Monday, December 30, 2019

Change and Growth

In May of 2016, I wrote this blog. (Go ahead and read it... the rest of this blog will make more sense.) I had just received a new calling - something that felt overwhelming, and something that I didn't feel prepared for.

Three years and seven months later, (or a week ago Sunday) we had just had our Christmas sacrament meeting and were headed into the cultural hall for a gathering with cookies when the bishop saw me and told me he wanted to talk to me for a few minutes before I left. Following the gathering, when the crowds were thinning out, I caught the bishop's eye and he took me to his office.

"We need a primary pianist." He told me.

"Okay." I said. I already felt like I knew where he was going. Our previous primary pianist recently moved to Utah and there aren't very many people who play piano in our ward.

"We would like you to be our new primary pianist."

"Okay." Primary pianist. I could do that. Not blindfolded, probably, but still not a big deal.

"We would also like you to serve as a ward organist." The bishop continued.

"Ooookay." This was going to be more of a challenge. I haven't played the organ much in the last twenty years, and I only played for like a year before that and I was never very good at it. This was going to be a stretch.

"We will, of course, release you from your calling as Relief Society president." Of course I expected this from when he asked me to be the primary pianist, and all I could do was give a sigh of relief.

I don't remember where the conversation went from there. I think he thanked me for my service and let me know that there were going to be other changes in the ward leadership made the following Sunday as well. He reminded me that I was helping to teach the 5th Sunday lesson that next week, but that would be the last assignment he would give me in the role of RS president. I walked out of his office already feeling lighter.

Over the next week I thought about the things that were still in the works. I had a couple ministering interviews I hadn't been able to do yet. I had stuff at home that should be returned to the RS closet at church. I needed to put things in order to pass on to my successor, whoever she may be. I also thought about how I've grown and changed in the last few years.

I learned to deal with change. Neither of my counselors were the same ones I started with, and I was on my third secretary. While I served, not only did I experience a change in ward boundaries, but I also experienced the introduction of ministering, two hour church, "Come Follow Me", and many other changes that the Church has introduced in the last few years. My calling has evolved and changed a lot from when I was first called.

I had grown to love the many sisters in the ward. I had overcome my shyness when it came to talking to people I didn't recognize at church. I learned how important it is to reach out to others when we need help rather than trying to hide our problems and pretend everything is perfect. I learned the truth of the statement that we should treat everyone we meet as though they are in serious trouble, because more than half the time, they are. I gained a better understanding of some of the challenges that some people have to face, and I think that I am more compassionate. I learned that things are very rarely black and white, but are usually some shade of grey. I learned that I don't have to solve other people's problems. I don't have to carry their burdens. Often, just listening and showing them someone cares is enough to help them figure things out for themselves. I learned that everyone needs to feel like they are appreciated and loved.

I learned that the Lord uses ordinary, imperfect people to move his work forward. I learned to pray and ask for the Lord's help. I learned that the Lord really does help those who are trying to do their best. I learned to pay attention to the impulses and random thoughts that I had - usually they came from the Spirit. I learned to apologize quickly when I make mistakes, and to continually strive to do better. I learned to forgive others when they make mistakes and to do what I can to encourage and help them to do better. I learned to delegate what I could to others, to tell, teach or show them what is needed and then to accept their best efforts, even if it wasn't what I would have done. (And usually it was much better than anything I would have done!)

Anyway, it will nice to be able to relax for a while, or at least as much as I can while I try to remember how to play an organ... but once again, I know that the Lord will help me.

P.S. When they announced who the new Relief Society president was, I couldn't help but laugh... She is the same person who succeeded me as Primary President seven years ago.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Faith of A Scientist

Yesterday,  I read a fantastic book. It is called The Faith of a Scientist, and it was written by Henry Eyring, father of President Henry B Eyring, and a well recognized chemist. ( President Johnson presented him with the National Medal of Science in 1967.) The book was also published in 1967, but the things written in it remain pertinent today. The subject? How a scientist can "[reconcile] the principles of true science with the principles of true religion." This very readable book is full of interesting scientific examples and explanations, with stories about Newton and Copernicus and even some of Eyring's personal experiences with Albert Einstein. He discusses principles of astronomy, geology, biology, and mathematics as well as chemistry. I highly recommend it!

There are many things in this book which I understood before, but had difficulty articulating. I left it with a greater understanding of science, religion, and searching for truth. Here are some of the things that I read:

There are many ways to come to a belief in God. "The more I try to unravel the mysteries of the world in which we live, the more I come to the conception of a single overruling power--God. One can come to this point of view by prayer and the testimony of the Holy Ghost or because there seems to be no other explanation of the unity and wonder of the universe or by the pragmatic method of science that the Savior suggested long ago--try it and you will know." (p103)

Science deals with the how and what, while religion deals with the why. "Science deals only with how the world works and has little to say about why the world is at it is. Values, also, are something apart from science. We must find the meaning of life in religion and in metaphysics... If we think of the universe as analogous to a great machine, then man is learning through science something about how the machine works, but only through philosophy and religion can he catch a glimpse of the purposes of the Designer and His reasons for the grand design." (p 102)

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe the truth, whether we know it or not. "A young man said: 'In high school we are taught such things as pre-Adamic men, and that kind of thing, but we hear another thing in Church. What should I do about it?' I think I gave the right answer. I said, 'In this Church, you only have to believe the truth. Find out what the truth is!' ... the Church is committed only to the truth. I do not mean to say that as individuals in the Church each one always knows the actual truth, but we have the humility sometimes to say we do not know the answer to these things. (p 105)

Contradictions between religion and science will only exist until we have learned all there is to learn. "Apparent contradictions between religion and science often have been the basis of bitter controversy. Such differences are to be expected as long as human understanding remains provisional and fragmentary. Only as one's understanding approaches the Divine will all seeming contradictions disappear. Such complete understanding is to be approached as a part of the eternal progress which will continue in the life to come. In the meantime, we can only continue our quest for the balanced view that comes from weighing all evidence carefully in the search for enduring values. The road is a long one, but the outcome is assured if we are willing to travel it." (p 99)

When something we thought was true proves not to be, this only draws us closer to what is actually true. It doesn't mean, however, that we should reject all that we previously believed to be true. "Science has also in effect strengthened religion by assisting in sifting the grain of truth from the chaff of imagined fable. It is interesting to recall that in ages past, religious men felt that their faith hinged on the notion that the earth was flat. However, when it was found to be round, they discovered that their basic religious ideas had survived without perceptive damage. In fact, the great underlying principles of faith were brought into bolder relief when the clutter of false notions was removed from about them." (pp 35-36)

We should be careful of what we teach. "One of the problems of the Church is the unsound arguments sometimes used in its defense. People examine such arguments, find they won't hold water, and say, 'My, the Gospel must be unsound.' The conception that the Gospel should only be defended on the right ground is of utmost importance, since otherwise one may choose a position to defend which is indefensible; and in defeat it may be mistakenly supposed that the Gospel is at fault." (p. 51)

Just because a prophet says something, that doesn't necessarily mean that it is true, and if something he says isn't true, that doesn't mean that he isn't a prophet. "A prophet is wonderful because he sometimes speaks for the Lord. This occurs on certain occasions when the Lord wills it. On other occasions, he speaks for himself, and one of the wonderful doctrines of this Church is that we don't believe in the infallibility of any mortal. If in his speculations the Prophet thought [something that was false], this has no effect on my belief that on other occasions, when the Lord willed it, he spoke the ideas that the Lord inspired him to say, It is for these moments of penetrating insight that I honor and follow him." (p52)

Perceived faults in the gospel are due to the weaknesses of men, not because the gospel itself is at fault. "The Gospel is not the people in the Church. The Gospel is not even the people who direct it. The Gospel is the truth... This Church would have been perfect if the Lord had not let people into it."(pp.52-53)

Friday, December 13, 2019

Conversation between a Skeptic and a Believer

(Steven wrote this, but I really liked it, and so I am posting it with his permission.)

