Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Generation Shall Have My Word Through You

The title of this post is in D&C 5:10. This lesson focuses on the extraordinary amount of new scripture given by and through Joseph Smith. As Elder LeGrand Richards put it, "As far as our records show, he has given us more revealed truth than any prophet who has ever lived upon the face of the earth."
I wonder, but didn't talk about in class, how much other prophets really had to reveal, that we just don't have. We also have the blessings of printing and near universal literacy. Without those two things all the information Joseph Smith revealed would have been useless to the rest of us. The lesson recommends reading in Our Heritage pg 41 about the near destruction of the Book of Commandments when it was being printed. I'm not going to go into that, but it is an interesting thing to think about.
What good is revelation that never gets further than the prophet and a few nearest him? David and I have wondered about various religious figures in history, that seemed to have good beginnings, but since their words weren't recorded for hundreds of years after they died, who knows what kind of distortions have crept in? Up too late meanderings, but fun to speculate about.
When we realize that not only did Joseph directly reveal everything in the Triple Combination, but also did the JST, that is a lot of new information. We did an interesting exercise in class. On a given topic a person read what information was in the Bible, then a second person summarized what was in the latter-day revelations. It is such a blessing to have more of the word of God, to have in detail how to baptise, what apostles are supposed to do, the difference between the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, to name just a few. As an exercise at home, look up any random topic in the topical guide, and just read the Bible verses. Then add in the stuff from the triple.
2 Ne 3:11-12 says:
11 But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins—and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.
12 Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.
The underlined phrases are what The Book of Mormon and the additional scriptures we have add to the Bible. I especially like "the laying down of contentions, and establishing peace." We do have some doctrinal arguments, but far fewer than most denominations, partly because we have continual revelations, but also because we have so much more of the Word of God to turn to. You can't get more clear than Alma 11:42-45 about whether we are resurrected as spirits or with bodies. And if God Himself has a body, D&C 130:22. Generations of theologians have argued over those points, using only the information in the Bible. As the knowledge junkie I am, I am grateful to Joseph Smith, for the effort and determination he had to serve God, that led him to provide the rest of us with such wonderful truths about Jesus Christ and the plan of the gospel.
The best part of the additional scriptures is found in Moroni 10:3-6
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.
This test is applicable to EVERYTHING Joseph Smith revealed. Not just the Book of Mormon, or the last chapter of the Book of Mormon. If you have problems with the Book of Abraham and those odd Egyptian pictures, study and pray about it. If the plural marriage thing at the end of the Doctrine and Covenants bothers you, study and pray about it. We have been promised that we "may know the truth of all things." It doesn't say all at once, or right now when we demand it, but we can learn all we need to know, and receive the witnesses that it is all true. What a wonderful blessing. No other knowledge in this world comes with such a promise.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fighting Fatigue

I confess, I do not have MS, I got this for a close relative. But I do have fatigue issues for other reasons and thought it would be a good guide anyway. Besides, I got it from LibraryThing for free and I'm a sucker for a free book.
I was impressed by the practical nature of the book. So many self-help or medical books just give advice and leave the mental and practical applications to be worked out by the reader. But the reader needs help, that is why he/she got the book in the first place.
This book breaks down the things that need to be done into small and manageable items. There are multiple charts that help a reader, even one who is suffering from debilitating fatigue, to make changes.
The author also acknowledges that changing routines is fatiguing in and of itself, so offers advice in how to change a bit at a time.
There is also some mental help, helping the reader to give themselves permission to slow down. Making changes and taking naps is not giving in to the disease and does not mean you are weaker or less of a person.
She also writes about the notion that what we accomplish is a defining part of our identity. If we are defined by what we get done in a given day, who are we if we have to decrease those accomplishments? That idea really resonated with me. What is the question you ask when you meet someone; "What do you do?" It is a question that already causes difficulty with most stay-at-home moms. Add a medical problem and the only honest answer is "Not much."
Surely we are more than what we do. We are children of Heavenly Father. We each have the seeds of divinity within us. Whether or not we did the dishes does not change that.

Fighting Fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis: Practical Ways to Create New Habits and Increase Your Energy. Nancy Lowenstein. Demos Medical Publishing. 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Games Without Frontiers: Meme of the week-2

Its been a busy week, so here is another thing to keep you aware I'm still here, courtesy of my friend Ryan Barber.
What does your music library say about you?

