Tuesday, July 31, 2012 1 comments

When Jesus breathed on His disciples

 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: (John 20:22)
When I read this verse, because I believe that the Holy Ghost is given by the priesthood ordinance of laying on of hands, I do not see Jesus literally breathing on His disciples.  However, I think it is worth looking at these verses to see what the purpose might be for saying Jesus breathed on them.

I think there was a teaching purpose for it.  When I think about why John might have wanted to use this idea of breathing, the thing that comes to my mind is a phrase “the breath of life” from Genesis 2:7:
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)
I think breath was associated with life and John wanted to teach that when Jesus told them to receive the Holy Ghost, He gave them a portion of spiritual life in a way they hadn’t experienced before or thought possible, and the only way to express what it was life was to compare it to receiving breath. 

 I have to echo that.  When I receive the Holy Ghost, it does fill me with life, and it seems to throw over my perception a hopeful optimism that I would hate to be without.  It's like seeing the world in color when you're used to seeing in black-and-white.

What is it like for you?
Sunday, July 29, 2012 2 comments

The sign that the Lord spared King Hezekiah’s life


In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.
 Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord,
 And said, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
 ¶Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying,
 Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.
 And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.
 And this shall be a sign unto thee from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he hath spoken;
 Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down. (Isaiah 38:1-8)
In this story Hezekia was sick and Isaiah told him he would die.  (That would be shocking news to anyone.)  Then Hezekiah prayed for his life to be spared and the Lord answered his prayers, and gave him a sign as a promise.  The sign the Lord gives (v7-8) is very interesting.

The promise the Lord gave to Hezekiah was 15 more years of life.  The sign was to be that the shadow of the sundial would go back 10 degrees.  That might seem like an odd sign to give.  A moving shadow.  But behind that moving shadow was something very unusual on an astronomical scale.  It would look like the sun was moving, but we know it was really the earth that moved, that it slowed imperceptibly, then stopped, and reversed its rotation until it had gone 10 degrees backward, then slowed, stopped, and began rotating in the usual direction again, all without any detrimental inertial effects on the earth’s inhabitants. 

Amazing, huh?  Yes, and it is also amazing that all that was done for the sake of one man.  Doesn’t that almost seem like…overkill?   But I suppose that shows just how much the Lord loves the one. 

I also realized that the sign was actually meant to teach Hezekiah something about the Lord’s power.  Not simply that the Lord could move astronomical bodies hither and yon at will, but that the Lord really did have the power to lengthen Hezekiah’s life.  Turning the shadow of the sundial back 10 degrees had the effect of lengthening that day, so Hezekiah was to understand that if the Lord could lengthen one of Hezekiah’s days, He could and would lengthen Hezekiah’s life as promised.

To me this teaches me that the Lord has control over my life span and while I do my part to take care of my body, ultimately the Lord is in charge of how long I live. 
Friday, July 27, 2012 2 comments

What can we learn from scriptural accounts of transfiguration?

In Matt 17:1-9, Jesus was transfigured on the mount.

The incident as recorded in Luke 9:28-29 tells us that Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to the mount to pray and that Jesus was transfigured while He was praying.  We have another witness that prayer is involved in the process in 3 Nephi 19:25 when the Nephite disciples pray and are transfigured just like Jesus.

I looked at other incidents of transfiguration in the Topical Guide and it seems transfiguration may occur after intense spiritual experiences.  Moses’s face shone after having talked with God in the tabernacle or on the mount.  (Ex. 34:29)  (Evidently it also happens during those experiences too so that mortal men may endure the glory of God, e.g. Moses, Enoch, etc.)

Other times transfiguration happens when people are standing as witnesses in very difficult circumstances.  Abinadi was transfigured when preaching to King Noah and the wicked priests (see Mosiah 13:5).  Stephen was transfigured when preaching to the Jewish council that later stoned him (see Acts 6:15).

Other times, heavenly fire is involved as a protection as when Lehi and Nephi were in the Lamanite prison and fire surrounding them prevented them from being taken and killed (see Helaman 5:23).  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were given power to stand unharmed in fire, which likely required their transfiguration (see Daniel 3:23-25).

When the twelve Nephite disciples were baptized, they were filled with the Holy Ghost and fire, and they were encircled about with fire that came down from heaven (see 3 Nephi 19:14).

