Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ghost Earrings

This morning, I made some ghost earrings that I think are very cute. I thought I'd show you how I made them.

    Materials: a 4" length of thin wire (I used 22ga.), a 3"x3" piece of white cloth (I wanted cheesecloth, but I didn't have any around so I used a thin muslin instead), a 1/4" bead, a sharpie, and round nosed pliers.

    First, using the round nosed pliers, I bent the wire in half, making a small loop in the top.

    Then I poked both ends of the wire through the center of the fabric, and then through the bead.

    I curled the ends of the wire up to form "arms".

    I kind of molded the cloth how I wanted it, pulling it down between the head and the arms, Then I drew on a face with the sharpie.

    When it was more or less how I wanted it, I dipped it in a jar of fabric stiffener, and then let it hang to dry, shaping it a little more in the process, so it would dry how I wanted it. I used a little more wire to help one of my ghost keep it's shape better, and removed it after the ghost had dried.

    Finally, when the ghosts were dry, I added ear hooks to the loops at the top, and they were done!

    If I made these again, I would probably try cheesecloth, (like the  ghosts I made in 2011) and make the earrings a little smaller - maybe use a 2" square cloth. If you ever try this yourself, let me know how it turns out, or, even better, send me a picture!

    Happy Halloween!

    Wednesday, October 30, 2013

    Emotions and the Spirit

    The light of the morning sun just begins to peer over the tops of the mountains, revealing the shapes of majestic pine trees. A concealing mist rises gently from the ground. Out of the dimness, figures appear, mounting rustic wooden towers. Lights appear, and the dark figures resolve into boy scouts in uniform blowing trumpets from the tops of the towers in a growing fanfare. Other trumpeters appear and join in from other heights until we are surrounded by beautiful music. Suddenly, two scouts drop from overhead, rappelling down long ropes, bearing giant flags - a scout flag, and the American Stars and Stripes. A scout calls for the audience to stand and salute, and thousands of voices join in reciting, in unison, the Pledge of Allegiance. No sooner has the Pledge been completed, than hundreds of cub scouts run forward to sing the National Anthem, with the accompaniment of a full orchestra I hadn't even realized was playing. Tears are streaming down my face, and I don't understand why.

    Was this on a camping trip? No. Was it even outdoors? No. It was a broadcast from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Last night I got to watch the celebration of the 100 year partnership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Boy Scouts of America. Wow. If you didn't have a chance to see it yet, I would highly recommend it. If you are or have ever been or ever will be a scout, I would recommend watching it. If you are, have ever been, or might ever become the parent of a boy scout, I would recommend watching it. If you like history or music or drama, I would recommend watching it. It was an hour and a half very well spent.

    (If you haven't seen it, here's the link:

    Several times during the production, I found myself filled with emotion. I laughed, and, like during the spectacular flag ceremony, I cried. And I wondered, "Why am I crying?"

    At Time Out For Women a couple weeks ago, Sandra Turley, who played Cosette in Les Miserables on Broadway, mentioned, almost in passing, that she loved playing Cosette because when she was crying over her dead guardian, the audience would feel the Spirit and cry with her. Since then, I have thought of that frequently and wondered - when we get teary during a sad part of a movie or a play, is that really because we are feeling the Spirit? What about other times when we get teary, when we aren't really sad? Is that the Spirit, or is that just our own raw emotion?

    When are we most likely to have tears come to our eyes without actually being sad? Here are some that come to my mind:

    • Births
    • Deaths
    • Weddings
    • First day of school, especially kindergarten
    • Graduations
    • Any time we watch our own children accomplish something that required a lot of effort.
    • When we witness someone suffering
    • When we witness someone overcoming overwhelming odds in order to succeed
    • When we see something of great beauty
    • Pregnancy (When I was pregnant, everything made me teary.)

    If it is the Spirit we are feeling at these times, why would the Spirit choose those moments to appear? First of all, what is the Spirit I'm referring to? I believe it is the Light of Christ. The Bible Dictionary says, "The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ." (BD Light of Christ)

    Moroni calls it the Spirit of Christ: "For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God." (Moroni 7:16)

    This Spirit teaches what is good, and what is truth, and persuades us to believe in Christ. It is my belief that the Spirit affirms those things that are part of our Father's Eternal Plan for our Salvation. So I ask again, why might the Spirit show itself at these times and events?

    Birth is the miraculous entrance to this world/school that we live in. This is a momentous occasion with eternal significance, and whether we are the parents, siblings, grandparents, friends of the family, or innocent bystanders, we can feel its power. This precious spirit chose to be born on this earth, to receive a body and join the human family. This is an important milestone in this spirit's eternal progression. The Spirit confirms that this is a very important part of God's Plan.

    Death is another important eternal milestone. A soul who has journeyed on this earth for some period of time - whether long or short, has progressed to the next stage of existence. This can be very sad for those left behind, but it is also a part of God's Plan of Happiness. It has eternal significance. Whether we knew the deceased or not, we can feel the power of that momentous step into eternity.

    Weddings. Finding a soul mate. Love stories. True Love. God is love. "Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan." (The Family: A Proclamation to the World) "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." (1 Cor 11:11) Finding an eternal companion and being married is another important part of God's Plan. The Spirit testifies that weddings are a good step in the right direction.

    The first day of school can be teary for many mothers as they watch their young child mature and begin their years of formal education. Education is also an important part of our Father's Plan: "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (D&C 130:18-19) Beginning our formal education on earth could be seen as a step towards rising in knowledge and intelligence, and progressing along our Father's Plan for us.

    Graduations are very similar to the first day of school, in that they can be seen as a measure of our progression in gaining knowledge and intelligence, according to God's Plan.

    You watch your child take her first wobbly steps. You observe her excitement as she sounds out letters and realizes that she has read her very first word. You attend a recital where she plays a song that she has practiced repeatedly for months, and she nails it! You are watching your children develop skills that she will bring her joy in this life, and the life to come. Maybe we are feeling a little bit of what God feels when he watches us learn to distinguish between good and evil, and to choose the good. We are watching them progress in the right direction along the Plan that God has for them, and the Spirit might confirm that to us: that our children are doing well.

