Tuesday, June 30, 2009 5 comments

Thoughts on Jacob’s Ladder and Making Deals with the Lord


(Here’s an experience left over from last Christmas in Idaho..)

I was sitting in the Rexburg temple chapel yesterday waiting for the endowment session to start and I was very much impressed by the stained glass window that was in the front of the room. It was a geometric design and for some reason it reminded me of a ladder. I have no idea whether the designers of the window intended it to look like a ladder, but that’s what it looked like to me. I know that many things in the temple are symbolic and are meant to teach truth, and I thought hard, trying to remember where a ladder is talked about in the scriptures. I thought, “Oh! That must be like Jacob’s ladder!”

I couldn’t remember much about the ladder that the patriarch Jacob saw in a dream, so I took one of the Bibles that the temple places plentifully around pews and opened to Genesis. I tell you, I had no idea where in Genesis this story of Jacob’s ladder was found, but somehow I opened right to it—Genesis 28. (Really, the temple is a place where I’ve so often opened the scriptures right to where I need.)
10 ¶ And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.
11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28:10-12)
The stained glass window in the temple’s chapel was divided into two identical panels. I looked up from my reading and studied it, imagining angels climbing down one side and climbing up the other. And, to use a scriptural phrase, the eyes of my understanding were opened and I saw that the angels who were descending were coming to earth to be born, and the angels who were ascending were leaving the earth at the end of their mortal life and returning to God to receive their judgment. Essentially Jacob saw a visual representation of the answers to the questions “Where did we come from?” and “Where are we going?”

This must have been something that Jacob had been wondering. He must have wondered just what he had done to get himself into this predicament. Early in chapter 28 he had been sent by Isaac to Padan–aram to take a wife and he was on the way. His brother Esau hated him after the birthright-supplanting incident. Jacob may have been feeling like an outcast and a vagabond and wondering if he had anything to look forward to and wondering what would happen to him with no family around to back him up. (I suppose Jacob's life situation would be similar to a homeless man's.) He must have been wondering if he'd ever be able to return home and see his family in peace. This dream of the ladder gave him a wider view of how his life fit into eternity. His ultimate goal was to return to his Father in Heaven in peace.

There was more to this dream.
13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it [the ladder], and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. (Genesis 28:13-15; bracketed words are mine)
With the angel ladder answering the questions of where he came from and where he was going, the question of what he had to look forward to was answered with the Lord's promise that Jacob would one day inherit the land he was sleeping on, have numberless descendants, and be a blessing to everyone on earth. This promise makes up the Abrahamic covenant of property, progeny, and priesthood. (One of my religion teachers at BYU called them “the 3 Ps”.)
16 ¶ And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.
17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. (Genesis 28:16-17)
Why did Jacob call that place the “house of God”? Because the Lord had made a promise to him and instinctively he recognized that any place where you happen to see the Lord and He makes you a promise is special, and must remain sacred to the memory forever after. A place where the Lord is willing to appear can become a temple, a dwelling place.

Why did Jacob call that place the “gate of heaven”? From his dream of the angel ladder, he realized that earth was the halfway point to returning to God and that the covenant that God made with him was necessary for him to return to heaven.

Why was he afraid? He realized that where much was given, much was now required, and having received greater light, if he sinned against it, he would receive the greater condemnation.
18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Beth-el [house of God]: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. (Genesis 28:18-19, bracketed text is mine and comes from the footnote in front of Bethel)
Okay, the above stuff has been sitting in my flash drive for months, because I’ve been puzzled about something. The part that I have been confused about is what comes right after the above verses:
20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:
22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
(Genesis 28:10-22)
The thing that confused me is that here Jacob has just had this dream in which he’s seen angels and he’s seen God and God has made him this great promise, and when he wakes up, he makes a promise that seems backward. “If God will do all these things for me, then He’ll be my God.” He still asks to return to his earthly father in peace, and he’s asking for the blessings before he will give his allegiance. He’s making a deal with God. Highly irregular, if you ask me. You just don’t do that with God! How could he do that?!

Well, today the thought came to me that Jacob had grown up in the midst of the Canaanites with all their false gods and idols, so maybe he was testing to make sure that the Lord really had power before he would serve Him. But wait, he knew enough to value the birthright blessing, so he surely he already had a testimony. Maybe he was making the promise out of desperation in the moment of extremity. Hmmmm… It may be that we just don’t know exactly what Jacob was promising to change about himself to make the Lord his God, besides paying tithing, and making Bethel a shrine to God.

Of course, the thing about testing God is that He often tests you right back to see if you will do what you promised to do, even if it is hard, once He has done for you what you wanted. The Lord gave him Rachel and Leah and a numerous posterity and much cattle and riches and then… tested his faith as Jacob was about to meet Esau again. (Remember, Jacob left Esau when Esau was in a jealous rage. This is Esau who was coming now to meet Jacob with an army of 400 men and who could very well wipe out Jacob’s entire family and pillage all he had gotten.) It’s not quite clear what this threat to Jacob and his family had to do with Jacob's promise to have the Lord as his God, but it might have something to do with Esau’s previous hostility to things of the Spirit as manifested by his scorn of the birthright and his marriage outside the covenant. Perhaps Esau was strongly “anti” and had no scruples about using force to get his way. (Perhaps the test for Jacob was this-- would he try to conciliate his brother by turning his back on God, or would he cling to God even though his brother appeared to be determined to kill him for it?) It is in this context of uncertainty and danger that Jacob wrestles with an angel (!) for a blessing (!) and wins in spite of getting his leg pulled out of joint (!) and receives the blessing (!) and is given the new name of Israel (Genesis 32:28) which memorializes how he has prevailed with God. Happily, when he meets Esau, all bad feeling seems to have abated. (And certainly, giving massive gifts of cattle to Esau before they met didn’t hurt Jacob’s case.)

Amost as an afterthought, as Genesis 33 ends with Jacob settled in Shechem, we get this little verse:
And he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe-Israel . (Genesis 33:20)
El-elohe-Israel means “El (God) is the God of Israel”, according to the footnote. God had done all Jacob asked, so Jacob was keeping his end of the deal to give his allegiance to God, sealing it with a sacrifice on an altar named specially for the occasion. (But this was probably only a formality, because the real work had been done by the trial of his faith.)

So what does this teach me? I think it has taught me that it is permissible to promise to do something for the Lord if He will do something for me. We are used to the idea that if we do what the Lord asks then He will bless us, but we don’t have much experience with promising the Lord something if He will do something for us. Perhaps we need to become more acquainted with this. I know this had made me do some serious thinking. It’s certainly not something one enters into lightly. How about you? What do you really want? What would you promise to do for the Lord for it?

Image credit: 2007 Intellectual Reserve, Meridian Magazine, http://www.meridianmagazine.com/arts/080211temple.html.
Sunday, June 28, 2009 2 comments

Resistance is NOT futile, and I WILL NOT be assimilated!!!

