Wednesday, March 22, 2006

An "eye" for Nephi

As I look back at the Family Home Evening of my childhood, I distinctly remember two kinds: the ones I hated and the ones I loved. (I'm sure that there were a ton of just regular ones, but why would I remember them?) The ones I hated, of course, usually had to do with my father and mother solemnly discussing our chores (and the lack of doing them) or family relations (stop picking on your brother) in a disappointed tone. The ones I loved--besides going to the library or playing kickball in the street outside--usually had to do with the scriptures: putting the pictures of scripture stories in chronological order, memorizing scriptures by erasing one word at a time, etc. My favorite was the scripture chase--being the first to find the scripture announced by Daddy. And he wouldn't give you the actual reference, oh no. He'd say something like "I will go and do..." and you'd be racing to turn your pages to 1 Ne 3:7. "A witness and a warning" would send you off to the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants. We'd have little symbols drawn on the top of the page to help us remember where the scriptures were--an eye for "I will go and do", a traffic sign for "a warning", etc. I loved those evenings because they were crazy and loud, with much cheering and boo-ing. And we got to know (and love) the scriptures pretty well.

Fast forward several (many) years, and now I have a family of my own. Of course, my oldest is only two and a half, so FHE is short and filled with songs about sunbeams and apricot trees. Our lesson this week was on cleaning up your toys when Mommy asks. But in every FHE for the last month, we've read 1 Ne 3:7--at least the "I will go and do" part of it--and had Ezra repeat it. I figure if my son can quote dialogue from his favorite movies after seeing them twenty times, he can memorize a few scriptures, too--right? And as soon as he's old enough, I'll have him draw a little eye at the top of that page.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Nephi Upstaged

When my wife and I read aloud to each other, we often interject silly things for the characters to say to see if the other person is paying attention. We were reading 1 Nephi 3 where we read, in our slightly modified version:
AND it came to pass that I, Nephi, returned from speaking with the Lord, to the tent of my father.
And it came to pass that he spake unto me, saying: Behold I have dreamed a dream--
Yeah, that's great dad, but that's not the reason I came in here. Actually I came in to mention that I was just talking with God myself. I'm sure it was a great dream and all, but doesn't my experience sound a bit more interesting? Let's talk about that!

I was actually a bit surprised that this wasn't the real dialogue here. It seems that Nephi went to his father's tent with the express intent of reporting back on his personal encounter with God. As soon as he arrives, his father reports that HE just had an encounter with God. Imagine feeling upstaged!

I know not everyone loves Nephi, but I keep finding new reasons to admire him. In such a brief record we can't know if Nephi and his father found some quiet time together that evening to disccuss Nephi's experience before the brothers headed off to Jerusalem to get the brass plates, thus acting on Lehi's vision. It is hard not to imagine the conversation not taking place sometime. But the patience of Nephi is impressive. That is probably part of the reason that the Lord was able to entrust revelations to him.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Free LDS Sheet Music

My life has been so blessed by free LDS sheet music. Sally DeFord is the reigning queen of the genre. Her work, because it is free and because it is very good, is becoming a staple of ward choirs wherever I look. I totally love her Easter cantata from last year. It is amazing and I feel so blessed that she is in a position to share her talents with the Church for free.

Last Sunday I was asked to perform a musical number. I decided to play an arrangement of Praise to the Man. The arrangement by Craig Petrie is so much fun. Craig doesn't seem to be as popular as Sally DeFord for some reason. Perhaps it is because he doesn't have as much music up, but he's been online for a long time too. I really love his music and I have several of his pieces that I play regularly. This arrangement of Praise to the Man is intended for a really good choir to sing, but the piano part is rich enough that it served well as a piano solo. I just announced the order of the verses (1, 4, 2, 3) for those that wanted to follow along in their hymnal. I thought it went very well in spite of my weakness as a piano player.

I debated between playing that piece and a piece I just found recently by Aaron Waite. Aaron's arrangements have copyrights from a couple of years ago, but I'm not sure how long he's been giving his music away on the internet. I actually found his site when I did a Google search to pull up Craig Petrie's site. Aaron had purchased a sponsored link. That's an ambitious, if possibly expensive, way to help people discover you.

Aaron's arrangements are a lot like the way I improvise when I'm playing from a regular hymn book. That makes them pretty easy for me to play. Of all the pieces from his site that I've tried, my favorite is I Believe in Christ.

Update August 2012
There are so many other great sites out there and since this post continues to get traffic, I thought it worth highlighting them, including those mentioned in the comments below.

  • Free LDS Sheet Music
    • Look at this phenomenal index! This is the site I'd wished I'd created, but now someone else has so that I don't have to! They link to lots of individual site, including music published on the Church web site. 
  • Andrew Hawryluk
    • We've used some of his Christmas music in our ward choir
  • Joan Sowards
    • There is a lot here. The first one I tried I really have fallen in love with. It is an arrangement of O My Father with melodies from two different composers mixed together. It really adds a fun twist to this favorite.
  • LDS Music Now
    • They mostly have stuff for sale, but you can sign up for their newsletter which will tell you when they have new free sheet music or MP3 files available. 
  • Ashley Hall Music
    • I haven't tried any of these yet.
  • Garrett Breeze
    • He had a bunch of links on his site that helped me expand this list. Thanks! His music has been used in a lot of BYU productions, but there isn't much focus on simple piano arrangements which is what I'm usually after. The samples sound awesome.
  • Jason Tonioli
    • These solo piano hymn arrangements are gorgeous. He has a few of his songs available for free download. Be sure to check out We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet which he wrote as a tribute to President Hinckley and which I really enjoy playing. 
  • CompleteLee Music
    • I haven't tried any of the music here. I was going to try today, but I didn't want to fuss with a shopping cart to download them, even though there is free stuff there. Lots of music for kids and helping them memorize scriptures!
  • Faithsong Music
    • I don't know why I haven't tried any of these. I've just printed a few of them out that looked really promising. 

The letter-less sacrament meeting

In sacrament meeting this morning, I was eagerly awaiting the second counselor in the bishopric to read the letter from the First Presidency about participating in the upcoming neighborhood caucuses. I wanted them to cancel/postpone/reschedule YM/YWs activities that night, so that my husband can come, too. Alas, it was all in vain, for not a thing was said about it. The letter wasn't read last week, either.

It's a very little mistake. But now I have a dilemma. I try hard to support my husband in his Scout calling, and encourage him to do things even when I'd (obviously) rather have him at home. But this situation isn't selfishness, right? I mean, it's patriotic, and even the First Presidency wants us to participate!

The fact that it will be much more fun and the babies will be easier to deal with if he is there has nothing to do with it. Nothing at all. :)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Marriage is NOT About Love

I think we do our culture a great disservice when we allow the notion to be perpetuated that marriage is about love. I don't think that this idea can be supported from the scriptures or the words of the prophets. Love is our responsibility in marriage, not the purpose. In fact, love is our responsibility outside of marriage too.

When we believe that love is the purpose of marriage, we can justify a man who leaves his wife of 30 years because he is "bored." When love is a responsibility in marriage it is clear that such a man is in sin.

The debate about "gay marriage" hinges on this issue as well. The proponents argue that we must not forbid two people with a loving relationship from forming a legal bond. If marriage were about love then this would be a good argument.

Bruce Satterfield gave a really insightful talk on the subject of the roles of men and women and the family. The following is taken from that talk.
Mortality was designed to facilitate the test of godhood. President Benson taught that "this life is intended to provide an opportunity to help our Father in Heaven with His great plan, and we do that through honorable parenthood. We cooperate with our Heavenly Father in helping to prepare tabernacles to house spirits of His children. So the matter of marriage, the home, and the family is a vital part of the plan of our Heavenly Father, and by keeping this . . . purpose of life in mind constantly and carrying out these purposes to have a fulness of joy in mortal life, and we prepare ourselves for exaltation in the celestial kingdom where we will receive a fulness of joy."(14)
Marriage is about raising children. I know that many childless couples are very offended by that statement. I really don't mean to be offensive, but I think that is the truth.

Old men and old women can still marry or infertile people can still marry because they do so in the pattern or type of relationship upon which society and even our eternal destiny is based. Of course not every person will be able to be tested with parenthood in this life. But that is the ideal and that is the pattern.

If people who are not married want to be part of a stable society, I don't have any problem with that. In fact, I want them to be part of loving relationships. The problem for me comes when we conflate love, sex, and marriage. They are not synonyms and we shouldn't treat them like they are.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Joseph Smith and States' Rights

I attended a lecture by James Allen where he discussed the political views of the prophet Joseph Smith in his run for the Presidency of the United States of America shortly before he was assassinated in 1844.

I was impressed with two things during the lecture. First, Joseph's stances on political principles seemed to be driven by the outcome he hoped for rather than the principle itself. Second, if he were alive today, I'm afraid that Joseph Smith might be a <gasp> Democrat!

The question of the day, in the presidential campaign of 1844, was states' rights. This was a few years before the Civil War would bring massive scale violence to the question. While the Mormons were in Missouri, Joseph issued one statement that said in effect, "We're not going to mess with slavery. Each state gets to make its own choice on the matter."

In every other subsequent political statement from the prophet he doesn't give states' rights much credence. He was so frustrated with the way the rights of the Church had been trampled in Missouri that he wanted a strong national government that could protect the rights of the people. Most interpretations of the Constitution at the time agreed with Martin van Buren when he famously told Joseph he could do nothing for him.

Joseph's stance of states' rights doesn't seem to stem from Joseph's pure interpretation of the Constitution, but rather by the outcome that he wanted. He saw that one state was unwilling to protect the rights of the Saints, so he looked for another, higher authority.

In our day, many Republicans argue for states' rights in the face of a very powerful national government. The power structure is exactly the reverse from Joseph's day. Modern Republicans want each state to have the power because they don't like many of the decisions that have been made by the national government.

How often are our interpretations of the law, and especially the Constitution, swayed by the outcome we hope for? This is what people are complaining about when they speak of "activist judges." Joseph seemed just as susceptible to this as anyone today.

Perhaps Joseph, if he were alive today, would have changed his views again to align more with the Republican view, but on the one issue that he really cared about he was more aligned with the modern Democrats.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Redeeming facet of boring meetings

Some things have been said about boring meetings lately--or, sometimes, the lack of testimony-touching words in our church meetings. I am right up there with those that bemoan this (common) problem. But I wonder if there are not little redeeming qualities even in mind-boggling, seat-numbing, completely zoned out meeting.

Patience and common courtesy.

I was at Girls' Camp three years ago when I realized this. After dinner one night, we had a fireside (literally!) meeting with the entire stake. The camp's "grandparents" (older couples from the stake) were the speakers, and the meeting lasted more than an hour. I will be the first to admit that it was a fairly dull meeting. Add to that the fact that we were all sitting on backless wooden benches, and you can see why it was hard to concentrate. Two of my young women in particular (both fifteen years old) were having a very difficult time keeping quiet. Finally, after I had moved over to sit by them, they asked if they could run up to the latrine. I gave them permission but told them to come right back.

Of course they didn't return right away. After more than ten minutes, I got up to find them. Our camp was in a remote area, and we were responsible to know where the girls were at all times. Fortunately, I didn't have to go far. They were trying to sneak out the back door of the latrine as I was coming in the front. I asked them to return to the fireside with me. One of the girls whined, "But it's SO boring, and we've been sitting there forever!" I had to agree that it had been a long meeting, but we needed to return anyway. The other girl muttered something like, "My mom would never make me stay in a boring meeting." I ignored this and persuaded them to return. (Of course, the closing song was being sung when we returned, which didn't help my mood any, because it seemed like they got what they wanted.)

I thought a lot about what the second girl had said, though. If it was true that her mother never made her stay though things that were boring, then that would explain a lot about her attitude about church and life in general. She seemed to go through life expecting everything to go her way--from camp chores to sitting through a thirty minute Mia Maid lesson at church. There was very little patience in her attitude. Maybe it was because she was rarely expected to do something unpleasant just because it needed to be done.

So maybe, even if meetings are boring, we are able to get something out of them anyway. Maybe our children are able to learn patience and courtesy by having to sit through boring, easy seminary/Sunday School/Primary meetings, even if they aren't learning the mysteries of the Gospel. Maybe that's good enough for now--we can always talk about Kolob in family home evening!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Real Reason We Must Forgive

I am totally convinced by C. Terry Warner's argument about why we must forgive. I'm prompted to repeat his argument here after reading this excellent thread at Millennial Star.

In D&C 64:9 we read:
Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
This statement sounds almost absurd on the face of it. If someone throws a frozen turkey into the windshield of your car and smashes your face, this scriptures says that if I don't forgive that person, I have committed a greater sin. If I fail to forgive a parent who abuses me, I'm the bigger sinner. How can this be?

Warner argues that the real issue is denying the atonement. When I refuse to forgive someone for any infraction, large or small, I am essentially saying, "Christ's suffering may have paid the price of many sins, but this particular offense is too big. Christ can't cover it. The offender MUST pay for his sin. God MUST punish him. I refuse to believe that the infinite price paid by the Redeemer can cover the cost of this crime against me. I demand more."