    Other times, we watch others suffer heartache and grief and our heart goes out to them. Maybe it is just a movie, and we realize that they are just actors playing a part, but still the tears come. Perhaps this is the Godlike quality of compassion. Maybe the Spirit is showing us how Jesus felt when Mary and Martha were so sad after Lazerus' death. (John 11:32-35) After my cousin and his wife passed away in a car accident several years ago leaving a very young daughter as an orphan, the tears would come - not so much because of their death, I wasn't very close to my cousin and had never met his wife, but I cried because of the thought of their daughter and the life she would live, never knowing her parents.

    Sometimes the Spirit may touch our hearts when we see the power of God made manifest. This could be when we witness true beauty and recognize it as God's creation. It could also be when we see or hear of people who, through God's mercy, have overcome huge obstacles or disabilities to accomplish great things. It could be when we see a patriotic display and we recognize the blessings of God to let us live in a great nation and enjoy great freedom and liberty. God's hand is evident in the world around us and the Spirit touches us once in a while to point that out.

    And finally, there is pregnancy. I think that maybe women feel more weepy during pregnancy, not just because of the hormones, etc. but also because they are actively working with God to perform an act of true creation. Perhaps a woman is naturally closer to God and spiritual things when she is creating a living soul within her womb.

    Is it this Spirit that makes us cry? What do you think? Do you cry? Why? Do you think that people who are closer to the Spirit are more likely to cry when they aren't sad?

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

    Institute - 2 Nephi 25-30

    Institute this morning was on 2 Nephi 25-30, but we spent most of our time on the first two chapters. Today was a day of lots of lists. Here is what we discussed in a nut shell:

    1. These five chapters are Nephi's commentary on Isaiah's prophecies, combined with his own prophecies.
    2. Nephi talks in plainness, as a contrast to the darkness and confusion of the Jews in Jerusalem. 
    3. Nephi tells the Jews of the latter days:
      • Jerusalem had been destroyed, just as Lehi had prophesied, and the Jews were taken captive and scattered. (2 Nephi 25:10)
      • The Jews would return to Jerusalem (25:11)
      • Christ will come, be rejected, crucified, and resurrect. (vs. 12-13)
      • Jerusalem will be destroyed a second time and the Jews again would be scattered (v16)
      • Eventually, the gospel will be restored, and the Jews will be brought to believe in Christ. (v16-20)
      All these things would happen because of the hardheartedness of the Jews.
    4. According to a conference talk by Kevin Pearson in April 2009, we can soften our hearts and develop faith through:
      • being righteous
      • obedience with exactness, even in simple things 
      • having a desire to believe
      • hope
      • belief (or in other words, gain a knowledge that the course you pursue is in accordance with God's will.)
      This process leads to more power and understanding, which encourages our efforts to be righteous and obedient, thereby increasing our faith. On the other hand, we can harden our hearts by fostering fear rather than faith. This occurs through:
      • doubt
      • discouragement
      • distraction
      • lack of diligence
      • disobedience, and finally
      • disbelief
    5. Nephi tells his descendents:
      • The Lord's promises concerning Nephi's writings will be fulfilled. (2 Nephi 25:21)
      • We will be judged by the things written in the Book of Mormon. (v. 22)
      • Nephi had a great desire to bring his descendents to Christ. (v23,26)
      • The law of Moses would be fulfilled in Christ. (v. 24, 27)
      • Watch for the signs of Christ's coming - those who don't will perish.(26:3-4,8-9)
      • After Christ's coming, 3 1/2 generations would pass, and then would come a speedy destruction. (26:9-10)
    6. Just as Nephi labored to teach his children of Christ, we also need to teach our children of Christ, so they will know who to look to for remission of their sins. (2 Nephi 25:26) Some ideas we discussed of how to do this included:
      • Pray for our children to make righteous choices - such as serving missions or being married in the temple when our children are listening.
      • Set a righteous example for our children - hold family home evenings, study scriptures, pray, attend church and the temple, etc.
      • Include our children in acts of service.
      • Talk with our children about the gospel, share our testimony with them often, and encourage them to share their testimonies and feelings, too.
      • Support church leaders and policies - don't ever let your children hear you speak disrespectfully of church leadership.
      • Show your children how the atonement works, by admitting your own mistakes, and setting examples of repentance and forgiveness.
    7. There are parts of the Book of Mormon which were sealed. These parts "reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof." (2 Nephi 27:10
    8. There are other scriptures that we are promised will be forthcoming some day. These include:
      • and the words of the lost tribes of Israel. (2 Nephi 29:13)  
    While we didn't have time to discuss it in class, there are also many things that Nephi had to say to the Gentiles. He wanted to convince them, too, to believe in Christ. (see 2 Nephi 26:12) He writes about the many records which would be written and sealed up and saved for the latter days, about the apostasy and the many false churches that would cause them to stumble, about the restoration of the gospel in the last days and the need for more scripture than just the Bible. Throughout all this, Nephi emphasizes the Lord's invitation to all to come to Him, even the Gentiles, because "as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel." (2 Nephi 30:2)

    Monday, October 28, 2013

    Work: Service and Creativity

    In Sunday School yesterday, we were discussing self reliance, and we came across a scripture that I found interesting:
    Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands! (D&C 56:17)
     We discussed for a little while the importance of work, and why it is important not to be idle. My thoughts are that most people do want to work: most people want to feel useful, and to be appreciated for their contribution to society. I think that it is when people feel that they have nothing to contribute or that their contribution isn't appreciated that they lose the desire to work. On the other hand, work is more satisfying and brings more joy when it provides an appreciated service or when it satisfies our creative urges (I wrote about these last week).

    Before I go further, let me define a few terms:
    Work: human labor, employment, occupation, or job; the useful things we do to fill our time, whether they are paid or not; our contribution to society
    Creativity: to bring something new and valuable into being that did not exist before, problem solving.
    Service: to help or do something for someone else.
    Appreciated Service: when that which we do to help is valued by the person or people receiving the service.

    William Morris, a designer and artist, said, "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." I believe that this applies to the work that we do: It should be useful  (service), or it should be beautiful (an act of creation).

    Before my children were born, I worked at Kinko's. (This was in the days before the merge with FedEx.) I started out helping in the self serve area, and eventually moved behind the counter as a color copy expert. I loved working there. Why? I was providing an appreciated service - I was helping people to copy photos and artwork, helping them to create things that they valued. I also had opportunities to express my own creativity when I was brought projects that required some ingenuity in order to accomplish. I was both serving, and being creative. I had the best of both worlds.

