Friday, May 08, 2020

Signs of Societal Decay

One of the things Anda and I have noticed and started discussing is that in the overall scheme of the Book of Mormon, we have clear pictures of at least three societies that had "ripened in iniquity" and were destroyed as a result: the Jaredites, the Nephites (twice--one just before Jesus and one in about 420 AD), and the Ammonihahites. And in all three cases, there are certain "markers" or "red flags" that appear just before the society is destroyed. They are things we can watch for in our own society.

The markers that we've noticed in our studies:

1. People seek for power over doing what's right, and at any cost. The scriptures talk about people seeking for "gain," which is defined in text as money and power, not just money.

2. The poor suffer and are not cared for, and there is great inequality economically and educationally.

3. Secret combinations exist and are not resisted, but joined.

4. The people cast the righteous out from among them.

5. The people reject the prophets and either cast them out or outright kill them.

6. The people stop protecting and cherishing their women and children, but most noticeably their children, becoming willing to let them suffer in the adults' pursuit of their own ideological goals.

7. Anger is rampant, to the point that people cannot think clearly any more.

8. Pride is embraced as good, humility is mocked and persecuted.

9. Governmental norms and structures break down and become impotent, quite dramatically and somewhat suddenly.

Can you think of any more? These things are very consistently mentioned when a society is ripening for destruction. The first I noticed was number six, that they stopped caring about children. This struck me because in the narratives, it's quite brazen. The Jaredites suit their children up and send them into battle with their women without any regard for the fact that they would quickly be slaughtered. And, given the reality that no children survived the battles to the second and third and fourth rounds, they had no problem killing the children either. In Ammonihah, they throw living children into a pit fire and burn them alive. At the end of the Book of Mormon, there are graphic descriptions of children being fed on the flesh of their fathers, women raped and tortured to death, and, like the Jaredites, nobody is left after the last battle except they are hunted down and slaughtered--children included.

Once we realized there was this consistent marker of a society about to be destroyed, I started noticing the others. Normally these things start slowly, and then go from functional to destroyed in one person's lifetime. These kinds of Apocalypses happen quickly once it's time. And there are usually a decade of prophets warning the people to repent first. Or more. There is ample, clear warning.

So of course I had to start comparing to our own society, and I am disturbed by the results. We have evidence of every one of these things happening around us right now. People are seeking for power even at the expense of what is right, not just in our American government but in governments all over the world. There is increasing inequality, and the poor are suffering all over the world. I thought that people were not casting out the righteous and killing the prophets--I guess we're not there yet and I hope we never get there--but I realized that socially we are. Socially we are beginning to demean and belittle the righteous and rejecting the words of the prophets (or even their persons) and encouraging others to do so as well. Even members of the Church are doing this. Anger is rampant. Pride is encouraged and honored. Governmental norms and powers are breaking down at breakneck speed. At least we're still caring for children, right? That's what I thought at first, but then I remembered that I am still very upset about how immigrant children are being treated at our own border, being locked up and fed badly and denied access to health care, lawyers, clean clothes, sufficient food, asylum. We are sacrificing children for ideological goals. Just like every society that is destroyed. I'm not sure I would know about secret combinations, but President Benson is often quoted by my friends saying that they exist all around us. Satan has put out so many conspiracy theories that the real secret combinations are likely impossible to detect from among all the fake ones.

Nonetheless, it appears we are ripening for destruction. The markers are here, all around us. And it's happening rapidly, within my lifetime.

There are cases of people turning and not being destroyed. Limhi's people, for example. They were threatened with destruction and only a record would remain, and they suffered a lot and repented. Does that mean we are in for a lot of suffering? I hope not. I fear perhaps.

But, I told myself, we have not been warned clearly and explicitly by the prophet and apostles, right? And people are always warned first before they are destroyed. But then I remembered this paragraph from the Proclamation on the Family, "we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets." This is a document that has been widely ridiculed and rejected by a handful of vocal, energetic members of the Church who are also actively rejecting the prophet and encouraging others to do likewise.