It is the ultimate hypocrisy for any one of us to argue that we deserve the grace of Christ but that it should not be extended to others.

This is not to say that extending forgiveness on our part is easy. Often it is difficult and often requires an extra measure of the grace of God in our lives to accomplish the mammoth task. It is also not to say that we are "letting the offender off the hook." We never had them on the hook. We can't let them off. They are indebted to justice. They must answer to God and the laws of the state. They do not answer to us for their sins. Because we forgive an offender does not mean that they are guiltless before God. They must go through the difficult process of repentance, but that is between them and the One who paid the price.

Another wise teacher told me that there is limited truth in the phrase "forgive and forget." We would not be wise to forget the sins of those who have offended us in serious matters. If a relative were to borrow money from us and fail to repay the sum, we can forgive them for the offense without loaning money to them in the future. We need not forget those who have abused our children; we have an obligation to protect them from further violence. Remembering is our duty. And so is forgiveness.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Place for Women's History

I was recently the Sunday School teacher for the class on Presidents of the Church. I wondered if there were people that were offended by the lack of a class covering the lives of influential women in the church. I thought that I saw a hint of that in Julie Smith’s post at Times and Seasons about a biography on Ardeth G. Kapp.

She changed my perception of her stance and my outlook on the entire issue of women’s history with this comment later in the thread. She was reacting to the accusation from Adam Greenwood that she was only interested in the biography because of the “contribution it makes to the scorecard we’re keeping of male vs. female biographies.” Julie responds,
“I think I will get no disagreement from you when I note that men and women are given different roles. It should not be surprising, then, that women might be interested in reading about how exemplary women have gone about fulfilling those roles. I’ll admit to peering through the lines of the many biographies of prophets that I have read for insight into how their mothers and wives lived their lives. But there isn’t much there. To me, this isn’t some crass form of scorekeeping…. But it is not unreasonable that LDS women might want more templates in print of how some faithful women have gone about fulfilling their roles.”
I am very persuaded by the argument that because men and women have different roles and makeups, they will react to history differently and they will draw different lessons from history. In fact, they may need different lessons from history. Interesting.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Why follow the rules?

I was speaking to a family member today about problems in her stake. Recently, her stake had four wards added to it from another stake, to try to even out the numbers (her stake is dwindling, the other stake is growing). Apparently, these four wards are having a hard time integrating into their new stake. There is one big difference in the two stakes: economic status.

Truly, as far as church programs are run, there shouldn't be any difference in moving from a "rich" stake to a "poor" stake. But for these four wards, there is a difference. And it seems to stem from an unwillingness to follow the guidelines in the church handbook.

In their former stake, the stake president didn't usually follow the rule that states that all activities should be funded by budget money only--no outside funds (with the exception of humanitarian projects and one camp per year for the youth programs). It seems the reasoning went as follows: Here's a great idea for the youth. It's too expensive for our ward (or stake) budget. But Brother and Sister So-and-so have volunteered to write out a check for the activity! And so the activity is approved. [My relative is in her stake's Young Women's Presidency, so that is why I used the youth program. I have no idea if other auxileries had a similiar attitude.]

When you look at from the perspective of the single ward or stake, it is hard to see the problem. The youth are participating in fabulous, enjoyable activities, and the generous couple are using their wealth for a good cause. But when looked at from a wider point of view (say, that of the other stake), the trouble becomes more apparent.

The youth in the four wards new to my relative's stake are used to being part of big, expensive activities. The ward leaders (often their parents) are used to not having to be limited by the ward budget. They still have the various generous people in their wards, but the new stake presidency isn't allowing them to donate to their wards' youth programs. And so in comparision, the new stake isn't very fun. The leaders complain, the parents complain, and so the youth (obviously) complain.

This same thing happens, albeit in a smaller way, when other rules are broken without considering the consequences. What about the Sunday School teacher who bribes her class with candy bars to keep them quiet? What about when a new teacher is called, and he doesn't have the money to bring candy to the class weekly? What if the new teacher simply wants to follow the instuctions given by the church about treats in church? Too often, especially when dealing with youth, the new teacher is seen as boring, mean, and goody-goody. Is this the kind of attitude we want projected upon people trying to follow their leaders?

I don't want to say that there is never a time to disregard rules and instructions. In a church where personal revelation plays a huge role, obviously there may be times when a leader is prompted to do something different than what is in the church handbook. But those times should be rare, I imagine, and always undertaken with an understanding of what the consequences may be.

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