The Book of Jer3miah: Season 2

With the finale of LOST still fresh in everyone’s mind, we all wonder where we will invest our critical analysis skills next. Luckily, Jer3miah is going to start their second season soon. If you haven’t ever heard of Jer3miah then you should check out their website Jer3miah.com. Watch the trailer for Season 1, and then watch the entire season (the episodes are all under 10 minutes each). It’s pretty awesome what these film students are producing. There has been a TON of praise for it (i.e. The New York Times covered it!).

I’m terribly excited for the second season. And today I found the teaser for it was posted online 7 months ago! What’s funny is I ran into Jared, aka “Jeremiah”, on campus very recently and I asked him what he knew about a second season. I thought it was pretty suspicious how he deflected with complete ignorance on the matter and spoke of how complicated it is to coordinate producers, directors, writers and the like. Of course, the whole time he was smiling. So here is the highly anticipated trailer! Enjoy!

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Not gospel, but still essential to understand

Senator Wyden on the left with Senator Bennett on the right

Bipartisanship shouldn’t be a political death sentence

By Ron Wyden
Friday, May 21, 2010; A17, The Washington Post

The message that many partisan activists want me and my congressional colleagues to take away from this week’s primaries and Utah’s recent GOP convention is that engaging in bipartisanship is tantamount to surrendering your political party’s most-prized principles. In fact, some in my party will undoubtedly criticize me for writing kind words about my friend Sen. Bob Bennett, just as some in Bob’s party thought that his working with a Democrat was sufficient grounds for losing his seat in the U.S Senate. In other words, many of the most committed activists believe that the only way for Republicans to win legislatively is for Democrats to lose, and vice versa.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, legislating is treated as if there is a giant congressional scoreboard that will ultimately determine which party gets to be in charge. What one side is for legislatively, the other is unalterably against. Many believe that is the only way to achieve clear victory.

While it is certainly true that legislating can be (and is) turned into a zero-sum game, despite what you hear on cable news, not every issue has diametrically opposed Democratic and Republican ideologies. In fact, not only are there policy areas on which Democrats and Republicans agree but when it comes to legislating, many issues present opportunities to build on the best ideas of both parties. No single party has a lock on all the good ideas.

I still think I had a pretty good idea for health reform — despite its rejection by significant Democratic and Republican leaders — but so did Bob Bennett. I was on the Senate floor three years ago when Bob walked across the center aisle to tell me he was willing to work with me on health reform. I had been meeting with him and other Senate colleagues for many weeks to talk about the Healthy Americans Act and what I believed was a historic opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to work together on an important issue.

Ideologically, Bob and I couldn’t be more different. He’s pro-life. I’m pro-choice. He voted for the Iraq war; I didn’t. If Bob has ever seen a tax break he didn’t like, I am unaware of it. But one thing Bob and I have in common is our fundamental belief that we were elected to do more than just get reelected, that once elections are over we have a duty to try to govern even if it means working with people with whom we don’t always agree.

While I’ll let others debate what became of the Wyden-Bennett health-reform bill, our effort married the best, most principled ideas that both parties had been promoting for decades. Like most Democrats, my fundamental principle was guaranteeing quality, affordable health coverage for all Americans. Like most Republicans, Bob felt strongly that market forces be used to promote expanded consumer choice and competition. Our legislation did both. As long as I would help Bob achieve his marketplace principles and avoid bigger government, Bob said he could back me on getting everyone insured.

Working in a bipartisan fashion can lead to watered-down legislation, yes, but principled bipartisanship can also lead to a value-added, better result. Personally, I believe that both sides can get much more of what they want by working together than by simply trying to prevent the other side from gaining ground. By working with those with whom we don’t necessarily see eye to eye, we are forced to work harder, to test our ideas and to consider solutions that we may never have thought of on our own. Moreover, if Democrats and Republicans ever stop fighting each other, they might finally find the strength to defeat the interest groups that all too easily exploit the partisan divide.

Bob Bennett is one of the most conservative men I have ever known, but he is also one of the best. Even in defeat, he told me that he doesn’t for one minute regret working with me to try to do something important for the country, which is why I consider his loss so tragic. The country needs more senators who think like Bob Bennett, not fewer.

While it may be tempting to read the recent elections as a rejection of principled bipartisanship, polling shows that the majority of the American people are sick of the status quo, and the status quo is a Washington obsessed with legislating as though Congress’s sole function is to play a wholly partisan, zero-sum game. The American people want us to put our nation ahead of party allegiances. They want us to do more than devise ways to gain and maintain power. They want us to be constructive with that power.

The regrettable irony of what transpired in Utah’s Republican convention is that a small number of hyperpartisan activists have just ensured that Utah’s contribution to the Senate will be less bipartisanship and more of the status quo in Washington. If that is the change that partisans are offering the nation, let’s make certain the American public understands.

The writer is a Democratic senator from Oregon.

The “Ammon” Pilot-Project

Ammon. 'Nuff said.

This is for all the Japanese returned missionaries out there. There were always rumors circulating in the Sendai Mission about an “Ammon Project” that, through various recounts and exaggeration of facts, was viewed as one of the great tragedies of the Church in Japan.

I am currently reading Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s biography, A Disciple’s Life, by Elder Bruce C. Hafen and I came across this passage concerning the “Ammon” Project:

“During his years as first contact for Asia, from 1990 to 1995, Neal had similar concerns about Church growth in Japan, where the number of less-active members had been growing at a faster rate than the number of active members. The Fukuoka Mission President was Cyril Figuerres, a former researcher for the Correlation Department, which Neal had helped create in 1976. With the combination of Cyril’s baackground and his own interest in drawing on empirical data, Neal urged Cyril to identify and address the root problems in the mission’s membership growth.

The result of these efforts was the “Ammon” pilot project, which drew on Elder Maxwell’s long-term, multigenerational perspective to make significant adaptations in both member and missionary programs “without tampering with ‘non-negotiables’ such as doctrines and ordinances.” The project recognized the unique needs of the Japanese people, who have stronger ties to group associations than is typical of Western culture, and only 2 percent of whom have a Christian background. Under Elder Maxwell’s direction, with concurrence from the Area Presidency, President Figuerres designed the project to improve real growth on the individual level, the family level, and the “community of Saints” level.

Drawing on the research findings, the project implemented several interventions suited for Latter-day Saints in the Japanese culture. For example, the mission provided extended “greenhouse” nurturing for investigators and new converts, holding missionaries accountable for strengthening new converts every week for an entire year. The project also worked to “create a community of Saints where individuals and families could experience righteousness, joy and social integration in a spiritually enriched, nurturing environment.” Over time the number of convert baptisms nearly doubled, the proportion of converts who remained active increased significantly, and the number of newly reactivated members more than tripled.

For Cyril, working on the Ammon project with Elder Maxwell was “like a spiritual odyssey” that gave him “a glimpse of . . . the global leadership needed to develop a truly global Church.” Elder Maxwell, he said, “never loses sight of the big picture and the grand ‘why.’ He is visionary, forward-looking, with an eye fixed just beyond the horizon.” His “humble but serious involvement with the Japanese members” showed them “how much members of the Twelve care about their unique challenges and spiritual lives.” (p. 465-66)

If you want to check out a personal account, albeit 15 years after the fact, of the “Ammon” Pilot-Project then go here (http://latterdaymainstreet.com/?p=243) and read in the comments section from #11 on. There is some anti-Mormon sentiments in some of the comments as well, if you’re into that kind of thing.