    Think of different occupations and where they might fall on the graph to the left. Some jobs, like that of a mailman, are acts of service, but may involve very little creativity. Others, like an artist who paints solely for art's sake, involve lots of creativity, but little service. An architect or designer might lean more towards creativity while a cashier or bookkeeper might lean more towards service. Where would you place a doctor on the graph? Or a farmer? or a lawyer? An accountant? A politician? I believe that we feel the most fulfilled and satisfied when our work involves both (appreciated) service as well as creativity.

    The amount of service and creativity we get out of an occupation will, of course, vary depending on our perception of that occupation. Do you see your job as one in which you provide a needed service? Do you make people's lives easier or better in any way? Do you feel appreciated by your coworkers/customers/boss/family members/neighbors/friends? Do you see your job as one in which you can be creative, where you are bringing something new and valuable into the world? Are you solving problems, figuring out puzzles, using your imagination? If your answer is yes to these questions, I would guess that you like the work that you do. If your answer is no, then what can you do to change, to increase the service and/or creativity in your work?

    You'll notice that I put mother high on both creativity and service. The act of creation only begins at birth. A mother's work is an ongoing creative process as she molds and shapes her children into righteous, loving, trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent contributors to society. Her life is also filled with service - cooking, cleaning, laundry, chauffeuring, etc. Sometimes the day-to-day service doesn't seem very appreciated. While bringing order to the chaos of children's bedrooms could be considered creative, the amount of satisfaction gained from it depends greatly on the rate of entropy, or how quickly all our hard work is undone. (I just cleaned up this place! Can't it stay clean for five minutes?") How appreciated our service is also make a difference to our feeling of satisfaction. ("Mom, since you cleaned my room, I can't find anything!") For the most part, however, I do feel joy when I think of my children and my role as mother. I hope that some day my children will appreciate the service I do for them, and that they will continue to be wonderful people of whom I'm be happy to admit being their mother. I expect great joy from my labors in raising my children: "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." (2 Nephi 2:25) "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." (3 John 1:4)

    "But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another." (Mosiah 4:15)  In order to gain that joy, I need to teach my children to work. How do I do that? How do I teach them to serve one another? A few things have occurred to me:
    1. Show greater appreciation for their efforts. No one likes to feel unappreciated, that their labors are not valued.
    2. Help them see that their chores are acts of service - and help them feel how appreciated that service is.
    3. Help them find ways to make their work more creative. To quote Mary Poppins, "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun [creativity] and *snap* the job's a game!"
    What do you think? How would you rate your work on a service/creativity graph? How have you taught your children to work? Do you agree with my thoughts? Disagree? Why? What would you add? What would you change? 

    Friday, October 25, 2013


    One of the speakers at Time Out for Women mentioned a talk that President Uchtdorf gave in which he said, "The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before." This struck a chord with me, because I feel that desire to create very strongly. There are a lot of days when I just want to make something - whether it is jewelry, or a sewing project, a piece of art or an arrangement of music, I want to make something new and different. It was suggested that we inherited these creative tendencies from our very creative Father in Heaven.

    I was looking around my house this morning and it occurred to me that everyone in my family has these same creative tendencies. They come out in different ways, but there is a current of creativity running through our blood. Here are some of the projects that were worked on/ made in the last couple days:

    1. The kids have each carved their own pumpkin. Hannah and John carved theirs at a youth activity Wednesday evening. Josh and Peter have carved theirs over various afternoons this week.
    From left to right: John's. Joshua's, Hannah's, Peter's (with Hannah's help)
    This is the other side of Hannah's pumpkin.
     2. Last night, Hannah decided she wanted to make candles. She melted down a bunch of random candles I have on hand but never use, and made her own candles.
    3. This morning, John was working on developing a contraption to help Hannah dip multiple candles at the same time.
     4. Steven baked sourdough bread last night.
     5. This week I crocheted this unicorn as a prop for Hannah's Halloween costume using this pattern.

    So yeah, there is a lot of creativity going on around here. Need some extra creativity in your life? Watch this clip from President Uchtdorf's talk. It might inspire you.

    Thursday, October 24, 2013

    Parables in My Life

    At Time out For Women, we were taught that the Lord teaches through parables. A parable is a story with a veiled deeper meaning. It "conveys to the hearer religious truth exactly in proportion to his faith and intelligence; to the dull and uninspired it is a mere story, the instructed and spiritual it reveals the mysteries or secrets of the kingdom of heaven " (BD Parables) We were told to seek out and recognize the parables in our own lives.

    A little over a year ago, Steven was feeling discouraged in his job search. He had graduated with his MBA in July, and he was ready to go back to work... but the dream job didn't appear to be coming. He had interviewed with several places for good jobs, and they had all chosen to go with someone else. He asked our home teacher for a blessing, and he was advised to be patient, and to branch out in his thinking. The blessing wasn't as comforting as we had hoped it would be.

    In an attempt to "branch out", Steven started applying to jobs outside Denver. This brought a few more interviews, and we even thought for a week or so that we might be moving to Virginia, but it wasn't to be. Eventually we realized we couldn't afford to move even if he did find a good job elsewhere. At the very end of the year, Steven received an offer for a contract job - a temporary position that would last about a month. It was for a good company (MDC Holdings, the parent company for Richmond Homes), it would get him out of the house and bring in some much needed money. While it wasn't exactly what he was looking for, he decided to take it anyway. He enjoyed working there, and they liked him.

    When the time of the contract was nearing a close, Steven found another contract job with another company (GHX), (which he didn't like at all, even though he worked there for four months) and after a short break in June, during which he moved furniture, he took on another contract job with Merrick (which was okay, but boring).

    At the beginning of this month, he noticed that MDC Holdings had a job opening. He called his old boss there, submitted a resume, went in for an interviewed and received a job offer - all in the course of one week! He has been working there for a week and a half now, and seems to be enjoying the work so far. They keep him busy, anyway.

