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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Face of Christ

Recently my wife returned from a shopping expedition to Deseret Book. While there she noticed several new paintings of the Savior, and a couple of them really bothered her. It was something about the face. The features. It just...wasn't right for her somehow!

So what did the Savior really look like? Have any artists in modern or medieval times gotten it right? There's a wonderful series of articles on this subject in a volume of BYU Today from about ten years ago. I would recommend reading that, if you find the time. For my newest volume in the "Tennis Shoes" series I was forced to face (forgive the pun) this issue head on. Of course, one always begins with the scriptures. But on this subject, the scriptures are not particularly helpful.

The only clue we get is in Isaiah 52:3 (or Mos. 14:2). This verse reads: For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him.

Since this verse is dated prior to His resurrection, we can probably assume that it refers to His physical appearance in life, during His mortal ministry. No beauty? No comeliness? This is a very different vision of the Savior than the one we are accustomed to receiving from modern artists. It almost repulses us. But where did we get the basic image that we have?

A key influence upon most artistic representations of Jesus Christ in the last millennium has been an apocryphal text that dates back to the 12th or 13th century AD. This text, known as the “Lentulus Letter” purports to be a document sent to the Roman Senate by the Governor of Jerusalem who served just before the appointment of Pontius Pilate. This governor was purportedly named Publius Lentulus.

Part of that letter is as follows: He is a man of medium size; he has a venerable aspect, and his beholders can both fear and love him. His hair is of the color of the ripe hazel-nut, straight down to the ears, but below the ears wavy and curled, with a bluish and bright reflection, flowing over his shoulders. It is parted in two on the top of the head, after the pattern of the Nazarenes. His brow is smooth and vary cheerful with a face without wrinkle or spot, embellished by a slightly reddish complexion. His nose and mouth are faultless. His beard is abundant, of the color of his hair, not long, but divided at the chin. His aspect is simple and mature, his eyes are changeable and bright.

It's easy to recognize the Savior in that description, right? All the standarized traits are there: long hair, beard, and pleasant countenance. Unfortunately, the Lentulus Letter is an obvious fake. For one thing, Jerusalem didn't have a governor. And no procurator (which was the office of Pontius Pilate, who was stationed in Ceasarea) would have ever addressed the Roman Senate in this manner. But the image described therein sure is pretty. And it's lasted almost a thousand years.

However, the earliest images of Christ, which come from the 2nd and 3rd Centuries A.D., show a man with no beard and short hair. But these images are still several hundred years removed from His mortal ministry. So are they any more reliable? Frankly, a lot of these images look more like a Roman or Greek God than a typical provincial Jew of the First Century. But if one considers the "typical provincial Jew" we would have to lose the long hair. And the beard would not be shaped like western beards. Jews did not cut the corners. They just let it grow. Remember Laserwolf from "Fiddler on the Roof?"

And yet any modern artist who employs realism must utilize Lentulus' traditional characteristics, or “badges,” if his/her sacred representations are to be accepted. If they are ignored, the artist runs the risk that his subject won't even be recognized. As one walks into a Church bookstore or any gallery displaying art pieces depicting Jesus, the shape and musculature of the face will vary dramatically, but the traits/“badges” of long hair, beard, and handsome countenance, (and usually white robe--even in mortality) are never compromised. Any other portrayal risks being rejected, even repudiated.

So why didn't any of the Savior's contemporaries, like the Apostles or Mark or Luke or Josephus or any other person living during that same basic era give us a physical description? Frankly, because it would have been against the Mosaic Law. Jews had strong prohibitions against graven images of Gods or men. And the all-Jewish writers of the New Testament respected that law. But this does nothing to dispel sincere human curiousity on the matter, and that's why something like the Lentulus Letter and the Shroud of Turin and other apocryphal representations of Jesus came to be.

The next question might be, “Haven’t modern prophets confirmed the basic physical characteristics that artists commonly employ?” Again, the answer is no. Although there are secondary sources that claim Joseph Smith described the Savior as having “blue eyes” and “light complexion” (Alexander Neibaur, Journal, May 24, 1844), such a teaching was not widely disseminated and is not regarded as doctrine. Not even James Talmage, author of the seminal volume, Jesus the Christ, ever took up the subject of the Redeemer’s physical appearance, choosing instead to focus upon His sublime and magnanimous attributes of character—His capacities for love, mercy, and compassion. And this has been principal focus of every prophet since the Restoration.

The most we get from a modern prophet or apostle may be from Bruce R. McConkie, who wrote: “We know very little about the personality, form, visage, and general appearance of the Lord Jesus. Whether he had long or short hair, was tall or short of stature, and a thousand other personal details, are all a matter of speculation and uncertainty. We suppose he was similar in appearance to other Abrahamic Orientals of his day, and that he was recognized by those who knew him and went unheeded in the crowds by those unacquainted with him. A Judas was needed to identify him to the arresting officers; people spoke of him as though he were the carpenter's son; and he seemingly appeared as other men do.” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Jesus, Deseret Book, 1988, pg. 476).

So we come back to Isaiah 53:2. Such a concept may at first be jarring to those who have long ascribed to the sentimental Lentulus-style images adopted in most paintings. Nevertheless, it falls short of a rather repellent perspective that was prevalent in the 2nd century A.D., when such Christian apologists and theologians as Justin Martyr and Origen seemed to concede the point to Christian critics who proclaimed that Jesus Christ was physically ugly. (Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, 88; Origen, Against Celsus, VI:85). Declaring the Savior “ugly” would seem to have the same power in undermining the impact of the Savior’s mortal mission as declaring him uncommonly beautiful, and would have presented a similar stumbling block to those who pondered His message.

