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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Every July for 40 years, the North Las Vegas Stake of the LDS Church has put on a Pioneer Day celebration that has become legendary. Here are the fireworks from the end of last night’s festivities. Yes, they are close to the crowd, and yes, this is done with the permission and supervision of the fire department! Sorry for cutting off the first bit of the first song.

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Education

  • List of technology-enhanced activities for secondary English classes.
  • Examples of worthwhile technology-enhanced lesson plans.
  • Quick thoughts from the Hardings, homeschooling parents of ten who have sent seven kids to college by age 12.
  • Recently found this silly video I made for a class I was taking two years ago.  Amusing.
  • Instapundit nails it: the humanities lost relevance when they decided to preach that nothing has intrinsic value.  It’s been my experience that students (yes, even at-risk, underprivileged minorities!) appreciate the classics.  Everybody likes the egalitarian ideal of participation in the uniting, universal canon, rather than manufactured niche curricula that only panders to trends.

 

Language & Literature

  • Great WSJ essay on one of my favorite books, A Confederacy of Dunces.
  • Cute chart collects insults from famous authors who hated each other’s work.
  • Fascinating memoir of writing the script for Star Trek: Insurrection. Included here because it shares so much about that specific writing craft.  Also, Insurrection is often over-maligned—it is not great, but not nearly as bad as many say.  This long essay shows how it could have been great.
  • Long lost introduction by Anthony Burgess to Dubliners.

 

 

Living Well

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The prophet Jacob gives a great definition of what exactly Jesus Christ did for us and, therefore, why we celebrate Easter.  The diagram below outlines the two-fold victory on our behalf:

Jacob

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I’ve been wanting to write a Pilgrim’s Progress-style allegory for young children.  Here it is.  Happy Easter, everybody.

*****

 

Once upon a time there was a wonderful king.  He had very many children and they all lived in a beautiful castle high on a mountain.

One day the king told his children that he was sending them on an important journey.  They had to go on a long walk through the whole world.  The king said that they had to do this in order to grow up.

“Will it be hard?” the princes and princesses asked.

“Yes,” said the king.  “But it will also be an exciting adventure.  And it will help you become ready to be kings and queens yourselves someday.”

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My notes on president Monson’s addresses at the April General Conference, 2014.  Obviously subjective, and subject to ongoing revision and improvement, but this helps me to pragmatically know how to “follow the prophet.”

 

IMPERATIVES

Priesthood Session: “Be Strong and of a Good Courage

  1. “…put ourselves in places and participate in activities where our thoughts are influenced for good and where the Spirit of the Lord will be comfortable.”
  2. (Quoting) “If you ever find yourself where you shouldn’t ought to be, get out!”
  3. “…do… the right thing even though we may be afraid, defend… our beliefs at the risk of being ridiculed, and maintain… those beliefs even when threatened with a loss of friends or of social status.”
  4. (Quoting) “Just be the same person you are in the dark that you are in the light.”

Sunday Morning: “Love—the Essence of the Gospel

  1. “…love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey.”
  2. “…love God, the Father of us all.”
  3. “…keep this truth [We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are brothers and sisters] in mind, loving all of God’s children will become easier.”
  4. “…recognize someone’s need and then…respond.”
  5. (Quoting Pres. Kimball) “…remember that those mortals we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that portion of mankind God has given us to love and to serve.”
  6. “…we must treat each other with kindness and respect.”
  7. “…strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle. Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do not destroy another person’s confidence through careless words or actions.”

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  1. This One Weird Story Actually Makes Sense Out of Everything–Amazing!
  2. Such Drama in This Rich, Dysfunctional Family That Threw It All Away
  3. A Politician Who Really Cares About The People? What?!
  4. One Man Stands Alone Against a Whole Society–So Inspiring!
  5. 50 Questions That Will Rock Your World–#30 Took My Breath Away
  6. This Guy Has The Ultimate Secrets of Success in Work–Here They Are!
  7. 5 Simple Steps To Find Out That God Is Real! Wow! Really Works!
  8. This Normal Slacker Went From Zero to Hero–The Big Difference Is Right in the Middle!
  9. Read This True Story About Children and Angels and Try Not to Cry!
  10. One Awesome Challenge That Promises a Miracle! Changes You Forever!

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“Call up your courage again. Dismiss your grief and fear.
A joy it will be one day, perhaps, to remember even this.
Through so many hard straits, so many twists and turns
our course holds firm for Latium. There Fate holds out
a homeland, calm, at peace. There the gods decree
the kingdom of Troy will rise again. Bear up.
Save your strength for better times to come.”

This is a quote from Brigham Young.

