Monday, October 29, 2007

Musical Equipment Review : Digitech GNX4 Workstation

Hey Guys! This is my first Musical Equipment review, and probably the only one I will do for the next 2 years. I have decided to review my most used piece of equipment in this post, which is the Digitech GNX4 Workstation. The Digitech GNX4 workstation was is a sequel to the popular GNX3 Workstation (which is surprising the sequel to the GNX2 and GNX1!). The GNX series was designed to cut down on the average musicians equipment clutter and to just simply the musicians setup.

If you have ever watched a live performance you undoubtedly see that the guitarist and bass players have several boxes at their feet that they hit with their feet at times. These boxes, known as stomp boxes, are distortions and effects, which are used to alter the tone to their particular preference. Most professional boxes go for $200 plus each, while middle of the road is generally 75-150. Generally a guitarist will have distortion, delay, compressor, noise gate, tuner, Wah, and Chorus maybe a flanger or phaser for novelty, each of these effects connected to each other between the guitar and the amp. Now thats a lot of equipment to setup move and lug around, so many create a pedalboard as seen above. Some companies have started producing "set" pedalboards which have several effects set up and the ability to create presets, the downside is that you cannot add to variety of effects that the company chose to put in the machine, but you have the convenience of having it all in one secure package costing quite a bit less then buying all the effects separately. all combined electronically in a rugged metal box.

The GNX series does not only cut down on the stomp boxes, but also on the amps! Thats right, it models amps and simulates the sound so that you don't need to lug around your amps to every gig, this is known as Amp Modeling, and although it is frowned upon by some who say that its not "real", it provides a healthy alternative to buying several different amps (which can range from $500 or $5000 each).

The GNX series
is a combination of an amp simulators, and pedalboard all combined electronically in a rugged metal box.



THE EVOLUTION OF THE GNX SERIES
GNX1
The original GNX1 come out in 2001 with a retail of $499 U.S. The GNX1 included Amp Models, Cabinets, an effects board, Jamman, Rythemn Trainer, and 24 presets, but the real innovation of this unit was the powerful amp warping feature, which is discribed on the official Digitech GNX1 Page as follows:
"The GNX1™ is much more advanced than the conventional amp modeling processors to date. Thanks to DigiTech’s AudioDNA™ DSP Engine and the software power provided by GeNetX™, the GNX1™ allows the musician to literally create their own amp model, their own speaker cabinet, their own signature sound. The GNX1™ provides several of the most popular amp models and speaker cabinets to choose from and GENETX™ provides the tools and technology to “warp” the characteristics of these components together into your own “Hypermodel”. Imagine having the ability to create a completely unique amp/cabinet combination that only your imagination could envision, until now."

1.Product Page for the GNX1
2.Audio Demo of the GNX1



GNX2
The next generation, the GNX2, was released only 6 months after the original and added more effects, stompbox models, an acoutic guitar simulator, more amp models and cabinets, more presets, and a talker effect, added a microphone jack, all once again for around $500 U.S.
1.Product Page for the GNX2


GNX3
The thrid generation the GNX3, was released a year later in July 2002. The new version has surprisingly fewer amp models, but more presets, a drum machine to replace the rythemn trainer, and added a very inovative on bord 8 track recorder, which doubles as a Jam Man, which generally sells from $300-400 US. Also added was a memory card slot. The retail price of the GNX3 was once again around $500 US.
1.Product Page for the GNX3



GNX4
The GNX4, released in 2004, took the GNX3's model to the next level, not adding too many huge new innovations but working off the gnx3 model and adding in the detail, adding more Amps, adding Bass Amps and Cabinets, more presets, they made the GNX unit compatible with up to 2Gig compact disc with allows for more recording time and adding 80 more presets bringing the total number of possible on board presets to 240. They adding a USB connection for studio quality sound recording along with XLR outputs. They enhanced the drum machine to sound better, to include several new drum patterns, or to even make your own, and added the ability to choose from 8 drum kits. The GNX4 also adds better pedal assignment and accessibility. Along with the following software:
Pro Tracks PLUS
Lexicon Pantheon Reverb Plug-in
Cakewalk Pyro Express CD burning
BIAN deck 3.5 SE Mac recording
X-Edit Editor-Library
The GNX4 was designed not to replace the GNX3 but to give some useful utilities and compatibility options, for those who are willing to pay for it. The original price of the GNX4 was around $600 US.

