• Upcoming article topics: Constructing the Universe, Does God Defy Science?, Terryl Givens
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    Symbolism of the Sapporo Japan Temple

    This is a great video showing some of the symbolic details of the Sapporo Japan temple. Thanks to Richard Nobbe for sharing!

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    Forgiveness

    I really enjoyed this quote from George MacDonald about forgiveness:

    “…unforgivingness to our neighbour; the shutting of him out from our mercies, from our love—so from the universe, as far as we are a portion of it—the murdering therefore of our neighbour. It may be an infinitely less evil to murder a man than to refuse to forgive him. The former may be the act of a moment of passion: the latter is the heart’s choice. It is spiritual murder, the worst, to hate, to brood over the feeling that excludes, that, in our microcosm, kills the image, the idea of the hated. We listen to the voice of our own hurt pride or hurt affection (only the latter without the suggestion of the former, thinketh no evil) to the injury of the evil-doer. In as far as we can, we quench the relations of life between us; we close up the passages of possible return. This is to shut out God, the Life, the One. For how are we to receive the forgiving presence while we shut out our brother from our portion of the universal forgiveness, the final restoration, thus refusing to let God be All in all? If God appeared to us, how could he say, “I forgive you,” while we remained unforgiving to our neighbour?” – MacDonald, George (2012-05-17). Unspoken Sermons Series I., II., and II. (Kindle Locations 569-576).

    This reminds me of something a mentor of mine once said, “To deny forgiveness is to burn the bridge over which you too must pass.” I am confident that it was my offering unconditional forgiveness to one particular person who had hurt me that opened the world of God’s redemption and light into my life.

    MacDonald insightfully points out that as we ourselves constitute a portion of this universe, by denying forgiveness in our little corner of it, we selfishly and impossibly attempt to place limitations on the infinite atonement. By doing so we make forgiveness for ourselves an impossibility, after all, Jesus himself said:

    “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt 6:15 NIV)

    When it comes to forgiveness, according to musician Matthew West, the prisoner that it really frees is you (song is available on Spotify and iTunes).

    To truly forgive, one does not just cease their hatred, offense, or unkind feelings toward another, no, it must blossom into a true and genuine love toward the offender.

    A passing-by of the offence might spring from a poor human kindness, but never from divine love. It would not be remission. Forgiveness can never be indifference. Forgiveness is love towards the unlovely. – MacDonald, George (2012-05-17). Unspoken Sermons Series I., II., and II. (Kindle Locations 534-536).

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    What if everything became sacred?

    After returning from my full-time missionary service, I started work with my father building decks down on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

    I remember standing there one morning and thinking about how life was now entering a new phase and I wondered how I would adapt to it. I pondered for a moment how I could enjoy a spiritual flow throughout the day like I did living a missionary lifestyle but while doing this crude work with wood, nails, and sawdust.

    I thought of Jesus who was a carpenter’s son just like I am. I thought about how he probably helped his father much like I did, and I marveled at how silent the scriptures were concerning these years. Couldn’t we have seen an example of how to live a normal life but after a manner of holiness?

    I wondered if there was a reason why that was missing from the narrative of scripture. I wondered if maybe we were meant to fill in those gaps with the diversity of our own lives and experiences.

    Then, I had a ridiculous idea. Read Full Post

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    Eyes to See

    I love the story of Elisha and the servant when they were surrounded by the Aramean army.

    Early the next morning, when the servant of the man of God arose and went out, he saw the force with its horses and chariots surrounding the city. “Alas!” he said to Elisha. “What shall we do, my lord?” Elisha answered, “Do not be afraid. Our side outnumbers theirs.” Then he prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes, that he may see.” And the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw that the mountainside was filled with fiery chariots and horses around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15-17 NASB)

    When we can know and see what God knows and sees, we can change. I believe that this is where true repentance leads. I think that we can have a twisted idea of what repentance really is. We think it is just feeling bad about something, saying we’re sorry, confessing if needed, and then trying hard to never do it again. The Bible dictionary defines repentance as:

    The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.

    The fruit of repentance is change; a deep, fundamental and complete change influenced by direct experience with God. You see things differently because you have been Read Full Post

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    Characteristics vs. Attributes: Demystifying Lectures 3 and 4

    Every now and then you find an answer that is extremely satisfying almost in a thirst-quenching kind of way.

    I was perusing Lectures on Faith again with my copy I carry to church and I was again confronted with Lectures 3 and 4 and how they address God’s characteristics and attributes. There are six of each in their respective lectures and there seemed to be some redundancy as it pertained to mercy and truth appearing on both lists.

    As I pondered this, I thought about why there was even a need to differentiate between characteristics and attributes since they seem to mean the same thing. Here is how they are defined in the Webster’s 1828 dictionary:

    Characteristic: That which constitutes a character; that which characterizes; that which distinguishes a person or thing from another.

    Attribute: That which is attributed; that which is considered as belonging to, or inherent in;

    I had a hard time understanding the difference between the two, they seem to both be indicating that characteristics and attributes were both qualities that belonged to something.

    It wasn’t until a little digging that Read Full Post

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    Is Agency a Negative Concept?

    A few days ago I heard someone at church talk about agency as a “gift” but that got me thinking if it really was or not. Perhaps you are thinking, “Well, of course it’s a gift, doesn’t everything good come from God?” That’s one way of looking at it but let me share a quote from Frédéric Bastiat that slipped into my mind at that moment that got me thinking about it differently.

    As a friend of mine once remarked, this negative concept of law is so true that the statement, the purpose of the law is to cause justice to reign, is not a rigorously accurate statement. It ought to be stated that the purpose of the law is to prevent injustice from reigning. In fact, it is injustice, instead of justice, that has an existence of its own. Justice is achieved only when injustice is absent. (Bastiat, The Law)

    I’m going to change that up a little and substitute God for the word law, agency for justice and captivity for injustice and we’ll see how it reads. Read Full Post

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    Lessons Learned From (Almost) Five Years on a Plant-based Diet

    Back in 2011, I wrote a post about the Word of Wisdom. I had some things that were bothering me personally and decided to face them head on. I did a lot of study and research combined with soul-searching and prayer and out of all that came some powerful insights that propelled me down an unexpected, and to be honest, undesired path.

    I’ve written a little about that back-story recently but now I’d like to share some things I have learned since then. While you may not agree with some of the conclusions I have come to, I think there are still some principles that are universal in nature.

    First I’d like to emphasize the importance of not becoming a judgmental fascist because of your particular views. Next, are some other interesting and unexpected ideas that unfolded to me over time. Finally, I’d like to share some pictures of some of the tasty meals I prepare, because if there is anything I love as much as symbolism, it’s cooking!

    Don’t be a Nazi

    The revelation we know as D&C 89 was, “To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint,” so I’ve never felt that it was right to shame, scold, force, command or constrain my interpretations in any way upon those who apply the principle of D&C 89 differently than I do. I believe that doing so violates the spirit in which the revelation was given.

    I’m all too aware (and maybe you are too) of those that are passionate Read Full Post

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    Taking Life

    I wrote most of this back in 2014 but haven’t published it until now. In fact there was a lot more history before and after this but I feel like this one experience was a big turning point for me. Few people know about this experience, and even fewer know the details which I’m going to attempt to convey. This event happened about 15 years ago while I was a full-time missionary.

    After I share this story, I want to wrap up by exploring what doctrine, principles, and applications relate to this subject.

    Winter of 2000

    My companion and I were trying to reach out to a less active young man on a small Idaho farm. We got on the conversation of animals and he mentioned that they would be cooking some goat soon for Christmas dinner. My companion, who was Fijian, mentioned that he was an expert at killing pigs and could kill the goat in seconds. The young man and I were impressed with the claim and decided to put my companion to the test.

    The day came and we met out at the farm, I was anxious to witness this spectacle of my companion slaying a goat with the skill and finesse that he claimed. I came from Texas where hunting is a big deal and I wanted to see how they did things island-style. We walked out to the goat pen and a large goat was selected. I volunteered to take the rope and lasso the goat, and nailed him perfectly right around the horns. My companion had a habit of calling me “Texas Ranger” and my apparent skill with the lasso caused him to excitedly exclaim, “You ARE the Texas Ranger!”

    We pulled the goat out of the pen as it struggled against us. I yanked him around like the dumb animal he was while his fellow-goats cowered away.

    We pulled the goat down to the ground and my companion straddled it while I held its head to the ground. A medium-sized knife was handed to my companion. I watched as he took a deep breath, while aiming the instrument and Read Full Post

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    Faithful Co-existence With Gamaliel’s Counsel

    We live in a world with billions of people and each one of us has ideas on how things should be. Whether it is how governments should operate to where the family should eat for dinner, we all have different ideas. When it comes to religion, things can get very contentious even to the point of violence.

    If you have found your place within a religious tradition that claims to have been influenced or even initiated by deity you probably feel that you are in the right on many things. Where we have a reality that involves many people and groups claiming to be God’s people and doing his work, we also see the need for at least tolerating each other’s presence as a start.

