Author Archive

Mar 18, 2018
7 min read
 

The Simplicity of Scripture: Information, Interpretation, and Inclination

In Alma 37, Alma the Younger describes the meaning of certain relics to his son, Helaman who is about to come into possession of them.

The Liahona, Interpreters, and Gold Plates were among the items placed in Moroni’s box that was later unearthed by Joseph Smith. Missing from this list is the sword of Laban which I think the Nephites probably possessed their entire history up until Moroni. Why is it not mentioned? I’m not sure but this led me to wonder if the items that were listed had any significance or were related in any way.

Personally, I find Alma to be a very sharp individual and it isn’t uncommon to find many complex layers of meaning in his writings. He presents three particular kinds of relics to Helaman, three sets of metal plates, the Interpreters, and the Liahona. What I took from my latest reading of Alma 37 is the idea that these relics are representative of three essential elements that are necessary to make the best use of scripture: information, interpretation, and inclination.

In his list of items, the Liahona is key because it is a prime illustration of how our own inclinations determine the efficacy of scripture in our lives.

Information

Alma had many records in his possession and he highlighted the plates of Nephi, the plates of brass, and the Jaredite record which consisted of 24 plates of gold. Alma emphasized that it was important to keep a general record of their people for a sacred and wise purpose. The brass plates contained their scripture and genealogy. Not only did the brass plates Read Full Post

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Mar 17, 2018
7 min read
 

“If it hasn’t happened to you—it should.”

“If it hasn’t happened to you—it should.” [1] That’s what President Ezra Taft Benson had to say about the changing of the human heart and being born of God. 

I would argue that if this has not happened in your life, then it should rise immediately to the top of your priority list. You may shrug this off thinking that you have been born of God, but have you? You may shrug this off because deep down you know you have not been but admitting it may make you feel foolish.

Maybe you have been an active member of the LDS church all of your life and you thought you had your bases covered because you’ve participated in all of the ordinances of the gospel. You take your covenant seriously and honestly seek to align your will with God’s.

“…behold, I ask of you, my brethren [and sisters] 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?” [2]

I don’t ask this question to draw out doubts but to increase faith. I’ve observed my fellow saints for years and I have met many that have been born of God and many more who have not. I see people struggle with faith crisis and all manner of difficulties in this world that would be eased or erased if they had been born of God and known of his love and power.

The Lectures on Faith teach clearly that unless members of God’s church “…have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint; … for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be.” [3]

If you have not yet been born of God, then your sins have not been forgiven and you have no salvation; that’s not my opinion.Read Full Post

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Feb 26, 2018
0 min read
 

The Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

This is exactly how I feel about my study of the gospel. It typically goes: simplicity > complexity > simplicity, which I think also correlates with Fowler’s stages of faith, namely: stage 3 > stage 4 > stage 5. I’m thrilled now when I discover complexity because it means that there is something really cool along and at the end of that path. When your simple box falls apart into a complex jumble of pieces, don’t despair, you’ve discovered a path to treasure!

This happened last night when I realized that there were multiple connections between Alma 33 and 37. My brain started going nuts and I took down many notes. It was late though and so I reluctantly put it on hold because I knew I’d be there for hours, I needed my sleep, and because I’ve learned to not trust any of my decisions past 10 pm.

That will be a future blog post for sure – as soon as I navigate through all the complexity I’ve discovered; I can’t wait!

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Feb 21, 2018
0 min read
 

“Belief aims at Truth”

“The claim that “belief aims at truth” was first coined by Bernard Williams (1973)” link

Well said.

Go to Comments
2 Comments
Feb 20, 2018
0 min read
 

The Ideal

“We are in a very real sense called to support, sustain, teach, and preach the ideal, even when our lives don’t match it, because that ideal is a way God protects all of His children — especially those who would have no way to find it because their lives are so very not-ideal … sometimes for generations on end.” (mormonwoman.org)

Found this quote in my journal and it still rings true. The word “ideal” is a little problematic to me though and strikes me as a little vague.

Whatever we preach as the ideal must be God’s ideals clearly identified as revealed doctrine as principles. LDS cultural norms and popular practices are applications and not doctrines and principles binding upon God’s people. I think that’s an important distinction to make, but I still like the quote.

It is cruel to not teach the truth, even when stones and arrows come flying your way from doing so.

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Feb 13, 2018
1 min read
 

The Power and Paradox of Meaning

As I pondered the word meaning this morning the phrase “The Power and Paradox of Meaning” popped into my head as a summation of my thoughts.

Our lives each unfold in both expected and unexpected ways. Some things we desired, intended and forced into being while others were undesirable, unintended and nothing could stop them from materializing. These are simple facts about life that we have all observed and experienced in our mortal sojourn.

Whatever transpires, we each do something quite interesting, we assign a meaning to those things; we crave a meaning. When something happens we want to take responsibility or assign responsibility. We want to frame the events in some kind of paradigm so that it fits into our worldview. Ultimately, whatever happens, we want to feel that we have at least some kind of control and we can exercise control by assigning meaning.

Something good happens and we say that God blessed us, something bad happens and we say that God is punishing us. Both could be true in different cases but what is the meaning we decided upon and why? What influences the meaning we assign? An optimist tends to prefer more positive meanings where a pessimist may look for the opposite. This is what I find paradoxical about meaning, it is difficult to nail down. How do we determine what something means? When the ability to assign a meaning escapes us, I think it can cause stress and incredible frustration. An example of this may be the unexpected loss of a loved one or a natural disaster. Why did that happen? Was there a reason for it and who is responsible?

I think that the difficulty in assigning meaning appears to reveal something intriguing about the power of meaning. Could it be that the power to assign meaning is related to our agency and the purpose of life? Perhaps the meaning that we choose to give things is a reflection of our knowledge and intelligence. Or on another level, our ability to assign meaning can be a source of comfort in an otherwise devastating situation.

We can find meaning in our own reasoning, in the world around us, it in the scriptures, and meaning can be revealed to us by God. Still thinking about this. What do you think?

Go to Comments
4 Comments
Dec 31, 2017
0 min read
 

Weapons of Love

“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)

Great ideas in this presentation, reminds me of Alma 31:5

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Dec 30, 2017
7 min read
 

Analysis of an Incredible Eve/Mary Artwork by a Roman Catholic Nun

My friend, Richard N. shared this image with me, and I thought it was fantastic. What is lacking in artistic skill is made up for in composition and message which I will attempt to break down as intricately as I can. The artist is Sr Grace Remington OCSO, a Cistercian Sister of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, Dubuque, Iowa.

Read Full Post

Go to Comments
1 Comment
Dec 17, 2017
3 min read
 

The Conditions of Moroni’s Promise

Moroni chapter 10 is just excellent in many ways, but I wonder if we are too quick to gloss over some important points.

We love Moroni 10:3-5 and even call it “Moroni’s promise,” and indeed it is a kind of promise. Note that Moroni wrote chapter 10 to a specific audience: “I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites…” (vs.1) The title page of the Book of Mormon says that it is “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile…” so I think this ‘promise’ can also apply to anyone else in that same sense.

Typically, I see people focusing on verses 4 and 5 which deal with praying and receiving an answer.

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

What they tend to gloss over is the importance of verse 3 which contains additional conditions that must be met to ‘know the truth’ of the Book of Mormon.

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.”

The first line is interesting, and I think I’ve read it wrong forever. Typically when I readRead Full Post

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Dec 11, 2017
0 min read
 

Silent Night #LightTheWorld

My father asked me to put a video together for their ward to help get people into the Christmas spirit and turn their thoughts to the Savior. As I was assembling images, I thought to myself how important it is to consider who exactly was born.

