Sunday, January 15, 2017

January Week 3 - The Holy Ghost Helps You Learn

Definition & Mission of the Holy Ghost
Have class search scriptures (Topical Guide, Gospel Topics, Bible Dictionary) for a definition and mission of the Holy Ghost.

Some key scriptures:
John 14:15-27
John 16:5-15
- v. 7 "it is expedient for you that I [Jesus Christ] go away"  (prescribed)
Romans 8:1-17
- especially v. 13-17
Galatians 5:16-26
- fruits / feelings of vice & virtue

"counselor" - John 16:8
guides us, tells us to do the things of God; helps us pray - Romans 8

The Holy Ghost won't tell us to do anything contrary to the commandments or will of God.  We know when we are feeling the Holy Ghost by the good fruits (see Galatians).

Case Studies
Spend some time discussing various examples.
- Nephi & Laban
- President Monson and other promptings to visit people
- Mission experience to establish area in Belize (Kekchi speaking people)

Elder Scott
"Once I had an experience that caused me immense anxiety. It had nothing to do with disobedience or transgression but with a vitally important human relationship. For some time I poured my heart out in urgent prayer. Yet try as I might, I could find no solution, no settling of the powerful stirring within me. I pled for help from that Eternal Father I have come to know and trust completely. I could see no path that would provide the calm that is my blessing generally to enjoy. Sleep overcame me. When I awoke, I was totally at peace. Again I knelt in solemn prayer and asked, “Lord, how is it done?” In my heart, I knew the answer was His love and His concern for me. Such is the power of sincere prayer to a compassionate Father."

From the same talk:
"This guidance about prayer given to Oliver Cowdery can also aid you: “Behold, … you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

“… You must study it out in your mind; then … ask me if it be right, and if it is right … your bosom shall burn … ; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”8

Then the answer comes as a feeling with an accompanying conviction. The Savior defines two separate ways: “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost.”9

Answers to the mind and heart are messages from the Holy Ghost to our spirits. For me, response to the mind is very specific, like dictated words, while response to the heart is generalized, like a feeling to pray more.10

Then the Lord clarifies, “But if [what you propose] be not right you … shall have a stupor of thought.”11 That, for me, is an unsettling, discomforting feeling.

Oliver Cowdery was taught another way in which positive answers come: “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?”12 The feeling of peace is the most common confirming witness that I personally experience. When I have been very concerned about an important matter, struggling to resolve it without success, I continued those efforts in faith. Later, an all-pervading peace has come, settling my concerns, as He has promised.

Some misunderstandings about prayer can be clarified by realizing that the scriptures define principles for effective prayer, but they do not assure when a response will be given. Actually, He will reply in one of three ways. First, you can feel the peace, comfort, and assurance that confirm that your decision is right. Or second, you can sense that unsettled feeling, the stupor of thought, indicating that your choice is wrong. Or third—and this is the difficult one—you can feel no response.

What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response, and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of His trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior’s teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust. As you are sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, one of two things will certainly occur at the appropriate time: either the stupor of thought will come, indicating an improper choice, or the peace or the burning in the bosom will be felt, confirming that your choice was correct. When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision."

Other Links
Liquid Luck

Sunday, January 08, 2017

January Week 2 - The Hand of God in All Things

A Personal Story About Journals
Start by telling experience I had with Erick this week. On Tuesday morning, he was feeling a little blue and didn't want to go back to school. I sat down with him and talked about how life has it's ups and downs. We know the downs won't last long and they help us appreciate the ups and the good times. I got him to tell me his worries and then we talked a bit about how to deal with those worries (we developed a plan). He felt better. Then we decided to spend some time each night writing in our Stoic journals.

Our main focus is determining a few things.
1) What is it that I'm worried about?
2) Is it in my control or out of my control?
3) If it is in my control, I develop a plan to address it
4) If it is out of my control, then the one thing I still have control over is my attitude
5) I need to develop a plan to have a good attitude about the thing out of my control

Tell kids about our journals and how they are useful.

The Two Great Commandments
What are the two great commandments? (love God, love neighbor). Matthew 22:35-40

Relate how the love of God is extremely similar to the Stoic concept of the Discipline of Desire or loving your fate. We should love whatever God sends our way. We should observe blessings and trails and do our best to learn from them.

When we are grateful, we are observing the blessings God sends us.

When we truly love God and trust his will for us, we love the trails and challenges he sends us.

Trust in the will of God 1 John 5:14

Share how the hardest part for me to comprehend is how people can be so mean to other people … concentration camps. But remember how Viktor Frankl reacted.  It was out of his control, he loved the fate sent his way and he changed the attitude he had - even in that awful, horrible situation.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.

I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.

Challenges and trials can be seen as God "prescribing" something for us.  Much like a doctor might unmask an illness in us and she prescribes something for us to get better.  Sometimes, that "prescription" is not something enjoyable, but if we take it, we will be better and stronger.

"What does not kill you, makes you stronger."

Remembering is being mindful
Have them read the talk and then share what they learned from "O Remember, Remember"

Did God send you a message this week?
Did you see God's hand in your life this week?
How will be find ways to recognize and remember God's kindness?

Activity - have class write on chalkboard what they are thankful for.
Or give them time to write some thoughts down in a journal.

Related Gospel Topic Essays

Stoic Links
Discipline of Desire (Epictetus)
Discipline of Desire (Path of Prokopton)
Amor Fati (Full Scream)

Sunday, January 01, 2017

January Week 1 - The God You Worship

Who God is and How do we come to know Him?
Joseph Smith said. “There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God. The great majority of mankind do not comprehend anything, either that which is past, or that which is to come, as it respects their relationship to God. They do not know, neither do they understand the nature of that relationship; and consequently they know but little above the brute beast, or more than to eat, drink and sleep. This is all man knows about God or His existence, unless it is given by the inspiration of the Almighty.

“If a man learns nothing more than to eat, drink and sleep, and does not comprehend any of the designs of God, the beast comprehends the same things. It eats, drinks, sleeps, and knows nothing more about God; yet it knows as much as we, unless we are able to comprehend by the inspiration of Almighty God. If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves. I want to go back to the beginning, and so lift your minds into more lofty spheres and a more exalted understanding than what the human mind generally aspires to.

“… The scriptures inform us that ‘This is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’ [John 17:3.]

“If any man does not know God, and inquires what kind of a being He is,—if he will search diligently his own heart—if the declaration of Jesus and the apostles be true, he will realize that he has not eternal life; for there can be eternal life on no other principle.