1.
Video Demo for the GNX4, Just click the video link
2.Product Page for the GNX4
3.Audio Demo for the GNX4

GNX3000
The next line in the GNX series GNX3000, which employees three times the amount of amp models(43), along with and increase to 25 cabinets models, but loses the the 8-track recorder (and the Jamman feature), also loses the CF card slot altogether, adds some more stompboxes, lowers the amount of potential presets from 240 to 195, and they made it more skexy by having it in black! The GNX 3000 was meant to improve the sound of the GNX series and broaden the stock amp models and sound, but was not designed to replace the GNX4, but rather to provide an cheaper alternative, for those who don't want so many bells and whistles or onbord recording. In reality this unit replaces the GNX3 more then GNX4. The price tag on the GNX3000 is a very reasonable $400 US, making it the cheapest at release of the series.
1. Sound Demo for the GNX3000
2.Video Demo, just click the GNX3000 option
3. GNX3000 Product Page


THE SEARCH

I have gone through 3 multi-effects pedals, the first is the discontinued RP-300A and RP-100, but this unit was my first serious amp modeler. I realized that I am probably never going to be a rock star with thousands of dollars to blow, and as such I would have to resort to either very few amps and effects, or get a pedalboard which gives you a broader range of sounds with a cheaper price tag, so I decided to see what was out there.

When I set out to find a new pedal, I first looked at the GNX series because I was pleased with my previous Digitech products. I started reading user reviews at Harmony Central,watching the video demos, reading and participating in the forums, reading the manuals, and listening to what the average user was making on their pedal. I had the opportunity to try out several other multi-effects, and amp modeling units, such as the leading competitor the Pod XT-Live, which has nice sound which is in my opinion comparable with the GNX4(with tweaking).

Now I won't lie to you, I was taken in by the GNX4 partly because I loved all the accessories and I'm a fool for the "All In One" deals. When I go out to buy something of this magnitude, I usually go for high-end merchandise, and the ones that I think I will be using 20 years from now (though I am not even 20 yet), a 'one-time-fix' deal. At the end of this search there were 2 choices that were really in the foremost of my mind, those were, the Digitech GNX4, and the Line 6 POD XT LIVE.
The overall impression I got while comparing these two units was that for out-of-the-box sound, the best choice would probably be the POD XT LIVE, for recording and studio work the GNX4 was the unit. If your interest in using the pedal as an effects board Digitech has put some cool effects that Line 6 just doesn't have in their model but Line 6 does have a LOT of effects, but not as good of quality if you ask me, I'll call this one a tie. If you were interested in tweaking the sound, the GNX4 was a more powerful unit with the Amp Warping ability, providing endless possibilities in sounds. This is what sold me on the GNX4, I was interested in creating my own sound, creating my own Amp and Cabinet, I was very impressed with the online community and the possibilities, and I was very interested in the Jamman and recording. So finally after months of research, I walked away with the Digitech GNX4.



The GNX4

So now having had this unit several months, and have gotten past the novelty phase, what do I have to say about it?

Amp Modeling

Ok lets get down to the hard facts. This pedal was made to Sound like Amps, you can pick the amp you wish, and then select a cabinet, then you can mess around with the Gain, Treble/Middle/Bass Frequency and levels, Sound is very subjective, and on amp models it is even harder to gauge, you start asking questions like "Is it realistic?", and "Is my amp corrupting the sound?". This unit is meant to emulate a particular amp (or a "new" amp) so the sound you hear is a product of 3 things 1-Guitar, 2-Pedal ,3-Amp, so to have a fair test of the pedal we have to uniform number 1 and 3.

1-So for number 1, to compare you need to be playing the amp and the pedal with the same 2-guitar!
3-As for number 3 you can either plug in the said amp model into YOUR amp, or simply use headphones for the pedal!(make sure the settings are uniform as well, or at least fool around with them to see how close you can get)

Ok so this is done... Does it sound exactly like the real thing? Doubtful, maybe similar, maybe true in some cases, maybe very close in others, but no amp modeler (that I have seen) can duplicate the exact true sound of an amp. But personally I don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to through around buying amps, and this is a great realistic(enough) alternative. If this was it for amp modeling in the GNX4 then it would be just another pedal, a average unit.

Having said this the power in the GNX4 is that you can "warp" the existing amp models to produce differant models and makes, or to create your own original sounding amp. I think that the GNX series is THE leading pedal for amp modeling, or at least in some regards. Digitech has online sound communities, which is very, very powerful source, you can create and share presets, songs,and amp models. This allows for a collective progression in Amp Modeling, the seeming initiator is a man named mike, who on the community is known as Guitar3456. Guitar3456 studied and analyzed the sound waves and patterns that amps made, and used the GNX4's warping capabilities to more accurately emulate different amps, and improve the existing amp models. He says on the forum
"When users were dismayed early on by the GNX4 basic models and posting their disappointment for firmware revisions (at the Digitech Sound Community), I thought it would be nice to have a huge library (of amp models). The problem was getting the specs to follow the amp which you cannot do with one basic model. So I sampled them (GNX4 amp models) to identify their shortcomings. That's when I decided to sample real amps and compare them using an analyzer. When I pushed further, I found that my GNX4 was awesome compared to other amp modelers (allows you to warp multiple amp models to obtain realistic results). Local guys started coming over for customizing their pedal. So one thing led to another and the Ultimate endeavor came to life. Months and months of work, equipment, rentals..."

He did this on his own for quite a while turning out awesome presets and amp models, he became the heart of the GNX community, until digitech hired him. Now he has been put to work and has with Digitech created 3 "Supermodel Discs" which hold : "
Over 1000 total presets/folders of Amp Models, organized by Mfg/ Amp Type, including patches and custom hypermodels of various settings..best yet, they are easily adjustable. You'll have so much !! There are over 200 model variations and presets just for Marshall
Dozens of Amp manufacturer models and presets. Arranged from A to Z. These include the hypermodels of various settings like Clean, Crunch ( various), Lead (various) and many other of the full feature models as well. Things like Variac, Power Break, Ultra Mode, Modified amp models, Custom amp models, Artist Models, and much more...
Acoustic Guitar and Amp Models of Larrivee, Ovation, Guild, Takamine, Carvin, Peavey and more..
Custom Models of Guitar Amp Cabinets ranging from 8's to 4x12 Stacks. From single series to 1960's ,1960A's ( full stack), Randall, Carvin, Mesa, and more...
Custom Signature Amp Models...Slash, Zakk's Custom 1987 JCM800,
Dozens of Artist preset patches from A to Z. Country, Jazz, Blues, or Rock...in there!! From Classic Page, Hendrix, Trower, Angus, BB, Holdsworth, Methaney, Rockabilly, Chuck Berry, Clapton, Creedence, to hard rockers like Dimebag, Slash, Lifeson, 80's metal and so much more... It get's even better...
Bass Guitar Sims including, Jazz, Precision, Rickenbacker, 5string , and more...
Ultimate Users rewards. This grants you 2 full years of Automatic Updates, new Presets, Amp Models. Users will be subscribed as of purchase date and will automatically receive any future presets, modeling etc via email. How's that for service !!"
Thats not all, currently on the GNX4 community there are 1252 down loadable presets, and
1174 GNX3 presets (compatible with the GNX4), 1095 GNX2 patches, and 803 GNX1 patches, and 450 GNX3000 patches, so all in all on the community alone you can get almost 5000 free presets for your unit.


Effects
Although the POD XT live does have more effects then the GNX4, their quality leaves something to be desired, even in the most basic features such as compressors, and delays. While i am impressed with the variety of effects it boasts, and its effects versatilities I cannot say that I have a great desire to find more effects to employ, I am perfectly happy with the effects given in the GNX4.

The GNX4 effects are as follows:

Flanger, Auto Flanger, Tremolo, Phaser, Auto Phaser, Virbrato, Rotary Speakers, YaYa, Auto YaYa, SynthTalk, Wah, Envelope(Auto Wah), Chorus, Pitch Shifting, IPS(Intelligent Pitch Shifting), Whammy, Talker, Detune, Delay, Reverb, Compressor, Noise Gate, Presence, EQ, Pickup Simulator, Distortion, Overdrive.

Most with serveral variations, versions and customizable options. Overall the I have been very pleased with most effects in this box.






Compatibility and Flexibility



Now when it comes to Flexibility, this unit stands in a class all of its own. Unlike a home made pedalboard the GNX4 is electronically based and connects to the internet which can provide updates, patches, and additional software. The USB and various outputs on the rear end makes this unit compatible with almost any system. And w Also its its various inputs you can record jam session (with a guitar, bass and piano) directly onto the computer in real time through a reliable USB port, so not only is this unit a powerful practice and creating tool, it is also a studio tool. This is a very flexible and compatible tool.
Reliability Durability and Customer Support

The only trouble I can think of that I had with this unit, was that once it froze up and wouldn't change presets, I rebooted it and it worked fine after. It seemed to be an internal error and it did no noticeable damage to the unit. The unit itself is surrounded by about 1/8 inch of sheet metal, the only two concerns I would have, would be that if you dropped it that the board in it would break or jumble something, or that the plastic knobs, though I have never heard of them breaking, if you kicked them with a shoe I'm not sure how they would hold out, other than that this thing is a tank. The customer and online resources are great, they answered all my email within 24 hours, the forum is great, the people seem willing to help.

[UPDATE - December 2, 2010] - Having had the GNX4 for around 4 years I have had two issues with it concerning reliability and durability:
1 - For some reason the on-board tuner no longer displays the chromatic notes (a,a#,b,c,c# etc.) when it shows if the tone is flat or sharp. It does still accurately show if the note is flat or sharp but does not display what the note is, so as long as you are close to the note you can tune it properly. There may be something wrong in the settings that I just don't know about. I think that if I were to format the machine that it would have a high likelihood of fixing the problem but I don't want to do that.
2 - Sometimes it seems that the sound dies down a bit, it sounds almost like there is a annoyingly strong compressor or noise gate issue (though it is not), I'm not sure what is wrong but a hard reset of the system usually works, but this would not do for any live work. Keep in mind that my system is getting older and has seen some rough times, maybe some wires are lose due to it being dropped or shipped.  

Overall
Overall I am very pleased with this unit. It is rather expensive but I believe it is worth it. If it was stolen I would probably wait for the GNX5 or whatever they are planning to produce to replace the GNX4. Once again the stock sound of the GNX4 leaves something to be desired, but with tweaking or even better the supermodel series this unit is extraordinary. For those who compose, play alone a lot, or are interested in recording I would recommend this unit. For those who wish to use this purely for jamming or live use I would recommend the GNX3000, or a cheaper option of the Pod XT Live.

[UPDATE - December 2, 2010] - The GNX4 and the GNX series are not discontinued

Monday, October 22, 2007

My Farewell Talk : Knowledge





Hello guys,

This is a personal/religious article that I am posting so be warned! I am not an official spokesmen or representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or affiliated with the church, what I say in this article does not represent my churches official position, nor does it necessarily represent the general beliefs of the members therein.



This article was designed for a LDS audience. In it, I assume that the Old Testament, New Testament , Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants are inspired by God, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints official doctrine is legitimated and its claims true.



This is the talk or sermon I gave in my church on October 21, 2007. My church is a Lay Ministry church, and although we have a hierarchy, generally on the weekend services in the first portion of the meeting (called Sacrament Meeting) members are asked to give a talk or a sermon to the congregation on a specific topic. As it says in the introduction, this talk is the last sermon that I will be able to give to this congregation, as I am soon to depart to be a Missionary. In my experience these kind of talks (often referred to as farewell talks) are usually very tender, and often the speaker will break down crying(along with immediate family members, friends, and half the congregation), so I tried to avoid that and take a more informative approach to my talk. I hope you enjoy it! Here it is!





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Good morning brothers and sisters, as you undoubtedly know I’m destined to go to the Las Vegas, Nevada area to be a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints, which I will be leaving for the Missionary Training Center(MTC) on November 14, 2007, and this can be considered my “farewell talk”, or the last talk I give in this chapel before I leave. I would suggest get rid of any preconceived notions of what a farewell talk is, because I’m terrible at that “crying at the podium” business, so don’t expect too much. As I looked at you this morning, I was making a list in my mind of people I really wanted to thank, but I realize now, that that list would be far too long for me to express it today. Each and every one of you has been a support to me, and I thank each of you who have touched my life in the last three years of my life, you have been friends, teachers, leaders, guiders, employers, friends, and family to me, and I’m blessed to be in such a ward.
So onto my talk; I was given the liberty of choosing my topic from the fantastic missionary handbook “Preach My Gospel” which if you have read you realize what a huge and really all encompassing resource it is, so basically I got to choose my topic today!
Today I want to talk about something that I see many people, LDS and non-LDS, struggling and wondering about. It’s a topic which many misunderstand; this topic is “Knowledge”. Knowledge is defined as the “acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles”. In my mind there are two kinds of Knowledge; Secular Knowledge and Spiritual knowledge.
Secular Knowledge being truths learned through man and mans reasoning, usually pertaining to worldly things; this can include scientific knowledge and theories, health care, geology, history, astrology, and can even include theology.
Spiritual Knowledge being, in my definition, knowledge received from the source, our Father in Heaven. These are truths that He gives us personally through spiritual confirmations; they are received by his power through the Holy Ghost.
When we teach and preach we do not so in the name of secular knowledge, we are instructed to invite all unto Christ through Spiritual Knowledge. The goal is to sustain all and to edify all in light, each with their own personal revelatory witness and relationship with Christ, to know his love, and his continuing work with man.
When teaching those about the gospels we do not expound on how the Word of Wisdom taught healthy guidelines years before science provided secular justification for it. How ancient Hebraic documents talk of the Council of the Gods, and a Mother Goddess(see 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7) . How the ancient Middle Eastern literary poetical forms of Chiasmus are found in the Book of Mormon. How Joseph Smith (see also) remarkably accurately interpreted the Egyptian Facsimiles(1 , 2 , 3), and the Book of Abraham while modern Egyptology was in its infancy (see (Articles/Links/Books ) 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 89 ,(podcasts) 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 ,15 , 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 22 , 23 , 24 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 2930 ,(Video Presentations) 31, 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 , 36 , 37 , 38 , 39 , 40 , 41 , 42 , 43 , 44 , 45, 46). How the Book of Mormon had not just a few witnesses but 11 witnesses to have seen the Plates of Moroni that never denied this testimony though some rebelled against the church, or any other evidences of man. Rather we desire for them to learn for themselves, not through secular or physical evidences, not through the testimonies of others, but a spiritual confirmation coming from their loving Heavenly Father.
If your testimony is rooted in secular or physical knowledge, you can be dissuaded through secular or physical means. If your testimony rooted in the archaeological evidences of the bible, or the historical accuracy of Jesus and his life, studies may came around which apparently refutes this, and as such refutes your testimony. A secular testimony is in essence science, which changes on a daily basis, and at this moment apparently points to a rather atheistic view on life.
A spiritual testimony on the other hand, a testimony which is centered on personal knowledge from God, cannot be refuted! No matter what scientific study comes along, no matter what issues that come up there is nothing that can separate you from this testimony. Like Joseph Smith when he received that dynamic spiritual witness, we will be able to stand boldly for what others ridicule, to truly know God. We will be able to find a foot hole and stand fast in an ever changing world.
Many in the world today do not understand this, in face I believe that many people and churches are teaching with the wisdom of man rather than the spirit of God, being more interested in being intellectually justified Christians then having a personal relationship with Christ. They rely on the arm of flesh for the answers rather than the ultimate source of truth which is God in heaven.
A couple months ago I had a conversation with two disaffected of the LDS church, both which claim that because of the overwhelming physical evidences against the church, the church was false. In response I told them two things, the first was I explained how I understood the particular issues that had brought up about the church, and the second I explained that in the big picture, the gospel, and religion in general, isn’t about physical evidences, that’s science, if the gospel is to be tried, it should be tried spiritually as it is not as much a physical message from God, as it is a spiritual message from God.
Now these where both members since birth, and for them to grow up in the church and not understand this, now central principle of our church, amazed me. This is a point where I feel that first generation saints have an advantage; they realize that they were not converted through elegant words, but the spirit, whereas one who grows up in the church, one surrounded by these wonderful people, and this spirit, often do not recognize the God in their life. And do not recognize his spirit because they have known nothing else.
I would like to share a few verses from the bible with you that show the necessity of spiritual knowledge and a spiritual witness over the secular or physical evidences.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
This is such a great verse, have we seen this? Have we seen the “weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty? We can look at Moses, who said of his own that he was “Slow of speech and of a slow tongue” who was not one of the elect of the world, he ran from Egypt as a criminal (see Exodus 2:11-15) and was a Sheppard for 40 years(see Exodus 2:16-21), only then did God form him from his weakness to become a powerful man of god and to lead Israel out of Egypt. God saw fit that his only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, was born son of a carpenter, yet Jesus was destined to come from the common folk to save the world from death and sin, not through the knowledge and understanding of man, but through Gods divine word. Likewise Joseph smith, an uneducated boy at 14 was visited by God and told that if he was faithful he would be used as a great tool, and indeed he has. None of these men were scientists, none of these men were marveled for the worldly truths they utter, but all these men taught spiritually, and confounded the wisdom of man.
Paul says in his first letter to the Saints in Corinth. (In 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, 10-14 (KJV)
4… my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
These verses lay clear that we are to use the spirit to discern truth of the gospel and not the wisdom of man. It says that the man knows not the things of God, except he knows it by the spirit of God which is in him (11), for the Spirit of God searches all the deep things of God(10). And the man who does not have the spirit, or does not use the spirit cannot receive the things of God, for they cannot understand except through the spirit of God (14). Furthermore it says by this logic, it would be folly to teach the Gospel by the wisdom of man(13), for mans wisdom cannot discern the Gospel(14), so we are to compare secular things with secular things, and spiritual things with spiritual things(13).

13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
In these verses, it is formatted in a somewhat abstract manner to us now, but if we look into the text it becomes unmistakably clear as to what it means. The Holy Ghost, or the spirit of truth, is meant as a mediator between heaven and earth, and will guide us into truth as we search (13), but He doesn’t have this truth of himself, he receives it from Jesus, who in turn has received it, and everything, from His father, our God known in Hebrew as Elohim(15).
Of course there is the wonderful, famous James 1:5-6(KJV)
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
This scripture is outstandingly clear. If you lack knowledge, or wisdom, ask god(5), and if you are worthy (see conditions about) and sincere, asking with faith that you will receive(6), it will be given you(5). Once again we see an appeal to God. We see that he not mans wisdom, is the final word.
Likewise various other biblical verses
23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
Matthew 7:7-8 (see also Luke 11:9-10) (KJV)
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
I personally have a huge spiritual testimony of this principle, I know it to be true, I have received more knowledge by prayer, and the spirit, than I could ever reading secular material. As I reflect upon my most sincere prayers, I have found that they have all been answered, sometimes in ways that I wanted, sometimes ways I wanted but later regretted, and sometimes in ways I neither wanted nor expected, yet it was more than often necessary or for my betterment. I am amazed at God’s mercy, and it astounds me that he cares enough about me to have a personal relationship with me.
I have always been going to this church, but in grade 9 I started wondering why this religion junk was taking up one of my days, I was not Christian, I didn't believe Joseph Smith. One day though, I was in a particular sober mood, I was thinking on religion, and I made a choice that I am even now impressed at. I decided to ask! I had been told several hundred times how to gain a testimony, but I dismissed it as something that people did and deluded themselves into thinking that they felt something, that really the church was holding itself up, no one admitted that they really didn't feel anything. With this mindset two things impress me, I'm surprised that I firstly would have even considered asking this in my mindset, and secondly, that I would have been humble enough, or submissive enough to receive and answer.
I am left to conclude that it was an inspired thought. When I knelt down and sincerely asked Heavenly father if He was really there, if Christ really did live, and if Joseph Smith really did see Him in that grove of trees. Instantly I was filled with a swelling emotion, a warm comforting feeling, a feeling which cannot in literal terms be defined, It made me cry. It was the strongest emotion I have ever felt in my life. I prayed to my father then and there, I said some things that I look back and say at times "how sappy was that", but I meant what I said, and I wish to always be in that state were the veil between heaven and earth is so thin. I love my Lord, I love Jesus and Heavenly Father. That experience has shaped my life. It changed my friends, my Language, my attitude, my habits, my motivation, my clothes, my music, my outlook on life! I'm so grateful for all this, and I can never get enough of this gospel.
I encourage each of you, who does not, or has a small testimony to get on your knees and do as Moroni instructs, that is to “ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Moroni 10 3-5) If you do feel you have faith in Christ I would extol you pursue further spiritual knowledge and enlightenment, as the journey never ends.
In conclusion I want to clarify that although according to scripture, a spiritual witness does seem to be what is really important, this is not an excuse to be ignorant of the world around us, we are to be “in the world"but not “of the world”. The church encourages everyone to broaden their man, and learn mans wisdom, we should all be anxiously investigating secularly work to better understand the workings and mysteries of God, as well as to help our fellow man. Secular study is an immense joy, and one with great rewards, and applying secular knowledge to religion is very exciting, it is only when we place more faith in the knowledge of man then the witness of God, that you cease to be religious.
I would like to leave you with this last scripture found in Ephesians 4:14 (KJV)
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness…
Let us not be tossed to and fro, but let us take a stand, with the answers that don’t change, those holy words which God has, and does speak to us. I pray this in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Credit: The American Way – Part I

This is the first section of a series entitled “Credit: The American way”, which purpose is to discuss financial issues in society yesterday, today and tomorrow. This first increment of series will deal with personal debts, the increase thereof, and the issues that we face because of it.