I decided to start the video with some edited clips from the beautiful creation sequence from the movie The Tree of Life. Then, I looked for unique images that I had never seen before (along with some familiar ones). There is some fantastic artwork out there, and this is a unique way to enjoy and share it. The music is Stille Nacht (Silent Night), a classic from Mannheim Steamroller. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Nov 26, 2017
5 min read
 

Potential Literary Patterns in Helaman 5

I was reading the words that Helaman taught to his sons, Nephi and Lehi and noticed some potential patterns. Helaman appears to have taught many things to his sons but we only have a few of these words recorded in Helaman 5:6-12. Whether these patterns were intended or not is unknown. Literary patterns breathe life into mere words by incorporating techniques that produce vivid imagery and emotional effects. Chiasmus is a tool used to draw attention to a particular point or theme and there appears to be some use of it by Helaman.

Usually when I see a word repeated many times or patterns of identical or contrasting text I stop and widen my scope to see if there is a pattern and how far it extends. It certainly causes me to spend more time with a particular section of text whether or not any legitimate literary patterns are being used or not. We don’t know for sure what the author was thinking and some of these patterns may just be coincidental. Nevertheless, they can provide an interesting way of playing with the text and examining the message.Read Full Post

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Nov 23, 2017
4 min read
 

History

A few quotes have been on my mind lately. The first is from Hugh Nibley:

“History is all hindsight; it is a sizing up, a way of looking at things. It is not what happened or how things really were, but an evaluation. . . . The modern college teaches us, if nothing else, to accept history on authority. Yet at the end of his life the great [historian] Eduard Meyer . . . marveled that he had always been most wrong where he thought he was most right, and vice versa.” (Temple and Cosmos, 440)

The second from Confucius:

“If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”

The third from Joseph Smith:

“Oh Lord God deliver us in thy due time from the little narrow prison almost as it were [total] darkness of paper pen and ink and a crooked broken scattered and imperfect language.” JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, p. 4.

The fourth is from Brigham Young:

“I do not believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fulness. The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principle, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:314)

If revelations are not perfect, then what does that say about what we call “history?” I believe that many of the problems we encounter with history, scripture, and the written or spoken word, in general, is the inabilityRead Full Post

Go to Comments
2 Comments
Nov 18, 2017
13 min read
 

Insights into Patterns of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

I have been working off and on since Sept. 2015 with a particular way of analyzing Isaiah in the Book of Mormon using a couple of spreadsheets. Using this method, I discovered some patterns that reveal some impressive things about the text.

Key factors of analysis:

  • Identifying every single Isaiah reference in the Book of Mormon.
  • Comparing the Book of Mormon references to Avraham Gileadi’s 7-part literary structure.
  • Examining where these Book of Mormon references fall within the structure of Isaiah’s books and Avraham Gileadi’s 7-part literary structure.
  • Exploring how the 7-part structure themes flow through the narrative of the Book of Mormon.

Insights that came out of this process:

  1. There is a chiasm involving the names of the people that quote Isaiah that clusters around the chapters related to salvation and loyalty themes.
  2. Nephi is the only one that quotes from the negative themes (the first 33 chapters of Isaiah’s 66 chapters).
  3. Nephi and Jacob initially focus on the positive themes and then Nephi switches almost exclusively to the negative themes.
  4. The small plates of Nephi contrast 6 of the 7 negative themes with the salvation and loyalty themes.
  5. People in Mormon’s abridgment, namely Abinadi, Jesus, and Moroni, quote exclusively from the salvation themes.

