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Hi I'm Ray Takashi S.

I' m an Air Force officer, attorney, and Japanese-American. I'm a Mormon.

About Me

I served 20 years in the US Air Force, at NORAD in Colorado Springs and then as a JAG officer in Japan, Washington, DC, Omaha, and San Francisco. I now work as an environmental attorney on cleanup of nuclear sites for a national engineering firm. I worked for a law firm in Utah for three years. I was born in Japan during the US Occupation after World War II. My mother is Japanese and my Dad was in the US Air Force. I served in Japan as a missionary, in Sapporo, Nagano, Otaru, Kofu and Koriyama. I was at 5th Air Force in Tokyo for 3 years. I earned a BA in mathematics and Juris Doctorate from the University of Utah, and a Master of Laws in environmental law from George Washington University in Washington, DC. I have taught classes for universities in California, Utah, Nebraska, Idaho, Washington State, and the Air Force JAG School. My wife and I were married over 38 years ago in the Salt Lake City Temple. We have 3 adult children and as I write this 13 grandchildren. I enjoy reading about science, religion, and the interface between them. I enjoy science fiction books, movies and TV shows. I blog on the internet about science, religion, law, environmental policy, and politics. For two years I wrote Op Ed columns for a newspaper in Idaho.

Why I am a Mormon

My parents were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was born. My mother was converted from membership in the Russian Orthodox Church in Japan, an affiliation started by her great-grandfather. I grew up in Utah, and in the Church, and at 12 years of age was ordained a deacon as is customary. When I was in 9th grade, I started attending Seminary, a daily class for which I was released from public school for an hour each day. At that time I began an intense reading of the Book of Mormon and pursued the advice of Moroni in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon, to ask God if the book is true. I felt an intense warmth and assurance and clarity of mind confirming the answer to my question. I also felt that same confirmation as I spoke about this experience to others. When I turned 19 I was called to serve as a volunteer missionary in Japan. On one of the first Sundays there, in Otaru, Japan, I participated for the first time in the laying on of hands of a young woman who had just been baptized. When the branch president, who was conducting the ordinance, called on the young woman to "Receive the Holy Ghost", I suddenly felt an electric shock originate in my chest and pass through my arms and hands to where they rested on her head. I had not anticipated anything of the kind. I had once touched a frayed wire and experienced a shock, and this was much more intense as a physical experience. These and other direct experiences have confirmed to me the reality of things we don't see in the everyday world. Moreover, as I studied science and law in college and graduate school, I have come to the conviction that everything I know about reason and reality is consistent with the teachings of the LDS Church. I spent a year researching in the LDS Church archives for a law review article on how early Mormons resolved their legal disputes without going to court. These records show those pioneer Mormons were sincere believers like me.

How I live my faith

In my current congregation, I help oversee the Sunday School program and help teach the adult class. I also visit several families each month as a "home teacher", bringing a message from the Church and helping them with their needs, both spiritual and material. Over my lifetime, like other Mormons, I have served in many unpaid callings in the Church. I have served over ten years teaching Sunday School to adults in congregations in California, Utah, Washington State and Idaho. In Nebraska I taught high school students in the weekday "Seminary" program for 4 years. I have been a member of leadership councils in Japan, in Marin County, CA, in Maryland, and Utah. I have served as a full time missionary for 2 years in Japan, and a part time missionary in Colorado and again when I returned to Japan with the US Air Force. I have also been a Boy Scout leader in Utah, Colorado and Japan. On three occasions, I sang with LDS Church choirs performing full concerts of Handel's Messiah, in Omaha, in Oakland, CA, and in Washington State. The most important way I live my faith is as a husband, father and grandfather. My wife and I were married for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake City Temple. We have strived to teach our children and grandchildren what we believe and set an example for them of righteous living. We participate in important religious ordinances for our family members, starting with the blessing of babies, the baptism of children as they turn 8 years old, and their confirmation as members of the LDS Church and bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost. We look forward to our oldest grandson turning 12 years old soon, when his father and I will be able to ordain him as a deacon in the Priesthood of Aaron, able to help administer the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper each Sunday. Like my fellow members, as an ordained High Priest in the Church, I have been able to perform many of these ordinances for my family.

Does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints endorse political parties?