There may be a more pragmatic explanation for the lack of a physical description of Jesus in the New Testament. The Gospel writers may not have been necessarily following a proscribed dictum to avoid the subject of His physical appearance after all. Perhaps no particular description of Jesus is offered by His contemporaries because there is really nothing particularly noteworthy to describe. If He had been stunning in appearance, this undoubtedly would have affected some of the furor that surrounded Him and been duly noted by contemporaries. The tendency of all human beings to describe as beautiful that which is beautiful is seemingly irresistible. On the contrary, if Jesus had been ugly or repellent in some way, Gospel writers might have mentioned this to help the reader understand why some rejected His message. But Gospel writers do neither. They leave us to form His image exclusively in our imaginations.

However, when it comes to His physical appearance as a resurrected Being, no mortal turn of phrase has been found sufficient to describe it. In his First Vision, Joseph Smith declared, “When the light rested upon me I saw two beings, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air” (Joseph Smith History 1:17, emph. added).

And from the Doctrine and Covenants we read, “We [Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery] saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber. His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters . . .” (D&C 110:2-3). Though strikingly poetic, such a description does little to help most mortals grasp a tangible image.

From this we may conclude that if, while in mortality, the Savior’s appearance was ordinary and unremarkable, the celestial cloak His features now bear has erased those adjectives forever.

But for now, is it okay to gaze upon the wonderful paintings depicted by modern artists, many of whom are LDS? The answer, I believe, is yes. If it increases faith, if by visualizing our Lord and Savior in a pleasant way it allows us to focus our prayers and make them more meaningful and impactful, how can such a thing be harmful? Just remember that when the veil is lifted and we finally see past and future as one, the images of all mortal artists (and fiction writers) will ultimately be replaced by a more perfect vision that will remain in our minds and hearts forever.

(c) Copyright 2009, Chris Heimerdinger

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Knowable Vs. the Unknowable

I am a BIG fan of informational TV. I love watching Discovery, Nat. Geo., Animal Planet, Military Channel, Science Channel, History--you name it! This stuff is so cool! And yet I'm surprised at times how much science gets their conclusions absolutely wrong. Additionally, I'm frequently impressed how much that Prophets of modern times have gotten it right.

Many Latter-day Saints don't even know how much our modern prophets have taught us about the nature of the universe. The most fundamental facts are there, and it's a very, very sad thing that modern scientists cannot (or WILL not) utilize such info when formulating their theories. But it's also fascinating how modern science has vindicated so many of the complex theological ideas that were first introduced by Latter-day prophets more than a hundred and fifty years ago!

For example, Brigham Young taught:

“God never did make a world out of nothing; He never will, He never can! There is no such principle in existence. Worlds are made of crude element which floats, without bounds in the eternities—in the immensity of space; an eternity of matter—no limits to it, in its natural crude state and the power of the Almighty has this influence and wisdom—when He speaks He is obeyed, and matter comes together and is organized.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 13:248)

The profoundness of such statements will not escape those with any comprehension of quantum mechanics. I listened to a long debate recently on the Science Channel wherein there was a heated discussion about quarks and photons and the fact that such things seem to entirely disappear to an "unmeasurable state" under certain conditions. Where do they go? Well, the best they could come up with was "a parallel universe." But they have absolutely no idea what the nature of such a universe might be. One guy was even convinced he could make photons RE-appear at an entirely different location. In other words, he believed in teleportation or as Scotty put it, "beaming someone up."

Modern Prophets—especially in the 1800s—understood much about the dynamics of the vast universe not much discussed today. Curiously, much of this conversation diminished with the last of the prophets who were contemporaries of Joseph Smith. Joseph had an understanding of space and time that rivaled Abraham, Enoch, Moses, and any other human being who ever walked the earth. He taught this knowledge to his closest associates, who echoed his insights for a generation after his death.

Brigham Young further declared:

“There is an eternity of mystery to be unfolded to us; and when we have lived millions of years in the presence of Gods and angels, and have associated with heavenly beings, shall we then cease learning? No, or eternity ceases. There is no end. We go from grace to grace, from light to light, from truth to truth.” (JD 6:344)

One of the most fundamental "truths" to be understood about the nature of the universe is that we can never fully understand its nature without the power of the Holy Ghost. In the vision of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon known as the 76th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, we are taught:

But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion;

Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter;

Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him;
(D&C 176:114-116)

We can better understand this principle as we consider that only a portion of the matter in our universe is even visible. We call this “temporal matter,” or “mortal matter.” But there is also vast amounts of matter which temporal beings cannot detect. The first of these is “spiritual matter.” We know that all things are created spiritually before they are created physically. (Moses 3:7) This includes people, animals, plants, rocks, the earth, planets, etc. But we cannot see such matter in its spiritual state, and we likely never will. Even our most advanced scientific instruments cannot detect it (see D&C 131:7-8). There is also “resurrected matter,” or elements permanently unified in a glorified (or unglorified) state (see 1 Cor. 15:41, D&C 76: 43-112 and 88: 15-24). Another type of matter is “translated matter” wherein the processes of aging and decay are temporarily suspended (see 3 Ne 28:7-8).

Yet it is only temporal matter (and sometimes translated matter) that are observable with our natural eyes. This means that much of our universe is always invisible and undetectable while we remain in mortality. Brigham Young emphasized this when he said:

“The Lord Almighty . . . presides over the worlds on worlds that illuminate this little planet, and millions on millions of worlds that we cannot see . . .” (JD: 1:39-40).

Our inability to observe all matter is a permanent limitation to science. If we accept this, we need not feel alarmed when such things as Darwinism or other scientific observations propose theories that seem to contradict what is revealed by God. If we accept these limitations, Darwinism becomes hopelessly flawed. For how can humankind draw sufficient conclusions about the evolution of living things without incorporating pre-mortal and post-mortal states of existence? For example, if a creature such as an Australopithecus caveman once existed in mortality, it also existed in pre-mortality, and still exists in a post-mortal state to “fill the measure of its creation.” By reminding ourselves that no single organism ever evolved into another organism (as so many animations in instructional media often misrepresent), but that each living thing forever exists independently, the most fundamental language and scientific conceptualizations change dramatically.

Despite the limitations of scientific observation, there is nothing that precludes us from striving to learn all that we can about the earth and the universe. I certainly exercise this passion almost daily (thanks to the internet and cable TV). In fact, we are commanded to study every field of human knowledge (D&C 130:18-19). However, it may be instructive to coordinate such learning with principles of faith, and keep humbling limitations set in place by God permanently in the backs of our minds.

There are many amazing things, for example, that we know about the Spirit World. But maybe I'll save that for a different post and a different day.

(c) Copyright 2009, Chris Heimerdinger

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Noble Goal—Twelve to Fifteen Weeks

Well, now I get a bit personal. Yesterday was my birthday. Today begins a new year in my life. And to start that year, I've set some goals. HUGE goals. That is, huge goals to become not-so-huge.

See that picture of me over on the right? It's not accurate. Well, it's not exactly a lie. Obviously that's how I looked when the picture was taken a couple years ago. But stress and over-eating have taken their toll on me since the release "Passage to Zarahemla." So today I start a diet.

Now, the first thing that always happens the minute someone admits they want to lose weight or start a diet is that everyone feels the uncontrollable urge to offer advice. That advice is always contrary, critical, or at the very least supplemental to whatever means or method the "dieter" has selected to pursue. Everyone wants to mention some new system or technology that I ought to try instead. Please don't do that here. I'll be sorely tempted to delete any comments that try to do that. (Although in all likelihood I still won't.) Just please try to refrain oneself if the comment is offering advice that will steer me on a different path from the one I have selected.

All I know is this: I need to lose...a lot. I don't know if I want to confess the amount. Okay, why not?! I think I need to lose somewhere around 60 lbs. That's a lot of lard. I recall many years ago (early 90s?) that this was the precise amount that Oprah lost in her initial publiczied weight loss campaign on television. After she lost the weight, they brought out a wheel barrow and a plastic sack filled with 60 pounds of lard. It was big. She couldn't even lift it. Well, that's where I've gotten myself. So now I have to pay the price to shed it. I'm not sure if I want to document my success (or lack thereof) on this blog. Maybe I ought to create another blog. I'll call it "Heimer-Blob" instead of "Heimer-Blog." That way I can leave Frost Cave open to more LDS theological, artistic, philosophical stuff.

If you wanna know, the method I've chosen is the same method that was very successful for me in the 90s. It's call Optifast. And it's also the method Oprah originally used to lose her weight (and subsequently gain it back). And in case some soul wants to lecture me about the drawbacks of this diet, please, as I say, REFRAIN. I know the drawbacks. I know all about setpoint. I know all about how hard it is, after losing the weight, to KEEP THAT WEIGHT OFF. That's because we, as weak human beings, go back to all of our old habits. Setpoint also undoubtedly plays a role. So my object is truly to incorporate a life-style change when I'm done. (Yeah, easier said...I know.) But that's what I have to believe that I can do. Until then, I just want to SHED, SHED, SHED. And Optifast is a wonderful, speedy way to do that--especially for a man. For me it'll take about 14 or 15 weeks.

So what is Optifast? Well, it's basically protein drinks and bars and the like. But it's very well balanced with trace minereals and electrolytes, and the food must usually be obtained through a doctor's prescription. Or at least that's how it SHOULD be, but I see merchants hocking the stuff on Ebay all the time.

But see, being the all or nothing guy that I am (sort of an OCD), Optifast is a plan that seems to fit my personality. It's easy. I don't have to count calories. Don't have to take seminars or classes to master the system. Don't have to attend meetings, organize supplements or order daily meals. I just do my 800 calories a day--or five packets of powder--and I'm done. I can concentrate on other things. I can write my book. And I have no other worries. Yes, there are many hazards and hardships, but I think I'll document those on another blog. I'll call it www.heimer-blob.blogspot.com. We'll just see how it works out.

Today is day 1. The toughest days are the first five, at least in my experience. If I can just get through the first five-to-seven days, my body sort of goes. "What was your problem before? This is EASY!"

The point is that I need to do it for my health. I need to do it so that I have the energy to create and write and also to improve my quality of life. My mind functions better. My body functions better. I sleep better. I like myself better. All of those things that normally inspire anyone to diet. Mostly, I just want to experience the surge in daily energy that I used to experience when I was at a healthy weight. Nothing compares to that.

