Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Greetings family and friends,
Our thoughts over the last year have been enlightened by the events of the world. We sense a need for greater spiritual strength in the face of overwhelming adversity. Our Stake President recently made the observation using a line graph that the increase of evil in the world parallels the increase in the building of temples—good and evil both on the rise. I think the case can also be made that the amount of good and evil trail the breakthrough of the Information Age. Our choices in this life have never before been so vast… the choice to live a life in pursuit of an inner strength to become a person of integrity or the choice to live a life in pursuit of every carnal whim. Each would claim its victory in the pursuit of happiness, but one would give lasting joy —eternal— joy and happiness while the other gives fleeting pleasure and feeble attempts at lasting joy.
“Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.” (Prov. 15: 21, 23)
Joy is what this season is all about beginning with our inspired Thanksgiving holiday. Giving thanks seems to be a fitting opening prayer to a season where the hearts of the men, women, and children through out the world in all religions seem to be drawn toward heaven. As you read the following, may your Christmas season be filled with the spirit of Christ and the glory of His birth, His life, and His eternal sacrifice for all mankind.
“And [Jesus] said unto me: Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy.” (Mosiah 3: 3)
“Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! 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: 23)
“O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock [speaking of Christ] of our salvation.” (Ps. 95: 1)
“Yea, and the voice of the Lord, by the mouth of angels, doth declare it unto all nations; yea, doth declare it, that they may have glad tidings of great joy; yea, and he doth sound these glad tidings among all his people, yea, even to them that are scattered abroad upon the face of the earth; wherefore they have come unto us.” (Alma 13: 22)
My simple prayer for this sacred season is that we will awake to the glory of the Savior, and shout for joy and sing praises unto the Lord… as we all are his angels—each with our own divine spark of trailing glory which had its beginning in the life before this.
Our joy in Christ is fulfilled in our eternal family—in our strivings to come unto Him. Here are some of the joys we recount this year.
A Year of Learning—one of our greatest joys and past times…
Scott and Carrie became the proud parents of their third son Kyle Reese Motley—named for Carrie’s ‘Reese’ ancestry—in 1853 the Reese family migrated from England to America and then walked across the plains to settle in Cache Valley in order to be with the Saints. There, John Reese built the first log cabin in what is now known as Hyrum, Utah. Kyle will need that legacy of faith, determination, and hard work in the world he will come to know.
New Callings to Serve the Lord:
- Scott V. continues to serve as second counselor to a new bishop
- Becky was released as Relief Society President and is now serving in the Washington D.C.
- Temple and teaching the Gospel Instruction Course
- Scott Motley was called as second counselor in the bishopric
- Carrie shifted from being in the Young Women Presidency to an advisor—a real super mom!
- Sydney serves in the Washington D.C. Temple and on the Activities Committee
- Sydney is now the Government Affairs Assistant for the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers at aiam.org
- Everyone else is maintaining the same ol' routines
- Sydney continues the quest to find that special one… Her calendar is always full; Learned about Europe on her two week tour; and loved taking pictures—starting to sell a few and is looking to increase her talents with her new computer.
- Carrie is blogging and getting the new baby and school routine down with Ryan in kindergarten this year; enjoying her second home—her new Toyota van; what amazing boys she has—an AMAZING mom… My favorite memory this year was singing Primary songs while pushing Sean on the swing and taking Ryan and Sean to meet their new baby brother and listening to them sing Primary songs to Kyle. It was a truly sacred moment filled with inexpressible joy.
- Scott Motley worked tirelessly as a zip code director for the passage of Prop 8 in California—an amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman. He is also weathering the country’s financial crisis—superbly I would add… his cancer is gone… all is well... Scott and Carrie’s church was attacked [ . . . ]—a sad chapter in American politics…
- Becky (me) learned to fill my extra time and the hole in my heart with gardening this summer—what a joy it was to cherish each new flower and each new blade of grass… I get the meaning of toiling by the sweat of my brow to bring forth that which is beautiful and good; near tragedy one evening as I stepped out the back door and was greeted with the back end of a skunk—tail and all were perched and ready for fire… near heart failure.
- Scott’s father passed away in January. Scott's love and perspective have brought such comfort and love to his family… A very enjoyable family reunion in spite of the circumstances.
A year in which the eternal cycle of life in which God’s eternal plan for us all grows brighter as our learning deepens through life’s experiences…
May the Love of the season comfort you throughout the year, and may you choose to draw nearer unto Him and find the joy He is anxious to share with you…
Saturday, December 20, 2008
While it is a reflection of our family's history and interests and connections, really it is a mirror image of the love and breadth of my beautiful wife. This is her gift which she gives to us and all those who cross our doorway (or for those who drive by and glance into our living room) at this enchanting and sacred time of year.
Friday, December 05, 2008
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
Sunday, October 26, 2008
- The Sacrament
- Time, Experience, and Thoughts
- How We Remember
- Remember What, When
- The Power of Symbolism
- Jesus is Bread and Water
- The Sacrament Invitation: Come Unto Me
- Intercessory Prayer
- The Sacrament: Each Phrase
- The Bread
- The Water
- Comparing Bread and Water
- Time, Experience, and Thoughts
- Dream of the Savior (Go to Sacrament Table)
- We Who are Poor, Broken, Captive, Blind, Bruised
I remember my best friend Terry. He died in 1978, under the pier at Balboa Beach. We were 24 years old. He never married, never had children. I still remember his intelligence, his athleticism, his wit, and his friendship. You also remember beloved friends and family members. How can we show that we love them and remember them? As importantly, how and when do we remember Jesus?
Inspired by General Conference, Bishop Brandenburg asked me to speak on the Sacrament. I have pondered this topic both, lately, and really, since I joined the Church as a senior in high school over 35 years ago.
The Sacrament is a curious, yet wonderful, thing. Think of it. It is both private and communal. It is both simple yet also as deep and wide as eternity. It is both plain and beautiful. It is only a moment in time, but it connects us to Eternities. When we come fasting, we are -- at the same time -- both an hungered but also filled . . . to overflowing.
We meet together to remember Jesus by taking into our bodies the most basic sustenance, bread and water. Yet, it can be – should be -- a feast for souls starved for spiritual food, manna from heaven.
The Sacrament is that ordinance -- adapted to the capacity of old and young alike, the mature and even babes in the Gospel -- where we all come together as One to remember and “Receive the Holy Ghost” as was the gentle command just after our baptism when we were confirmed. In the case of little children or non-members, the Sacrament points our minds forward to baptism.
