Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Beholding Salvation: A Video Christmas Card

You've arrived. You are now on the Christmas card list for the BYU College of Fine Arts and Communications. This year they have put up a video Christmas card with images from the Beholding Salvation: Images of Christ exhibit. (ht: BYU News) I suppose the honor of being on their Christmas card list is similar to the honor of being TIME's Person of the Year.

The video contains some images that I hadn't seen before. I haven't taken the time to view the exhibit yet, though I hope to do so before it leaves later this year. This video has definitely encouraged me to make it a priority. I hope you will enjoy it as I did.

Seeing Mary as Human

People are always looking for a new angle to approach a story when teaching or preaching, and few stories are as frequently discussed as the Nativity story. Throughout my life I've heard many discussions about "what Mary must have felt" or "how Joseph might have reacted" and so on.

According to the director of the new movie, The Nativity Story, my experience is unique. Either it is unique among Mormons, or Mormons are more unique among Christians in general as approaching these stories with an eye for the human emotion driving the scene. The video clip below is an excerpt from an interview with Katie Couric where the director makes the point.

I know discussions of human motivations in scriptural stories are common among internet-savvy Mormons. I wonder if they are common among Mormons in general. My sense is that it is very common, but my experience is limited.

Of course, I haven't seen the movie, so perhaps there really is some unique speculation there that I won't have heard before. I don't plan on going out of my way to see the movie, but I suspect I will eventually see it. If I'm surprised, I'll be sure to post an update.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Email Me a Cigar

On Monday evening, our little boy, Gideon, was born. He came out with a bruised face as you can see in the picture, but I've confirmed with several of the nurses at Primary Children's Medical Center that he is among the top 5 cutest babies they have ever seen. Being health care professionals, I'm sure they wouldn't lie to me. :)

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you probably knew this boy was coming and that he has some extra medical challenges. Our family has fasted for him and sent a lot of prayers heavenward in his behalf. At least one of the petitioners must be on the good side of heaven. His birth and subsequent surgery have all gone very well. He is recovering well from the surgery that closed up his open spine. He has a nasty gash on his back, but the nurses tell me they've seen a lot worse.

Lots of tests are still pending, but early indications show that he can move his legs and may have some control over bowel and urinary functions. We feel so tremendously blessed to have this precious soul in our family. Whatever his physical abilities or disabilities, he has moved from the vague womb-baby-with-spina-bifida to a living, breathing, precious baby boy. Our baby boy.

The nurses, doctors, and staff at both the University of Utah Hospital and the Primary Children's Medical Center have been beyond wonderful to us. Keryn was treated like a queen in the room where she recovered from the childbirth. (She's doing great!) The nurses over here in the infant unit of PCMC have been terrific too. We've met more doctors than I can reliably count, but each comes in with a bit of information and gives us the opportunity to ask questions.

Thanks to all of you who have inquired about our little boy and have offered up prayers in his behalf. We are truly blessed.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

DIY: Savior of the World

From lds.org:
The Church production Savior of the World: His Birth and Resurrection has been presented annually at the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City since the 2000 Christmas season. Production materials, including script, score, and orchestral accompaniment tracks, are now available online as an optional resource for Church or home use.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Why Call it Xmas?

Occasionally, I've heard people complain about using the abbreviation "xmas." I used to be one of them. Fortunately I got an attitude adjustment because of some new (to me) information. From the American Heritage dictionary:
Xmas has been used for hundreds of years in religious writing, where the X represents a Greek chi, the first letter of , “Christ.” In this use it is parallel to other forms like Xtian, “Christian.” But people unaware of the Greek origin of this X often mistakenly interpret Xmas as an informal shortening.... Many therefore frown upon the term Xmas because it seems to them a commercial convenience that omits Christ from Christmas.
Bruce Satterfield was the person who first introduced me to this information. On his web site he has a paper of symbols of Christ we can find in Christmas. He is appropriating symbols that didn't originally point to Christ but which can still be useful reminders if we want them to be.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

How Many Priesthood Holders Does it Take to Give a Blessing

I guess the title sounds like I should be delivering the punchline of a joke, but the question is serious. Tradition seems to dictate that if I want to give my wife a blessing, I should call another priesthood holder to assist me. Why is this? The tradition is strongest when we give a blessing of healing, but I don't see why this should be a different situation than any other blessing. The manual says that blessings for the sick are, "Normally," done by, "two or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders."