I’ve made a discovery which I probably should have made long ago, but which is finally sinking in. The self-defeating thoughts that come to my mind are not from God. They’re from the devil. The thoughts that come into my mind that buffet me about my past sins which I have already repented of are not from God. They’re from the devil. The thoughts that try to make me think that I’m worthless are from the devil. The thoughts that insist that I have screwed up my life and that nothing good I try will work are from the devil.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:11-12)
The principalities and powers that Paul talks about in this verse belong to Satan, the prince and ruler of darkness.

I’m beginning to learn the difference between how Heavenly Father talks to me about my past sins I’ve repented of and how Satan talks to me about my past sins I’ve repented of. Heavenly Father reminds me of the past only to gently warn me from future mistakes, and He’s very mild about it so I’m not pained. Satan knocks me down with past mistakes and beats me with a nail-spiked board until the guilt pools like blood.

It’s Sunday and you’d think I’d be able to rest right? Wrong.

3:30pm and I have been brought to tears by some gritty thoughts that I have no worth. (Even after those fabulous Ensign articles about the worth of souls!) I cry in my husband’s arms for a few minutes.

6:55pm. I am finishing my dinner and thinking about the lesson I taught the CTR 8 class and I find myself worrying that I was not talking enough to people in church. Soon I am feeling that I am too selfish. Then thoughts begin to come to my mind about a difficult stage I went through a year and a half ago. My past mistakes (already repented of) start replaying in my mind and I am beginning to feel like a terrible person. (Resistance is futile…) Then somehow it comes to me that I don’t deserve the torture since I’ve already repented, and I think to pray. Heavenly Father, PLEASE help me resist the bad thoughts! Peace comes immediately.

7:00pm. I am sitting on the couch thinking about how nice it was to be in primary today. The children were so happy and innocent. Then some bitter thoughts creep in and I find myself wishing I could be back at that age again, before I ruined my life. (Resistance is futile….) WHAT?! I haven’t ruined my life! This is Satan again, trying to make me think I have done something wrong when I haven’t. I pray again for Heavenly Father to help me resist the bad thoughts and I immediately feel peace again.

I’m sure it sounds very much like I have done something terrible, that I’m suffering guilt that is deserved, and that I’m denying that I deserve it. I want to tell you that it is possible to be buffeted by Satan even when you are guiltless. I think Paul knew about this, which is why he wrote about wrestling with Satan and about putting on the armor of God. (If you want to see read about someone else in the scriptures who had to deal with "thought ambushes" from Satan, check out Nephi in 2 Nephi 4 with his "oh wretched man that I am" ruminations.)

In particular, I want to call attention to one of the items Paul listed—the helmet of salvation. (teacher voice) Class, where does a helmet go? (On the head!) Very good! Class, where do thoughts happen? (In the head!) Very good! So when Satan directs vicious fear-choked thoughts at our mind that tell us that we are lost forever (when we have repented), we must remember that we have repented and that Christ has already covered our sins. We’ve been saved! * pa-TING! * Hear that? That’s the sound of a fiery dart bouncing off the helmet of “I’ve-already-repented-so-I’m-safe”, which is commonly known as the helmet of salvation.
How can I be sure that I don’t deserve suffering from these nasty deprecating thoughts? This is why I need the rest of the armor.

Loins girt about with truth. Knowing correct principles and following them takes care of a lot of doubt that I am in the wrong. Also, being honest and telling the truth to myself and to others “covers my butt”.

The breastplate of righteousness. Living the correct principles I know to be true gives even more conviction and firmness to my living. Further, since it is impossible to commit a bad act and a good act at the same time, living righteously all the time means there is no room in the inn for wickedness.

Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. There are principles that I am imperfect at living, but I am preparing to do better, and I know Heavenly Father will help me, so I can have peace knowing that I will become a better person by following the gospel.

The shield of faith. Heavenly Father won’t give me more than I can handle. It may be more than I think I can handle, but it won’t be beyond my capability. For every doubt, there is a shield of faith that can meet it.

The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. As it has been pointed out in the Doctrine and Covenants so many times, the word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow. But this isn’t a sword that you commit hari kari on. It’s for cutting to the heart of a problem. It’s for morally dissecting temptations as if they were a fetal pig in biology class.

To conclude, we must be aware of the source of the opposition we face and realize that Satan is behind it. It takes time for awareness to come, and we don’t know from what quarter we’ll be hit next. So, we must be sure we are..
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ephesians 6:18)
Image from Children of Narcisus, http://www.arachnoid.com/ChildrenOfNarcissus/media_portrayals.html
Saturday, June 27, 2009 3 comments

Pianos and Repentence

I am a piano player who is fairly proficient. I like to play to entertain myself every so often. It is also an emotional outlet when I’m frustrated or sad or feeling down.

I have a piano that seems to get out of tune about every six months when the seasons change. The temperature change causes the piano innards to expand or contract and a few pins in the pin block start slipping, causing the tension on the strings to loosen. Soon there are a few notes with strings that have slipped down a half step. The musical result is a discordant mush, especially when the notes that have slipped are around the middle registers. Those notes are always being used and they are very important.

In the past I have tried to get by with having the piano tuned every year, but as I said, strings start sliding out of tune right around the six month point and soon I can’t stand to play because it sounds so terrible.

This happened again today. I sat down to play a particular song that particularly required certain notes, two of which had sunk out of tune, and I found it sounded wretched. I tried to compensate by using a different octave, but that didn’t work. I needed those notes. I had to stop. It hurt to listen to the sound being made.

As I sat there looking at the keys with a fair amount of resentment, the Spirit pointed out to me that Heavenly Father feels the same way about us when we have things that are out of tune in our lives and He tries to do something important with us that especially requires those particular characteristics that we have allowed to slip. Other righteous characteristics can’t compensate for the ones that are out of tune, so that particular “song” goes unplayed until we get ourselves back in tune using repentance.

I thought my piano could get by with a tune-up every year, but it looks like I’ll have to tune it up more often, perhaps every six months. In our lives, how often do we get a repentance tune-up? Annually? Semi-annually? Weekly? Wouldn’t it be best if it were daily?

Tomorrow I’m substitute-teaching the CTR 8 class on the lesson of forgiving one another. I realized that I had a lot of forgiving to do, even though I did a fabulous job of hiding the resentment from myself. I control my anger pretty well (would those qualify as famous last words?) and it is usually on the level of irritation which I can squelch without too much hoo-ha, so I thought I was okay, but today I realized that even though I might not even say anything, and even though I try to forget about it, I still have to forgive. The wounds have to be healed.

What in your life is out of tune? I’m not asking you to tell me about it. Just think about it and do some praying about it. What are you allowing to slide in your life that you need to work on?

