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?

Hmm.

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!
Mom

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
Principal
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.

Background
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.

Sincerely,

Sharee Blunt
Principal
 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: