Friday, April 28, 2006 

A delight

To talk about the Sabbath Day is to talk about commandments in general. After all, the strictures that we generally find imposed on ourselves during the Sabbath are just the sort of things that people go to day spas to enjoy. A day without media? Isn't that why people go camping? Isn't that what people are after with yoga classes and morning Tai Chi in the park? Meditation and a connection to the divine? What else would you like?

Well, for starters, it seems like we would like our meditation to come in shorter doses (not as long as daylight). We would like to set aside our quiet day in the event that there is something noisy and interesting coinciding with a Sabbath. We wanna be in charge, darn it! Any day that is our own is satisfying, but it cannot be a Sabbath and that is irksome.

There is some ambiguity about the title of the Sabbath. There are two possible Hebrew sources: one meaning seven (as the Sabbath was (and remains for Jews) the seventh day of the week); the other referring to ideas of covenant and oaths. Both make sense, explaining the ambiguity I suppose. There is no moral imperative for Sundays in the Church (the Sabbath day migrates in the Middle East). So we are stuck with the covenantal idea for our justification.

So, what isn't to like about the covenant? At any given time in the church, we are the bearers of several covenants with God. Some of them involve outward displays, others are solely inward motions. Believers find them all effective and important. Indeed, believers would argue that inner belief is what makes them effective; solely outward participation may reap social rewards, but it has no eternal value.

We make a big deal in the Church of Jews, of the joys that the orthodox take in fulfilling commandments. Why just be envious? Why can't the fulfilling of commandments be a delight because it is an expression of one's love of God? I don't know, but we don't seem to be there yet.

Perhaps it is because we are still too concerned with outward appearances. I, for one, would find the Sabbath more enjoyable if it didn't involved wrestling my five-year-old into church clothes weekly. However, I keep doing it, because something about it strikes me as important. Something Ossie Davis said in Joe vs. the Volcano. Though the Sabbath and some other commandments are outward, they are meant to be expressions of inward convictions. Perhaps someday I'll get to that point. In the meantime, I'll keep on struggling with my necktie and looking forward to the goldfish in Nursery.

ps. the name has changed but the song remains the same. For more info (vague as can be), see here.

Posted by HP

Thursday, April 27, 2006 

Weee're Baaaaaack

So, Blogger didn't like our blog, I guess, and turned it into a blank screen for a while. After emailing them regarding the issue and waiting eons for them to get back to us, I finally took matters into my own hands and discovered that I was able to fix it myself.

Let that be a lesson the next time the technical forces of the internet combine to obliterate your blog. That's what I learned.

Posted by Kaycee.

Friday, April 14, 2006 

In the name of love

In honor of this week's theme and in honor of Good Friday, I give you the following with one note. A dream isn't just something that happens to us. A dream can be something we strive for.

I Have a Dream
by Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. 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.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

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 the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. 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!"

Happy Easter!

Posted by John C.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 

Dream a Little Dream of Me

…I am on the stage behind the curtain in the Edinburgh chapel. In front of the curtain, three sister missionaries are holding sheet music and singing a light, jaunty, vaudevillian sort of ditty before an audience. I know that if I stick my head out between the curtains at a certain point in the song and sing a line in a funny voice, it will get a laugh, and slightly annoy the sisters singing. I wait for it…poke my head out…and belt “Oh, Joe, I love you so…you do so much for me…” No laughter…only crickets. I pull my head backstage, slightly bewildered as to how my joke could have flopped and begin to look for tap shoes that I know I won’t be able to find…

Random firings of neurons? More like, let’s fire only the neurons that explore Carrie Ann’s insecurities and self doubts.

For a couple of years, I was really good about writing down my dreams when I woke up. You know how some dreams leave you with a definite feeling? It’s strange that I can’t remember my dreams 99.9% of the time, but the ones I wrote down, when I read them I see the movie again in my head, exactly how it happened when I dreamed it, and I feel the exact same “dream-feeling.”

