Tuesday, August 23, 2016 0 comments

Education Week Class notes on Family History Research

Last week I went to BYU's Education Week and took oodles of great notes amounting to 76 pages on a bunch of interesting classes.  I'd like to share some of those notes with you over the next few days. And of course, since 76 pages would be (cough) a lot (cough) to sift through, I will break them up by general topic and make them a little more presentable.

Today's topic is Family History Research!

Sharpening Your Genealogy Research Skills: Techniques and Tools for Streamlining your Research (by Laurie Castillo)
Uvtagg.org has class outlines for family history classes.
When you pray about something and do it, life doesn’t get any better.
Streamline your research time, get the results, do the right things in the right places.

General strategies  :
--Organize thoroughly
--Background research
--Survey source availability

Problem: Tons of paperwork
Solution: Organize Thoroughly to find and store
Chart all information with pedigree charts, family group sheets,
Bring paper with you to research places so you don’t have to toggle back and forth between screens.
Use summaries and timelines,
Create research logs including things you’ve already done and whether they worked or not. 
Put dates on a search you do, so you know when it was done, so you know if you can check again.
Write down things to do so you know the next step.
Organize folders and notebooks. With forms and charts, language aids, maps and printouts from catalogs, and logs

Start at the family search wiki
Family search learning center
How-to books and tutorials
State archive and state library websites.
Learning center in the Family Search system with lots of videos.   This is stuff we can do at home.
Beginner, intermediate, advanced classes, locations, record types, language and handwriting,
“how-to” books, websites, tutorials history, state archives websites, state and local historical genealogy societies, libraries, state and local. (has one-of-a-kind stuff in their area)

Survey source availability.
Familysearch.org Databases, records, books, genealogists,
Catalog, search all levels of place, town, county, state, national levels.
Also search place under keyword and subject (librarians haven’t agreed how to catalog things)
Be sure to search by name, state, collection.
Wiki—search by location. Watch for links to online records
Books – many of these are not on FHL catalog, a growing list of partners = a consortium. DPLA  (Digital Public Library of America)
Genealogies—AF, IGI, PRF and more
USGenWeb – site for every state and county (free site)
Linkpendium search by name, state or county
Linkpendium  Can search by locality level, has surname searches and sites related to a name you’re after.
Deathindexes.com  online records and resources.
Free LDS partner accounts.  Ancestry, Findmypast, MyHeritage, AmericanAncestors
Supposedly you can link these things together to family search
MyHeritage has a Q&A hub for collaboration.
Has super-search alerts. It will email you something that they found a while ago from a long-time search.

Premium family history websites 
FHC portal  Free “pay” websites.-- Newspaper archives, 19th century British library , Alexander street press for civil war search, Arkiv digital in Swedish church records online, ancestry.com, Findmypast (a better form), fold3, Kinpoint premium, Myheritage library edition, paper trail with westward migration documents, Proquest obituary listings, Puzzilla premium, world vital records,

Free at the FHL SLK:
Lots of stuff there. 

Ways to use pay sites for free:
-local public library,
-local historical genealogical society facilities have research centers,
-local college/university libraries,
-most pay sites have a 2-14 day free trials,
-most pay sites have times when a portion of their data can be viewed free of charge (military records during July 4th),
Lisa Luis Cook has a blog Genealogy Gems in which she keeps track of what’s free at the time.

Streamlining internet research
Always have a word processor running to save things that are found. Cut and paste the info. Get the URL and explanatory material., date the info was found.
Upon locating information, copy specific data to your notes or sources section.

Browser can help you speed up searching.
Do a search. Click on a hit, Use a Find Function to find in a page what you were looking for.
Try a different browser, try a different search engine,

If researching a foreign country, use their browser and you’ll get more hits.

Organizing files and folders:
include the date in your file name ____28May2016, note date of search , location, names and variations searched. 
Have a folder for each research project, surname or unit, location.
Research tips:
--have a plan
--know what you can do
--know where you can do it

Preparation helps us find stuff.