So now I begin. Visit the other blog to see how I progress. If I progress. I've started and failed so many times! Maybe that's why I'm doing this as a blog. Going public is some kind of new gimmick. And maybe such a gimmick will give me the incentive to succeed.

Here I go....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

RSS Feeds

Hey everyone! I know that a number of you would like to get updates easier - such as when I post something on the blog here or update the status of the book, or whatever. Well, you're in luck! I was able to do some research and checking around and have a few options for you now!

The easiest way for you to be updated as to when I update my blog is to subscribe to what's called an RSS Feed. For those of you that don't know what it is, check out this link here: Wikipedia - RSS Feed. Okay, so for those of you that don't want to have to read through that, basically what it is, its an automated feed that goes straight to your email that allows you to receive constant updates on the topics of your choice - for instance news feeds, stock quotes, or even blogs such as this one!

Now, I know you all have different email service providers and all want to do things differently, so I'll do what I can to help you out. I've provided a number of different links here to different tutorials for setting up the RSS feed to the most popular email clients:

What all of you will need to set up the RSS feed is the following RSS address. (If there's those of you that already know how to set these things up - just go to the bottom of the blog page here and click on the necessary link, or look to the right of your address there and you'll see the little "radio waves" icon there allowing you to set it up that way. That address is:


Once you've got that set up - then you'll have the email updates alerting you of the latest updates to the blog! Now, if you've got questions, my tech-guy Brandon has offered to help out as necessary (those of you that were involved in my old site know him as pianoeagle). Anyways, just shoot him an email at pianoeagle1903@yahoo.com and he'll try and get you sqaured away.

Now, as if that wasn't enough for you, I've also had a Twitter page set up for me. I'm gonna try and learn how to do this (Brandon tells me its not hard), but I've got it set up where the updates to the blog will go to my Twitter page, and I'll get it set up so that I can update my Facebook status from Twitter also - so that way you can know things that are going on through text message if you want! My twitter page has been set up as: http://twitter.com/frostcave. When you get there and want to subscribe, just submit the request and I'll make sure it gets approved. I had to block it off a little bit because of the spam followers that you get on that page sometimes.

Anyways, that should give you all a few options on updating yourselves as to what's going on in my world! If you've got questions, get a hold of Brandon and he'll answer them as best as he can!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Where Imagination Leads

I'm going to ramble a bit. Talk about the past. The future. Keep in mind, it's just rambling. Random thoughts. No promises. Just ideas. And it's only for those who care a wit about what goes on in my head. That's likely not very many people. But sometimes rambling to oneself is useful. Gives directions. Helps shape ideas. So in that vein...

Polished off a new chapter in "Thorns of Glory," or the project more commonly known (for now) as "Tennis Shoes 11." My chapters are longer than they have been in previous books, it seems. But there is very cool exchange between Joshua and the sword of Akish that is unlike any before, and a new twist on the Rainbow/Galaxy/Millenium Room.

Here's a sample:

It was blackness. Pure, undiluted blackness. No, no. Not just blackness. Black is a color. Black was the color of the cave after I’d doused my torch. What we were staring at now wasn’t exactly a color. It was pure emptiness, like peering into a limitless void. Like standing face to face with . . . with . . . What was that Church term? Outer Darkness? Yes, it looked like Outer Darkness. Like staring into the jaws of the ultimate “hell” of Latter-day Saint beliefs—the final destination of Satan and Cain. The sight was that dark. That empty. And that disturbing.

The project is rolling along well now. Some have asked me whether there will be more Tennis Shoes books after this one. I hope the answer is yes, but I also know that readers have been anxious for me to wrap up the current storyline that began with "Warriors of Cumorah." So that's the plan. It's just that...MAN, this story gets so complex. As one ponders all the loose ends of the last novel, "Kingdoms and Conquerors," you'll know what I mean. So I really don't know where my imagaination will lead me after this project.

I know that I feel driven to do a sequel to "Passage to Zarahemla"--but this would be a sequel without "budget restrictions." You see, the original story was always envisioned as a movie. So I kept budget very much in mind the whole time I was shaping it. The goal was to make a Book of Mormon adventure for under a million dollars. But the sequel--which I won't worry about making into feature film--will have no such limitations.

I also want to do a sequel to Eddie Fantastic. The idea for a sequel has been in my head for many years. The title would be "Eddie Fantastic Through the Parallel Worlds." But I'm not sure if there's enough interest in that project from my readers--or at least not enough interest to make it my very next project. The economy and all the time spent with the movie, as well as having ten kids, etc., etc., has taken it's toll on getting out a new book. That tunnel is lightening now and I can devote more time to artistic pursuits. Nevertheless, I may need to pursue projects that will help my bank account first. I hate it when that happens. But bills are a reality. So se la vi. (Or however you spell that in French.)

Mostly, I would like to do another film, but that may not be the Lord's plan. I'll have to find out when the time comes. I have two screenplays in mind--and another screenplay ready to go. Both of the new story ideas would also become novels, but first they would be created for the screen. And they would also have different budgets. I dread going back into the money-raising phase of movie-making. "Passage to Zarahemla" seemed to make cash for EVERYBODY except me or first investors. It sold over 60,000 units and it continues to sell. Many have placed it among their top spots for LDS films. But making a film is time-consuming and stressful. Unfortunately, it's also addicting. I loved making "Passage." And it would be a shame not to make another movie. Primarily because the learning curve for making a movie is so steep. And only a small part of that learning curve relates to making the actual movie. The most treacherous "curve" is all that has to be learned about the business and bureaucracy of movie-making. Navagating the pirahnas, or so I like to say, and trust me, there are more than I ever realized. Even as late as last week I was negotiating, negotiating, negotiating. And I presume that game will continue. I feel much better prepared to deal with that beast on a second go-around, but we'll just have to see.

I would also love to continue writing music. It's the only artform I've ever pursued wherein I was able to enjoy what I created. I can't enjoy my books. After all, I know how they all end. But the album "Whispered Visions" was a landmark project for me because I was able to enjoy it like any normal consumer. This was an extraordinary experience. However...not particularly profitable. In the LDS market, I've much enjoyed jumping book genres. I could write a drama one year, a science fiction the next, and a Christmas story the next. In the national market you can't do that as readily. If J.K. Rowling, for instance, were to now write a political thriller, she would likely have to change her name, or she might get creamed by critics. And that's just book genres. Jumping artforms is even more challenging--that is, purely from a marketing standpoint. And I definitely crossed that boundary writing music. No one sees me that way. To pursue that field is almost like starting over. But that's only if I want it to pay my bills with it. So long as other things are paying bills, it's likely that, as soon as practical, I'd pursue another album. My biggest adversary...is time.

Well...that's enough rambling. Preparing for a new week. I have a birthday this week. I also hope to write more papes on "Thorns of Glory" than any week since I began the project. I'll have to get back to you on whether I succeed...

(c) Copyright 2009, Chris Heimerdinger

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ultimate Intelligence

I think Heavenly Father's definition of "intelligence" is very different than the world's definition, and I worry that some saints get sucked into believing what the world pushes. First reread Abr. 3:19 so that we have this issue in the proper perspective. There's Someone more than intelligent than all of us. Can we accept that? Okay, we can move on.

Apparently intelligence has very little to do with an abiltiy to intake vast sums of information or comprehend complex mathematical equations or winning a Nobel Price. All these are admirable and noble acheivements, but are they necessarily proof of "intelligence?"

I’ve long said that the Holy Ghost is the great equalizer of humanity. It is the definer of true intelligence. It is the phenomenon that allows the humble farmer from Burley, Idaho—(I don’t know why I pick on Burley, Idaho, or even farmers, because farming actually requires quite a bit of intelligence). Let’s just say it’s what allows the average fast food employee—(again I can't seem to make this analogy without offending someone) to stand on equal footing with celebrated theoretical physicists. You see, if that fast food guy listens to--and obeys--the Holy Ghost, and thereby makes righteous choices and lives his/her life in such a way that they obtain the Celestial Kingdom, whereas the theoretical physicist rejects the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, lives a personal life of sin and degradation, and in the end obtains only the Telestial Kingdom, who, in the eyes of eternity, was more “intelligent?”

That’s why the Holy Ghost is humanity’s great equalizer. It puts everybody on equal footing, no matter the background or any advantages of education, upbringing, race, wealth, or talents. It allows each of us, if we listen to its promptings, the opportunity to become like God. To have glory added unto us forever and forever. And embracing that opportunity is, no doubt, the very definition of “intelligence.”

So much more I could say on this matter, but I gotta take my daughter to the zoo. And hey...maybe that's a lot more intelligent than spending my afternoon doing philosphical gymnastics on my blog. :)

(c) Copyright 2009, Chris Heimerdinger

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ramblings on Eternity

Almost finished with another chapter in that time-consuming epic of my life, "Thorns of Glory." So I get to use this blog to flesh out some of my thoughts that will go into the chapter notes. But before I do that...I got a question. Has there ever been a scene in any of my Tennis Shoes books where a character was captured by a net?

I must be getting senile. The other day I actually reread all of my scenes regarding the Rainbow Room, the Galaxy Room, and the Millennium Room because the room will have some upcoming new twists. And I was shocked at reading my own words with the same suspense as anybody else reading them for the first time. It was sort of cool! Sorry if that sounds prideful. But it was almost as if I couldn't take credit for some of the intense descriptions of swirling particles of energy and optical illusions from book 5, 6, 7, and 8...because I have only a vague recollection of writing them! A sign of age? Probably. A sign that it's been too long since my last Tennis Shoes novel? Definitely.

Oh, and one other thing of a personal/selfish note. Some of the Ebay stuff I've been selling fell through with the original buyers...so I re-posted certain items. The link is:


Finances are tight right now, so prices are cheap.

Has anyone ever heard the concept of the unorganized and the organized universes? These are concepts that have been in our Church doctrine since the days of Joseph Smith. I had to re-read about them recently for research purposes. The unorganized universe lies "beyond the bounds of time and space" as Brigham Young taught back in 1854 (having learned about it directly from Joseph Smith). In other words, the universe that modern science has discovered--that which we can see or detect by telescopes or radio waves--is known as the "organized universe." I believe I read that it is 16 billion light years wide. This is also known as "space" in the scriptures (i.e., D&C 88:11-13). But there is more than just this universe. Everything beyond it is known as the "unorganized" universe. And in the whole expanse of things, our 16-billion-light-year wide detectable universe is only a dust speck in the unorganized universe.

Still with me? Nobody asleep? Okay, then I'll continue.

There is reason to believe that no advance in technology will ever help us to discover or detect the unorganized universe, because, frankly, it ain't organized. It doesn't exist in physical mortality. It doesn't even exist spiritually. Remember that science is ALREADY limited because it can only detect or observe physical matter. It cannot detect or observe finer substances, i.e., spiritual matter or celestial matter. So "unorganized" stuff is one step removed (degraded?) from even spiritual matter. Anyway, it is from this vast unorganized universe that the "family of the Gods" (a term used by Brigham) scoops up the unorganized "matter" and unorganized "intelligences" that later become such things as planets and souls. Lehi put it like this: God hath created all things...both things to act and things to be acted upon (2 Ne. 2:14).

These two phenomenon--things to act and things to be acted upon--define everything about our known universe. But the unorganized universe is apparently a place where even the Spirit of God does not dwell. The "light of truth" only dwells in the organized universe. Or so Joseph Smith taught. It rather goes against our natural instinct. And it did for some of the early brethren as well. They wanted to believe the power and influence of Heavenly Father was absolutely everywhere, not understanding the core essence of what they were saying. Here's a conversation that occurred between Orson Hyde and Joseph Smith:

"Brother Hyde was upon this same theory once
(the idea that God's Spirit dwelled even in the unorganized universe), and in conversation with brother Joseph Smith advanced the idea that eternity or boundless space was filled with the Spirit of God, or the Holy Ghost. After portraying his views upon that theory very carefully and minutely, he asked Brother Joseph what he thought of it? He replied that it appeared very beautiful, and that he did not know of but one serious objection to it. Says Brother Hyde, "What is that?" Joseph replied, "It is not true."(Journal of Discourses 4:266)

I've always found it fascinating that things pondered and debated today by physicists and astronomers have already been fundamentally addressed by prophets of God. For example, when is the LDS Church going to get the credit for presenting the Law of Relativity to the world a full 62 years before Einstein?

Special Relativity, as published by Einstien in 1905, is the idea that time is measured differently depending upon your point of reference, or your position in space. Yet in 1842 Joseph Smith published the same thing, without all the math, in the Book of Abraham:

It is given unto thee (Abraham) to know the times of reckoning, and the set time, yea, the set time of the earth upon which thou standest, and the set time of the greater light which is set to rule the day, and the set time of the lesser light which is set to rule the night. Now the set time of the lesser light is a longer time as to its reckoning than the reckoning of the time of the earth upon which thou standest. And where these two facts exist, there shall be another fact above them, that is, there shall be another planet whose reckoning of time shall be longer still. (Abr. 3:6-8)

That’s Special Relativity! It’s so classic it’s breathtaking. So Abraham knew all about space-time continuums thousands of years before Einstein. And without watching a single episode of Star Trek.

I love this Gospel. It never fails to stretch the mind and elevate the soul to loftier heights. I'm so grateful to be a part of it. And I hope you are too.

(c) Copyright 2009, Chris Heimerdinger

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Statistical Mystery

I'd really like some feedback. Honestly, I'm very interested in hearing some ideas or theories that explain something peculiar that I have observed/discovered. It's something rather depressing. And maybe alarming. However, I have no doubt that Church leaders are aware of this already. They have to be! I'm just not sure if anyone has publicized the issue or offered a solution.

When I joined the Church in 1981 I remember feeling a marvelous sense of pride in the LDS claim that they were the fastest growing (generally recognized) Church (statistically speaking) on the face of the earth. So I'm wondering...is that still true?

There seemed to be a different attitude/spirit/emphasis among Church members back then than there is today. In 1981, when I first joined, the Church statisticial report (which is always, oddly, one of my favorite moments in any April General Conference) stated that there were about 229,000 convert baptisms that year. We were just shy of passing the 5,000,000 mark in overall Church membership. And there were about 29,000 full time missionaries.

Now for the bad news. Or unexpected news. Or sad news. Take it how you want. Last year the Church reported about 265,000 convert baptisms. Yet we have well over 13,000,000 members, and about 52,000 full-time missionaries.

So that's almost twice as many missionaries, THREE times as many members, and only a slight percentage increase in convert baptisms. I'm no mathematician, so I'll leave it someone else to figure out accurate numbers, but just based on a simple eyeball estimate, one might think the Church should have had around 500,000 to 700,000 convert baptisms last year. That is, if trends had continued as they were back in the 70s and 80s. What changed? Is it just that Spencer W. Kimball's "every member a missionary" thing has been forgotten?

Now I have my own instinctive feelings as to why things are different. One idea is this:

Before I joined the Church I must have had 50 people (no joke!) "bear their testimony" to me. Friends in Junior High, students at BYU, my High School seminary teacher, my High School civics teacher, BYU professiors, roommates...even two strangers who were handing out Books of Mormon when I attended the first Sundance Institute in the summer of 1981 when when I was 17 years old.

I don't think that kind of stuff happens anymore. Or at least not nearly as much as it once did. Somebody--whether society, our Church teachers--SOME MYSTERIOUS FACTOR has made us feel much more reluctant to bear testimony outside of safe places like Sacrament Meeting. What made the situation different in the 70s and 80s? Why, as a Church, are we much more inclined to leave missionary work to the full-time missionaries? Basic psychology would tell you that this wouldn't be as effective as testimony bearing by a normal member. See, a missionary is SUPPOSED to be forward and obnoxious. People expect it. Consequently, they "steel" themselves against it. But the testimony of a friend or co-worker or acquaintance--that's powerful stuff! Or at least it was for me.

