Sunday, May 15, 2016

Thinking about Limhi's description of his situation. Mosiah 7:24-33

And thinking about Germany and France 77 years ago.
What do you do when the people in your country are smitten with sore afflictions and in bondage, and finding that their ways are hedged up and that their work is just creating stumbling blocks, and they are "reaping the chaff of filthiness as in a whirlwind, and the 'east wind' which brings destruction" because of the wicked decisions and action of rulers, authority figures and of "the voice of the people" do you maintain hope?
"But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage."
In other words, you do whatever you can to support those who understand what is righteousness and what is wickedness and who will not be deceived.
You become determined to be, as much as possible, a source of hope and help for the innocent men, women and especially the children who suffer the consequences of the devastating decisions of others.
You grab hold of God's grace with all you've got for the strength and vision required to heal and bless.
You may not live to see the society that you are part of experience the deliverance the Lord may provide, or live to see the healing from the horrendous damage that comes from socially or politically powerful people embracing decisions that bring horribly destructive consequences but you can be a part of the efforts to prepare for that healing and ever seek to lay foundations for it.
People have done so before.
Le Chambon, France

Thursday, May 12, 2016


"...I have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made...for I rule in the heavens above and the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence..."

A glimpse at the etymology and history of "prudence":

mid 14th century meaning intelligence, discretion, foresight, wisdom to see what is suitable or helpful.

Thomas Aquinas listed it as the first of the four cardinal virtues, defining it as: "wisdom to see what is virtuous"

13th century, from Old French "prudence"

and directly from Latin "prudentia", a forseeing, forsight, sagacity, or practical judgment.

Plato listed it as a cardinal virtue in "Republic". Aristotle defined prudence as recta ratio agibilium, "right reason applied to practice, a phrase Thomas Aquinas used as well..  

Aquinas elaborated further, writing that prudence functions as a principle virtue on which a variety of other excellences hinge. Those excellences include: memory, intelligence, docility, shrewdness, reason, foresight, circumspection, and caution (ST IIaIIae 49.1-8).

It is interesting to contemplate God as the epitome of prudence as well as of wisdom.  And how that should translate into my discipleship is, I think, worth my taking some time to consider.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Rephrasing 1st Peter, chapter 1 and a bit of chapter 2

Dear far away, as yet unmet, friends who have come to recognize and be changed by the Spirit of the Lord such that you have embraced repentance and discipleship. I wish you much grace and peace.

Thanks be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whose abundant mercy has enabled you to be born again to new hope, which hope in you upon started upon learning of Jesus' resurrection,

You rejoice greatly in this, even during the times when temptations come and your faith is tried. Your faith in the Lord is more precious than gold, but that does not mean it will not be tried to the extreme. There is reason to rejoice, even through those fiery trials of faith, for trials of faith can, if you continue in faith, prepare you for experiences full of praise, honor and glory when you meet Jesus Christ again.

You have not met Him, but you love Him. And even though you have not met Him or seen Him, you believe and experience the joy and rejoicing and sense of glory that comes from that decision to believe Him. And that, you will find, fills you with a sense of what will be the ultimate result of your faith: the salvation of your soul: the ability to stand, blameless and free and full of love, in the presence of God.

For centuries prophets prophesied of the wonderful gift of daily grace from God that you would experience, and asked and diligently searched to find out when the suffering and atonement of Christ would happen and when the particularly glorious hope that would follow that would begin.

It was revealed to them that it would not happen during their lifetimes, but, nonetheless, they did teach and testify of it coming. And you have experienced the arrival of that wonderful gift as you listened to those who have preached the gospel to you and taught with the Spirit of the Lord. Angels in heaven love watching that happen.

So, set your mind to be faithful, brave, and ready to do God's work. Be sober. Continue hopeful and continue living expecting the amazing grace that is to be

You are called to be obedient children of God, not just people following our appetites or passions as you were before you understood. Be holy in your conversations. The scriptures have taught us that, as followers of the Holy One, he has called us to be holy.

You know that you were not redeemed with money. Payment for sin is not made with physical things. You were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. The old way of making a sacrifice with an unblemished lamb was a foretelling of this ultimate sacrifice for your redemption.

Christ was appointed to this work of redemption before the world was created but He carried it out during your current time. You believe in God, the Father. And it was God, the Father, who raised Him from the dead and gave him glory so that you might have this faith and hope in God that you have now.

You have been obeying truth as the Spirit teaches it to you in such a way that you have learned to honestly love those who have taught you. In that same manner you must also learn to love one another purely and fully. You can do that because you have been born again through your embracing of the living and eternal word of God and his grace in your life.

So, humbly and soberly call upon God, the Father, who does not play favorites, but judges and knows you, and everyone else, fairly and completely. ( a sobering thought)

We are mortals with mortal bodies and mortal ideas. Mortal bodies and ideas and their accompanying mortal glory, like grass and flowers, eventually wither. But the word of the Lord endures forever. And this enduring word of the Lord is what has directed the teaching of the gospel to you.

So lay aside all malice, any wishing of harm to others, any desire to deceive others, and all hypocrisy, envying or speaking ill of others.  Instead, humble yourself; hunger and thirst after the word of the Lord.  The word of the Lord is as essential to our spiritual growth and our living in grace as milk is to a baby's physical growth and health.  We thirst must for it. We cannot grow or thrive in grace or understanding without it.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

"He went about doing good"

"He went about doing good". Acts 10:38
He "went about".
One thing that prevents me from doing this as well as I would like in any new environment is too much self-awareness and/or a cognizance of my irreparable lack of required skills. I continue to proximate such a  "going about doing good" life as best I can in new situations, and I can orient myself to God's love and talk myself up a few minutes ahead of time  to make it so that it looks, to others, like going about doing good with love comes somewhat easily to me, but in the small daily efforts of interaction with others with whom I am not intimately acquainted, it takes far more effort than I think it should at this stage of my life. I'd really like to not have to keep beating down these hurdles EVERY SINGLE TIME .
I'd like to be transformed in one fell swoop and have it be permanent.
But maybe that's the easy way out.

In the meantime I'll try to remember, more often, to have the courage and faith start my day honestly praying for the pure love of Christ when I feel like I'd really rather just stay and work at home.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The first truth

My brothers and sisters, the first great commandment of all eternity is to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—that’s the first great commandment. But the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. That love is the foundation stone of eternity, and it should be the foundation stone of our daily life.
Jeffrey Holland, "Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders Among You"

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

"Unto" doesn't always mean what you think it means.

Because repentance includes the covenant to obey the commandments of the Lord, it is tied closely to baptism in water as the public evidence or witness of that covenant. Thus baptism in water is the appropriate sequel to repentance. This is the sense of the puzzling phrase, introduced to Alma by the Lord in answer to his prayer about dealing with transgressors in the church and repeated on numerous later occasions by both Alma and Mormon, that people should be "baptized unto repentance" (Mosiah 26:22). This phrasing can be confusing when we expect repentance to precede baptism, and the preposition unto seems to indicate that baptism precedes repentance. But the Oxford English Dictionary. which gives the most complete historical analysis of the varieties of English usage, lists 29 distinguishable uses for this preposition. The one which corresponds with the Lord's usage here would indicate that baptisms into the church should only occur in accordance, agreement, or correspondence with the prior repentance of the new member. Because the covenant witnessed in baptism is part of repentance. This relationship is signaled exactly by the phrase baptized unto repentance. And so, Alma asks his new converts, "what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments?" (Mosiah 18:10). On the other side of this same story, King Limhi and his people repented and "entered into a covenant with God ... to serve him and keep his commandments" (Mosiah 21 :32). Furthermore, "they were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts,"  

Noel Reynolds, "The True Points of My Doctrine", Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 5/2, 1996

Interesting to me that the word "unto" in the temple is translated, in the Spanish version, to "para con", which is a formal, little used phrase which means "that corresponds to, in connection with, related specifically to, in relationship to".

I think the Spanish language translation got it right.

I think we English speakers, when we encounter the also-puzzling phrase in the temple with "unto" in it, generally leap to one of the other 28 definitions, which are less accurate, and some of which can cause serious dismay if they are assumed to be correct.

Perhaps someday someone will notice that and make a change to that awkward phrase to make the meaning in English more clear.  I hope so.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Jetsetting, Learning, Choosing

Usually,  when a mission president is called, he and his wife start, in January, a series of 6 discussions with other newly called individuals and a couple of people from the church's missionary department and various resource people.  Each discussion is three weeks apart, with lots of reading material and things to do in between them.

We started those in January, hooked up via a web video feed with 7 other couples in the Philippines, Japan and Arizona.  They were helpful.

Somewhere in there someone realized something that we had been wondering about: that our assignment will start in March instead of in July, and that when we started we would have only been able to participate in two of these sessions.  So a crash course was put together by some very good people and L. and I flew to Salt Lake City to spend 4 packed-full days doing the next 4 sessions of discussion and reading and meeting with resource people and working with young missionaries.  It was extremely helpful and the two who took on the task of coordinating the whole thing and with whom we spent the most time were delightful, insightful people.

(And we were able to spend some time with Sam and Susan and their families on our last evening there too, which was great.)

The general plan was that we would return to Hanoi on Friday morning, arriving on Saturday evening, in time to be there to prepare for previously scheduled visits by Gary Stevenson, Gerritt Gong and others mid-week, the government and member meetings involved with that, and that L. would be set apart during that time as well. (I figured that since mission presidents' wives are set apart as full time missionaries, which I am already set apart to be, I was already set in that department.)

But things change.  Enter Felix,

whose entrance into the world we were alerted to as being imminent on Thursday and who was born in Seoul on Saturday morning.

I had been praying for his safe arrival at the best time and really, the timing was perfect both for him (full term) and for us, since we were routed through Seoul on Saturday evening on our way back home to Hanoi, and six months previously I had gotten sure permission to leave the mission to be there to help Elizabeth with her first child.  (Generally moms on missions aren't there for grandchildren births because, generally, there are sisters, aunts, mothers-in-law etc. who live near enough that they can travel to be there to help, but in this case there is not.)

It was also a choices challenge, however.  Turns out that mission presidents' wives need to be set apart too, even if they are already full-time missionaries.  And it needs to happen when their husbands are set apart.  And if I wasn't in Hanoi when Gary Stevenson was (he's the one who needed to do that setting apart, and the general March start date had been chosen because it could be coordinated with his scheduled visit), that created a new challenge.

Good, better, best.  It was clear to me what the best choice was.  But it was hard knowing that making that choice would complicate other people's plans, including some other dearly beloved individuals, not just the aforementioned Stevenson and Gong.  I hate making things more complicated for people.  My initial instinct is to try to disrupt things as little as possible.

Sometimes when you make a correct choice, it is not the one that makes things easier for all the people you want to help.  Sometimes it is, but not always.

L., of course, was completely supportive of whatever I chose to do.  Dear fellow, he had the unenviable position of needing to be the point of communication between us and our anticipated visitors without being the one who was making my decisions.

So now I am in Seoul, and L. is in Hanoi. 

More than half a century ago, in 1946, Jean Wunderlich and his wife Jane Burlingame Wunderlich were called to the West German mission.  While setting him apart, David O. McKay said to Brother Wunderlich, "Be true to the law of your own being."

Jean later said that the words of that commandment were the most important words he ever heard. 

To me that is a call to integrity, to make decisions based upon what you feel called to do by God and which are based upon the principles that are most important to you.

That is a good lesson with which to start the work we will commence next month.

For more information on the Wunderlichs' story: