Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Love and Discipline

Those who devote themselves to love will find that discipline is involved. Paradoxically at times, this discipline will seem to hinder our ability to connect with another, to limit our love and service. So ideally, I think, this discipline needs to be flexible: soft on the outside, but with a firm core that retains its original integrity.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

My Ten Commandments

I've only come up with eight so far...
  1. Thou shalt love thyself as thy neighbor.
  2. Thou shalt not self-destruct.
  3. Thou shalt cease wrangling over religion and "Truth."
  4. Thou shalt not fear, hurt, demean, or kill those whose views and lifestyles are different from thine own, but thou shalt seek to understand them.
  5. Thou shalt cultivate a garden; in it shalt thou plant thankfulness, gratitude, patience, compassion, and trust in the grand designs of the universe.
  6. Thou shalt be a champion for the oppressed, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised.
  7. Thou shalt not isolate thyself, save it be for prayer, solace, and meditation.
  8. Thou shalt love thy spouse and thine offspring. What doth it benefit a person if she gains the whole world, but loses her own children?

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Little Mormon Apostle

There's a little Mormon apostle
inside my head. He says,
You didn't try hard enough; you didn't pray long enough.
You let Satan deceive you; you didn't endure to the end.
You knows it's true; we know truth by what we feel.
Read the Book of Mormon; it has all the answers.

I'm sorry, little apostle. I gave it my best.
Or maybe I didn't. Maybe you're right.
Maybe the answer was just around the corner, just a little farther,
and I ended up settling for a mess of pottage.

My life is a mess. Life is messy. All your answers
work for some, the Chosen Few. Meanwhile, Whatever-It-Is-That-Is-Out-There
continues to love me, and to bless me, and to help me.
She blesses the Buddhists; He tells the Muslims the Qu'ran is true.
He sends visions to the Baptists; She smiles on gay parents who love their children.
She cheers for the atheists trying to make the world a better place.

The Great White Shark and the tiny Forget-me-not
continue to eat and to bloom.
What horrors and what beauties does this Earth bring forth!
What wrenching agony and grief still lie ahead for me?
What peace and equanimity?

If the world is to end, let us go down believing in love,
in goodness, in helping each other up when we fall,
and in what brings us deep joy.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Talefolk™ - I Want You To Be Happy

"You know what I want for you more than anything?" he said. "I want you to be happy. Not fleeting, superficial happiness, but deep peace and lasting contentment that storm or tragedy might obscure but cannot destroy."

He went on. "Unfortunately, I feel that before you can have such happiness, you must have sadness first. Not just sadness but struggle, doubt, anguish, heartbreak, and pain - the whole gamut of human experience and emotion, I suppose. I wish it could be otherwise, but somehow - if you believe in love and help and happiness - you emerge from your difficulties and trials with a trust that life is beautiful, that healing is real (though it might take time), and that the sun will rise again for all tomorrow."

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mormon Midlife Crisis No.1

As I work through my Mormon midlife crisis, I am resolved in two things:

  1. I do not want to be angry at or bitter towards the Church,
  2. I want to continue to believe in a loving God, who understands our struggles, and wants to help and bless us, and bear with us in our constant infirmities and shortfalls.

What is my first conclusion or tenet of my crisis? that God is hidden, as Isaiah 45:15 states. What does this mean?

  • God is all-powerful and all-knowing. None of us nor all of us collectively can surprise or shock Him. He knows the past and the future - time does not exist for God as it does for us. Nothing can frustrate his purposes or His plans.
  • God has ordained that this mortal existence be one of faith, meaning that regarding a) God's own existence, b) the nature/existence of life before and/or after mortality, and c) the purpose of this life, certainty and sure knowledge are extremely limited if not impossible. Since this is God's decree, no amount of human effort or knowledge can thwart it. There seem to be some who are granted special witnesses or mystical experiences that give them a measure of esoteric knowledge of these transcendent matters; in these cases, such experiences are highly personal, and are all but unable to be comprehended by others or verified by objective proof.
  • Some examples of God's hiddenness: the problem of pain; the problem of evil; religious scripture that paints God as vengeful, judgmental, condemning, harsh, and unforgiving; religious leaders who preach and reveal inspiring and uplifting concepts, but who themselves remain human, fallible, weak, mistake-prone, proud, arrogant, and less than morally upright and honestly forthright; and the general fact that God is not a visible, directly accessible and responsive personality in our lives, i.e. we do not see him, he does not speak to us as do the normally physically present people we associate with daily.