I love to dream. I used to lie in bed and while falling asleep remind myself to be conscious of my dreams, to be “awake” in my dreams. I swear it works. I couldn’t control my dreams, but I was much more likely to be aware that I was dreaming, and my dreams would have more of a narrative, a plot.

God uses dreams. I don’t think he’s ever used one on me, but it’s a nice medium. We are empty vessels for God to fill while we sleep. He could get a lot done that way, but that’s not how it works. He’s got his reasons on the why and when.

The purpose of my dreaming is sometimes to let me know how I’m feeling about something. Not every dream has a purpose for me, but as I keep track, I can see certain patterns. For instance: I often dream about being in some sort of performance or dance where I can’t remember my lines or the next step and I have to fake it. This is because I am a chronic procrastinator, and the anxiety of being unprepared comes out in my dreams.

Occasionally, I will dream about other people. I used to dream about celebrities a lot, especially Kurt Cobain. He was present but not front and center in my dreams for years. But mostly I will dream about people I “have issues with.” I may not know that I have issues with them until I dream about it.

But I am not big on your standard “dream interpretations.” Nothing you find on the internet is going to help you out much. Freud tried his hand at it, too. But I don’t take much stock in it.

Try interpreting this one; I had this dream in 1997:

I dreamed that a Shetland pony was in labor, and I had to deliver whatever was coming out…and what came out was a baby girl. She came with a Styrofoam hamburger box that has sausages in it, that’s how I knew it was a girl, although there was no actual baby. I tried to wrap her in something to keep her warm, she was all mucky. I went to bathe her. The tub was huge, like a stone baptismal font out in a Scottish field. I loved the baby, she was so sweet, but I was having a hard time keeping water in font. Then the pony delivered a boy; I knew this because the Styrofoam box contained hamburger pickles. Then I found out that the girl whose babies these where couldn’t be bothered to carry the babies so they had had them transferred to the pony. The dad showed up with his mom, and he was this young Scottish kid wearing jeans, a white Adidas top, and a gold chain. He said he “just wanted to see the bairns [kids]…” and that was that.

Friday, April 07, 2006 

The hour is always darkest...

Alonzo Gaskill, a professor at BYU, recently wrote a book about the Fall. I agree with his central thesis, even though there is a lot in the book I disagree with. The central thesis is this: the chief reason that we have the Adam and Eve narrative in the scriptures is to tell us things about ourselves, not about Adam and Eve.

Prof. Gaskill suggests that Adam and Eve are meant to symbolize us, our struggles with sin and our interaction with each other. There is some good thought in that. We all fall, like Adam and Eve did. Sometimes it is even our own fault.

The result of Adam and Eve's fall, and our own, is an estrangement from God. Our sins, our choices separate us from God. We have no means to return.

Adam and Eve were then told to turn to sacrifice, a reminder of the way back. Sacrifice is itself an act of faith. Faith transforms wanton destruction into a purgatory act of devotion. Out intent is as important as our acts (if not moreso).

We learn, in scripture, that Adam and Eve came to rejoice in the Fall, because it turned them to Christ. Though they fell from Eden, they were perfected in Christ's grace.

From this, we are meant to learn that falling is necessary, as is the request of sacrifice at times when we least feel like we can afford it. If these circumstances, derived from the life of Adam and Eve, are universal, then so must be the conclusion. If, fallen, shamed, and humbled by our choices, we turn to God, we will be remade in His image. We will follow the example of Adam and Eve into eternity and worlds without number.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006 

Adam and Eve: Takin' One for the Team

A lot of people have issues with the Fall. People who often get confused with the “be ye perfect” aspect of the Gospel have a problem with the Fall. Here’s why I think that happens:

God places Adam and Eve into the beautiful garden and tells them to take care of it, to use it, and to enjoy it. But he also tells them that while they may eat anything in the whole garden, they must not eat from one tree. He commands them not to eat from it, thus making it “official”. But they do eat because they needed to do it to gain knowledge, and because they disobeyed God, they must be sent away from him because they are no longer “perfect”…so did God set them up to fail? Did God make it unavoidable to sin? How can we be perfect when God is setting us up for failure?

