Looking at the history of my blog, I realize that I have not written as often as I would have liked this year. I can justify this by saying that there have been times when I have been busy and just haven’t found the time to write, or at other times I have not had anything worthwhile to write about. Really, though, these are just excuses. I made a valiant attempt at NaNoWriMo this year, writing 25,000 words, making it halfway to the goal for the month. Then certain job and family issues took precedence and I stopped writing. But, I did continue to follow #NaNoCoach and various NaNoWriMo tips on Twitter and their website. There was an interesting statement made by one of the people acting as NaNoWriMo Coach, taking over that hashtag for a time. They mentioned that they had won NaNoWriMo a few years back, but had not participated in recent years, because — and this was what I found interesting — He said that NaNoWriMo fulfilled its purpose for him, in that it got him writing everyday. He said that he now regularly writes at least 25,000 words a month, because he spends time writing everyday. This reminded me of something my professor and faculty advisor told me when I was working on my final capstone paper to complete my Bachelor’s degree. The department required a 20 page paper due the last semester. The professor I was working with had a suggestion for getting this paper written — Write at least 15 minutes a day. That was it. Write something for at least 15 minutes a day. And depending on where you were at in the writing of the paper that writing took on different forms. At the beginning it was writing or working on the outline, later it was writing the prose of the paper, and toward the end it was editing and revising the paper. This was supposed to be 15 minutes of writing, separate from any research or any other activity related to the writing of the paper. Just sit down and write. I have several blogs and other things that I would like to write for. This, my personal blog, and a few blogs that I am trying to start writing for professional reasons — Open Source Education — German, and Open Source Education — English, which I have started to gather thoughts and post lesson plan ideas for the different classes I hope to one day be able to teach. I also have a German blog, that I am writing in German to keep up with my German language skills. And then there are the different novel ideas that I would like to keep writing and working on beyond the once a year NaNoWriMo. I think it is time to start implementing what I should have learned from NaNoWriMo and my scholarly writing experiences. I want to start writing 15 minutes everyday. For one of my blogs or one of my personal writing projects, I want to write 15 minutes everyday. I have set an alarm on my phone to remind me, I just need to take the time and sit down and write. Here’s to happy writing, and hopefully more posts.
I had an idea last Sunday, while sitting in church thinking about the hymns that we sing at Christmas time. I thought it would be nice to come up with a favorite Christmas hymn to share on Facebook for every day of the month leading up to Christmas, as an advent, counting down to Christmas Day. I have made a list of my favorite Christmas songs and have been sharing one a day via Facebook to spread this Christmas joy through song.
I am of two opinions when it comes to music played during the Christmas season, and I think it is summed up pretty well by a tweet that I saw while watching the LDS First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional last night. It read, “Personal rant: If we talk about Santa and Elf on a Shelf more than we talk about Jesus, we’ve made our kids miss Christmas. ”
I absolutely love the hymns and carols that we sing at Christmas, but I do not enjoy many of the songs played on the radio. I believe it is the aversion I have to the cheesiness and commercialization that is invading Christmas, detracting and distracting from the reason we celebrate. I love singing about Jesus Christ and being reminded of who he was and what he did for us, but I do not care for singing about flying reindeer or snowmen come to life.
Things are starting to change a bit, as I now have a 3 year old, whose favorite movie at the moment is the classic animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and he enjoys singing the song from that movie, “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch. ” I guess there does need to be some of the fun and silly songs at Christmas, those songs that kids love to sing, but we have also been trying to play the traditional hymns and carols that teach of Jesus Christ.
We have made a simple advent calendar, hanging on the wall, and each night there is a slip of paper with a verse of scripture, a Christmas hymn, and a family activity for us to do together as we count down until Christmas. We pull out the slip of paper and read the scripture, then we talk a little bit about what the scripture means, then we play the song and then we have our activity. And our 3 year-old son must be getting something from this, because the last couple of nights, he has pulled out the slip of paper and told us, “We need to read scripture. ” Then he looks at the paper and says, “Jesus wants us to be nice and good. ”
And so, amid all of the fun of Christmas, the tree with its ornaments, the presents, the cartoons and everything, hopefully he is still picking up on the true meaning behind the holiday season, hopefully we are doing enough to reinforce his faith in Jesus Christ, hopefully he is developing a love of sacred hymns that teach eternal principles.
