I think of funny things about twice a year. I think this may be one of them.
It's too bad I'm not teaching seminary anymore. This would have made for an interesting lesson.
"4 And it shall come to pass that I will smite this my people with sore afflictions, yea, with famine and with pestilence; and I will cause that they shall howl all the day long. 5 Yea, and I will cause that they shall have burdens lashed upon their backs; and they shall be driven before like a dumb ass. 6 And it shall come to pass that I will send forth hail among them, and it shall smite them; and they shall also be smitten with the beast wind; and insects shall pester their land also, and devour their grain. 7 And they shall be smitten with a great pestilence—and all this will I do because of their iniquities and abominations. 8 And it shall come to pass that except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth; yet they shall leave a record behind them, and I will preserve them for other nations which shall possess the land; yea, even this will I do that I may discover the abominations of this people to other nations. And many things did Abinadi prophesy against this people."
Maybe not the worst ever, but if I hear Paul McCartney simply having a wonderful Christmas time one more time I'm going to fling myself from a very high mound of snow. Below are the three Christmas songs that drive me insane every year, and a runner-up that I just don't like, but has not yet driven me insane.
On the other hand, while the 12 Days of Christmas song is usually pretty dreadful, since it's just long and repetitive, I enjoy this version by Straight No Chaser. In fact, we bought their whole Christmas ablum since it's so entertaining.
I'd love to be able to go to a "General Conference Roundup" website where each talk was listed and discussed. If such a site exists, please let me know. In the meantime, here are some impressions I had of three talks from conference.
We caught two sessions of General Conference while at Dan and Julee's for the weekend. Now I'm downloading the rest and listening to them on the metro, and I'll add to this post as more impressions come. I'm interested to hear what talks impressed everyone else.
1. Elder Dieter F. Uchdorf: The Love of God I love this quote from Elder Uchdor's talk about what I call "commandment creep":
"'If ye love me, keep my commandments.'
"This is the essence of what it means to be a true disciple: those who receive Christ Jesus walk with Him.
"But this may present a problem for some because there are so many 'shoulds' and 'should nots' that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of "good ideas."
This commandment creep effect stems from how we teach. For example, if I'm teaching a lesson on keeping the Sabbath Holy, I may then say, "What things can you do to keep the Sabbath holy?" "Don't watch TV," "don't do homework," "visit family," etc. etc. These may be great ideas, and they may help some people to keep the Sabbath day holy. But the problem arises when a person who feels they should not do homework on Sunday projects that requirement on everyone else. The commandment is to keep the day holy. The application is left to each of us, with prophetic counsel to guide us.
Other commandment creeps include drinking caffeinated drinks, attending Sunday School, and the entire unwritten order of things. Good things? Sure. But they are specific applications of gospel principles, and God leaves to each of us to determine how we decide to live the principles, within certain clear boundaries.
2. Elder Richard G. Scott: Acquiring Spiritual Guidance I loved how Elder Scott described his process of receiving revelation. a. receive prompting b. write it down c. compare the writing to the prompting to make sure the writing accurately reflects the prompting d. ponder the prompting e. ask, "Is there more, Lord?" f. if so, repeat the process Money quote: "The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit."
3. Elder Holland's talk was a powerful testimony of the divine nature of the Book of Mormon, and it strengthened my own belief that the Book of Mormon was received from God through Joseph Smith.
I didn't understand that I would feel a certain kind of love as a parent that I have never felt before.
When I was a teenager, I was playing a game at a friend's house, and my mom called and told me to come home. When I got home, I asked her why she wanted me there, and she didn't have an answer. "I just want you here," she said.
I was bored at home, and clearly my mom was being unreasonable, since she had no reason to want me at home. So I waited for a while, then sneaked back to my friend's house.
I didn't understand then that a person could love someone so much that would just want to be near them. I didn't understand that maybe my mom just wanted to gather her children around under her own roof for a day. I didn't understand that my mom may have been happy just listening to us kids goof around or just watching us watch TV.
I could only understand what I wanted (playing with friends) and that my mom's irrational request was interfering with what I wanted.
I've always hated when people have told me, "As soon as you experience X, then you'll understand." But this time it's true. With Mari and Des away for a couple of weeks, I feel a keen desire to be near them, to sit and snuggle, take a nap with my family nearby. We don't have to be doing anything special. I'd be perfectly happy just watching Des play on his own, or to hear him driving his toys around the house.
Maybe I understand now, Mom. I'm sorry I ran away that day. But I don't think I could have understood that you might just want to be near a stinky, selfish (and self-conscious), moody teenager just because you loved him. I could not have understood how you felt until I had a child of my own to love with my whole soul.
I held up a glass of cool water from the drinking fountain.
"Here is a nice, cool glass of water," I told the class. I took a drink and sighed, refreshed.
"Give me a drink," one of the kids said (as if on cue, when in fact, he just has a tendency to say whatever pops into his head, even at 6:30 in the morning).
"Okay, I'll give you a drink." Then I drank from the glass again, swished the water in my mouth, and spit it into the cup. "Who wants to drink it now?" (Two hands went up, of course, but they got the point)
I explained that this was a bit like relying on others for our understanding of the scriptures. It's OK, and it will nourish you, but it's better to go to the source. In fact, just reading the scriptures isn't enough, because the real source is God, so the kids needed to seek their own testimonies of the truths taught in the scriptures.
And for 5 minutes this morning I had their attention.
This object lesson is part of a three or four part lesson I am in the midst of. First, I handed out a list of "truths," such as "Heavenly Father answers prayers," "Joseph Smith was a prophet," and "the Priesthood is God's power on earth." I asked the kids to check a truth that they felt they had learned by the Holy Ghost. Then, I asked them to briefly describe the experience (in writing).
One of the students couldn't think of anything. I told her that it was okay, and if she didn't feel like she had felt the Holy Ghost yet in her life, we would perform a "spiritual experiment" a la Alma 32. However, first I wanted to ask a few questions to see if I couldn't jog her memory.
"Have you ever prayed and felt like your prayer was answered, or felt different afterward?" "I can't think of anything." "Have you ever performed baptisms for the dead and felt different in the temple?" (btw, feeling "different" is not necessarily the Holy Ghost, but it could be, and if she answered in the affirmative, I could ask follow up questions to determine whether she felt is was the Holy Ghost) "I got in trouble when I went." "Fine. But did you feel different in the temple?" "I don't know." "Have you ever received a priesthood blessing in which you felt the Holy Ghost testify that it was from him?" (...thinking...) "My patriarchal blessing." "Good. And how did that feel?" "Awesome." (Due to lack of time, I didn't explore more yet, but we'll get there. I did mention how special patriarchs are.)
I didn't know if all the kids would recognize an experience in which they felt the Holy Ghost. If not, that would have been okay. As mentioned above, we would have performed a "spiritual experiment" by praying and seeking a confirmation from the Holy Ghost. But everyone thought of at least one experience.
Today was stage two. We learned about the value of the scriptures to teach doctrine and improve ourselves (2 Tim. 3:14-17) and I asked the kids to find a scripture that related to their experience. I gave examples of scriptures involving prayer, the priesthood, baptisms for the dead, and others. Some of the kids used my suggestions and others looked up scriptures on their own.
Tomorrow we will enter stage three. We will learn about testimony, and I will ask each kid to write their testimony of the experience. What did the Holy Ghost teach them by testifying to them of the spiritual truth?
In the coming weeks, we will flesh out the details of the experiences and I will have each youth share their experience with the class including (1) a scripture, (2) an experience where the Holy Ghost taught them a truth contained in the scripture, and (3) a testimony of what the Holy Ghost taught them. Since the kids had a variety of experiences, this exercise will tie into a variety of lessons from the New Testament.
I confess that seminary is exhausting, mentally and physically. But today I got some payback. To have each of these groggy teens recognize and share their experiences (without complaint, mind you) has lifted my hopes for their ability to put down spiritual roots, and strengthens my own faith as well.
The escalator was out again (although it was the "down" escalator, so it should be called a "descalator") so we were all crowded like cattle trying to get down and out of the metro station. About three people ahead of me, I could see a little old lady, and she was really slow. The people on the right side of the descalator were passing us pretty steadily.
The guy behind me saw a break in the line, and he jumped in. He had the right idea. I looked back and there was still room, so I jumped to the other side, eager to get off the descalator, past the old lady, and home to my family. But then the guy in front of me (who had so recently been behind me) slowed down. Terrific! Then I saw him reach down, and take the old lady's bag-it was one of those smallish rolling luggage bags. She thanked him profusely as he carried it down the escalator and waited for her at the bottom. Without her load, she moved much faster.
I felt like a louse. I'm usually pretty nice, but I often focus on what I want and where I want to be and forget to take time to help people around me whom I don't know. That's goodness. That's kindness. That's whom I want to be.
Living and working in the Washington, D.C. metro area, I am a managing partner at Ellsworth IP Group PLLC, where we are devoted to protecting our clients' intellectual property, including drafting and prosecuting patent applications.