Saturday, September 30, 2006


In the Saturday morning session of General Conference, Elder Ballard talked about callings in the church. It was a well-needed talk, and a very well-given talk. One thing in particular he said caught my attention. He chastized those leaders who use guilt to motivate members to do things. We should never use guilt (I'm paraphrasing here) to get better home/visiting teaching numbers, we should never let the programs outweigh our concern for the members.

I completely agree. But he also said that guilt has no place in the church. Is that entirely true? I'm not sure. When we are called to repentence, isn't guilt something we are supposed to feel? It's true that in a celestial, perfect world, guilt wouldn't be necessary to motivate us to do what is right, but this isn't a perfect world. (Punishment shouldn't motivate us to do what is right, either, and yet I don't speed fifteen miles over the speed limit on the freeway--because I don't want a ticket.) How many of us make our home/visiting teaching appointments because we feel guilty we haven't done it yet? (Or we don't want to feel guilty at the end of the month when the supervisor calls.)

I agree that guilt shouldn't be slathered on; especially when regards to church callings. But I also think that a little guilt is a healthy motivator. Am I off my rocker?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Faith and Remembering

Remembering is to the past as faith is to the future.

-- John Welch, Worlds of Joseph Smith conference at the Library of Conference, 2005.
I'm not sure what the implications are, but both "remember" and "faith" show up in the scriptures a lot. Perhaps considering these two concepts as opposites in time will yield new light on the traditionally tricky (for me) topic of faith.

Book of Mormon Tidbits from Margaret Barker

Margaret Barker, an Old Testament scholar, wrote the following in her paper that she presented at the "Worlds of Joseph Smith" conference at the Library of Congress in 2005.

The tree of life made one happy, according to the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 3:18), but for detailed descriptions of the tree we have to rely on noncanonical texts. Enoch described it as perfumed, with fruit like grapes (1 Enoch 32:5), and a text discovered in Egypt in 1945 described the tree as beautiful, fiery, and with fruit like white grapes. I do not know of any other source that describes the fruit as white grapes. Imagine my surprise when I read the account of Lehi's vision of the tree whose white fruit made one happy...

Consider as well the mysterious rod of iron in this Book of Mormon vision (1 Nephi 8:20; 11:25). In the Bible, the rod of iron is mentioned four times as the rod of the Messiah. Each mention in the King James Version says the Messiah uses the rod to "break" the nations (Psalm 2:9) or to "rule" them (Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). The ancient Greek translation (the Septuagint) is significantly different; it understood the Hebrew word in Psalm 2:9 to mean "shepherd" and it reads, "He will shepherd them with a rod of iron." The two Hebrew verbs for "break" and "shepherd, pasture, tend, lead" look very similar and in some forms are identical. The Greek text of the Book of Revelation actually uses the word "shepherd," poimanei, of the Messiah and his iron rod, so the English versions here are not accurate. The hold child who was taken up to heaven (Revelation 12:5) was to "shepherd the nations with a rod of iron." The King James Version of Micah 7:14 translates this same word as "Feed thy people with thy rod," where "guide" would be a better translation. Psalm 78:72 has, "He fed them...he guided them," where the parallelism of Hebrew poetry would expect the two verbs to have a similar meaning: "He led them...he guided them." Lehi's vision has the iron rod guiding people to the great tree--the older and probably the original understanding of the word.
You can watch or listen to Barker's comments in their entirety at LDS.org.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Resisteth the Proud

1 Peter 5:5 tells us that "God resisteth the proud."

Moroni's Promise has been a point of frustration for some. They claim to have prayed with all the sincerity of heart they can muster and yet the heavens are silent. Some of these people (or their defenders) will take umbrage at the insinuation that there is some fault in the supplicant if they aren't receiving the inspiration from heaven.

It rarely behooves us to attempt to judge the heart of another. But in the aggregate, I wonder if this scripture isn't warning us that God has a hard time getting through to proud people.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Twin Towers and the Gates of Hell

Driving to work this morning, I caught a religious broadcast I don't normally listen to, so I can't provide a good source. It was a call in program. The caller said, as nearly as I can recall:
You wanted our thoughts and memories [about 9/11]. I can remember sitting in front of my TV crying because I knew that most of those people in those buildings were going straight to the gates of hell. I use that a lot in my witnessing now.

What a joyful witness she must be. I am grateful to have a faith where eternal judgement is according to the light that we have received. I'm grateful that my faith assigns most people who have lived on this earth some degree of glory and salvation in the next life. While not Universalists, Mormons have the next best thing: a religion of accountability AND great mercy.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

"I felt like an eagle"

(Two of my aunt’s children have spina bifida (both are adopted, so there is no genetic link to our own unborn baby boy’s spina bifida). I haven’t had the courage to call and talk to her yet--I’m still feeling tender and raw over the discovery, and I’m not yet ready to face it to that extent. Fortunately, she understands, and my mother says she’s ready to talk with me whenever I’m ready. I’m going home for a visit in two weeks (to help my mother pick out a headstone for my father’s grave, because I’m the geologist and I know the most about rocks), and I’ll probably meet with my aunt then. My mother, of course, has been talking to my aunt about our baby, and sharing some of the stories with me secondhand. This story is about the older of my aunt’s sons with spina bifida, Aaron.)

