Wednesday, December 31, 2008 3 comments

Can you add to your height?

25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? (Luke 12:25-26)
I always kind of wondered about this thing Jesus said. I thought, why would Jesus consider that adding a few feet to our height was easy to do? Why would he call it “that thing which is least”?

Today I was pondering it and the Spirit pointed something out. Read the following verses that come right after the verses above:
27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he provide for you, if ye are not of little faith? (Luke 12: 27-28, Joseph Smith Translation)
It seems that Christ was thinking of plants and what they do. A plant can grow and make flowers. Of those things a plant does, growing is certainly the least a plant can do. A human with powers of intellect and reasoning, whether he or she wants to or not, can’t decide to grow taller and then do it, as a plant does.

So Christ was trying to show that if the lilies can grow and flower through the providence of God and without working hard for it, then if we have faith, God will provide for us too.

However, when we accept this message, we suddenly find ourselves in a difficulty. What about work? We know we are supposed to work to become self-sufficient so that we don’t burden anybody.

A few verses before this, we get a hint that Christ was not telling us this about lilies to give us an excuse to loll about all day waiting for God to provide.
22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. (Luke 12:23)
This seems to tell us that there are more important things to think about than what we will eat and what we will wear. Going back to the plant metaphor, we know that plants grow and flower. But plants also bear fruit. Here is another plant parable Christ gave that elaborates on this point:
6 He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. (Luke 13:6-9)
So it seems that the whole reason that God provides for us—represented by aerating the ground and fertilizing, according to this parable—is so that we can bear good fruit, which represents good works. These good works are something besides the work at our jobs, because jobs are a gift provided by God for meeting our needs. The context before the above parable shows that one particular type of work we should be doing is repentance:
4 …those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwell in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:4-5)
This combined with the parable shows us plainly that the clock is ticking and that while God is merciful and longsuffering, putting in as much effort as He can to call us to repentance through His servants, waiting for us to decide to repent, giving us time to get our lives in order, if there is no progress in the time period that He gives us (and the length is longer than most of us would probably set for ourselves), if we don’t respond, He will root us up. Why should we spend time speculating on how much time we have? We need to repent now! (And what better way to spend New Year’s Eve than by thinking about what we have done, trying to figure out what we have done wrong, and then praying to our Heavenly Father to forgive us through the sufferings of Christ. Then we will be more ready to make our New Year’s Resolutions.)

Another type of work that Christ wanted us to do was the following:
Therefore seek ye to bring forth the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Luke 12:31, Joseph Smith Translation)
Since the time of New Years Resolutions is very near, I challenge you to decide on at least one thing you can do to get closer to God or to help build the kingdom of God. Here are some ideas:

Read the word of God a little each day
Go to church
Pay tithing
Help at least one person each day
Teach a friend something about your beliefs

I want to work on my prayers this next year and make them more meaningful. I also want to be a little bit more frequent in my blog entries. (Of course, that means I will have to keep myself a fit temple for the Holy Spirit to dwell in to inspire me with ideas to write about.) I figure that improving my prayers will give me a means toward some of those other things on the list. Heavenly Father will answer my prayers to find people I can help and find opportunities to teach my friends something about my beliefs.

Happy New Year!

Image credit: "Orange Lilies", Gene Burch Photography,
Saturday, December 27, 2008 0 comments

A prophecy by Isaiah about Egypt that has yet to be fulfilled

19 In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord.
20 And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.
21 And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it.
22 And the Lord shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.
23 ¶ In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
24 In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
25 Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance. (Isaiah 19:19-25)
As a Latter-day Saint, I take this to mean some interesting things. It seems to say that the gospel of Christ will be taught and accepted in Egypt, that a temple will be built there, and most startlingly, an alliance will be formed between Egypt, Israel, and Assyria with free travel between them.

[H]e shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them – This seems to signify the Christ is the Savior of the Egyptians as well as the Messiah of the Jews. He saves from oppression.

[T]hey shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them – This signifies repentance, which requires faith in Christ as the Savior of mankind, and promises forgiveness and healing.

And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day – This signifies that the Egyptians will have a personal witness and testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ. They will know that He is the Son of God.

[T]hey shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it – This signifies the making of sacred covenants with the Lord and performing sacred ordinances, both at baptism and at the temple.

In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord – The altar, as a part of the temple, is used here to poetically represent the temple, so if there is an altar in Egypt, that means a temple is built there too.

Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance. – This shows us that the Lord blesses all those who listen and obey, no matter what race or nation they come from. Isaiah prophesies of the Lord’s future delight with these nations for their righteous acts when they come into His covenant.

If you read the U.S. State Department’s 2007 report on the status of Egypt’s International Religious Freedom you will see how much of a miracle all of the above will be.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008 0 comments

A Christmas poem

It's nearly Christmas! I really can't express the full extent of my feelings of gratitude for Jesus Christ and all that He has done; words can be very empty things, especially on a blog. Instead, I'm going to inflict a poem on you. It's one I wrote about three years ago, so please forgive me ahead of time for its weakness. Any good feelings you get out of it will be a gift from the Lord.

Background: At the time of Christ's birth in Bethlehem, the Book of Mormon tells of a people who also looked forward to the birth of Christ and the crisis that faced them because of their belief. This story can be found in Helaman 14:1-9, and 3 Nephi 1.
The First American Christmas

A prophet up on city wall did give the land a sign
For all to know from east to west the birth of Christ divine
“You’ll know,” said he, “in five year’s time you’ll see a star so bright,
From dawn to dawn when it appears you sha’n’t see any night.”

In five years’ time the wicked said the sign had not appeared
“Your faith in Christ is all in vain, a foolish dream”, they sneered.
The valiant ones watched for the sign each night as Samuel said
Although their death date had been set, belief they would not shed.

With all the Christians in the land faced with a martyr’s fate,
The prophet Nephi knelt and prayed, “O God, assuage the hate!”
Assurance and calm comfort came - the time was now at hand
That all would know that Christ had come, each one throughout the land.

And Lo! That very night the star was seen up in the sky!
“And night is like the day! Behold!” - the universal cry.

All those who’d not believed it’d happen fell down on the ground
For they knew then that Christ had come; on earth He could be found.
That God-made-Man who was fore’dained to save all of the earth
Had saved a host of Christians just by virtue of His birth.

This isn’t just a pretty tale about the way-back-when.
It’s just for us, to brace us up before He comes again.
In future days, of unbelief and threats we’ll have our fill.
In spite of those who’ll say He won’t return, we know he will.
And when the wicked say that Christ’s return is far too late,
Then that’s the time when we will know we’ve not too long to wait.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008 2 comments

Peace, be still.

I’ve always been fascinated by that story of Jesus on the boat calming the storm simply by saying, “Peace, be still.” How amazing that those words could do so much!

I was thinking about it today, thinking about what causes waves and wind. I know that waves on the ocean are caused by the wind blowing over it. The stronger the wind and the longer it blows, the larger the waves get. And winds are caused by areas of high pressure and areas of low pressure in the atmosphere, as areas with lots of heat energy try to dissipate that energy away. Hot air expands as the molecules vibrate more, taking up larger areas and pushing into areas with less heat energy.

In those storms, the air molecules were exerting lots of back and forth pressure on each other and the water beneath, and pushing the waves higher. Each water drop was pushing the water drop next to it, up and down. For all of that to go away, truly everything had to be stilled. The Creator of the earth spoke to the elements and they obeyed.

It’s the Christmas season. How many of our wars and arguments and pushing and shoving could be ended if we listened to that declaration of “Peace on earth, good will toward men” and “Be still and know that I am God”?

Image: Jesus Calms the Storm, by Daniel Bonnel, courtesy of Images of Christ Project,
Friday, December 19, 2008 1 comments

Christ talks about new wine and old bottles

No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse.
And no man putteth new wine into old bottles, and the wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles. (Mark 2:21-22)
I’ve always thought that this was talking about how the people of Christ’s day were so wrapped up in the Law of Moses that they didn’t want to change to the higher law that He wanted to teach them. I guess I based this on one of the other versions of these verses that appears in Luke in which there is this bit that follows after:
No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better. (Luke 5:39)
Today I saw these verses in a different way. I saw that fairly close contextually to these verses, Jesus was telling the Pharisees that He had come not to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance and that the sick needed the physician, and not the healthy.

It seems to me that Jesus was using the wine bottles (back then they were bags of animal skin) as a comparison to show how it was necessary to be born again. (After all, what are we but bags of skin holding red blood instead of red wine?)

Jesus was trying to say that if He tried to fill us up with the higher law and teach us His ways, if we weren’t born again, there’d be such a disconnect between what we knew we should do and what we wanted to do (because of our carnal fallen natures) that we wouldn’t be able to take it and we’d explode and discard everything we learned, just like new wine in old bottles would burst the bottles and the wine would be spilled and the bottles would be marred.

So we have to repent and be baptized (be born of water and of the spirit) in order to receive Christ’s teachings. It will make us into new creatures with no desire to sin and new desires to serve God.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008 0 comments

Volunteering at the cannery

Today I volunteered at the Mesa wet pack cannery. With hair net, rubber gloves, earplugs, 20-second soaped hands.. We bottled maple syrup. I don’t know whether it was the real stuff or not. We bottled syrup for 4 ½ hours. My job was to put a little red cap on the bottle and give just one twist. It couldn’t be too tight. That’s what I did for four hours by a conveyor belt, and my pant legs around my ankles got completely soaked from all the water that was dripping of the conveyor belt. (It had to be mechanically sprayed down to keep it from getting uncleanably sticky from any spilled syrup.) I was sooooo glad that this kind of assembly line work is not my day job!

It was really interesting how we were oriented to the job. They showed a 9 minute video that started out with the really well known comedy sketch of Lucille Ball scrambling to wrap chocolates on an assembly line and getting totally backed up as the conveyor belt whizzed by at high speed. (Hilarious and painful to watch at the same time.) Then the video switched to showing the church’s wet pack canning, with lots of inspiring music. As a viewer I got the feeling that this operation was not a hurry-hurry type of thing and that it was more worker friendly. We saw people working factory equipment. We saw people smiling. We saw lots of bottles of food. Then the scope of the video began to include other parts of the church welfare program. We saw people weeding fields of crops. We saw people working at Deseret Industries. We saw people in Africa getting boxes of donated clothes. We saw people shopping at the bishop’s storehouse. We saw families eating. We saw a whole bunch of these things in really short clips one after another, bam, bam, bam, and I started to feel overwhelmed by the wonder of all of it. I thought, Man, if the Lord gave me a heavenly vision of the whole scope of the church’s welfare program, I think this is exactly what I would see! And that’s when it hit me that it was important for me to have this vision, this global view of the great work I would be engaged in so that I could appreciate it as more than just some piddle-y mind-numbing task, and the video was meant to give that vision to everybody.

You may think I’m a complete dweeb, but I was so inspired by what I saw that the first two hours I worked away quite happily, amusing myself by singing hymns.

Image from

Messianic Prophecy – Walking on the Water

Did you know that when Christ walked on the water he was fulfilling a prophecy made in one of the Psalms?
16 The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.
17 The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad.
18 The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.
19 Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. (Psalms 77:16-19)
Now compare to this story in recorded in Matthew..
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid….
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. (Matthew 14:24-27, 32-33)
I see three things that are fulfilled from the prophecy above. 1) There was a big storm. 2) Christ’s path went through the sea. (This shows that “path” meant “walking” and not just “going by boat”.) 3) To this day nobody knows what was under his feet that held Him up. (“thy footsteps are not known”).

The Book of Matthew in the New Testment points out a number of places where Christ was fulfilling prophecy during His mortal ministry, but obviously Matthew didn't catch this one. Maybe we should look closer at the Old Testament to see if there was anything else that was missed.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia,, painting “Walking on Water” by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1888.
Thursday, December 11, 2008 2 comments

Famine watch. Also, my story about housing.

2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;
3 A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face….
6 Behold, it is written before me: I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom….
8 ¶ Thus saith the Lord, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all.
9 And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there.
11 ¶ But ye are they that forsake the Lord, that forget my holy mountain….
12 Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not.
13 Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed:
14 Behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit. (Isaiah 65:2-3, 6, 8-9, 11-14)
This is a stiff prophecy of Isaiah’s and I have a feeling it is about to be fulfilled in our day, especially that part in verse 13 about hunger and thirst.

Have you noticed that oil prices have dropped by more than half? Good for us. So far. That’s taking away profit margin from oil companies. And demand has plummeted too. But those dropping prices… if they fall too far, then it becomes unprofitable for companies to remain in business, so they will close operations.

And the credit crisis. (Which I think is really a debt-default crisis causing a trust crisis.) Banks are making it really hard for companies to borrow money for their day-to-day operations. (And I don’t understand why businesses borrow money for the day-to-day expenses. That doesn’t sound like a very self-reliant model.) Banks are also making it hard for companies to borrow money to buy their inventory. (Buying inventory on credit doesn’t sound very smart to me either.) So if fewer people can buy inventory, then there will be less inventory and we will have shortages. When shippers, distributors, and other middlemen in the supply chain become unable to obtain credit to fund day-to-day operations, they will be forced to fold. When this happens to the farmers, food shippers, and grocery stores, we will have famine.

I’ve already read some news about farmers being unable to obtain loans to buy fertilizer. Hope you have your food storage.

And houses. When nobody has money for a down payment, no one is be able to buy a house. And when no one is able to buy, no one is able to sell. And if no one is able to sell, then no one can move between houses. So the price of houses will drop to practically nothing, forcing those who bought at higher prices upside down. Just as businesses walk away from a market when they can’t make a profit, homeowners walk away from a house that puts them in debt for more than it can fetch on the market. Of course, this is all pretty obvious to everyone now.

I remember back in 2004 and 2005 there were a lot of news stories that talked about the immense amount of debt that Americans were carrying. I remember wondering if anyone listened to those stories. They were a warning. I suppose they were easy to ignore; the consequences took several years to work through the whole system, and it is easy to ignore warnings and think they are too “alarmist” when the consequences don’t come immediately.

I suppose you’re wondering what my husband and I did during those boom years. Well, we had our own learning experience a little earlier. We bought a duplex in Austin, Texas a few months before September 11th. Austin was going through its own little real estate bubble at that time and we bought near the top of it. We were just married and we were eager to have our own home to live in. Yeah, we bought. Two mortgages, 80% and 10%, I think it was. And then September 11th happened and the economy tanked. And there was the “Tech Wreck” when technology stocks took a nosedive. Around 2005, we moved to Phoenix and we needed to sell our duplex. By that time Austin’s real estate bubble had popped. Somehow we managed to sell and we just barely broke even. (Talk about a miracle! Boy did we feel blessed that we got out of that!)

And we got to Phoenix just about when its housing bubble was close to the top, right at the time when prices were more than a little insane, right when it was hard to find any house with a For Sale sign in front of it that didn’t say “pending” or “sold”. And prices were much higher than they were in Austin, so.. we rented. We could have bought something out in the boondocks, but we didn’t want to drive for hours everyday to get to work or school. After experiencing the Austin-bubble-poppage, we were not excited about jumping into a repeat performance in Phoenix.

I think that at least one reason so many people bought houses was peer pressure. My husband remembers all the times his co-workers kept telling him, “You really should buy now; prices are only going to go higher. They’re never going to come down. They might stagnate for a while, but historically, home prices never drop.” (Sounds like a sick joke now, doesn't it?) Who knows how many times these conversations were duplicated across the city… or the nation? How many people caved and bought because of this?

We muddled through the pressure of all those flyers that were stuck in our door jamb. ("Why throw your money away when you can buy with no money down?! 6% interest rate! 4% interest rate! 3% interest rate for first 5 years!") We heard the stories about people buying houses and then selling them for an obscene profit a few months later. We read the stories of the people who sold their house in California for half a million and then bought in Arizona and retired. Sighhhhhh.

For a while I worked for a plumbing company in their estimating department. I saw all the house plans for all the new communities they plumbed. I heard about the numbers of houses being built. Do you know how hard it is to keep from buying a house when you are working in the construction industry?! People are always talking about buying or looking and about what options they want. One fellow I worked with liked to change his plumbing fixtures every so often for a new look. I’d wonder, When will it ever be our turn to buy?

Finally, I complained to the Lord about it. And I got a very strong impression that the day would come when we’d be able to get whatever kind of house we wanted for a song and that the Lord was going to squeeze people’s wallets so much that George Washington was going to scream. That gave me the courage to hang on longer.

We rented through the boom. We’ve saved money for a down payment. We’re starting to look at houses now. My husband really wants to buy. He dreams of a house around which he can plant a peach tree and a cara cara orange tree and get loads of fruit. I’d like fruit trees too, but I’m not ready to fully cast off my caution. Waiting through the boom years taught me something very valuable—it’s okay wait and save even when people say it’s crazy.

One thing I’m not sure about is when I’ll know that housing prices in Phoenix have hit “song” level. Actually, you know what I’d consider “song” level? A price so good that we could buy the house outright with no loan needed. Do you think I’m crazy? Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. I've seen the credit crunch squeeze George Washington. (I think it is still squeezing as I write.) "Song" level prices may be just around the corner.
Monday, December 8, 2008 1 comments

Isaiah's experience with repentance

1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 ¶ Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 6:1-5)
Isaiah was privileged to see the Lord at the temple with a whole retinue of attending seraphim. He heard them saying to each other how holy the Lord was. (They didn’t just say the Lord was holy, but “holy, holy, holy”, which is the ancient middle eastern way of expressing the superlative form, just like we would say “holiest”.) He saw the temple doorposts quaking at the sound of the Lord’s voice and saw the cloud that veiled his presence from the people around.

What was Isaiah’s reaction? “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Undone seems like an old way of saying a person is humiliated, eternally cast off, unworthy, unclean, and lost to the respect of reputable people.) In the middle of this incredible vision Isaiah became profoundly aware of his own sin. “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” It’s hard to believe that the prophet Isaiah could have been a person with a foul mouth, but that was the case. He must have realized the Lord knew all about him and he couldn’t hide anything from the Lord. All he could do was lament the unworthiness of himself and his people.

And then something amazing happens.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. (Isaiah 6:6-7)
It seems incredible that Isaiah would have a hot coal from the temple’s altar touched to his lips by an angel to take away his sin, but the action was profoundly symbolic. The altar was where the sin offerings and burnt offerings were burnt, symbolizing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. To have a coal from the burning mass taken and applied to that body part that he had just been lamenting the filthiness of would teach in an unforgettable way that because of his faith, the future sufferings of Christ were being applied to his sin and purifying him because of his godly sorrow.

Then something even more amazing happens.
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people… (Isaiah 6:8-9)
The Lord asks who He can send to be a servant of heaven. And Isaiah volunteers for the job of going to tell his people about God.

This is very significant, because it shows that once we have repented of our sins and they are purged away, the Lord immediately puts us to work doing good where before we were sinning. Isaiah used bad language, and once he repented and was forgiven, he volunteered to use his language for the Lord’s work of sharing the gospel. (For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. [1 Corinthians 6:20])

This scripture teaches me that when I repent, I must expect not only to stop doing what was bad, but I must be willing to do good things instead. The amazing thing about the Atonement of Christ is that it makes that possible, by taking away our desire to do evil and substituting a desire to do good. I have experienced this in my life and I want everyone to experience it.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008 1 comments

The Necessity of Real Intent

6 For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
7 For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
8 For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
9 And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such. (Moroni 7:6-9)
One of the things that strikes me in these scriptures is where the focus is in these scriptures. We are used to thinking that people who do good things are good. We are used to thinking that a person who prays is religious. These verses seem to point out that it is the real intent behind the acts that indicate whether we are good or evil.

Real intent is a very tricky thing. We can’t read each others’ minds so we can’t really say for sure what anyone intends. (That’s something that God has to judge.) How do we really know when someone is offering future help just to be polite or offering help because they sincerely hope that we will take them up on it? We don't. We often assume they are just being polite. And I think we sometimes try to put on a show for each other, pretending we have good intentions when we don’t really.

Why is having real intent so important? “[E]xcept he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing”. Having real intent is beneficial to us and does something for our own souls at the same time that our good acts help others. The Lord wants that benefit for us, because it brings us a little bit closer to Him.

I’m really glad that I ran across this scripture as the Christmas season starts. Christmas is certainly the season of giving, so I want to be able to give and have it be as good for me as it is for the people I gift.
Monday, December 1, 2008 0 comments

Increasing knowledge and power

And a portion of that Spirit dwelleth in me, which giveth me knowledge, and also power according to my faith and desires which are in God. (Alma 18:35)
This is such a short verse, but it gives us so much information about how to increase knowledge and power in our lives. It teaches us that both knowledge and power come from the Spirit of God when it is in us. It also says it comes “according to” our faith and desires in God. That seems like scripture code for “in proportion to”, meaning that the greater our faith and godly desires, the greater the knowledge and power the Spirit gives us.
Sunday, November 30, 2008 0 comments

Elijah’s difficulty in the aftermath of the deity duel

I was reading in 1 Kings today about Elijah and the deity duel he had on the top of Mount Carmel with the priests of Baal. After fire came down from heaven and consumed Elijah’s sacrifice and not the Baal-ish sacrifice, all the people admitted that the God of Israel was God. And Elijah then slew 400 of the priests of Baal (probably for their blasphemy and leading people astray).

You’d think the battle would be over and all would be well, right? Well, in the next chapter (19), Queen Jezebel hears that Elijah has killed the priests of Baal and she swears that she will have Elijah killed by the end of the next day. (Let us not forget that this is the same queen who killed the real prophets—see 1 Kings 18:4).

How hard this must have been for Elijah! After all the faith and diligence he showed and his zealousness for the Lord, he had to run for his life!

So he leaves and we read this verse:
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. (1 Kings 19:4)
He must have felt that his fortitude wasn’t measuring up to the strength of the ancients as recorded in the scripture. (Maybe he was thinking of Moses, who went back to Pharaoh at least 10 times.) He must have blamed himself for feeling spiritually exhausted and powerless to make any difference with his preaching and prophesying. He must have wondered why it was so hard to stand up for what was right against the idolatrous society around him. He must have felt that he had done enough and he couldn’t do anything more. He must have felt that if he lived any longer he might shrink from further battles out of fear and that it would be better for his soul to be taken immediately in order to escape that temptation to give in. So he prayed to die now.

So what does the Lord do for him? He sends an angel.
5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
7 And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
9 ¶ And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
15 And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.
17 And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.
18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. (1 Kings 19:5-18)
I do not know the meaning of all things, and I have to say that I am somewhat puzzled by the way that the Lord strengthened Elijah here. First I see that the angel brought Elijah food to eat. Twice. (Perhaps Elijah’s mood was affected by his hunger?)

Then Elijah goes to Mount Horeb and lives in a cave there. It is significant that Mount Horeb is essentially where Moses and the children of Israel stayed for so long. Elijah fled to this place to try to draw strength from what he knew of the sacred events that occured there. (It would be like our prophet going to the sacred grove.)

Then the Lord does some kind of power display with an earthquake and then a fire and then speaks with a still small voice that Elijah responds to. It could be that the Lord was trying to demonstrate that it wasn’t the big showy miracles that were going to convince people to repent and change, but instead the still small voice.

Then the Lord asks Elijah what he’s doing there and Elijah repeats that he’s in hiding because he was zealous for the Lord and the people want to kill him. I find it interesting that the Lord responds by giving Elijah an assignment. Maybe the Lord felt that fretting in inactivity was not good for Elijah. And I love that the Lord assured Elijah (almost as an afterthought) that there were still a certain number of people who hadn’t given into to idolatry. It’s always nice to know you aren’t alone on an issue.

And it seems that the Lord heard Elijah’s request to be taken from the earth, because part of his assignment was to go and anoint Elisha to take his place.

I think this story gave me a lot of encouragement because I’ve faced some opposition lately and I’ve felt like the only one taking a firm stand. It’s nice to know that some of the greatest prophets struggled with feelings of loneliness and inadequacy occasionally.

Some definitions in the Word of Wisdom promise

Did you know the Webster’s 1829 dictionary gives along with its definitions a lot of scriptures? It’s religiously oriented. I learned about it in Relief Society a few weeks ago and it was interesting to hear a few of the alternate meanings of common words as they were used back in 1829 around the time that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized. They bring some special meaning that I hadn’t considered before.

Let’s take the promise to those who follow the health code of the Word of Wisdom:
18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.
(Doctrine & Covenants 89:18-21)
One part that has always puzzled me was that part about “shall walk and not faint”. Here’s what I found out using the Webster’s 1829 dictionary online:

To walk

In Scripture, to live and act or behave; to pursue a particular course of life.[1]

To faint

1. To lose the animal functions; to lose strength and color, and become senseless and motionless; to swoon; sometimes with away. he fainted for loss of blood.
2. To become feeble; to decline or fail in strength and vigor; to be weak.
3. To sink into dejection; to lose courage or spirit.
4. To decay; to disappear; to vanish.[2]

So, if I understand correctly, it seems that along with the other well-known promises in the above verses, the Lord promises that by avoiding what we know we are supposed to avoid and by eating what we are supposed to eat, we will be able to act and behave as Saints without sinking into dejection or losing courage or becoming weak. This is a wonderful promise for times when opposition increases and we need an extra measure of courage and fortitude to do what is right.

I testify that I know that this promise is fulfilled. I have experienced it in my own life.

From Webster’s 1829 Dictionary (
Friday, November 14, 2008 1 comments

Christ - A prodigy of righteousness

40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. (Luke 2:40-45)
I always wondered why it was that Mary and Joseph could go one day’s journey back from Jerusalem and THEN go looking for Jesus among their kinfolk. It almost seemed to me like it was neglectful somehow. If my parents were in that situation, I couldnt' seem them leaving Jerusalem without checking to make sure all the kids were present and accounted for, especially in the crowded chaos of a major religious celebration.

Today I realized that it wasn’t that they were neglectful; Jesus was such a good, dependable, and obedient child that they automatically assumed that He would be where He was supposed to be at the time He should be there. He had proven His trustworthiness so many times before that they gave Him a lot of freedom and they didn’t worry about Him until.. this time they couldn’t find Him.
46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, [and they were hearing him, and asking him questions.]
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. (Luke 2: 46-48, JST substituted)
No wonder they were so sad; they felt He had violated their trust and it was such a shock to them after those twelve years of perfect obedience and responsibility.

And can you imagine that three day search? I wonder where they looked for Jesus? In the markets? In the synagogues? Among the children?

And then they found Him. In the temple. Teaching. Of all the things that a twelve-year-old might do in a big city without parental supervision for three days, that is what He gravitated toward. I love it.

But they still felt He had violated their trust. I wonder how Mary said those words? “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”
And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? (Luke 2:49)
Such an interesting reply! “How is it that ye sought me?” Jesus wondered why they even bothered to look for Him when He knew that they knew His incredibly dependable character. They should have known He would eventually come home. He was taking care of His Father’s unfinished business after the Passover, starting to take on His responsibilities to minister and teach. Maybe some people thought that serving the Lord starts at a much older age, but Jesus knew that kind of thing starts as early as knowing what His Father’s business is.

This is the Savior we depend on.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008 0 comments

Hungering after righteousness

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matt 5:6,8)
I love to ask questions about the scriptures I read.

Some questions I have from these verses are “filled with what?” If we hunger and thirst after righteousness, what will we be filled with? I suppose the answer would be righteousness, because we get what we go searching for. Seek and ye shall find, right?

So now I have more questions. Once we are filled with righteousness, does that mean we will no longer be hungry for righteousness? Or will we be hungry for more? Maybe the answer lies in the metaphor that Christ uses, which is eating. Once we eat enough, we feel satisfied and comfortable and happy. Perhaps Christ implies that doing righteous things will satisfy our spirits like food satisfies our bodies, but perhaps like eating, the strongest feelings of satisfaction are temporary and have to be reinforced with more righteousness.

I know this is true, because I have felt this. When I have done something good, I have a very strong feeling of satisfaction for a while, but after a while I begin to want to do something good again. While I remember my previous satisfaction, the memory does not feed, just like memories of good food do not much help new hunger.

So if we go through life feeding our hunger for righteousness, that seems an awful lot like we’d become pure in heart. And Christ’s promise is that the pure in heart will see God. We are left to wonder whether it will happen in this life or the next. I hope it is this life.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008 0 comments


But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (3 Nephi 12:22)
Something I notice in this scripture is that Christ says that we should not be angry with people. But it also seems to say that we shouldn’t call people derisive names. Part of me wonders if this is because calling people names is particularly provoking and tends to make them angry. And it could also be that calling people something contemptible indicates our own arrogance, which is a dangerous spiritual state.

In my family we were trained to not call each other names. Of course we messed up just as much as anybody, but we knew we weren’t supposed to.

Have you ever been in a place where people called each other the worst names in the most affectionate way? I saw this for a while. I really wonder about that. I don’t understand it. I don’t like it, because it gives outsiders the completely wrong idea about the nature of the relationship. “Whore” is just not a term of endearment. Neither is "witch" or some of those other things.

Just some random thoughts I have on the scripture...
Sunday, November 2, 2008 0 comments

Have you been planted in good or bad ground?

In Jacob 5 we are given the Allegory of the Olive Tree from Zenos. There are a few interesting verses that I’ve noticed:
21 And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard.
22 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto him: Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit.
23 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard said unto his servant: Look hither; behold I have planted another branch of the tree also; and thou knowest that this spot of ground was poorer than the first. But, behold the tree. I have nourished it this long time, and it hath brought forth much fruit; therefore, gather it, and lay it up against the season, that I may preserve it unto mine own self. (Jacob 5:21-23)
This scripture seems to say that one of the things that contributes to our spiritual growth as individuals is the environment that we grow up in.

I was blessed with a pretty good environment. I feel that I was in a very loving family. Yet it wasn’t perfect. Public school was very challenging for me. Though I didn’t yet know exactly how to draw strength from the Lord, I knew enough to get some support from my family and I knew enough to look for good friends that would help me choose the right. I learned to draw strength from seminary too. Gradually I learned that strength comes from God.

There are many people that grow up in very challenging environments, suffering abuse where there should be love. It is hard to imagine how anyone good could come out of a bad environment.

In the scripture above, the servant of the vineyard asks the Lord of the vineyard why he decided to plant trees where the ground was bad. The Lord replies that He knew the ground was bad and that He worked hard on it to compensate. “I have nourished it this long time”. The Lord did two things; He amended the ground to make it better, but He also amended it over and over and over again for “this long time”.

This teaches me that people who have been in bad environments need to be nourished again and again and again in order to rise above it to the point that they can do good works. It teaches me that the harder it gets to do what is right, the more nourishing church must become and the more strong and loving families must become, and the more the Lord will need to help.

This teaches me that even though we may find ourselves in a very hostile place, the Lord will find ways to nourish us again and again and again and again. We have to search for good activities and good entertainment that increases our strength to do good. When we take our strength from the Lord, we will not just do a little bit of good, we will bring forth MUCH fruit.
25 And he said unto the servant: Look hither and behold the last. Behold, this have I planted in a good spot of ground; and I have nourished it this long time, and only a part of the tree hath brought forth tame fruit, and the other part of the tree hath brought forth wild fruit; behold, I have nourished this tree like unto the others.
26 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard said unto the servant: Pluck off the branches that have not brought forth good fruit, and cast them into the fire.
27 But behold, the servant said unto him: Let us prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it a little longer, that perhaps it may bring forth good fruit unto thee, that thou canst lay it up against the season. (Jacob 5:25-27)
I think it is interesting in these verses that the tree that was planted in a good spot of ground received nourishment and soil amendments too. It almost seems like it is too much and not quite fair. But maybe the lesson is that the Lord doesn’t take it for granted that a good environment will give all the needed nourishment. Even the best environments may neglect to teach certain important principles, because they are so fundamental they seem already understood.

That the tree has part of it that gives good fruit and part that gives wild, bad fruit seems to teach us that we have some choice in how we make use of the nourishment we receive. We may ignore it, or we may use it. But the danger of have such great nourishment in such a great environment is that there is no longer any excuse for bad fruit. The Lord is justified in cutting us off if we don’t yield good fruit. Fortunately, the Lord is easily persuaded to be merciful and try the less extreme measures before He has to use the most extreme measures. He will try chastising us (pruning) and try to nourish us a little longer to see if we change for the better.

Some thoughts on marriage

Why is it so important for us to define marriage as between one man and one woman? Why do we need to define it at all? Why is this seemingly narrow definition so important? My answer to this echoes something I read in Brother Adams’ booklet “Beyond the Veil”—“without definition, there is no meaning.”

Also, I would assert further that defining things and understanding definitions is imperative in order to learn the mysteries of godliness and gain specific knowledge of God. When God teaches us anything by the Spirit, He always makes it perfectly clear to us. He explains according to our understanding, using our language, our terms, our words. In order for us to receive mysteries based upon definitions, our definitions must be correct, thorough, and extremely solid. He can’t teach us a mystery if our foundational understanding is in error in some way, otherwise we’ll fight it. He also can’t teach us mysteries if our definitional understanding of the concept involved is too limited for us to grasp the idea, otherwise we won’t get it. And He can’t teach us if we’re uncertain, otherwise we’d be overwhelmed. I think this is why it is always useful to talk about definitions of gospel principles, so those definitions can be corrected, expanded, and cemented in our minds to prepare us for the mysteries that will be built upon them.

We need this definition of marriage to give a starting point for who can be married. With society so confused as to whether same-sex relationships can or can’t be constituted as marriage, clearly this is a matter where revelation from God is needed. Surely God would be the best authority for this issue. We have prophets today that declare that marriage between a man and a woman is divinely approved and sanctioned by God. This is a clear message. The prophets who spread this message have not made this up. It may look like they are social reactionaries who are just scared of change and they are cloaking their discomfort with an imagined message from God, but that is not the case. They have had this revelation, and they had it more than a decade before this issue came to the front, showing that God forewarns the world through the prophets. They ARE prophets.

But back to marriage. There are godly mysteries of marriage that must certainly be eluding the world today, judging from the number of divorces. How many people are truly prepared for marriage? How do we even know if we are prepared to handle the problems along with the joys? Marriage is not all “happily ever after”. There are the day-to-day family duties, the big decisions that must be made, the sudden challenges that seem to bash in uninvited, and the differences of opinion that are revealed. Handling all of that takes a lot of effort in a marriage.

As a teenage girl growing up, I anticipated someday getting married, and I was very interested in finding someone to love. I was a weird teenager though. While I imbibed the usual media message about “happily ever after”, somehow I knew that there would be difficulties. I ran across the marriage advice column regularly featured in Parent magazine and I loved to read about the troubles married couples had, read about the solutions presented by the counselor, and think about how those troubles could have been avoided in the first place. My reasoning was that if I knew ahead of time how to nip problems in the bud or how to communicate without alienating my husband, then that would prevent a lot of problems from ever appearing. My parents collected a lot of books about marriage and I liked to read them from time to time. Yes, I was a weird teenager. I studied marriage problems to learn problem-solving and problem-prevent skills.

What I learned has served me very well in my seven years of marriage. Our marriage is by no means perfect, but it is substantially smoother than it would have been had I not read what I had. You know how they say that the first year of marriage is usually the hardest? It didn’t seem like that to me.

But I’m going to have to start studying marriage problems and solutions again. I want to improve. Maybe I’ll check out a few books from the library or look online. Actually, since I know solutions are always found in the gospel, I need to think about what I will read in terms of using gospel principles better in my marriage.
Friday, October 31, 2008 0 comments

Unspeakable words

The greatest part of the Book of Mormon is when Christ visits the American continent after His Resurrection. Here is a place where He prays for a crowd of people who have gathered to hear Him:
15 And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him.
16 And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;
17 And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father. (3 Nephi 17:15-17)
I’ve wondered in the past how it is possible to speak things that can’t be written or even imagined. But I think I’m beginning to realize how it happens. When I was a teenager I would hear people talk with great enthusiasm about service and missionary work and the Spirit of God and a number of other things of spiritual significance, and I couldn’t understand what was so great about them. But as I have gained more experience with these things I have become acquainted with the great joy that comes from them. I’ve learned how satisfying service is. I’ve learned how invigorating and exciting missionary work is. I’ve gotten more in tune with the Spirit of the Lord and a number of other things, and now I find that when someone says those words they seem magical to me, because just the words evoke memories of the wonderful feelings I’ve had.

So I think that those words Jesus prayed must have been somewhat like icebergs (remember, 10% above the water, 90% submerged where you can’t see it). 90% of the meaning must have been felt.
Saturday, October 25, 2008 0 comments

Land disputes

I ran across this story in my study today:
25 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the twenty and fourth year of the reign of the judges, there would also have been peace among the people of Nephi had it not been for a contention which took place among them concerning the land of Lehi, and the land of Morianton, which joined upon the borders of Lehi; both of which were on the borders by the seashore.
26 For behold, the people who possessed the land of Morianton did claim a part of the land of Lehi; therefore there began to be a warm contention between them, insomuch that the people of Morianton took up arms against their brethren, and they were determined by the sword to slay them.
27 But behold, the people who possessed the land of Lehi fled to the camp of Moroni, and appealed unto him for assistance; for behold they were not in the wrong.
28 And it came to pass that when the people of Morianton, who were led by a man whose name was Morianton, found that the people of Lehi had fled to the camp of Moroni, they were exceedingly fearful lest the army of Moroni should come upon them and destroy them.
29 Therefore, Morianton put it into their hearts that they should flee to the land which was northward, which was covered with large bodies of water, and take possession of the land which was northward.
30 And behold, they would have carried this plan into effect, (which would have been a cause to have been lamented) but behold, Morianton being a man of much passion, therefore he was angry with one of his maid servants, and he fell upon her and beat her much.
31 And it came to pass that she fled, and came over to the camp of Moroni, and told Moroni all things concerning the matter, and also concerning their intentions to flee into the land northward.
32 Now behold, the people who were in the land Bountiful, or rather Moroni, feared that they would hearken to the words of Morianton and unite with his people, and thus he would obtain possession of those parts of the land, which would lay a foundation for serious consequences among the people of Nephi, yea, which consequences would lead to the overthrow of their liberty.
33 Therefore Moroni sent an army, with their camp, to head the people of Morianton, to stop their flight into the land northward.
34 And it came to pass that they did not ahead them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east.
35 And it came to pass that the army which was sent by Moroni, which was led by a man whose name was Teancum, did meet the people of Morianton; and so stubborn were the people of Morianton, (being inspired by his wickedness and his flattering words) that a battle commenced between them, in the which Teancum did slay Morianton and defeat his army, and took them prisoners, and returned to the camp of Moroni. And thus ended the twenty and fourth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.
36 And thus were the people of Morianton brought back. And upon their covenanting to keep the peace they were restored to the land of Morianton, and a union took place between them and the people of Lehi; and they were also restored to their lands. (Alma 50:25-36)
I read it with a lot more interest than I usually have in the past, because I am taking a World Politics class this semester and I just finished a short paper examining Russia’s reasons for invading Georgia (not the Georgia in the United States, the country that is south of Russia). Though the events only half coincide, there are enough similarities to render the comparison interesting. I reproduce my paper below:
In August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia, completing their humanitarian intervention on behalf of South Ossetia.

Examining their justification for this requires some historical background.

Russia’s military action came at the end of a series of events in which tensions between South Ossetia and Georgia were heightened, and tensions between Russia and Georgia were heightened.

In the 1990s, South Ossetia, located between Georgia and Russia, fought to separate itself from Georgia and since then, South Ossetia has had very close ties to Russia. Russia has issued South Ossetians Russian passports to facilitate relations (Abdullaev, 2008; Nichol, 2008, 18) and many South Ossetians use Russian money (Godsadze 2008). This has not prevented Georgia from wanting to reunite South Ossetia back with Georgia.

In 2005, there were two elections in South Ossetia, one in which the South Ossetian separatists claimed 99% of the population was in favor of an independent South Ossetia, and an alternative election that was decided in favor of unification with Georgia. Russia recognized the separatist election, while the U.S. state department and most of the west accepted the alternative election (Nichol, 2008, 3). This has caused a mismatch in views over South Ossetia’s international status.

Tensions rose before the fighting started as Georgia conducted military maneuvers on its borders, and Russia conducted military maneuvers by its borders. Georgia protested Russia’s maneuvers, saying that it was demonstrating a military threat. (Nichol, 2008, 6)

In early August, smatterings of violence between South Ossetia and Georgia resulted in Georgia invading South Ossetia. The South Ossetian president claimed that during the invasion, Georgia perpetrated its third genocide against South Ossetia (Russia Today, 2008, Aug 9). South Ossetians claimed that Georgian soldiers made no distinction between military and civilian targets and that they behaved in a brutal manner toward fleeing civilians (Russia Today, 2008, Sept 7). There are stories of old women crushed by tanks and cars set on fire with occupants still inside. Although the death toll is unknown, South Ossetia claims it is in the thousands. (Russia Today, 2008, Aug 9)

In response to the crowds of distressed South Ossetians fleeing northward, Russia declared that it would repel the Georgian aggression. It invaded South Ossetia, stopped the Georgian forces, pushed them back into Georgia, and continued further into Georgia.

Russia justified its actions by saying that Georgia was committing genocide on South Ossetia and that it was necessary to stop it immediately. Russia already had peacekeeping forces in South Ossetia, but they were overcome; “52 Russian peacekeepers were killed as a result of the Georgian army’s attack. Thirteen are missing and 229 are wounded” (Russia Today, 2008). “In justifying its invasion of Georgia, Russia said it had to defend Ossetians with Russian citizenship who were under siege when Georgia shelled their capital, Tskhinvali, in early August” (Rodriguez, 2008).

Russia’s push far into Georgia can also be seen as an intention to completely subdue the military aggression of Georgia. If Russia merely chased the Georgian army back into Georgia and stopped at the border, the opposing Georgian army would remain a significant threat for South Ossetia to face in the future. Russia proceeded to Georgian military bases and neutralized the threat itself in order to be quite sure that Georgia would no longer threaten South Ossetia. They took over Georgian military bases, replaced Georgian media broadcasts with pro-Russian content (possibly to try to reverse any pro-Georgia propaganda), and took Georgian soldiers prisoners (Rimple, 2008).

Russia’s invasion into Georgia is also an attempt to build a protective margin or buffer around South Ossetia. They put in eight military checkpoints in Georgia and wanted a no-fly zone too (Whalen & Chazen, 2008). Russia consistently sets up buffer zones to prevent outside invasion. Eastern Europe was turned into a Russian buffer zone against the threat they perceived in NATO and the west after World War II (Norton, 2008).

Once Russia occupied Georgia, it also took the unique step of extending diplomatic recognition to South Ossetia, citing humanitarian reasons (Abdullaev, 2008). This was done in order to try to solidify the territorial integrity of South Ossetia, even as many other nations decried this recognition as a violation of the territorial integrity of Georgia and called for Russia to leave Georgia.

The fact that Russia has since mostly pulled out of Georgia, following a cease-fire agreement (AFP, 2008) and has insisted on including a South Ossetian delegate in peace talks with Georgia (Williams & Wagstyl, 2008) indicates that it was not using “humanitarian intervention” as a cloak for ambitious national expansion.

The theory that best explains Russia’s reason for invading Georgia is that of “humanitarian intervention”.
Similarities between the Morianton-Lehi land dispute and the Georgia-South Ossetia dispute are that one party thought land of the other party belonged to them, there was escalating violence, fleeing refugees petitioned for outside military intervention, and the aggressors had to be completely subdued.

I think it is significant that in the Book of Mormon story, everyone was restored to their lands after they covenanted to keep the peace. It is even more interesting to me that a union took place between these two warring parties that previously fought over the land. It seems to show that unity is the solution to contention.

Works cited in paper
AFP. (2008, Oct 15). Georgia-Russia talks angrily break down. Retrieved Oct 15, 2008 from

Abdullaev N. (2008, October 7). Russia Adds 2 New Countries to Its Map. [Electronic version] The Moscow Times as shared by Retrieved on Oct 11, 2008 from

Gotsadze, E., Associated Press. (2008, August 8). Fighting with Russian spreads to cities across Georgia. Retrieved October 7, 2008 from

Norton E. (2008, Oct 11) Why Uneasy relation exist between Poles and Russians. Welcome to Polishsite. Retrieved on October 11, 2008 from

Nichol J. (2008, August 29). Russia-Georgia Conflict in South Ossetia: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests. [pdf document] Congressional Research Service. Retrieved on Oct 11, 2008 from

Russia Today. (2008, September 7) Witnesses reveal ‘Georgian atrocities’. [Electronic version] Retrieved Oct 2, 2008 from

Russia Today. (2008, August 9). NATO encouraged Georgia – Russian envoy. Retrieved October 11, 2008 from

Rodriguez, A (2008, October 2). Ukraine’s Russia Quandry. [Electronic version] The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 6, 2008 from,0,3220653.story.

Whalen J, Chazan G. (2008, August 21). Moscow is Likely to Recognize Breakaway Republics in Georgia. [Electronic version] Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on Oct 11, 2008 from

Williams, F. & Wagstyl, S. (2008, Oct 15). Georgia and Russia begin talks. [Electronic Version] Financial Times. Retrieved on Oct 15, 2008 from

Thursday, October 23, 2008 0 comments

I am now a Segullah fan.

I ran across the website for Segullah, which is a literary journal for LDS women's writing. I read through a number of essays and poems. (Okay, so it was a large number. I got hooked.) I have to say that I was very impressed. I was enlightened. I was encouraged. I felt that it was a great thing to be a woman. I think this did more to show the dignity of motherhood--the struggle, the pain, and the beauty.

Pieces that really stuck out to me:
  • A poem about a dream and a date. Startling!
  • A pregnant woman discovers her painful sacrifice is acceptable to the Lord, here. This changed the way I thought about pregnancy, pioneers, and sacrifice.
  • An essay on guilt, here, which I am convinced will become a classic, and
  • "In Honor of Feisty Marriages: The Story of a Remodel" Loved it.

Discover for yourself!
Thursday, October 16, 2008 0 comments

Watch out for anger

For behold, his designs were to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites; this he did that he might usurp great power over [the Lamanites], and also that he might gain power over the Nephites by bringing them into bondage. (Alma 43:8)
This scripture teaches me that I must be very careful when someone is trying to make me angry at another person. I’ve noticed that when I get angry, it is almost impossible for me to be fair or prevent myself from over-reacting.

The resurrected Jesus Christ talked about the dangers of anger when He visited the Nephites on the American continent. (He said some of the same things that He said during his mortal ministry):
21 Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, and it is also written before you, that thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment of God;
22 But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (3 Nephi 12:21-22, compare to Matthew 5:21-22)
According to the index, the work Raca suggests contempt in both Aramaic and Greek.

Anger puts us in danger of the judgment of God because when we are angry we almost always want to take it out on something or someone. When we take our anger out on people we do or say mean things, which is a sin. In the midst of anger, we don’t want to think about weighing our actions or making sure we don’t go too far, because that requires a cool head and careful thinking. We don’t want to think when we’re angry, we just want to act.

I think it is interesting that right after warning against anger, Christ also warns against name-calling. This is probably because name-calling tends to make other people angry, and also it is a manifestation of arrogance and pride.

A lot of people misunderstand the nature of pride. President Ezra Taft Benson gave an amazing talk in which he clarifies the danger of pride. I think pride and anger are very much connected. Thinking we are better than someone else, which is a big part of pride, opens the door for us to justify being angry with them.

I’ve found the best way I can overcome my anger is by praying.

I can remember when I found out my husband had done something that very much made me feel insecure. I was very angry with him, and it was a good thing he wasn’t around at the time. I paced around our apartment and I just couldn’t let go of it. I didn’t like what I was feeling and deep inside I felt that what I was angry about was actually really stupid (a pin I found in our bed). I didn’t want to be mad at my husband, because he is my best friend. So I prayed about it. I told Heavenly Father all about how I felt and that I didn’t want to feel that way and I asked for help to not be angry any more. And gradually I simmered down. When my husband came home, I was able to express myself on the issue kindly, without heat, and reasonably.
Monday, October 13, 2008 0 comments

Vote yes on Proposition 102!

In November in Arizona voters will decide whether to pass Proposition 102, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. I believe this is important to do. I would like to share the principles of my belief upon which I base my decision.

I believe that gender is an essential characteristic of a person and that it is eternal. (Male spirits and female spirits existed before we were born on this earth and will continue after we die.)

I believe that the institution of marriage (between one man and one woman) is divinely sanctioned and approved.

I believe that the principle of love, as overarching and transcendent as it is, has certain limits and boundaries to its proper expression that are divinely appointed and that when we act within those boundaries, individuals may become perfected and society is strengthened.

I believe that God delights in the chastity of individuals (both men and women) who are not married and in the complete fidelity to spouse of those individuals who are married.

I can see that the institution of marriage is under attack from various directions. It is under attack from within when married individuals seek their own interests over the good of the couple and the family. It is under attack from without when large numbers of adults of marriageable age put off marrying. It is under attack from without when alternatives question the very nature and importance of gender.

By voting for this proposition, we politically affirm what we know to be true, that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008 0 comments

Some observations on the economy

10 ¶ For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness:
thou hast said, None seeth me.
Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee;
and thou hast said in thine heart,
I am, and none else beside me.
11 ¶ Therefore shall evil come upon thee;
thou shalt not know from whence it riseth:
and mischief shall fall upon thee;
thou shalt not be able to put it off:
and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly,
which thou shalt not know.
12 Stand now with thine enchantments,
and with the multitude of thy sorceries,
wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth;
if so be thou shalt be able to profit,
if so be thou mayest prevail.
13 Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels.
Let now the astrologers,
the stargazers,
the monthly prognosticators, stand up,
and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.
(Isaiah 47:10-13)
For some reason this scripture makes me think of the economic crisis.

Verse 11 reminds me a lot of a certain CEO, who insisted at a Congressional hearing that up to five days before, he had no idea that his company was going to go down.

As I have watched the banking industry thrash around and try to escape the credit crisis and I see all the different things they’ve been trying to do, like buy out each other’s debt, and raise more capital, and sell off assets and ask for bailouts, I can’t help but remember how they insisted that debt securitization was safe, because it was diluting the risk, how they advertised home equity loans for “living better”, and the credit default swaps..and so on.

Really, they do not see it coming, because they have made a perversion of debt. So now, they will try to work magic on their balance sheets to make the mess go away, or they will try to prevail upon the government to save them. I read that so many people in Washington and New York have been working 7 days a week for the last month or so trying to find a way out of the mess. They really are “wearied in the multitude of [their] counsels”. And we look to the market forecasters and economists to predict when things are expected to get better.
15 Because ye have said,
We have made a covenant with death,
and with hell are we at agreement;
when the overflowing scourge shall pass through,
it shall not come unto us:
for we have made lies our refuge,
and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
16 ¶ Therefore thus saith the Lord God,
Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone,
a tried stone,
a precious corner stone,
a sure foundation:
he that believeth shall not make haste.
17 Judgment also will I lay to the line,
and righteousness to the plummet:
and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.
18 ¶ And your covenant with death shall be disannulled,
and your agreement with hell shall not stand;
when the overflowing scourge shall pass through,
then ye shall be trodden down by it.
19 From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you:
for morning by morning shall it pass over,
by day and by night:
and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.
(Isaiah 28:15-19)
I take courage from verse 16 above, which seems to say that before the disaster happens, the Lord laid a safe foundation to build upon. The main foundation, of course, is Christ, and He gives us a safe financial foundation to build on. We have known for many years that safe foundation is 1) paying our tithing 2) getting out of debt 3) living within our means 4) having a year’s supply of food and 5) having an emergency cash reserve. If we believed in these measures and followed them we will not need to panic or be in a hurry or “make haste”, because we will already be prepared.

Verse 15 is significant because it says that the Lord will lay judgment and righteousness to the line and plummet, meaning that He is testing everyone, even the righteous. If we have built on that safe foundation, we will be able to withstand the hail and the overflowing waters (the financial storms), when otherwise we would be swept away and overthrown. And certainly it will be vexing only to hear what is going on.
8 Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre,
the crowning city,
whose merchants are princes,
whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth?
9 The Lord of hosts hath purposed it,
to stain the pride of all glory,
and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.
(Isaiah 23:8-9)
I think we’re starting to see some humiliation and contempt..

When will the lesson about the perils of greed be learned?
And her merchandise
and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord:
it shall not be treasured nor laid up;
for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord,
to eat sufficiently,
and for durable clothing.
(Isaiah 23:18)
When we have learned how much is really enough and learned to donate our surplus to others in need, then we will begin to climb out of these troubles.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008 0 comments

What shall I do?

One of the great stories in the Book of Mormon is the story of Lamanite king who was taught the Plan of Salvation and wanted a change of heart so badly that he was willing to do some difficult things for it.
15 And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
16 But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.
17 And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:
18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.. (Alma 22:15-18)
It is amazing that though he didn’t yet know what was required for his sins to be taken away, he was willing to give up what would be most dear to a king—his possessions and his kingdom—in return for:
  • Eternal life
  • Having the wicked spirit rooted out of his breast
  • Reception of the Spirit of God
  • Great joy
Aaron told him he needed to bow down before God (showing humility), repent of his sins, and pray to God in faith that he would receive.

It is so touching to me that this king did more than bow down, he prostrated himself on the ground, and he didn’t just pray, he “cried mightily”. And though he didn’t even know if this God was real, he prayed anyway, praying that if God was real, that He would make Himself known. And then, promising to give away all his sins just to know this God!

His prayers were answered, and you can read the whole story here.

Are you willing to give away all your sins for all those things? How much do you want to know God? Will you bow down and cry mightily for forgiveness? Will you be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost?
Sunday, October 5, 2008 0 comments

Some impressions from general conference (Oct 2008)

One thing I very much love about watching general conference is the singing of the choir. Their delivery is extraordinarily different from many choirs I hear that sing sacred music, and because it is different I find myself listening in a different way.

One way their delivery is different is that it is slower. In general I dislike slowness in sacred music because it can make it take forever, but for some reason when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings slowly I find myself becoming more and more quiet and calm. I notice that I sit completely still, almost not daring to breathe and my body seems to become one big ear, listening and feeling the music and the message of the words. It is at this time that I realize how hymns, the song of the heart, have become a prayer to the Lord, because the thoughtfulness and sheer reverence are the same required for sincere prayer.


The first talk about food, clothing, shelter, and fuel was very good. I think the bit about keeping the Word of Wisdom is probably very much needed as there are so many people that are having troubles with their health. I am sure that living the law of what is best to eat would go a long way toward lightening the burden of sickness in the church. I have tried it myself and I have found it to keep me more healthy than just avoiding the things that it says to avoid. I challenge everyone to review the Word of Wisdom in Doctrine and Covenants 89 and to test it.


I appreciated Dallen H. Oaks’ talk about sacrament meeting, especially when he mentioned the function of music at church. I am the organist for our ward and one of the things I have experimented with is making different arrangements of chord progressions for the hymns. I like to play them for preludes and postludes…and sometimes if I feel inspired, I use them for congregational hymns’ last verses to give particular emphasis. It was good to be reminded that the music is for worship, not performance. This gives me a good measuring stick for my motives for whatever I do. Am I trying to add to atmosphere of worship, or am I trying to show off my meager talents?


Gerald Causee brought up these good points about studying the scriptures:
  • What would a child understand from reading the story of Christ being
  • baptized?
  • Don’t reject the principle of simplicity and clarity
  • Don’t seek for things we can’t understand, because then God will give it and we will make mistakes.
This idea of reading the scriptures as a child would is fascinating to me. This was a lovely wakeup call for me, because I have been reading the scriptures too much lately with the sole intent of finding things I don’t understand, in order to study them. On one hand, it is good to apply myself to understanding, but when my study is completely given up to searching out the puzzling and incongruous and unclear, that is when my study has gone awry.


I was struck by Elder Quentin L. Cook’s story of how President Monson asked people to celebrate his birthday. “Do something good to help someone who is having a hard time.” What could be more Christ-like than that request? It shows what he really wants—people to help others in need.

If everyone in the church did one good deed each day, that would be more than 13 million good deeds! (For that matter, what if everyone in the world made sure to do something kind each day? 6 billion kindnesses!)

What if everyone in the church shared something about the gospel each day? That would be more than 13 million people taught!

What if everyone in the church above the age of 12 became worthy of a temple recommend and then went to the temple at least once a month? How many new temples would we need?

In 2006 I once calculated in the roundest of numbers that it would take 35 youth and 5200 adults to fill the Mesa Temple if that amount were to go every day. Our stake has over 6000 people in it. I can’t quite remember the assumptions I used for my calculations, so it may need to be recalculated, but the thing I learned from the exercise was that each temple has a finite volume that can be filled and if we do the math we will see what it takes to fill the nearest temple’s capacity. It may be easier than we think and take fewer people than we think. When we fill the temple, the Lord gives us more of them and puts them closer so that we can go more often.

(Image credit - Andrew Ainsworth, Mormon Matters blog,
Wednesday, October 1, 2008 0 comments

Care for the One

My husband and I have been reading in the Book of Mormon about when Christ came to visit the people of the Americas. One thing that seems to stick out to me today is how individualized His attention was, and how concerned He was that everyone experience for themselves.
13 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:
14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
16 And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:
17 Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him. (3 Nephi 11:13-17)
Christ wanted everyone to see the wounds that were made in Him on their behalf. When they saw them, the sufferings of Christ for their sins became a very real thing, worthy of worship. These days I try to use the sacrament to make Christ’s sufferings real to me.

Christ also wanted the people to experience His healing power.
7 Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.
8 For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you.
9 And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him. (3 Nephi 17:7-9)
I think it is neat that Christ healed those who came to Him, and He did it one by one. Today we are still invited to come unto Christ and promised that He can heal our hearts. Priesthood power is on the earth today and we can be healed of our sickness. I have experienced these things myself and they are real.

Christ also gave individual attention to children.
And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. (3 Nephi 17:21)
I find this so neat that Christ would take each child and bless each one and pray for each one. Think of the anticipation of waiting for that experience. I wonder, if I had been one of those children, what would Christ said when He blessed me? What would He have prayed for me? I’m sure it would have been great, because of what it says earlier when he was praying for the whole multitude.
15 And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him.
16 And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;
17 And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father. (3 Nephi 17:15-17)
I would love to know what He prayed.

All this individual attention that Christ gave to the people shows us that salvation is about the one, and that we are saved from our sins one by one, that we are taught one by one. We receive ordinances one by one so that we know that the covenants we make are between us and God.