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Why Are Some Sacred Accounts Remembered Differently?

Alma the younger had an incredible conversion experience that has parallels to Saul of Tarsus’ conversion in a couple of interesting ways. Both involved a heavenly messenger appearing while they were traveling about, and they both told slightly different versions of their stories at a later time. I compare this to my own personal experiences and Joseph Smith’s various first vision accounts.

Saul’s Encounter

Saul’s experience was first told this way:

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. (Acts 9:4-8)

Later, when he is recounting his experience to King Agrippa there are some slight differences:

And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. (Acts 22:6-10)

Both accounts start out almost exactly the same but the second account adds “of Nazareth” to Jesus’ quote and excludes Read Full Post

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Offense of the Hard-hearted

“…the hearts of the people began to wax hard, and that they began to be offended because of the strictness of the word…”

Alma 35:15

I was listening to Alma 35 this morning on my way to work and this line stuck out to me. In today’s understanding the heart is more of a feeling thing, we distinguish it from the thinking done by the brain. We find the word leb translated as heart often in the Bible, it’s from lebab which is the organ in the middle of your chest.

Anciently the heart wasn’t just for feeling, leb means, “very widely for the feelings, the will and even the intellect; likewise for the center of anything.” So with the Nephites, their feelings, wills, and intellects were waxing (growing or passing from one state to another) hard, and they were beginning to be offended because the word was strict (or accurate; exact).

Twice we get the sense that this was gradual, it happened over time. The strictness, exactness, accurateness of the word did not offend them at one point, it didn’t until their feelings, wills, and intellects became hard and unbending.

I think this rings very familiar to the present day.

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What does it mean to “live after the manner of happiness?”

2 Nephi 5:27 includes this intriguing verse that is always a delight to ponder.

Manner: 1. form, method; way of performing or executing. 2. Custom, habitual practice. (source)

Sometimes I think of happiness in terms of how I happen to feel at the moment, but that attitude seems kind of reactionary doesn’t it? Is happiness something that is out of our control; ultimately how much say do we have in the matter?

The Nephites seemed to take things into their own hands and make happiness a deliberate pursuit, they had a method. Read Full Post

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Rage Against the Machine via Junior Ganymede

This is an interesting read from MC over at Junior Ganymede. The original post can be viewed at it’s source here, but I’ve included the entirety of it here below:


My oldest will be old enough for Kindergarten in the fall. The small talk question of the moment from our fellow parents is, “Where are you enrolling him?” In our school district, that’s more than a geography question. It’s a big district with more or less open enrollment, and they’ve done an admirable job of making sure there is an abundance of options. Gifted programs, foreign language immersion schools, charter schools with a patriotic focus, etc.

He won’t be going to any of those, however. As we’ve anticipated since before he was born, he’s going to be homeschooled.

“So, if you don’t mind me asking, why are you homeschooling? Is it for academic or moral reasons or what?”

No one asks these questions of parents who send their kids to the Japanese immersion school. Only homeschool inspires such curiosity. I don’t mind answering, though. The real answer to the “academics or morals” question is “both,” although I usually focus on the academic side when answering the question. That part is easy enough for people to understand. (I’ve found that my leftist acquaintances are still put off by the idea until they find out that my wife is a former teacher with a masters’ degree. Her teaching license allows them to retain their prior stereotype of homeschoolers as Read Full Post

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Our Part in Prayer

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I was driving with my daughters on the way to school and we were in a rush and had to pray in the car. My 8 year old offered a prayer and asked, “please bless us to do good in school and to make good grades and to be nice to people.”

I took the moment to point ask her to reflect on what she was asking God to do for her. I told her that is was ultimately up to her if she was nice to people or wanted good grades. God won’t suddenly make you nice or magically give you good grades. I needed to illustrate a different approach. Well, I shared 2 accounts with her that came to mind from the scriptures; the first is from Nephi’s account. I’m not driving so I have the luxury of including the actual text here:

But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound. (1 Nephi 7:17)

Nephi expresses his desire for deliverance, but he doesn’t expect it without Read Full Post

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LecturesOnFaith.com gets a little facelift

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I decided that it was time to readdress the home page of LecturesOnFaith.com, it was looking kind of homely. I’ve been wanting to spruce it up for some time now but never really got around to it.

What inspired me was attending an Elders quorum class in my previous ward where the presidency had been teaching from the Lectures on Faith for their first Sunday lesson! We were on Lecture 3 and I was just about to lose my mind at how awesome it was to get to study an entire lecture in church! Realizing that people were using this resource made me want to make it a better, more inspirational experience.

So I made a big focus area on the home page and put some of my favorite excerpts from the Lectures in there and made them rotate after several seconds. I also added big buttons that link to the Lectures and made them very prominent (I’d like to create some custom icons for each lecture one day). I adjusted the titles I gave to the Lectures so that they are more uniform in length. Now everything looks nice and neat, but I’m sure I’ll think of more updates in the future.

I love having this as a side project and hope to always keep it available for people to enjoy.

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The Grace of Contrast

A recent reply I shared on an online forum:

Catholics are heavily immersed in ritual, so I think they “get” ritual more than most, or are at least more accustomed to it. Latter-day Saint Sabbath services and surroundings at church are nowhere near as elaborate as the richly meaningful proceedings conducted in ornate cathedrals.

Maybe we wish that church and the temple were equally as rich in symbolism and ritual, it’s a captivating thought, but I kind of like it the way it is. If we were around the temple all the time, would we appreciate the contrast? How wonderful it is to go to the temple and experience stepping out of one world and into another (which is intentional). Home after a long journey is never the same, but it hasn’t changed, you just see it with different eyes.

A temple is a model of the cosmos; the cosmos above which holds all of creation, and the cosmos below which is man. That which is common is profane, but contrast parts light from darkness, revealing everything in between. Worlds without end for us to explore, and we think this only refers to orbiting planets. The endowed are veiled with a garment, a reminder of where the true temple is. How many dwell perpetually in the outer courtyards of consciousness, never setting foot inside the Holy of Holies within.

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Desire is the Appetite of the Heart

Simple truths in a text message exchange this morning with a friend:

Steve: Desire will blossom into whatever it is fed.

Chris: So desire is the appetite of the heart?

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The Military & Schoolhouse Models in Mormonism

I really liked this post from the guys over at Junior Ganymede. When I saw the title and began reading it I thought I knew where the author was taking the subject but I was pleasantly surprised to see how this topic went in a direction I didn’t expect. I have my own thoughts about these things but found this such an interesting post, I had to share it.

There is going to be a part two, so give this one a read and leave your comments below, let’s talk about this.


While once trying to explain to a non-Mormon friend why missionaries had such a strict dress code, I talked about showing respect for others, about norms of economic equality between rich and poor missionaries, but none of it seemed to register. Finally I said, “Look, becoming a missionary is like joining the Army. They have a collective goal, and everything is focused on that goal, to the point where things that you might otherwise find bothersome really don’t matter. If you are so concerned about individuality that you resent having to wear a uniform, then Read Full Post

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Sugardoodle presents: Temple Symbol Hunt

A fun idea about how adults, youth, and kids can learn about symbolism and temples with a sketchbook and LDS Symbol Cards.

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May 14th 2016 – Hebraeus Foundation Zion Conference

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Announcing the Hebraeus Foundation Zion Conference, “A Time of Awakening,” Grand Ballroom, Utah Valley University, Saturday May 14th 2016, 9.00 am to 9.00 pm.

Featuring a Twelve Tribes youth color guard; top speakers, including Avraham Gileadi, Karen Prier, Thomas Harrison, and David Warwick; a tasty dinner & dessert; inspiring activities; and a fabulous music and dance concert. Only $50. Register now as seating is limited to about 500.

Although all Ten Virgins had fallen asleep before the coming of the Bridegroom, the five wise had “received the truth . . . taken the Holy Spirit for their guide . . . and not been deceived” (Doctrine & Covenants 45:57) – at a time of when all but the very elect would be deceived (Matthew 24:24). Come, and receive a fresh supply of oil for your lamps!

Please register at www.IsaiahInstitute.com/p/events_11.html or www.JosephandJudah.com/p/events.html. Or contact Robin Young, secretary, Hebraeus Foundation, at robinyoung922@gmail.com, or call her at 541-490-0880.

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Margaret Barker Transcript from The Worlds of Joseph Smith Conference

I love reading anything by Margaret Barker, if you don’t know who she is then you need to look her up and buy some of her books or read some of her articles online. She’s a Methodist scholar and has brought some amazing insights into Judeo-Christian studies that have piqued the interest of LDS scholars. Over the years, she has made many wonderful contributions to LDS research and I am grateful for the interest and respect she has for LDS theology.

The following transcript is her analysis of how Joseph Smith’s contributions to an understanding of the ancient world match up with some of the things we have discovered in modern scholarship. Enjoy!


Margaret Barker

A Transcript of Her Response

The Worlds of Joseph Smith

An International Academic Conference at the Library of Congress

May 6, 2005

– – –

It isn’t easy to respond in twenty minutes to such a rich and interesting paper. Professor Givens has set Joseph Smith in the religious and cultural context of his time and has raised many important issues. I should like to take a few of these issues and set them in another context—Jerusalem, in about 600 BCE.

Do the revelations to Joseph Smith fit in that context—the reign of King Zedikiah, who is mentioned at the beginning of the First Book of Nephi? (King Zedikiah was installed in Jerusalem in 597 BCE.)

I am not a scholar of Mormon texts and traditions, and I must emphasize that. I’m a biblical scholar specializing in the Old Testament. Until some Mormon scholars made contact with me a few years ago I would never have considered using Mormon texts and traditions as part of my own work.

“Are the revelations to Joseph Smith consistent with the situation in Jerusalem about 600 B.C.E?”

Since that initial contact I have had many good and fruitful exchanges and have begun to look at these texts very closely. I’m still, however, very much an amateur in this area. What I offer can only be the reactions of an Old Testament scholar—“Are the revelations to Joseph Smith consistent with the situation in Jerusalem about 600 B.C.E?”

First, Professor Givens raised the question of ongoing revelation and an open canon. As far as we know there was no question of a canon in 600 BCE and ongoing revelation from the prophets was accepted, even if what the prophets said was uncomfortable.

One generation earlier there had been the great upheaval in Read Full Post

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Thoughts about prayer on a recent walk

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I was out for a walk recently at my in-laws and followed this trail that was laced with hundreds of bluebonnets. Deep into the trail, I found a quiet area that seemed to be a nice place to pray for a bit. It was a little chilly so that somewhat distracting, but otherwise it was fairly peaceful.

I thought of the contrast between this beautiful place and the terror and horror that is out there in the world. It is strange that two extremes can exist at the same time in reality and how one or the other can consume your entire awareness. I pondered whether I am at peace because of the setting or because of something much Read Full Post

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Wrong on the Way to Right

“And now, when [King Lamoni] heard these words, he said unto [his servants]: Now I know that it is the Great Spirit; and he has come down at this time to preserve your lives, that I might not slay you as I did your brethren. Now this is the Great Spirit of whom our fathers have spoken.” (Alma 18:4)

King Lamoni was dead wrong about Ammon being the Great Spirit. He goes further than just stating this as a theory, he says, “Now I know that it is the Great Spirit,” but how can he say that he knows something that is later proven untrue?

How many times do we hear people testifying that they ‘know’ something? Maybe they do know, but then again, maybe they don’t, so what sense can we make of this?

Here’s where things get interesting to me, although Lamoni was wrong about Ammon’s identity, he was right Read Full Post

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Pointing Fingers and Blame-shifting

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Junior Ganymede had a great post about Lehi’s Vision and the people pointing the fingers. The post author had been out with the missionaries and the woman they were teaching had some insights that were expounded upon, here’s a small snippet:

The fingers are being pointed to single out people for mockery. But she also saw it as a way of shifting responsibility. I think she is right.

