Saturday, December 4, 2021 2 comments

Toward Greater Inclusion: Re-examining the Gospel Net Parable of Matthew 13:47-50


I was reading my scriptures today, particularly in Matt 13, reminding myself of some of Christ’s parables, when I ran across v47, which made me ponder.


“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:

Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.

So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,

And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 13:47-50)


There is no explanation for this parable, unlike that of the wheat and the tares. And it is really short, so it’s almost like it is expected that the reader will understand it without too much trouble.  


And yet, beyond the pretty obvious message of judgment and the fact that the plight of the wicked is highlighted when they are removed, it is hard to know why Christ thought it was necessary to tell this in addition to the parable of the wheat and the tares.  I felt like there had to be something more in this that I had overlooked.  These parables are supposed to share the mysteries of the kingdom, after all.


I started thinking about the process of catching fish with a net. Is the kingdom of heaven like a net used in fishing?  Honestly, I don’t really know because I’m so far removed from anything like that.  It seems like fish don’t just jump willy-nilly into the gospel net through missionary work unless they are super-spiritually-prepared. I’ve grown up in the gospel net and I’ve chosen to stay in it.  I’ve heard of some life-long members who might feel like they are “caught” or “trapped” in the Church’s net though.


Something that caught my attention in the parable was the phrase “gathered of every kind.” I have seen short clips of movies of workers on fishing boats sorting through a catch of fish, picking out the types of fish they want.  That made me wonder with relation to the parable--what happens to the types of fish they don’t want?  What if the fishermen catch a jellyfish, for instance?  Is that a marketable product, or do they throw that out?  What if the fishermen in this parable don’t want jellyfish? 


That’s when I noticed that in this parable Christ doesn’t necessarily talk about the fish-sorting people being particular about the kind of fish they want. He only tells of them distinguishing between “good” and “bad.”  He speaks of the net having “gathered of every kind.”


This led to an encouraging realization—Christ wants every kind of “fish” in His kingdom. He wants jellyfish, shark, and sea anemone, right along with tuna and salmon. He wants every type.  I love that because there are times when I can get my tuna on, but there are other times when I’m a crazy sea cucumber, letting my freak flag fly, and that’s the best I can do.  But if Christ will accept my sea cucumber, I’ll be the best darn sea cucumber I can be.


Something else I noticed is what happens to the fish. We might make the assumption that the good fish of the parable are sold in the market for other people to eat, but they’re actually not. They are actually “gathered…into vessels.”  But what for? What happens to them? 


This might make you laugh, but the only thing I could imagine those vessels might be was—an aquarium collection!  If they were to be eaten, the fish could just be in baskets, but “vessels” implies some kind of pot that can hold water and thus keep a fish alive. Even though we don’t visualize Bible people having aquariums back then, an aquarium actually makes perfect sense.  Because if the fish are gathered in vessels for an aquarium, then the fish stay alive, and they are fed and stay safe, and they don’t have to worry about other fish eating them out in the big scary sea where big fish are always eating little fish. The aquariums are a safe, nourishing place.


So of course the aquarium-owner wants every kind of fish! He loves them all! He wants to see the best specimens of every kind of fish out there. (This is kind of like Finding Nemo, but in reverse…)


So maybe this parable is teaching us that we don’t have to worry about fitting to some stifling cultural norm that doesn’t take into account our various personalities and quirks. The only thing we have to worry about is being the best we can be according to God’s commandments. And maybe this parable was meant to teach church leaders to appreciate the good manta rays along with the good trout and bass so they don’t throw them out just because they don’t fit trout-and-bass expectations. It’s also a good lesson for all of us that maybe we need to be humble enough to observe each other and study each other to learn what type of “fish” we’re meeting. We may have met a very good hammerhead shark or moray eel and we just don’t know it.

Saturday, February 8, 2020 0 comments

Review: The ScriptureNotes Web Application is a Powerful, Flexible, Study Tool

The Gospel Library app has some good marking and notation tools, but for a long time I’ve felt its search tools left a lot to be desired. My ipad had a scripture study app that had a pretty good search tool, but its note-taking features frustrated me.

Today I’m happy to tell you about a better scripture study tool. It’s called Scripturenotes. 

If you want to see this tool in action, you can go here [] to see a video example of it being used. When I watched it, I instantly could see its potential and how it could jumpstart my scripture study, which has been in a bit of a dull place lately.

It's very powerful.