Image: Piano Tuning in Clay West Virgina, http://gregsgoodsandservices.com/piano%20tuning.htm
Friday, June 26, 2009 3 comments

David & Goliath : Talents and Dynamics

48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.
49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.
50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. (1 Samuel 17:48-50)
I was reading the story of David and Goliath recently and I was impressed by these verses. Goliath, with his six-cubit-one-span height, his helmet, his 5,000-brass-shekel-weight mail coat, his leg shields, his shoulder shield, his weaver’s-beam-like spear and enormous shield (see 1 Samuel 17:4-7) plainly expected that whoever would fight him would fight on his terms with the same weapons. King Saul seemed to be bound by the same expectation, since he tried to arm David with a sword and armor and helmet. How wise of David to say “I cannot go with these, for I have not proved them.” (1 Samuel 17:39) He had not fought that way before so he wasn’t used to it. That wasn’t his area of expertise.

Along with his stunningly profound faith that the Lord would deliver him, David went to face Goliath with the weapon he was comfortable using and had proven to work. This was so unexpected that it seemed laughable, even insulting to Goliath, who expected a high-prestige affair with high-prestige weapons.

One stone. One sling. But the stone hit so hard it broke through Goliath’s skull (and I’ve always wondered whether it went through the helmet as well.)

Nobody knows how much practice David put in, but no doubt he did practice, day after day while herding the sheep. (Read more about the use of slings here) Likely he never expected to use his skills against a giant. But when the time came and he saw Goliath defying Israel, he was so ready that he didn’t hesitate.
…Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. (1 Samuel 17:32)
What I get from this is that we each have our gifts and abilities that we practice in quiet moments, sometimes in privacy, sometimes in small groups. But we never know when the Lord will call on us to use those gifts at times when many other people feel the obstacles are insurmountable.

Another thing that occurs to me David wasn’t there all those days (40 of them (which may be an exact number or it may be symbolic of a very long time)) when Goliath was insulting the Israelites or blaspheming God. There was a dynamic between the Israelites and Philistines that had been going on for quite a while and which was at an impasse. He was ignorant of the dynamic, so he wasn’t tied to it, and he used his abilities to make a difference.

The Lord can use us to change the dynamics of the situations we enter, and sometimes our ignorance makes us that much more effective, since we haven’t learned to fear what others might be fearing. With Heavenly Father’s help, we can use our talents to make a big difference. Dynamics are changed when we get new callings. Dynamics are changed when we move. Dynamics can be changed when we substitute teach classes at church. Dynamics can be changed in meetings and activities we attend and participate in. Dynamics can be changed in the families we visit teach or home teach. Dynamics can change in our families. Dynamics can be changed in the workplace. We may never know in this life how much of a difference we made in a new situation just by doing our duty and using our talents.
Thursday, June 25, 2009 2 comments

What Do We Look Forward To?

…kingdoms, thrones, principalities, powers, dominions, [and exaltations] all heights and depths… (D&C 132:19, bracketed text added by me)
Why so many different words? Let’s examine the definitions to see if we can get an idea of what they mean and how they are similar or different from each other. (All definitions are pieced together from dictionary.com, synonyms from Merriam-Webster’s Thesaurus.)

Kingdom – state or government having a king or queen at their head. A realm or sphere in which one thing is dominant. Anything conceived as constituting a realm or sphere of independent action or control. A monarchy is primarily a form of government in which a single person is sovereign.

Throne - the chair or seat occupied by a sovereign, bishop, or other exalted personage on ceremonial occasions, usually raised on a dais and covered with a canopy. The office or dignity of a sovereign. The occupant of a throne. Sovereign power or authority.

Principality - a state ruled by a prince, usually a relatively small state or a state that falls within a larger state such as an empire. The position or authority of a prince or chief ruler; sovereignty; supreme power. The rule of a prince of a small or subordinate state.

Power - ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something. Political or national strength. Great or marked ability to do or act; strength; might; force. The possession of control or command over others; authority; ascendancy. Political ascendancy or control in the government of a country, state, ect. Legal ability, capacity, or authority. Delegated authority; authority granted to a person or persons in a particular office or capacity. A document or written statement conferring legal authority. A person or thing that possesses or exercises authority or influence. A state or nation having international authority or influence. A military or naval force. Often, powers. a deity; divinity. Energy, force, or momentum.

Dominion - the power or right of governing and controlling; sovereign authority. Rule; control; domination. A territory, usually of considerable size, in which a single rulership holds sway. Lands or domains subject to sovereignty or control. Government. A territory constituting a self-governing commonwealth and being one of a number of such territories united in a community of nations, or empire: formerly applied to self-governing divisions of the British Empire, as Canada and New Zealand.

Exaltation - the act of exalting. The state of being exalted. Elation of mind or feeling, sometimes abnormal or morbid in character; rapture: mystical exaltation; euphoric exaltation.

Examination of “exalt” yields: raised or elevated, as in rank or character; of high station. Noble or elevated; lofty: Rapturously excited.

Okay. At this point I got a little impatient with these secular definitions, so I went to the Topical Guide to look up “exaltation” and here are some of the phrases that are associated with the word:

Fullness of joy
Joint heirs with Christ
Crown of righteousness
Crown of life
Crown of immortality
Crowned with joy
Crown of glory
In glory
they are gods, even the sons of God

What about “heights”? “Height” in the thesaurus gives altitude, elevation, and is related to highness, loftiness, rising, tallness, and stature. This seems to be confirming what we’ve already learned with those previous words.

But what about “depths”? When I looked at the thesaurus for this one and it mentioned dropping vertically, and even mentioned “abyss”, which I thought was interesting. Does that mean that the lower kingdoms will belong to us? (Forgive the speculation) The other thing that the thesaurus associated with “depths” was profoundness, wisdom, intellect, intelligence, insight, being full of knowledge. (Contrast this with “shallowness”.) Another idea that comes to my mind is that it could be related to more than just the faculties of thought, but also those of emotion. Surely we don’t take up our exaltation without expanding our capability to feel and emote in godly ways. We get a hint of that as we read in the Pearl of Great Price about Enoch’s heart swelling wide as eternity.

So how do these words compare to each other?

Kingdoms seems to express that we will have our own spheres of sovereignty, while principalities, as something that belongs to princes, seems to point to our place as having rule over a part of our Father’s kingdom, which shows us where we will fit in. It’s hard to see what “dominions” seems to bring to all of this unless we remember that the Lord gave Adam dominion over the earth, so it seems to me that when we are given dominions, it will be over more earths than one. Or it could be that there are more dominions for the Lord to give us on this earth besides what He has already give us. (For instance, could we say that He has given us dominion over the weather or the waves or the elements or the other planets in the solar system, or is this dominion we have yet to receive?)

Thrones seems to point out that we will have seats of authority to sit on (and capitals?) and power where we rule, and powers seems to suggest that we won’t be just figurehead or puppet kings and queens, but that we will have real ability and authority and be obeyed.