I'm sure if people do not repent, there will be more and clearer and more explicit warnings. It seems that God does not destroy people without many, repeated, very clear warnings first. The scriptures talk about prophets (not just "a prophet") coming for years to warn people before things fall completely apart. And how the government handles those prophets foretells the outcome--if the government protects them and allows them to speak, usually the people come around, but if the government silences them and punishes or executes them, the people do not. I guess this is why it's so very, very important to choose good leaders, but that is not the focus of this particular bit of writing. Although King Mosiah II does warn, pertinently, "Now, it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right, but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right. Therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law: to do your business by the voice of the people. And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you, yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land."

I am busily compiling a document exploring the actual teachings that are presented by Korihor, Nehor, and others in the scriptures that lead to these destructions as a way to help myself identify them in modern life.  I hope to be able to share what I find at some point. But I did want to get these general markers written down and shared first so I don't forget them.

The thing that is most hopeful to me, personally, is that I know many good people who are not seeking to get gain, who do care for the poor and needy, who love and protect children, who embrace the righteous and the prophets and reject anything even hinting of secret combinations. They are people who reject anger, contempt, and disdain, who are humble and good people who love others and work to keep the world wonderful, the governments stable, families safe, and rightness and goodness growing. As long as we have wonderful, righteous people among us, all is not lost. And we do. Many, many, many of them from all faiths, all backgrounds, all walks of life. The world might be ripening, but not all the people are. There is much good to be found everywhere you look, and this gives me hope.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Tips for dealing with long-term uncertainty

For those of you feeling the mental strain of uncertain times, some tips I have collected that have worked for me as I've lived through well over a decade of incredible uncertainty, social isolation (due to the sleep disorder) and going without:

Stand in the sunshine alone. Sunshine helps. Breathe.

Take every beautiful sky as a sign that God has NOT forgotten you.

Go out in nature and take time to notice the beauty there. Breathe.

Remember those little things that you always enjoy? The little things, not the big things. Do those. (reading, eating ice cream, drawing, etc.)

It is absolutely okay to distract yourself. Watch movies. Be creative. Plant your garden. Most things pass with time. You are not being disloyal or irresponsible if you just go forget about it and lose yourself in something pleasurable for a bit. Go work on your novel, sew a thing, build something, or whatever engages your mind that you enjoy. .

Tune in to your body. Now ask yourself, "Am I, at this moment, physically okay?" If not, fix what is hurting, eat, sleep, or fill your needs. Probably, though, you are fine. At this moment, you're fine. Promise yourself to deal with each moment as it comes, not in advance. And then eat, sleep, move around, repeat. Every day.

Be as educated and prepared as you can, follow the instructions as well as you are able, and then let go.

You need three people to tell you you're okay when things are feeling really bad. Find those people. Call them and vent. I have three people that I know will tell me I'm okay. I can be one of yours if you need. Don't feel you need "an excuse" to call people. Just do. They need you, too.

Mentally bundle all those things up that are bugging you and scaring you. Tie them in a big hobo rag. Put that whole bundle at Jesus' feet and ask Him to take care of all of that for you. Cuz he has greater capabilities than any of us.

Realize that all that talk of empowerment and being strong and you can do it was all LIES. You are not strong. You can't do it. You have no power. This is absolutely bigger than you are. BUT: Jesus is strong. Jesus can do it. Jesus has power. Jesus is bigger than this is. And, even better, He wants to share his strength, power, and love with YOU. So it doesn't matter that you can't because He can.

When things get really bad, kick the crap on the floors into the corners (no, don't clean it up yet), turn on your favorite music, and DANCE. Just dance. Even if you don't feel like it. Just dance.



Friday, March 06, 2020

But What Do We Lose?

