Wednesday, October 28, 2009 2 comments

God’s Timing of Birth

Today I was thinking about that desperate plea that Rachel made to Jacob when she finds she is barren.
Give me children, or else I die (Genesis 30:1)
As we know, Rachel finally became pregnant with Joseph much later, after 11 other children were born. And we know that Joseph ended up being sold into Egypt, where he was used as the Lord’s instrument to store food that ultimately saved the house of Israel (and a whole bunch of other people) from being wiped out by starvation. He was raised up for that purpose.

Would this purpose have been fulfilled if he had been born around the same time as Reuben and been one of the oldest of Jacob’s children rather than among the youngest? Would there have been that tension between the brothers? Would he have been sold into Egypt? Probably not.

Did Rachel realize that not getting to have children yet (as painful as it was) would culminate in the temporal salvation of her whole family? There’s no way that she could have known without revelation (And we don't know whether she ever knew.)

Thinking about this has suggested to me that Heavenly Father has good reasons behind His timing of people’s births in families of His Saints and good reasons for birth order. He is planning out not just parents’ lives, but he’s also synchronizing the lives of the children so that they are born at the necessary time that will build up to the fulfilling of His purposes for the maximum development of all of His children. Yet he has to also consider the agency of His children and provide backup plans. Some people may choose to be extraordinarily faithful, while others choose to drift and procrastinate their repentance.

We know that timing in some things for some people seems ideal, and timing for other people seems to be all skiddly-wampus. We can’t know why probably until much later when we get to see the end from the beginning. All we can do is do our part and trust the Lord.
Friday, October 23, 2009 3 comments

What can you do with just six words?

Earnest Hemingway was challenged to write a six-word novel. He came up with the following: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

Can you come up with a six-word sermon for a sacrament talk? Or how about telling a scripture story in six words? Here’s my contributions:

Tempted, tasted, sinned, left the Garden.

Tower of Babel? I don’t understand.

Watched sheep, chopped arms, converted many.

Giant, scary. Boy with sling, fearless.

Prophets: Repent! People: No! God: Good-bye!

Be wise, my son. ‘Nuff’ said.

Prophetic quotations about signs of personal apostasy

You will ask why I have included all of the following quotations. Reading them from the Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Joseph F. Smith manuals brought me to my senses more than a year and a half ago when I was on the road to apostasy. Like a two-edged sword, they cut all my rationalizations and arguments asunder, and they showed me my faults in all their hideous hues. I’m collecting them all together in hopes that it can do someone else good in the same way it did me good. Repentance was a difficult multi-stage process, but through the grace of God I was snatched out of the serpent’s mouth, and I thank the Lord for His infinite mercy.

So, without further ado..
What is that which turns people away from this Church? Very trifling affairs are generally the commencement of their divergence from the right path. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p79)
I give a loud amen to that. Trouble is it doesn’t really seem trifling when you’re in it; rather, it feels like the heavens and the earth are going to rend asunder. Only after it is all resolved in faithfulness is it seen in its proper perspective.

