Author Archive

Apr 29, 2019
0 min read

Symbolism on my mind.

@lysanderyuen, Unsplash.com

I love symbolism so much. I spent years buying books and diving deeply into the subject almost obsessively.

I found a way to ‘flip a switch’ in my mind to where I started looking at everything differently and it constituted a massive leap in my understanding and spiritual growth. It’s great because anyone can do it, you just have to start.

A few years ago, I kind of entered this weird place where all the information I was cramming into my mind settled into a profound simplicity. Then, I just stopped studying the subject for a long time.

I’m not sure I’ll ever study it that intensely again but I’m glad I did; I regret nothing.

I learned that finality has no place in symbolism. If God wants to say one thing, he will say it clearly. When he wants to say endless things, he uses symbols.

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Apr 24, 2019
4 min read

Jesus’ Teachings Concerning Stumbling Blocks

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.

If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.

Matthew 18:8-9 NASB

This week we have been studying Matthew 18 in Come Follow Me and I have had a few discussions with family members about these verses and the weight of the implications that Christ is getting at here are very challenging.

Imagine for a moment cutting off your own hand or foot; imagine plucking out one of your eyes. Can you imagine the pain and the horror? Think of how losing a key part of your body will affect the rest of your life.

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Mar 24, 2019
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Mustard Seeds and Leaven

There is quite a bit packed in to the chapters from Come Follow Me this week and I could write dozens of posts about so many little details but one thing has stuck in my mind.

Among other things, Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man sowed in his field and leaven that a woman hid in some flour.

In both cases, a person performed a simple act, planting a seed and placing leaven in flour. Growth came from the living seed and the living yeast which then did all of the work.

I thought to myself that perhaps we vastly overthink things. These parables are great examples of Alma’s words, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass;” (Alma 37:6)

I’ve been thinking about never underestimating the power of a simple act and the unseen forces that are ready and prepared to generate incredible things, but are still waiting for me to act.

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Mar 23, 2019
3 min read

Entering the Darkness

The one component of Lehi’s vision that I have been thinking about for a while now is the mist of darkness. There have been many satisfying things I have learned from meditating upon this part of the vision and pondering what it means to our personal journies through life.

In Lehi’s vision, he sees “numberless concourses” of people seeking out the path which leads to the tree of life. This can be understood to potentially represent an individual’s journey to God by trying to discover a way to him.

But just as these people find the path, this mist of darkness arises.

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Mar 20, 2019
2 min read

Indian Slaves “Purchased into Freedom”

I came across this story recently and it reminded me of the tragic complexity of history. We tend to look back and history through the narratives crafted by historians often get a glimpse of how hard some situations were to deal with.

Sometimes you cannot change the situation around you, but you can still find a way to do the best with what you have.

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Mar 15, 2019
8 min read

Contention, False Flags, and Repeating the Past

Contention must be avoided at all costs. The entire media industry exists off of creating and distributing stories that stir people up into contention for the sole purpose of selling advertising or getting gain.

They are like Zeezrom and the lawyers that survived off of the chaos they helped create.

“Now, it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them; therefore they did stir up the people against Alma and Amulek.”

Alma 11:30

People who do this are evil, and we must cease to contribute to it. Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5: 9) Guess who’s children those who cause contention are?

“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.”

3 Nephi 11:30

The Book of Momon teaches us what happens to societies that embrace, perpetuate, and celebrate contention.

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Mar 5, 2019
3 min read

Bednar and Keeping Things Simple

On Feb 28, 2019, at a Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction, there were some great things that Elder Bednar had to say.

Teaching

In a very informative and entertaining unscripted role play with a real ward council, Bednar started off by saying this:

“I will never ask a question that has one right answer that you have to say.”

I thought that this was such a great thing for a teacher, parent, or instructor to say. I think that we can often do a disservice to our people and children when we play “guess what’s in my pocket” and try to get people to fish for what is in our mind; I’m guilty of this from time to time.

This profound statement implies that the answer doesn’t lie hidden in the mind of the brilliant instructor but that the learner has the power within themselves to solve a problem. This is tremendously empowering and I think it honors the contributions of others rather than glorifying the instructor.

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Mar 3, 2019
4 min read

Detecting False Prophets

“But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.”

Helaman 13:27-28

I was listening to this chapter and what stood out to me first was “gold”, “silver” and “costly apparel.” I was immediately taken back to the vision of the tree of life and the parallel themes:

“And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.”