Just a quick post today, with a few thoughts I have been having lately (and some I have been stewing on for quite some time)
We talk a lot about commandments in the Church, and outside of the Church as well, I guess. There seem to be a lot of commandments and many people either find that very comforting, with exact instructions on how to live their lives and what they should be doing, or they find it very constrictive, with too many rules telling them what they have to do, not allowing them to do what they want to do. It seems one of the greatest sermons that can be given, then, is on commandments and why they exist, and why it is that God wants us to keep his commandments.
This has been talked about in numerous General Conference addresses, often with a metaphor or reference to commandments as protections against the evil that exists in the world. One of my favorite in recent memory was given by Elder Mervyn B. Arnold of the Seventy in October 2010, What Have You Done with My Name? He describes a time when he was tending after a herd of cows, but one of them broke through the fence and got into the wheat field, and gorged itself until it was bloated and ultimately died. Elder Arnold said,
I thought, ‘You stupid cow! That fence was there to protect you, yet you broke through it and you have eaten so much wheat that your life is in danger.’
As I thought about the role of the fence, I realized that it was a protection, just as the commandments and my parents’ rules were a protection. The commandments and rules were for my own good. I realized that obedience to the commandments could save me from physical and spiritual death. That enlightenment was a pivotal point in my life.”
It is true that many commandments serve as a protection. We are told “Thou shalt not …” in order that we might avoid behaviors or circumstances that will endanger us, either physically or spiritually. But, I think there is a higher reason behind the commandments of God.
When you really think about all of the commandments that have been given by God, through his holy prophets, I think that there is really only one commandment — given by Jesus Christ, himself, when he said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). All other commandments that have been given are given to help us keep that one great commandment.
Think about it — We have the ten commandments, which teach us how to respect our Father (Thou shalt have no other gods before me, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy), and how to interact with each other (Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet). These commandments teach us how to be a little more like our Father in heaven, how to be a little more perfect like he is.
Other commandments as well, teach us what we need to know and do, and help us become what we must become in order to be perfect and sit down with our Father in his kingdom. The law of tithing and the law of the fast, for example, teach us how to go without, how to sacrifice, how to realize what the most important thing in our lives is. By showing God that we are willing to go without our money, and without our food, we show ourselves that we place God above our own desires. We also recognize that all that we have came from him in the first place. This teaches us reliance on him at the same time it teaches us to rely more on the spirit than on the arm of flesh.
We are commanded to pray in order to develop a closer relationship with our Father, that we may come to know him better, that we may be like him. We are commanded to read and study the scriptures and the words of the prophets that we may come to know what God is telling us. We are commanded to care for our families and our friends and even to love our enemies. God is love and God is the father of us all, if we are to be perfect like him, then we need to develop the kind of love that he has for all men.
I am just beginning to consider all of the commandments that we have been given, but I believe that they all will help us draw closer to our Father in heaven and to become more perfect and more like he is. And when viewed in this light, commandments are not harsh or restrictive, but they are a blessing. If our goal really is to be perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect, then we have no better guidebook than the commandments that our loving Father in heaven has given us.
I have been reading and thinking about the subject of minimum wage recently, and I thought it was time that I shared a few of my thoughts and worked out how I feel about the subject.
To begin with, I will state that I do recognize the need to have some protection in the law so that workers are not exploited. Workers’ rights are very important to keep people safe and to protect them. I also understand the philosophy behind the idea of a minimum wage — That we need to make sure that workers make enough to survive and are not forced to work multiple jobs just to have enough to feed and clothe and shelter themselves. That is a great philosophy, and certainly a great goal. But, the arguments against a minimum wage are also pretty convincing — that ensuring that employers have to pay a certain minimum wage detracts from the profitability of the business, so the business will need to make cuts elsewhere to remain afloat, or it could cause many smaller businesses to go under.