A friend and I had an exchange on social media the other day that left me thinking for a long time. His argument was that the temple does not need to be gendered because men and women are equally good at things and should both have the priesthood. He used anatomical terms to make his point--the existence of male or female body parts does not determine competency, and therefore the temple should not be gendered.

I would feel a distinct loss if the temple were not gendered. It's one of the few places left where I feel that women are cherished for being women.

See, the problem is that the standard in our culture is still men--especially, ironically, among feminists. We still say things like "Women are just as capable as men." People still flinch and think it's odd when someone says something like "Men are just as capable as women." When there is a problem in business between the innate way men do things vs women do things, we ask the women to change to conform to the male way ("lean in" and "speak up" and "say it again" and "mention your female companion who said it first" and all that garbage.)  Nobody EVER chides the men and insists they need to learn to hear how women speak, rather than women learning to speak how men hear. This is because the standard is men.

And the definition of women is actually degrading the more we insist that women are equal (equal to men...you see the problem with the very concept of discussing equality? It assumes there is a standard that everyone is equal to, and that standard is men.) I don't mean degrading as in demeaning. I mean degrading as in coming apart. You can see it in Caitlyn Jenner insisting she knew she was a woman at heart because she loved fingernail polish. As if that has something to do with female-ness. You see it when, as my friend did, women are reduced to vaginas. As if the existence of that body part is the most important part and only distinguishing thing about being female. You see it when we think someone must be transgender because she likes trucks. What's wrong with women liking trucks? We have been reduced to superficial measurements, most of which are objectifying.

If we de-gender the temple because we insist we know best, as we often do (insist, I mean, not actually know), what will happen? We will erase women. We will insist that all of us are equally men. We can all be men together.  We're all the same and as good as that male standard, even if some of us lack the body parts for it. You see what that is? That is awful. That is saying we are just as good as men....almost. We are not women--we are men who are missing a little something, but don't worry! It's okay! We'll pretend you have it and treat you like all the other guys.  Because you can bet your bottom dollar they're not going to go genderless by making the men wear dresses and veils. But nobody would think twice if they made the women wear trousers. Quite the contrary--they would tout it as an advance instead of a loss. Making us more like men is success. (Alas.)

Women are not men. Women are not as good as men. Women are not body parts (or the lack thereof.)

And we lose something significant when we insist that we become genderless in places like the temple or society because genderless doesn't mean genderless. It means male.

I don't think genderless is possible, actually. I think gender is so inherent that you can't erase it and we can't even conceive of erased--we just conceive of male and call it genderless.

I, personally, love the idea that God understands and values his daughters not in some sort of equitable pity that we're actually as good as his sons, but that he actually values women for what they actually are. Women. Not broken men. Women.

Please don't take that away from us.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Did I just read that?

In an article about COVID-19.

"At least four cases of people with an unknown origin have been reported in Oregon, Washington and California." 

So people are randomly appearing out of nothing. Now THAT is an epidemic to worry about.

(Source: https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/state/washington/article240761641.html)

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Free printable .pdf Download of The Book of Mormon, simplified format

In this folder is my finished project, the simplified visual format of The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

I did not simplify the text or words, only the visual formatting, making it significantly easier to read. Please read the editor's note at the beginning to see exactly what I did for this. The text is still the same familiar text.

There are four different versions in the folder, and three levels of quality for each. The text is the same for all the versions.

Here's the google drive folder. Let me know if the files don't work or you can't access them. Please read on before you download or print for instructions and clarification about the different files in the folder.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1lmhMW-lHkJVf8u2ubFxuEq5NrFU7y88W?usp=sharing

The levels of quality are:

"Average quality," which is designed for printing at home or viewing online.
"pdf A quality," which is an archival format that is designed for opening on any system or any device without quality loss or data scrambling.
"Commercial printing quality," which is what it says, a higher quality file that is suitable for commercial quality printing.