Exaltations seems to suggest a variety of different things, such as the prospect of being raised up to nobility, but not just nobility, but the state of deity. It also suggests the fullness of joy, with glory, righteousness, and so on, and the ability to have eternal posterity. The fact that “exaltations” is plural seems to suggest that bringing exaltation to those children brings greater exaltation to us, with each succeeding level of exalted posterity bringing us greater exaltation. Heights seems to confirm this idea. Depths seems to point to the immersion into the greatest of thoughts and emotions and total comprehension of all things.

All I can say is , “Amazing.” It’s hard to take it all in.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009 1 comments

Beware of covetousness

13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. (Luke 12:13-15)
I often would wonder if the man who came to Jesus was somewhat disappointed at Christ’s refusal to intervene to settle his parents’ estate. Christ would be the fairest arbiter any, would He not?

However, I recently realized that Christ was thinking far ahead. He anticipated going to the man’s house, being introduced as the one who was going to divide everything fairly (probably with many pointed glares at the brother who was believed to be withholding rightful property). He anticipated the probable resentment and then suspicion raised in the other brother at the presence of an interloping Christ (no matter how well-intentioned), and the probability that Christ’s decision would be protested and contested by the other brother.

I think Christ realized that the brother who came to Him was saying in effect, “Make my brother give me my fair share.”

Making the other brother be fair wouldn’t bring any spiritual benefit at all. Christ is not focused just on the outward fairness; He’s very concerned and anxious that outward fairness be born of genuine inward feeling and charity.

But further than this, Christ discerned that the man in front of Him had a problem too, which would keep him out of heaven if it wasn’t addressed. And interestingly enough it was something that would always look like someone else’s problem unless it was pointed out. That’s the way covetousness is. It looks like someone isn’t giving you your fair share, like you are getting the raw deal and the short end of the stick. And the more you actually deserve it (whatever it is that you want), the more justified you feel… and the more justified you feel, the more dangerous covetousness is because it becomes far to easy to focus on how you feel you are getting shafted and forget everything good about the relationship.

“Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

There’s more to life than what you deserve but aren’t getting.

Another thing I’ve always thought interesting about this incident is that Christ almost seems to deny His divine right of ownership over the planet that He created. But I suspect that His reluctance to be the judge and divider indicates that this judging and dividing wasn’t meant to happen yet. He still had to set the example and preach repentance and minister. He still had to work out the Atonement. He had to give people their chances. It wasn’t time yet. (Give people the rope, and they either hang themselves or make beautiful macramé. But you still have to give the rope.)

But back to this idea of bewaring of covetousness. This is very difficult to do in our culture of rights, rights, and more rights. Paul’s idea that charity “seeketh not her own” seems foreign to us, right along with the idea of “whoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

One of the greatest visible examples of “not seeking one’s own” in my life right now is my husband. When he makes the food (which is most of the time), he serves me first. When he’s making pancakes or waffles, he loads everything onto my plate until I’m full before he makes food for himself. To me, that’s huge. When there is some extra yummy leftovers he insists that I have some first and even then, he always leaves some left over. (We joke that this is the Stephens Food Politeness Gene that will continue to only take half of whatever is left over until there is only a microscopic bit of dessert left in the pan.) He says the motor scooter is my scooter and insists I ride it, even when I prefer to think of it as our scooter and I know he really loves riding it too. (Today I made him ride it.) I could list a number of other significant ways that he puts me before himself.

I feel like I need to look for more ways to put him first.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 2 comments

Why were wives and children at the bottom of Captain Moroni's Title of Liberty?

We’ve looked at the priority list on Captain Moroni’s Title of Liberty—God, religion, freedom, peace, wives, children—and I must confess that I’ve been wondering why wives and children were put at the bottom. (On the bright side, they made it on there, right?) So I’ve been doing some thinking about it and I’ve come up with a few scriptures that illustrate what can happen when family priorities usurp the others.
27 Now it came to pass that those judges had many friends and kindreds; and the remainder, yea, even almost all the lawyers and the high priests, did gather themselves together, and unite with the kindreds of those judges who were to be tried according to the law.
28 And they did enter into a covenant one with another, yea, even into that covenant which was given by them of old, which covenant was given and administered by the devil, to combine against all righteousness.
29 Therefore they did combine against the people of the Lord, and enter into a covenant to destroy them, and to deliver those who were guilty of murder from the grasp of justice, which was about to be administered according to the law.
30 And they did set at defiance the law and the rights of their country; and they did covenant one with another to destroy the governor, and to establish a king over the land, that the land should no more be at liberty but should be subject unto kings. (3 Nephi 6:27-30)
Here we see families of malefactors combining together in a wicked covenant—Satan tries to get people to make the wrong sort of covenants—to save family malefactors from legitimate punishment. And they tried to overthrow the country’s liberty as well.

This shows me that not only were the judges wicked, but their influence had corrupted their families. Families can’t be held as more important than the freedom and peace that comes from administering justice. (Of course receiving justice is not a very peaceful or serene process, but tends to involve a lot of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.)

Here’s another example.
24 And in one place they were heard to cry, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and then would our brethren have been spared, and they would not have been burned in that great city Zarahemla.
25 And in another place they were heard to cry and mourn, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and had not killed and stoned the prophets, and cast them out; then would our mothers and our fair daughters, and our children have been spared, and not have been buried up in that great city Moronihah. And thus were the howlings of the people great and terrible. (3 Nephi 8:24-25)
Perhaps this was a case where the mothers, fair daughters, and children had killed the prophets and those left alive felt burdened by guilt for allowing it to happen and not stopping them and so felt that they too were responsible for it. Perhaps they had been afraid to take a stand. Maybe they didn’t want to anger their mothers, fair daughters, and children.

Mormon saw out-of-wack family priorities in his day too.
23 And it came to pass that I did speak unto my people, and did urge them with great energy, that they would stand boldly before the Lamanites and fight for their wives, and their children, and their houses, and their homes.
24 And my words did arouse them somewhat to vigor, insomuch that they did not flee from before the Lamanites, but did stand with boldness against them. (Mormon 2:23-24)
I bet that Mormon was trying to do like Captain Moroni, but it seems he could no longer motivate the Nephites to fight for God, religion, freedom, peace. He could only motivate them to fight for their families.

It worked for a little while, but the Nephites, unrestrained by any higher considerations, took it too far and began to seek to avenge lost family members.
14 And when they had sworn by all that had been forbidden them by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that they would go up unto their enemies to battle, and avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren, behold the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying:
15 Vengeance is mine, and I will repay; and because this people repented not after I had delivered them, behold, they shall be cut off from the face of the earth. (Mormon 3:14-15)
Further, we have the words of Christ on the matter.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)
There you have it. Putting family before Christ makes us unworthy of Him. (Ouch!)

Now, just because we know this doesn’t make it easy when a situation comes up. There are countless variations of difficult choices between husbands and wives, fathers and children, and mothers and children that can really test one’s mettle. We all get to learn by experience in this life-laboratory.