What difference does it make to know of the transfiguration of Christ on the mount with Moses and Elijah?  I think His transfiguration was a sign to Peter, James, and John that Jesus was at the very least as good as Moses and Elias (Elijah), who both had been translated so as to not see death.  (Also the words of God the Father “This is my beloved Son: hear him” (Luke 9:35) showed that Jesus was above Moses and Elias.  The witness of God the Father of Jesus’s approved Sonship was the best witness one could ever have, and Peter later spoke of it so in 2 Peter 1:16-19)

What does this mean for us to know about transfiguration?  Is it only something to read about that we may never experience ourselves?  Actually, I think that we may attain to it ourselves, and I’ll show you some verses that suggest this. 

After the twelve Nephite disciples are transfigured, Jesus prays thus:
28 Father, I thank thee that thou hast purified those whom I have chosen, because of their faith, and I pray for them, and also for them who shall believe on their words, that they may be purified in me, through faith on their words, even as they are purified in me.
 29 Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, because of their faith, that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them. (3 Nephi 19:28-29)
From these verses it seems that transfiguration has something to do with being purified and it happens through strong faith.  We also see that Jesus wanted more people to experience this purification.  It may be that this purification and transfiguration are inseparably connected and that to have the one is to experience the other.  Jesus seems to speak of them so.

I also notice that Jesus asks that all those the Father has given him out of the world may be purified this way.  This shows that there is a difference of spiritual status between being “given to Jesus out of the world” and being purified in the way Jesus speaks of.  It also teaches us that it is something that Jesus wants for all his followers in all ages of the world.

I also just realized something about that request “that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them” (v29).  I think this tells us how Jesus sees the glowing part of transfiguration.  He considers it to be a manifestation of Himself in someone, as a time when the manifestation of Himself is glorified or manifests glory.  It’s a time when the righteousness of the spirit literally shines through the tabernacle of clay.

If we were to use a scientific metaphor for this, perhaps the body of sin is like a darkened window and the spirit can’t shine through the body of sin.  But if the body is purified, somehow the opaqueness transforms into translucence and the spirit shines through.

How do we achieve this?  We have several clues given us. 
1.     Be purified.
2.     Faith in Christ
3.     Oneness with Christ
4.     Already given to Jesus out of the world

Transfiguration is a cool thing to talk about, and it is neat to think that we can experience it ourselves, but I think too often we may approach it from the less mature perspective of just wanting to glow because “glowing = awesome,” instead of from the more mature perspective of truly desiring the spiritual qualities that are required.  For instance, how many of us really want purification, faith in Christ, oneness with Christ, and to be given to Christ out of the world just for its own sake?  I personally don’t think I understand those four things with the depth that I should.   

Looked at it another way, if the only benefit from transfiguration is that your body glows, then it isn’t necessarily one that you can fully enjoy because you can’t fully see yourself.  To glow would be to bless others more than yourself.  This makes me think there has to be more to it, there has to be spiritual blessings from transfiguration that are felt much more than seen and that the visible shining of transfiguration is only a small part of the experience.

I believe that experience is within reach for each of us.  I also believe Jesus wants us to have it; if He prayed for all those the Father gave Him out of the world to have it and not just those who were in His presence, then He wants us to seek for it too.  I think the first steps are praying sincerely to be purified in Christ, praying for Christ to be in us and one with us as He is one with the Father, and praying that Christ be glorified in us.  I sense that our efforts can't be of the fleeting and perfunctory type.

Who knows what marvels it may lead to? 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 5 comments

Dealing with doubts

At some point in our lives we may find ourselves grappling with doubts in the church.  It is helpful to see from the scriptures where doubts occur and what is said about doubt and what can be done about it.

When Jesus rescued Peter from sinking after he had walked on the water a little way, He asked him “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”  (Matt. 14:31)

After Jesus was resurrected, He told His disciples to meet him at a certain mountain and He appeared to them and the scriptures say “And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.” (Matt. 28:17)

Nephi was shocked that his brothers were still worried about how they would get the plates from Laban even after having seen an angel: “ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt?” (1 Nephi 4:3)

Among the Nephites who were watching for the signs of Christ’s death, it says “And there began to be great doubtings and disputations among the people, notwithstanding so many signs had been given.”  (3 Nephi 8:4)

Of the Lamanite army who were converted miraculously in the prison when they were prevented from killing Nephi and Lehi by such amazing events it says this: And there were about three hundred souls who saw and heard these things; and they were bidden to go forth and marvel not, neither should they doubt.” (Helaman 5:49)

Based upon these scriptures, it seemed to me that doubt is a condition of having reservations about things pertaining to the gospel even after having had great experiences with the power of God in the past.    If this is the case, then doubts are a tool Satan uses to try to harden us against the truth after we have experienced the power and goodness of God.

What kind of counsel is given in the scriptures to help us if we have doubts?
Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.  (D&C 6:36)

O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need.  Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.  (Mormon 9:27)
The counsel given is pretty much this: Stop doubting and believe instead.   Even if you fear and tremble, work out your salvation anyway.   