The pointing finger is the finger that assigns responsibility. When it points to mock, it is designating the scapegoat. If the scapegoat is not explicitly given the blame, then the role of the scapegoat is to validate the existence of the inner circle by creating someone who is not part of the inner circle. And in an inner circle, by nature, questions of responsibility do not arise. One is not judged on merit but on membership.

The great and spacious building is key to understanding the modern structure (the Cathedral, That Hideous Strength, the Clerisy, the New Class, the Polygon, etc.). It explains its relationship to status. It highlights its divorce from reality, its existence in a purely social and symbolic world.

Understanding that the modern structure is a way of shifting blame and avoiding responsibility is also a valuable insight. It explains the victim sweepstakes and the grievance mongering. (A spiritually degenerative pursuit, obviously).

The blame-shifting aspect is what caught my attention. Today’s pointing fingers manifest themselves as Read Full Post

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Tithes, Stones, and the Hand of the Lord

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OneClimbs commenter Chip recently asked:

“…just curious if you have any insight or analogy for tithing. I love the whole symbolism of climbing the mount that you apply to principles. So was just curious if you had examples or ideas on tithing like that.”

I realized that after all these years and closing in on 400 posts, I haven’t said anything about tithes. There are several topics that I have intentionally not referenced at this point because I’ve been pondering them for years and I don’t have anything to say or share on those things as of yet; they are still growing in the garden.

Tithes, surplus, and consecration

There is a lot to say concerning tithes and the principle seems to practiced differently at different times. For instance, KUTV reported recently about the way tithing was Read Full Post

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Mercy and the Mother

 
I have put the words that I believe are related directly to the divine Mother motif in ALL CAPS AND BOLD. The following verses in this article area all connected to each other and certain key points have been emphasized.

I encourage you to open your scriptures and take the time to ponder them in context and look for other connections because they are everywhere.

The Tree and the Virgin

1 Nephi 11:7
the TREE
which bore the fruit
which thy father tasted

1 Nephi 11:8
I looked and beheld a TREE
the beauty was far beyond
yea, exceeding of all beauty
and the whiteness thereof
did exceed the whiteness
of the driven snow

1 Nephi 11:13
I beheld a VIRGIN and she was
exceedingly fair & white

1 Nephi 11:15
A VIRGIN most beautiful and fair
above all other VIRGINS

1 Nephi 11:18
the VIRGIN which thou seest is the
MOTHER of god after the manner of the flesh [original manuscript & 1830 edition]

1 Nephi 11:20
I beheld the VIRGIN again
bearing a child in her arms (vs.7 – tree which bore the fruit)

1 Nephi 11:21
knowest thous the meaning of the TREE?

Note that the tree itself (not the fruit) and the virgin are both ‘exceedingly’ beautiful/fair and white (another word for pure). The virgin and the tree are synonymous but that is Read Full Post

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More Meaningful, Less Mechanical Prayer

OneClimbs commenter and general all-around good guy Richard Nobbe left a comment on one of my recent posts and I thought he had a host of excellent questions.

I was intrigued with the challenge of providing some of my own thoughts and takes on the aforementioned questions. So let’s begin by taking Read Full Post

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Free Download: Spiritual & Temporal Goals

Our stake president asked me to design a refrigerator magnet for an upcoming ward conference. The objective was to design something that would remind the members of 3 spiritual and 3 temporal goals that the stake wanted to emphasize.

I started with something kind of standard and boring but then decided to spice it up a bit and do something a little more colorful and fun so this was the result. I’ve included a vector PDF with the original artwork if anyone would like to use it for any reason, you can do so without attribution.

Download Spiritual and Temporal Goals PDF

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Choice & Continuums

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A couple of years ago I wrote a post about something that I dubbed the “Agency Continuum” where the choices that you make are part of a connected cycle.

I’d like to take the model I presented in that post, particularly the figure eight shape, and point out a few things in light of the word “continuum.” First off, let’s define the word itself:

Continuum: a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct. (Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary)

Often the choices that lay before us are not perceptibly different and it isn’t until the Read Full Post

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