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    Steve’s Backpack.com Memorial Day Sale!

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    Click the image above or go to Steve’sBackpack.com to take advantage of this offer.

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    WWJD? or WITWJ?

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    We all are familiar with the acronym that poses the thoughtful question “What Would Jesus Do?”

    But in pondering Matthew 25:37-40, another question came to mind, “What if They Were Jesus?”

    In certain situations, it is certainly profitable to wonder what actions might be taken by the Savior if he were in your shoes.

    But there is a profoundly different feeling when you look at any person and wonder how you might treat them in that moment if they were, in fact, Jesus. After a while, maybe we could learn that people have value regardless of who we try to project onto them.

    We might consider that every person was once a small, perfect baby that some joyful mother looked upon with hope and love. Nobody ever looks into the eyes of a smiling baby and sees a homeless man, or some jerk neighbor or the weird quiet guy who sits in the back row at church; but that is who we see.

    What if we learned to see differently? What if we learned to see that original light of purity in all souls and could help bring it back to the surface with something as simple as kindness?

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    Appropriate Appropriation

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    Just to be clear here, I’m not talking about the adjective, “He was wearing appropriate attire for the occasion, but the transitive verb where one might say, “Christians appropriated the cross symbol to represent the faith.”

    Here are some definitions to consider:

    APPRO’PRIATEverb transitive [Latin ad and proprius, private, peculiar.]

    1. To set apart for, or assign to a particular use, in exclusion of all other uses; as, a spot of ground is appropriated for a garden.

    2. To take to one’s self in exclusion of others; to claim or use as by an exclusive right.

    3. To make peculiar; as, to appropriate names to ideas.

    Mormonism is a philosophy rooted in appropriation.

    I think one of the most illustrative quotes that can be used to support this idea is from Brigham Young:

    “I want to say to my friends that we believe in all good. If you can find a truth in heaven, earth or hell, it belongs to our doctrine. We believe it; it is ours; we claim it.” (DBY, 2)

    Too often do we neglect individual appropriation of knowledge, choosing instead to wait for institutional appropriation? In other words, do we rarely venture outside the Keep Reading

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    Hugh B. Brown on Truth

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    Open-mindedness

    There is not enough of the attitude of the sincere investigator among us. When we come into a new field of research that will challenge our due and honest consideration, we should be warned against coming too quickly to a conclusion, of forming a decision too hastily. We should be scientific — that is, open-minded, approaching new problems without prejudice, deferring a decision until all the facts are in.

    Some say that the open-minded leave room for doubt. But I believe we should doubt some of the things we hear. Doubt has a place if it can stir in one an interest to go out and find the truth for one’s self. I should like to awaken in everyone a desire to investigate, to make an independent study of religion, and to know for themselves whether or not the teachings of the Mormon church are true.

    Faith that goes beneath the surface soil

    There are altogether too many people in the world who are willing to accept as true whatever is printed in a book or delivered from a pulpit. Their faith never goes below the surface soil of authority. I plead with everyone I meet that they may drive their faith down through that soil and get hold of the solid truth, that they may be able to withstand the winds and storm of indecision and of doubt, of opposition and persecution. Then, and only then, will we be able to Keep Reading

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    Meditation and Pondering, Revolving and Weighing

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    MEDITA’TION, noun [Latin meditatio.] Close or continued thought; the turning or revolving of a subject in the mind; serious contemplation.

    PON’DER, verb transitive [Latin pondero, from pondo, pondus, a pound; pendeo, pendo, to weigh.] 1. To weigh in the mind; to consider and compare the circumstances or consequences of an event, or the importance of the reasons for or against a decision.

    Meditation is to revolve something in the mind while pondering weighs the consequences for or against.

    In the scriptures, both revolving and weighing lead to revelation and encounters with the divine. Meditation must be centered on some subject to be effectual in practice. When you hear the word meditation you might think of someone sitting on the ground with their legs crossed in a particular manner, which is similar to thinking that prayer must always be ‘eyes closed, head down, and arms crossed.’

    In the April 2003 General Conference, Russell M. Nelson said: “We often kneel to pray; we may stand or be seated. Physical position is less important than is spiritual submission to God.”

    Physical position is important only to the degree that it may distract you or others from a more significant purpose. Body language is indeed a language and holiness should guide our divine communication. I think Paul’s words apply: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

    To revolve something in the mind allows you to collect information by careful, objective, examination of all the facets. When you weigh consequences in your mind, you are placing the object of your meditation into your own sphere and considering Keep Reading

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    Mormon perspectives on science and religion

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    I found this wonderful collection of quotes here. For those interested in learning more about the latest contemporary studies on the subject of Science and Mormonism, click here.

    True science
    True science is a discovery of the secret, immutable and eternal laws, by which the universe is governed; and when practically applied, sets in motion the mighty wheels of useful engines, with all the various machinery which genius has invented, or art contrived. It ameliorates the condition of man, by extending the means of intellectual, moral, social, and domestic happiness. [John Taylor, Times and Seasons, vol. 4, pg. 46, 15 Dec 1842].

    This system has been going on for 2.5 billion years
    Well, now, Brother William, when the house of Israel begin to come into the glorious mysteries of the kingdom, and find that Jesus Christ, whose goings forth, as the prophets said, have been from of old, from eternity; and that eternity, agreeably to the records found in the catacombs of Egypt, has been going on in this system, (not this world) almost two thousand five hundred and fifty five millions of years: and to know at the same time, that deists, geologists and others are trying to prove that matter must have existed hundreds of thousands of years; — it almost tempts the flesh to fly to God, or muster faith like Enoch to be translated and see and know as we are seen and known! [W. W. Phelps, Times and Seasons, vol. 5, pg. 758, 1 Jan. 1844].

    God is the dispenser of all truth
    The study of science is the study of something eternal. If we study astronomy, we study the works of God. If we study chemistry, geology, optics, or any other branch of science, every new truth we come to the understanding of is eternal; it is a part of the great system of universal truth. It is truth that exists throughout universal nature; and God is the dispenser of all truth. [Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, pg. 157, 12 Feb 1860].

    Open for us to explore
    How gladly would we understand every principle pertaining to science and art, and become thoroughly acquainted with every intricate operation of nature, and with all the chemical changes that are constantly going on around us! How delightful this would be, and what a boundless field of Keep Reading

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    Motherhood: Paradoxes, Wisdom and Love

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    The following was a talk I gave in my sacrament meeting for Mother’s Day, May 10, 2015.

    Heavenly-Mother-and-The-Tree-of-Life-Mark-Jarman

    Today I want to address motherhood as it relates to paradoxes, mother Eve in the garden, scriptural themes that are given the female gender, and how motherhood encompasses far more than just the bearing of children.

    Paradoxes

    When two things collide and don’t seem to fit together, we say it is a contradiction. A paradox is something true that only appears to be a contradiction because we do not yet see the whole picture.

    We experience paradoxes all the time, some in the form of people, life events, or nature, and there are plenty in scripture, church history, doctrine, and policy.

    I believe that we should not fear paradoxes; they are a necessary part of our mortal experience. Encountering them and wrestling with them reveals a lot about how we think, what we desire, and what we are willing to do when our vision of the truth becomes clearer. It is our willingness to dive in between the two extremes of the paradox that the truth is found.

    The first paradox appeared in a place called Keep Reading

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    The First of 6 Isaiah Institute Vignettes

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    This is the first of 6 videos that are being done for the Isaiah Institute and Avraham Gileadi. He hasn’t allowed embedding on these videos so just click the graphic below.

    I thought these were pretty well done and if you will take 18 minutes and just sit and watch this video, I think it will cause you to see Isaiah in a dramatic new light and perhaps encourage you to understand it better and dig deeper. All of the verses are from Avraham Gileadi’s translation of Isaiah.

    I might have picked different images for some of the verses, but hey, that’s scripture for you, we all see something a little different. The overall message and the way it is presented is unique and worth checking out.

    Screenshot 2015-05-08 08.48.10

    These videos will also be available at the following sites:

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    “The prison of himself”

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    Did you know that C.S. Lewis once weighed in on the subject of masturbation? In a personal letter to someone named Keith Masson he illuminates the core problem with such a practice with his insightful candor. He approaches the topic in such a way that boils it down to some core principles. With the way things are in the world today, this wisdom could be useful so feel free to share.

    “For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back: sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover: no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself… And it is not only the faculty of love which is thus sterilized, forced back on itself, but also the faculty of imagination.

    The true exercise of imagination, in my view, is (a) To help us to understand other people (b) To respond to, and, some of us, to produce, art. But it has also a bad use: to provide for us, in shadowy form, a substitute for virtues, successes, distinctions etc. which ought to be sought outside in the real world—e.g. picturing all I’d do if I were rich instead of earning and saving. Masturbation involves this abuse of imagination in erotic matters (which I think bad in itself) and thereby encourages a similar abuse of it in all spheres. After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.” – Letter C. S. Lewis sent in 1956 to Keith Masson

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    “Church is boring.”

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    “Church is boring.”

    That’s what I’ll often hear people say, in person, on podcasts, blogs, and forums out there.

    If you compare church to an action movie, video games or a sporting event then, yes, it is very boring. Even if you compare it to the celebratory atmosphere of a praise-filled Protestant church service then yes, it is boring.

    It wasn’t until perhaps the 1840’s [1] that we get the word ‘boring’ as a description of something wearying. In the modern sense, the word ‘boring’ means: “not interesting; tedious.”

    On the other hand, any of these previously mentioned events like action movies, video games, sporting events or even a fiery Baptist sermon can be ‘boring’ if you are not interested or invested in what is going on.

    At most events, we expect to simply show up without much preparation and be entertained, informed or involved in some pre-planned activity.

    I’m not arguing that LDS worship services are perfect in every way and that there is no room for improvement because there are many things we could do better. What I am suggesting, however, is that what we get out of our worship services is primarily our responsibility. I will go further to suggest that what we get out of life as a whole is ultimately our responsibility. Bear with me as I try to explain.

    The sacrament, our most sacred ordinance outside of the temple, Keep Reading

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