Pride
…if they became unpopular, if their interest or dignity was touched, or if they were detected in their iniquity, they were always the first to raise the hand of persecution, to calumniate [make false charges about] and vilify their brethren, and to seek the downfall and destruction of their friends. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p332)
You hear many say, “I am a Latter-day Saint, and I never will apostatize;” “I am a Latter-day Saint, and shall be to the day of my death.” I never make such declarations, and never shall. I think I have learned that of myself I have no power…. But when I am left to myself, I have no power, and my wisdom is foolishness; then I cling close to the Lord, and I have power in his name. I think I have learned the Gospel so as to know, that in and of myself I am nothing. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p80)
Men begin to apostatize by taking to themselves strength, by hearkening to the whisperings of the enemy who leads them astray little by little, until they gather to themselves that which they call the wisdom of man; then they begin to depart from God, and their minds become confused. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81-82)
Pride and religious hobbies
At other times people who pride themselves on their strict observance of the rules and ordinances and ceremonies of the Church are led astray by false spirits, who exercise an influence so imitative of that which proceeds from a Divine source that even these persons, who think they are “the very elect,” find it difficult to discern the essential difference [Matthew 24:24]. Satan himself has transformed himself to be apparently “an angel of light” [2 Corinthians 11:14; 2 Nephi 9:9]. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, pp116-7)
[Religious] hobbies give to those who encourage them a false aspect of the gospel of the Redeemer; they distort and place out of harmony its principles and teachings….Every principle and practice revealed from God is essential to man’s salvation, and to place any one of them unduly in front, hiding and dimming all others is unwise and dangerous…. Such a view, no matter to what point directed, narrows the vision, weakens the spiritual perception, and darkens the mind, the result of which is that the person thus afflicted with this perversity and contraction of mental vision places himself in a position to be tempted of the evil one, or… to misjudge his brethren and give way to the spirit of apostasy. He is not square before the Lord. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p118)
We have noticed this difficulty: that Saints with hobbies are prone to judge and condemn their brethren and sisters who are not so zealous in the one particular direction of their pet theory as they are. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p118)
…the man with a hobby is apt to assume an “I am holier than thou” position, to feel puffed up and conceited, and to look with distrust, if with no severer feeling, on his brethren and sisters who do not so perfectly live that one particular law. This feeling hurts his fellow-servants and offends the Lord. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”—(Prov. 16:18.) (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, pp118-9)
We all have our strengths, and so it is sometimes hard to tell whether they have become a religious hobby or not. I think some of the things from the above paragraphs are pretty good indications. In short, if consideration of a particular strength of yours causes any of the following, be careful:
  • A feeling of being extra extra extra proud of yourself when you consider a particular strength. (puffed up, conceited)
  • An attitude of “I am holier than you because I do this more than you”
  • Distrusting other saints who you perceive are not as strong in the area of your strength
  • Judging and condemning other saints who are not as strong in the area of your strength
Ambition
They had used that priesthood to attempt to build themselves up and to perform some other work besides the building up of the kingdom of God. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p319)
Many imbibe [conceive] the idea that they are capable of leading out in teaching principles that never have been taught. They are not aware that the moment they give way to this hallucination the Devil has power over them to lead them onto unholy ground; though this is a lesson which they ought to have learned long ago, yet it is one that was learned by but few in the days of Joseph. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
…realize that no man, no individual, no clique, and no secret organization can combine with force and power sufficient to overturn the purposes of the Almighty, or to change the course of His work. Many and many an individual has arisen in times past, and these individuals have been falsely impressed with the idea that they were going to work a wonderful reformation in the Church; they anticipated that in a very short time the whole people would desert their standard, the standard of truth to which they had gathered and around which they had rallied from the beginning of the Church until then. These persons thought the people would follow the “new shepherds,” but the people of God know the voice of the true shepherd, and the stranger’s voice they will not heed, nor the counsels of him who assumes authority that does not belong to him. None such will they ever follow. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p114)
It is in consequence of aspiring men that Kirtland has been forsaken. How frequently has your humble servant been envied in his office by such characters, who endeavored to raise themselves to power at his expense, and seeing it impossible to do so, resorted to foul slander and abuse, and other means to effect his overthrow. Such characters have ever been the first to cry out against the Presidency, and publish their faults and foibles to the four winds of heaven. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p320)
Deceptive spiritual manifestations
When visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or any extraordinary gift or inspiration conveys something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of its constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know that it is not of God, no matter how plausible it may appear. Also they should understand that directions for the guidance of the Church will come, by revelation, through the head. All faithful members are entitled to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for themselves, their families, and for those over whom they are appointed and ordained to preside. But anything at discord with that which comes from God through the head of the Church is not to be received as authoritative or reliable. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p117)
Self-righteousness and finding fault with others
When a man begins to find fault, inquiring in regard to this, that, and the other, saying, “Does this or that look as though the Lord dictated it?” you may know that that person has more or less of the spirit of apostasy. Every man in this Kingdom, or upon the face of the earth, who is seeking with all his heart to save himself, has as much to do as he can conveniently attend to, without calling in question that which does not belong to him. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, pp80-1)
That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p318)
I hope that even in Kirtland there are some who do not make a man an offender for a word. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p320)
Contention
No man gets power from God to raise disturbance in any Branch of the Church. Such power is obtained from an evil source. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
Losing confidence in leaders
If the Saints in Kirtland deem me unworthy of their prayers when they assemble together, and neglect to bear me up at the throne of heavenly grace, it is a strong and convincing proof to me that they have not the Spirit of God. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p319)
If there are any uncharitable feelings, any lack of confidence, then pride, arrogance and envy will soon be manifested; confusion must inevitably prevail, and the authorities of the Church set at naught. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p319)
…the very step of apostasy commenced with losing confidence in the leaders of this church and kingdom, and that whenever you discerned that spirit you might know that it would lead the possessor of it on the road to apostasy. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p318)
One of the first steps to apostasy is to find fault with your Bishop; and when that is done, unless repented of a second step is soon taken, and by and by the person is cut off from the Church, and that is the end of it. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
Whenever there is a disposition manifested in any of the members of this Church to question the right of the President of the whole Church to direct in all things, you see manifested evidences of apostasy—of a spirit which, if encouraged, will lead to a separation from the Church and to final destruction; wherever there is a disposition to operate against any legally appointed officer of this Kingdom, no matter in what capacity he is called to act, if persisted in, it will be followed by the same results; they will “walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities [see 2 Peter 2:10]” (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p80)
People do, however, leave this Church, but they leave it because they get into darkness, and the very day they conclude that there should be a democratic vote, or in other words, that we should have two candidates for the presiding Priesthood in the midst of the Latter-day Saints, they conclude to be apostates. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
Losing confidence in the church
Why do people apostatize? You know we are on the “Old Ship Zion.” We are in the midst of the ocean. A storm comes on, and, as sailors say, she labors very hard. “I am not going to stay here,” says one; “I don’t believe this is the ‘Ship Zion.’ ” “But we are in the midst of the ocean.” “I don’t care, I am not going to stay here.” Off goes the coat, and he jumps overboard. Will he not be drowned? Yes. So with those who leave this Church. It is the “Old Ship Zion,” let us stay in it. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, pp82-3)
There is a certain progression that we can detect in the above signs. Frequently it begins with pride—pride as manifested by complacency, pride in one’s faithfulness and zeal particularly in some area where one has a gospel hobby. Frequently, having someone else suggest that one is carrying a principle to excess can trigger anger and defensiveness. This leads to attack mode and attempting to find fault with the other’s judgment. If the chastisement comes from priesthood leadership, it can lead to hurt feelings, anger. It becomes hard to submit. It becomes easy to contend and gossip. This leads to questioning the leader’s judgment and thinking that they are not inspired and believing that they are committing the sin of unrighteous dominion. This leads to questioning the authority of those who called them to that position, which can lead to disaffection with the whole church for allowing the leader to operate as they are doing.

