Friday, July 18, 2014

POEM: The Things of Mom

The Things of Mom
On the occasion of her moving out of her home, and giving up and giving away the stuff of her life’s accumulations

Things
  Whether “dust collector,” simply useful, or family treasure. . .
    Impossible to measure.

Memories
  Regrets? (“Too few to mention.”) Overcome and offset
    By a thousand beautiful memories . . . impossible to forget.

Reach
  An Eternal chain of new “Dollybabes” are the results of her instinctive divine maternal impulses. . .
    Impossible to number.


Her Soul
  The depth and breadth of the tears she wept
    on behalf of loved ones here grieved
  Echo in the eternal realm and are felt
    by dear ones who long before us have leaved 
  This frail existence, but who now know where they are what we must here accept
    to appreciate thereby the heights with them later to be received.

      Her joys and glories and the extent of her sphere of influence in the next world there,
        Will a thousand fold compensate for any pain or worry while dwelling in this world here.


~

By Scott L. Vanatter, July 17, 2014 (A poem for Mom as she moves to her new home with Tracy in Washington State)

Monday, July 07, 2014

POEM: Sounding Joy

Sounding Joy

I.
She speaks!
Really she never ceased.

II.
Her boundless voice of love now echoes not only in Time, but Eternity.
With all the angels she shouts, and even dances.

More than ever, she is there for us.
No, she is here for us.

III.
Into all the Eternities, she beckons us. (Yes, we can hear her.)

Finally, her communication is again
Sounding and heard by her dear ones there (and here),
Vibrant, clear and audibly brilliant for them (and us)
Till that Great Day when all shall hear clearly.

IV.
Embracing her mother, with all of Heaven’s Family welcoming her home,
She stops to think of us, and whispers to us,
We are not alone.

One day we shall behold her shining face again,
She will look deep within our eyes, and in a moment, into our very souls.
We yearn to talk and walk with her – looking forward with her to Eternal possibilities.

In our deepest trials, her voice will sound in our ears
The silence of our night will be broken
Punctuated with a needed comfort,
Or pierced with her still small sacred voice, of “I love you.”

V.
Forever clear is her now language.
She speaks, literally now, with the voice of an angel, with power to stir the whole world,
Though, now much softer than even the quiet of recent years – for another reason.

VI.
Knowing the depths and heights of our world – she years for us to understand hers.
I can hear her (even now). I hear her drawing us into Eternal perspective
Which, in ways perhaps unknown to our outer self, give us inner satisfaction and joy.

Her expressions to us, now impressions, lodge deep in our hearts – as we let them.
Ever will her loving invitations draw us to her – and back to our Heavenly Home.

~

By Scott L. Vanatter, December 2011. (Poem for Lola Lenore “Lee” Allen on the occasion of her passing out of this world into the next.)

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Family History and Temple Work (including, Nauvoo Temple experience)

Family History and Temple Worship
Scott L. Vanatter, May 18, 2014, Chantilly Ward

#A1. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
As a convert, Nauvoo the city Joseph Smith founded and named in 1839, has always held a special place in my mind and heart. I have been fascinated and inspired by Nauvoo -- the name, its Hebrew meaning, even its sound, its history, and more importantly, the doctrine revealed there -- the ultimate in Mormon theology. The ennobling doctrine that we can be sealed to our loved ones in the Temple as part of God’s whole family in heaven. ##1
Sacred Experience (Nauvoo Temple)
We were fortunate to be able to serve as patrons in the Nauvoo Temple the very first week it opened in 2002. I had several Vanatter family names with me so we could do all aspects of temple ordinances, from baptisms for the dead, confirmations, and ordinations, to initiatory, endowment, and sealings -- sealings of spouses, and sealing of children to parents. Actually, it was my mother and one of my sisters – who are not members of the church – who did the careful and loving genealogical research and shared their extensive labor of love with us so we could perform the temple ordinances. My wife had introduced them to genealogical research over 30 years ago, and they have really taken to this great labor and have done extensive work.
So for two days in the Nauvoo Temple my wife and I performed ordinances for several of my ancestors, including my very first ancestors to arrive in upstate New York from Holland in the 1650s. . . .
Near the end of the day, we sealed my father’s father to my father’s grandparents. NOTE: My father’s father died when by dad was just a boy of six. More on this in a minute. . . .
As we were sealing sons to their parents, I was acting on behalf of the various sons in all these generations. ##2 After several sealing ordinances were performed . . . I lifted my hand, paused and said to the sealer, “That was my dad’s dad. He died when my dad was six.” The sealer looked right at me, then slowly and calmly said, “He’s here, right now.” He paused, and then repeated, more slowly, “He’s here. Right now.” Needless to say, this was a sacred experience.
Sacred Experience (Kitchen Table)
Four months later our youngest daughter returned from her mission . . . . The whole family gathered for her homecoming talk. My parents and sisters, none of them are members of the Church, traveled to Virginia for this mini family reunion -- as did our oldest daughter and her husband.
After sacrament meeting I gathered them all around our kitchen table and shared with them my testimony. My father sat immediately to my left, my mother across the table from me next to my wife.
I began by sharing with them my witness that it was my sincere belief that our loved ones – our ancestors and our friends -- really are there on the other side of the veil, in what we call the Spirit World. That it is my personal opinion -- and firm belief -- that there is not one person we know that ultimately will not want to be together forever, after the option is presented to them in the spirit world -- no matter how hard their family circumstances here on the earth. Further, that we will all clearly see there that it is Jesus that offers this opportunity to everyone to be together forever. I shared with them that I sincerely believe that we will all meet each other there, and we will all want to be together -- forever. “Every one around this table,” I said. I shared with them my confidence that one day we will all be reunited as an extended family with our loved ones and ancestors in Heaven. That Heaven wouldn’t be Heaven if it were otherwise. Not to us. Not even to God. I bore to them my testimony that God was a loving God of mercy and not one of vengeance.
I told my Dad that I was confident that he would see and know and enjoy the close association with his Dad once again—someday in Heaven. ##3
I then related the sacred experience my wife and I had in the Nauvoo Temple where we sealed together forever my Dad’s father to my Dad’s grandparents. I looked at my father and shared with him that the sealer looked right at me and said, “He’s here, right now. He’s here. Right now.”
Things got very quiet. All of the sudden Dad quickly and forcibly reached over with his right hand and grabbed hold of my left forearm which was resting on the table. He held it very tight – in love and affection. For a few more moments no words were spoken. I felt his love and saw his eyes well up with tears. (Tears, on his part, had previously been very, VERY rare.) He then rose from the table, excused himself, and went straight into the bathroom to have a good cry in private. Around the table it was silent and still. No one spoke. My angel Mother appropriately broke the silence reminding us how much my Dad loved and missed his Dad. My sister said, “Well, that makes it all worth it.” (Meaning, the genealogy work.) Almost simultaneously, my Mom echoed her words.
It was a moment we will not soon forget, a sacred experience for our family. ##4
Dad’s Temple Work
A few years later my dad died. After we returned home from his funeral, my dear Mother (again, not a member of the church) called and asked whether and when we were going to do Dad’s temple work. With her permission -- and urging -- I performed by proxy his temple ordinances, including sealing him to his own parents here in the DC Temple. ##5
Theme
The theme of my talk today is Family History and Temple Work, with a special focus on the important part the Youth of today will play -- and the blessings which flow to them. So, to the youth of the ward please listen for the next few minutes how far-reaching are these great and glorious promises associated with temple work, or in other words, Temple Worship.

#A2. PARTNERSHIP
Ancient prophets spoke of the highest promises of God being planted in our hearts. These promises apply to you, your ancestors, and your posterity. Later, I will remind you of specific promises of protection made especially to you by modern apostles. ##6
An Agreement with the Almighty
Elder John A. Widtsoe explained that before we came to earth we were participants in the Council in Heaven. Quote. “In our [pre-mortal] state, in the day of the great council, we made an . . . agreement with the Almighty. The Lord proposed a plan. . . . We accepted it. Since the plan is intended for all [people], we became parties to the salvation of every person under that plan. We agreed, right then and there, to [help save] the whole human family. We went into a partnership with the Lord. The working out of the plan became then not merely the Father’s work, and the Savior’s work, but also our work. The least of us, the humblest, is in partnership with the Almighty in achieving the purpose of the eternal plan of salvation. That places us in a very responsible attitude towards the human race. By that doctrine, with the Lord at the head, we become saviors on Mount Zion, all committed to the great plan of offering salvation to the untold numbers of spirits. To do this is the Lord’s self-imposed duty, this great labor, his highest glory. Likewise, it is man’s duty, self-imposed, his pleasure and joy, his labor, and ultimately his glory.” End quote. (“The Worth of Souls,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Oct. 1934, p. 189) – Elder David B. Haight, Ensign, November 1990, p. 59) ##7
The Whole Human Race
Joseph Smith said that, “A [person] filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing [their] family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” 

#B1. PROMISES
Among the very first things Moroni taught Joseph Smith included the foundational truths having to do with the everlasting promises made to the fathers. Moroni told Joseph that God would “reveal . . . the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet . . . . And [that God] shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children [would] turn to their fathers.” (D&C 2)
Welding Link
Commenting on this almost twenty years later Joseph said: “It is sufficiently plain . . . to know . . . that . . . there is a welding link . . . between the fathers and the children . . . . And . . . what is that [link]? It is . . . baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect . . . . It is necessary . . . that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of . . . keys, and powers, and glories should take place . . . . (DC 128:18) “And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.” End quote. (DC 128:15)
Together
Joseph Smith summarized: “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. The apostle says, ‘They without us cannot be made perfect’ . . . It is necessary that those who are going before and those who come after us should have salvation in common with us; and thus hath God made it obligatory upon man. ”
Before they even arrived in the Great Basin, Brigham Young instructed the saints on the purpose of temple ordinances. He said: “The Apostle Paul, while speaking of the Fathers & the Ancients, said that they without us could not be made perfect. . . . [and] Joseph said [it is] an item of the celestial law [that they are] not perfect without us. [Not] until our children rise up in the last days and attend to all the ordinances [of the temple]…. [None] of us can get any glory alone. We must finish our work together, and so with the whole human family. . . . ##8 The Chain of [the] Priesthood [has been] restored. . . . Suffice it to say that [we] must be linked [in] …the Chain of the Priesthood . . . [and we will] as soon I can get a temple built. I have heard Elders say they were not dependent upon any man. . . . [But,] I consider that we are all dependant one upon another for our exaltation and that our interest is inseparably connected. . . . If men are not saved together, they cannot be saved at all. . . . The business of this Church [is] to [bring the] blessings of the Priesthood to all that have lived . . . ##9 Neither can you without me, nor I without you be made perfect. . . . This applies to the whole Human family.” End quote. (Brigham Young, Mormon History, Tuesday, Feb 16, 1847)
A Day Contemplated by Prophets
Joseph Smith challenged: “Let every man, woman and child realize the importance of the work, and act as if success depended on [their] individual exertion alone; let all feel an interest in it, and then consider they live in a day, the contemplation of which animated the bosoms of kings, Prophets, and righteous men thousands of years ago.” End quote. (History of the Church, 4:214.)
Tentacles of Divine Providence
Dear youth, please listen to how far reaching are these promises. President Hinckley cited the following quote several times during his presidency, and in a seminal address, his counselor President Faust explained the following blessing in detail in general conference. Quote. “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them . . . would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s [and mother’s] heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain.” End quote. (Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 110)
None of us will be satisfied if someone we love is not with us. The hope of Eternal Life which we receive at our baptism, becomes the promise of Eternal Life in our temples.
When? A Million Years
President Kimball observed that, quote: “The time will come when there will be a surrender of every person who has ever lived on this earth, who is now living, or who ever will live on this earth; and it will be an unforced surrender, an unconditional surrender. When will it be for you? Today? In twenty years? Two hundred years? Two thousand, or a million? When? Again, to you... I say, it is not if you will capitulate to the great truth; it is when, for I know that you cannot indefinitely resist the power and pressure of truth. Why not now? Much time has been lost.” End quote. (President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, Sept. 1978, p. 8)
This applies to all of us, all of our friends and neighbors, all of our ancestors, all of our posterity -- even and especially those who stray. ##10
Vast Realities
Elder John A. Widtsoe beautifully described how temple ordinances are infused with symbolism. He said: “Mighty spiritual ordinances are carried on daily in [our] magnificent Temple[s]. [These ordinances are] a series of symbols of vast realities . . . . It is the meaning of things that counts in life. We live in a world of symbols. We know nothing except by symbols. . . . [When we are] endowed as [we] should be [we will see] beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand.” End quote. (Elder John A. Widtsoe, Utah Genealogical Magazine, 12:62)
President Faust cited Joseph Smith’s King Follett discourse. “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.” ##11

