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.
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 PostGo to Comments
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 PostGo to Comments
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.Go to Comments
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 PostGo to Comments
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 PostGo to Comments
Today at the beginning of Sunday School I was handed a little white slip of paper with some scripture verses to read. Here’s what I read in class:
And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters. (1 Nephi 13:12-13)
It was reinforced in the class that the “man among the Gentiles” is Christopher Columbus. I suppose that in reading verse 12 you would think that the Spirit coming down and working upon someone would mean that they were righteous and sent by God to do good. In this country we celebrate Columbus Day and it seems as though many Latter-day Saints hold him with a kind of reverence, see him as a visionary, and perhaps even a prophet of sorts.
God does not always work upon people to bring blessings and happiness, sometimes he sends them as a scourge:
And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation… (2 Nephi 5:25)
Lehi prophesied about it:
“Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten.” (1 Nephi 1:11)
Wait a minute, am I suggesting that Columbus was sent as a scourge, how is that possible? Well I started out …Read Full PostGo to Comments
There is truly opposition in all things isn’t there? Name absolutely anything and *poof* there will be someone with a reason for opposing it. Where there is an object and visible light, there will be a shadow.
It’s all good though, that’s the way it should be, we’re here to have options that challenge us. To see what we will choose do with the time and information we have at our disposal is the great purpose of life.Go to Comments
Every single one of us, right at this minute, believes things that are wrong. There is an idea that you cherish, some way of seeing the world that seems so clear to you, but it is wrong, or at best, incomplete.
We all build paradigms in order to function in life and make decisions, it is a necessity. A paradigm is a collection of assumptions and/or ideas that form a model for viewing what you perceive as reality. When someone attacks your paradigm it is as if they are attacking reality itself! Let’s say that in your paradigm there is a God, perhaps because you know there is or perhaps because you really, really believe there is. If someone seeks to remove that cherished piece of your paradigm with a convincing argument, it can cause the whole structure to shake or collapse like a Jenga tower.
Sometimes we give up one flawed perception for another flawed perception, or we can enhance a true perception with one that is more comprehensive. When it comes to knowing God and his mysteries, it helps to understand that you will probably have to give up a lot of false notions and assumptions. We like to think that because we are Latter-day Saints and belong to “the true Church” and have “the restored gospel” that our paradigms are correct, true, complete, and superior.
I’m going to suggest that anyone who thinks that had better …Read Full PostGo to Comments
When I first saw the pictures of Joseph Smith’s primary seer stone my first thought was, “Oh, cool, I’m glad they released some pictures. I knew it was a small, chocolate-colored stone but I didn’t realize it had stripes.” and that was that.
I see conversations around the web indicating that some members of the Church are upset about the seer stone and the part it played in our history. Some were unaware of its existence, but I remember learning about it as a teenager. I didn’t know that much about the process of the translation and how the seer stone and Interpreters fit into the picture, but I did when I cared enough to research it on my own.
Skeptics find humor in the seer stone looking like just a plain old rock and are no doubt enjoying the opportunity to further paint Joseph Smith as an occultic scheister.
Instead of trying to address all of the legitimate concerns and questions, I want to write about my own perspective and the much larger themes at play.
…Read Full Post
I was reading Alma chapter 29 recently and I thought I’d share some observations that I think are particularly relevant to today’s world.
I love how you can keep coming back to scripture to find new things. As we age, mirrors reveal changes, but the mirror does not change, we do.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed that one cannot step twice into the same river , so perhaps one cannot read the same scripture twice. Additional knowledge, insights and understanding gained through time and experience cause previously bland verses to come to life in new and exciting ways.
Alma 29 begins with a ponderous Alma wishing that he could change the world in a dramatic way.
1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.
Remember that this is the Alma who was called to repentance by an angel who spoke with a voice that shook the earth . Alma had this incredible experience and feels that perhaps others would respond in the same way if they experienced the same thing. In a way, we do the same thing when we …Read Full PostGo to Comments
What if we modernized Korihor’s philosophies and compared them to the kinds of things we hear people saying today?
For morning study a couple days ago, I started off reading about the sons of Mosiah but then felt like reading about Korihor. As I read, I had my trusty 1828 Dictionary app out to further analyze the words Joseph Smith used to translate Korihor’s ideas. Then, I looked in a modern dictionary to discern how his theories might be composed by someone presenting the same arguments today.
This exercise revealed a very familiar-sounding rhetoric. I also began to think about song lyrics from the movie Frozen (because I have 3 daughters) that reminded me of some words Cain spoke, and then all of it together reminded me of something Karl Marx wrote; all from pondering Korihor’s doctrines.
As for my modernized version of Korihor’s ideas, I claim ownership of my interpretations and any errors that I might have made. This is merely a personal exercise, so feel free to go back to the original text in Alma 30 and try this out yourself.Go to Comments
Every fast and testimony meeting I can’t help but ponder what people mean by what they say. I suppose that only the person themselves really understands what they are trying to do by going up to the stand and speaking. One person might be speaking of real experiences and using better words to express themselves, while another person might be trying to express real yearning and feelings but using the wrong words.
It’s easy to judge the latter person and dismiss their attempts to express themselves. While one could easily point out the errors in their expressions, even to the point of calling them lies, maybe the judgers should take a deep breath and relax a little. I don’t think those people are necessarily lying or deceiving, let’s take a look at what a lie is: …Read Full PostGo to Comments
“When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves…” 2 Nephi 9:28
- Does knowledge equal wisdom?
- When we think we have things figured out on our own, do we pray less or more and for what reasons?
- What knowledge in this world is worth setting aside a relationship with the one who holds your life in his hands moment to moment?
- Why would one put more trust in the learning of man versus the wisdom of the revelations of God?
We live in a world where quick answers and quick results are demanded. If a website on a phone takes more than 5 seconds to load we groan with frustration. If traffic slows a little or one person slides in front of us, we are angry. We stare into microwaves waiting the excruciating 60 seconds for our food to cook. Not only do we want things fast, we want them cheaply, we want to obtain them with as little effort on our part as possible. Perhaps a “good deal” seems more valuable than a quality product.
Endurance is overshadowed by convenience; it is cheaper to replace things than to fix them. Rather than reconcile, repair and renew, we discard, destroy and dissolve. How deeply have these cultural philosophies that we practice daily bleed into our spiritual life? Is is any wonder that so many people give up trying to communicate with God and make dramatic life decisions based on what they think or suppose they “know of themselves?”
“Have ye inquired of the Lord?…We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” 1 Nephi 15:8-9
- What does it mean to “inquire” of the Lord?
- What are the requirements for “inquiring of the Lord” and how are they different from how we inquire for information in temporal matters?
- How well do we really know and understand the scriptural pattern for inquiring, asking, seeking and knocking?
- Do the things of God come as cheaply as the things of this world?
There is a phrase I hear repeated every now and then among members of the church. Typically when there is an issue they come across that challenges their faith, they are able to either reconcile that issue one way or another or remain undecided.
Without the necessary information to arrive at a satisfactory understanding, the person says that, for now, they will put the issue “on the shelf”.
“The shelf” is the proverbial repository for issues that you no longer want to deal with at the moment for whatever reason. You don’t have the time, resources, information or desire to pursue an answer to the question so you “shelf” it.
Here’s why I really dislike this metaphor.
When you put things on shelves all they do isGo to Comments
The following article was published at Mormon Interpreter. I’ve been waiting for someone to do the research and put together some good information on this subject and I think Jane did a great job. She’s the author of the book Discovering the Word of Wisdom which she wrote following her own personal journey toward health and wellness by seeking to follow the principles in D&C 89.
Of all the things going on in the world, the Word of Wisdom might not seem to be very significant, but when the revelation itself states that it is “showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days” and that “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation”, it sounds pretty relevant to us today.
I don’t personally feel like it is my duty or obligation to tell people how they should live the principles of the gospel, but I do believe that giving people as much information as possible so that they can make their own decisions as guided by the spirit is my duty and obligation.
Abstract: The 1921 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants included an additional comma, which was inserted after the word “used” in D&C 89:13: “And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” Later authors have speculated that the addition of the comma was a mistake that fundamentally changed the meaning of the verse. This article examines this “errant comma theory” and demonstrates why this particular interpretation of D&C 89:13 is without merit.
In 1921, a committee of five apostles who had recently completed a new edition of the Book of Mormon began preparing a new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C). Elder James E. Talmage, a member of the committee, noted that previous editions of the D&C contained “many errors by way of omission.”1 The most significant change in this new edition was the removal of the “Lectures on Faith,” but the committee also expanded the headnotes, revised the footnotes, and divided the pages into double columns.2 Numerous smaller changes were also made. As one of the many changes published in the revised 1921 edition, a new comma appeared in verse 13 of section 89, [Page 134]also known as the Word of Wisdom. This comma was inserted between the words used and only:
Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine. (D&C 89:12–13)
In his detailed analysis of the textual changes throughout the history of the D&C, Robert J. Woodford relates the following interesting story:
It [the comma] was never found in any text prior to the 1921 edition of the D&C. According to T. Edgar Lyon [prominent LDS historian and educator], [Apostle] Joseph Fielding Smith, when shown this addition to the text, said: “Who put that in there?” This is a significant statement since Elder Smith served on the committee to publish that edition of the D&C. Thus, the comma may have been inserted by the printer and has been retained ever since.3
This story supports what has become a very popular interpretation of verse 13, namely, that the inserted comma is a mistake that reverses the meaning of the text and that the true meaning is understood only …Read Full PostGo to Comments
“I dunno why you always have to be judging me because I only believe in science.” – Esqueleto, Nacho Libre
I love this video, I came across it the other day and it is awesome on so many levels. It was put up on YouTube by Interpreter and if you give it a chance, you’ll hear some really great perspective from some prominent LDS scientists of the day offering some counsel that just as fresh today as it was then.
Accompanying the serious dialogue are a few dramatizations that look like they were right out of an episode of “Leave it to Beaver” which makes the whole thing that much better. I appreciate the fact that this film from around 60 years ago makes more sense than most of what I hear out there today.Go to Comments
“The Latter-day Saints are in many respects like other people who are not Latter-day Saints. We are apt to entertain views which are not very correct, and which may be the result of our traditions and preconceived ideas. This is a peculiarity that pertains to mankind generally, that whenever they deal with the things of God, or speak about them, or contemplate them, and especially when they read the predictions made by the servants of God concerning future events, or events that may transpire right before their eyes, they are apt to get, sometimes, erroneous ideas, or, at least, exaggerated ideas, in relation to them.” – George Q. Cannon, JD 21:264
I have seen the impact of traditions and preconceived ideas in my own experience, and overcoming them has been necessary to growing closer to God. One might assume that we are safe in just sticking with whatever we learn at Church and are taught by our leaders, but Ezra Taft Benson warned:
“Not only are there apostates within our midst, but there are also apostate doctrines that are sometimes taught in our classes and from our pulpits and that appear in our publications. And these apostate precepts of men cause our people to stumble…” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1949, p. 163, Apr. 1969, p. 11)
Now don’t go throwing the baby out with the bath water, remember that George Q. Cannon observed that this is a peculiarity that pertains to mankind generally. Sometimes we are exposed to false ideas intentionally or unintentionally, but this shouldn’t concern us that much. Part of our mortal experience is seeing whether or not we will put forth the effort to discern light from darkness.
While we should never take lightly the instruction given by the apostles and prophets sent to us, we should remember that the Holy Spirit works in tandem with their words. The key here is a personal relationship with God and eyes and ears that can hear the voice of the Spirit. Everything you put your trust in should be examined in light of the Holy Scriptures and by much pondering and feedback from on high.
Without the Spirit, even Jesus’ preaching is reduced to simple stories about plants, debtors, pearls, lamps, thieves, weddings and sheep.
Personal conversion to actual doctrines of the Gospel and a correct understanding of true principles of the Gospel will bring us closer to God. All ideas should be held up to the light of the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Some may err in their delivery of the message, we may err in what we thought we heard or in how we interpreted what we heard, but the Spirit transcends the limitations of our language and the deficiency of our perceptions.
Blindly trusting in the philosophies of men, traditions and preconceived ideas, without seeking understanding, will sustain the chasm that stands between us and God making us ripe for extremes and apostasy.
Let’s be honest with ourselves about what we only believe versus what we truly know and have the courage and faith to invest in the path that leads to knowledge. It may require us to confess to ourselves that we only really believe what we merely assumed that we “knew” because we grew up and based our lives upon a tradition.
Put it all to the test; purging your life of erroneous traditions and preconceived ideas is a humbling experience but it is completely worth it!Go to Comments
This week, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published a new gospel topic titled Becoming Like God. Personally, I thought they did a great job with this piece, hit all the right scripture verses, and explained the doctrine very well. Then, down in footnote 22, I found this fantastic observation:
In “The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology,” Andrew Louth describes Eastern Orthodoxy as focused on a “greater arch, leading from creation to deification” and feels that Catholic and Protestant theologies have focused on a partial “lesser arch, from Fall to redemption” to the exclusion of that whole (in Christensen and Wittung, Partakers of the Divine Nature, 35).
This observation fits so well with my recent studies concerning salvation vs. exaltation and how these to doctrines …Read Full PostGo to Comments
Fill in the blank.
Say it back to yourself.
What does it mean?
Traditions are things we repeat; sometimes they’re great, other times they aren’t. It seems to me that as Latter-day Saints, we have a settled into a tradition of using a phrase that has come to embody everything from a blazing witness of truth to an assuring affirmation of belief. On any given 1st Sunday of the month at an LDS Sacrament meeting, you might hear a dozen small children courageously march up to the stand and all say “I know the church is true” – whether they do or not.
We don’t intentionally train them to do this, it just seems to be something that gets passed on. They mimic adults and other kids because they like what they see and want to participate. Maybe because we are unsure of how to explain to children the difference between belief and knowledge, so we just cross our fingers and …Read Full PostGo to Comments
There are so many levels that this subject can be explored on but I will only be addressing the few that I think are the most interesting at the moment. The drama begins when a particular article was published in the old “Improvement Era” magazine back in June of 1945. The repercussions of this article seem to have survive to this day with those who are against the LDS Church and with those who are IN the LDS Church who still believe the false aspects that were presented in the article.
The article is very heavy-handed in its approach to the subject of sustaining, so much so that it advocates blind, unthinking obedience, a way of behavior directly opposed to the doctrine of agency. A concerned Unitarian minister wrote then President George Albert Smith who …Read Full PostGo to Comments