Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Mote

In my previous post, I wrote about a problem I was having in judging other people’s behavior. I realize that I need to remove the beam in my eye. But I have a smaller problem, too. There is still a mote in my brother’s eye (so to speak).

The problem of not having Primary teachers show up to teach their classes is still a real problem. It creates trouble for the entire Primary, and, in this case, it was quite hard on the little Sunbeams on their third week of real Primary. And, as a member of the Primary presidency, I have the responsibility to address this problem.

So what should we do? Does anyone have any good ideas on how to respectfully impress on these good, faithful members the importance of teaching their classes? Or of getting substitutes? Or of at least letting the Primary presidency know? I don’t want to offend anyone, and I realize this is a minor problem, really, in the grand scheme of things. But if anyone has any suggestions, please leave a comment. I’d love to have some great ideas to take to presidency meeting!

The Beam

On Sunday I got myself in a righteous (righteous--get it? Oh, the irony) snit over some things that happened in Primary. Three of our teachers just didn’t show up, and I was frustrated and annoyed with the extra work I had to do unexpectedly. By the end of church, my feet hurt, my head hurt, and I was just plain mad. (Obviously I didn’t get any spiritual benefit out of the majority of church on Sunday.) I complained about it to my husband after church, and then used my frustration as justification for an extra-long nap while he watched the children. In my mind, I’ve counted the times I’ve come to church with a cold, a sore throat, morning sickness, etc., and done my job anyway. Why can’t other people be as considerate as I am?

Oy. It’s been dawning on me slowly just how proud and hypocritical I’ve been. It’s not just the fact I don’t know what kind of legitimate circumstances they might have for missing church. It’s not just that I’m not perfect in my church callings (hello, visiting teaching?). It’s that, even if I was better at visiting teaching, I don’t have any right to be so judgmental and self-righteous about others.

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matt 7:5)
This is one of my most troubling personal failings. I am very good at seeing how others can improve. I am not so good at recognizing my own failings. The fact that it took me almost two days to realize my judgmental nature in this situation is proof of that. I’ve been trying to think of ways to help myself with both the fault and the recognizing the fault. So far, I’ve only come up with two: I need to pray for help from the Lord; and I need to write in my journal daily. The first is obvious. The second--well, I’ve discovered that I see things more clearly after writing them down. If anyone reading this has any other ideas, please feel free to put them in the comments. I need all the help I can get!

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Power of Primary Scripture Power

A couple of weeks ago, there was a discussion in Times and Seasons about the new Scripture Power song to be learned for the 2006 Primary program. Comments were mixed. Although we had sung it a few times, we hadn't started learning it yet, and so I didn't have anything to add to the conversation.

Until now. I finally made it back to church after the holidays (sick kids kept me away).

My opinion? It is a great song. It is true that the tune and words are nothing like "Love Is Spoken Here" (one of my all-time favorites). But the enthusiasm and excitement of the Primary children more than make up for that. Our kids are so excited to loft their scriptures in the air, and we are trying to encourage them to read their scriptures at home, and bring them to church.

On Sunday I had a basketful of paper snowflakes, and if a Primary child had brought their scriptures to church or read them at home, they could take a snowflake, put their name on it, and we will staple them to the bulletin board for the month of January. Next month will be hearts, and so on. They were SO excited about this. Even the ones that had not brought their scriptures were saying, "I'm going to bring them next week!"

The scriptures are such an important tool in living a Christ-like life, and I'm glad that we are focusing on having them and using them in Primary. A habit started this young has a good chance of continuing. So despite the mediocre tune and words, I love the Scripture Power song.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The History of Printing the Scriptures: The Crandall Museum

The Crandall Historic Printing Museum in Provo is one of the least well known, yet most fabulous, attractions in Utah County. It opened in 1998. Last Tuesday they held a special open house to celebrate the 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin. When my wife noticed the announcement in the paper, I knew I had to take the Young Men in our ward for their activity that evening.

We walked through the small building and saw the world's only working replica of a Gutenburg press. The press that Gutenburg invented was actually converted from an old olive press. He developed the inks and metal alloys that would be used, with some variations, well into the 20th century.

The museum shows a replica of a press like Ben Franklin used to print his famous alamanacs. The tour leader explains the vital nature of printing in the founding of America. This sets us up perfectly to see a replica of the press that E. B. Grandin used in printing the first edition of the Book of Mormon. The printing was a 7 month affair, if I recall correctly. It is difficult to imagine the amount of labor involved.

Museum goers get to see how the pages of the first edition of the Book of Mormon were printed, folded, cut, and bound. It is a remarkable and time intensive process. It makes me feel all the more grateful for the laser printers I take so much for granted. Heck, my copier at work will take a 40 page document and print it on 11x17 paper, fold, and staple it into a booklet with no intervention on my part other than a few settings in a print dialog box. Technology is amazing! And the technology of the printing press was no less amazing in its day than computer technology is in our day.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend the museum. The tour normally takes 2 hours. They charge $3 per person with a $45 minimum charge. They have regular hours, but will schedule a tour at any time to accomodate a group request.

Friday, January 20, 2006


Yesterday, I wrote about healing for some but not all. I'd like to explore that topic a bit more, in light of some recent family developments.

I just got off the phone with my mother. She was telling me about my uncle. This uncle is an artist. In fact, he was my art teacher for years, and taught me to see colors and love all kinds of art. He would rather paint than anything, practically, but he knew that he couldn't support a family that way. So for the last 30 years he has been a truck driver, a construction worker, and a substitute teacher--which, when added to the responsibilities of a family and church, leaves very little time for painting. His family is now mostly grown and moved out, and he finally has time and room to paint.

And he is going blind.

He's not completely blind yet, but he will be in a few years, and there's very little anyone can do about it.

So why, of all the people in the world, why him? Just when he's getting to the point where he can dedicate real time to his talents?

I'm slowly learning the reality of the words of the Savior "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." (Matthew 6:19-20) The only true happiness in this life (and the one to come) is to have your heart's desires bound up in the Savior and His Plan of Happiness. It doesn't mean that I won't have times of sadness and sorrow, but it eases the sting of this mortal life.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Healing for some

One of the most poignant moments in the new church film "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration" has to be when Joseph is asked to heal a child stricken with malaria in the swamps that will become Nauvoo. The blessing is given and the child is healed. While Joseph, holding the child, smiles at the parents, the camera shot includes Emma standing behind Joseph. I don't know the name of the actress playing Emma Smith, but she has a very expressive face. In that particular moment, you felt as if Emma, although happy for the child and parents, is wondering why Joseph is not able to save her children. By this time, she had lost four children and would lose two within two more years. Later in the film, following the death of one of their sons, she asks why the Lord will not heal their children. Was He not asking too much of His servant? As I recall, Joseph answers, "I try not to ask that question."

I don't know the answer to why some are healed and some are not--beyond the obvious, that God has a plan for all and death is not the end. Why are some spared, and some--well-beloved and needed--are not? Why do some have an excess of grief and trial in their lives?

I have faith in the plan of our Father. I do know that death is not the end, and that all grief will be made joy eventually. Still, it must be part of the natural man to question and wonder. I am glad that they showed these emotions. It sometimes helps to know that others have wondered the same things, and still held on to their faith.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Faith enough for children

While I was watching the new Joseph Smith movie, I experienced an emotion that I am noticing more and more.


It is something I feel when I watch movies, TV shows, or newscasts which show children in danger or pain. Often I can shove it aside--after all, what are the chances that my children will be threatened by aliens (War of the Worlds), see ghosts (Sixth Sense), or be inflicted with a debilitating disease (House)?

But I couldn't dismiss the dangers I saw in the story of the Prophet. It is true that we have the wonder of modern medicine, and it's not likely that the horrible lawless persecutions of the early Saints will occur again.

But we know that it is the last days. We know that the world will get more and more evil and frightening. Sometimes I don't think I bear the thought of anything bad happening to my precious babies. I don't know if I could have survived the trials of the early Saints. Not for myself--I like to think I could deal with anything, if it is only me--but for my children. How can you watch your children suffer and make decisions that will lead to more suffering? All for the sake of a religion? I don't know if I could have endured to the end.

I guess this means I have a lot of work to do. I've always thought that my faith was sufficient for whatever is ahead of me--hopefully not in a prideful way, but my faith has always been enough (if even with tears and pleadings) to make it through my trials. I need to be more diligent at keeping the commandments, making my worship more meaningful, keeping a prayer in my heart. So that if I have to make choices similar to the early Saints, I can make the right one.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration

Bradley and I went to see the new church film "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration" yesterday. It is showing in the Legacy Theater at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

It was an amazing film. The film starts out in late June 1844, with the summons from Governor Ford to attend trial in Carthage, Illinois. A young British convert and her unconvinced father are traveling up the Mississippi to join the Saints. The girl convinces her father to start reading Joseph Smith's testimony and the Book of Mormon. We then flashback to New Hampshire, 1812 (or 1813), and begin telling the story of the prophet's life with the depiction of the operation to remove the disease bone of his leg. The story continues to progress with only occasional flash-forwards to 1844.

There was a strong emphasis on families--Joseph's love and high regard of Alvin is told, and near the end of the film Joseph Smith Sr. asks his son if he will see Alvin again, allowing the prophet to recount the doctrine of eternal families. Hyrum and Joseph's relationship is apparent. We get to witness Emma and Joseph's courtship and love, and also their hardships and dedication to each other. Faith and endurance (and the development and growth of each) were prominently displayed.

I'm always a little wary of depictions of the First Vision, and I thought this one was wonderfully done. The mists of darkness right before the vision were almost frightening--I even felt my stomach clenching. I don't usually dwell much on that part of the story, but the way it was shown in the movie really brought home the seriousness of it. Joseph was in fear of sudden destruction--it must have been a terrible experience--and then, with the appearance of the "pillar of light exactly over [his] head", he was in the presence of God the Father and His Son! I have never really thought this event through in this particular way.

Some of the scenes, like the darkness before the vision, are a little intense. I was grateful that we were able to get a babysitter for our children. The scenes of Liberty Jail, the persecutions of Ohio and Missouri, for example--and yet there wasn't as much time spent on those parts of early Church history as in other films, like Legacy. Not much time was spent on dissention within the Church, the financial troubles of Kirtland, or Zion's Camp. Polygamy was mentioned not at all.

And that's okay. It seemed to me that the primary audience is the general population of the Church, and interested outsiders. I don't think that it was really made for people who don't know anything about the life of the Prophet, and I think that it was made to build and strengthen the testimonies of those who saw it.

It certainly did mine. I came away from the movie with a greater appreciation for the faith and strength of the Prophet and his family and early followers. I feel like I understand just a little more the sacrifice required of him and his brother. I'm grateful the Church made this film.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Why Are U.S. Mormons Republicans?

Scott Hinrichs at Reach Upward provides a thoughtful answer. He see three factors leading to the Republican dominance among American Mormons: two party system, church promotion of political activity, Vietnam, Roe v. Wade, labor unions.

UPDATE: Um, it is only me that can't count. Scott just provided the list. I took the list of five items and got three. Nice work, Bradley.

The Road to Heaven is Paved with Good Intentions

I hate the phrase, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." I am a man with good intentions and horrible follow through. I want to be the best home teacher and the best assistant priests quorum advisor and the best in prayers and scripture study.

Those are my honest intentions. And they aren't passing fancies or sometime wishes. These are thoughts I have every day, multiple times. I really do want to be valiant. My performance probably wouldn't lead you to believe that is true. I fall woefully short of my ideals.

I just cling to statements like this one from Hugh Nibley.

Who is righteous? Anyone who is repenting. No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting, he is a righteous man. There is hope for him. And no matter how good he has been all his life, if he is not repenting, he is a wicked man. The difference is which way you are facing. The man on the top of the stairs facing down is much worse off than the man on the bottom step who is facing up. The direction we are facing, that is repentance; and that is what determines whether we are good or bad. (from "Of All Things" p. 7, a Hugh Nibley quote book edited by Gary Gillum, 2nd edition.)

How my parents taught us

My mom and dad made parenting look easy.

At least that’s the way I remember it. I remember getting disciplined (not often, I of course was an ideal child), I remember FHE lessons on getting along, but the things that stick out the most in my memory are lessons learned by example, not lecture. Our family is especially blessed by strong friendship between siblings, and until high school and college I though that every family was the same. But it wasn’t until recently (when my baby became old enough to interact with my oldest) that I began to inspect those childhood memories, and found more intent and deliberation in those seemly spontaneous, nothing-but-fun-here games and activities.

Take the “Good Do-bies”, for example. This was a fun game where you did a good deed for someone--made someone’s bed, for example, or finished someone’s chore--and never admitted it was you who did it. “It must have been the Good Do-bies!”

Or the Pinecone Pals. An idea taken from Girls’ Camp, we would draw names among the brothers and sisters and then, for a week, we would write little notes, leave little pieces of candy, help out anonymously, and so on until the weekend, when we would tell each other and draw names again.

There are other examples, and not every one of them worked. (Nobody was fooled by “Beat the Clock.” Cleaning is cleaning, and having a timer go off isn’t going to make us like doing it.) But so many of our games helped us learn service, love, and patience, without ever realizing that what we were learning.

As I’m raising my young family, I look forward to the time when they are old enough to play some of these games. I already thrill to the fact that my two year old loves to pat his little sister on the head, even if he does sometimes push her away from the toys she’s playing with. We’re working on his patience. I only hope we can do as good a job as my parents did.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Poor, Wayfaring Man of Grief

In our ward, it is a tradition, at the beginning of the year, to have a special sacrament meeting. After the sacrament is passed, the meeting is opened for anyone to come up and request a hymn, often telling in a few sentences why that hymn is special to them. The congregation then sings the hymn, and someone else gets up and requests another hymn. It is a truly enjoyable way to spend the Sunday after Christmas.

One of the older gentleman in our ward requested that we sing all seven verses of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”, which is one of my favorite hymns. I have had the opportunity to sing all seven verses, and I often think about the Prophet Joseph in Carthage Jail. But this time somehow I found myself thinking more about how I would have reacted in the specific situations described. Shelter from a winter’s storm, sharing a scanty meal, binding up wounds—and all for the “poor, wayfaring Man”. The way it is written in our hymnbook capitalizes the “m” in “Man”, making it clear the stranger is Christ in disguise, as indeed is made obvious in the stirring final verse. The imagery and meaning of the verses, when this is considered, is beautiful and precious to me.

But on that New Year’s Sunday, I found myself thinking of the scripture this poem is inspired by--Matthew 25:31-40.
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Have I been doing “these deeds” for others in the name of the Savior? I pay my fast offerings, do service projects, try to fulfill my calling. But I don’t know if I am doing enough—-those things don’t seem to capture the feeling of the song. What about the homeless man I passed outside the store in Phoenix during Christmas break? What about the hitchhikers we saw as we were driving home in November? What about the man sitting in the library last Friday, obviously homeless and trying to get warmed up before the library closed at six?

On the other hand, what about personal and family safety? What about my responsibility to my children? What about the mortgage we are trying to pay down, the expenses we are facing in raising a family? I know the Lord wants me to take these responsibilities seriously, but He also wants me to serve others. How do I balance them?

Just what is my responsibility to the poor, wayfaring man who often crosses me on my way?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Gadianton mercy

During our recent reading of 3 Nephi, a particular part of the pride cycle raised some interesting political and spiritual questions for me. In 3 Nephi chapter 4, the Nephite nation has just overcome and destroyed the Gadianton robbers, at great cost. In 3 Nephi 5:1, we learn
And now behold, there was not a living soul among all the people of the Nephites who did doubt in the least the words of all the holy prophets who had spoken; for they knew that it must needs be that they must be fulfilled.
And then in verse three we learn:
Therefore they did forsake all their sins, and their abominations, and their whoredoms, and did serve God with all diligence day and night.
So it would seem that these people are pretty righteous right now. They take all the robbers prisoner, and, as we learn in verse four:
…they did cast their prisoners into prison, and did cause the word of God to be preached unto them; and as many as would repent of their sins and enter into a covenant that they would murder no more were set at liberty.
I have always been amazed by this manner of dealing with criminals, and a little envious. What would be to live in a world where your word is truly your bond, and conversion to the gospel can create a trustworthy person from a former robber?

I still believe that it would be wonderful if this could be so, and I believe that the Nephites did what they thought was best. But…as we continued reading, we learned that this righteousness and peace are short-lived. Just eight years later:
And thus, in the commencement of the thirtieth year—the people having been delivered up for the space of a long time to be carried about by the temptations of the devil whithersoever he desired to carry them, and to do whatsoever iniquity he desired they should—and thus in the commencement of this, the thirtieth year, they were in a state of awful wickedness. (3 Nephi 6:17)

…but in this same year, yea, the thirtieth year, they did destroy upon the judgment-seat, yea, did murder the chief judge of the land.(3 Nephi 7:1)
Just eight short years later these same righteous Nephites have turned completely back to evilness. And for the first time, I made a possible connection between the quick return to wickedness and the influence of the Gadiantons. Is it possible that some of the robbers released after their conversion returned to their evil ways? Could that be what hastened the downfall of the Nephites at this time? Is it possible that the Nephites were too merciful for their own good? I have no idea if it is even possible to answer these questions, but it has certainly changed the way I think about this part of the story.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Joyful Surprise of Motherhood

I was just reading the January Ensign, which arrived while we were out of town for Christmas. One article in particular caught my attention and made me think--The Joyful Surprise of Motherhood, by Jean Knight Pace. The author discusses how she loves motherhood, and how she was surprised by this. She then lists some of the myths that are common about motherhood. All of her points are good, but one in particular made me think about some of my own experiences with motherhood in the past 2+ years:
Myth number two: When you have children, you won't be able to progress intellectually.
Truth: As a mother, you will read books, learn to build things, and learn more about nutrition and health, budgeting, taxes, cooking, and running a home. You will learn to teach. Some women even learn to quilt, sew, crochet, do artwork, and do many other things...

This particular truth--the amount of varied learning we undergo as mothers--really hit home to me right now. Recently I have been trying to finish a master's thesis that was begun five years ago. It has been frustrating to realize how much I have forgotten, how much longer it takes me to figure things out--even in the rare hours I can work without interruption from the babies. I have occasionally mourned the loss of my "intellectual" side, realizing that the sheer amount of time involved in child-raising makes it impossible to keep abreast of all the new discoveries (and even to remember all the old ones) as I did before.

But when I read Sister Pace's words about the things we do learn as mothers, it was like a light just went on in my head. I know so much more about all sorts of things--I know more about child physiology and psychology, about cooking and cleaning and gardening, about writing and photography and playing and teaching. I can answer some of my younger sister's questions about her pregnancy. I even know more about sewing! (You should see the zipper-snap-button-tie pillow I made for Ezra for Christmas! All by myself (mostly) and without a pattern!)

I wonder if the reason why I didn't realize that I was continuing to learn and grow because the type of learning is so different. I'm not in a class, I'm not learning from big heavy expensive textbooks, I'm not learning about volcanoes and minerals and chemicals. But the breadth of my knowledge is so much greater--and much more useful to my life right now than the eruption rate of a long-dead volcano.

I'm not saying that the knowledge I gained from my formal schooling is worthless or that I will stop trying to finish my thesis. I love geology, and I'll keep learning about volcanoes for the rest of my life, I have no doubt. But I don't have to feel stunted intellectually during this intense time of child-raising, because I really am still learning. And I love it!

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