The difficulty is that when you have doubts, this is the very thing that seems hardest to do.   The doubts seem so compelling; they slide in and mess up your view of the gospel.  They can even become a habit of thought.  To obey the counsel to “doubt not, but be believing,” you have to do mental pushback and argue with those thoughts and make a choice to not dwell on them, and choose to cling to the Lord instead because after all, you do know of His goodness because you’ve experienced it in the past.   Don’t allow those thoughts to convince you that you don’t know.

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (Mark 9:24)

If you notice that you are having troubles with doubts, you can pray for help and describe in your prayer how you want to believe.  Pray with full purpose of heart and don’t let your mind hang back or waver back and forth.   “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan” (D&C 10:5)

It helps to try to remember the experiences that you have had in the past that have confirmed your belief, to try to remember the feelings and the circumstances, to remember the gratitude that you felt on those occasions.  You can remind yourself that the Lord helped you then, so the Lord will help you now.  If you notice yourself sophisticating yourself into despising your memories, stop it, and instead allow yourself to embrace those memories.   If you find yourself lamenting a change for the worse since those experiences, put that thought away and remind yourself that blessings can be regained and there are still miracles and tender mercies in store for you.  Faith will just need to become more of a conscious choice than it was.

If you are troubled by some historical issue, put it on the shelf and focus on gospel principles that you can practice right now.  Remember two basic principles of the gospel – faith in Jesus Christ and repentance.

In his April 2009 conference talk “Faith in the Lord JesusChrist,” Elder Kevin W. Pearson talked about the six destructive Ds—doubt, discouragement, distraction, lack of diligence, disobedience, and disbelief.  

Elder Packer talked about what we allow on the stage of our minds in an October 1973 conference talk:
Have you noticed that shady little thoughts may creep in from the wings and attract your attention in the middle of almost any performance on that stage and without any real intent on your part?  These delinquent thoughts will try to upstage everybody.  If you permit them to go on, all thoughts of any virtue will leave the stage.  You will be left, because you consented to it, to the influence of unrighteous thoughts.  If you yield to them, they will enact for you on the stage of your mind anything to the limits of your toleration….When they have the stage, if you let them, they will devise the most clever persuasions to hold your attention.  They can make it interesting all right, even convince you that they are innocent, for they are but thoughts.  What do you do at a time like that, when the stage of your mind is commandeered by the imps….?  If you can fill your mind with clean and constructive thoughts, then there will be no room for these persistent imps, and they will leave.
We live in a world in which critical thinking and healthy skepticism are helpful tools that may prevent us from being taken in by cunning and craftiness.   We have to have faith without being gullible and be inquiring and rational without becoming skeptically unbelieving.   While many would say that uniting the spiritual with the rational is paradoxical, I really believe that gospel principles allow us to do that.  I believe that studying and asking questions and searching for satisfying answers is necessary to build our faith.  I’ve also found that extended service to others is a great way to firm up faith.  On days when I felt like my doubts were crippling me, being able to give long hours of service and forget myself was a Godsend.   Words weren’t needed so much as opportunities to act with love. 
Saturday, July 21, 2012 1 comments

Pioneer, O pioneer

Ed D. Lauritsen wrote a poem entitled "Pioneer," that was published in the Dec 1997 Ensign which I think deserves to be remembered, especially at this time.  I really wish someone would put this to music.  Take your time as you read each line, and see how the sensory language pulls you in.

Hear the midnight mobs still hounding,
Hear the gunshots still resounding,
Hear the fist on doors still pounding,
Pioneer, O pioneer.
Smell the smoke of houses burning,
Feel the Mississippi churning,
Taste the tears of grief and yearning,
Pioneer, O pioneer.
Hear the icy night wind screaming,
See your breath in lamplight steaming,
Keep awake! There’s death in dreaming,
Pioneer, O pioneer.
Chip a frozen grave for brother,
Grip the trembling hand of mother,
Live one day, and then another,
Pioneer, O pioneer.
Lash and bend and drag and carry,
Ration every root and berry,
Grit your way across the prairie,
Pioneer, O pioneer.
Climb the mountains, steep and looming,
Hear the crashing boulders booming,
See the oxen straining, fuming,
Pioneer, O pioneer.
Gaze at last with soulful sighing,
See the object of your trying,
Join the thankful singing, crying,
Pioneer, O pioneer.
Tame the desert, bring the waters,
Raise up Zion’s sons and daughters,
Steady them while mammon totters,
Pioneer, O pioneer.
Send your stripling missionaries,
Send them over seas and prairies,
Send them while the Spirit tarries,
Pioneer, O pioneer.
Watch us now from where you’re waiting, 
See the millions congregating,
Shout in holy celebrating!
Pioneer, O pioneer.

Be sure you take a look at this page of little stories about the pioneers from modern prophets and apostles.  

After 168+ years, we are still inspired by their experiences.  
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 3 comments

America before the Word of Wisdom

We have all heard the stories about the incidents that prompted D&C 89.  The school of the prophets would meet and the elders would dirty the floor chewing tobacco that they spit liberally in all directions, and they’d fill the room with smoke from their pipes as they discussed the doctrines of Zion.  Emma Smith had to clean up all that yuck from the floor in the evening and she complained to her husband about it, and then he asked the Lord about it and received the Word of Wisdom.

We might be inclined to think that for some reason the elders of the church were major slobs to spit tobacco all over, but actually their behavior was typical in various American cities at that time.  So typical, in fact, that Charles Dickens commented freely on his observations in his travelogue American Notes.

As Washington may be called the head-quarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva, the time is come when I must confess, without any disguise, that the prevalence of those two odious practices of chewing and expectorating began about this time to be anything but agreeable, and soon became most offensive and sickening. In all the public places of America, this filthy custom is recognised. In the courts of law, the judge has his spittoon, the crier his, the witness his, and the prisoner his; while the jurymen and spectators are provided for, as so many men who in the course of nature must desire to spit incessantly. In the hospitals, the students of medicine are requested, by notices upon the wall, to eject their tobacco juice into the boxes provided for that purpose, and not to discolour the stairs. In public buildings, visitors are implored, through the same agency, to squirt the essence of their quids, or ‘plugs,’ as I have heard them called by gentlemen learned in this kind of sweetmeat, into the national spittoons, and not about the bases of the marble columns. But in some parts, this custom is inseparably mixed up with every meal and morning call, and with all the transactions of social life. The stranger, who follows in the track I took myself, will find it in its full bloom and glory, luxuriant in all its alarming recklessness, at Washington. And let him not persuade himself (as I once did, to my shame) that previous tourists have exaggerated its extent. The thing itself is an exaggeration of nastiness, which cannot be outdone.

On board this steamboat, there were two young gentlemen, with shirt-collars reversed as usual, and armed with very big walking-sticks; who planted two seats in the middle of the deck, at a distance of some four paces apart; took out their tobacco-boxes; and sat down opposite each other, to chew. In less than a quarter of an hour’s time, these hopeful youths had shed about them on the clean boards, a copious shower of yellow rain; clearing, by that means, a kind of magic circle, within whose limits no intruders dared to come, and which they never failed to refresh and re-refresh before a spot was dry. This being before breakfast, rather disposed me, I confess, to nausea; but looking attentively at one of the expectorators, I plainly saw that he was young in chewing, and felt inwardly uneasy, himself. A glow of delight came over me at this discovery; and as I marked his face turn paler and paler, and saw the ball of tobacco in his left cheek, quiver with his suppressed agony, while yet he spat, and chewed, and spat again, in emulation of his older friend, I could have fallen on his neck and implored him to go on for hours….

The Senate is a dignified and decorous body, and its proceedings are conducted with much gravity and order. Both houses are handsomely carpeted; but the state to which these carpets are reduced by the universal disregard of the spittoon with which every honourable member is accommodated, and the extraordinary improvements on the pattern which are squirted and dabbled upon it in every direction, do not admit of being described. I will merely observe, that I strongly recommend all strangers not to look at the floor; and if they happen to drop anything, though it be their purse, not to pick it up with an ungloved hand on any account.

It is somewhat remarkable too, at first, to say the least, to see so many honourable members with swelled faces; and it is scarcely less remarkable to discover that this appearance is caused by the quantity of tobacco they contrive to stow within the hollow of the cheek. It is strange enough too, to see an honourable gentleman leaning back in his tilted chair with his legs on the desk before him, shaping a convenient ‘plug’ with his penknife, and when it is quite ready for use, shooting the old one from his mouth, as from a pop-gun, and clapping the new one in its place.

I was surprised to observe that even steady old chewers of great experience, are not always good marksmen, which has rather inclined me to doubt that general proficiency with the rifle, of which we have heard so much in England. Several gentlemen called upon me who, in the course of conversation, frequently missed the spittoon at five paces; and one (but he was certainly short-sighted) mistook the closed sash for the open window, at three. On another occasion, when I dined out, and was sitting with two ladies and some gentlemen round a fire before dinner, one of the company fell short of the fireplace, six distinct times. I am disposed to think, however, that this was occasioned by his not aiming at that object; as there was a white marble hearth before the fender, which was more convenient, and may have suited his purpose better. (1)

I remember when I first read this I was simply amazed that such a dirty and disgusting habit could have been so widespread and socially acceptable.  It gave me a deeper sense of what a revolutionary concept it would be for our church members in that time to learn that tobacco was not for the body or the belly.   I had an instant appreciation for the messes that we don’t have to clean up now that this is no longer a common practice in our society.  And too, a look at some pictures of decayed and rotting mouths of teeth caused by frequent tobacco chewing caused me to appreciate the greatly increased health we enjoy now.

As I was working on this post, I started to wonder at what point in our history people decided that spitting tobacco was bad.  Michael Pekker had a bit of insight on his blog about smoking tobacco.

When the germ theory was proven in the late 19th century, public reform efforts began targeting unsanitary practices, such as spitting, which could spread disease.  Public opinion turned against spitting tobacco, and laws were framed that made spitting unlawful in public places.  (2)

Might we have spiritual habits that are just as ugly and unhealthy which we wouldn’t see without an outsider telling us how gross they are?

(1)  (Charles Dickens, American Notes, chapter 8) [http://www.online-literature.com/dickens/americannotes/9/]
(2)  Michael Pekker, “Chewing Tobacco: History, Specifics, and Health Effects”, http://smoking-tobacco.blogspot.com/2011/05/chewing-tobacco-history-specifics-and.html

Friday, July 13, 2012 4 comments

Why tell us that Eve was made out of Adam's rib?

18 And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten, that it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him….
 21 And I, the Lord God, caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and he slept, and I took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh in the stead thereof;
 22 And the rib which I, the Lord God, had taken from man, made I a woman, and brought her unto the man.
 23 And Adam said: This I know now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.
 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.
 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (Moses 3:18, 21-25)

I’ve always thought the rib story was odd; in particular, the words Adam says puzzled me.  Because God made Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs, Adam says, “This I know now is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.”  It’s like Adam woke up, saw Eve and says, “Hey!  That’s my rib!  We’re ‘sposed to get married and stay together; I can’t have my rib wandering around without me!”  Why would Adam think Eve had one of his ribs?  And why would he decide the whole of her was his bone and his flesh because of this?

President Spencer W. Kimball taught that Eve was not literally created from Adam’s rib. He said: “The story of the rib, of course, is figurative” ( “The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 71).   But if the rib story is figurative, then why is it in there?  Harold B. Lee said:

Marriage is a partnership. Someone has observed that in the Bible account of the creation woman was not formed from a part of man’s head, suggesting that she might rule over him, nor from a part of a man’s foot that she was to be trampled under his feet. Woman was taken from man’s side as though to emphasize the fact that she was always to be by his side as a partner and companion. At the marriage altar you are pledged to each other from that day to pull the load together in double harness. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [2000], p. 109)

This might describe why the rib is used and not some other part of the body, but why say that Eve was created from part of Adam at all? 

One idea that occurred to me was that maybe Adam didn’t have any way to communicate the abstract principles of soul synchrony and personality compatibility.  Maybe the rib story was meant to communicate that.  If I couldn’t use those abstract words, I might resort to saying an equivalent of Adam’s words, something like, “My husband’s got a piece of me in him.  God must have taken a part of me out while I was asleep and made him out of it.” 

Biblical culture considered the reins (the kidneys) to be the center of feeling and the heart to be the center of thought.  (Seems kinda odd, but once you realize that, a lot of things start to make more sense, like phrases like, “his bowels were moved with compassion.”)  So saying that Eve had one of Adam’s ribs would be like saying, “She and I think a lot alike.”  (Adam couldn’t say, “She’s got my heart,” because that would be like saying, “She does all the thinking for me.”)

If we see the rib story teaches about Adam and Eve’s compatibility as partners, then the statement about how a man should cleave to his wife and be one flesh with her teaches about taking compatibility and creating a relationship of unity.  (We know from D&C 121:41 that it is to happen with persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, and pure knowledge.) 

Although it is Adam who says, “This is bone of my bones,” I think Eve had to realize Adam was bone of her bones too, otherwise she wouldn’t have gone along with it.  She probably felt like the Lord took a piece of her and made Adam with it, and Adam just gets the glory of giving the account from his perspective.  

Verse 22 has another neat thing in it.  And the rib which I, the Lord God, had taken from man, made I a woman, and brought her unto the man” (emphasis added).  That says to me that it is the Lord that brings a couple together so they can meet and marry. 

When you think about it, this teaching about taking compatibility and making a united marriage is a pretty amazing message to put at the beginning of the scriptures. 

If you are married, how did you meet your spouse?  At what point did you discover your compatibility?  What kind of compatibilities did you discover?  

I met my husband at BYU's Electronic Engineering Technology Department where we both worked as student employees. The first point of compatibility I discovered with him was that our senses of humor were very similar and he seemed to make me laugh really easily. I liked that he seemed to have similar media viewing standards to me and he was committed to the gospel.

How about you?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 5 comments

De-cluttering counsel: Seek not to be cumbered

“Seek not to be cumbered…” (D&C 66:10)

This simple, but powerful line is very helpful for a bunch of different situations relating to dealing with our goods, both to de-clutter and to remain de-cluttered.

To be “cumbered” means to be restricted, restrained, bounded, limited, or curbed, so when we are cumbered by our stuff, we are restricted by the large amounts we have.

How can seeking not to be cumbered help us?

It can help us at the store when we find things we like and want to buy.  If our goal is to keep from being cumbered, then we have a license to be incredibly picky about what we buy and bring home.  It means that we can think before we plunk down our money.  While we often think about how things will help us, we can also think realistically about the demands those things will put on us.  It will eventually get dirty.  How will we clean it?  Where will we keep it?  Is there room for it?  Will it fill all the needs it can possibly fill?  There have been many times that I have looked at a product, liked it, but have refrained from buying it because I had no idea how to care for it and didn’t want the stress (or guilt) of living with the duty of cleaning and caring for it.  If we follow that single instruction – seek not to be cumbered – it can help us avoid impulsive buying, which causes clutter.  It takes practice at first and a lot of conscious thought, but if we work at it, it can become second nature.  

I was trying to think of an example to share and I realized that so much of my thinking about this has become automatic now that examples I came up with were from when I was first practicing the technique.  I remember contemplating a sheepskin rug at IKEA because I liked the fuzzy factor, but I couldn't figure out how I would clean it once it got dirty. Vacuum?  Washing machine? Beat it with a tennis racket?  If I put it somewhere out of the way, it would stay clean, but then I would hardly enjoy it as much as I liked.  If I used it often, it would get dirty faster.  Finally I just decided to forget the idea.

"Seek not to be cumbered" can also help us when we are trying to get rid of clutter; it can change our focus from finding excuses to keep things to finding excuses to let go of things.  

You know what things are burdening you and holding you back, so let them go.  Let go of the broken things you haven’t had time to fix and don’t know how.  Let go of the mismatches, the outgrown clothes, the unread magazines and newspapers, the books you haven’t looked at, the movies you haven’t watched, the craft supplies you haven’t touched. 
Monday, July 9, 2012 5 comments

My LDS rug designing phase

About eight years ago, I went through a phase when I was convinced that I was going to be a rug designer.  My idea was to design rugs for the LDS market.  I thought it would be cool to market these rugs as "Family Prayer Rugs."  Sort of like Muslim prayer rugs, but with a Mormon twist, ya know?

I'm going to show you the best of my designs.  They are not the most polished of graphics and the lines can be a bit crooked in places, but I put a lot of heart into them.  When I look at them, I feel like they are kind of cartoony, but deep down I still wish that someday they might actually become rugs.

These first two I did in very different styles, though they were focused on the same scripture.

This next one has a scripture from Proverbs about how the heavens declare the glory of God, but I chose a color for the text that was too near the background color, so you can't even really see it.  But I still like it because I have this thing for astronomy.

I've always liked that scripture about how a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

This next one is a little bit psycho, but that's probably why I like it.  Probably not the best idea for a rug.  Can you imagine stepping on those eyes?

This next design--I couldn't get those feather barbs right.  But imagine having this as a rug on your living room floor.  In no other way can you gratify your pride and wound it at the same time! ;-)

This one is like ying and yang, but Mormon.

The next one has one of my favorite scriptures on it.

I'm enthralled with ancient American hieroglyphics.  To me, they are like voices from the dust. 

So there you go.  What do you think?  You like, you buy? (said in my best Persian rug dealer accent)
Saturday, July 7, 2012 4 comments

How to build a city called Zion?

We Latter-day Saints yearn for the day when Zion in Missouri will begin to be built up.  We yearn to take part in that process.  We speculate occasionally about how it will begin, and our speculations can get pretty wild.

I suspect that the Lord has already made it plenty clear how it will begin and we already have this pattern well-established.

50 And I give unto my servant Sidney Rigdon a commandment, that he shall write a description of the land of Zion, and a statement of the will of God, as it shall be made known by the Spirit unto him;
 51 And an epistle and subscription, to be presented unto all the churches to obtain moneys, to be put into the hands of the bishop, of himself or the agent, as seemeth him good or as he shall direct, to purchase lands for an inheritance for the children of God.
 52 For, behold, verily I say unto you, the Lord willeth that the disciples and the children of men should open their hearts, even to purchase this whole region of country, as soon as time will permit.
 53 Behold, here is wisdom. Let them do this lest they receive none inheritance, save it be by the shedding of blood.
 54 And again, inasmuch as there is land obtained, let there be workmen sent forth of all kinds unto this land, to labor for the saints of God.
 55 Let all these things be done in order; and let the privileges of the lands be made known from time to time, by the bishop or the agent of the church.
 56 And let the work of the gathering be not in haste, nor by flight; but let it be done as it shall be counseled by the elders of the church at the conferences, according to the knowledge which they receive from time to time. (D&C 58:50-56)

So here’s the process as I understand it:

1.     All the churches will be invited (whether by First Presidency letter to each unit or by general conference announcement) to give money to purchase land for Zion.  All the church will be invited to open their hearts to purchase the land.
2.     Workmen will be sent to labor for the Saints.
3.     All things must be done in order, meaning it is an organized process and can’t be done out of order without problems occurring, so you have to be patient.  (In the 1830s, revelation from the Lord was given that those who were to go up to Zion were to be recommended by their bishop to go, and one of the problems was that a number of people didn’t wait for a recommend and just went on their own.  The Lord gave revelation about them in D&C 85, and if you read that, you will see He wasn’t pleased.)
4.     The privileges of the lands were to be known from time to time.  This could be land use or knowledge as to who should come to the land next.
5.     The gathering was not to be in haste, nor by flight.  It’s not supposed to be like a refugee camp.  It is a gradual, organized growth, probably with people chosen by revelation.
6.     It will be done as counseled by the elders of the church at the conferences, according to the knowledge they receive from time to time.  Revelation is very much involved, as is study through counsels of the church, and possibly by common consent, since it is at the conferences.

Thus, when we “return to Zion,” it isn’t going to be a mass exodus, an exit pursued by mob, but a gradual process of growth, which we will qualify ourselves to participate in by opening our hearts to give money for the purchase of the land.  That purchase will test our faith because it may seem as though we might not personally benefit from it.  It may seem as though we are purchasing land for others to live on and enjoy.  But verse 53 suggests it is necessary for us to do it to receive OUR inheritance.  “Let them do this lest they receive none inheritance, save it be by the shedding of blood.”

(This made me think about what I would be willing to give if I were called upon to help purchase lands for Zion.  I hesitate to mention this, but I think I would be willing to sell our house, give the proceeds, and live in an apartment.) 

Is the above process exactly how it is going to be?  I don’t know.  Will there be any changes due to economic circumstances or conditions?  There might.  But in general, I think it will be about the same as revealed.


Now, I have heard that bishops around Independence, Missouri have had troubles in the past with families who appear suddenly at church and say, “Well, we’re here; we just had a feeling we should come,” These families come without a job or even a place to stay and yet expect the bishop to help them out.  I leave it to you to decide whether their coming was inspiration or irresponsibility.  Surely this kind of problem no longer happens(ahem)


I think that it is not enough for us to forsake the world.  It seems to me that we must have something better to embrace.  (Nature abhors a vacuum..)  We can’t leave Babylon behind unless we have Zion firmly in view.  We have to figure out what we need to do differently and what to do in addition to what we already do. 

We don’t know how long it will be before the city of Zion begins to be established.
But what if….  What if you knew that Zion was 5 years in the future?  What would you choose differently in your life?  How would that change your focus and your conversation or the way you planned for the future or what you planned for? 
I ask because I wonder how much prep time we need for studying for Zion and changing for Zion and experimenting for Zion.   What do you feel you need to learn in order to be a part of Zion?  I’m not sure I can even answer that question myself, which means I have some studying and self-examination to do.

While we're thinking about what we need to learn, check out this Ted-talk video about "collaborative consumption."  Collaborative consumption means having access to certain goods we happen to need only briefly without needing to own them.  What do you think?

Thursday, July 5, 2012 2 comments

Lead us not into temptation

There are differences between how the King James version of the Bible renders the Lord’s prayer and how the Joseph Smith translation renders it. 

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matt. 6:13, emphasis added)

…And suffer us not to be led into temptation… (Matt 6:13)

If you’ve ever Googled Matt. 6:13, you’ll know that there are oodles of webpages written by people attempting to explain “And lead us not into temptation.”  It makes it seem like God may lead us into temptation and we pray to prevent Him from doing so.  We are right to be disturbed by this choice of words; it makes God out to be malicious and a companion of the devil. 

The JST shows us that actually God doesn’t lead us into temptation, but suffers us to go there because of our stubbornness and free will to choose.  So, we are to pray “suffer us not to be led into temptation, but deliver us from evil” when we have finally decided we want nothing more to do with temptation or sin of any kind, and we prefer to get the Lord’s help in resisting and escaping.

It has to be understood that if we pray that the Lord never more allow us to get into temptation, we have to be pretty dang determined ourselves to not allow it either.

This brings me to a question.  Does being led into temptation mean that we find the temptation enticing, or does it mean that we have already been enticed and we’re giving in?

I suppose that it would mean finding a sin enticing because if you can keep from finding a sin enticing, then that would certainly keep you safe from it.

I’ve had a few experiences when I was confronted with a temptation that seemed so dark and insidious that I felt I was in great danger of falling and I had to pray with all the energy I could muster in order to escape.  I can testify that I was saved from those temptations.  Now, if only I could remember to pray to escape the little everyday temptations too..

Have you had any experiences you can share when you’ve prayed to be saved from temptation?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 0 comments

Ether's great and marvelous prophecies

For he [Ether] did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed, saying unto them that by faith all things are fulfilled—
 Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.
 And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not. (Ether 12:3-5)

2 For behold, they rejected all the words of Ether; for he truly told them of all things, from the beginning of man; and that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof;
 3 And that it was the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, and the holy sanctuary of the Lord.
 4 Behold, Ether saw the days of Christ, and he spake concerning a New Jerusalem upon this land.
 5 And he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come—after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord; wherefore, it could not be a new Jerusalem for it had been in a time of old; but it should be built up again, and become a holy city of the Lord; and it should be built unto the house of Israel—
 6 And that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph, for which things there has been a type.
 7 For as Joseph brought his father down into the land of Egypt, even so he died there; wherefore, the Lord brought a remnant of the seed of Joseph out of the land of Jerusalem, that he might be merciful unto the seed of Joseph that they should perish not, even as he was merciful unto the father of Joseph that he should perish not.
 8 Wherefore, the remnant of the house of Joseph shall be built upon this land; and it shall be a land of their inheritance; and they shall build up a holy city unto the Lord, like unto the Jerusalem of old; and they shall no more be confounded, until the end come when the earth shall pass away.
 9 And there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and they shall be like unto the old save the old have passed away, and all things have become new.
 10 And then cometh the New Jerusalem; and blessed are they who dwell therein, for it is they whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who are numbered among the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who were of the house of Israel.
 11 And then also cometh the Jerusalem of old; and the inhabitants thereof, blessed are they, for they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who were scattered and gathered in from the four quarters of the earth, and from the north countries, and are partakers of the fulfilling of the covenant which God made with their father, Abraham.
 12 And when these things come, bringeth to pass the scripture which saith, there are they who were first, who shall be last; and there are they who were last, who shall be first. (Ether 13:2-13)

In these verses we find out several interesting things.  We find out that Ether prophesied to the Jaredites to believe in God unto repentance and that their land was a choice land given for the purpose of serving God and it would someday be the place of the New Jerusalem that would come down out of heaven and the new Jerusalem that would be built up by the remnant of Joseph. 

It seems Ether told the Jaredites all about the house of Israel, about Joseph in Egypt and about Jerusalem.  Moroni gives us a very basic summary of the things Ether prophesied and it is with satisfaction that we can see that those parts were verified.  But a significant part of it is still in the future for us too.

From a strictly existential point of view, Ether’s prophecies were incomprehensible to the Jaredites, since most of it concerned people they didn’t know in a land they would never see during their lives, in times far past and far to come.  To them, it would seem like Ether’s prophecies had no bearing on practical living.  His words would seem unverifiable.

However, if we look closely, we can see that those prophecies did have a practical purpose  The words Ether shared about the building up of the holy city and the coming of the New Jerusalem from heaven upon the Jaredite lands was set before them as the promise of a better world for which they could prepare themselves.

Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God. (Ether 12:4, emphasis added)

It was sad that the Jaredites did not believe these things because they did not see them (Ether 12:5), and the sad irony is that if they had seen them, they would not have been prepared for them.

Even if the New Jerusalem was not something they would see during the Jaredite time in mortality, the time would come when all the righteous would be resurrected and live together with God, and in order to be part of that, they would have to prepare now.

How does this apply to us today?  In the same way as it did to the Jaredites.  We have to prepare now to be part of that better world.