While I do believe a minimum wage is a good thing, I do not like the idea of a federal minimum wage. From personal experience I know that the cost of living is drastically different in different parts of the country, and so a federally mandated minimum wage, in order to be enough for workers in one area, would be extremely high in other areas. For example, I am currently living in Columbus, Ohio and our rent is about 650 a month for a two bedroom townhouse. I am looking to move back to the Seattle area, and have been looking at apartments and homes in that area and cannot find anything with two bedrooms for less than 1000 a month — and those places do not have near the square footage that our current place does. A minimum wage that I would need to survive and afford rent and food for my family for a month in Columbus would be nowhere near sufficient to live in Seattle. While at the same time, if there was a federal minimum wage based on what would be needed to live in Seattle, it would be way more than is necessary to live in Columbus, and employers would find it hard to ensure that all workers were paid in that amount.
Which is the main argument against a minimum wage, as I have stated before. I do believe that setting a minimum wage too high will have an ultimately negative effect on the local economy. Rather than ensuring that workers have enough monthly income, it would force employers to pay more for the work provided than it is worth. And to pay workers that wage, the business would need to make cuts or raise prices or find the revenue in other places.
Raising the minimum wage is also somewhat unfair to workers who have worked hard to advance themselves to earn the raises to make what the new minimum wage would be. If the current minimum wage is 8.00 an hour, and I started working at that rate, and a few years later have worked my way up and earned raises so that I am now making 10.00 an hour, when the minimum wage gets raised to 10.00 an hour, I am now again making minimum wage. But, of course, there have to be adjustments made to minimum wage, otherwise we would still have a minimum wage of $0.25, as it was set in 1938. Obviously that worked then, but is nowhere near enough today.
So, a few thoughts I have had about this whole minimum wage issue, the first being what I said before, that I do not believe a federal minimum wage is the way to go. Because the cost of living varies so much from state to state, minimum wage should be left to each state. States can determine best what the needs of the citizens of their states are. There are some programs that are best handled on a federal level, but there are also many programs that are best managed locally, by individual states.
I also think it would not be a bad idea to implement a structured, tiered minimum wage based on different factors, such as a college degree or dependants. There could be a minimum wage set at a certain level, and if a person has an Associate’s degree then the minimum wage is a little bit more, if they have a Bachelor’s degree the minimum wage is set a little bit higher. Also, if a person is only responsible for himself, the minimum wage would be set at a certain level, but if he has dependents, a wife and kids to support, the minimum wage would be set higher. It would probably be best to have a base line and then have the increases be a percentage of that.
It could also be a good idea to have different minimum wages based on the industry of the job. Different careers require different skills and even with the above mentioned levels of a minimum wage, those would have to be tailored to the industry the job is in. You would not want a person who has an advanced college degree working the counter at a fast food place and demanding his higher wage for the same job a high school student can perform.
Minimum wage is a very important issue, as we do need to ensure that everybody who works makes enough so they do not starve or have to live in squalor. But, at the same time there is something to be said for encouraging people to work harder to improve themselves, to advance themselves to better jobs so that they can make enough to support themselves well enough. People should not just take any job and expect that someone pay them whatever they want to do it. I will be honest, I do not believe that fast food jobs are meant to be careers, unless they choose to move into management, but I believe that management positions at fast food places do offer a raise in pay commensurate to the position. If we raise the minimum wage for jobs like those, we do not encourage people to work on improving themselves to get the better jobs.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject, your suggestions to how we can improve minimum wage and make working fair for everyone. I think that is the real solution — getting enough people together to share their ideas, open communication and cooperation and compromise to find the best solution for everyone.
A few months ago there was an article in the New York Times about members of the Church who were doubting the faith after researching a few things online. With more information more readily available, and less of it put into any sort of context, there are many who find things written or said about the Church or by early Church leaders that cause them to doubt the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as restored by the prophet Joseph Smith.
I wrote a response at the time, but I do not think it is a coincidence that this same topic was addressed in General Conference that occurred last week. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke on Saturday morning, giving an address he titled, “Come, Join with Us”. In that, he said something that has been repeated a lot on Twitter and Facebook and elsewhere online in the last week. What he said was,
Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.
I have seen a lot of people responding to that negatively. They see that phrase and assume that what President Uchtdorf is saying is that members of the Church should not doubt at all. That is not what he meant, and certainly not what he said.
Firstly, This statement was not directed toward those who are not members, or those who are investigating. It was directed to those who are in the faith, who have accepted it at one time, those who have believed. President Uchtdorf is telling them to hold to what they have once held to be true, to remember their faith and why they joined in the first place. He says, just before that statement,
It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is not asking people to never doubt, to never question. He acknowledges that this Church was founded and the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored because a young boy wondered, questioned, and asked. He points out that the Church exists to help people come closer to Jesus Christ, to become more like him, to develop their faith. Everyone will have a time where they doubt something, that is normal and natural. But, President Uchtdorf encourages those who begin to doubt to remember their faith first, to not throw it completely away because there are some things that, for now, do not make sense. Hold to your faith, hold to what you have once believed. Remember why it was that you came to Church in the first place, and allow that faith and that hope to help you through a period of doubt. Do not turn away from God when you begin to doubt, but first, turn toward him and allow him the opportunity to help you, to explain, to show you, to increase your faith.
Doubting is an extremely interesting part of LDS culture. On the surface, we accept it with the Joseph Smith example and the Moroni promise. We ask everyone to take their doubts to the Lord in prayer and to ask him if it is right or not, if it is true or not
But, on the other hand, what would we say to one who said they had prayed and received an answer that they were not to join the Church? Is there any way to get a No answer, without being accused of unrighteousness or not having real intent?
Unfortunately, I think that sometimes we get so caught up in what we believe and know to be true, that we forget that it may not come as easily to others. We expect everyone to have the exact same experience with prayer and faith and receiving an answer that when someone does not, we assume that they must have done it wrong. We hold to those words in the promise in Moroni, “if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. “ So, when someone does not receive an answer right away, or does not understand the answer they receive then we accuse them of not having a sincere heart, or real intent, or enough faith.
The hardest part about this Church is also the part that makes me love it the most. For a few things God has spoken by the mouth of his prophet and declared “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not”, but for most things in this life God wants us to come unto him personally so that he can reason together with us and help us learn and grow and develop on our own. There are some fundamental principles and ordinances of the Gospel that are required of all who seek to follow Christ, but for most things in our day to day lives, we need to have faith and trust in God, and we need to listen to his Holy Spirit. And that means that sometimes what is right for one person or one family is not what is right for another. That is okay, we are all striving to become like Christ, but we are not all identical. We each have different needs as we continue our earthly journey, but as long as we are all keeping the basic commandments and working our way towards Christ, then we are doing all right.
I honestly believe that we need to reach out more to each other and help each other become more like Christ. We are all different and have different needs, but we are all trying. We are all in need of a little more love, a little more understanding, a little more help. When you see someone who may be having doubts, try to help them remember the faith that they do have. Try to help them remember to come unto Christ and seek their answers at his feet through prayer.
I believe in Christ. I believe in prayer. I believe in developing a personal relationship with my Father in Heaven. I need you and I hope that sometimes you can benefit from me. Together, in our families and as the larger human family, we can all return to our Father in Heaven.
- General Conference, October 2013, Saturday Morning Review (mormonisminvestigated.co.uk)
- Ex-Mormons aren’t ‘lazy or sinful,’ church leader Dieter Uchtdorf says (religionnews.com)
- My Favorite Conference Talk (dunfordshire.wordpress.com)
This weekend was once again the semi-annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a wonderful experience, watching hours of our spiritual leaders teaching us and expounding upon the gospel of Christ.
I posted yesterday my thoughts and a brief summary of my impressions from the first day of Conference. I had a great time following #ldsconf on Twitter again, seeing not only people tweeting and retweeting the words of the Prophets and Apostles, but also their reactions and insights.
I was particularly impressed by something President Uchtdorf said during Saturday Morning’s session. He asked the following question:
Why would anyone want to join this church?
I would like to frame my response to this question. It is a great question for every member to consider, thinking about their own conversion and how they would answer this question to those they are trying to share the gospel with those around them.
I join this Church because this is the church of Jesus Christ, restored through a prophet in our day. The story of Joseph Smith is both the foundation of our Church, but also an example to all who wish to know if it is true. Just a Joseph Smith, we must have the desire to know what church is true, which church to join. And we should follow his example and study the scriptures, the word of God, where we will see that God’s promises are for all of his children, that he will answer prayers and give wisdom to those who honestly seek for it. And we must do as the scriptures direct and ask of God, ask him what he would have us do with our lives, what church he has sanctioned and ordained as his.
