Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One of the Chief Characteristics of Diety

“Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race. This has been your feeling, and caused you to forego the pleasures of home, that you might be a blessing to others, who are candidates for immortality, but strangers to truth; and for so doing, I pray that heaven’s choicest blessings may rest upon you.”

- Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:226–27

Praise to the Man

This is a slideshow tribute to the Prophet Joseph Smith, set to a the music of one of my favorite hymns, "Praise to the man". Why do we sing "Praise to the man"? Because he, Joseph Smith, communed with Jehovah. He was a man, and imperfect, a rough stone rolling, which all the more convinces me that he was and is who is claimed to be and that he saw what he claimed to have seen. "Blessed to open the last dispensation, kings shall extol him and nations revere." Nations will revere him because he was a faithful witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who sealed his testimony with his blood.

Remember the words of the prophet Joseph Smith: “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pioneers of Salvation

What is a pioneer? A pioneer is one who goes before, showing others the way. There are many pioneers to whom I look for inspiration, including my parents, my ancestors, and the Mormon pioneers who crossed the plains. There are pioneers of ancient days, and pioneers of modern times. There are pioneers of the future, such as little children and those yet to born. As I consider the sacrifices and the accomplishments of past, present and future pioneers, there are three pioneers in particular whose lives I wish to acknowledge and commemorate.
Abraham was an early pioneer who was rescued from very unfavorable circumstances in Chaldea and led through foreign lands with his wife Sarai, from Haran to Canaan and eventually into Egypt. This great patriarch, a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and a high priest, was also called a Friend of God. As if his earlier journeys were not enough to endow him with pioneer status, Abraham made yet another trek in his old age, bringing with him his precious son. He arose early one morning, laid wood for an offering upon his son Isaac, and together they journeyed to the land of Moriah to offer sacrifice. As a result of Abraham's willing obedience, he paved the way for all the nations of the earth to be blessed.
Joseph Smith, like Abraham, was a friend of God. His path took him from the town of Sharon, Windsor County, in Vermont, through Palmyra, to such places as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. He lived great and died great in the eyes of God, translating the Book of Mormon, organizing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and becoming the instrument to restore the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. Toward the end of his life he languished in a jail called Liberty, and he was finally martyred in Carthage Jail. As he was shot, Joseph leapt from the window exclaiming, O Lord my God! As result of his prophetic pioneering, all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are now available to all.
But the greatest pioneer was, is, and ever will be the Lord Jesus Christ. Many centuries before the event, Isaiah prophesied of his birth:
For unto us a achild is bborn, unto us a cson is given: and thedgovernment shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, eCounsellor, The fmighty gGod, The heverlastingFather, The Prince of iPeace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Later, when his earthly parents sought him in Jerusalem, Jesus asked:
How is it that ye sought me? awist ye not that I must be about my bFather’s business? (Luke 2:49)

He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Though he was sinless, he was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, and though he went about doing good (Acts 10:38), he was despised and acquainted with grief. Though earlier he was with Abraham in Moriah, and later he was with Joseph in Liberty and Carthage, in the meridian of time none were with him as he, the greatest of all, descended below all things in Gethsemane. He was the firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten in the flesh, and he rose from the tomb, conquering death, to become the firstfruits of them who slept. After his resurrection, he ministered to his other sheep on the American continent.  With his Father, he appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, and he will someday return to earth
There are many other pioneers that deserve to be remember today, but Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and the light of the world. He is the pioneer of our salvation.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


The word "Diamond" comes from the Greek word αδάμας – adámas, meaning "unbreakable".  Diamonds are an allotrope of carbon, meaning that the element is bonded together in a different manner  than other types of carbon, such as graphite.  Diamonds are hard, highly thermally conductive, transparent, face-centered crystals made up of tetrahedral lattices that are held together by strong covalent bonds. The strongest diamonds can only be scratched by other diamonds.  For this reason, diamonds are often used in cutting and polishing tools.  Some of the hardest natural diamonds originate in New South Wales, Australia, which is, coincidentally, the place where my mother was born.

Diamonds are also tough, meaning they are highly resistant to breakage upon forceful impact.  In addition to such strong physical components, diamonds also have noteworthy optical characteristics, such as high resistance to contamination and impurities, and high ability to disperse multi-colored light, making them some of the world's most popular gemstones.

Diamonds are mostly formed under great pressure and heat over more than a billion years, and come to the earth's surface in the form of igneous rock by way of magma and volcanic eruptions, although other diamonds come from meteorites or are produced synthetically. There is even evidence that white dwarf stars are actually diamonds at their core.

Whether gem-grade or industrial, diamonds have innumerable interesting facets to consider.  Diamonds have been discovered in many countries, such as India, Brazil, Russia, Australia, and the Congo. Prospectors search the world over for traces of volcanic pipes that could contain diamonds.

I once visited a diamond store in Israel, and although I thought little of the excursion at the time, I later discovered that Israel is a major player in the wholesale diamond industry. Many centuries ago, a Jewish diamond cutter by the name of Lodewyk van Berken invented the scaif, a polishing wheel infused with a mixture of olive oil and diamond dust that revolutionized the diamond industry by enabling jewelers to polish every facet of a diamond symmetrically at angles that best reflected light.  Since that time, and even through the Shoah, many Jews have played a significant role in the diamond industry.

While I was reflecting on how diamonds reflect light, and considering that even the brightest, most scintillatingly radiant and luminescent diamond, began as a rough stone, I recalled that the Prophet Joseph Smith described himself as a rough stone rolling.  Even so, his teachings so often reflect the light of the Savior's love.  On one occasion he declared that “Souls are as precious in the sight of God as they ever were, and the Elders were never called to drive any down to hell, but to persuade and invite all men everywhere to repent, that they may become the heirs of salvation.” This charitable facet of the prophet's character reflected the light of the the Lord's injunction to "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." (D&C 18:10)

Elder Neil A. Maxwell revealed another facet of this truth when he stated that "Disciples, like diamonds, are developed in a process of time and heavy pressures, and both the disciple and the diamond reflect and magnify the light that comes through them." (Press Forward, pg. 125)  Elder Maxwell also remarked that "Jesus was weary but never bored. He was ever tutoring, but never condescending. His doctrines are like glistening diamonds with many dimensions, displaying their verity and beauty, facet by facet, depending on the faith and preparation of the beholder." On another occasion Elder Maxwell demonstrated that the scriptures offer so many doctrinal diamonds, and "when the light of the Spirit plays upon their several facets, they sparkle with celestial sense and illuminate the path we are to follow."

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life... the light of the world, whose gospel shines like a diamond against the black velvet backdrop of the world.  Modern prophets have testified that "His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world."

This diamond truth sheds light and color on every facet of life.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Vive la France!

Today is the day of La Fête Nationale, le quatorze Juillet, or Bastille Day.  The Bastille was a Medieval fortress and prison that had become symbolic of royal tyranny.  The fall of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 became a symbol of the French Revolution and French independence.  Today would be a good day to sing La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, and to thank a Frenchman... whether it be for the Statue of Liberty, for Democracy in America, La Tour de France, or Camembert (if you like French cheese). Vive la France! Vive la résistance!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tips for the Romney Campaign

This election season has the makings of an epic battle, but the Romney vs. Obama contest pales in comparison to Pedro's victory over Summer for the high school presidency.  Pedro makes promises that he can keep, and when Napoleon follows his heart, they make a powerful team.  This dynamic duo has a lot to teach us all.

Here are a few gems from Napoleon Dynamite:

-Just borrow some from the school nurse. I know she has like five sticks in her drawer.

-Well, you have a sweet bike. And you're really good at hooking up with chicks. Plus you're like the only guy at school who has a mustache.

-My old girlfriend from Oklahoma was gonna fly out for the dance but she couldn't cause she's doing some modeling right now.

-Pedro offers you his protection.

Nathan:  Napoleon, give me some of your tots.

...and some noteworthy scenes:

and a personal favorite,

Rumor has it that the creators of Napoleon Dynamite will be speaking somewhere nearby this Sunday.  Any presidential candidate would do well to pay close attention.  

The Source of Good

Jesus Christ is the source of every good thing:

11 But he that abelieveth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shallbknow and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall cknowthat these things are dtrue; for it persuadeth men to do good.
12 And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; foragood cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good; he that will bnot believe my words will not believe me—that I am; and he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the clight, and the dlife, and the etruth of the world. (Ether 4:11-12)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Gift of Time

Tonight I have been pondering the gift of time. What is time? Why do we live in time? What is eternity? What is now? Fortunately, I have found good company with others who have thought about and written about time. Emily Dickinson once mused that "Forever - is composed of Nows."

Sometimes we wish time to stand still. Other times we wish the time to pass quickly. Here are a few poetic portraits of time:

"Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?"
 - Shakespeare, Sonnet LXV

"Thou still unravished bride of quietness, 
Thou foster child of silence and slow time" - John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

"Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime." - Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress

"To Time it never seems that he is brave
To set himself against the peaks of snow" - Robert Frost, I Could Give All to Time

"Fly envious Time, till thou run out thy race" - John Milton, On Time

"Ô temps ! suspends ton vol, et vous, heures propices !
Suspendez votre cours :
Laissez-nous savourer les rapides délices
Des plus beaux de nos jours ! " - Alphonse de Lamartine, Le Lac

But alas, time moves swiftly ever onward. Perhaps only Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace) captured the truth of time when he wrote in Odes 1.11:

Sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

"Be wise, strain the wine; and since life is brief, prune back far-reaching hopes! Even while we speak, envious time has passed: pluck the day, putting as little trust as possible in tomorrow!"

So, without further ado... CARPE DIEM, because as Virgil once wrote... TEMPUS FUGIT.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Make Good Popular

"It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound." ― Joseph Smith Jr.History of the Church-Boxed Set

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Pursuit of Happiness: A Tribute to America on the Fourth of July

As I have been pondering the blessings of liberty that God has granted to this great nation, and the purposes of those blessings, a specific perspective on patriotism impressed itself upon my mind. In Shakespeare's King Henry the Eighth, Cardinal Wolsey lamented his loss of power and possessions:

Had I but served my God with half the zeal
I served my king, He would not in mine age
Have left me naked to mine enemies.
(King Henry the Eighth, Act 3, Scene 2, lines 456-458)

I am also reminded of many examples in holy writ when the Lord delivered those who put their trust in Him, whereas those who relied on their own strength, placing confidence in the arm of the flesh, in wealth or in armies, were sorely disappointed.

Patriotism may be a virtue, but any virtue taken to an extreme can quickly become a vice. I am perhaps more distrustful of vehement Anti-Americanism or American self-loathing than I am of well-meaning but overbearing patriotism, but I am persuaded that both extremes are destructive.  On this Independence day, when we celebrate the blessings of liberty and the privileges that we enjoy as citizens of the United States of America, perhaps it is fitting and proper that we remember where these blessings come from, and for what purpose they were granted.

I do not claim to fully understand God's purposes in establishing the United States of America as a free nation, but it is clear to me that, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, God is the source of all blessings.  The blessings of liberty and the privilege to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience are certainly among the greatest gifts that God has bestowed.  Many have given the ultimate sacrifice to preserve these blessings and privileges, but even these are only a reflection of the Eternal Sacrifice made by the Savior Jesus Christ.

One of the best summaries of the history of America that I know of was given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland a few months before I was born.  I highly recommend this short tribute to the United States of America because it reveals not only the source of the aforementioned blessings, but also the purposes for which those blessings were given.  In this tribute, Elder Holland quotes the young Marquis de Lafayette who understood that... "the welfare of America is closely bound up with the welfare of all mankind".  (For those interested in the topic patriotism, I also recommend a speech given at BYU by Elder Alexander B. Morrison entitled God in History, Elder Maxwell's freedom festival speech from 1993, and Elder Oak's 1992 talk The Divinely Inspired Constitution).
B.H. Roberts also understood and taught about the destiny of America. In a speech delivered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in 1932, Roberts asked the penetrating question: "Do we have any right to be pessimistic in relation to America...?" His speech answers this question with a resounding "No". In spite of negative views in the media, and in spite of corruption, wars, violence, calamities, disaster and a seemingly endless array of problems, America will not fail.

One of the oft repeated maxims of the Book of Mormon is that as long as the people will keep the commandments of God they shall prosper in the land.  I am grateful for soldiers who fight to defend our freedoms, and for veterans who have fought.  I am grateful to those who have given their lives to preserve freedom, and to the founders of this country.  I am grateful for this day in which to celebrate independence and freedom. Most of all, I am grateful to Heavenly Father, the true author of liberty.

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"What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? ... A patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime." - Adlai Stevenson20