Friday, July 24, 2009 4 comments

Additional meaning for "oil of joy"?

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,
to give unto them…the oil of joy for mourning
(Isaiah 61:3)
In my last post I talked briefly about Isaiah 61:3 and how the oil of joy symbolized the Spirit. But based upon some reading I did in Exodus recently, I found myself questioning whether there was additional meaning attached to this oil of joy.

Holy oil was only used for anointing kings, priests, and sanctifying the sacred things in the temple. It was made with a special recipe described in the scriptures and it was explicitly forbidden for anybody to concoct oil using that recipe for anything other than holy purposes.
22 ¶ Moreover the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
23 Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels,
24 And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin:
25 And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.
26 And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony,
27 And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense,
28 And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot.
29 And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.
30 And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.
31 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations.
32 Upon man’s flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you.
33 Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people. (Exodus 30:22-33)
Because Christ was the Messiah, or “Anointed One”, He could have been anointed with this oil. There is a Messianic prophesy in Psalms about the “oil of gladness”.
Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Psalms 45:7)
Is that oil of joy the special oil that was reserved for holy anointings of the priests?

If that is the case, when Isaiah says that those in Zion will be given this oil of joy, he may be expressing that because of what Christ did for us, we can also partake in that holy anointing, implying our transformation into kings and priests to God, through the Spirit.
21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;
22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
Here’s what the Bible Dictionary says about the term “anoint”:
To apply oil or ointment to the head or the person. Anciently anointing was done for reasons both secular and sacred. It is a sign of hospitality in Luke 7: 46, and of routine personal grooming in 2 Sam. 12: 20 and Matt. 6: 17. The maimed or sick were anointed with wine, oil, and/or ointment as medicine (Isa. 1: 6; Luke 10: 34; cf. Rev. 3: 18). The sick were also anointed with oil as part of the sacred procedure in healing of the sick by faith and the laying on of hands (Mark 6: 13; James 5: 14-15).

Kings were anointed to their office by the prophets (1 Sam. 10: 1; 1 Sam. 16: 13; 2 Sam. 5: 3; 1 Kgs. 1: 39; 1 Kgs. 19: 16; 2 Kgs. 9: 3, 6; 2 Kgs. 11: 12; 1 Chr. 11: 3; 1 Chr. 29: 22; 2 Chr. 23: 11). The anointing of the priests is outlined in Ex. 40: 15; of the high priest (Aaronic order) in Lev. 21: 10. Elisha was to be anointed a prophet by Elijah (1 Kgs. 19: 16).

The holy anointing oil used in the law of Moses was composed of olive oil mixed with spices and was to be restricted in use to certain specified ceremonies (Ex. 30: 22-33; Ex. 37: 29). Paul and John speak of an anointing of the Spirit (2 Cor. 1: 21-22; 1 Jn. 2: 20, 27), and Peter says that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power” (Acts 10: 38).

In the Church today holy consecrated olive oil is used in anointing persons in various sacred ceremonies, including administration to the sick. Although the scriptures do not specifically so state, we may confidently assume that anointing with oil has been part of true, revealed religion ever since the gospel was first introduced on this earth to Adam.
As we see, anointing with oil is an ordinance rich in meaning, with implications of healing, mission, sanctification, and exaltation, all of which bring joy.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009 3 comments

Beauty for Ashes: Isaiah Teaches the Messiah Makes Repentance Possible

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,
to give unto them beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called trees of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD,
that he might be glorified.
(Isaiah 61:3)
This is one of those verses in Isaiah that sounds just beautiful, (especially that “beauty for ashes” bit) and which actually teaches fundamental gospel principles.

The thing for us to know and remember about ancient Israelite culture is that the usual method of mourning was to rend one’s clothes and sit in sackcloth and ashes. We can see that this is what Isaiah is trying to evoke by using words such as “ashes” and “garment” and “mourning” and “spirit of heaviness”.

I used to always think Isaiah was talking about how we’d eventually be comforted and rest in the celestial kingdom from all our trials and afflictions, but what I realized today was that Isaiah was also trying to teach about repentance. He’s talking about how the Messiah (Christ) makes it possible for people who are sad about their sins to be happy again through forgiveness. And if you look carefully, you see that Isaiah also is trying to convey how Christ transforms the repentant and makes them righteous through the power of the Atonement.

beauty for ashes – Isaiah evokes the image of how a person who was previously all covered in ashes can be cleaned off and made beautiful. He uses this to teach how in the stead of the suffering and sadness that comes from the ugliness of sin, Christ gives a beauty of countenance that can only result from purity and righteousness.

the oil of joy for mourning – The oil of joy is used as a symbol for the Spirit of God. After we repent, the Lord gives us the Holy Ghost to be with us again, which fills us with joy. A website called Bible Browser also pointed out that just as oily skin makes our face shiny, the Spirit makes our faces shine.

the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness – The phrase “spirit of heaviness” is meant to evoke to how sins burden us, affect our attitude, and make us tired and keep us from experiencing joy. When we repent, our sins are covered as if with a garment and this change causes us to thank Heavenly Father and testify of Christ’s power to save. With sins no longer burdening us, we feel more capable of serving the Lord in praiseworthy ways.

So what does Isaiah mean by “trees of righteousness” and being “the planting of the LORD”?

If I were a tree, the place I was planted would give me support and keep me upright. The deeper I sent down my roots, the more secure I would be, and the more likely I would be to survive, especially if I was planted in a stormy environment. I would derive nourishment from the soil where I was planted. I expect that Isaiah means that when we repent, we are planted in Christ, which secures us in a nourishing and righteous soil and we would bear sweet fruits of good works.

I don’t know about you, but that verse of Isaiah has a lot more meaning to me now.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009 5 comments

The Spiritual Perils of Censuses (and Blog Stat Counters?)

1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
2 And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beer-sheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.
3 And Joab answered, The Lord make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?
4 Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem.
5 ¶ And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword.
6 But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king’s word was abominable to Joab.
7 And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1-7)
David wanted to number Israel. Why? Because he just wanted to know. And when the numbers come back, we see that he not only wanted to know how many people were in Israel, he wanted to delight in the strength and might of Israel which was represented by the number of fighting men, indicating pride had crept into his heart. He was beginning to trust in the arm of the flesh rather than trusting the Lord. Once upon a time when he had fought Goliath, he had made a point of declaring that the Lord didn’t save with sword or spear and that the battle outcome belonged to the Lord. Evidently he forgot that here.

What’s wrong with taking a count? It can be argued that taking a count is useful to make sure that everyone is present. While I was growing up, our babysitters would count the magnificent seven of us to make sure we were all present because they hadn’t become quite adept enough with our names. My mom and dad would usually call our names from oldest to youngest and we’d check to make sure everyone was in the car so that we weren’t leaving anyone behind. We know in the story about Jonathan that King Saul counted his men to see who was missing. And I often wonder, how long did it take Helaman to count how many of his stripling warriors were still alive? (“Dang! You messed me up! Now I have to start all over again!”)

Yet when the crowd gets big enough, it becomes more difficult to do this. In fact, an accurate count of a nation is almost impossible to obtain, and Joab probably knew it. He probably was aware that a count of a country can change even as it is occurring, and a mere year after it is complete, there have been births and deaths and wars and immigration and emigration and the count has been screwed up. Further, if you try to keep an accurate count all the time, it takes money and time and energy that could be better spent on something else. This is probably why Joab didn’t count the Levites or the Benjamites; he probably wanted to make sure that the count was inaccurate to make the point that 1) there will always be inaccuracies and 2) it isn’t smart to trust the numbers.

Another problem numbers create is that it is easy to forget that there are real people behind the numbers and instead start thinking of people as numbers—Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, visiting teaching and home teaching numbers, membership record numbers, telephone numbers, and so on. There’s a tendency toward depersonalization that is contrary to the doctrine of the worth of souls and the doctrine of man’s divine potential.

Another problem censuses create is that they give the illusion of control. We often think that if we measure something, we can control it. It’s easy to start trying to make policies to try to manipulate the numbers and get them to do what we want them to do. When there are people behind the numbers, number manipulation begins to take on shades of exploitation, coercion, and unrighteous dominion, when there should instead be a strong sense of stewardship and service.

So what does this have to do with us today? Well, as a personal application, I may not be queen of a parcel of land, but I suppose you could say I’m the queen of this blog. Many of us who have blogs have stat counters somewhere on them so that we can know how many people have visited our blogs. These counters really have no purpose except to satisfy our curiosity and pride that X amount of people have come to our blog, which was Y more than last week or last month. (If there are any other purposes, could someone please educate me?) I don’t know about you, but I admit that once I installed that stat counter, every time I came to my own blog, that number was the first thing I checked, and the second thing I checked was whether anyone commented. Often I would go to my blog just to check my stat counter. Sometimes I would check my stat counter multiple times a day. After a while I realized that this wasn’t really healthy, and since studying the above story about David, I started trying to ignore my stat counter. (Which worked for a while, and then I started compulsively checking it again.)

Meanwhile, something bothered me a little bit about this story about David. I didn’t understand Joab’s specific objections to having a census—“but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing?”

Finally I realized what Joab meant when I compared it to me and my blog stat counter. I felt like I needed the stat counter on my blog so that I could know that some people were at least coming. I needed a morale booster when people didn’t comment.. Maybe David also wanted to know that he had support. But wait, David was .. the king. Joab was pointing out that the whole country was bound to serve David, so there really wasn’t any need for him to know how many people were behind him. It should have been enough for David to know that he had support.

So how does this apply to me? Well, after some fighting with myself, I admit that since I know that I have somewhere around 25-30 people who regularly come to read, maybe I can let go of my stat counter and just have faith that they will keep coming, even though I can’t “see” the numbers. Hello, lurkers! (Michaela waves through the computer screen)

So I’ve deleted my blog’s stat counter. Really, checking it was a compulsive habit. Besides, it has just occurred to me that the number of people who visit isn’t nearly as important as I may have thought. What is important is how many are inspired, enlightened, and encouraged here, which is uncountable and unknowable, at least in this life anyway. And I don’t really have any control over that, aside from doing my best to study and write about the scriptures. That is in the Lord’s hands, and He can guide people to what can help them the most, whether it is to something I’ve written or something someone else has written.

What about the “followers” sidebar gadget? Isn’t that also like a census? Well, I’m keeping this widget because I like to get to know my readers. I figure if they like my blog enough to commit themselves, then I want to know about them.

Here’s a sing-out to Jared in Florida, who likes calculus, and piano, and rappelling, and.. hey! I like John Rutter music too! Have you ever heard his arrangement of “For the Beauty of the Earth?”

Here’s a bark-out to “In the Doghouse” from California, who writes some neat hubpages.

Here’s a shout-out to Kathryn Skaggs from southern California, whose excellent goal is “to do more good”.

Here’s a type-out to Bethie from Cottonwood Heights, Utah, who has six different blogs on topics from 60s music, to Isaiah, to electing Mitt Romney.

Here’s a binary blast out to Tim Malone from Camarillo, California, who is an IT guy and is interested in holistic medicine.

Here’s a secret McDuff handshake to Patricia Wright, alias McDuff Q, who lives in Japan and is moving to Oklahoma. She’s really good with animals (being a vet tech). We’ve had many pleasant hours together growing up.

Here’s a shout-out to Luis the mysterious in sunglasses!

Here’s a ink-blotted flourish for Chas Hathaway, who plays piano and is starting an awesome writing group! He used to dig graves! (ooooooo.)

