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“No weapon formed against you shall prosper…”

The Lord has the magnificent ability to make “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).  This is far more than adding sugar to life-given lemons.  This is taking the despicable actions of jealous older brothers selling Joseph into slavery and using it as the means of saving the whole House of Israel.  This is taking items and events intended as mockery and sedition and using them as symbols of His power and deliverance.  Fig leaves, nails, crosses, torn flesh, spilled blood. All things meant to lead to the Fall of Man or the death of a God, transformed into sacred tokens.  

In this way suffering, regardless of the cause, can be used to accomplish God’s work for our own salvation.  The Lord can make us, sinful and wretched, into saints in the same magnificent manner that He makes sacred what Satan would have used to thwart the Lord’s work of salvation.  

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Take II

It’s unlikely that any of you noticed, but I haven’t been around these parts in…what’s today?  About two years.  The abundance of blustery hot air that fogs the internet caused me to question whether it was worth the emotional investment required to contribute something more than an occasional quote.  Besides, my earlier efforts were greatly filtered.  My favorite thoughts were kept safe on ink-stained paper in a drawer beside my bed.  Only the least personal, and quite frankly the most cynical musings ended up online.  And if you can’t be brilliant, you have to be willing to be personal; otherwise the effort only contributes to the noise of digitally accumulated clutter.  

So I’m going to try this again.  I will not promise regularity but in exchange I promise to do my part to minimize the growth of clutter and not post for posting’s sake.  If by some chance my perspective helps some soul have a brighter day or see things in a new way then I will be satisfied that yes, it is worth the effort.  

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Acts Against Entropy

Creation is about inflicting order on chaos.  It can involve assembling raw materials, formulating coherent thoughts, inventing characters, weaving novel melodies, or capturing emotions with paint, stone or film.  In small but meaningful ways creation combats the ever-present march towards oblivion.  In whatever from it takes, creation is an act of True Faith.

Of course, not all creations are created equal.  There’s enough chaos and destruction built into the cosmos to have it consume creative resources.  Good creation improves, inspires and enlightens.  It requires overcoming insurmountable obstacles…at least if you’re creating anything worthwhile.  In fact, the worth of creation is probably proportional to the effort required to produce it. By that standard, Twitter feeds have to be on the lowest end of the creative worth scale.  And on the opposite end, a notch above creating an empire…establishing a righteous family.

What greater act of creation could there be than to bring new beings into the world and raise them to be righteous, educated, well-adjusted contributors to civilization?  And what could be more difficult?  To sculpt such a family requires skills, patience, longsuffering, and love that far transcend the steady hands and imagination of marble workers.  Stone doesn’t talk back, have its own opinions, and is not endowed with a sovereign free will.

No work of art or business or political accomplishment can compare to a posterity that continues a legacy of virtue.  In a few short generations the influence of a mother and father trying their best, with the help of Heaven, will have legions of little ones making the world a better place.  You will not only have done something great for its own sake, but you will multiply your influence over the world in a way that Alexander the Great would envy.

Those of you with young children will also attest that there is no better practice at inflicting order on chaos than trying to keep a house clean while kids enjoy summer vacation.

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Limited Eternity

For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature; but it is fixed for ever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller.  But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape.  Because it has a paradox in its centre it can grow without changing.  The circle returns upon itself and is bound  The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

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What we really learn from Joseph Smith’s strange doctrine about other planets and stars:  A hundred years prior to the publishing of the theory of general relativity by the famous file clerk, a farm boy from Vermont declared that time is relative to the velocity of the planet on which one resides and the mass of the star the planet orbits.

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Free Will: Part I

I used to love storms, a good downpour accompanied by blasts of electricity tearing across the skies.  It is magnificent to see how the tree bark darkens and enriches the vitality of the colors that hang on the branches.  It used to fill me with exhilarated wonder.  Then I moved into a 50-year-old house in the midwest.  Now any serious rain means nothing but worry, dread even, that my basement will welcome the water from the saturated earth.  My reaction to storms has changed because of a change in circumstances.  As it started to rain again last night I wondered if I could ever enjoy the sound of thunder again.

When I was 16 a wise Bishop told me that anger is a choice.  Of course as a teenager full of angst I was infuriated by the accusation that my anger was a choice.  But in that ironic moment I decided to test the theory and immediately began to notice that I could in fact choose how I reacted to perturbing stimuli.  It’s been many years now and I’m much better at choosing not to become angry, though having three little kids has provided a plethora of new ways to practice that choice.  But what is the extent of our power to choose?

I feel crushed at times by the burdens of responsible adulthood.  Can the answer be to choose not to be burdened by earthly cares?  This is certainly part of what the Savior intended when he said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  This implies that one’s life is acceptable to God.

We have reason to worry if we try to succeed on our own strength and terms.  But if we are confident that the path we are pursuing is in accordance with the will of God, even directed by Him, then we are promised His strength.  We can with full confidence stop worrying, and “stand still with the utmost assurance and see the salvation of our God” (D&C 123:17).  The challenge then is knowing that you are where and doing what the Lord would have you be and do.  When you know that in the depths of your soul, then worry melts like frost before the sun.  This is true power, not passive positive thinking that everything will work out for the best.

I felt such an assurance last night as raindrops began to pelt the awning outside my window.  I read these words:

Let them repent of all their sins, and of all their covetous desires, before me, saith the Lord; for what is property unto me? saith the Lord….For have I not the fowls of heaven, and also the fish of the sea, and the beasts of the mountains? Have I not made the earth? Do I not hold the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth? Therefore will I not make solitary places to bud and to blossom, and to bring forth in abundance? saith the Lord.

Doctrine and Covenants 117:4,6-7

What is property to the creator of worlds without end?  I will choose to let storms once again bring majesty instead of dread to an otherwise meteorologically average existence, and trust that the Lord can bring forth in abundance the things we need for the journey.

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Quote of the Day: Real Progress

The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of the people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.

President Ezra Taft Benson

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Mormon Theocracy? Pass.

Mormons want a theocracy about as bad as a cantankerous pirate wants a colonoscopy.  There’s a lot of overblown rhetoric online about the so-called “white horse” prophecy (links intentionally withheld) and the Mormon’s wish to establish a theocracy.  It is an intentional misrepresentation of Mormon theology that serves as a useful bludgeon to damage Mormon politicians.  No one seems to care if Mormons serve in the military, or as the Senate Majority leader, or teach at the Harvard School of Business.  It only seems to matter when it makes a useful caricature.  All this talk about white horses is a classic misdirect that is simultaneously untrue and mischaracterizing.  It’s not enough just to be wrong in this case. No, the commentators have to declare Mormon folklore to be doctrine and then go on to misinterpret the folklore.

First off, is it really a shocker that Mormons believe the Constitution of the United States is in peril?  Thomas Sowell doesn’t think it’s outrageous.  The only surprising thing is that we’ve believed it for a long time.  We have fresh scars from wounds received when we found no redress from appeals to its pages.

Secondly, the authoritative, canonical doctrine about government is far from theocratic.  It is affirmed in our own scripture that governments are ordained of God for the benefit of man (Doctrine and Covenants 134), that we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying honoring and sustaining the law (Articles of Faith 12) and that God is the author of the US Constitution (D&C 101:80) at least in the same way He “authored” scripture.  After being driven out of the United States because of religious intolerance and establishing a city in the Utah desert, Governor and Prophet Brigham Young had a parade in which the youth marched holding copies of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence (Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, 95-107).

We revere the Constitution because it is meant to guarantee the free exercise of religion, a freedom we would desperately love to enjoy.  “We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow ALL men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may” (Articles of Faith 11, emphasis mine).  If we seek office it is not to establish a theocracy, it is to make sure that the freedoms defined in the pages of the Constitution can be enjoyed by all.

Yari Rosenburg had an excellent article at the Tablet.  He discusses religious persecution in general, something Jews know a little about, and some of the recurring attacks in particular on Mormons in the spotlight.

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LDS Newsroom: Temple Garments

A not-so-strange custom.

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God and Man II

It’s foolish to think that what is, always was, and ever will be.  We don’t expect this anywhere in our lives, so why suppose it’s true when talking about Revelation from God to Man?  The scriptures teach that God reveals His word line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little there a little (Isaiah 28:10) and that we are to have milk before meat (I Corinthians 3:2).  To the saints in Corinth Paul explains that this is because “ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.”  At what point in the 50 odd years after Paul’s epistle did people become so enlightened that there was no longer a need for revelation, or that all mysteries had then been expounded?

Joseph Smith taught:

It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of The Almighty… Why be so certain that you comprehend the things of God, when all things with you are so uncertain?

– Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 320

We Mormons get into trouble for believing that God is not silent, that Heaven as well as our Canon are open.  A radical proposition to be sure, but one that seems perfectly reasonable.  The Bible is the beginning of Wisdom but not its end.  I do not believe that everything there is to know about the Kingdom of Heaven and the destiny of God’s children is inexhaustibly contained in its pages.  In short, I choose not to set bounds on the works and ways of the Almighty.

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