On George Fox

Title: The Journal of George Fox. George Fox.
Format: Audiobook, Unabridged.
Rating (out of 5): 3.1

I’ve had this on my list to read ever since I read James Michener’s Chesapeake. I wanted to understand more about the Friends movement and how it has impacted the development of the nation. Certainly, this was covered in The Kingdom of God in America, but there’s a lot to be said by going to the source. Worth the read, though it gets very repetitive. Of course, it’s a journal, so the repetition is expected. I really enjoyed the travels to America and the Caribbean, but the christology is the most important part of the narrative.

Fox shrewdly understands Eve’s legacy with regards to Christian theology and calls it out succinctly many times in the narrative. I don’t know if the notion of “crushing the serpent’s head” rises in modern Quaker societies, but it was definitely a part of his teachings as Fox went about preaching in England and America. I will cover the specifics of the teachings in another blog post later, since I don’t want to blend the two here and there are some salient points I want to explain. Nevertheless, a great read, especially if Reformer history is important to you.

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The universal and personal message of the Gospel

The gospel of Jesus Christ is both universe and personal. In my recent work on the nativity sections of the scriptures, I have been paying special attention to the means by which the gospel is delivered, but also how it is taken by the recipient. One of the best illustrations of this is Mary in the synoptic gospels. Privileged as she is at receiving the news of her Son from an angel, and at the recognition of His role as Savior by Simeon and Anna, she internalized the news and ponders in her heart.

One of the key things to remember is that the Holy Ghost will teach us those truths we need to know and understand in the way in which we can best learn and understand them. This is something deeply personal and unique to each of us. Even with divine revelation and annunciation, Mary demonstrates righteous consideration of the gospel message and keeps these truths in her heart where they can grow, and continue to reveal their depth and mystery to her over time (Luke 2:18,19,33,38,51). Note that she does not lack obedience, or appeal to her own consideration to validate the truth of the message (Luke 1:38), but instead uses it to come to a greater understanding of the truth over time (Luke 1:46-47).

The message she receives relate to the salvation of the entire world–the very culmination of the divine plan of Heavenly Father and this Creation in which we are parts. She is destined to bear the “seed of the woman” who will permanently and irrevocably crush the head of the serpent. This is majestic, far-reaching, and global in scope. But her reaction is to trust and ponder. To take the global message and come slowly to understand what that means for her and how it relates to her personal salvation.

A true example of living the gospel.

Some other examples of righteous pondering:

  • Genesis 37:11. Jacob ponders the dream of his son Joseph
  • Daniel 4:28. Nebuchadnezzar ponders the dream and its meanings.
  • Proverbs 3:1-4. Keep truth in your heart.
  • Psalms 119:11. Treasure truth in our heart, to let it become a part of who you are.
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The Time Has Come

Recently we have been counseled to not shy from entering the conversations swirling around us with regards to religion, and the role of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in these times. I wholeheartedly admit that I have been afraid of entering too deeply into the discussion, because I know just how rough the internet can be. I don’t want to be dragged through the mud, and I certainly don’t want anything I hold dear to suffer the same.

But nevertheless, we have been counseled to do so.

I will also admit that I really enjoy talking about the Gospel. And I believe that it really is “good news” to everyone. But I am most comfortable talking about the Gospel in a setting amongst friends. But I also remember the counsel from Doctrine and Covenants section 11 which explains that once you’ve learned the gospel, it becomes your duty to try and teach it. And I trust the Lord when He promises to help with that effort.

So. I am putting on the mantle and the armor and entering the fray. Look forward to posts in the near future elucidating parts of the gospel and the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Job and the Tree of Life

Review: The Tree of Life. Terrence Malick.
Format: Film.
Viewing: Aircraft. UA963 (FRA->IAD). Thanks United.
Rating (of 5): 3.0

This is my first Malick film and as I sit here typing this out, about half an hour after having watched it, I think it’s something that I’ll be thinking on for some time. That means it’s a good one. What bothers me, or maybe bothers is the wrong term, “worries” is better. What worries me is that there must be a lot of folks out there despairing much like Jack (Sean Penn) in the film. And the question, posed at the start of the film from Job serves to upset and cause further turmoil in those people. I think Malick is trying to make some sense of it through the wonder of creation itself, but might be missing the point of the quote. The sermon in the film also seems to misunderstand Job and his role as well. So let me see if I can try and explain it as I see it.

Let’s start with the quote:

Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
–Job 38:4,7

Malick follows this up with the first sequence of natural scenes ranging from Hubble telescope shots, to super-close-ups of volcanoes and submerged vegetation. He opens with a close shot of a candle in the darkness. Mrs. O’Brien then explains that life is a choice between grace and nature, with a choice between them. The path of grace is humble and the path of nature is direct and self-serving, wanting “its own way” and “finds reasons to be unhappy … when love is shining through all things”. Malick sets up the tension between Mr O’Brien and Mrs O’Brien and between the brothers by following these two paths. He uses nature scenes ranging from Hubble closeups to submerged vegetation to illustrate the awesome power of creation, as if to say that no amount of human suffering or joy can match the power that brought this world into existence. The sermon on Job in the middle act of the film points to the same: that the Lord points out Job’s insignificance to help him understand where he sits in relation to the heavens. He uses animals (and Mr O’Brien is an animal in this sense) to illustrate the passions of the natural man.

Perhaps the most touching illustration of grace comes in the cgi-rendered dinosaur scene, where one raptor comes across a suffering compatriot and chooses the path of mercy instead of attacking as the scene and score lead us to suspect. What’s important to see in this scene, is that choice is given to the dinosaurs … as if creation itself echoes Mrs O’Brien’s dualistic world.

I think the point of choice is crucial to understanding the quote and creation generally, but I want to try and explain a bit about the plan of salvation which Job understood and the Lord is explaining. The Lord is asking Job literally where he was during these events. And the answer is given in the same quote: Job, as a son of God, was present at the foundation of the earth and joined in the chorus of the morning stars. The Lord is saying that Job chose the path of mortality as a natural stage in his progression. One that would require him to come to earth and experience everything that the natural world could give him: pleasure, pain, joy, despair, love, heartbreak, good, and evil. The Lord wisely points out the same power that created the awesome world we live in — the world that blurs between natural and man-made by the end of the film — is the same power that gives him the power to choose any path at all. This means that life is not an end to itself, but merely a stage in a much longer eternal progression. The Lord reminds Job throughout that suffering is precisely what was chosen in the pre-existence in order that we might prove ourselves (Abr 3:24-27). But what Malick is missing, and Jack illustrates well throughout the film, is the second piece of the promise made to Job, that by choosing to follow the direction of the Lord, especially through the troubled times of this life, Job would be “accepted” of the Lord. Job is privileged to see the Lord with his own eyes, and is restored “more than his beginning” (Job 40).

The Tree of Life is not two-branched, with humilty and love on one side, reaching ever toward the sun, and rigid, gnarled on the other, holding tight the tree to the earth. Rather it is many branched, where each and every choice we make serves to bring us along the path of progression that our Father in Heave set out before us. Malick is right that we have the right to choose. God would “cease to be God” (Alma 42:22) were that not the case. Indeed, choice, itself helps us to learn and grow and branch and continue on past this life, past despair and sadness, into acceptance and salvation in the mansions of our Father.

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October 16: Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith Great Lives Fireside

October 16: Joseph Smith

Join us for the second of the Chancellor Ward Great Lives Firesides at the Culpeper Building (420 Willow Lawn Dr, Culpeper, VA). Bro Mike Cleverly of the Chancellor Ward will present on the inaugural prophet of the Last Dispensation, Joseph Smith, Jr. It should be a great opportunity to learn more about the prophet and provide lots of opportunities to discuss with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those in the community around us. Bring your friends and family and have a great time with us.

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September 18: “Mormon Doctrine and the Enduring Shadow of Isaiah”

Mormon Doctrine and the Enduring Shadow of Isaiah

Mormon Doctrine and the Enduring Shadow of Isaiah


The first of the Great Lives Firesides was an overwhelming success. We had an official attendance of 74 persons, and considering many of them had to drive quite a way for the fireside, this was great. I’ve attached the official flyer below, as well as the presentations that were on display at the event.

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Evangelists and the Christmas Story

Title: An Adult Christ at Christmas: Essays on the Three Biblical Christmas Stories, Matthew 2 and Luke 2. Fr Raymond E. Brown.
Format: Paperback
Rating (of 5): 4.0

I am currently working on a presentation on our Savior, Jesus Christ, for the Christmas season. While Fr Brown is not LDS, his insight into the New Testament is second to none. I appreciate his understanding of the cross-references and symbolism employed by the evangelists, and has helped inform generations of biblical scholars. I am not sure which aspects of this analysis will end up (if any) in my final talk, but I definitely appreciate and learn from his scholarship.

An Adult Christ at Christmas

Book cover for "An Adult Christ at Christmas"

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On the Magician’s Nephew…

Title: The Magician’s Nephew. C.S. Lewis.
Format: Audio (Unabridged)
Rating (of 5): 4.8

This is one of my all-time favorites of course, and I deliberately re-read it after a recent string of mediocre books. I can’t even begin to say enough about this one, so I’ll just refer the gentle reader to a scene and to a quote to round out the commentary here. Pay attention to Aslan singing Narnia into existence. Reflect at the same time on the Genesis account of Creation and on John 1.

For the quote: “Oh, Adam’s Sons! How cleverly you defend against all that would do you good!” (Aslan)

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Introducing Chancellor Ward Gospel Great Lives Fireside Series

Chancellor Ward presents the “Great Lives” Fireside series. Modeled after the Mary Washington Great Lives Lecture Series, the firesides present a detailed biography and LDS doctrinal analysis of a particular person in the scriptures. Our goal is to provide a vehicle for deep discussion on these important figures and to increase our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We hope that the series can assist members of the church and residents in the Fredericksburg, VA area in learning about the gospel and enable us to provide a unique setting for teaching the gospel in a manner somewhat different than what would be seen on a normal Sunday meeting block.

Chancellor Gospel Great Lives

Chancellor Gospel Great Lives

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Greater Lives…

The plan for the Great Lives program has been approved by the ward council. Great news I know. I am working with our stake public relations specialist to make sure that we get the word out and we work to do the Firesides at different buildings each time. This Thursday evening is a meeting to help work out some of the specifics.

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