BELIEVER: You know, somewhere out there, there exists a radio station. And that radio station is broadcasting music that it is possible for us to hear even where we are right now.

SKEPTIC: What are you talking about? I can’t hear any music.

BELIEVER: Well, the radio station doesn’t broadcast sound that you can hear. It sends out the signal using radio waves.

SKEPTIC: Radio waves? What are those? I’ve never seen any radio waves.

BELIEVER: Oh, you can’t see radio waves. Nor can you feel them or hear them. But they are real and that is how the radio station sends out its music.

SKEPTIC: I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in things that I can’t see, hear, or feel. How do you know that this radio station really exists?

BELIEVER: I know it exists because it is possible to hear the music that is broadcast by the radio station. But you need to have a radio receiver to do so. I have a radio set so I have heard the music and I know that it is real.

SKEPTIC: Look, here is a radio receiver set right here and it is not playing any music. That goes to show you that there is no such thing as a radio station.

BELIEVER: In order for the radio set to play the music from the radio station it needs to be turned on.

SKEPTIC: I’ve tried turning it on but I all I hear is static.

BELIEVER: The radio set also needs to have an antenna in order to pick up the radio wave signal from the radio station.

SKEPTIC: Even with an antenna all I get is static. Are you sure there is a radio station out there?

BELIEVER: Yes, there is a radio station out there.

SKEPTIC: Do you know where this radio station is, or what it looks like?

BELIEVER: Well, no actually. I have no idea where it is or what it looks like.

SKEPTIC: I’m sorry, but like I said, I don’t believe in things that I can’t see or feel or hear. If you don’t know where it is or even what it looks like, then I don’t understand how you can believe in such a thing.

BELIEVER: You don’t have to know where it is in order to hear the music that it is broadcasting. As long as you have a radio receiver set with a good antenna and have it tuned to the right frequency then you can hear the music that is being broadcast from the radio station.

SKEPTIC: Now it needs to be tuned to the right frequency! You seem to keep coming up with a lot of conditions to make this work.

BELIEVER: Well, unless all these conditions are met you won’t hear any music and all you will get is static. But I’m telling you exactly what you need to do in order to hear it. Follow these steps and I know it will work for you just as it works for me.

SKEPTIC: Even if the radio somehow started playing music how would you know that it came from some radio station and was not just coming from inside the radio itself?

BELIEVER: Well, I guess you just have to listen to the music and decide for yourself. But as for myself, I believe that it comes from the radio station.

SKEPTIC: You seem to be very trusting to believe in something that you don’t know that much about.

BELIEVER: All I know is that when I have my radio on with the antenna extended and I have it tuned to the right frequency that I hear music and I believe that the music is sent from a radio station that is out there somewhere.

SKEPTIC: You know, I once tried turning the tuning dial all around and for a moment thought I heard some music but then I didn’t hear it again so I came to the conclusion that it was just a fluke and therefore there is no such thing as a radio station and whatever I must have heard just came from inside the radio or perhaps I just imagined it.

BELIEVER: Yes, it is difficult sometimes to get the radio tuned to just the right frequency to hear the music. Sometimes some fine-tuning is required. It takes some patience but the effort is worth it because then you can hear the music from the radio station. And the more you work at it the more you can learn how to stay on just the right frequency.

SKEPTIC: I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe that there is a radio station out there. I don’t believe that you know there is a radio station out there. I don’t believe in things that I am not sure of and unless I know exactly where this radio station is or what it looks like or how the radio waves work I won’t believe. Honestly, if there really were a radio station out there I think that it would try a little harder to make people know that it is there and not just send out invisible radio waves on only one frequency that most people can’t hear.

BELIEVER: I’m sorry you feel that way. But I know that the radio station is real and that it is broadcasting music. You are free to believe whatever you want. But as for me, I’m going to go home and listen to some music on the radio.

Monday, December 9, 2019

I Believe in π

(This parable is intended to share my own thoughts and feelings. It is by no means intended to show disrespect to anyone who may or may not believe in π.)

I believe in π. It is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter and to my understanding, has a value of approximately 3.14159... In English it is spelled pi, and sounds like the word pie.

Imagine that I encounter someone who has lost their belief in π. They say it doesn't work for them. They say they don't believe it. (And somehow I hear, though it isn't explicit, the message that I shouldn't believe it either.)

I scratch my head and I don't know what to say. It seems to work for me. Sure, I've had some times when it didn't work out for me, but that's usually because A) I tried to use it in a way that it wasn't intended, B) My measuring tape was stretched out of shape and inaccurate, or C) I made an error in my calculations. But on the whole, it has worked, and as I have used it more often, it has gotten easier and I have gotten useful answers more frequently.

Suppose they tell me they don't believe in π because it is irrational. There is no pattern to it. It isn't consistent. It doesn't make sense. If π were real, wouldn't it be simple and clear and easy to understand?

Again, I don't know what to say. Yes, it would be nice if π were simple and easy, but that just isn't the way it is. It wouldn't function as effectively if it were anything different. 

What if they tell me they don't believe in π because they don't know what version of π to believe in? The ancient Babylonians believed its value was 25/8, while the ancient Egyptians thought it was (16/9)^2. Some mathematicians in India interpreted it as the square root of 10. Archimedes of Greece set much of the groundwork for how π is calculated today and narrowed the value down to between 223/71 and 22/7 and gave it a new name: Archimedes' Constant. Some Welsh guy named William Jones gave it the name π as the first initial of a greek word meaning periphery. Today there are so many digits to π that a man could (and has) recited them for over 24 hours straight, and there is still nothing to say "this is the end". How can a normal person ever know which of these numbers are accurate, if any? How can I be so egotistical to believe that I know the truth?

I'll freely admit that I don't know the whole truth. Personally, I know very little - only about six digits, and in practice I only use the first two or three. But for me, that is enough. That is sufficient for me to get useful answers and solutions I can work with to the problems I face. For me, π works. Without it, I don't know how I would find solutions to those problems. Believing in π gives me peace because I know I can use it to gain the answers I need.

But then imagine I am told that I should not be influenced by emotions, opinions, choices or fears, that I should seek truth, not happiness. They tell me that I should use scientific method to discover truth - look for patterns, make a hypothesis, test that hypothesis, analyze my results and then have those results confirmed or rejected.

What can I say? When I have used my interpretation of π, it has appeared to work. As far as using scientific method goes, I hypothesize that if I use it correctly, it will continue to lead me to the answers that I need. I've continued to test this hypothesis by using π whenever I have a relevant problem to solve, and my results have been consistent - except as I mentioned before, when I have made a mistake in calculations, measurement or usage. I know other people who have had results similar to mine. I don't understand why it would work so well for some people and not for others. I don't know why it works at all, but I do know that it works for me. For me it is truth, even if I do only know the first six digits of something that goes on eternally. Again, if I didn't use π, I don't know how I would be able to find the answers to my questions.

Doubters of π might bring up other reasons why they don't believe in π. They may mention a text book that teaches about π that is full of typos. They may question whether the concept of π was discovered by the Babylonians or the Egyptians. They may mention some tale of how π was used in the construction of some building but the building leans and will some day fall over. They may mention how Archimedes wasn't known for his mathematical writing to the people of his own time period. They may further mention that Archimedes created war machines and wonder that he could have had anything to do with discovering more about π.

