Wednesday, June 29, 2011 0 comments

Adam’s temporary fall

And this is the genealogy of the sons of Adam, who was the son of God, with whom God himself, conversed.” (Moses 6:22)
I previously took it for granted that when it says God conversed with Adam it meant in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. But now I’m not so sure it just means that. Plus, if the bit about Adam as “the son of God” just means Adam was created by God or that Adam’s spirit was begotten by God, we wouldn’t be learning anything new.

BUT!! If it means that Adam was born again of God and that he eventually attained such righteousness that he was brought back into the presence of God and conversed with God face to face, then we would really learn something truly precious, something worthy of the Pearl of Great Price. That would mean that Adam had obeyed the gospel, depended upon Christ’s atonement, and put off the natural man and became a saint. It would mean that through his faith in Christ, he had overcome his own fall. It would mean that Adam didn’t remain in his fallen state and that neither should we.
Sunday, June 26, 2011 0 comments

That the house be not broken up

In Joseph Smith--Matthew, Jesus tells some of the signs of His coming. One part recently caught my attention.
46 And what I say unto one, I say unto all men; watch, therefore, for you know not at what hour your Lord doth come.
47 But know this, if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to have been broken up, but would have been ready.
48 Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.
49 Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
50 Blessed is that servant whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing; and verily I say unto you, he shall make him ruler over all his goods. (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:46-50
if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to have been broken up—This could be applied to the disintegration of the family. If we knew when Satan was going to attack, we could keep that disintegration from happening. But wait! We do know. The prophets have warned us and continue to warn us. We know how mothers are being attacked. We know how fathers are being attacked. We know how children are being attacked.

Also, since the house is spoken of in context of the church, the warning could also be to the church to watch so that it isn’t broken up (possibly by faction and dissention).

As for the servant who is made ruler over the household, this can be applied in a number of ways—parents, class teachers, presidencies, bishops, stake presidents, all the way to the prophet.

Giving meat in due season can be sharing with the hungry (and giving fast offerings). It can also be teaching and preaching doctrine when it is badly needed. (“Feed my sheep.”)
51But if that evil servant shall say in his heart: My lord delayeth his coming,
52And shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken,
53The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
54And shall cut him asunder, and shall appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (JS-Matthew 1:51-54)
It is and always has been a temptation to give up our standards and set aside our covenants and join in the wickedness that goes on around us. It’s made to appear so normal. But this leads to kicking against the pricks, losing the Spirit, and then persecuting the Saints, and fighting against God.

There may come a day when we will suffer persecution if we don’t go along with evil, when we will feel like giving in because things are so bad and Christ hasn’t come yet. This is why we are warned to be ready, to watch, and to give meat in due season, and to treasure up the word.

When I was reading through Joseph Smith—Matthew, it was very helpful to me to look for and highlight the instructions that Jesus gave for us to do to prepare. The signs of the Second Coming are undeniably scary, so focusing on what to DO is comforting.
Friday, June 24, 2011 0 comments

In the beginning, there was taxonomy…


In the book Glut: Mastering Information Through The Ages there is the story told of anthropologist Brent Berlin walking through the Peruvian rainforest with a guide from the local Aguaruna tribe. Berlin listened as his guide pointed out the names of all the plants and animals they encountered. The tribe had developed an elaborate taxonomy of their own to classify and categorize the living things around them.

Berlin also discovered later that folk taxonomies are startlingly complex in order to organize their understanding of plants and animals. History credits Linnaeus and Aristotle with starting to catagorize living things, but it is suspected that the practice goes further back. It would be highly useful to learn very quickly what plants and animals were poisonous and harmful and which weren't.

When I read about this, I instantly thought of some verses I had recently read in the Pearl of Great Price:
19 And out of the ground I, the Lord God, formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and commanded that they should come unto Adam, to see what he would call them; and they were also living souls; for I, God, breathed into them the breath of life, and commanded that whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that should be the name thereof.
20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but as for Adam, there was not found an help meet for him. (Moses 3:19-20)
Here’s a really cute poem I found more than a year ago that seems to bring this event to life:
Adam’s Task, by John Hollander

And Adam gave names to all cattle, and
to the fowl of the air, and to every
beast of the field...GEN 2:20


Thou, paw-paw-paw; thou, glurd; thou, spotted
Glurd; thou, whitestap, lurching through
The high-grown brush; thou pliant-footed,
Implex; thou awagabu.

Every burrower, each flier
Came for the name he had to give:
Gay, first work, ever to be prior,
Not yet sunk to primitive.

Thou, verdle; thou, McFleery’s pomma;
Thou; thou; thou--three types of grawl;
Thou flishket; thou. kabasch; thou, comma-
Eared mashawk; thou, all; thou, all.

Were, in a fire of becoming,
Laboring to be burned away,
Then work, half-measuring, half-humming,
Would be as serious as play.

Thou, pambler; thou, rivarn; thou, greater
Wherret, and thou, lesser one;
Thou, sproal, thou zant; thou, lily-eater.
Naming’s over. Day is done.

(from Selected Poetry (New York: Knopf, 1993)
I think it says something about God's love for us and desire for us to learn that He allows us to make our own names for things. He wants us to discover for ourselves. I think it is also neat that He uses our names for things when He communicates. In a certain sense, it is another example of the condescension of God.

Image: SchoolWorkHelper—St. Rosemary Educational Institution, http://schoolworkhelper.net/2010/07/scientific-taxonomy/
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 0 comments

Wherefore Enos prophesied also

Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begat Enos,
and prophesied in all his days, and taught his son Enos in the ways of God; wherefore Enos prophesied also. (Moses 6:13)
This has a great principle in it. We can pass spiritual gifts on to our children if we use them our whole lives and teach our children the ways of God. I know I learned how to bear testimony from the example my parents set and from what they taught me.

What spiritual gifts did your parents model for you?

All thy words will I justify

When God first calls Enoch to be a prophet, Enoch wonders why he has been called, since he is slow of speech and everybody hates him. This is the typical “reluctant prophet syndrome.” Enoch probably was perfectly content to valiantly follow his leaders in the righteous land of Cainan. But if Enoch came from a righteous land, why did he say everybody hated him? Hmmm. I suppose that in Cainan the people were able to bear with his slow speaking, but when he started traveling around, he found people were much more impatient. And they probably hated him for his goodness.

God tells him,
32 …Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance, for all flesh is in my hands, and I will do as seemeth me good.
33 Say unto this people: Choose ye this day, to serve the Lord God who made you.
34 Behold my Spirit is upon you, wherefore all thy words will I justify; and the mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course; and thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me. (Moses 6:32-34)
I suppose if Enoch felt he wasn’t a good speaker and he was hated, his social status couldn’t get much worse.. He could only get better. Yet, he could have refused.

So Enoch puts his whole heart and soul into saying what the Lord wants him to say. I suspect he had a very hard time at the beginning. It says “Enoch went forth in the land, among the people, standing upon the hills and the high places, and cried with a loud voice, testifying against their works; and all men were offended because of him.” (v37) What he said annoyed the natural man and how he said it was, from a worldly perspective, probably not artistic at all, but somehow the Spirit reached them and they couldn’t keep away, whether they believed or not. (Have you ever known people like that?) The people say to each other, “Tarry ye here and keep the tents, while we go yonder to behold the seer, for he prophesieth, and there is a strange thing in the land; a wild man hath come among us.” (v38) Perhaps he was a bit of a loose cannon at first, but those who believed what he said already considered him a seer and knew he prophesied.

Here was their reactions:
And it came to pass when they heard him, no man laid hands on him; for fear came on all them that heard him; for he walked with God. (Moses 6:39)

And as Enoch spake forth the words of God, the people trembled, and could not stand in his presence. (Moses 6:47)

…all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him. (Moses 7:13)
We may think that Enoch’s words were magic somehow, but their power lay in his priesthood and speaking with the Spirit. When he said something was going to happen, it came to pass, so people couldn’t dismiss him. Yes, the wicked became his enemies, and they fought against him, but they couldn’t dismiss him.

This is what caused me to want to pay closer attention to what Enoch said, to see if I could feel what his people felt.

Is there anything that impresses you about the words of Enoch in the Pearl of Great Price?
Monday, June 20, 2011 2 comments

In which bad cooking teaches me the consequences of disobedience

If I were to craft an analogy of myself as a cook, I would have to say that I am a stunt devil who persistently sky-dives with a faulty parachute. This is why my husband is the main cook in the family. His products can be relied upon to sustain life. Mine can’t.

One of my endeavors was something called “Orange Spiced Sweet Potatos”. I am always looking for interesting things to do with vegetables, and I’m also looking for ways to incorporate unfamiliar vegetables into my diet, so this sounded to me like a winner. It sounded exotic. And it was a crock-pot recipe, so I could precook it! SCORE!

The fact that it called for orange juice when there was no orange juice left in the house didn’t faze me; I simply used a juice blend (apple, peach, raspberry, and blueberry). The fact that it called for pecans when the grocery store didn’t carry pecans didn’t faze me either. Walnuts would do just as well. (You’d think that I would go and do the things which the recipe had commanded, but noooooo…) And I was not going to put in the entire ½ cup of butter that it called for. My husband and I are trying to preserve our figures. I put in half of that.

Too bad I started it at 7pm at night and my slow cooker didn’t have any faster settings than four hours. I decided to cook it for ten hours instead and get up at 4am to turn it off. (You’d think I’d see what this was setting me up for, but did I? Nooooo..)

During the cooking process, my husband observed that it smelled like an aromatic candle. It was a pleasant scent, to be sure.