I’ll get into further details involving all these points below with graphics to illustrate these points. First, I need to explain some of Avraham Gileadi’s Isaiah research.Read Full Post

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Nov 12, 2017
4 min read
 

Incomprehensible Joy

I was actually listening to the audio version of the Book of Mormon while mowing my lawn and Alma 28:8 stuck out to me:

“And this is the account of Ammon and his brethren, their journeyings in the land of Nephi,

their sufferings in the land,

their sorrows, and

their afflictions, and

their incomprehensible joy…”

I love the juxtaposition of the items listed here, and the last one is so jarring that it catches your attention. This verse reminds me of life in a nutshell; the suffering, sorrow, and afflictions are par for the course. Then there is this incomprehensible joy, but what do we understand about it?

I believe that joy as mentioned in the Book of Mormon has a connection to being Born of God and receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. No matter where we stand on earth, we’ll have the suffering, sorrow, afflictions, and periodic happy moments but this incomprehensible joy is something known only to those who find God and partake of the fruit of the tree of life. The word “joy” is mentioned more in the Book of Mormon than in any of the other standard works. Here are a few of my favorites:Read Full Post

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Nov 8, 2017
16 min read
 

Mormon’s Framing of Alma’s Story in the Context of a Vision

I’ve been stuck in the Lehi/Nephi vision lately, not intentionally, I just keep finding things in the vision or other accounts that circle back around to it. I’m not complaining though because I’m having a great deal of fun with all these discoveries.

This latest one has been really fun and there is probably a lot more to discover here. What I noticed was a parallel between the conversion of Alma’s people in Mosiah 18 and the tree of life vision. What makes this more compelling to me is that I think Mormon intentionally used language to not only make this parallel but to inject another message, one concerning the meaning of his name: Mormon.

This chapter details the conversion and growth of Alma’s little group of saints but embedded in the telling of this story are suspiciously similar parallels to the tree of life vision. First, I think it is important to notice that this chapter is framed by the name Mormon which is mentioned 12 times in the chapter. Half of those occurrences happen in a single verse which I think was done to get our attention.

We already know that Mormon is the name of the one abridging this record, but we also learn that “Mormon” is also the name of a:

  1. Place (vs.4,30)
  2. King (vs.4)
  3. Fountain/Waters (vs.5,30)
  4. Thicket/Forest (vs.5,30)

Now let’s explore the many parallels between the story of Alma’s people and the vision of the tree of life. This is going to be a wild ride…Read Full Post

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Nov 5, 2017
4 min read
 

Lehi’s Firm Compassion via Junior Ganymede

The following was written by G. at Junior Ganymede on Nov 2, 2017.

After Lehi’s boys went off to Jerusalem on their dangerous mission, Sariah, mother-like, started to imagine all that could go wrong. She expressed her worry by attacking her husband.

For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying:

Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.

And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father.

Lehi’s response is something we can learn from.Read Full Post

Go to Comments
1 Comment
Nov 5, 2017
3 min read
 

Triggered!

I understand that there are legitimate situations where people suffer from post-traumatic stress or any other psychological issues. Then there are people that are perfectly fine but equate the discomfort they feel in the presence of alternative opinions with the pain of legitimate mental anguish. Whenever I see people in the latter category say that they have been “triggered” I think of the following things:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” (Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride)

and:

“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. […] Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him…” (Acts 7:54,57-58)

and:

And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of speaking to my brethren, behold they said unto me: Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear. (1 Nephi 16:1)

and:

“Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal. […] Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you; for if ye do, ye will revile against the truth; for I have spoken the words of your Maker.” (2 Nephi 9:39-40)

It is interesting to note how people react to certain ideas and the level of drama that is exhibited by many. I feel like I see a trend today where, for lack of a counterargument, the people that are in error are the ones that exhibit the wildest reactions to ideas that they do not favor. Little children do this quite often, we call it a “tantrum.”Read Full Post

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Nov 3, 2017
5 min read
 

The Sacrament and Covenant Renewal

The title “renewing our baptismal covenants” is not found in the scriptures. It’s not inappropriate. Many of you have used it in talks; we have used it in talks. But it is not something that is used in the scriptures, and it can’t be the keynote of what we say about the sacrament. … The sacrament is a beautiful time to not just renew our baptismal covenant, but to commit to Him to renew all our covenants, all our promises, and to approach Him in a spiritual power that we did not have previously as we move forward.” – Neil L. Andersen, “Witnessing to Live the Commandments,” General Conference Leadership Training on the Sabbath Day Observance at Church (April 2015)