I don't know how to respond to this onslaught of seemingly unrelated information. In my head I think, "So what?" That all may be true, but it is all beside the point. It doesn't matter who discovered π. π was discovered by humans and humans make mistakes. But that doesn't mean that the things they discovered are inherently wrong. It doesn't matter who has used π or how their uses may or may not have turned out. What do typos have to do with whether or not π works? The fact (for me) remains that π has been discovered, that I am lucky enough to be aware of it and have learned how to use it so that it works for me.

Maybe they tell me that 𝜋 works for me only because I have been brainwashed or conditioned to believe in it. 

I consider this. Maybe I was. I was taught about π from an early age. I was taught how to use it, given plenty of opportunities to practice with it, and even tested on it. But then I remember that there was a time after I finished school that I didn't use π for a while. I thought I didn't need it; it was irrelevant to my life. And then one day I was working on a project and had a problem I couldn't solve. I struggled with the problem until I remembered what I had been taught about π. It took a lot of time and effort to remember all I had been taught, but at last I was able to use π to figure out the answer I needed and was able to complete my project. I remember this experience and ask myself, if being conditioned helps me to find answers when I need them, how is conditioning a bad thing?

Finally, imagine I am told that there have been or currently are billions of people on earth who have never heard or understood the concept of π, and they get along just fine.

That may be, but I still don't know how they would have solved the types of problems that I solve using πWhat great achievements might they have been able to accomplish if they had known the use and value of π? It just makes me feel sad for them.

I would also feel sad for anyone who knew about π but didn't believe in it - those for whom π might not seem to work. They'd ask their questions and seek for another truth and I would love to understand and relate to them, but it would feel like we came from different worlds. How come π doesn't work for them when it works so well for me? I don't know. And I wouldn't know what to say.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Pondering Mortality

If you've been following my blog for a few years, you might remember that I have seizures occasionally. If you haven't, or want a refresher, check out this post. And this one. Once they figured out it was seizures, they put me on medication, and I haven't had a seizure in over a year now. (Yay!)

Before they figured out it was seizures, when it was just syncope, I was referred to a cardiologist, who did a bunch of tests and found some issues, but none of them would cause the syncope, so I kind of dismissed them. He did put me on some medications though, and I've continued to take them, and yesterday I went to the office for a yearly check up, kind of wondering why I bothered now that I know that the syncope episodes were seizures, and not heart related. Now I'm wondering if I should have paid more attention.

One of the tests that the cardiologist did at that time was a test for Lipoprotein (A)  The doctor gave me another copy of the results from that first test yesterday. I remember him telling me at the time that it was high, and that it meant I had a greater risk of heart attack or stroke, but it didn't really sink in for some reason. Yesterday I really looked at the numbers. The ideal amount of Lp(A) is less than 75 NMOL/L, moderate is between 75-125 NMOL/L, and high is anything greater than 125 NMOL/L. I have 172 NMOL/L.

Lipoprotein (A) is a type of cholesterol (similar to LDL) that clings to the sides of the arteries and causes blockages which lead to blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. Everyone has some amount of it in their blood but to have a high amount of it is genetic. The amount doesn't change much over the lifetime although there is an increase when a woman hits menopause. It isn't affected by diet or exercise. And there is currently no medicine to treat it. (See here for one of my sources and more information.)

The current treatment involves lowering other factors that can lead to cardiovascular disease. This is why I'm on cholesterol lowering medicine even though my normal cholesterol is already pretty low. It is because of the high risk of having a stroke that my cardiologist recommended that I take aspirin every day.

Yesterday, the cardiologist recommended that I come back in six months so they can do a test to see how much blockage there is in my carotid artery, and he suggested another ECG in a year.

Ever since I left the doctor's office yesterday, I've had the thought rolling around in my mind that the life ahead of me could be short. I knew a man who passed away suddenly just a couple months ago from a heart attack, and he was maybe ten years older than I am. That's young! All this has gotten me thinking: What do I want to do before I die? What things have I been putting off, thinking there will be plenty of time later? What should I be spending my time focusing on? I'm not really morbid - I don't expect to die in the next few months, or even in the next few years, but what if I do? What if I die in a car accident today? What do I not want to leave undone?

Thursday, November 21, 2019

A Fable

Once upon a time, a father had three ignorant, illiterate sons. When his sons reached a certain age, he sent them away to learn what they could and return.

The eldest boy left his father and set off on his journey. After many days he came to a large building. As he got closer, he saw a man standing at the entrance.

"What is this place?" the boy asked him.

"This is the repository of all the learning of the wise ones," the man told him.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"I am the librarian, the keeper of knowledge," the librarian responded, and led him inside.

The inside of the library was filled with shelves which were themselves filled with papers and scrolls and collections of paper.

"What are these?" the boy asked.

"These are books," came the response.

The boy took one from the shelf and opened it. Inside were markings the boy had never seen before. "What is this?" the boy asked.

"This is writing," the librarian answered him.

"I can't understand this!" The boy closed the book and left the library.

When he arrived home, his father asked him, "What did you learn, my son?"

"I learned that wise ones are idiots," the boy replied.

When the second boy left his father and set off on his journey. After many days he came to a large building. As he got closer, he saw a man standing at the entrance.

"What is this place?" the boy asked him.

"This is the repository of all the learning of the wise ones," the man told him.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"I am the librarian, the keeper of knowledge," the librarian responded, and led him inside.

The inside of the library was filled with shelves which were themselves filled with papers and scrolls and collections of paper.

"What are these?" The boy asked.

"These are books," came the response.

The boy took one from the shelf and opened it. Inside were markings the boy had never seen before. "What is this?" the boy asked.

"This is writing," the librarian answered him.

"Can you help me understand?" The boy asked.

"Yes, I can." The librarian patiently taught the boy about letters and words and the boy learned to read.

One day when the boy could read, he asked, "What can I can I do with this?"

"You can read any of these books." the librarian told him, gesturing to the books on the shelves around them. 

The boy picked up a book and started to read, "The world is round."

"How can the world be round? It looks flat to me!" The boy closed the book and left the library.

When he arrived home, his father asked him, "What did you learn, my son?"

"I learned that wise ones are idiots." the boy replied.

When the youngest boy left his father and set off on his journey. After many days he came to a large building. As he got closer, he saw a man standing at the entrance.

"What is this place?" the boy asked him.

"This is the repository of all the learning of the wise ones." The man told him.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"I am the librarian, the keeper of knowledge." The librarian responded, and led him inside.

The inside of the library was filled with shelves which were themselves filled with papers and scrolls and collections of paper.

"What are these?" The boy asked.

"These are books." came the response.

The boy took one from the shelf and opened it. Inside were markings the boy had never seen before. "What is this?" the boy asked.

"This is writing." the librarian answered him.

"Can you help me understand?" The boy asked.

"Yes, I can." The librarian patiently taught the boy about letters and words and the boy learned to read.

One day when the boy could read, he asked, "What can I can I do with this?"

"You can read any of these books." the librarian told him, gesturing to the books on the shelves around them.

The boy picked up a book and started to read, "The world is round."

"How can the world be round? It looks flat to me! Will you help me understand?"

The librarian answered, "Yes, I will." He took the boy to the sea side and showed him the curve of the horizon. He showed him how a ship disappeared around the curve of the earth as it sailed away.

The boy nodded as he understood. "What can I do with this?" he asked.

"You can learn more." The librarian responded. The boy picked other books. He learned about orbits, solar systems, gravity, planets, plants and animals.