    Once we’ve done that, how do we then move forward? How do we interact with people who contend with us, or those that were once united with us and then depart? What about those that are among us that Read Full Post

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    Famine

    “Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord God,
    When I will send a famine on the land,
    Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
    But rather for hearing the words of the Lord.
    People will stagger from sea to sea
    And from the north even to the east;
    They will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord,
    But they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12 NASB)

    Perhaps the restoration marks the beginning of the end of that spiritual famine. Nephi wrote that we should “press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ” (2 Ne. 32:20). Habukkuk prophesied that, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14 NASB)

    Those of us living today have no excuse for going about spiritually hungry or thirsty.

    Yet even in our days of plenty, where you can obtain virtually any kind of nourishing food you could ever want, so many are malnourished because they subsist on junk food. We eat all this processed “stuff” and consume massive amounts of sugar, leaving many overweight, sick, and lethargic.

    I think there is a spiritual parallel that follows as well. Instead of feasting on the word, we take our inspiration from trite quotes and memes and consume massive amounts of worthless entertainment that is at best sugar and at worst poison for the mind.

    When our salvation depends on obtaining the Mind of God, what do we invest time feeding ours?

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    George MacDonald Quotes from Unspoken Sermons

    The duty of Christians toward their fellow men and women is to let their light shine, not to force on them their interpretations of God’s designs.

    I think this is so profoundly simple and the truth so self-evident that it should instantly add to the improvement of relations of individuals in virtually every situation. I know that I can improve upon this, because I often feel like I have to correct people and while sometimes it is necessary, often a competing interpretation could be equally true for that person.

    If you were faithful and had been living the life, had been a practicing Christian, as the word means – namely, one who does as Christ does – then indeed you would have drawn the world after you. In your church you would be receiving and giving out nourishment, strength to live. Those who stand outside looking at the proceedings inside, who are more repelled by your general worldliness than by your misrepresentation of God, would positively hasten to the company of people loving and true, eager to learn what it was that made them so good, so happy, so unselfish, so free of care, so ready to die, so willing to live, so hopeful, so helpful, so careless to possess, so undeferential to possession.

    When we talk of “missionary work” I’m often repelled by the constant barrage of “programs” that are created by well-meaning missionaries, ward mission leaders, etc. Too often we think that we need to have a “pitch” or something like that when instead, the simple passionate cultivation of the the Spirit in the life of a true disciple can allow God to work through them.

    Why should I care to convince you that my doctrine is right? What does any honest person care what you think of his doctrine? To convince another by intellect alone, while the heart remains unmoved, is but to add to his condemnation.

    We see a lot of this don’t we? We argue over points of doctrine and doctrine is important, but it is far more important to be a reality in one’s life rather than position point.

    To make a man happy as a lark, might be to do him a grievous wrong: to make a man wake, rise, look up, and turn is worth the life and death of the Son of the Eternal.

    There are a lot of really deep thoughts I have on this one. I wrote something in relation to this in a previous post but I think there is a very dangerous movement in the world today that seeks to eliminate suffering and promote pain at the expense of detouring from a path that would lead to tremendous growth and knowledge of God. Read Alma 29 where Alma expresses a deep desire to eliminate all sorrow from the world but realizes he sins in his wish.

    Coincidentally, I just saw this quote from Samuel L. Johnson in the stall of a bathroom at Westminster college in Utah.

    IMG_3047

    What may sound profound, the idea of lowering yourself to base natural urges to avoid pain, is counter-intuitive to the higher way punctuated by King Benjamin:

    “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)

    I’m not all the way through George MacDonald’s work, but I may share more quotes as I come across them.

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    Love, works, and faith

    “Jesus says, ‘If a man love me he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings.’ As a man’s love is manifested by his works, so is his faith.”

    The True Faith, Orson Pratt

    https://www.archive.org/stream/truefaithorsonpr00p…

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    In Defense of Perfection

    I’ve been observing two things (one good and one bad) being conflated into a single topic and then dismissed altogether. This is much like the proverbial baby being thrown out with the bath water and I want to take a shot at expressing my thoughts about it.

    In one way, I see a true principle under attack by its meaning being diluted and reassigned to something negative, the final effect being that the principle itself and it’s true meaning are frowned upon.

    I’m talking about the word perfection. Read Full Post

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    Born of God?

    And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? … And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

    Many sit in the restaurant socializing without ever taking advantage of the feast, and it appears that this has always been an issue. Membership and association is not nor will it ever be conversion and salvation. I see far too many members of the Church bickering, blaming, and complaining over superficial things concerning their fellow saints. Why are we so impatient with those that are closest to us? While frustration is the easiest reaction, it is a corrosive attitude to sustain.

    If faith and repentance are the first principles of the gospel (Article of Faith 4), perhaps forgiveness and patience are the 3rd and 4th principles. As we struggle along our own paths, may we remember that others are doing the same. As we ascend to higher vistas of understanding, may we remember how lowly our own prior perspectives once were. Every time we grow impatient with another, remember the hundreds or thousands of times that others were patient with us.

    Many claim to follow Christ and forget where that path leads. Hint: it isn’t one free of sacrifice, betrayal, offense, abuse, ridicule, contempt, false accusations, and crucifixion. The atonement provided us the opportunity to change, to receive the Mind of God, but we still must suffer each other.

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    A Modern Parable: The Bull and the Jackrabbit

    I love the modern parables that often appear over at jrganymede.com. They often feature common animals such as bulls, parrots, rabbits, etc. Over time, I’ve started to see patterns in these parables of which animals represent different aspects of our society. Symbolic teaching is awesome because of how versatile it is so I’ll let you read it and come to your own conclusions. I love seeing this kind of commentary, I think it’s brilliant and fun. This recent one has to be one of my favorites.


    The bull and his herd mostly ignored the jackrabbit who sometimes also grazed on the meadow. They would not turn aside from him, however, so he sometimes had to scamper out of their way. He resented having to move. “They should move away from me,” he thought, “I consume less and am closer to the earth.”

    One day the jack-rabbit began the unnatural practice of digging burrows in the field. They gave him a refuge so he did not have to get out of the way. Best of all, [it] inconvenienced the cattle and even caused one cow to break her leg and be put down. He was delighted with the outcome, though he was also sure that it was not his fault.

    The bull in particular became quite angry about the jackrabbit’s burrows. Though the bull never did any real damage to the agile creature, the jackrabbit still took the scorn personally. Brooding on these wrongs, as he supposed, he quite naturally fell in with the coyote, who also had angered the bull with his sneaking ways and nips at calves.

    The parrots also soon took up the cause of the coyote and the jackrabbit. All over the fields and the meadows, they squawked that the bull had an unreasoning hatred for the coyote and the jackrabbit. “Why,” they said, “the bull’s anger has gone so far that it has even led to coyote nips at calves and dangerous jackrabbit burrows. The bull is dangerous.”

    One day the coyote killed the jackrabbit and devoured him.

    And the parrots squawked louder. They said the bull had caused the jackrabbit’s death, after one fashion or another. “The bull hated the jackrabbit. The jackrabbit was killed hatefully,” they said.

    When a hound, sniffing the remains, said the scene smelled of coyote to him, the parrots flew around him beating his face angrily. The coyote was friends to the jackrabbit, they said, and equally hated by the bull. And besides, when killing the jackrabbit, they said, the coyote was acting like a bull.

    Moral of the story: The media and memes talk nonsense.

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    “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”

    – Abraham Lincoln

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    JRNL Rootstech video with yours truly

    A little taste of our experience at Rootstech this year. You’ll see Nick Jones, my business partner and I’m in there too! Check out JRNL.com if you’re looking for a great journaling solution. Keep your eye out in the next few weeks, we have some major updates coming along with the ability to import social media content, it’s gonna be awesome!

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    “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

    – Joseph Campbell

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    The Parable of the Crack

    crack

    © Sark & Associates, Inc 2015

    There was once a craftsman who built a fine house.

    As the years went by it served him well until one day he noticed a crack along the ceiling. He was disappointed to see this flaw in his otherwise exemplary work and quickly fetched his ladder and some spackle and went to work sealing the crack. A few days later, he noticed that the crack had reappeared. In frustration he Read Full Post

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    Abram and Zimri

    I heard this story as part of a high councilman’s talk recently week and I thought I’d share it. This version was obtained from a 2010 Liahona article by Dieter F. Uchtdorf.

    An old Jewish legend tells of two brothers, Abram and Zimri, who owned a field and worked it together. They agreed to divide both the labor and the harvest equally. One night as the harvest came to a close, Zimri could not sleep, for it didn’t seem right that Abram, who had a wife and seven sons to feed, should receive only half of the harvest, while he, with only himself to support, had so much.

    So Zimri dressed and quietly went into the field, where he took a third of his harvest and put it in his brother’s pile. He then returned to his bed, satisfied that he had done the right thing.

    Meanwhile, Abram could not sleep either. He thought of his poor brother, Zimri, who was all alone and had no sons to help him with the work. It did not seem right that Zimri, who worked so hard by himself, should get only half of the harvest. Surely this was not pleasing to God. And so Abram quietly went to the fields, where he took a third of his harvest and placed it in the pile of his beloved brother.

    The next morning, the brothers went to the field and were both astonished that the piles still looked to be the same size. That night both brothers slipped out of their houses to repeat their efforts of the previous night. But this time they discovered each other, and when they did, they wept and embraced. Neither could speak, for their hearts were overcome with love and gratitude.

    I feel like this is how people would conduct themselves in Zion.

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