Saturday, August 11, 2018 0 comments

How Jesus handles a question about His authority



27 And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,
28 And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?
29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.
31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?
32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.
33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Mark 11:27-33)

Many commentators like to go into great depth about the trap laid for Jesus in their question. They also usually point to Jesus’s counter-question as a brilliant defense by which He puts them all in their place.

Yet something about it struck me as odd. I began to wonder what we are supposed to learn from this incident that can help us. Are we to learn that Jesus can unequivocally win arguments and devastate the opposition? Is winning the argument His goal?  Does this help us in our conversations about the gospel? 

It seems to me that when faced with a question about His authority, Jesus’s major goal would be persuading someone to recognize His power to redeem. The question in His mind would be, If I tell you, will you acknowledge my authority and allow me to save you? He might want to know if they were asking sincerely or out of bad faith. Because He wants to save everyone, He has to assume sincerity until they prove bad faith. 

He asks a question to learn from them. I see this incident as instance in which Christ demonstrated His meekness and lowliness of heart. He didn’t ask, “Why do you want to know?” He asked whether they thought John’s baptism was from heaven or of men. His question is meant to discern their level of sincerity and belief. He knew their ability to respond positively to a prophet in their day would determine their ability to respond to the Messiah. 

It is interesting that the reasoning of the chief priests, scribes, and elders was captured in the record in verses 31-32. (As an exercise, just try reading the account without that reasoning inserted, and you’ll see how it might have looked to everyone else who wasn’t privy to the motivation coloring the answer of those leaders.)

Their reasoning indicates that they thought His question was a trap. This was pure projection on their part. They thought Jesus was doing to them what they were trying to do to Him. If they had been sincere, they might have seen His question for what it really was. And I hardly think they’d want such a blatantly self-interested politically-obsessed thought process to get about, but someone overheard, and now it is memorialized for all time. 

Since they claimed they couldn’t tell whether John’s baptism was from heaven or men, Jesus knew then that they’d be similarly obtuse in public about Jesus’s authority. He probably said to Himself, I can’t do anything with people who ‘can’t tell,’ when it’s so obvious, so I guess I can’t tell them anything about my authority either because they won’t get it. And He wouldn’t push His authority on them; He wouldn’t want to condemn them so quickly. He’d want to give them more time in hopes that He could save them later.

One thing I learn from this incident is that Jesus chooses whether to answer a question based upon the receptiveness of the hearer. Even though those leaders thought they were saving face by refusing to commit, they actually disqualified themselves from receiving a real answer. Seeming wishy-washy or obtuse marked them as having spiritual problems, even if they concealed for a time that their problem was outright hostility. It is particularly sad that these were chief priests, scribes, and elders, men who should have been most spiritually mature and receptive.

Jesus’s test question is still a good one for today. How we respond to a modern prophet determines how receptive we’d be to Jesus Himself. If we ‘can’t tell’ if a modern prophet is from God, when his goodness has been demonstrated over years, then our ability to receive revelation is diminished. On the positive side, if we respond to the modern prophet and apostles, we will be receptive to revelation and receptive to Jesus Himself.

I also think that Jesus’s willingness to take time and ask questions of the questioner to gauge where they were at is a good pattern to follow in gospel conversations. If people ask us questions about the church or the gospel, maybe it would be wise to first take time to ask them questions about what experiences have brought them to us or what they believe so that we can better meet them where they are spiritually.
Thursday, August 9, 2018 0 comments

The Token of Peace and Some Thoughts on Culture




In the story of Amalickiah’s rise to prominence among the Lamanites, there’s the incident just before the Lamanite king got assassinated that caught my attention.

And it came to pass that the king put forth his hand to raise them, as was the custom with the Lamanites, as a token of peace, which custom they had taken from the Nephites.” (Alma 47:23)

Raising bowing people as a token of peace is a nice thing for a king to do, since underlings would be anxious to know they were in the king’s good graces and hadn’t displeased him. And a token of peace is a beautiful idea. It makes me ponder how Heavenly Father might bestow tokens of peace on us. Having the Holy Ghost to be with us is one token of peace we can look for and enjoy. Also, spiritual gifts would be other tokens of peace. It seems to me that we don’t have to just wait for tokens of peace; we can seek for them and ask for them. We can repent and qualify ourselves for them.

On a different note, it is interesting to me that Mormon calls attention to the fact that the Lamanites took this tradition from the Nephites. Even though the Lamanites so often wanted to destroy the Nephites, and though they considered Nephites “sons of a liar” (like King Lamoni’s father thought), they were aware of this old court custom. Who knows how, since they separated way before the Nephites started to have kings. But they liked it enough to adopt it themselves. Interesting how a culture they hated could still influence and affect them at such a high level as court etiquette.   I can’t help but wonder who they would have answered if someone had asked them about it. (“If you hate the Nephites, why do you imitate their practices?”)  But maybe they would have said, “We don’t care; it’s useful.”

This makes me think about the practice of adopting customs from other people. Is it purist or is it prejudice to refrain from adopting customs of peoples who are considered the enemy?  Bad customs are easily avoided (theoretically), but what if their good practices are useful and helpful and do great social good? Should they be avoided too?  Surely not.

I know there are people who get all offended and make accusations of cultural appropriation when other cultural practices are adopted, but it seems to me that customs usually have a social function. If it is good, then I don’t see why it shouldn’t be allowed to spread.  Or maybe it could be that “cultural appropriation” really means using a cultural sign for aggrandizement and status with little to no knowledge of the meaning, values, connotations and historical baggage that goes along with it. (I find myself wondering, “What would we Mormons say if we saw something LDS that had been “culturally appropriated?”)

Eh, this could turn into a can of worms…

At bottom, I think bits of culture have a social function. We like to preserve bits from the past sometimes because of nostalgia, but functionality helps determine if it endures through changes of technology and fashion and so on. 

I think Zion culture is meant to take the good from everywhere and leave the bad alone. (But sometimes it takes a lot of open-mindedness to be able to tell whether something is good or bad, when a blind spot in our home culture might initially prejudice us.)
Tuesday, August 7, 2018 2 comments

Some thoughts from teaching Old Testament Lesson 24 “Create in Me a Clean Heart”


It has been some weeks since I taught this lesson, but I thought it might be a good idea to share some things from it.

Old Testament Lesson 24 “Create in Me a Clean Heart” covers the sad story in 2 Samuel 11-12 of David’s adultery with Bath-sheba, his conspiracy to have her husband murdered on the front lines, and then the exposure of his crimes by the prophet Nathan, and Psalm 51, which expresses his deep contrition and repentance.

I decided to approach the lesson a little bit differently by widening the scope a bit. We usually focus on just David and Bath-sheba, but I decided to compare his story with other stories in the scriptures of people who suffered similar temptation or who were in similar precarious circumstances. At first, I started thinking about the comparisons simply for my own learning, but after doing it (making a chart and making observations), I learned enough that I decided it would be worth it to have the class think these things through too.

So who are we comparing?

David & Bath-sheba in 2 Samuel 11
Amnon & Tamar in 2 Samuel 13
Corianton & Isabel in Alma 39 :2-4
Sarah/Abraham & Pharaoh in Genesis 12:11-20
Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (who I’ll call Mrs. Potiphar) in Genesis 39: 4-21

If you’re not familiar with any of these stories, I encourage you to take some time to go read them so you’ll have it fresh in your mind.
(Just as a quick note about a relationship, Amnon was a son of David through one wife, and Tamar was a daughter of David through a different wife. They were half-siblings, and a marriage between them would have been forbidden by the Law of Moses.)

Let’s make some charts!


David & Bath-sheba
Amnon & Tamar
Corianton & Isabel
Sarah/Abe. & Pharaoh
Joseph & Mrs. Potiphar
Who is the aggressor-pursuer?
David
Amnon
Corianton (went after Isabel)
(But also, Alma observes that Isabel did “steal away the hearts of many” so it could have been both were at fault in some way.
Pharaoh
Mrs. Potiphar

Something we learn really quick from looking at this information here is that in 4 cases out of 5, the men were the aggressor. However, it must be noted that Isabel and Mrs. Potiphar show us that women may be predatory on occasion too.


David & Bath-sheba
Amnon & Tamar
Corianton & Isabel
Sarah/Abe. & Pharaoh
Joseph & Mrs. Potiphar
Who had the power in the interactions?
David (he’s king)
They were about equal (they both were children of David)
Amnon had more physical strength.
This is unclear.