Many years later, the boy returned home. When he arrived, his father asked him, "What did you learn, my son?"

"I learned that I still have much to learn." the boy replied.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Bus Stop

Last Friday and Saturday, Northglenn High School Fine Arts Department presented the play "Bus Stop" by William Inge.

 Joshua was the Shop Foreman, and spent many, many hours working on the sets. The final result looked really nice! 

Peter also spent some time helping with the tech crew and managed to get his name into the program as well. He spent the last half of the performance we watched in the lights and sound booth, watching the folks there push buttons and stuff. Maybe for the next play he will take a more active role.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Studying the Book of Mormon

During General Conference in October of 2018, President Nelson invited the sisters of the church to read the Book of Mormon. He said:
  "I invite you to read the Book of Mormon between now and the end of the year. As impossible as that may seem with all you are trying to manage in your life, if you will accept this invitation with full purpose of heart, the Lord will help you find a way to achieve it. And, as you prayerfully study, I promise that the heavens will open for you. The Lord will bless you with increased inspiration and revelation. 
As you read, I would encourage you to mark each verse that speaks of or refers to the Savior. Then, be intentional about talking of Christ, rejoicing in Christ, and preaching of Christ with your families and friends. You and they will be drawn closer to the Savior through this process. And changes, even miracles, will begin to happen."(See entire talk)
I accepted his invitation. I figured out how many pages a day I would need to read in order to finish by New Years' Eve. And I read that many pages each night before I went to bed. My scriptures were already well marked, so I soon gave up trying to mark every verse that speaks of the Savior - It seemed too messy to mark these references on top of the scriptures that were already marked, and I soon gave up. I finished reading the Book of Mormon on New Years Eve according to plan and then switched to reading the New Testament with the Come Follow Me program, only reading occasional cross references in the Book of Mormon.

This year, during the Saturday session of General Conference, I felt the need to try this invitation again, to do it a little better. I found an unmarked copy of the Book of Mormon to use, so previous markings wouldn't be a distraction. I chose a length of time when I could read with few distractions - for the 45 minutes while my boys are in seminary each morning. I started my study each day with a brief prayer, and then I began to read, and mark, and think. I kept a composition book nearby so I could record thoughts, questions and feelings I had as I read.

I finished this morning, exactly six weeks from when I started. While I have read the Book of Mormon many times before, this time, I feel like it was different. I watched for references to the Savior and I realized that he was on almost every page. I read with questions and again and again I would come across verses that were relevant to the questions I had and helped guide me towards the answers I sought. I found stories that I could relate to and apply to my life today. I read chapters that I have read countless times before, but gained new insights, found new truths that I hadn't considered before. I have been inspired and enlightened.

Since I've been reading in the morning, I've had the entire day to think about the things that I've read. I've been driven to write gospel centered blogs. I've talked about what I've read to my boys while I drove them from seminary to school. I've shared my testimony of the things I've been reading at church. I do feel like I have drawn closer to my Savior in a way that I didn't last year. I think I understand a little better what Joseph Smith meant when he said, referring to the Book of Mormon, "a man [or woman] would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."(Introduction

Once again I feel like I have received a witness that the Book of Mormon is of God.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Searching For Truth: The Problem with Uncertainty

(Disclaimer: The things I write in my "Searching for Truth" series are not intended to be doctrine. They are only my personal thoughts from my own perspective as I resolve my personal questions. I post them here in case someone else might find them interesting or gain insights for themselves - in agreement or not. If you have a comment that relates, something I may not have considered - in favor or against, please feel free to leave a respectful comment.)

I recently had someone who I love and trust tell me "If your current views are really correct, you shouldn’t be afraid to have them challenged. They should be able to stand against any test. If your views are not correct though, but you still want to hold onto them anyway, then new ideas ... can indeed be dangerous."  This person also appears to value uncertainty: "No matter what it is, you could be wrong, so let go of your pride and be brave enough to face the possibilities."

While this might be true when it comes to scientific facts, I don't believe it applies when it comes to spiritual beliefs. While part of me wants to "let go of [my] pride" and be humble enough to admit that I might be wrong, something in me really fights against it. It sounds right, but it feels wrong. Of course it is good to be humble! Of course I should try to understand other people's views and ideas. So what's wrong with it? 

As I've pondered this, I've realized something that (to me) is profound: There are some things that are true only because we believe in them. When these things are challenged, when uncertainty is introduced, it can cause us to feel doubt, and so they then cease to be true. This is why I try to avoid those things that seriously challenge my faith. It isn't so much fear that I might be proved wrong as it is self-preservation - I need these things to stay true for me.

For example: You hear of people in life and death situations having the strength to lift cars to save someone, while under normal circumstances, they wouldn't be able to. Whatever the physical reasons behind it, they are able to lift the car because they believe they can - if they didn't believe in that moment, they wouldn't try hard enough to succeed. They wouldn't be able to do it. 

When Peter believed that he could walk on water, he could do it (See Matt 14:25-33). It wasn't until he began to doubt that he started to sink. His view that he could walk on water was correct - he really did it. When that view was tested by the wind and the waves, he became uncertain. His belief didn't withstand the test - not because it wasn't true when he believed it, but because it ceased to be true when he started to doubt.

The scriptures tell us that faith can move mountains. But there is no room for doubt. If we say, "Well, I'm 99% sure I can move this mountain, but I might be wrong" then there is no way that we will ever have the power necessary to be able to move it. 

I believe that God can and does answer my prayers so I am watchful and listen for answers - and I find them. I am helped, guided, and comforted. If I began to doubt God's existence, would I still feel the comfort of knowing that there was someone watching over me? Would I continue to trust that there was someone with all wisdom that could guide me through the challenges that I face? Would I continue to have the power to do the things I don't believe I could do without His help? It isn't so much that my doubt would make any difference whether or not He actually exists, but rather that I would be cutting myself off from the blessings and the power that come from believing that He does. I would lose the ability to walk on water and I would sink.

When you ask me to suspend my faith, to even consider the possibility that I might be wrong, you are asking me to relinquish the power that my faith gives me. You are asking me, as Amalakiah asked Lehonti (see Alma 47:7-18), to come down off my mountain where I have power and security, to go down where I am vulnerable, at greater risk of being poisoned or worse. That's I don't want to go there.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

A couple of Josh's Projects

Josh has been a theater technician for the last couple years. This year he is serving as the foreman, and that means that he has a lot of say when it comes to the sets for this year's high school plays. This week, his high school is performing "Bus Stop" by William Enge. (Performances are this Friday and Saturday at 6:30pm.) This activity gives him lots of experience using power tools (which is fun) and telling people what to do (which can be frustrating at times.)

The Spring Musical early next year is going to be "Little Shop of Horrors" and Josh is already gathering his ideas of what the set design for that will look like. He drew a top view of the rotating set piece he is envisioning, but then he was asked to show a front view. Finding it a challenge to get the perspective and angles right, he decided to instead make a 3D model.

Yesterday Josh made himself a chair out of scrap wood he found in the playroom. The legs need some reinforcing, and he made it to fit himself so my hips are too wide to sit in it comfortably, but it's a cool chair anyway. We had the missionaries over for dinner last night and one of the missionaries sat in Josh's chair for the entire evening and thought it was pretty cool.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Searching For Truth - Knowing for Myself

I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all my life. At first, I believed because that was what I was raised to believe. My parents believed it and taught it, and that was what I was used to. Last week, I wrote about personal experiences that I had which helped me to come to know for myself that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.

Is it important for people to figure out for themselves about what is true? If we just blindly obey what we are told is right, will we end up in the same place as those who search and struggle to learn for themselves? I don't believe so. I believe we must each find out for ourselves what is truth and right.

In the Beginning...
Before we came to this earth, we lived with our Heavenly Father and all our spiritual siblings. Our Father presented a plan that would give us experiences that would help us to progress and become more like him. He knew that we would make mistakes while we were learning, so he called for a volunteer to be our Savior, someone who would pay the price for those mistakes (because God is just, and justice has to be satisfied) so we could be forgiven and continue to progress.

Two volunteers came forward. One was Jehovah. He was willing to follow the Father's plan, and be sacrificed to pay for all of the mistakes that each of us would make while we were learning what is good and true and how to be perfect, like our Father. The second volunteer was Lucifer. He wanted to change the Father's plan so that no one would ever make mistakes - we would all be perfectly obedient, and no one would be lost. Plus he wanted the glory for coming up with this alternate plan.

Our Father chose to stick with his original plan. He saw that we needed our agency to learn for ourselves what was right. Forced blind obedience was not going to teach us the discernment, the self-mastery, or the wisdom we would need to progress. (For more on this topic, read a blog Steven wrote a week or so ago) If we were just going to be ignorant blind followers, we could have just stayed in heaven with our Father, not as children, but as pets.

Seek Learning by Study
So we came to earth with agency to choose what we will do. We come in ignorance, not remembering what happened before this life so part of our purpose here is to learn all that we can. We haven't been given all the answers to our questions about "life, the universe and everything" on a silver platter; we have to figure them out. So we go to school. We go to church. We read good books. We seek out the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

I like to think of truth as giant jigsaw puzzle. Every little bit of truth fits in somewhere. When we have all the truth, it will all fit together beautifully and reveal something amazing. One corner of the puzzle may relate to things of science while another corner relates to things of religion and there may be great gaps in the middle, but when all the pieces of truth have been found and put in their correct spots, it will all fit together perfectly. There may be some pieces that appear to fit now, but when the pieces around them are all put in place, they may need to be rotated or moved or maybe they won't fit at all and will need to be discarded.

If each of us had to piece together the entire puzzle on our own, it would be impossible. I don't have enough time in my life to rediscover every bit of known truth. I will probably never go to Mongolia, but I have seen enough evidence from other people's experience to know it exists. There are many such things that I can't test for myself, but I can search out what other people have said and experienced. I can then compare the things that I am learning with the things that I already know to be true, and see how they fit together. If they fit, then it is likely to be true. If not, then I can lay it aside.

Sometimes, however, studying what others have learned isn't enough for us to really understand and know what is true. Often different people have opposing views. How else can we learn what is truth?

Learn by Doing
Imagine a toddler starting to explore the dangerous world of a kitchen. Her parents may warn her not to touch the stove because it is hot, but it isn't until she actually touches a hot stove and gets burned (hopefully not too badly) that she will truly understand what they meant. Sometimes we just have to try something ourselves to really understand. 

The Savior said, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17) 

I came to learn that the law of tithing was true when I tried it and it lived up to its promise. As I have ministered to others, I have seen the blessings that have come from ministering and have come to know that it is from God. 

When Alma taught the Zoramites in Alma 32, he compared the word of God to a seed. He invited them to plant the seed in order to see whether or not it is good. We plant things by trying them. 

One of the first things that missionaries do when they begin teaching someone is to invite them to read the Book of Mormon, because it is by reading that they can see the good in it. Other people may tell them that the Book of Mormon is true or that it is of the devil, but they won't really know anything about it until they read it. Then they can learn for themselves and make their own judgement whether it is of God or not. 

Seek Learning by ... Faith
Sometimes studying and trying things out doesn't completely satisfy our search for knowledge. Sometimes it is very hard to discern between what is truth and what is not and we need to turn to the Lord for answers. God has given us the Holy Ghost to help us in the discernment process, but we have to study it out, have the faith to ask for his help, and then we have to listen for his answer.

The Lord explained the process further to Oliver Cowdery when he said, "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong..." (D&C 9:7-9)

The fourteen year old Joseph Smith was confused about religion. There were plenty of people around- Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists, who would preach what they believed to be true, but they contradicted and contended with each other. Joseph tried them out, attending their various meetings as often as he could. But still he was confused as to which was true. He studied some more, turning to the Bible, and came across James 1:5, which advised him to ask God. He experimented on the word, going to the grove of trees to pray. And he asked God which church he should join. God answered his prayer, and he learned truths that he could then share with the rest of us that would come after. (See JS-H 1:5-20)

But - we don't have to take his word for it. In fact, we shouldn't accept his word blindly. We must come to know for ourselves whether what he said about his experience was true or not.

Usually God doesn't appear or speak to us directly. But we do feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. Sometimes that influence is felt in a moment of intuition or inspiration. Sometimes it is a random thought. If I have a simple yes/no question, I find it helps if I already have an answer in my head (I think this is true... Is it?) and wait to see if I feel peace (You're right) or continued confusion and doubt (Maybe rethink it...).

Often, the answers don't come immediately, but if I keep a question in the back of my mind and continue searching, I will notice things coming to my attention that are pertinent to what I am studying. Someone will post a quote on Facebook or I'll notice a scripture during my family or personal scripture reading that relates to my question. Sometimes a family member or acquaintance will mention something in passing that will give me a new insight. The answers come slowly, but if I keep searching, eventually God will lead me to an answer that feels like truth. I believe that this process is personal revelation.

To Sum Up
Whenever we hear something new, there is a process that we can go through to see if it is something that is good, to know for ourselves if it is true:
  1. We can study it out in our minds first. We can compare it to other things that we already know to be true. Does it fit with what we already know? Does it make sense? 
  2. We can try it out. What is the "fruit" or result of this idea? Does it feel good? Does it bring us  joy? Does it bring benefits and blessings?
  3. We can pray to ask God if it is true, and then listen and watch for the answers that come by the Spirit.
  4. We can continue learning and searching and trying and asking.
"Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God." (Jacob 4:8)

(Brigham Young gave a very interesting talk on the subject of Personal Revelation. You can read it here.)

Monday, November 4, 2019

Searching for Truth - Testimony building

I have a couple family members who have lost their faith in God. I love them dearly, and I greatly enjoy the time that I am able to spend with them, though it is rare because of distance and other factors. And yet I qualm when it comes to talking to them about things of religion. This morning I was pondering why that is.

I think for me it comes down to fear. I'm not afraid of them, but I am afraid of what effect talking with them will have on my own hard won faith. What if I lose the answers that I have prayed, studied, pondered, and prayed some more to achieve?

Both of them are powerful writers. They ask a lot of questions, and I don't have all the answers. Some times the only answer I have is that I don't know why, and yet, I have a firm testimony that it is so... and they don't accept a heart felt testimony as an answer - and I don't blame them. Like the five wise virgins in the Savior's parable, I can't give them my oil of testimony. They have to go and acquire it themselves. And yet, I'm realizing that maybe I can seek more oil myself so that my lamp can glow brighter and maybe illuminate the way for them to seek their own.

Like most people, my testimony has grown gradually. At first I believed because it was what I was taught to believe in my home as I was growing up. But as I got older, my testimony gradually grew a more solid foundation.

When I was a freshman in college, I realized that I needed to know for myself if the church of Jesus Christ was true. I had been taught that the process to do that was to read the Book of Mormon, and then ask God in prayer if it was true. And so I did that. And I received a witness that the Book of Mormon was indeed true. And by logic, if the Book of Mormon was true, then Joseph Smith was a true prophet. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, then the church that he established is also true. The witness I received wasn't anything powerful or mind blowing. It was just a quiet thought, a conviction, "You already know that it is true." And I realized that I did.

