Wednesday, August 31, 2011 2 comments

How can vicarious temple ordinances save the dead?

Imagine someone asks you this question:

How can we say that the vicarious work done in the temple does any good? Why can my deeds affect souls in the spirit world? I don’t see any connection. I don’t even know what is going on there, so how can I say that what I’m doing is really making any difference?

How would you answer this?

Here’s my best answer. (Caveat: This is doctrine according to Michaela and in no way official church doctrine!)

We are familiar with the principle of Christ's vicarious work for us. Christ suffered for all of our sins so that we won’t suffer for them if we repent (D&C 19:16-17). Christ’s power and authority over life and death makes His vicarious act of sacrifice for us possible.

The next principle it is necessary to understand is expressed by Jesus’s promise to Peter:
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19, emphasis added)
Those with the keys of the kingdom can perform ordinances that remain in force past death. This is the basis for the sealing of husband and wife and children together. The marriage will last past death. All other ordinances have this similar promise of enduring beyond death.

Because the ordinances performed by those with keys of the kingdom are binding both on earth and in heaven, that implies authority to reach past the gates of hell to pull people out of spirit prison by doing vicarious ordinances on their behalf. Members who have participated in those ordinances for themselves gain the authority to act in place of others who are dead. (Even a twelve-year-old who is baptized and worthy can be baptized for someone else who is dead.)

If saving ordinances could only be done for the living, then that would mean the church doesn’t really have the keys of the kingdom. It would mean that the gates of hell could prevail against the church.

The keys have to be effective both in heaven and on earth, both during mortality and after, to be the keys of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is on earth and in heaven. It has power over the devil, and thus over hell. These are God's keys, with God's power.

From the perspective of the world, it is the ultimate cheekiness to claim one has power to release a spirit from hell. There is no way to verify that claim other than to die and find out. This is why revelation and testimony is needed. Even the possibility of such power had to be revealed from on high. The power had to be given from on high. (And it was! Hooray!!) But to have full faith in it, we also need to gain our own testimony of it from the same source. We need to have assurance that our vicarious works are really working and not just some fable made up.

Acting on behalf of those souls we can’t see and have never even met takes real faith, but I believe that was the same type of faith Jesus exhibited when He took upon Himself our sins. I think our demonstrating that kind of faith is part of what makes us “saviors on Mount Zion.”
Monday, August 29, 2011 4 comments

They fled in much confusion

In Alma 52, the Nephites use the decoy method to lead the Lamanites away from the city of Mulek. The Lamanites chase Teancum’s army all the way to Bountiful, at which they are met by Lehi’s fresh army, who takes over the battle from there. Here’s a verse that has always seemed interesting to me:
And now behold, when the chief captains of the Lamanites had beheld Lehi with his army coming against them, they fled in much confusion, lest perhaps they should not obtain the city Mulek before Lehi should overtake them; for they were wearied because of their march, and the men of Lehi were fresh. (Alma 52:28)
I don’t think the phrase “in much confusion” denotes a state of mind; there is nothing confusing about the situation; it is obvious to the Lamanites that they have just been played for fools. What “in much confusion” describes is the manner in which the army traveled—men breaking ranks and lines in order to move as fast as they can to get to safety and leaving the slower ones to fend for themselves.

The Lamanites chased Teancum’s Nephite army up to Bountiful while keeping their lines and ranks according to their leaders’ command, but as soon as they saw they were in danger, they became as undisciplined as any panicked crowd and their leaders could do nothing about it.

Later in the battle there ARE confused states of mind when the Lamanites find the rear of their army is surrendering and the front of their army is still fighting.
And Lehi pressed upon their rear with such fury with his strong men, that the Lamanites in the rear delivered up their weapons of war; and the remainder of them, being much confused, knew not whither to go or to strike. (Alma 52:36)
Captain Moroni takes advantage of their confusion and gives them a clear option to end the fight.
37 Now Moroni seeing their confusion, he said unto them: If ye will bring forth your weapons of war and deliver them up, behold we will forbear shedding your blood.
38 And it came to pass that when the Lamanites had heard these words, their chief captains, all those who were not slain, came forth and threw down their weapons of war at the feet of Moroni, and also commanded their men that they should do the same. (Alma 52:37-38)
Now, please don’t misunderstand what I am about to say. Captain Moroni is a powerful example of good leadership. However, this should not prevent us from recognizing the tactics Satan uses in our lives, which are very similar to what Captain Moroni just did. Captain Moroni saw the confusion of the Lamanites when they didn’t know what to do and he gave them an unambiguous solution—stop fighting and surrender. Satan goes one step further. He tries to induce confusion in us about our identities and roles and the purpose of our lives and when he sees we are confused, he tempts us to surrender, to forget about that exaltation stuff, and forget about ever becoming better, to forget about fighting evil anymore.

I guess what I am trying to say is that confusion makes us vulnerable. We see two different types of confusion in this story—organizational confusion and mental confusion. It looks to me like organizational confusion led to mental confusion.

In the church, if we suddenly stop listening to our leaders and start doing our own thing in spite of what they tell us, then it will result in a mass of confusion in the church organization. In that case, organizational confusion is a consequence of sin.

