorite racing games and why he liked them, and I confessed that I had no racing games on my computer. He then asked if I had the song “Witchdoctor,” and I thought that I did, but after looking through my iTunes I found I didn’t have that song. So, thanks to free public transit wifi, I played the 90 second preview through the iTunes store.

Those 90 seconds were HILARIOUS! This kid was practically doubled over in laughter at this silly song. Everyone within earshot started grinning from ear-to-ear. One of the other passengers said to the father, “you’ve gotta love that innocent laugh.” It was clearly a relief to this dad that not one person in the area was bothered by his son’s social faux pas.

When the song was finished the father again insisted to the son that he no longer bother me and that they had to go find their own seats. This time the son got up with no complaint and they moved up to the next train compartment.

English: Kidd Kraddick

English: Kidd Kraddick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was certainly a small thing, the whole time the kid sat next to me was less than 5 minutes, but without a doubt it meant something to this kid to find someone on the train who openly welcomed him. It also clearly meant something to the father to not see a bunch of strangers bothered by his son’s issues, but instead all be uplifted by his innocence.

I have to give credit where it is due. Thanks Kidd Kraddick for the example you set. You will be missed. And I’m especially grateful and feel blessed to be presented with an opportunity to “pay it forward” so quickly.

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Utah needs more skiing.

Okay, this is gonna be a change from my typical topics, but hey I have other interests.

So, in case you are unaware, Utah has some unbelievable skiing. The best of which are at the 7 resorts centered around the Cottonwood Canyons and Park City. Many people are surprised when they learn that these 7 resorts are almost on top of each other since it can take hours to drive between the base areas.

Given how close the resorts are, and the fact that it is almost impossible to build direct roads, many proposals have been given over the years for tramways or gondolas to be built so that people wouldn’t have to drive all the way around the Wasatch mountains on I-80. Talisker, the owner of Canyons has been behind the latest push. For good reason people are opposed, since Talisker expanded their resort haphazardly into the surrounding mountains. We fear that they’ll take what is left of the undeveloped areas around the resorts and build in them.

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I think the resorts in Park City and the Cottonwood Canyons should pretty much be stopped where they are. The Park City area has the infrastructure to handle their crowds. The 4 resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons could put in a mass-transit system of some sort that could allow for the resorts to reach their capacity on bad weather days when few people can make the treacherous drive.

We still ought to consider capacity options beyond infrastructure improvements. For this I think we need to revisit a proposal from the 1970’s and put it into action. The water park Seven Peaks in Provo was supposed to be the start of a year-round base area for a ski resort. They were supposed to build a tram or funicular that would carry skiers over Y-Mountain to ski runs. This never happened for a variety of reasons, but one of the main ones I found was that the developers hadn’t ever built a ski area before and didn’t know what they were doing. I also think that based on observable snow pack they picked an area a wee bit too south.

So here is what I want: a premier winter resort in Utah County on Cascade Peak. It would be a two base resort with one in Provo with a tram & a second in South Fork Provo Canyon. The base area in Provo could be built near the Riverwoods mall (an area begging for a new purpose), and would have the most spectacular tram ride in the continental U.S. It would be an amazing ride all year long, and would be a draw for tourists all in all seasons. It would be most impressive during the weeks in January and February when there is a strong valley inversion. Popping up above the fog into the sun in a tramcar would become one of the most Instragramed experiences in Utah.

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The resort on the backside of the mountain would contain some remarkable and varied terrain. Perfect for beginners and experts it would also allow for some of the longest continual runs in all the Utah resorts. Also, during the summer mountain bike trails could be added that would add further justification for running the tram all year long.

I’ll add as a post-script that I have no capital or connections to get this idea off the ground. I just think it would be great. I’m sure that the private land owners along the South Fork Provo River wouldn’t be thrilled by the idea. I also doubt Sundance wants to have such close competition; being the only Utah County resort has surely been nice. Sundance would probably wrap their opposition to the project as environmental protection, but this resort would be no more harmful to the Wasatch wilderness than the resorts we already have. It would simply increase Utah’s influence as one of the world’s ski-meccas.

Thoughts on historical context and Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith Mormon

Joseph Smith Mormon (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

One of my favorite news aggregators is the Real Clear service that pulls opinion pieces from all across the web and then categorizes them into “Politics,” “Science,” “Technology,” “Religion,” etc.  I recently found a couple of articles in their Religion section on Mormon history to be rather interesting.

In case you are unaware of this issue, in the last 100 years or so, ever since the last people who knew Joseph Smith personally died, church publications about his life history tended to focus on the more positive aspects of his life history.  Some have interpreted this as a sort of cover-up.  In full disclosure, I am of the school of thought that it is simply a manifestation of cognitive-dissonance.  As historians no longer had access to primary sources that could put some of the unsavory and/or questionable information about Brother Joseph into context, they would just exclude it.

Well, this was all fine and good until the advent of the internet when everything knowable about Joseph’s life was suddenly published and many members came across information that had been left out of his official biographies.  What more, this information was often published without historical context and framed in a negative way.  I recently attended a conference with a BYU historian and he spoke of being on the defensive in the battle of providing context to Joseph’s life history and much of what he did.

Well, I found it interesting that on Sunday the New York Times published a lengthy article “Some Mormons Search the Web and find Doubt.”  It addresses this problem and unfortunately frames it badly, basically implying that it should be causing more problems than it is.  I read this via Real Clear Religion, and was disappointed.

So, then this morning I go back to Real Clear Religion and find a new article on Patheos about Joseph Smith and what the author frames as “occult” practices (“Occult in America: Joseph Smith“).  This was not written in response to the New York Times Article, and in fact was published one day prior.  The interesting thing about this article is that in spite of his use of the word “occult” and the derogatory moniker “old Joe,” he actually provides some very good historical context for certain religious practices Joseph used to seek revelation that have fallen out of favor both inside of contemporary Mormonism and mainstream American Christianity.  He provides several statements that normalize Joseph’s divining and revelatory practices.

Some selections:

“Those beliefs did not make [the Smith family] outsiders either, it made them average.”

“Incredibly such ‘visions’ were a part of the religious landscape in the United States during the early part of the 19th Century.”

“Old Joe was simply a product of his times, and while most of us today probably scoff at the idea of searching for buried treasure, it was a fairly common pastime in early America.”

“In addition to seer stones and divining rods Joseph Smith and family also practiced ceremonial magic. Again, this is not unique. In 1822 a magazine in New York stated that ‘we find textbooks of Kabbalah, necromancy, astrology, magic, fortune-telling, and various proofs of witchcraft’ when writing about a local bookstore.”

The author even opened with this gem: “When it was over and all my research was done if I found myself really liking ‘Old Joe.’ Don’t worry, converting to Mormonism never crossed my mind, but I’m drawn to religious outsiders, and Joseph Smith Junior might be the most famous religious outsider of the last 200 years.”

Smith's later theology described Jesus and God...

I genuinely feel sympathy for people who learn something new about the church and then are hit with a crisis of faith.  I even wrote on this blog about a similar experience I had when I truly questioned the Church’s discriminatory policy on the priesthood.  It’s terrifying to suddenly challenge what you thought you knew was truth.  I do believe though that if you have built your faith on a foundation of Christ you should be able to work through your crisis.  Just be optimistic, and know that your doubt will eventually be satisfied.

After all, if a non-believer can spend months researching Joseph’s “occult” practices and come away with a better appreciation of who Joseph was in the context of history, than surely those of us who have received divine inspiration that he was a living prophet can also do so.