Sometimes it seems like a balancing act—balancing love with discipline. I’m not a mom myself, but I got a dose of it as an oldest child taking care of my siblings, and I get a little bit of a taste of mothering when I have my bear den meetings.

Here’s what seems to happen. Johnny makes some rude comment to Sam, and Sam punches Johnny. (not their real names) I am not prepared for this. I have to say something, but I don’t have it on the tip of my tongue. I don’t want to overreact. I start with a general statement.

Me: (firmly, glaring) Hey, none of that.

That glare is a patented Walker glare that I learned from my Dad. Most of the time it works, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Sam: But he started it!
Johnny: (laughs)

This is where it gets tricky really fast, and I have to handle it with a combination of single-action “That doesn’t make it right” and dual-action “That was inappropriate” and “What do you say to each other?” (going for apologies and forgiveness).

I remember one time I was trying to elicit apologies and statements of forgiveness from two brothers who had gotten in a tiff. They absolutely were not having any of it. Nine-year-old and ten-year-old. They were so totally focused on what the other had done that they couldn’t see what they themselves had done. Sounds pretty normal, huh?

Well, it occurred to me that maybe their parents hadn’t taken the time to teach them to apologize and forgive each other. (This is understandable; when kids are fighting, the focus is getting them to stop, so once the fighting has been stopped, it seems like all is well, and working towards healing the relationship adds an extra step which takes extra effort.) But my mom put that extra effort in. She was a stickler for getting me and my siblings to apologize to each other and ask forgiveness, and then getting us to give forgiveness.

Mom: You need to say you’re sorry.

Me: I’m sorry, Cameron, for [teasing you/breaking your toy/annoying you/ losing your stuff/getting into your room without permission/whatever].

Mom: Cameron, you need to say you’re sorry too. What do you say?

Cameron: I’m sorry for [punching you/annoying you/calling you ‘stupid’/getting into your room without permission/whatever].

Mom: Now, Michaela, you need to tell Cameron that you forgive him.

Me: I forgive you, Cameron.

Mom: Now, Cameron, you need to tell Michaela that you forgive her.

Cameron: I forgive you, Michaela.

I’m totally not kidding. My Mom rehearsed us through our parts in the process of settling our fights. She did this so much that by the time we were older, it was second nature to apologize and ask forgiveness, and to express forgiveness. She kept doing this when we were teens with more serious issues and I feel that it helped smooth things over better to go through that form of rehearsal. It may have sounded hokey and fake to an outside observer to see teens going through this, but we were used to it and I think it helped us. She also began to add the extra step of talking to us separately and praying with us when negative behavior patterns began to build grudges between siblings.

How do you parents discipline with love? What are your strategies? What works?
Saturday, June 20, 2009 2 comments

The Intrepid Jonathan

We often talk about Nephi’s gutsy “I-will-go-and-do-the-things-which-the-Lord-hath-commanded” experiences with getting the plates and building the ship, but recently I ran across a character in the Old Testament who gets far less press yet whose faith seemed quite similar—Jonathan, the son of King Saul.

You have to look at what this guy did in 1 Samuel 14.
1 Now it came to pass upon a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said unto the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison, that is on the other side. But he told not his father.
2 And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people that were with him were about six hundred men;
3 And Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, I-chabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone.
4 ¶ And between the passages, by which Jonathan sought to go over unto the Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side: and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh.
5 The forefront of the one was situate northward over against Michmash, and the other southward over against Gibeah.
6 And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few. (1 Samuel 14:1-6)
I love that last bit-- it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few. Jonathan was willing to try a TWO-PERSON ASSAULT even though he didn’t know whether the Lord would help or not, but he knew that numbers didn’t matter to the Lord.
7 And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart. (1 Samuel 14:7)
Such unity and fearlessness! No whining or temporizing. What a pair!
8 Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them.
9 If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you; then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up unto them.
10 But if they say thus, Come up unto us; then we will go up: for the Lord hath delivered them into our hand: and this shall be a sign unto us. (1 Samuel 14:8-10)
I find this part very interesting. Jonathan and his armor bearer decide what they are going to do ahead of time and how they are going to respond to the enemy. Oddly enough, they decided to let the enemy call the shots and choose the turf. (Strategically that has got to be one of the stupidest things ever.) However, it is obvious to me that they were not doing this to be lazy or because they had some sort of death wish. Rather, if you assume that they had a powerful faith in the Lord, it becomes perfectly clear what they were doing. They had faith that the Lord was hearing their words as they were making their plans. They were including the Lord in the plans. They were giving the Lord the freedom to make the choices about the best place to fight by acknowledging that He controlled not just the battle, but could control the inclinations of the enemy in such way as to bring about conditions which the Lord knew would favor Jonathan and the armorbearer. Amazing.
11 And both of them discovered themselves unto the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves.
12 And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armourbearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing. And Jonathan said unto his armourbearer, Come up after me: for the Lord hath delivered them into the hand of Israel. (1 Samuel 14:11-12)
That “Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing” sounds like it has a leer and a sneer behind it, doesn’t it? (“Come up here and I will show you something! (Like the business end of my little pet bazooka!)”) Yet Jonathan doesn’t miss a beat and he takes this vague threat as a sure sign that the Lord has practically won the battle for them already. In fact, Jonathan says he will go first!
13 And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet, and his armourbearer after him: and they fell before Jonathan; and his armourbearer slew after him. (1 Samuel 14:13)
So Jonathan and his armorbearer were CLIMBING UP to the enemy?! (Isn’t that yet another thing that the strategists would say was another one of the stupidest ideas ever—attacking an enemy situated on high ground?) To all outward appearances they have the odds stacked against them in a multitude of ways—it’s two against many, they’re climbing to the enemy, and the rest of the Israelite army has no clue where they are or what they are doing so they get no backup if they get in trouble. And yet they are going for it anyway, because they are thinking, If God be for us, who can be against us?
14 And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armourbearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow. (1 Samuel 14:14)
This reminds me a lot of the story of Ammon fighting the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon. Fantastic. But wait, the battle is just getting started!
15 And there was trembling in the host, in the field, and among all the people: the garrison, and the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked: so it was a very great trembling.
16 And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and, behold, the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another. (1 Samuel 14:15-16)
The Lord has thrown in an earthquake to shake things up a bit. (pardon the pun) Nice.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch..
17 Then said Saul unto the people that were with him, Number now, and see who is gone from us. And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armourbearer were not there.
18 And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel.
19 ¶ And it came to pass, while Saul talked unto the priest, that the noise that was in the host of the Philistines went on and increased: and Saul said unto the priest, Withdraw thine hand. (1 Samuel 14:17-19)
“Duhhh, who’s missing?”
“Oh, Jonathan and his armor bearer are missing.”
"What’s all that noise coming from the Philistine camp?"
“Uhhh.. I don’t know.”
“I guess we better go see what’s going on...
20 And Saul and all the people that were with him assembled themselves, and they came to the battle: and, behold, every man’s sword was against his fellow, and there was a very great discomfiture.
21 Moreover the Hebrews that were with the Philistines before that time, which went up with them into the camp from the country round about, even they also turned to be with the Israelites that were with Saul and Jonathan.
22 Likewise all the men of Israel which had hid themselves in mount Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, even they also followed hard after them in the battle.
23 So the Lord saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Beth-aven. (1 Samuel 14:1-23)
So once everyone realized the Philistines were having a hard time, everyone turned on the Philistines, even the Philistine allies, and the Philistines themselves fought each other. (Getting the enemy to kill each other is a very efficient way to win a battle.) The Lord raised up help for the Israelites from people who previously were not going to help.

So what do we get from this story about Jonathan?

1) Assume the Lord will help you.
2) Do something.
3) Take the Lord into account when making your plans and plan in ways to receive guidance from Him according to circumstances.
4) Follow the plan and fight hard even when it looks like the odds are overwhelmingly against you.
5) People will help when you didn’t expect it.
6) Unanticipated miracles will happen.

One of the Best Scriptural Phrases for the Little Life Challenges

I was reading a blog post on Segullah today and in one of them the author was lamenting her current difficulties. Her husband is away in Denmark, her son (who is her major helper at home) is away at scout camp, and she and the rest of her brood have been suffering from bad colds (sending the cranky factor off the charts no doubt), and it has been raining for 20 days straight where she is.

I know what it is like to have so many little things attack at the same time. Death by a thousand paper cuts, that’s what it is.. But it reminded me of a great scriptural insight I heard a number of years ago in Relief Society at BYU in that difficult studying-for-lots-of-crazy-finals-and-papers-at-the-end-of-the-semester time. It consists of one phrase, which just happens to be the most repeated phrase in the entire Book of Mormon, but which people hardly notice. Here it is (drum roll please):

And it came to pass

I remember when the counselor in the Relief Society announced this phrase, the whole room of women began giggling. I giggled right along with them, remembering all the times in family scripture study we had made fun of the endless repetition of “and it came to pass”. (It was probably the first phrase that new readers in our family learned to read.)

I really hoped that this wasn’t going to be some snappy little pseudo insight… But here’s what she said that I remember:

“It comes… to pass. Aren’t you glad it didn’t come to STAY?” (more giggles from the audience here)

The husband WILL return from Denmark. The son WILL return from scout camp. The colds WILL go away. The rain WILL stop. Everything will be wonderful for about…. oh… five seconds, and then some new difficulties will arise. But it comes, and then it passes, and with Heavenly Father’s help we get through it.

Occasionally I think of this phrase when I’m in the middle of some difficulty that is driving me mad. Hmmm.. like when the sprinkler system exploded on our house on a Saturday evening and our attempts to repair it were to no avail and we had to turn off the water to the entire house for a day.. and the time when I was substitute teaching the CTR 5 class and all my brilliant plans were all for nought in the face of their squirreliness.. and that one time I just could not figure out those last few steps of a particularly nasty Calculus problem that was due the next day… and the time my haircut turned out so not-what-I-wanted that I went home and cried… and the year I had difficult roommates (cringe)… I think of that “And it came to pass” phrase and I start trying to set my sights on that future when the problem is resolved. Seeing beyond the problem to the resolution stage seems to make it a little more worth it to buckle down and work just a little harder and be just a little more patient.

You WILL make it through this.
Friday, June 19, 2009 4 comments

Spiritual parallels to the Kitt Peak National Observatory

Last Saturday was very fun; we went to Kitt Peak (7,000 feet high) to see the observatories there on the top. I was especially excited to know that there was a solar observatory there; I remembered my astronomy teacher Mr. Firebaugh talking about it in class my senior year of high school. (It’s been twelve years and I still remember it; that’s the influence of a great teacher.)

As we were driving up the road to Kitt Peak, I was amazed at how high over the valley it was; it was possible to see for miles. It reminded me of how mountains were used as temples in the ancient world. And I thought, “How significant that the place that is chosen for viewing the heavens also gives excellent perspective for the earth as well."



This is a diagram from the McMath-Pierce Solar Observatory on Kitt Peak. Yes, they point that thing at the sun, but they don’t stare into it, because that would make them go blind. Instead they project an image of the sun deep into the ground and study the image. You don’t know how excited I was to see this thing in real life!!


Here’s what the McMath-Pierce Solar Observatory looks like. It makes me think that something is going to be launched out of it into space.


The sun comes in this opening in the McMath-Pierce telescope.


Some lenses in the McMath-Pierce Solar Observatory. (sorry about the red tint; I was struggling with my flash)

In the McMath-Pierce telescope, the sun goes down that shaft into the furthest reaches of the pit where it hits a mirror and bounces back up where it is reflected into another shaft straight downward.

Light from the sun eventually makes its way through these holes in the ceiling of the McMath-Peirce Observatory…



…to the equipment below. I caught sight of some lenses in that pile of stuff. If you look carefully you can see the bright areas where the sunlight is being projected.



This is the solar projection for us tourists to Oooo and Ahhh over. (I really wanted to see some sunspots, but evidently this is a particularly calm time for the sun.) Still, this was REALLY cool!

I thought how interesting it was that it is impossible to look directly at the sun without being blinded and that we really can’t endure it, so we make instruments that project an image of the sun onto the earth that we can study. In the same way, we can’t look directly into the celestial kingdom; we can’t see into heaven unless we are prepared for it. It is too bright and holy; it might destroy us. Instead, we take the light that we receive and we try to project an image of heaven onto earth, and that image is something that we can work with. It’s called Zion. We study and analyze Zion, we try to fit ourselves for that. We look to the people who teach us about it, and we call them prophets, seers, and revelators. We also have the temple, that mountain where we can set our sights on the Lord and the things of eternity and receive light and knowledge through the instruments He has given us which are the ordinances revealed.

I thought too that it was interesting that Kitt Peak didn’t have just one observatory. It had many. It had 25 telescopes on that mountain, each with its respective job to do. All of them were receiving data about the heavens, all of them had their projects. Many people were involved and many people were taking their turn to see the heavens and study the stars. Isn’t that so like the church? We have all these apostles and leaders in the church, each with their special duties and responsibilities. They take their turn, and then they are called home to God.

Something else too that was very exciting was that they have these telescopes that are so advanced now and are gathering so much data that they don’t have enough people to analyze it. They want to dump it to the internet for everyone to work on; they want to distribute the load. Isn’t that so much like the church? The Lord wants everyone to do their part, and wants everyone to receive revelation and act in their calling according to the will of the Lord. He wants to bring us into the work of the Lord too.
Monday, June 15, 2009 0 comments

We need the scriptures

And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God. (Mosiah 1:3)

This shows me that if we don’t read the scriptures, our ignorance of the mysteries of God which are in the scriptures actually causes us to suffer. I never thought of it quite that way before. We need the mysteries of God in our lives. We suffer without them by making mistakes that we would have avoided if we had known them and giving in to temptations that we could have resisted if we had known them.