  • I can do a search for a word or phrase in the scriptures, then can sort through the search results and eliminate results that aren’t applicable.
  • Then, I can create a collection of a curated set of search results, and then make notes on each verse and add different markings to those verses.
  • The application provides places to make summarizing statements about the whole collection and what was learned from it.
  • It allows me to bold, underline, highlight text, even create my own footnotes. [Can I just say how excited I am to be allowed to create my own footnotes?]
  • Another thing about this application that is amazing to me is that it seems like you can just start new search windows endlessly. You can go down a scripture research rabbit hole and follow it as far as you want and not have to worry about losing where you are with everything else.
  • And charts! You can add tables to a Master note and then populate it with verses to compare and contrast with each other!
  • You can put all kinds of other things in those Master notes: pictures, links, inspiring youtube videos! This makes it incredibly flexible.

The way that it can give room for each verse to have its own notes is another exciting thing. Just looking at that, I could see that if I’d had that in 2018 when I was doing the very first drafting of my Revelation Commentary (a project I’m working on revisions for, by the way,) I would probably have made a lot more progress right away.

I have another writing project on a scriptural topic that will probably have new life breathed into it because of this application! 

How is it on the internet? It depends on your connection. IF you have a fast connection, this should be pretty quick. If your connection is slower, it may go slower.

Can you save your notes that you make on this app? Yes. Creating a collection enables your notes to be saved in the application, and if you want to have a hard copy, you can print a collection of scriptures, along with the notes and markings you’ve made.

Now, with all of this, you may be wondering if there are any problems with this application. Would I change anything about it if I could? 

I have three little quibbles:

1)    It is hard to remember what some of the icons mean that are to the side of the verses. I kind of wish they had directions that appear when the mouse rolls over them. (However, this becomes less of an issue the more one uses the application.) [Edit: This issue has been fixed.]

2)    It would be nice if collection notes saved themselves automatically without having to push the Update button.

3)    Collection notes have a hard time handling large numbers of search results. It was choking over 300+ results, so I had to eliminate some of the search results before I could make a collection. It would be nice if they could just take whatever is thrown at them. [Edit: I've been told this cap is temporary and the current work-around is to make several collection notes and then sort search results into those various collection notes by using the 'drag-and-drop' button]

That being said, it seems like this application is really well-designed.

Now, how much does this application cost?

This is a subscription application, and use of the app costs $49.95/year. This works out to $4.16 per month, or about 14 cents a day. This powerful search tool is probably worth that because of how easy it will make it to drill down into search results and record thoughts and impressions about what you find.  Think of it this way: would you pay 14 cents a day for a tool if you knew that just 15 minutes using it would enable you to learn something new about the gospel?  Flecks of gold, people, flecks of gold…

All in all, this is a very powerful and flexible scripture study web application, and I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via something of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Tuesday, January 14, 2020 0 comments

Another perspective on the coming forth of the Book of Mormon

A few weeks ago, the Come Follow Me study material talked about the process of the Book of Mormon coming forth and how miraculous it was. It is often observed how Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon through “the gift and power of God”

What about the other perspective of Mormon and Moroni and their process of writing? If it was impossible for Joseph Smith to compose all those pages in 90 days (based on his lack of education), then what does that say about the length and learning and complexity of the task that Mormon and Moroni accomplished in writing it?  Clearly it must have taken years and years of work and study for Mormon to write.

I love that there is the statement of the three witnesses in the very front of the Book of Mormon and that they saw the plates and that their experience with the plates was mediated by an angel from God, which brought divine sanction not only to their experience, but also to their communication of that experience and what the book means for everybody.
Also, witnessed statement is admissible evidence in court. It has to be taken very seriously. I love that Heavenly Father provided that.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 0 comments

Preliminaries for Confirming or Ordaining

And [Jesus] called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles. (Moroni 2:2)

2 After they had prayed unto the Father in the name of Christ, they laid their hands upon them, and said:
3 In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a priest (or if he be a teacher, I ordain you to be a teacher) to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end. Amen. (Moroni 3:2-3)

I notice these both say that priesthood holders were to prepare for exercising the priesthood of God by praying first. We see that Jesus instructed His disciples to do this, advising “mighty prayer,” promising that then they would have power.

What is the principle behind Jesus’s commandments to pray mightily first? I think it is this: A man must prepare spiritually and put himself in harmony with the Lord in order to speak for the Lord to one of God’s children. Obedience and submission through prayer is the first step, and praying as commanded does that. Secondly, putting oneself in communication with the Father is necessary before one can have confidence to speak for Him, and prayer is the way that we align our will with His.