When I finally tasted my Nominally-Orange-But-Really-Apple-Peach-Raspberry-Blueberry-Spiced-Sweet-Potatoes (hereafter referred to as Juice Blend Sweet Potatoes), my first impression was that I had RUINED it, but as I put down the spoon, my mouth decided ALL BY ITSELF that it wanted some more. So I ate another spoonful. And again, didn’t really like it, but my mouth was still intrigued and wanted more. (Has that ever happened to you when some part of your body decides it has its own opinion about something in complete contradiction to your own conscious assessment? I don't get it.)

When my husband tried some, his description of the flavor of Juice Blend Sweet Potatoes was that it was “violent”. My husband is not a food critic. (Well, he is sort of, but he’s not the kind who gets paid to tell restaurants they stink.) He’s also not the most talkative and wordy fellow. BUT, on this occasion his word “violent” was fitting, fitting in every way. If you could taste domestic violence, that’s what my Juice Blend Sweet Potatoes was like. Somehow the piquancy evoked flying projectiles, bruises, verbal abuse, and calls to the police. All of that happening IN YOUR MOUTH. The flavors REALLY fought with each other.

Now, despite his scruples, my husband mastered himself enough to try a serving. (This shows you just HOW MUCH he loves me. He will attempt to eat my cooking. When I cook.) We didn’t know if we could take Juice Blend Sweet Potatos undiluted, so we decided to buffer it with sizable chunks of pumpkin bread.

The mixed-buffered effect was better, but still questionable. And after one bowl, I couldn’t STAND the idea of eating any more EVER AGAIN. Never mind that we could try it as the recipe was actually written. We didn’t want to risk it. After some dithering and indecision, I asked my husband to perform an act of mercy for me and dispose of my Juice Blend Sweet Potatoes while I went someplace where I couldn’t see what happened to it or hear it scream.

This incident, happened at least a year ago and today I have shared it with you for an INSTRUCTIVE PURPOSE. (No, it is not to say, “It is risky to come have dinner at our house.”)

Notice, when I try a recipe and I don’t follow the directions, and then it turns out badly, I tend to say, “Ohhh, that was so awful! I don’t think I want to try that recipe again!” I am afraid to actually follow it completely for fear that it still won’t work out. Now, get this. I discovered this messed up attitude of mine was skewered in the scriptures. This is part of the consequences of disobedience that the Lord describes in the Doctrine and Covenants:
Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled? I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing. Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled (D&C 58:31–33).
Ohhhh, the shame. (hides eyes)

So, all you bad cooks out there, we must REPENT and follow the recipe!

Oh, and by the way, repent of all that sin stuff too.
Saturday, June 18, 2011 3 comments

Seeing double names in the Book of Moses?

There's an interesting duality that is being set up throughout the Book of Moses. It has to do with duplicated names. (I really wish I could find the internet source that first pointed this out to me. I tried to find it, but I couldn't.)

* There is Enoch the son of Cain, and there is the holy Enoch who builds the city Zion, preaches, and walks with God.
* Cain's Enoch built his own city too, but it wasn't Zion.
* There is the righteous land of Cainan, where the good Enoch came from (Moses 6:17,41), and there is the bad people of Canaan (Moses 7:6-8) who live in a hot, barren, cursed wilderness and who destroy people.
* There is the good Lamech, the father of Noah, and then there is the bad Lamech, who killed his great grandfather.
* There is Methusael (great-grandson of the bad Enoch) and then there is Methuselah (son of the good Enoch).

We are being shown the two possible ways we can go. One leads up, the other leads down. We are shown the author of each way, and the consequences of each way. They each have their organization and their covenants, but one is counterfeit of the other. One leads to life, the other leads to death. We choose which one we take.
Thursday, June 16, 2011 2 comments

The house that Cain built

In Moses 5:41-56, the sordid story of Cain’s family is set forth. What makes this story odd to a reader (and it does seem odd) is the way we are given a jumble of small bits of information that seems to have little if anything to grab onto and learn from.
41 And Cain was shut out from the presence of the Lord, and with his wife and many of his brethren dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.
42 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bare Enoch, and he also begat many sons and daughters. And he builded a city, and he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.
43 And unto Enoch was born Irad, and other sons and daughters. And Irad begat Mahujael, and other sons and daughters. And Mahujael begat Methusael, and other sons and daughters. And Methusael begat Lamech.
44 And Lamech took unto himself two wives; the name of one being Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah.
45 And Adah bare Jabal; he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and they were keepers of cattle; and his brother’s name was Jubal, who was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.
46 And Zillah, she also bare Tubal Cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron. And the sister of Tubal Cain was called Naamah.
47 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah: Hear my voice, ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech; for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.
48 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech shall be seventy and seven fold;
49 For Lamech having entered into a covenant with Satan, after the manner of Cain, wherein he became Master Mahan, master of that great secret which was administered unto Cain by Satan; and Irad, the son of Enoch, having known their secret, began to reveal it unto the sons of Adam;
50 Wherefore Lamech, being angry, slew him, not like unto Cain, his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain, but he slew him for the oath’s sake.
51 For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret combination, and their works were in the dark, and they knew every man his brother.
52 Wherefore the Lord cursed Lamech, and his house, and all them that had covenanted with Satan; for they kept not the commandments of God, and it displeased God, and he ministered not unto them, and their works were abominations, and began to spread among all the sons of men. And it was among the sons of men.
53 And among the daughters of men these things were not spoken, because that Lamech had spoken the secret unto his wives, and they rebelled against him, and declared these things abroad, and had not compassion;
54 Wherefore Lamech was despised, and cast out, and came not among the sons of me n, lest he should die.
55 And thus the works of darkness began to prevail among all the sons of men.
56 And God cursed the earth with a sore curse, and was angry with the wicked, with all the sons of men whom he had made;
57 For they would not hearken unto his voice, nor believe on his Only Begotten Son, even him whom he declared should come in the meridian of time, who was prepared from before the foundation of the world.
58 And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Moses 5:41-58)
Principles and doctrines are noticeably absent and it is hard to grab onto enough to form even a cautionary tale. (Why should we care that Jabal was the father of those who dwelt in tents or that Tubal Cain instructed every artificer in brass and iron? Why give us a map of Lamech’s genealogy and posterity if they were wicked? Why do we care that Lamech told his wives about the murder he committed? Why would he tell them if he was part of a secret combination? Why is this included in the Pearl of Great Price? What is valuable about it?)

The first thing I did when studying this section was to pray to understand it and learn from it. (Always smart to do when confused.) Then I started by comparing the verses in this block to the verses in Genesis 4. The Genesis account ends abruptly after Lamech reveals the murder to his wives, so I knew that everything after that in Moses 5 is supposed to throw some light on it.

Verse 49 reveals that Lamech killed Irad. Who is Irad? Suddenly the genealogy in v42-43 becomes important; Irad is Lamech’s great grandfather. What an enormous crime to kill someone so instrumental in giving you life! And notice how Lamech refers to his victim—“I have slain a man..” Irad is only “a man” to Lamech.

Verse 50 says that Lamech killed Irad for the sake of the oath and not to get gain. We learn what kind of oath this was from Ether 8:13 in which Akish makes his family and friends take the oath that if they should vary from the assistance asked of them or divulge what was made known to them, they should lose their lives. This is evidently what Irad did—he made known their secret. The only reason that I can think of for Irad to expose those secret combinations is if he wanted to escape them and work to make an end of them. It seems that Irad had begun to repent. But Lamech would not tolerate that, even if Irad was his great grandfather. So he killed him. So we can clearly see that Moroni’s words about secret combinations are true; the devil uses these oaths to keep men in darkness (Ether 8:16), to make the cost of repentance seem too high and discourage anyone from leaving secret combinations.

Verse 51 tells us this secret combination was from the days of Cain, with works in the dark, and they knew every man his brother. It was a family matter, and everyone knew everyone else who was in on it and Cain involved his posterity in it.

Verse 52 says the Lord cursed Lamech and his house. How terrible that all Lamech’s family had to share in that curse. This may have been why Lamech came to his wives in the first place, to get the torment of the murder off his chest. “Hear my voice, ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech; for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.” (v47) It sounds like a confession, but it isn’t, since he conceals his relationship to the victim and even tries to cover his tracks and deflect investigation by calling his victim a “young man.” All he wants is sympathy for the hurt he feels for committing this grave sin. His wives are the ones closest to him; he should at least have some rest around them, shouldn’t he?

You have to give Adah and Zillah credit. Rather than comforting him, they manifest the proper feeling—outrage. “They rebelled against him, and declared these things abroad, and had not compassion.” (v53) And because of the big stink Adah and Zillah made, no other man in these secret combinations dared to tell his wife(s) anything about their involvement in secret combinations, for fear their wife(s) would react the same way as Adah and Zillah. “And it was among the sons of men. And among the daughters of men these things were not spoken because that Lamech had spoken the secret unto his wives, and they rebelled against him” (v52-53). The secret combinations didn't kill Lamech, though, because he hadn't revealed the secret combination; he had just revealed the murder. (Another reason why Lamech was so cagey.) Yet to put on a show of respectability for their wife(s), those of the secret combination had to publicly repudiate Lamech. “Wherefore Lamech was despised, and cast out, and came not among the sons of men, lest he should die.” (v54)

Something else that stuck out to me was where it said “Wherefore the Lord cursed Lamech, and his house, and all them that had covenanted with Satan; for they kept not the commandments of God, and it displeased God, and he ministered not unto them” (v52). These people were not ignorant of the gospel and the commandments; they had been taught the truth. They knowingly disobeyed.

And even though Lamech’s sons were talented people—Jabal could make tent living comfortable and deal very well with cattle, and Jubal was an amazing musician and music teacher, and Tubal Cain excelled at working with brass and iron (v45-46)—even with their great talents, they were cursed for their wickedness and we are told that “their works were abominations, and began to spread among all the sons of men.” (v52) They used their talents for evil and corrupted others as well, when they could have been a great benefit instead.

I’m sure there is more to learn from this section. When I started looking at this scripture block, it seemed to be a mishmash, but once you get into it, you begin to see that it is actually a story (and a cautionary one) like a three act play, where even the seemingly unimportant details become significant eventually. Actually, from another perspective, it is perfectly organized. All you have to do is think of questions those verses answered and we see how the Lord revealed this to Joseph Smith in response to his questions.

v49 answers the question “Who did Lamech kill?”
v50 answers the question “Why did Lamech kill Irad?”
v51 answers the question “How long was this going on?”
v52 answers the question “Did they know it was wrong?”
v53 answers “How did Lamech’s wives react when they learned Lamech had committed murder?” and “How did everyone else react?”
v55 answers “Did this stop secret combinations?”
v56 answers “How did God feel about it, and how did He try to stop it?”

Ultimately, the greatest thing that we learn from this scripture block that we don’t get from the Genesis account is that God was not pleased with what Cain and his family was doing. We learn God tried everything in His power to reclaim them by having repentance preached to them (v58), that He became angry with them (v56) for their stubbornness and finally punished them by cursing both them (v52,56) and the earth (v56). While the Genesis account makes it seem as if God is ambivalent about all this wickedness and violence and didn’t do anything to try to reclaim them or punish them, the Moses account shows us that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that He will strive with man to repent until they utterly reject Him.
Monday, June 6, 2011 2 comments

Important Counsel from President Monson’s Apr. 2011 talk “The Holy Temple—A Beacon to the World”

It’s time to scour President Monson’s talk for important counsel.
During the October general conference in 1902, Church President Joseph F. Smith expressed in his opening address the hope that one day we would “have temples built in the various parts of the [world] where they are needed for the convenience of the people.”

During the first 150 years following the organization of the Church, from 1830 to 1980, 21 temples were built, including the temples in Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Illinois. Contrast that with the 30 years since 1980, during which 115 temples were built and dedicated. With the announcement yesterday of 3 new temples, there are additionally 26 temples either under construction or in preconstruction stages. These numbers will continue to grow.

The goal President Joseph F. Smith hoped for in 1902 is becoming a reality. Our desire is to make the temple as accessible as possible to our members.?
How wonderful that President Monson calls our attention to the prophetic hope expressed by Joseph F. Smith a century ago that temples would be built in various parts of the world for our convenience! I imagine that not many people were aware of that. (I wonder how many other little-known temple-focused prophecies have been uttered in this dispensation? What a great topic for someone to research!) For my part, in my patriarchal blessing it states that “temples will dot the earth” and I would often wonder to myself just what “dot” meant. As a teenager, I thought that it was pretty well fulfilled already. And then came that famous general conference announcement by President Hinckley that he had set the goal to have 100 temples built by 2000, and I quickly realized that my conception of “dot” was too limited.

I think President Monson brings up the history of temple building to remind us of the great progress that has occurred in temple-building over the last few decades. There is a danger that we may become complacent and forget what a great blessing it is that new temples are being built.

Yet when President Monson says, “These numbers will continue to grow,” is it possible that temple-building may yet accelerate even further? It may be. Considering my estimations of “dot the earth” have been too limited before, I am obliged to believe that President Monson prophesies of more to come.

President Monson recounts two very touching stories of people who sacrificed their comfort and means and even their family togetherness to meet their goal of going to the temple to seal their families for eternity. These two stories are similar in two important respects—great sacrifice was made, and many years after the great sacrifice was made, a temple was built close by. I believe that President Monson wants us to understand that the way that we qualify for more temples among us is to sacrifice to go to them. I know that is true because I’ve been able to see it happen in my own life at least twice. When my husband and I lived in Austin, Texas, we made the decision to go to the temple at least once a month. The nearest temple was in Houston, which was a three-hour drive one way. It was three hours to drive down, two hours in an endowment, and then three hours back, which meant that we were sacrificing a day to go. I think we did that for a year. Then a temple was announced to be built in San Antonio, Texas, which would cut the travel time in half. (Excitement!) Then we moved to Chandler, Arizona and we found that travel time to the temple was about 20 minutes! Going once a month was suddenly… too easy. So we decided to step it up a notch and go once a week. We did that for maybe two or three years. And it seems there were enough other people who were going that often or more frequently that a new temple was announced in Gilbert, Arizona, not five miles from where we live!

I’m not telling these things to boast, but to show that I’ve seen how temples come to people who use them and sacrifice to attend.

In his talk, President Monson seems to have taken great pains to point out a number of different ways that people have sacrificed to obtain the blessings of the temple. The Kirtland temple was built even when the church members were extremely poor. They sacrificed time and labor. The Salt Lake Temple was built over 40 years of sacrifice. The story of the 100 saints of Manaus illustrates a sacrifice of traveling over great distances in great discomfort and hardship. The story of the Mou Tham family illustrates how family togetherness was sacrificed over a number of years in order to ensure family togetherness through the eternities. (I found this an incredibly daring venture. For a married couple to make it through those years apart it would take great faith and loyalty.)

President Monson highlights the sacrifice involved:
Some degree of sacrifice has ever been associated with temple building and with temple attendance. Countless are those who have labored and struggled in order to obtain for themselves and for their families the blessings which are found in the temples of God.

Why are so many willing to give so much in order to receive the blessings of the temple? Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings. There are never too many miles to travel, too many obstacles to overcome, or too much discomfort to endure. They understand that the saving ordinances received in the temple that permit us to someday return to our Heavenly Father in an eternal family relationship and to be endowed with blessings and power from on high are worth every sacrifice and every effort.
We love adventure stories and quests, but we are overlooking that the rewards of temple attendance are so great that the quest to attend the temple makes all those adventure stories pale in comparison. Because the quest to attend the temple is REAL! And it is right in front of us! [1]
Today most of us do not have to suffer great hardships in order to attend the temple. Eighty-five percent of the membership of the Church now live within 200 miles (320 km) of a temple, and for a great many of us, that distance is much shorter.

If you have been to the temple for yourselves and if you live within relatively close proximity to a temple, your sacrifice could be setting aside the time in your busy lives to visit the temple regularly….

If you have not yet been to the temple or if you have been but currently do not qualify for a recommend, there is no more important goal for you to work toward than being worthy to go to the temple. Your sacrifice may be bringing your life into compliance with what is required to receive a recommend, perhaps by forsaking long-held habits which disqualify you. It may be having the faith and the discipline to pay your tithing. Whatever it is, qualify to enter the temple of God. Secure a temple recommend and regard it as a precious possession, for such it is.
It seems that President Monson is pointing out that there are as many ways of sacrificing to go to the temple as there are life situations. He also commended those who wake up early in the morning to do baptisms for the dead before going to school. (Man, how I wish I could have lived that close to a temple when I was a teen!)

When I was a teenager, I sacrificed band performances to go to the temple. Our high school band played pep band on Friday evenings for football games in the fall and for basketball games in the winter. Attendance was required. This was also the time when youth temple trips were scheduled to visit the Chicago temple, a two-hour drive away. Youth temple trips only happened a few times a year, so when one came up, I made sure to go and let my band teacher know I was going to be absent from pep band that night. I don’t know if my grade was ever docked, but I was determined to go to the temple even if it was. I knew that what I was doing at the temple had eternal significance and was far more important than a band grade. Maybe it was a small sacrifice, but I was pleased to make it.

President Monson says something very interesting when he addresses parents of young children.
To you parents of young children, may I share with you some sage advice from President Spencer W. Kimball. Said he: “It would be a fine thing if … parents would have in every bedroom in their house a picture of the temple so [their children] from the time [they are] infant[s] could look at the picture every day [until] it becomes a part of [their lives]. When [they reach] the age that [they need] to make [the] very important decision [concerning going to the temple], it will have already been made.”
I notice that he doesn’t say anything about going to the temple in this case. This shows how well aware he is of parents’ difficulty of leaving very young children with a babysitter to go to the temple. He doesn’t push for a sacrifice to visit the temple, but suggests a sacrifice of taking the trouble to get temple pictures for each room so that the concept of temples can be introduced to children at a young age.

I remember when I was young and the Ensign carried a picture of the San Diego temple. I was so excited. I had never seen such a beautiful building. I decided that I wanted to be married in that temple. My parents got me a picture of that temple which I put up in my room. I also took it with me to college. As it turned out, I actually got married in the Chicago temple, but my younger brother got sealed in the San Diego temple and I was able to be present for that. It was a real treat for me to finally go inside. (insert happy sigh here)

Isn’t it wonderful to know that even though we may have our own personal favorite temple, each temple is the house of the Lord?
Until you have entered the house of the Lord and have received all the blessings which await you there, you have not obtained everything the Church has to offer.
Strong words, and true.

President Monson has a number of other pieces of counsel sprinkled through his talk which I picked out.
  • Qualify for a temple recommend
  • Secure a temple recommend
  • Regard your temple recommend as a sacred possession
  • Always have the temple in your sights.
  • Do nothing which will keep you from entering its doors and partaking of the sacred and eternal blessings there.
  • Teach your children of the temple’s importance.
Now, I don’t know if you remember when President Monson gave this talk, but I remember what I felt when he said these words:
Now, my brothers and sisters, may I mention one more temple before I close. In the not-too-distant future as new temples take shape around the world, one will rise in a city which came into being over 2,500 years ago…
When he said that, my eyes got really big and I thought to myself, Oh my gosh, is he going to talk about a temple in Jerusalem?!! I happen to know at least 15 other people had the same thought. You probably had the same reaction. And then when he went on, “I speak of the temple which is now being built in Rome, Italy.” Oh man, that was a bit of a letdown, but then I had to laugh at myself for getting all excited. But then, who wouldn’t? We’ve witnessed the temple announced and rebuilt in Nauvoo, Illinois. Then there’s the temple in Palmyra, New York. Those are pretty amazing. We’ve witnessed more temples being announced than at any other time in the world! Who can fault us for expecting miracles?

Soooo, having gone through this little prophetic fake-out, I had to wonder just why President Monson wanted to draw our attention to the temple being built in Rome. I confess that I didn’t catch his point while he was speaking, which is why I love that these messages are transcribed and sent to us for us to study. So here’s what I read over and over and pondered:
Every temple is a house of God, filling the same functions and with identical blessings and ordinances. The Rome Italy Temple, uniquely, is being built in one of the most historic locations in the world, a city where the ancient Apostles Peter and Paul preached the gospel of Christ and where each was martyred.

Last October, as we gathered on a lovely pastoral site in the northeast corner of Rome, it was my opportunity to offer a prayer of dedication as we prepared to break the ground. I felt impressed to call upon Italian senator Lucio Malan and Rome’s vice-mayor Giuseppe Ciardi to be among the first to turn a shovelful of earth. Each had been a part of the decision to allow us to build a temple in their city.
Finally, it became evident to me that President Monson felt a deep connection to the apostles and saints of the church in former days. I can imagine President Monson looking around at all the monuments of Rome’s ancient greatness and thinking of Paul and Peter—his fellow servants though separated by almost 2000 years—who gave their valiant witness to Rome’s ancient government officials and then suffered painful death. How significant that the city that once drove the former-day church to meet in secret in the catacombs now allowed a temple to be built in Rome’s precincts. Once, ancient government officials had rejected the apostles and put them to death. Now they had decided to allow a temple to be built. No wonder President Monson was happy to ask Italian senator Lucio Malan and Rome’s vice-mayor Giuseppe Ciardi to help break ground.
As the magnificent choir sang in Italian the beautiful strains of “The Spirit of God,” one felt as though heaven and earth were joined in a glorious hymn of praise and gratitude to Almighty God. Tears could not be restrained. In a coming day, the faithful in this, the Eternal City, will receive ordinances eternal in nature in a holy house of God.
Can you imagine the rejoicing on the other side of the veil? Can you imagine the satisfaction of the ancient apostles and saints at this event? High fives all around! Victory dances! Hosanna shouts! Hallelujah choruses!
Each [temple] stands as a beacon to the world, an expression of our testimony that God, our Eternal Father, lives, that He desires to bless us and, indeed, to bless His sons and daughters of all generations. Each of our temples is an expression of our testimony that life beyond the grave is as real and as certain as is our life here on earth. I so testify.
I never thought that temples could be an expression of our testimony in this way, but I see now the President Monson is right. We call them “The House of the Lord” because we believe and are sure that the Lord lives and that He visits these houses. We strive to qualify to go there and urge others to qualify to go because we have a testimony that the Lord really wants us to come to His House where He can bless us. We return there after receiving our own ordinances because we have faith and a testimony of life after death and that it is just as important for our dead to receive what we have as it is for us to obtain it. So every trip to the temple is an act of testimony to those principles.
My beloved brothers and sisters, may we make whatever sacrifices are necessary to attend the temple and to have the spirit of the temple in our hearts and in our homes. May we follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who made the ultimate sacrifice for us, that we might have eternal life and exaltation in our Heavenly Father’s kingdom.
We can sacrifice because Christ sacrificed for us. Without His sacrifice, none of this would be possible. I have a firm testimony of this.

Questions for teachers to ask while teaching from this talk:
• When you were first able to go to the temple, what was the closest temple? What sacrifices did you make to go on temple trips? What was it like and how did you feel?
• What kind of sacrifices do you make NOW to go to the temple?
• What obstacles have you overcome to make it to the temple?
• If you grew up with member parents, how did your parents build a desire in you to go to the temple?
• Will you share what you have done to try to acquaint your children with the importance of the temple?
• How do you feel your life is different because of going to the temple?
• Question to ponder: What obstacles keep YOU from going to the temple?

Possible Object Lesson—How long is forever?

Bring a roll of twine or yarn and some scissors to class. Ask one class member at the very back left of the classroom to hold the end of the string as you unroll it. At the front-middle of the classroom, cut the string and ask someone to hold it for you. Ask a class member at the opposite back corner of the classroom to hold another piece of the string and unroll it as you walk to the front center of the class. Cut the string so that you have two long separate pieces of string stretching through the classroom.

Tell the class that the string coming from your left represents your pre-mortal life and the string coming from your right represents your life after mortality. Tie the two pieces together and tell the class that the knot represents earth life.

Share your feelings about the opportunity the temple offers us to be with our families forever.

Notes

1 At this point, the writer part of me perked up my ears and realized that in the struggle to get to the temple is certainly a worthy conflict to be portrayed in Mormon fiction. It could combine the elements of the quest with all varieties of opposition—man versus man, man versus nature, man versus government, man versus time, man versus poverty, man versus self, etc.
Saturday, June 4, 2011 2 comments

Of pearls, margin marks, and giants

In my scripture study I’ve been doing something new that I haven’t done before. I’ve been trying to pick out exactly what is in the Pearl of Great Price that is an addition to what is in Genesis. I want to know what really makes it a “pearl of great price.”

Here’s what I've been doing:
  1. When I start a new chapter in Moses, I compare it to what is in Genesis.
  2. In Genesis, I put a '<' in the margin where more was revealed to Joseph Smith.
  3. In Moses, I draw a line in along the margin of all the text also found in Genesis so that I can tell at a glance exactly where Joseph Smith’s revelations start and end. (This makes it so that I don't have to keep flipping back and forth between the two accounts.)
  4. Then I start asking myself questions about the newly revealed parts like, “What does this have that made it something Heavenly Father wanted us to know?” “Why is this information in here?” “What does this imply that Genesis didn’t?”
Sometimes it looks like the added stuff is almost an afterthought, but when I sit and think about it for a while, I begin to see things I never thought of before.

I’ll give you a small example. In Genesis 6:4 says, “There were giants in the earth in those days” That’s all we are told, that they existed. In Moses 8:18 it says, “And in those days there were giants on the earth, and they sought Noah to take away his life; but the Lord was with Noah, and the power of the Lord was upon him.”

So Genesis tells us there were giants. We think, Wow! Giants! And we are impressed. But Moses adds that those giants wanted to kill Noah, which is not very impressive behavior. It this point I started wondering, Why is this in here? What can this teach me? It came to me: Those men were physical giants, yet they were spiritual midgets. Pygmies, as it were.

The cool thing was that even though Noah had giants trying to assassinate him, the Lord was with him and gave him power. I can’t help but wonder if there’s a David-and-Goliath type story behind that, or a Nephi-versus-Laban type story, or a Jesus-passed-out-of-the-midst type story. Whatever it was, we learn being a spiritual giant trumps being a physical giant.

So I have two questions for you:
  1. Regarding the study method I have described, have you done this before? If so, what did you learn?
  2. Concerning spiritual giants, how would you complete this sentence?: “A spiritual giant is one who____________.”
Thursday, June 2, 2011 0 comments

Enoch tells of Adam’s baptism and how God taught Adam the gospel

Previous to now I had read Enoch’s discourse in Moses 6:41-68 and I don’t know what I thought it was, but I wasn’t very impressed with it. But this time, I happened to notice something extraordinary that I had never noticed before—Enoch’s discourse has nested inside of it a fairly hefty conversation that God had with Adam on the first principles of the gospel (possibly excluding verse 54, which seems to be Enoch explaining how the doctrine of little children’s innocence was extrapolated). Here it is:
51 And he [God] called upon our father Adam by his own voice, saying: I am God; I made the world, and men before they were in the flesh.
52 And he also said unto him: If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be given you.
53 And our father Adam spake unto the Lord, and said: Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water? And the Lord said unto Adam: Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden.

54 Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world. [I think these are Enoch's thoughts]

55 And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying: Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.
56 And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves, and I have given unto you another law and commandment.
57 Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge, who shall come in the meridian of time.
58 Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:
59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;
61 Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.
62 And now, behold, I say unto you: This is the plan of salvation unto all men, through the blood of mine Only Begotten, who shall come in the meridian of time.
63 And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me.
64 And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.
65 And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.
66 And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever;
67 And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.
68 Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen. (Moses 6:50-58)
It is described:
-how the voice of the Lord commanded Adam to do all those basic principles of the gospel,
-how Adam questioned the need to repent and be baptized,
-and how the Lord answered this question and taught about:
  • the fallen nature of man,
  • the agency of man,
  • the need for repentance,
  • the purity of the kingdom of God,
  • the coming judgment,
  • the way baptism is a rebirth,
  • and the role of the Holy Ghost.
  • And at the end, God identifies these teachings as the plan of salvation.
And when God had taught these things, Adam understood he needed to repent and be baptized, and he wanted to obey, and we can tell because it says “when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried to the Lord.” Adam undoubtedly prayed expressing his repentance and desire to be baptized, since the Lord does not force repentance or baptism upon anyone. “And he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.” (v64) After that, he experienced a spiritual rebirth as the Spirit of God descended upon him, and to make sure Adam knew what was happening to him, God’s voice out of heaven told him what he was feeling:
66 And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever;
67 And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.
68 Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen. (Moses 6:66-68)
I don’t know why I didn’t see all this before. Somehow in my previous readings I kept losing the sight of which words were Enoch’s and which were Enoch’s quotations of God’s instructions to Adam.

So why is this important? It shows Adam was instructed by the voice of the Lord on all the first principles of the gospel—faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. These principles are the same as what we are taught today. Enoch taught these same principles of the gospel by referring to the precedent set by Adam and using the same discourse the Lord gave to Adam. Enoch was using the story of Adam’s baptism to teach the people the first principles of the gospel, much like missionaries today use the discourse of Nephi in 2 Nephi 31. To me, this makes Enoch's discourse much more powerful.