Friday, December 17, 2010

fear not

D&C 6:36 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.
It's easy to begin to fear when we live in a time where natural disasters, political corruption, social injustice, and moral disintegration are a part of not just the daily news but even mundane day to day life.

When Enoch saw the wickedness of the people of the earth "he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted" so it stands to reason that we too would feel such bitterness and despair at the things we see and hear going on all around us and all over the world. However, "the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look" (Moses 7:44) and when Enoch looked he "saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me" (Moses 7:47). He found comfort.

Like Enoch, we will see much that will leave us feeling as though there could be no hope of comfort, and yet we will be "troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair" (2 Corinthians 4:8) because we DO have a hope in Christ and what he has accomplished in behalf of those who follow him. "And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise" (Moroni 7:41).

Even though the righteous should be troubled at the wickedness of the world, we are told, time and time again, that we "need not fear" the things that will go on in the last days: "Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. But it is they who do not fear me, neither keep my commandments but build up churches unto themselves to get gain, yea, and all those that do wickedly and build up the kingdom of the devil—yea, verily, verily, I say unto you, that it is they that I will disturb, and cause to tremble and shake to the center"  (D&C 10:55-56)

We live in a day when the future looms unsteady and darkly before us -- but we have no need to fear what is coming. This has been reaffirmed to me strongly this past week. As I have seen how the world is going to pieces I have felt more and more how important it truly is not only to be a steadfast follower of Christ, but to belong to His church and to be making EVERY effort to gain understanding of the FULLNESS of His gospel, to strive to obey, and to REPENT.

I wanted to share these impressions for the same reason the Lord does, over and over, in the scriptures:

  • D&C 38:30 - "I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear."
  • Hebrews 3:13-14 - "But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;"

We cannot let the wickedness of the world overwhelm us nor let the calamities of our day "speak" and overpower the plain truth of what the Lord has spoken. We must reassure each other and work to steady testimonies and boost faith in our Heavenly Father's promises. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

  • He has promised His protection: "But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:7). 
  • He has promised that through our righteousness we will avoid much of the destruction that the wicked will bring upon themselves: "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues (Revelation 18:4).
  • And he has promised a perfect way to peace: "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life (2 Nephi 31:20).

It isn't our part to overcome the troubles of the world "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12). Our battle is to stay true to the faith in an increasingly chaotic and evil world until the day when the Lord comes again and the earth is finally "cleansed from all sin" (JST Luke 17:40). Then we will live in peace in a peaceful world.
Revelation 21:4 - And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

knowing the power of thank you

For this post I want to link to a beautifully composed affirmation of the importance and joy of "thank yous" written my friend Angela. You will enjoy it. I certainly did. Thank you Ang <3

 (Pay special attention to the last paragraph!)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"REMEMBER" on a daily basis

1 Corinthians 11:2 -- Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

Mark 8:18 -- Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?

Psalms 63:6-7 -- When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.

There are so many different ways to put yourself to the task of "remembering." One way that I've found to be especially positive in my life is taking the time to ponder each night and to rehearse the events of the day in my mind, considering all the things that went well and that I am grateful for. I always find a lot, and I always discover God in the day -- and often times as I remember I am surprised at how often (this is especially important because I usually do not notice/think of it at the moment, only in reflecting does it become obvious).

I want to be better at this. And I guess this is a little invitation to anyone who reads this to do the same...Look at your day and ask yourself "what did God do for me today that he wants me to see?"

Moroni 10:18 -- And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ.

Monday, November 29, 2010

reading over notes from an old ysa conference

i re-learned some important things:

1. You don't "get happy" in marriage -- you SHARE happiness in marriage. If you aren't happy now you won't be then and you will instead drain each other and end up frustrated and unhappy. (Find happiness now and then find someone to share it with.)

2. The rest of the world has a pretty messed up idea of love. We don't "complete" each other -- Christ completes us. Christ is the light of our lives -- not a another imperfect human being, however much we love them.

3. The Atonement works in relationships; trust God, not yourself.

4. A lesson of Nephi's efforts to get the plates first and then Ishmael's family: Before you are a fit candidate for a relationship you have to get the word of God in your life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn't Be Hard

I read Sheri Dew's book If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn't Be Hard and turned down the corners of enough pages to warrant a post all for itself. I've tried to string together some of her words and ideas into this one post.....

We have been exposed to more and more evil every day since we were born and this has had a devastating effect as "familiarity breeds normality" and we've begun confusing "unrighteous behavior" with  normal behavior (15).

Once example of this is how "being single has been made to appear normal" and weakens the most important institution God has ordained for this life: the family (84). For as many opportunities, "joys and rewards" that a single person has there is "no adequate compensation for not being married" because when you are single you are inherently incomplete (85).

Another example is the "erosion of female attitudes about sacred things, beginning with their bodies. Immodesty in American society and even among our own people has reach epidemic proportions. PArticularly during summer months, an increasing percentage of woman attend church and partake of sacred ordinances -- including in the temple -- in what could only be considered beach or picnic atire...young women (and too often their mothers) arrive wearing tight, second-sking clothing and flip-flops" (111). Again, behavior becoming familiar and regard as acceptable and normal when it is NOT. "Perhaps the problem is that we haven' stopped to think about what actually happens, for example in sacrament meeting...where we present ourselves before the Lord to renew our covenants with Him...If we were to have a personal interview with the Savior, what would we wear?" (111).

Perhaps it IS difficult to live amidst so many voices "calling evil good and good evil" (2 Ne. 15:20) but power comes in living in the midst of evil by knowing "of the goodness of Jesus" (Mormon 1:15) the way the prophet Mormon, who lived in a time where "there never had been so great wickedness" (Mormon 4:12) and was able to maintain his standards when everything around him fell apart.

We've been told over and over again that we live in a time great evil -- but we have never known anything different and must not let the degradation of the world pull us down. It will be difficult...but Life is meant to be difficult. It is mean to test us to the limit. Joseph Smith was reported as having said our trials are meant to wrench our heart strings "and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God" (124).