All four files come in each of the three quality levels, as well as in a .wpd file, which is a WordPerfect document (because it supports the parallel columns format).

The files named "The Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus" are the core file. This file has more space in the text. It's good for reading on devices or if you want to make a lot of notes. If you printed this double-sided, it would take 282 sheets of paper.

The files named "The Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus for printing large...." are optimized for printing on 8.5x11" sized papers. Printed double sided, it would take 224 sheets of paper.

The files named "The Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus for printing small compact...." are designed for printing on half-sized sheets, to make a smaller, more portable book. If you can ignore the weird margins, this can also be printed as a large print edition. Printed double-sided, it would require 145 sheets of paper.

The files named "The Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus for printing small relaxed...." are designed for printing on half-sized sheets to make a more portable book, but the font is larger than the "compact" version, and the lines aren't quite as close together. It can also double as a large print edition if you can ignore the weird margins.  Printed double-sided, it would require 241 sheets of paper.

To print the small versions on Acrobat Reader DC, open the file you want to print and then click on the printer icon. Choose "Booklet" (under Page Size and Handling) and "both sides" (under Booklet Subset). Let the range autofill, and choose Left under binding. It's counter-intuitive, but choose portrait orientation instead of landscape (it will print correctly oriented). Follow your printer's instructions to print double-sided. You should get four pages per sheet this way. Be very careful not to mix the pages up as they come out of the printer or when you cut them!. Once the entire document is printed, cut each sheet down the middle between the two pages, being careful not to reorder the sheets at all, and keeping the two halves in separate piles--left side and right side. Once all the sheets are cut, "close" the two piles like a book. This should give you an entire book in one stack, all the pages in order, ready to bind.

If you need permission from a copy shop to bind, I give you my permission.

You can also three-hole punch and put into a full-sized or half-sized ring binder.



And now for some interesting tidbits!

The word "yea" in the Book of Mormon has two meanings: "yes," and "following is a clarification, explanation, expansion, or explication of the thing I just said." Interestingly, the Nephites only use "yea," but the Lamanites distinguish between a positive and a negative clarification/expansion/etc. They use both "yea" and "nay," as you can see in AntiNephiLehi's speech.

I opted to remove both spaces and hyphens from the word AntiNephiLehi because that is how it appeared in the handwritten manuscript of the Book of Mormon.

The word "behold" is not just a filler! It is actually a narrative command, where the narrator is instructing you to notice. We like to think that "behold" means the same thing as "see," so it must function in their language the same way "see" does colloquially in ours, but it's much closer functionally to a speaker saying, "Notice that" than a couple of friends chatting and saying, "See, I didn't think so...."

In the original handwritten translated text, the word "chapter" was not followed by any numbers. Those were added later. Interestingly, ancient texts from around 600 BC did, in fact, have a word that meant "end/start of section" and was not followed by any numbers. We translate this as "chapter," but we like to add numbers. It is possible (we can't know for sure) that this is the concept that was used in the chapter breaks in the Book of Mormon. Also, the original chapter breaks were put in by the original authors and editors, so my version uses their chaptering instead of the modern chaptering out of respect for the men who wrote the book.

You will notice the original authors had an "end quote" phrase. Nephi uses "And after this manner of language did....." the speaker speak. We see similar, "And many more such things...", or "And these were the words," or other similar phrases that amount to "and thus so and so said."




Mostly, the fun little things are not super important. What is important is this book is awesome and it's true. You really can learn so much about Jesus by reading this book. I hope you enjoy the easier to read format.

Please do share!

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Would we identify Christ as Christlike?

This week, people doing the Light the World service game with the Church were challenged to share on social media about someone they consider Christlike. I read a lot of wonderful tributes to a lot of wonderful people. It got me thinking.

If Christ were actually walking among us in blue jeans and a T-shirt doing His work, would we put a tribute up to Him on social media about how Christlike He is? Would we identify Jesus as Christlike?

