Friday, June 29, 2012 0 comments

The place where angels live

The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth;
But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.  (D&C 130: 6-7)

It sounds like this is a place where the very atmosphere is full of good memories, pleasant doings of goodness, and happy anticipations of future delights of righteousness.  With all things manifest, it is a place of both revelation and memory, a place of faith pointed at the future and gratitude for the past, as well as drinking in the bliss of the present.

 The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim.
 This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s. (D&C 130:8-9)

I suppose we can learn from this that the lessons of lower kingdoms will be perfectly obvious to those who live on this earth in that day.  The very ground will testify.  To use a very weak comparison, I suppose it is something like a senior in high school looking at the schoolwork of those in the 6th and saying, “How easy that work is!”

10 Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known;
 11 And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word. (D&C 130:10-11)

I really like the prospect of having this white stone spoken of, but as I was reading, I wondered just how this can help us today. 

I think that first, it can give us a hope of good things to come.  Anticipation of good things can buoy us up.  I also realized that the white stone is really all about personal revelation, so this scripture shows us that personal revelation is still an important part of life on a sanctified earth.  New names suggest receiving new identities, so it seems that the principle being taught her is personal revelation is part of what changes us into new people, and our exaltation will continue to be perfected.  Honing the ability to receive and act on personal revelation will be important to prepare for the next life.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 5 comments

Brigham Young on collecting surplus from the Saints

In a somewhat humorous but sadly true commentary, President Brigham Young recounted his early experiences in attempting to get people to live the law of consecration:
“When the revelation . . . was given in 1838, I was present, and recollect the feelings of the brethren. . . . The brethren wished me to go among the Churches, and find out what surplus property the people had, with which to forward the building of the Temple we were commencing at Far West. I accordingly went from place to place through the country. Before I started, I asked brother Joseph, ‘Who shall be the judge of what is surplus property?’ Said he, ‘Let them be the judges themselves. . . .’
“Then I replied, ‘I will go and ask them for their surplus property;’ and I did so; I found the people said they were willing to do about as they were counselled, but, upon asking them about their surplus property, most of the men who owned land and cattle would say, ‘I have got so many hundred acres of land, and I have got so many boys, and I want each one of them to have eighty acres, therefore this is not surplus property.’ Again, ‘I have got so many girls, and I do not believe I shall be able to give them more than forty acres each.’ ‘Well, you have got two or three hundred acres left.’ ‘Yes, but I have a brother-in-law coming on, and he will depend on me for a living; my wife’s nephew is also coming on, he is poor, and I shall have to furnish him a farm after he arrives here.’ I would go on to the next one, and he would have more land and cattle than he could make use of to advantage. It is a laughable idea, but is nevertheless true, men would tell me they were young and beginning [in] the world, and would say, ‘We have no children, but our prospects are good, and we think we shall have a family of children, and if we do, we want to give them eighty acres of land each; we have no surplus property.’ ‘How many cattle have you?’ ‘So many.’ ‘How many horses, &c?’ ‘So many, but I have made provisions for all these, and I have use for every thing I have got.’
“Some were disposed to do right with their surplus property, and once in a while you would find a man who had a cow which he considered surplus, but generally she was of the class that would kick a person’s hat off, or eyes out. . . . You would once in a while find a man who had a horse that he considered surplus, but at the same time he had the ringbone, was broken-winded, spavined in both legs, and had the pole evil at one end of the neck and a fistula at the other, and both knees sprung.” (In Journal of Discourses, 2:306–7.)
This is a time for self-evaluation. Are we of the kind who are willing to give and do whatever the Lord asks, or would we begin rationalizing about why we could not fully participate?  (Doctrine & Covenants Institute Student Manual, Enrichment L, “The Law of Consecration and Stewardship” )

At first glance, this is a very sad observation on the Saints failure to live the Law of Consecration, but when we look deeper, we see that there are some concerns behind these Saints' judgment about what was surplus and what was not.  They are issues similar to what we deal with today.
I notice that Joseph Smith wisely said that the Saints would be the judge themselves as to what was surplus.  That privilege to judge for ourselves continues today, and it is intended that we learn by experience and study.
Note that it says the people were willing to do as counseled, but when they were asked about their surplus property, well.. the devil is always in the details.

The fathers were looking ahead and planning out how to provide inheritances for their sons to farm.  Did they consider this a duty (like providing feeding and clothing) to provide for their children’s future, or was this actually conferring undue privilege?  Would the modern equivalent be giving your kid a house for free when they got married, or would the modern equivalent be giving your kid a job at the family business?  Was it an attempt to provide means for their children to make a living when grown up, or was it an attempt to smooth the way too much?  One might ask what the sons and daughters would do if they grew up and were not provided with land inheritances.  Likely they would have to work and save the money for it like everyone else.  Perhaps Brigham Young felt the children should work and save like everyone else.   Meantime, their children would not be given the land for many years in the future, and Brigham Young was trying to find surplus to finance the building of the Far West temple—an immediate need.  So perhaps Brigham Young was making a very subtle point about how people were letting distant future “needs” get in the way of giving for a present church need.

But this still causes us to wonder where saving and planning for future needs fits in the Law of Consecration.  Is it the individual’s duty to save for future needs, or would the surpluses of others be given to fill those needs when need arose?  Or will the need be miraculously filled by the Lord?  Perhaps one of the aspects of consecration that challenges us is how it requires us to trust that the Lord will provide in some way for us when financial emergencies arise.

Brigham Young also observed that some were willing to part with a horse as surplus if it had many physical and behavior faults.  The unspoken message here is his disappointment that people gave of the worst and not the best they had.  It causes me to wonder if sometimes our donations should be of the good things we have instead of our rejects.  On the other hand, looking at it from a practical perspective, it makes perfect sense for a farmer to get rid of a bad horse; likely the horse was more trouble than it was worth, and getting rid of it was a wise decision about their stewardship.  However, to give a bad horse as surplus means the horse would become a problem to another Saint, and does a faithful Saint deserve to be given a bad horse when they need and hope for a good horse to help them with their farm work?  No.   Maybe the horse would be a good gift for a horse doctor, otherwise.. it should have been shot. 

I think there is a lesson here that shows us that if we are giving as surplus things that are so clearly useless to us that they also useless to others as well, we aren’t really consecrating.  What is harder for us to let go of are the things that are still useful and which we think we might still use someday. 

Monday, June 25, 2012 0 comments

D&C 57 on the establishment of Zion

D&C section 57 is where Independence, Missouri is revealed as the center place of Zion.  Beside that prophetic bombshell (which continues to echo and haunt and inspire all our yearnings to this day) section 57 also has a number of interesting characteristics about that establishment that I want to point out.

First, I noticed there is a repetition of “here is wisdom” and variants throughout this revelation.  There are at least five instances of it in the space of sixteen verses, which is a little less than 1 every 3 verses.  What is this wisdom, and will we be able to see it?

And thus saith the Lord your God, if you will receive wisdom here is wisdom. Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse. (D&C 57:3)

We are told that making Independence the center place of Zion with a spot for the temple lying westward close to the courthouse is wisdom.  I admit I have yet to learn what was wise about the placement of both Zion and the spot for the temple; but that is because I labor under limited vision.   Yet I have faith that at some future time the wisdom of it will become perfectly apparent, and we will all love to talk about how wise the Lord was to choose that spot, just as we love to talk about how wise the Lord was to ask Mormon to include the small plates of Nephi with the abridgement of Nephite history.

Wherefore, it is wisdom that the land should be purchased by the saints, and also every tract lying westward, even unto the line running directly between Jew and Gentile. (D&C 57:4)

We are told that it is wise for the Saints to purchase the land, buying every tract lying westward up to the line between “Jew and Gentile,” or in other words, between Indian and white settler.  Purchasing the land was wise because it would make it legal and demonstrate the Saints would follow the rules.  (It also allows disputes to be settled peacefully in the courts instead of through violence.)  I can’t help but wonder how the church leaders are following this acquisition command today, and I do not pretend to know anything about it.  I wonder what happened to the lands that the Saints vacated when they were forced to leave Jackson County, Missouri.  I wonder whether they stayed completely unoccupied or whether the lands were taken over and sold illegally and false deeds of ownership made up.  I could go on and on with my questions, but this might become a completely different post.  ;-)  (If anyone knows anything that is not hearsay or rumor that they are able to share, they are welcome to comment below.)

And also every tract bordering by the prairies, inasmuch as my disciples are enabled to buy lands. Behold, this is wisdom, that they may obtain it for an everlasting inheritance. (D&C 57:5)

We are told it is wisdom for the disciples to buy lands nearby to “obtain it for an everlasting inheritance.”  It seems this land was meant to be kept eternally in the hands of the Saints.  The implications of that are significant.  It means that Saints who receive their inheritance there are expected to pass it to their heirs, and if it must be sold, owners would be expected to sell it to another member of the church.  I don’t think I ever thought of it in that way before.  I think those instructions are not meant to limit personal freedom in relation to the land, but as a reminder that the land was sacred and was to be kept in the hands of those who would not pollute their inheritance.  (Remember, the inheritance was to be a stewardship, with God acknowledged as the owner.)

And also let my servant Sidney Gilbert obtain a license—behold here is wisdom, and whoso readeth let him understand—that he may send goods also unto the people, even by whom he will as clerks employed in his service; (D&C 57:9)

We are told it is wisdom for Sidney Gilbert to obtain a license to send goods to the people and provide for the Saints.  I get the idea that somehow it required a license to move large shipments about or to trade in the area. This was part of Sidney Gilbert starting a store for the Saints.  A store would help them achieve a measure of economic independence from their neighbors, and it could act as an informal bank, extending needed credit.

It is curious that Sidney Gilbert’s providing for the Saints was to cause the gospel to be preached to those in darkness.  Somehow it was meant to enable missionary work, but I’m not sure how.  Maybe the funds he collected were to finance missionary work or to help care for families whose fathers were away on missions.  Or maybe his store would become a gathering place for the inhabitants where informal discussions about the gospel could occur.

11 And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant William W. Phelps be planted in this place, and be established as a printer unto the church.
 12 And lo, if the world receive his writings—behold here is wisdom—let him obtain whatsoever he can obtain in righteousness, for the good of the saints.  (D&C 57:12)

We are told it is wisdom for William W. Phelps to start a church printing concern and “obtain in righteousness for the good of the saints.”  It seems like this would make it so the church could begin printing its own materials, including the Book of Commandments, or a newspaper, whatever else was needed.  Indeed, the newspaper Evening & Morning Star turned into the main way for the saints in Missouri to learn about new revelations as they were given.

All together, we see that the Lord wanted development on several fronts to help the Saints as they gathered to Missouri.  He wanted them to have legal right to the land, He wanted them to be provided for with goods, and He wanted them to have a means of publishing the gospel message to the world.  This really would lay a foundation for Zion as a gathering place.

Next, I notice that D&C 57 has some good counsel about running a business.

“buy…inasmuch as can be done in righteousness, and as wisdom shall direct.” (v6)  -- This seems to teach that business buying can’t be spendthrift.  Spending has to have a purpose to it, according to wisdom.  It also has to be within limits so that other priorities aren’t neglected, and especially if it is on credit, it can’t be so much that the debt can’t be repaid.

“sell goods without fraud” (v8) – Obviously dishonesty can have no part in business dealings.  There can be no cheating of customers, no lying about the products or the terms of agreements.

“obtain a license” (v9) – The business has to be legally formed, aboveboard, and regulated.  Ideally this means the owner can be preserved by adhering to the law.

“let him obtain whatsoever he can obtain in righteousness, for the good of the saints” (v12) – Means of procuring supplies must be honest and legal.  Also, the products must be ones that will be good for the Saints.

A final thing I notice in this section is that there are five instances of the Lord speaking of “planting” people in Missouri. 

  1. “let my servant Sidney Gilbert plant himself in this place” (v8)  Sidney was to start his store.
  2.  Sidney’s store was to provide goods that would help to plant others (“obtain whatsoever things the disciples may need to plant them in their inheritance” (v8)  
  3.  “let my servant William W. Phelps be planted in this place” (v11)  William W. Phelps was to start the printing concern. 
  4.  “let those of whom I have spoken be planted in the land of Zion, as speedily as can be, with their families” (v14) Them and their families were to come quickly to be planted. 
  5.  The families of those commanded to come were to be assisted by the bishop and the agent to “plant them in their inheritance.” (v15)

I love that the Lord says “plant” and not “transplant.”  It conveys a sense of permanence, even though it didn’t turn out to be permanent.  It also makes me think of a seed being dropped in the soil to grow and flourish, even if it must lie dormant for a while.  It evokes the sense of setting down roots and anchoring to the place.   These people got to be the seeds of Zion.  What an honor and challenge!
Saturday, June 23, 2012 2 comments

Thoughts on Elder Packer’s talk “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them”

Elder Packer’s talk “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them” opened with four small sketches of experiences he had with children or children he had observed.  The first one was of a sick and starving Japanese boy who begged at a train station, whom Elder Packer tried to help but was not fast enough.  The second was a ragged, starving Peruvian boy who snuck into a sacrament meeting hoping for some of the sacrament bread.  Though a woman scared him away, he came back and Elder Packer invited him to sit on his lap for the rest of the meeting.  After the meeting was over, the boy ran away.  The third story was of a coatless boy among a group of boys that Elder Packer observed on the streets of Salt Lake City on a cold night in December.  The fourth story was of a Japanese girl gathering sycamore leaves in a bouquet in the middle of all the rubble and nuclear destruction there in WWII. 

I believe there are multiple ways to derive meaning from these stories.

First, on the most basic and important level, they are meant to elicit our sympathy for the plight of these children.  Although we (and Elder Packer) are not in a position to directly help them, we are in a position to help and nurture the children we have charge of.  The world is growing less sympathetic to children and their needs, and it is slowly becoming more exploitative.  Elder Packer’s talk can fortify us and keep us from being swept along in this; we are encouraged to nurture our sympathies keep them fine-tuned toward cries of distress.   One of the character traits of Christ was that He was often moved with compassion by those he met in trouble and took action because of it.  Compassion is a quality He wants us to cultivate as well, in spite of the dangers of being manipulated, in spite of the possibility of being conned or taken advantage of.

On a second level, I think these stories demonstrate Elder Packer’s powers of observation.  He could have closed his eyes and ignored the Japanese beggar boy on the train platform.  He could have shrugged as the Peruvian boy was frowned away by the woman at the Cusco sacrament meeting.  But he didn’t.  He observed, he allowed himself to feel, and he acted as he felt.  In the other two stories, though he personally didn’t interact with those children, he noticed what they were doing and he thought about them and tried to understand them.  He noticed the coatless boy hopping to keep warm among his fellows on that cold Salt Lake night, and thought about what home conditions must be like for him to be out and about in such a state.  He noticed the Japanese girl making her bouquet of leaves and thought about how focused she must be on that whimsical task, even while there was much to be distressed about.   Elder Packer sets a good example of how to observe children as a means of understanding them better.  I suppose that observing and understanding children will help us figure out how to help them.

On a third level, the title of Elder Packer’s talk “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them” challenged me to look at the above stories to try to see if I could discern the simple things those children did that could lead me and help me become “as a child…fit for the kingdom of God.”   See what you can find too.

Years ago on a cold night in a train station in Japan, I heard a tap on the window of my sleeper car. There stood a freezing boy wearing a ragged shirt with a dirty rag tied about a swollen jaw. His head was covered with scabies. He held a rusty tin can and a spoon, the symbol of an orphan beggar. As I struggled to open the door to give him money, the train pulled out.
I will never forget that starving little boy left standing in the cold, holding up an empty tin can. Nor can I forget how helpless I felt as the train slowly pulled away and left him standing on the platform.

What did this little boy do that could lead me?  The other stories were a little easier to figure out, but this one stumped me for a long time.  I happened to pick up Elder Packer’s book Teach Ye Diligently and randomly stumbled upon a longer version of this story which gave me some clues.

The railway station, what there was left of it, had been cold and forbidding.  Starving children were sleeping in corners, the fortunate ones with a newspaper or a few old rags to fend off the cold.  I slept restlessly on that train.  The berths were too short anyway.
            In the bleak, chilly hours of the dawn the train stopped somewhere along the way.  I heard a tapping on the window and raised the blind to see where we were.  There, reaching from the platform, tapping on the window with a tin can, stood a little boy.  He was an orphan and a beggar.  He might have been six or seven years old.  His little body was thin with starvation.  He had on a ragged shirt that looked like a kimono, nothing else.  His head was shingled with scabs and scales.  His left jaw was grotesquely swollen—an abscessed tooth perhaps.  Around it he had tied a filthy rag with a knot on top of his head, a pathetic gesture of treatment.
            When the boy saw that I was awake, he waved his can.  He was begging.  In pity I thought, “How can I help him?”  Then I knew.  I had money, Japanese money.  I quickly groped for my clothing and found some yen notes in my pocket.  When I tried to open the window it would not open.  I slipped on my trousers and hurried to the end of the car.  As I pushed at the resistant door, where he stood expectantly waiting, the train pulled away from the station.  Through the dirty windows I could see him holding the rusty can and with the rag around his swollen jaw.
            There I stood, an officer from a conquering army, heading home to all the material blessings, the warmth of family association, opportunity.  There I stood half-dressed, clutching a handful of Japanese yen which he had seen but which I could not get to him.
            I was impressed—perhaps scarred—by the experience.  Sometimes I wish I could forget that sight.  Perhaps I need, greatly need, to remember.  I wanted to help him but couldn’t.  The only comfort I draw is that I did want to help him (Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, p295-296).

In comparison to the other starving children who were sleeping in corners of the railway station, the little sick boy was asking for help.  Because he asked, he was about to receive.  (We’ll just ignore the fact that the train left too quickly.)  Are we afraid to ask the Lord for help?  Are we afraid to beg Him for what we really need?  Our sins make us just as sick spiritually as that little boy was physically; are we afraid to go to the Physician and ask for healing?

Next comes the story of the boy in Cusco, Peru.

Some years later in Cusco, a city high in the Andes of Peru, Elder A. Theodore Tuttle and I held a sacrament meeting in a long, narrow room that opened onto the street. It was night, and while Elder Tuttle spoke, a little boy, perhaps six years old, appeared in the doorway. He wore only a ragged shirt that went about to his knees.
On our left was a small table with a plate of bread for the sacrament. This starving street orphan saw the bread and inched slowly along the wall toward it. He was almost to the table when a woman on the aisle saw him. With a stern toss of her head, she banished him out into the night. I groaned within myself.
Later the little boy returned. He slid along the wall, glancing from the bread to me. When he was near the point where the woman would see him again, I held out my arms, and he came running to me. I held him on my lap.
Then, as something symbolic, I set him on Elder Tuttle’s chair. After the closing prayer the hungry little boy darted out into the night.
When I returned home, I told President Spencer W. Kimball about my experience. He was deeply moved and told me, “You were holding a nation on your lap.” He said to me more than once, “That experience has far greater meaning than you have yet come to know.”
As I have visited Latin American countries nearly 100 times, I have looked for that little boy in the faces of the people. Now I do know what President Kimball meant.

I had some ideas about what this little boy did that could lead me, but I wasn’t quite sure.  I had some idea that it might be his determination to come and not be completely frightened away by an unwelcoming person.  Elder Packer’s Teach Ye Diligently also had a fuller version of this story, one told by Spencer W Kimball in conference.