Here, the Mormon leader motivates discouraged pioneers as they survey the barren, hostile wilderness they’re passing through, after being driven out of their ruined home.  He reminds them that they’ve already suffered greatly before and endured.  He inspires them with a vision of their destined goal: the establishment of a new headquarters for their people in a land to the west.  Their civilization is to be a re-establishment of a great order that had been lost.  This powerful, cheering attitude helps the people strive and successfully realize the prophecy.

Oh, no, wait.  That’s not right.  This is actually a quote from the Trojan hero Aeneas in Virgil’s epic The Aeneid (Book I, lines 238-244, Robert Fagles trans.).

Here, the Trojan leader motivates discouraged soldiers as they survey the barren, hostile wilderness they’re passing through, after being driven out of their ruined home.  He reminds them that they’ve already suffered greatly before and endured.  He inspires them with a vision of their destined goal: the establishment of a new headquarters for their people in a land to the west.  Their civilization is to be a re-establishment of a great order that had been lost.  This powerful, cheering attitude helps the people strive and successfully realize the prophecy.

Sorry, folks.  Don’t know how I could have mistaken those two episodes.

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I recently finished reading the book, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.  These are the passages I marked:

 

“[The latter-day scriptures are published] so that the honest in heart may be cheered and comforted and go on their way rejoicing, as their souls become exposed and their understanding enlightened by a knowledge of God’s work through the fathers in former days, as well as what He is about to do in latter days to fulfill the words of the fathers.”

Chapter 4: The Book of Mormon: Keystone of Our Religion

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I recently listened to a talk by David A. Bednar where he said this: “I believe we can learn much about this vital aspect of the Atonement if we will insert “enabling and strengthening power” each time we find the word grace in the scriptures.”

Accordingly, here is every Topical Guide entry for “grace,” with that key word replaced by “enabling and strengthening power.”  Many of these verses truly do open up this way!

  • Noah found enabling and strengthening power in the eyes of the Lord: Gen. 6:8 . ( Moses 8:27 . )
  • thy servant hath found enabling and strengthening power in thy sight: Gen. 19:19 .
  • if I have found enabling and strengthening power in thy sight: Ex. 33:13 . ( Ex. 34:9 ; Judg. 6:17 . )
  • for a little space enabling and strengthening power hath been shewed: Ezra 9:8 .
  • Lord will give enabling and strengthening power and glory: Ps. 84:11 .
  • he giveth enabling and strengthening power unto the lowly: Prov. 3:34 . ( James 4:6 ; 1 Pet. 5:5 . )
  • pour upon the house of David … spirit of enabling and strengthening power : Zech. 12:10 .
  • enabling and strengthening power of God was upon him: Luke 2:40 .
  • enabling and strengthening power and truth came by Jesus Christ: John 1:17 .
  • great enabling and strengthening power was upon them all: Acts 4:33 .
  • gave testimony unto the word of his enabling and strengthening power : Acts 14:3 .
  • through the enabling and strengthening power of … Christ we shall be saved: Acts 15:11 .
  • the ministry … to testify the gospel of the enabling and strengthening power of God: Acts 20:24 .
  • By whom we have received enabling and strengthening power and apostleship: Rom. 1:5 .
  • Being justified freely by his enabling and strengthening power : Rom. 3:24 .
  • it is of faith, that it might be by enabling and strengthening power : Rom. 4:16 .
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Below are all ten times the Bible says that Jesus went alone into wilderness areas, like deserts and mountains, to commune with God.  Even when the text says He took disciples with Him, there’s an implication that He often went alone.

I’ve arranged them in chronological order, and included three brief references at the end from the Book of Mormon:

 

Matt. 4:1-2, JST
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be with God.
And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

Mark 1:35
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

Luke 6:12
And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

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download (1)I’ve started this year reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.  The style is poetic, sometimes intrusively so, but the thesis is wonderful, and wonderfully elaborated.  We all need this.

This bit of analysis from chapter 2 summarizes it:

 

“And he took bread, gave thanks and brake it, and gave it to them…” (Luke 22:19 NIV).

….I thumb, run my finger across the pages of the heavy and thick books bound.  I read it slowly.  In the original language, “he gave thanks” reads “eucharisteo.”

I underline it on the page.  Can it lay a sure foundation under a life?  Offer the fullest life?

The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.”  Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks.  He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.

But there is more, and I read it.  Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis.  But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.”  Joy…..

Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo–the table of thanksgiving.  I sit there long…wondering…is it that simple?

Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?

So then as long as thanks is possible…I think this through.  As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.  Joy is always possible.  Whenever, meaning–now; wherever, meaning–here.  The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience.  The joy wonder could be here!  Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be–unbelievably–possible!  The only place we need to see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.

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The “Racist” Book of Mormon

My new video, analyzing the combination of “dark skin” and “curse” in the Book of Mormon:

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Where Evil Is

In The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Thanks to First Thoughts.

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