    Is this experience a parable in my life? If so, what can I learn from it?
    1. The Lord keeps his promises and what he tells us is truth - whether we like it or not. In the blessing Steven received, he was told to be patient. That was fourteen months ago. The Lord knew it would be a long time before Steven would find a permanent job that he would like. He was told to branch out in his thinking. Did this mean to look outside the Denver area as we thought? Apparently not. Did it mean that he should look into temp jobs and contract work? In hindsight, it seems the answer is yes. By accepting a temp job - even though it wasn't what he really wanted, Steven got his foot in the door of a company that he would really enjoy working for. Even then, it took a long time for that to bear fruit and for Steven to get the job that he has now.
    2. We can (and should) trust in the Lord. In the Isaiah chapters I've been reading lately, the Lord was angry with the Israelites because even though they were the Lord's covenant, chosen people, they weren't keeping his commandments, they weren't turning to the Lord for help in times of trouble, but instead were relying on their own strength and wisdom. That's why the Lord let the Assyrians come and destroy them and carry them off into captivity. Steven and I have been striving to rely on the Lord, praying for guidance and support, and trying to be patient, and the Lord has blessed us. He has blessed us with the temporal things we needed from day to day, as well as spiritual strength and comfort at the times when we most needed them. Like the people of Alma the Elder in the land of Helam, he has eased our burdens and strengthened us. (See Mosiah 24:13-15)
    I was frustrated last night. Wednesdays are early dismissal days at school, so the kids are all out by 2pm, instead of 3:30 as they usually are. Peter was having a bad day, screaming, crying, threatening to throw things at me. The kids were variously carving pumpkins, trying to figure out how to add sound to animated movies, avoiding doing homework and chores. By dinner time, I was utterly exhausted. Then Steven called to say he needed to work late, and to go ahead and have dinner without him, and we should probably find Hannah and John a ride to their activity that night (since we only have one car - and he has it). Joy.

    This is Steven's dream job - working for a great company, with plenty of opportunities for growth within the company, doing something he loves, making reports and analyzing data. (He started building reports for them before he even started working for them!) He is kept busy doing something fun that requires skills that he has worked to develop. I am glad that he likes his job. Really! I am truly grateful that he has a good job finally. I hope he works there for a long, long time.

    And yet, I am feeling frustrated. This is the second time this week that he has missed having dinner with the family (something that is important to me) because he had to finish something at work. I guess I'm used to him being a temp - he watched the clock, and left right at 5pm. He usually left work early on Fridays so he wouldn't go over his 40 hours. Last Friday he arrived home just after 6pm, right after the missionaries arrived for dinner, too late to help with any of the preparations or cleaning up for the company he signed up to have over. I am hoping that this is a temporary or occasional thing - that once he figures out what he's supposed to be doing he can get on top of it and manage to do it within normal working hours.  I'm sure there is a parable in this trial too, I just haven't figured out what it is yet.

    Wednesday, October 23, 2013

    Garden Carrots

    The summer garden season is coming to a close. The cucumbers were made into pickles, or eaten in salads. The corn was plucked too early. the melons have disappeared one by one to either squirrels or neighborhood children - we're not sure which. The tomato plant succumbed to the cold and died. All that was left in the garden plot were the carrots, and I picked those this morning.

    I never know what kind of carrots I'm going to get out of our garden. Usually they are small, short, stubby things. This year I tried planting them farther apart, hoping that giving them more space to grow would produce larger ones.

    I still got an assortment of tiny, fishy looking carrots. (For reference, the long one in the middle is 4" from head to tail, and 3/4" in diameter at the widest point.)

    However, I did get one beauty of a carrot, almost twice as long as the carrots I usually get. (The ones on the right below are about the usual "big" size, about 3 1/2" - 4" long, and 1 1/4" diameter. The long one on the left is the same diameter, but 6" long!)

    I also got this mutant double-ended carrot.

    And this monstrosity. It is all of 3" in diameter, and about 4" long. I wonder what made it twist itself up like that???

    Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    Understanding Isaiah, a Little More

    In Institute today, we continued the discussion on Isaiah. This week, I've spent a lot of time studying the assigned chapters (2 Nephi 15-24/Isaiah 5-14) During the last couple weeks, I've learned a few things that have helped me to put things together and make some sense of what I'm reading. Here are a few of those things: background:
    See map to left. There are four major areas that we are concerned with here.
        1.  Southern Kingdom of Judah
          Capital: Jerusalem
          Major Tribe: Judah
          Leader: Ahaz, of the House of David
        2. Northern Kingdom of Israel
          Capital: Samaria
          Major Tribe: Ephraim
          Leader: Pekah, the son of Remaliah
        3. Syria
          Capital: Damascus
          People: Aramites
          Leader: Rezin
        4. Assyria
          Leader: Tiglath-Pileser III (called Pul in 2 Kings 15:19)
    I find it useful to note that Isaiah uses the names/capitals/tribes/leaders interchangeably, so the list above (which I've written in the margins of my scriptures as a reference) helps me figure out who is who. It is interesting to note that Isaiah only once mentions Pekah's name; usually he only refers to him as, "Remaliah's son" and it was suggested that Isaiah didn't have much respect for him.

    Assyria was on the rise and had conquered Israel and Syria, forcing them to pay taxes, but largely allowing them to rule themselves. In Isaiah 7, the leaders of Israel and Syria went to war against Judah. Perhaps they wanted the Jews to join them in rebelling against Assyria. Ahaz, the king of Judah, had instead allied himself with Assyria, perhaps hoping Assyria would protect them from Israel and Syria. Maybe Ahaz didn't realize that Assyria was a greater threat, and that before too many years, Assyria would tear the kingdom of Israel apart (Isaiah 7:8), spoil Syria (Isaiah 8:4) and that Judah itself would be conquered by the Assyrians (Isaiah 7:17).  Eventually, after much hunger, famine, captivity, and slavery, a remnant of the people would be allowed to return to their land.

    Isaiah uses a lot of imagery and symbolism, references and allusions that aren't readily apparent to me. Here are a few of the symbols I've learned about (however, there are a lot more, and probably even meanings for the things listed here that I haven't mentioned:
    • Razors, baldness, shaving: slaves were shaved of all their hair to humiliate them and make it more difficult for them to escape unrecognized. References to these things were therefore symbols of conquest, captivity and slavery. (Isaiah 3:24; 7:20; 50:6)
    • Butter and Honey: These are foods that were available to the poor, or nomads, anyone who had a goat and could go out looking for wild honey. 
    • Water, rivers, seas: Cleansing, baptism, sometimes they refer to the miracle of the Parting of the Red Sea, or living water, i.e. Jesus Christ. (Ships, however, can also be symbols for commercial strength or naval power, as in Isaiah 2:16.)
    • Fire: cleansing, the Holy Ghost, purifying, refining, God's glory, judgements
    • Mountains: temples, places to be near to God. Sometimes mountains are used in contrast to rocks and caves, where people try to hide from God. High mountains, also can mean lofty, or proud, as in Isaiah 2:14, where the people are relying upon their natural fortresses to protect themselves, rather than relying on the Lord.
    • Hand or Arm: a symbol of power or strength
    • Heart: Inner man, with his personal thoughts and intents
    Another thing that makes Isaiah a challenge to understand is his tendency to jump between talking to/about the people of his day, to talking about the people in latter days ("in that day"). He talks about Immanuel's birth (Isaiah 7:14-16; 9:2-7), but it isn't clear immediately whether the babe he is discussing is Hezekiah, who would be instrumental in freeing Judah from Assyria's taxation and tyranny, or Jesus Christ, who would come 680 years or so later, to provide the way to free all Israel, (and all the earth) from Satan's power.

    One thing that I do like about Isaiah is the message that he repeats over and over again: turn to God, and he will help you. Although he is angry with those who don't keep his commandments and rebel against him, "his hand is stretched out still". When we repent and turn to him, he is ready to help us; he wants to help us. God only withdraws his protection when we withdraw ourselves from him. For example, Isaiah 5:1-7 contains a parable of a vineyard:
     1 Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
     And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
     And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
     What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
     And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:
     And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
     For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
     The vineyard is the land of Israel, the Promised Land (or maybe the entire earth). The vine was the Chosen People, the house of Israel, God's special children. The land was fertile and beautiful. The Lord cleared specifically for them. He watched over them and protected them, and blessed them. And the people chose to reject him and choose wickedness instead. (v. 1-2) Instead of relying on God's power, they took comfort in their own strength, in pride and boasting. (Isaiah 10:13 is spoken by the king of Assyria, claiming that he, by himself, conquered so many lands)

    Because of the people's rejection, the Lord decided to withdraw his protection: he took away the hedge, broke down the wall, and commanded the clouds not to rain (a symbol for revelation or divine guidance). Without God's protection, the House of Israel was divided, invaded and the ten tribes were carried off and lost.

    But... The Lord will lift up an ensign to the nations (Isaiah 5:26; 11:12). He will gather his people again from the ends of the earth with speed and strength. There will come a day of peace and knowledge (Isaiah 11:9) and the conquerors will be brought low (Isaiah 14:16). These are the latter days. The gospel has been restored. The ensign has been erected, and missionaries are spreading the gospel with speed and with the aid of God's power. The children of God are being gathered from the ends of the earth. The day of peace and knowledge will not be long in coming.

    Monday, October 21, 2013

    Time Out For Women

    A big blue bear looks in the window of the Convention Center.
    On Saturday, I had the great privilege of being able to attend Time Out for Women here in Denver. What an experience it was! I am incredibly grateful to my friend who made it possible for me to go by both paying for my ticket and providing me with a ride to the Colorado Convention Center.

    While the event started Friday evening, I wasn't able to attend because we had signed up to have the missionaries over for dinner, and since we have a set of sisters as well as a set of elders in our ward, both Steven and I had to be there. I missed out on the opportunity to hear James Ferrell and Brad Wilcox, as well as Michael McLean. That was a bit disappointing.

    Big Blue Bear from outside.
    Saturday was wonderful though. The theme for the event was "Higher", taken from Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Most of the talks centered around reaching higher, looking up to God for help and guidance, and seeking a higher perspective.

    One analogy someone used in the introduction was the idea of walking up a 'down' escalator. (He didn't recommend trying this... He took a video of himself in the attempt, but he said he and his family were thrown out of the mall immediately following the film.) It is possible to keep climbing at a certain pace and stay in the same spot. If you stop trying to climb (i.e. stand still), you move backwards. If you keep climbing at the same pace, but the escalator speeds up its pace, you still may find yourself moving backwards. It was suggested that the world we are living in is speeding up it's downward pace, and we need to increase our efforts to climb higher.

    The view from my seat during a Jericho Road performance.
    The music on Saturday was provided by a group called Jericho Road, and they were a lot of fun. I found their music enjoyable, and laughed hard when they did their impression of a bunch of boy bands, complete with dance moves.

    There were five speakers on Saturday:

    Mariama Kallon, who comes from Sierra Leone, Africa, watched her parents and family die in a war, and nearly escaped having her hands chopped off by soldiers! Her message was one of gratitude, and that while we all suffer trials and tribulation (after all, that's how we grow and are strengthened!), we were never intended to face these difficulties alone. The Lord is always there, and He wants to help us.

    Sandra Turley sang the part of Cosette in Les Miserables on Broadway. On Saturday, she sang "Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera, but told us to think of it from the perspective of God telling us to think of him, as we left him to come to earth. She told about her difficulty becoming pregnant, finally deciding to adopt a child, and then having the birth mother change her mind and take the beloved child back after a month and a half. She spoke about how God has the power to comfort the greatest heartache.

    John Hilton III talked about how he met his wife, and the great lengths he had to go to in order to convince her to become interested in him. He talked about
    1. Tapping into the vision of what God already has in store for us.
    2. Looking up to God for guidance, not sideways at our peers.
    3. The mundane can be miraculous (Small and simple things can result in marvelous consequences)
    Jennifer Brinkerhoff Platt told us about some of the parables in her life - the stories that had deeper meaning. She talked about rituals, about whether or not our daily routines reflect our professed values, and about how the Lord wants us to come to him, while Satan wants to isolate us from everyone.

    Emily Freeman was our concluding speaker, and she talked about reaching, about leaving our comfort zone, about stretching to new heights, launching into the deep. She mentioned Peter walking on the water, (and succeeding!) and then when he faltered, reaching out, and the Savior immediately stretched out his hand. She talked about how the Lord is always within reach. She talked about the refining moments in our lives, the ones that shape us, that purify  and cleanse us, the ones that bring us closer to God.

    I came home Saturday evening with my mind rolling with thoughts and ideas. There are a lot of things that I'm still wrapping my head around, things that will provide great topics for future blogs!

    Friday, October 18, 2013

    Josh, the Airplane Pilot

    Is it Halloween already? Not quite. But we did pull out our winter hats and scarves and stuff  a couple days ago and this is how Josh chose to dress for school yesterday, and today.

     He's been talking a lot lately about an airplane he wants to build, and this morning he gave me a list of materials he will need: wood, motor, gears, pipe, switch, and car battery. This will be a small, two-seater plane that he will be able to fly the 1/2 mile to school, and land on the lawn. This morning he was even telling me that if the family accidentally left on vacation without him, he could just hop in his plane and catch up with us. (I'm not sure what he was planning on doing with his plane after that - strapping it to the top of the car, maybe?)

    Until he is able to acquire the materials (and perhaps the know-how) to build his plane, however, he is content to drive the green machine, something we picked up at a garage sale a few months ago.

    Incidentally, this is what the slope (where we took Josh's pictures yesterday afternoon) looks like this morning. I imagine the snow will melt off before the morning is over, but for now, it is kind of pretty.

    Thursday, October 17, 2013

    Random Cell Phone Photos

    My phone can take pictures! They aren't very good quality (only 1.3 Megapixels) so I usually grab my 'real' camera when I want to take a picture, but I notice a couple days ago that I am growing a collection of photos on my camera. I emailed them to myself today so I could post them here.

     Interestingly, I have photos of every family member except John. I also have several of the cats:

    There are also about ten more photos of Lala... his paw, his head, him sitting on the bed... And there is a photo of the computer keyboard. The funny thing is that although it is my phone, I remember taking very few of these pictures, and I have no idea why I would want so many pictures of the cat.

    Wednesday, October 16, 2013

    Why Do We Celebrate Halloween?

    The origins of Halloween are a bit obscure. It might have begun as a Christian holiday in honor of the faithful departed. It might have been influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, like the Gaelic Samhain, which marks a time when the spirits of the dead could more easily visit the earth. Good spirits might visit their families while evil spirits might be out seeking revenge. One way or another, the celebration of Halloween was originally about the spirits of the deceased, and possibly other types of spirits.

    Today, the influence of these spirits isn't as obvious. Now, Halloween is seen as a time for kids to dress up and eat candy. It might be a time to have a party, to carve jack-o-lanterns, and just have fun, and little thought is given to spirits, unless one appears in a scary movie. Costumes no longer are limited to monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches and the like in an effort to blend in and escape notice from actual spirits roaming the earth.

    Maybe we no longer believe in spirits and ghosts, or if we do, maybe we don't believe that they can have any effect on us, or vice versa.  I wonder.

    I do believe in spirits. I believe in two types of spirits. One type of spirit is the spirit of someone who has lived on the earth, and passed away. Occasionally, when I am thinking about one of my grandparents, all of which have passed on, I wonder if that grandparent can somehow sense my thoughts and know that I am thinking of them. Every once in a while, I have a feeling like they are not very far away. This isn't a scary feeling at all - my grandparents were all kind people - in fact it is a comforting feeling. It is like I have someone I know close by, just in case I need them.

    The other type of spirit is less comforting to have around. These spirits are those who rebelled against God long ago, and therefore lost the ability to gain a body on this earth. I believe these are the devils mentioned in Luke 8:27-33:
    27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
     28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.
     29 (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)
     30 And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him.
     31 And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.
     32 And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them.
     33 Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.
    These spirits want a body, and lacking the chance to have one of their own by birth, they seek to influence those of us who do have bodies. We must be wary of them, however, because they are neither wise nor caring. They rebelled against God, and they desire to stop us from following God as well. Their methods may be subtle, but I believe they have been working a long time to desensitize us, to direct the celebration of Halloween into directions that might not be as harmless as we would hope.

    For example, costumes. Wearing costumes could be seen as roll playing, trying out a persona that one would not ordinarily take on. Maybe it is an expression of a suppressed dream or wish. Usually it is harmless fun. But have you looked at the costumes that are being sold these days - especially those for girls and women? How many of them are revealing with plunging necklines and soaring hemlines? Even some for men are neither modest nor appropriate. Is Halloween a chance to be daring - to wear something that would be considered inappropriate in any other setting, to be a little "wicked," just because it is Halloween?

    Pranks are another activity often associated with Halloween. When someone is wearing a costume, when they are not easily recognizable as themselves, what risks are they more likely to take because they are less likely to be caught? Does the holiday justify unkindness? vandalism?

    Candy has become a huge part of our Halloween celebrations. While I'm not saying anything is inherently wrong with eating candy, I do worry about promoting greed and gluttony.

    So... as Halloween approaches, as we're figuring out what costumes our children (and maybe we) are going to wear, and as we plan our activities for October 31st, we may want to keep in mind what spirits we are heeding.

    Incidentally, I think it might be fun to start a new Halloween tradition - of remembering deceased ancestors that evening by reading or telling stories of their lives. (Of course we would still go Trick-or-Treating afterwards, in our modest costumes, doing no pranks, maybe performing a random act of service, and then come home to eat a reasonable amount of candy before brushing our teeth well and heading to bed.)

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Understanding Isaiah

    Institute this morning was about Isaiah.

    Instead of lecturing, our teacher divided the class into groups, assigned us a chapter of Isaiah (as it was quoted by Jacob, in the book of 2 Nephi) as well as some photocopies of commentaries about those chapters, that we could use to help us decipher them. We were then given about 1/2 hour to read and study them, and then each group sent a volunteer to share with the rest of the class what we learned in our group. Specifically, we were looking for who each chapter was written for (i.e. the people of his day, the people of our day, righteous Israelites, less righteous Israelites, etc), what he was writing about (for example: Christ, the 2nd coming, love, etc.) and also what symbols he used and what they mean.

    We separated into our groups, read the chapter we were assigned, read the other materials we were given, discussed what it meant, wrote down what we discussed, and assigned someone to share with the class what we figured out. I thought it was interesting that as the sister from our group shared the things we had talked about, her interpretations of some of those things were different from the ones I had, even though we were in the same group, part of the same discussion. I just came away with a slightly different understanding than she did.

    For some time, I have felt the need to understand better what Isaiah is talking about, and yet, so often his words seem totally foreign. Yes, it may be an English translation that I'm reading, but that doesn't make it in my language. There are so many symbols and allusions and references that while I feel like I get a general gist of what I'm reading, at the same time I am aware that there is a lot that flies over my head. There are verses that I gloss over because I have no idea what the good prophet is talking about. Sometimes it seems like Isaiah is switching between being himself, and being the Lord talking to Isaiah, or the Lord talking to Israel, or Israel talking to the Lord, or is it Israel talking to Isaiah?

    At a Great Church Book Exchange a few weeks ago, I picked up a book to help me understand Isaiah. This book, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet (by Victor L. Ludlow) goes through the book of Isaiah chapter by chapter, explaining the symbols and who is talking to who. It uses different translations, as well as comparing the Book of Mormon translation to the King James Version, and the Joseph Smith's translation. The author discusses parallelism and poetry forms as well as contract law and history. He talks about what other prophets had to say about Isaiah's writings, or about the same subjects Isaiah wrote about. I have found his book to be a wonderful resource to help me understand what I'm reading.

    And still, I wonder. Am I coming away from each chapter with the same understanding that someone else would come away with? Am I getting everything out of the words that I need to be getting? Or is there still more there that I'm just not yet prepared to glean? If two people can be part of the exact same conversation with the exact same references and materials, and come out with two different interpretations, is there any way to really know if one is more correct than the other? Or is there more that neither person is getting? Is there hope? The answers are probably no, no, yes, no, yes and yes.

    Yes, there is definitely hope. As I read through Isaiah with Brother Ludlow's book, I can learn from what he has to say about it at the level that I am currently prepared to receive it. If I come back to it a few years down the road, maybe with a different resource book, but even with the same one, I will probably learn more and come to a better understanding than I currently am gaining. And when I come back to it a third time, I will probably gain even more. Each time I study, prayerfully, seeking the Holy Ghost to guide me, I will learn, because "by the power of the Holy Ghost, [I] may know the truth of all things." (Moroni 10:5)

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    The Kingdom of God Moves Forward

    I got to teach Relief Society this last Sunday. The lesson was Chapter 20 of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, entitled The Kingdom of God Moves Forward.

    I started by having class members look up the following scriptures:
    Daniel 2:44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

    Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
    Jeremiah 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

    Isaiah 11:9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
    What do all these scriptures have in common? They are prophecies of the restoration and of the millennium.
    What evidence is there that these prophecies are being fulfilled? The lowering of the age of missionaries, the push for missionary work, the increasing rate at which temples are being built.
     From the lesson: We can see the hand of the Almighty establishing a kingdom spoken of in ages long past by Daniel the Prophet,—a kingdom which shall grow and spread until it fills the whole earth [see Daniel 2:44], when light and intelligence shall be so generally diffused that it shall no longer be necessary for any man to say to his fellows, “Know ye the Lord, but all shall know him, from the least unto the greatest;” [see Jeremiah 31:34] and when the Spirit of the Lord shall be poured out upon all flesh to such a degree that their sons and their daughters shall prophesy, their old men shall dream dreams, their young men see visions [see Joel 2:28], and when there shall be nothing to hurt or destroy in all the holy mountain of the Lord [see Isaiah 11:9]. [See suggestion 2 on page 246.]

    Daniel 2:34-35:  Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
    The stone cut out without hands was the Kingdom of God, and it will grow until it fills the whole earth. At this point, I drew a mountain on the chalk board and described how one snowflake at the top of the mountain in 1820 slowly joined with a few others so in 1830 there were six joined together, and then more, until there was a snowball that gradually gained speed and force as it rolled down the mountain. It sped faster and faster, getting bigger and bigger, until last weekend it was announced that there were 15 million snowflakes all gathered together. This snowball is going to continue to grow until it is bigger than the mountain, as big as the whole earth. I invited the class members to keep this idea of a rolling, growing snowball in their minds.

    We went back and talked about how the Church moved forward after the death of each of the first four Presidents, then I had someone read Alice Pond's account of her Grandfather's vision of the Savior. 
    From the lesson:“In the large corridor leading into the celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of grand-pa when he stopped me and said: ‘Wait a moment, Allie, I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff.’
    “Then grand-pa came a step nearer and held out his left hand and said: ‘He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold.’
    “Grand-pa told me what a glorious personage the Savior is and described His hands, feet, countenance and beautiful white robes, all of which were of such a glory of whiteness and brightness that he could hardly gaze upon Him.
    “Then [grand-pa] came another step nearer and put his right hand on my head and said: ‘Now, grand-daughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grand-father, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the Temple, and talked with Him face to face.’”5
    President Snow’s visit with the Savior was a sacred confirmation of a truth he had known for many years—that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. Inspired by this truth, President Snow frequently testified that the Church would continue to progress in spite of opposition.
     Why does the Church continue to move forward? Because Christ is at the head!
    How does this help us in our testimonies? Because we can trust that God knows what he is doing. He won't let us go astray.

    The prophet Wilford Woodruff said, "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty." D&C Official Declaration 1

    This snowball rolling down the mountain isn't simply going where gravity pulls it. The Lord is steering it very carefully. One example of this is the manifesto (D&C Official Declaration 1) that declared that the Church would no longer continue the practice of polygamy. Wilford Woodruff explained that the Lord showed him a vision of what would happen if the practice did not cease - the loss of temples and the stopping of all the ordinances in them as well as the imprisonment of all the church leaders. While President Woodruff would have let all this happened had it been the Lord's will, the Lord wouldn't allow the work of the Church to cease. So the practice of polygamy was stopped - a course correction, and the work of the Lord continued to move forward.

    The Church has an important mission to fulfill.
    From the lesson: Mormonism, a nickname for the real religion of the Latter-day Saints, does not profess to be a new thing, except to this generation. It proclaims itself as the original plan of salvation, instituted in the heavens before the world was, and revealed from God to man in different ages. That Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other ancient worthies had this religion successively, in a series of dispensations, we, as a people, verily believe. … Mormonism, in short, is the primitive Christian faith restored, the ancient Gospel brought back again—this time to usher in the last dispensation, introduce the Millennium, and wind up the work of redemption as pertaining to this planet.
    The work of the church is to prepare for the millennium. Every person must hear the gospel. Every person must have an opportunity to accept the gospel and receive the necessary ordinances, either in this world or the next. The Lord won't let anything stop it. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”1  

    The work of God will go forward. This snowball will continue rolling. There is nothing that can stop its progress.

    Sometimes the church appears to be facing difficulties, where people may wonder if the Church will be able to keep moving forward. Example: The Israelites leaving Egypt.
    From the lesson: In many instances … where the destruction of the people of God seemed imminent, and there appeared no way of escape, … suddenly there arose something or another that had been prepared for their salvation to avert the impending destruction. We find this in the case of the Israelites when led by Moses. When they came to the Red Sea, and the Egyptian army in their rear threatened their destruction, there seemed no way of escape, but at the very moment when deliverance was required, behold, it appeared and they were delivered [see Exodus 14:10–25].

    Other times may require sacrifice on the part of the Lord's people for their deliverance. An example is in the days of Esther.
    From the lesson: But it may become necessary in the future—and this is the point I wish to make—for some of the Saints to act the part of Esther, the queen, and be willing to sacrifice anything and everything that is required at their hands for the purpose of working out the deliverance of the Latter-day Saints. First we should know that we are the people of God. … It is our business to step forward as did Esther, and be willing to risk all for the salvation of the people. In undertaking her task, Esther said, “If I perish, I perish.” [See Esther 4:3–16.] … But the people of God will not perish.
    The question now is: What about us? What are the things that we need to do as individuals to build the kingdom and help the work move forward? Are we willing to sacrifice everything, as Esther was, to help the church move forward? Are we willing to sacrifice our time, our talents, our money, our bad habits, our lives to build up the kingdom of God?

    From the lesson: This work is built on a sure foundation, being founded on the rock of ages. … No matter who are lost by the way and make shipwreck of their faith, the Church will go on.

    The Lord very possibly may cause a heavy pressure to bear upon us, such as will require great sacrifice at the hands of his people. The question with us is, will we make that sacrifice? This work is the work of the Almighty and the blessings we look for which have been promised, will come after we have proven ourselves and passed through the ordeal. I have no special word to this people that there is, or that there is not, before them a fiery ordeal through which they will be called to pass; the question with me is, am I prepared to receive and put to a right and proper use any blessing the Lord has in store for me in common with His people; or, on the other hand, am I prepared to make any sacrifice that He may require at my hands? I would not give the ashes of a rye straw for any religion that was not worth living for and that was not worth dying for; and I would not give much for the man that was not willing to sacrifice his all for the sake of his religion.
    It is the business of those who profess to be engaged in His work to move on, to go forward, … without murmuring or having to be urged; so long as there remains a step forward to be taken, that step should be taken. 
    The Lord's Work, the Church, is going to continue to grow. Nothing will stop it. It will go on with or without us. The question for us is, are we helping it along? Are we part of this great work? Or are we sitting on the sidelines watching the snowball rush by? Are we moseying slowly along, tossing out anchors which will slow down our personal progress? Or are we at the head, letting go of our anchors (repenting of our sins), reaching out to grab others to join us, anxiously doing all we can, sacrificing all that is asked of us to help the Kingdom of God move forward?

    Some Thoughts from Yesterday

    Yesterday felt a little crazy. I'm not sure why. Maybe because it was my first day serving in my newest calling as official ward chorister. Maybe because I was teaching in Relief Society, and I didn't feel like the lesson really came together for me until that morning, even though I had been reading and thinking about it for weeks. For whatever reason, I was grateful when church was over yesterday, and even then, I still felt kind of tense and wound up.

    A shower thought yesterday:
    First, where I'm coming from:
    1. I recently acquired a copy of Added Upon by Nephi Smithson at a stake church book exchange. I read it this past week, and enjoyed the renewed perspective that this life is only one stage of our eternal progression, that we existed before we were born, and we will continue to exist after we die. 
    2. Also, while I was preparing for my lesson yesterday morning (before I even got out of bed), Steven mentioned the manifesto, which is the official statement that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would no longer practice polygamy.
    So, while I was in the shower, my brain combined these thoughts and came up with this idea:
    1. What if, in the very beginning, God created an equal number of spirit women and spirit men? 
    2. What if, in the great war in heaven when a third of the host of heaven chose to follow Satan's plan, and therefore not receive bodies on this earth, there were more spirit men in that group than spirit women?
    3. If this were the case, there would be more women than men to be born on this earth.
    4. We understand that a man and a woman must be sealed by proper authority in order to receive exaltation, and that neither can receive the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom without the other. (See D&C 132)
    5. Therefore, (if all my suppositions are true, and I admit that there is no evidence to prove it is) polygamy could be considered necessary, at certain times, and for certain people, to ensure that all God's daughters have an opportunity to receive exaltation. Otherwise, there could be righteous daughters who would miss out on the greatest blessings simply because all the worthy men were taken. 
    6. I don't believe God would condone a woman taking more than one husband (polyandry) for two reasons:  One reason being that (again, if my suppositions are true) it would offset the balance between men and women even farther. The other reason is that it would leave in doubt who was the father of any children she might have. 
    An additional thought on a completely unrelated topic: Steven starts his new job today!!!!! I'm excited and I really hope everything goes well for him!

    Friday, October 11, 2013

    A Shower Thought

    I've mentioned before that I do my best thinking in the shower. The boys don't have school today, so other thinking time may be limited, so here's what you get today.

    Today's thought: A testimony (what you believe is true) can be shared with words. Your conversion (what you do with what you believe is true) can only be shared through your actions.

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    An Additional Thought

    I just got home from parent teacher conferences with my boys' teachers. One thing that came up while I was talking with Josh's teacher was that when he works with a group, sometimes he has a wonderful idea that is so advanced that the other kids in the group can't understand it. Josh's teacher told me how Josh is getting good at trying his best to explain his idea, but then working with the other kids in the group to come up with something they can all understand and do. A random thought (probably resulting from my earlier blog today) was that this is a skill that some in our government might benefit from learning.

    It is a good thing we have freedom of speech in this country. Are there countries where I could be arrested for such a suggestion?

    Anyway, my kids are all incredibly smart and doing well in their classes. But if you know my kids, you probably could have guessed that.