So we must come to know Christ -- be converted. Sister Dew explains that the the surest way to know if someone is converted to Jesus Christ is by how that person treats others. Unfortunately "our charity sometimes faileth" (43) as we are pressured to focus on ourselves and on our 'needs' and often become selfish and lazy. But this of course is the opposite of what will make us happy. Joseph Smith taught -- that we "must enlarge [our] souls towards others if [we would] do like Jesus" (44) and by doing so we will find true happiness. When we commit to charity and service our lives change:

We need each other. We need each other to be the Lord's comforting. We need to be the answer to each others prayers. We others to love us and remind us of God's love. He is always there for us, but the physical presence of another person is also important because "sometimes we just need to hug someone, reach out to someone, or have someone reach out to us" and be there with us (78). ((Especially mothers because as Joseph F. Smith taught, "the love of a true mother comes nearer to being like the love of God than an other kind of love" (108) which is why family love is one of the greatest sources of joy and contentment)) 

 We have to learn to lay aside the things that keep us apart. Here is a corny but true illustration:

The Fable of the Porcupine

It was the coldest winter ever.  Many animals died because of the cold.  The porcupines, realizing the situation, decided to group together.  This way, they covered and protected themselves; but, the quills of each one wounded their closest companions even though they gave off heat to each other. After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen.
So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or perish. Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. This way they learned to live with the little wounds  that were caused by the close relationship with their companion.

Therefore: The best relationships are not the one that brings together perfect people, but the best is when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can support each other through life.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

the sabbath

God created the earth in six days, and on the the seventh he rested. If there were nothing else said on the importance of the Sabbath, this should still be enough. What better example to follow that the master and creator of all the earth? If he set a day apart from the others and hallowed it-- shouldn't we?

In Genisis 2:3 it states that "God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it" and in Exodus 31:13 the Lord explains to the children of Israel that the Sabbath "is a sign between me and you throughout your generations that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you." God has made the sabbath holy and set it above the rest as a sign of our cleansing -- if we keep it holy. The sabbath is a perpetual covenant and as we honor that covenant we show for a sign that we are His. Elder Bruce R. McConkie remarked that our Sabbath observance is the great test dividing the righteous and the wicked. So on the Sabbath, what do I do? Which sign do I show to the Lord? You really can tell what a man worships by how he spends his time on Sunday…

The Sabbath day is reminder of God's plan for us, of our opportunity to worship (emulate) him and be cleansed and made holy by him. The symbols of the Sabbath are woven deeply into the scriptures, reminding us time and time again of this doctrine.

The children of Israel were slaves while captive in Egypt and as such did not have the choice to rest on the Sabbath. When their captivity ended they were especially thankful for the Sabbath and their opportunity to honor it.

Through the Atonement of Christ we are delivered from the bondage of death and transgression -- and since Sunday was the third day, the day he came from the tomb, it is the day of the Risen Lord. This is our holy day of remembrance, of the day we were set free. Elder Holland has said that when we do not put away the concerns of the world and honor this day, we show ourselves to be terribly ungrateful. Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “Our observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead."

We are sanctified by the Sabbath when we show for a sign that we are Christ's by making Sunday the best day of the seven. It certainly helps me to think of it this way when I need to weed out the "not quite sunday appropriate activities" from my day. I hope I can be better.

Monday, November 1, 2010

a home

i think i may be "nesting"

at least that's the joke behind why i keep buying more and more of the odd little thrift store whatnots and knickknacks i hope to fill a house with; stacking them up on each other and into all the corners of my tiny little basement apartment.

it's my justified packratism -- that i will used these teacups someday and those pillows are just awaiting the advent of a guest bedroom. so it accumulates.

which makes it more and more of an impossible (but imperative) task to move... and also seems to settle me here even more concretely. weird. tho, i don't think it's so much the things that do it as the feeling they connect me to of the home i will someday make... it's nice to have the dreamy image of my someday kitchen filled with a jumble of colored-glass bottles and plants and the library overflowing with a medley of books and curios.

speaking of books, emerson said of his house that he hoped to "crowd so many books and papers, and if possible, wise friends, into it that it shall have as much wit as it can carry."

along with wit, an inviting ambiance and charismatic ornamentation. that's not too much to hope for is it? tho i might just be excusing my collecting urges :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

something better

Joseph Smith once prayed simply, "Lord we thank Thee for this Johnny cake, and ask Thee to send us something better. Amen." (It wasn't long after than a man came bring flour and ham to the home.)

This idea of praying for something better... this is huge. I mean of course God has blessings in mind for me that are so much bigger and understanding that is so much better than i could ever imagine -- but am i possibly not receiving it because i haven't asked? It's not that I'm not asking (because I do a LOT of that) and it's not that I am asking for things I shouldn't... it's just that I'm not thinking bigger... so what am I missing out on because I don't ask, and therefor seek, for the BETTER?

Sheri Dew wrote that we shouldn't try to "limit or restrain the Lord by the smallness of our vision or hopes or petitions"  -- we shouldn't be afraid to pray like Joseph did for something better. I am going to try to expand my view of what is possible and what the Lord may give me.

I will try to pray and thank the Lord for what I have, ask him for what I think I need, and then ask for something even better.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

our great potential

"these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men" (Moroni 10:19)

How do you picture those who don't believe? Because most likely it's the same way I have... and I didn't fall into that group. Like so many scriptures it's taken me until now to see how I actually do, in scary ways, fit negative definitions. We are supposed to put ourselves into the scriptures, and it's a much easier thing to do in the positive ones, but it the ones where I become a sinner and an unbeliever...well, of course those scriptures aren't about ME...those are about THEM...right?

It's the "All is Well in Zion attitude" and it needs to change. Think of unbelief the way Sheri Dew does: "the most sobering kind of unbelief is actually that of faithful members of the Church sitting in sacrament meeting every week -- members who don't really believe the Lord will reveal His mind and will and workings to them, and have thus hardened their hearts to their spiritual possibilities, potential, ad privileges." (If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn't Be Hard) And now, we can start seeing ourselves in it.

President George Q. Cannon makes it even clearer:

"Yet we find, even among those who have embraced the Gospel, hearts of unbelief. How many of you, my brethren and sisters, are seeking for these gifts that God has promised to bestow? How many of you, when you bow before your Heavenly Father in your family circle or in your secret places, contend for these gifts to be bestowed upon you? How many of you ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to manifest Himself to you through these powers and these gifts? Or do you go along day by day like a door turning on its hinges, without having any feeling upon the subject, without exercising any faith whatever; content to be baptized and be members of the Church, and to rest there, thinking that your salvation is secure because you have done this? I say to you, in the name of the Lord, as one of His servants, that you have need to repent of this. You have need to repent of your hardness of heart, of your indifference, and of your carelessness. There is not that diligence, there is not that faith, there is not that seeking for the power of God that there should be among a people who have received the precious promises we have. Instead of the sick being healed, why, it is as much as you can do to get faith to believe that the administration of an elder will be attended with effect. There is not that seeking for the gift of healing and for the gift to be healed that there ought to be among the Saints. And so with other gifts and graces that God has placed in His Church for His people. I say to you that it is our duty to avail ourselves of the privileges which God has placed within our reach."

Friday, October 1, 2010

this life or the next?

"If we are too quick to adapt to the ways of this fleeting and flawed world, that very adjustment will maladapt us for life in the next"

It's sometimes very scary to think the more I love the things of this world the more I'm not ready for the next... because I do love many things of the world, not just things that I "shouldn't" but many beautiful, interesting, yet also trivial and temporary things. we are supposed to be preparing for a better world and i'm not sure the things i do are preparing me all that well... and really, when it all comes down to it, shouldn't EVERYTHING I do be doing so?

Sheri Dew wrote that "this life was designed to be a test -- a test to determine if we want to be part of the kingdom of God more than anything else. Mortality offers a wide range of experiences and opportunities, everything from countless ways to serve our fellowman to an endless array of distractions, deceptions and modes of self-gratification. When all is said and done, perhaps the most fundamental question we each answer is, Do we want to be part of the kingdom of God -- both here on earth and in eternity -- more than we want anything else? And do we demonstrate by our choices and priorities, by how we live our lives -- everything from the way we spend our time and energy to the way we spend our influence and resources -- what we really care about? (from If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn't Be Hard)

But it's hard sometimes to recognize.

In his book Christianity and Culture C.S. Lewis discusses how "the real business of life" is "the salvation of the human soul" (agreeing with what the Lord himself has said, "For this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life on man" Moses 1:39). He explains how he began to Question the worth of culture -- those highly valued natural things, "of intellectual and aesthetic activity" -- to a true christian (and if it is not "good for its own sake or good for man" then, "how are you justified in spending so much of your life on it?"). While I won't get into the mechanics of his foray into answering this question, one thing that came into my mind when I asked myself the same question was the later part of the 13th Article of Faith "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." I think any activity, intellectual, aesthetic, or otherwise must be judge on an individual basis. Does it encourage virtue? Does it exemplify loveliness? Is it worthy of praise for the value it gains in promoting charity or glorifying God? The degrees may change, but if something is can be said to be GOOD, i.e. of God or (according to the dictionary) approved by the standards of the principles of the gospel and possessing/displaying moral virtue (and not merely giving pleasure for the sake of pleasure or advantage in worldly respects) then I think you can begin to make your own determination as to the time you allot to it.

Going back to the quote above from Elder Maxwell, the simplest answer is if what I am doing is not aiding me in my preparation to be a part of the world to come...then it is "maladapting" me. And I really don't have time to waste on it...I need all the preparation I can get!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

we are not dots - we are lines

So I've been reading The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner and beyond the fact that is devastatingly poignant and well written, it has also opened my mind up to a new idea: That to know someone isn't just to know about him -- but to know about everyone who has come before him and led up to his being. I'll let Stegner explain: ...The understanding of any person is an exercise in genealogy. A man is not a static organism to be taken apart and analyzed and classified. A man is movement, motion, a continuum. There is no beginning to him. He runs through his ancestors…

I am as much the choices of my mother, father, grandmother, great-gradfather, etc. as I am the choices I have made. Everything they did led to my being were I am today. In Nature/Nurture terms, my nurture (environment/context of my life) was determined by them -- where I happened to be born and when, etc. -- as well as my biological make-up and the blessings and challenges that come with it. That IS genetics. And things within me, from them, are released: The process of growing older is perhaps a simple process of breaking down cell walls, releasing things that have for a while been bound up in the firmness of young muscle. 

Like the tendency towards heart disease, stubbornness, even strong faith in God... It is handed down and far back beyond one ought to go, and how infinitely much one could fill in to the bare outline of two generations! 

To know myself I HAVE to know them... I think this is why I never regret the time spent listening to stories of ancestors, reading family histories, trying to understand my family.

To know what Harry Mason is, as of JAnuary 1931, I should have to know every thought, accident, rebuff, humiliation, triumph, emotion, that ever happened to him and all his ancestors, and beyond that I should have to with him against a set of standards to which I was willing to subscribe. That would be understanding but that kind of understanding can only happen instantaneously in the mind of God.

I can never know everything -- but I can know a lot. And I can be grateful for it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

the constitution

"Some of the things said by various persons in recent public discourse
cause me to urge that we be more careful in the way we throw around the
idea that something is unconstitutional. A constitution should not be
used as a weapon to end debate." - Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Inquire of the Lord

This an excerpt from a speech Harold Glen Clark gave to a group of BYU students at a devotional. (I recommend reading the whole thing.) I've underlined/bolded the bits that caught my attention.

Inquire of the Lord
Just one word to the hundreds who, in their secret hearts, have come here to find someone with whom they can share companionship and a love which will last forever. Let me tell you that you too must do your homework. So many storm the Lord to get him on their side, with all his blueprints. This is a poor start, especially when we've never "studied it out first in our own minds," to quote the Lord's word to Oliver Cowdery. Let not that person think that he should receive anything from the Lord, for the Lord will leave him alone with his problems. He is not teachable by the Lord or anyone else, and he will be driven by the wind and tossed while waiting in vain for the Lord to give him a picture of the girl he's to marry. One of our great prophets, Jacob, said:
Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works. [Jacob 4:10]

When we have lived the commandments, when we have learned to know and follow his will, and the person we want to marry does the same thing, we will both be drawn together in the Lord because we have much to share with our Father and with each other. We put ourselves beyond serious doubts and fears and foolish errors. Our whole bodies will be filled with light when our eyes are single to the mind and will of our Father in heaven, and we will comprehend all we need to know to make a good choice, and our companion will also (D&C 88:67). Why is this so? It is because our affections are based on eternal principles. When are two Latter-day Saint people in love worthy of each other? When can a couple be truly sealed for time and all eternity in the temple? It is when they love their Father in heaven enough to say, "Father, we have thought through our marriage, we have our own ideas, but we know that you ordained marriage, you made us male and female, you told us to leave father and mother and twain be one, and we want to be guided by you. We want to know, for we love you. We want to keep and make, make and keep sacred promises with you in your house, and in your own way."

Is it possible to love any woman, or any man, any more than we, or they, can love God, covenant with him, and follow his will? The answer is no. That's why marriage in the temple has so much potential for those who come here with an eye single to his glory. The successful temple marriage begins when two people want God's blessings in the way he has ordained. Then our Father in heaven can promise these two everything that he has and deliver it. He knows that with this spirit the couple will say more than just "Lord, Lord." They will wait to back it up by being worthy of all the requirements found on the temple recommend. Eternal love, as Erich Fromm says, is more than a feeling, for feelings come and go. How can we be sure on this basis alone that love will last forever? You can be sure only when feelings are supported by a judgment, a decision, a meaningful promise before God. Everything in our lives falls into place when we continually ask and answer the questions "What does my Father in heaven want me to do?" And "What did I do today to fulfill his will?"

In the scriptures, in the quiet of our study, in a clean body and mind, and in the busy and anxious bustle of good causes in our priesthood and Church and civic and home duties, God answers our inquiry. But until we find him and his will, and until he finds us and our will, we begin, as H.G. Wells says, "at no beginning and work to no end," and nothing in the universe or in our lives will fall into place.

{So, we must first learn ourselves to follow the will of the Lord --- but we must also find/wait for our companion to do the same. I will know the right choice to make when I comprehend God's will -- and my companion must know it by the same means and we will thereby have a relationship and love based on eternal principles rather than just feelings. We will be able to make commitments centered in our promises to God (not just to each other). We will do it His way and thereby receive the best possible outcome: His blessings. Nothing will fall into place -- and all of our work will inevitably be fruitless unless we do this. So we MUST inquire of the Lord and do His will.}

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Who do we worship?

This is all from my study today...make what connections you can.

The Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. taught that “it is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God" and that to acquire the faith necessary for salvation you must have a correct idea of God’s character, perfections, and attributes, as well as knowing that the life you are living is according to God’s will. He added, “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.” (Lectures on Faith

So we must KNOW who we worship.

From Elder Russell M. Nelson's article Jesus the Christ: Our Master and More (go read it!) 
"Under the direction of the Father, Jesus bore the responsibility of Creator." 

"The Gospel of John proclaims that Christ is the Creator of all things: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3) 

"His title was “the Word,” spelled with a capital W (see JST, John 1:16, Bible appendix). In the Greek language of the New Testament, that Word was Logos, or “expression.” It was another name for the Master. That terminology may seem strange, but it is appropriate. We use words to convey our expression to others. So Jesus was the Word, or expression, of His Father to the world

We worship God. That worship is of the Father through the Son, who is the expression of the father. The very name of God speaks of the plurality (and yet singularity) of whom we worship. El, the name of God the father, and Elohim, the plural of El and often translated as Jehovah, our Savior Jesus Christ. 

"Jehovah is derived from the Hebrew word hayah, which means “to be” or “to exist.” A form of the word hayah in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament was translated into English as I AM" (Elder Nelson)

"He is “the eternal I AM,” the Lord God Omnipotent who appeared to the patriarchs and prophets of old, who delivered Israel from Egypt, who gave the law on Sinai, and who guided and inspired the righteous prophets, priests, seers, judges, and kings of the Old Testament."

"Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament. But when we open our Bibles, we find little evidence that this is so. (The Old Testament makes merely four direct references to Jehovah and three references to him that are names of altars). What is missing in the translations is clear in the original Hebrew text, where Jehovah, the Savior’s Old Testament name, appears over 5,000 times! Why then is Jehovah missing from our Bible translations? The answer can be found in the way His name has been treated by Jews since the days of Malachi and Zechariah. Jehovah is the name of God, and devout Jews, out of reverence for Him, never say His name. Instead they substitute Adonai, a Hebrew title meaning “Lord.” So whenever they speak of Him or read aloud His name from scripture, they substitute Adonai (Lord). King James translators of the Hebrew Bible followed Jewish practice. Instead of printing Jehovah, the name of God, they substituted the English title LORD, printed in small capitals, every time the name Jehovah appeared in the Hebrew text."

Jesus Christ is our Lord God and Savior.  Joseph Smith declared that "The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith). He is at the center of the church, of the gospel, and of our understanding of and access to God. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

the rising sun

Sometimes it boggles my mind when I see the things that people think are important. Sometimes I just can not understand the skewed perspectives on life that so many have. Sometimes it seems like rationality has left the minds of the world...

But then I read this testimony of Christ from C.S. Lewis:

"I believe in Christ as I believe in the rising sun, not just because I can see it, but more importantly, because I can see everything else more clearly because of it."

Those without Christ in their lives cannot see as clearly as we can; they do not know and understand what we know and understand. What a blessing of clarity we have because of Him.

And yet, even with this clarity we sometimes let this mortal existence hold too much sway on our thoughts and actions. Let me add to this something Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:

"It is very important that we do not assume the perspectives of mortality in making the decision that bear on eternity! We need the perspectives of the gospel to make decisions in the context of eternity."

We see more clearly because of Christ and we must use what we see to choose Christ.

Thursday, September 2, 2010



It's nothing new, but people certainly tend to try and do it in all the wrong (and strikingly similar) ways.

The better way:

Romans 12:2
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

to whom shall we go?

After Jesus feeds the five thousand in John chapter 6 the people follow him around wanting to be fed again. Christ basically tells them that he is not there to feed them physically but spiritually. He explains that the time has come for them to change, and that he is that change. This is the response:

Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? (John 6:60)

Most of the people leave him at this point. Jesus turns to those who are left, his twelve disciples, and asks "Will ye also go away?" (vs 67) The response he receives from one of his disciples is, in it's own rights, a remarkable one:

Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. (John 6:68)

There will come, time after time, "hard sayings" into our lives. We will be placed (on even a daily basis) in the position to choose to stay with Christ, to stay through what he asks us to do and become, or to choose to leave. It is absolutely critical that we have firm in our minds and hearts this same declaration that Peter made-- that we know that Christ, and only Christ, is the way to lasting peace and joy. We need to always remember that there really is no where else to go. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I have been thinking about the people I surround myself with.

My path of thoughts eventually brought me to remembering a story I read once about corn. To set it up, the reason corn is planted in groups within it's rows is so because it is pollinated by the wind. The pollen from the stalks upwind are blown all down the rows and through the groups. (It's even recommended to plant different species at least 50 feet apart to avoid cross pollination.) I don't remember where I read this story, but it goes like this:

"There was a farmer who grew corn. Every year his county held a contest to determine which farmer grew the best corn. Every year he won. Year after year this farmer grew the best corn in the county and he won the award. One day, a visitor noticed that this farmer gave some of his best seed to one of his neighbors. The visitor asked why he was sharing his best seed with his neighbor. Wasn’t he concerned that their corn would be better than his? Wasn’t he concerned that they would eventually win the contest for having the best corn in the county? The farmer explained that the winds in the county pick up the corn pollen from all of the neighboring farms and deposit it to all over, so some of his corn pollen ends up on his neighbors’ farm and some of his neighbors’ corn pollen ends up on his farm. If his neighbors’ corn was very inferior and it was deposited on his award winning corn, his own corn would become less superior. By sharing his best seed with his neighbors, the pollen that was deposited on his farm was better than it would have been had he not shared and his corn wasn’t degraded."

Now there's something known as synergy. It basically means that the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. Synergy is amazing; Stephen Covey even made it one of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He explained that "If you plant two plants close together, the roots co-mingle and improve the quality of the soil so that both plants will grow better than if they were separated" (263). I think this touches on the same idea that the corn story does -- that the best of what we can do and be comes through, not our efforts alone, but the synergy that exists within dynamic human relationships.

I think this is why marriage and family can be such a excellent place for sharing and experiencing positive growth. When we surround ourselves with genuinely aware, competent, and moral people we are "pollenated" by through their good example, positive activities and experiences we have together, and meaningful conversations. Together, as a whole, we are all bettered and accomplish so much more than if we were left alone.  Or worse, had surround ourselves with coarse, shallow, selfish people. 

Because the opposite is just as true. We will be degraded by immoral behavior and meaningless interactions, even if we aren't necessarily participating in them. I can attest the the power of negative "cross-pollenation" because there have been times in my life where I could see marked changes in myself and my habits because of the influences of those I spent the most time with. I became less. The problem wasn't even that they were "bad" people so much as they were just not "excellent" people. Covey goes on to state that a living without real synergy is "one of the great tragedies and wastes in life, because so much potential remains untapped -- completely undeveloped and unused" (264). We become less and we fail to become everything we could have been if we'd put ourselves in the right environment.

We should seek out friends that make us better, not just ones that are fun. We should seek out relationships that are not merely happy, but also characterized by intimacy, growth, and resilience. Those with whom we associate regularly will determine if we move forward or backward. If our days are full of shallow relationships (or even just shallow people) then where will the opportunity for synergy come from? If we take the time to surround ourselves with the best we can find, then we put ourselves in the position to become the best we can be.

To put this in personal terms: I have had definite difficulties in this most recent chapter of my life. But I can honestly say the greatest part of this past year has been the influence of the people in the nearest circle of my relationships: my dear family. There has been a definite and astounding amount of give-and-take influence that has helped me develop in ways I never could have imagined. It has been a crucible of growth and I am so grateful for those who have shared it with me.

Monday, August 30, 2010

i hope someday a man will read this poem to me

By Robert Herrick

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness;
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction;
An erring lace, which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher;
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribands to flow confusedly;
A winning wave, deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat;
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part.

passions that we fought

By Trumbull Stickney

The passions that we fought with and subdued
Never quite die. In some maimed serpent’s coil
They lurk, ready to spring and vindicate
That power was once our torture and our lord.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

hymn arrangements

this is what i wake up hearing on sunday mornings -- either my brother or my dad playing these kinds of beautiful arrangements.

(and i love this one)

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings. (D&C 108:7)

In every conversation I have, with every person, I can say at least one small thing to show appreciation, admiration, or just plain loving friendliness. I CAN strengthen others through conversation.

In every prayer, every day I can be sure to remember a specific person with a specific life-situation. I CAN think of others and their needs and pray on their behalf; that the Lord will bless their lives.

Through the words I utter and the advice I give I can aim to be positive, uplifting, and true to the unchanging principles of happiness. I CAN tell, and show, others the way to joy.

In all of my doings, hanging out with my family, in school with my students, at the grocery store or other public places, among all the people that I interact with I can be a positive (if small) force for good. It may seem like a overly optimistic endeavor but it is a command from God and in all my efforts in small ways I CAN change myself and strengthen others.

Afterall, it is too much of a waste to do anything less. Think of all the crude jokes, profane and foul language, insenstive remarks, and thoughtless negligence that we perpetuate and only serves to make life less lovely and often more difficult for those around us. As put by president Gordon B. Hinkley, "do not indulge in put-downs, in pessimism, in self-recrimination. Never make fun at the expense of another. Look for virtue in the lives of all with whom you associate."

I think that naturally this is a difficult thing... But what a worthwhile one! And what a feeling it would be to look back on a day as you go to sleep and be able to say that today everything you did was a strength to others......

Friday, August 27, 2010

A good teacher

This is a beautiful quote from President Gordon B. Hinkley that every person given the opportunity to teach should consider:

There is an immortality in ideas and inspiration that a good teacher imparts to a receptive student, who in turn imparts to those who follow after him.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

mark 5:24-34

24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.
25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

We talked about this in an institute class. It changes your perception of the story to have more details.

She had an "issue of blood" or hemorrhage. Basically she has been bleeding for 12 years. At the least it would have been embarrassing, but chronic blood loss probably left her weak and anemic. It says she suffered under medical treatments and had only gotten worse; she was incurable and destitute.

Despite all of this, hearing about Jesus gave her hope. In fact, she was so in earnest that she was willing to go against the social expectations of her day. Since she was bleeding she was an "unclean" woman and would have been unwelcome in society. Everything she touched became ceremonially unclean so she would have been shunned completely and by touching Jesus she would make him "unclean" (she actually, as a woman, wasn't even supposed to touch him, as a man, in public at all).

Despite all of this, she pushed through the press of people to touch the hem of Christ's robe...and in an instant 12 years of suffering came to an end.

We all have our own "issues" and we often have to face social pressures in order to be "made whole" through our Savior. But isn't it worth it?

Monday, August 23, 2010

the stories we tell

"This was a story about a girl who could find infinite beauty in anything, any little thing, and even love the person she was trapped with. And i told myself this story until it became true. Now, did doing this help me escape a wasted life? Or did it blind me so I didn't want to escape it? I don't know, but either way I was the one telling my own story..." 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A remedy for loneliness

"I believe that for most of us the best medicine for loneliness is work and service in behalf of others. I do not wish to minimize your problems, but I do not hesitate to say that there are many others whose problems are more serious than yours. Reach out to serve them, to help them, to encourage them. There are so many boys and girls who fail in school for want of a little personal attention and encouragement. There are so many elderly people who live in misery and loneliness and fear for whom a simple conversation would bring a measure of hope and brightness."

- Gordon B. Hinkley

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Colossians 3:14

And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

I want to discuss this description of charity -- that it is the bond of perfectness. The first and plainest connection is to see bond meaning a relationship -- a tie between two things. Referring to the idea that the state of"perfectness" is the state of someone who has charity; if we are trying to be charitable we are invariably trying for perfection. That makes sense, since there are so many facets to charity and to acquire all of them would be a BIG step to perfection (also the scriptures say that "the greatest of these is charity" 1 corin. 13:13 so again, it's a big one).

A bond is a promise as well. An agreement. "Perfectness" is the promise of "charity."

There's more to it than even that though. To bond also means to hold something (to restrict even). If you think about it, perfection isn't something you just get to -- it's something you have to maintain, forever if it's to be true perfection. Having charity is part of what will bond us to perfection, not so much that we are "restricted" to perfection but that we are tied to it; effectively bonded or stuck to it (therefor able to maintain it). Does that make sense? Think of a chemical bond, it's a strong attraction holding atoms together because of shared electrons -- charity and perfection share attributes creating a powerful connection.

I'm not sure where I'm headed with all of this, I don't have a destination/neat tidy ending to this post... But I think it's fascinating to consider the relationship of charity and perfection. The word "bond" may have just been the English word that the translator thought best fit the Hebrew character... but it gave me new path to think about "the greatest" of topics. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Romans 13:8
"Owe no man any thing, but to love on another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."

I owe no one any thing but love?

This was a really important verse for me to read. I think that like many people I have a tendency to deal with emotions and interactions almost like a trade-system. You smile at me, I smile back. You let me borrow your car, I let you use my laptop. I send you a graduation card, you send me a birthday card. It's this sort of this give and take relationship. Which I think we all sorta expect from each other -- and if someone isn't holding up their end of things then they generally stop receiving our friendship. Fair is fair right?

But if you think about it, that is not how God's relationship with us works.
Mosiah 2:23-24
And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

He just gives and gives and gives and we NEVER really hold up our end of the relationship. We are always the "bad friend" of the two and the one who doesn't really bring much to the table.

And yet we expect this in our relationships with each other? That's like the parable in Matthew 18 of the debtor who owed his Lord ten thousand talents (and could not pay). But while his lord forgave him his large debt, he himself was unwilling to forgive his fellow servant who owed him only one hundred pence. Our relationship with God is so HUGELY unequal, yet we let ourselves be loved and given to. Our relationships with others seem at times "unequal" and we must learn to love and give despite that if we want to truly emulate our Lord.

When it comes down to it...who am I to judge the "equality" of the relationships I have anyways? My responsibility is to love, not to judge whether or not the other person deserves it or is accepting it well enough or is loving me back with the appropriate appreciation. Those things are lovely when they occur -- and it certainly seems more mutually beneficial and joyous to be in an equal sharing relationship...but that doesn't mean if they aren't there that I am allowed to dissolve that connection or stop giving however I can. If I honestly believe every person in my life, in every degree of closeness, is in my life for a reason (which I do) then like it says in Romans, I owe them my love. It's the only thing I owe -- and it entails the whole spectrum of the law; I owe respect, and gratitude, graciousness, forgiveness, prayers -- everything that falls under the definition of love that fits the circumstances of that relationship.

Which is hard. It is hard to love someone who doesn't seem to love you back. It's hard to love someone who doesn't seem to respect you. It's hard to love someone who doesn't even seem to want to have you in their life.

But God always loves us -- even when we don't love Him back, disrespect Him, and try to shut Him out of our lives. So I have to learn to love those who are hard to love. And not give up on loving them in whatever ways I am able to love. The nature of our interactions may change (God said to love our enemies, not to invite them to our house) but in whatever way is appropriate for that relationship I can try to love.

(This verse taught me a whole new side of how far I still have to go in learning to love like God. I hope I can begin to apply it. Not just with the difficult cases, but with the ones I am used to loving too!)

P.S. I just got some verbal feedback and I want to say I am by no means condoning staying in unhealthy relationships! If you are in a relationship that is in any way emotionally or physically abusive you should NOT stay in that relationship -- and you do not have to in order to love that person. You can love them outside of the relationship, where you are safe, through forgiveness and prayers on their behalf. Love manifests itself in many ways and you should only allow your love for someone to be shown in ways that are healthy and appropriate.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

an effort to comfort

I hope it isn't wrong for me to blog about this -- I'm kind of afraid of how it could come across… but I really want to share this experience because it felt so big to me.

My brother woke up sick this morning. He seems to have food poisoning -- but it's very severe and he has been suffering all day. At one point he came stumbling out of his room, panting and shaking, and my heart really went out to him. His symptoms are very similar to what I experienced when I was infected with parasites in El Salvador. It was a miserable, exhausting, and at times terrifying ordeal, and all afternoon long I've thought about how my brother must be feeling -- and I've tried to do all I can to help. I felt sorta helpless at times…

He went to bed a couple hours ago, but woke up to puke and couldn't get back to sleep. So I told him I'd sit in his room and read out loud to him to help him fall asleep. It worked (hooray!) And as I snuck out of his room, I felt a sort of overwhelming surge of love and empathy for my brother… it came in such a way and with a strength I don't think I've ever experienced. As I wondered at it, a scripture in Alma 7 popped into my head - one that describe's an important aspect of the Savior's Atonement: that he took "upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people" as well as sins.

It says "And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:11-12)

Christ suffered to understand and love and succor more perfectly…Now I don't pretend to understand the Atonement (the enormity of what it is overwhelms me at times) but tonight I understand a small part  of that in a more real and tangible way. 

It's different to see someone suffering and feel a helpless sympathy versus a helpless empathy -- when you really know and have experienced what they are going through, you just CAN'T let that feeling of helplessness keep you from doing something. I think this afternoon I felt like all I could figure out to do was refill my brother's water and keep saying "Let me know if you need anything." But that feeling of understanding the experience he was having and wanting so badly to do something to ease his suffering (& thinking "what would I want if I were him now") really did guide me to do things I think otherwise would have never occurred to me. 

I believe that I understand a little better how the Savior aches to help us when we suffer, and how well He comprehends how to comfort us -- because of what He suffered and how deeply He loves us. I believe that tonight I felt clearer than I ever have what it is like to feel a true sort of compassion…genuine empathy and strong real love -- somehow they created in as faulty a vessel as myself a powerful and pure representation of that… I hope I can hold onto it…

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I was thinking about forest fires. even though we're all about preventing them, because of the danger and destruction they cause, they are a natural part of the life of a forest. old overgrowth is cleaned out and new small growth flourishes -- the forest is renewed and begins again.

I know the scriptures are full of references of terrible fire, but typically what comes to my mind is fire like those forest fires... the refiners fire.

For example, I know that Malachi 3:2 is in reference to the second coming, "But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap" but I think it means the same for anyone who allows Christ to come into their life. He becomes the fire to burn out all the old habits and sins and make us able to support new growth -- and even if we let ourselves become full of dead material all over again, He can and will cleanse us every time. It isn't an easy process... to be refined by fire... but this purposeful...

Zechariah 13:9 "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God." We need the difficulty of being tried and refined because not only does it burn out all of the impurities, it drives us to God. It forces us to pray and to rely on Him and to become His.  It is the "furnace of affliction" where we are "chosen" (Isa. 48:10) because it is there that we begin to become what we are truly meant to be; cleansed of imperfection and truly His.

Our lives have cycles like forests. We go through periods of refining fire... Difficult in the heat and pain of the moment -- but all in preparation for a new beginning.

Monday, August 9, 2010

brain matter

So I was listening to a podcast (Radiolab) and during one segment they were talking about how the activity of your brain comes down to, not so much "you" making things happen but the actions of the tiny neurons in your brain-jelly firing, and down to just the electrical impulses of cells. It explained that it is the organization of all of those cells, neurons, etc. that make brain function work; that one neuron or one cell by itself does nothing, but the collection and organization of all of those together and make our brains working-brains.

I got to thinking about the creation; how our spirits, our "selves," were "intelligences that were organized before the world was" by God (Abraham 3:22). The creation is always spoke of as an organization -- so it makes sense to think of our ability to exist, spiritually as well as physically, being dependent on a state of organization -- and an organizer.

Anyways, just something I was thinking about. Kind of an Alma 30:44 moment for me: "yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator."

Friday, August 6, 2010

The best is yet to be

My thoughts today were prompted by Jeffery R. Holland's address The Best is Yet to Be. He speaks about life's transitions and about letting go of the past and looking faithfully to the future. He gives the example of the Apostle Paul who "after having reviewed the privileged and rewarding life of his early years—his birthright, education, and standing in the Jewish community" said "to the Philippians that all of that was “dung” compared to his conversion to Christianity" and that he has “stopped rhapsodizing about ‘the good old days’ and now eagerly look toward the future" that he "may apprehend that for which Christ apprehended me’” (Philippians 3:7–12). Of this looking anxiously to the future work the Lord has in store for him, Paul states:

“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14)

It is a particular fault of mine "to yearn to go back to a world that cannot be lived in now, to be perennially dissatisfied with present circumstances" and "miss the here and now" like Elder Holland describes, and it is one I deeply regret. While thinking about it today, I can see many instances where I was too slow in discovering the joys of the situation I was in because I was too busy wishing things were the way they were or that they'd change and be "better" somehow. Many times the 'good 'old days' I long for are ones I didn't even realize and appreciate while I was living them. I have struggled often to learn the art contentment. It is something I am working to change in myself. Today, the words of Paul in the previous verses opened my mind to a new understanding about what it means to have hope for the future through Christ. To know of the glorious things the Lord has prepared for me, to have faith in that -- and that God himself "apprehended" me (like Paul) and put me here now for a purpose that I need to figure out and work towards -- well, it gives new purpose to a situation I might otherwise see as difficult and incomprehensible.

Any challenge in life can be tackled differently when you have a "mark for the prize" to "press toward" like Paul did -- and while my mark and prize may not be the same as Paul's they are nonetheless determined by God specifically for me and I can trust that.

The best part is that the Lord knows and understands my difficulty in doing this. That despite what I have learned today I will still struggle in the transitions of my life and I will continue making many of the same mistakes I always have -- but that the Lord has make provision for this, and this is part of how I am to learn and improve. The past is only to help us repent. Elder Holland goes on to say in his address that we are to remember "just enough" to try to avoid repeating our mistakes "but then put the rest of it all on the dung heap Paul spoke of to the Philippians. Dismiss the destructive, and keep dismissing it until the beauty of the Atonement of Christ has revealed to you your bright future and the bright future of your family, your friends, and your neighbors. God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as He does about where you are and, with His help, where you are willing to go."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I've been reading the biography "Rough Stone Rolling" by Richard Lyman Bushman and I'm again impressed by the enormity of what Joseph Smith Jr. did and the complicated (and yet uncomplicated...) person that he was.

From the introduction:

Joseph Smith is one of those large Americans who like Abraham Lincoln came from nowhere. Reared in a poor Yankee farm family, he had less that two years of formal schooling and began life without social standing or institutional backing. His family rarely attended church. Yet in the fourteen years he headed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Smith created a religious culture that survived his death, flourished in the most desolate regions of the United States, and continues to grow worldwide after more than a century and a half. In 1830 at the age of twenty-four, he published a second Bible -- an entirely new revealed work to stand beside the traditional scriptures. He built cities and temples and gathered thousands of followers before he was killed at age thirty-eight. 

What had I done by 24? Moved away from home...Finished college... What will I do by 38?

Smith is interesting for what he was as well as for what he did. He was the closest America has come to producing a biblical-style prophet -- one who spoke for God with the authority of Moses or Isaiah. He was not an eloquent preacher; he is not known to have preached a single sermon before organizing the church in 1830. But he spoke in God's voice in revelations he compiled and published. A revelations typically began with words like "Hearken O ye people which profess my name, saith the Lord your God." Many thought him presumptuous if not blasphemous, and he made no effort to prove them wrong. He did not defend his revelations or give reasons for belief. He dictated the words and let people decide. Everything he taught and most of what he did originated in these revelations. 

