Thursday, August 20, 2009

Too Tired to Read

You wouldn't think that would be possible, but it is. I am re-reading a few things, but very slowly. I don't have the brain power for anything new. I've decided my brain during pregnancy is like a computer when you are listening to web radio, printing, downloading and trying to play a game all at the same time. There is not enough capacity and it freezes.
But I have found a bit of consolation. The LDS church recently started a web radio and they have some very cool podcasts. The two I like best are Conversations and Everything Creative. The first is an hour long interview with various church people. like Elder Bednar. And the other is sort of a round table about creativity. One person is interviewed one week and the next time they interview someone else. also has all the lesson manuals as well as the scriptures on MP3. So I have started listening to the current Relief Society lesson manual, since I haven't been to RS in a long time.
BYU has some good podcasts as well, particularly one called Thinking Aloud that has all sorts of interesting topics.
So when the stupor turns more to stupid I can listen and feel like my brain still works, at least a little bit.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"The Prisoners Shall Go Free"

I survived last week, I think that's all I need to say right now.
Part of last week was a Sunday School lesson. To get the gist of what is is about read this entry about the Nauvoo Temple.
We know that temple work is important, but I truly felt like I got a little glimpse of why and how as I read this scripture, D&C 128:17-18.
17 And again, in connection with this quotation I will give you a quotation from one of the prophets, who had his eye fixed on the restoration of the priesthood, the glories to be revealed in the last days, and in an especial manner this most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel, namely, the baptism for the dead; for Malachi says, last chapter, verses 5th and 6th: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
18 I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding clink of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fullness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.
The lines that are in bold struck me and I had this image of a net, this beautiful interconnected fabric, with each person being connected to every other person through multiple channels. During the lesson we talked about families being united and imagining being in a group of people and knowing everyone, knowing that you were connected to everyone, never having to feel alone or out of place. That was a wonderful idea and it doesn't come close to the idea in my head.
Then this week I had the chance to sort of see this in action. My husband's family had their reunion in some cabins at Moonlake in the Uintahs. Because there are nine children in his family, we had all the cabins on one side of the resort. It was wonderful to let the children run, knowing that every house had someone who knew the children and would watch out for them, in the same way you watched out for all the little ones running past your place. You could go out and wander a little until you found someone to chat with or do something with. Dinners were organized in a rotation, but since we had the biggest kitchen, we ended up hosting, (if not actually preparing) all the dinner meals. There was a wonderful communal feeling that was lovely.
At the end several people commented that this is a taste of what the Celestial Kingdom would be like, but with better beds and less rain. That kind of feeling of community is rare in our day and I wish there were more opportunities to experience it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sunday Talk

Being the easy-going, trying to be stress-free person that I am, I have decided the world is in a conspiracy to stress-out my life , but only a few weeks a year. So this week is our anniversary, I have to speak in sacrament meeting, give the gospel doctrine lesson, teach nursery (that one's not that big of a deal, just including for completeness), get three kids ready for school, get M.'s shots for preschool, and go to the Ward family reunion for three days, which starts the first day of school. In an attempt to do all this in a way that I can look back on and not grimace, I here present the rough draft of my talk, which is on the Book of Mormon, Keystone to our religion. It is the best way I can think of to go through it in my mind without getting distracted by everything else in my mind.
Then, if I am really on the ball I will even post my Sunday school lesson on Mon.

Most of my talk is taken from the famous talk Pres. Benson gave about the BoM (going to abbreviate for all you readers, I won't do that at the podium, I hope.) So I open as he opened his talk,