Disbelief
Some men there will be who would limit the power of God to the power of men, and we have some of these among us and they have been among our school teachers. They would have you disbelieve the inspired accounts of the Scriptures, that the winds and the waves are subject to the power of God; and believe the claim of the Savior to cast out devils, raise the dead, or perform miraculous things, such as cleansing the leper, is only a myth. They would make you believe that God and his Son Jesus Christ did not appear in person to Joseph Smith, that this was simply a myth, but we know better; the testimony of the Spirit has testified that this is the truth. And I say, beware of men who come to you with heresies that things come by laws of nature of themselves, and that God is without power. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p115)
Neglect of duty and breaking the commandments
…no person ever apostatized, without actual transgression. Omission of duty leads to commission. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p80)
The moment you permit yourselves to lay aside any duty that God calls you to perform, to gratify your own desires; the moment you permit yourselves to become careless, you lay a foundation for apostasy. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p318)
…any man, any elder in this Church and kingdom, who pursued a course whereby he would ignore or, in other words, refuse to obey any known law or commandment or duty—whenever a man did this, neglected any duty God required at his hand in attending meetings, filling missions, or obeying counsel, he laid a foundation to lead him to apostasy and this was the reason those men had fallen. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p319)
If the Saints neglect to pray, and violate the day that is set apart for the worship of God, they will lose his Spirit. If a man shall suffer himself to be overcome with anger, and curse and swear, taking the name of the Deity in vain, he cannot retain the Holy Spirit. In short, if a man shall do anything which he knows to be wrong, and repenteth not, he cannot enjoy the Holy Spirit, but will walk in darkness and ultimately deny the faith. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p79)
When men lose the spirit of the work in which we are engaged, they become infidel in their feelings. They say that they do not know whether the Bible is true, whether the Book of Mormon is true, nor about new revelations, nor whether there is a God or not. When they lose the spirit of this work, they lose the knowledge of the things of God in time and in eternity; all is lost to them. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
…at different periods there have been manifestations from delusive spirits to members of the Church. Sometimes these have come to men and women who because of transgression became easy prey to the Arch-Deceiver. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p116)
Notice the progression that occurs in the above paragraphs. Neglecting commandments and refusing to do one’s duty (which is rebellion) leads to loss of the Spirit, which leads to becoming infidel in one’s feelings (or feelings of not wanting to be faithful, feelings of unbelief), which leads to not knowing whether certain fundamental principles are true or not, which leads to vulnerability to deception, which leads to being deceived by Satan.

I believe that the emphasis in this last general conference that was put upon keeping the commandments was intended to help us avoid this particular route to apostasy.

Results of apostasy
You have known men who, while in the Church, were active, quick and full of intelligence; but after they have left the Church…they have become darkened in their minds and everything has become a mystery to them, and in regard to the things of God, they have become like the rest of the world, who think, hope and pray that such and such things may be so, but they do not know the least about it. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p82)
Those who leave the Church are like a feather blown to and fro in the air. They know not whither they are going; they do not understand anything about their own existence; their faith, judgment and the operation of their minds are as unstable as the movements of the feather floating in the air. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p82)
…notwithstanding all the professed determination to live godly, apostates after turning from the faith of Christ, unless they have speedily repented, have sooner or later fallen into the snares of the wicked one, and have been left destitute of the Spirit of God, to manifest their wickedness in the eyes of multitudes. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, pp320-21)
From apostates the faithful have received the severest persecutions. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p321)
Here we see another progression. From uncertainty about the things of God, comes aimlessness and instability of purpose because all foundation of deep meaning for life has been doubted. From this, all foundation for good works seems rooted up and the difference between good and evil becomes confused because the foundations for a sure knowledge have been rejected. Deception tightens its hold and no good influence can stand in the way of the apostate doing worse and worse things without the good influence being condemned wrongly as evil. In this way, genuinely good people are considered evil by apostates, and the apostates will target them with the strongest opposition and persecution.

Belief in certain fundamentals is imperative
There are some great truths in the plan of redemption that are fundamental. They cannot be ignored; none others can be placed before them. The fatherhood of God, the efficacy of the atonement of our Lord and Savior, the restoration of the gospel in these latter days, must be accepted with our whole hearts. We cannot compensate for a lack of faith in these essential doctrines by the most absolute abstinence from things unhealthful, by the rigid payment of tithing on our “anise and cummin” [see Matthew 23:23], or by the observance of any other outward ordinance. Baptism itself without faith in God avails nothing. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p119)
Errors will be righted
The Church of Christ is with the Saints. It has committed to it the law of God for its own government and perpetuation. It possesses every means for the correction of every wrong or abuse or error which may from time to time arise, and that without anarchy, or even revolution; it can do it by process of evolution—by development, by an increase of knowledge, wisdom, patience and charity. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p116)
Confidence in the saints
I believe, too, that the most of the Latter-day Saints are wise enough, that they have sufficient intelligence and a sufficient portion of the Spirit of the living God in their hearts, to decide between truth and error, between right and wrong, and between light and darkness; and I will say I believe they have sense enough to abide by the simple, pure, truthful principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in preference to all the vagaries of philosophers, or of scientists, or of anybody else. There is no science, nor philosophy that can supersede God Almighty’s truth….I believe that the Latter-day Saints know enough about the word of God to know it is His word when they see it and shun whatever is not (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p119-20)
Escaping apostasy
When confidence is restored, when pride shall fall, and every aspiring mind be clothed with humility as with a garment, and selfishness give place to benevolence and charity, and a united determination to live by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord is observable, then, and not till then, can peace, order and love prevail. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p320)
One of the difficulties of leaving the road to apostasy and getting back on the right course is that frequently one’s confidence in oneself shatters. No one ever expects that they will someday be one of those people who has to escape apostasy, so the realization that this has happened to oneself is very hard to take. It’s hard on the ego.

It is easy to begin to question yourself and your decisions constantly, wondering if you are really doing what is right or whether you are about to make a mistake again. It’s very easy to begin over-thinking everything.

The discomfort of doubting yourself can begin to cause you to look back on the days before the “I’ve-been-going-apostate” realization with nostalgia. You begin to miss the days when you used to be sure of yourself and confident of being right.

Eventually you realize that perhaps that confidence that you miss may have been what led to the pride that put you in danger of apostasy. You may begin to realize the absolute necessity of retaining humility. You may become terrified of somehow backsliding.

You may read the scriptures and begin to find that the stories about anti-Christs and the rebellious seem to have much greater depth to you and that you have a more profound understanding about their side, and this will probably distress you. Reading those stories may begin to hurt more than it has before. You may feel afraid of telling others about what you’ve learned because you may fear what it may indicate to them about you.

You may begin to feel that you are terribly wicked. And because of your efforts to remain humble, you may not feel able to fight these feelings without worrying that you are putting yourself at risk of pride again.

It is necessary to transfer one’s faith in one’s self to faith in Christ. Things that helped me were the following:
  • Praying to feel properly sorry
  • Praying for mercy and forgiveness
  • Praying every time I felt tempted
  • Reading the scriptures every day
  • Praying to receive spiritual instruction without criticism or a jaded attitude
  • Confession and submitting to discipline
  • Keeping the commandments carefully
  • Trusting that with Christ’s help I could get through it
It is likely that it may be said that I am a stronger person for having almost apostatized, but that is not true. Strength only comes from depending on the Lord, not from almost apostatizing. Learning to depend on the Lord can be accomplished without apostasy. We have enough trials and afflictions in our lives by which to learn faith in God without needing to dance with the devil.

Like Brigham Young once said, I have learned enough to know that by myself I am nothing. When I conclude to follow the gospel and depend upon the Lord, all will come right, whether in life or eternity, it doesn’t much matter.

I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church. The gospel was restored through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith, and he was a true prophet. I know that the scriptures are true. I know that the above quotations are true. Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet, and the apostles have been called of God. I know that we have to follow our priesthood leaders and keep the commandments, or we will fall into error and Satan will sift us and separate us. It is easy to puff ourselves up with pride, and I know it is important to use the words of God to humble ourselves. I know that prayer can save us from temptation. I know that Christ has made it possible for us to overcome every spiritual difficulty with His help.
Friday, October 16, 2009 0 comments

Spiritual lessons from stories of poisonous serpents


28 And there came prophets in the land again, crying repentance unto them—that they must prepare the way of the Lord or there should come a curse upon the face of the land; yea, even there should be a great famine, in which they should be destroyed if they did not repent.
29 But the people believed not the words of the prophets, but they cast them out; and some of them they cast into pits and left them to perish. And it came to pass that they did all these things according to the commandment of the king, Heth.
30 And it came to pass that there began to be a great dearth upon the land, and the inhabitants began to be destroyed exceedingly fast because of the dearth, for there was no rain upon the face of the earth.
31 And there came forth poisonous serpents also upon the face of the land, and did poison many people. And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee before the poisonous serpents, towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla.
32 And it came to pass that there were many of them which did perish by the way; nevertheless, there were some which fled into the land southward.
33 And it came to pass that the Lord did cause the serpents that they should pursue them no more, but that they should hedge up the way that the people could not pass, that whoso should attempt to pass might fall by the poisonous serpents.
34 And it came to pass that the people did follow the course of the beasts, and did devour the carcasses of them which fell by the way, until they had devoured them all. Now when the people saw that they must perish they began to repent of their iniquities and cry unto the Lord.
35 And it came to pass that when they had humbled themselves sufficiently before the Lord he did send rain upon the face of the earth; and the people began to revive again, and there began to be fruit in the north countries, and in all the countries round about. And the Lord did show forth his power unto them in preserving them from famine. (Ether 9:28-35)
As I was reading this story again, I was struck by this idea of poisonous serpents hedging up the way, poisoning many people, and preventing them from escaping famine conditions. The poisonous serpents reminded me of the snake in the Garden of Eden, which tempted our first parents to eat the fruit.

So I began to look for other scriptures that mentioned poisonous serpents, serpents, and poison.
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. (Matthew 23:13)
This sounds like the scribes and pharisees were hedging up the way spiritually.
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
34 ¶ Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: (Matthew 23:33-34)
This sounds like the spiritual parallel of how the serpents were making the people flee and try to escape.

Other human counterparts of poisonous serpents
And it came to pass that Amalickiah caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti, that he died. (Alma 47:18)
Amalickiah is definitely a poisonous person. He poisons Lehonti and then he appoints men to speak from towers against the Nephites to poison the Lamanites’ hearts and stir them to anger against the Nephites
They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips. (Psalms 140:3)
Filthiness poisons
And again, he saith: If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the chaff thereof in the whirlwind; and the effect thereof is poison. (Mosiah 7:30)
This suggests to me that breaking the commandments can poison us against the truth.

Be cautious that no poison is administering among you
30 And many times did they attempt to administer of their wine to the Nephites, that they might destroy them with poison or with drunkenness.
31 But behold, the Nephites were not slow to remember the Lord their God in this their time of affliction. They could not be taken in their snares; yea, they would not partake of their wine, save they had first given to some of the Lamanite prisoners.
32 And they were thus cautious that no poison should be administered among them; for if their wine would poison a Lamanite it would also poison a Nephite; and thus they did try all their liquors. (Alma 55:30-32)
I’ve noticed that it really helps to cultivate and ask for the gift of discernment to be able to discover whether some spiritual influence is poisonous or healthy. And if I recognize that something is consistently embittering and poisonous, is it really smart to keep going to it? Umm… no.

If we have been poisoned, we can be healed
20 And now, my brethren, I have spoken plainly that ye cannot err. And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them…and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved. (2 Nephi 25:20)
We learn here that Christ has power to heal us if we have been poisoned spiritually with unbelief, doubt, fear, etc. We have to “cast our eyes” upon Him, or believe in Him and come unto Him.

In Ether, we get a fascinating epilogue, which can give us hope.
And it came to pass that Lib also did that which was good in the sight of the Lord. And in the days of Lib the poisonous serpents were destroyed…(Ether 10:19)
It is significant that it says that the poisonous serpents were completely destroyed just after it says that the king did what was good. This shows us that when we do good, that destroys the influence of Satan. This anticipates the future Millennial reign of Christ when Satan will be bound and have no power to tempt because of the righteousness of the people.

Image from Telegraph.co.uk, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/3372712/Snakes-kill-more-than-90000-around-the-world.html, Getty Images.
Monday, October 12, 2009 3 comments

“Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers”

I was looking through old conference talks on lds.org today and I ran across this one from Elder Ballard from October 1999. It certainly woke ME up.
Brothers and sisters, the exact time of the Second Coming is known only to the Father (see Matt. 24:36). There are, however, signs that scriptural prophecy relating to that tumultuous day is being fulfilled. Jesus cautioned several times that prior to His Second Coming, "many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many" (Matt. 24:11). As Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is our duty to be watchmen on the tower, warning Church members to beware of false prophets and false teachers who lie in wait to ensnare and destroy faith and testimony. Today we warn you that there are false prophets and false teachers arising; and if we are not careful, even those who are among the faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will fall victim to their deception.

President Joseph F. Smith gave wise and clear counsel that applies to us today:

"We can accept nothing as authoritative but that which comes directly through the appointed channel, the constituted organizations of the Priesthood, which is the channel that God has appointed through which to make known His mind and will to the world. . . . And the moment that individuals look to any other source, that moment they throw themselves open to the seductive influences of Satan, and render themselves liable to become servants of the devil; they lose sight of the true order through which the blessings of the Priesthood are to be enjoyed; they step outside of the pale of the kingdom of God, and are on dangerous ground. Whenever you see a man rise up claiming to have received direct revelation from the Lord to the Church, independent of the order and channel of the Priesthood, you may set him down as an imposter" (Gospel Doctrine, 41–42).
Lovely reminder, wouldn’t you say? No matter the uplift or encouragement I receive through blogs, if I look to that instead of to priesthood channels for direction, I make myself vulnerable to Satan.

I realize this post could probably be accused of being hypocritical for focusing on a 10-year-old talk when we’ve just had general conference. I can only say this topic felt important to me, so I wanted to share my thoughts about it and point out how it is applicable today.

And what is this idea about “losing sight of the true order through which the blessings of the Priesthood are to be enjoyed”? To me this doesn’t just mean blessings that come from priesthood ordinances. To me it also means that certain blessings come from obeying our priesthood leaders that can be obtained in no other way. It also seems to suggest that we can trust that if true direction comes, it WILL come through that channel.

As for that bit about people rising up claiming direct revelation for the church independent of the order of the priesthood, it seems to me that that is particularly liable to happen in the Blogosphere with all our independent voices posting and discussing and commenting and critiquing and evaluating. For my part, it’s far too easy for me to become convinced that my writing is of utmost importance for everyone to read.
When we think of false prophets and false teachers, we tend to think of those who espouse an obviously false doctrine or presume to have authority to teach the true gospel of Christ according to their own interpretation. We often assume that such individuals are associated with small radical groups on the fringes of society. However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church. There are those who, without authority, claim Church endorsement to their products and practices. Beware of such.…

President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us that the prophets "constantly cry out against that which is intolerable in the sight of the Lord; against pollution of mind, body, and our surroundings; against vulgarity, stealing, lying, pride, and blasphemy; against fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and all other abuses of the sacred power to create; against murder and all that is like unto it; against all manner of desecration."….

Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God's true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They "set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion" (2 Ne. 26:29).
This made me think really hard, because I admit I’ve often wondered if there was a way to “monetize” this blog. It also made me think about whether I’m posting things just to try to get favorable comments. Do I employ sophistry (the use of fallacious arguments with the intent to deceive)? Am I seeking the welfare of Zion or am I just trying to make myself look smart?
Of such President Joseph F. Smith warned when he spoke of the "proud and self-vaunting ones, who read by the lamps of their own conceit; who interpret by rules of their own contriving; who have become a law unto themselves, and so pose as the sole judges of their own doings" (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 381).
Just reading that paragraph punctured all kinds of ego bubbles for me.

Self-vaunting = self-praising and boasting
Reading by the lamps of one’s own conceit = reading to learn of your own greatness, rather than to learn where you need to repent
Interpreting by rules of one’s own contriving = deliberate use of artifice to create rules of interpretation. (I suppose this refers to “wresting the scriptures” to try to justify what we know is wrong but is so convenient that we want to do it anyway)
Becoming a law unto ourselves - happens when we are not willing to abide the law of the celestial kingdom, but instead want to make our own rules and therefore think that no one else is qualified to judge us because we think we are a special case.
Now let me give you a few examples….

False prophets and false teachers are those who declare that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a duplicitous deceiver; they challenge the First Vision as an authentic experience. They declare that the Book of Mormon and other canonical works are not ancient records of scripture. They also attempt to redefine the nature of the Godhead, and they deny that God has given and continues to give revelation today to His ordained and sustained prophets.

False prophets and false teachers are those who arrogantly attempt to fashion new interpretations of the scriptures to demonstrate that these sacred texts should not be read as God's words to His children but merely as the utterances of uninspired men, limited by their own prejudices and cultural biases. They argue, therefore, that the scriptures require new interpretation and that they are uniquely qualified to offer that interpretation.
This worries me, considering that many of my posts examine scripture stories. It seems to suggest that I need to make sure that the tone (or the spirit) of my writing is uplifting and encouraging, confirming and demonstrating how the scriptures were inspired and unlimited by the prejudices and cultural biases of the writers. It’s easy today to explain away the marvelous works of God. It’s harder to look deeper with an eye of faith until you see where the contradicting truths meet together in a holy unity. Everything that is good and holy comes from God, and there are definite differences between what is "politically correct" and what is "holy".
Perhaps most damningly, they deny Christ's Resurrection and Atonement, arguing that no God can save us. They reject the need for a Savior. In short, these detractors attempt to reinterpret the doctrines of the Church to fit their own preconceived views, and in the process deny Christ and His messianic role.

False prophets and false teachers are also those who attempt to change the God-given and scripturally based doctrines that protect the sanctity of marriage, the divine nature of the family, and the essential doctrine of personal morality. They advocate a redefinition of morality to justify fornication, adultery, and homosexual relationships. Some openly champion the legalization of so-called same-gender marriages. To justify their rejection of God's immutable laws that protect the family, these false prophets and false teachers even attack the inspired proclamation on the family issued to the world in 1995 by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles.
I think one manifestation that we see today is rhetoric that talks about how people are driven away from the church because they feel so ashamed after their particular sin has been denounced. I really think that Satan tries to make people feel that they ARE their sin so that they feel they are personally being attacked. The twisted logic goes something like this. “God/the prophet/my priesthood leader doesn’t like this sin. I have troubles with this sin. Therefore, God/the prophet/my priesthood leader doesn’t like me.” Satan wants us to think that the connection between us and our sins and flaws is so strong as to be unbreakable so that he can get us to think of us and our sins and flaws as synonymous. This can lead to attempts to redefine morality when really what is needed is determined submission to the truth, and a priesthood-led journey of repentance toward sanctification through the Atonement of Christ.
Regardless of which particular false doctrines they teach, false prophets and false teachers are an inevitable part of the last days. "False prophets," according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, "always arise to oppose the true prophets" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 365).

However, in the Lord's Church there is no such thing as a "loyal opposition." One is either for the kingdom of God and stands in defense of God's prophets and apostles, or one stands opposed.…
Let us examine that term “loyal opposition”. Why does Elder Ballard believe that there is no such thing as loyal opposition in the Lord’s church? We might put ourselves in this camp when we profess to support the principles and the commandments and the prophets, but disagree with how policies are carried into effect. What we might not realize is that not only must the Lord’s commandments be put into effect, but they must be put into effect in the Lord’s way, which is higher than man’s way. And if the natural man thinks the things of God are foolish, revelatory policy decisions will probably be considered foolish as well.

What other types of behavior might make us label ourselves the “loyal opposition” (which is really just opposition)? One might be the tendency to try to soften the commandments of God to try to make them more palatable to the world. The truth is that unless society is righteous, the commandments will be unpopular. The truth is that the wicked world will always take the truth to be hard. It used to be that when we upheld the standards we were at least respected for it. Now, we have to uphold them even when we feel we are being made to look foolish and intolerant.
Let us remember that it is our duty to be faithful to the restored truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It takes faith--real faith, total and unreserved--to accept and strive to live prophetic counsel. Lucifer, the adversary of truth, does not want us to feel or exhibit that kind of faith. He encourages disobedience, planting defiance in the hearts of the unwary. If he is successful, they will turn away from the light into the darkness of the world.
This reminds me of the words of Christ that say false prophets can be known by their fruits. You can’t get grapes from thorns or figs from thistles.
Our safety, our peace, lies in working as hard as we can to live as the Father and Son would have us live, in fleeing from false prophets and false teachers, and in being anxiously engaged in good causes.
Monday, October 5, 2009 2 comments

Why Christ wanted Malachi 3 in the Book of Mormon

There’s an evangelical website that I go to every once in a while just to see what kinds of discussions they have, and one post they had last week was about passing the plate in church. The comments on the post went back and forth between the topic of the most appropriate way to solicit offerings without being disruptive or how to make it seem less uncomfortable and the topic of tithing.

I had to put my little oar in and testify to the truthfulness of the principle of tithing and the blessings that come from it. (I suppose I also got carried away and started suggesting things they should do. I used a lot of shoulds.)

The blog owner replied to my post, “Can you justify tithing as part of the new covenant? No.”

I read that and thought, surely there must be something in the scriptures about tithing! So I went and looked in the Topical Guide under “tithing” and I also looked under “tenth”. You know what? I only found three instances in the New Testament about tithing. Here they are:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matthew 23:23)
But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Luke 11:42)
9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14)
So I felt kind of frustrated and wondered how there was such an oversight. I couldn’t believe that Jesus would not say something about it.

Well, yesterday in my scripture study I was reading in 3 Nephi and I ran across chapter 24.
And it came to pass that he commanded them that they should write the words which the Father had given unto Malachi, which he should tell unto them. And it came to pass that after they were written he expounded them… (3 Nephi 24:1)
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say: Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house; and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the fields, saith the Lord of Hosts. (3 Nephi 24:8-11)
For many years I have wondered just why these chapters were included. And now it’s clear to me that Heavenly Father knew that people would try to argue that tithing was no longer a commandment after the Law of Moses had been done away. If it had been done away, Jesus would not have given Malachi’s words about tithing to the Nephites. The repetition of them demonstrated they were still in force.
Sunday, October 4, 2009 3 comments

-ity Virtues and –ity Vices

After H. David Burton’s talk today about –ity virtues, I became curious about what –ity words were out there and what an examination of their definitions could teach me. I found a lot of –ity words, both virtues and vices. So I decided to list them all, find out their definitions, and group them and order them. Lo and behold, I started to see some patterns. (Definitions are taken from my Oxford American Dictionary widget for Macintosh. (Also, some definitions are adapted and synthesized from root words.)) Note the progressions of word and definitions.

-ity Virtues

maturity – the state, fact, or period of being mature. Fully developed physically, full-grown. Having reached an advanced stage of mental or emotional development characteristic of an adult. Careful and thorough in planning and thought. Implies gaining wisdom, experience, or sophistication as well as adulthood.
nobility – the quality of being noble in character, mind, birth, or rank. Showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals
sanctity – the state or quality of being holy, sacred, or saintly; ultimate importance and invioluability
sublimity – of much excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration and awe
eternity – infinite or unending time, a state in which time has no application, endless life after death, used euphemistically to refer to death,
divinity – the state or quality of being divine, study of religion

legality – the quality or state of being in accordance with the law
authority – the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience; the right to act in a specified way, delegated from one person or organization to another
dignity – state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect, composed or serious manner or style, self-respect
inviolability – never to be broken, infringed, or dishonored
solemnity – the state of being serious and dignified
gravity – extreme or alarming importance, seriousness or solemnity of manner
equity – quality of being fair and impartial
docility – ready to accept control and instruction, submissive

morality – principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior, behavior as affected by these principles, a particular system of values or principles of conduct, the extent to which an action is right or wrong, behavior or qualities judged to be good

verity – a true principle or belief especially one of fundamental importance
veracity – conformity to facts, accuracy, habitual truthfulness
integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness, the state of being whole and undivided, unified, unimpaired, sound in construction, internal consistency or lack of corruption
sincerity – free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings of a person saying what they genuinely feel or believe, not dishonest or hypocritical
tenacity – not readily letting go of, giving up, or separated from an object that one holds, a position, or principle; not easily dispelled or discouraged, persisting in existence or a course of action
sedulity – showing dedication and diligence

purity – freedom from adulteration or contamination, freedom from immorality, especially of a sexual nature
chastity – the state or practice of refraining from extramarital, or especially all sexual intercourse
fidelity – faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support; sexual faithfulness to a spouse; the degree of exactness with which something is copied or reproduced

sagacity – having or showing good judgment
clarity – quality of being clear, in particular, quality of coherence and intelligibility, quality of being certain or definite, quality of transparency or purity
lucidity – expressed clearly; easy to understand; showing ability to think clearly especially in periods of confusion
assiduity – constant or close attention to what one is doing
brevity – concise and exact use of words in writing or speech
curiosity- a strong desire to learn or know something,

vitality – the state of being strong or active, energy; the power to give continuance of life, present in all living things
salubrity – health-giving, healthy
ability – capacity to do something, talent that allows someone to achieve a great deal, a level of mental power
capacity – the ability or power to do, experience, or understand something
activity – the condition in which things are happening or things are being done
agility – able to move quickly and easily
alacrity – brisk and cheerful readiness
celerity - quickness
dexterity – skill in performing tasks, especially with the hands

frugality – sparing or economical with regard to money or food; simple, plain, or costing little
utility – state of being useful, profitable, beneficial. A measure of that which is sought to be maximized in any situation involving a choice, useful, able to perform several functions
ingenuity – the quality of being clever, original, and inventive

diversity – the state of being diverse, variety; a range of different things
unity – a state of being united or joined as a whole, harmony or agreement between people or groups, forming a complete and pleasing whole
community – feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals
amity – a friendly relationship
affinity – a spontaneous liking or sympathy for someone or something, relationship especially by marriage rather than blood ties, degree to which a substance tends to combine with another
joviality – cheerful or friendly
lenity – kindness, gentleness
geniality – friendly and cheerful, pleasantly mild or warm
charity – voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money to those in need, an organization set up to do so, kindness and tolerance in judging others, love of humankind typically in a Christian context

humility – a modest or low view of one’s own importance. A low sense of pride
civility – formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech, polite remarks used in formal conversation. In early use, it denoted good citizenship and orderly behavior
urbanity – showing courteousness and refinement of manner

felicity – intense happiness, ability to find appropriate expression for one’s thoughts, particularly effective feature of a work of literature or art
jollity – lively or cheerful activity or celebration
jocosity – playful or humorous

stability – the state of being stable. Not likely to change or fail; firmly established.
serenity – state of being calm, peaceful, untroubled
placidity – not easily upset or excited

-ity Vices

vanity – excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements. The quality of being worthless or futile
pomposity – affectedly and irritatingly grand, solemn, or self-important
uppity – self-important, arrogant
indignity – treatment or circumstances that cause one to feel shame or to lose one’s dignity
disunity – disagreement or conflict within a group
enmity – the state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something
hostility – unfriendliness or opposition
animosity – strong hostility
malignity – evil in nature or effect: malevolent; speaking about someone in a spiteful and critical manner
acidity – the bitterness or sharpness of a person’s remarks or tone
severity – (of something bad or undesirable) very great, intense; strict or harsh
asperity – harshness of tone or manner
pugnacity – eager or quick to quarrel
lividity – furiously angry
morbidity – characterized by or appealing to an abnormal and unhealthy interest in disturbing and unpleasant subjects especially death and disease.
brutality – savagely violent, without any attempt to disguise unpleasantness
ferocity – the state of being savagely fierce, cruel, or violent
barbarity – extreme cruelty or brutality, absence of culture or civilization

laxity – not sufficiently strict or severe, careless, relaxed, loose, involving laziness or indifference
ambiguity – uncertainty or inexactness of meaning, lack of decisiveness or commitment resulting from a failure to make a choice between alternatives
velleity – having a wish not strong enough to lead to action
passivity – accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance, made unreactive, containing no force
futility – incapable of producing any useful result, pointless

vacuity – having or showing a lack of thought or intelligence, mindless
stupidity – lacking intelligence or common sense, unable to think clearly
vapidity – offering nothing that is stimulating and challenging
banality – so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring
inanity – silly, stupid
fatuity – silly, pointless
puerility – childishly silly or trivial
frivolity – not having any serious purpose or value
tenuity – lack of solidity or substance, thinness
levity – humor or frivolity, especially the treatment of a serious matter with humor or in a manner lacking of respect
salacity – manner of treating sexual matters indecently, indicating undue interest or enjoyment in the subject
profanity – blasphemous or obscene language, oaths, irreligious or irreverent behavior. Not sacred.
vulgarity – lacking in sophistication and good taste, unrefined. Making explicit and offensive reference to sex or bodily functions: coarse and rude.
obscenity – an extremely offensive word or expression, (of the portrayal or description of sexual matters) offensively or disgusting by accepted standards of morality and decency. Offensive to moral principles. Repugnant.
impurity – condition of being mixed with foreign matter, adulterated, dirty, morally wrong especially in sexual matters, defiled or contaminated according to ritual perscriptions
crudity – in a natural or raw state, not yet processed or refined, not adjusted or corrected, constructed in a rudimentary or makeshift way. (of an action) showing little finesse or subtlety and as a result unlikely to succeed. (of language, behavior, or a person) offensively coarse or rude especially in relation to sexual matters
carnality – relating to especially sexual, needs and activities
iniquity – immoral or grossly unfair behavior
depravity – moral corruption, wickedness

cupidity – greed for money or possessions
rapacity – marked by greed, grasping
inequity – lack of fairness or justice
disparity – a great difference (economic)
paucity – scarcity of something

falsity – not according with truth or fact; incorrect. Not according with rules or law. Appearing to be the thing denoted: deliberately made or meant to deceive. Artificial, feigned, illusory, not actually so. Treacherous, unfaithful
rascality – a mischievous person or cheeky person or child, a dishonest person
mendacity – untruthful
duplicity – deceitfulness, double-dealing
venality – susceptible to bribery
dacoity – an act of armed robbery commited by a gang in India or Burma

This shows me that there is progression in virtues and regression in vices.
Saturday, October 3, 2009 4 comments

Lesser Lights, Greater Lights

14 And the Gods organized the lights in the expanse of the heaven, and caused them to divide the day from the night; and organized them to be for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years;
15 And organized them to be for lights in the expanse of the heaven to give light upon the earth; and it was so.
16 And the Gods organized the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; with the lesser light they set the stars also;
17 And the Gods set them in the expanse of the heavens, to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to cause to divide the light from the darkness. (Abraham 4:14-17)

Recently in our family scripture study, my husband and I read through these verses. A few days later, we were out on a late night walk next to a canal that runs near our subdivision and the full moon was beginning to rise in the sky to our right. There were no streetlights along the canal, so we were thankful for that moon-gleam.

My husband must have been ruminating on the moon because he turned to me and said, “I think it is interesting how the light of the moon is bright enough that we can see each other and where we are going. I can see you, I can see the road we are walking on, and if I didn’t know the sun existed, I might think this was all I needed.”

Then he said, “I think it is also interesting that in life some people are like the sun. They always seem to be at their best, even when it’s hard. You can always count on them. Then there are other people who are like the moon. They seem to go through waxing and waning cycles in which part of the time they set a pretty good example and then another part of the time they don’t, or they even seem to disappear. You can’t always count on them.”

I thought that was an interesting perspective on degrees of glory. I hadn’t thought of it quite like that before. It was also unexpected to have an observation like that come through consideration of the creation story.

But what he said definitely made me want to be like the sun. Sometimes I feel too much like a body that waxes and wanes. I go through stages in which I gladly project what I stand for, but then I go through stages in which I find myself searching for more, and I feel like I become like some sort of sun-sponge, trying to soak in as much good as I can from the everything around me in preparation for the next solar flare or solar prominence. During my really rough times I feel like I’m a black hole of neediness, sucking the strength out of everyone. (Deep down I know I’m really not, but sometimes I feel that way.)

When I was taking an astronomy in class, I learned that our sun goes through an internal cycle by which it tries to maintain something called “hydrostatic equilibrium”. (The “hydro” part is in there because the sun is made out of hydrogen). The cycle goes like this: The hydrogen in the core fuses together to produce helium, and in the process, creates energy (heat and light). The explosiveness of the process causes the sun to expand. But the gravity of the star causes the mass of the star to contract into the center. When these expansive and contractive forces are balanced, there is equilibrium. But there is constant rebalancing.

I figure our lives are kind of like this when we have different demands and priorities pulling at us. We achieve a kind of equilibrium by balancing and rebalancing, correcting and re-correcting.

Something I also learned was about sunspots. I learned that sunspots happen as the sun’s magnetic field is twisted by its rotation, kind of like a rubber band wrapped multiple times around a ball. The tension causes little magnetic storms called sunspots and eventually the tension breaks and then the twisting starts again. Yes. Suns feel tension too. Suns have storms too. And they are visible to others, but it doesn’t affect the amount of light we are getting to a dangerous degree.

I think that says to me that it is natural to have tension in our lives and have those storms from time to time. Just because we have that doesn't mean we aren't doing our best and doesn't mean we aren't on track towards eternal life in the celestial kingdom. It says to me that the good effect we have and the light that we share is far greater than the tension we deal with.

Image: Third Grade Discoveries, http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blog_id=826749.

Inage: Windows to the Universe, http://www.windows.ucar.edu/sun/images/sunspots_big_jpg_image.html