In baptism water washes over and symbolically cleanses us – while the Atonement Jesus has provided actually does the cleansing. So it is with both sacrament prayers, the promise of the Spirit of the Lord washing over, cleansing, comforting, guiding, and empowering us – as we remember Him and keep His commandments.
TIME, EXPERIENCE, AND THOUGHTS
The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that the “priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.” (D&C 84: 19-20)
The ordinance of the Sacrament is the ritual focal point of our weekly worship. The interaction with the Divine that can only come about through giving ourselves over to the experience.
Joseph Smith keenly observed, “The 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 . . . 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.”
(He continues, “The nearer [we] approach [God], the clearer are [our] views, and the greater [our] enjoyments, till [we have] overcome the evils of . . . life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where [we are] wrapped in the power and glory of [our] Maker . . . . But we consider that this is a station to which no [one] ever arrived in a moment: . . .”)
(In his most famous discourse, Joseph reminded us that, “The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. . . .” And that, “If [we truly] comprehend the character of God, [we] comprehend [our]selves.”)
HOW WE REMEMBER
The Sacrament is the time set aside during each week where we slow down, pause, ponder, and model how, during the rest of the week, we can “always remember Him” and “always have His spirit” – in each moment of every day.
No longer do we bring an animal sacrifice to the altar, but rather, we bring and offer up a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
We don’t fight God. We receive Him, His will, and His Son – as we “receive the Holy Ghost.”
We don’t hold back. We release the chains that can bind and harden our heart.
We don’t think we know best. We realize that He knows best how to comfort and make us whole.
We don’t hold on to bitterness and wallow in sorrow. We rejoice in the holiness and confidence which replaces nagging, despairing doubt.
In this sacred ordinance all these things are “manifested” to our souls. In this holy ordinance our souls are “sanctified” as we humbly bow our head and acknowledge that not only has Jesus died for all mankind, but that, “Jesus died for me.” And in love we are drawn to Him.
REMEMBER WHAT, WHEN
So, how can we “always” remember Him? What specifically can we remember, and when?
Let’s start on Saturday evening. As we retire for the night, our hearts might find rest in prayers contemplating the purpose of the upcoming day.
As we arise Sunday morning, rather than trying to “get ready for church” so we can “go to church” -- and arrive just in time – we might start 20 or 30 minutes earlier so we don’t have to rush, or push out the door. An apostle suggested that we think more in terms of “attending Sacrament Worship Service” than simply “going to church.”
As we arrive at the chapel -- and as the Teachers of the Aaronic Priesthood are preparing the sacred emblems -- we can slide into our favorite pew, or perhaps in a pew next to some one who usually sits alone, and listen to the soft prelude music. To the Teachers of the Aaronic Priesthood, you who prepare the sacred emblems: You might recall to mind that Jesus himself prepared not only the bread and wine, but that he also prepared himself for this crucial hour. You too can so prepare.
During the hymn, what can we all remember? We can focus on the inspired words of the hymn. They are prayers unto God; portals to the Eternal Worlds. Sacrament hymns are poems and prayers of particular beauty, even as beautiful as the most poignant Christmas Hymn.
During the Sacrament prayers, what can we all remember? We focus on the words and power of the each word and phrase. We let the eternal principles denoted and connoted by each word and phrase -- and the reality that supports them -- speak to our eternal mind and our gentle heart. To the Priests of the Aaronic Priesthood: You might recall that Jesus Himself prayed over and for his disciples. He Himself broke the bread and gave it -- and the cup -- to the disciples. You too, as he did, humbly pray and offer the sacred emblems to the gathered Saints. He wants you to identify with Him as you pray on our behalf.
During the passing of the Sacrament, what can we all remember? We can continue to remember the Teachings He taught, the Life He lived; the Atonement He wrought. The more we cherish up his life and teachings in our studies, prayers, and in our service to others, the more closely we can focus now on His heart and His love for us. We can recall to our minds who He was, what he did, and especially His relation to you, and His desires for you, and your personal connection to Him . . . that you have the spark of divinity deep within you. That He desires you to be with Him and be like Him. To the Deacons of the Aaronic Priesthood: As did Jesus himself, you pass the bread and the cup to those who hunger and thirst after His righteousness. Walk as He would walk if He were here passing it again. Handle carefully these sacred symbols of His body and His blood shed for us.
To the whole of the Aaronic priesthood: Jesus particularly trusts you. He desires you to help Him bring spiritual blessings to members of this congregation. Know that you are acting on His behalf. Think of your relation to Him -- as you pray what he would pray and walk where He would walk and do what he would do. Think of it this way: You, the Aaronic Priesthood, administer the ordinance of the Sacrament to the members; those of the Melchizedek Priesthood administer the ordinances of the Temple to the members. Both are sacred and holy; one preparatory for the other.
Thirty years ago, a friend told me one of the ways he remembered Jesus during the passing of the Sacrament. He would glance down at his own hands, clasped on his lap. He imagined for a few moments that they were the hands of Jesus. After all, he said, if we truly take upon us His Name -- and do what He would do, and Love as He would have us love -- we are instruments His hands in bringing to pass much righteousness. It helped my friend focus on Jesus in a personal way. Occasionally, I do the same. Note: A couple of the most famous paintings of Jesus in Gethsemane show Him with his hands clasped on a rock before Him.
To the children, why do we fold our arms, and bow our head? Doing this helps us focus our minds and hearts -- and our whole selves -- on Jesus, our Savior and Friend. It shows Him that we are willing to let Him guide our actions.
Little children, always remember that Jesus particularly loves you, and desires to bless you. He wants you to take time to think of Him and his love during this quite time; this will help prepare you to make and keep sacred covenants in the ordinances of baptism and of the Temple.
(When our daughters were young, Becky brought a homemade scripture “quiet book” -- and a laminated picture of Jesus -- for them to focus on. Lately, Becky and our daughter Carrie cut 20 or 30 pictures of Jesus from the Ensign, which they put in sheet protectors for our grandsons to look through during the Sacrament.)
During the week, we can remember to see Jesus in others. For, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” And, after all, when we are in the service of our fellow beings, we are only in the service of our God.
During each moment of every day, how can we “always remember him”? I have found that this is closely related to “praying always.” In a wonderful way, we can literally have a constant echo of all our studies and all our desires and all our prayers and all our service inform each and every thought. We may not be fully conscious of particular specific thoughts, but I testify that we can have a constant awareness, a constant closeness, a constant connection to and with our Savior. When we are proactive in letting Him in, and willingly letting our heart be soft (or broken) and our spirit open to where we can repent and improve (being contrite) then we can enjoy the sweet co-dependent blessings of “always remembering” along with “always having his spirit to be with us.”
THE POWER OF SYMBOLISM
Jesus taught using parables and symbols. Symbols, like music, have the power to infuse complex yet, paradoxically, simple, principles to our souls, integrating those divine principles -- and divinity itself -- into our minds and hearts.
In this next paragraph I’ve adapted Elder John A. Widtsoe’s teaching about symbols and Temple to the Sacrament:
Quote, “Mighty spiritual ordinances are carried on [weekly in our chapels]. The [Sacrament] is itself symbolic . . . a series of symbols of vast realities, too vast for full understanding. Those who [partake] and come out feeling that the service is unbeautiful have been so occupied with the outward form as to fail to understand the inner meaning. It is the meaning of things that counts in life.
(“We live in a world of symbols. We know nothing, except by symbols. We make a few marks on a sheet of paper, and we say that they form a word, which stands for love, or hate, or charity, or God or eternity. The marks (themselves) may not be very beautiful to the eye. No one finds fault with the symbols on the pages of a book because they are not as mighty in their own beauty as the things which they represent. We do not quarrel with the symbol G-o-d because it is not very beautiful, yet [it] represents the majesty of God. We are glad to have symbols, if only the meaning of the symbols is brought home to us. (Yes) we live in a world of symbols.”)
“No man or woman can come out of the [Sacrament meeting touched by the spirit] as he or she should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand.” End Quote. (Elder John A. Widtsoe)
Elder Orson F. Whitney said when we partake of the “. . . the sacrament of the Lord's Supper . . . . [hearing] the blessing pronounced upon it by the priesthood, and [drinking in] the symbolism [of] those elements [which] represent something greater than themselves, namely, the body and blood of the Savior. . . . then [it] becomes a holy ordinance, of full force and effect, a poem in action.”
JESUS IS BREAD AND WATER
THE BREAD OF LIFE
Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger . . . .
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my [body], which I . . . give for the life of the world. . . . Whoso eateth [in remembrance of ] my flesh, and drinketh [in remembrance of ] my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. . . . [and he] dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth [in remembrance of my body], even he shall live by me.” (John 6:35, 51, 54, 56, 57)
THE LIVING WATER
Likewise, Jesus, the Living Water, said whoso “believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
And that “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly [or, rather, out of his inmost self] shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38)
In other words, His kind of life flows through and enlivens our own eternal spirit.
Regarding our drinking water in remembering His blood shed for us, He said, “. . . it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.” (D&C 27:2)
THE SACRAMENT INVITATION (COME UNTO ME)
He beckons unto us, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 28:28-30)
In Section 45 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Jesus explains why he suffered and died for us (one of my early favorite scriptures) “Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him— Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, . . . behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, . . . [and here is my favorite part:]; Wherefore, Father, spare these [who] believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.”
Who can deny Jesus what he pleads for, what he lived and died for? Satan can’t. Heavenly Father won’t. Jesus will forever plead for us, and with us, and beckons to us: “Come unto me.”
In His great Intercessory Prayer which he offered just prior to turning himself over to the Roman soldiers we read these poignant words from Jesus about us -- about you and me.
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come . . . . . . thou hast given [me] power over all flesh, that [I] should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given [me] . . . . . . . those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost. . . .”
(“13 And now come I to thee; . . . that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. . . . 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. . . . 20 . . . [I] . . . pray for them . . .. 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: . . . 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: . . .”)
And this touches deep in my soul: “Father, I will that they . . . be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. . . .”
(He concludes: “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17))
Compare this reassuring revelation in Doctrine and Covenants section 50:
“40 Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.” (Yes, through “time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts.”) Jesus continues: “41 Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; 42 And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.”
His whole purpose in working out the Atonement is to draw us all unto him in love and recover all the Lost Sheep – as many as will.
THE SACRAMENT: EACH PHRASE
Regarding the simple yet powerful words of the sacrament . . .
As in the Temple, each word and phrase of the Sacrament prayers is filled with meaning after meaning. The words of the ordinance provide a lifetime of productive contemplative pondering. (Yet, they are plain and precious enough for the babe in the Gospel in remembering Him who gave so much for us and draws us unto him.)
(Again, as with the Temple, each word and phrase passes by relatively quickly, hence, we need to pay close attention -- with our heart -- such that we can apprehend their individual meaning AND their combined affect.)
We begin the prayer by pleading with God, our “Eternal Father.” A prophet of God has said that when we pass through the veil after death, we will be surprised at how well we know Him. After all, we have lived for time immemorial with our Father in the heavenly courts on high.
Next, we ask “in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ.” Elder Dallin Oaks wrote a whole book on what “the Name” means. I see the “Name” of Jesus as being synonymous with his Power, his Authority, his Will, his Nature. So, to me, we might consider that we are asking “in and by the power of Jesus Christ” -- all that He is and all that He did on our behalf.
Asking what? That our Father would “bless and sanctify this bread to [our] souls.” In other words, to our spirit and our body . . . to us. To me, this “partaking” can be seen as symbolic of taking his Nature – who He is -- into our selves. And this, by our living and seeing and caring as He does.
We “eat in remembrance of [His] body” -- his physicality, his reality, his having lived and died on this earth. No feeling or experience we experience has he not also felt or experienced, and more. Much more.
Next, by this public yet private partaking we “witness unto . . . the Eternal Father” -- and even to our brothers and sisters -- that . . . we “are willing to take upon [us] the name of thy Son.” At this point, we are not only asking “in his name” or Power, we declare that we are willing to take upon us His very self, his Name, his Nature, becoming more like him with every thought, with every desire, with every word, with every deed. With our whole selves.
Note, that our being “willing” does not denote being perfect, but it signifies we truly desire to turn out heart and our lives over to His ways, His will, His wants – not ours. We may stumble, but we return to this table each week already having repented. By our being truly willing, sin becomes less tempting, until we have no more desire for it.
Now, particularly, in the Sacrament we are, number one, willing to “always remember him.” If we remember, we see as He sees. If we remember, we speak as He speaks. If we remember, we reach out as he reaches out. If we remember, we love as He loves. Everyone. Even those who use and abuse and hate us.
And, number two, we also -- of our own free will and choice -- “keep his commandments.” This “keeping” is an outward expression of our inward commitment to “remember.” Keeping is not onerous. Keeping is not by force. Keeping is by love, and relation, and connection – connecting our heart and His.
Then, we are blessed with that blessing which constantly connects us to Divinity, that we “may always have his Spirit to be with [us]” -- if we will. I know by the whisperings of the Spirit, that the Father and the Son desire us to feel that close connection, that close bond, that close embrace. Always. Every moment. Today. Now.
We affirm this all with a humble “Amen.” We agree. Jesus, as per John, is the Great Amen. He is the Beginning and the End. He is the Life of the World and the Light of the World. As we offer our inmost heart’s Amen, we (again) rest in his Nature, his Grace, his Love.
The revealed prayer for the Water is somewhat shorter than that of the Bread.
Having already declared our “willingness” as we partook of the Bread -- and while we, of course, are still always willing -- perhaps the word “willing” being absent in this second prayer implies that we can now progress beyond simply being willing, to enjoying an actual Oneness and higher level of “remembering” where we “do” always truly “remember.” This inferred movement from being “willing” to a more perfect “doing” also assumes we will still “keep the commandments” which words are also not in this prayer, but which imply that we still not only “keep” them, but now have progressed beyond having to learn to keep them. “Keeping the commandments” can be thought of as second nature to us now, so closely are we wrapped in His Power – and this, because we have taken upon ourselves His Name, His Nature, His Will.
The prayer on the Water further personalizes the Atonement to us as individuals, as it overtly states that His blood was “shed for them” – meaning, for us, for me, for you. This phrase, “shed for them” reminds one of the phrase “given for them” in the prayer on the Bread regarding commandments. Hence, we might infer that we move from our “keeping” the outward commandments, to Jesus having shed His blood which makes our keeping efficacious.
Thus, the prayer on the Water narrows the focus on the two main principles: 1.) Remembering him, and 2.) thereby having his ‘his Spirit to be with” us.
(This, therefore, can be seen as a weekly help in our fulfilling the loving command to “Receive the Holy Ghost.” Prophets have declared that this is the greatest gift that can be received on earth. (Salvation being the greatest gift in the eternities.))
(John the Baptist said that Jesus “shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” Luke reports that Jesus was “filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.” The Sacrament is the focal point for our receiving of this and His fullness.)
COMPARING BREAD AND WATER
Further comparing of the bread and water . . .
I can imagine the Bread signifying His Yoke, and the Water signifying His Burden.
Paradoxically, and comfortingly, as we partake, our yoke becomes easy, and our burden becomes light. (“For” He says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”)
I can imagine the Bread signifying Resurrection . . . and the Water signifying The Life. “Jesus said . . . I am the resurrection, and the life . . . .” (Matthew 25)
I can imagine the Bread signifying His Work (or Immortality) . . . and the Water signifying His Glory (or Eternal Life). For, said He, “This is my Work and my Glory to bring to pass the immortality and the eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39)
I can imagine the Bread signifying the Beginning and the Cup signifying the End of the Atonement He has wrought. “I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” (3 Nephi 9:18)
I can imagine partaking of the Bread as signifying the Outward, the Outer, or, Real Life found in this physical world. Living the life we must lead, in a physical world of action, and in our offering tangible blessing others. In other words, doing.
In like manner, I can imagine our drinking of the Cup as signifying the Inner, or, Eternal Life found in the eternal world. Our being alive to the supposedly intangible inner world of the spirit, and the spiritual life we must receive. In other words, being (or, becoming).
In October General Conference, President Monson asked that we learn what we should learn, so that . . . we would do what we should do, and be what we should be.
Partaking of the Sacrament helps us to remember to always remember.
( Yes, “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out.”)
DREAM OF SAVIOR (GO TO SACRAMENT TABLE)
Elder Melvin J. Ballard wrote this of a dream he had of the Savior, quote:
“I found myself one evening in the dreams of the night in that sacred building, the temple. After a season of prayer and rejoicing I was informed that I should have the privilege of entering into one of those rooms, to meet a glorious Personage, and, as I entered the door, I saw . . . the most glorious Being my eyes have ever beheld or that I ever conceived existed in all the eternal worlds. As I approached to be introduced, he arose and stepped towards me with extended arms, and he smiled as he softly spoke my name. . . . I shall never forget that smile. He took me into his arms and kissed me, pressed me to his bosom, and blessed me, until the marrow of my bones seemed to melt! When he had finished, I fell at his feet, and, as I bathed them with my tears and kisses, . . . The feeling that I had in [His] presence . . . to have his love, his affection, and his blessing was such that . . . I would give all that I am, all that I ever hope to be, to feel what I then felt!
“Go to the sacrament table. Ah, that is a blessed privilege that I now rejoice in . . . I [desire], as I felt then, to stand in his presence and [keep] his commandments and honor… him by bearing witness, before the Father and before men, that I believe in him, and that I take upon me his blessed Name, and that I live by and through him spiritually.
“If we can bring our boys and girls to feel the need of this thing, they will be at sacrament meeting, and we will be there. I see Jesus not now upon the cross. I do not see his brow pierced with thorns nor his hands torn with the nails, but I see him smiling, with extended arms, saying to us all: ‘Come unto me!’”
POOR, BROKEN, CAPTIVE, BLIND, BRUISED
In conclusion: After spending forty day and nights fasting and being tempted, Jesus walked out of the desert and straight into a synagogue. They handed Him the scrolls, the scriptures, turned to Isaiah.
He read aloud, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, . . . And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. . . . He [said] unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:18-21)
I bear witness that this scripture can be fulfilled in each of our lives -- we who are poor, or brokenhearted, or captive, or blind, or bruised. We can be healed and become One and whole, as we truly and always remember Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Master. Amen.
# # #
By Scott L. Vanatter
Monday, October 13, 2008
I am guessing that I drew these two pictures in the late '60s. I seem to recall that I added the song lyrics -- my own words to live by -- at a later date. Looking back we have laughed that prior to me getting religion, these two phrases made up my entire moral view of the world. My religion. On the chopper, "All we are saying, is give peace a chance." (John Lennon). And, on my version of a flat track racing motorcycle, "Whisper words of wisdom . . . let it be." (Paul McCartney) Of course, I was influenced by the times, pop (rock) music, the Beatles, etc. And, to be honest, I also drew one other picture of a motorcycle and had this third motto inscribed on it, "I don't want a pickle. Just wanna ride on my motorcycle."
My Dad bought me a motorcyle, a 1966 Yamaha Twinjet 100, prior to my 16th birthday. As I related in his eulogy, it is hard to over estimate how awesome it is for a teenager in high school to have and ride a motorcyle (street bike, or dirt bike).
Friday, September 26, 2008
Her wisdom’s words – spoken long ago, but now fully quieted --
Still sound in our ears, pointing out the way.
The binding power of her love’s selfless acts – given for so long, but now all bound up --
Still echo in our hearts, blessing us today.
In all our days of need she was always there for us.Now she’s just . . . there.
In all her days alone she sits there silently -- without us.
Soon we’ll be there.
For now, her communication is
Soundless and unspoken,
Dulled, muted, and verbally stifled
Till that Great Day when none shall be voiceless.
Sitting all by herself, with Heaven alone looking down on her -- and into her soul,
She’s stares out the window,
Now together with her again,
Sometimes she stares blankly straight ahead, but then in a moment, straight into our eyes.
We sit with and talk to and walk with her – looking back deep into her eyes and heart.
Too infrequently, the silent sound is
Broken with a Hello or a (heart-rending) Goodbye,
Punctuated with an occasional giggle or laugh,
Or is pierced with an audible (sacred), “I love you.”
Now, when she speaks, jumbled syllables escape her lips.
But she, though hushed to less than a whisper,
Speaks louder than a thousand pictures.
Staring out into our world -- but elegantly pondering alone there in her own,
I imagine that she hears the faint inklings of the sounds and wonderment of Eternity
Which, unknown to her outer self, speaks to her an inner satisfaction and joy.
Though her expressions no longer find voice, ever longer will they touch us.
Ever will her smothered, speechless silence sound in our souls.
Ever let us remember and love and cherish her -- and her everlasting impact on us.
Scott L. Vanatter, September 2008 (Poem for Lee Allen in honor of her 80th birthday: Sister, Mother, Mother-in-law, Grandmother, and Great Grandmother.)
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I saw unconditional love, all my life. I knew my parents loved me. Never doubted; never.
I could feel something deep within; something new and real -- when I spoke the words to my sweetheart, “I love you.” Overwhelming; shockingly overwhelming. And I meant it. My whole soul was enlivened with true, heaven-yearning emotion.
Becoming Aware of Eternal Things
I knew it was the right thing to do -- when I prayed and spoke with Him about the restored Gospel. I should join. As I knelt, I already knew what the answer was. Overwhelming rightness. Peace. Go forth.
In a moment, I became awakened to the implications of Joseph’s mission. I intuited the reality of his mission and of his vision; that his enemies, and those who would tear him down, that the answer would always be, He was God’s Prophet. No matter what; no matter what was said against him, or about him. I knew.
Looking to the Temple with Becky
I knew in my heart and in my mind what I should do, as I knelt to ask Him, and as I was knelt in prayer, and as I stood up to go forth to ask my sweet heart to marry me in His Holy House.
Becoming a Servant
A while later, I knew, before having to kneel, that I had to go. I had to go out into the world and offer myself as a humble servant to give, and to teach, and to serve and to learn; and to prepare for life as her husband, and as the father of our sweet children.
I stood on my feet and shared my heartfelt and knowing confidence to my ward in testimony meeting before my mission, and during my Farewell, that she would be there upon my return. I never doubted; never.
Serving a Mission
I wrote in my mission journal, the first night on my mission, there in the old Mission Home in Salt Lake City in 1973, that I knew she would be my wife; that we were meant to be. Together forever. I knew. My heart burned.
I told my Mission President and others in Australia -- and was pleased to do so – in a spiritual, thankful, grateful way our story, and how she shared her testimony. Yes, she brought me such wonderful blessings; she and I had such intertwined lives, and hearts and minds.
Seeing our Daughters
I saw our daughters before they were born. Running, with joy and life and happiness beaming from their angel faces. This, as other visions, have come to pass. So fully. So beautifully.
Being in the Temple with Becky
I was calm as a cool gentle spring morning the day we entered into the Temple to be sealed for time and all eternity. Peace and love and contentment and longing and a lively hope filled my soul.
First Dinner with Becky in Our First Apartment
In our first humble attic apartment as newlyweds, and as we sat down for our first dinner, I 'saw' one thousand years into the future. I saw us together (with our extended family) in the glorious Celestial Kingdom. I could barely breath. I quickly walked away from the small kitchen table, crying, gasping for breath, into the cramped living room and fell to my knees weeping for joy. I saw the paradox of the mundane here-and-now and its connecton with a sumblime future. This plain, simple setting was a humble beginning of -- and connected to -- a glorious future.
After several minutes and a heartfelt, kneeling prayer, we repaired back to the kitchen to eat the first of our meals together. I forget what we ate. I can never forget the feeling we shared then, and share now.
Loving our Daughters
Our hearts were filled with real joy, with real love, and with such a fullness to have born to us, and to be associated with such beautiful and wonderful spirits as are our daughters. We watched them grow and saw the shear beauty of their spirits, and still do.
Baptizing our Daughters
I felt the weight, and saw as never before, my responsibility as I baptized our two daughters. Yet, even still, I slipped and was less than I should have been – in too many poor ways and circumstances. But, I got up again and again and tried to repair. I now pray the healing continues on into eternity. Permanent and peaceful and forgiven. This is my hope.
Being in the Temple with our Daughters
I stood in that Holy Place and saw them both in the Temple -- one to be Married, the other to prepare for a Mission. Never has my heart been as clear and FULL of open joy as on those two days. Not since the day I knelt across the altar with my one and only Love. That day, I was young and eager and so young that I had not experienced the full adult need and support of our Lord and Savior. By the time of these days with our daughters, I had needed it, and had received it and could -- with a full thankful heart – appreciate the beauty and the wonderful glimpse of the glorious future that the Temple experience offered me that day.
Becoming One (Extended Family)
I have seen many, many times what I should do in, and before, many callings. In my home life. In my interactions with my neighbor. I have known what I have needed to do and what I would be called upon to do. I still need, especially now, all the full interaction with the Lord and His Spirit and His Atonement -- all that I have been studying about all these years. All that I have been involved with all these years. NOW is the time to more perfectly have these ideas and principles envelope me. Now is the time to return the love our parents so freely offered. Now is the time to give such grandfatherly love to those sweet souls coming into our lives. Not just to believe. But to be.
I see clearly what the Lord, my Eternal Friend, would have me do. Especially when He prompts me to forgive, or to be kind, or to lend a helping hand.
I see all of this. I desire all of this. I am thankful for all of this. I will go forth. I will bend my will to His, until His is mine.
Scott L. Vanatter, December 23, 2004 (For Becky and family at Christmas)
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Where each eternal moment reveals His divine ways and course.