Agency, people. Agency and knowledge.

Before they ate the fruit, Adam and Eve did not know good from evil, much like a baby doesn’t know or care. Lucifer, the ultimate instigator, comes along and is anxious to get the ball rolling. He has been promised that all disobedient beings will belong to him, so he’s starting early, and he has the gall to begin at the top with God’s starting players.

Lucifer offers Eve the forbidden fruit telling her “…God doth know that in the day ye shall eat thereof, then you eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

Lucifer is totally playing her. He is saying “the reason God does not want you to have this is because he’s trying to keep you down…the gods know good and evil and you don’t.” Eve knows “the gods”, she and Adam walk with God in the garden, and she knows that God knows all things and it is good, and she doesn’t. When she sees that “the tree was good for food, and that is was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise” she eats and then has Adam eat.

Eve is no fool. She knows that Adam HAS to eat it too. She does not want to leave him behind intellectually (she does not want to lord knowledge of good and evil over him and use information as power...she knows knowledge is good), but she also does not want to leave him behind physically. She knows that because she transgressed she will have to leave the garden, and Adam, behind unless he also partakes.

They eat, their “eyes are opened”, they hide from God because they know they disobeyed, yada yada, they have to leave God’s presence.

OK, remember…in Mormon doctrine (which you may or may not believe) Christ was set up as the Savior from the beginning of the beginning. Before the earth was even created God knew that to become like him we needed bodies, to have a body opens us up to all sorts of temptations, disobedience keeps us from being able to be with God, so how do we get a body AND get back to God? Oh, yeah, the Atonement.

Jesus volunteers to atone for our sins because we can’t get back without a way to get rid of sin. Adam and Eve get the whole show on the road with making a choice to either stay in the garden and be dumb, or leave the garden and have knowledge to be able to make choices. CHOICES! Adam and Eve, made a CHOICE to disobey God that we may come into existence. Lucifer didn’t want us to be able to make choices, and yet, he USED Eve’s ability to make a choice against her (he thought he was proving his point nicely) to cause her to sin. After the Fall, God put the Atonement into action; preparing the people of the earth with commandments, and with prophets who would testify that Christ was real and coming soon. It was the only way back. We can’t just be perfect and get back. We HAVE to use the Atonement. We have to acknowledge a power greater than ourselves and rely on it (the Savior) to bring us back into our Father’s presence.

(Which brings me to one of my favorite false doctrine musings…was Lucifer part of the plan, too, in some bizarre way…is he some sort of religious Slugworth who’s been working for God all along? If God is good and eternal, then there must be eternal bad, too…and where does that come from? What is the history of bad before God?..)

So years later, when Adam and Eve are sitting around with their kids, and their kid’s kids, and their grandkid’s kids (get over it people it had to be done), they say to each other (according to the Book of Moses):

Adam: “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.”

Eve: “Were it not for our transgression we never should have seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” (Keep in mind that part of obedience is not just never making a mistake, but repenting and using the Atonement if we do…)

Adam and Eve realized what most people who are imperfect realize, we cannot make it without the good and the evil. We will not make it through life without making mistakes or without being touched by sin. People who have testimonies that Jesus is the Savior often come to know this because they have screwed up, and personally know the power of repentance and forgiveness firsthand. Speaking as an imperfect person who has screwed up royally, I have felt this power in my own life. The difference between my sinful state and my repentant state was like night and day (I am speaking of a particular period of my life…this is not to say doing it once is good enough to cover the rest of my life, or that I don’t have some major issues today…). Based on my knowledge, I have CHOSEN to try my best, and I mean my BEST, and to believe that the Savior will help me with the rest.

This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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