My beloved brethren and sisters, today I would like to speak about one of the most significant gifts given to the world in modern times. The gift I am thinking of is more important than any of the inventions that have come out of the industrial and technological revolutions. This is a gift of greater value to mankind than even the many wonderful advances we have seen in modern medicine. It is of greater worth to mankind than the development of flight or space travel. I speak of the gift of the Book of Mormon, given to mankind 156 years ago.
This gift was prepared by the hand of the Lord over a period of more than a thousand years, then hidden up by Him so that it would be preserved in its purity for our generation. Perhaps there is nothing that testifies more clearly of the importance of this modern book of scripture than what the Lord Himself has said about it.
By His own mouth He has borne witness (1) that it is true (D&C 17:6), (2) that it contains the truth and His words (D&C 19:26), (3) that it was translated by power from on high (D&C 20:8), (4) that it contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (D&C 20:9, D&C 42:12), (5) that it was given by inspiration and confirmed by the ministering of angels (D&C 20:10), (6) that it gives evidence that the holy scriptures are true (D&C 20:11), and (7) that those who receive it in faith shall receive eternal life (D&C 20:14).
A second powerful testimony to the importance of the Book of Mormon is to note where the Lord placed its coming forth in the timetable of the unfolding Restoration. The only thing that preceded it was the First Vision. In that marvelous manifestation, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned the true nature of God and that God had a work for him to do. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon was the next thing to follow.
Think of that in terms of what it implies. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon preceded the restoration of the priesthood. It was published just a few days before the Church was organized. The Saints were given the Book of Mormon to read before they were given the revelations outlining such great doctrines as the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, or work for the dead. It came before priesthood quorums and Church organization. Doesn’t this tell us something about how the Lord views this sacred work?

He then talks for a bit about the church being under condemnation, which is something I don't feel qualified to talk about, so we will skip a bit to where he talks about the keystone.

The Book of Mormon is the keystone in our witness of Jesus Christ, who is Himself the cornerstone of everything we do. It bears witness of His reality with power and clarity. Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation. Therefore, its testimony of the Master is clear, undiluted, and full of power. But it does even more. Much of the Christian world today rejects the divinity of the Savior. They question His miraculous birth, His perfect life, and the reality of His glorious resurrection. The Book of Mormon teaches in plain and unmistakable terms about the truth of all of those. It also provides the most complete explanation of the doctrine of the Atonement. Truly, this divinely inspired book is a keystone in bearing witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ (see title page of the Book of Mormon).
The Book of Mormon is also the keystone of the doctrine of the Resurrection. As mentioned before, the Lord Himself has stated that the Book of Mormon contains the “fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (D&C 20:9). That does not mean it contains every teaching, every doctrine ever revealed. Rather, it means that in the Book of Mormon we will find the fulness of those doctrines required for our salvation. And they are taught plainly and simply so that even children can learn the ways of salvation and exaltation. The Book of Mormon offers so much that broadens our understandings of the doctrines of salvation. Without it, much of what is taught in other scriptures would not be nearly so plain and precious.
Finally, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true—and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true—then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it.
When I think about having a testimony of the BoM the following scripture from Ephesians always pops into my mind, Eph. 4:14 :14 "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"
I know that this verse is talking about why we have the organization of the church, but I think that it can so easily apply to our testimony of the BoM. One of the purposes of the BoM is to bring people unto Christ, the firm foundation to our lives. Elder Faust said, in the Oct 1983 conference,
A confirming testimony of the Book of Mormon convinces that “Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God” (Title Page, Book of Mormon) and also spiritually verifies (a) the divine calling of Joseph Smith and (b) that he did see the Father and the Son. With that firmly in place, it logically follows that one can receive a verification that the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price are true companion scriptures to the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
All of this confirms the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the divine mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led by a living prophet enjoying continuous revelation. From these basic verities can flow an understanding of other saving principles of the fulness of the gospel.
Everything else comes from a testimony of the BoM. Especially because we have been given a promise in the BoM, unlike any other book, or even scripture. AS Pres. Benson said in a 1984 talk,
We must first read it and gain a testimony for ourselves. Men may deceive each other, but God does not deceive men. Therefore, the Book of Mormon sets forth the best test for determining its truthfulness—namely, read it and then ask God if it is true.
Moroni, in the book’s final chapter, issued that divine challenge to every reader in these words:
“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.” (Moro. 10:4).
This, then, is the supreme assurance for the honest in heart—to know by personal revelation from God that the Book of Mormon is true. Millions have put it to that test and know, and increasing millions will yet know.
Our world is full of winds of doctrine. If we took Oprah or the evening news or some other source to determine where we should stand we would constantly be moving, trying to keep up with each new thing that replaces what the best new thing was yesterday. When we have a testimony of the BoM, we can know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, we can know the truth of the doctrine, the calling of Pres. Monson. There are a lot of things I don't have answers for. Honestly, most don't bother me, but even the ones that do, I can stand firm in the knowledge that I know the gospel of Jesus Christ and I love and trust my Heavenly Father. I will get my answers some day and now I can find peace in the message of our Saviour found in the Book of Mormon.
If it is the keystone of our religion, it should also be the keystone of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Nowhere else is his doctrine given so clearly and completely. As the prophet said, we can come closer to God through its pages than any other book. Personally I feel that we stand or fall based on our testimony of the BoM. If we do not have a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, eventually there will come some "wind of doctrine" so strong it will blow us away from the church if we are not firmly clinging to the iron rod, the word of God.
We have been advised to read it every day, so that we may feel of its spirit and bring ourselves closer to God. I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I know that it is true. I feel the difference in my life when I am reading it every day. I feel its power in the lives of my family because we have family scripture study every night. I know that we can increase our testimony of the reality of Jesus Christ and his atonement by making it an important part of our lives.

The Actor and the Housewife

Shannon Hale triggers a very odd space in my brain. It is the "this is what you could have been" section; had I more ambition, determination, etc. The reason this book triggered that area is the subject matter. It represents the most under-represented demographic in fiction: not any sort of minority, religion, gender or nationality. The main character in this book is a happily married woman who stays at home with her four children. She isn't torn apart by regrets, sin, angst or repressed tendencies. The conflict and plot in the book come from her honest desires to help and do what is right.
I must confess, this isn't the sort of book I normally read. It is a bit too chick lit and mainstream fiction for me and I almost put it down. But all my objections are purely due to the genre and have nothing to do with the writing or actual subject matter.
I have often toyed with the idea of writing something that validates the choice some of us have made to make home and family our careers. too often the assumption is that we are either miserable and downtrodden or too deficient in some way to make a contribution to society in a more popular manner. But I am not motivated, and I have the great excuse of 5 & 1/6 kids (though I know some women write anyway). And here is Shannon Hale writing the book I've always felt should be written. Honestly, it take some pressure off of me. Now that I know this book exists, I can just tell people read it for a perspective on my alternate lifestyle.
Just having this book on the shelves gives me a quiet little happy. And this book was published by a mainstream publisher, not LDS, so it is conceivable that these ideas will get into the mind of someone who never thought it was possible to live this way. Thank you Shannon Hale, from all the happy housewives out there, thanks for writing about our untold story.

The Actor and the Housewife. Shannon Hale. Bloomsbury. 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Game of Thrones

I feel that the timing was wrong for my reading of this novel. I've been meaning to read it for a long while and finally had to reserve it at the library to get it. It is a huge book. It took me a week to read it and while that might not sound like much, for me it was a very long time, especially since I have not been feeling well and spent a goodly amount of time laying down.
I think the problem is that this is an incredibly complex book. I've written before about Robert Jordan and the complexity of his books, this one beats that one because the story is not carried by a few main characters and a lot of minor ones with some cool prophecy. In this book there are two main families, with multiple children and relations, plus additional people out in the hinterland, and they are all important to the story. You have to keep relations straight, histories of whose father killed who's uncle and which grandson is still angry, etc.
I did read this once before, a long time ago, but I didn't remember much of it. It is a cool deja vu feeling when you read a book that is only vaguely in your memory. As far as epic fantasies go, this one is fair to middling. There are others much more compelling, even at the same length. I got tired of having to keep track of who was what, and the battle scenes were too drawn out for my taste. I don't need to know about every charge and swing of the sword.
I will probably keep reading them, but it might wait until the spring. This series does have the benefit of being available at my library. Someone else is currently checking these books out from the library though. And whoever it is is a very slow reader. They had the last book out for six weeks or so. If my pregnant brain gets any worse I will be forced to postpone reading the next one. Of course, since it is also huge it might be just the thing to read during those middle of the night feedings.

A Game of Thrones. G.R.R. Martin. Bantam. 1996