Before using online catalogs at libraries
1)    Use family search catalog
2)    book hits-- try to find them closer to home, try to find them online, worldCat, inter-library loan,
3)    Free digital collections online – books published before 1923 no longer under copyright. 200,000 digitized books from FS and partners   Internet Archive at archive.org, Gutenburg Project, Google Books,
4)    Do everything you can from home

Gather and organize what you have. Have a goal for what to find.
Computer – background research, overview,
Contact relatives and genealogical societies
To do list with questions to answer
Make print-outs from the FS catalog of records you’re going to see.
Check catalogs

When going somewhere: Determine hours, determine fees, parking, ask about procedures and interviews, ask about how to make and pay for copies.

Using Online Naturalization Records to Find your Ancestor's International Birthplace. (by Kelly Summers)
apgen.org  Association of Professional Genealogists
Naturalization is the process by which a person of foreign birth becomes a citizen of the country.
1) Declaration of intent – first papers
2) Petition for naturalization – second papers
These are filed three to seven years apart.

Immigrants’ origins -- Learn as much as you can about the person. 
1) Full name,
2) approximate birth date,
3) native country,
4) approximate date came to the US ,
5) where he lived after arrival in the US.
censuses can give approx birthdates,
Find-a-grave may give a specific date.
Birth records of the children may show age of the person.
Family records like family bible
Draft registration have birth dates.
Passenger lists can give an age or where they were headed.  May tell who they left behind.

Beginning 1880, census records have a citizenship column. 
Find every census they were alive.  Compare citizenship column each time.
Citizenship codes on censuses:
 NA=naturalized citizen 
PA=filed their first papers (in the process) 
AL = alien (don’t intend to become a citizen, but still have paperwork)
No birth certificates until late 1800s.

Finding immigration info in records. 
Types of records-- Census, federal, and state records, vital records, cemetery records, city directories, church records, local histories, ethnic histories, newspapers, obituaries,

Immigration periods
Colonial period – few records (oath of allegiances, lists of names)
Pre-1906 some information (pre 1880, naturalization is on a county level. Hand-written info, must be over 21, male, oath of allegiance. Will tell country.)
Post-1906 uniform forms, abundant information

Naturalization act 1790
Free white person over age of 21 years and 2 years residence in US granted citizenship on application to common law court in any state where resided for 1 year.
In-person visit to the court, must have moral character.  Give oath of allegiance. 

Women are not found in these records until 1922.
Married women and children under the age of 21 years derived citizenship from husbands and fathers.
Children of unsuccessful applicants could apply for citizenship on their own once they reached 21 years.
Minor children would become citizens once their father became citizenship.
1894 naturalization act

If immigrants served 5 consecutive years in the US navy or marines and received honorable discharge. This made application process shorter. (Important around WW1.)

Post-1906 records. 
Large numbers of immigrants. Responsibility shifted away from county clerks.
Declaration of intent, petition for naturalization, certificate of naturalization (taken home)
New forms had age, occupation, personal description, birthdate, birthplace, citizenship, present and last foreign addresses, ports of embarkation and entry, vessel name, arrival date, spouse’s name, full names of children, birthdates children, birthplaces of each, residences of each.

Declarations of intention
Form 2202.  Only valid for seven years. They have to complete it in 7 years or file again.
Note: Names may or may not be the same as the person’s real name in the other country.

Austria-Hungary has a lot of boundary changes. Have to check boundaries at the time.

Papers can be filed one place and moved elsewhere to finish.
Use a gazetteer to find the town when you find it on a record.

Petition for naturalization. (second and final legal document filed) two to five years after the first papers.
Educated workers may come and have to find menial labor until they could get the language.

Oath of allegiance
A very small document. gives country and the ruler. Immigrants often had to sign something in their own country as they left.  Sometimes had interviews with police, had to relinquish claim on property left behind.
Certificate of arrival. Given to immigrants for proof of how long they have been.  Has ports of entry,
Certificates of Naturalization will be in their family records, not in the government’s records.

Go to Family search wiki.  Has stuff searchable by location or by topic.
Can get stuff specific to our state.
Can search what records would be online for the state.  May also be gathered to state archives.
Gives a date range of when records are available.
Accessing through family search
Records, choose state. Has images only. Must be browsed by hand.
Look through the whole list because it might not be under the right heading.  Can browse.
See petitions and declarations.
(Kentucky doesn’t have nationalization stuff.)
Questionnaires require American citizens as witnesses to give testimony in a questionnaire. To vouch for them.

Ancestry also has naturalization
Citizenship and naturalization immigration and travel.
Search indexed collections.
Can search by state

Ancestroy.com>search>immigration>  ?

Castlegarden.org is a free website was used before Ellis island, has passenger lists.

Stephen P. Morse has immigration and passenger lists.  Stevemorse.org
Has pulled together multiple ports to search for.
New York was not the only port of entry.
Manifests show where they were going.

If records are not online, use the family search catalog and microfilm
Search>catalog  gives a list of category of records that they have.
Wikis can tell courthouse and the record

Sharpening Your Genealogy Research Skills: Strategies and Tools for Breaking through Genealogy Brick Walls  (by Laurie Castillo)
4 Ancestral Identifiers are : name, places, dates, relationships
If a search has come to a standstill, it is because something is wrong with one of the above.
Things we do wrong: 1) Make assumptions 2) taking previous provided info as gospel truth.
So look at each one of those.

Sources of surnames:
--patronymic (fathers name)
--place of abode

O’-,   Mc-, Fitz-, -son, -sson, -ette, -s, -sen -ssen, -ez,  == all “son of____” suffixes or prefixes
-Dotter or -dtr = “daughter of ___”
1898 = Scandinavian countries stopped using weird patronymics.

LOCATION surnames
--geographic features they lived near  (moore, hill, bush, ford, bytheway, atwoood, kirk, stone)
--town or city name  (london, Aston, Eaton, -on is short for town.  Oxford, Carlistle)
--Ethnicity—German, French, Despain

Occupation surnames:  smith, baker, tailor, taylor, miller, sawyer, chandler, fletcher, cooper, wagner)
--Descriptive surnames: Bains, Cruikshanks, Baard, Peele, Reid, Power, Poore, Englehardt, Weisskopf, Petit/petty, long, Klein, Gross, Best, Legrand, Leblanc, Stout, careless
--Uniquely created surnames:
Hispanic countries—dual surnames (Jerry Castio Y Almaraz.  Puts together father and mother last names. Father comes first, mother comes last.)
Check out how surnames were arranged in your country.

Phonetic Variations. Can have really strange variations.
--eaux, -eau, -ault, -o in French
Germans don’t use Cs.

Example: 5 children born to the same English couple in the birth registry might be listed all differently. (Handcok, Andcock, Hancox, Handcock, Andcox) (One person has a cockney accent)

Translated given names: John == jean, juan, joao, Giovanni, gian, hohannes, hans, jens, ian, jan, ivan, jovan, ivo, eoin, sean, shane

Ancestors might anglicize their name.
Translated surnames, May have just translated their names to what it meant.
Find a Grave
Misunderstanding foreign names
Can be run together or separated or split up names.
-ij became a y in Dutch.
Spaces in names. Try looking with spaces in Mc Knight
O’ Donnell  O’Donnel  ODonnell   Lots of variations possible.
Mc-  Mac-  Mag-  
Moral: Ask for variant spellings when searching.

Mary > Molly, Polly
Margaret > Peggy, Meg, Margie
Eilzabeth >
Sarah > Sally, Sal, Sadie, Sada
Dorothy > Dolie, Dottie, Dot, Dora
Ann/Anne > Hannah, Nan, Nancy
Abigail  > Abbie, Nabbie, Gail, Gayle
Jane > Janet, Jen, Jennie, Jan, Janie
John > Jack, Johnny
William > Willie, Will, Billie, Bill, Liam
Richard > Rich, Richie, Rick, Dick, Dicken
Edmund/Edward > Ed, Ned, Tad, Ted, Teddy
Alexander > Al, Alex, Alex, Sandy, Zandery
Albert > Albert, Elbert, Bertram, Delbert, Gilbert, Hubert
Latin  (the language of the educated)

Going back far enough, records will be Latin.
Johann: Joannes, Joanni, Joi (endings denote possession and tell something about the name)
Peter: Petri, Petrus
Christian: Xtian