The scriptures talk about "call[ing] for the elders." Note the plural. But, if the priesthood holder belongs to the family, is there really a need to call for others to assist if it is more comfortable not to do so?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Name and a Blessing

Knowing that shortly after my son is born I will want to give him a blessing before his back surgery, I have been wondering if I should give the child a "name and a blessing" before I give him a healing blessing.

I asked my bishop about it and he opened his scriptures to D&C 20:70.
Every member of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name.

It is interesting to note that there is no mention of giving the child a name. The requirement seems to be that at some point we present the infant before the congregation for a blessing. This verse also seems to argue against doing baby blessings in the home.

Anyway, the point of the instruction from my bishop was that it would be perfectly acceptable (and encouraged) that I give my little boy a blessing while he is in the hospital and then later present him in the church for a "name and a blessing." This goes along with what I had felt intuitively. It felt good to have it officially confirmed by my priesthood leader. My bishop is a good man and it is good to have his spiritual direction.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Moroni, Pahoran, and Me: Part II

We wrote last week about a struggle we've been having in our ward. I wondered in that post whether I ought to go to the bishop and give him some sort of ultimatum. I felt that I had two callings (or de facto callings) that were mutually exclusive and that I couldn't do both of them fully. I got many great comments. Thanks to all of you for your thoughts.

I had a very long and instructive phone call about the post with my older sister who has personally been through some of the exact same struggles I wrote about in that earlier missive. She posted the following as a comment to that post. I didn't want you to miss it if you hadn't been following the comments on the other post.
I think you are wise to consider Moroni and Pahoran. Moroni certainly had a testimony of Christ and he certainly was justified in complaining. His circumstances were horrendous-Pahoran was his leader and was obligated to sustain him. He was doing an exceptionally bad job-many people lost their lives (although the scriptures tell us they were saved in Christ).

So by considering this, what can someone in your position learn?--there are some parallels. Pahoran was not fulfilling his role because he needed to be sustained in a literal way by Moroni. He needed Moroni to help him before he could effectively do what- as the leader- it was his unquestionable duty to do. So what is the likening? I am sure you already know the answer because I have known you for years and know that this is the conclusion you would likely come to-- Be the Moroni to your Bishop's Pahoran.

It's OK to express your frustrations and concerns to him just like Moroni did. But you can't stop there. Moroni showed us that he was sincere when he claimed he just wanted to do what was best for his people. He supported Pahoran militarily. What does that look like today? Personal service to your bishop and his family is a good start, but it sounds like your ward may need more than that. You might consider increasing your own activity and invite other members in your ward to do the same. Fellowship in a ward goes a LONG way when you are trying to defeat the apathy of a ward (which is a spiritual coup metaphorically speaking). Moroni was justified in his complaint, but he also marched and fought for his people.

I know you and Keryn are both the kinds of people that aren't afraid to take on a task that is worthy. Can you solve the problem in your ward with bloodshed or loss of limb? Of course not! But service and an increase in deliberate fellowship can go a long way in every ward.

I don't think your testimony of the restoration is a factor here. Lots of people had a testimony of the restoration and flat out quit the church. What I meant by the Joseph Smith comment was that if you are a member of the church he organized, you have to accept your bishop as the rightful 'Pahoran' in this analogy. He is your divinely appointed leader which makes him worthy of 'fighting' beside in defeat of what is a real problem in your ward that needs fixing.

I agree that if we have a testimony of the gospel we still have day to day struggles that are real, but our excercise of that knowledge can certainly diminish the weight of those struggles. I am interested to hear how you will solve it because I know you will come up with innovative and inspired solutions.

My smiley was just because I like you and want to spread around a little more sugar to people I adore (you and your family!) ;) :) :->

I think she is right on the money here and the counsel is wise.

It turns out that I was released today from my calling with the Young Men without even having to go in and talk to the bishop. (That was actually quite a surprise.) I don't have another calling for now; they have decided to wait until after our little boy is born and we have a better handle on what his medical situation will be.

Everything isn't sorted out with the Nursery or the Primary yet, but I'm sure we'll get there. And in the mean time, I can help out in that capacity without feeling guilty that I'm abandoning the Young Men.

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