Saturday, December 31, 2016 0 comments

My Blogging Year in Review: The Small Plates of Michaela

Another year of blogging and I continue to be grateful for what the Lord teaches me through the scriptures.  The following posts are my favorites from 2016.
Thanks for reading and commenting!

Old Testament

Why a Serpent in the Garden of Eden?

Lessons from the Lord’s curse upon Satan in the Garden of Eden

New Lessons from the Genesis 39 Story of Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

An unexpected indication of religious freedom and respect in Genesis

Addressing the question of a God who apparently commanded genocide in the Old Testament

I Will Make All My Mountains a Way

Isaiah on the joy of conversion

New Testament

Avoiding Lust

Doing it to the least of these, doing it to Christ

Rewards for supporting Christ’s side

New thoughts on the parable of the ten virgins

Jesus on casting out devils

The Dragon and the Beast

Revelation 10: The Angel Standing on Sea and Land

Book of Mormon

Lehi’s Dream: Three Tools of Satan, Three Tools of God

God shows men that they were lost so they need repentance

The Light That Can Never Be Darkened

Zeniff's powers of persuasion

An Amalekite’s Unbelief and Attempts at Self-justification

Observations on the poor Zoramites

Some thoughts about Amalickiah’s flattery and the dangers of “awesome”

Flee or Prepare for War

Some thoughts on Lehi’s army shielding and attacking

The Power of Covenants in Alma 44

Teancum’s great warriors

Unconquerable spirit, or not?

Alma 60: Captain Moroni’s letter to Pahoran may be less rash than we think

Survivor’s guilt versus the Lord’s assessment on sin in 3 Nephi 8-9

The Remnant of Israel as a Lion or a Bull

Jesus’s warning to those who don’t repent

The Brother of Jared’s Observation of how Men Perceive the Power of God

Some observations on Jared the usurper and his daughter

The Survival of Coriantumr As a Type

Laying hold on every good thing

Mormon speaks to those who don’t believe in Christ

Why did the Nephites have confidence in Mormon as a commander?

Doctrine & Covenants

Some points about the loss of the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon translation

The word of God as a sword, quick and powerful

The heavens shall shake for our good

Is it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?

The promise for seeking the Lord

Practical thoughts on the white stone given to inhabitants of the celestial kingdom


Pearl of Great Price

From my talk on the First Vision


Some Helpful Context about Tokens and Signs

Signs of the Times: Rumors of Wars

Some scriptures about pleasure

Living Water Versus Only Dreaming You Quenched Your Thirst

Monday, December 26, 2016 0 comments

Unexpected applications in verses about the Lord’s coming in D&C 133

I was reading in D&C 133, and I ran into some verses that made me think as I looked at them closer.

D&C 133 was given to help answer the Twelve apostles’ request for instructions about missionary work, and it has a lot of amazing promises about changes to the earth and geographical movements of water and land masses and prophets in the north countries and so on. 

Then there’s this bit:

40 Calling upon the name of the Lord day and night, saying: O that thou wouldst rend the heavens, that thou wouldst come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence.
41 And it shall be answered upon their heads; for the presence of the Lord shall be as the melting fire that burneth, and as the fire which causeth the waters to boil.
42 O Lord, thou shalt come down to make thy name known to thine adversaries, and all nations shall tremble at thy presence—
43 When thou doest terrible things, things they look not for;
44 Yea, when thou comest down, and the mountains flow down at thy presence, thou shalt meet him who rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, who remembereth thee in thy ways. (D&C 133:40-44)

The first thing this makes me think of is the Second Coming. It probably does that for you too.  But if it is, then what are we to make of this apparent command to pray day and night for the Lord to rend the heavens and come down and melt the mountains? And why does it say these constant prayers will be answered? It makes it seem like the answer comes immediately, yet here we still wait for a future Second Coming.

I realized the key here is to remember this section is about missionary work. Missionaries are constantly praying for the presence of the Holy Ghost, praying that people will feel the Spirit of God and humble themselves to want to learn more.  Doesn’t the Lord answer these prayers? I think this corresponds quite well to the promise that the Lord will rend the heavens that seemed closed before and melt mountains (stony proud hearts) in His presence.

To elaborate on this imagery, v41 compares the Lord’s presence to a melting fire and a fire that makes water boil. Because we understand state changes of water with the application of heat, we can understand what is being said. Just like fire can change ice to water and make water boil, the Lord can and does light a fire in people and bring about dramatic changes in our lives and the lives of converts.

Verse 42 says the Lord will come down to make His name known to His adversaries. In terms of missionary work, this means that even people who have fought against God will be given a chance to feel the Spirit and accept the gospel. It will be explained to them what it is they are feeling, which will make the Lord’s name known to them. And all nations will tremble at the Lord’s presence, so everyone will get a chance to feel the Spirit. To some, it will be a terrible and unexpected thing that they never were looking for, but to others it will be exactly what they always wanted.

I don’t think we can’t also say these verses tell us about the Second Coming, but it has very practical things to say about missionary work that help us today. They tell us we should always  be praying that the Spirit will be felt and recognized when we talk to people about the gospel, and we are promised the Lord will answer these prayers.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016 0 comments

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on Christmas

For some neat perspective on Christmas, here are some great quotes from the Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book:
He before whom a few gifts were laid in that lowly manger has spread so many gifts before us, thereby providing an unending Christmas. In fact, from Him for whom there was no room at the inn there comes to the faithful so many blessings “that there shall not be room enough to receive [them]”! (Malachi 3:10) (The Christmas Scene, p5, as quoted on p45)

God’s gifts, unlike seasonal gifts, are eternal and unperishable, constituting a continuing Christmas which is never over! These infinite gifts are made possible by the “infinite atonement.” (The Christmas Scene, p4, as quoted on p44)

The larger Christmas story is clearly not over. It is not solely about some other time, some other place, and some other people. It is still unfolding, and we are in it!” (The Christmas Scene, p11, as quoted on 45)

Yes, we still wish Christmas were more deeply felt and lasted longer, but the visibly increased goodwill nevertheless reminds us, if only briefly, of what could be everlastingly. For a few days, the first and second commandments are more pondered and observed. (The Christmas Scene, p2, as quoted on p44)
I love that perspective that God's gifts continue like an unending Christmas and that the goodwill and kindness we see in the season shows us a brief picture of heaven.

I recommend reading these to your family at the end of Christmas day.

Saturday, December 17, 2016 2 comments

Why is it so hard to do good things and so easy to do bad things?

This question ^ was asked recently in a book club I belong to with other members of the church.  It’s a fascinating one. It made me think.  

Mormon takes a chapter to observe on these facts in the Book of Helaman when he observes how people are quick to do evil and how slow to do good.  But asking why things are that way is a good question that I think worth examining.

I think it has something to do with energy input and entropy.

Doing good takes energy.  Our spirit has to impose a certain level of order on our mortal, corruptible bodies. It also takes energy to sustain that order over time, just like it takes energy to keep the clutter of life from choking our houses.  (Example: I come home from church with a bag of stuff that I have to take some time to put away. I’m imposing order things.)

Maybe I’m out of line relating this to the laws of thermodynamics and creeping entropy, but I find it a helpful metaphor.

The more order you impose on something, the more energy it takes.  For things to fall back into chaos, it takes practically no energy at all. You simply do nothing and wait.  It’s all downhill.

Doing good, you’re pushing uphill.  Imposing order.  Putting in energy.

And where that energy comes from that allows a fallen mortal to do that? That’s Christ and His grace.
Thursday, December 15, 2016 0 comments

Creating a Psychological Survival and Coping Kit

I grew up as a pretty happy-go-lucky person.  Somehow I learned to see the importance of making a decision to be happy and look on the bright side of things, and that made a lot of things easier for me.

But I still had trials and tests.

And afflictions.

And weaknesses.