Do priesthood holders do this today? I haven’t seen it, but then it may go on in the heart, which I can’t see. But I am sure that if those scriptural practices are followed, greater blessings will result while the priesthood is being used.

Thursday, November 7, 2019 0 comments

The Fountain of All Righteousness

Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness. (Ether 12:28)

This verse struck me as profound for some reason today, but I’m not sure I can quite articulate why. (But I’ll try.) The idea that faith, hope, and charity brings or leads us eventually to Christ is wonderful. It means you just have to follow the threads of faith, hope, and charity that you find in your life and among the people you meet, and you’ll eventually find Christ and His true church.

Also, I love the Christ calls Himself “the fountain of all righteousness.” It’s a beautiful image—a fountain perpetually springing up with good works, a fountain that never runs dry, a fountain that is the source of ALL righteousness in the world. If a person find a stream of righteousness anywhere, they can follow it back, and it would eventually lead them to Christ.

If suppose if we want to be like Him, then we must similarly become fountains of righteousness as well. Today, let’s try to be a fountain of faith, hope, and charity.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019 1 comments

Stirred up emotions

The Book of Mormon has many instances of using the phrase “stirred up” to describe the process of raising up emotions in order to push individuals or crowds to action. It’s useful to look at these instances to see what we can learn.

Probably most notable of instances of stirring and stirring up is when people are stirred up to anger. 

Some larger principles about stirring to anger
Jesus declares that stirring people up to anger is no part of His doctrine, but declares such things should be done away. (3 Nephi 11:30)
Nephi says those who are part of the devil’s kingdom must be stirred up to repentance, or the devil will stir them up to anger and they’ll perish. (2 Ne. 28:19)
Mormon declares the wicked stir people up to bloodshed. (Mormon 4:5)

Nephi prophesies of how Satan will stir people up to anger against that which is good. (2 Ne. 28:20) We can find many instance of this in the Book of Mormon.

Stirred against good
Laman stirred up Lemuel with suspicions that Nephi lied to them about spiritual experiences in order to usurp power over them. (1 Ne. 16:38)
The priests of Noah stir up the king to anger against Abinadi with charges that Abinadi reviled the king, and King Noah orders Abinadi be slain. (Mosiah 17:12)
King Noah accuses Alma of stirring the people to rebellion as a pretext of sending his army against him and his people. (Mosiah 18:33)
The charity of the Anti-Nephi-Lehites for the poor Zoramites who were cast out stirs up the anger of the elite Zoramites. They mix with the Lamanites and stir them up to anger against the Anti-Nephi-Lehites as well. (Alma 35:10)
The Nephite chief judges stir up the people to anger against the prophet Nephi when he calls them to repentance. (Helaman 8:7)
Satan stirs up the Nephites to do iniquity continually, spreading rumors and contentions everywhere to harden people’s hearts against goodness and prophecy. (Helaman 16:22)

Instances of Kings/authority figures stirring up the people to anger
King Laman stirs his people up to contend with Zeniff’s people (Mosiah 9:13)
King Laman’s son (now king) begins to stir up his people against Zeniff’s people (Mosiah 10:6)
King Noah accuses Alma of stirring the people to rebellion as a pretext of sending his army against him and his people. (Mosiah 18:33)
Amlici stirs up his followers to anger against those who opposed his bid for kingship. (Alma 2:8)
Amalickiah stirs up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites. (Alma 47:1, Alma 48:3, Alma 51:9) [Captain Moroni knew this would happen far ahead of time. (Alma 46:30)]
Tubaloth (king of the Lamanites) stirs up his people to anger against the Nephites, and they go to battle the Nephites. (Helaman 1:17)
The Nephite chief judges stir up the people to anger against the prophet Nephi when he calls them to repentance. (Helaman 8:7)
Zarahemnah intends to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites to usurp power over them and use them to bring the Nephites to bondage. (Alma 43:8)
After Zarahemna loses his scalp, he stirs up the rest of his soldiers to fight more powerfully. (Alma 44:16)

People stirring up people to anger
The Lamanites are stirred up to anger against the Limhi’s Nephites, and they start coming into the land to harass them. (Mosiah 21:2) (Cause is unstated, but it can’t be an authority figure, otherwise battle would have resulted.)
The Amalekites and Amulonites stir up the Lamanites against the Anti-Nephi-Lehites. (previous to their attack on Ammonihah) (Alma 24:1)
The Amalekites stir up the Lamanites against the Anti-Nephi-Lehites because they can’t get revenge on the Nephites. (Alma 27:2)
The peoples of Coriantumr and Shiz are stirred up to anger against each other and go to battle. (Ether 15:6)
Dissenters from the Nephites stir the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites (Alma 63:14, Helaman 11:24)
Nephite dissenters try to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites and don’t succeed. (Helaman 4:3) The next year, they do succeed. (Helaman 4:4)

People stirring up leaders
The priests of Noah stir up the king to anger against Abinadi with charges that Abinadi reviled the king, and King Noah orders Abinadi be slain. (Mosiah 17:12)

Seeing others sorrow & pain stirs to anger
The cries of the widows and orphans stir up the people of Limhi against their Lamanite taskmasters and they go to battle and lose. (Mosiah 21:11)
Amulonites martyring new Lamanite believers stirs up other Lamanites to anger against the Amulonites. (Alma 25:8)

Motives of gain stirring to iniquity
The lawyers of Ammonihah stir up the people to riotings, disturbances, and wickedness in order to have more work and to get gain. (Alma 11:20)
Satan stirs up the Nephites to unite with the bands of robbers and enter secret combinations. (Helaman 6:21)
Satan stirs up the people to do iniquity, puffs them with pride, and tempts them to seek for power, authority, riches, and worldly things. (3 Nephi 6:15)

Can there be good emotional stirrings?  There are some instances in the Book of Mormon of this too.

War meant to stir people to remember God
The Lord tells Nephi that the Lamanites will scourge the Nephites, as a means to stir the Nephites up to remember God. (1 Nephi 2:24)
Elsewhere, the Lord tells Nephi that if the Nephites don’t get stirred up to repentance by the Lamanite scourge, they will be destroyed. (2 Ne. 5:25)
Battle losses stir up the Lamanites to remember the words of Aaron and his brethren and they begin to disbelieve their Lamanite traditions. (Alma 25:6
The depredations of the Gadianton robbers stir up the Nephites to remember the Lord. (Helaman 11:34)

Afflictions and famine can stir to remembrance of God
King Benjamin tells Mosiah of how their fathers were smitten with afflictions to stir them up to remember their duty. (Mosiah 1:17)
The prophet Nephi prays that a famine will be used to stir up the Nephites to repentance. (Helaman 11:4)

Preaching meant to stir us to remember God
Enos tells that the prophets had to stir up the Nephites continually with preaching of war, contention, destruction, reminding them of death, judgment, and the duration of eternity, to fear the Lord. (Enos 1:23)
Jarom tells of the prophets stirring the people up to repentance by pricking their hearts with the word. (Jarom 1:12)
King Benjamin appointed priests to teach the people and stir them up to remember the oath they had made to serve God (Mosiah 6:3)
Alma goes to preach among the people to stir them up to remember their duty. (Alma 4:19)
Captain Moroni says Pahoran should have stirred himself more diligently for the welfare and freedom of the people. (Alma 60:10) He threatens Pahoran that if he doesn’t get reinforcement, he will stir up any remaining spark of freedom into insurrection and fight against those who usurp power and authority. (Alma 60:27)

All of this is particular important to know these days because of the prevalence of incivility and anger out in the world today and attempts to manipulate with stirring strong negative emotions. Not only do we need to work to keep from being affected by it, but we will face the temptation to use it ourselves.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019 0 comments

Some thoughts on Lazarus’ rising from the dead and awkwardness in the sacred

43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. (John 11:43-44)

We often envision this scene with Lazarus walking out of the grave doorway, but the reality was probably a lot weirder.

The text says Lazarus was bound hand and foot, which probably means his feet were wrapped tight together and his hands were wrapped tight to his body. Also his face was covered up. It’s really hard to move under those conditions. (How would you have done it if you were wrapped up tight like a mummy?)

How did he get out? Lazarus probably had to roll and inch around to exit the cave where he’d been put. It probably looked really strange, like an enormous cloth-covered inch worm thrashing around. (It may have even looked a little frightening too.) Jesus had to tell people to loose Lazarus so he could move better.

When we read this story, it reads like a dramatic and spiritual event, but it may have looked strange or silly, or weird, or scary for a small period to those who saw it.

I think this is probably true more often than we realize. We may experience miracles that seem strange, silly, weird, or even scary when we’re going through them, but which sound a lot better in the telling. 

We’re used to slick, carefully-edited media, with nothing incongruous or out of place. We’re used to church videos that deliberately infuse the sacred into the smallest gestures to achieve a polished, shiny view of holiness. And yet, we love amateur videos that show the touch of “awkward” because they are so human and genuine. There’s love and truth there.

Maybe we need to remember that in real life, there is awkward in the sacred, and the sacred in the awkward.  Let’s learn to find gratitude for that in our lives. It can heal tendencies toward perfectionism.
Friday, October 11, 2019 0 comments

Some things I've learned from the Book of Revelation

I'm still working on my book about the Book of Revelation. I finished a draft about two weeks ago (yay!), and yesterday I got feedback about my Introduction in which I try to explain why that book is so important to understand. This test reader found my explanation needed some work. (Doh!)

So of course I went to work trying to improve it.  Eventually I realized I had a tangle of half-articulated reasons.  Which means I had to un-tangle and fully articulate.

 But it just wouldn't come. There was just so many ways that I realized the Book of Revelation can help us.  And as I worked away at it, adding here, moving there, over and over... I discovered a lot of the reasons interlocked with each other and led to more reasons. That made it really hard to tell how to organize my paragraphs.

So I gave up on the writing part for a while and decided to mind-map it out.  I hoped that I could at least begin to see the relationships better than I did before.

Here's what I have so far.  Hopefully you can click on this thing and read my tiny print. :-)

Naturally, not every single bubble will find its way into the particular section I'm working on. But at least I'll be able to see relationships better.

Thursday, October 10, 2019 3 comments

A Story about Taking Something Away

I was reading in Alma 55 recently about the story of the Lamanite guards of the city of Gid who are lulled to sleep with wine provided by Nephite-aligned Lamanites. There was a verse in the story near the beginning that suddenly stuck out to me.  Laman has told the guards about the wine he’s stolen from the Nephites in his daring escape, and the guards get excited to try some.

But Laman said unto them: Let us keep of our wine till we go against the Nephites to battle. But this saying only made them more desirous to drink of the wine; (Alma 55:10)

Since we know what happened in this story, it is pretty obvious to us that the wisest thing for the Lamanite guards to do would be wait.  But for some reason, the guards don’t want to be prudent; they want to indulge themselves. They want it now, not later. This made me think that learning to self-impose deferred gratification is an important skill.

But then I thought about what Laman had done in the story. He showed them the wine, and then he essentially attempts to pull it away. If we have troubles imagining the effect this has, we can substitute cookies or ice cream instead….   Laman showed them the tasty-looking cookies, and then he pulled them away and said, “Let’s keep it until just before battle.”   The Lamanite guards have seen the cookies, they’ve smelled the cookies, they now have cookies on the brain. What Laman has done here is essentially to target-lock the guards’ brains on the cookies. They want the cookies NOW!  If the cookies are taken away, they’re going to get resentful and mad.

Not only has Laman put wine on the guards’ brain, he has gotten them laser-focused on the very thing that will be their undoing. (We know the wine is extra powerful stuff.) As a result of getting drunk, they lose all the prisoners they were supposed to guard, and they lose their own freedom.

So we can see two different spiritual life lessons about strategy here when we look at things from the Lamanite guards’ perspective.

Lesson #1: Train your ability to defer gratification.

Lesson #2: Look out for when something is offered and then pulled away. Realize that this will cause you to fixate on the thing being pulled away. (Try not to do this to others too.) It will take extra work to think about whether it is a good thing to want in the first place.
Wednesday, September 18, 2019 0 comments

Paul’s words about judging church leaders

1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.
7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (1 Cor. 4:1-7)

I get the sense that Paul was asking the Corinthian saints to consider him (and other church leaders) servants of God. There’s a certain amount of respect that goes with that kind of office. But faithfulness is certainly required, otherwise stewards can be removed from their place.

But he also points out that it isn’t wise to “think of men above that which is written,” by which I think he means idolizing or idealizing.  Paul would be disturbed if infallibility were attributed to church leaders.   (This reminds me of an old joke that Catholics say the pope is infallible, but none of them believe it, while Latter-day Saints say the prophet is fallible, but none of them believe that either.)  

And some leaders look pious, but aren’t really, which is why Paul warns that God would bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the hearts.

It is interesting that Paul says “I judge not mine own self.” It hints that although he had examined his own conscience and felt like he had repented of everything he should, he recognized he might have blind spots about his own spiritual status that would prevent him from making an accurate judgment, and he left that to God.  If Paul can say that, then I suppose those of us who do the best we can are allowed to say it too. 

Finally, I really like verse 7, particularly the question “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” None of us, no matter how wise or spiritual, can honestly say that we know anything about the gospel without having been taught it through the Spirit. Everything we know, we’ve received from God, so we have nothing to boast of.