1 Nephi 13:8

Wealth and fine clothing seem to go hand in hand. If we look at the clothing as a symbol, it can represent any physical display we put on to reveal our desires and ideologies to others. We can clothe not just our bodies, but our language and our actions to publicize our allegiances.

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Feb 25, 2019
1 min read

Receptacles

Sometimes we limit what God can give us by the “receptacle” or “vessel into which something is received” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary) we bring to him.

We may come to God begging for spiritual food while holding out a single finger instead of cupping both hands or lifting up a massive basket. Do we come to God expecting much but with nowhere to put what he is willing to give?

It is written that he willing and eager to pour out great blessings and knowledge, but we must come ready and able to receive them.

A small child can only receive simple ideas because their capacities are limited, but as they grow and learn their abilities to receive increase exponentially.

Desire is essential and powerful, but if we want to receive more, we need to increase belief, faith, hope, knowledge, understanding, meditation, and pondering to construct a spiritual receptacle that can receive more.

“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” – 2 Nephi 28:30

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Feb 20, 2019
3 min read

Some “Come Follow Me” Experiences

My feelings about the Church’s new Come Follow Me plan for families has been a little mixed. I’ve gone back and forth about it but have been willing to give it a shot and see what happens.

Initially, I felt like a church-wide focus on all the same scriptures across all programs from Sunday School to family study was a little too correlated for my taste. I prefer to create study methods that are tuned to our needs.

We have ventured forth anyway, and some exciting things have happened. First, it was a little rough; we didn’t know how to organize personal study with family study and the manual. If we studied the same stuff together every night, what did we study personally? With a chapter or two a week, that could be read in minutes, reviewing the same chapter alone and with family for 7 days straight and then again at church, that seems like you’d get a little burnt out! I still don’t totally understand it.

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Feb 9, 2019
4 min read

Matthew 4: The Temptation of Christ and the Vision of the Tree of Life

I’m not sure if anyone has made this connection before, but in studying Matthew 4, I noticed that there were some pretty striking similarities to what Jesus went through in the desert and the vision that Lehi and Nephi had.

The Wilderness

Both accounts begin in the wilderness.

  • Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness… (Matt 4:1)
  • I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness. And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him. And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. (1 Nephi 8:4-5)

Hunger and Fruit

In the desert, Jesus has fasted for 40 days and nights while in Lehi’s vision, he tastes the fruit of the tree after several hours (not days). This contrast between extreme hunger and the vivid description of tasting the fruit is striking.

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Dec 5, 2018
3 min read

Prosper / Cut Off

Lehi obtained an explicit promise from the Lord (2 Nephi 1:9) concerning his people, and in its concise form it reads:

Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments
ye shall prosper in the land;
but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments
ye shall be cut off from my presence.
– 2 Nephi 1:20

This promise is in the form of parallelism where the keeping or not keeping of the commandments brings prosperity or a state of being cut off from the presence of God.

You’ll notice that I have colored some particular words and phrases in each verse where I see some similar themes. The reward for keeping the commandments is prospering in the land, and earlier in verse 9 Lehi breaks down what this prosperity will entail:

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Dec 2, 2018
8 min read

Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice – Conference Notes Oct. 2018

Bishop Dean M. Davies begins by sharing a story that involved the selection of a temple site with Gordon B. Hinckley. While on the surface the story itself isn’t all that impressive to me personally. One side of my mind says that this was merely a matter of selecting a different site out of many that could have equally worked.

President Hinckley was a senior man with decades of experience, insight, and intelligence and had an idea in his mind of what to look for. The implication is that the Lord was directing all of this and I’m not saying that he wasn’t. On the one hand, this isn’t a mind-blowing story, it’s not parting a sea or translating ancient scripture, but on the other, maybe there is a different message.

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Nov 20, 2018
4 min read

The Why of Weaknesses

This past weekend I attended a conference at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX where President Nelson and others spoke. He made a particular point of talking about the weaknesses that we all have to one degree or another and segued his message into Ether 12:27.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.”

It’s probably one of the more well-known and quoted verses in the Book of Mormon, and I have pondered it off an on for as long as I have been aware of it. What weakness is God showing us? Will he reveal some hidden weakness that we don’t perceive? Perhaps. If we already see the weakness, what purpose would there be for God to show us something that we already see?

As I heard this verse read at the conference, the Spirit framed it in a particular way in my mind. One of my favorite spiritual gifts is the ability to see things in whole or in part as God sees them. I saw a connection between that gift and this verse.

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Nov 14, 2018
8 min read

Firm and Steadfast in the Faith of Christ – Conference Notes Oct. 2018

Elder D. Todd Christofferson is someone that I look forward to hearing from and his talks always seem to have some very rich ideas in them that are worth pondering. He started off talking about Elijah and the priests of Baal, interesting stuff worthy of a whole post but I feel more like skipping ahead.

In the most recent general conference, President Russell M. Nelson declared: “You don’t have to wonder about what is true. You do not have to wonder whom you can safely trust. Through personal revelation, you can receive your own witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that this is the Lord’s Church. Regardless of what others may say or do, no one can ever take away a witness borne to your heart and mind about what is true.”

The quote is consistent with my experience, at least in principle. There is a wrestle that occurs in the search for truth. The desire of the individual is the key factor in whether or not they find what they are looking for. In this pursuit, one will become very well acquainted with failure as various avenues are explored.Read Full Post

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Nov 10, 2018
10 min read

Truth and the Plan – Conference Notes Oct. 2018

I really loved this talk. I like most talks from Dallin H. Oaks because he doesn’t share a lot of touchy-feely stories, he sticks to the doctrine. One of my favorite quotes is “great leaders kill ambiguity” from Scott Belsky the founder of Behance and Oaks is a great leader.

“Modern revelation defines truth as a “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24). That is a perfect definition for the plan of salvation and “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

This is such a powerhouse statement and it is worth reading in reverse; the Proclamation is part of the plan of salvation and the truth of how things are, were, and are to come. On the contrary, the world is wrong about a lot of things; they are, they were, and they will be in the future.Read Full Post

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Nov 7, 2018
4 min read

David A. Bednar – Conference Notes Oct. 2018

“Please do not focus primarily upon the logistical aspects of what has been announced. We must not allow procedural details to obscure the overarching spiritual reasons these changes now are being made.”

This is an important statement because it is all too easy to look at the logistics of a thing rather than understanding the spiritual foundation. I love these changes because I think that they take away constraints that have allowed me to focus more specifically on needs rather than utilizing more time worrying about scheduling visits for everyone when other things might be more valuable. True, you could do both, but why place unnecessary constraints on people?Read Full Post

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Nov 1, 2018
6 min read

Be Not Troubled – Conference Notes Oct. 2018

“Some years ago, one of our young married daughters and her husband asked Sister Rasband and me a very important, life-influencing question: ‘Is it still safe and wise to bring children into this seemingly wicked and frightening world we live in?’”

Elder Ronald A. Rasband introduces a common question that might just as well be valid to ask in virtually any time in human history. Regardless of the nature of the culture, this world is inherently and by design a risky and dangerous place. The way I see it, if we are still alive and the work is still in motion, then it is still our duty to bring children into the world. The Rasband’s answer to their children “Yes, it’s more than OK,” was great.Read Full Post

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Oct 30, 2018
4 min read

Truth is not found within

There is an ideology today that I hear quite often and it is poor in principle and flawed in doctrine. You may recognize this ideology as it appears in the following forms:

  1. “Live your truth”
  2. “Be who you really are”
  3. “Be your most authentic self”

What if “your truth” is that only the strong survive and that whatever you can take from the weak you should? What if you are an angry person, short-tempered, or enjoy lusting after the flesh? What if you look at yourself as you are now and realize that you are incredibly narcissistic and do not truly care about the people around you? These ideologies initially feel warm and fuzzy, but they require you to cut yourself off from the greater realities of life and truth.Read Full Post

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Oct 27, 2018
3 min read

Laying the Foundation of a Great Work – Conference Notes Oct. 2018

This year our grandchildren wrote the topic of their message on stones and then, one by one, buried them next to one another, representing a sure foundation upon which a happy life is established.

I think it is cool to do things like this with kids (sure, and adults too). Stories like these that Elder Steven R. Bangerter shared sound like something you would read about in scripture as a parable or relating to an event like the Lamanites literally burying their weapons of war. Acting out symbolic gestures can imprint unique things upon the mind and help draw connections to other doctrines and principles.

Jesus Christ is that precious cornerstone in the foundation of Zion. It was He who revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”

Underestimating the power of what we perceive to be “small things” was a theme in this conference and something that I think humanity has universally struggled with throughout history.Read Full Post

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