Geoff Nelson

Geoff was born in Northern Utah and raised primarily in Central California. He received a BS in Biomedical Physics from Fresno State, a MS and PhD in Bioengineering from Stanford, and is now working as a Medical Physicist in Bellevue, WA. He served his LDS Mission in Donetsk Ukraine. He's married and has two boys and two girls. He is currently a counselor in his ward's elders quorum presidency.

Faith, Fasting, and Religion

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like all people (perhaps especially Mormons) often miss the mark. We confuse the means with the ends. At very least I often do. I can get so wrapped up in something that I miss the forest for the trees. Here are 3 areas that where I think we can easily go wrong: 1- Faith If we have all faith so that we can move mountains, but we lack charity, we’re nothing. So how do we show true charity? When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. 2- Fasting Many times I have fasted with some specific purpose or blessing in mind. In fact, I was taught that this was how we were supposed to fast. We need to fast for something. But what does that mean? In my experience this has meant that we want to invoke some blessing from God. We want some family member who is sick or going through some trial to get blessings through our fast. What does God say about fasting? Ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. So it is not to make our petitions be more effective. It is not to increase the likelihood that God will grant our proposed desire. So why should we fast? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? What does it mean to hide yourself from your own flesh? My take is that we are all family, and as such when we ignore those in need, we are hiding ourselves from our own family. We could also take it to mean that we should take care of our own. For years I assumed that our tithing and fast offerings ensured...

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Keep Calm and Don’t Be Gay

What follows is a retelling of this meridian magazine article. I’m pretty sure that everyone, from those who think homosexual relationships make God angry, to those who are happy to accept that they were born homosexual, can agree on one thing, which I know is a truth: It would be nice to have a choice. As much as we’ve gone out of our way as a society to accommodate gay people, from not beating them for being gay to finally granting them equal rights, they’ll still be denied some privileges of hetero couples. Hetero couples can have kids… except those who can’t. Homosexual couples could never mix their DNA in a test tube and implant the egg fertilized from their mutual DNA into one of them or into a surrogate. Also, they can’t have a relationship that lasts into the eternities, because our leaders said that they can’t. So sure, we can be kind to them, but we can’t enucleate eggs to then implant a different mix of DNA. It’s not like it’s being done in animals and could be less than a decade or so away for humans. Gays can’t even hope for having biological kids. And as a child of someone who was adopted, I can say that raising your own biological children is the greatest privilege possible in marriage and really the only reason we have marriage. When a young person understands (as well as is possible with their limited experience) the ramifications of this, they’ll never choose a barren partner, or a partner of the same sex, because science can’t fix that right this instant.   We’ve made things so easy for gay people, that now the ones being raised in a conservative religious home have some social pressure to not be the kind of person that all of their family and entire social group expect them to be. What I’m saying is that we should make it more attractive for gays to want to sleep with someone they’re not attracted to. Just because they are attracted to...

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What is the Temple?

Sep 24, 15 What is the Temple?

Posted by in Family, Featured, Mormonism, Temple

The following is a talk which my wife gave in our ward last month. I went to the temple last night. As I sat in the celestial room, it struck me how empty and quiet it was. It had been a very chaotic day. My morning had started with the sounds of screaming children pounding down the hall, followed by being jumped on in my bed by a toddler in a princess dress and a poopy diaper. I stepped on toys and books and small clothes. I heard the word “Mommy” somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion times. Our house is still in shambles from moving, mixed with the general chaos of children. Everywhere I looked there were endless signs of “people.” I had been inundated by sights, sounds, smells, animals, and moving bodies all day. By the time I got to the temple, I was completely overwhelmed. So it stands to reason that the celestial room would feel like heaven. While it was a welcome respite for a couple minutes, again, what struck me was how empty and quiet it was. In that moment, the idea that the celestial kingdom would be like that seemed as ridiculous as angels playing harps on clouds. God’s kingdom is about his family, and where there are many children, there is a lot of motion and sound and color, even when those children are adults. Some people have the advantage of being able to go to the temple with their whole family, and maybe it feels differently to them. My family was at home, and I realized that I actually wanted to go back to my messy house to be with people I love rather than spend more than a few moments by myself on an empty sofa in a silent, empty room that is supposed to reflect eternity. What makes a place feel to me like what we’re ultimately aiming for is not a chandelier and a nice floral arrangement, but being with the people...