All I can say is that I'm soooo grateful for those members of the Church who put themselves on the line and bravely faced ridicule and rejection to tell me about the Church way back when. Their words resonated inside me. How could they know their Church was true? They just "believed" it right? Nope, they were adamant. They knewwwwww it. They told me all about Moroni 10:3-5. And this made me want to know. If they could know, why couldn't I? So I found out for myself. And lo and behold, I got an answer. Exactly as the scripture promised.

Well, anyway, if anyone can tell me what's changed, or why it changed, or how (if we want) we can get back to how it was before, I'm very interested hear your ideas and participate in the discussion.

(c) Copyright 2009, Chris Heimerdinger

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why Drag the Name of Christ's Family in the Dirt?

Aubrey, a commenter on my last post, asked about Joseph and what ever happened to the "step"-father of Jesus? In answering this question, it became as long as another post, so I'll address it here. I'm not sure I'll have time to post everyday. (Gotta write a novel.) But I'll post as often as I can.

Okay Aubrey. Joseph had apparently passed away by the beginning of the Savior's ministry. We must assume this becuse no mention is made of him at the wedding at Cana, and also because he is never mentioned in any of the Gospels after the scene when the young Jesus was teaching in the Temple.

I suspect that Matthew or John would have possibly mentioned more details regarding Joseph in their gospels, but it is unknown whether certain "edits" were made in these texts to minimize any mention of the Savior's family. (Note that the Book of Mark is the most negative toward the family of Jesus. Mark is presumed to be the earliest Gospel and very pro-Gentile.) Starting in the second century, when the Apostacy was in full force and there were great power struggles in the Church, the Roman and "Gentile" churches made great efforts to undermine the importance of the Savior's family in Christian history. The reason for this was because the Church at Jeruslaem, as well as many offshoot Chrisitan sects, began to question the concept that Peter had inherited Preisthood authority. Many prefered to believe that authority belonged to James, the brother of the Lord. Gnostic texts go a long way to stress this point. This "claim" challenged the Church at Rome for authority, so I believe it was determined (in some secret or not-so-secret Gentile committee) to ignore or villify as much as possible the family of Jesus and their importance in the early Church. Because, keep in mind, after James' martyrdom, the Church at Jerusalem (Israel) became just as corrupt as everyone else. They continued to teach that a good Christian was also a good Jew, keeping all the rites and ordiances of the Law of Moses. Then, in the third century, we find them meeting with the "Pope" at Rome and asking that all Bishops who are not blood relatives of Jesus should be disenfrancised and kicked out of their positions and replaced with true "disponsyni" (or blood descendants of Jesus.) They also insisted that all tithing should be sent to Jerusalem again, as it was in the beginning. It's the same sin that caused a split in the early LDS Church--those who believed that the prophet could only be a blood relative of Joseph Smith. So by the second century they are all equally apostate. Nevertheless, this should not prevent us from properly honoring the family of Jesus in that time period shortly after His crucifixion, when they did extraordinary things in their efforts to build the Kingdom of God.

Sorry not to have provided any resources or footnotes. I can do so if requested, otherwise, they will be provided in the novel, "Thorns of Glory."

(c) Copyright 2009, Chris Heimerdinger

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Day in the Life

So I'm stuck.

This is a very difficult book. Maybe writing a new blog will unclog my brain and give me the creative edge that I need to have a successful day of writing.

Not only does this latest Tennis Shoes novel deal with the last week in the life of the Savior, it also deals with the last battle at Cumorah AS WELL as the Jaredite time period during the reign of Akish. Any one of those settings would require extensive research and imagination. But all three together!...well, maybe it offers some hint as to why this novel is taking more time than anyone wants.

The fun part is, I get to deal with some issues that no one--surprisingly--has ever addressed in the world of fiction. I'll give you one example. This one is as strange as it comes. Funny strange, that is. Okay, I think most Latter-day Saints are aware that the Savior had siblings. But how many of us ever think about that as any thing more than a passing thought? In two of the Gospels it even names four of the Savior's brothers (or half-brothers)--James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Jude). Many Bible readers make the mistake of thinking that the Epistle of James, which is famous for the verse that inspired Joseph Smith to seek enlightenment in the Sacred Grove (James 1:5), is the James from the first First Presidency, meaning the James of "Peter, James, and John." But in reality, this epistle is reputed to have been authored by the Savior's (oldest) younger brother. Another epistle in the scriptures is reputed to have been written by Judas. The King James Translators called this author Jude, probably because the name Judas referred to several other New Testament figures, including one of ill-repute, so they offered up the shortened version to keep this figure distinct from the others. What many Latter-day Saints may not know is that Jesus also had sisters. Extra-Biblical records actually give their names--or at least the names of three of his sisters. They are Salome, Mary, and Anna. Since such names are verifiable in different sources, there is little reason to doubt their authenticity.