*Put Your iTunes, winamp, mp3 player or whatever on SHUFFLE
*For each question, press the next button to get your answer (no cheating!!)
*You must write down song/artist even if it doesn't make sense
*Include any comments in parenthesis
*Post into a NOTE with #25 as your Title

1. What do your friends say about you? Disturbia, Rihanna (So that's why no one comments much)

2. How would your coworkers describe you? What I Like About You, The Romantics (So at least my children like me)

3. How would you describe yourself? Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry

4. What do you like in a romantic partner? In Humility Our Savior, Fiddlesticks (I'm not sure what this says about David, though he does make me better)

5. How do you feel today?California Dreamin', The Mamas & Papas (Dreaming maybe, but not about California)

6. What is your life’s purpose? Love My Lips, Veggietales (That's scary)

7. What is your motto? Love is Little, Fiddlesticks

8. What do you think about the most?Feed the Birds, Mary Poppins (If the birds count as my children that could be accurate)

9. What are you going to do on your next vacation? This Earth Was Once a Garden Place, Songs of Nauvoo (Yup, gardening for spring break)

10. What do you think of your first love/date? This Woman's Work, Kate Bush

11. What is your life story?Underwater March, Pirates of the Caribbean

12. What did you do yesterday? Crash Into Me, Dave Matthews (Did not, drove all the way home perfectly safely)

13. What do you think of when you see the person you like/love? When We Dance, Sting (how appropriate)

14. What describes your wedding? The White Tree, Return of the King

15. What will they play at your funeral? I Can See Clearly Now, Jimmy Cliff

16. What is your obsession?Layla, Eric Clapton (Hmm?)

17. What is your biggest fear? The Humble Heart, Songs of Nauvoo

18. What is your biggest secret? Simarik, Tarkan (Since I don't even know what this song is saying, it must be a good secret)

19. What is your biggest turn-on? One Thing, INXS

20. How do you describe your friends? Pirate Girls Nine, They Might Be Giants

21. What would you do with a million dollars? The Ride of the Rohirrim, The Return of the King

22. What is your opinion of sex?Delta Dawn, Tanya Tucker

23. What is your biggest regret? Be Good Johnny, Men at Work (does this relate to #3?)

24. What would you rather be doing right now? Just Can't Get Enough, Depeche Mode

25. What will you post this list as? Games Without Frontiers, Peter Gabriel

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Meme of the week

I have been being useful and not reading as much, so here, to fill up space, is one of those FaceBook memes, that I haven't gotten around to doing, until now. I will probably make this a weekly thing, at least until summer comes and it is too hot to be outside.

30 Random Questions - "Family Feud" Style

YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE MY ANSWERS! Copy this note and write a new note. Then erase my answers and fill in your answers.

1. Name something you use in the shower? soap

2. Name something a football player wears under his uniform? pads

3. Name something people hate to find on their windshield? a squashed bug with parts still attached.

4. Name something a man might buy before a date? flowers

5. What is another word for blemish? zit

6. Something you cook in the microwave?soup

7. Name a piece of furniture people need help moving? bookcase

8. Name something a dog does that embarrasses its owner? bark all night

9. Name a kind of test you cannot study for? pap

10. Name something a boy scout gets a badge for? knots

11. Name a phrase with the word "home" in it? home school

12. Name a sport where players lose teeth? rugby

13. Name something a teacher can do to ruin a student's day? date their mother

14. What is a way you can tell someone has been crying? snot

15. Name something a person wears even if it has a hole in it? shoes

16. Name something that gets smaller the more you use it? soap

17. Name something you bring home as a souvenir from Mexico? Montezuma's revenge

18. Name an event in life that causes a lot of stress? visiting relatives (love you all!)

19. Name something people should do to try and save a marriage? pray

20. Name something teenagers do on the sly? anything with opposite gender

21. Name something children do that makes them proud of themselves? pee in potty

22. Name one of the symptoms that tells you you are getting sick?sore throat

23. Name something you can fill a balloon with? water

24. Name something people drink at a picnic? lemonade

25. Name a flower a cheapskate gives his wife on Valentines Day? dandelions

26. Name a party that almost always thrown by women? sleepover

27. Name a pet that doesn't do any tricks? fish

28. Name something that motivates a man to get in shape? heart attack

29. Name a good sport for men and women to participate in together? volleyball

30. Name one thing Men think they know better than Women? sports

consider yourself tagged if you read this and have a forum to display it in.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Minding Mama

This is not the kind of book I usually read, but I found myself liking it in spite of my normal tendencies. Since I am still fighting off germs I picked it up from the library because it looked like a light, quick read, without any nasty thinking involved. I was half right, it was a quick read, but the themes were heavier than I was expecting.
Dorie June Grimes lives a plodding existence with an out-of-work husband, returned-to-the-fold son and caring for her aging mother. When her mother dies she decides to fulfill her promise and bury her in Utah as she wished. But since she has no money, she decides to drive from Georgia to Utah and hope for the best.
Despite a set-up that might remind you of a National Lampoon movie, the sentiment in the book is real and the humor that comes from carting a dead body half-way across the country is a decent leavening to an exploration of hopelessness and caring, and what you do if love is all you have left.
As Dorie crosses the country she meets a variety of interesting characters, who fall in with her in a rather typical outcasts and misfits collection. The collecting people and crossing the country part of the story wasn't that great. There are a lot of cliches; meeting bank-robbers, bad weather, car breaking down, finding a baby. But the worn-down love of the main character kept me reading. There are a lot of people who don't care in the world, and a lot of people who take care of others out of a sense of duty or possession or something else, but to do what you can, when it is very little and probably not enough, that takes love and caring.
Dorie learns a lot, about herself, about her mother and even about giving when you think it won't do any good. At the end, I was uplifted and glad that I stayed with Dorie, even through the cliches.
One note: If you are going to write about a place, go ahead and name it, since everyone will know what you are talking about anyway. Reading Jericho, UT and Turner, AZ, when it was obviously Page and Kanab keep pulling me out of the story every time the names came up.

Minding Mama. Marilyn Arnold. Mayhaven. 2004

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Candy Shop War

I've had the evil never-ending cold this week, so a children's book sounded like something I could handle while under the influence of cold medicine. I got more than I bargained for in this book. While it is definitely a children's book, the writing was very good and there was a lot in the book for an adult as well.
The realization that this wasn't just another kid's book came about two chapters in when I began to feel very uncomfortable and debated on quitting the book entirely. There is a section where the children are being invited by what seems like a very nice person to run errands and such in. All of the normal rules are being followed, she doesn't just give them stuff, they have to earn their reward and there is nothing overtly wrong, but as an adult, you can tell something is.
I was amazed at the ability of the author to write a section where the children acted very realistically, but as an adult, you could see the problems and feel suspicious of a character. Usually when this happens in a book, it is because the main character is an idiot. Like in a horror movie when the entire audience is saying,"DON"T GO INTO THE MYSTERIOUS, DARK AND GLOOMY CELLAR!" and the character does anyway.
The brilliant thing about Mull's writing is that you don't feel the children are being stupid or willfully blind. That is the squirm factor, they are just being kids and the bad character is taking advantage of that very skillfully. That isn't really much of a spoiler because lots of other good things happen and the ending had a great twist.
So if you know a kid that likes suspense and a bit of action, this would be a great book, but if you are a grown-up, beware.

The Candy Shop War. Brandon Mull. Shadowhaven. 2007

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Death By Black Hole

A great title for a book, that alone made me want to read it. Of course, this is the type of book I will almost always pick up from the library. It is a collection of essays on science for the magazine Natural History. It covers a wide range of topics, usually relating to physics, from particle physics to astrophysics. I love this stuff and I only wish I retained enough math to be able to read more technical discussions than these rather general essays.
The essays are informative and entertaining. A lot has changed in the 17 years since I took my particle physics class at BYU, so I am always interested to learn more. Not only does he describe what is happening in science, he describes the edges very well. By edges I mean the places where scientists are not sure what is happening and are actively searching for answers. That is always the most interesting part of any science. The problem today is that to get to that edge, you have to take years of schooling to understand what they are looking for. Once the edge could be explored in your home lab or a field (if you were Benjamin Franklin) now you need millions of dollars and a space telescope.
The book is a bit repetitive, though that often happens with collections of essays because each one had to be self contained and couldn't refer to last month's issue. There has been a bit of editing to smooth out the sequencing and to make it an easier read.
While I enjoyed all the essays, I took exception to the last one, entitled, The Perimeter of Ignorance. Here is the author's basic premise,
Writing in centuries past, many scientists felt compelled to wax poetic about cosmic mysteries and God's handiwork. Perhaps one should not be surprised at this: most scientists back then, as well as many scientists today, identify themselves as spiritually devout.
But a careful reading of older texts, particularly those concerned with the universe itself, shows that the authors invoke divinity only when they reach the boundaries of their understanding. They appeal to a higher power only when staring at the ocean of their own ignorance. They call on God only from the lonely and precarious edge of incomprehension. Where they feel certain about their explanations, however, God hardly gets a mention.