May I conclude with this experience of my friend and brother, Boyd K. Packer, as he returned from Peru.  It was in a branch sacrament meeting.  The chapel was filled, the opening exercises finished, and the sacrament in preparation.  A little Lamanite ragamuffin entered from the street.  His two shirts would scarcely make one, so ragged they were and torn and worn.  It was unlikely that those shirts had ever been off that little body since they were donned.  Calloused and chapped were the little feet which brought him in the open door, up the aisle, and to the sacrament table.  There was dark and dirty testimony of deprivation, want, unsatisfied hungers—spiritual as well as physical. 
Almost unobserved he shyly came to the sacrament table and, with a seemingly spiritual hunger, leaned against the table and lovingly rubbed his unwashed face against the cool, smooth, white linen.
A woman on the front seat, seemingly outraged by the intrusion, caught his eye and with motion and frown sent the little ragamuffin scampering down the aisle out into his world, the street.
A little later, seemingly compelled by some inner urge, he overcame his timidity and came stealthily, cautiously down the aisle again, fearful, ready to escape if necessary, but impelled as though directed by inaudible voices with “a familiar spirit” and as though memories long faded were reviving, as though some intangible force were crowding him on to seek something for which he yearned but could not identify.
From his seat on the stand, Elder Packer caught his eye, beckoned to him, and stretched out big, welcoming arms.  A moment’s hesitation and the little ragamuffin was nestled comfortably on his lap, in his arms, the tousled head against a great warm heart—a heart sympathetic to waifs, and especially to little Lamanite ones.  It seemed the little one had found a safe harbor from a stormy sea, so contented he was.  The cruel, bewildering frustrating world was outside.  Peace, security, acceptance enveloped him.
Later Elder Packer sat in my office and, in tender terms and with a subdued voice, rehearsed this incident to me.  As he sat forward on his chair, his eyes glistening, a noticeable emotion in his voice, he said, “As this little one relaxed in my arms, it seemed it was not a single little Lamanite I held.  It was a nation, indeed a multitude of nations of deprived, hungering souls, wanting something deep and warm they could not explain—a humble people yearning to revive memories all but faded—of ancestors standing wide-eyed, openmouthed, expectant and excited, looking up and seeing a holy, glorified Being descend from celestial areas, and hearing a voice say: ‘Behold I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are…and in me hath the Father gloried his name….I am the light and the life of the world.  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.’ (3 Nephi 9:15, 18)” (Spencer W. Kimball, general conference address Oct 1965, as quoted by Teach Ye Diligently, p327-328)

In Elder Packer’s talk, he spoke of doing symbolic with the little boy.  “Then, as something symbolic, I set him on Elder Tuttle’s chair.”  Just as Elder Packer put the little boy in the chair belonging to one of the church leaders, Jesus Christ told His disciples that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven are those who receive Him as a child.  The little boy was an example of coming on his own to church, following his hunger, hoping to receive, and refusing to be totally driven away by others who didn’t welcome him or who wished to get rid of him.  Do we follow our spiritual hunger like that little boy?  Are we determined to come even if somehow we feel unwelcome?

On to the next story..

I met another shivering boy on the streets of Salt Lake City. It was late on another cold winter night. We were leaving a Christmas dinner at a hotel. Down the street came six or eight noisy boys. All of them should have been at home out of the cold.
One boy had no coat. He bounced about very rapidly to stave off the chill. He disappeared down a side street, no doubt to a small, shabby apartment and a bed that did not have enough covers to keep him warm.
At night, when I pull the covers over me, I offer a prayer for those who have no warm bed to go to.

I noticed that in this sketch the boy with no coat bounced about a lot to keep from getting cold in the winter night.  This reminded me of times when I’ve felt I was in a chilly spiritual environment and I’ve had to push myself to greater spiritual activity to stay warm in the faith.  Satan would love to chill us into inactivity with doubts, fears, worries, and despair.  Being actively engaged in service to others (in our families, in our callings, and to any others we meet) helps us stay warm in the faith.  The little boy is an example of making his own warmth, even when those who were supposed to provide it didn’t. 

Next story...

I was stationed in Osaka, Japan, when World War II closed. The city was rubble, and the streets were littered with blocks, debris, and bomb craters. Although most of the trees had been blasted away, some few of them still stood with shattered limbs and trunks and had the courage to send forth a few twigs with leaves.
A tiny girl dressed in a ragged, colored kimono was busily gathering yellow sycamore leaves into a bouquet. The little child seemed unaware of the devastation that surrounded her as she scrambled over the rubble to add new leaves to her collection. She had found the one beauty left in her world. Perhaps I should say she was the beautiful part of her world. Somehow, to think of her increases my faith. Embodied in the child was hope.

Of course, the little girl’s focus on the beauty of life is a great example.  Sometimes it is easy for us to get so concerned about the troubles around us that we can’t find the beauty at all.  But this brings me to a question—if we only focus on the beauty of the world, wouldn’t that cause us to be reluctant to engage with the problems and injustices and evils to end them?  Or am I missing something?

I suppose that just as the little girl gathered the beauty she could find, we can seek out everything that is virtuous, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy, and seek after these things among the moral decay of our society. 

What do you think?
Thursday, June 21, 2012 7 comments

What crystal chandeliers in the temple remind me of

We are reminded every so often that various elements in the temple are symbolic and thus are meant to teach us things.  The promenance of crystal chandeliers in all of our temples has always caused me to wonder what principles could be represented thereby.   So here’s my list of different ideas.  See what you think and feel free to add to the list in the comments.

The chandelier reminds me of the Holy Ghost that broods over everything and shares light with us.
Gila Valley temple baptistery
 The way the light is shaped like a bowl makes me think of it as if heaven is about to pour out a blessing of light on the person being baptized and the person for whom the baptism is being vicariously done. 

Some chandeliers in the temple remind me of the scripture in the D&C 130 about how the earth in its sanctified state will become like crystal. 
Salt Lake City temple in the garden room

This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s. (D&C 130:9)

Provo temple celestial room

 I like to look at the crystals in the chandelier and imagine that each one represents a sanctified earth and the whole chandelier is like all the sanctified earths in the galaxy brought back to the place were God dwells.

Each crystal also makes me think of an angel, and the whole chandelier puts me in mind of a crowd of angels coming to the earth with Christ at His Second Coming and standing about the throne of God singing praises.
Atlanta, Georgia temple celestial room
 It can also remind me of the city of Enoch that will come down from heaven to join Zion on the earth.
When there are three different levels to the chandelier, it reminds me that the celestial kingdom has three degrees in it and I am striving for the highest degree.

Idaho Falls temple celestial room
The chandelier as it hangs in the air reminds me of the First Vision of Joseph Smith when Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared and stood above him in the air in a pillar of light.  (Of course, the glory of a crystal chandelier must be dim compared to the glory of diety, but nevertheless its beauty still reminds me.)

Oquirrh Mountain temple celestial room chandelier
I really love how the St. Louis temple’s celestial room chandelier harmonizes with the architectural dome to teach about ascension to heaven. 

St. Louis, Missouri temple celestial room
The shape of the chandelier draws the eye upward into the domed ceiling, symbolizing our hope of ascending into heaven to meet Christ at His coming.  

Notice the way the below chandelier in the Oquirrh Mountain temple sealing room starts small on the bottom and gets larger toward the top. 

Oquirrh Mountain temple sealing room
This reminds me of the promise of eternal increase, and posterity that we are given when we are sealed for time and eternity. We will increase as we are exalted.

Do you have anything to share that you are reminded of when you study the temple’s chandeliers? 

Images Sources
Image: Salt Lake temple garden room,
Image: Provo temple celestial room chandler,
Image:  Atlanta Georgia temple celestial room.
(angels, second coming, zion to come down)
Image: Oquirrh Mountaint temple celestial room chandelier,
Image: St. Louis Missouri temple celestial room,
 Image: Oquirrh Mountain temple, sealing room,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 1 comments

Why we can be of good cheer (part 5)

This is the last of a series of posts on why we can be of good cheer... 

Next is the situation among the Nephites when the believers in Christ faced the prospect of being put to death by unbelievers if the sign of Christ’s birth was not given.  The prophet Nephi prayed in desperation and received this revelation:

Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets. (3 Nephi 1:13, emphasis added)

This is one of those special situations in which immediate change for the better is about to occur if they just hang in there.  It reminds us that the Lord still has the power to bring about sudden miracles when situations seem about as black as they can ever get.  The Lord can and will show to the world that He will fulfill all the prophecies spoken by the prophets.

Finally, consider the prospect of the Second Coming of Christ:

25 ¶And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
 26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:25-28, emphasis added)

Although the words "be of good cheer" are not used in these verses, the phrase "lift up your heads" seems like a pretty close equivalent.

When we see the calamitous signs of the Second Coming—the distress and destruction—we are told to “look up, and lift up [our] heads.”  This puzzled me for a long while because I really worried about how to survive in the middle of such terrible events as were promised.  (I have a pretty good imagination..) 

Eventually I realized that the increasing intensity of tumult should demonstrate to us how right the Savior was in His predictions.  He’s right, so He knows allllll about it. He knows how long to hold back because some may still choose to repent. The worse it gets, the closer the Savior’s coming is.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we relax and allow the world to go its decadent way without protest.  Rather, our responsibility is to be a light to the world and gather as much of Israel as will listen.

So, to review.  We can be of good cheer because:

15.  The signs will be given and the prophecies will be fulfilled
16.  The Second Coming is getting closer!

After studying all these times when the Lord (and leaders) tell someone “be of good cheer” and “lift up your heads,” it seems that these instructions are given during a difficult time when it seems that all is lost.  They are given to shake us out of our worries and despondency to show us things are about to get better and there is the prospect of good things to come.

We can be of good cheer because:
  1. The Lord is at work doing miracles in our lives.
  2. Jesus has overcome the world.
  3. Jesus will help us overcome the world.
  4. Tribulation is temporary.
  5. When we are forgiven, we are in good standing with the Lord.
  6. We still have time to act, repent, and prepare to meet God.
  7. We are free to choose and act for ourselves.
  8. Our work is not yet finished.
  9. Things will work out.
  10. Righteous people are praying for us.
  11. The Lord has not forsaken us.
  12. The Lord is in our midst.
  13. The Lord will lead us along.
  14. The kingdom, the blessings, and riches of eternity are ours.
  15. The signs will be given and the prophecies will be fulfilled.
  16. The Second Coming is getting closer!
Sunday, June 17, 2012 2 comments

Why we can be of good cheer (part 4)

Continuing on with this series of posts on what reasons the scriptures tell us we have for being of good cheer...

Next is an instance in D&C 61.  The background for this revelation was a situation in which the elders of the restored church were traveling down the Missouri river in canoes and many dangers of were encountered, along with Brother Phelps receiving an open vision of the destroyer riding upon the waters, as well as some disagreements and ill feeling.  They had to take the time to make peace and reconcile with each other, and along with the dangers, must have felt somewhat cast down and forsaken by the Lord.  Thus the following verse as revelation to Joseph Smith must have been particularly appreciated:

And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you; (D&C 61:36, emphasis added)

This can help us be of good cheer, showing that even if we feel like the Lord has forsaken us, He hasn’t.  We are all liable to get into situations that are so unpleasant, when perils threaten and it seems that everything we do just makes it worse, when there is screaming and crying, slamming doors, sulking, and so on.  We may ask ourselves, “Why would the Lord ever want to stay with me in this situation?” 

Just because we can’t feel Him near doesn’t mean that He isn’t.  He doesn’t give up on us (“I have not forsaken you”) and can be with us, even if we can’t tell He’s there (“I am in your midst”).

I especially like that in the above verse the Lord addresses the elders as “little children” because it is an indication that He knew they were trying to be meek and teachable like little children.  Little children get into trouble occasionally, but that doesn’t mean one gives up on them.

Next instance of cheer..  When the Lord gave the law of consecration, He also included this particular verse:

And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours. (D&C 78:18, emphasis added)

Sometimes in our spiritual progression, our desires exceed our abilities and what we hope for exceeds what we are prepared to do.  Some obedience comes easy and some comes very hard.  From time to time we will find ourselves saying with Nephi, “Oh wretched man that I am” and sorrowing over the sins and temptations that seem to beset us so easily, when we wish we could rejoice. 

I believe that the above verse is meant to help us in that kind of discouraging time.  In it the Lord acknowledges that we can’t bear all things now.  He gives us a reason to be of good cheer by assuring us that He will lead us along.  He will give more training, more practice, more experience, and even chasten us until we can bear the full and eternal weight of glory.  Following His lead calls for our best efforts, but isn’t impossible.  And not only that, but the news that the kingdom, the blessings, and the riches of eternity are ours is very heartening, like the promise of an extra wonderful vacation in store after you get back alright from scout camp.  And too, the promise that it is already there for us can buoy us up especially when we think we have lost it somehow.

So, to review.  We can be of good cheer because:

11.  The Lord has not forsaken us.
12.  The Lord is in our midst.
13.  The Lord will lead us along.
14.  The kingdom, the blessings, and riches of eternity are ours.
Friday, June 15, 2012 2 comments

Why we can be of good cheer (part 3)

Continuing on with this series of posts on what reasons the scriptures tell us we have for being of good cheer...

Next we have Paul imprisoned in Jerusalem:

10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
 11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. (Acts: 23:10-11, emphasis added)

Why is the prospect of testifying in Rome a reason for Paul to be of good cheer after the hubbub made over his testimony in Jerusalem?  It means that he will somehow escape from the Jews who want him dead, and their machinations will be ineffectual.  It means his work as an apostle and missionary isn't done yet, even though it may have looked to him as though it were about to end very soon.

How might this help us be of good cheer today?  Perhaps it can remind us that when we are determined to bear testimony of the gospel no matter what, the result will be one of two things: 1) we may be killed for our testimony, in which case we will have sealed our testimony with our blood and rest with God, or 2) we may be saved by the Lord to testify to others in the future. 

If that sounds really serious, that’s because it is serious.  It’s a very serious and profound kind of cheer that you can’t really appreciate until/unless you have cultivated a deep faith and trust in God.  (I’m not sure I have fully grasped it myself.)  It’s not the kind of shallow cheer that promises smooth sailing for the rest of your days, but the kind of cheer that reminds you that no hurricane will be strong enough to break your anchor cable.

Speaking of boats, on another occasion, Paul is on a boat headed for Rome and there is a terrible storm for many days:

21 But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.
 22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.
 23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
 24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
 25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. (Acts 27:21-25, emphasis added)

Clearly, knowing that no one would die as a result of the storm would be a good reason for all the ship’s passengers to be of good cheer.  Knowing everything is going to work out even when it looks really bad is a great source of cheer and gives strength to do what is required to make it through.  How wonderful to know that it was a direct message from an angel.  

As a side note, I believe that the angel would not have said to Paul “God hath given thee all them that sail with thee” if Paul hadn’t been praying for the rest of the ship passengers as well as himself.  I can believe this of Paul.  Perhaps the ship’s company didn’t pick up on this, but we can. 

This suggests that we can be of good cheer because of the people who pray for us.  There may be people who care for us enough to pray for us even though we may not feel like our association with them is enough to merit their concern for us.  (Heck, I am always floored whenever my mom mentions to me that she prays for me.)  We can put our names on the temple prayer roll and have many saints pray for us; we can be of good cheer knowing that the Lord answers the prayers of the righteous.

So, to review.  We can be of good cheer because:
8. Our work is not yet finished.
9. Things will work out.
10. Righteous people are praying for us.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012 0 comments

Why we can be of good cheer (part 2)

Continuing on with this series of posts on what reasons the scriptures tell us we have for being of good cheer... 

Next there is the story of Ammon when the king’s flocks are scattered and the servants are scared:

And it came to pass that he flattered them by his words, saying: My brethren, be of good cheer and let us go in search of the flocks, and we will gather them together and bring them back unto the place of water; and thus we will preserve the flocks unto the king and he will not slay us. (Alma 17:31, emphasis added)

I think this is a good example for us at times when things go haywire at work and we face the prospect of great displeasure/punishment from superiors.  It shows us that if we get to work trying to fix the situation early on and do our best, we may succeed in fixing it and we may avoid the consequences we fear.  It teaches that lamenting will not solve anything, but taking immediate action may do much.  

Looking at it from a wider perspective, Ammon's words also show us that as long as we are alive, we still have time to act (to change, to repent, to do all we can to prepare to meet God).  Having time in our probationary state is a reason to be of good cheer.

Next we have the words of Jacob to the Nephites:

Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life. (2 Nephi 10:23, emphasis added)

Sometimes we get discouraged when we watch the news or read about the terrible things going on in the world and we wonder how anything is ever going to get sorted out, or we wonder how we’ll ever survive (or how our children will ever survive) in such a world.  The news can make small movements look big, and it can even ignore big movements and thereby make them look small.  And when everyone seems bent on making the wrong choices, you wonder how you could ever make a difference and you wonder what is the point of trying. Jacob’s words in the above verse are cheering because he reminds us that we are free to choose and act for ourselves.  We can refuse to do the wrong that others do.  We have the power to make our own choices.  We can choose to do good even when others do evil.  And we never know what positive influence our good choices can have on others.

So, to review.  We can be of good cheer because:
6.  We still have time to act, repent, and prepare to meet God.
7.  We are free to choose and act for ourselves. 
Monday, June 11, 2012 4 comments

Why we can be of good cheer (part 1)

Every once in a while I get in a blue funk and get discouraged.  At these times, I need something to cheer me up.  A while ago I began to notice that from time to time in the scriptures the Lord would tell his disciples to be of good cheer.  Recently I decided that I needed to study all the incidences in the scriptures where “be of good cheer” occurs to see if I could find some commonalities between them and to see what cause was given to be of good cheer.  My hope was that I could find something that would keep me from falling into discouragement while in difficulty (preferred) or something that could get me out of discouragement if I fell in.

26 And when the disciples saw him [Jesus] 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. (Matt. 14:26-27, emphasis added)

Why is it reason to be of good cheer for the disciples to know that the entity walking on the water is Jesus and not a spirit?  They can be of good cheer because it means that their fears were groundless.  They were alarmed by something that wasn’t so.  How does this help us today?  Might there be times in our lives when we fear something unexpected and unusual (and seemingly impossible) that turns out to be the Lord working miracles in our lives?

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, emphasis added)

It might be discouraging to be told you were going to have tribulation.  Jesus says here the reason we can be of good cheer is that He has overcome the world.  This may cause us to ask, “Why am I to be of good cheer because Jesus has overcome the world?  How are these two things connected?”  I suppose Jesus’s victory means that the Atonement is worked out so that we don’t have to be forever in slavery to Satan  And because Jesus overcame the world, He can help us overcome the world too. So that means tribulation is only a temporary thing, and that’s a very good reason to be of good cheer.

And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. (Matt. 9:2, emphasis added)

The man with the palsy is told to be of good cheer because he is forgiven of his sins.  That means his prospects in the next life have improved drastically.  Knowing you are in good standing in the Lord’s eyes is definitely a reason to be of good cheer.  (Further, we know that physical healing is just around the corner for this man, which is further reason to be of good cheer.)

So, to review.  We can be of good cheer because
1.     The Lord is at work doing miracles in our lives.
2.     Jesus has overcome the world.
3.   Jesus can help us overcome the world.
4.   Tribulation is only temporary.
5.     When we are forgiven, we are in good standing with the Lord. 

You can read rest below:

Saturday, June 9, 2012 4 comments

The sacrifice of Christ and de-cluttering

And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal. (Alma 34:14)

We are familiar with how the principle of animal sacrifice in the Old Testament was to point Israel to the sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ.  We also should be fairly familiar with how the sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit can point us to Christ.  But what if we also apply the principle of sacrifice to our efforts to de-clutter?  Everything we give away and let go of can remind us of what Christ sacrificed for us.  The better we get at letting go, the easier it becomes, but there may still be some things that will be very hard to let go of, even though we know we should.  At these times, letting go may seem like inexorable deprivation.  This is when remembering Christ’s sacrifice can be most instructive and comforting.  And can’t we ask the Lord to sanctify us and refine us by our efforts to let go?  

Let me give an example of something I felt was a sacrifice to de-clutter.  I’ve only made one quilt for myself in my life, and I gave it away before I ever used it.  I designed it myself, and I chose the material for it specifically so that it would be as colorful and cheerful as possible.   I meant it to be as large as possible for my twin bed (I was single at the time), and I gave it a fleece backing and the thickest batting I could find so that it would be as warm as possible.  It took a long time to make, and by the time I finished it, things had changed—I was married and slept on a king-sized bed with my husband, and although the quilt would have been huge on a twin-sized bed, the quilt wasn’t big enough for a king.  We also had moved to Arizona, and the quilt designed for northern chilly nights was too hot.   The day I finished it was the day I knew I had to give it away.  I took it to a ward swap meet and the bishop’s daughter pounced on it.  I was pleased that someone else was going to appreciate it.

That was kind of a hard decision to make, but it made it easier for me to de-clutter.  After all, if you’ve let go of something big, then letting go of littler things is a cinch.

When have you let go of something and felt like it was a sacrifice?  Tell me about it?