Monday, April 30, 2012

Weird Word of the Week: SHAMBOLIC

Dear Readers,

Thanks to Jeff, Madame L has just learned another great but weird word, one she suspects most of us won't be using in our everyday speech:


Jeff read it in this article about Joseph Kony, the murderous psychopath responsible for so many brutalities in Africa over the past few years: "The Central African Republic would be an excellent place to disappear. Its national army is one of the region’s smallest and weakest. Its terrain is primordially thick. And its infrastructure is shambolic."

According to the free online dictionary, "shambolic" is a British slang word which means "disorderly or chaotic."

Madame L hopes all her Dear Readers will send in new words for Madame L to share with all her other Dear Readers.

Readingly Yours,

Madame L

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, April 29, 2012: The Power of Habit

"The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business," by Charles Duhigg, is NOT just another book that will make you discouraged about how hard you're finding it to break your bad habits.

You know what Madame L means, right, Dear Readers? You've all read these books or articles, explaining how the latest scientific discovery shows how hard, or maybe impossible, it is to change habits, and why you might as well just give up now because you're never going to be able to lose weight, stop smoking, or whatever it is you're trying to do or stop doing.

This book explores, as the subtitle promises, WHY and HOW we develop our bad (and good) habits, which leads us to understand WHY and HOW we can change those habits.

"Since starting work on this book, I've lost about 30 pounds, I run every other morning (I'm training for the NY Marathon later this year), and I'm much more productive. And the reason why is because I've learned to diagnose my habits, and how to change them.

"Take, for instance, a bad habit I had of eating a cookie every afternoon. By learning how to analyze my habit, I figured out that the reason I walked to the cafeteria each day wasn't because I was craving a chocolate chip cookie. It was because I was craving socialization, the company of talking to my colleagues while munching. That was the habit's real reward. And the cue for my behavior - the trigger that caused me to automatically stand up and wander to the cafeteria, was a certain time of day.

"So, I reconstructed the habit: now, at about 3:30 each day, I absentmindedly stand up from my desk, look around for someone to talk with, and then gossip for about 10 minutes. I don't even think about it at this point. It's automatic. It's a habit. I haven't had a cookie in six months."

The appendix gives the details: Identify the routine, experiment with rewards, isolate the cue, and have a plan.

There's more to it, of course, including the kinds of anecdotes you and Madame L have all come to expect in such self-help books; but these are combined with actual information (a novel idea for such books!); and the last 85 pages of the book is made up of helpful comments on the text, information about where to find more information, and a very thorough index.

Madame L checked the book out of her local library (though she had to wait three weeks for it, since the waiting list was so long). If you don't want to wait, the book is available new at for $16.00.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Will My Husband Ever Ask For Directions?

Dear Madame L,

My husband says, mostly, but not totally, jokingly, that he has an innate sense of direction so he never gets lost. He says it's related to some masculine spatial orientation capacity that women don't have.

I'll admit that he has a good sense of direction, but obviously it's not enough. And he will admit, grudgingly, sometimes, that he's on the wrong road, and sometimes he makes a wrong turn, but that's not because he's lost. It's because of bad signage. (Yes, Madame L, he says "signage.")

I wish he would just someday ask for directions. He won't even let ME ask! What can you suggest for me to help convince him that his masculine pride won't be damaged by asking for help once in awhile?


Lost Too Many Times

Dear Lost,

Madame L feels your pain and admits that she herself often has trouble asking for directions. Madame L has been known to drive around an area many more times than necessary in order to find a location which would have been much easier to find if she'd only asked for help. 

Madame L ventures to speculate that, even if men may have evolved have better spatial awareness and navigation skills than women because of their hunting prowess (or whatever)---just Google "spatial awareness and gender" to get a feel for the research and pseudo-research and commentary on this subject---this capacity, even if real, may not have transferred well to the modern road systems of America. 

Madame L notes, too, that very recent research shows that birds (males and females) have "GPS neurons" in their brains that help them navigate. If humans also have such magnetic navigational aids, they may be next to useless, given the magnetic interference at ground level.

Madame L wonders if you'd like to buy your husband a GPS navigation device for his vehicle. Many smart phones now have GPS navigation apps, too. If these don't seem like good options, perhaps you can use an online map service to map out your destination and route before you and your husband embark on future road trips.

Madame L invites suggestions from other Dear Readers.


Madame L

P.S. Madame L also sympathizes with you over your husband's use of the word "signage." It's a real word, but so are "megalomania," "absquatulate," and "footle," words which Madame L bets your husband isn't throwing around on road trips.

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Wild Geese," by Mary Oliver

Found this on another website, a reminder of the beauty and love of creation:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, 
high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mormonism and the Nicaean Council

Dear Madame L,

I know you keep saying Mormons are Christians, but a lot of other people---Christians---say you're not, and I've finally figured out why: because you don't have the same beliefs about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit that most Christians have.

Could you please explain why you still think you're a Christian?


A Christian Friend

Dear Christian Friend,

Madame L and other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are Christians because they believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, they believe in his divine mission to save us from sin through his atonement and our repentance, and they believe he died on the cross and was resurrected so that we may one day be resurrected, too.

Yet we are not considered Christians by some because, as a friend of Madame L has explained, we are guilty of committing the Arian heresy: that is, we don't agree with the doctrine preached by Athanasius, who won the battle of doctrines at the Nicaean Council.

The Nicaean Council began May 20, 325. It was convened at the request of, or, one might better say, under orders from, Emperor Constantine. As such, it was a political, not religious, meeting, although the attendees were 300 church bishops. Its purpose was to unify Christianity by choosing, once and for all, a common doctrine about the nature of the Godhead.

The problem arose with interpreting the various Biblical accounts of  Christ's appearance and divinity. For example, he said he was one with the Father (John 10:30); but when he was baptized, those present heard God's voice from heaven and saw a third manifestation as the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove (Matthew 3:16-17). 

How to explain this? Since the time of Christ's death and the loss of the priesthood from the earth, various explanations were advanced. These have been classified---and were discussed at the time---using these Greek terms for them:

---Homoiousianism: The Son is "like in substance" but not identified with the essence of the Father;

---Homoianiam: The Son is similar to the Father, but without reference to substance or essence; or that the Father is so transcendent that it's heretical even to think of anyone, even the Son or the Holy Spirit, being similar to him; and

---Heteroosuianism: God the father and the son are different in substance and attributes.

Arius argued that if Christ was the son of the Father, he must be subordinate and not quite as divine, which led others to wonder how he could bring salvation to humanity. 

Athanasius and his many followers used that very argument, saying that unless Christ was fully and truly God, humanity would lose its hope in his power to save us. Therefore, he argued, Christ was the same as God the Father but in entering the world was only "stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us" so he could save us.

Others came up with demands that the Holy Ghost be explained as a separate or non-separate member of the Godhead, though it was eventually agreed (in a later conference, held in Constantinople in 381) that the Spirit was a "fully divine person." 

There were many other opposing views, some of which are listed in Wikipedia's article about the Council. 

Finally, though, Constantine ordered the bishops to come up with a creed and vote on it. The majority favored the Athanasius version, which was accepted; and Constantine ordered all of Arius's books burned and anyone who continued to follow him excommunicated, exiled, and/or executed.

But this wasn't the end of it. Arianism and other doctrines continued to prevail in many areas for decades, even after the council in Constantinople. Athanasius fought for his view, even though he was removed from his bishop's see five times between Nicaea and Constantinople.

Here's an interesting apologist's explanation of this history, apparently prompted by a discussion with a Latter-day Saint friend, because it addresses specifically issues raised in a conversation, without, however, addressing the LDS doctrine.

Madame L is no expert on this subject, though she has read a bit about it (and not just in Wikipedia). For readers who want to understand the history of Christianity in the period after the deaths of the original apostles and the Nicene Creed, she recommends particularly these two books, which she found in her local library: "Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity," by Mark A. Noll; and "The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity," edited by John McManners.

Madame L summarizes some of the history here only to show how the Nicene Creed was decided upon and to emphasize, in contrast, that the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about the nature of God is based on scriptural record and modern revelation.

The arguments supposedly settled by the issuing of the Nicene Creed still rage,  even within sects and congregations that generally accept the creed. 

But here's the thing, Dear Christian Friend: Mormons do NOT accept Arianism, which claims that Christ is  inferior to God the Father. Nor do we subscribe to the Nicene Creed, which is why we are often branded as a non-Christian cult.

Here's what Mormons believe about the Godhead: "We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost." 

For more, please go to and search under "Godhead," where you will find many articles such as this one, by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, and this one, by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, explaining our beliefs.


Madame L

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, April 22, 2012: Drift: Rachel Maddow Does It Again

Dear Readers,

What does Rachel Maddow do again? She blows us away with her intelligent, thorough, and thoroughly witty analysis of an important issue of the day.

The book is "Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power," and it has received rave reviews from right- and left-wing commentators alike. That's partly because she has chosen a topic of concern to everyone on every side of the political spectrum (yes, even Ron Paul and his pseudo-libertarian followers), and then, of course, because, again, as she does on her MSNBC news commentary show, her approach is fair and balanced.

(And who else in the whole wide world would write a dedication like this? Rachel writes: "To former vice president Dick Cheney. Oh, please let me interview you.")

Some tidbits from the book, some little-known facts and some items that may jog your memory, if you're old enough, or at least give you pause, if you've never heard of them before:

---It all started, Rachel says, with LBJ's decision not to send the National Guard and Reserves to fight in Vietnam, which "tore the military from the heart of the country, and it tore the country from the heart of the military."

---James Madison wrote that the framers of the Constitution gave war-declaring power to Congress instead of the president because "the History of all Governments demonstrates that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it."

---The Congressional Powers Resolution of 1973 was passed to ensure that if the president executed any military operation, he would have to get authority from Congress within 30 days or end the operation after 60 days.

---Even John Wayne objected to Reagan's demagoguery about the Panama Canal, sending him a private letter "offering to show him 'point by ****** point in the treaty where you are misinforming people' [and adding,] 'If you continue to make these erroneous remarks, someone will publicize your letter to prove that you are not as thorough in your reviewing of this treaty as you say or are ***** obtuse when it comes to reading the English language.'

---In the Iran-Contra debacle, "[of] the nearly $40 million that was raised toward Contra aid, only about $17 million found its way to the brave freedom fighters."

Rachel never claims that the erosion of our national military force and its importance in American lives is the result of some kind of conspiracy. Rather, she writes, "Rational political actors, acting rationally to achieve rational (if sometimes dumb) political goals, have attacked and undermined our constitutional inheritance from men like Madison. For the most part, though, they've not done it to fundamentally alter the country's course but just to get around understandably frustrating impediments to their political goals."

The book is available at and other booksellers for about $15.00. It's in your local library, too, though you'll have to put your name on a wait list. Also, Madame L will be happy to loan her (heavily underlined, marked, and dog-eared) copy to any of her Dear Readers who would like to borrow it from her.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Are Electric Vehicles Really Going to Save the Environment?

Dear Madame L,

Some friends of mine just bought a Chevy Volt, an electric vehicle which they say not only saves them money on gas but also is saving the environment.

But they have to plug it in to charge it, and some electric company somewhere is burning some fossil fuel to make that power, so I'm wondering if this is really any better for the environment in the long run.

Your thoughts?

Almost Green Reader

Dear Almost Green,

It's true some critics of the "Green" movement have made the same objection to the idea of electric cars. Fortunately, someone has looked into it. It turns out that the cars actually can save on emissions, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

However, whether they actually save, and how much they save, depends on the state and source of power used for electricity. The UCS reports:

"Electric vehicles (EVs) burn no gasoline and have no tailpipe emissions, but producing the electricity used to charge them does generate global warming emissions. The amount of these emissions, however, varies significantly based on the mix of energy sources used to power a region's electricity grid.

"For example, coal-fired power plants produce nearly twice the global warming emissions of natural gas-fired power plants, while renewable sources like wind and solar power produce virtually no emissions at all."

The Christian Science Monitor reports, "Only the most efficient hybrid cars outperform electric-drive vehicles (EVs) on emissions in those states where coal is a major contributor to the electricity used for recharging EV batteries."

Other news outlets report the story differently, some emphasizing the detriment to the environment by coal-burning power plants. One story, for example, led with the point that hybrids "can be less polluting" than electric vehicles if they're run in a coal-burning state.

Madame L is glad she has Internet access so she can read the original study and draw her own conclusions, and hopes you will do so, too. Madame L cites this issue as an example of why any informed citizen should be looking for original sources instead of relying on random results of a Google search. Madame L also tends to use Wikipedia as a starting-point in her search for information, not as an infallible or comprehensive source.
Madame L hopes you'll keep getting greener, not with envy but with your attempts to save the environment. 


Madame "It's Not Easy Being Green" L

Thursday, April 19, 2012

More on Ambulance Story: Heart Attack Risk

Dear Madame L,

I hope you'll encourage your readers to take a look at this Wall Street Journal article about the consequences of ignoring the signs of heart attack and delaying treatment.

I'm thinking particularly of your reader who declined to wait for am ambulance when some other people called one, thinking he/she may have been suffering symptoms of a heart attack.

After reading this article, I think those other people were right to call am ambulance, as they saw the person lying down as if tired, and the person probably didn't answer coherently when they first started asking questions.


A Concerned Reader

Dear Concerned,

Madame L thanks you for your concern and hopes that all her Dear and Gentle Readers will read the article (and thanks, by the way, for the link). The article begins:

The advice sounds very simple. The best way to survive a heart attack is:
1. Recognize the symptoms.
2. Call 911.
3. Chew an aspirin while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.
But every year, 133,000 Americans die of heart attacks, and another 300,000 die of sudden cardiac arrest—largely because they didn't get help in time.

The article points out some of the symptoms beyond the Hollywood-type dramatic chest pain and explains that even when people think they're just having heartburn or they're just tired and stressed, or think they're too busy or the doctor is too busy or they don't want to bother someone, and even when they go to the hospital and a doctor tells them there's nothing wrong, they need to pay attention.

Madame L also found an interesting graphic in the article, showing that even 10 or 20 minutes per day of exercise can help prevent heart attacks:

So, again, Dear Readers, please read the article and please make a pledge to yourself and your Significant Other that you will pay attention and take care of yourself!


Madame L


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What is a Mill?

Dear Madame L,

I've been reading some old family letters and have found references to "mills" from different states---not lumber mills or paper mills or flour mills, but some kind of coin. Can you tell me what these are?


Just Wondering

Dear Wondering,

According to Wikipedia, the "mill" or "mil" was first proposed by the Continental Congress in 1786, "being described as the "'lowest money of account, of which 1000 shall be equal to the federal dollar.'"

Nobody uses mills any more---in fact, our country may eventually follow the lead of Canada in abolishing even the penny coin.

But mill coins, made by the states so people could pay state taxes that came to fractions of pennies, were used as recently as the 1940s. Here, for example, are four mill coins enclosed in a letter from a missionary to his family back home; in this letter, the missionary asked his family to send him some mill coins from his state for him to give as souvenirs to friends in the state where he was working.

Nowadays, we don't use the term, which is why you had to ask about it. Instead, as the Wikipedia article points out, "Discount coupons, such as those for grocery items, usually include in their fine print a statement such as 'Cash value less than 110 of 1 cent.'"  


Madame L

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cell Phone Spam

Dear Madame L,

I've just started receiving spam text messages on my smart phone. So far, I'm ignoring them --- because, No, Sir or Madam, I'm NOT interested in your body-enhancing whatever or your offer to test another kind of cell phone --- but is there any way I can stop them?



Dear Bothered,

Madame L has been hearing from several friends lately with the same problem, and, just as the rest of us noticed it, fortunately, someone from has written about it.

Ironically, though the article is titled "How to stop text spam," author Will Oremus doesn't offer much positive advice for us.

"The latest wave of text scams is a cut above your typical Nigerian bank fraud. Orchestrated by a sprawling network of mainly U.S.-based e-crooks and semi-legal websites, these swindles use confusing privacy notices and fine-print consent forms to lend a veneer of plausibility to attempts to separate you from your personal and financial information. Consider a text that invites you to “Test & keep unreleased iPhone5!” Follow the link and it will admit that some “testing and participation” is required before you claim your prize. It first asks you to confirm your email address, then requests your name, date of birth, phone number, and mailing address. A few clicks later, you’re asked to enter your credit card number so they can charge a small $8.99 shipping fee. By the time you notice you never received your iPhone 5, the website will be gone, and your name, phone number, and credit card number will have entered the vast and lucrative underground market where such information is traded."

What to do about it, though? His answer: "Your surest defense is to avoid replying to any mobile spam and to hold off on typing in your cellphone number on websites you don’t fully trust. That won’t guarantee you immunity, since legitimate sites can be hacked for customers’ personal information, but it’s your best bet."

On the other hand, he notes,  "For those that have been targeted, the good news is that the major wireless carriers offer a litany of potential fixes. The bad news is that, in all likelihood, they won't do you any good."

Here are the "fixes" and "tips" from the wireless companies and FCC:

1) Report spam to your carrier by forwarding the offending message to 7726 (that's SPAM on alphanumeric keypads), then copy the phone number it came from and send that along as well.

2) Report the spam to the FCC.

3) Tell your wireless carrier to block messages from the Internet. 4) Have your carrier block messages from the specific phone numbers that are spamming you.

Madame L would love to hear from other Dear and Gentle Readers who have figured out their own ways to deal with cell-phone text-spams.

Good luck,

Madame L 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, April 15, 2012: As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning

Laurie Lee was an English writer who published this book in 1969, 35 years after the events in it took place.

Maybe it took that long for everything to fit together and make sense for him, because when he set off on his journey across England and eventually to Spain, he was just a young lad.

But he was obviously a poet even then, as well as a musician.

''I was nineteen years old, still soft at the edges, but with a confident belief in good fortune. I carried a small rolled-up tent, a violin in a blanket, a change of clothes, a tin of treacle biscuits, and some cheese. I was excited, vain-glorious, knowing I had far to go; but not, as yet, how far. As I left home that morning and walked away from the sleeping village, it never occurred to me that others had done this before me.''

He mentions the "violin in a blanket" in the middle of everything else, but it was the most important thing he carried with him, because it helped him earn his way on his travels.

Madame L got this book from some discount bookseller she doesn't remember now, for about $5.00, but it's also available from, for $9.49; and Madame L is sure it's available in your local library or can be ordered through your library from another library.

Madame L mentions all these ways of getting this book because it's so good. Reading this book is like reading a long poem on a relaxed, summery day, like dreaming drowsily into a word-induced stupor of beauty... even at the very end, when the village where he's staying is bombarded by a destroyer:

"But war was not far away, and after nightfall, unexpectedly, it paid its first mad call on Almunecar. A destroyer crept into the bay, unseen by anyone, and suddenly began probing the shore with its searchlight. The beam swept over the hills, up and down the coast, and finaly picked out the village and pinned it against the darkness. Held by the blazing eye, opening so ominously from the sea, the people experienced a moment of naked panic...

"For awhile nothing happened...The beam was abruptly switched off, followed by a moment of absolute darkness. Then there came a blinding flash from the sea.

"Silence. It was as though a great fuse had blown. Then the mountains behind us thundered, a thunder that boomed and cannoned from peak to peak and tumbled in the valleys like showers of stones. There was another flash, another explosion, another hot blast of air...Then we heard the tearing scream of a shell.

"The searchlight came on again. We could see the crowds on the beaches surging inland like a muddy wave. The destroyer fired once more, misting its searchlight with smoke, and we were no longer in doubt about its intentions. A house on our right suddenly shuddered, rose a foot in the air, and slowly collapsed like a puff-ball. A bundle of stones and trees leapt up by the river..."

Laurie Lee and another British citizen were evacuated by a British destroyer shortly afterward, and Laurie stayed on the deck,

"...watching Almunecar grow small and Spain folding itself away...I saw the long hard coast, which I'd trodden inch by inch, become a clinker of bronze on the skyline. Behind it the peaks of the Sierras crawling jaggedly into view, hung there suspended, then fell away---and in that instant of leaving them I felt them as never before, clutching at my senses like hands of bone. From that seaborne distance, cut off and secure, I seemed only then to begin to know that country; could smell its runnels of dust, the dead ash of its fields, whiffs of sour wine, rotting offal, and incense, the rank hide of its animals, the peppery skin of its men, the sickly tang of its fevred children..."

Dear Readers, Madame L mentions the cost and availability of this book, as she does with all the books she reviews, to help you decide if you want to buy or borrow it. If any of you would like to borrow this book from her, she will gladly lend it to you, with the warning that she has marked it heavily and the additional warning that she will want it back eventually, so she can read and read it again.

Two more notes:

Madame L found from this Wikipedia entry a little more about the author, including his full name and birth- and death-dates: Laurence Edward Alan "Laurie" Lee  (26 June 1914 – 13 May 1997).

And Madame L has started reading another of his books, Cider With Rosie (also bought from a discount bookseller) and  is not enjoying it as much, but she'll let you know when she finishes it if she thinks it's worth your time to start and finish it.

Yes, Virginia, Mormons Are Christians

Dear and Gentle Readers,

Madame L confesses that she is still appalled at the people (Christians and ministers of Christianity) who are still claiming that Mormons are not Christians.

While Madame L will continue to address this issue, she is happy to hear from friends that an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, has recently explained the basis on which members of the church (and Madame L is proudly one)  proclaim their belief in Christ.

For those who prefer to read, here is a transcript of Elder Holland's remarks. And Madame L is pasting here the main doctrinal points from the talk:

Our basic message about Christ’s restored Church and its doctrine is not limited to, but might begin with, the truth that:
  • Every man, woman, and child who has ever lived, now lives, or will yet live so long as the earth shall last is a son or daughter of a loving and divine Heavenly Father. He is the God in whose image we were created, which is not surprising in that children are always created in the image of their parents. As the spiritual offspring of God, we are “heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”
  • In order to gain a mortal body and experience moral growth available in no other way, a real Adam and a real Eve chose to leave a paradisiacal setting—Eden, if you will—to learn all that was necessary for children of God to learn, especially about living together in love and realizing that the guidance God would give them is the only answer to the personal and familial, social and political, economic and philosophical problems they would face in mortality.
  • Because mistakes would be made in the course of that mortal education—sometimes horrible mistakes, wrenching mistakes, global mistakes—a Savior was provided in such a plan, one who would atone not only for Adam and Eve’s initial transgression (one necessary to bring the human family into mortal existence) but also for every individual transgression made by all those in that human family—the sins and sorrows, the disappointments and despair, the tears and tragedies of every man, woman, and child who would ever live from Adam to the end of the world.
  • Such a plan was necessary and such a Savior was required in it because life is eternal. Our hopes and dreams mattered before we came to this earth, and they will most certainly matter after we leave it.
  • Lastly, this plan, this divine course outlined for us—including the fortunate Fall in Eden and the redemption of Gethsemane and Calvary—is universally inclusive. All are children of the same God, and all are included in His love and His grace. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Everyone is covered, though it remains to be seen whether everyone cares. But if there is a failure to respond, it won’t be because God didn’t try and Christ didn’t come. That is at the heart of what I have been introducing to you as the restored gospel.
Now, in light of what I consider that pretty straightforward New Testament theology, one may wonder, “Why do these Mormons stir up such emotions in people, and why are they not considered Christian by some?” Let me conclude with just a few thoughts on that.

We are not considered Christian by some because we are not fourth-century Christians, we are not Nicene Christians, we are not creedal Christians of the brand that arose hundreds of years after Christ. No, when we speak of “restored Christianity” we speak of the Church as it was in its New Testament purity, not as it became when great councils were called to debate and anguish over what it was they really believed. So if one means Greek-influenced, council-convening, philosophy-flavored Christianity of post-apostolic times, we are not that kind of Christian. Peter we know, and Paul we know, but Constantine and Athanasius, Athens and Alexandria we do not know. (Actually, we know them, we just don’t follow them.) 
Thus, we teach that:
  • God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are separate and distinct beings with glorified bodies of flesh and bone. As such, we stand with the historical position that “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].” We take Christ literally at His word—that He “came down from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him that sent [him].” Of His antagonists, He said they have “hated both me and my Father.” These, along with scores of other references, including His pleading prayers, make clear Jesus’s physical separation from His Father. However, having affirmed the point of Their separate and distinct physical nature, we declare unequivocally that They were indeed “one” in every other conceivable way—in mind and deed, in will and wish and hope, in faith and purpose and intent and love. They are most assuredly much more alike than They are different in all the ways I have just said, but They are separate and distinct beings as all fathers and sons are. In this matter we differ from traditional creedal Christianity but agree with the New Testament.
  • We also differ with fourth and fifth century Christianity by declaring that the scriptural canon is not closed, that the heavens are open with revelatory experience, and that God meant what He said when He promised Moses, “My works are without end, and . . . my words . . . never cease.” We believe that God loves all His children and that He would never leave them for long without the instrumentality of prophets and apostles, authorized agents of His guidance and direction. The Book of Mormon and other canonized scripture, as well as the role of living oracles, witnesses to the fact that God continues to speak. We agree enthusiastically with the insightful Protestant scholar who inquired, “On what biblical or historical grounds has the inspiration of God been limited to the written documents that the church now calls its Bible? . . . If the Spirit inspired only the written documents of the first century, does that mean that the same Spirit does not speak today . . . about matters that are of significant concern?”
  • Lastly, for today, we are unique in the modern Christian world regarding one matter which a prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called our “most distinguishing feature.” That is, divine priesthood authority to provide the saving sacraments—the ordinances—of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The holy priesthood, which has been restored to the earth by those who held it anciently, signals the return of divine authorization. It is different from all other man-made powers and authorities on the face of the earth. Without it there could be a church in name only, and it would be a church lacking in authority to administer in the things of God. This restoration of priesthood authority eases centuries of anguish among those who knew certain ordinances and sacraments were essential but lived with the doubt as to who had the right to administer them.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we can answer the question of “who laid hands on him” all the way back to Christ Himself. The return of such authority is truly “the most distinguishing feature” of our faith.

Any questions? Contact your local missionaries. (You don't need an official of the church to talk to you about this!--Hint, hint, Lawrence O'Donnell!)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Madame L's Personal Invitation to Lawrence O'Donnell

Dear Readers,

Madame L hopes you continue to write letters and make phone calls to express your views, especially when you come face-to-face with egregious examples of hypocrisy and lying.

Madame L wants you to know she still does that, herself. Here is the text of an e-mail message she recently sent to Mr. Lawrence O'Donnell, host of "The Last Word" on MSNBC:

Mr. O'Donnell:

Please see the following post:

You're quick to point your finger at other celebrities who don't know how to make a real apology.

Now it's your turn to set the record straight, to re-write, so to speak, your original lying slur of the LDS church and its founder, AND your subsequent apology, which was lame at best, hypocritical and self-serving as usual, and a real disservice to yourself and to liberals and progressives who claim to hold the higher moral ground.

A sincere apology would include:

1. Setting the record straight, using the historical facts, which are very well laid out in the Swampland article by Michael Scherer:

2. Taking out the face-saving "if" and replace it with the acknowledgment that you DID offend people (not just Mormons but other open-minded people who want to hear the truth, not centuries-old lies that have been repeated ad nauseum by bigots since 1830) ---

And it would NOT include:

1. A disingenuous and hypocritical "invitation" to church leaders to "set the record straight."

Come on, Mr. O'Donnell, the ball's in your court. Return it with dignity. Don't keep channeling Glenn Beck and his ilk, lying hypocritical bombasts.


Madame L

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lawrence O'Donnell Apologizes---Sort Of

Dear Madame L,

I saw on "The Last Word," Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC news commentary show, on Wednesday evening (April 11), Mr. O'Donnell apologize for his lying slur about Joseph Smith, the founder of your church.

He said he wished he had never said those two sentences.

I'll bet he wishes that! However, he never acknowledged that those words were untrue, and he "invited" LDS church spokesmen to come on his show to "explain." What do you think about that?


Still Think O'Donnell Has to Make a Real Apology

Dear Real Apology,

Madame L agrees with you. For those Dear Readers who didn't see Madame L's earlier column on O'Donnell's attack on the LDS religion, Mr. O'Donnell claimed on his Tuesday, April 3, show that Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in order to excuse and legitimize, for the sake of his suspicious wife, a relationship he had with a servant girl in their household.
Madame did not see Lawrence O'Donnell's show on Wednesday night (April 11) but watched that segment later, and she was struck by his lack of sincerity. He made it clear that he wasn't apologizing for the lies he told or trying to correct them, but was only responding to negative comments from many Mormon and non-Mormon viewers.

Madame L also had to chuckle at Mr. O'Donnells's disingenuous "invitation" for church leaders to come on his show to "explain" their beliefs and history to him.

Here's what Mr. O'Donnell said: "I am truly sorry if I said something inaccurate about Joseph Smith, and I am happy to provide time on this show to a Church of Latter Day Saints spokesman to correct any inaccuracy. I just wish I could take those words back.”

Madame L still, Mr. O'Donnell's fake apology notwithstanding, thinks Mr. O'Donnell should REALLY apologize. 

He needs to come clean and admit it: He's a bigot. 

While bewailing the way right-wing pundits bring up religion and pretending that religion should not be an issue in politics, he himself not only brought up religion but attacked, with lies, the sincere and humble beliefs of an entire group of Christians. (Oh, yes, Virginia, and Mr. O'Donnell, Mormons ARE Christians.)

For any of Madame L's Dear and Gentle Readers who are wondering what the fuss is about, here is a summary of the lies and truths around the story of the maid, and the truth about the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (which, as you have surmised by now, had nothing to do with the maid and everything to do with the appearance of the Angel Moroni and the translation of the Book of Mormon).

Lawrence O'Donnell has given lots of free advice on his show to other public commentators on how to make a real apology. He has pointed out that a true and sincere apology does NOT include hedging ("...if I told a lie," or "...if I offended anyone") and does NOT include a challenge to the injured parties to come and engage in a battle on the air.

Shame on you, Mr. O'Donnell! Some of Madame L's readers, who used to be fans of yours, have told her in comments on this blog and in private email messages, that they cannot believe anything you say any more, since your egregious, irresponsible and unprofessional lies about the Mormon church and your empty and hypocritical "apology"  a week later.

But since you have four evenings of air time every week in which to make your views known, unlike most of the people you offended by your sarcastic lies, YOU, Mr. O'Donnell, can make up for it any time, and you DON'T need any church officials to prod and poke fun at while you do it. 

Tell the truth. Make a complete apology.

In case you don't want to commit the time necessary to search out the historical facts, many others have already done so, and Michael Sherer has laid them all out for you here.

Ball's in your court, Mr. O'Donnell.


Madame L

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Further Comments on Ambulance Service

Madame Elle thanks her Dear Reader Ellen for this comment:

I wonder if ambulance fees don't differ according to the city where they are provided, and whether or not they are provided by a private service. In my town, the ambulance service is run by volunteers, and there is no fee if they are called out but do not transport. That was the case in the previous community where we lived, too, although I believe that there the ambulance personnel were paid rather than donating their volunteer services.

In that last community that I just mentioned, we called the ambulance once when our little one got hurt and passed out. The EMT's came to our home, in the ambulance, with lights and siren blaring. They did a complete physical evaluation (not sure if or what personal information they asked for), and then left without charging us anything because it was determined that a hospital visit was not necessary, therefore we did not need their transportation services.

Even if they had advised that we go to the hospital, we could have refused their transportation services and transported the child ourselves, and they still wouldn't have charged us, even though they had come to our home with all their equipment and done the evaluation.

Maybe laws vary state by state?

Thanks again, Ellen. That is indeed the case, and Madame L should have mentioned that earlier, since she herself used to live in a community in a state with volunteer firefighters and ambulance personnel. In that state, she also received ambulance calls, including some that ended with trips to the hospital, without being charged for them. 

Madame L has also received a second comment from the earlier commenter, pointing out that in that other country, the laws and billing practices vary from state to state and community to community.

In addition, Madame L should point out that the "old lady" she wrote about earlier was a Medicare recipient, and thus it was her Medicare account that was originally billed the outrageous $765---perhaps because the ambulance service was hoping it could overcharge Medicare---and the bill was sent to the little old lady because Medicare refused to pay the fee. 

Finally, with that in mind, Madame L should report that another commenter has wondered pointedly whether the personnel at the gym mentioned in the original question expected to receive some kind of kickback from the ambulance service. Madame L certainly hopes not!

In sum, then, Madame L notes that people should make themselves aware of emergency services laws and practices wherever they live and of their own health insurer's policies regarding ambulance services. Madame L will contact her own health insurer this week to find out if ambulance services are covered. (Madame L certainly hopes so, since whenever she calls her health insurer's office, she has to listen to a recording telling her to "call up and dial 9-1-1" if she's having an emergency...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Religious Discussions at Work

Dear Madame L,

A work colleague is constantly asking me questions about my religion (I'm a member, as you are, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), but his questions (and his tone when we talk about this) make it clear that he doesn't really want to understand our teachings but rather to poke fun at my faith.

Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with this person?


Trying to Be a Good Christian But My Christian Friend Says I'm Not One Anyway

Dear Trying,

Madame L notes that the political atmosphere in this country is such (thanks to Newt Gingrich) that animosity prevails, so even private religious beliefs have become fuel for political fires and antagonism thinly disguised as "humor."

Madame L has dealt with such work colleagues in the past by patiently answering their questions and ignoring the subtext of hostility and ridicule. When the questions persisted, Madame L has invited her "friends" to talk to the missionaries so they could learn more about the church, at which time the colleagues stopped pestering her. They also stopped being "friends," which, frankly, did not bother Madame L in the least.

Madame L hopes you will continue to answer your fellow employee's questions in the spirit of Christian compassion, while reminding him/her that you would never make jokes or ask frivolous questions about his/her religious beliefs. 

Remember how Christ himself responded to hateful and bigoted people, and keep trying to follow Him.

With sympathy,

Madame L

Monday, April 9, 2012

Comment on Refusing Ambulance Service

Dear Readers,

Madame L received the following comment (edited to remove personal identifying information) from a reader who was unable to post the comment online:

"How shocking about the old lady who skinned her knee and got charged for it! I hope she fought it.  What right do they have to charge someone when they never told her there was a fee for their services?  (Aside from the whole fact  that it's appalling to be charged so much for a band aid.)  I remember on New Year's Eve I was carrying my son back to the car and I slipped off the curb and fell with him and he knocked his head pretty badly on the sidewalk, and we took him to an ambulance stand where they checked him out and said that he probably didn't have a concussion and offered an ice pack.  They never asked our information or anything, just treated us and let us go.  My son thought it was pretty exciting to have gotten to go inside the ambulance."

This comment prompted Madame L to look for the news article about the old woman who was charged for a bandaid  from an ambulance "service" --- where Madame L discovered that the actual amount the woman was charged was not just $600 or so, but $765. The woman DID complain, and the hospital refused to reduce the charge, so the woman complained to the local newspaper, which was eventually able to get the hospital/ambulance service to throw out the fee entirely. It's also interesting to Madame L from the article is the following information:

A representative of the hospital which provided the ambulance "service" at that event said that, "...if people need help, but it's not an emergency, they should have a careful conversation with ambulance medics, not police or other on-site responders. Ask what services might cost and whether a private company or a hospital owns the ambulance. When problems arise, ask for an itemized bill and seek out such "patient representatives" at the hospital."

So, to Madame L's original questioner: You were right to refuse to accept any help from the ambulance service, as long as you were indeed healthy and did not need the service.

And, to Madame L's recent commenter: How lucky you are to live in a country where your health care needs are covered without having to resort to private profit-making companies and their "services."

Best wishes to all,

Madame L

It's Okay to Make Fun of Mormons, Right?

Dear and Gentle Readers,

Madame L realizes that the anti-Mormon atmosphere will be growing worse now because of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Madame L has seen TV commentators who are proud of their Catholicism, for instance, and proud that JFK was a Catholic, blast Romney for being a Mormon---and appear to get away with it.

Mean-spirited pundits are preparing already to outflank those who object to their meanness by claiming that any unfavorable response to anti-Mormon "jokes" must be classified as unfair accusations of "bigotry." 

Madame L, as you recall, wrote last week about MSNBC "The Last Word" host Lawrence O'Donnell's bigotry. O'Donnell claimed that Joseph Smith started the Mormon church "when he got caught having sex with the maid and explained to his wife that God told him to do it..." O'Donnell went on to claim that the whole religion was invented to "sanctify" Joseph Smith's polygamy.  

Madame L was appalled that O'Donnell could get away with saying such a thing on the air and is relieved to read that someone else, apparently not a member of the LDS church, agrees with her, calling O'Donnell a "bigot," which is the appropriate term. Kevin D. Williamson, in National Review Online, has announced that O'Donnell is receiving the first Golden Ass Award, "to be presented to those who resort to anti-Mormon bigotry in their campaign against Mitt Romney."

While Madame L disagrees with almost everything ever published in The National Review (online or in print), she's happy to agree with Williamson on this issue.

Madame L is also fascinated---yes, fascinated, but not edified---to read in Williamson's column that "Wikipedia informs us that Lawrence O’Donnell has half as many ex-wives as Newt Gingrich." Madame L doesn't hold this against O'Donnell but holds it up as an example of the level to which our political discourse has fallen.

Madame L would  like to see and hear all of us reflect on the political issues at hand, not the personal and religious beliefs, of all the candidates---and even the commentators, whether they deserve it or not.

Madame L hopes that when any of you, Dear Readers, no matter your religious and moral beliefs, or your political inclinations and affiliations, will make your views known. When falsehoods are spoken, correct them. When attitudes of hatred and bigotry are evidenced, point it out. 


Madame L

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, April 8, 2012: Matthew 28

Madame L is enjoying this beautiful Easter Sunday, thinking of Jesus Christ's life and resurrection. Instead of reviewing some mundane book, Madame L shares this passage with her Dear Readers, wishing them a happy Easter, too:

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Mag'dalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.
And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,
saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.

So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Is Lawrence O'Donnell Channeling Glenn Beck?

Dear Madame L,

Did you see "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell last night (Tuesday, April 3, 2012)? He claimed that Joseph Smith started the Mormon Church in 1830 to keep from getting his wife mad about his having sex with their maid.

Have you ever heard of such a thing?



Dear Astounded,

Yes, unfortunately, Madame L has heard of such things as this, specifically in attacks on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; in attacks on its members who, like Mitt Romney, have the temerity to enter politics to try to perform their civic duty; and generally in attacks on any individual group that any random "pundit" or news "commentator" may want to smear. Or, Madame L must add, any individual or group that such a pundit or commentator may want to provoke into a response.

Madame L occasionally watches "The Last Word"---less often lately, now that Lawrence O'Donnell has gone into full attack mode against Mitt Romney---and happened to see the very report to which you're referring. Madame L also happened to see Mr. O'Donnell begin his attack the evening before (Monday, April 2, 2012), when he said Mr. Romney has "a religion problem."

You can find videos of both segments on "The Last Word" --- though there's no reason to look at them because you'll just see Mr. O'Donnell stooping to the level of Glenn Beck, making outrageous statements he can't possibly back up, and even standing in front of a special screen (a step up from a ridiculous black-board, Madame L supposes) to make those statements.

Mr. O'Donnell, even though Madame L agrees with you that Mitt Romney shouldn't be the next president of the United States, Madame L strongly condemns your willingness to lie and make outrageous statements you know are not true in order to make a point that (if it needs to be made, which Madame L doesn't believe) could be made in a balanced and professional journalistic manner.

Stop stooping, Mr. O'Donnell. And get your facts straight.


Madame L

Monday, April 2, 2012

Refusing Ambulance Service?

Dear Madame L,

This morning I went to the gym to do my usual half-mile swim, then sat in the steam room for about 10 minutes. I started seeing funny spots in front of my eyes and felt weak and lightheaded, so put my head down between my knees until I felt better, but when I tried to get up to walk, I felt faint again. So I lay down on my side on one of the benches by the pool. 

Some guy who had just finished swimming laps asked if I was okay, and I said yes, just feeling a little faint, and then another guy came over, and then two employees of the fitness place. One guy said he was a fireman and could he take my pulse and I said sure. 

He said it was about 80, and I said that's high for me, and he asked what's my usual resting pulse and I said 64, and he said did I feel nausea or chest pains and did I have a history of heart problems and I said no, no, and no; and he said okay he was going to go back to swimming now so I didn't feel so crowded and I said thanks. 

But then one of the other people said they should call an ambulance and I said no, no ambulance! I'm sure I'm just dehydrated. I said if someone has a phone I'll call my husband who works nearby and he can come. So I gave that first guy the phone number and he called on his smart phone and I talked to my husband, who said he would be right there. 

Then another employee showed up with a huge bottle of some Gatorade-like drink, and I took a few swallows, thanked everyone and got up to leave. The guy with the phone said two women should walk with me through the women's dressing room to make sure I was okay. So another female employee showed up and the two of them followed me into the dressing room and stood there watching me put on my shirt and shorts over my bathing suit. 

Then one of them said an ambulance had been called and I said, no, no ambulance!  I walked as fast as I could out to the front and one of them said I had to wait for the ambulance to arrive and I said the ambulance isn't here yet? That's pretty useless isn't it! (Because, really, Madame L, if I had really been having a heart attack, that was about five minutes later, and they would have been too late to save me, wouldn't they!)

Right then I saw my husband drive up so I started to leave and they said no you have to stay and I said No I don't need to go to the hospital, I'm fine, and I can't afford to pay for the ambulance, and they said, No they won't take you to the hospital they just need to ask you some questions and I said No I can't afford to pay for them to ask me some questions, and they said Oh don't worry it won't cost you any money and I said Oh yes it will and they said Not if they just talk to you and I said Oh yes it will, I'm leaving. So I went out and got in the car and left. And of course I'm fine. 

So, I have two questions:  Was I wrong to refuse to wait for the ambulance? Would I have had to pay just for letting them ask me a few questions?


Healthy AND Can't Afford an Ambulance Ride

Dear Healthy,

Madame L is relieved that you're okay. She hopes you're grateful to those concerned individuals and employees who were doing the best they could for you by calling an ambulance. She also sincerely hopes that if you did need the ambulance ride, you would accept it; and reminds you that there may be times when people do need an ambulance ride but don't realize it.

On the other hand, Madame L really sympathizes with you for refusing the help.  Madame L has read recent reports in her own area suggesting that emergency response people may sometimes give "help" that isn't needed, and then charge a lot of money for it. For example, an older woman fell and skinned her knee at a Fourth of July celebration, walked to a nearby booth manned by a private ambulance company, and was given a small plastic bandage even though she said she had one in her car which was nearby; she later received a bill for over $600 for this "service."

Madame L has tried to find out more information on this topic, but the private ambulance companies are (understandably) reluctant to advertise their billing practices. Madame L doesn't know if the ambulance company would have been satisfied with your answering "a few questions" or would have insisted on getting your name and contact information so they could later send you a bill.

Madame L has been able to find this article pointing out that many health insurance companies refuse to pay for ambulance services, leaving people like you paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a ride, even a necessary ride, to the hospital.

Here's an information sheet from American Medical Response (AMR), one of the more commonly used private ambulance companies, explaining why these companies send you the bill even when you've called your local 9-1-1 number instead of calling a private ambulance.

This document, from a local government emergency service office, shows just what kind of information the emergency personnel might have asked for (and also reveals that the "just a few questions" they may have asked you would indeed have been enough for them to send you a bill later). Here's what they would report to their supervisors:

1. Unit number
2. Incident date
3. Incident time
4. Call receipt time
5. Dispatch time
6. Arrival at scene time
7. Incident location
8. Patient’s Name, Age and date of birth, Gender, Weight, Address (emphasis added), Chief complaint, Vital signs, and
9. Appropriate physical assessment
10. Emergency care rendered, and the patient’s response to such treatment
11. Patient disposition
12. Scene departure time
13. Arrival at receiving hospital time

If you had stayed long enough to chat with the ambulance personnel and refused their services, here is an example of a form you may have had to fill out.
Dear Readers, if you have any first-hand experience with this issue, please comment or send Madame L an email message with any additional information that may help all her readers.

Best wishes for your continued health and safety,

Madame L