He goes on from this hypothesis to give some quotes from Newton and other scientists, who do indeed see an explanation for the unexplainable in the presence of God. He then links this tendency to the current vogue for intelligent design. That also follows, more or less. I have my own issues with intelligent design, at least how it is being explained and used in the public sphere, but I won't go into all that here. The problem I have is that the author considers an appeal to deity as an admission of failure and the mental equivalent of throwing up your hands and saying, "Heck if I know, only God could figure that out, I will just go find something easier to study, like Paris Hilton." He says, in talking about intelligent design and the dangers of it,
I don't want students who could make the next major breakthrough in renewable energy sources or space travel to have been taught that anything they don't understand, and that nobody yet understands, is divinely constructed and therefore beyond their intellectual capacity.
Since when is saying something is divinely designed the same as saying we are not capable of understanding it? As a devout person, but one who would have been a scientist, if not for a few chance decisions and a problem with basic arithmetic, I find everything divinely inspired, even those things we do understand. Too many people equate religion with ignorance, without considering the fact that the intelligent people who believe, must have a valid reason for doing so. And similarly, there are many ignorant people who have no religion. I cringe whenever a particularly proud, ignorant and Christian person is on the news saying something stupid because that just reinforces this ignorance=religion stereotype. I'm here to say intelligence=true religion. Believing in ignorance is just superstition whatever belief it may be. The more you understand your own beliefs, the more you want to learn. Our brains are designed to increase in knowledge, anything that does that helps all of us, no matter what the information may be.

Death By Black Hole and other cosmic quandries. Neil deGrasse Tyson. W.W. Norton & Company. 2007

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What I've been doing lately instead of reading

I haven't read as much lately because I discovered a podcast I really liked and I've been listening to it s much as I can. The podcast is called Writing Excuses and it is meant as a guide to hopeful writers. I am not a hopeful writer as such, more of a hope that someday I might be a hopeful writer, since I can barely find time to write a blog. And, honestly, I would rather read than write.
I love to learn new things, and even though at first I figured I wouldn't be applying anything I heard, I was enjoying the podcasts. They are funny, and I feel like I've gotten to know some people that If they lived in my neighborhood, I would enjoy getting to know better.
But I am becoming a better reader by listening to the podcasts as well. For example, I was very tired Thursday because I drove the missionaries to Price and didn't get home until after midnight. So, being evil, I read a lot. It was the continuation of a series I had read a while ago. The plot was great, but I found myself noticing things I never had before. The voice of the book is the biggest one.
Voice is the way the story is told, first-person, third-person omniscient, second-person, etc. In the podcast they talked about how each voice affects the story and how having an inconsistent voice will mess up a story and confuse the reader. Now I notice when the voice changes without warning or how the author uses the omniscient narrator and how it works.
It is a lot like watching one of those making-of features on a DVD, only the information applies to all books. The three men who do it generally write the genres that I am interested in, so I have also gotten a lot of new book recommendations. I've caught up now, so I won't go around with an earbud in one ear while making dinner anymore. But I can get a new fix every week.
I've tried several other podcasts, but they don't appeal to me as much, which is probably a good thing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Only True and Living Church

To start off this week's lesson, I asked everyone to think about what specific blessings they had because of their membership in the church. Not general Sunday School answers like, "I would just be a different person" and such, that is true of a lot of things; if the nurse at the hospital had dropped you on your head you would be a completely different person too. What specific things happen in your life because on April 6, 1830 Joseph Smith and five others organized the Church of Christ, which became the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?
When speaking of the founding of the church, we naturally turn to Section 20 of the D&C. Verse 1 had a section that caught my interest,
1 The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April—
Did you see it? "agreeable to the laws of our country." Why did they think it was so important to establish Christ's church according to the laws of the state of New York? The answer is found in the 12th article of faith, 12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. Not only that, but in the persecution that followed, at least they had the legal recourse that they had followed the law in establishing their religion.
The structure of this section is interesting, it has many sections, each ending with the word amen. Each of these sections tells something the Lord wanted the people to know as the church was established. There is a section on the preparation and development of the Book of Mormon, 6-12; a section summarizing gospel and life of Christ, 13-28; as well as sections on the role of the different offices of the priesthood and baptism. You can easily tell each section because of this pattern. When the Lord really wants us to understand things, he is very clear. This is one of the reasons I love the Doctrine & Covenants.
After knowing the structure and precedents for the church, Section 21 prepares the members of the church for the changes that were to come. The relevant verses are 4-5,
4 Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
A church which kept the same organization when it has a thousand members as when it had six would crumble from chaos, not to mention when it gains a million or more. The church has changed repeatedly just in my lifetime. If our testimony and faith rest on the structures of the church, we will not be able to stand as changes come. These verses explain where to look for stability, even in a church that changes: the prophet speaks as if Christ himself were speaking to us. When we follow the prophet, we are on firm ground, always. In fact these are the promises made when we follow with "patience and faith" 6 For by doing these things the agates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory. Those are some powerful promises, ones I need to apply more fully in my life. It makes me grateful I will be able to hear his words again in a month.
Then we come sort of full circle, at least in my lesson, with Section 21:9:
For, behold, I will bless all those who labor in my vineyard with a mighty blessing, and they shall believe on his words, which are given him through me by the Comforter, which manifesteth that Jesus was crucified by sinful men for the sins of the world, yea, for the remission of sins unto the contrite heart.
Many of the blessings I have received through the church have come from my callings and service in the church. While many people serve quite faithfully without needing a structure or outside motivation, many of us, myself most of all, need more impetus than pure good will. Without the church I would hide among my books and rarely interact with real people. I do not do social very well and I struggle to meet people and to help them. I have a lot of good intentions, but having the courage to go out and do stuff is very difficult for me. The church, by granting me a framework, helps me overcome my reluctance and get off my butt. It also encourages me to continue what I have begun. By "laboring in the vineyard" I gain the ability to increase my abilities and labor even more effectively. I also gain a testimony of service, of Christ and can more fully receive the Holy Ghost. It is by working in the Lord's vineyard we are able to gain charity, which we all need to have.
I left a challenge for the class, a trick I learned as a missionary and still use quite often. Get your journal and write down these specific blessings you have received because of the church. Write what you receive from your membership, let your children and grandchildren know why you are a member of this church. What benefits have you gained from it? It is a good thing to think about once in a while.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Victory of Eagles

This is the last, for now, of the Temeraire novels, started in His Majesty's Dragon. We went through all them pretty quick, except David skipped book 4. They are all good, but a bit uneven. I will anxiously be looking for the next one though, I'm always looking for a good series.
These were uneven in a weird way, it wasn't that the writing itself was uneven, but the plot was way too much like real life. A lot of hurry up and wait, with the main characters brooding between action scenes. I think a lot of the problem was this was set in Jane Austen's time and she put a lot of the manners of the upper class in. The main character, Cpt Laurence, is of the English gentry, so when he commits an act of treason, is condemned, but is not executed, he spends most of the book agonizing about it. There was a lovely quote, that I cannot put in here because I already sent the book back to the library, about how he was ruining his life by taking over the guilt for the entire war. He then realizes how bad he has messed up his life since what he thought was the defining moment and maybe he should get his act back together. This is a summary, Naomi Novik writes a bit more eloquently than I do.
But the guilt laden angst was laid a bit too thick to make this book one of my favorites, though it did do a good job of showing how such angst affects those around you, which a lot of books leave out, because angst is so much more interesting than the regular people trying to deal with the angstee.
All in all, still better than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Victory of Eagles. Naomi Novik. Del Rey. 2008