I fear that I may be already showing my weakness in my first resolution. I do not want to be angry or bitter, but I must say that my current crisis has arisen in large part due to personal religious questions that I feel my Mormon faith a) suppresses or discourages, b) has no answers to, and c) seems to require that I suspend my inquiry while continuing to believe and practice as though I had no questions or doubts.

I think what is boils down to is this: for years I have believed and exercised (imperfect) faith in and (far from perfect) obedience to the religious promises that the LDS Church taught and offered me. These efforts have brought both great blessings and great trials into my life. If understanding and applying religious principles about God should bring peace and comfort to my life, then misunderstanding and misapplying such principles seem to bring a converse measure of turmoil, strife, and anguish. I do not feel that I am any closer to answers or certainty. I confess some bitterness towards Church leaders and members who seem certain and claim knowledge of deity: who God is, what he expects of us, and what his thoughts and attitudes are towards us. I feel somewhat betrayed that despite all the promises and all the biblical stories of God communicating with man, the only communication that seems available to me are vague feelings and impressions that are very easy to doubt, very hard to trust, and very prone to being inaccurate.

But finally, I believe that, as a hidden God, he requires patience and searching on our part to find him. As a mortal, there are limits to my patience and my ability to persevere in things that I cannot see and cannot understand. I do not want to give up on God, but I am needing to find another way to exercise faith in him. Perhaps one that is more reasonable in my expectations, and is not so disappointed and does not feel so betrayed when understanding and answers do not come.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Faith: What I Believe Right Now

NOTE: References to "Church" below refer to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

DISCLAIMER: What I have written below represents my thinking at this point in time. I ask that you respect my right to change my thoughts, beliefs, and opinions at any time, as I go on learning and seeking for greater understanding.

One of my issues is the problem of binary or black-and-white thinking. It seems to me that the Christian scriptures themselves (Book of Mormon included) teach and promote this kind of thinking, which leads people to constantly judge or categorize the world and those around them as "good" or "bad," "righteous" or "sinful," "faithful" or not living up to their covenants.

My current perception of reality is not so conveniently simplistic. There are gay parents who love and sacrifice for their children and for each other, much more than some heterosexual parents do. There are people who become disenchanted with the Church, leave, and go on being honest, caring, decent people who contribute much to the world and to their communities. Some sick people in the Church receive priesthood blessings, and are not miraculously healed; some sick people of other faiths miraculously get better. And finally, the reverse of all these statements is also sometimes the case.

I guess that's where I am at: in an "I don't know" stage. I want to believe there is a God. If there is, he is certainly hidden as Isaiah 45:15 says. I want to believe in a God or power in the universe that loves us, and has sent us here to have experiences that help us grow. Sometimes there seem to be miraculous interventions in our lives from a higher power, but they are exceptional, uncommon, and personal, and can often be viewed or interpreted in a number of different ways. No religion can claim a monopoly on such experiences; they are present in all faiths and among all people and nations.

I believe in goodness, in loving, serving, supporting, encouraging, and respecting each other. I believe in forgiveness and compassion, for others and for ourselves. I believe in helping those who are marginalized and struggling; but I also believe that to completely remove their struggles from them, removes an important opportunity for growth in their lives.

I join with all organizations who value the special importance of families - all kinds of families. I believe in the special commitment and sacrifice that should exist between spouses, and towards their children. The family truly is the building block of civilization.

I believe that diversity must not only be tolerated but embraced and sought-after. If, out of fear of what is different, we lash out against or suppress that which we do not understand, or which makes us uncomfortable, or with which we are not familiar, we will trap ourselves inside a filter bubble that will cut ourselves off from others, and perhaps cause us to alienate or persecute them.

I believe that the powers of the Universe respect, notice, and reward work, dedication, and sacrifice. I believe that people should devote themselves to and work for what they love, believe in, and are passionate about. Balance and centeredness are also important. Leaders and organizations who inspire or persuade their followers into making great sacrifices and living with devotion to their precepts can accomplish amazing things, as well as terrible, atrocious things.

We need more leaders with integrity. We need to find and uphold people in our nation and our communities who care and who respect principles of liberty, responsibility, and compromise; who are apt to teach and empower rather than to use hostility, promises, and fear-mongering to gain power. And we need also to avoid worshiping these leaders, or setting them up as something other than they are: imperfect people just trying to do what they think is best, given the knowledge, understanding, and background they have at the time.

There are very real problems in our world today. I'm not sure that the best way to solve them is to store up a year's supply of food and wait for Jesus to come fix everything. There are amazing, brilliant, charismatic, gifted, and caring people in the world (actually, every one of us to some degree). We don't all agree on which problems are the most pressing, or how each problem should be addressed, but three things change the world: 1) the freedom, opportunity, and environment to express our views, 2) the responsibility and willingness to listen to and consider others' views without villianizing them, 3) the critical mass of consensus that, when reached, effects the change.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Only True Church

Several years ago, my colleague Brent Top and I sat with two Protestant ministers for a few hours in what proved to be a delightful and extremely enlightening conversation. Absent was any sense of defensiveness or any effort to argue and debate; we were earnestly trying to understand one another better. Toward the end of the discussion, one of the ministers turned to me and said: “Bob, it bothers you a great deal, doesn’t it, when people suggest that Latter-day Saints are not Christian?” I responded: “It doesn’t just bother me. It hurts me, for I know how deeply as a Latter-day Saint I love the Lord and how completely I trust in Him.”

My Protestant friend then made a rather simple observation, one that should have been obvious to me long before that particular moment. He said: “How do you think it makes us feel when we know of your belief in what you call the Apostasy, of the fact that Christ presumably said to the young Joseph Smith that the churches on earth at that time ‘were all wrong,’ that ‘all their creeds [are] an abomination in [my] sight,’ that ‘those professors were all corrupt’ (Joseph Smith—History 1:19), and that in your Doctrine and Covenants your church is identified as ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’ (D&C 1:30)?” I can still remember the collage of feelings that washed over me at that moment: it was a quiet epiphany, coupled with feelings of empathy, sudden realization, and a deep sense of love for my friends. For a brief time I found myself, mentally speaking, walking in their moccasins, seeing things through their eyes. It was sobering, and it has affected the way I seek to reach out to men and women of other faiths.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

FreeNAS - Mount and Share NTFS Partition at Startup

It is not recommended practice to share out an NTFS disk or partition from FreeNAS. If you just want to get information off of an NTFS formatted drive in FreeNAS, the recommended practice is to do it from Volume Manager > Import Disk.

I did this under FreeNAS 9.10-STABLE.

Before NTFS partitions can be mounted, FUSE must be loaded into the kernel. In FreeNAS GUI, go to System > Tunables, and add

  • Variable fuse_load, value YES, type loader
  • Variable fusefs_enable, value YES, type rc.conf

Now click on Account > Users > Add User, and add a user with an ID of 1001. I checked the 'Microsoft Account' box, and made the username the same as the one I use in Windows, but I'm not sure this is important...

Now open the Shell. Create a persistent mount point by typing mkdir /conf/base/mnt/ntfs_drive

Now find the UUID or name (I used UUID) of your NTFS partition that you want to mount by typing gpart list. Only you will be able to tell which disk and which partition is the correct one. Once you've found it, note the rawuuid value (or the name, which I didn't use).

Now type mount -uw /, then edit the following file with nano like

nano -w /conf/base/etc/fstab

DISCLAIMER: wrongly editing your fstab file might make your system unbootable!

append this line to the file (it is wrapped below but in the file it must all be on one line):

/dev/gptid/{UUID you noted above} /mnt/ntfs_drive fuse rw,user,mountprog=/usr/local/bin/ntfs-3g,uid=1001,gid=1001,windows_names,inherit,late 0 0

Save changes by pressing Ctrl-Shift-x, then y, then Enter. Now close the shell.

In the FreeNAS GUI, go to Services and turn CIFS on. Then click on the wrench to edit the settings. Leave everything as its default value, except for 'Auxiliary Parameters.' In that box, type (on separate lines):
path = /mnt/ntfs_drive
writeable = yes
browseable = yes

This should allow samba to share out the NTFS partition that will be mounted at startup.

The share will not be visible in the FreeNAS GUI under 'View Windows (CIFS) Shares' but it should be visible on the network to other computers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tenderhearted and Conscientious Souls

Most of what I have said here has been addressed to persons who think that repentance is too easy. At the opposite extreme are those who think that repentance is too hard. That group of souls are so tenderhearted and conscientious that they see sin everywhere in their own lives, and they despair of ever being able to be clean. The shot of doctrine that is necessary to penetrate the hard shell of the easygoing group is a massive overdose for the conscientious. What is necessary to encourage reformation for the lax can produce paralyzing discouragement for the conscientious. This is a common problem. We address a diverse audience each time we speak, and we are never free from the reality that a doctrinal underdose for some is an overdose for others.

Friday, April 29, 2016

For When Doubts and Questions Arise

Here are some great talks to read for when doubts and questions arise concerning our faith:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Swallowed Up in the Joy of Christ

And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Seeking Great Truth

You seek truth, do you? The greatest truths cannot be spoken by the tongue of man; they are communicated by the Spirit of God to the spirit of man in a language not of this world. The preachers can only try to point at them with their words and their stories. The more they try to pin down Truth with words, the more likely it is that man will wrest them, misunderstand them, or be confused. To know the great truths, prepare yourself as a man builds a house for a bluebird. Find out the right height, the right size; keep predators away as much as possible. Then wait in faith that the bluebird will come.

Monday, February 29, 2016

What Matters Most

Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I'm thinking of coining a new term:
The ability and confidence to make sustained effort and consistent choices with the aim of realizing a long-term and distant goal or reward.
Those who have little faith live day-to-day, week-to-week; but those of great faith are involved in great endeavors to which they devote much effort and work, despite receiving very little if any evidence that they are making progress or that their efforts are paying off.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Receiving Gifts From God

For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

Sister Hansen, ...recently returned from serving a full-time mission, ...told this story.

Following a zone conference, her mission president had presented each of the missionaries with a fresh red rose. He gave no explanation for his gift, and this young sister took the rose home to her modest apartment. It had been a long train ride home for her and her companion, and in her exhaustion and eagerness to get some sleep, Sister Hansen had laid the rose on the table, where it lay withering for a week. By the time she noticed it again, there was nothing to do but throw it away.

As she looked at the stiff and blackened rose, she felt a little guilty for neglecting it. Several months flew by, and she didn’t give the rose another thought until it was time for another zone conference. Just as before, the mission president gave each missionary a red rose. This time, however, Sister Hansen carefully wrapped the stem in damp paper and held it gently on her lap during the long train ride.

When she arrived at her apartment, she recut the stem and placed the rose in a glass of water. To her surprise and delight, the rose bloomed the following day. Under her care, it thrived and perfumed the small apartment for several weeks.

Sister Hansen told the campers that blessings from Heavenly Father are like roses. We can ignore them, thereby receiving no joy or pleasure from them, or we can recognize and enjoy the blessings the Lord has lovingly given us.

Many of the blessings we receive from God require care, nurturing, and patience before we can fully realize their worth and enjoy them.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Learning Your Family History - FHE Idea

Living prophets and apostles have promised magnificent blessings upon those who get involved in family history work and research.

Here's something we did for Family Home Evening. We printed out a copy of the template below for each person (they write their own name at the base of the trunk). We also printed out copies of pictures of our ancestors for each person (it's neat if you can find pictures of when they were in their 20s), that they could cut out and then paste onto the appropriate position on the family tree template. Then they write the names below the pictures.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

We Believe in Being Positive

I knew the importance of being positive, but was pleasantly surprised to find it documented in the official magazine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The spirit of the gospel is optimistic; it trusts in God and looks on the bright side of things. The opposite or pessimistic spirit drags men down and away from God, looks on the dark side, murmurs, complains, and is slow to yield obedience.
Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, April 1917
as quoted here.
How we respond in any situation has to make things better, not worse.
Remember, our Savior, Jesus Christ, always builds us up and never tears us down.
Of course, this does not mean that God does not call us to pass through some heart wrenching trials to chasten and purify us. If God does tear us down, it is with the careful design to build us back up again, much greater than before. There is a balancing truth:
I heard the Prophet Joseph say, in speaking to the Twelve on one occasion: ‘You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God, and (said he) God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.’
John Taylor, quoted of Chapter 19 of
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Our Relationship With God

Though I have many questions and have yet to understand many things about my faith, there is a fundamental belief or testimony that I have, that is the foundation for my entire spiritual life: that God is my Heavenly Father; that He is keenly aware of my life, my worries, my struggles, and my desires; and that He loves me. Here are some quotes:
If you are reverent and prayerful and obedient, the day will come when there will be revealed to you why the God of heaven has commanded us to address him as Father, and the Lord of the Universe as Son.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

What man among you, having a son, and he shall be standing out, and shall say, Father, open thy house that I may come in and sup with thee, will not say, Come in, my son; for mine is thine, and thine is mine?

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

He who rules the universe is our individual Father to whom we may speak as a son speaks to his father.
I believe my faith in God as my Heavenly Father comes from an experience I had while I was in the Missionary Training Center in Provo in 1991, while preparing to go to Japan as a missionary. The moment we accept the idea that God lives, that He is real, that He has all power, and that He loves us; we start to pray to Him, and acknowledge His hand in our lives. When things go "right" (according to our view and understanding), we are grateful to God. But when things go "wrong," God can seem absent, and there is a temptation to blame and accuse God of not caring, or to feel like He cares about others but not about us. Enter the hard doctrine:
For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
1 Nephi 20:10

Friday, January 29, 2016

Righteousness, Charity, or Both?

As I study the scriptures, I find passages that are hard to reconcile with each other - and sometimes even directly contradict each other. I conclude that the word of God is not designed to be understood solely by the mind; words alone are utterly inadequate to pin down spiritual truth; and that precious truth is often hidden in the balance, tension, or paradox between two seemingly opposite, contradictory concepts. The one I'm pondering now is the tension between love and righteousness.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Matthew 5:6
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:3
To be continued...

Saturday, January 23, 2016

We Are Hungry and Our Bows Are Broken

17 And after we had traveled for the space of many days, we did pitch our tents for the space of a time, that we might again rest ourselves and obtain food for our families.

18 And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food.

19 And it came to pass that we did return without food to our families, and being much fatigued, because of their journeying, they did suffer much for the want of food.

Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 16:17-19

At this point, this is what I wish would have happened. I wish they had all knelt in prayer (united in heart, knit together in love), and prayed, "Heavenly Father, we are tired and hungry, and so are our families. Our best hunting tool is now broken. The temptation to murmur against Thee and become discouraged is strong.

"We know that Thou seest fit to chasten Thy children, to try their patience and faith (see Mosiah 23:21). We have left Jerusalem, and having been following Thy commands as best we can. Sometimes, to our limited understanding, our best just doesn't seem good enough. After all our effort, the blessings/protection/providence we expected have not been realized in the time frame we anticipated (now).

"We are now faced with a choice: hungry and tired as we are, the easy choice would be to doubt and to murmur against Thee, squabble with each other, and to become discouraged and upset. But there is a better choice. We can 'submit cheerfully and with patience' to Thy will (Mosiah 24:15) and trust that in Thy good time, as we continue to do what we can, Thou wilt deliver us and provide for us. Until that time comes, help us not to murmur. Help us exercise and strengthen our patience and trust in Thee. Though we suffer, may our sufferings be swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Help us to wait upon thee (Isaiah 40:31), with utmost assurance (D&C 123:17) that as we continue faithful, we shall see Thy arm be revealed. May our afflictions be consecrated for our gain (2 Nephi 2:2).

"Surely, Thou hast not brought us this far only to let us perish in the wilderness, save it be that we lack even the faith of a grain of mustard seed" (Matthew 17:20).

Friday, January 22, 2016

Proceeding Without Guarantees

Being able to proceed when the specific outcome is not assured is one of the great tests of life.
Peggy S. Worthen, The Allegory of the Wedding Cake
[video] [text]

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What We Obtain Too Cheap, We Esteem Too Lightly

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
I bear you my solemn testimony that the Lord opens the heavens to his servants today. He will answer your prayers for help beyond your human understanding. But I also bear you my testimony that the words study it out mean a degree of patience, of labor, of persistence commensurate with the value of what you seek.
For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he [does not understand the cost or the value of] the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.
We could say that our entire life is merely a quest or an exercise to come to understand and appreciate the value of God's love and God's gifts to us.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Facing the Giants

This evening we again watched the movie Facing the Giants. It is a feel-good and faith-promoting film. However, it made me consider the pitfalls of "telling the happy story." Lest we be overly critical of the film, there are many similar accounts in the Bible, where people are healed, blessed, and even raised from the dead.

It is important for people to know of the power God has to work great miracles in our lives. But it becomes problematic when people try to exercise faith, as Jesus counseled, and yet do not receive the blessing or miracle they seek. Then there is a real risk that their faith may turn sour, and they stop believing in a God who loves, cares for, and blesses them. Perhaps worse, they may believe that God indeed loves and blesses others, but does not similarly love and bless themselves.

What to do? What is the truth? and how shall we teach it?

Stick with the Brethren

It has been my experience that it is wisdom to stay with the Brethren—don’t lag behind them, and don’t try to get ahead of them.
LeGrand Richards, quoted here

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Hide and Seek

Hide-and-seek is a universal game that children play.  When I was young, the ultimate goal was to hide in a place so that no one would find me.  Now I play hide-and-seek with my own children, and my goal is different.  Yes, I could hide in a place where they would never find me, but that would only frustrate and discourage them.  Now I hide in places that are out-of-sight, but apparent when they search for me.  For instance, I will hide behind a curtain with my feet still visible, or behind a piece of furniture that they just have to look behind.  This way, it is much more fun for all of us.

Is God playing hide-and-seek with us?

Sometimes when reading scripture, a verse seems to jump out of the page and causes me to marvel, to see the world in a new way.  I had this experience when I read Isaiah 45:15:

Verily thou are a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.
To be continued...

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Dealings of God

And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.
Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 2:12

What are 'dealings?' Here are some definitions from the dictionary appropriate for the above instance:

  • a personal connection or association with someone
  • the particular way in which someone behaves toward others

We are children of God. His dealings with us are the dealings of a loving father toward his children. His thoughts and ways are higher than ours (see Isaiah 55:8-9). Sometimes we hear faith-promoting stories of miraculous healings, blessings, guidance, and protection from above. At other times I read accounts of suffering, privation, and loss where God seems absent. My own experience is in between these two extremes.

In the above case of Laman and Lemuel, the account goes on to show that God was leading them out of a wicked and sinful populace, to miraculously guide and provide for them in the wilderness, to grant unto them beautiful and virtuous brides, to teach and empower them to build a fine seacraft to cross the great ocean, and to bring them to a beautiful land of promise. They were not without trials at times: hunger, hard work, and the normal, daily grind that we all face in providing and caring for our families. We could say their biggest trials were a direct result of their own pride, wickedness, and forgetfulness of/blindness to all that God had done for them. However, affliction came to all of them, both the wicked and the righteous. Their afflictions served to chasten them. Let's look at some pertinent definitions of chasten:

  • to bring to a state of submission; subdue; restrain
  • to discipline or correct by punishment
  • to rid of excess; refine or purify

To the wicked, trials are a punishment to subdue or restrain them, hopefully so they will learn and make better choices in the future. To the righteous – who are among the wicked (and sometimes switching places with them) – trials test their faith ("My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"), to further sanctify them, and to shape them and help them become more like Him whose children they are.

This is easy to say, but what about the situation of the woman in the story below?

Elder Benson and Brother Babbel later recounted, from a testimony they heard, the experience of a Church member who found herself in an area no longer controlled by the government under which she had resided.

She and her husband had lived an idyllic life in East Prussia. Then had come the second great world war within their lifetimes. Her beloved young husband was killed during the final days of the frightful battles in their homeland, leaving her alone to care for their four children.

The occupying forces determined that the Germans in East Prussia must go to Western Germany to seek a new home. The woman was German, and so it was necessary for her to go. The journey was over a thousand miles (1,600 km), and she had no way to accomplish it but on foot. She was allowed to take only such bare necessities as she could load into her small wooden-wheeled wagon. Besides her children and these meager possessions, she took with her a strong faith in God and in the gospel as revealed to the latter-day prophet Joseph Smith.

She and the children began the journey in late summer. Having neither food nor money among her few possessions, she was forced to gather a daily subsistence from the fields and forests along the way. She was constantly faced with dangers from panic-stricken refugees and plundering troops.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks to months, the temperatures dropped below freezing. Each day, she stumbled over the frozen ground, her smallest child—a baby—in her arms. Her three other children struggled along behind her, with the oldest—seven years old—pulling the tiny wooden wagon containing their belongings. Ragged and torn burlap was wrapped around their feet, providing the only protection for them, since their shoes had long since disintegrated. Their thin, tattered jackets covered their thin, tattered clothing, providing their only protection against the cold.

Soon the snows came, and the days and nights became a nightmare. In the evenings she and the children would try to find some kind of shelter—a barn or a shed—and would huddle together for warmth, with a few thin blankets from the wagon on top of them.

She constantly struggled to force from her mind overwhelming fears that they would perish before reaching their destination.

And then one morning the unthinkable happened. As she awakened, she felt a chill in her heart. The tiny form of her three-year-old daughter was cold and still, and she realized that death had claimed the child. Though overwhelmed with grief, she knew that she must take the other children and travel on. First, however, she used the only implement she had—a tablespoon—to dig a grave in the frozen ground for her tiny, precious child.

Death, however, was to be her companion again and again on the journey. Her seven-year-old son died, either from starvation or from freezing or both. Again her only shovel was the tablespoon, and again she dug hour after hour to lay his mortal remains gently into the earth. Next, her five-year-old son died, and again she used her tablespoon as a shovel.

Her despair was all consuming. She had only her tiny baby daughter left, and the poor thing was failing. Finally, as she was reaching the end of her journey, the baby died in her arms. The spoon was gone now, so hour after hour she dug a grave in the frozen earth with her bare fingers. Her grief became unbearable. How could she possibly be kneeling in the snow at the graveside of her last child? She had lost her husband and all her children. She had given up her earthly goods, her home, and even her homeland.

In this moment of overwhelming sorrow and complete bewilderment, she felt her heart would literally break. In despair she contemplated how she might end her own life, as so many of her fellow countrymen were doing. How easy it would be to jump off a nearby bridge, she thought, or to throw herself in front of an oncoming train.

And then, as these thoughts assailed her, something within her said, “Get down on your knees and pray.” She ignored the prompting until she could resist it no longer. She knelt and prayed more fervently than she had in her entire life:

“Dear Heavenly Father, I do not know how I can go on. I have nothing left—except my faith in Thee. I feel, Father, amidst the desolation of my soul, an overwhelming gratitude for the atoning sacrifice of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. I cannot express adequately my love for Him. I know that because He suffered and died, I shall live again with my family; that because He broke the chains of death, I shall see my children again and will have the joy of raising them. Though I do not at this moment wish to live, I will do so, that we may be reunited as a family and return—together—to Thee.”

When she finally reached her destination of Karlsruhe, Germany, she was emaciated. Brother Babbel said that her face was a purple-gray, her eyes red and swollen, her joints protruding. She was literally in the advanced stages of starvation. In a Church meeting shortly thereafter, she bore a glorious testimony, stating that of all the ailing people in her saddened land, she was one of the happiest because she knew that God lived, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He died and was resurrected so that we might live again. She testified that she knew if she continued faithful and true to the end, she would be reunited with those she had lost and would be saved in the celestial kingdom of God.

This question is: could I handle it if God chose to deal with me in the same way He saw fit to deal with this sister? I am grateful for this story. Most of the stories we hear in church are about miracles and savings and healings. There is no such "happy ending" in this story. It is simply a woman lost absolutely everything, but kept on believing anyway. Even Job's story ended with him receiving twice as much as he had in the beginning. We are not told what this woman shall or did receive. Perhaps the very greatest blessing of it all, is her peace. I mean, what could she ever again be afraid of? She lost everything, and still persisted in faith.