ponder…

You look so beautiful . . every husband should go blind for a little while. — Woody Allen (Val Waxman), Hollywood Ending

on the shelf...

Planned books:

Current books:

  • Earth Unaware (The First Formic War)

    Earth Unaware (The First Formic War) by Orson Scott Card, Aaron Johnston

  • The Jungle Book

    The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Recent books:

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Christian Apology: On some common heresies…

I wanted to capture the thoughts of a young man who came to me during our recent trip this past week for Baptisms for the Dead at the Washington Temple.  He asked me about the way in which the Zoramites recite their common prayer from the Rameumptom.  He wanted to know what I thought of the Zoramites’ prayer and what it meant.  It put me on the spot a bit, but the power of the temple to bring truth and knowledge brought immediate understanding and I wanted to describe the thinking here in more detail than I was able to give at the time.  This is a longer exposition on what I explained to him outside the baptistry.

First, the prayer itself (from Alma 31):

15 Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever. 16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ. 17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God. 18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.

A dangerous prayer to say the least, and one I’m glad we have a record of today because of some of the “philosophies of men” that it captures …  it’s no wonder that Alma and his brethren were “astonished beyond all measure”.  On to the heresies herein (in the spirit of Elder McConkie):

Heresies and Astonishments:

Man does not grant permission for God to be God. (Heresy: Inversion of creation)

When we say “we believe that thou art God” it’s not merely a statement about our desires and faith.  What is underlying the notion is the idea that we “invent” God in some fashion, that we give God permission to be holy, to be a spirit, to be timeless, and all the rest.  This is, of course, not the case at all.  God is our Heavenly Father.  He does not seek, need, or can even be granted our permission to fulfill his role.  God is before us — we are his children.  We do not grant our parents the right to their parental state or behavior.  And we cannot do the same for our Heavenly Father either.

God possesses a body of flesh and bone. (Heresy: God is only a spirit)

Heavenly Father is not a spirit personage.  Countless testimonies to the corporeal nature of God exist in all of the scriptures.  I will refer to a single reference from each of the standard works here, and allow the reader out there to find others because I want to focus on what this perversion does to our perception and understanding of the nature of the Godhead and our Heavenly Father specifically:

The key problem with this view that “God wilt be a spirit forever” is that it completely undermines mortality.  We are spirits in possession of bodies.  If our Heavenly Father, our Creator and parent, is not possessed of a body then we, the creations, have something which our Creator does not.  This does not follow.  We are specifically here on this earth to gain a mortal body (to combine with spirits we possessed in the First Estate).  There are lessons we must learn on this earth and in this life and we require this body to be able to learn them.  Jesus captured them succinctly in Matthew 22:36 -40:
  1. Love God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength
  2. Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.
  3. On 1 and 2 are based all of the tenets of the gospel
Our Heavenly Father has learned all the lessons required of Him.  He is not learning new truths and is not conducting a cosmic or heavenly experiment.  If God were a spirit, then he would need to fulfill 1-3 above just as we do, since Christlike love requires a body for empathy.  Without it, it would not be possible to understand and realize the trials of the flesh and what temptations the “natural man” goes through.  God’s work and glory is to bring about our eternal salvation — for us to re-join Him in the Celestial Kingdom.  There is no condition required therein which He does not already meet.  God has a physical body just like we do.  He created us in His image.  We are physical beings, and so is He.

God’s laws do not change; He does not single out people to give them new laws. (Heresy: God is changeable.)

The gospel has been set forth since the Council in Heaven before we came to earth.  We made a choice to come here and prove ourselves whether we would live according to the commandments of God or not.  There are laws and ordinances of the gospel and there are doctrine and explanations.  These were given to Adam and his family in the beginning and have been revealed again and again throughout the ages.  God does not give “childish” suggestions when he reveals the gospel.  He never has and he never will.  Indeed, to do so would make him cease to be God.
There are times when God selects a people to demonstrate his character to others around them.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands as a witness to all nations of the character and blessings of the Lord.  The Church is again established with the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these times.  We are lucky to live when the gospel will not be removed from the earth again but will grow to encompass every nation, kindred, tongue and people.  I am excited at the prospect of seeing every knee bending and tongue confessing that Jesus is the Christ and thereby ushering in a new era of peace and righteousness throughout the earth.