A couple years later I decided to serve a mission. I don't remember now why I wanted to serve. Maybe it was just because I was graduating from college and wasn't sure what to do next, but felt that I "should" serve a mission. I walked out of my final interview with my stake president, my missionary papers completed and ready for him to submit, and as I walked back to my dorm, I felt an incredible feeling of joy. I wanted to start singing and dancing. I wanted to laugh and cry. It was the most powerful emotion that I had ever felt, and I had a conviction that my Heavenly Father was pleased with what I had chosen to do. I don't remember praying before to ask if I should serve a mission. I just believed that it was right so I acted in faith, and AFTER I had put everything in motion to go, I received the confirmation that it was right.

As a missionary, the experiences that helped my testimony to grow were almost daily. Every time I quoted Joseph Smith's experience in the grove in his own words, I felt something. I knew that the experience I was relating had really happened. It was true.  One time I was talking about how we have a living prophet, and I suddenly felt a conviction - I KNEW that President Gordon B Hinkley was a prophet of God.

Shortly after Steven and I were married, we faced a time of financial hardship. We were preparing for the birth of our first child. Steven was going to school. We had tuition payments and rent payments, and there was a time that we debated if we should pay our tithing. There didn't seem to be enough money to cover everything, and the church wasn't going to kick us out of our homes or school if we didn't pay immediately. But in faith we payed the tithing anyway. And then we watched the blessings come in. I don't remember now everything that happened. Steven may have received a scholarship. We may have been gifted money from some source. I do remember that we were given a bassinet, a crib, a changing table, tons of baby clothes, pretty much everything we needed for our new baby, and I remember looking around our now crowded little apartment and thinking, "Wow, the promise about paying tithing is true - we have been poured out so many blessings that we didn't have room to receive them all." I received a conviction that the law of tithing was true.

Sometimes there have been other things, more complicated things, that I have wondered about. As I keep the questions in the back of my mind as I read the scriptures or listen to talks, and as I go on walks and just think about them, answers come. They don't come all at once, but often a thought here and a thought there and they grow. Often when I have something on my mind, I will compose a blog about it because that helps me to focus my thoughts and as I write things out I see how things fit together. Are the answers I come up with truth? Maybe. Maybe they are just steps on the way towards truth and there is more that I still need to figure out. I'm okay with not knowing everything because I do know the important things - the Book of Mormon is true. The gospel is true. We have a living prophet on earth today.

I can tell these stories about how my testimony has been shaped and how it has been strengthened. I can tell people what I have come to believe because of my own studies and prayers and experiences, but I can't make anyone else believe based on my experiences. They can always say it was just a coincidence, or a figment of my imagination. But I don't believe it.

But what if they keep talking? What if they use their logic to confuse me? What if they persuade me to disbelieve or discredit the feelings that I have received? What if they pull me out into that morass of confusion and doubt that they appear to be wallowing in themselves? I don't want to go there. I want to remember the experiences that I have had and hold firm to what I have learned is true.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Letter to Missionaries... Snow and Halloween

Dear Hannah and John,

How are things going? John - I forgot to ask last week, but did you manage to finish reading the Book of Mormon by your deadline? How are you enjoying Osasco? How do you like teaching the gospel in the real world? Hannah - how are Adriano and Sueli doing? Any new investigators? I looked up everywhere that you served on the map, and discovered that your areas form a line that points almost directly toward Osasco, where John is.

This week started out with snow. Seminary was cancelled on Monday, and school was delayed by two hours. It was nice to be able to sleep in a bit, and by 9, the streets weren't too bad and the boys got to school okay.

Tuesday morning, Seminary was held as usual, even though it was actively snowing pretty hard. We made it there safely. During seminary, I stayed in the car, turning on the wipers occasionally to clear the quickly accumulating snow off the windows. When seminary let out though, I went to turn on the engine, and nothing happened. The battery was dead! We had to get it jump started before I could take the boys to school - which started as normal in spite of the heavy snow. The snow continued to fall and around 11am, I got notice from the school that they were letting the kids out early and that all after school activities were cancelled. By the time they let the boys out, the snow had eased significantly, and they were able to walk home.

Tuesday night we received notice that seminary and school would be cancelled on Wednesday. Wednesday morning dawned clear and bright, although super cold. So yes, the boys did get a snow day from school eventually. It would have been nice if it had been Tuesday rather than Wednesday, but apparently no one can accurately predict the weather here in Colorado.

Thursday was Halloween. Peter dressed up in his vampire kid costume. Josh kind of dressed up as Peter's responsible adult, and Dad drove them to the Ellis / Gailey/ Mission President's neighborhood to Trick or Treat. We actually got two groups of Trick or Treaters here at our house that night!

The time changed last night, so technically we could have had an extra hour to sleep last night. Unfortunately, Peter woke up at about 4:30 AM and we heard him racing to the bathroom to throw up. This has been repeated several times since then. I don't think he will be coming to church with us.

I think that's it for this week. I love you both, and I'm so glad that you've both chosen to serve the Lord. You are in our every prayer!!!


Monday, October 28, 2019

If There Was a God, He Would...

(Steven wrote this and gave me permission to post it here.)

I have heard many arguments from people who question the existence of God. Some things they say are: “I don’t think God would want to have so much suffering in the world,” “If there was a God, I don’t think he would want there to be wars fought over religion,” “I think God would not want there to be so much confusion about Him. He would reveal Himself more so that people would know He was real.”

These are all fair statements and other similar comments have been expressed by many people throughout the ages.They are thoughts that try to rationally and logically understand the world around them and how God and religion fit into the picture. The basic logic of most of these thoughts can be summed up as follows:
     A) If there was a God, he would [fill in the blank]
     B) The conditions of the world do not agree with (A)
     C) Therefore, there is no God

There is a certain logic in this argument, and people can be forgiven for accepting it. I will agree with them on one point - the God that they have defined in point (A) does not exist. That is certainly correct, as it logically follows from point (B). This is the main flaw in this whole argument - trying to define what God should or should not be based on our limited, mortal understanding. The only correct conclusion to come to from the argument above is:
     C) Since the conditions of the world contradict a God as defined in (A), the conditions of (A) must be wrong and I should consider other possible attributes of God.

Can it be possible that a God exists who does not conform to our expectations? Let us consider this. I’d like to present some other things that do not conform to our expectations of what should happen.

In the book of Revelation we read of a very interesting occurrence: “And there was war in heaven.” (Rev 12:7) Wait, war? In heaven? But I thought that heaven was a peaceful place. Isn’t heaven a place where God dwells and all his holy angels who sing praises to Him day and night?

And yet, there it is in black and white: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels.” There was fighting! There was contention! There was disagreement intense enough to lead to battle.

What was all this fighting about, you ask? What was the cause of this war in this unlikely place? To answer that we have to go back to the beginning, back to before the foundations of the earth were laid. At this time God presented a plan, a plan that would require a savior as part of it.

Satan came forward and said “Here am I, send me. I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” (Moses 4:1)

This is where the problems began. Satan’s offer was in contradiction to that of Jehovah who said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:2)

So we had two competing plans being presented - one in which all mankind would be saved, and one in which some may be lost.

Now, why wouldn’t anyone want to go with the plan where everyone would be saved? Think of it - no one would be lost! Surely if God loves all of His children he would want all of them to be saved and to return to Him, right?