Alphabetical order in German: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z   ä, ö, ü (became ae, oe, ue),  B (with a tail) = ss
Check both places in the proper place in the alphabet and then at the end.
Diacritical marks can be found out.  (crazy accents) Danish work lists.
Locate a basic language guide and word list,
find out how letters are pronounced,
find out what the accent sounds like,

Name variations, typos, indexing errors.  (EX: Tripel LLLs)
Searching on Tall*y gets Tallly
Use wondrous wildcards  (symbols the search engine will try to put in each letter to see what it can bring up)
To search variations of Newcomb…. Use Newc*m*   or  N*c*m   or   n*c*m*

Perhaps your ancestor planned a name change and started over? 
Fear of being located? 
Hiding illegitimacy, escaping past crimes

Ethnic name patterns
Example in Germany : Naming after grandparents in a particular order, then parents, then grandfathers.
(This can help you notice when someone is missing in the family list)

European ancestors have more names and use them differently. John first names go by middle names.

Religion played a role in naming.  Saints names, Included Anna and Mary
Some names are Catholic and others are Lutheran

Place names  (Things happening to surnames can happen to place names too)
Spelling vs. Pronunciation
IF someone is trying to spell something someone says, the spelling can come out much different.
La Jolla>La Hoya

Common Name Confusion
Most Common = Washington  88+ towns cities, villages
250 places named Washington Township
31/50 states have a Washington County

Places have Nicknames.  English county names have nicknames

Accurate Birth place?
Sometimes they say the nearest big town (near Berlin)
How near is “near”?
Where was that again?

Mapoftheus.org has county maps back in the day.  See when counties were created.
Can help you see how counties changed

Do ancestors give birthplace or residence when people ask they were from?
Obscure or obsolete place name?

Internet Archive: free books, movies, software, music, website & more.  Download US gazetteers from a bunch of different time periods

Mistaken Geography
--confused ancestor, official record keeper wrote down phonetic version.

[End of Notes]

Family History research is a skill that we can build, and the more systematic we are about doing it, the more likely we are to be successful.  

Friday, August 19, 2016 0 comments

Some thoughts on Lehi’s army shielding and attacking

35 And as the Lamanites had passed the hill Riplah, and came into the valley, and began to cross the river Sidon, the army which was concealed on the south of the hill, which was led by a man whose name was Lehi, and he led his army forth and encircled the Lamanites about on the east in their rear.
36 And it came to pass that the Lamanites, when they saw the Nephites coming upon them in their rear, turned them about and began to contend with the army of Lehi.
37 And the work of death commenced on both sides, but it was more dreadful on the part of the Lamanites, for their nakedness was exposed to the heavy blows of the Nephites with their swords and their cimeters, which brought death almost at every stroke.
38 While on the other hand, there was now and then a man fell among the Nephites, by their swords and the loss of blood, they being shielded from the more vital parts of the body, or the more vital parts of the body being shielded from the strokes of the Lamanites, by their breastplates, and their armshields, and their head-plates; and thus the Nephites did carry on the work of death among the Lamanites. (Ama 43:35-38)
In these verses is described how the army leader Lehi encircled the invading Lamanites in the rear, which forced them to turn and fight, and how the unarmored Lamanites were killed at almost every stroke while the armored Nephites only occasionally fell from the loss of blood.

It hit me that there are several strategies used here that are often missed.

First, Lehi’s men attacked the rear of the Lamanite army. It is possible the Lamanites front-loaded their greatest and most confident warriors and put the weakest at the back. If so, then attacking their rear gave Lehi’s men an advantage and not just that of surprise.

Second, it says the Lamanites were exposed and nearly every Nephite blow brought death, but the Nephites only fell every once in a while because the more vital parts of their bodies were shielded by armor.   Now, I don’t know about you, but this gives me a peculiar-but-impressive idea of what a clash between Nephite and Lamanite looked like. They approach, they swing at each other, the Nephite sword connects once, and the Lamanite falls. This is different from our perhaps cinema-informed ideas of combat in which swords clash against each other, one attacking, another parrying, causing it to take time and effort to push through the opponents guard. 

If the Nephite can kill a Lamanite almost with every stroke, then the Lamanite swords aren’t stopping the Nephite swords.  And if the Lamanite swords aren’t stopping the attack, then the Lamanites are either incompetent at defense, or they are trying to do something different.  Perhaps making their own attack.

This suggests a different way of doing battle than we might be used to. Perhaps the Nephites did not parry or block their opponents’ weapons. Perhaps when they raised their swords, they avoided the Lamanite swords and went straight for the kill-strike at the same time that the Lamanites were trying to hit them back.  It may even be that they allowed the Lamanites to hit them and trusted the armor to protect them. While the Lamanites struck, they struck the Lamanites. Since the Lamanites had no armor, every blow was guaranteed to do damage.  (Swords in Mesoamerica consisted of many obsidian blades struck along both edges of a club. One swipe across the neck with one of those babies shreds open your enemy’s jugular vein and death comes quickly.)

This teaches us about the importance of putting on the armor of God. Otherwise, every temptation that hits us, we will give in, and that brings spiritual death.  The odd way the Nephites fought also says something about how to hit back at the temptations.  If temptations entice with a twisted combination of truth and lie, strike directly at the lie. Hit it hard with the truth you know. (And if you don’t know what the lie is, pray hard for revelation and power to resist and for discernment. The Spirit will eventually show you where the lie is.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 0 comments

Observations on the poor Zoramites

And they came unto Alma; and the one who was the foremost among them said unto him: Behold, what shall these my brethren do, for they are despised of all men because of their poverty, yea, and more especially by our priests; for they have cast us out of our synagogues which we have labored abundantly to build with our own hands; and they have cast us out because of our exceeding poverty; and we have no place to worship our God; and behold, what shall we do? (Alma 32:5)

In this verse the poor Zoramites ask Alma how they can worship God, since they have been cast out of the synagogues.

I was reading this verse recently and thinking about the predicament of the poor Zoramites, and suddenly that bit about how they had labored abundantly to build the synagogues stuck out to me.  They may have been poor in gold and silver and material things, but they were labor-rich, since hard work is the foundation of material prosperity.  It was too bad they were in a Zoramite society that revered the possession more than the labor of production that could create things, like synagogues.  The materialist attitude that surrounded them is like prizing the fruit, but cutting down the tree trunk that nourished it.

Also, I have to wonder if the poor Zoramites had been encouraged to work on the synagogues in order to exploit their labor with the secret intent to eventually deny them the use of those synagogues. Would they have worked as hard if they had known they would be cast out? The poor Zoramites clearly had expectations and felt a strong sense of ownership because of the labor they put in. (We would probably call this sweat equity today.)

Anyway, for me this verse about the poor Zoramites’ abundant labor teaches me that hard work itself is riches and success. If you can create and produce, you can prosper.  Of course, we can argue all day about wage rates, but at the fundamental level, if I can make hard work and production an integral part of my character, then I lay the foundation for systemic success and prosperity.  If my intent is to work hard more than gaining riches, then even if riches come (or go), I won’t be owned by them.  Spiritually, the love of work is more success because I can take that into the eternal work, whereas I can’t take material things.
Monday, August 15, 2016 0 comments

Teancum’s great warriors

But behold he [Amalickiah] met with a disappointment by being repulsed by Teancum and his men, for they were great warriors; for every man of Teancum did exceed the Lamanites in their strength and in their skill of war, insomuch that they did gain advantage over the Lamanites. (Alma 51:31)

It is neat that the men of Teancum were pointed out to us as great warriors. Their greatness is shown to consist of 1) strength and 2) skill of war.

This makes me ponder how these principles might be applied to us today in the battle against Satan. In what ways do we have strength and skill of war against the devil? And if we feel like we don’t have these qualities, how might we acquire them?

Strength starts, I think, with our desires to do what’s right, to please the Lord, to serve Him. Being converted by the Spirit and changed is a significant step, since it causes us to abhore evil. But at some point, strength also has to have an element of endurance too because if the enemy outlasts you, you end up giving in. 

I think on one hand, we are promised that God will not suffer us to be tempted above what we can bear, but we also can’t seek out temptation. Also, the grace of God is enabling power that we can access to push beyond our own limited powers.

So part of strength is from our desires and efforts, and part of it comes from the Lord. Part of it is what we muster in the moment to resist, but it has to have endurance if the struggle is prolonged.

What about skill of war? What skills do we have to have to resist temptation? How do we gain them?

I these skills are one part knowledge and one part experience. We can learn in various places the different methods Satan uses to attack us. The scriptures help reveal to us Satan’s various designs and strategies before we encounter them so that we can recognize them and resist when they come. (Also, I think the war chapters of the Book of Mormon are very useful for pointing out a wide variety of these methods.)  Prophets point out things to look out for, and revelation can reveal to us what Satan is doing to us.  And this may sound odd, but I’ve noticed that sometimes cognitive-behavioral psychology books can reveal ways Satan might use our distorted thinking to enslave us (though they don’t necessarily take a spiritual angle. But they are great for pointing out faulty thinking patterns.)

That’s the knowledge part.

And then, we live life and we experience temptation of all sorts. Hopefully we pray for discernment and gain experience recognizing the devil’s attacks in the moment and resisting them. We also learn practical spiritual principles which dictate that in a particular situation, we should act a certain way, and living by those principles automatically builds our skills and resistance.  (For example, if we are committed to living the principle of forgiveness, then any time we are wronged, we have an immediate weapon to use against Satan’s temptation to hold a grudge and resentment against others.) I suppose many commandments we are given help build our skills for war against the devil.

The nice thing is that both strength and skill can be increased. They are increased by prayer when we notice we need help, by purposeful study, by learning new principles, by increasing our obedience. Part of it is from our own efforts and desires, but the other part comes from God by revelation and grace. And of course, when we give in, there is repentance, which gives us a chance to start over and fight some more.

Perhaps Teancum’s men are not as well-noticed as Helaman’s stripling warriors, but the fact is, without them and their strength and skill, Amalickiah’s invasion would have been even more successful than it was. They turned the tide of the Lamanite advance. They were just as serviceable to the Nephites as the stripling warriors.

The stronger and more skilled we are at resisting temptation, the more we can help those around us resist the rising tide of sin in our world.

Beginning today, let’s pray for the skills and strength we need to resist temptation.
Saturday, August 13, 2016 0 comments

Some Helpful Context about Tokens and Signs

I ran across the word “token” in my reading of D&C 88, and I wondered where else in the scriptures tokens are mentioned, so I did a search. I was surprised to see how many instances there were.

The rainbow was made a token of the covenant God made with Noah that He would not flood the earth and destroy all flesh. (see Genesis 9:12-15)

God made circumcision a token of the Abrahamic covenant to Abraham and his seed after him. (see Genesis 17:10-11)

God’s presence with Moses and the promise that he and the Israelite would serve God upon that mountain was to be a token to Moses that God had sent him to Pharaoh. (see Exodus 3:11-12)

The lamb’s blood put upon the doorposts was to be Israel’s token to God so that God would pass over them and not destroy them. (see Exodus 12:13)

Israel’s act to sacrifice their firstborn animals and redeem their firstborn children was to be a token they remembered the Lord’s power that brought them out of Egypt. (see Exodus 13:15-16)

Aaron’s rod that budded was to be kept in the tabernacle as a token against those who rebelled against Moses and Aaron. (see Numbers 17:10)

Rahab, who sheltered Joshua’s two spies in Jericho, asked for a “true token” that they would save her and her family from death. (see Joshua 2:12) The scarlet cord at her window was that token. (Almost like her own special Passover, huh?)

David asked God for a token for good so that those who hated him would be ashamed and see the Lord was helping him. (see Psalms 86:17)

Judas Iscariot plotted with the Jewish leaders that the one he kissed should be a token so they would know who to capture. (see Mark 14:44)

Here’s one I have to quote directly:

And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. (Phil. 1:28)

Paul observed to the Philippians that their lack of fear was considered a token of perdition to their adversaries, but to the righteous it was a token of salvation. Interesting; it shows that signs and tokens may be read differently, depending on the level of integrity and virtue of one’s character.

Paul would add a personally written salutation in every epistle as a token it was him. (see 2 Thes. 3:17)

In the Book of Mormon, after Captain Moroni made the Title of Liberty, the people rent their garments and piled them at his feet in token of their covenant. (see Alma 46:21)

The Lamanite king raised his bowing servants with his hand as a token of peace… and was promptly assassinated by one of Amalickiah’s goons. (see Alma 47:23-24)

The depraved Nephites devoured flesh of the daughters of the Lamanites as a token of bravery after raping, torturing, and murdering them. (see Moroni 9:9-10)   Eeeeew.

The teacher in the school of the prophets was to offer prayer on his knees to God before class in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant. (see D&C 88:130-131)

The teacher in the school of the prophets was also to greet each brother entering and salute them in the name of Jesus Christ in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant. (see D&C 88:133)

The class members of the school of the prophets were to greet the teacher with uplifted hands with the same prayer or covenant they were greeted by, or by saying “Amen” in token of the same. (see D&C 88:135)

Those part of the United Order were to be given what they asked for by the treasurer in token that they were in full fellowship and faithful and wise stewards. (see D&C 104:75)

Obviously there are a few bad tokens in the list, but by and large, tokens seem to have been little acts done to represent good faith, commitment, assurance of things to come, as a memorial, or as a representation of favored status before God.

I think tokens are a way of making intentions visible when they would not otherwise be. They help do away with uncertainty in relationships. (For instance, an engagement ring in our culture is a token of intent to marry.) Seeing how tokens work in the above scriptures makes me think of temple covenants, but also of the various visible things we do that may also act as tokens to God and to each other of our inward state and intentions. 

As an example, we say taking the sacrament is a witness we are renewing our covenants, and I suppose that makes it a token or sign.  Same with baptism as a token we are making the covenant. 

What other tokens can you think of that we give the Lord or that He gives us?

Thursday, August 11, 2016 0 comments

The Earth’s Future Celestialization

17 And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.
18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;
19 For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;
20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified. (D&C 88:17-20)

To me, the neat thing these verses do is explode the notion that exalted man’s final place in the eternities will be out in space somewhere in an undefinable heaven after they have been raptured away.  Instead, the earth itself will be exalted and sanctified and celestialized.  Then, all those who are celestialized themselves will inherit it as their eternal place of abode. It is those who can’t live up to the celestial law who will have to be placed elsewhere. (No doubt a place is prepared, and we have to remember that even a telestial place will be more glorious than this earth is now.)

When I look out my window at the brightness of the day and see how beautiful the earth is, I have a hard time imagining how a celestial earth could be better than this. But that is only the fault of my imagination. Likely everything will be lots brighter and luminous. I so look forward to that day.

Further, these verses give an even broader view of redemption than just the redemption of man. It is also the redemption and sanctification of the whole of creation! That’s huge. And the earth will be redeemed for sure because it fills its measure of creation and faithfully obeys the celestial law. It is we mortal humans whose exaltation remains in question. The implied question in these verses to me is, “Will you obey like the earth and be sanctified with it, or will you remain in your sins and have to be sent elsewhere?”

Umm, I’d like to stay here, thanks. I’m working on that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016 0 comments

KJV versus JST: Entering or not into the Lord’s Rest

KJV Hebrews 4:3
JST Hebrews 4:3
For we which have believed do enter into rest,
as he said,
As I have sworn in my wrath,
if they shall enter into my rest:
although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

For we who have believed do enter into rest,
as he said,
As I have sworn in my wrath,
If they harden their hearts they shall not enter into my rest;
also, I have sworn, If they will not harden their hearts, they shall enter into my rest;
although the works of God were prepared, (or finished,) from the foundation of the world.

The JST helped a lot on this particular verse to make it coherent. Without the JST, it seems like Paul is quoting something that says God makes an angry oath concerning those entering His rest, as though that is not where they (or anyone) is supposed to be. The KJV also makes it seem as though the work of salvation was finished before the world started, and a few more people trying to be saved is an awful attempt to mess things up.

All in all, a very confusing idea of God, His plans, and the significance our choices have.

On the other hand, the JST shows us Paul is paraphrasing Psalms 95:7-11 and simply collapsing the important appeals together.

7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,
8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

The important parts of those verses indicate that if someone hardens their heart against the truth, God swears they will not enter His rest.