Mental confusion comes when we are faced with two or more compelling choices, which conflict with each other:
  • going along with the crowd versus being unpopular for following our conscience
  • giving in versus fighting temptation
  • doing what seems to be expedient in the moment versus doing the thing we have always been taught
  • pursuing short-term pleasures versus pursuing long-term goals
The opposite of confusion is certainty and order. Testimony gives us certainty that overcomes mental confusion, but even if we don’t have total certainty, we can use our faith to compensate. Then church organization brings order which overcomes social confusion. All of this is meant to help us keep fighting for what’s right instead of giving in to sin.

Saturday, August 27, 2011 6 comments

16 ways to mark your scriptures

I love marking my scriptures. There are so many ways to do it. I even discovered a few new methods in writing this post!

1. Highlighting. Solid highlighting is best for VERY IMPORTANT verses.

2. Underline. This is good for words and phrases you want to remember or find quickly. Underline by “shock value” (according to the significance, relevance, or impact the words have on you) or by key phrases. If it is done sparingly, it is very effective [1]. If done too much, it can become confusing and it can make it difficult to add additional markings in a visible way. (When everything is underlined, it doesn’t say that everything is important, it says that nothing is important.)

3. Boxing. When you find a series of verses that are meaningful and go together, draw a colored box around the text with colored pencils or highlighters. Boxing makes it so that the verses stand out, but you still can use more colors to mark important words and phrases inside the box.

4. Corner brackets. Corner brackets are shaped like an 'L,' only upside down and backwards. One goes around the top of the beginning of the text, and another one goes at the ending of the text. They have the same function as drawing a box around verses, but it is even less obtrusive. This is good for indicating the beginning of a speech and allows you to box verses inside it.

5. Circling. This is good for marking the superscripts for extra good footnotes I also like to circle all footnote superscripts in the text that lead me to the Joseph Smith Translation.

6. Symbols. Inserting symbols can help you distinguish between different types of messages from God. Prophecies could be a hollow star, and fulfilled prophecies could be a solid star [1]. If you need ideas for symbols to use, look at a word processer’s list of Wingding symbols and print off a list of ones you associate with different gospel topics. Keep your list in your scriptures and use those symbols in your margins [2].

7. Arrows. These are good for connecting multiple ideas together that are separated on the same page or page spread. They are good for connecting questions to their answers, causes to effects, and commandments to blessings.

8. Numbers. These are good for keeping track of list items. Anytime you find a list is a candidate for numbering. This helps you see at a glance how big the list is and helps in preliminary study of the list.

9. Marginal notes. Good for very short thoughts and observations. (Longer thoughts should go into a scripture journal. When enough margin notes have accumulated on a particular scripture block, it is time to bring them all together into a scripture journal entry.)

10. Color code. You can color code in a number of different ways: by speaker (like a red-letter Bible), by subject [3], or simply for idea contrast. Make sure that the colors make sense to you. You can make your color coding the same across your whole scriptures, or you can change your code page by page.
  • Advantages of marking by subject – If someone asks you to justify a practice, such as baptism and you happen to have marked all the scriptures about baptism in orange, all you have to do is search for the orange marked sections in the scriptures [1].
  • Advantages of marking by speaker – This is a very visual way of following conversations between people. It also helps you easily distinguish between talk and action in a story so that you can see how consequences worked out for each speaker.
  • Advantages of marking by contrast--You don’t have to remember a color code scheme or refrain from marking something because it doesn’t fit in the color code scheme. The colors just help you notice different ideas and patterns in a scripture block. Some contrasts to mark are between leaders and followers, between warnings and blessings, between good and evil, etc. In JST Matthew 24, I found it helpful to use one color to mark the scary things that would happen and use a different color to mark specific instructions of what to do. Seeing what to do when reading that chapter helps me not get scared by the scary stuff.
11. Insert sticky notes. Sticky notes make it so that you can make more notes than you could just using the margins. They can be applied, moved, layered, and removed whenever you want. (Heck, you could even color code them if you wanted to..)

12. Add small pictures of the stories. This makes the scriptures come alive so that the stories seem more real [4]. You can glue them to a sticky note that you put in or you can glue one side of the picture directly into the margin.

13. Draw pictures of what’s happening with colored pencils in your scriptures. I once drew a picture of a tower in the text where King Benjamin was giving his speech. The possibilities are endless. Liahona. Boat. Temple. Sword.

14. Add stickers. This is a variation on 'use symbols' that adds a little visual fun. Use small ones that will fit in your margins. (This can be difficult if your margins already have notes in them.) Kids will like this.

15. If you don’t like marking your scriptures, get one copy that stays clean and another copy to mark up. That way you get the analytical benefit of marking, while still retaining the option of reading a clean set. [3]

16. Get a Book of Mormon copied onto 8 X 11.5 paper and spiral-bound so you have lots of margin area to write. I once saw someone's Book of Mormon that they had this done to and I was so jealous. I'm told it can be done at Kinkos or one of those other print places.

Idea: When you have completely marked up a set of scriptures and you have to get a new set, give your old set away [5]. Or strategically leave it somewhere. Someone will find it and may have their interest in the scriptures jumpstarted by all the markings and notes you’ve made.

Some marking systems can be incredibly elaborate. (See Scriptorian’s Scripture Marking System. This one boggles my mind!)

As a bonus for this post, here's an analysis of four types of utinsels for marking scriptures:

1. Highlighters. Bright and colorful, easy to use. Some people don’t like them because they bleed through the paper, but I’ve never had a problem with that. Sometimes they can leak or take a while to dry though.

2. Pens. Pens are good for making all kinds of markings and notes in the margin that won’t fade. Some say they bleed through over time. My experience is that it takes a very long time, and for making notes, I think they are the best option because of the fine resolution that is possible with a small tip.

3. Gel writers. Gel writers don’t bleed through the paper, but they take a while to dry. I find they are good for making all kinds of line-based markings except for margin notes. (For margin notes I want something with a finer point than gel writers can give me.)

4. Colored pencils. I find these are good if you get annoyed with highlighters. (Also see the 8-color Pentel scripture marker pencil. I just got one this month and it is TOTALLY AWESOME! I’m having so much fun with it!)

Anything to add?


1 “How can you MARK your Bible for EFFECTIVE Bible Studies?”,

2 “Inductive Bible Study: Observation”,

3 “Tips on Marking Scriptures”,,

4 “LDS Scripture Study Techniques”,

5 Sid Williams, commenter #25 on “How I Mark My Bible”,

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to any brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Thursday, August 25, 2011 3 comments

Lessons from Peter’s deliverance from prison in Acts 12

1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) (Acts 12:1-3)
This seems to indicate how Herod is being affected spiritually by his past action. After having killed one righteous man, the killing is not liable to stop. (see also verses 19-20)
4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. (Acts 12:4)
I wonder exactly what Herod intended to do. If we measure this attributed intention by how Pilate tried to release Jesus to the Jews during the Passover, it seems like Herod planned to release Peter, but if we look at what Peter says to himself after leaving prison, it seems like Herod intended to kill Peter. (Peter said to himself, “the Lord hath…delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews” (Acts 12:11) I’m kind of unclear on this.
5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. (Acts 12:5)
This seems to show the power of prayer and how it can help not just us in our troubles, but our friends in their troubles too. It seems to show that uniting in prayer with others has great power.
6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.
8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.
9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.
10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.
11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. (Acts 12:6-11)
Peter’s reaction of “Now I know” is very interesting. It is almost as if he hadn’t expected this miracle. Maybe after James had been martyred Peter thought it was his turn next; being resigned to die for his witness was commendable. The cool thing is, that resignation would certainly make it all the more of a pleasant surprise to be delivered.

Also, I see something of myself in his delayed reaction. When I’m in the midst of something miraculous, I hardly ever realize it until I get to the end and start thinking about how improbable it all really would have been without the Lord. Every obstacle overcome strengthens my sense of the Lord’s power.
12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.
14 And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.
15 And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
16 But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. (Acts 12:12-16)
This is a cute little story that seems so true to life—the excitement that so addles Rhoda that she forgets to open the door but has to go tell everybody Peter’s there.
Yet she also shows us a pattern of faithful witness. When Peter knocked, she came to listen. She knew Peter’s voice. (Recognize when the prophets speak.) She told others Peter was there. (Prepare others to hear the prophets.) And even when people said she was crazy, she constantly affirmed the truth. (Stick to your testimony of what you know is true.) And of course, when they all find out that she was telling the truth, they are astonished. (Just think how astonished the world will be when they finally find out that we’ve been telling the truth all along.)

In this story, it seems odd that the church was gathered together to pray for Peter, yet they had such a hard time believing that he was knocking at the door. We often assume that the church was praying for his deliverance, but based upon their reaction to Rhoda’s news, it almost seems like deliverance was one of the furthest things from their minds. What could they have been praying for besides that? Perhaps it was prayer similar to that in Acts 4:27-30, that he would be bold and have the Spirit, that he would be strong even in the face of martyrdom. This might be why they thought Rhoda had seen Peter’s “angel” (his resurrected body); they thought he had already been martyred.

Thinking about this has showed me there is great wisdom in praying for strength in trials more than to be delivered from them. Deliverance is a wonderful thing and I like it just as much as anyone, but I’m beginning to see that if I ONLY pray to be delivered from trials, then I tend to think that only deliverance from trial shows the Lord's care for me. It makes my understanding of God’s love dependent upon the quality of my circumstances. But the quality of my circumstances is definitely a bad way to measure of God’s love. God’s love is independent of our circumstances, and His care for us is tailored to both our needs and His purposes.

But this line of thought also makes me wonder how I can keep my “faith to endure” from shrinking my “faith in God’s power to deliver.”
17 But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.
18 Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. (Acts 12:17-18)
That “no small stir” makes it sound like an understatement even when it isn’t. We see it over and over that guards of escaped prisoners are put to death. That’s why the guards of Jesus’s tomb were concerned; the body was gone and they could be put to death for dereliction of duty. The soldiers guarding Peter would be executed for losing Peter, even though they didn’t know how it happened. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas’s jailer was about to commit suicide when the earthquake opened all the prison doors; he thought all the prisoners were gone and that he would be executed. The way this happens over and over, it is obvious that guarding apostles and prophets in prison is extremely risky business.
19 And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judæa to Cæsarea, and there abode. (Acts 12:19)
I wonder how Herod took Peter’s escape. Considering Herod was trying to please the Jews, he must have known that he was imprisoning Peter unjustly. Peter’s escape should have been a message to him that God is in charge, and if Herod would not do justice to a holy man, then God would override him and could remove him. All Herod does is execute the keepers and move to some other city.
20 ¶And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country. (Acts 12:20)
Although it doesn’t say why Herod was highly displeased with people of Tyre and Sidon, I think I can speculate a little, based on Herod’s character and the situation. Herod had imprisoned Peter to please the Jews, so when Peter escaped maximum security prison, it made Herod look really bad. (The Jews must have said to themselves,“If someone like Peter can escape prison, none of us are really safe from the ‘real criminals.’”) Verse 19 says Herod “sought for [Peter], and found him not,”; we can imagine this desperate manhunt with soldiers swarming everywhere. When manhunts are unsuccessful, it’s always the man in charge who looks bad, so Herod’s reputation must have suffered even more when Peter couldn’t be found. I don’t assume that there was enough free speech at that time for people to openly mock Herod in safety, but there must have been whispers and rumors noting that Herod’s failures were signs of incompetence. This would have made Herod really mad at whoever seemed to be originating the rumors. Suffering from a damaged reputation would have driven him to try to overcompensate somehow with a display of greatness.
21 And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.
22 And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.
23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.
24 ¶But the word of God grew and multiplied. (Acts 12:1-24)
Even with all Herod’s attempts to stop the church by targeting its leaders, he failed. Instead, the work grew and multiplied, and Herod suffered. I think this story is valuable because it shows that even though persecution from government leaders is difficult to go through, that opposition still can’t stop the Lord’s work.

Now here’s a few extra random insights I gained from this story.

Extra #1: It is interesting to see what obstacles Peter overcomes when the angel leads him out of the prison. He was bound with two chains, one to each soldier, who were right next to him (v6). He had 16 soldiers guarding him (v4). He was in a cell in a prison ward, which was in another ward, which was inside an iron gate. (v9-10) It is clear the Peter was in extra-high security imprisonment, probably because of the previous time that James and Peter were released from prison by an angel in Acts 5:17-21. If God can get Peter out of a high security prison, then how much more can He get us out of our spiritual prisons!

Extra #2: For a long time I overlooked that all this occurred at Easter time, or rather, at Passover. Looking at this incident in terms of the celebration of Passover, it is perfectly fitting that the Lord commemorated Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage by delivering Peter from Herod’s prison. The opening of the gate by itself was like the parting of the Red Sea. It is a fitting sign of the Lord’s favor to the church. Further, this gives us some insight as to why Herod’s death is described afterward. The writer wanted to show how Herod also played the part of Pharaoh, with his opposition leading to his death.

Extra #3: This story seems to make a comparison between Peter and Herod as leaders. Compare their reactions to their success. When Peter is miraculously delivered, he told everyone how the Lord did it. When Herod made his grand speech, he takes all the credit for himself and allows the people to ascribe to him the powers of a god. (Except God doesn’t let that go on for long; sudden smiting and being eaten by worms make it obvious that Herod isn’t really a god.)

Extra #4: Compare the actions of the followers of these two leaders. The members of the church pray FOR Peter when he is in danger. They don’t pray TO him. On the other hand, Herod’s people desire peace with Herod and they flatter him that he’s a god when he makes a great speech. One wonders if any of them prayed to him (or for him) when he got smitten with his worm-eaten disease.

To sum up, what principles do we get from this story?
  • Uniting in prayer with others is powerful.
  • Pray to be strong in troubles, and deliverance will be a wonderful surprise.
  • Thinking about miracles after they occur and realizing what parts were miraculous helps us learn about the Lord’s power.
  • By sharing with others what the Lord has done for you, others can learn about the Lord’s power too.
  • Constantly affirm what you know to be true, and eventually (whether early or late) people will discover the truth.
  • The Lord can deliver from maximum-security prisons and from maximum-security sins.
  • Not even hostile government leaders can stop the Lord’s work from going forward.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 2 comments

Power to the Saints in organization

4 And many shall be converted, insomuch that ye shall obtain power to organize yourselves according to the laws of man;
5 That your enemies may not have power over you; that you may be preserved in all things; that you may be enabled to keep my laws; that every bond may be broken wherewith the enemy seeketh to destroy my people. (D&C 44:4-5)
One of the things that makes it difficult to be a Saint is when we are so isolated from the mass of members that we feel we have no pull for good to influence others. In this scripture, we find that it is lawful organization that helps us have influence.

With organization, each person has a role, gets support in that role, makes a contribution in that role, and feels safe in it. Attacks are mostly diffused over the organization rather than concentrated on individuals. The organization can publicize problems affecting the organization and gain a greater voice. The organization can demand justice and positive change, as each individual uses their voice in the support of the others. The more the organization works effectively in united principle, the stronger its voice, the more it can influence in proportion to its numbers.

Individuals in the organization can then keep God’s laws in confidence that they can have social support from the organization, even if they don’t get it from the rest of society. When individuals are free to keep God’s laws, then every bond is broken that the enemy uses to destroy the Saints.

The purpose of this power is not to exercise compulsion, but to break the yokes and bonds that are meant to destroy us and keep us in sin.
Sunday, August 21, 2011 4 comments

Enoch becomes a Seer

And he heard a voice from heaven, saying: Enoch, my son, prophesy unto this people, and say unto them—Repent, for thus saith the Lord: I am angry with this people, and my fierce anger is kindled against them; for their hearts have waxed hard, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes cannot see afar off; (Moses 6:27)
When the Lord calls Enoch to be a prophet, the first wrongdoing the Lord wants Enoch to testify of against man is that “their hearts are waxed hard, their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes cannot see afar off.” Enoch is eventually told to anoint his eyes with clay and then wash them, with the promise that he would see. Other people have noted how this washing becomes a symbol of washing the world out of Enoch’s eyes. The result:
And he beheld the spirits that God had created; and he beheld also things which were not visible to the natural eye; and from thenceforth came the saying abroad in the land: A seer hath the Lord raised up unto his people. (Moses 6:36)
This seems to be how the Lord works to encourage others to see also—He raises up a seer to be a good example of the benefits of seeing afar off. He shows men how natural eyes (of the natural man) can’t see. Enoch’s seer eyes could see the spirits God created, whether embodied or not, I suppose. He could also see things not visible to the natural eye. This could be coming events as consequences of actions, the past from a truer perspective, the evidences of God’s hand, the coming promises that would be fulfilled, and more.

What things do you “see” because our current prophet's example? What do you "see" as a member that others around you don’t see with their “natural” eyes?
Friday, August 19, 2011 1 comments

Type of Christ: The tree heals the waters for the Israelites

I stumbled across this little incident in Exodus recently and was struck by it.
23 ¶And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.
24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
25 And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,
26 And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. (Exodus 15:23-26)
Here the Lord uses the miracle of healing the waters to teach a lesson. The tree (a thing of life) healed the waters and made them sweet. The Lord teaches that He is like the living tree that can heal them and their bitter lives if they keep the commandments.

Also note that the tree healed the waters by coming down among the waters. Just as the tree healed by coming down among the waters, the Lord will be able to heal Israel by coming down as a mortal among them and atoning for them.

This miracle becomes a type and shadow of the condescension of God, prefiguring Christ’s mortal life and mission.

Image: The Love of YHWH,
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 5 comments

Acts 6 & 7: Stephen and embracing change

Stephen is described as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 6:5) and “full of faith and power” (Acts 6:8) who “did great wonders and miracles among the people (Acts 6:8). He had been appointed as one of the seven over the daily ministration (Acts 6:1) to “serve tables” (Acts 6:2).

Then, somehow he torks off people of the synogogue of Libertines, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, Cilicians, and Asias, disputing with them and confounding them to the extent that they haul him to the Jewish council and accuse him of blasphemy variously against “Moses and against God” (Acts 6:11) and against “this holy place and the law” (Acts 6:13) for prophesying that God would destroy the place and change the Mosiac customs (Acts 6:14).

This all seems pretty vague to me.

I gain greater insight when I think of Stephen as if he was like my father-in-law, Larry Stephens. Larry is extremely forward thinking and when he sees technology is going in a certain direction, he adopts it for his use in his classroom. He has the know-how to install things in his classroom, and he tends to annoy the IT personnel because he does stuff without asking them. They get mad at him and make him rip it out or uninstall the programs or whatever… but then a number of years later, what happens? A number of other classrooms get wired for the same advances (which have become needed more widely), the same advances he anticipated and put in himself and had to remove. The programs he was asked to uninstall eventually become widely used and… installed. Larry is the kind of person who, if he can make the improvement or build it or fix it or whatever, he will do it. His initiative is amazing. (Did you know that he designed, acquired parts for, and welded together a swingset? No pre-made kit for him!)

If Stephen was like my father-in-law, then he was already anticipating the changes that would come in the church from following the higher law of Christ. He was starting to let go of the Mosiac traditions and he was teaching others about it too. But then he ran into a synagogue of people who were so hidebound in tradition that they saw all his forward thinking as inexcusable, uncomfortable blasphemy against all they knew and loved best. (They loved the wrong things, you see; instead of loving God, they loved Moses more, the law, “this place” and more.) They stirred all the people up against Stephen, even when he was right.

I always had a hard time seeing how Stephen’s discourse had anything to do with his case, but when I looked at it from the perspective of “tradition-bound” versus “forward-thinking progress,” it became clear. Stephen placed before the people a number of cases of spiritual leaders who were “before their time” and contrasted them with the foot-dragging of the faithless people around them.
  • Abraham, who was told the land of Canaan would be given to him long before it ever was given to the children of Israel.
  • Abraham, given the covenant of circumcision, long before it became part of the Law of Moses.
  • Joseph, who anticipated (through dreams) the authority he would have over his family of brothers. (His brothers, on the other hand, couldn’t stand the idea.)
  • Moses, who know before his prophetic call that God would use him to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage. (The Israelites, on the other hand, asked, “Who made you a judge over us?”)
  • Moses, who gave the law in the wilderness, while the Israelites still clung to their Egyptian idolatrous practices.
  • David, who wanted to build a temple to the Lord, long before Solomon built it.
  • All the prophets, who anticipated the coming of Christ.
Stephen’s last point is that the children of Israel have always resisted the Spirit of the Lord (which asks them to change) and the current generation is no different, killing the very Messiah they were told of for ages.

So, this leads me to consider what changes are being asked of me that I am fighting. How can I embrace change with an open heart instead of dragging my feet? Part of it, I think, is being willing to use my agency to act and not be acted upon. Another part is acting in anticipation of the future, rather than being content to react to events. Anticipating the future requires visualizing the future, visualizing the place I want in it. (There’s an element of prophecy in that, which can’t be acquired without a testimony of cause and effect or a testimony of Christ’s power to help us change.)

What makes it difficult is that there is so much that I want to change and there is only so much time in a day and only so much I can do.

What changes have you planned for and went forward toward? How do you approach coming changes that you know are good for you, but which appear painful? How can do you make it your own?
Monday, August 15, 2011 4 comments

Acts 2: Peter’s sermon at the spiritual outpouring of Pentacost

It used to puzzle me how Peter used the gift of tongues to preach the need for Christ. I would read through his words and I had a hard time catching the logic behind it. Recently, I was able to finally see it.

  1. This outpouring of spiritual gifts had been prophesied by Joel.

  2. [continuing the quotation of Joel] At the same time, scary things are going to happen too before the great day of the Lord came.

    1. (This establishes the need for salavation.)

  3. Anyone who called on the Lord would be saved.

  4. Jesus of Nazareth (crucified and resurrected) is the Lord to call on for salvation and is the Messiah.

    1. Jesus was approved of God.

    2. He did miracles.

    3. You crucified Him.

    4. God raised Him up again.

      1. David prophesied of him.

        1. "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell."

        2. "Thou wilt not suffer thine holy one to see corruption"

      2. David had to be prophesying of Christ because David is dead.

      3. David saw beforehand Christ's resurrection

      4. We are witnesses that Christ is risen

    5. Christ is exalted and on the right hand of God, shedding forth the Holy Ghost, which is what you are seeing now.

      1. David prophesied of this ascension too, though not ascended himself.

        1. "The Lord said to my Lord, sit on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool"

When the people ask what they should do, Peter says:

  1. Repent and be baptized every one of you

    1. In the name of Jesus Christ

    2. For the remission of sins

  2. You shall receive the Holy ghost (which you have seen operate here)

  3. The promise is to you here and also to you from far away, whoever is called by the Lord. [also from Joel quotation]

  4. Save yourselves from this perverse generation.

Conclusion: There is logic Peter's words and most of the complexity comes as he cites scripture to explain that Psalms spoken by David were in anticipation of the death and resurrection of Christ.
Saturday, August 13, 2011 3 comments

Peter's "Lord, thou knowest I love thee" and the response

15¶ So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (John 21:15-19)
Recently I was thinking about this incident and wondering why it seemed like the Savior wasn’t acknowledging that Peter loved Him.

I thought about how it has been said that this was a redo of Peter’s three denials of Christ, as if Peter is getting the chance to do it over and get it right this time. Then I thought about the peculiar prophecy Christ gives Peter afterward about how Peter would die. Why was that cheerful little bit of news given right then?

Finally I realized that prophecy WAS the reassurance that Christ knew Peter loved Him. It doesn’t sound reassuring because after all, it is a death prophecy, but consider this—at the last supper, Peter’s protestation that he would die for Jesus was the impetus of Christ’s previous prophecy that Peter would deny Him three times. But this time, after Peter repeats his love of Christ, Christ prophesies Peter’s death. It shows that Christ knew Peter really did love Him and would die for his love. It’s as if Christ says, “Yes, Peter, I know you love me because you are going to die feeding my sheep. You will die doing your duty.”

I think if the Lord told me I would die doing my duty, then that would be reassuring to me and give me confidence in the middle of personal trials.
Thursday, August 11, 2011 4 comments

What do members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe about choice?

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we often use the term “agency” instead of “choice.” Agency is a sacred thing to us because of what modern prophets have revealed about its importance in Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. When you choose to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, you use your agency to make a choice. Put simply, agency is the ability and privilege God gives people to choose and to act for themselves.

Here are some principles that we believe about agency:

The Lord gave unto man his agency. (Moses 7:32)

Satan sought to destroy the agency of man. (Moses 4:3)

A third part of the hosts of heaven turned he [Satan] away because of their agency. (Doctrine & Covenants 29:36)

It must needs be that the devil should tempt men, or they could not be agents. (D&C 29:39)

Man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed. (2 Nephi 2:15–16)

Let every man choose for himself. (D&C 37:4)

Men are free to choose liberty and eternal life or captivity and death. (2 Nephi 2:27)

Of every tree thou mayest freely eat. (Gen. 2:16)

Ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves. (Helaman 14:30)

Every man may act according to the moral agency which I have given unto him. (D&C 101:78)

Note that nearly all of these scriptures and principles come directly from the scriptures given in this dispensation! Notice their clarity and simplicity.

Definition and list of principles from LDS Guide to the Scriptures,

Image: Nursing Salary: news on health care and nursing,

The butterfly testimony of resurrection

I was thinking about what picture I could put with my previous post on the resurrection and for some reason I got a sudden impression to look at butterflies. And as I looked at these pictures of butterflies, the realization wacked me on the head that here was a creature whose life cycle is a witness to us of the resurrection.

Caterpillar = mortality (Caterpillars are pretty much earthbound creatures)

Cocoon = death and the grave (The inert cocoon certainly resembles something dead. It's like a little hanging shroud or a little tomb.)

Butterfly = glorious resurrection (The butterfly isn’t earthbound as it was as a caterpillar. Its wings give it greater powers than it ever had before. It also is more beautiful and glorious than a caterpillar.)

Why do we use Easter bunnies and eggs to celebrate the resurrection of Christ? We should be using butterflies!

Image #1 Copyright Dan L. Perlman,,

Image #2 Copyright Dan L. Perlman,,

Image #3 Scenic Reflections,
Tuesday, August 9, 2011 6 comments

All the facets of Christ's power over death

When we talk about Christ’s resurrection, I think we haven’t yet put together all the witnesses of His power over death. We see Christ’s power in all of its facets in the scriptures:

Christ brought the dead back to mortality while He was still mortal. He raised Lazarus and the son of the widow of Nain.

Christ voluntarily gave His own life, which no one else could take from Him without His permission, because He was the Only Begotten Son of God.

Three days later, Christ took His own body back again, this time for good. He could do this because He was the Only Begotten Son of God. He was never to die again.

Other saints were resurrected to immortality by Christ after Christ’s resurrection. Although we have no record of the names of these saints, we have two records (two witnesses) that it occurred—the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, in the old world and in the new world. This shows that distance from Christ made no difference to His power over death.

Christ gave some of His servants power over death by raising them to a higher state. They could not be killed and they had a change wrought in their bodies so that they would not experience the pains of death or disease. That this is recorded in two different records for two different peoples strengthens its witness. We know the name of at least one person who was changed in that way—John the Beloved. Now, think about the significance of Christ’s power to do that. Only someone with total power over death could give even a portion of this power to someone else. This also strengthens the promise of the resurrection to us that Christ’s power over death can be and will be shared.

Keeping all these factors in mind together gives me a more comprehensive picture that strengthens my faith.

Image: I am a Son of God blog,
Sunday, August 7, 2011 6 comments

My stained glass testimony of Christ's atonement

When I was going to BYU, I managed to get into the stained glass class and then continued to take it for several semesters. During one of those semesters, I also took the religion class “The Writings of Isaiah” from Victor Ludlow.

In my Isaiah class, we were given a project assignment to create a lesson or some kind of work of art relating to Isaiah. I can recall sitting there and getting the brilliant idea to create a stained glass window depicting a well-known and well-loved scripture from Isaiah. This would kill two birds with one stone by fulfilling an assignment for TWO CLASSES AT ONCE!! Yesssss! (insert triumphant fist-pump here) Here's the scripture I chose:
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
I started out with a line drawing.

Then I found I had to do some modifications to the drawing in order to account for the nature of cutting glass.

It’s the size of an 8” X 11.5” sheet of typing paper, so it has a whole bunch of small pieces—97, if I counted correctly.

Here’s how it turned out.

There are some parts of my testimony of the Atonement of Christ that are expressed in this stained glass window.

Even though the scripture of Isaiah that inspired it doesn’t say anything about Christ, it is clear to me that the only way that our scarlet sins can become white as snow is through Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us. I tried to depict that change by showing that where Christ’s blood touches the earth, the earth is purified and becomes white.

I believe that the purification of our lives is a gradual process and I tried to depict that by making it seem like that purified area on the world is something that will spread outward.

I know that Christ died for me, so I depicted His hand nailed to the cross from a perspective that would put me as a viewer (and other viewers) up close and personal, as if we were there on Calvary watching.

I know that Christ died for the whole world, so I also incorporated a cosmic perspective to show symbolically how His sacrifice affects and blesses the whole world. Superimposing Christ over the sun communicates his divine, celestial identity as the Son of God and the light of the world.

The world is held in blackness, but the rays of the sun come to embrace the world, symbolizing the love of Christ for us.

Have any of you found ways to express your testimony of Christ through any kind of art? If so, will you share on your blog and post a link?
Friday, August 5, 2011 0 comments

Daniel, a type of Christ

The story of Daniel and the lion's den makes Daniel a very good type of Christ.
  • Daniel was faithful (Christ was faithful)
  • Daniel’s faithfulness was used against him by wicked, jealous rulers. (Christ’s faithfulness was used against him by wicked jealous rulers of the Jews)
  • The gentile king believed Daniel and wanted to save him. (Pilate believed Jesus was innocent and wanted to save him.)
  • The gentile king was forced to condemn Daniel to the punishment of the law. (Pilate was forced to condemn Jesus to the punishment of Roman law.)
  • Daniel was put into a den of lions. (Jesus was put into a tomb.)
  • A stone was laid on the mouth of the den. (A stone was laid on the mouth of Jesus’s tomb.)
  • Daniel was to be torn by the lions. (Jesus was torn by scourging and by the cross.)
  • Daniel came out of the lion’s den unharmed. (Jesus was raised from the dead with all his wounds healed.)
Wednesday, August 3, 2011 0 comments

Don’t give up your objectives

This is about the negotiations and circumstances that allowed Helaman to recover the city of Antiparah after having decoyed the Lamanite army away and capturing them.
1 And now it came to pass that I [Helaman] received an epistle from Ammoron, the king, stating that if I would deliver up those prisoners of war whom we had taken that he would deliver up the city of Antiparah unto us.
2 But I sent an epistle unto the king, that we were sure our forces were sufficient to take the city of Antiparah by our force; and by delivering up the prisoners for that city we should suppose ourselves unwise, and that we would only deliver up our prisoners on exchange.
3 And Ammoron refused mine epistle, for he would not exchange prisoners; therefore we began to make preparations to go against the city of Antiparah.
4 But the people of Antiparah did leave the city, and fled to their other cities, which they had possession of, to fortify them; and thus the city of Antiparah fell into our hands. (Alma 57:1-4)
Antiparah was the city that the stripling warriors led away the Lamanite army away from, so it could be concluded that the Lamanite force left to protect it was small. And since Ammoron was offering to trade the city for prisoners, it is safe to conclude that Ammoron was in the city; I don’t see that he would allow anyone else the authority to make such a trade. (Ammoron must have felt pretty exposed, sitting in the city without much of an army to protect him. He must have realized that occupying a city meant nothing without a force to keep it safe, so he changed his focus to getting his army back.)

I find it curious that Helaman didn’t take Ammoron’s offer to exchange Lamanite prisoners for the city Antiparah. You’d think he would have been interested in negotiations; peace-loving people tend to prefer accomplishing things through talk instead of war. Of course, Helaman couldn’t immediately grant Ammoron’s request anyway; Helaman had already sent the Lamanite prisoners to Zerahemla, but he probably had the power to bring them back for a prisoner exchange if he wanted to.
But rather than do this, he makes his own terms. Antiparah will fall to the Nephites no matter what and he will only exchange Lamanite prisoners for Nephite prisoners.

It is interesting that though Helaman refused to give up prisoners in exchange for the city, Ammoron left the city anyway. Because Helaman remained firm, he got what he wanted without giving up any advantage.

One thing that I puzzled over though, was Helaman’s statement “by delivering up the prisoners for that city we should suppose ourselves unwise.” On the surface it seemed that he refused to value real estate more than his people. Perhaps that is true, but it seemed like there was some very practical considerations behind it too.

As a general, his objective was to recapture Nephite cities, AND neutralize the Lamanite threat, and so far, one of those objectives had been met. If he got the city back and then let the Lamanite prisoners go, that would mean giving up one successful military object in return for the other. Yet both objectives were presently within his grasp. It would be stupid to give up what they’d already fought so hard to capture (prisoners) just for a city. If they gave up the prisoners, then they’d only have to fight them again, and that would be a mockery of all the lives that were lost to win the first time.

That seems to be the lesson from this little story: it would be stupid to give up the thing we’ve worked so hard to win because then we’ll only have to fight for it again. It would be stupid if, for the sake of some fleeting pleasure, we give up our marriage or our kids that we’ve worked so hard to have. It would be stupid to give up our dream that we’ve worked so hard to attain. It would be stupid to give up our purity that we’ve worked so hard to maintain. It would be stupid to give up our standards that we’ve worked so hard to establish and live by.

Let’s be smart and maintain the victories we've fought so hard for.
Monday, August 1, 2011 1 comments

Good priests versus bad priests

Mosiah 23 draws a contrast between Amulon and company with Alma and his company.

Level of industry

Though in the wilderness for just about as long as Alma’s people, Amulon’s people have only barely begun to possess the land and till the ground. Evidently they lived by raiding for a while, and then increased security measures to prevent theft forced them to farm.

Alma’s people, on the other hand, immediately start tilling the ground and after several years, they have prospered exceedingly, built a city, and have multiplied.

Response to threats

When Amulon’s people are found by the Lamanites, the priests hide behind their (stolen) wives and make their wives plead for mercy for their husbands. There is an atmosphere of panic.

When Alma’s people are found by the Lamanites, they fearfully go to Alma, who encourages them to pray for deliverance. Then they all go to give themselves up into the hands of the Lamanites. It sounds very calm at the end.

Level of helpfulness

When the Lamanites ask the Amulonites the way to the land of Nephi, the Amulonites join the Lamanites in the search and allow them to wander. The Amulonites play dumb, even though they know the way back very well. (After all, they’ve gone back to steal stuff from the Nephites, to steal women from the Lamanites, and who knows what else.) From the Amulonite perspective, if they really help the Lamanite army get back home, they lose their independence; the Lamanites will take them over. But the Amulonites can’t refuse to help because after all, they are outnumbered by a Lamanite army. So they work to stay on the Lamanite army’s good side by pretending to help, while actually leading them on a wild goose chase. Maybe they hope to tire the Lamanites out so they give up. Evil priests lead people away from the goal, rather than to it.

Contrast this with Alma and his people. When the Lamanites ask Alma the way to Nephi, he tells them the way immediately. He knows the way, even though he hasn’t been back since they first left that region. The righteous priest leads people to the goal. (This is probably what makes Amulon so mad at Alma; Alma wrecks Amulon’s plan to get the Lamanites off their backs.)