Perhaps an analogy might help. Picture a dean of a medical school. The dean should love his students so much that he would want all of them to become doctors someday, right? He would want this so badly that he would give them the answers to the final exam. Think of it - no one would fail! All of the students would become doctors! Wouldn’t that be great? I will leave it to you to consider the consequences of such an action, and whether you would want to be a patient seen by one of that graduating class. Now consider that God is trying to make more of us than just doctors and perhaps you can see the merits of accepting the other plan.

This issue was contentious enough that the debate between the two sides became the “war in heaven” spoken of by John, and ends with Satan and his angels losing their place in heaven and being “cast out into the earth.” (Rev 12:8-9)

All of this demonstrates an important attribute of God: that God values man’s agency very highly. Even in that premortal council everyone was free to choose which plan he or she wanted to follow - to accept Jehovah as our savior, or to follow Lucifer. It is precisely because he “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3-4) that Lucifer became Satan and was cast out.

Now you would think that God would not want to lose any of His children before the earth was even created and yet we read that “a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he [Satan] away from me [God] because of their agency.” (D&C 29:36)

Here’s another thing you probably would not expect: If God sent his only begotten Son to earth, surely He would not want him to be killed by wicked men. I mean, that wouldn’t make any sense at all right?


Well, we all know how this story goes. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem in a lowly stable to his mother Mary. He lived a perfect, sinless life. He taught the gospel, healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, and raised the dead. After a brief three year ministry he was arrested, tried, condemned and executed by crucifixion atop Calvary’s hill.

Such a sad ending. You can be forgiven for asking “why did God allow that to happen? Why didn’t He stop it and save him?” Man, God sure does not behave how we would expect, does He? It’s almost as if God’s ways are higher than man’s ways and God’s thoughts higher than man’s thoughts. (see Isaiah 55:8)

You could almost say that God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

That is, if He really does exist...

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Another Letter to the Missionaries.... with Pictures!

Dear Hannah and John,

One of you asked for pictures, so here you go:

Josh recently made himself a coat rack that he can hang his coats and hats on.

Josh and Dad fixed the outlet that the lamp is plugged into in Josh's room. You know how the lamp plug was always loose in the outlet? Apparently that is a fire hazard and not good. So we finally managed to get it fixed. After it was fixed, Josh decided he wanted to rearrange the furniture in his room.

Here is the other side of Josh's room... He's standing in front of the little fridge he has in there.

Here's a picture of Lala, just in case you forgot what he looks like...

I finished the tie that I've been knitting. Peter wore it to church today, but decided it was too hot or something. Muffins doesn't seem to mind wearing it.

Last month there was a "free day" at the dump. We disposed of the swamp cooler and the couch and some other things that were in the playroom. Here is a glimpse of what it looks like now.

Yesterday, I took Peter shopping with me to get stuff for his Halloween costume and some groceries. He picked out a pumpkin to carve. Last night he emptied out the guts, but I don't think he's decided what he wants to carve yet.

It has been snowing today... really light, but all day. It's supposed to continue to snow for the next few days and we might get several inches. There isn't much to show for it right now though.

So a couple weeks ago I crocheted these little monster things. One is a squid with horns and the other is an eel with fins and a ridge down his back.
But after I made them, Peter decided that one was a two legged guy with curly hair, and the other was a type of slug with antennae. Dad agrees with Peter, so they keep turning them upside down, and then I turn them right side up again. It is an ongoing battle...

Dad brought all his trees into the playroom before the first snow of the season. They are looking kind of droopy at the moment, but hopefully they will survive the winter and come back next spring.

Speaking of plants, I transplanted my pineapple plant into soil a few weeks ago. It still seems to be doing okay. It's about a year old now!

In other random news, Zack C. spoke in sacrament meeting today. It was cool to see how much he matured during his mission. Craig J. was called to be the new Elders Quorum president today.

I guess that's all for this week. I love you both and I think you are both awesome.

Love you!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Why would God have a Chosen People?

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels
A little while ago I came across the question, "If God is the Heavenly Father of every person on earth, why would he have a chosen people?" By chosen people, I mean, of course, the House of Israel. How many times do the scriptures refer to the "God of Israel", or to Israel as the Lord's chosen people? If God is supposed to love all his children, why would he be so focused on this one family? Does he love the Israelites more than he loves his other children?

This morning I was reading Jacob 5, the allegory of the olive tree, but I also had this question in the back of my mind. There must have been many other trees in the vineyard besides this one. Why was he so focused on this particular tree? When I finished reading the chapter, I picked up my notebook and started writing the thoughts that had come to my mind relative to this question as I had been reading. Here are those thoughts, with others I've had this morning as I've pondered further:

  1. God has a plan for his children to return to his presence with greater knowledge and experience. God's "work and ...glory [is] to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) He wants all of his children to return to him, and I can't even imagine all the plans and preparations he needed to put into place for his plan to have any chance of succeeding. (Satan's plan where we would all be saved without faith or struggle might have been so much easier... but that would be like a test where the teacher gave us all the answers; we wouldn't learn what we needed to learn.)

    According to God's plan, the Savior of the world would have to be born on earth, and he could only be born one time, in one place, to one group of people. These people would have to have some foundation of truth so proper priesthood authority would exist and so Christ's teachings wouldn't be completely foreign and would be accepted by many people, and yet they would need to be wicked enough to kill an innocent man who had done nothing but good. It would also be necessary for the knowledge of Christ's ministry and teaching to be spread to as many as possible. This society of people would have to be selected carefully and nurtured so the Plan would be fulfilled properly.
  2. We don't have a lot of information about what happened between Noah, the tower of Babel, and Abraham's day. We know that the people were scattered and that their languages were changed. Therefore, the majority of the people on earth wouldn't have had readable records of God's teachings. We know Jared and his brother had one record which they took to the other continent. (Ether 1:3) How many other copies existed? Without written records, most of the people of the world would have forgotten all they might have known about the God who created them within a few generations (see Omni 1:17). Shem, Noah's son, probably would have had Adam's record, and he probably passed it down through his descendants. We know that Abraham was Shem's descendant, and that Abraham's fathers had turned to apostasy, but Abraham chose to be righteous and so he was able to preserve the records with God's teachings. (Abraham 1:31)

    In other words, almost all of God's children were scattered and lost, and only a small remnant, including Abraham, retained a knowledge of the truth of the Plan and the Savior.
  3. God loves all his children throughout the world. He wants them to know the truth of his plan, so he reveals himself to righteous men and women so they can be prophets to their own people. They preach of Christ, and they keep records so they can remember those teachings.