Ray Takashi S.
The Church does not endorse any political party or any candidate for election. The Church encourages its members to serve in their communities, and in response to that, many members are politically involved in various political parties. For example, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada is the leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate, while other senators from various states are also members of the Church but belong to the Republican Party. In the state of Utah, the only one of the 50 states where Latter-day Saints are in the majority, Mormons elected governor have been from both major US political parties--and some non-Mormons were elected as well, including Simon Bamberger, a Jew, and J. Bracken Lee. Show more Show less

Why do Mormons believe in “eternal life?”

Ray Takashi S.
One ancient teaching held in the early Christian church was that all mankind existed as spirit children of our Father in Heaven before our birth. Our spirits are already immortal. The purpose of life is to qualify for the joyful eternal life that our Father wants to share with us through the atoning sacrifice of his Son. Even beyond new, physical life through the resurrection, the Bible teaches that those who have faith in Christ, and live accordingly, can be "joint heirs with Christ", having His kind of life, living with God and becoming, through Christ's grace, like God. That is the promise of Peter, and Paul and John. It was taught by the early Christian fathers like Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon "In Christ, God became man so that man could become God". The understanding of this has been preserved in the Eastern Orthodox churches as the doctrine of "theosis" or becoming like God. That is the goal of the Latter-day Saints. Our missionaries do NOT believe that those who reject them are going to "Hell". Rather, they are inviting them to an even greater participation in God's glory and blessing through eternity. Show more Show less

To what do you attribute the growth of the Church?

Ray Takashi S.
Sociologist Rodney Stark, who is not a Latter-day Saint, has studied the Church for decades and believes it is a good model of how the original Christian Church grew in the First through Fourth Centuries. He points out that LDS Church membership growth in a single year is modest, about half from children born in LDS families and half from conversions of people who were not LDS. However, over twenty years the compounding effects result in a doubling of LDS membership. These are not theoretical or estimated, but actual counts of baptisms and enrollment in Church records. Professor Stark believes this rate corresponds to the historical rate of doubling of the original Christian Church, and that like the LDS Church, it grew gradually through family, neighbor and friend contacts. Stark's own theory for LDS growth is that the high demands that the Church places on its members, especially sacrificing their time to perform all the duties that typical churches expect from paid clergy, while supporting themselves in regular jobs, increases the value of being a member. The LDS know they can rely on each other for help in a crisis. However, the LDS converts will tell you that it is God's spirit that converted them. People who convert to the LDS Church generally spend at least several weeks meeting with the missionaries, and some take months. The Church does not baptize people who simply walk into a meeting and ask for baptism, as some Christian "crusades" might do. Show more Show less

Is it true that Jesus appeared in North America after his crucifixion and resurrection according to the Book of Mormon?

Ray Takashi S.
If you are a believer in the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion, and his series of appearances to various of his disciples, including on one occasion "five hundred brethren", then you also likely believe in the promise of his Second Coming to the earth, when he will descend from heaven in glory. If you are a Christian who believes that Jesus is the Son of God and has the omnipotent powers of God, then you should believe that Jesus has the power to manifest himself to anyone whenever and wherever he desires to. If he had that power in 34 AD, he certainly has not regressed and lost it in 2011 AD. All the Book of Mormon asserts is that, among the many personal appearances made by the resurrected Jesus Christ during the year following his resurrection, one of them was made somewhere in the Americas. It does not give us enough geographic information to identify the location with any certainty. It took place 2,000 years ago, so no physical evidence of that appearance is likely to be found just as there is no physical evidence of his New Testament appearances. If you believe Christ is real, and is God, then such an appearance outside of Palestine is within his powers. You cannot rule it out by saying it is an event not in the Bible so it could not have happened. The Bible affirms that God's works, and Jesus' actions, go beyond the capacity of the Bible to record. I believe the Book of Mormon narrative of Christ in the Americas. Show more Show less

Why don’t Mormons have paid clergy?

Ray Takashi S.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is consciously a restoration of the original church established by Jesus Christ in the First Century. While the ancient Church of Jesus Christ was led by apostles, its local congregations were not led by professionals who earned their living from their leadership work. The institution of career clergy was borrowed by later Christians from the practices of the pagan Roman Empire. LDS leaders are called for limited periods of time, usually no more than five years at a time, and support themselves as farmers, lawyers, professors, businessmen or other careers. Their church service is done without financial compensation or benefits. That is also true for those who serve as missionaries. This means that the experience of leadership is widely shared among Mormons. It also means that as the Church grows, new congregations can be easily created because there are people who can be called to serve in every capacity as leaders and teachers. Even small groups of Mormons in remote locations, such as in deployed military units, can organize themselves and conduct all aspects of religious worship and organization. They don't depend on a small group of professional pastors. This also means that Mormon leaders bring their career skills into their Church service, which benefits the Church and its members. It allows funds that other churches spend on ministers to be used to build meetinghouses and care for the needy. Show more Show less

Why are only some Mormons allowed into temples? Is there something secret going on in Mormon Temples? What goes on in Mormon Temples?