Here’s a page to Seanette Blaylock from Sacramento, California, who is challenging herself to read the Book of Mormon, D&C, and Pearl of Great Price all the way through in 40 days!

Here’s a title wave to Becky from Sunny, Arizona (is that your town’s name?), who has written a book called “Adventures with the Word of God: Making Scripture Study Exciting for the Entire Family”! (AWESOME!!!)

And finally, here’s a здравствуйте! to Lirik from Samara, Russia! He is a translator and he likes Photoshop CS2. (I hope my translator widget got the hello right..)

Isn’t it always about people, rather than the numbers?
Saturday, July 18, 2009 11 comments

The Tower of Babel Building Project and Its Negative Consequences


1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-4)
let us make us a name – It sounds to me like the people wanted to make a reputation for themselves. What kind of reputation? I’m not sure. But evidently they thought it involved an ambitious building program. Why did they want the reputation? I think a clue to that comes from the next phrase “lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth”. They wanted a reputation that would keep them from being dispersed (by marauding armies?). They didn’t want anybody to mess with them.

Two possibilities occur to me about what kind of reputation they wanted to make for themselves. I think they either wanted to make a reputation as the best fortified people around, or as the greatest and fanciest housed people around. (Or maybe they were going for both at once.) If they were the best fortified, no incoming armies could get in. If they had the best houses and best public buildings, then the tourists and travelers would want to live there and they could attract the best people.
5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. (Genesis 11:5-6)
Once a people gets started with the goal of making a reputation of being the best-fortified and/or the grandest, there is nothing to stop them. Even natural limits and environmental factors seem to be ignored.

However, natural limits and environmental factors may have played a larger part in the fate of the Babelites than previously thought.

One natural limit that seems to come to mind is that of transportation. Usually bricks had to be made as close to on-site as possible, since transportation of the heavy load over long distances would be prohibitively expensive.

Another natural limit is the availability of the building materials themselves. For strong bricks of the mud variety, a brickyard needed good sources of mud, clay, sand, and straw. If they were dried in the sun instead of burnt in a kiln, their useful life was about 30 years. If they were burnt in a kiln, then a plentiful source of fuel was needed to feed the kiln fires.

Another natural limit that comes to mind is that of the natural load capacity and load bearing weight of the bricks themselves. The higher the tower was to be, the larger the base would have to be to support the height, and the greater the load would be on the bricks at the bottom. How high could the tower be before the bricks in it began to fail? Modern brick skyscrapers of brick haven’t been made much taller than 17 or 18 stories.

Did the Babelites care about these limits? Evidently not. They won’t be restrained from anything. So here’s God’s reaction:
7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. (Genesis 11:1-8)
One thing I have learned from the scriptures is that cursings occur most frequently through natural processes, as the wickedness of a people prepares the way for their own punishment. When I recently was reading through this story, I had an easy time visualizing how the insistent demands of the ruling builder class might disregard the importance of conserving environmental resources and lead to the lack of resources to continue building, but I didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation until I ran across a modern article from Human Rights Solidarity called “INDIA: Farmers and the Environment Suffer Mining in Paddy Fields”, by C. G. Baiju which detailed a situation that could be something similar to what Babelites faced.

It starts with excessive clay mining. Commercialization of clay for brick and tile leads to over-harvesting. When proportions are not restricted, the soil fertility is damaged for several years. Gaping chasms from clay harvesting causes the groundwater levels in surrounding agricultural lands to fall, and farmers find their wells and lakes going dry. Soon many inhabitants do not have access to safe drinking water.

In addition, clay mining requires additional labor which must be imported from other areas, whereas agricultural labor employment is low-paying, so agricultural workers are tempted into the higher-paying industries.

The government has no clear plans for how to address the environmental problems caused by clay mining and altercations occur between the farmers and the clay miners.

Examining the story of Babel in light of India’s clay mining shows us that with no prospects for improvement, it is no surprise that Babelites would have left the area for someplace better. How ironic that the very thing they wished to avoid in the first place ended up happening to them anyway.

Concerning the mechanism through which the Babelite’s language was confounded, I have this inner hunch that it may have been Satan confounding the language rather than Heavenly Father. In other scriptures we have much that tells us the difference between God’s workings and Satan’s workings.

We know that the Spirit of the Lord tends toward unity and community and brings about understanding through the bestowal of spiritual gifts. We know that the Lord speaks with plainness to the understanding of men, that He is a God of order, not confusion.

On the other hand, we also know that Satan is the father of contention, that he tries to harden people’s hearts, and he stirs people up to anger so that they fight with each other. We know that Satan prefers to work in darkness and loves to confuse, blind, and otherwise muddy the waters in any way he can.

Here’s how I imagine it might have occurred, in an ancient/modern sort of way:

The ruling classes (the top people) who are making the decisions to build think there should be plenty of good brick and the tower should go upward indefinitely. (“It’s a new paradigm!”)

The workers know good mud is getting scarce.

The farmers notice that water levels are dropping and they are irate that there isn’t enough water for their fields, animals, and families. The farmers also want to know what good this tower is going to do them.

Top people say the tower is good for attracting business. (“If you build it, they will come.”) It’s good for the economy.

The farmers ask who is going to pay for it.

Top people say it is coming from taxes. The farmers hate this idea and protest. (And they get executed in a variety of cruel and unusual ways for their cheekiness.)

The farmers want to know where the labor is going to come from to work on the tower, since it takes more man-hours to build, the higher it gets.

Top people hire additional unskilled labor (or capture slaves?) from surrounding countryside. This influx puts a strain on the food supply and food prices go up. Everyone feels it except the top people, who seem to have plenty of money.

Top people think it should take the same amount of time to build a ten food stack from 100 feet off the ground as it does to build it at ground level. Top people call workers “lazy” and institute productivity quotas.

Some workers begin cutting corners to make their quotas. Other workers get irate and complain that the brick is not good quality because it isn’t being made with all the needed ingredients and ingredients are getting scarcer.

Top people say, “Don’t worry about it; just daub a little extra mud in the cracks and it will be fine.

[tower begins to crumble because it is structurally unsound]

Workers say, “I told you so!” Farmers say, “We’re paying taxes for a tower that’s structurally unsound?!” Top people are aghast, blame the workers for bad workmanship, and search around for ways to patch up the tower.

Workers also demand accidental death insurance benefits for high falls and ask for lifelines and proper safety nets. Top people scoff and subject workers to a variety of cruel and unusual punishments for their cheekiness to suggest such a thing. Top people also call in scabs to break up strikes.

News of rioting and trouble scares away merchants and tourists. Starving and thirsty farmers can’t pay the taxes. Top people can’t pay workers. Workers can’t find good resources to build good bricks.

Starving, thirsty, and impoverished farmers and workers get frustrated at top people, become alienated and go somewhere else, because top people simply will NOT UNDERSTAND what they are talking about.

[construction stops]

So what have I learned from this story? It seems to be a warning against pride and it seems to call attention to how pride can lead to a person into trying to make a reputation for themselves in something. It seems to point to how putting all one’s energy into one pursuit out of pride can lead to neglect of other important concerns and how it can even bankrupt oneself of the resources to pursue that one activity further.

Personal Example: I really like blogging about the scriptures, but am I doing this so much because I want to share insights to help people, or am I doing it because I want to build a towering reputation? If I’m doing it for the rep, not only will I neglect my other duties but I will also diminish the very spiritual resources required to obtain spiritual insights in the first place. Pride destroys spiritual receptiveness—“I don’t want to listen because I’d rather think I know better”—and not only does it cause me to not understand the Lord’s messages to me, it also causes me to not understand the messages of my family, friends, and associates. My language becomes confounded.

We know from various experiences that when two sides to an issue refuse to understand each other, they might as well be speaking different languages, even if they both use the same mother tongue. Communication becomes confounded, with dialect, terminology, grammar, and writing soon to follow as each group tries to exclude the other from the discourse.

There you have it; the story of the Tower of Babel is about how pride destroys communication.

Image: artist unknown, found at Mark Mallet—Spiritual Food for Thought, http://www.markmallett.com/blog/?p=449
Friday, July 17, 2009 0 comments

Exaltation is Mind-boggling

Do you realize that the scriptures give us a pretty good picture of what we will do when we are exalted beings? It’s practically a manual for divine parenthood! When you read, just imagine that you are in God’s place and that all the people are your children.

You’re just waiting for Lehi to pray so that you can reveal things to him.

You have to get David out of the sheepfold over where the Israelite army is so that he can slay Goliath.

Cain is following Abel with an unfriendly look in his eye.

You’ve got a bunch of children who call themselves Gadianton robbers and they’ve taken over the government.

You know Haman is going to become a favorite and want to massacre all the Jews.

You’ve got a bunch of your children who don’t think you exist and think your laws are just constructs of society.

Martin Harris keeps asking for the 116 pages.

The brother of Jared is worried about getting light and air for his barges.

Israel is in rigorous bondage to the Egyptians and when you tell Moses he’s going to lead them out of bondage he’s worried that he can’t speak very well and no one will listen to him.

Paul is heading for Damascus, determined to single-handedly stop Christianity.

Abraham and Sarah are infertile and you know they are supposed to have Isaac.

Alma’s just been run out of Ammonihah.

The U.S. Army has just been dispatched to quell Utah.

Herod’s going to have all the babies in Judea killed because he’s paranoid about the Messiah who he’s heard has just been born and who is supposed to be this great king that will rule the world.

Doesn't that just blow your mind? We're going to be dealing with this kind of stuff. It’s amazing how Heavenly Father takes care of so much.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 2 comments

The Joseph Smith Translation Clarifies Our Accountability for Human and Animal Life

In the story of Noah in Genesis, there are some significant principles clarified in the Joseph Smith Translation about our accountability for life on this planet. Be ready to look for the forms of life and the stages of life that are covered.

First here’s the King James Version:
4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.
6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
7 And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein. (Genesis 9:4-7)
There’s a footnote for verse 4 that points to a Joseph Smith Translation Genesis 9:10-14 in the Appendix.
10 But, the blood of all flesh which I have given you for meat, shall be shed upon the ground, which taketh life thereof, and the blood ye shall not eat.
11 And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands.
12 And whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for man shall not shed the blood of man.
13 For a commandment I give, that every man’s brother shall preserve the life of man, for in mine own image have I made man.
14 And a commandment I give unto you, Be ye fruitful and multiply; bring forth abundantly on the earth, and multiply therein. (JST Genesis 9:10-14)
In the King James version, verse 5 seems to imply that the Lord will hold animals accountable for killing men, but in the JST it clarifies that it is the other way around—the Lord will hold man accountable for the lives of animals and we are given this phrasing: “blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives”. To me this has echoes of D&C 89 admonitions to eat meat sparingly and only use in cold, winter, famine, and excess of hunger. I think this is because Heavenly Father wants animals to enjoy life on earth too and that He hates to see animals be killed only to have their meat wasted.

Next thing we notice is that verses 12 and 13 seem to read in a contradictory way.
12 And whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed;
for man shall not shed the blood of man.
13 For a commandment I give, that every man’s brother shall preserve the life of man, for in mine own image have I made man (JST Genesis 9:12-13)
I don’t know about you, but when I read that, I get mental whiplash.

I think that if the order is changed a little bit it becomes somewhat clearer. Here’s the Michaela Stephens ultra-unofficial translation:

For a commandment I give, that every man’s brother shall preserve the life of man, and man shall not shed the blood of man, for in mine own image have I made man;
But inasmuch as men shed blood, whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood inevitably be shed, for whoso liveth by the sword shall die by the sword, that wickedness be punished by the wicked when the fullness of my wrath come.


Okay, so I added some stuff too, but that seemed to make more sense to me based on what we know of the observations of Mormon and John the Revelator:
But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed. (Mormon 4:5)
He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. (Revelation 13:10)
Giving these principles to Noah after the flood adds to their significance. The violence and blood shed by the wicked world before the flood had just been wiped from under heaven and previous to these verses we readers learn that the Lord will never again destroy the wicked by flood. We’re starting all over again, so here are the rules, the Lord says. I’ve fixed it once, and now I expect you to remember to restrain yourselves because I’m going to let things just run their course and let the wicked destroy each other. So save life.

One reason we are given for this commandment is that man is in the image of God. Considered one way, if you and every one else around is in the image of God, murder would be like sacrilege. Considered another way, the reminder of being in the image of God calls to mind man’s divine origin and destiny—we’re in the image of God, so we came from God, and we’re in the image of God so we can become like God. It is almost like an encapsulated version of the plan of salvation.

I find that I personally really like that addition of the phrase “every man’s brother shall preserve the life of man” because it shows how the Lord is focused on the positive—saving life—and that He’s not just a “thou shalt not” Being.

So how do we stop the violence and the massacres (which various scriptures seem to term “the abomination of desolation”)? If we stop it by massacring the killers, are we any better than them? I remember watching the first part of the movie Persepolis and realizing that if you try to stop systemic violence with revolution, when it gains power, the revolutionary movement can’t seem to stop the violence. Once it purges the worst offenders it doesn’t know when to quit and it has to keep finding scapegoats to retain galvanized support—“them against us”—until it has institutionalized its own brand of violence, which invites another revolution… You get the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, and you get Hutus and Tutsis. And of course we know you also get Coriantumr versus Shiz, and you also get Nephites versus the Lamanites on the Hill Cumorah. The best hope for stopping violence is to bring in the troops, corral the violent, and try them in a court of law for crimes against humanity. (It’s when the violent outnumber those trying to enforce the law that you’re in serious trouble.)

But let’s move on.

The last part of the verses also has this theme of being accountable for life and it seems pretty much the same between the KJV and the JST, but there is one subtle difference. See if you can pick it out.
And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply (King James)
And a commandment I give unto you, Be ye fruitful and multiply (JST)
In the Joseph Smith Translation, the commandment becomes explicit, rather than implicit. I’ve run across some websites that seem to think that the King James version suggests it was not a command but a blessing. The Joseph Smith Translation shows us that it is indeed a commandment. This shows us that not only are we accountable for preserving life once it has started, we are also responsible for bringing new life into the world. (And of course there are right ways and wrong ways to do that…)

In conclusion, we can plainly see from the JST that Heavenly Father really cares about life. He cares about humans (His children) and He cares about animals. He cares about how life starts and He cares about how life ends. I’m glad we have the Joseph Smith Translation to clarify these things for us.
Friday, July 10, 2009 1 comments

Train the Next Generation of Journal Writers

My introduction to journal writing came at a very young age. When I was five years old my mom bought journals for my brother and I.
July 1, 1984
I am writing for Michaela: Today we went to church. We went to primary. We obeyed the gospel. We took the sacrament. Before church we had blueberry pancakes. We got ready for church. We put on our Sunday clothes. I listened to stories from the Old Testament on cassette tape…
We would sit on the couch together, she with my journal and a pen, and I would dictate to her what I wanted her to write in my journal. I cannot adequately explain to you the wonderfully satisfying feeling of power I got from knowing that my mom had to write down EVERYTHING I told her to write. (The five year old gets the control in this situation! How great is this?!) Of course, how much I could say was limited by how fast she wrote, so I would have to wait while she finished writing, yet this helped me figure out what I wanted to say next. And I meanwhile I loved that feeling of power.
Aug 19,1984
We went to church. I love you always. And I love my Heavenly Father. He loves me every night. He always keeps us safe from evil every day. We walked to the chapel. We had a long talk…
Examining the frequency of these early entries, I see that my Mom was pretty consistent in giving us the opportunity to “write” in our journals. For about a year, there was usually one entry per month.

There’s one entry my mom wrote in my journal without my knowledge that today makes me wonder.
Jan 5, 1985
Michaela told me a dream she had. She said she dreamed she died & went to heaven and saw Jesus there. She said she liked it there. She said everything was bright.
I really wish I could remember that dream.

Even back in 1985 I was already very interested in the scriptures.
April 21, 1985
….Alma was a prophet. He went to Ammonihah to preach because they were wicked. They kicked him out and he started home. An angel told him to go back…
This was also the entry in which I began to write in my journal with my own hand, but soon my hand tired and my mom finished the entry for me at my dictation.

Mom kept our journals with hers in the back of a closet. To me this seemed to give them an aura of importance and adultness, so that when she brought them out for us to write in, I felt like I was participating in something of special maturity and significance.

In 1986 there are no journal entries, but they start up again in 1987.
Mar 29,1987
It has been a long time from when I wrote in my journal. On March 28, 1987 I was baptized. Today I was confirmed a member of the church…
A good portion of the rest of the entry is devoted to demonstrating my newest scholastic achievements in mathematics--the art of multiplication. I also chose to demonstrate another new skill—cursive writing—by writing random words in loopy script. I remember that my mother saw this and made a gentle objection that journals were for writing important things and in the future I might look back on that entry and think it was silly. I felt she was right about this, but I continued with the math and the cursive. I continued because deep down those things were important to me at age 8 and I wanted to show my progress, not just tell it. I now look back and I am glad I put it in because seeing the cursive and the numbers reminds me of the feeling I had of achievement. In one way my mom was right—the cursive and the math seems foolish now—but in another way I was right too—putting that stuff in helped me preserve the feeling I had at that time, which was not foolish.

After this, my handwriting takes over and the entries are fewer—about 2 every year until 1990—until the important day of October 20, 1990. On this day, my journaling began to gain a little more traction. You may ask how. Well, on this important day, we had stake conference, and outside the chapel there just happened to be a table of church materials for sale and on that table was a little red journal. I thought that journal was gorgeous. (My other journal that my mom had gotten for me was this big hideous thing of brown and white, which was so thoroughly adult and too thoroughly boooooorrrriinngg for any self-respecting kid. Why couldn’t it have been at least brown and blue like my brother’s?!) I looked at the red journal and I really wanted it. So I bought me that journal. (I don’t know why I had brought money with me to stake conference, but I had.)

Since then, I have filled up least 12 journals, which comes to an average of one every 2.5 years.

Looking back, I don’t know why my mom started us on keeping a journal. Maybe she was inspired. Maybe she had remembered an article in the Ensign that talked about helping children to journal. Maybe she was following counsel from the prophets. The only thing that I wish she had done different was get me a more fun-looking journal. But in every other way, she supplied all the encouragement I needed to become a prolific journal writer. Periodically when something amazing and epic would happen in my life, she would tell me, “You should write about this in your journal!” and explain to me why it was important. Then I would go find my journal to record the event or the sensation. She even taught by example; just about every Sunday she would spend a few hours writing in her own journal, which was always a large sober black book. (I always thought it was odd that she would always buy these black books, when she loved color so much.) By the time I was in college, I was thoroughly hooked on venting in my journal.

If you want to get your young child started on keeping a journal, doing it about once a month is a good way to keep it novel for them so that it doesn’t become a chore. It’s a good activity for a Sunday.

Overall, I think the following principles can help encourage journal-writing in children.

1) Choice in the journal itself
2) Giving service by taking their dictation (by hand or on the computer)
3) Pointing it out when an event is worth recording
4) Giving privacy (when they are older)
5) Being an example of journal writing

Don’t worry if your child acquires a journal for him or herself besides the one you have bought for them. They may be trying to establish their compositional independence. Don’t worry if your child acquires multiple blank books for him or herself. They may be using one book for writings of a one type and another book for writings of a different type. Don’t worry if they begin writing in a journal for a while and then move to a different one after only a few entries. Journal writing is a very tactile operation and they may have decided that the paper doesn’t feel right. Even the choice of pen can make a difference in whether they like to do it or not.

How did you get introduced to journal writing? Do you do anything right now to involve your children in journal writing?
Thursday, July 9, 2009 0 comments

Some Musing on the Availability and Prevalence of Records and Other Sacred Things


…the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.
3 For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.
4 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness. (1 Nephi 3:2-4)
When I read about Nephi going to get the brass plates, I sometimes wonder about the availability of sacred records in Jerusalem at that time. I wonder, were there any other metal copies? Or did Nephi get the master version of the records that everything else was copied from onto papyrus or leather scrolls? Or was the people’s wickedness so great that there was absolutely no appreciation for sacred records--metal or flexible--and the plates weren’t missed?

But I think it says a lot about Jerusalem society that Laban (the record keeper) was such a robber and a murderer at heart. Obviously he wasn’t getting any spiritual benefit from the records, even though he had locked them safely in his treasury. Perhaps he only saw them as a means of increasing his worldly status. That might explain why he reacted so violently to requests for them; giving up the plates may have been tantamount to giving up his important place in the Jerusalem class system with all the coveted privileges that went with the office of record keeper, such as hobnobbing with the city elders (in drunken parties after dark).

What kind of society is it when something so spiritually important (like the scriptures) which is supposed to be widely available to everyone is locked away, and all legitimate means of access are blocked with the threat of murder and only extraordinary measures can free it? (It's a society that is so corrupted that every bit of the word of God has become a "hot button topic" and a recital of any part of the law will offend hearers galore, so in order to prevent any reminder of uncomfortable righteousness, they hide away the scriptures and shout down/mock/silence the prophets.)

The fate (*cough* death *cough*) of Laban could have been what Alma had in mind when he gave his son Helaman charge of the records and warned him to always pray about what he should do with them.
14 And now remember, my son, that God has entrusted you with these things, which are sacred, which he has kept sacred, and also which he will keep and preserve for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations.
15 And now behold, I tell you by the spirit of prophecy, that if ye transgress the commandments of God, behold, these things which are sacred shall be taken away from you by the power of God, and ye shall be delivered up unto Satan, that he may sift you as chaff before the wind.
16 But if ye keep the commandments of God, and do with these things which are sacred according to that which the Lord doth command you, (for you must appeal unto the Lord for all things whatsoever ye must do with them) behold, no power of earth or hell can take them from you, for God is powerful to the fulfilling of all his words. (Alma 37:14-16)
I’m very thankful that Heavenly Father has blessed us with so much technology to make the truth so freely and easily available. The printing press made it easy to make duplicate copies of text. It is a privilege to have my very own copy of the scriptures. The scriptures can be bought for so little money today, which is something that former generations of Saints could have probably only dreamed of. It’s also wonderful that we can read messages from the prophets monthly in a magazine and listen to the prophets over radio, satellite, cable TV, and the internet. The internet is also an enormous blessing. It’s overwhelming how much is available and how many insights about the gospel can be shared through it.

It also has occurred to me that we, like Alma and Helaman, have been entrusted with sacred things, and as freely available as those sacred things are, we must still “appeal unto the Lord for all things whatsoever [we] must do with them”. I believe that Alma’s warning and promise still stands today. If we transgress the commandments of God, the sacred things will be taken from us and we will be delivered up to Satan, but if we keep the commandments, no power of earth or hell can take those sacred things from us.

What are some sacred things that you have been entrusted with and how do you try to keep them safe? How do you know when to share them?

Image: Book of Mormon Online Weblog, http://bookofmormononline.net/blog/for-a-wise-purpose/
Tuesday, July 7, 2009 1 comments

Nuggets from the Scriptures about Belief and Unbelief

Who is the source of unbelief?
And Satan came among them…and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish. (Moses 5:13)
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the flight of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
Does physical evidence cure unbelief?
Behold, if they will not believe my words, they would not believe you, my servant Joseph, if it were possible that you should show them all these things which I have committed unto you. D&C 5:7)
Does it matter how fast we come to believe the truth?
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: (Luke 24:25)
Evidently Christ thinks it is foolish to not immediately believe what prophets say. They’re prophets, for heaven’s sake. They’re on the good side!

Are there penalties for not progressing in belief?
I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. (Jude 1:5)
Evidently believing a prophet in one thing does not mean that we don’t need to also make the effort to believe a prophet in subsequent matters.
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. (John 8:24)
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? (John 3:11-12)
Note Christ’s frustration:
And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? (John 8:45)
Now, for the more positive end…
13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. (Psalms 27:13-14, emphasis added)
If we’re still hanging on, we haven’t lost belief. There may be doubts, but hanging on in spite of doubts means that deep down there is still an expectation that relief will come.
Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (Isaiah 28:16)
“he that believeth shall not make haste – This says to me that those who believe the prophet’s counsel the first time it is given have enough time to follow it, so they don’t have to be hurried and worried in their obedience.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
We are so blessed to know who the true prophets are!

As for the spirits, how do we try them to see if they are of God?
37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. (John 10:37-38)
35 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.
36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light… (John 10:35-36)
This suggests that when we believe, we are given a window of opportunity to obey, and if we don’t act quickly, we begin to question ourselves and second-guess and then we gradually lose motivation to act and then lose the vision we previously had of what could be.
As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. (Mark 5:36, emphasis added)
The ruler had come to ask Jesus to heal his child and had just received news that his child had died. “Be not afraid, only believe” is about keeping the window of possibility open even while cognizant of life’s hard realities.
18 [Abraham] Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb:
20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. (Romans 4:18-21)
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:29)
Long distance belief and belief in what one has not seen is fundamental to the gospel.
13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful. (D&C 46:13-14)
That means second-hand belief is just as valid as first-hand belief, and will lead to first-hand faith and testimony.
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:31)
…whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. (3 Nephi 11:35)
Belief in one member of the Godhead will lead to belief in the others.
I came unto mine own, and mine own received me not; but unto as many as received me gave I power to do many miracles, and to become the sons of God; and even unto them that believed on my name gave I power to obtain eternal life. (D&C 45:8)
Belief in Christ leads to an increase in capability and power.
For I am God, and mine arm is not shortened; and I will show miracles, signs, and wonders, unto all those who believe on my name. (D&C 35:8)
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. (John 14:12)
…after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13)
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed… (2 Tim. 1:12, emphasis added)
Our beliefs can save us from feeling shame when we are persecuted.
And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin… (Alma 24:19)
Belief makes us firm and steadfast.
[Charity] Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (1 Cor. 13:7)
For we which have believed do enter into rest (Hebrews 4:3)
…and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them. (Mosiah 4:10)
Monday, July 6, 2009 2 comments

Ways of Getting Answers from the Scriptures

Today at work when I was reviewing the big stack of textbooks on the shelf looking for useful texts for writing tutoring, I ran across these interesting paragraphs from the book Content Area Reading by Richard T. Vacca, Jo Anne L. Vacca, and I thought it perfectly applied to how we find answers to life’s questions in the scriptures.
A reader draws on two broad information sources to answer questions: information in the text and information inside the reader’s head. For example, some questions have answers that can be found directly in the text. These questions are textually explicit and lead to answers that are “right there” in the text. (Richard T. Vacca, Jo Anne L. Vacca, Content Area Reading, 5th ed., HarperCollins, NY: 1996, p48.)
When I’d get in a situation when I didn’t know what to do, often I’d open the scriptures and find a principle explicitly stated with I could apply to my problem and get a clear answer.
Other questions have answers that require students to think about the information they have read in the text. They must be able to search for ideas that are related to one another and then put these ideas together in order to answer the questions. These questions are textually implicit and lead to “think and search” answers (ibid).
Think and search. Doesn’t that sound like it fits so well with “search, ponder, and pray”? I think this passage has clarified for me just what can go on when I search, ponder, and pray. I can be pondering a question, then searching for the answer in the scriptures, then pondering how what I’ve found might fit together with my previous knowledge. And sometimes the Spirit brings to our memory some scriptural phrases that are applicable. And I pray for understanding when I'm really stuck.

Sometimes I try to think of scripture stories that are similar to the one that I am reading and then I think about how they are the same and how they are different. How is the story of Paul preaching to King Agrippa like or unlike the story of Abinadi preaching to King Noah? How is the story of Joseph helping Pharaoh understand his dreams the same or different from the story of Ammon helping King Lamoni out with the sheep? How is the story of Lehi leaving Jerusalem like or different from the story of the brother of Jared leaving Babel? How is the story of Joseph being sold by his brothers like or different from the story of Nephi’s relationship with his brothers? Is there anything we can learn from those differences or similarities?
Still other questions require students to rely mainly on prior knowledge and experience. In other words, responses to these questions are more inside the reader’s head than in the text itself. These questions are schema-based and lead to “author and you” and “on my own” answers (ibid).
So, when you get the answer “on your own”, the text has gotten you thinking and then you use your prior knowledge to answer the question.

I don’t know how far I’ve gotten into this kind of studying of the scriptures. Do any of you have experiences of this kind to share?
Sunday, July 5, 2009 7 comments

New Blog Templates and the Mighty Change of Heart

I spent a lot of Thursday through Saturday working on adding this new template to my blog. It was a lot of hard work, and when I finished it last night, I was so excited! (I’m sure my husband felt I was bouncing off the walls about it. He said it was making him tired just watching me. Of course, we already were fasting, so he may have been in energy conservation mode.)

Now, getting a new blog template also has some perils that I’m recently discovering. For instance, there’s the “Fear-of-not-being-able-to-write-anything-as-cool-as-the-blog-looks” peril, closely followed by the “Fear-that-everyone-will-be-freaked-out-by-the-sudden-change-and-stop-visiting-the-blog” peril. Of course, you know what this means. I just need to write something and post it no matter what, and the stupider the post, the better, so that I can just get over this hump and be normal again. (grin)

But anyway, I started thinking over the blog-template-changing process, and I realized that there are some spiritual parallels between it and seeking for a change of heart.

I was pretty content with the way my blog was before until I was looking around online and I saw some blog templates that were really neat.

Similarly one of the best impetuses (impetii? impetium? impetusata?) of inner change in our lives is when we discover someone who is so good that we want to become like that. Ultimately, the template we want to adopt is Christ, but good people in our lives can help us see how those attributes look in real life.

I realized that it might be difficult to change my blog template to something new. I didn’t know much about the process, and I realized that if I did it wrong, I might lose the content in my sidebar, which had taken me a while to collect in the first place.

Similarly, we don’t know too much about the process of changing to become something we haven’t been before. When we change, we need to make sure that we don’t lose what good traits we have already acquired. Change can be a turbulent process.

Once I decided I wanted to change my blog’s template, I realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to change all at once. I sensed that I needed to test the template first and find out if it really had what I wanted before I adopted it. So I created another blog as a test. I created one that looked somewhat like my other one and then tried to switch to my new template in it to see what it would look like.

As it happened, the first sight of my new template was terrible. It needed a lot of tweaking. To make it look as advertised, I needed to put in a lot of extra work, more than I expected, in fact. It didn’t have a number of features that I valued on my previous blog. In order to get it working the way I wanted, I needed to look at the HTML and CSS code and study it to figure out what pieces of code did what. This meant I needed previous knowledge of HTML to study the code. Thankfully, I had taken a web programming class… about six years ago. My memories were fuzzy, but I remembered enough to avoid making some silly mistakes.

Similarly, in my life, whenever I have made some significant changes in my life, my first attempts are usually somewhat feeble because I underestimate the amount of effort required. I find I have to do some serious thinking and planning ahead how I should act or react. And often experiences from my deeper past provide just enough working knowledge of how to proceed.

I looked online for help in adding the blog features that I wanted. I found people who had faced the same problem and had figured out how to solve it. I also looked for people who were helping others fix their blog the same way I wanted to fix mine.

Similarly, one way that we get help when we are trying to change is by asking other people we trust how they have made the change in their lives that we want. We can also ask Heavenly Father, who knows all things.

I wanted to add the date to my blog entries, but the template didn’t do that. I finally figured out that there was code that was missing from my template.

In the scriptures, sometimes it doesn’t always say how we can get from point A to point B. We need to get additional knowledge through personal revelation, from the prophet and apostles, or from our leaders.

As I worked on my template, I also found that there were things in there that I didn’t want, which weren’t supposed to be there. I was able to find parts of the code that I didn’t want and get rid of them.

In the scriptures, we can find descriptions of people who chose to disobey the commandments, and it is important that we try to remove from our lives the same negative faults that they had.

I made notes of everything I did as I made all the different changes to the blog template. This really came in handy when the template suddenly got really messed up and I didn’t know what had happened. I had to start all over with a fresh version of the template and redo everything I did before, and my extensive notes of pieces of code that I had used or removed helped me do that really fast so that I didn’t have to start looking for all the information on the internet again.

Similarly, our journals can be a record we keep of what we are doing so that we can go back and see where we may have gone wrong. I have used my journal this way.

When I finally got to the point that the blog template looked just as it should in my test blog, I took the plunge and implemented in this blog. It’s hard to describe my feelings of trepidation as waited for it to load (and it loaded soooo slowly that I was sure something had gone terribly wrong). And when it was finally saved and I viewed my new blog.. YAAAAAAY!!!! Epic WIN!!

The fruits of our careful righteous labors, whether temporal or spiritual, are certainly sweet, especially positive changes we make. Like I said previously, I was practically bouncing off the walls with excitement yesterday after a mere three days of work on this template. I can only imagine how happy I will be when I’ve fully implemented the template of Christ on my life.
Friday, July 3, 2009 0 comments

Spiritual Foundations of Freedom



31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? (John 8:31-33)

26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and call things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. (2 Nephi 2:26-27)

34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
(John 8:34-36)

16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness….
even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness….
22 ….becom[ing] servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (Romans 6:16-19,22)

And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. (Mosiah 5:8)

Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written. (Ether 2:12)

For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth from them unto a remnant of your seed, that the covenant of the Father may be fulfilled which he hath covenanted with his people, O house of Israel; (3 Nephi 21:4)

20 And this shall be my covenant with you, ye shall have it for the land of your inheritance, and for the inheritance of your children forever, while the earth shall stand, and ye shall possess it again in eternity, no more to pass away.
21 But, verily I say unto you that in time ye shall have no king nor ruler, for I will be your king and watch over you.
22 Wherefore, hear my voice and follow me, and you shall be a free people, and ye shall have no laws but my laws when I come, for I am your lawgiver, and what can stay my hand? (D&C 38:20-22)

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)

1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. (2 Thes. 3:1-2)

(also see Doctrine & Covenants 134 on beliefs regarding earthly governments and laws)

Image: from Bring the heat, Bring the stupid; http://xbradtc.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/happy-birthday/american-flag/