The JST then adds the positive side of it too—those who do not harden their hearts obtain a divine oath that they shall enter the Lord’s rest. And there is no anger associated with that oath.

Also, the JST shows us that God prepares His works from the foundation of the world, not finishing them in the sense that everyone is already sorted into “saved” and “damned” groups. Rather, the divine machinery to save man is put in place with Christ’s atonement and messengers, and church, and so on. Man need only receive it and not harden their hearts against it.

So what is this rest Paul speak of, which we can enter? “For we who have believed do enter into rest.” He speaks of believers in Christ. We must believe in Christ enough to repent, and then we can have rest from the gnawing burden of sin. We must believe in Christ enough to pray for grace, and then we can have rest from the despair of our besetting weaknesses, frailties, and faults.

I had a little experience just yesterday with entering into the Lord’s rest. I had a nagging feeling at the back of my mind for about three or four days that I had done something wrong and I needed to make it right. It was such a little thing that I questioned whether it was really necessary.  But finally, I decided I needed to listen, so I fixed it and repented.  And immediately, I felt at peace.  It was real.  And just think, that peace and rest is offered to each of us if we will just respond to the Lord’s calls!

Sunday, August 7, 2016 0 comments

The promise for seeking the Lord

He that seeketh me early shall find me, and shall not be forsaken. (D&C 88:83)

This is a very simple scripture, but for some reason it touched me when I read it. It shows me a Christ who is completely loyal to those who search Him out.

Writing it another way, it might say, “He that seeketh me early shall find me, and I will not forsake him.”

I think it invites us to seek the Lord early in our lives (youth), early in the day (morning), early in our problems (prayer), early in our study (scriptures), early in our joys (gratitude), early in the week, (Sunday worship), early in the school year (father’s blessings), etc. There are so many ways to seek the Lord early, and I don’t think we are meant to use only one way, but as many ways as we can.  It’s a chance to submit to the divine orientation at the beginning of the many journeys we start on.

Looked at another way, that promise that the Lord will not forsake those who seek Him reminds me of Jesus’s mortal life when He was forsaken by all—by his friends, by his people, by everyone, even by Heavenly Father while Jesus hung on the cross, which caused him to cry out “My God…why hast thou forsaken me?”  I sense from His promise of loyalty that He who was so abandoned is determined not to abandon those who seek Him. It's a promise of both revelation and presence.

It’s so reassuring. We will not seek in vain. God wants to be found, and again, He is a loyal friend.
Friday, August 5, 2016 0 comments

Does more sin make grace abound?

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:1-2)

Here Paul addresses a mistaken notion people seem to have fallen into in his day. The notion seems to have been that if grace was a good thing to have, then sinning more would allow them to experience more of God’s saving grace.

Paul explains that if we die to sin—and it requires grace of God to do that—then more sinning is repugnant to that condition and inconsistent with a grace-changed life.

The assumption behind the error is that grace is only accessed to be saved from sin and that grace goes away after changing a person from a life of sin. 

Instead, God’s grace continues to abound in the changed life. And it must, otherwise there will be a fall right back into sin. The flesh continues to rebel against the spirit, and grace is needed for the spirit to win that battle every day.  Grace abounds when we humble ourselves and seek God’s help with our failings and weaknesses, when we pray to resist temptation, when we ask for strength in our fatigue, when we need and pray for more spiritual gifts to deal with new challenges and so on.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016 0 comments

Middoni Lamanites converted

8 Now, these are they who were converted unto the Lord:
9 The people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Ishmael;
10 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Middoni;
11 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the city of Nephi;
(Alma 23:8-11, emphasis added)
Why do I call attention to the Middoni Lamanites who were converted? Because this was the place where Aaron and his brethren were cast into prison and had to be brought out by the instrumentality of King Lamoni influencing the king of Middoni. It shows that even places that are initially hostile to missionary work will still have people who are ready to hear and receive the gospel. Sometimes places have to be given a second chance.

Now, it implies in the wording that not all the people in Middoni were converted, but “of the people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Middoni.” There may have been others besides Lamanites, and it was only a subset of Lamanites in particular who were converted.

But still, it is neat to me that there was eventually success in Middoni!