Ray Takashi S.
The many different sacred ordinances performed in some 134 LDS temples around the world, on all continents except Antarctica, are of special eternal significance in the belief of those Latter-day Saints who participate in them. Allowing the general public to walk in and watch as tourists or sociological researchers or critics of Mormon beliefs would greatly impair the personal and community significance of the performance of these ordinances. Likewise the Latter-day Saints do not "export" those ordinances outside the temples, with recordings or transcripts or photos, so they could be viewed and discussed by the curious or the hostile. The importance of the ordinances to those participating in them is much higher than any value to a voyeur, a scientist or a critic. For this reason, only those who hold those ordinances sacred are allowed to view and participate in them. You can imagine how disruptive it would be to a choir making a recording of a sacred song if tourists were allowed to walk in and out of the hall where they were trying to make the recording, and to comment on the music or the setting or the clothing of the singers. Recording studios limit and control who can enter and when. They prevent unauthorized reproduction of their works, undercutting their investment in this effort, by this exclusion. We can all respect the privacy of a recording studio. We should also respect the privacy of a place where "sacred records" are being created, in temples. Show more Show less

Why is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called Mormons or Mormonism?

Ray Takashi S.
The term "Mormons" for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more properly called "Latter-day Saints", comes from one of the most distinctive beliefs of the Church, that God continues to speak to prophets in modern times just as God did in the time of the ancient Bible from about 1800 BC to 100 AD. The first assignment God gave Joseph Smith was to bring into the world an additional part of Israel's scriptural record, covering a period from 600 BC to 400 AD, within the same tradition of historical and didactic writings that formed the Old and New Testaments. Because the primary ancient compiler and editor of the record was a man named Mormon, the overall book is called "The Book of Mormon". But few people know that Mormon goes on to explain to his readers that he was named after a PLACE called Mormon, where the Church of Christ was reestablished among his ancestors four hundred years earlier, starting with baptisms performed in the "waters of Mormon." "Mormon" was, for Mormon himself, a shorthand way of referring to the ancient Church of Jesus Christ. Because of this, calling the modern members of the Church of Jesus Christ "Mormons" actually invokes a place where people declared their faith in Christ's atonement through the covenant of baptism. Such people are sanctified through baptism, and are therefore "saints". So the real meaning of the ancient word "Mormon" is "a saint". Show more Show less

What are some things that tell you there is a God?

Ray Takashi S.
In this age of militant atheism, we often hear the argument that modern science has gotten rid of the need to believe in God. The "Mormon" answer is, first, that we believe in God because of specific positive evidence, rather than the medieval style of reasoning based on certain axiomatic assumptions. Not only Joseph Smith, but also other men including Oliver Cowdery and Sydney Rigdon and others experienced together with Joseph visions of Jesus Christ and a series of resurrected messengers from God, including John the Baptist, the apostles Peter, James and John, the prophets Moses and Elijah, and the prophet and last author/editor of the Book of Mormon, Moroni. Second, the Church teaches the many passages in the Bible, the Book of Mormon and other LDS scriptures that declare that God the Father and Jesus Christ as Jehovah created the universe and the earth, and that Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven. These are not conclusions drawn from mere observation of nature, but specific revelatory declarations given from God through prophets who sometimes witnessed the actual creation process. Third, ultimately the truth of statements from modern and ancient prophets can only be verified through each person's own prayer to God to have knowledge of God communicated to him through the power of God's spirit, the Holy Ghost, whom Mormons believe is a real, specific person who supports the Father and Son in the Godhead Trinity. Show more Show less

How does the Church finance its operations?

Ray Takashi S.
Latter-day Saints are asked to make a voluntary contribution of a tithe--one tenth of their income--to the Church. Each contribution is placed in a sealed envelope with a form stating who made the donation and given individually to the bishop. No one else sees the envelope, and certainly does not see the contents. They are asked at the end of the year to tell their own bishop if what they gave was a "full tithe" or not. That is the only thing asked. There is no auditing of member's financial records, no questioning about how much they earned or how they calculated their tithing. Neither the bishops nor the clerks who handle the contributions receives any pay for their services. None of the contributions go to them. They all serve for a few years as unpaid volunteers, devoting as many as 20 hours a week in service to their neighbors. No one has a personal stake in what anyone else contributes. It is confidential and totally voluntary. Tithing funds pay for construction and renovation of meetinghouses, temples, and the utilities and maintenance of the buildings. It pays for transportation of missionaries and Church leaders. On the first Sunday each month, Mormons fast from two meals and contribute the money saved to the Fast Offerings, to help support the unemployed and needy. Other donations beyond tithing can be designated for missionaries, disaster relief, or education loans to members in developing nations. Show more Show less

Can you tell me about Mormon customs: how you dress for church, what holidays you celebrate, etc.?

Ray Takashi S.
If you are visiting a Latter-day Saint Sunday meeting, you should note that the LDS are asked to wear clothing at all times that meets standards of modesty and chastity. No one is excluded from an LDS church building on the basis of being too poor to afford nice clothing. But the Church asks its members to wear clothing that is clean and in good repair to show respect for God, consistent with the sacred ordinance of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper "communion" that is performed in the congregational worship service. If one can afford it, clothing that is one's "Sunday best" such as would be worn to a job interview in one's national culture is appropriate. There is cultural variation. For example, formal business attire in the Philippines is a nicely woven open collar short sleeve shirt without a necktie. The wide adoption of the standard European business suit and necktie all over the world makes this the typical "uniform" of Mormon men and teenage boys. LDS women typically wear modest dresses and skirts with sleeves and with skirt lengths at the knee or longer. Men wear shoes with socks. Shorts and shirts worn untucked and sandals without socks are not worn, nor t-shirts or tank tops or other top garments that bare the midriff. Denim is not worn by men, though women often use that fabric. In military units when Mormons are deployed or in combat zones and required to be wearing their uniforms on Sunday, they will attend services in that uniform. Show more Show less

Do Mormons regard the Bible as Holy Scripture and the word of God?

Ray Takashi S.
Joseph Smith was taught by his parents to read the Bible and regard it as a true, sacred record of God's words to mankind. When he was 14 years old, he was reading the Epistle of James and found in Chapter One, Verse Five, a promise that God will give wisdom to any faithful person who asks God for an answer. Joseph tested that promise successfully by praying to god and receiving an answer in the form of a visit by God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. They called Joseph to a special mission to restore Christ's church on the earth with all of its original godly power. In performing that assignment, Joseph relied on the Bible to gain a knowledge of what God wants us to know and to do. He became highly familiar with it, citing it and quoting long passages from memory through his intensive study of the Bible. He used it to teach about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. From that day to this, the Bible has been at the center of Latter-day Saint faith and study. In 1979 the Church published a new edition of the King James Version with extensive study helps, and all Mormons study the Bible in Sunday School and in their family and personal study. Various surveys have shown that Mormons are above average among Christians in their knowledge of the contents of the Bible. Show more Show less

Do Mormons worship Joseph Smith?

Ray Takashi S.
The notion that "Mormons worship Joseph Smith and not God " is a falsehood that justifies, in the minds of some people, discrimination against and even hatred toward Mormons. I have always found it curious that some people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ think that it is consistent with Christ's teachings and teachings to tell such lies and to promote such hatred. Joseph Smith was a good and sincere man of integrity, as is demonstrated by the testimony of the people who knew him personally. In just 15 years, from 1829 to 1844, he accomplished a tremendous work in establishing a church that brought over 20,000 people to believe that God had restored to earth the original authority and doctrine that had been held and taught by Peter, John, Paul and the other apostles. Members of the LDS Church honor Joseph as a founding prophet like Moses. But we worship God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ, as Joseph and the Bible teach us to do. Professor Truman Madsen said that Joseph Smith is a window that helps us better see the Savior, Jesus Christ. Joseph spoke with Christ directly, and received revelation from Christ. The Book of Mormon testifies of Christ as mankind's only Savior, reaffirming the testimony of the New Testament. Mormons do NOT pray to Joseph or use his name in ordinances. We worship the Father in the name of the Son, as Christ commanded us. Show more Show less