Credit is an amazing thing. Without it what could you do? You would most likely not receive any secondary education, own a house, or even a car! Buying on credit has often been called “The American Way”, and is generously indulged in by virtually every man woman and child not just in America but in the world. It seems that the overall goal for many in life is to become “Debt Free”; to own your own house, vehicles, and have enough money left over to hold you over until you die. An interesting side note is that strangely enough after this seems to be achieved they go and sell their house and vehicles, buy a RV, play the tourists, and use their retirement money 10 years ahead of schedule.

It was not always so, or at least not to the extent that it is seen today. Not tot distantly in our past it was the common standard “not to buy anything you don't have the cash to pay for”, but in recent years as interest rates drifted to the lowest levels in decades, consumers responded by buying everything and anything they could on credit. This fed a healthy cycle of economic growth and a growing job market.

Although buying on credit has its obvious advantages, and is almost a necessity in this day and age, it poses several disadvantages, problems, and a great potential for disaster not only on a personal level but on a national and even international level. Let’s take a look at these issues now.

On a personal level there are some definite issues and some troubling statistics. About 43% of American families spend more than they earn each year, the average ratio for Income:Expenditures is 1:1.22, meaning that Americans spend about a dollar and a quarter for every dollar they earn. The average household carries some $8,000 in credit card debt alone not including mortgages, cars, etcetera, (2004 Study) this number is up from about the $3,000 in 1990 that’s a 167% increase in 14 years, if this percent increase continued as it has, by the time I am 60(18 now) the average debt would be over 22,000(though inflation is another issue)! For an $8,000 debt at a rate of 18% interest, it will take more than 25 years to repay and cost more than $37,260 on the credit card alone.

These debts are termed “Revolving” credit which most typically involves credit cards. It accounts for about 37% of overall personal debt (excluding housing). Revolving debt currently totals $735.3 billion in the U.S.; that's about 31% higher than it was only five years ago (2004 Study). Even more worrisome is that about 60% of active credit card accounts are not paid off monthly. The figure has more than doubled in a decade. In 2003, 1 out of every 73 households in America filed for bankruptcy, in this last decade personal bankruptcies, or those who are unable or to pay their creditors, has doubled! (Stats from 1994-2004)

About 63% of debt is “non-revolving" debt such as automobile loans, student loans, boats. mobile home/RV loans, and personal loans. Which work in fixed increments of payment, unfortunately many do not, or cannot, live up to these payments and either forgo the pending payment or take personal loans (revolving) out, which makes the debtor pay more money overall but in smaller increments over a longer space of time.

The largest debt that most people have, is of course housing. Where I live, near Vancouver, you would be hard pressed for find a lot of land for less than $250,000 in the city. Buying a house is a very significant investment, it has great potential financially, but it can also go the other way. Regardless of what does happen, buying a house is the number one expense for Americans, is used to secure loans and as such needs to be treated with great care, as if you cannot fill your commitment you might find yourself on the street.

The total average of personal debt in the United States is $120,000 (2004 Stat) per household; this includes Housing, Vehicles, Loans, and Credit Cards, to use the scientific term “The whole shebang”. Of this total 76% is result of housing. 12% is installments loans (Non-Revolving Debt), 6% other residential property, 3% Credit Card balances (generally Revolving Debt), 3% “Other”.

The actual reasons the Americans take out loans are as follows. 70% for housing, 8% for vehicles, 7% for other residential property, 6% for goods and services, 3% for investments, 3% for education, 2% for home improvements, and the other 1% for the infamous categorization of “Other”.

So the synopsis is the average person in America owes $120,000 in personal debt, while this in and of itself may not seem very significant to some, especially to those who live in city centers where house prices are outrageously high, we must also take into account that this is an average. At the moment the average age in the United States is 56.3 years old which means that the average person is at a point in life where they have lower debt and are preparing for retirement if not already retired. The largest bulk of the population of the United States was born between 1946 and ends in 1960 which makes the bulk of the population is 47 to 61 years old, which is again is an age of lowering debts and retirement. What does this mean? It means that the bulk of this average of $120,000 dollars is coming from the younger generation, so if we were to poll the working population the average would be much higher, and like our fathers we are relishing the joys of credit, pushing its limits, buying more and more on credit. This is causing an even more alarming effect then the high debts; it is causing the average debt to rise each year in astonishing leaps and bounds, it has doubled bankruptcy in the last 10 years, and shows no sign of slowing. Something has got to give! While I do not and cannot supply an overall remedy, the first step in healing is obviously knowledge, while the next logical step is to formulate a plan to control your own personal debt, and in turn educate and assist others.