I join this Church because I have done exactly that. I have prayed and asked for myself if it is the church of Jesus Christ -I have followed the example of Joseph Smith. I have read the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the power of God. That is one of the most obvious fruits of his labors, a fruit we can heft and read and examine to see if Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. And, again, at the end of that book is the great promise of God, “When ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these are not true.“ I have read and studied the Book of Mormon and felt the influence of the Holy Spirit confirming that it teaches of Jesus Christ and his gospel. And I have prayed and asked God and again felt the confirmation of the Spirit that the Book of Mormon is true, is a book of scripture, inspired by God. And when the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, who translated that book by divine power. And when Joseph Smith is a prophet, then he is what he said he was, and when he spoke prophetically and organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints he was acting as a prophet under the direction of God.
But, it is not just the foundation of the Church that has strengthened my testimony of it. I join this Church because I have seen the way it functions in my life, because it brings happiness to my family and me. Prophets and Apostles have long promised happiness and blessings to those who follow the commandments of God.
It is difficult to live up to all of the commandments but the eternal reward is worth everything. When one really studies the gospel of Christ, one sees that there is really only one commandment – “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, 3 Nephi 12:48). All other commandments are only there to help us achieve that great goal. God gives us these commandments to help us become as he is, to avoid those things that detract from that goal. I am developing a wonderful personal relationship with my Father in heaven, striving to be what he wants me to be.
And so, I join this church because I see how it helps me achieve my goal of becoming like my Father in heaven. The priesthood power and authority of God that has been restored in this church allows us to make and keep covenants with our Father that prepare us to return to his presence and live in his kingdom.
But, please, do not just take my word for it, as the great LeVar Burton used to say on Reading Rainbow. That is one of the greatest aspects of this church, as I have stated, we are all invited and commanded to read, study, ponder, and pray about this church and ask God for ourselves if it is true Please, come and see. Come to our meetings, read and study our materials, both in the Book of Mormon and at Mormon.org and LDS.org. Ask the Missionaries, they are there to answer your questions.
On an almost completely unrelated note, I did read one tweet during General Conference that I wanted to respond to, but did not feel that I could adequately do so within the 140 character limit of Twitter.
@AequatioDei tweets “Ask yourself, “what would Jesus tweet” about the millions of $ spent on the Gilbert Temple, while millions of needy suffer.“
He does not understand temples and the importance of temple work from an eternal perspective to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yes, temples are worth that much because of what is done and learned there. In temples we draw closer to our Father in heaven, we make sacred covenants with him that allow us to learn more about our relationship with him and with our fellow man. And we take part in Priesthood ordinances, such as the sealing of families together for time and all eternity, allowing families to be together forever. This is a concept that many people innately want to believe in, based on conversations I have had with many people. We have this innate belief that we will be with our families in heaven, that we will see them again. But, I am not aware of any other Church that teaches that as official doctrine, or provides the means necessary to make it so. In our temples that is what we do — we join families together.
Also, he does not understand the Church’s welfare program. We do indeed spend millions to help alleviate the suffering of millions of needy. The Church has an extensive welfare program, helping needy people both here in the US and abroad. After any major natural disaster, the Church is one of the first organizations on the scene with man-power and goods necessary to alleviate the suffering of those affected.
It is not an either/or situation. We take care of the physical body as well as the spiritual body. But to be honest, from an eternal perspective the temple is more important because it is longer lasting in its effects. It is indeed important to help clothe and feed and care for the physical bodies of all of God’s children. It is difficult to focus on spiritual things when one is worried about where the next meal is coming from or where one will spend the night. But, we also know that the spiritual welfare of the souls of God’s children is important in eternity. This life and its suffering are only temporary, and all of the injustices of this life can and will be made up through the Atonement of Christ.
I love this gospel, and I love the uplifting spiritual messages we heard this weekend. I know I will discover more meaning and joy as I study these messages again and again with my family over the next six months, and I invite and encourage you all to do the same. Come listen to a prophet’s voice, and hear the word of God.