And now, the New Life being brought forth by you both,
Creates, in us all, renewed hope of our own rebirth and growth.
We see the two of you – as one – and now three,*
Are already bound together, in one, eternally.
And this New Little One, sent forth by those from above,
Will bring new ways to see . . . new ways to be . . . and new ways for us to love.
Eternity has just reached down and touched your inmost soul,
As this new Generation even now rejoices and further completes the whole.
Scott L. Vanatter, mid-October 2002 (Poem written in anticipation of Ryan’s upcoming birth.)
* This poem still works, even though they are now more than just three.
Our years, eternities,
Our minds and heart ever more one.
Your smile becomes my beacon,
Your love, my very life.
Your deepest soul enlivens me.
Our eyes and our lives, even more closely united,
Your face, even more the sight I yearn to see.
Your soul touches mine at the very moment I want to feel . . .
As now and throughout all eternity.
Scott L. Vanatter, 20 July 2004 (Poem written for Becky's 50th birthday.)
Thursday, July 31, 2008
The toys are put away, the boys have flown away, but the joys will never go away.
So much love.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I drew this picture of a pencil -- done in pencil -- in late 1979 as I was about to graduate from Cal State University, Fullerton.
(The pencil pictured is about 18 inches long. This picture is on the wall immediatley to the left of my desk.)
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Sometimes till morning light,
Rushing from word to idea, seeing
Past numbers and mere feeling.
Connecting the dots
Creates even more.
Now, and there,
Sure only of myself -- and aware.
In each dream the hero’s fall
And rising tells all.
Careful, ponderous, and solemn thought;
Stretching, searching, communing: Taught.
Scott L. Vanatter, 3 June 2008 (This is a second lesser version of a poem written yesterday. Further editing occurred in mid-July 2008, then again in mid-August.)
NOTE: The original poem was lost into nothingness when I attempted to click the Save button. Misery, pain, and woe. When the screen went blank: total disbelief. Then there was much distress, pain, and anger. After a while, I gradually allowed a grudging acceptance. Now, after the recreation attempt, a measure of peace.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Planted in Our Hearts
- Purpose / Vision
- Religion / God [NOTE]
- Washington’s Prayer
- Words and Deeds
- The Promise is to All
- The Afterlife / Union
- Debt We Owe
Two of the most important political events in history occurred not too far from here. Yes, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of these United States are paramount acts by such an extraordinary gathering of great and honorable minds.
However, I have in mind two other events. These two events illustrate how much impact the principles and actions of ONE MAN can have. They are the laying down of power -- unheard of in the annals of history.
The first happened when after defeating the most powerful army in the world – the British Army -- General George Washington returned to the Congress and gave up power. This is the congress which makes one think of how Captain Moroni must have felt in NOT receiving the aid and support it promised to give him. (Washington stayed up nights writing and pleading with Congress for support for the troops.)
The second event occurred when eight years after he was inaugurated he -- again unparalleled in the annals of history – turned over the seat of power to his successor of his own free will. He returned to his beloved Mt. Vernon from which he had been so long parted.
Napoleon lamented, “They wanted me to be a Washington.”
It is said that this was the first time in history that any country’s leader had given power over to another person, without dying of natural causes or being overthrown. (His handpicked successor was John Adams, not Thomas Jefferson. We’ll talk later about potential reasons for this choice.)
Many of the Founding Fathers exhibited such unselfish acts of true patriotism. John Adams spent years away from his beloved Abigail here in Philadelphia and later in Europe securing the treaties and funds and relationships to birth this great nation. In these sacrifices these two were not alone.
My overall objective here today is to urge us on to invest ourselves in becoming more informed and active citizens – that we might keep this great nation free. And great it should be, citing Martin Luther King, Jr.
President Ezra Taft Benson said that
As you all know, the Lord through Joseph Smith declares that the Constitution is divinely inspired and --ultimately -- for the protection of all people of the world. (Even Chris Matthews of MSNBC knows of the Mormon idea that the Constitution is inspired by God.)
My second objective today is that we might catch an increasing vision of how the place of God -- and devotion to God and righteous principles -- informed the Founding Fathers, and at least one Founding Mother which I will mention.
“Because,” paraphrasing Joseph Smith, “the things of God [or in this case, the things that mattered to our Founding Fathers] 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 [or, if you will, a people to Freedom], 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.”
Here, I will suggest, again paraphrasing, we must commune with the Founding Fathers. And we can – at least in a couple important and kind of neat ways.
Consider the fact that today you may see many marble statues, you may see brick buildings*, that if you visited Lexington, Concord, or even, e.g., Gettysburg, you would tread where great souls once did great things.
The following words come from the hero of the second day of Gettysburg, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (who said this about the battlefield there, but the ideas of which apply to ANY great place):
“In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls.
“And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field to ponder and dream; And lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls."
I am not sure the actual spirits of the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) still linger here. But I do know the spirit OF their great lives DOES live here.
At least through our imagination we can see through the years and though the fog of our modern world to see and truly appreciate these “great deeds.”
General George Patton, in Europe during World War II told his aide, while looking over an ancient battlefield, “I was here.” Brothers and sisters, we CAN go to these places in our mind’s eye, by engaging our minds and hearts into this living history.
This Vision can impel us on in our own quest to do what’s right and improve the world.
Both George Washington and John Adams only to name two felt keenly this overwhelming need to be of service. Why? Why did they feel such a passion? I am not sure. Today we will examine their commitment to their countrymen and their God.
[Let’s press on.]
RELIGION / GOD
So. What of their beliefs in, and action towards, God -- and the Churches of the day?
“Complicating the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers is the fact that, like a lot of us, their views changed over time. During the colonial period, there was a lot of gray area among believers. . . . Thinking in the Age of Enlightenment allowed for liberal interpretations of religious doctrine. Most of the new emerging denominations were still considered Christian as long as one followed the teachings of Christ. Individual religious beliefs also seemed to be going through a creative transformation, especially during the Great Awakening of [the early 1700s].”
Of the Founding Fathers we find a few strong, what we might call, “orthodox” Believers, -- those who both attended church and believed in the Trinity, etc. We would find Deists, others who could be described as Deist-Christians, and a couple non-Christian Deists. Many or most Founding Fathers occasionally attended and/or supported the local Church.
Not many, if any, were Atheists; Skeptics, yes, but Atheists no. The list could be roughly delineated as:
- Non-Christian Deists: Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen
- Deistic-Christians/Christians/Unitarians: Ben Franklin, George Washington [falls into his own special category], John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe
- Orthodox Christians: Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, and John Jay, etc. Most orthodox Christians were Episcopalian (such as Hamilton), several were Presbyterian, or Congregationalists. A few were Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, Methodists, and Roman Catholic. Some became Unitarians, such as Adams.
- Others had no affiliation.
- A few were opposited to organized religion and/or anti-clerical, such as Deists Paine and Ethan Allen.
- Many were also Freemasons -- Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Roger Sherman, James Madison, and Charles Pinckney.
Later in life, when Asael heard that his son, Joseph Sr., was attending Methodist meetings in Tunbridge, he threw Thomas Paine's Age of Reason at him and told him to read it. Following this, Joseph Sr. had a vision which convinced him that no denomination "knew any more concerning the kingdom of God, than those of the world, or such as made no profession of religion whatever." Joseph, Sr. finally joined the Universalist church in Tunbridge along with his father and Jesse, his brother.
“Universalists . . . believed in Jesus Christ as a god of love who would save all of his children. Like all Universalists, Asael was more comfortable with a god who was more interested in saving than in destroying mankind. He believed that life continued after death.”
NOTE: It was his wife, Mary Duty, in her 90s, who traveled to Kirtland to be baptized into the Mormon Church, but died days after arriving and before being baptized. Both of the Prophet’s grandfathers served in the Revolutionary War, and it was at their knees that he learned to love his country. The Prophet said, a “Love of liberty was diffused into my soul by my grandfathers while they dandled me on their knees.”
By the way, some of the harshest words written by the Founding Fathers about religion -- and religious leaders -- had to do with the Calvinist doctrine of mankind’s being “totally depraved” along with its doctrine that only a few Elect will be saved – through NO choice of their own. They also wrote and spoke against historical abuses of certain too-powerful clergy.
Generally, most of the Founding Fathers thought religion a good thing, even a necessary thing to sustain a nation.
James Madison says that it is a good thing there are so many different religions,
“Freedom arises from a multiplicity of sects, which pervades America, and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society.”
(Many Founding Fathers also saw the benefit of church attendance in learning morals.)
Some have doubted George Washington’s belief in God. To be sure, he was not vocal in expressing his specific beliefs. He was raised in the Episcopal Church, though not being confirmed, he became a Vestryman, and attended occasionally throughout his life.
His adopted daughter wrote, “My father was not one of those to act or pray so that he ‘might be seen by men.’ He communed with his own God in secret.”
Some scholars judge that Washington probably tended toward what might be termed a Deist-Christian. [Though privately he was a believer. See the book Sacred Fire which details his acceptance of Jesus Christ as Divine.] Once at a critical time in the budding nation’s history he publicly alluded to Jesus himself – one of the two or three times he did so publicly, from what I can tell.
Upon retiring from the military and returning power to the citizens he fought for, he offered this public prayer which he had printed and distributed to the several states. Note where he speaks of the “example” set by the “Divine Author” of our Religion.
“I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have [the United States] in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of [the United States] at large, and particularly for their brethren who served in the Field.
“And finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation. Amen.” (George Washington’s Prayer for His Country, 8 June 1783)
During his inauguration, Washington took the oath as prescribed by the Constitution but added several religious components to that official ceremony. Before taking his oath of office, he summoned a Bible on which to take the oath, added the words “So help me God!” to the end of the oath, then leaned over and kissed the Bible.
WORDS AND DEEDS
Now, these great men were not perfect. In my life I have seen great historical figures go from being almost worshiped, to a deconstruction into almost irrelevance, and back to a reasonable estimation of their almost miraculous accomplishments. The Miracle of Philadelphia, two of them.
Still, they had faults. The great Washington held slaves, but freed them upon his death and provided for many of them till they died. He and Jefferson both desired to do away with Slavery, but could not figure out HOW to do it. So, in essence, though this was a tough thing for blacks (and for women for other reasons), they created, as Martin Luther King, Jr. termed it, a Promissory Note to those people not immediately covered in the rights and privileges of the Constitution – but which were announced to the world in the Declaration.
We might cite the paradoxical nature of both the Declaration and the Constitution as harking to a way to vouchsafe – ultimately --- to all peoples their God-given Natural Rights by securing what stability and rights which could be agreed upon by the great minds of the day of competing and contending interests.
This nation was created – with purpose – formed and crafted on certain Eternal ideas and principles, including that of respect for the individual liberty of conscience.
Regarding religion, or none at all, George Washington wrote:
“The bosom of America was to receive . . . the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges . . . if they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mohammedans, Jews, or Christians of ANY sect, or they may be Atheists.”
Joseph Smith later said it this way:
“If I esteem [someone] to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way, too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better.”
Along a similar line, The Prophet Joseph taught:
“The Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, . . .
“He . . . will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, ‘according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil,’ or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India.”
Patrick Henry, Orator of the Revolution commented:
“It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” – Patrick Henry, May 1765 Speech to the House of Burgesses
THE PROMISE IS TO ALL
Benjamin Franklin noted that:
“God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” -- Constitutional Convention of 1787
Regarding the promise of Liberty to all, the Prophet Joseph declared in the year he was martyred:
“Born in a land of liberty . . . I ever feel a double anxiety for the happiness of all men, both in time and in eternity. My [thoughts] . . . have for a long time troubled me, when I viewed the condition of men throughout the world, and more especially in this boasted realm, where the Declaration of Independence holds “these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” -- but at the same time some two or three millions of people are held as slaves for life, because the spirit in them is covered with a darker skin than ours; . . .
“Our common country presents to all men the same advantages; the same facilities, the same prospects, the same honors, and the same rewards; and without hypocrisy, the Constitution, when it says, “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure the domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, to [sic] ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America,” [means] just what it [says] without reference to color or condition . . .”
On this topic, Martin Luther King, Jr. said that:
“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. 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 went on to say, that the time had “come to cash this check - a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
And so this promise goes to all.
Now, I will mention a few of my favorite Founding Fathers: a kind of Top Ten:
Honorable Mention: Abigail Adams, faithful counselor and Friend to her husband, John Adams. I’ll also mention their able son, John Quincy Adams. He is a fascinating transition between the Founding Fathers and our day. As a young teen he apprenticed in the most extraordinary diplomatic positions. Later he formally represented the United States across Europe. He was the real author/creator of what became known as the Monroe Doctrine. After serving as president he served for 16 years in the House of Representatives.
10. Benjamin Franklin, printer, writer, scientist, inventor, diplomat -- the first American (and the polar opposite Adams in their diplomacy overseas).
9/8. Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams, urging us on -- and acting -- to light the fire of Independence. Samuel Adams played a critical role in the earliest days of the Revolution, sparking the people to desire Independence.
5. Alexander Hamilton, a self-made man, for setting the stage for America to change from an agrarian society to a modern industrial nation.
4. James Madison, Father of the Constitution.
3. Thomas Jefferson, a Renaissance man for the complex, comprehensive, and compelling life he led -- and for the stirring way he formally announces our Independence to the world.
2. John Adams, for pushing, and pushing, and pushing some more – all the way through to Independence; Jefferson called him the Atlas of Independence. With Jefferson, they were called the North and South Poles of the new Union. George Washington let it be known that this stalwart, Adams, was his desire to succeed him as U.S. President. [I believe Washington desired Adams’ for his firm belief in a strong executive, desiring to give the new nation a bit more stability. Then, we’d get to Jefferson.]
1. Of course, George Washington, the only truly indispensable Founding Father.
- He won the war; then laid down military power.
- He inspired almost superhuman trust amongst fellow Founders that we could overcome our differences and come together to craft a Constitution; he turned down talk of monarchy. He was the glue which held the Constitutional Convention together.
- He was trusted to hold the executive power, then again, he laid down political power.
- His friend Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee called him, “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of his Countrymen.” Unparalleled.
As she got old, Abigail Adams remarked:
“When I look in my glass I see that I am not what I was. I scarcely know a feature of my face. But I believe that this Mortal body shall one day put on immortality and be renovated in the World of Spirits. Having enjoyed a large portion of the good things of this life and few of its miseries, I ought to rise satisfied from the feast, and be grateful to the Giver. -- (To John Adams, May 10, 1817)
Benjamin Franklin commented on our nature as spirits:
“We are spirits. That bodies should be lent to us [to] assist us in acquiring knowledge, or dong good to our fellow creatures, is a kind and benevolent act of God.”
Regarding an afterlife, a few years before he died, John Adams famously said,
“I do not know how to prove physically, that we shall meet and know each other in a future state; nor does Revelation [as interpreted by the clergy] . . . give us any positive assurance of such a felicity. My reasons for believing it, as I do most undoubtedly, are that I cannot conceive such a being could make such a species as the human, merely to live and die on this earth.
“If I did not believe in a future state, I should believe in no God. This Universe, this all would appear, with all of its swelling pomp, a boyish firework. And if there be a future state, why should the Almighty dissolve forever all the tender ties which untie us so delightfully in this world, and forbid us to see each other in the next?”
Sullivan Ballou, a Union soldier who died in the Battle of Bull Run (or the Battle Manassas) spoke these poignant words of comfort and solace to his soon-to-be-widowed wife. He speaks of the debt he feels he owes to those who fought the Revolution. Listen to his dedication to his wife, his family, and especially his country.
"My very dear Sarah: The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days -- perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
". . . If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing -- perfectly willing -- to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
"But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows . . . .
"I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee. . . .
"A pure love of my country and of the principles I have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.
"Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
"The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. . . . If I do not [return to you], my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
"Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
"But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours -- always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
"Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again... ... O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children. Sullivan"
John Adams’ and Sullivan Ballou’s hopes are made perfect in LDS doctrine and temples.
DEBT WE OWE
Summing up, I respectfully submit we owe a similar debt to our own ancestors, to our Founding Fathers, and to our posterity to carry on this sacred fight for Liberty.
And with Martin Luther King, we can say:
“This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, ‘My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’
“And if America is to be a great nation this must become true.
“So let freedom ring . . . From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
“And when this happens when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”
And finally, we Mormons, can know with perfection what Thomas Jefferson mused upon. That:
“The genuine and simple religion of Jesus will one day be restored; such as it was preached and practiced by Himself. Very soon after his death it became muffled up in mysteries, and has been ever since kept in concealment . . . .”
“The religion builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so inconceivable, as to shock reasonable thinkers . . . .
“Happy in the prospect of a restoration of primitive Christianity, I must leave to younger persons to encounter and lop off the false branches which have been grafted into it by the mythologists of the middle and modern ages.”
As you might know, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 – the Fifty Year Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. A little more than a year later, Moroni, came to further progress toward the long awaited Restoration.
We are all part of that Restoration. Paraphrasing Patrick Henry, “If this be [The Restoration], make the most of it!”
Brothers and sisters:
I know that the Founding Fathers were inspired by God;
That God speaks through modern-day prophets;
And that we have an obligation to actively support that nation.
# # #
Born in Kansas, raised in southern California. When in elementary school, his parents bought a brand new World Book Encyclopedia. Would read for fun; especially about U.S. Presidents. About age 12 started reading the whole newspaper, including the World News, and Opinion/Editorial section. By age 15, started a decades-long habit of reading two newspapers per day.
As a senior in high school joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Immediately became interested and immersed in church history. A year and a half later, began full-time mission in the Australia Sydney Mission, serving with President Earl C. Tingey. (While on mission, read Fawn Brodie’s, “No Man Knows My History.”) Now serving in second bishopric.
Four weeks after return from mission, married his childhood sweetheart. Parents of two daughters, Carrie and Sydney -- now grandparents of three grandsons.
Graduated with a finance degree from California State University, Fullerton. Career in sales for Fortune 500 companies; in recent years with technology, consulting, and merger & acquisition firms. Currently vice president, enterprise sales for software company with headquarters in Fairfax, VA.
Started two political action committees in southern California. Has since dabbled in politics and fundraising. With wife, loves to visit U.S. and Church historical cites. Both especially love and appreciate George Washington. (Bought personalized California license plates in the 80s: Nauvoo.)
Goals: Continue reading/researching; complete various writing projects (historical/biographical, doctrinal). Expand and perfect various websites. Serve mission with wife.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Though, soon enough, receiving that which they actually need
. . . and perhaps just a bit more.
Seeking out the highest, and the brightest,
The right, and things that matter most
. . . they find themselves.
Knocking on the doors of opportunity,
They enter in with opened eyes
. . . and fully enjoy, no longer boys.
Scott L. Vanatter, 15 April 2008 (Poem for Kyle, Sean, and Ryan on Kyle’s birth)
Plunging into new days of promise.
The boys grow (playing and working)
Building a better world and life.
The boys know (connecting and embracing)
Knitting together -- and healing -- generations
. . . of softened, tender hearts.
Scott L. Vanatter, 15 April 2008 (Poem for Kyle, Sean, and Ryan on Kyle’s birth)