I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct. (Mosiah 1:5)

This verse shows us that if we don’t read the scriptures we dwindle in unbelief over time.

Even more scary, it shows us that by not reading the scriptures, we jeopardize the ability of our descendants to belief the gospel. This happens as erroneous ideas about God and the requirements for salvation creep into the beliefs of descendents in each succeeding generation until the false traditions become so ingrained that when the truth is taught, it is seen as something totally foreign and far removed from what one is used to, and so is rejected.

16 And moreover, he also gave him charge concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass; and also the plates of Nephi; and also, the sword of Laban, and the ball or director, which led our fathers through the wilderness, which was prepared by the hand of the Lord that thereby they might be led, every one according to the heed and diligence which they gave unto him.
17 Therefore, as they were unfaithful they did not prosper nor progress in their journey, but were driven back, and incurred the displeasure of God upon them; and therefore they were smitten with famine and sore afflictions, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty. (Mosiah 1:16-17)

These verses show me that the amount of guidance we receive from the Lord is
directly proportional to how carefully we listen and obey previous directions
we’ve received from Him. The more we heed, the more He can guide us.

It also shows me that when we don’t heed, we can’t just stop and
stay in one place; we actually regress and incur the Lord’s displeasure. The
Lord’s displeasure isn’t a nebulous impotent thing, nor is it something He vents
with malicious pleasure in making us suffer. Rather, He channels it in a
controlled way that is meant to benefit us (yes, benefit is the word) by
afflicting us in such a way that we awake to a realization of our sins and
repent and return to our duty. And of course, reading the scriptures is an
easy way of finding out our duty.

This is why I have made it a habit to read the scriptures every day. I know that it has helped me to remember my duty to God, and I know that it can help you. I have learned many things by studying the scriptures that I probably could not have learned otherwise. Heavenly Father blesses us with revelation through the scriptures. In fact, Elder Oaks called it a Urim and Thummim, and I know it is because reading the scriptures brings the Holy Ghost and when we have the Holy Ghost with us, we receive revelation.

Monday, June 8, 2009 5 comments

Rolling waters as a metaphor for the purification of the saints

How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints. (D&C 121:33)
How long can rolling waters remain impure? – I’ve always kind of wondered about this part. As my husband and I were reading through this today, I remembered something I had seen in a tour of the Reverse Osmosis DeIonization (RODI) water purification system in the Tech building of ASU’s Polytechnic Campus.

The thing I remembered was that after the water is purified, it is circulated through pipes at a rate of 3 feet/second to inhibit bacterial growth. 3 feet/second is the equivalent of 2.045 miles/hour.

Movement seems to be important to purification. Likewise, spiritual movement like seeking, repenting, asking, serving, meeting, pondering, praying, fasting, and teaching can inhibit those bacterial sins from taking hold.

I then went looking for other ideas about water purification involving “rolling” or circulating waters..

I found a patent online called “High Turbidity Waste Water Purification system”, US patent 6358407. (Don’t get scared; I’m just going to summarize.) It described a low speed circulation of water with coagulants [coagulants - something that causes change into a solid or semi-solid state]. Evidently, when water circulates (rolls?) at certain speeds, particles of a certain size do not rise above a certain level in a tank, but instead remain suspended. They then begin to clump together in a mass, and after a while those clumps begin to collect more of the impurities that are circulating in the water, essentially becoming a self-organizing filter (impurities cleaving to impurities) until they reach a critical mass. Then, in some special combination between gravity, low pressure, and something called the point eddy motion principle that I don’t quite understand, those clumps carry themselves out of the system into a collector located very nearby. Here is my favorite quote:
"As a consequence, the suspended solids and flocculent that are undesirable in the water become the filter for their own removal therefrom.” (High Turbidity Waste Water Purification system, http://www.freepatentsonline.com/6358407.html, commas changed for clarity)
Is that an elegant method of purification, or what? (Any water treatment experts out there to take a look at that process and correct me on my mistakes?)

Let’s go back to the scripture we started with. “How long can rolling waters remain impure?” This was part of D&C 121, received when the prophet Joseph Smith was imprisoned in Liberty Jail, when the saints were being persecuted and driven from Missouri.

Here’s some pieces from D&C 121, 122, and 123 that remind me of this purification method:
Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. (D&C 122:9, emphasis added)
This suggests the suspension of progress accompanying intractable impurity, which leads to an accretion or gathering of forces of evil.
…the most damning hand of murder, tyranny, and oppression, supported and urged on and upheld by the influence of that spirit which hath so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies, upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion, and has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very mainspring of all corruption, and the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity.
8 It is an iron yoke, it is a strong band; they are the very handcuffs, and chains, and shackles, and fetters of hell. (D&C 123:7-8)
And then the purification process begins at the critical mass.
5 If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
6 If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring,..and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;
7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:5-7)
The phrases that stick out to me in these verses are “if thou are called to pass through” and “if thou art in” that seems to suggest ideas of filtration and purification. No wonder we are often told to depart from Babylon and touch not the unclean things. “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own…” (D&C 88:40) This suggests that there is also a gathering of righteousness that we can align ourselves with.

And when the fullness of iniquity comes..
12 And also that God hath set his hand and seal to change the times and seasons, and to blind their minds, that they may not understand his marvelous workings; that he may prove them also and take them in their own craftiness….
15 And not many years hence, that they and their posterity shall be swept from under heaven, saith God, that not one of them is left to stand by the wall….
25 For there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be. (D&C 121:12,15,25)
The gravity of their sins eventually pulls the wicked out of the picture, capturing them in a whirlpool of self-destructive behavior.

Conclusion

Well. When I started this post I never thought I would learn so much. I never thought that simple question “How long can rolling waters remain impure?” would turn out to hold the key to understanding what the Lord was trying to say to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. It was nothing less than a one-sentence summary of what the Lord was doing to purify His people. Likely it will be important for us to remember in coming days when we are called to pass through persecution and affliction. It’s so easy to talk calmly about affliction when we’re not in it; I really hope I can remember and hold on.
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. (D&C 121:7-8)
Sunday, June 7, 2009 0 comments

Fasting = Rejoicing


12 But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
13 And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
14 Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer. (D&C 59:12-14)
In starting my fast yesterday, I couldn’t really think of any earth-shattering problems that I wanted to fast about. (This is not to say that we don’t have any problems; yesterday I also got the highly rare and dubious but exciting privilege of watching my husband’s car’s A/C condenser fail, which promises to cost us between $2000 to 4000 to get fixed. It was very exciting and very noisy. My husband was sad because he was trying to figure out where the leak in our A/C was and he was hoping that it would be something small that he could fix. I’m trying to be optimistic by being glad that at least we know where the problem is now AND we got a free show too!)

Let’s start this again. I didn’t know what I wanted to fast about. I suppose I could have fasted about the car, but for some reason I decided that I was tired of fasting about problems and focusing on our problems all the time. So I decided to fast to express gratitude.

It has been the best experience! I didn’t know that it was going to be so amazing! I was taking my contacts out to go to bed and I was thankful for my contacts and also for my glasses. I could see! How difficult it would be to go through life with such blurry vision! (My eyes are really bad; things have to be about 3 or 4 inches away for me to see them clearly.) I got into bed and I was so thankful for that bed with such nice warm blankets to snuggle into. I got up in the morning and I was taking my shower and I was thankful for indoor plumbing. What a great thing to be able to take a shower and get water right in your house! And I was even more thankful for a hot water heater. Warm showers are so nice! I was thankful for my clothes, and my shoes. And having my car to drive to church was great! (With a working air conditioner! Yes!) And I was thankful I could play the organ for church. And I was thankful for prayer.. And I was thankful for Christ.. And I noticed that so many people bore great testimonies today and I had to thank them. I bore my testimony too, and I was so glad that I had one. And I had to compliment a number of people on how they looked; they looked so nice and the colors they wore looked well on them. The lessons were wonderful, because each thing we talked about reminded me of more things I had to be thankful for. And Sister Jones gave me music to practice to accompany her and I was thankful for a chance to have something new to play and the chance to accompany someone singing. And Sister Olsen reiterated that she was moving this month and I remembered how much I enjoyed talking to her over the last few years and I had to tell her how happy I was to have known her. And coming home I saw my neighbor across the street preparing to spray paint his fading bumper and I remembered how many times he has helped us with our crazy burst sprinkler system and the time he helped us replace our living room fan and the time he helped replace the spigots to our washer (he set the walls on fire with his blowtorch, but he had a bucket of water handy to put it out right away) and I was thankful for everything he had done for us that I had to thank him for that. (He’s the go-to guy for our landlord.)

And I’m having a really hard time writing this, because it is reminding me how many blessings I have and I just can’t help but cry. I AM SO THANKFUL! Heavenly Father is SO KIND!
15 And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours… (D&C 59:15-16)
Yeah, that’s how I feel right now. The fullness of the earth has been mine and I never realized it until now.
…the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. (D&C 59:16-19)
So.. tell me about your good experiences with fasting. Was there anything you fasted for that brought you more joy than you had anticipated?
Saturday, June 6, 2009 1 comments

Forbidden to Preach

Mormon is speaking:
15 And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.
16 And I did endeavor to preach unto this people, but my mouth was shut, and I was forbidden that I should preach unto them; for behold they had wilfully rebelled against their God; and the beloved disciples were taken away out of the land, because of their iniquity.
17 But I did remain among them, but I was forbidden to preach unto them, because of the hardness of their hearts; and because of the hardness of their hearts the land was cursed for their sake. (Mormon 1:15-17)
For the longest time I thought Mormon was forbidden by the Lord to preach. But today I realized that the Lord wouldn’t do any such thing. The people forbade Mormon to preach. They had his mouth shut, possibly through legal proceedings or policy decisions. In any case, his religious freedom of speech was curtailed.

Hmmm. Where are we seeing this today?
Wednesday, June 3, 2009 0 comments

Beware of Hungry Scribes

46 Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;
47 Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation. (Luke 20:46-47)
Here’s a scripture that stuck out to me today and for some reason I found myself focusing on that phrase “which devour widows’ houses”. I find this phrase to be puzzling. It can’t be literal, unless widows have houses made out of foodstuff. (Gingerbread houses? Naaahhhhhhh.)

I think these widows are the poor ones who have troubles making ends meet, who have to glean the fields for leftover grain. There’s not much food in their houses. And then imagine the scribes, those learned, prestigious men, suddenly dropping by to visit these women. They come by in their long robes with their enormous phylacteries to show how gracious and kind they are. The widows are honored, oh so honored to have such a learned great man in the house. The scribe must be given the best treatment possible. She must do her best to be hospitable. She must rise to the occasion. “Oh, won’t you please stay to dinner?” There’s eagerness in the widow’s voice. The scribe doesn’t refuse. The widow goes to her meager pantry. She wants to give the great man the best meal she can, so she cooks everything. A week’s worth of rations is set on the table. The scribe makes a long prayer over the food before eating. And then he eats. The scribe has a big appetite, conditioned as he is to sumptuous meals. He eats several very large portions more than usual to show his appreciation for the widow’s hospitality. He leaves with a kind word. The widow then looks at the table and cries, wondering how she will feed herself for the next week.

I think Jesus may have been trying to point out the scribes' concern for politeness and show and prestige, and their lack of actual charity. Maybe they failed to notice that they were beggaring those they were supposed to help. Or maybe they did know and they liked their prestige better.

I think this is a good lesson about not imposing on others. It’s about being careful not to put people who are less well-off in the financially difficult position of having to pay for you or entertain you when they really can’t afford it. They will do it out of politeness, but if we allow them to do it when they really can’t afford it, we are being uncharitable. Having charity is having consideration for the whole picture of how it is going to affect others after the big bash is over. Maybe it’s better to turn the tables and invite them to our house instead.
12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:12-14)
Hmmmm. I'm thinking about who I can invite. Who will you invite?
Tuesday, June 2, 2009 0 comments

In search of productive browsing

Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known.(D&C 60:13)
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can be more productive. I love to read to be enlightened, and I love to find scripture insights, but sometimes I don’t have anything of my own to share and so I go looking on the Mormon blogosphere.

As much as I love Mormon bloggers, sometimes it is hard to find something that is spiritually nourishing amongst the socializing and the debating difficult questions. So I keep searching and keep searching and several hours can go by before I realize it.

One way that I try to not idle away my time is to go searching for blogs that consistently deliver high quality scripturally-based content. It takes time to search for this stuff, and of course I can’t do it all at once, but once I find it, I put it on my blog roll. I put links to aggregators too so that I can more easily start my searches.

Another thing I’m realizing is that I’ll need to re-evaluate every so often whether the sites I regularly visit are worth the time. Do I feel enlightened and inspired after reading? Do you ever notice that sometimes what you thought was good turned out to be not helping you as much as you thought it might? (Mental note to self: be sure to make blog entries as helpful as possible.)

One thing I really like about blogs is that they enable us to fulfill the second part of the scripture above which is to make known our talent (ostensibly so that we can benefit others). I’ve noticed that there are so many different kinds of Mormon blogs with so many different emphasises. (emphases? emphasata? emphasiseses? emphasisiums?) If you are looking for FHE lessons for squirrelly toddlers, you’ll find it. If you’re looking for a Mormon view of the news, you’ll find it. If you are looking for cooking ideas, or humor, or speculation, or help with Sunday school lessons, or counseling… you’ll probably find it. And if you don’t find it, you can probably start one yourself.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. (D&C 58:27-28)