We tend to identify people as Christlike who serve others, who fill their time doing good, and who were really nice and supportive and loving to the person who is making the tribute. We also tend to identify people as Christlike who are very good people who conform to our social expectations. I didn't see any tributes to ex-cons, homeless people, or recovering addicts, for example, even though they most certainly can be Christlike.

So would Jesus conform to our expectations? He did not conform to the expectations of of the Pharisees of what a righteous Jew looked like. He, in fact, is very nonconformist because His whole message is to overcome the world, and conformity is actually usually a worldly mandate (what is conformity but matching what the world around you expects of you?) (Hopefully the world around you is righteous. Not just looks righteous and tries to enforce the appearance, like the Biblical Jews and much of the modern world, but really -is- righteous.)

Another thing people identify as Christlike is being a loving support and a comfort. And Jesus did promise that He would not leave us comfortless. And He does love and support us. But He also discomforts us.  He pushes us to grow and stretch and become, often in ways that are uncomfortable. He pushes us to leave behind the most natural ways of doing things--the natural man is natural and easy, and we are supposed to not embrace that. He asks us to be humble and accept God leading instead of us leading in our lives. He tells us we're wrong and to repent, even if our beliefs are closely held and we are 100% sure we are right, and even if our actions feel fully justified and harmless to us. That's not fun. That's not comfortable. That's not easy. The only thing that makes it work at all is that we can be confident of his absolute, unfailing love for us (proven by giving up His life for ours), His authority, and His infinite knowledge. Without those three things, we could not submit to His tutelage, and we wouldn't want to, because it's not comfortable. Growth is not comfortable. Becoming is not comfortable. Metamorphosis is not comfortable.

The secondary question I came to in all this pondering was where I should have started in the first place. What does Christlike mean? Which is to say, "What is Christ like?" My parents told me that they are pretty sure Jesus can dance and knows all the funniest jokes. They didn't want me to think of Him as a weak, emasculated, wimpy, sweet quiet thing that spends all day holding butterflies on his fingertips and smiling sweetly. He's presented that way a lot. It dawned on me once that Jesus is smart and sensitive. Do we think of Jesus as smart? Do we consider that hundreds of people could hear Him speaking in outdoor meetings before mics were invented, so He was probably kinda loud? Do we recognize that He was a rebellious teenager in running away to teach in the temple when he was 12 and not telling His parents first? Doing His own thing all the time, His own way, against the grain and against what His society would prefer. He didn't seem to get less rebellious. Good thing He was right.

In learning about His mission and His ministry, do we fail to learn about Him as a person worthy of emulation? Obviously we cannot and need not and should not do His mission--we have our own missions in life. But we can obey Him, and we can emulate His person, if we can figure out what that is. We can list things from the scriptures and learn a lot, but the thing I came back to over and over was His invitation to "Learn of me." Do you know that "of" means "about," but it also means "from"?  And Jesus is clear that He wants us to know him (not about Him only) so that when we see each other, we know each other--we will see Him as He is and be like Him. He warns that people will think they knew Him and He will have to tell them, "I never knew you." Which is to imply that you never knew me, either, isn't it?

So what is Christ like? I think perhaps it would be wise to get to know Him, learn from Him, and find out.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Why "God designed all the bad stuff we go through" can't be true

Recently, someone who should have known better taught in our stake conference that God designs all the bad stuff we have to go through.

He used those words, and he said it more than once.

Now, I don't want to condemn this person. He had recently gone through a lot of tragedy in his family, and I think he was searching for meaning and comfort and to cling to faith, and somehow he felt like if God planned this for his family, that meant it was for our good and he could take that bitter medicine and would be okay.

The trouble is, this is a false doctrine, and it can easily be explained why.

If God designs or plans something, then it is His will. Therefore, the people who are making it happen are doing God's will.

So if someone breaks into your house and kidnaps, rapes, and murders your five year old (as was in the news recently), that person is doing God's will and is, therefore, His servant. That means it would be unjust for God to punish them because they were doing God's work.

This flies in the face of reason, of the nature of God, and of God's words, which condemn soundly this kind of behavior in all kinds of ways. If we make this behavior God's work, then we make God a liar because he cannot both forbid us to do these things and condemn them and simultaneously have been the planner of these these things.

Furthermore, if we attempt to stop these kinds of tragedies and intervene in abuse, poverty, illness, we are working against God's will because he planned those things for those people. We would be sinning by trying to interfere with God's plans and trying to stop God's work.

This also is impossible in light of God's own instructions to us that we should obey the commandments, not hurt people, and try to help people out of poverty and illness, including by using God's own power to do so. If God designed and planned those horrible things to happen to people, he would be contradicting himself by asking us to work against his will to stop them!

So in two ways, God comes out a liar if we allow for the idea that God designed all the things we go through.

There is another danger to this doctrine as well. If we embrace the idea that God planned all the bad things that people go through, then we are less inclined to jump in and help when they are suffering. We instead are inclined to think that we should let them suffer because God wants them to, and who are we to interfere in God's plan for those people. It's a wicked belief that leads us to abandon actual commandments and let people suffer alone.

Fortunately for the man who taught this false doctrine, there is true doctrine that will give him peace and comfort and purpose, and these true doctrines come right from the scriptures.

It is important to remember that God is ultimately in charge of the world, and He is aware of our suffering. Knowledge of suffering is not the same as intention for suffering, though. But He does know and He can help. Allowing us to learn and grow and suffer does not mean he planned it, nor that he lacks power to intervene. He can and does intervene--but sometimes not how we want Him to.

Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God" and D&C 90: "Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good."  The promises is not that God designed these things, but that He has the power to turn all things to your good if you love Him.

God allows the hellish experiences (because earth life really is hell in a lot of ways), but we can be assured that He will turn those to our good (remembering that His eternal view of our good, which is rooted in our ultimate glory, is different from our limited earthly view, which is rooted in immediate comfort more often than not). When the scriptures say we have to submit to the will of our Father, it is talking about this--submitting to God's way of turning things to our good, not necessarily that we have to submit to awful experiences purely because they are God's plan for us.

The other comfort is Jesus. We can get comfort and peace and experience because Jesus suffered all things to help mitigate the realities of living in a fallen world. He saves us, not from God's will, but from the reality of mortality. If we embrace the false idea that God designed all our hells, then we risk not putting Christ at the center of things. Sometimes we have to swallow a bitter pill, for sure, but we don't have to do it alone, and God wants us to reach out for help and relief through Jesus. If we think God planned it, we might not take advantage of our privileges under the atonement and the priesthood, and God gave us those things so we would use them and benefit from them, not ignore them so that we can suffer. Suffering in and of itself is not noble or wonderful or glorifying, and we risk elevating it to this magical status, over Jesus, if we embrace the idea that God designed our pain. Martyr complexes benefit no-one.

In reality, embracing the true doctrine invites us to lean on Jesus. It is a gentle but powerful invitation to actively exercise faith and trust our Father. It invites humility and becoming as a child and understanding our true, proper relationship with our Father. The false doctrine, in contrast, leads us to be angry at God and push back. It makes God our enemy. It rewrites baptism to God pushing us under the water and holding us there for our own damn good, and that destroys faith.

But God is not our enemy, and we do not need to embrace doctrines that destroy faith. Gentle invitations to exercise faith are much better, and we should pursue and embrace those. "I know you are suffering, and I'll help you through it and ease your pain and make sure it benefits you" is much, much nicer (and more accurate) than "I planned this hell for you. Thank me."

We don't need to embrace the false doctrine, even though it is widely taught. Instead, we should cling to the actual doctrine: that God can turn things to our good if we love Him, and that we have Jesus to help us. This doctrine leads to a true exercising of faith. The other does not.