“My first object is to find out the character of the only wise and true God, and what kind of a being He is. …

“God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make Himself visible,—I say, if you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another. …

“… Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach Him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, He begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to Him, He is ready to come to us." (“Chapter 2: God the Eternal Father,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007), 36–44)

An account of two men who came to know God
Read two accounts of how Moses and Korihor came to know there is a God
○ (Moses 1:1-11)
○ (Alma 30:37-52)
○ How do you know God exists?
○ Do you have any experiences to share?

Give class 10 minutes to come up with a list of attributes of God
○ List these on the board (tick marks for multiples)
○ They can use the Gospel Library or the Topical Guide or Bible Dictionary

Related Gospel Topic Essays
Becoming Like God
Mother in Heaven

Sunday, July 17, 2016

how to maximize your meaning of the sacrament

Giampietrinio - The Last Supper (from wikimedia)
preparing for and participating in the sacrament is one of the best ways to find balance and harmony in our lives.

here are some ideas to maximize your meaning of the sacrament.

"examine yourself" - spend time reviewing the prior week; and how to improve in the coming week (see 1 corinthians 11:28)
find a quiet spot, either saturday evening or sunday morning; and spend a good thirty minutes to an hour in meditation.  review your actions and thoughts from the prior week.  do not be critical of yourself.  rather, simply note how you could have done better in your attitude about your circumstance in life, your interactions with others, and how you used your free will.  did you act with reason?  did you serve others?  how did you practice virtue?

next, coach yourself.  envision any circumstances that you will encounter in the coming week and how you can react to them.  think of ways to serve others, from small acts of kindness to truly going out of your way to help others.

consider journaling your meditations and review them each week.

think of the savior's sacrifice during the sacrament
pay attention to the words of the hymn.

listen to the words of the prayers.

while in silence, waiting for the bread and water to be passed, read or recite in your mind a chosen scripture or passage.  you can even work on memorizing a passage that has meaning for you.

over the years, i've focused on mosiah 14.

study the meaning of a 'broken heart and contrite spirit'
learn what a broken heart and contrite spirit are.  you can even start here.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

men's hearts failing them for fear

this last week, a phrase from my patriarchal blessing has been rattling around in my head and i've been thinking about it a lot.

the phrase says, "you will also see wickedness run rampant and hearts that will fail."  the concept of failing hearts is what i've been so focused on this week.

i've tried to deconstruct it and wrap my head around this concept.

the concept of failing hearts stems from a verse in the new testament.  christ tells his disciples of the signs of his second coming.  luke 21:26 reads, "men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken."

there is also a video entitled "men's hearts shall fail them", in which russell nelson describes a harrowing flight he was on, where the plane briefly caught fire.  some passengers were in total panic, while he was perfectly calm and he was ready to "meet his maker."  he then reads luke 21:26 and discusses how many today live in fear "because they forget their identity and their purpose."  when he says "identity", i believe he is referring to our relationship with god - that we are his children. he then lists several life-challenging circumstances which causes fear or anxiety in people's hearts.

thinking a bit more about both luke 21:26 and the nelson video, i asked myself, "why do people's hearts fail them in those difficult circumstances?"  two answers came to my mind, because they put their trust and happiness in something that is out of their control; and, because, for guidance in this life, they relied on their heart rather than reason.

how many people have taken for granted their life's situation - and have thought that they are the author of their privileged circumstances.  in reality, we fail to truly appreciate how many things in life are out of our control.  and when something unwanted happens (i.e. it is out of our control), we feel fear and anxiety - and our hearts fail us.

examples of these types of circumstances out of our control would be:
- loss of a loved one (to death)
- financial ruin
- degrading health
- natural events
- accidents

truly, we cannot control these types of events.  so why do we let our fear and anxiety grip us?  why do we let our hearts fail us?

how do we combat this?  how can we prevent our hearts from failing us?

the answer lies in not allowing our lives to be lead by our hearts.  rather we should should use reason to constantly ask the question whether something is in our control or not.  if it is not in our control, then we need to accept our fate, as it were, and try to learn from what life has dealt us.

if we do this, our hearts will not fail us.  they will keep on beating.  and our minds will be content with what we can do and accomplish.  if anything is out of our control, we will accept and even love our fate and exercise our control to understand what it is we must learn from it.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

ponderize selling the good news

on sunday september 27, a new domain was registered at

the name of the domain:

a week later, on sunday october 4, 2015, david g. durrant, 1st counselor of the sunday school general presidency of the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints gave a talk and discussed a curious term: ponderize.

shortly after the talk, people began to shop (at the aforementioned website) for t-shirts and wristbands with "ponderize" written on them as well as "what's your verse?"  originally, shirts were selling for $19.99 and wristbands were going for $2.99.  later in the day, prices were dropped to $17.99 and $1.99 and a caveat was added: "all profits will be going to the Missionary Fund of the Church."

i sincerely hope this (profitizing general conference talks) does not become a major trend.  i have a hunch that this was originally an idea for making money and then when the durrant family received some negative press, they quickly changed strategy from for-profit to all profits going to the missionary fund of the church.

what would jesus say of all this?

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (matthew 6:24)

The site has been taken down.  More info at this news article.

and linked is an official apology from david g. durrant.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

reasons to serve; reasons to keep commandments

taking a cue from elder oaks' talk "why do we serve?" i wanted to apply the same reasons for service to reasons to obey god's commandments.

the main principal behind this talk is found in proverbs 23:7; which states, as a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he."  god wants our actions and thoughts to be in harmony.  when we are duplicitous, in a sense, our souls are split and harmed.  other scriptures to consider are: d&c 64:34, d&c 16:6, mosiah 24:12, alma 18:32, moroni 7:6-7, alma 12:14.

therefore, one of the main challenges in life is to tune our hearts and actions to god's will and commandments.

with that concept in mind, we now can observe the many reasons why people serve and / or keep the commandments.

reason 1: earthly reward
some people will serve or keep the commandments if by so serving or obeying, it will enable them greater wealth in their business or social interactions.  a common example of this might be offering to help someone with the intention that that person will return a favor to them (i.e. buy a product or be a patron of the business).

reason 2: personal companionship
this example is often seen in missions.  people may join the church or come to church because of the missionaries.  but as soon as the missionaries leave, people may stop associating with the church.  people may be selective of when to serve or obey based on who their home teachers are or who is in the ward.  if the ward members are acceptable, they will serve and attend.  but if not, they will not engage.  take note, that if all members strive to be kind and loving to everyone, then people may expand their friendships and desire to worship with all members.  also note, that christ served with, associated with and loved all people.

reason 3: fear of punishment
the scriptures are full of examples of what happens to those who do not obey or serve.  fear certainly motivates, but it does not motivate for the right reasons.  fear should never be used to motivate others to do what is right.  when fear is used to move others to serve and obey, the person instilling the fear is simply using "unrighteous dominion".

reason 4: sense of duty or loyalty
elder oaks calls people who serve and obey out of a sense of duty or loyalty "good soldiers."  without question, they serve and obey.  they are all around us.  their commitment to their fellow-men is unwavering.  there are still higher reasons to serve and obey.

reason 5: eternal reward
those who are 'in it for the long-haul' are those who are keen on achieving eternal life.  they will ensure hardships and persecution.  they are not easily swayed by temptations or peer pressure.  they are committed to god and their fellow-men with the expectation that they will live with god forever.

reason 6: true charity
those who have developed a sense of a true love of god and all men have also developed true charity.  these people have developed a love for all; and have developed the ability to see people as god sees them.  truly charitable people have become fully committed to god's plan for his children, and they actively participate in helping that plan be realized.  as 1 cor 13:1-3 states, we can give our all to the poor, but if we don't do it for the right reasons (charity), "it profiteh ... nothing."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Silent Night in Kekchi

Lok'-laj k'oj - yin; re cha-bi-lal.
Jun li yaj aj isk quichal
Xco sa' jun tu-la-nil o-choch-nal
Qui-yo'-la jun lix ch'i-na c'u-lahal.
Yo chi-cuarc li Je-sus
Yo chi-cuarc li Je-sus

Lok'-laj k'oj - yin; re cha-bi-lal.
Que'-ra-bi laj il-ol xul
Nak qui-chal lix cuan-quil li Ka-cua'
Xa-bi-man li bi-chanc sa' cho-xa
Qui-yo'-la li Je-sus,
Qui-yo'-la li Je-sus.

Lok'-laj k'oj - yin; re cha-bi-lal.
Xtau xk'e-hil ka-col-bal
Nak li Dios quix-tak-la li ra-lal
Re tox-tzol ut tox-ra ch tz'a-kal.
A'an li Ka-cua' Je-sus,
A'an li Ka-cua' Je-sus.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

El Valor

On December 14, I gave a talk to the Spanish branch.

Buenos dias hermanos y hermanas.  Estoy muy agradecido de estar aqui con ustedes esta manana.

Me llamo hermano Putnam.  Tengo una esposa que se llama Jill.  Nosotros tenemos cuartro hijos.  La major tiene 14 anos y se llama Emma.  El segundo tiene 12 anos y se llama Benjamin.  El tercero tiene 10 anos y se llama Erick and la menor tiene 8 anos y se llama Camille.

Hemos vivido in tejas casi 14 anos.  Vivimos en Dallas por 8 anos.  Nos movimos a houston en dos mil nueve.  Y nos gusta mucho vivir aqui en el area de kingwood y atascocita.

Hay que disculparme por no hablar muy bien el espanol.  Ha pasado casi 18 anos que he hablado el espanol diariamente.  Espero que el espiritu es lo que les ensene esta manana.

Quiero compartir algunas cosas de mi.  Hize una mision en guatemala en mil nove cientos noventa y cinco hasta noventa y siete.  Estuve en la capital, baja verapaz, alta verpaz y el peten.  Tambien estuve doce meses en un area que se llama polochic.  Alli, no hay muchos que hablan el espanol.  Muchos hablan kekchi; que es un dialecto maya.  Entonces, cuando vivia en polochic, tenia que aprender el idioma kekchi.

No solo tenia que aprender el kekchi, pero tambien tenia que aprender comer todos tipos de comida como cabeza de pavo or chompipe (turkey), lengua de vaca, y pie de pato!  Aunque pudo comer estas cosa, la unica comida que no pudo aguantar fue queso duro.  Hasta hoy mismo, no puedo comer queso duro.

Amo mucho la gente de guatemala.

En este tiempo del ano, me acuderdo de las navidades que pase en guatemala.   En navidad, la gente hacen tamales de elote y chocolate caliente; y el chocolate fue recogido del arbol el mismo dia.  Todos los miembros se juntaron pata una fiesta.  Cantaron y jugaron.  Me da mucho feliz penser  en estos recuerdos.

Hoy, quiero hablar sobre la tema de "el valor o coraje".  El presidente monson ha hablado mucho sobre esta tema.  In fact (de hecho?), el ha hablado de esta tema muchas vezes en conferencia general desde el ano mil novecientos ochenta y seis.

Presidente monson nos ensena de cuentos en las escrituras de personas que tenian el valor.

Hoy, quiero hablar de el valor de un hombre de el libro de mormon.  Este hombre tenia mucho valor.  Las decisiones y acciones de este hombre determino el destino de los nefitas por mas de dos cientos anos.

Este hombre fue el profeta Abinadi.

Como ya saben, abinadi fue llamado de dios para profetizar al pueblo de Noe, quien fue el rey de la tierra.  Abinadi mando que la gente se arrepientiera.  En Mosiah capitulo 11, dice "Y acontecio que habia entre ellos un hombre que se llamaba Abinadi; y salio entre ellos y empezo a profetizar, diciendo: he aqui, asi dice el senor, y asi me ha mandado, diciendo; ve y di a esta gente: asi dice el senor: ay de los de este pueblo!  Porque he visto sus abominaciones and sus iniquidades, y sus fornicaciones, y a menos que se arrepientan, los visitare con mi ira.  Y a menos que se arrepientan y se vuelvan al senor su dios, he aqui, los entregare en manos de sus enimigos; si seran reducidos al cautiverio y seran afligidos por mano de sus enimigos"

Abinadi ensenso y mando la gente a arrepentirse por un tiempo.  Pero cuando el rey noe mando que Abinadi sea matado; en este momento, Abinadi se escondio del rey Noe por dos anos.

No sabemos lo que paso con Abinadi por esos dos anos, pero quizas el se esforsaba a obtener mas coraje para profetizar al pueblo.  En el capitulo 12 de mosiah, dice "y acontecio que despues de dos anos, abinadi vino entre ellos disfrazado, de modo que no lo conocieron."  aunque el sabia que el rey queria que se lo matara, abinadi empezo a profetizar y declalar el arrepentimiento a la gente.

Ya sabemos lo que paso con abinadi.  Este cuento no termino con alegria.  Daniel, en la biblia, fue salvado cuando el senor cerro las bocas de los leones.  Sadrac, mesac y abed-nego fueron salvados cuando trataron quemarlos en el fuego.  Pero a abinadi, no fue salvado.  Aunque hizo todo lo que el senor le mando, todavia le quitaron la vida.  Por eso, abinadi tuvo mucho valor.  El sabia que iria matado, y todovia hizo lo que el senor le mando.

Hacemos, nosotros, lo que debemos hacer, aunque sabemos las consequencias?

Cuando tenemos una decision antes de nosotros, debemos recordar las palabras en capitulo 31 de Deu-ter-ron-omio: "Esforzaros y cobrad animo; no temais ni tengais miedo de ellos, porque jehova tu dios es el que va contigo."

Mietras estaba preparando este discurso, encontre un cuento de un misionero que hizo una mision en guatemala hace cuarenta anos.  Este misionero tuvo mucha fe and valor.  Este misionero se llama elder Ellsworth.  Y cuando el estaba en guatemala, habia un terremoto.

[Él] permaneció aplastado por una viga por doce horas, tras lo cual se le halló totalmente paralizado de la cintura para abajo. Los riñones no le funcionaban y no había esperanzas de que volviera a caminar…

“Se le trasladó de inmediato a los estados unidos, donde fue entrevistado en el hospital por un reportero de televisión. Éste le dijo:

“—Los doctores dicen que no podrá volver a caminar. ¿Qué opina usted, élder Ellsworth?

“El élder respondió:

“—No solamente volveré a caminar, sino que tengo un llamamiento de un profeta para servir como misionero en Guatemala, y volveré a Guatemala para finalizar esa misión…

“El élder Ellsworth hacía el doble de los ejercicios que los médicos le habían prescrito. Ejerció su fe, recibió una bendición del sacerdocio, y su recuperación fue milagrosa. Dejó asombrados a los médicos y a los especialistas. Comenzó a ponerse de pie; más tarde logró caminar con muletas, y luego los doctores le dijeron: ‘Puede volver al campo misional si la Iglesia así lo permite’. Así regreso nuevamente a Guatemala. Regresó a la tierra a la cual había sido llamado, al pueblo al que amaba profundamente.

“Al llegar, caminó, cumpliendo con sus actividades a la par de cualquier otro misionero, con un bastón en cada mano. El presidente de la misión le dijo un día:

“—Élder Ellsworth, con la fe que usted tiene, ¿por qué no tira esos bastones y camina solo?

“Y el élder le respondió: “—Si usted tiene esa clase de fe en mí, así lo haré.

“Y así fue que soltó los dos bastones, y nunca tuvo que volver a utilizarlos”

Elder Ellsworth tuvo mucha fe y valor

Cuando nosotros tenemos una decision  que hacer, y es una decision muy deficil, debemos recordar el valor de abinadi y al valor de daniel y el valor de sadrac, mesac y abed-nego y tambien el valor de elder ellsworth.

Yo se que jesu cristo vive y nos ama.  Se que si guardamos los mandamientos de jesu cristo, el valor dentro de nosotros crecera.

En el nombre de jesu cristo, amen.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Life of Gratitude

A Midsummer's Night Lecture
Let me begin by telling a very bizarre story; I call it "A Midsummer's Night Lecture."  I was a teenager; maybe about 14 years old.  It was summer.  We often went water skiing with our cousins or on a church activity.  One night, after returning from one of these trips, my sister and I were dropped off by one of the adult leaders.  We walked into our home, my sister then changed clothes and left to go to a friend's home.  I stayed home.  My dad was sitting in his chair - he called me over proceeded to give me one of the most forceful lectures I've ever received in my life.

He appeared upset that I was not grateful.  At the time, and still to this day, I honestly do not know what provoked the lecture.  My only theory is that I did not thank the adult leader who dropped us off after the trip and that my sister mentioned this to my dad before she left to go to her friend's home.  I didn't argue with my dad; rather, I was utterly surprised and caught off guard.

The point of this bizarre story is this: in my dad's eyes, gratitude was extremely important.  So important, that a supposed lack of expressing some gratitude for a car ride prompted him to sternly lecture me that summer night long ago.

The Utility of Gratitude
I'm a big believer in utility.  If something in life isn't very useful; then why use it?  This life is so full of things and stuff and ideas and philosophies.  And since life is so short, I believe we don't have time to deal with things that don't have utility.  And so, on the subject of gratitude, I have come to the conclusion that is has significant utility in our lives.  I believe gratitude is a type of glue or bond that holds our marriages, families, wards, communities and even holds the world together.  Gratitude changes our attitude towards ourselves and others.  There have been several studies that have confirmed this.  Let me share a few of them.

One study randomly assigned people to three different groups.  Each of the three groups would write in a journal once a week for ten weeks.  The first group would describe 5 things they were grateful for in the previous week.  The second group would record 5 things that displeased them during the previous week and the third group was told to simply write 5 things that affected them and they were not told to focus on either positive or negative things.

I'm sure you won't be surprised, but the group that focused on gratitude for those 10 weeks were 25% happier; had fewer health complaints and even exercised 1.5 hours more than the other groups.

Another study focused on people who wrote about things for which they were grateful every day.  In this study, the results were those people offered more emotional support and help for other people with problems.  Their goodwill increased.

Other studies have found that those who focus on gratitude have had happier spouses and had less bouts of depression.

One doctor, who has studied marriages for over twenty years, claims that he can can predict, often after only 3 minutes of observation, which marriages will flourish and which will flounder.  His success rate is 90% and his secret is this:  he counts the ratio of positive expressions (including expressions of gratitude) to negative expressions between the husband and wife.  Those who have a 5:1 ratio will flourish.

(source: The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Healthier)

Being Grateful vs. A Life of Gratitude
Perhaps last week or evening during this next week, you or your children have participated or will participate in some activity which asked you to list all your blessings.  Perhaps you have made, as my family has done in the past, a Thankful Turkey, where you write about something for which you are grateful on a colorful feather and then glue it on turkey.  Perhaps after singing the hymn Count Your Many Blessings, you have sat down and pondered all that you have in this life.

Certainly, we have all been grateful for things at one point in our life.  However, the key question is: are we living a life of gratitude?  Is there a difference between being grateful and living a life of gratitude? I think activities such as counting our blessings absolutely puts us on the path of living a life of gratitude, but that is only the beginning.

Consider this hypothetical situation.  It's Thanksgiving Day in Jerusalem around 601 or 602 BC.  Lehi's family sits around the table to have a Thanksgiving feast.  Before they begin to eat, Lehi asks everyone around the table to say something for which they are grateful.  Lehi and Sariah express gratitude for their family, their home and a loving God.  Laman is next; he's grateful for a new goblet and plate.  Lemuel is grateful for a new coat.  Nephi expresses gratitude for his parents and Sam was grateful for a warm bed to sleep in.  Certainly they were all grateful that last Thanksgiving before leaving Jerusalem.  Now we'll see who was being grateful and who was living a life of gratitude.

You know this part of the story.  They leave their home and flee to the wilderness.  Laman and Lemuel complain, whine and demand that they stay in Jerusalem.  Once they are sufficiently away from Jerusalem, what is the first thing Lehi does?  1 Nephi 2:7 "And it came to pass the he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks."  Lehi then names a river and a valley after Laman and Lemuel, but there is no record of them giving thanks.  In fact, they continued to complain.  They whined about how Lehi was seeing things and that they had to leave home and all their gold and silver.  And they feared they would die in the wilderness.  I think it is safe to say Laman and Lemuel felt entitled.  They deserved to stay home.  They deserved to keep their possessions.  They probably gave proof that some of their friends didn't have to leave town.  Before storming off, they might have said, "this life is so unfair!".

Then the boys are sent back to retrieve the brass plates.  After hearing their father explain why they needed to go back, Laman and Lemuel must have rolled their eyes and said, "Are you kidding me?  We just got here and now you want us to go back?!"  You know, we laugh at this amusing take on 1st Nephi, but how many of us have said or thought something similar?  What is our ratio of expressions of gratitude to complaints?

I could go on with this story of Laman and Lemuel and Nephi.  But I'll leave that to you.  Maybe sometime this week, sit down, pull up and read 1 Nephi and then think about the different reactions of these brothers.  How did they react when they were about to starve to death in the wilderness?  How did they react when they found the Liahona?  How did they act when they got to Bountiful?  And how did they act on the ship?  In those chapters are ample evidence of what a life of entitlement looks like contrasted with what a life of gratitude looks like.

How to Live a Life of Gratitude
I hope I've given you some things to think about today.  This last part of my talk will focus on what you can do to begin living a life of gratitude.

Ralph Waldo Emmerson said, "cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously."

Robert Emmons, who has done extensive research on gratitude said, "life is a series of problems that have to be solved - and a lot of times those problems cause stress.  Gratitude can be that stress buster."

WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU ARE THANKFUL FOR IN A JOURNAL (blog, twitter, facebook, instagram).  Make it a habit; write five to ten minutes a day, about what you are grateful for.

DON'T AVOID THE NEGATIVE.  Embrace setbacks as part of the overall journey.  Sometimes, you can even recall a hard time you've experienced and compare it with your current state.  You will feel grateful and it may help you accept and deal with current and future challenges in life.

SPEND TIME WITH YOUR LOVED ONES.  Gratitude helps us connect with other people.  It strengthens relationships

MINDFULLY USE SOCIAL MEDIA  Connected to the journal, I suggest leveraging social media to jot down things you are grateful for.  Positive thoughts shared on social media spread faster than negative thoughts.

KNOW THE VALUE OF THE LITTLE THINGS  A kind word, opening the door for someone, a hug, spending time to listen.  All these are little things we can do.  And as we do the little things, we are more prone to pay it forward.

VOLUNTEER OR SERVE Acting on those feelings of gratitude will prompt us to serve.  Whether we help with a big service project or a small project, our gratitude increases when we serve.

(Source: 7 Habits of Grateful People)

Let me begin to close with this quote you may have heard or read before.  It is by Victor Frankl.  He survived the Nazi concentration camps.  Those prisoners were stripped of everything physically and psychologically.  Yet there were some who kept their true freedom.

He said, "We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.  They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given circumstance, to choose one's own way."

And so it is with us; we must choose to either live of life of entitlement or a life of complaint; or we can choose to live a life full of gratitude to our Heavenly Father and to all around us.

Gratitude, when you truly think about it, is a means to connect with people; as I said earlier, it is a type of social glue or bond.  Serving and gratitude go hand in hand.  And when we serve and give thanks and when we are served and receive thanks, we are making a connection with others.  And as we make those connections in our family and with our friends and in our ward and community, we strengthen the bonds of love.  And when we strengthen the bonds of love, we make the world a better place.

I am grateful for my wife Jill.  This year has been a huge struggle for me.  She has listened to me; she has prayed for me; she has served me.  Up until August this year, Jill and I would get up at 4:45 in the morning and go on a 4 mile walk - it took us about an hour to walk that.  And we would talk.  I loved our walks and talks.  She listened to me; I listened to her.  We gave each other advice and we sought to understand each other.  We have grown so close because of those walks and I can't wait until school gets out next summer so we can continue that tradition every morning.  But for now, we find time in the morning before work or at night when the kids are in bed or we go a date and we talk and listen.  I have never felt more grateful for anyone than her.  I love her and am truly grateful for her.

Brother and sisters - please have gratitude in your hearts.  Strive to live a life of gratitude.  I know you will he happier and healthier if you do.

In the name of Jesus Christ - amen.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

"Like" Stats on Apostles' Talks October 2014

10,000 bednar: come and see
9,700 holland: are we not all beggars?
8,100 uchtdorf: "lord, is it i?" (priesthood)
5,100 oaks: loving others and living with differences
4,700 uchtdorf: receiving a testimony of light and truth
4,100 ballard: stay in the boat and hold on!
4,000 christofferson: free forever, to act for themselves
3,800 uchtdorf: living the gospel joyful (women's meeting)
3,700 scott: make the exercise of faith your first priority
3,500 monson: ponder the path of thy feed
3,400 anderson: joseph smith
2,900 cook: choose wisely (priesthood)
2,800 perry: finding lasting peace and building eternal families
2,700 eyring: continuing revelation
2,400 packer: the reason of our hope
1,900 monson: guided safely home
1,600 nelson: sustaining the prophets
1,600 monson: until we meet again
1,100 eyring: the preparatory priesthood (priesthood)
1,000 monson: welcome to conference

i do this little stat check about a month after general conference.  in may, when i reviewed april data, there was no one talk over 8K likes.  for the october 2014 conference, there were 3 talks over 8K likes with bednar coming in at 10K likes.  last october, both uchtdorf and holland had 12K likes, but they were no where near that this year.

still, holland came in at #2 and all three of uchtdorf's talks were highly liked.

bednar's talk at 10K was surprising.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Jesus taught, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love they neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5:43-44)

Concerning the two greatest commandments, he taught, "That shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself."  (Matthew 22:37-39)

And lastly he taught, "This is my commandment, That ye love one another; as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12-13)

To summarize, we are to love our enemies like we love our neighbors.  We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  We are to love ourselves and our neighbors as Jesus loved his disciples and us.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Like" Stats on Apostles' Talks April 2014

7,900+ uchtdorf: grateful in any circumstances
4,400+ holland: the cost and blessings of discipleship
2,900+ oaks: the keys and authority of the priesthood (priesthood)
2,400+ bednar: bear up their burdens with ease
1,700+ anderson: spiritual whirlwinds
1,600+ uchtdorf: are you sleeping through the restoration? (priesthood)
1,600+ monson: be strong and of a good courage (priesthood)
1,600+ monson: love - the essence of the gospel
1,400+ monson: welcome to conference
1,400+ christofferson: the resurrection of jesus christ
996 hales: if ye love me, keep my commandments
952 nelson: let your faith show
899 eyring: the priesthood man (priesthood)
893 packer: the witness
875 cook: roots and branches
847 scott: i have given you an example
790 ballard: following up
531 eyring: a priceless heritage of hope
489 perry: obedience through our faithfulness
90 monson: until we meet again

no surprise again - as uchtdorf and holland took #1 and #2 respectively.

there were no talks that surpassed the 10,000 like mark this time.  both october and april 2013 had at least one talk with more than 10K likes.

the other noteworthy item is oaks' talk which came in 3rd.  typically priesthood session talks do not crack the top 5, but given this was such a hot, hot topic, it registered pretty high.

Monday, April 28, 2014

a day of rest

in the history of the earth, there is one commandment that is older than all other commandments: that of keeping the sabbath day holy.  in fact, the sabbath as a rest day, is a concept that spans many, different religions.

i think back on my own life and have considered my parents' teachings and practices regarding sabbath rest.  i recall a time, when i was young, seeing the mall parking lot completely empty on sunday.  our church was located just across the street from the mall and so we could easily observe how quiet the mall was on sundays.  generally speaking, the whole town was quiet and peaceful on sunday.

as i grew older, sunday little league baseball games began to spring up.  i never played baseball due to this fact: that little league was played on sunday.

by the time i was in high school, sunday was nearly indistinguishable from saturday.  the mall was just as busy as saturday; the town was just as busy as weekdays; people were on the roads and going places.

but my family's traditions stayed the same.  we'd attend church on sunday.  after church, we either ate dinner or dessert at my grandparent's home or at my aunt's home.  my dad, sister and i would go on peaceful walks on the local community college campus.  if we weren't visiting friends, family or neighbors, we were sitting in the living room reading the newspaper or scriptures.  usually, we'd listen to quiet classical music all day long.  then at night, mom would make a small snack and my dad and i would settle into a nice game of chess.

i recall these times with fondness.  sunday truly was different than the other six days.  and when sunday was over, i was really ready for monday and the rest of the week.  my reserves were replenished and i felt motivated and eager.

however, i lament today's sundays.  two or three sundays each month are filled with meetings and busyness.  saturdays are so crammed, that we don't have time to prepare for the sabbath and therefore we are sleepy on sunday.  the kids expect to be entertained and if they aren't entertained, they expect to be able to bounce around and be loud.  if you lay down to take a nap, you are filled with excessive guilt for not doing something.  and when the evening finally comes, you still fill drained and you wish there were one more day between sunday and monday so that you could prepare for the work week.

where has the quiet gone?
where is the soft music?
where is the reverence?
where are the sacred sundays?
where are the gentle conversations?

it is a sad commentary, but sometimes i have mondays where there are no meetings and nothing on my calendar.  the quiet office is a refuge from the busy sunday and i look forward to getting through sunday to get to that monday.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The First Vision Series - Conclusions and Links

I've reviewed the major accounts of the First Vision.  There are other accounts, but for the most part, they repeat the accounts I reviewed.

What have I learned from all this?  I learned these things are certain.

I learned Joseph thought a lot about the eternities.

I learned there had to be a catalyst that drove him to seek God in prayer.

I learned Joseph experienced something profound in his teenage years.  He saw (either physically or in a vision), Jesus or God the Father or an angel or numerous angels or a combination of all of them.

I learned he was forgiven of his sins.

I learned Joseph took his spiritual salvation seriously - he did not leave it to chance or to any other man.

As a reference, I'll include some other summaries of the various accounts of the First Vision.  These do a great job listing the different accounts and how they differ.

Comparison of 9 First Vision Accounts
Primary Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision of Deity
Comparing Early Accounts of the First Vision

Friday, January 03, 2014

The First Vision Series - Orson Pratt, 1840

I've copied below the text from the Orson Pratt 1840 account.

When somewhere about fourteen or fifteen years old, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence: but how, or in what way, to prepare himself, was a question, as yet, undetermined in his own mind: he perceived that it was a question of infinite importance, and that the salvation of his soul depended upon a correct understanding of the same. He saw, that if he understood not the way, it would be impossible to walk in it, except by chance; and the thought of resting his hopes of eternal life upon chance, or uncertainties, was more than he could endure. If he went to the religious denominations to seek information, each one pointed to its particular tenets, saying— “This is the way, walk ye in it;” (Isaiah 30:21) while, at the same time, the doctrines of each were, in many respects, in direct opposition to one another. It, also, occurred to his mind, that God was not the author of but one doctrine, and therefore could not acknowledge but one denomination as his church; and that such denomination must be a people, who believe, and teach, that one doctrine, (what ever it may be,) and build upon the same. He then reflected upon the immense number of doctrines, now, in the world, which had given rise to many hundreds of different denominations. The great question to be decided in his mind, was—if any one of these denominations be the Church of Christ, which one is it? Until he could become satisfied, in relation to this question, he could not rest contented. To trust to the decisions of fallible man, and build his hopes upon the same, without any certainty, and knowledge, of his own, would not satisfy the anxious desires that pervaded his breast. To decide, without any positive and definite evidence, on which he could rely, upon a subject involving the future welfare of his soul, was revolting to his feelings. The only alternative, that seemed to be left him, was to read the Scriptures, and endeavour to follow their directions. He, accordingly, commenced perusing the sacred pages of the Bible, with sincerity, believing the things that he read. His mind soon caught hold of the following passage:—“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”—James i. 5. From this promise he learned, that it was the privilege of all men to ask God for wisdom, with the sure and certain expectation of receiving, liberally; without being upbraided for so doing. This was cheering information to him: tidings that gave him great joy. It was like a light shining forth in a dark place, to guide him to the path in which he should walk. He, now, saw that if he inquired of God, there was, not only, a possibility, but a probability; yea, more, a certainty, that he should obtain a knowledge, which, of all the doctrines, was the doctrine of Christ; and, which, of all the churches, was the church of Christ. He, therefore, retired to a secret place, in a grove, but a short distance from his father’s house, and knelt down, and began to call upon the Lord. At first, he was severely tempted by the powers of darkness, which endeavoured to overcome him; but he continued to seek for deliverance, until darkness gave way from his mind; and he was enabled to pray, in fervency of the spirit, and in faith. And, while thus pouring out his soul, anxiously desiring an answer from God, he, at length, saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above; which, at first, seemed to be at a considerable distance. He continued praying, while the light appeared to be gradually descending towards him; and, as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness, and magnitude, so that, by the time that it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness, for some distance around, was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner. He expected to have seen the leaves and boughs of the trees consumed, as soon as the light came in contact with them; but, perceiving that it did not produce that effect, he was encouraged with the hopes of being able to endure its presence. It continued descending, slowly, until it rested upon the earth, and he was enveloped in the midst of it. When it first came upon him, it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system; and, immediately, his mind was caught away, from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness. He was informed, that his sins were forgiven. He was also informed upon the subjects, which had for some time previously agitated his mind, viz.—that all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines; and, consequently, that none of them was acknowledged of God, as his church and kingdom. And he was expressly commanded, to go not after them; and he received a promise that the true doctrine— the fulness of the gospel, should, at some future time, be made known to him; after which, the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace, indescribable.

This Orson Pratt account from 1840 is actually quite moving and flows very well.  It blends all the other versions so well.  This account flows so naturally too.  All the gaps and missing pieces from the other accounts seem to be filled by this account.

I underlined four sections above, which, to me, stand out significantly when the whole subject of the First Vision is considered.

The first section hits upon the notion of whether we put our trust in fallible men with regard to religion.  We learn from Orson Pratt's account that Joseph had tremendous anxiety about trusting in fallible men when his eternal salvation was at stake.  He wanted certainty in this regard.  As Pratt describes, Joseph wanted "positive and definitive evidence" regarding the welfare of his soul.  Without such evidence, he was "revolted."  Going back to what I tried to saw in a previous post - generally speaking, people don't have this anxiety any more.  And even if they do, that are almost always told to "have faith" and that their testimony does not depend on "definitive evidence."

The second section is a variation of this same thought.  Joseph felt confident in James 1:5.  He did not leave his testimony up for chance.  He went directly to The Source with a "sure and certain expectation" of getting knowledge.

The third section paints a very different picture than I had ever envisioned.  Pratt describes how the light appeared far off and as Joseph kept praying, the light got nearer.  In the other accounts, I always got the impression that the appearance was sudden.  But this account describes how it was gradual.  This description reminds me of how the Savior descended to the Nephites (3 Nephi 11:8).

Lastly, the fourth section describes the how the vision went from physical to spiritual.  This was very similar to Joseph's 1842 account where he said his "mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision."  Pratt fills in one small gap and notes how when the light came upon Joseph, it "produced peculiar sensation" before he was en-wrapped in a vision.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The First Vision Series - The 1842 Account

I've copied below the text of the 1842 account in order to more easily reference it and apply highlights.

When about fourteen years of age I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state, and upon enquiring the plan of salvation I found that there was a great clash in religious sentiment; if I went to one society they referred me to one plan, and another to another; each one pointing to his own particular creed as the summum bonum of perfection: considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church it would not be split up into factions, and that if he taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, he would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed. Believing the word of God I had confidence in the declaration of James; “If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not and it shall be given him,” I retired to a secret place in a grove and began to call upon the Lord, while fervently engaged in supplication my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day. They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to “go not after them,” at the same time receiving a promise that the fulness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.

The 1842 account is part of the Wentworth letter.  From the Wentworth letter we get our Articles of Faith as well as a well-known quote about missionary work ("no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing ...").  The letter is quite lengthy and gives a "sketch" of the rise of Mormonism.  As such, the account of the First Vision is quite brief and to the point.

- the questioning of "right or wrong" of all the religions
- the seeking in the bible
- James 1:5
- he was 14
- went to a secret place in a grove
- two personages
- the light eclipsed the brightness of the noon-day sun
- the personages tell him all the religions believe in incorrect doctrines

- does not mention his tongue was bound; nor the part about the darkness
- how the two personages appear to him seems different.  In all the previous versions, a pillar of light or fire appears above his head.  In this version, however, he says "my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded."  When I read this, to me it seems the vision occurred in his mind (like a dream) as opposed to a physical visitation (via a pillar of light / fire).
- in the scriptural account, Joseph does not ask for forgiveness of his sins.  In the previous accounts he does ask for forgiveness.  In this 1842 account, he does not mention he asked for forgiveness.

The Wentworth version from 1842 is brief and to the point.  To me, the purpose of this account was to describe the history of the church at a high-level.  Therefore the account of the First Vision was fairly direct.  Other than the part about how the personages visited him, this account is not too different than our scriptural version.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The First Vision Series - The 1838 Account

The 1838 version is the the official, canonized version of the the First Vision.  This is the version I was taught as a child as well as the version I taught investigators of the Church for two years.

I won't discuss much about this version - this is the version by which I've compared the previous two versions.

The one thing I will comment on is the 'thick darkness' Joseph refers to in this version.  It was not mentioned in the 1832 or 1835 versions.  Although his tongue was bound in the 1835 version, he did not mention the darkness.  In this 1838 version, he talks of an "enemy" which "seized upon" him and "entirely overcame" him.  This influence has such a profound effect on him, that it binds his tongue.  Then "thick darkness gathered around" him and he feared that he would be destroyed.  His fear is so great he says, "I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction - not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being sent from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being."

Let me back up a bit.  I mentioned I was taught this version of the First Vision when I was a child.  But, for the most part, this bit about the "darkness" was usually left out or not discussed.  And if it was included in the lesson, it was quickly covered, so as not to dwell on the "enemy" so much.  Personally speaking, I was left with the impression that if we focused on this part too much, the same thing would happen to me.

Then, while as a missionary, whenever we taught the First Vision, we almost always left the "thick darkness" part out.  Or, if we did include it, we would not go into much detail about it - such as only mentioned his tongue was bound.

In Rough Stone Rolling, Bushman describes Joseph's "reluctance" in sharing the First Vision and that as he got more confident, he shared more details.

The 1838 version is very detailed and colorful when compared to the other versions.  I can see why this version would be the preferred version to include in the scriptures.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The First Vision Series - The 1835 Account

I've copied below the text of the 1835 account in order to more easily reference it and apply highlights.

being wrought up in my mind, respecting the subject of religion and looking upon (at) the different systems taught the children of men, I knew not who was right or who was wrong and concidering it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involved eternal consequences; being thus perplexed in mind I retired to the silent grove and bowd down before the Lord, under a realising sense that he had said (if the bible be true) ask and you shall receive knock and it shall be opened seek and you shall find and again, if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God who giveth to all men libar ally and upbradeth not; information was what I most desired at this time, and with a fixed determination I to obtain it, I called upon the Lord for the first time, in the place above stated or in other words I made a fruitless attempt to pray, my toung seemed to be swolen in my mouth, so that I could not utter, I heard a noise behind me like some person walking towards me, (I) strove again to pray, but could not, the noise of walking seem ed to draw nearer, I sprung up on my feet, and and looked around, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of wal king, I kneeled again my mouth was opened and my toung liberated, and I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon my (me) head, and filled me with joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testifyed unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God; (and I saw many angels in this vision) I was about 14. years old when I received this first communication;

This version is very similar to the one found in the PoGP.  It has all the main points:
- the questioning of "right or wrong" of all the religions
- the seeking of the bible
- James 1:5
- the bound tongue
- he was 14

- the biggest difference is that he states he "saw many angels in this vision".  He doesn't elaborate, but in other versions he only sees either 1 person (Jesus Christ), or 2 persons (Christ and God).  But only in this version does he mention seeing many angels.
- this version mentions an unseen presence in the form of binding his tongue as well as a noise of a person walking.  In at least one church video I've seen, it includes this aspect - of a noise of someone walking and Joseph jumping up to his feet.  But in this 1835 written version, there is no mention of a power of darkness - just noise.
- again, in this version, the Lord forgives him his sins.

The 1835 version seems to be a "cliff-notes" version of the official version of the First Vision.  It has all the main points of the official version.

The part about the many angels is very curious.  It sounds a lot like Lehi's vision where he sees, through a "pillar of fire", "God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God" (see 1 Nephi 1:8-9).

One other thought and comment about where he went to pray.  In the official version, he "retired to the woods", and in the 1832 version he calls it "the wilderness" and in the 1842 he calls it "a secret place in a grove."  In this version he calls the woods "the silent grove."  Of all the different descriptions he uses, I like this one the best.  I wish we (in the Church today) would call it "The Silent Grove" instead of what we usually call it today - The Sacred Grove.

Just this past Thanksgiving, I took my son camping up to one of the forests near where we live.  We endured a cold Wednesday night, but then on Thanksgiving morning, it was gorgeous, perfect weather and we went on a long hike.  When were were deep in the forest, we stopped and sat down.  The silence was profound - and I know we were not far from "civilization."  I can only attempt to imagine the "silent grove" Joseph mentions.  Silence is something we do not heed enough in our hyped-up and "connected" world.  Even if we are not producing noise, our minds still do not assume a silent state.  I often lament and feel bad for people who cannot assume a silent state, much less who seek a "silent grove."  I don't think even I get enough silence in my life and I make an effort to seek it.

Another part of this version that caused me to ponder a bit was where he said, "concidering it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involved eternal consequences"  Do people today still consider the eternal state of their soul to be of "first importance?"  Joseph is not referring to the fate of, say thieves and murderers, rather he's referring to the fate of Catholics and Methodists.  He's looking at all the "good" people where some religions say their congregants will be saved, while the non-congregants will go to hell.  To state his dilemma a bit differently, let me cast it in a different light.

A member of the Church and I had a conversation several weeks about about some friends of ours.  Our friends are really good people - meaning they are nice, they serve, they are kind, they are good parents - they are "the salt of the earth."  But they are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints.  I asked this member if they believe our friends would be able to be together as a family if they never are baptized in the Church and sealed in the Temple.  We both agree that if they are not baptized and sealed in the Church, they would still have opportunities (even after they die) to do whatever they needed to do in order to be together for the eternities.  We believe, that even despite being offered the teachings of the Church, they would have multiple opportunities - that God would be merciful.

I think this is a common belief in many people - in the mercy of God.  And since most people believe that, I don't think there are many who have the urgency that Joseph had.  He believed in a "one-chance life" at that point of his life.  I think he believed he had to find the truth, whereas today, we believe "everything will eventually work out" and that we just need to focus on "being good" (see Put Your Trust in God).

But the all-or-nothing question still remains: do we just 'have faith' that it all works out and that we just need to be 'good' or do we truly need to find out what the truth is - that this life is our one chance to find out the truth (concerning the religions) and if we don't find it here, that's it - too bad if you made the wrong choice in religions?

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The First Vision Series - The 1832 Account

I've copied below the text of the 1832 account in order to more easily reference it and apply highlights.

At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns of for the well fare of my immortal Soul which led me to search ing the scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of differant denominations led me to marvel excedingly for I discovered that (they did not adorn) instead of adorning their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository this was a grief to my Soul thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divi[si]ons the wicke[d]ness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the of the minds of mankind my mind become excedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that mand (mankind) did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament and I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday to day and forever that he was no respecter to persons for he was God for I looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their magesty through the heavens and also the stars shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in magesty and in the strength of beauty whose power and intiligence in governing the things which are so exceding great and marvilous even in the likeness of him who created him (them) and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath the wise man said the (it is a) fool (that) saith in his heart there is no God my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity and when (I) considered all these things and that (that) being seeketh such to worshep him as wors hip him in spirit and in truth therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and to obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderne ss and while in (the) attitude of calling upon the Lord (in the 16th year of my age) a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the (Lord) opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph (my son) thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy (way) walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life (behold) the world lieth in sin and at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep not (my) commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to thir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which (hath) been spoken by the mouth of the prophe ts and Ap[o]stles behold and lo I come quickly as it [is] wr itten of me in the cloud (clothed) in the glory of my Father and my soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me but could find none that would believe the hevnly vision nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart.

This version has many similar points as the canonized version in the Pearl of Great Price:
- Joseph searched the scriptures
- He was convinced the religions of the day had apostatized from the church of the New Testament
- He went to someplace quiet to pray
- He was told none of the religions of the day keep the commandments
- No one believes him when he tells them of the vision

However, there are also a number of differences in this version:
- Joseph does not mention James 1:5
- No mention of an "enemy" seizing upon him
- There is no mention that God the Father was present; it seems to be only the Lord Jesus Christ that visits Joseph.
- No specific mention of persecution or prejudice for telling the vision
- The Lord speaks much more in this version than in the PoGP.
- It seems the primary reason Joseph seeks the Lord in prayer is to seek forgiveness
- The Lord forgives Joseph
- While Joseph wrote this account himself, Frederick G. Williams inserted "in the 16th year of my age".  So, according to Joseph/Frederick in this version, Joseph was slightly older than the PoGP version where he was fourteen.

To me, the two main points of this version of the vision are:
1) Joseph really desires forgiveness of his sins and subsequently receives that forgiveness
2) Joseph arrives at the conclusion that God is unchangeable and therefore people have fallen away from Him and not the other way around.

I remember Bushman indicating that other people in Joseph's day and even before him, experienced similar visions.  After reading of several of those visions received by other people, the 1832 version of Joseph's vision seems on par when compared to those other visions.

People want to see God and/or Jesus Christ.  People saw Christ before Joseph; Joseph saw Christ; people after Joseph saw Christ.  I was always impressed with the many Kekchi who would often tell us they saw Jesus in a dream.  I don't doubt people still see Him today.

Joseph's first account version seems to be similar to many of these other visions.