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20) Blog Conclusion: My Thoughts on the Experience

Central to my experience in Writing 150 is this blog.  We as a class were assigned to write a twenty post blog near the beginning of the term, and we have been working on it since.  This entry marks the end of this assignment- post twenty of twenty.
All in all, I am grateful for the chance I have had to explore writing about various topics and in various genres.  The experience has been one of great growth for me. Not just growth in my writing ability, but also in just my ability to critically asses my own thoughts, and challenge my ideas and perspectives on life.
As could be noted by anyone who chose to read through my posts, I've tried to write concerning topics that matter a great deal to me.  I know I am not the greatest writer, so I worry my posts are more convoluted and pretensions than useful.  Despite this however, I do feel as though my blog represents and honest attempt I have made to write convincingly about meaningful topics.
To be honest, I am unsure as to whether or …
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19) Presentation Reflection

In an effort to hone our presentation skills, we were assigned to give a 5-7 minute presentation about something we learned over the course of the term.  I chose to focus my presentation on how to evaluate sources for credibility.  I thought this would be both a relevant and interesting topic, as fake news is prevalent on social media.  Americans in general need to improve in our ability to evaluate the worth of sources.
An example of fake news on facebook. I gave my presentation following a very well executed one on creativity.  Nervous as I was, I worry I spoke to fast and incomprehensibly.  In the future, I should certainly prepare myself more effectively by recording my voice, and playing it back, looking critically for mistakes in speed or inflection.  Additionally, I need to do a greater job involving the audience in my presentation, and ensuring their interest in it.

All in all though, I feel as though I have progressed in my writing ability over the course of the term, and I f…

18) Dab Quayle: Vice President, Accidental Comedian

Often during these turbulent political times we are left to wonder if what we are experiencing is without precedent.  Of this I am not sure, but what I can say is that we have in the past endured bad leaders, unqualified heads, and dumb remarks.  Although the magnitude of these gaffes differ, their prevalence often does not.  In an effort to draw laughter from the political happenings of the past, I often find myself drawn to the "wisdom" of President Bush's (not 9/11 bush) vice president, Dan Quayle.   The following are but a couple of my favorite Dan Quayle, "misstatements".

"I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy - but that could change"

"Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and a child."

"I have made good judgments in the Past.  I have made good judgments in the Future."

"For NASA, space is still a high priority."

And perhaps most telling...

"I sta…

17) David Wolpe: An Example to Believers

As the movement of New Atheism grows in volume and number, believers of all groups are forced to answer the question of whether or not to engage with passionate unbelievers.  Some take the position that debate with the Godless isn't worth the time, energy, or even presence of the righteous.  Others, head the biblical call to eat dinner with the "sinners" and willingly engage in a dialogue with whom they disagree.  It should be noted that such a dialogue has in the past been endorsed by leaders in the LDS church.

"The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it." - James E. Talmage

Unfortunately, few Mormons seem to be rising up to the challenge to defend the faith toe to toe against new atheists.  For this reason, I feel that Mormons can learn from the example of Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles.
Rabbi Wolpe has on numerous occasions debated toe to toe with Christoper Hitchins, author of th…

16) Thoughts from the Research Process: Politics Matters

Over the course of my research as apart of Writing 150, I studied the political environment surrounding the Mormon exodus from the Illinois city of Nauvoo.  This topic of study was inspired by my own family history, wherein which my ancestry Catherine Spencer died during the exodus, largely because of her non-Mormon's family decision to not allow her to return home.  Over the course of my research my opinion regarding the importance of politics in daily life was strengthened.
Politics matters.  Public policy matters.  Elections matter.  Politicians matter.

I worry that a growing number of Americans are growing cynical about politics in general, and because of this cynicism, are led to complacency in the political process.  This complacency is the kind warned against by Charles Taylor in his work, "The Ethics of Authenticity", wherein which Taylor argues that because the majority of the populace is comfortable, they do not take interest in politics, and ultimately allow f…

15) Narrative Version of "Work Hard: Not Smart"

Work Smart Not Hard Stride lengthening, turnover pace accelerating, eyes focused forward, pain set to maximum.  The finish line just 100m away, just the other side of the track.  Sprinting.  Racing.  Struggling.  Hurting.  Loving.  Finally, crossing.  Four minutes and thirty-one seconds.  A new best, but not good enough.  Not good enough. Armed with my favorite post-race Sobe and a smile of encouragement, Coach Hagerty stood at the edge of the track waiting for me to exit the battlefield.  I walked slowly, legs heavy.  As I drank thankfully, Hagerty stood waiting for me to speak.  We stood in silence for a while, until I muttered out a thank you.  Little conversation followed.  Clearly, we were both waiting for the other.  Minutes passed.  We began walking to the warm up fields.  There was still more running to do.  A cool down yes, but more running.  Always more running.  “I’m proud, and you should be to.  You ran your best race today, and you ran your best season these last few mo…

14) Genre: Required Post

Dividing various writing styles and subjects into categorizes known as genres is a powerful tool used by readers and writers alike to make sense of the literature in the world.  Although it is true that it is at times difficult to put various works into a box, using genre as a means of characterizing writers and their works is extremely effective.  Perhaps most importantly, Genre aid readers in determining what works they wish to read, and which they'd rather not spend their time on.  In an academic setting, Genre is useful in that it allows students to analyze various techniques and styles associated with that Genre of work.

13) Personal Narrative Topics

Possible Topics Over the course of the semester in Writing 150, we have focused mostly on research and formal writing, but for our final work we will be writing a personal narrative.  In an effort to brainstorm ideas for a narrative, we have been asked to draft a blog post of our ideas and the various details we remember about them.
50 Miler Trip My experiences as a member of a youth venturing team was some of the most formative.  From storming weather, to food shortages, to flooded trails, to endless miles, the experience was one I will never forget. Learning from my Hip Surgery Having to get hip surgery as a junior in high school is a rarity in and of itself, but for me, it was one of the most character forming experiences of my high school career.  Zions National Park The first months of my college experience were full of adventures around the state of Utah with great friends.  The most memorable of our trips was a weekend excursion to Zions national park in southern Utah.  While …

12) Family Story Reflection

The process of researching and writing about the story of my ancestor Catherine Spencer was one that yielded great benefits for me.  First and foremost, I've gained a greater desire to learn about the man who's name I inherited, Orson Spencer.  Orson was the husband of Catherine Spencer, and during his life played a critical role in the early days in the LDS, or Mormon, church.
To learn more about Orson, the work he did, and the beliefs he held, I plan to read through a book entitled, "Spencer's Letters", which is a compilation of various letters wrote by Orson that dealt with various theological topics.  Orson's work, "Spencer's Letters", is considered by many to be a great commentary on early Mormon doctrines, and for this reason a copy of the book was placed in the capstone of the Salt Lake temple.
The example of Orson and Catherine Spencer is one I admire and strive to follow.  Their dedication to their beliefs, and their strength in times o…

11) Thoughts from High School Graduations

It's been a year now since I walked with my fellow classmates, adorned in traditional robes, and accepted the diploma we had worked towards for the last four years.  I feel as though I speak for most graduates of my class when I say that it's been a while since the experience of graduating has even grazed my mind.  So much has changed in the last year, to contemplate graduation almost feels like contemplating a past life.  I probably would have continued to live my new adult life oblivious to this anniversary had it not been for three consecutive shifts I worked as an usher at three high school graduations.  Over the course of the ten hours I spent ushering, I took the opportunity to both compare my current life to my old, to ask myself if I have done what I set out to do in the last year, and to contemplate what my high school experience and graduation meant to me.  I would challenge you, dear reader, to do the same.  Think back to the days of yonder, and ask yourself how you…

10) Responses to Explanations of Suffering

In response to the famed Problem of Evil, theists over the centuries have devised explanations for why we suffer under the watch of an all powerful and perfectly good God.  Such explanations were explored in deathly over the course of a my religious philosophy class here at Brigham Young University.
During one such exploration of possible responses to the problem of evil, various students attempted to offer explanations for why a loving God would allow something as terrible as Auschwitz to occur, without any apparent intervention.  I found many of their explanations to be troubling, especially when the professor endorsed what I saw as a rather disgusting outlook on both deity, and life.  One such explanation is as follows:

God wants all men in the latter days to be aware of the very worst that man can make possible, for the very worst is what can teach sympathy most effectively.  As such, Auschwitz, as well as the entire Holocaust, was necessary.

First and foremost, it should be noted…

9) Work Smarter, not Harder

Since the time I was able to actually comprehend that which I was told, I was taught that through hard work any goal could be achieved.  The harder you work, the more you achieve.  Simple as that.  Right?  No.

This was perhaps the biggest lesson I learned during my four years of high school; it's not about how hard you work, it's about how smart you work.  And needless to say, I learned this lesson the hard way.
Anyone that knew me in high school knew what my greatest passion was: track and field.  I was deeply involved in and devoted to the art of distance running, so much so that I made it my goal to run track and field for BYU once the time came for me to attend college there.  Admittedly, I was not always so enthused about running.  I was actually pretty indifferent to it my freshman year, but after my first track season came to an end, I suddenly caught the bug.  I fell in love with the sport, and decided I would work as hard as I would need to in order to achieve my goal…

8) Thoughts from "The Paper Chase": Competition or Collaboration?

The 1973 classic film, "The Paper Chase", offers a look at a story that is oh to common to many of us, a story of the between whether to collaborate with, or compete against, those around us.  James Hart, the protagonist of the film, studies at Harvard Law School, an environment of intense academic competition.  The film portrays the competitive environment most effectively in scenes that feature him and his study group.  This is in many ways ironic, for a study group is where most would expect the greatest collaborations to occur.
In response to the intense level of cut-throat competition in the study group, and the intense distrust that followed, many members of the study group ended up quitting the group, to the detriment of others.  Saddest of all, one member of the group attempted to commit suicide in response to the academic challenges he was facing.
Off the bat, this dividing result of competition suggests that competition is a negative force in groups, and that colla…

7) Research Thesis: Update on the Process

The history of Nauvoo is a compelling subject both because of the unique circumstances in which the city arose, but also because of the unique circumstances that caused the city to fall.  In an effort to better understand the circumstances that led to Nauvoo's Mormon residents heading west, I have chosen to research the unique political interactions between Nauvoo's leadership, and the leadership of the state of Illinois.  Of these political relationships, the most notable are those between the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith (featured on the left) and Illinois politician Stephen Douglas (featured on the right), and later, the relationship between Brigham Young and Abraham Lincoln.

At this point in the research process, I have successfully written a thesis, and have begun acquiring the needed sources.  My thesis is as follows:

The relationship between the leaders of the Mormon settlement of Nauvoo, and the leaders of the state of Illinois, was one characterized by distrust, fear, a…

6) Thoughts from "The Paper Chase": The Worth of a Grade

The 1973 film, "The Paper Chase", is a classic film in what some would call the law film sub genre.  It is the story of one of many Harvard Law School students, and the struggles he, and his counterparts face in the Law School Program.  James Hart, the student in question, finds himself in a notoriously difficult contract law class his first year in the program.  The professor conducting the course holds a reputation of immense proportions, and naturally, Hart feels greatly intimidated every lecture.
Eventually, Hart makes the decision to apply himself in the fullest, and succeed in the course no matter what.  He struggles and struggles, but eventually finds himself at the top of the class.  Come finals, Hart and a close friend study obsessively, and through this hard work, Hart earns an "A" in the course.  However, in the film Hart never actually finds out what his scores were, for when the letter carrying his grades comes, he chooses to fold it into a paper airp…

5) Thoughts from "Life of Pi": The Power of Fictions

The 2012 film and international hit "Life of Pi", tells the story of Pi, and his escape from a sinking shift, and his survival in the ocean with only a tiger as company.   Together, Pi and the tiger experience a journey of epic proportions, until they eventually hit land and find civilization once again.  However, come the end of the film (spoiler alert), it is revealed that Pi didn't actually go on any such journey with a tiger, but rather went on a terribly scarring emotional journey all on his own.  For instance, the experiences he had witnessed with other animals were really encounters he had with cannibalistic ship members after the crash.  Simply put, Pi had crafted the illusion with the tiger as a means of escaping his morbid reality.  The film likens such a situation to religion, claiming that religion, like the tiger, is a useful fiction, as though it isn't true, it allows us to escape from our otherwise daunting place in the universe.

Like many who have wa…

4) Donald Trump and General Jack Ripper

Both Trump supporters and trump haters alike can agree about one aspect of President Trump: he is not your typical politician.  Supporters love him for his wrecking ball persona, his unstructured speaking style, and his grandiose claims to greatness.  On the other hand, those who oppose the President scoff at his unprofessional persona, his chaotic irrationality, and his insensitivity to historically oppressed groups.  But once again, all can agree, he is truly unprecedented in American Politics.  One aspect of Trump's unique appeal is his admiration of strong man characters, his desire to be unpredictable, and his willingness to use all tools in the arsenal of the United States to defend what he deems to be of American interest.  Over the course of the campaign, Trump routinely professed these elements of Trump-ism, and upon hearing these myself, I couldn't help but think of one iconic General that would fit most perfectly in President Trump's cabinet: General Jack Rippe…

3) Thought's from "A Beautiful Mind": Finding our own Original Theoy

The 2002 academy award winning film, "A Beautiful Mind", starring Russel Crowe, impressed all who watched it, both because of its intriguing narrative and dynamic characters.  In the film Russel Crowe plays John Nash, a brilliant mathematician who finds himself thinking differently then all those around him.  While studying at Princeton University, Nash showed little interest for his assigned work, but rather was obsessively driven to discover an original groundbreaking idea.
Through hard work, and of course his own genius, Nash discovers his idea while stumbling upon a flaw in Adam Smith's theory of economics.  Needless to say (spoiler alert), Nash eventually wins the Nobel Prize in economics as a result of this momentous discovery.

Learning the tale of John Nash and the success of his own original idea left me to ponder the question of, "What, if anything will be my original idea"?

There is a desire in each of us to create and innovate, it's an essential…

2) Catherine Spencer: An Example of Virtue in Hardship

Early members of the LDS (Mormon) faith often faced immense religious persecution, even to the point of being forcibly removed from their homes by either government declarations or anti-Mormon mobs.  In response to such persecution, early Mormons were lead by their political and religious leader Joseph Smith to the state of Illinois, in an effort to settle near the banks of the Mississippi.  Their settlement soon came to be known as Nauvoo, and in but a short while, it came to rival Chicago in size and importance.  
Naturally, such growth made many in the state weary of the Mormon's growing political and economic power, and in an effort to rid Illinois of what they believed to be the Mormon's harmful influence, mobs forced the citizens of Nauvoo to leave their homes and head west.  The Mormons fled in the cold of winter, and as could be expected of any forced trek, it was full of difficulty and trial. Included in the ranks of the Mormons fleeing Nauvoo were my own ancestors, C…

1) Critique of Bruce Feiler's "The Stories that Bind Us"

In a 2013 New York Times article entitled "The Stories that Bind Us", Bruce Feiler crafts an argument that culminates in the conclusion that when individuals have a great understanding of their family's history, they wade through life challenges with greater ease then those that don't share the same understanding.  The article was later shown and endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints in an online publication on LDS.org.  Such is not surprising, for Feiler's article is a clear proclamation of the unifying and strengthening effect of a family narrative, something the family focused Mormon church endorsers wholeheartedly.

Simply put, the conclusion of Feiler's work is founded on a number of social science experiments that suggest that their is a correlation between an individual's knowledge of family history, and the same individual's ability to weather challenges.  It should be noted that Feiler's article fails to recognize the …