He did not try to prove or defend himself -- he simply stated truth and "let people decide."

The question of this book is how such a man came to be in the age of railroads and the penny press? What was the logic of his visionary life?

I think the answer to that lies in something Joseph himself said when it was remarked that he had "too much power to be safely trusted to one man." Joseph responded, "in a rich, comical aside, as if in hearty recognition of the ridiculous sound they might have in the ears of a Gentile" that perhaps in another person's hands "so much power would no doubt be dangerous. I am the only man in the world whom it would safe to trust with it. Remember, I am a prophet!" (Bushman 7)

Whether or not you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, you have to admit he had an amazing historical impact. I think this is best qualified by the words of Josiah Quincy Jr., a successful railroad executive and mayor of Boston (and not a Mormon), who was puzzled by his visit to Joseph Smith in Nauvoo and wrote: "It is by no means improbable that some future text-book, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a question something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to the interrogator may be thus written: Joseph Smith the Mormon prophet."

I do believe Joseph was a prophet. The weaknesses of his character, as well as the strengths, confirm this to me. Even an extraordinary man, with flaws, inadequacies, and power of his very human will alone, could not have done it. Only one endowed with power from heaven could accomplish what he did -- to organize and re-establish the kingdom of God to "roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth"(D&C 65:2) and "never be taken again" (D&C 13:1).

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

emotion-processing through dreams

I've been having a repeating theme in my dreams lately -- of someone I was once very close to avoiding me or not wanting to associate with me; basically just being rudely dismissive of me. The emotion I feel during these dreams is an unpleasant feeling to be sure -- and leaves a bit of a bad taste when I wake up. But, still it's just a dream and I can usually brush it off and go about my day just fine. Like most bad dreams.

Today however, it crossed my mind to wondering why I've been having so many of these types dreams about this single person -- who is not in my life much these days -- and shouldn't be turning up so often.

I don't think it's a coincidence that this afternoon I listened to the Radiolab podcast that I did -- though I just popped on the next one in line. I got some very interesting insight. According to the podcast, current research about sleep shows that the brain not only reviews/replays experiences during sleep but sorta re-mixes experiences -- blending events together into new events -- making connections (a kind of learning & creating). The brain choose what to use by keeping track of the emotions you feel -- it puts "a sticky" on everything that is difficult during the day to "work on it later." In sleep it uses those things to create these sorta "free associations" -- creations i.e. dreams prompted by things that happened that caused strong emotions. The hypothesis is that strong emotions need the vivid dream in order to be processed.

I've been learning to consciously pass through my emotions better these last few month -- When they come upon my I step through them and move on, rather than dwelling in them. However, there are still flashes of strong resentment and feelings of having been abandoned by this person who used to be at the core of my life and I think that unconsciously all the moments of strong emotions associated with not hearing from him or not getting a response to letters, along with other daily reminders that I don't know anything about his life and that we are no longer connected-friends anymore -- while they aren't overpowering me while I'm awake -- are manifesting themselves in the processing of my dreams.

An example: I send an email, a couple days pass with no response, I think "oh well he's busy" and move on...but the emotion that he just doesn't care for or respect me enough to respond, even though I don't let it get beyond just a flash of emotion, still gets flagged and then manifests itself in a dream about him brushing me off...make sense?

What I'm driving at here, is how interesting an idea it is that the body aids itself in taking it's emotions (physical responses) and processes them in a physical way (a dream). To me, it seems like my body is helping me to remove the emotional reactions I have to this person.

After some online searching I found that there is new research, presented at a meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Seattle, which confirms my idea that I am using sleep to process a complex emotion. "Sleep essentially is resetting the magnetic north of your emotional compass," says Matthew Walker, director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California, Berkeley in a Time article. He explains that "one function of REM sleep — dreaming, in particular — is to allow the brain to sift through that day's events, process any negative emotion attached to them, then strip it away from the memories." Like applying a "nocturnal soothing balm" which “tries to ameliorate the sharp emotional chips and dents that life gives you along the way.” Not that it is to make you forget, it's just a way to make a memory no longer an emotional episode because “If you don’t let go of the emotion, what results is a constant state of anxiety.”

It really is an interesting and complicated process when it's slowly drawn out over a long period of time -- as in this particular instance in my life. To be honest, it seems to be making it a more complete and thorough dissolution of all emotions tied to this person.

Any input/ideas/similar experiences?

(I found a hefty article related to the topic in a psychological science journal that I will read and report on asap!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mosiah 5

1 And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them. 
2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. 
I love this. Not only do they believe king Benjamin's words, they believe ALL of them. Not only do they just believe his words, they know with surety that they are true. This complete shift, from the king wondering if they would believe at all, to their complete confidence came because of the Spirit. This is important because I think we too often operate on the idea that if we could study and understand enough we'd be more confident and secure in our conversion to Christ. Of course study is a part of the process -- but that's not how the actual "mighty change" operates. It's not that we change, it's that our hearts are changed. It is our changed heart that changes us because it changes our "disposition" i.e. "the predominant or prevailing tendency of one's spirits; natural mental and emotional outlook or mood" For example, in the next verse:

3 And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things.
4 And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.

Through the spirit our views of the future change -- we become more optimistic and have a positive outlook on things. We see good in people and things and when bad happens, we can see the bigger picture in the context of our faith and trust in the Lord's purpose. Trust in the gospel plan changes our hearts and allows us to know that we have great reason in this life, no matter what, to be joyful. This blessed understanding is what ultimately puts us in a position to choose to covenant with God. Just like king Benjamin's people:

5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God. 

6 And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant. 7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons
and his daughters

This is how we become Christians and this is how we are made free:

8 And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. 

9 And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. 
What does it mean to be called by the name of Christ and made free? Well in one way, I think it means that we are free from our crummy dispositions. We're all fallen, and therefor our natural-man inclinations are often towards the base and negative. Humanity hasn't changed it's ways in thousands of years and anyone who has tried to change something about themselves will report that it isn't easy (broken new year's resolutions anyone?) True change of ourselves is difficult without a change of our nature -- and that change is impossible without Christ. It is the Spirit which will make "a mighty change in us, or in our hearts" and the Spirit comes when we show God that we are generally interested in trying to find the truth because He has promised that will respond ("And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" Luke 11:9). When we learn and live the gospel, the divinity of it is manifest in our lives through the Spirit and we are changed.