Jesus Christ wrought the Atonement and broke the bonds of both physical and spiritual death. (Heresy: there is no Christ and thereby no reconciliation with Heaven)

Frankly, this one is baffling if you think about it.  What would be the point of praying to any being at all if there were no benefit from that being in the first place?  Having already belittled the Creator in the first heresy, the speaker acknowledges a single spark of “knowledge” from  God that there is no Christ.  This follows if you buy the first heresy of course — since we as embodied humans are permitting our Creator to exist (thereby reversing creation itself), then there is obviously nothing that such a God could do for us — let alone forgive us our sins and save us from mortal death.  Without a body to die the latter would clearly be impossible, and since forgiveness is a gift which can be only bestowed and not taken, there would be no Atonement either.

This is false in the extreme.  God, possessing a body as do we and as his Son does, worked out the Plan of Eternal Salvation before the foundation of the world, and instrumented an Atonement and a Christ to wring out the Atonement.  It is this gift to us of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, which is the event around which human history hinges and which has made it possible for us to return to His presence.  There most certainly is a Christ.  He lives, and that has made all the difference.

God is no respecter of persons. (Heresy: “Chosen” groups are “elected” to the exclusion of blessings for all of God’s children)

Heavenly Father is just that, a father.  It has always confounded me that people can picture a father deliberately disconnecting himself from any of his children — let alone entire groups.  That would be a plan for sadness and sorrow.  God works instead to “bring about the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).  This is a recipe for joy.  Indeed, from the beginning of our time on this world, joy has been crucial.  ”Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.”  This means that God loves us all, every single one.  Each one of us is precious to him.  He uses groups to demonstrate his power and to bring others to the gospel.  He took Enoch’s city out of this world. He brought Abraham into Canaan.  He brought Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt.  He brought Lehi and his family to the New World.  He uses his peculiar people to demonstrate the blessings that the light of truth and righteousness bring when poured out liberally because of obedience to his laws and commandments.

He does not condemn other groups to Hell.  Hell is a choice we make.  It’s a terrible, awful choice, but a choice nonetheless.  And I know he grieves openly for each and every soul choosing that destructive path.  The walk to Hell is not a triumph in solemnity as Milton’s Satan might have us believe.  It is a lonely, dark, evil, corruptive road where even remorse and regret can not reach.  Light cannot escape, because there is no light left to leave in the first place.

I hope this helps clarify just why Alma and his brethren were “astonished beyond all measure” when they heard the exclamations prayed over and over from the rameumptom of the Zoramites.  Moreover, I sincerely hope it helps to clarify the LDS (Mormon) position on these issues and just why we believe some of the things we do.  Feel free to add comments, ask questions, click around.  I’ve added a lot of links to the text before I published it in order to help provide some references.  These are all important aspects of Mormon doctrine, and they definitely build one on another.

I ask only that you comment and question with respect.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

 

 

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On Journal/Blog/Record Keeping…

The Come Follow Me theme for the month of August is Marriage and Family.  While I don’t have a permanent teaching schedule any longer (I’m Sunday School President for those keeping track of my callings), I do make sure to prepare the youth lesson for Come Follow Me in case I’m called on to substitute a class.  So having plunked down on this lovely Saturday night to do my reading, it came from the first outline to discuss journaling.

As you might already know, I started the blog format on the site specifically to keep track of things.  While I’ve had journals in the past, the fact that I don’t like writing physically and that once my contact lenses are out, I can’t see to write anyway, they never got very far.  So I thought I’d do better if I blogged as a journal.  It won’t take you long trolling through “recent posts” to see that hasn’t been working out well either.  C’est la vie.  Until now.

Reading this great talk from President Eyring as preparation for the lesson, I was reminded of how I felt when I first heard it.  Roughly the same time I switched to the blog format the first time.  Ok Ok … I remember.  And so now I’m typing …

Let’s hope I can keep it up…

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Back into the fray…

I’m not sure why I decided that the middle of the year is a good time for “resolutions” …  maybe it’s that my birthday is coming up.  But I think it has more to do with the fact that I need to be keeping track of things better …  So, let’s see if we can keep this going …

First off, I’ll make a plug for my Charity:water campaign …

My birthday is this Friday and we’re still a little below $100 for the goal … please share and help.  I’ll make a concerted effort to keep this being updated!

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Harry’s Walk To His Own Death

The Rev. Danielle Tumminio recommends a study of Jesus’s trials in Gethsemane and a comparison with Harry Potter’s walk to his own death in the Deathly Hallows as a “fruitful avenue of research”. I’ve decided to take on the challenge and highlight some of my thoughts here. I’m not sure if I will fully develop the study into something larger, but the idea is interesting to me and one that I have considered myself in reading the books. I am of course indebted to Rev. Tumminio for her challenge and do indeed recommend her “God and Harry Potter at Yale” (Unlocking Press. 2010) for those looking for more generic Christian analysis of the Harry Potter series.

These first postings will provide some of the work of an outline I think, as I will need to spend more time thinking on the subject. I also intend to correspond with Rev, Tumminio and see if I can get some more of her thoughts on the subject as I move forward. I admit that I have been considering working on some aspect of the Harry Potter series as a means to help shed some light on issues from a Latter-day Saint perspective for some time, and that I have often used the books to illustrate points in my various classrooms for Sunday School, Seminary, and LDS Institute.

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Busy, frustration, just venting…

Excuses …

I know it’s been a long time since I wrote.  And yes, it’s because of procrastination pure and simple.  I keep a list of the entries I need to get to and as it grows, my reluctance to catch up on them grows right along with it.  I doubt this is surprising to anyone … but I thought it best to just get that said first.  I’m tempted to leap ahead, but I actually do look back on this as a means of having something like a journal.  I don’t think I will ever be an everyday poster, not like my friend Natalie for example, but I do want to have enough posts to be able to remind mysql and those around me that I am here.  I live.  I might pick my conversations and topics the way I pick my battles, but I think as well.

…Busy…

Lately has been really busy.  Not just the kind of busy where your schedule gets longer than the pad you keep it on, or even than you can manage with RTM but the kind of busy where you find yourself longing to be doing other things.  Almost any other thing.  And that’s the worst kind of busy.  Normally, when you’re focused on the right things, then getting a laundry list of them to do doesn’t so much drive you crazy.  But when you feel like all you’re doing is running from one sub-par pursuit to another — that’s when things grate on you.  And it’s been like that for me in the past few weeks.  I know it will improve, but still …

…Frustration…

I’m trying hard to turn the other cheek, but what happens when the one you’re turning from is doing real damage.  I mean, I know everyone and their brother just knows they’re in the right, and that truth always has more than one side.  But I mean really, in those cases where you have your evidence and the evidence of many others that there really is Wrong in your midst, how do you sit idly by and turn cheeks knowing all that will happen is more and more of your friends and colleagues will be struck.  It’s happening at work right now.  In fact, the main reason I decided to even post this is because I need to think through those thoughts and come back to a more centered me.  I need to remember the words of the Savior when he admonished his disciples to forgive not once, not twice, but infinitely.  He has forgiven us and we need to recognize that every single one of us is a loved son or daughter of our Heavenly Father.

I just wish I knew what to do…  the typing has helped some…

… A Positive Note ...

I have been helping A work on a model home that she is presenting for the Masonic Home of Virginia.  It’s going great.  I think a bit of her eye has worn off on me too, because I find myself able to anticipate what she is going to want in each room.  I will be the first to admit it still amazes me the way she can see the potential — the art — in the everyday and knows just how to bring it forward.  But I’m also glad that I have grown enough to be able to know when and where that mirror is going to hang and to know how to figure out where the center of the wall and the center of the focus point differ.  And for me as helping hands the most important:  how to measure it properly so I put only a single hole in the wall in my effort to slap beauty on the face of the drab.  It’s been fun :)

I’ve also somehow managed to plow through several audiobooks in the last couple of weeks.  This kind of push is usually indicative of the type of small-stuff busy-ness I mentioned above.  I know that I recharge through getting into a book and that I don’t usually have time (or willingness to endure the pain in my eyes) to indulge in reading at home all that often.*  While I don’t recommend this pace of reading, I do have some recommendations that I will get to blogging about.  For now, they will remain on my “todo list” for entries and I promise not to skip them.  Tonight I finished The Last Chinese Chef and got more than a third through The Notebook.  I suspect I will be on to Charleston before the weekend is out…

 

* For those who don’t know, most of my “hard” reading — actual books — is done on airplanes and usually only during taxi, takeoff, and landing.  Afterwards I switch to the Kindle app on the iPad.  During normal times, I listen to audiobooks.  They are almost exclusively what is playing in my car and sometimes for 15 minutes as I lay down to sleep as well.  Since my cornea transplants, I learned to leverage audio to replace my reading habit since my eyes cannot tolerate my contacts for very long periods of staring at a single distance, and I cannot read a normal book at all without them.

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Lesson 11: Faith in Jesus Christ

Key Concept

The biggest point in the lesson, and one I think is important as well is that faith is both a motivating force and a belief which drives the motivation.  I know that lots of times we make these same points, and in the church, fast and testimony meeting uses these as fundamental building blocks, but this lesson tries hard not to cloud it.  Faith motivates.  Faith is the foundation for that motivation.  It’s that simple.  And when that faith is built upon the rock that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, it motivates and supports the most awesome power indeed.  If there hasn’t been a lesson you’ve wanted to share with your family thus far, then this is definitely one to choose.

 

20120318 Lesson 11 Handout

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Lesson 10: Fasting…Hungry or Full?

Key Concept

Rather than being spiritually uplifted through fasting, many people merely experience hunger. We should see that we can become spiritually “full” by preparing, praying, and fasting with a purpose. When we abstain from food and take spiritual nourishment during the fast, the Lord blesses us with his Spirit.

20120311 lesson 10

20120311 lesson 10 handout

 

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Lesson 9: The Power of Personal Prayer

Key Concept:

Prayer is such a frequent practice in the Church that we often take it for granted. Remind class members that although we should pray daily, prayer is not merely an everyday routine to be taken lightly. It is an opportunity to sincerely thank Heavenly Father for our blessings and ask him for guidance in our lives. Heavenly Father loves to have us pray. He listens to our prayers and answers them.

20120304 lesson 9

20120304 lesson 9 handout

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Lesson 8: Three Kingdoms of Glory

Key Concept:

We should strive for exaltation in the celestial kingdom by keeping the commandments and exercising faith in Jesus Christ.  By understanding more about the mansions which have been prepared for us in the Kingdom of our Father in Heaven, we can better understand our role in securing eternal salvation for ourselves and our family.

This is a very long lesson, and I’m posting this early to make sure the class has time to digest the message and read the necessary scriptures to really engage this topic.  Please work with your children and go over these concepts and the natures of the three kingdoms since a single 45 minute class session will not nearly be enough to get through this material.

20120219 lesson 8

20120219 lesson 8 handout

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Lesson 7: What Happens After Death?

Key Concept:

This life is a temporary state where our body and spirit are joined for mutual experience.  The Resurrection, as a part of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, is a gift to all persons and will reunite our bodies and spirits eternally.

This is perhaps one of the toughest questions in life, and one that we are asked and re-asked throughout our lives.  This lesson aims to provide a firm foundation and real answers to this question and provide the scriptural basis for our reasoning as Latter-day Saints.  Please take the time to ponder the scriptures and the messages in this lesson.  It’s one that will remain with you and serve you will as you journey through this life.

20120212 lesson 7

Class Handout

lesson 7 diagram

lesson 7 diagram

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