Aaron has finally found his niche in life--in a skate park, doing wild and crazy (not to mention dangerous) stunts. This is not unusual for a teenager, but Aaron’s situation is a little different. He is paralyzed from the waist down, and confined to a wheelchair. For the last two years, he has been going to the concrete skate parks and trying all the tricks he can think of--he practices with skateboarders and dirt-bikers. He loves it, and it shows in his attitude toward life.

Aaron’s crazy tricks caught the attention of the wheelchair company Colours Wheelchair, and they have taken him under their wing (giving him a wheelchair for free, and then, when he thrashed it to bits, replaced it with one built to his specifications). In July, Aaron made “wheelchair history” by landing the first airborne backflip in a wheelchair. This may even be Guinness Book of World Records stuff! This type of wheelchair-skateboarding (Aaron calls it “hard-core sitting”) is starting to catch on, and, who knows, it may even become an event in the Para-Olympics*. On Colours' website, they have a short video of some of Aaron’s crazy tricks. (Click on Aaron Fotheringham--and notice that almost everywhere Aaron is doing these things, he’s the only one in a wheelchair. Everyone else is on bikes and skateboards.)

If you go watch the video, pay special attention to the last bit. The little boy in the wheelchair is a friend of Aaron’s little brother. His family has had a hard time accepting their son’s spina bifida disabilities--they resisted getting him a wheelchair, even though it was recommended to give him far greater mobility than his leg braces. However, after hearing about some of the stuff Aaron can do, and seeing some of the video that had been shot, the mother of this young boy called my aunt and asked if Aaron would be willing to show her son how to really use the wheelchair they were getting him. Aaron did a couple of simple things with this boy, and then eventually took him to the skate park. They did very simple, very gentle, but very fun tricks together. When they were done at the skate park that night, this little boy told his mother, “I felt like an eagle.”

This is what Aaron wants to do “when he grows up”. He wants to help other children with disabilities to feel like “eagles”. This is what I want to do with my own little boy--to teach him not be earthbound and restricted because of his challenges. I don’t know how to do it, yet. But I am so grateful for Aaron’s example, for his parents’ examples, in showing me it can be done. We can teach our little baby how to fly.

(*Edited for correction--Originally I mistakenly wrote "Special Olympics" instead of "Para-Olympics". The Special Olympics are for mentally disabled athletes, the Para-Olympics are for physically disabled athletes. BIG difference, in that in the Special Olympics emphasis is placed on participation, and the Para-Olympics are as competitive as the more famous Olympics. Thanks to emailer Kent for pointing out my mistake!)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My Testimony of Mortality

Throughout my life I've wondered what was so special about mortality. What was it that we could accomplish here that we were unable to accomplish in the premortal realms with our Heavenly Father?

I think I am finally starting to understand. Recent events in my life are teaching me.

Dealing with death, in the vaccum without perfect knowledge of the eternities, is a challenge of seperation we didn't deal with in premortality. Keryn's dad died on Memorial Day of this year. We miss him dearly and long for his advice as we face our more recent challenges.

Dealing with physical bodies that break down is the other challenge unique to our earth life. We don't have any evidence that our spirit bodies before birth had to endure illness and decay. It seems those things all started with the Fall of Adam. You don't need to look far to find people battling various forms of illness. In our own family in the past two weeks (including in-laws) we've had a diagnosis of spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, pneumonia (as a follow on from a possible West Nile Virus infection), and a severely infected appendix that had to be removed. Four major illnesses across just three households. When lightning strikes...

It is fair to say that our family has been reeling a bit over the past couple of weeks. We seem to be experiencing the full buffetings of mortality available outside a war zone. And yet, in spite of all the tears we've shed, I must admit that I feel stronger now than I've ever been. I believe that God is lifting us and strengthing us. I believe that my trials, as small as they've been over the last decade, have made me into a much better person than I was before. I have faith that the trials that lie directly ahead will make me even stronger.

So it is that I'm gaining a testimony of the unique place of mortality in the eternities. I'm seeing the growing I've been able to do in such a short time and I'm grateful for it.

I rarely feel compelled to stand and bear my testimony during a fast meeting, but this month I did. The testimony that I bore consisted of the things I've just written. I had many people come up to me afterwards and tell me that those words had been very meaningful to them. One sister said that she, too, was grateful for her earthly trials, though she wasn't yet to the point where she prayed for them. I think I can concur with that sentiment!

I thank God for the glorious plan of salvation, that includes the resurrection and perfection of our bodies. And in the meantime, I praise Him for the priviledge to learn in the "space granted" where we might "prepare to meet God."

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