- General Conference October 2013 – Saturday Sessions Summary (dteeps.wordpress.com)
Today was the 183rd Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There were three two-hour sessions, including Priesthood session, where all who wanted to listen were taught by Apostles of Jesus Christ and other leaders of the Church.
After sitting through today’s six hours of enlightenment, I was thinking about what I had heard and learned and I came up with the following as a summary of what was said and taught today, as best as I can remember, or as far as I was impressed to take the messages to heart.
Reach out; care for each other in these troubled times. Do not let others be strangers or foreigners, but remember we are all brothers and sisters as children of God with divine potential. We need each other, men and women to do this work. The future will be difficult, we need to be mindful of depression, to avoid it in ourselves, but be aware of it in others. Reach out and help, and if we find ourselves afflicted, reach out and seek the necessary help from all sources. Rise up each time you fall, falling is part of mortality, but so is rising again, looking forward with hope and trust in the promises of the Gospel.
There were many amazing talks given today, many wonderful messages shared. I once again followed along with the hashtag #ldsconf on Twitter, retweeting many and adding my own thoughts and impressions to the mix. It is so great to get together and share with each other what we are feeling. I am looking forward to many more uplifting and powerful spiritual experiences tomorrow, and throughout the next six months as I review the messages given this weekend.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about Family. One of the first principles covered in the first discussion missionaries have when teaching someone the gospel is that God is our loving heavenly father and that the gospel blesses families. In a proclamation to the world, the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote, “We solemnly proclaim that marriage a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”
I had a wonderful experience this last weekend, over the long Labor Day weekend I took a few extra days off and we visited my parents in Illinois to also celebrate my birthday, which happened to fall on Labor Day this year. We had been planning this trip for a while, making sure I could get the time off of work and making all of the other arrangements, so I was thinking about having the opportunity to go and see my parents again when a for a couple of weeks at church on Sunday there were talks and mentions in Primary, where I teach, about temples and family history. I was reminded of my grandpa on my mother’s side who passed away a few years ago, and was thinking that I should ask my mom if his temple work had been done yet, so that, perhaps, when we came out to visit we could help my mom do the temple sealings and be sealed to her parents. Ad soon as I thought about being being in the temple with my mom, doing the sealing for her father I felt a strong influence of the spirit and knew that it was a good goal to have.
So, I called my mom and asked about grandpa’s temple work, which she said had not yet been done, but that she had also been thinking about her father a lot recently. She said that she had been seeing her father everywhere, every old man she passed in town reminded her of him, things she saw around the house reminded her of him. I, then, took grandpa to the Columbus temple, so conveniently close to where we live, only about 15 minutes away, and in the course of a week did all of the preparatory temple work so that he could be sealed to his parents, to his wife, and so that my mom could be sealed to her parents. And then we drove out to Illinois.
It was quite an experience to be in the Nauvoo temple, my parents live just two hours north of Nauvoo so that is their temple district, and to stand in for my grandpa as family was sealed together for eternity. My mother had the wonderful opportunity of representing her mother as I represented her father as they were sealed to each other; then my mother stood in as proxy for her grandmother as I, her father was sealed to his parents; and then my mother, acting as herself, was sealed to her parents. For me, though, one of the most remarkable moments was when I, as proxy for my mother’s father, was sealed to my father, as proxy for her grandfather, and my mother, as proxy for her grandmother. I was sealed to my parents in the temple, as we represented my mother’s father being sealed to his parents. So, I was there, my mother was there, her father, and his parents — four generations represented, as the sealing power of the priesthood was utilized to bind our family together.
And when it had all been done, one of the temple workers who was assisting made mention to us an interesting fact about the sealing of children. He said, if you pay attention to the words used in the ordinances in the temple, all of them have the phrase ‘according to your faithfulness’ or something similar, all except the sealing of children to parents. All other temple ordinances require our faithfulness in order to receive the promised blessings, but once a child has been sealed to his parents, that family is forever. That is a great thing to consider, especially as one thinks about families who have been sealed together, but who, perhaps, have children who decide to leave the faith, who choose not to be faithful to the covenants they make or might make.
I am truly thankful for the knowledge I have of temple ordinances and for the restored priesthood that makes these possible. I have spoken with a lot of people and most who believe that there is some sort of afterlife believe that in that existence after we die, we will be with our families again. However, I do not know of any other church that teaches that as doctrine and works so hard to make it so.
I would like to share a few thoughts I have had recently as I have pondered upon the Sacrament and its symbolism and what it represents in our lives. These observations may, perhaps, be obvious to others, but I have come to these conclusions after long periods of pondering upon the subject of the Sacrament.
To begin with, some clarification of terms for those who may not be familiar with Mormonism. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we use the term Sacrament to refer to what is called Eucharist or Communion in other Christian Churches. It is the symbolic remembrance of Christ, modeled after the Last Supper where Christ gave his Disciples bread and wine and commanded them to eat and drink in remembrance of Him.
I have long wondered why it was that there are two parts of the Sacrament, the bread and the wine (or water in modern Mormonism). The scriptures that describe Christ’s implementation of the Sacrament explain that the bread is to be eaten in remembrance of his body, and the wine (or water) is to be drunk in remembrance of his blood. So, the question becomes, why do we remember both the body and the blood of Christ? Is there a difference? Do they teach us different things about the Atonement?
I believe that we have two parts of the Sacrament, the bread and water, representing the body and blood of Christ, because the Sacrament is to remind us and teach us of the Atonement, which does indeed have two parts. I was reminded of this, and finally made this connection between the two parts of the Atonement and the two parts of the Sacrament, as I was looking at a puzzle that I picked up on my mission that teaches the Plan of Salvation.
I love this little thing, and my wife has recently so wonderfully applied her graphic design skills to take a scanned version of this and translate the German from the original I had on my mission to English, so that I can use it in lessons and such now. I love this because it teaches the Plan of Salvation so simply, yet so wonderfully. We start out as little people on the left, but our goal is to one day return to our Father in Heaven. There are two great pits that separate us from God: Physical Death and Spiritual Death. To help us overcome both of these, God has sent his Son and through the Atonement of Christ we have bridges that span those gaps.
First: to span the gap caused by Physical Death, we have been given a bridge: the Resurrection of Christ. This overcomes physical death for all. Everyone who has ever lived, and thus will eventually die, will also eventually be resurrected and have their bodies and their spirits reunited. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).
As we take the bread, we remember the body of Christ. We remember that he gave up his body to be crucified and to die physically, and then he took up his body again in the resurrection. His body is the symbol of the resurrection from the dead which we all will have part in.
The second gap is Sin, or Spiritual Death. These are the actions that we take that separate us from the presence of God. Where physical death is the consequence of the Fall of Adam, which introduced mortality into the world, and we are not responsible for that, Christ has freely paid the price and built our bridge to cross the gap caused by physical death. But, spiritual death is the death that we bring about in our own lives by our own sin and disobedience. But, God is merciful and has provided us with a bridge to cross this gap as well. But, where the first bridge was pre-made and is freely available to all, the second bridge comes to us in pieces that we must assemble and build ourselves.
The pieces of the second bridge are: First, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; Second, Repentance; Third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; Fourth, Laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost; and Fifth, Keeping the Commandments. Again, this bridge is given to us by Jesus Christ, and were it not for his Atonement, which makes forgiveness of sin possible, we would not have these bridge pieces available to us. And this is my favorite part of having this puzzle, of laying this all out as I explain the principles of the Gospel of Christ. Once we have built our bridge, and crossed it, what would happen if we were to not keep a commandment? What would happen to our bridge if that last piece were taken away, if we sinned and did not keep all of the commandments as we should? Without that last piece, the bridge would fall and we would again have a gap of Spiritual Death separating us from God. But, we still have the pieces and can build our bridge again.
We need to again have Faith in Jesus Christ, Repent of our sin, and, though we are not Baptized again, we do have the opportunity each Sunday at Church to partake of the Sacrament, which not only reminds us of Christ and his Atonement, but also renews our Baptismal covenant. Each week, then, it is as if we are re-baptized, and then we are promised that we will always have his spirit be with us, enjoying the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then we need to strive to keep the commandments.
And so, as we partake of the Sacrament, with its two distinct parts, and we think on the bread and the water as representative of the body and the blood of Christ, we think on the two aspects of the Atonement and what they both provide for us. Through the body of Christ, through his death and resurrection, we receive the promise that we will all one day be resurrected and have our bodies and our spirits reunited so that we can stand again in the presence of God. And we think on the blood of Christ, which was shed as he suffered in Gethsemane, atoning for our sins so that we might not suffer if we repent. By the body of Christ we overcome Physical Death and by the blood of Christ we overcome our own Spiritual Deaths, as often as we repent.
The president has been touring this week, holding town hall type meetings at college campuses in New York and Pennsylvania discussing his new plan to help make college more affordable for more people. When I hear people talk about making college and higher education more affordable, the following thoughts go through my head:
As a student I want cheaper tuition and better access to higher education.
As a citizen I understand that more people with access to better education is a good thing for society as a whole.
As a hopeful professor, I want to be paid.
College tuition is rising – that is undeniable. The questions then must be asked –Why are colleges raising tuition? Where do college tuition moneys go in the University? Are their expenses rising at a rate equal to the rise in tuition?
What costs does a university have? — They have to pay faculty and staff and employees’ salaries; they also pay for equipment and materials such as computers, phones, fax machines, copiers, paper, pens and pencils, etc; research supplies and materials – I admit I don’t have a great sciences background, but I can imagine that a lot of the research they do can be expensive with expensive, sensitive equipment and materials and then again they need to pay for the faculty or student assistants that are doing the research. In that kind of ironic circular logic, I know a lot of students get student jobs, paid by the university to do things such as custodial work or assist professors, and they need these jobs to have money to buy food and pay rent as well as to pay their tuition. So, the university pays students to work who then in turn pay the university to study. Universities (at least BYU where I went) also seem to be constantly under construction, building newer buildings to meet with the demand and the needs of the students and the faculty. I had some classes at BYU that were in some pretty old buildings on campus, with outdated technology in the classrooms that desperately needed updating.
One area that gets criticized a lot is college sports. A lot of money goes into college sports, from salaries of coaches and staff to all of the equipment that is needed for the players to play to promotional materials and I guess that universities pay to have games aired on television. I admit, I am not all that familiar with the whole sports thing and how it all works, but there is a lot of money that is spent on sports. On the other hand, tickets to these sports games, especially the football games at most major universities are pretty expensive. Are they not able to recoup most of the cost of sports programs from these ticket sales?
But, the point stands – Universities have expenses, and as someone who wants to someday teach at the collegiate level, I want to make sure that I make a salary that allows me to live comfortably with my family. True, no one goes into academia expecting to be a millionaire, but I believe that a professor should be paid enough so that he can support his family and live well. In the debate about colleges becoming too expensive for people to afford, do we look at the colleges’ expenses and what is driving the rising tuition costs?
I have heard a lot of politicians talk recently about what to do about student loans and making student loan debts easier for students to manage, suggesting caps on how much a student can be expected to pay back each month and other ideas focused on what to do with students who already have incurred debts to pay for their college education.
To me that is focusing on one symptom of the problem, but ignoring the root cause. Why are universities charging students so much? Why have tuition rates increased so much so rapidly? Where is all of that money going? What can we do with colleges and universities to help lower their costs?
In doing a little research for this blog post, I was able to Google and find some budget reports for a few universities in past years (University of California 2012-2013, Duke University 2008) and the interesting thing I saw was that tuition and fees only make up about 15% of the budget for these universities. Tuition is not a major part of where universities receive their money, so the question remains, why has tuition increased so much so rapidly? And what can be done to help universities reign in their costs so that we can make higher education more affordable for more people?
The bottom line is: Money has to come from somewhere, and universities do need money to operate. I believe we need a balanced approach, using some of several ideas that have been presented to resolve the issue. We need to help universities manage their costs so that they can lower tuition rates for students, we need to work with lenders and financial institutions to make student loan money more available and on better terms so that students have access to the money they need to pay for college, and maybe something can be done on the tax side as well, making more of college tuition and fees tax-deductible as incentive and to make paying for college just a little bit easier.
I love this clip, I like that he says it should be hard paying for college. It is an accomplishment, something to be proud of. But, it should be just a little bit easier.
What are your thoughts? Any suggestions on making this whole thing a little easier for more people? What can be done?