    But with the majority of his children scattered and lost to apostasy, how could God, whose greatest desire was to bring his children back to him, provide a way for all of them to learn about him and his plan? He used the tools he had. The Jaredite "tree" were his representatives for a while somewhere on the American continent, and Abraham's family were his representatives in the Middle East. Perhaps there were other "good trees" in other parts of the Lord's vineyard as well, but Abraham's family was chosen to be the society into which Christ would be born.
  4. The Lord favors the righteous, whoever they may be, whether descendants of Abraham or not. However, over time, people fall into apostasy. Prophets are rejected and killed. Records are destroyed or lost. Teachings of the prophets are forgotten. The Jaredite nation went in and out of apostasy many, many times. The house of Israel did as well, but in both nations, there was a written record of truth that could bring people back to the path. There were people who desired to be righteous who the Lord called to be prophets to call the rest of the people to repentance. There may have been other righteous civilizations in other parts of the world and they were surely favored of the Lord for as long as their righteousness lasted.
  5. Being God's "chosen people" didn't do the Israelites many favors. They were conquered and enslaved many times. They were carried into captivity. They were scattered and lost themselves. However, because God needed them to provide the proper environment for the Savior to be born, he preserved them from being destroyed completely. He sent prophets to remind them of the truths their fathers had known. At times he "pruned" or allowed the more wicked parts to be killed so they wouldn't drag the rest of the people into apostasy. He even granted miracles that would help them to retain an identity as a people, and to remember their God. Through the ages, the memory of who they were as a society continued, and somehow an unbroken chain of priesthood was preserved, so that when Christ was born, he was able to fulfill his part in the Plan.
  6. It wasn't just enough that God provide the proper environment for Christ to be born. It was also important that God spread the word of his plan and of Christ to his other children. This may have been one of the reasons for the scattering of Israel - to spread what they knew of the gospel to other people throughout the world. We know that groups of Israelites were scattered at various times in their history. Some were taken in war and carried off to parts unknown. Others, like Lehi's family, left of their own free will. In the allegory of the olive tree, the branches of the tree were scattered to different parts of the vineyard. The Book of Mormon people were just one of at least three branches that were scattered, but they were all still nourished by the master of the vineyard.
  7. Records of Christ would be most plentiful where Christ actually lived. He made an impression that continued on past his death. It, too, decayed into apostasy over time, but some records survived long enough to become the Bible. Christ also visited people in the Americas, hence another impression was made there, a record was preserved and God caused it to be found in our day as a second witness of Bible truths. By the Savior's teaching "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold..." (John 10:16, 3 Nephi 15:17) we know there are other people that Christ has visited of whom we still have no record. (See 2 Nephi 29:10-13)
  8. The wise men from the East came from another people who had heard of the prophecies of Christ. Were they of the house of Israel? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Maybe they had been taught of the Messiah by some branch that had been broken off. Or maybe they had been revealed the truth of God's plan some other way. I don't know. The wonderful thing is that they were close enough and rich enough that they were able to come witness Christ's birth and carry the news back to their own people. Were they chosen specially by God? Yes! Does it matter whether or not they were of the House of Israel? No!
  9. What about today? In all the talk about the gathering of Israel happening today, is God only concerned about gathering Abraham's direct descendants? No. The children of Israel are the ones that have been selected for the work of spreading the knowledge of God's Plan and the Savior to all of God's children. The Lord's chosen people, however, are all the righteous. The work of gathering is to gather everyone who will hear the gospel and accept it and be baptized. Missionary work and temple work today aren't limited to just certain people of certain lineage. It is for everyone on earth, past and present.
  10. So to sum up.... God wants his children to return to him - as many of them as are willing to accept Christ and the plan. These are the righteous - the good fruit, whoever or wherever they may be. Abraham's family was a tree that gave good fruit. They were righteous and had the necessary knowledge of God's plan. Because of this, they were chosen to do a job - to produce as much good fruit as possible. God gave them the protection and help (pruning, digging, nourishing) that they needed to accomplish that job. The Israelites were then scattered to bring the knowledge of the gospel to God's other children throughout the world where they continued to be nourished. Now in our day, through both missionary and temple work they all are being gathered from all over the world, back to a knowledge of the restored gospel, of God's plan, and the role of the Savior so we will be ready when he comes again.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Teeth, Babysitting, Snow and a Wedding...

(Excerpts from a letter to the missionaries...)

First of all, John's wall plaque arrived so now one side of the ward's missionary map is the "Hiatt side". Steven took pictures of it:

Sorry, this picture is a little blurry... But that is Hannah's plaque on top and John's on the bottom.

On Monday, I took the boys to the orthodontist. Peter had his expander taken out (It was a contraption that widened his upper jaw, and we had to turn it with a key every day for several days.) Peter was very relieved to get that off. However, that also means that in a few weeks he will get to have braces put on the rest of his teeth, instead of just on the front top teeth that he has now.

So this week was parent teacher conferences which meant that elementary schoolers didn't have school Wednesday through Friday, and high schoolers didn't have school on Friday. So on Wednesday I got to babysit little Josh (a boy in our ward.) He was dropped off a little after 7am, and went jogging/ walking with me. Later he played Legos, and then we played Clue several times (he cheats like crazy!) Then he played on his tablet for a while until Big Josh and Peter got home. Then they played together and finally Peter and little Josh went down to the park to play. It was kind of an adventure keeping a seven year old occupied for most of a day.

On Thursday we got our first snow fall. Luckily the only place I had to go after taking the boys to seminary and school was parent teacher conferences that evening so that was nice. The next day the boys got a "snow day" (because there wasn't school any way because of conferences..)

Also on Friday, we had the missionaries over for dinner. One of them was fresh from the MTC - and he went into the MTC on the same day John did.

Yesterday Steven and I went to Ethan H.'s wedding. It was a three hour drive away, out in the boonies beyond Salida. It was very pretty though, and it was a nice wedding, held at an outdoor chapel with the reception following in a barn type building. I think it is the first non-LDS wedding I've gone to, and apparently the guy who married them was one of Ethan's buddies who got his minister license on the internet from some random church I had never heard of. It was a really nice ceremony though. I was touched by the sweet vows that the couple wrote and read to each other.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

High School Threat

So this happened today at my boys' school.

At 11:30 this morning I received the following email:
Dear Northglenn High School Families,

In our ongoing effort to keep you informed of issues at our school, we want to let you know about a current safety situation at the school.

The school is currently in a hold and lockout due to a safety situation in the building. During a hold all students remain in their current class and do not travel to other parts of the building. During a lockout all exterior doors are secured and no one is allowed in or out of the building. 
Administration received a tip that someone in the school might have a weapon. Northglenn Police immediately made contact with the student in their class and confirmed that the student did in fact have a weapon. The student was immediately taken into custody. 
At this time all students and staff are safe. Additional police officers responded to the school to assist with this matter. The situation is ongoing and police are continuing to make contact with additional students to gather additional information regarding the situation.

While the investigation is ongoing, we ask that you do not come to the school. We will share more information with you as soon as available.

Thank you,

Sharee Blunt
At 1pm, another email arrived:
Dear Northglenn High School Families,

This is an update to our previous message about the safety situation at Northglenn High School.
As of 12:45 p.m. Northglenn Police released the school from the hold and lockOUT. The school day will continue on a modified schedule and have a normal dismissal. Through the police investigation, it has been determined that there is no threat of violence directed towards the school at this time. 
Lunch was made available for all students and staff who would like to grab some in the cafeteria before proceeding to the next class.

We did have a situation earlier today where we got reports that a student had a weapon, police immediately made contact with that student. When police made contact with that student it was confirmed that they were in possession of a handgun. The student was taken into custody without incident and the weapon was confiscated. 
Northglenn Police made contact with multiple students to gather additional information. Officers also searched student lockers and belongings of those who they previously made contact with. Through that investigation it has been determined that there is no specific threat towards the school at this time. 
Our school counselors and members of the district mental health team are available to meet with students, staff and families individually or in groups today or in the coming days. 
I appreciate the partnership we have with our students, staff and parents to keep our school safe. I will continue to keep you informed of important issues at our school.


Sharee Blunt
 So yeah. Fun stuff. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Flower Garden Photos

I loved our flower garden this year!  It's a strip of soil along the fence that faces the road. Last spring, Steven dug up the tired stuff that had been planted there, replaced the edging around the flowerbed and improved the soil. Then we bought an assortment of colorful flowers to fill the space. Through the summer, I've watched the various plants bloom in their season and every day I've loved the flurry of bright colors that greet us when we come home! 
This was the garden a month or so ago.

A couple days ago, I went out and took some closeup photos of some of the flowers so I can enjoy them as background screens on my desktop computer in the years to come. 

I also took a few pictures of some of my fall decorations... I think they're kind of pretty too: