Volcanic Plugs and Dikes in the Northern Navajo Nation

The geological formations that get the most press in southern Utah are the sandstone spires, buttes, and columns of Monument Valley (and to a lesser extent Valley of the Gods).  But equally impressive are the volcanic plugs (necks) and dikes that are spread throughout the northern portion of the Navajo Nation (southern Utah, northern Arizona, and northwestern New Mexico).  These remains of ancient volcanoes have names like Shiprock, Agathla, Alhambra, Church Rock, and Mules Ear.  But the lesser well-known lava formations are equally impressive.  And most are easily observed and appreciated from roadside.

The Navajo Volcanic Field covers about 30,000 square km in the Four Corners region.  The plugs (necks) and dikes are what remains of volcanoes that erupted between 25 and 30 million years ago.  Since that time, erosion has lowered the ground surface hundreds of meters, exposing the deeper levels of these extinct volcanoes.  Typically, volcanic plugs tend to be more resistant to erosion than the enclosing rock formations.  Thus, after the volcano becomes inactive and deeply eroded, the exhumed plug stands out as an irregular columnar structure.

Shiprock, a Volcanic Plug, as Seen on a Hazy Day

Shiprock, a Volcanic Plug, as Seen on a Hazy Day

Shiprock, in northwestern New Mexico, is a classic example of a volcanic plug or neck.  It projects upward 483 meters above ground level, the approximate height of the Empire State Building (including towers).  Shiprock has three major dikes which resemble gigantic volcanic fences (or fortress walls) which radiate out from the plug.  In many ways the dikes are more visually impressive than the actual plug.  From both the ground and the air the dikes are easily observable.

South Dike with Shiprock in the Background

South Dike with Shiprock in the Background

There is an excellent grouping of plugs and dikes around the Navajo community of Kayenta in northern Arizona.  Included here are Agathla (north of Kayenta about 5 miles and south of Monument Valley) and Church Rock (east of Kayenta about 5 miles).  But there are also several smaller plugs and dikes in the area.

Agathla Peak Located Just South of Kayenta AZ

Agathla Peak Located Just South of Kayenta AZ

Note:  Shiprock is considered by the Navajo people to be a sacred mountain.  According to a 2006 press release:

Reports of the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department allowing rock climbing are false.  Yet several websites have postings on how to evade Navajo Nation regulations and proceed with dangerous and illegal rock climbs.  Even more serious than the possible physical harm illegal climbs could pose is the religious damage done to the Navajo people by these non-Navajo visitors.

So please respect all requisite Navajo regulations.

Posted in Environment, Navajoland, Religion, Science, Travel, utah | Leave a comment

I’m a Victim of “Hastening the Work”

Updated:  15 Apr 2014

It’s Thursday night.  My wife is at an Orem Chorale practice, so I’m home alone.  I’m 3/4th of the way through a British who-done-it showing on the local PBS channel.  There is a ring at the door.  Damn, I hate interruptions; I’m basically an introvert and love my privacy.

An over-dressed elderly couple (who I had never met before) is standing on my doorstep.  The man has on a name tag.  I don’t have on my glasses, so I can’t read what it says.  But it looks like an LDS missionary name tag.  Damn.

They ask if they can come in.  Damn.  I shrug and say sure, show them to the living room, and turn off the TV.  For the next twenty minutes we kibitz.  We talk about my work, my travel, their lives, the design of our home, Sevier Bridge Reservoir, etc.  They mention that they have talked to my wife a couple of times.

The visiting couple has a very intriguing act.  They alternate sentences and the conversation seems slightly more intense than it ought to be (particularly from the wife).  Their verbal interplay is somewhat entertaining.  About the time the novelty wears off, they decide that it is time to leave.

So, before they can leave, I ask them why they stopped by?  They say something to the effect that they are part of the “Hastening the Work” program of the LDS Church.  Since I’m not active, I get the feeling that this can’t be good.  But I’ve never heard of the program.

According to the Ensign magazine’s description:

It is time for all of us (active members of the LDS Church) to understand more clearly our role in hastening the work of salvation.  As we make member missionary work, convert retention, activation of less-active members, temple and family history work, and teaching the gospel a natural part of our lives, we will experience great joy and be endowed with spiritual gifts to strengthen the Church in the 21st century.

And even more threatening:  “As long as we reach out in kindness and love to those who need our friendship and help, we will not fail.”

When I tell my wife about the visit, she is even more frustrated than I.  Her previous visits with the couple hadn’t been positive for her.  It is now my responsibility to end our new “friendship” and take away the couple’s “spiritual gifts.”

I DON’T WANT TO BE ANYBODY’S PROJECT.

Yet a project, I remain.  Two months ago, the Stake President (who I admire), asked me if I wanted to be my ward’s membership clerk.  I travel, I love to travel, I’m frequently away from home (including Sundays).  I hate paperwork.  Why would anybody think that I would want to give up my volunteer work in southern Utah and Africa to become the membership clerk?  Is this really the way the Lord wants His “work” hastened.

Posted in mormonism | 7 Comments

Bishop Gary E. Stevenson and Getting Our “Medal”

Updated:  11 Apr 2014

I’m uncomfortable with the idea that we should do things for the reward.  It might work for the Olympics, but I’m not sure it works for life and religion.  For this reason, I’m uncomfortable with Gary E. Stevenson’s (Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church) 2014 Spring Conference talk.

According Stevenson:

Consider how your pathway to eternal life is similar to [that of Olympic athletes.]  While you are here, your actions will determine whether you win the prize of eternal life.

The clock is ticking.  The words of the Apostle Paul seem so fitting:  to run the race, that you may obtain the prize.

My young friends, wherever you are in [life,] I urge you to ponder, “What do I need to do next to ensure my medal?”

For me, Stevenson’s talk places too much emphasis on the “prize” and “medal.”  I realize that these expressions in his talk are euphemisms, but I think the comparison of the Olympics to life is not a good one.  (However, it did give Stevenson a chance to brag about Mormon Olympic athletes.)

Mormon humorist Robert Kirby made the following comment at the end of one of his columns (26 Mar 2014):

The coolest point of being comfortable with your telestialism (the lowest level in Mormon heaven) is the part where you start doing good things because you want to instead of having to.  It’s so liberating that it’s almost . . . well, heaven.

For me, this is the preferred thought.  Let’s live our life a certain way because we want to and not because we want the medal.

Posted in mormonism, Religion, Social Justice | 9 Comments

LDS President Uchtdorf and Process Theology

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the LDS First Presidency, seems to understand the situation the Church is in better than most.  In his 2014 April General Conference talk he makes reference to Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech “Don’t Sleep Through the Revolution.”

Rip Van Winkle [slept] for 20 years! And in the process, he had missed one of the most exciting periods in the history of his country—he had slept through the American Revolution.

In May 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used this story as an illustration for his speech “Don’t Sleep Through the Revolution.”

Today, I would like to take the same theme and propose a question to all of us who hold God’s priesthood: are you sleeping through the Restoration?

While many have noted the importance of the Mormon leader quoting King, fewer have notice the next part of his speech:

Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us. . .  In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.

This is one of the most remarkable periods of the world’s history!  Ancient prophets yearned to see our day.

It has frequently been my contention that LDS Church members could learn much from Process Theology; a belief that activities like the Creation are ongoing (they are processes and not events).  That it shouldn’t be Creation (a noun), instead if should Creating (a verb).  That everything is in a state of flux (think eternal progression).  That nothing is stationary, including God.

President Uchtdorf takes this idea and extends it to the Restoration of the Gospel.  Maybe we should change our language from Restoration to Restoring.

So why is it important for us to understand the relationship between Mormonism and Process Theology?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • By realizing that the Creation is ongoing, we become co-creators of the earth with God.  This inspires us to have a greater respect for the earth.
  • By understanding that everything is in a state of flux, we develop an in-depth respect for all forms of evolution, including Darwin’s theory of organic evolution.
  • By comprehending that the LDS Church is continually in a state a flux, we are better able to deal with the changes that are continually being made in organization, policies, and doctrine.
  • By acknowledging the reality of change, church members can better deal with the ever increasing rate of change in the world we live in.

President Uchtdorf understands the LDS Church’s journey into the 21st Century.

Posted in Creation, mormonism, Philosophy, Religion | Leave a comment

Jane Goodall: Five Defining Moments in Her Life

Jane Goodall just celebrated her 80th birthday (April 3, 2014).  In February, I was a spectator/participant at a pre-birthday party for her on a small island in Lake Victory (located just off the coast of Uganda).  I got to sing Happy Birthday to the grande dame of primatology.

Dr. Jane Goodall Cutting Her Birthday Cake

Dr. Jane Goodall Cutting Her Birthday Cake

Mary Schriver recently had Goodall share her defining moments:  experiences which influenced her, challenged her, and summoned her to a life-long interest and respect for chimpanzees.  According to Goodall:

  • At the end of WWII, I saw a photo of emaciated holocaust survivors and another showing a pile of dead bodies.  Seeing those images forever changed my understanding of human nature.
  • In 1956, I received an invite to go for a visit to a friend’s parent’s newly acquired farm in Kenya.  That is where I heard and met Louis Leakey.  It was Louis who first suggested that I should go and study chimpanzees.
  • In 1960, I realized chimpanzees were using and making tools to fish for termites.  At the time, it was believed that only humans used and made tools.
  • Following the divorce from my first husband, I remember going to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris; Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in G Minor filled the ancient space with glorious sound just as the sun lit up the great rose window.  In that moment, I realized that chance could not be responsible for it all.
  • I’ll never forget how I felt after the conference “Understanding Chimpanzees” in Chicago in 1986.  During the proceedings, I was utterly shocked to realize how chimpanzee numbers and African forests were declining.  I was sickened by the secretly filmed video of chimpanzees in medical research laboratories.

For more information click here.

Posted in Environment, great apes, Science, Social Justice, Travel, uganda | Leave a comment

Spiritual Transhumanism

Dorothy Deasy, Contributor

What is spiritual transhumanism?  For me, it is synonymous with the realization of the Kingdom of God and it has three key components:

  • non-violence (neither physical nor economic),
  • codification of the Rights of Man, and
  • co-creating in a way that reflects an understanding of the sacredness of Creation.

Jesus referred often, in “some fifty sayings and parables,” to the Kingdom of God.  From these sayings, Jesus’s followers learn how to behave in the here and now.  The Kingdom is realized when humankind is working in concert with Divine intent for social justice and non-violence.

spirittranshuman

This vision may seem inconsistent with transhumanism because transhumanism often bring to mind images of technology from science fiction.  Yet I look at the amazing world unfolding before us and see God active in the world.  There are daily breakthroughs in research and application such as the:

  • use of genomics to cure cancer,
  • creating crops resistant to blight,
  • saving lives with artificial and animal-grown organs,
  • helping infertile couples conceive,
  • implants that can short circuit Parkinson’s tremors,
  • cars that do not need drivers,
  • eradication of wild polio in India, and
  • news that Voyager has crossed over into interstellar space.

We are all transhumanist because the very context of industrialized modernity is to push beyond the boundaries of nature.

Together we can help shape the unfolding of the transhuman age in a fashion that respects human flourishing.  Together we can lobby and avoid political abuses that would pervert the intensions of the emerging technologies.

If transhuman philosophy embraces spirituality, ecosystem and symbiotic thinking, thereby co-creating with God, then both humankind and society may be transfigured to bring about the Kingdom of God.

Note:  This is an excerpt from my presentation at the 2014 MTA Conference in SLC on April 4, 2014.

Posted in Creation, Environment, Religion, Science, Technology, transhumanism | Leave a comment

Mormon Scientists Need to Emulate the Historians of Mormonism

Historians of Mormonism have done a lot to bring more “truth” to LDS history.  Their efforts, coupled with the global impact of the Internet, have had a lasting impact on our understanding of our past.  Mormon history has evolved from “faith-promoting stories” to actual, factual history.  And the work of these historians has caused important changes in the Church.

The work of historians, over the last half century, has also resulted in a major reevaluation of how LDS Church leaders view history.  In a recent speech at a history conference at Brigham Young University, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf made the following comment:

Truth and transparency complement each other.  We always need to remember that transparency and openness keep us clear of the negative effects of secrecy or the cliche of faith-promoting rumors.

Something similar to the Mormon history “rebellion” needs to happen with Mormon scientists.  For example, there are still many members of the Church who believe in a literal Genesis (OT).  To do this, one has to reject a lot of science (and history as well).  Many Mormons believe that to be a good member of the LDS Church you have to believe in real-life Adam, Eve, Noah, Lot, etc.  That the earth was created in 7 or 7,000 days.  That there was no death before the Fall.  And that people lived to be 900+ years old.

Mormon scientists need to explain to Church members that there was no Universal Flood, Tower of Babel, curse of Cain (or Ham), pillar of salt, or big fish (whale); that there was death before the Fall (if there was a literal Fall); and that organic evolution is more than a theory.  There are no discrepancies between true science and true religion.  The two are very compatible.

creation1

When individuals see a marked dichotomy between science and religion, and they perceive themselves to be religious, they frequently reject scientific observations and discoveries.  And conversely when studying science, individuals can lose their faith in conservative Christianity.  Both of these scenarios are bad for the LDS Church.  For example, rejecting scientific discoveries can (and has) lead to:

  • racism;
  • a disbelief in global warming;
  • a lack of environmental sensitivity;
  • distrust for vaccinations and immunizations; and
  • neo-Luddism

Rejecting conservative Christianity is leading to a loss of important members.  The type of members that the LDS Church needs to be a vibrant, viable organization.

LDS scientists have started to speak out, but not in the numbers that are required to move the LDS Church into the 21st century.  Mormon scientists need to look at the example of late Apostle John A. Widtsoe (who died in 1954).  He was willing to speak out on important issues related to science and religion.  And he himself saw no conflict between the two.

sciencereligion1

The Book of Genesis is fiction, myth, allegory, parable, fairy tale, whatever.  The Mormon Church needs to deal with this fact in an overt and open fashion.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t important lessons in Genesis, it just means it’s not history and not science.

Posted in Creation, Environment, Internet, mormonism, Religion, Science, Technology, transhumanism, widtsoe | 3 Comments