HOWEVER (and here's the fun part) how many fictional or dramatized accounts of the life of Jesus EVER mention these siblings? Obviously they would have been a major part of Jesus' life. He grew up with these folks! Several of the Gospels go so far as to say that Jesus' family did not believe in Him, and yet two New Testament epistles are authored by these "brethren of the Lord", and many, many records speak of James, the Lord's brother as the Bishop of Jerusalem who was martyred about 65 AD. Even Paul goes so far as to mention that James received a personal visitation from Jesus that is not recorded in any of the four Gospels. (See 1 Cor 15:7) That makes him a pretty important guy! So whether or not these family members doubted the mission of their eldest Brother for a time, they eventually came around in a very big way. And yet such movies as Ben Hur, Greatest Story Ever Told, Jesus of Nazareth, Passion of the Christ and others never mention any of them. There may be some nefarious political reasons why the family of Jesus is given very little attention in the Gospels. I go over these reasons in the chapter notes of my novel since they are reather detailed. But a great reward of this novel is that I get to address this "wrong" and remind Latter-day Saints and all Christians that Jesus was NOT an only child. Not only did He have siblings, he also had aunts and uncles and cousins and so many other relatives that were a big part of the Christian movement for generations. Here's another little-known fact: James, and John--the same James and John who, along with Peter, visited Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery--were ALSO relatives of the Savior. They were His cousins. John the Baptist, we are told in Luke, was the Savior's cousin as well. If we were to apply modern prejudices to the early Christian Church, we might get the idea that this organization was nothing but a bunch of nepotists! But since the Lord was in charge, and since each soul in eternity must be judged on his/her own individual merits, I think we can feel comfortable that such things were organized in exactly the manner the Lord wanted.

But such issues do not identify the challenge I've been facing today. Today I must address the civilization of the Jaredites at the time of Akish. At first I was reluctanct to read Hugh Nibley's work, The World of the Jaredites because I feared it would not be the most recent or relevant work on Jaredite civilization. But the sad truth is, it's the ONLY extensive work that any LDS researcher has EVER DONE on the issue of the Jaredites. (If anyone knows of another, please pass it along.) And this book was written in the 1950s! Fortuntely, it remains an excellent and timely resource after all these years and did much to germinate certain elements of my imagination.

Speaking of which, I had better end this post and get to work. Sometimes folks will ask me about the difference between an amateur and a professional writer. Here's one important difference: an amateur writer can afford to nurse a thing called "writer's block." A professional plows ahead and gets things done. :)

(c) Copyright 2009, Chris Heimerdinger

Sunday, August 9, 2009

And So Begins a New Heimer-Blog

Welcome to Frost Cave.

So it's been a while since I've posted anything online. Many have expressed that they deeply miss my website cheimerdinger.com, all the questions and answers, the forums, the monthly newsletters, etc., etc., etc. Well, here's the scoop: that website became entangled in legal wranglings and no longer exists. Nor will it ever exist again in the same form. It's a long story that I may tell one day, but the truth of the matter is that its demise freed up an extraordinary amount of my time. It was crazy everyday trying to keep up with it. So what have done with that free time? Mostly, I have devoted it to family and personal matters for the past couple years--and I think it was time well devoted. Of course, I also, theoretically, have more time to devote to writing and creating. The primary recipient of such energies right now is the project "Thorn of Glory"--the latest in the Tennis Shoes Adventure Series. This project has been an excruciating exercise in research and discipline. However, so many fascinating subjects have been explored during the creating, and I hope to address many of those subjects in this blog. I've always gotten positive responses and comments to my "Chapter Notes" in back of my various Tennis Shoes books over the years. Well, the Chapter Notes in this latest Tennis Shoes novel are meatier than any that I've provided before. It's fun, but as I say, it's also excruciating.

I confess, there are other reasons that writing has been slow. For those who are unaware, I was remarried this April. It was an incredible day and a glorious rebirth from some sad and trying episodes in my life.

The truth is that I have never been happier. Currently my new wife, Emily, and I have responsibilities for no less than nine children. (My oldest son, Steven, is on a mission in the Ukraine.) It's quite a household. Never a dull moment. Much chaos. And very little quiet time for introspection and contemplation. But that's not totally a bad thing, right? The rewards are legion, and the greatest blessing has been that I totally lucked out by selecting a wife with an incredible passion for making it work.

So here I am, an LDS artist--a person who has devoted his life and career to celebrating the Gospel of Jesus Christ with creative works, and I am no less immune from the tragedies and pitfalls of life on planet earth as any other human being. The best part is that instead of drawing me further away from the Gospel, such events have drawn me closer. I love this Church. I'm so proud to be a part of it. And I enjoy nothing more than bearing testimony of its truthfulness while at the same time creating entertaining and (I hope, sometimes at least) beautiful artistic works celebrating its themes.

Recently I wrote a new fireside and delivered it to a group of single adults in Draper, Utah. This talk gave me a chance, again, to express my deepest convictions in the Restored Church and the Atonement of our Savior. I was also able to discuss a wide range of other subjects, from the conflicts of science and religion to the fact that we, as people, are not as prone to bear our testimonies to friends and associates that way we were back in the 70s and early 80s. Fun subjects, and it seemed to be well recieved. And it may also provide future fodder for a blog like this.

So for those who miss cheimerdinger.com, this is the place to come if you want to hear me rant about the things I care about most. That is, if anyone cares to listen. I'll have to judge that as the weeks go by. Most of my time, frankly, I need to devote to writing novels and developing projects that will feed my family. But a blog may be a great way to blow off steam from time to time, contemplate the higher things of the universe, and seek the healing balm of friends and fans who may, occasionally, reply with some tidbit or comment that will truly make my day and raise my spirits higher. Hopefully time I devote to this endeavor will prove to be a breath of fresh air that I will seek on a regular basis. My fear is that, with the internet these days, there may well be more bloggers than there are readers. Isn't that the way it is with so many of conversations? Also, whose to know if I can really be judged someone with worthwhile things to say outside of telling stories or pursuing creative works?

We'll just have to see. In the meantime, I'll give this a go and see where it leads . . .

(c) Copyright 2009, Chris Heimerdinger