#C. CHALLENGE
Genius
An emeritus Yale professor, and perhaps America’s preeminent literary scholar, Harold Bloom, has become an admirer of the doctrine of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Bloom who characterizes himself as a lapsed, Gnostic Jew, said that Joseph Smith was a “religion making genius.” It was his opinion that Joseph Smith created The American Religion. ##12
Of the many unique/former Christian doctrines restored through Joseph Smith, Bloom cites the doctrine of Baptism for the Dead as, perhaps, the most important – more than the Book of Mormon, more than the First Vision, as seminal as they are. He suggests that baptism for the dead succinctly captures the essence of the expansive and generous Plan of Salvation as understood in Mormon chapels, in Mormon Temples, and in the hearts of endless generations of Mormons. Bloom is describing the effects of the Spirit of Elijah.
In our temples is a marvelous power connecting the generations – making as one all of God’s children past, present, and future. Truly teaching the eternal implication of what President Hugh B. Brown spoke of as, The Fatherhood of God, and the Brotherhood of Man.
Provision
Joseph Smith stated that even those without knowledge of -- or obedience to -- the Bible would be enfolded in the arms of mercy. Quote: “God hath made a provision that every spirit can be ferreted out in [the spirit] world.” End quote. Joseph’s was a generous vision.
Continued Duration for Completion
Joseph commented on the Vision of the degrees of glory in the heavens, thusly: “Nothing could be more pleasing to the Saints . . . than the light which burst upon the world through the foregoing vision. . . . . Every promise, every truth, and every point touching the destiny of man . . . go[es] to show the [the truth of the revelation] . . . . The sublimity of the ideas; . . . the scope for action; the continued duration for completion . . . are so much beyond the narrow-mindedness of men, that every [honest] man is constrained to exclaim: ‘It came from God.’” (Joseph Smith, Feb., 1832. DHC 1:252-253.)

#D. YOUR ROLE
In our last general conference, Elder Cook discussed the importance of the role our youth will play. He said: “The First Presidency has encouraged members, especially youth and young single adults, to emphasize family history work and [temple] ordinances . . . . We need to be connected to both our roots and branches. . . . ##13
Rising Generation to Lead the Way
“The leadership of the Church has issued a clarion call to the rising generation to lead the way in the use of technology to experience the spirit of Elijah, to search out their ancestors, and to perform temple ordinances for them. Much of the heavy lifting in hastening the work of salvation for both the living and the dead will be done by you young people. ##14 Of course, the main objective is to determine what ordinances still need to be done and make assignments for the essential temple [ordinances]. . . .” This temple worship by our youth “will bless their entire family to experience the spirit of Elijah. Our precious roots and branches must be nourished. . . . End quote. (Elder Quentin L. Cook, April 2014 Conference, Roots and Branches)
Roots and Branches, Remembered
As Jacob said, “How merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches; and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long; and . . . as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (Jacob 6:4)

#E. PROMISE OF PROTECTION, PRESERVATION
In reviewing this theme with your bishop over the past few weeks, he desires that you young women and young men receive the specific blessings of protection promised by modern apostles and prophets. As you participate in this work he is confident you will “gain a deeper understanding of the commandment and doctrine of ‘honoring our fathers and mothers’ – ‘and that you’] will see doing family history and temple work in a whole new light.”
No Greater Protection
Elder Scott has spoken of the blessing of protection for our youth as they become involved in this work. He said: “Do you young people want a sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary in your life? Immerse yourself in searching for your ancestors, prepare their names for the sacred vicarious ordinances available in the temple, and then go to the temple to stand as proxy for them to receive the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. ##15 I can think of no greater protection from the influence of the adversary in your life.” (Elder Richard G. Scott, October 2012)
Question: How and why does this work? It works through the efficacy of Lord’s marvelous promises and power, in partnership with your inherent and refined ‘desires, appetites and passions.’
Conversion Deep and Abiding, and Protected
Elder Bednar has also promised specific blessings, including that of protection, for our youth. Quote. ##16 “I invite the young people of the Church to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. . . . And I urge you to help other people identify their family histories. . . . You are sons and daughters of God, children of the covenant, and builders of the kingdom. You need not wait until you reach an arbitrary age to . . . assist in the work of salvation for the human family. . . . ^ As you respond in faith to this invitation, your hearts shall turn to the fathers. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be implanted in your hearts. Your patriarchal blessing . . . will link you to these fathers and be more meaningful to you. Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives. Parents and leaders, please help your children and youth to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. But do not overly program this endeavor or provide too much detailed information or training. Invite young people to explore, to experiment, and to learn for themselves. . . .” ##17
In our last stake conference President Wheatley, commented on these promises, “Brothers and Sisters, if we would claim these promises of protection for our youth, let us obey the law upon which they are predicated. If we do, the promises are sure and are ours.”
President Boyd K. Packer has given wise counsel on improving behavior. He said, “True doctrine understood changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the Gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior . . . .” (Boyd K. Packer, “Little Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).
In Nauvoo, Joseph Smith was asked by a visitor to from the Illinois state government how he governs so many people so well. Joseph replied, “It’s easy.” The visitor asked, “How?” Joseph stated: “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”

#F. PRISONERS FREE
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus came out of the desert and entered into a synagogue. He opened the scriptures and read the following words from Isaiah. One might say that they form something of a mission statement for our Savior’s ministry.
Opening the Prison
Quoting Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound . . . . ” End quote.
Glad Tidings for the Dead
Last month Elder Cook cited the following soaring words from Joseph Smith’s beautiful letter to the Saints introducing the doctrine of baptism for the dead – which is also cited in D&C 128. “Now, what do we hear in the Gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; And a voice of truth out of the earth. Glad tidings for the dead; A voice of gladness for the living and the dead; Glad tidings of great joy. Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. . . . Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free. . . . And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!” (D&C 128)
As Soon As
I bear my witness that there is now no spirit prison in the eternities -- or of one’s own making here on earth -- that can or will forever hold bound those who Jesus has already set free. They can walk out of the door anytime they want -- as soon as they will.
And I bear my witness that we have now the wherewithal and opportunity and obligation and vision and love to help secure their freedom -- as soon as we will.
In so doing, I testify that we -- and especially our youth -- can and will receive the promised blessings of connection with our ancestors, and protection from the adversary.
I pray we do so joyously and profitably sooner rather than later . . . in the powerful and merciful Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
# # #
OUTLINE
#A1. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
#A2. PARTNERSHIP
#B1. PROMISES
#B2. PROMISES BECOME REAL
#C. CHALLENGE
#D. YOUR ROLE
#E. PROMISE OF PROTECTION, PRESERVATION
#F. PRISONERS FREE
# # #
FOOTNOTES
##1. SIDE NOTE: A large framed piece of art – an image of an old daguerreotype of the Nauvoo Temple -- hangs prominently near our front door. Before we moved to Virginia, the California license plate on my car was Nauvoo.
My wife Becky’s early Mormon ancestors lived in Kirtland, Far West, and Nauvoo. They trekked across the plains as pioneers. Some of them received their endowment and were sealed in the original Nauvoo Temple. I have felt adopted into Mormon history and her family lore as I have read and pondered her ancestors’ experiences. . . .
##2 We had invited a couple from Kansas (near where I was born) to help us by acting as proxy for the various sets of parents.
##3 (Remember, my dad’s dad died when my dad was six.)
##4 Reflection -- Years later our oldest daughter remarked, quote, “This was so significant to me, feeling the Spirit of Elijah in that room, and knowing my Grandma and Aunt have caught the Spirit of Elijah and accepted that day the beautiful happenings in the Temple with their family members. While they have not yet joined the church, I know that someday, all the pieces that they have felt and heard and seen over the years will all fit together and it will all instantly click for them.” End quote.
##5 To make that day even more special, my mission president in Australia in 1973-75 was then serving as the DC temple president. He performed the sealing -- two important men in my life brought together in different aspects of one sweet and eternal sealing ordinance.
##6 So, please open your minds and hearts as we consider what great things God has in store for us, and especially for you.
##7 A Sense of Relationship and Co-partnership -- President Hugh B. Brown also spoke on this idea of partnership. He said, “A sense of relationship and co-partnership with God involves the concept of universal brotherhood.” He said, “that [this sense] will help to develop intelligent tolerance, open-mindedness, and good-natured optimism.
##8 ‘Neither is man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.’
##9 This is another strong proof of the Apostle’s saying when he declared that, they without us could not be made perfect. [Neither we without them.]
##10 Jesus used the following words to set up the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We were all in the pre-mortal world, looking down on the happenings here on earth. Imagine being with your loved ones and friends when you heard Jesus say these words: “4 [Who among] you, having an hundred sheep, if [you] lose one of them, do [you] not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after [the one] which is lost, until [you] find it? 5 And when [you] [find] it, [you] lay… it on [your] shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when [you] come… home, [you] call… together [your] friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one . . . that repents…, more than over ninety and nine [who] need no repentance. “
One Vast and Grand Work -- President Kimball also said, “The more clearly we see eternity, the more obvious it becomes that the Lord’s work . . . is one vast and grand work with striking similarities on each side of the veil.” End quote. (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, Jan. 1977, p. 3) ]]
Brigham Young also taught that: “The whole subject of the marriage relation . . . lays the foundation for worlds, for angels, and for the Gods; for intelligent beings to be crowned with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. In fact, it is the thread which runs from the beginning to the end of the Holy Gospel of Salvation -- of the Gospel of the Son of God; it is from eternity to eternity. When the vision of the mind is opened, you can see a great portion of it . . . . [which] we can see and understand . . . .” (JD 2:90)
##11 PROMISES BECOME REAL -- Question: How can these “vast realities” be apprehended?
Only by Experience, Gaze Five Minutes -- Joseph Smith cautioned that, simply, “Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” End quote. (TPJS, p. 324; cf. HC 6:50)
Must Experience -- Brigham Young explained regarding the meaning of “the ordinances of the House of the Lord in their fullness” that, “to know, [one] must experience; and to experience, a Temple must be built.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol.2, Pg.31, April 6, 1853)
You are to be Instruments -- Joseph Smith encouraged those who were embarking in this work – and this applies especially to our youth who are growing into powerful leaders. Quote. “Do not be discouraged on account of the greatness of the work; only be humble and faithful . . . Therefore, inasmuch as you are to be instrumental in this great work, He will endow you with power, wisdom, might, and intelligence, and every qualification necessary; while your minds will expand wider and wider, until you can circumscribe the earth and the heavens, reach forth into eternity, and contemplate the mighty acts of Jehovah in all their variety and glory.” End quote. (History of the Church, 4:128–29.)
In our last General Conference, Elder Quentin L. Cook said, “Our Father’s plan is about families. . . . The spirit of Elijah . . . as Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught, is ‘a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family.’ . . .
“On October 11, 1840, in Nauvoo, Vilate Kimball wrote a letter to her husband, Elder Heber C. Kimball, who with other members of the Twelve was serving a mission in Great Britain. The October general conference had been held a few days before. I quote from parts of Vilate’s personal letter: ‘We had the largest and most interesting conference that ever has been since the Church was organized. . . . President [Joseph] Smith has opened a new and glorious subject. . . . That is, being baptized for the dead. Paul speaks of it, in First Corinthians 15 . . . . Joseph has received a more full explanation of it by revelation. He says it is the privilege of [members of] this Church to be baptized for all their kinsfolk that have died before . . . . By so doing, we act as agents for them, and give them the privilege of coming forth in the First Resurrection. He says they will have the gospel preached to them in prison.’ Vilate added: ‘I want to be baptized for my mother. … Is not this a glorious doctrine?’” End quote. Indeed.
Vilate Kimball was right to exclaim that first month, “Is not this a glorious doctrine!”
##12 That what he taught was on par with that of Emerson, and other great American poets and thinkers.
##13 “Less than a year after President Thomas S. Monson was called as an Apostle, he dedicated the Los Angeles Temple Genealogical Library. . . .” [ NOTE: It was in this same Genealogical Library that my wife would go to do family history research once a month as I served as a veil worker in the L.A. Temple.
##14 “If the youth in each ward will not only go to the temple and do baptisms for their dead but also work with their families and other ward members to provide the family names for the ordinance work they perform, both they and the Church will be greatly blessed.
##15 As you grow older, you will be able to participate in receiving the other ordinances as well.
##16 “It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. . . . The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation. . . . Our young people are excited to learn about the lives of family members—where they came from and how they lived. Many have had their hearts turned to the fathers. They love the stories and photos, and they have the technological expertise to scan and upload these stories and photos to Family Tree and connect source documents with ancestors to preserve these for all time.
##17 -- “My beloved young brothers and sisters, family history is not simply an interesting program or activity sponsored by the Church; rather, it is a vital part of the work of salvation and exaltation. You have been prepared for this day and to build up the kingdom of God. You are here upon the earth now to assist in this glorious work. . . . “I know the youth of the rising generation have a key role to play in this great endeavor. . . .” End quote.
As Elder Bednar said, doing family history and temple work (or, rather, we might say, Temple Worship) affords us promises of not only being preserved in this world of trials and tribulations, and protection from the adversary, but also a sweeter, more intimate relationship with God.
In order to receive these promised blessings and the associated beauties of the ordinances, we need to ponder the mysteries of Godliness, as revealed in the scriptures, the temple, and our own sincere prayers. Prayers can be thought of as an individual, personalized portal piercing this veil of tears and into the eternal realm where we can commune directly with the Divinity – with our Father in Heaven.
“Things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity -- thou must commune with God.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings, Page 137)
Joseph Smith said, “This is good doctrine. It tastes good. I can taste the principles of eternal life, and so can you. They are given to me by the revelations of Jesus Christ; and I know that when I tell you these words of eternal life as they are given to me, you taste them, and I know that you believe them. You say honey is sweet, and so do I.
“I can also taste the spirit of eternal life. I know that it is good; and when I tell you of these things which were given me by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you are bound to receive them as sweet, and rejoice more and more. . . . All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us…are revealed to us in the abstract . . . . (Joseph Smith, King Follett Discourse)
And he had this to say about how we grow over time into a more effective servant: “We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, . . . But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment: he must have been instructed in the government and laws of that kingdom by proper degrees, until his mind is capable in some measure of comprehending the propriety, justice, equality, and consistency of the same.…” (Joseph Smith, Letter to the Brethren, January 22, 1834. Teachings, Page 47)

# # # 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A poem for Mom's 80th Birthday

The Center
Through the heart and words of a natural mother AND through the heart and works of a natural genealogist, Mom (Grandma Dot) is at the very center of all that is important. Connecting our hearts and the generations.

  
Looking back (and forward), seeing past an earthy veil
   Into the heart.

Love no longer lost, the chain no longer frail,
    Is now rebuilt and an inherent part . . .

Of those we knew. But being separated
    Here in our own time . . .

And forgotten. Are now recovered and remembered --
    With faint inklings sublime.

Weak links, now strong. Those long asleep, now awakening,
    No longer alone.

She, at the center point of our shared existence, connecting
    Our Hearts and the Generations. Now one -- and known.

(Poem by Scott L. Vanatter, written Feb. 26, 2014, in honor of my Mother’s 80th birthday.)



Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Steward, By Carol Lynn Pearson




http://www.amazon.com/Beginnings-Beyond-Carol-Lynn-Pearson/dp/1599558602

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr. expounding/applying scripture


In Memphis to support sanitation workers, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated April 4, 1968. The previous night he spoke at the Church of God in Christ Headquarters there in Memphis where he delivered another (and final) of his famous speeches. This “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech poignantly ends with the following words: 

“And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!’”

Earlier in the speech Dr. King discussed the meaning of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, then challenged us to “make America what it ought to be.” 

“Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base....

“Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn't stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the ‘I’ into the ‘thou,’ and to be concerned about his brother.

“Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn't stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn't be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that ‘One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony.’ And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem -- or down to Jericho, rather to organize a ‘Jericho Road Improvement Association.’ That's a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

“But I'm going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It's possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, ‘I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.’ It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles -- or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. That's a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the ‘Bloody Pass.’ And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’

That's the question before you tonight. Not, ‘If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job.’ Not, ‘If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?’ The question is not, ‘If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?’ The question is, ‘If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?’ That's the question.

“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.”

#
Listen to the, "I've been to the Mountaintop" speech here:
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkivebeentothemountaintop.htm 

Listen to the, "I Have a Dream" speech here:



Saturday, August 24, 2013

I Have a Dream, 50th Anniversary

August 28, 2013 is the fifty-year anniversary of Martin Luther King, Junior’s seminal 1963 speech, “I Have a Dream.”

Below I offer brief commentary on a few paragraphs from the front half of the speech with the corresponding paragraphs of the back half. This arrangement also highlights what I believe to be the center section(s) where often the most poignant imagery of Christ obtains.

So, in honor of the fiftieth anniversary and to remind us all of the best of what American can and should be, I offer this suggested outline and related commentary, with a link to the entire speech.

I Have a Dream
Delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963


Suggested outline, summary

A — The Greatest Demonstration for Freedom
 B — The Emancipation Proclamation

  C — An Exile in His Own Land
   D — Honoring This Sacred Obligation

    E — Stand on the Warm Threshold which leads into the Palace of Justice
     F — Our Struggle on the High Plane of Dignity and Discipline
    E’ — Justice Rolls Down like Waters and Righteousness like a Mighty Stream
     F’ — Veterans of Creative Suffering. … Unearned Suffering is Redemptive

  C’ — Let Us not Wallow in the Valley of Despair
   D’ — I Have a Dream

 B’ — We Will Be Free One Day
A’ — Let Freedom Ring

Below I compare, for example, the frontside A with the backside A’. Much more could be said about each paragraph, each sentence, each phrase which Reverend King so beautifully and effectively spoke that warm Summer day fifty years ago.

Beginning and ending A Structures 
A — The Greatest Demonstration for Freedom
A’ — Let Freedom Ring

Notice he begins this seminal speech [A] by introducing the event as the “greatest demonstration for freedom” while he ends the speech [A’] with the clarion call to “let freedom ring” citing the words of the most beautiful and poignant Negro Spiritual. (One of the most beautiful examples of a concluding A’ structure, Salvation Song, we have run across.)

Beginning and ending B Structures 
B — The Emancipation Proclamation
B’ — We Will Be Free One Day

He then moves into [B] the thrust of the promise of what he and the throngs were there that day to secure, a renewal and fresh start of a modern day ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ -- where he speaks of it being a “light of hope.” The fulfillment of the promise of true freedom is mirrored in his words near the end of the speech [B’], that with this “stone of hope” they know “that we will be free one day.”

Beginning and ending C Structures 
C — An Exile in His Own Land
C’ — Let Us not Wallow in the Valley of Despair

He next describes the problems of living in a world [C], where “the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination” create “a lonely island of poverty” and the Negro is still “languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.” King returns to this general theme near the end of the speech [C’] where he tells the gathered crowd to go back to “the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.” It can be overcome. He then challenges, “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair” (even though there be segregation, discrimination, poverty, and exile).

Beginning and ending D Structures 
D — Honoring This Sacred Obligation
D’ — I Have a Dream

Next he describes [D] the “promissory note” which “the architects of our republic wrote [in] the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” “This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” He declares that “we’ve come to cash this check – a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” He returns to this [D’] when he beautifully and memorably describes his Dream, “rooted in the American Dream.” That “one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-¬evident: that all men are created equal.’” That, this land “will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”

Beginning and ending E Structures 
E — Stand on the Warm Threshold which leads into the Palace of Justice
E’ — Justice Rolls Down like Waters and Righteousness like a Mighty Stream

Then, he gets into what is perhaps the most challenging and poignant section of this speech [the center E and F sections], where such a chiastic organization in the scriptures usually bespeaks of how we are to emulate our Savior Jesus Christ (especially as he was our Exemplar as the Suffering Servant). In our studies we have found that the front E structure often has verbiage where paths or passages or some boundary is crossed to get from the E to the center F structure.

Here [E] King speaks of “the sunlit path of racial justice.” And that his people “stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice.” (For those of you who have been in the Temple, this is where we might think of the imagery of coming into the presence of the Lord through the veil.) This is the “hallowed spot” (King’s words) where followers of Christ encounter or begin to see how Christ’s suffering was for them. Following this, King warns [E’] that “we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Beginning and ending F Structures 
F — Our Struggle on the High Plane of Dignity and Discipline
F’ — Veterans of Creative Suffering. … Unearned Suffering is Redemptive

At the very center of the speech [F], he pointedly challenges those gathered – and indeed all of us – to follow Jesus as, and whenever, we ourselves suffer (for whatever reason). “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.” In the most heart-felt, loving fashion, King challenges us all [F’] to be “veterans of creative suffering.” And to, “Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

(This, in my opinion, is one of the keenest insights into the general state of the world where inequities too often abound. Not just here in America, where we have had to overcome racial inequities and discrimination, but across the world, where injustice of all kinds continues to exist. King challenges those who suffer to do so creatively and knowing that it is redemptive. Much more could be said about the trials and tribulations found in this world. Of course, King’s Dream is that all of this trouble will be made right and whole. We can extend this not only to America, but to the whole world.)

The other major theme common to a center F structure is the coming together of two things, two people, two principles, etc. This is where supposed ‘separateness’ is revealed to truly be, in fact, ‘connected.’ Where two is, in fact, one; where disconnected or disparate feelings, conditions, situations, or relationships are made ‘whole.’ King most insightfully says, “many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”

When we all become aware -- deep within -- that we all are, indeed, brothers and sisters of a loving Heavenly Father, Martin Luther King, Junior’s Dream will come to pass for everyone, everywhere. This is – should be -- our shared dream.

~

See full text at: http://www.davidicchiasmus.com/blog/authors-non-lds/martin-luther-king-jr-dream/

*Note: My good friend Jared Demke (1957-2006) and I worked on many such parallel and/or chiastic outlines over the years, several of which are presented on the website above.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Heart of The Book of Mormon

Scott Vanatter, July 21, 2013

PICTURE

Picture with me, in your mind’s eye, that you are present at the crowning event -- the heart -- of The Book of Mormon. The Lord Jesus Christ descends out of heaven and stands before you -- in all his majesty, grandeur, and glory – yet somewhat paradoxically, with a sweet inner humility. And you are drawn to Him.

The darkness has dispersed. As the new day begins to dawn, you gravitate toward the Temple. You finally recognize the voice of Heavenly Father introducing his Beloved Son. This is the moment that has been prophesied for so many years. This is the moment you have eagerly awaited.

You can see him with your natural eyes. But, in a special way, you now see him as never before with your spiritual eyes – the eyes of your understanding. You see him as he is. You not only see his face, you see and understand his heart better than ever before.  And yours swells as wide as eternity.

You can feel his love for everyone there, for everyone everywhere, and for you.  You yearn that someday soon everyone you know will see as you see, know as you know, and love Him as you love Him. Everyone. Your faith is being made perfect; but you do not lay it aside. It is now more powerful than ever before, and is the moving cause of all your thoughts, desires, and actions.

Yes, the darkness is now gone. You were shocked at how palpably exquisite, how perfectly dark it was across the land. But now in its place, is a light which lightens every part of your soul. Though it is new to you, it is so very familiar. The light of his countenance enlightens your eyes, both physical and spiritual. And warms your heart. You know this is the Christ. You are now one of his special witnesses.

ONE BY ONE

And it is about to become that much more real, that much more intimate.

The Book of Mormon records that there were with you that first day of the Lord’s visit to the Land Bountiful, two thousand five hundred souls. The prophet was careful to record that the 2,500 consisted of men, women and children. Ah, the children.

It is still early in the morning when Jesus gently commands, “14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth…”

I estimate that it may have taken about seven hours for all 2,500 to personally encounter the Savior -- to become and stand forever as one of His special witnesses. Memorialized on plates of gold, and in the words of a book (as is reported in Isaiah 29), and also written on the fleshy tablets of our hearts -- and seared into every corner of our minds. We will never forget those loving eyes for as long as we live. And, ultimately, we will live forever!

Without being directed in how to do so, naturally and without commotion the gathered crowd nearest to Him quietly dissolves into something of a line so that everyone would be able to personally greet the Savior of the whole world – one-by-one as he said. There is no pushing, no shoving. No worry that anyone would miss out. Those of us who wait for hours somehow know that we needed just an extra bit of time to prepare to meet our loving and beloved Lord.

Imagine further on that day, that you are one of the last of those who humbly but with full purpose of heart approach the Savior. See yourself among loved ones -- and with your beloved angel ancestors and descendants in attendance by your side just beyond the veil. Slowly your part of the gathered crowd moves nearer to where the Savior is waiting for you.

Now, your group is getting nearer to him. You can see him much more closely now. There are only twenty or so persons before you. Now, there are only two or three people between you and the Savior. Now, there is no one between you and Him. It seems your physical surroundings have disappeared around you. The soft sounds of the birds and the gentle breeze, and the almost imperceptible breathings in and out of the crowd fade into a peaceful, barely perceptible, rhythmic silence -- a still, small ambient background hum. Previously, when there was darkness and silence in the land, the silence was empty. Now, this new silence is the polar opposite of that lonely silence. Now it is filled with the experiential moment of just you and Him. What you see and what you hear for the next few moments will suffice till that day when you can -- with your loved ones -- read the round of eternity and stand in his presence in One Eternal Now (as Joseph Smith describes it) and partake of this fullness to your heart’s content. This new silence is filled with all the beautiful anticipation and focus of meeting the One who you now seem to recognize as your true Friend. You seem to remember being with Him for time immemorial, living and learning in his presence prior to our coming to earth. You had learned so much, yet you knew – truly knew -- only so much. Now, with a lifetime of experience filled with the joyous heights and the lonely, painful depths – you bring your whole soul’s experience to the One who gave his whole soul – for you. For me. For the whole world.

ONE WITH HIM

Now, you are standing in front of him. After a life of prayer and service and worship, you now come unto him – and with no need of deception or shame. You are repentant. You meet the One who made forgiveness both theoretically possible in everyone’s life and individually effectual in your own. More than ever before, you now know you are forgiven. You are clean. You are whole. You are at One with the Holy One of Israel.

As you draw near to him, he softly calls your name. So naturally does your name fall from his lips, you are surprised that you are not surprised at his naming your poor name.

Now, you begin to kneel. But he reaches out his arm, and takes you into his close embrace. Heart to heart, you are encircled about in His love. In an instant you see and know not only that he has totally forgiven you – even in your halting repentance – but that he completely loves you. You know that he knows your sorrows, and yearnings for the Divine. He knows your efforts, he knows your strivings, he knows you.

The veil of forgetfulness is now so very thin. You now see clearly things that are just between Him and you. Things you previously stumbled to find utterance when you could barely formulate a prayer. You had forgotten some of these prayers, some of these strivings. Now, the whole span of your existence and your relationship with Him stretches out in both directions, forever.

Now, you realize it is time that you humbly follow his gentle command, to feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet -- and in his side. Yes, you are aware that they stand as a temporary symbol of the suffering he must have bore on your behalf . . . but now you see that in these tokens, they also more perfectly reflect the transference of your pains and sorrows and infirmities through him and into the abyss. Yes! He has overcome Death and Hell and Pain and Sorrow. He has vanquished them all. They have no power over you – not that they ever really did. As you withdraw your hand from his side, he wipes away the tears you now realize are rolling down your cheek.

YOUR CONTINUED WALK

As you walk on to an area off to the side with your group of family and friends, you turn your head to glance back at him as you make way for others to follow in your footsteps. Time indeed stood still while you heard him call you by name, while you looked into his eyes, while He embraced you as dear friends, while you felt the warmth of his embrace and the warmth of the Love of Christ. Your love is now pure, your love is now overflowing, your love now yearns to reach out even as he reached out. To do His will, to be his disciple, to take upon you His Name, his power, his desire, his purpose, and even the Divine Nature of the Father – which Christ so perfectly reflects.

Though your feet are on solid ground, sacred ground, you almost feel like you are floating, gliding just above the earth. Soon the sounds of a beautiful earth return to your ears . . . One day in the future you will encounter another pain or sorrow. But not today. Not now. Everything is in perspective, everything is in its proper frame, everything is right, you now know that He will make things right – sooner or later. Somehow, without words, you know that you and your loved ones will be made perfect and live forever in His presence. After all, as Paul, his most bold apostle, and as Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration have said, “They without us cannot be made perfect, and we without them cannot be made perfect.” In other words, none of those who the Father hath given Jesus will be lost. We will not cease in our eternal labors to recover and rescue the lost and the unconnected till they are found and at one. Till they willingly and without compulsion discover the joys of a close embrace, their own At-One-ment with him. [1]

CENTRAL THEME; INTIMATE EPIC

On its face The Book of Mormon is the intimate story of an epic journey of a family trekking across an ocean to a new land, a new world, a land of promise. It is the story of the clash of brothers, a clash of cousins, cultures, and civilizations -- inter-tribal disagreements, grudges, and warfare from generation to generation – even as we can see in the Middle East to this very day.

The story is personality and hero and prophet driven -- a continuing clash of faithful leaders against unbelieving sophists, lawyers, challengers -- against wicked kings, against the evil of all kinds and in all places. Sometimes wickedness where there should have been righteousness. Yet, the title page of the book declares that it was written not only to convince the world that Jesus is the Christ, but also to comfort those who have messed up that they are not “cast off forever.”

MARVELOUS WORK AND A WONDER

Now, as great and marvelous a work and a wonder as was the translation of The Book of Mormon, and as key as it is to understanding the Restoration in these latter days, it is not so much the context of The Book of Mormon – as important as that is – it is the internal spiritual message of the text itself which has the real power do a marvelous work in our lives.

As it says on the title page, that the book was written “to the convincing of [of the whole world] that Jesus is the Christ” – and in the very last chapter, that by applying Moroni’s promise, one can know not only the truth of The Book of Mormon, but “the truth of all things,” and especially, quote, “ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost. [2]

BECOME AS A LITTLE CHILD

So, I reckon that the Savior descended out of heaven early in the morning that first day. After he declares himself to be the Son of God, and after they had all gone forth one-by-one, Jesus preached about baptism. Concluding this initial important sermon, he summarized, “37 . . . I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.

Then he immediately repeated himself. “38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.”

Again the children. This presages what will happen later that afternoon. [3]

“1 . . . Jesus . . . looked round about again on the multitude . . . he said unto them: Behold, my time is at hand. 2 I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time. 3 Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again. 4 But now I go unto the Father . . . .”  

Again, you don’t want this day to end. But you have had enough and to overflowing. You dare not ask him to tarry longer. You don’t want to be that demanding. He has been so generous.

“5 . . . when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.”

So, you did indeed “ask” him to tarry, just not in words. Kind of like the silent prayers you offer every now and then. Even if you do not form the words in your mind or even your lips. You are, in effect, praying always.

COMPASSION

So, in response to your yearning for him to stay, he says, “6 . . . Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.” [4]

LITTLE CHILDREN

Then, “11 . . . he commanded that their little children should be brought.”

Remember, he has twice asked you to become as a little child. Innocent, believing, submissive, joyful, happy. Remember, in the most fortunate of circumstances, little children are somewhat oblivious to the harshness of the world. Little children are usually protected from the evils of the world. They love everyone, they can find happiness in the most simple of things. A ball, a leaf, a cat or dog, a smile, a hug. They see and explore the world through eyes un-tinged by cynicism, or skepticism. They believe. So joyous are they at life in general, often in traveling from here to there, they’d skip along, happy and content! Can we translate this innocent joyous believing approach to life into our adult lives? Yes. With God inspiring us.

So, these parents who had been so counseled, “12 . . . brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst; and the multitude gave way till they had all been brought unto him.”

PRAYER CANNOT BE WRITTEN, HE WEPT

“14 . . . when they had knelt upon the ground, Jesus groaned within himself, and said: Father, I am troubled because of . . . wickedness . . . 15 And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him.

“16 And after this manner do they bear record: ‘The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father; 17 And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and [further] no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.”

Now, this was still not the end of the day, or the end of your inconceivable joy. Or his.

Because “18 . . . when Jesus had made an end of praying unto the Father, he arose; but so great was the joy of the multitude that they were overcome.  19 And . . . Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise. 20 And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full. 21 And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it,”

WHY WEEP?

Why did he weep? For joy! The simple answer is that he is much more connected emotionally to the children than we are, if not infinitely more so.

Another simple answer: It is for you he wept! Jesus also wept at the raising of his dear friend, Lazarus. When he wept for Lazarus, he wept not so much only for Lazarus sake, but I suspect for the scintillating, thunderstruck moment that some will have when they realize Christ’s power is enough to raise the dead physically, and the cold heartless hearts that only beat with hate or disdain or indifference, or scorn to a spiritual heights. [5]

BLESSED ONE BY ONE; HE WEPT AGAIN

So, after praying for all of them, now “he took [each of them], one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.” This must have taken another hour or two. The record reports that it is not evening yet.

So, Jesus wept prior to praying for all the children, then after blessing each of them one-by-one over the period of another hour or so, “22 . . . he wept again;”

Why does he weep now? Perhaps because he knew he was helping us see the value of not so much all children, but each individual child. [6]

BEHOLD YOUR LITTLE ONES

So, we come back to the literal account of the wonderful scene. He has wept twice over the children, once for all of them, a second time for each of them. He then turns to us, the parents of these children and says, “23 . . . Behold your little ones.”

24 And [. . . we] looked . . . saw the heavens open, and [we] saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled [our] little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.

Who were these angels? Perhaps it was ancestors; perhaps it was descendents. Perhaps it was you.

Who knows but what there are angels descending and encircling our loved ones in celestial fire at the key times in their lives, but we don’t see them. [7]

BEHOLD YOURSELF

So, as Nephi says, if we liken the scriptures unto ourselves, we might see ourselves as one of these children. If so, then it is for you that he prayed for in words too sacred to record. It is you he blessed. It is you he wept for -- for joy.

CHALLENGE TO READ

As you may know, the stake president invited the youth to read The Book of Mormon this Summer. Today he extends the same invitation to the rest of the stake. By the way, I’m with many of you, I’m in 1 Nephi - -a truly wonderful portion of the book. A good place to start!

I invite us all to dive in, catch the wave of its being spread throughout the world, read ponder and pray about its eternally-challenging contents. There is nothing quite like it, in that it was a single author (Mormon) editing his people's records for future generations' use. For our use. For my use. For your use.

CHALLENGE TO SHARE

As you may also know, the Broadway play titled, The Book of Mormon, started this month in Washington DC. The stake president has offered the simple suggestion that when our friends, neighbors, or co-workers mention the play, or ask us about it, we simply say something like, “Would you like to read it?” And hand them one while you ask. This would require we have one on hand, just in case.

So, I took a book to work, and wouldn’t you know it, in a company meeting on Monday six days ago the topic of the play came up. One person said they saw the play and didn’t care at all for the tacky, crude humor. They said it was not about the book itself, but about two young na├»ve, well-meaning Mormon missionaries. I said, “I’m a Mormon, and I served a mission when I was young.” We wrapped up this part of our conversation by her saying that she was a Hindu and didn’t appreciate it that the authors of the play took such cheap shots at a religion that happened to be a bit different. That she would not have appreciated it if Hinduism had been targeted. As it was, she did not recommend the play to the group or to me.

So, at the end of the business day, I asked her, “Well, you’ve seen the play, would you like to read the book?” She said sure, that she grew up in Rochester, New York and had been to the Hill Cumorah pageant many times, but never received a copy of the book. I do not anticipate that she will start the lessons, much less join the church anytime soon. Perhaps someday. Perhaps sooner, rather than later. I guess I’ll have to bring another copy of the book to work.

PROMISE

From experience and from intuition and inspiration, I promise that you will find new, even hidden treasures in the book when you read it again. And I am confident you will see old and familiar treasures with new eyes. After all, since you last read it, you have experienced life in ways which have connected you that much more dearly to our Savior.

TESTIMONY

The older I get, the more I glory and joy in The Book of Mormon. I love its heroes, I love its visions, its prophecies, its structure, its sermons, its message.

Because of The Book of Mormon, I love our Savior that much more. Paraphrasing Nephi, I do love my Jesus, my exemplar and friend that much more because of The Book of Mormon.

It is in His name that I pray to share this inner witness and the tangible evidence of it – The Book of Mormon -- in all its sweeping grandeur, and its personal insights and intimate messages for me and for you and our friends. I pray I adhere that much more closely to my Savior as he is revealed in these sacred pages, even Jesus Christ. Amen.

# # #

NOTES

#1 This is his heart’s desire and joy. This is now our heart’s labor which is a joy as sweet as any we’ve known. It becomes delicious unto us. It is no burden to be like him. It is our pleasure and self-imposed motivation now to share and love and be like Him.

Yes, for the few seconds you were with him personally, time seemed to slow down, time seemed to stand still. You hoped those few seconds would never end. In an important way, they never will. They are with you for all time and throughout all eternity.

#2 The Book of Mormon has power to transform the lives of adults who sincerely read it for the first time. It has power to infuse in youth with the spirit and power and yearning for truth – the diamond truth that Jesus loves everyone. It has power to educate and ennoble even the most skeptical of learned professors of academia. It has power to touch the hearts of little children as they read or listen to Book of Mormon stories that their teachers tell them. That their parents tell them. That their older brothers and sisters tell them when they read aloud to their toddler siblings.

#3 He continues to teach into the afternoon principles and doctrine similar to that of the Sermon on the Mount. Late in the afternoon he is about to conclude for the day. Quote:

#4 He asks that you bring those among you who were “sick or . . . afflicted in any manner.” “Bring them hither,” he said, “and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.” And they did bring them, and he did heal them. “…and as many as could come . . . did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears.”

#5 Hearts can and will change. I submit to you that he weeps for all good reasons including and especially those who repent and turn to the good, the holy, the light-filled, the connected.

Lazarus can be seen as a stand in for you and for me. More than likely he has wept for you, not only symbolically via Lazarus, but literally, in the heavens for you too. Not because he fears you will falter, or will not make it, or will suffer, but that he knows and loves you and weeps at the anticipatory joy at your overcoming all, and being with him where he is in the eternities.

When he weeps for the children, he can be seen as weeping for you. In this case, he wept probably not because of wickedness per se which he previously mentioned, but that these children, all children, would ultimately be redeemed and live forever in eternal happiness in spite of wickedness in the world. Perhaps he wept because as he knows that he has overcome the world, he knows that these children will too – with him — overcome the world. And be with him in one of the mansions he would prepare for them. Perhaps he wept because he knows that none of those which the Father has given him would be lost. In Palestine He asked the Father that they all be with him in the eternities.

#6 Perhaps he wept now, because He so wants us to see each child as precious as He does, and I seem to get the feeling that he is weeping because we are beginning to see anew how precious each child of God is. Each one. Every one. Individually. Not just collectively.

#7 The record states, “25 And the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they know that their record is true for they all of them did see and hear, every man for himself.

< By the way, just before the day turns to night, Jesus institutes the sacrament. >