Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Outward Appearances

"But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

Years ago when I was the coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at BYU. A prominent Palestinian Arab Anglican priest (Naim Ateek) from Jerusalem came to visit Utah. I had meet him before and read his book "Justice and only Justice". He was and is a long time supporter of a fair and just two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I thought it would be a great idea to have the BYU community learn from a moderate, reasonable Palestinian Christian. In particular I thought that all of the BYU Jerusalem Center alumni would enjoy hearing him. When I sought approval (as is required at BYU) to have him come and speak I was told by the International Vice President that he could come if we only advertised his lecture to the Middle East Studies majors and to my Middle East geography students. When I questioned why we had to limit our publicity, I was told that that if it was publicized as a BYU event, and not just a major specific event, then "some member [of the Church] in Hurricane, Utah" might think that BYU and by extension the LDS Church was somehow validating and supporting what Ateek might say. There was a real concern that outwardly BYU and its guests must look the part, even if that meant severely restricting open dialogue which is so much a part of university learning.

This fear of what outsiders might see, hear and think also influences who is and is not invited to speak at BYU lectures and forums. There is a very intense vetting process to make sure that all university wide speakers outwardly exemplify what BYU and the LDS Church stands for. Sometimes those who are accepted (VP Dick Cheney) and those who are turned down (LDS author Laurel Thatcher Ulrich) are seemingly done with no rhyme or reason, but there is always a reason.  

When the Mormon Tabernacle Choir accepted president-elect Trump's invitation to sing at his inauguration, Mormons reacted in two very divergent ways which highlight two different views on how the Mormon Church should and will be viewed during this tumultuous time. 

Many see the Choir's singing as a fitting continuation of singing at inaugurations for any president, Republican or Democrat, who issues an invitation. They see it as a great opportunity for Mormon missionary work and a way to "let our light shine." And they see it as a patriotic act to honor the office of President and to celebrate the United State's peaceful democratic process. It shows that Mormons are loyal, patriotic Americans. All good reasons.

Other Mormon's see it as having a much more troubling meaning. They feel that the Choir's singing at the inauguration could be construed (by Muslims, Mexicans, women and even residents of Hurricane) as symbolically validating a man whose words and actions are very much at odds with Mormon ideals. This is not about outward policies (if he and his supporters want to build a wall then so be it, he was fairly elected on that platform) it is about inner character (bragging about his predator advances on women, his degrading comments about Mexicans, his discrediting of a US judge of Mexican ancestry, his vilification of all Muslims, his lack of business ethics (profit is all that matters), his disrespectful name calling (lyin' Ted, crooked Hillary) and on and on). 

If BYU is so vigilant in vetting its lecturers for fear of what message it may be giving, it seems only fair to hope that similar concerns be given by the LDS Church to what message an inaugural performance might give. Apparently the outward appearance of patriotism was viewed as more important than the outward appearance of standing up for what is right.   

 Martin Luther King Memorial, Washington DC.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Walnuts: Candied and for the Birds

Eighteen years ago I planted a walnut tree in our back yard.

This year it gave us its most bountiful crop, even with the loss of one of its main branches to a wind storm this past summer. The remaining branches were so heavily laden with big walnuts that they drooped down into our soccer playing pitch thus necessitating the occasional pruning of downward intruding branches.

Throughout the fall as walnuts dropped and then finally the leaves, the branches bounced back upwards.

The bird watching view from our family room window.

Fall and early winter mornings find a fun variety of birds enjoying the fruits of our back yard. First to go are the chokecherries in mid summer, then eventually it is the sun flowers seeds, plums, grapes, yew berries, tiny flowering pears, mountain ash berries and walnuts.

Fat Robin in the flowering pear.

Three robins in the mountain ash.

A few quail who ventured away from their dropped and decaying plum-feasting covey.

Startled starlings

Northern flicker (woodpecker) cracking open a walnut.

Top of the pecking order magpie. They love the walnuts and are their primary eaters. I apply the law of gleaners to my harvesting of walnuts. If I can't get the tough, hardened, blackened shell off I leave them in a pile under the walnut tree for birds to glean during the winter.

Magpie hard at work.

Post meal outer and inner shells.

A rare guest in our back yard a few weeks ago was this female sharp-shinned hawk (which looks a lot like a cooper's hawk). It is feasting on a bird.

 Squirrels also like our walnuts. The deer that frequent our backyard do not.

As the walnuts started to fall from October through November we would gather them up and then with a screw driver and gloves (the blackened outer shells really stain) I would peal off the soft green or hardening black outer shell. I then left them to dry on our front porch.

Shelling was done while watching the news (I'm weary of news about Trump), Christmas concerts or The Flash with Will. The stainless steel tub produced over 10 pounds of walnuts.

Quite a savings given the current price of a pound of walnuts.

For delicious candied walnuts, boil one cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of orange juice for two minutes, add a quarter teaspoon of orange extract, stir in four cups of walnuts and then spread to cool.  Easy.

Ready to go for an Emmett family party tomorrow and for neighborhood gifts. Tasty.

Still more to shell and enjoy throughout the year. I've decided to do more baking since I am the one who most enjoys walnuts in cookies, cakes and other desserts (banana splits!).