However, Corianton was a missionary, and he had spiritual authority.
Pharaoh (he’s king)
Mrs. Potiphar (she’s mistress of the household, while Joseph is a slave)

Looking at these comparisons, we can see that in 3 of the 5 interactions, there was a massive power imbalance in terms of social status and authority. The power that kings have over their subjects and that masters have over slaves contributes to temptation to misuse that power (which we in the church would label “unrighteous dominion”).  In the case of Corianton and Isabel, I note that he was a missionary (lots of moral authority) and she was a harlot (very little moral authority), so there was a great spiritual power-imbalance there that he may have taken advantage of. (I don’t say that he did; I just surmise that it is possible. People with very low self-esteem are easily taken advantage of.)

In short, power imbalances contribute to sexual temptation; Satan whispers to the person with the power that they can escape consequences or retaliation from the one they sin against or that their status isolates them from wider social consequences. Satan also tries to break down the resistance of the person without power by telling them they will be punished if they resist to keep their virtue.

We can see that Sarah and Joseph both still resisted, which shows us it is possible to resist even if you don’t have power.


David & Bath-sheba
Amnon & Tamar
Corianton & Isabel
Sarah/Abe. & Pharaoh
Joseph & Mrs. Potiphar
Who had knowledge of the commandments?
Both
Both
Corianton
Sarah

(both??)
Joseph

A sad observation we make here is that just because both people know the commandments (like “Do not commit adultery”) does not necessarily make it easier. 1) It may lull both into a false sense of security as they both think, “Oh, I don’t need to worry about that because they know it’s wrong.” 2) The angst when trapped in a forbidden relationship can be even greater.

(Pharaoh is kind of a weird case. The fact that he had to be kept from knowing of Sarah’s marriage indicates that he knew he shouldn’t commit adultery…and he would kept the letter of it by arranging for Sarah to become single. But that meant he had a problem with other commandments…namely, murder.)

We can also observe something reassuring—if even just one person in the duo is committed to keeping the commandments, that commitment can save them both. Yes, even if the one committed to the commandments is not in a position of power.    But the case of Corianton shows us that being the only one who knows the commandments is not enough, if you’re not fully committed to keeping them.


David & Bath-sheba
Amnon & Tamar
Corianton & Isabel
Sarah/Abe. & Pharaoh
Joseph & Mrs. Potiphar
Where did the temptation start?
David was at home, on the roof, looking out on the city at night.
At home, in the palace.
This was a long term thing.
Among the Zoramites, on the mission.
(following the lusts of his eyes)
As Abe and Sarah came into Egypt. Pharaoh heard a report from his servants about Sarah. (curiosity)
In Mrs. Potiphar’s house.
Over time as Joseph works for Potiphar.

In the cases of David, Amnon, and Mrs. Potiphar, the temptation came at home. (Note: Be careful who you let close to you.)

In the case of David in particular, in the evening he arose off his bed and walked on his roof. He was restless. Satan tries to take advantage of that. Also, this was at night, so after a long day, his resistance would have been lower. Satan will try to hit us with temptation at night when we’re tired. We also need to watch out for times when we’re hungry, thirsty, anxious, sad, bored, or lonely.

In the cases of Amnon and Mrs. Potiphar, there was a long time of association before the temptation hit. These can be really difficult to deal with because the person is already so embedded in one’s life that it’s hard to see how one can get free of them.  How would Amnon have gotten distance from his half-sister?  How would Mrs. Potiphar have gotten away from Joseph if he was such a good servant? (She couldn’t very well ask for him to be sold without a good reason.)

In the cases of David and Corianton, we see there is a temptation to go after the lusts of one’s eyes. Looking to lust creates problems.

In the case of Pharaoh, just hearing a report of Sarah’s beauty was enough to stimulate his curiosity. The way he acted and the way the Lord warned Abraham to say Sarah was his sister makes you think that maybe Pharaoh had a habit of picking up women like this. (Of course, this is speculation about this story, but the lesson is still important and still valid: there are people who are habitually predatory, and the Lord has to give us extra help to escape them.)


David & Bath-sheba
Amnon & Tamar
Corianton & Isabel
Sarah/Abe. & Pharaoh
Joseph & Mrs. Potiphar
Any spiritual problems beforehand?
David was not at battle when he should have been.
(neglecting duty)
(Idleness)
Vexed with Tamar to the point of sickness
(obsessed)
(not enough to do to keep his mind off her. Idle.)
Had been boasting in his own strength
Pharoah apparently always takes what he wants. (selfish)

Time on his hands? (idleness)

Idleness (since she had servants)

Here we infer that in at least 4 out of 5 cases, idleness was a major contributor to temptation. The saying seems to hold true that “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” so it is important to make sure to stay anxiously engaged in a good cause.

Now, let me be understood—we need moments of downtime to rest and re-create our strength. We have a day of rest every week, which is a big blessing.   But long-term idleness is not healthy. Satan will try to fill that long empty space any way he can, like throwing a bunch of burrs in an empty wool bag. To extend the metaphor, it’s easier to keep the burrs out if the wool bag is filled with pretty marbles. (I hope you get my crazy metaphor...)

I think it is also important to point out that while it might seem like boasting wouldn’t create a problem for Corianton, it is actually very serious. “For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.” (D&C 3:4) Boasting is a manifestation of pride, which of course takes a person out of the protection of the Spirit of the Lord.  This means that not only is it not wise to boast of spiritual strength, it also isn’t wise to assume one is out of reach of these temptations. Anyone is vulnerable.


David & Bath-sheba
Amnon & Tamar
Corianton & Isabel
Sarah/Abe. & Pharaoh
Joseph & Mrs. Potiphar
What factors would have contributed to the difficulties for the one pursued?
Bath-sheba’s husband was not around. (He was at war.)
Tamar was not physically strong enough keep Amnon away.
Isabel probably had low self-esteem from previously lost virtue.
Sarah was a foreigner in a strange land.

She has to pretend she’s not married (but not by choice)
Joseph is a slave, has to obey orders.

He’s a foreigner.

Some lessons we can learn here is that there are various factors that contribute to vulnerability for the ones who are pursued. 1) When the spouse isn’t around. 2) Lack of physical strength to defend oneself. 3) Low self-esteem. 4) Anything that makes you look unmarried. 5) Being a foreigner. (Means you’re more dependent upon the kindness of others and that not understanding customs may cause you to not realize that personal boundaries are being intruded upon for nefarious purposes.)

The irony with Sarah was that having to pretend she wasn’t married was actually a measure given by revelation to keep her husband alive (see Abraham 2:22-25). However, as a rule, signaling that you are happily married is a great protection.


David & Bath-sheba
Amnon & Tamar
Corianton & Isabel
Sarah/Abe. & Pharaoh
Joseph & Mrs. Potiphar
What factors would have made it hard for the aggressor to avoid contact?
Could have avoided.

David was king and could have ordered Bath-sheba and Uriah sent elsewhere.
Tamar was Amnon’s half-sister. He’d see her all the time unless he got his father to send him on some distant royal project.
Corianton’s mission was to the Zoramites. Perhaps he could have gotten himself transferred?

Isabel stole the hearts of many, so she seems to have been deliberate about it.
Pharoah could avoid, but he takes Sarah into his house.

Eventually he ends up sending them away out of Egypt.
Joseph had been given responsibility over the whole house. 

Joseph helps by trying to avoid Mrs. Potiphar as best he can, but she also tries to defeat these measures.

Joseph is a good servant, so Mrs. Potiphar can’t get rid of him without good reason.

Here we see that nearly every one of the aggressors in these relationships could have done something to send away the person they were too interested in or gone somewhere else themselves. The problem was, by that time they were too ensnared and no longer wanted to.
In the cases of Pharaoh and Mrs. Potiphar, they finally bit the bullet and took steps. (Mrs. Potiphar, unfortunately had to perpetrate an injustice to get rid of Joseph.)

Let’s sum up some of the lessons from this comparison:
·      Power and status imbalances often contribute to temptation. However, resistance is still possible.
·      You must stay completely committed to the keeping the commandments to resist temptation.
·      Temptation often arises from long associations, at times of physiological-emotional weakness, with people who are physically attractive. (Or any combination thereof) Curiosity can also contribute.
·      Idleness, pride, and selfishness makes us extra vulnerable to temptation.  On the opposite side, being anxiously engaged in a good cause, staying humble, and cultivating unselfishness can protect us.
·      Some other protections from sexual temptation are: the presence of one’s spouse, signaling one’s married status, and self-confidence through virtue.
·      Avoiding contact is an important way to quench temptation, and sometimes heroic, unusual measures are called for.

Many times, our warnings consist of “Don’t be alone with a person of the opposite sex,” and the above shows us that sometimes things aren’t that simple. Joseph’s case shows that sometimes even that fails and you have to be ready to run and leave your dignity behind.

I have a testimony that the Lord will help us to keep our covenants if we are truly committed. He will deliver us in various ways—with warnings, with grace (enabling power), and with miracles If necessary.  If we have been sinned against, we can access Christ’s healing power.
Sunday, July 29, 2018 0 comments

Come Follow Me: Why is it important to learn about my family history?



I substitute-taught a Sunday school lesson for the 16-17 year olds today. The official teacher asked me to teach a lesson from August instead of one of the July ones, in particular, the one about Family History. I’m going to share some of the things that I did, what I had them do, and what I talked about.

When class started, I asked them to each tell me a little bit about what family history experience they had had. I wanted to gauge their experience level so that I could tell what level of information would be most interesting and informative to them. (Some had done indexing, a few had found names to take to the temple, some were good at finding the green temple icons that indicated individuals who needed temple work done.)

I started by having them read Malachi 4:5-6. This is the scripture about how Elijah would come to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.

I asked them, what that meant to them. They seemed to have a vague idea that it meant love.

To me, when hearts are turned to each other across generations, there is a curiosity to know about each other, a desire to help the other, to learn about, to connect somehow.  I shared this with them, and then I showed a video called “Family History: What I Found”.

[https://www.lds.org/youth/learn/ss/marriage-and-family/history?lang=eng#video=family-history-what-i-found]

This is a really wonderful video on a number of different levels. (I didn’t explain past the first point to the class, but I will to you.)
1) It shows the process that one young man went through to learn more about his grandfather. He was intrigued by a journal account about the war and what his grandfather hadn’t recorded. This led to all kinds of research to try to understand what his grandfather went through and why he hadn’t written anything a particular experience.
2) It shows (completely without any explanation) a wide variety of different types of family history documentation that we can look for. Only someone who had begun to do family history would notice the nice mix of sources that had been carefully curated for this film. If you were trying to figure out what to put in a personal history, you could watch this movie with the sound off and take note of the types of pictures, home movies, written accounts, and why they were each selected. If you followed those examples, you’d have an excellent, efficient result, and your descendants would probably be very happy.
3) It shows us tangible objects that belonged to our progenitors become more meaningful when we learn the stories behind them. For the narrator of that movie, it was his dead grandfather’s gun that he saw in a picture and which he finally found after an exhaustive search of the house.

To me, that movie shows an example how our hearts begin to be turned to our fathers. We learn something that intrigues us—like a narrative hole in an otherwise detailed account— then we want to know more. (Sometimes the feeling of responsibility isn’t automatically there, but curiosity will do just as well.)

At this point of the lesson, I showed the class a belt buckle that belonged to my maternal grandfather, J. Wallace McKnight. It’s square and has a dark blue stone. My Grandpa McKnight liked gems and minerals, and he had a few belt buckles with interesting stones on them. I like to wear that belt buckle sometimes, and it reminds me of him.

I showed them a pearl necklace that I was wearing. My maternal grandmother, Barbara McKnight, liked gems and minerals too, and she had collected those pearls, but never made anything out of them. When I went through her household articles with my mom, I chose those pearls, and I made a necklace out of them to remind me of my Grandma.

(I also had a copy of a big family history book that I could have showed the class, but I didn’t get to that. If I’d had more time, I might have asked them if they or their parents had anything that belonged to their grandparents or ancestors and asked them to tell about those objects if they had.)

In the church, we often think of family history work as pushing the boundaries at the edges of our tree to find names to take to the temple, but it also involves documenting and recording what we (or others) know about the family around us now so that future generations beyond our lifetimes can know them too. (I wish I could have made this point to my class, but I didn’t think to at the time.)

What got me into family history research?  It took a while. I had a PAF file from my dad that I toyed with, but I never quite knew what to do with it. I wondered where all those names and dates came from and how I could know they were accurate. How did anyone add any information on to their family tree?

Finally I decided to take a class in family history. This was an act of faith for me. At the time that I signed up for it, I didn’t want to do it because I knew it would make me work hard on my family history, and I was scared of it. But I knew Heavenly Father wanted me to learn how to do this stuff, and I had hope that I would look back at the end of the class and be glad I had done it. I had hope that I would be much less intimidated by the prospect of doing family history if I had taken a class in it. (All those things I hoped for, I was actually seeing with the eye of faith.)

The class I took was actually through ASU, and it was a writing class. The class was “Writing Family History Narratives,” taught by a certified genealogist.  The big final project was to write a narrative of every person in our 4-generation pedigree chart, including us. All the assignments were geared toward collecting documents to use for the final project. The narrative was to have citations from primary sources. During that class, we learned about primary sources and interviewing and databases and searching techniques. We learned about immigration and slave schedules and censuses and church registrations and a heck-lot of stuff.  I bugged all my aunts and uncles for family history narratives and a number of stories seemed to appear out of the woodwork that I hadn’t known existed. I wrote my 4-generation narrative (duly cited), and then when the class was over, I heaved a sigh of relief, and didn’t touch family history again for another three or four years.

Then on a chance visit to Familysearch, I noticed that the website had suddenly sprouted a way to attach sources to people in our family tree. Suddenly all my knowledge about sources could be applied in a way that could directly impact me and my family members! I might not know enough to extend the branches to find new ancestors yet, but by golly, I could document things with sources!  I could attach the certificates and narratives I had found, add pictures, and so forth. I could search for sources on Familysearch and add them to individuals on my tree.  So that’s what I did.

One major way that my perspective about family history changed after taking that class was in the amount of joy that I got from the research. Before I took that class, I felt like, “If only I could find a name and take it to the temple, I could feel the joy of family history.” But after taking the class, I discovered that I could feel joy all along the way. Every time I find a new source to attach to an individual on my family tree, I feel joy. (I feel joy even if I’m adding sources to people who have already had temple work done.) The more sources I find, the more joy I feel. When I find new people, I feel joy. When I see an individual is ready to have temple work done for them, I feel joy. When I take those names to the temple…I feel satisfaction.   Do you see? I learned we can feel joy all along the way, not just at the end.

(I gave the youth a very shortened version of the above story)
I told these stories so that the youth could understand some of the roadblocks I dealt with in order to get involved in family history. Roadblocks can be very similar, and I hoped to inspire them to try different things.

I also felt like the youth needed to do something to be active learners in this lesson, so I hit upon the idea of having them try out the Familytree app. 

Familytree is a mobile app created by the Church, and it basically makes your family tree accessible through your phone.  It has a tasks section that will aggregate a list together of people who need ordinances (so you can reserve them), people who have record hints (so you can evaluate the records and attach them if they match), people who are missing information (so you can start your search there and hopefully find more records for them).  This app is a very useful thing. They make it possible to do simple family history tasks ON YOUR PHONE! 

The youth were willing to try to download the Familytree app right there in class, but the church’s wifi was too slow and they got stuck. (If I had been a regular teacher, I think I would have called the students a few days ahead of time and asked them to download the app at home and then we could do cool stuff in class.)

One feature of the app that I didn’t expect was in the “more” section. It was called “Relatives Around Me.” I had a hunch about what this would do, and in class, I tried it out with one of the boys who had the app on his phone. We both went to that section, gave permission for our trees to be shared with each other, and the app calculated how he and I were related.  It turned out that we were 9th cousins, once removed!  I could tell by how chatter erupted that the class was fascinated by this.

They were all very interested. Some were skeptical, but we could show them the line of ancestors that went back and met at the top in one person. I challenged them to download the app at home and play around with it to see what they could see and do with it. (I also called their official teacher in the evening and told her what I challenged them to do so she could follow up with them next week on this.)

I wanted to show them Puzilla.org, and how I use that to find new cousins and cousin families, but as I was pulling up the website, I noticed the teens had a look in their eyes that made me think they needed a change of pace, so I pulled out an online Jeopardy gameon family history, and we played that for the last 5-8 minutes or so.  They were very interested in that, and it made them think about family history researching methodology, though who knows how long the stuff will stick.... (If I had been a regular teacher of that class, I probably would have inflicted Puzilla on them the next week.)

At the end, I bore testimony that they could have joy all along the way as they did family history work, and that I knew it would protect them from the evils and temptations of the world.

I believe that family history takes a certain special brand of charity to do because you in effect save people who you will never meet during your lifetime (except maybe in a dream or vision or other highly spiritual experience) and who otherwise won’t get a chance to thank you. That special kind of charity will refine us and enable us to make good choices, even leading us to sacrifice pleasures of the moment for the good of future generations yet unborn. We can save past generations through family history and temple work, and we will be given the strength to resist temptations and escape snares whose blighting effects would reach down through generations of descendants.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018 2 comments

Do Not Despair!



I happened to run across a great quotation from President Benson today and I thought I would share it.

“There are times when you simply have to righteously hang on and outlast the devil until his depressive spirit leaves you. As the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith: ‘Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;‘And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.’ (D&C 121:7–8.)

Pressing on in noble endeavors, even while surrounded by a cloud of depression, will eventually bring you out on top into the sunshine. Even our master Jesus the Christ, while facing that supreme test of being temporarily left alone by our Father during the crucifixion, continued performing his labors for the children of men, and then shortly thereafter he was glorified and received a fulness of joy. While you are going through your trial, you can recall your past victories and count the blessings that you do have with a sure hope of greater ones to follow if you are faithful. And you can have that certain knowledge that in due time God will wipe away all tears and that ‘eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.’” (1 Cor. 2:9.)  ("Do Not Despair,"Ensign, Oct. 1986, 5)

This really spoke to me because recently I have fought some depression and anxiety. I have lots of good days, but occasionally I’ll have some bad days that just feel like a mental-emotional whirlwind or hurricane tearing at my foundations. I fight back with my testimony, but it is so exhausting. Yesterday I had to get a priesthood blessing, and it really helped. It was yet another testimony to me that Christ overcame all things, and through his grace I can too.

I loved the above quote so much I decided I should go look at the article it came from. It was really good too. If you have hit a rough patch, I encourage you to go there for a pick-me-up and some good advice.


Sunday, July 15, 2018 0 comments

KJV versus JST: Luke 12 and the Coming of the Lord


KJV – Luke 12:36-48
JST Luke 12:41–57 (Appendix)
Commentary
35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
36 And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.

(This is included to give us some additional context to this parable.)

41 For, behold, he cometh in the first watch of the night, and he shall also come in the second watch,
and again he shall come in the third watch.
42 And verily I say unto you, He hath already come, as it is written of him;
and again when he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch,
Here we get the interesting information that there are three different visits when Christ would come. He reveals that His mortal ministry is during the first watch, and that there are two other visits still in the future.
I personally think that the second watch is Christ’s second coming, and the third watch is His coming at the end of the Millennium.
Also, notice the end of JST v42 corresponds to KJV v38, but there is a difference in that in the KJV the visits are ‘iffy’, and in the JST, the visits are certain.
37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord
when he cometh
shall find watching:
verily I say unto you, that he

shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
blessed are those servants
[]
when he cometh, that he
shall find so doing;
43 [] For the Lord of those servants
shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
1 The change of “watching” into “so doing” emphasizes that good servants will be found engaged in activity, and not idle. It is possible that watching was meant to evoke the idea of prophetic gifts and warning. However, the Lord wanted Joseph Smith to emphasize that service is also required of servants who want to be commended when the Lord comes.
2 We also get a change that emphasizes that the Lord Himself will serve His people when he comes. He will make them sit down to meat, meaning He will provide meaty doctrine for all, similar to how He taught the Nephites when He came to the Americas.
38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
[]



44 And now, verily I say these things unto you, that ye may know this, that the coming of the Lord is as a thief in the night.
45 And it is like unto a man who is an householder, who, if he watcheth not his goods, the thief cometh in an hour of which he is not aware,
 and taketh his goods,
 and divideth them among his fellows.
Here Joseph Smith sent the parable in a different direction, changing it from “like servants waiting for their lord to return from a wedding” to “like servants guarding their lord’s goods from thieves.”
The emphasis changes from watching with joyful anticipation to defensive guarding from unexpected, stealthy attacks.
What are the householder’s goods that are being defended? The goods may represent the property of the church that is used to build the kingdom. (And certainly there have been times when outsiders have endeavored to dispossess the church of its property.)  The householder’s goods may also represent rank-and-file members of the church. (And certainly the adversary is always trying to steal members from the church by various means.) While it is true that the members have agency, seeing members as goods that can be stolen is meant to emphasize that leaders must do all they can to guard and warn the members.
39 And this know, that

if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.
46 []And they said among themselves,
If the good man of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through
and the loss of his goods.
1 Here the change in v 46-47 in the JST shows us that what looked like instruction only from Christ is actually part of a conversational exchange as the disciples think about the parable.
The disciples seem to want to use their effort in the most efficient way. They speculate that if the householder just knew when the thief was coming, he would be ready.
2 The JST adds that the thief is not just interested in breaking into the household, but also stealing goods. (That’s why he’s called a ‘thief’ after all.)

40

Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
47 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you,
be ye therefore ready also;
for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
Here the JST shows us the Savior responding to the disciples’ wish to know when the thief was coming by turning it back into a metaphor for His own coming.
41 Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?
48 Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or [] unto all?


42 And the Lord said,






Who then is that faithful and wise steward,
whom his lord shall make ruler over his household,
to give them their
portion of meat in due season?
49 And the Lord said,
I speak unto those whom the Lord shall make rulers over his household, to give his children their portion of meat in due season.
50 And they said,
Who then is that faithful and wise servant?
51 And the Lord said unto them, It is that servant who watcheth, to impart his portion of meat in due season.
Here the JST reveals Christ is directing this warning to church leaders (present and future) who have the responsibility to give portions of meat in due season (meaning, teaching the appropriate principles at the time they are needed.)
Of course, then the disciples want to know what would constitute faithful and wise behavior of a servant. So Christ repeats the necessity of watching and imparting meat in due season.
The JST makes this interchange obvious, while the KJV makes it seem like Jesus is just asking rhetorical questions and never quite answering.
43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
52 Blessed be that servant whom his Lord shall find, when he cometh, so doing.

44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
53 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.

45 But


and if that servant


say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens,

and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
54 But the evil servant is he who is not found watching.
And if that servant is not found watching,
he will
say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming;
and shall begin to beat the menservants, and the maidens,
and to eat, and drink, and to be drunken.
Here the JST draws a stronger distinction between a faithful servant and an evil servant.
Evil servants are those who don’t watch. Not watching will lead them to the notion that the Lord delays his coming, which will in turn lead to abusing the other servants of God and falling into to decadence, excess, and drunken behaviors.
(It should be noted that there are more ways of getting drunk than with alcohol. Anger and lust also cause changes in brain chemistry that prevent people from thinking straight.)
46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him,
and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
55 The Lord of that servant will come in a day [] he looketh not for [],
and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him down, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
Here the JST clarifies the language about the punishment visited upon the evil servant.
The KJV language makes it sound like the evil servant will be hewn in half with a sword, but if so, then why afterward appoint him his portion with the unbelievers if he no longer lives?
The JST language about cutting down the evil servant evokes the idea that their position of authority will be taken away. Then, if they are afterward appointed their portion with the unbelievers, this evokes the additional prospect of excommunication.
47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself,

neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
56 And that servant who knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not for his Lord’s coming,
neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
The JST clarifies that the servants’ preparation is to be for the Lord’s coming.
48 But he that knew not,

and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required:
and to whom men have committed much,
of him they will ask the more.
57 But he that knew not his Lord’s will,
and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few.
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required;
and to whom the Lord has committed much,
of him will men ask the more.
1 The JST clarifies that the ignorance here is about knowing the Lord’s will.
2 The JST also clarifies that it is the Lord who commits much privilege and responsibility to his servants, not men. It also shows that men require more from those who have those spiritual privileges and responsibilities. This is a reminder that places of authority in the church are not to be considered cushy places to loll.

To sum up, I think the JST clarifies the danger of not watching, how it leads to abuse and decadence, and what the real penalties are of yielding to those temptations. It is neat to see this interchange between Christ and his disciples clarified and how He answered their questions.

This is another example of how blessed we are to have the Joseph Smith Translation.

Note: I used [] in the JST sections to show where material from the KJV hadn’t been included in the JST.