And transgressions that I fell into.

At one point, I fell into a depression, and I got some counseling.  Under the direction of a doctor, I tried a few medications, but had more difficulty from the side-effects than from the depression.

Happily, my counselor at the time recommended a book to me called Feeling Good, by David Burns.  I got the book and read it.  In it, I found that much of my depression at that time was being caused by the way I was thinking.*  The thoughts were causing depressive feelings and contributing to a hopeless view of the world.

Eventually I learned that I had gotten cultivated some non-productive thought patterns that caused me pain.   (I’m sure Satan found that most amusing.)

I learned things about:
--How to have more realistic expectations of myself (and others)
--How to tell where my responsibility ended and another person’s began
--How to think more productively about what I did so that I could feel greater joy and happiness.

I don’t mind telling you that there were also things I read in Feeling Good that seemed to clash with gospel principles.  I was tempted to reject them because of that. But there was so much there that was helpful that I considered it a very valuable book, one worth keeping and referring back to from time to time.  I knew enough about myself to realize that I would not remember everything I’d read and I would need to review periodically.  I recognized that if I had fallen into bad habits of thought, it was possible and probable I would get into the same trouble again.

After a few more readings of that book over several years, I realized that some of the things that I’d previously thought clashed with gospel principles actually harmonized, but in a different way than I expected.  (Part of that could be because of how vocabulary is different between psychology and religion.)

The point of my telling you this is not necessarily to recommend that book, though it helped me.  The thing I learned was I could collect and keep resources around me that would help me recognize and correct mental-spiritual errors of thinking.

Over more years, I noticed I developed a few other peculiar thought-error patterns. They would manifest in some kind of behavior that I had troubles getting rid of.  When I noticed I was developing a new non-productive pattern, I started looking for principles, articles, scriptures, stories, coping techniques, strategies, and any kind of material that would address the issue.  I would gather it together in a document because I knew I would have to remind myself of that stuff again from time to time.  I have a document file for each problem.

This collection of material I have come to call my Psychological Survival and Coping Kit.  These issues are unique to me because they have to do with my particular weaknesses, challenges, and situation.  They give me valuable perspective. They help me manage my expectations in such a way that I remember where I need to be gentle with myself.  They represent areas where I know Satan particularly attacks me and where I know I need the Lord’s strength. 

I suspect everyone could benefit from building their own Psychological Survival and Coping Kit.  Studying and gathering available wisdom about a personal challenge is empowering. It makes the nebulous problem more defined and therefore limited.  It is amazingly validating; it helps us feel like we’re not alone.  It helps us become humble and open to revelation the Lord wants to give us to help us.  It helps us realize our need for the Savior and encourages us to come to Him.  It alerts us to traps and snares of Satan and prepares us to discern and avoid future stumbling blocks.  It gives us suggestions for what to do.  And when the kit is made, it is personalized to us.

I’m going to quote a well-known scripture that relates:

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
 28 Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.  (Ether 12:27-28)

I love learning coping techniques.  Coping is not about just survival.  Coping is the way we deal positively with a challenge that allows us to figuratively learn and practice making lemon out of lemonade.  It’s the mechanics of the process of learning how to make weak things become strong after we’ve humbled ourselves turned it over to the Lord.  

* Some depression is caused by non-productive thought patterns and fallacious thinking and can be healed by learning to think in better, non-self-critical ways.  Other types of depression are caused by chemical imbalances and need the care of a physician and medicine to overcome. 
Tuesday, December 13, 2016 0 comments

Never could be a people more blessed than they

Here's some verses that caught my attention recently in the Book of Ether:

22 And they were exceedingly industrious, and they did buy and sell and traffic one with another, that they might get gain.
23 And they did work in all manner of ore, and they did make gold, and silver, and iron, and brass, and all manner of metals; and they did dig it out of the earth; wherefore, they did cast up mighty heaps of earth to get ore, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of copper. And they did work all manner of fine work.
24 And they did have silks, and fine-twined linen; and they did work all manner of cloth, that they might clothe themselves from their nakedness.
25 And they did make all manner of tools to till the earth, both to plow and to sow, to reap and to hoe, and also to thrash.
26 And they did make all manner of tools with which they did work their beasts.
27 And they did make all manner of weapons of war. And they did work all manner of work of exceedingly curious workmanship.
28 And never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord. And they were in a land that was choice above all lands, for the Lord had spoken it. (Ether 10:22-28)

In these verses is a catalog of the material advantages of the Jaredites at this time under the reign of Lib. I notice that it focuses the attention on the blessings they enjoyed in their industry—metal ore found in mining efforts, and then the different kinds of clothing they could make to clothe themselves, and then on all the types of tools they had. They had tools for agriculture, tools for working their animals, weapons for defending themselves, and they must have had tools for their mining and weaving too.

What this teaches me is that in an industrious society, tools and mechanical ingenuity are great blessings. If we compare our technological society to the Jaredites, we see what additional tools we have--all manner of communication tools, transportation methods, robotic tools, construction tools, medical tools, calculating and problem-solving tools, tools for recreation, musical instruments, even molecular and genetic-manipulation tools.  Improve the tools and life improves for lots of people.

I suppose if we are spiritual, the gifts of the Spirit, revelations, and priesthood will be seen as great blessings as well—plus scriptures, prophets, temples, ordinances, callings, meetings, and all the helps and governments we have in the church.  The increase in blessings is absolutely staggering.

It can truly be said today that never could be a people more blessed than we. Of course, I suppose “never could be” is the rub.  I wonder if over the last 200 years people have thought they at the pinnacle of excellence.   Yet somehow the blessings keep coming. 

For the Jaredites, of course, things didn’t last. Their society fell apart from pride and wickedness and war and secret combinations.  It’s a warning that the same thing could happen today.  The onus is always on people (you and me and all of us) to not mess things up.
Sunday, December 11, 2016 3 comments

Articles about different types of apostasy

Since we’re nearing the end of the Book of Mormon where the story of the destruction of the Nephites (and the Jaredites), as I’ve been thinking about the Nephite apostasy, I thought it might be interesting to see what articles had been written on the topic, especially since I was curious about the differences between the Nephite apostasy and the New Testament era apostasy.

The following are some very good articles that I recommend:

“The Process of Apostasy in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon” by Daniel Belnap from the book Shedding Light on the New Testament.

“Again, the value of the Book of Mormon is not so much in its description of the same apostate elements, but in the presentation of its effects on the majority of Church members and society. While the New Testament simply warns of them, the Book of Mormon allows us to discern why they are so dangerous.” (Belnap)

“The Cultural Context of Nephite Apostasy” by Mark Alan Wright and Brant A. Gardner.

“What Went Wrong for the Early Christians?” by Noel B. Reynolds, BYU-I devotional June 15, 2004.

I get the sense that there are different types of apostasy. There is the type that is converted, but then meshes true doctrine with other cultural principles held by the surrounding society.   There is the type that is partially converted, but never fully forsakes incorrect traditions; they eventually privilege those traditions over true doctrine and apostolic authority for the sake of popularity and material advantage.  And then there is the type that has been taught the full truth from the beginning and departs from it. 

On the bright side, I ran across this comment by Ramond Takashi Swenson: “…LDS should remember…the church of Christ was also established in the spirit world as soon as the Atonement was completed. It has operated uninterrupted there ever since, and “captures” all the people who have been affiliated with some branch of Christianity on earth, making up the deficit in their understandings of God and salvation. It is the mercy of God, which mitigates the thought, horrifying to traditional Christians, that God could abandon his people on earth for millennia. The true church has indeed been one that, under the ongoing leadership of Peter holding the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, has prevailed against the “gates of hell” and liberated the dead…”   (
Friday, December 9, 2016 0 comments

Revelations in Context

Whenever I read the Doctrine & Covenants, it quickly becomes apparent to me that I’m only getting half of the story. The revelations the Lord gave to Joseph Smith were in response to certain questions and conditions. The section headings sometimes give perspective, but many times they don’t.

Happily, the church has brought out a new booklet called “Revelations in Context” designed to give background on people mentioned in the revelations and questions that led to Joseph Smith receiving revelation. It draws upon the work of the Joseph Smith Papers, but presents it in a more accessible way. It also has links to the Joseph Smith Papers and the D&C and gives some information about how the individuals mentioned in the revelations responded going forward.  

The articles in “Revelations in Context” can be found by searching for it by name on  What’s also neat to me is this booklet is available on the church’s Gospel App. From “Library,” just find “History” at the bottom.  That means it is free if you have a device with the Gospel Library App. (Yaaaaay for free!)  I’ve heard they have English, Spanish, and Portuguese translations of that content.

This is a pretty recent addition to the Gospel Library; it was only completed in August of this year, probably in preparation for 2017’s study of the Doctrine & Covenants.

I’ve been enjoying reading it, and I hope you do too. It is neat to get more of a narrative.  So much of the scriptures are written with narrative context that I think this adds something we’ve needed.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 0 comments

Good tidings to ALL people

I was reading through the story of the Nativity in Luke 2 recently, and I was struck by these verses as the angel speaks to the shepherds:

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

Even though Jesus Christ was born in Israel at a specific time in history, I love that the angel says that the good tidings are not just for Israel, but for ALL people.  EVERYONE has reason to rejoice, whether they believe or not, because Christ overcame death, and all will benefit from the gift of the resurrection. 

Everyone gets to decide what they do with this gift of resurrection, what they want to spend their life in eternity on.  Christ helps those who want to use that gift for the greatest purpose.  That takes preparation and progression and change, and we can’t do it without His help.

Everyone has reason to rejoice, whether they were born thousands of years before Christ, or thousands of years after.

With Christ, carnality and decay can’t win.

With Christ, this life is not the end.

With Christ, this life has meaning, even in struggle and pain.

Monday, December 5, 2016 0 comments

Practical thoughts on the white stone given to inhabitants of the celestial kingdom

8 The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim.
9 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.
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 130:8-11)

I love these verses that promise a personal Urim and Thummim to those who come into the celestial kingdom. I love that it becomes a means “whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known.” (v10)

It struck me recently that although we do not have these white stones yet, many of us have little personal electronic devices that we can use to search for information. It seems to me these devices can be a way we prove ourselves or prepare ourselves for that white stone.

The principle of using the white stone is that it is to be used for learning things of a higher order of kingdoms. So we can apply that principle today if we use our devices to learn things that help us be better, or use applications that bring greater order and efficiency to our lives. If we use them that way, they can be instruments of revelation. Then, in the next life, when we get that white stone, we will know exactly how to use it to its greatest advantage because we will have been practicing that principle all along.

Who would have thought that this scripture could have such practical application in mortal life?

Friday, December 2, 2016 0 comments

Living by the Word of God

This is Moses speaking to the children of Israel about their experiences in the wilderness:

And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

We recognize that the Savior paraphrased this verse when tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread after He fasted 40 days. It is possible Christ took the first part “he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger” as instruction that He had to endure hunger like other people and be humbled.  Satan probably wanted Christ to focus more on the part, “he…fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not” in order to tempt Christ to turn the stones into bread.

But returning to the children of Israel, how was the miracle of manna supposed to teach them to live by the word of God and not just by bread?

I think it was because of the instructions and commandments associated with gathering the manna.  There were instructions about how much they should gather and when to gather it. There were instructions about not saving it beyond one day. There were even instructions about when they should not expect to gather it—during the Sabbath—and how to compensate for that.

To eat every day, they had to follow those instructions. If they didn’t, they would start to starve. If they persisted in disobedience, they would die. Every instruction had a purpose, and not a single instruction could be neglected without consequences.   I suppose it is always so with the commandments.