These financial issues in the United States are rather reflective of the actual governments’ situation that these citizens belong to. In the next increment of “Credit: The American Way” I would like to look at debt on a bigger scale, and examine the troubling National and International debts, which a center of the United States of America, which are more significant, less controllable, and a serious problem that will have to be dealt with in the next few years.

Mormon Web Links

LDS Official Website
The official Homepage of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(Mormons)

LDS Information Site
An official website dedicated to inform those interested about the LDS(Mormon) church.

LDS Scriptures
The LDS canon online.

A Introduction to the Book of Mormon
A brief intro to the Book of Mormon(LDS Scripture) by Leff Lindsey, along with an FAQ of facts and history of it.

All About Mormons

A site to dispel some of the many misconceptions and an attempt to build cultural bridges between Mormons and those of other Religions/Philosophies.

Black LDS Site
A site designed by and for Black members of the LDS(Mormon) church to dispel and explain common myths, misconceptions, and history.

Book Of Mormon Evidences
A complementation of physical and external evidences of the authenticity of the Book Of Mormon(LDS scripture) by Jeff Lindsey.

Brant Gardner's Page
A scholarly site that investigates LDS and non LDS topics.

BYU
Brigham Young University homepage, with a great resource of papers.

BYU TV
Watch BYU TV live, or pick from 2 weeks of showing time.

Barry's Page
Barry Bickmor's site on Early Christianity and Mormonism, and links to Discussions of The Book Of Abraham (LDS Scripture)

Divine Comedy
A LDS theater comedy site, with videos uploaded from performances and spoofs, with a varying level of wholesome humor. with some more generic humor items, and Mormon jokes.

FAIR
The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) is a organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS (Mormon) doctrine, belief and practice.

The Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies is an organization affiliated with Brigham Young University, and now under the wing of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. A good source for historical research related to the LDS Church.

FARMS Multimedia Productions
A collection of multimedia presentations from the Maxwell Institute.

Finding Cumorah
An effort to piece together Geography from the Book of Mormons (LDS Scripture), specifically to find a hill were purportedly there was a large battle.

Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture
A nonprofit, independent, peer-reviewed educational journal focused on the scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its publications are available free of charge, with our goal to increase understanding of scripture.

Jeff Lindsey

A website Maintained by a LDS author named Jeff Lindsey, along with LDS FAQ's, Explanation, Science & Religion Question, and a massive LDS archive, he deals with social events, local, Global Event, Science Technology, photography,humor, magic, and international events, and more.

Joseph Smith Site
A site dedicated to Joseph Smith, the LDS(Mormon) Founder, or prophet. Gives information about him and his life.

LDS Teaching & Lessons

A new forum to discuss, post, or read various lessons talks

Mormon Site
A site made by Allen Leigh that contains basic information, apologetics, spiritual guidance, history, scholarship, essays,jokes, receipts and more.

Mormon Sites

A web site devoted to finding physical evidences of nephites(A group of people found in their scriptures) in the Americas. This focuses on
Book of Mormon geography, though stretches at times to archeology, anthropology, and all that 'junk'.

Mormon Cult
Objective irrefutable proof that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a MORMON CULT.

Mormon Doctrine
A study of Doctrine and teachings found in the Bible, Book of Mormon(LDS Scripture), and Pearl of Great Price(LDS Scripture).

Mormon Fortress
LDS Apologetics resource


Mormon Haven
A place to ask quetsions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(Mormons)

SHIELDS
Scholarly and Historical Information Exchange for Latter-day Saints. Mormon apologetics and information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

New Jerusalem
A good source for LDS(Mormon) information and questions.

Prophet or Pope?
Berry Bickmore, LDS member talk to Roman Catholic Steve Clifford, a catholic born and raised in the LDS church about Apostolic Secession.
* If anyone has a web link they wish to be added to this list please contact me with the request at Lynden_Jensen@hotmail.com

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