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To those in a faith crisis and their loved ones

This month I had planned to write about a Bishopric Training Meeting at which my Stake President invited me and my wife to speak about faith crises and faith transitions. It was a great experience. I was also tempted to post the text of my wife’s sacrament meeting talk about temples from a couple weeks ago. However, as I browsed several posts from people just entering into the depth of their faith crisis, I felt moved to attempt to address them. There have been so very many posts doing the same thing, but hopefully this will be of some help to some of you struggling. After this I’ll address the loved ones of those going through a faith crisis. First of all, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry you are struggling. For some, perhaps many, this is the most painful and difficult thing you’ve experienced. The things that were an anchor for you, that were a balm to you in times of sorrow, are now the very things causing the pain. It hurts. It can feel incredibly isolating. I was so worried and scared when going through my faith crisis. The consequences were vast and eternal. I didn’t want to talk to anyone else about it because I still hoped that soon I would get some revelation, or at least some level of assurance that in fact everything was alright. But no assurance came. I felt lonely. I felt abandoned. I felt like crying out “My God, why have you forsaken me?” I then waited even more, for my moment like Joseph’s in Liberty Jail in which God gives reassurance in my moment of pain. I read my scriptures more deeply. I prayed more sincerely. I attended the temple more frequently, all in an effort to grasp onto something in my spiritual free fall. It pains me to say this, especially to those of you in the early stages of such a crisis, but this lasted not just weeks or months, but years. During this...

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Relief Society classes, wealth, racism, & classism

Several years ago, my wife showed me the flyer she got for an upcoming Stake Womens’ Conference on our way home from church. She asked me if I could find the FAIL. I now invite you readers to do the same.   Stake Women’s Conference 9:00-9:15 Welcome Opening Hymn Invocation 9:25-10:10 Session A 10:20-11:05 Session B Musical Number Keynote Speaker Closing Hymn Benediction   Session A Classes: Prep for Personal Revelation Invigorating Scripture Study “10min. with God” Parenting Young Children Panel Spiritual Creation of a Day Parenting Tweens & Teens Panel Real Food Un Taller Tratando de las Financias de Familiares Daughters of God, Creators of Joy   Session B Classes: Prep for Personal Revelation with Spanish translation Invigorating Scripture Study “10min. with God” Dirt to Dinner: Vegetable Gardening Simply Living GRANDparenting 101 or “Muthering Heights” Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Modern Media & You Daughters of God, Creators of Joy   Got it? Ready? There’s one class only offered exclusively to Spanish speakers: Un Taller Tratando de las Financias de Familiares (roughly ‘A Workshop Dealing with Family Finances’).   Now to be fair, the vast majority of sisters in our stake spoke English, so obviously there would be way more classes in English. Prep for Personal Revelation was important enough to allow both English and Spanish speaking sisters the opportunity to hear it. I would think that dealing with family finances would probably also be important enough to allow the English speakers to hear. But I guess Real Food/Vegetable Gardening is more important for the English speakers.   I’m sure those planning this conference were well intentioned. I mean, are most of the Spanish speaking sisters poor and struggling with finances? Yes. Is this going to be helped at all by a class on balancing a checkbook? I’m going out on a limb to say no. This is a systemic problem:   See the correlation?   I frankly think that the English speaking sisters in the stake are in even greater need of having a class on finances/wealth/riches. Christ says that we can’t serve two...

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You do not belong here – a high councilor’s talk about inclusion

On Sunday our high councilor spoke during Sacrament Meeting. It was an excellent talk that I feel should be shared with as many people as possible. Personal information has been removed, but otherwise the talk is here as it was given. Italicized emphases in the text were used in the written talk  from the high councilor.   I’ve been in this ward for a while now, but since this is a ward where many people come and go, I will briefly introduce myself and my family. [Talks about himself]. [Talks about his wife]. You don’t see her here because about 10 years ago she decided to leave the church. She joined the church in college, then after several years decided she no longer believed in it; so I guess you could say she had conversion experiences in both directions. [Talks about his children]. For the first few years we lived in this ward, I got to serve in the young mens presidency. I love that calling, but I’ve since been called to be a stake high councilor. That’s why you’re having to listen to me today. As part of that calling I get to sit in council with the stake presidency. I guess the conventional thing for me to do is to tell you that the stake president loves you. He hasn’t yet said that to me explicitly, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. I’ve observed him to be a man of remarkable faith and a very kind heart. I think we’re in good hands. Every time I give a talk in church I feel obliged to begin with a warning, so here it is. I do not consider myself an expert on spiritual matters. I plan to share ideas that I hope will be helpful and inspiring, but please take them for what they are: the opinions and ideas of a guy who isn’t totally sure he knows what he’s talking about. On top of that, I’ve chosen to speak today on a tricky...

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Mormonism and the Regeneration of All Things

Mar 27, 15 Mormonism and the Regeneration of All Things

Posted by in Featured, History, Theology

I’m a big fan of Dr. Who. Yes, big surprise. The nerdy guy likes Dr. Who. I have considered writing out my thoughts of the similarities between Dr. Who and the so-called limited God of Mormonism. However, that will need to wait until another day. Right now I’d like to solicit your help in doing some Dr. Who/Mormonism history research. Mormonism is all about the “Restoration of all things.” Mormonism actually comes into play with some old school Dr. Who. After watching all of the new Dr. Who series, I decided to go back to the beginning and watch it all (because that is the form my Obsessive-Compulsive tendencies take). It doesn’t take long to find that many episodes were lost and so instead I get to watch home-made reconstructions of the episodes. Most of the audio still exists, so people just put still frames up with the audio.     In the 3rd season there is a large story arc involving the Daleks, titled “The Daleks’ Master Plan.” It aired between 1965 and 1966. By 1967 most of original BBC tapes of the episodes were listed to be wiped (and were among the first to be wiped). By 1976 the entire 12 episode story arc was believed to be lost. Now Mormonism is about to step onto the scene to continue the important restoration (or regeneration) of all things. In 1983 the Mormon church gave the BBC 16mm film copies of two of the lost 12 episodes. It turns out that the LDS church purchased a former BBC building in the early 1980s in Clapham, South London. When the church was cleaning the basement they found these lost, buried records. Then, as a voice from the dust, the film once lost and now found cried out to adorning fans. I’d love to have more information for you about this story. That is the full extent of what I could find about it on Wikipedia. I tried reaching out to friends in the UK...

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21st Century Family History: Not your grandma’s genealogy

Prelude For ages I felt like there was no point for me to do family history work. My family is about as Mormon as it gets. Sure I can claim 7th generation Mormon status, but the thing is that I don’t have anyone in my family tree who wasn’t Mormon as long as Mormonism has been around. 30 of my 32 great-great-great grandparents were Mormon (the missing 2 died before missionaries got to that part of Denmark). I had great-great-great grandparents who were meticulously doing their genealogy during their lifetimes, so what could I add? My father was adopted at birth. He always wanted to be able to contact his birth mother to thank her for putting him up for adoption as he had had a great life with his parents. He also wanted to learn more about family health history. I didn’t really start to consider my biological family history until I put together a graphical family tree with photographs of each person. It was one of those situations in which what you’ve always known still hadn’t fully registered in your mind. It wasn’t until looking at the visual similarities with my ancestors on my mom’s side, and on my dad’s side (up to his adopted parents) that I realized that my dad’s biological parents still were a part of my tree. I inherited 50% of my DNA from them. In a very real way they were part of my tree. The year after I made the photo family tree my wife got me a DNA kit from for our anniversary. In grad-school I learned way more about microbiology and genetics than I’d ever wanted to know (and then promptly forgot most of the details). I had been enrolled in a course which would have had me doing my own research using my raw DNA data had I remained enrolled in it. Anyway, the point is that I had been excited to learn more and so my wife (being the superstar that she is) totally...

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A Beginner’s Guide to Rational Faiths

Feb 03, 15 A Beginner’s Guide to Rational Faiths

Posted by in Featured, Mormon Humor, Mormonism

This post was written primarily by Geoff Nelson and Thomas Hatton, with help from other permabloggers. I know you’ve probably seen links to Rational Faiths posted all over the Bloggernaccle. You’ve probably thought- What is this website? Who runs it? What is rational about faith? What is faithful about rationality? This blog post was written to both inform you, the reader, what Rational Faiths is all about, and clear up some misconceptions that you might have about it.   Why is Rational Faiths unique among the Mormon Bloggernaccle? A few reasons. The blog is a labor of love from Michael, Jonathan, and Paul Barker, who are the site administrators. They handle domain costs and receive no financial compensation for page views and likes. So really, it’s like Whose Line Is It Anyway of blogging. Also, Rational Faiths prides itself on diversity. We run quite the gamut. Rational Faith’s permas are academics, musicians, educators, entrepreneurs, students, artists, doctors, counselors, and a number of other things. We have active Mormons as well as former Mormons, although we have more active than not.   Rational Faiths is also one of the most racially/ethnically diverse LDS group blogs. We’re all a big happy Rational Faiths family.     Is Rational Faiths a faithful LDS blog, or a snarky anti-Mormon blog? Rational Faiths is a blog that operates on principles of quantum physics. Like Schrodinger’s Cat .It is a superposition of states, in this case, a superposition of states along the Mormon faith spectrum. However upon opening the box and reading a particular post, the wave function collapses on one value, which might be anywhere along the spectrum. However, the wave function shows a higher probability of being in the region of faithful snark.   Who are the Barker Brothers? The Barker Brothers ™ were originally a trio of dimension hopping Italian plumbers that, after defeating sentient anthropomorphic lizard people a few hundred times, resettled out West, paving the way for their famous imposter counterparts. They are mostly human, but...

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Erosion of Religious Liberty?

Jan 29, 15 Erosion of Religious Liberty?

Posted by in Featured, Homosexuality, News, Politics

When Alexis de Tocqueville visited the US, he observed that America was more religious than Europe and attributed it to the strong separation of church and state that existed in the US. It would seem that this division of church and state, this freedom of religion is currently being tested. This is of particular concern currently because Christians of any denomination no longer represent 99% of the public. Many are talking of the erosion of religious freedom in the US. Those who express such concerns are inevitably Christian. The perceived erosion of religious freedom today is the very real erosion of Christian privilege.   I’d like to address a list of both real events (held up as examples of the erosion of religious freedom) and hypothetical threats to religious freedom. The University of California system is forcing Christian groups to compromise their religious conscience if they want recognition for their clubs. So, a public, tax-funded University won’t officially recognize and subsidize a club that excludes gays and non-Christians from leadership. Is this an erosion of religious freedom? Well, the group is totally at liberty to remain a private club, unaffiliated with the university. The issue seems to be, do they have a religious freedom to be put on a list of clubs at a public University and receive funds from the University if they discriminate using a religious rubric? This seems to be a case of the erosion of Christian privilege, not religious freedom. Houston city government lawyers subpoenaed the sermons and notes of pastors who opposed parts of a new law on religious grounds. These pastors faced not only intimidation, but also criminal prosecution for insisting that a new gay rights ordinance should be put to a vote of the people. They were subpoenaed simply because they opposed a law? No, not quite. Sermons and notes were subpoenaed because the city was being sued by a Christian group for throwing out illegal signatures on a petition to repeal the equal rights law. Those 5 pastors were...

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