I’ve seen this quote circulating online for a while now. I remember the first time I heard it was on video and it was very refreshing since the phrase “renewing baptismal covenants” in relation to the sacrament always bothered me. Why? Well, to me it feels like we are cheapening the ordinance like our covenant is a subscription like Netflix and we have to keep renewing it. Maybe there is an apt comparison there somewhere, but when we read about the sacrament in scripture, there is no talk of renewing covenants in this manner.

Jesus asks his followers to always remember him by partaking of his flesh and blood always, which is what we do every Sabbath day. When we partake of the flesh and blood of Christ, we are not renewing a covenant; we are keeping a commandment to always remember Him.

But what about the rest of Elder Andersen’s quote? He says that we don’t just consider the sacrament a renewal of baptismal covenants alone but a renewal of “all our covenants and promises.” Again, I’m not trying to argue with Elder Andersen but let’s look at the things that characterize the sacrament according to when the Savior first instituted it among the Nephites:

Read Full Post

Go to Comments
0 Comments
Oct 31, 2017
2 min read
 

Shifting the “Because”: Overcoming the Victim Mentality

In 2 Nephi 4, commonly referred to as “Nephi’s psalm,” there is an interesting pattern and reversal that centers around the word “because.” First, here is the list of things Nephi uses to justify his sorrows:

  1. my heart sorroweth because of my flesh;
  2. my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
  3. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins
  4. my heart groaneth because of my sins

Nephi appears to be placing the blame on external influences for how he feels. He sees himself as a victim of these influences and in so doing, allows them to have power over him. Then we see a change in focus as he begins to question his own perspective. Nephi then begins to recall all of the amazing things that God has done for him in his life. This new focus prompts several “why should” questions in regards to those “because of” justifications.

  1. why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?
  2. why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh?
  3. Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul?
  4. Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

Nephi isn’t getting an answer to prayer here, he isn’t doing anything spectacular, he is simply thinking. He is revolving these issues in his mind and weighing them. In this process, he finds the power to shift his perspective and reorient his trajectory. Fortified with a renewed resolve, Nephi drops some firm covenantal “do nots” in opposition to those “because of” justifications.

  1. Do not anger again because of mine enemies.
  2. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

Then, the final “because” comes into play:

“May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!” (vs.32)

Nephi concludes that when you trust the arm of flesh, whether it is your own or that of others, you will experience failure and even tragedy. Nephi doesn’t mince words and straight up calls it a curse when you put your trust in fallible beings. Nephi realizes that even though he fails himself by giving in to sin, and others fail him by becoming his enemy, God has never failed him and never will.

“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” (vs.34)

Through this, Nephi escapes his mental prison of victimhood and realizes the power that comes from faith in God. He will still sin, and he may never make peace with his enemies but God will always walk beside him. One will never find true peace in this world, not really, not lasting and fulfilling peace. When we put our trust in God and allow him to prove himself to us, we will find that peace that we seek.

Go to Comments
2 Comments
Oct 28, 2017
4 min read
 

The Space Between the Rod and the Tree

I was reading Elder Uchtdorf’s Three Sisters talk from this past General Conference and something he said prompted me to look at Lehi’s vision again. I went looking for a particular verse that illustrated the moment the people went from holding the rod to grasping the fruit of the tree.

“…they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” (1 Nephi 8:30)

Notice that the iron rod in this vision has a beginning and an end. I don’t think that means that God’s word has a beginning or an end so why use this as a metaphor? There could be many reasons, but I’ll focus on what comes to my mind.

First, consider what hands represent.Read Full Post

Go to Comments
4 Comments