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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

This might be important

When things are repeated by the Lord and His Servants it may be something to pay close attention to.

President Eyring says this in his 1997 General Conference talk called "Safety in Counsel." The church has posted this talk 3 times in the Ensign.

Henry B, Eyring, “Safety in Counsel” June 2008 First Presidency Message

Henry B, Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel” November 2001 Ensign
https://www.lds.org/liahona/2001/11/finding-safety-in-counsel?lang=eng

Henry B, Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel” April 1997 General Conference

This whole talk is about following the prophet.  It starts by talking about the warnings of the prophets, standing on safe ground, having listening ears and reaching out to others. The very last paragraph of the talk says:

"We are blessed to live in a time when the priesthood keys are on the earth. We are blessed to know where to look and how to listen for the voice that will fulfill the promise of the Lord that He will gather us to safety. I pray that we will have humble hearts, that we will listen, that we will pray, and that we will wait for the deliverance of the Lord that is sure to come as we are faithful."

Interesting enough he refers to Haun's Mill in this talk and many other things. I would highly recommend that you carefully read it.  At Haun’s Mill, Joseph Smith warned the saints to leave when there was no danger in sight or seen.  Those who heeded the prophets warning immediately left and lived to tell about it.  Everyone who didn’t listen died.

President Eyring in one of the Priesthood Sessions said, "This is the third time I am repeating this scripture...always remember with me when I repeat something it is not boredom but inspiration...because the fact is, if I was told to do this again it must matter."  (Taken from the notes of a LDS priesthood holder in attendance who always takes notes.  Remember they add information in at the pulpit that does not get into the written or audio talks.)   


Familiarize yourself with the story of the saints in Haun’s Mill.  First, the saints did not listen to the prophet, and then they were deceived by the mill’s owner.  The saints asked the owner to have his messenger ask the prophet whether they should stay at the mill, and the prophet said to leave the mill and return to Far West, but the messenger lied to them and said the prophet said to stay and they would be fine.  Then, they were all massacred by a mob in disguise, who arrived under the guise of bringing a peacekeeping treaty to coexist.  Their technique was to say, for your own safety and welfare, and as a sign of cooperation with us (the local leaders), hand over your arms.  The majority did, and the mob massacred everyone including the women and children.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Halloween conundrum

This is a blog post that I recently happened onto.  I have some reservations putting this on my blog because I know many in my family love Halloween and look forward to it and spend time and money to celebrate it.  I used to feel the same way.  We had fun Halloween parties and pumpkin carving contests.  We decorated a little bit, not much really.  But Halloween was a fun fall activity in the family I grew up in and in my own family.  The past few years I have noticed a change in my excitement for Halloween.  I was in charge of the ward Halloween party a couple of years.  When I realized what we were celebrating in the church I was ashamed.  The decorations, costumes, and sounds during the trunk or treat were usually devilish in nature.  It may seem trivial to some.  I don't happen to agree.  So if you are a big Halloween fan and don't want to know, don't look at this video.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Islam vs Mormonism



I follow Dan Peterson's blog.  He is an expert in the Islam religion and teaches Arabic at BYU.  This article compares Islam and Mormonism.  I took a World Religions class many years ago at BYU taught by Dr. Spencer Palmer and was impressed then at the similarities between the two.
Putrajaya Mosque, Malaysia  (Photograph by Nazir Amin, Wikimedia Commons


A few notes that I threw together quite a few years ago.  Comments welcomed:


Similarities

Both religions worship the same deity.  Allah is related to the word Elohim.  Allah is simply the Arabic word for “God,” and is the term used in the Christian Arabic Bible as well as the Arabic Book of Mormon and other Latter-day Saint materials.  [Incidentally because it is in the Qur’an and because Arabic is the sacred language of Islam, Persians or Iranians sometimes use the Arabic Allah, but they typically use the Persian word Khuda—which is related to the English word God.]

In both faiths, God intervenes or acts in history.  In fact, his primary self-revelation comes in his interactions with prophets and peoples over the course of history.  (As opposed to, say, Buddhism, where religious truths are sought in the mind, through meditation initiated by the person himself, and history is relatively unimportant.)

Mormonism and Islam share substantial history.  Both recognize God’s creation of the earth, and, thereafter, a line of prophets commencing with Adam and running forward through Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus.

Although doctrine is certainly important in the two faiths, Islam and Mormonism have both tended to focus, as Judaism also does, on history rather than on theology (in the sense that mainstream Christians do theology).  It is in history that the claims of the two faiths stand or fall.  And both Mormonism and Islam, like Judaism, have tended to define whether one is a “good” follower of the faith by asking questions about behavior and practice—personal “history,” in a sense.

Both Islam and Mormonism are focused on scripture (much more so than Buddhism and Hinduism)—again, much like Judaism and mainstream (especially Protestant) Christianity.

Both faiths place a high priority on evangelizing non-adherents.

Both Mormonism and Islam see themselves as working to build societies that will embody their beliefs more fully.  Just as Latter-day Saints speak of building “Zion” and of the eventual coming of the New Jerusalem and the Millennium, and look back to the city of Enoch, Muslims are exhorted to “command good and forbid evil” and to seek to put the shari‘a, Islamic law, into effect.  The inner circle of the Prophet Muhammad is the ideal age to which they look back.  This is to say that purely private, purely individual, practice of the religion, without regard to building a better society or interacting with other people, is seen as defective.  “There is,” the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “no monasticism in Islam.”

Both Islam and Mormonism see an end to history, which is moving in linear fashion toward a divinely-determined goal.  There are many prophecies about the Last Days in both faiths, and these prophecies are, in a number of ways, rather similar.  In Islam, Jesus will return and confront al-Dajjal, an anti-Christ figure.  There will be earthquakes and great destruction and, finally, the Last Judgment.

All human beings will be resurrected—literally, bodily—and brought before God for judgment, in both faiths.

When the Prophet Muhammad died, a dispute arose regarding the succession.  The group that came to be known as the Shi‘ites holds that his successor (the imam) must be his closest surviving male relative.  The so-called Sunnis believe that the lineage of the successor (the caliph) is relatively unimportant, so long as there is a successor to enforce and interpret the law.  There is obviously at least a superficial similarity here to the split between the Latter-day Saints and the Reorganized Church.  (In practice, however, the line of Shi‘ite imams seems to have died out in the late ninth century, and the Sunni caliphate was abolished by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the reformist founder of modern Turkey, in the early twentieth century.)

The Qur’an is a book of revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad over the course of his twenty-two year ministry.  The revelations are arranged, roughly, according to chronological considerations.  It is not a narrative about Muhammad, and was not written by him, but is believed to represent the actual voice of God speaking to his prophet  (either audibly or by internal inspiration).  In several respects, it can be compared to the Doctrine and Covenants.

Islamic culture, like Mormon culture, tends to be patriarchal and to place considerable emphasis on the family.  Many of our values (e.g., chastity) are similar.  However, Islam allows greater latitude to a double standard than Latter-day Saints can tolerate.  (In other words, female chastity tends to be more vital in Islamic eyes—in practice, although not in theory—than does male chastity.)  And, while the family plays an indispensable role in Latter-day Saint doctrine and expectations for the afterlife, it appears to be more of a cultural matter in Islamic areas.  (Illustration:  Plural marriage was an innovation, mandated by revelation to Joseph Smith, in nineteenth century Mormonism.  In Islam, although polygamy is permitted, it has no particular religious significance.  Islamic law simply regulates a pre-existing practice.)

That said, however, it is clear (with all the talk of the houris, or the virgins of paradise) that Islamic expectations of the afterlife do include gender differentiation and continued sexual behavior.  Although the parallel to Latter-day Saint doctrines relating to eternal marriage is only vague, it has been the object of considerable mockery among critics of the Church from the nineteenth century until today.

Differences

Islam and Mormonism conceive of God rather differently.  Mormonism teaches an embodied God; at least officially (whatever ordinary, uneducated Muslims may believe, and though the Qur’an can easily—and, I think, should—be read otherwise), Islam teaches of a God without body or location.  (There is overwhelming evidence that many early Muslims, probably including the Prophet Muhammad himself, believed in a corporeal deity.)

The line of prophets in Islam culminates with Muhammad, and the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not believe that any prophet can or will come after Muhammad.  Mormonism has never recognized Muhammad as a prophet (though some Church leaders have been willing to describe him as inspired), but affirms the post-biblical prophethood of Joseph Smith and a line of successors.

The unforgivable sin in Islam is shirk.  (The Arabic word means, roughly, “association,” but can be loosely rendered as “polytheism.”)  To commit shirk is to worship or recognize any other deity beyond or instead of the one true God.  Muslims are uneasy with the mainstream Christian view of the Trinity, despite Trinitarian protests that the Trinity is really just one God; they will, I think, tend to find Latter-day Saint references to “the Gods” (as in the Book of Abraham and elsewhere) rather disturbing.  I see this as a potential flashpoint in our relations with Muslims.  (However, historically, Muslims have learned to live more or less in peace with Hindus and other undeniably polytheistic groups, and even to evolve ingenious ways of considering them “actually” monotheists, so this can probably be managed.  There is, obviously, as the Book of Mormon makes clear, a very powerful sense in which we too can truthfully say that we worship and believe in only one God.  This will need to be emphasized in any theological discussions with devout Muslims, when and if they arise.)

Crucial difference:  Islam recognizes Jesus as a prophet, even a very great one, but only as a prophet.  He is not the Son of God, for Islam recognizes no children of God.  Qur’an 112 reads as follows:  “Say: He is God, One.  God, the Absolute.  He does not beget nor is He begotten, and there is none like unto him.”  (It is just remotely possible that Muhammad is not responsible for this passage.  But I know of no way to prove it, and he probably was.)

While both Mormonism and Islam speak of the Virgin Birth of Jesus, Latter-day Saints do so to insist that Jesus’ father was not Joseph but God himself, with all that that entails for Jesus’ capacity to save us in his role as Savior and Redeemer.  Muslims, by contrast, insist that Jesus was the “son of Mary.”  He had no father at all, but was a miraculous sign from the all-powerful God.

Related to this point is the fact that, for Muslims, we are not all brothers and sisters because we are the children of the same God.  They understand what Christians mean when such words are used, and may even be sympathetic to the point a Christian might be trying to make, but, in their view, God does not have children.  We are creatures of God—no more related to Deity than the light bulb was related to Thomas Edison.

Another absolutely crucial difference:  In Islam, God is sovereign and free.  He can forgive (or not forgive) anyone he wants.  Accordingly, Muslims see no need for an atonement.  And their prophetic but human Jesus lacks the innate capacity to effect an atoning sacrifice.  Mormonism, on the other hand, speaks of a cosmic law of justice that has to be satisfied, which even God (in some sense) is not free to ignore, and of Jesus as the perfect and divine sacrificial offering who settled a debt on our behalf that we could not have taken discharged by ourselves.

The Qur’an is absolutely central to Islam and Islamic culture, in ways that go far beyond the centrality of the Bible and other scriptures among Latter-day Saints.  Qur’anic recitation—the Qur’an is chanted, and there are experts who actually become popular “stars” because of their chanting abilities and the quality of their voices—begins and ends each broadcast day on radio and television.  Qur’anic verses are carved into stone on public buildings and sewn into tapestries and wall-hangings and inscribed by expert calligraphers on metal trays and framed parchments.  Students learn to read and recite the Qur’an in Arabic, even if Arabic is not their native language.  Great emphasis is placed on reciting the Qur’an properly, but relatively little is placed on understanding what it means.  The words themselves are thought to be the words of God, and so there is power in simply saying them.  But there are no study editions of the Qur’an, and it is unthinkable that anyone would ever take a MagicMarker to a Qur’an to highlight certain passages, or make notes in the margin.  Muslims I have known have been appalled to see Latter-day Saints place their scriptures under a chair at a meeting; the Qur’an should never touch the ground, and readers should, ideally, have washed their hands and made themselves ritually pure before opening it.  Some Western scholars have even argued that the best analogy to the Qur’an in Christianity is not the Bible, but the (mainstream) Christian view of the Son himself.  Both Jesus and the Qur’an, they contend, can be regarded as “the Word,” as God’s eternal utterance, the tangible manifestation of God in this world.  I think the comparison is apt.  The same arguments that swirled around the relationship of the Father and the Son in the early apostate Christian church and culminated in the Nicene Creed were made, in Islam, about the Qur’an.  (Was it created, or eternal? Etc.)

Evangelization, in the Islamic view, tends to be a one-way street.  People can and should convert to Islam.  If a person converts from Islam to some other (necessarily inferior) religion, many Muslims will deem that person worthy of death.  The view that “apostasy” is a capital offense has been represented in Islamic law since roughly 800 A.D.  That is, it is a post-Muhammadan development, but nonetheless very old and deeply ingrained.  This represents an obvious problem for Latter-day Saints, who, by contrast, place heavy emphasis on religious freedom and “agency”—which, in our view, was a primary issue in the grand premortal council.  A related matter is the fact that Islamic cultures tend to emphasize social controls (for example, in segregating men and women, and covering women from head to toe), whereas Latter-day Saints are willing to pay certain costs (in allowing sin, to put it bluntly) in order to preserve the opportunity for freely-chosen virtue.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is hierarchical and centralized.  Authority flows, and direction is given, to local leaders from those holding the keys.  Islam, in contrast, and especially in its majority Sunni form, is extremely decentralized.  In fact, one cannot legitimately speak of a Muslim “church” or anything like it.  There is no Muslim priesthood (although the several Shi‘ite movements, notably the so-called “Twelvers” who dominate Iran, sometimes come close).  Instead, in the absence of a living prophet or even an analogue to the pope, leadership of the Muslim community has fallen into the hands of the so-called ‘ulama’, whose authority flows from their knowledge of the Qur’an and the other authoritative texts of Islam.  (They are roughly comparable to rabbis, in that regard.)

Authority, in Islam (and, again, particularly among its Sunni majority) resides in the past.  Knowledge of that past, and of the legal and doctrinal precedents to be found there—in the form of what are called hadith, or, roughly, “traditions”—gives the individual religious leader his power and authority.  This means that there is little room for innovation within Islam.  (The Arabic word bid‘a means both “innovation,” or “novelty,” and “heresy.”)  If innovation occurs, it requires a re-reading and re-interpretation of the already available canonical texts.  This is quite different from authority among the Latter-day Saints, where changes in practice, etc., can come quite suddenly, as in the case of the 1978 revelation on priesthood.  Islam’s solid base in the past, and the diffusion of interpretive authority among tens of thousands of “rabbis” from Indonesia to Morocco, from Saudi Arabia to Nigeria and Canada, makes it very difficult to hijack—and very difficult to reform or adapt.

Islam—particularly in its Iranian Shi‘ite form—places considerable emphasis on the idea of martyrdom, while Latter-day Saints, by and large, do not.  We do not believe, for example, that Joseph Smith went to heaven because he was murdered by an anti-Mormon mob.

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2017/08/islam-mormonism-similarities-differences.html#8Zm63RmRujTZvtGX.99

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

A Neat Talk

“If with All Your Hearts Ye Truly Seek Me”

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From a talk originally given at a Ricks College devotional, 14 September 1982

“If with All Your Hearts Ye Truly Seek Me”

I would like to take as something of a text a passage from Deuteronomy: “But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
“When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; … He will not forsake thee.” (Deut. 4:30–31.)
The subject on my mind is testimony—our testimonies that God lives and that Joseph Smith was his prophet.
Our family recently lost a close friend when a high school senior we knew well died suddenly of an undiagnosed heart defect. It was very hard for our three teenage sons the night the news came to us. We sat up a long time that night, just crying and talking, and trying to understand.
Shortly after that, we received word that Terry Crapo had died of leukemia. Terry, who was my age, was a very close friend and an exquisitely rare example.
The Lord lets every one of us, each in his own way, have the experience of losing people we love. Most of us are also called upon to do things we really don’t want to do, or to give up things we really want to keep. But we do as we should because of our religious commitments. And the Lord wants to help us develop testimonies strong enough to withstand any kind of pressure, any kind of pain or adversity; testimonies strong enough to exalt us. Joseph Smith wrote, “For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, … his houses, his lands, … his wife and children and even his own life … requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God; but actual knowledge, realizing that, when these sufferings are ended, he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God.
“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; … It is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.” (Lectures on Faith, 6:5, 7.)
Someone once said that you can’t visually tell the difference between a strand of cobweb and a strand of powerful nylon cord—until some stress is put on the strand. Our testimonies are that way, and the days of stress for your testimonies have already begun. It may not yet be the death of a loved one. You may not be asked to give up your home or car—though some of you will come close to that in some kinds of missionary service. Your current stress will more likely come when you face the overpowering force of physical temptation, where you learn that a shallow acceptance of the gospel does not have the power to cope with the forces of Darkness. It may come when your prayers seem to go unanswered, or when you run into some experience or some person who brings Satanic persuasion to bear against you. When those times come, your testimony must be more than a fair weather faith. It must be a mighty strand of cable, powerful enough to resist the shafts of the Adversary.
To develop such strong testimonies, we must first purify our desires. If we want a testimony, if we want to draw close to God, even if we want eternal life—all these things will be ours, if we desire them, so long as we do not desire other things more. We show what we really want by what we do—not by what we say. So if we say we believe in God, but some things in our life suggest otherwise, then we probably want something else more than eternal life. It might be our friends, it might be physical pleasures, or it might be that we just don’t want the Church bothering us with meetings and rules. Our desires will govern our choices, one by one and day by day, until our lives eventually add up to what we really want them to be.
Next, we need to live worthily so the Lord’s Spirit can be near us to build our faith and testimony. Brigham Young said: “Pray for the Lord to inspire your hearts. Ask for wisdom and for knowledge. It is our duty to seek after it. Let us seek, and we shall find; but as for His coming down here to pour His Spirit upon you, while you are aiming after the vain and frivolous things of the world; indulging in all the vanity, nonsense, and foolery which surrounds you; drinking in all the filthy abominations which should be spurned from every community on the earth—so long as you continue this course, rest assured—he will not come near you.” (Journal of Discourses, 1:20.)
If you are trying to purify your desires and to live righteously, you are then in a position to build your faith in the three elements that make up a complete and deeply rooted testimony of the gospel—reason, feeling, and experience.
I needn’t spend a long time talking about the reasonableness of the gospel message, because for most of us that speaks for itself. Yet I have become increasingly aware that our religious faith is a more intellectually sound position than you might think. I agree with Alma, who told the skeptical Korihor, “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion.” (Alma 30:44.)
Scientific evidence tells us that if this earth were much closer to the sun, all life here would burn up. If it were much farther away, all life here would freeze. When I see the wind whipping up its force in this part of the country, I can only imagine how it would be if the elements weren’t held in check by divine power. If we were truly at the mercy of arbitrary natural forces, wind and sand and tidal waves would bat this planet around like a leaf in a storm.
What do you suppose are the odds that a tornado spinning through a junkyard could create a DC-10?
Evidence for the claims of Joseph Smith is growing stronger almost daily. You don’t have to take Joseph Smith’s testimony only on faith—there is compelling evidence to support him. When Joseph announced the Word of Wisdom, did he know that tobacco is addictive and causes lung cancer? No—and neither did anyone else in the scientific community. Consider his prophecy about the civil war. Consider his prophecy about his own people becoming mighty in the tops of the mountains in the West.
As you study the Book of Mormon, learn about the research on wordprints, which suggests that the book couldn’t have been written by a single author. Learn also about the Hebrew poetry form called “chiasmus.” Nobody had heard of chiasmus in Joseph’s day. But now that this striking literary form, as clear and rigid as a limmerick or a sonnet, has been discovered in ancient Hebrew literature, it has also been discovered in the Book of Mormon. Those who wrote on the golden plates knew and used Hebrew literary forms in their reformed Egyptian language but Joseph Smith didn’t even know he had translated in these forms.
Then there are Thor Heyerdahl’s expeditions in primitive boats across the Pacific Ocean and later the Atlantic. These trips show that small, crudely made boats could sail those distances on strong ocean currents. Despite great efforts to do so, no one has been able to cast serious doubt on the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. So why doesn’t everybody believe it? Because God does not allow the case to become so compelling that we are forced to believe. Man’s agency is too fundamental to be compromised.
And yet—if your testimony is based completely on such evidence as this, it is still more cobweb than nylon strand, because reason has such a hard time coping with emotion, and because science and history never do lead to absolute conclusions—for or against religious or other claims. Those disciplines are inherently subject to new evidence and new interpretations of old evidence.
So, we must buttress our testimony with spiritual feelings and experiences. The scriptures are full of references to the influence of the Spirit on our feelings. Alma 32 talks about swelling motions—feeling a good seed begin to sprout and grow, after it has enlightened our understanding (reason). Nephi talks to his brothers about being past feeling, that they could not feel the words of the Spirit. (See 1 Ne. 17:45.) Elsewhere Nephi tells us that the Holy Ghost carries its power to the hearts of the children of men. (See 2 Ne. 33:1.) Thus, the men who talked with the resurrected Christ without recognizing him on the road to Emmaus said in recognition of him afterward, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way?” (Luke 24:32.) The feeling can also be one of peace rather than burning. As the Lord said to Oliver Cowdery: “Cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
“Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:22–23.)
I remember so clearly the night as a young missionary when I first became aware of the Holy Ghost bearing witness to a sincere investigator we were teaching. As my companion bore his testimony to her about the Resurrection, tears filled her eyes, and I began to feel as if my heart would burst from the overflowing of spiritual force. When I asked my companion after that meeting what had been happening to us, he said wisely and in a tender kind of love for me, “Oh, Elder Hafen, that was the Holy Ghost, bearing witness of the truth. There is no other feeling like that. We may not feel it often. You can’t turn it on and off like a water tap. But when, in a rare moment, it happens to come, you know what it is.”
This thought calls to mind the verse from Kahlil Gibran on love, in which I will substitute the word Spirit for the word love:“Think not that you can control the course of the Spirit, for the Spirit, if it finds you worthy, controls your course.”
On a more recent occasion, I felt that same Spirit again, as did our children. We were gathered at one of those multifamily home evenings at the grandparents’ house, with paper plates and chunks of hamburger buns and potato chips strewn all over the backyard, little children running and laughing with their cousins in a totally happy kind of bedlam. Then Grandpa mentioned that he would like to have everyone come into the living room and sit down. All the little grandkids stopped playing and trooped into the house, where they sat down until they filled the living room floor. Everyone was very quiet, without knowing quite why.
Grandpa stood in the center of the room, supporting himself with the back of a chair. He told us that he had been having trouble recovering from recent surgery, and felt the need for a blessing. He asked his sons-in-law to anoint him and bless him through the power of the priesthood. We surrounded his chair and performed the ordinance, with great love and respect for him. As we finished, he thanked us for our faith and prayers, and bore his testimony to his posterity. He seemed so quietly majestic standing there talking to us. He told us that all he ever wants after he dies is to live with the very people who were in that room. Then he was done.
That was it—no song or prayer everyone just began shuffling around to go pick up in the yard and clean up the kitchen.
Just then, one of our sons, then about twelve, and a boy not easily given to expressing personal feelings, came over to me. He was brushing away the tears from his eyes, and asking, “Dad, what’s the matter with me? Why am I crying? I’m not sad—I’m happy for Grandpa, and I just love him, and I want him to get better.” I said, “Why don’t you go tell him that?” He ran over to his grandpa and hugged him tight and said something to him, and then came back to me, even more visibly affected than before. He still wanted to know why he was reacting as he was. Then I told him, as my missionary companion had told me so many years before, that this was the Holy Ghost. He was feeling love and appreciation for the priesthood and was being told by the Spirit that what he sensed was true and good. Sensing that this was one of those rare teaching moments, I asked him never to forget what this felt like, because it was the witness of the Spirit.
So there will be both reason and feeling in our experiences with testimony. Yet we know that even spiritual feelings can be forgotten and that sometimes we may confuse lesser emotions for true spiritual experiences. Furthermore, our emotions can be led astray by people who would manipulate them, and reason may not have the longlasting power against adversity that we will need if we are not to stand on borrowed light. What else is needed?
The third element in the growth of testimony is simply experience—the test of time. The truth needs a little time to bear its fruits, and after all, by their fruits shall ye know them. In chapter 32, Alma talks about what happens to the seed after we have nourished it and watered it, when it begins to take root and sprout, then the heat of the sun comes and scorches it. What kind of seed is it then? If it is good, and if we have taken care of it, it will withstand adversity, and even grow stronger because of the adversity. [Alma 32] Moroni put it this way: “Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (Ether 12:6.) It’s like paying tithing time after time when you know you can’t afford to, and then being blessed with new ideas to better manage your remaining funds, and suddenly you know something that non-tithepayers simply cannot understand.
As Alma’s wonderful analogy suggests, a testimony is a living, growing thing. When we desire it enough to give it a chance, we plant it. It begins to swell and finally to sprout. Then our faith has been rewarded, yet we still don’t know everything. Time passes. We nourish the little seedling. We weed it, guard it, help it to take root, all in the face of adversity. And then finally, one day, as Alma writes, “ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, … and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled.” (Alma 32:42.)
Brigham Young put it this way: “‘How shall I know?’ says one. By obeying the commandments given to you. The Lord has said, Go into the waters of baptism and be baptized for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive a witness that I am telling you the truth. How? By baptism and the laying on of hands alone? No. By seeing the sick healed? No, but by the spirit that shall come unto you through obedience, which will make you feel like little children, and cause you to delight in doing good, to love your Father in Heaven and the society of the righteous. Have you malice and wrath then? No, it is taken from you, and you feel like the child in its mother’s lap. You will feel kind to your children, to your brothers and sisters, to your parents and neighbors, and to all around you; you will feel a glow, as of fire, burning within you; and if you open your mouths to talk, you will declare ideas which you did not formerly think of. They will flow into your mind, even such as you have not thought of for years. The scriptures will be opened to you, and you will see how reasonable everything is which this or that Elder teaches you. Your hearts will be comforted, you can lie down and sleep in peace, and wake up with feelings as pleasant as the breezes of summer. This is a witness to you.”
Let me conclude with a few images that occur to me when I think in a general way of what it means to have a real testimony:
It means being alone in the mountains on a clear evening, looking at all those stars, and sensing that you are not alone; that heaven is a real place, and God a real person; and that he knows and cares about you.
Having a testimony means feeling the strength to control yourself when the forces of evil would have you do otherwise. It’s realizing that this year, you don’t feel comfortable with those old jokes and words your friends used to say; sensing that you’ve come a long way since starting to clean up your mind, so you now know that you really can change, and grow, and repent.
It means bouncing a little child on your knee, and noticing for the first time that his smile is like your own, and then when you suffer because he does, you understand what it means to have joy in your posterity.
It’s being far away from home, and there getting acquainted with some decent person who doesn’t know anything about the Church; then feeling kind of good inside as you tell him about Joseph Smith, and as you answer all his questions, you say to yourself, it’s true—what I am saying is really true; and you want your friend to understand, for his own sake; and when he begins to see it, somehow, you see it better too.
It’s finally having something to really pray about, and falling on your knees to just talk, and plead; and knowing that somehow, somewhere, somebody is listening, and caring about what you are saying.
It’s kneeling over the marriage altar in a sacred room in the robes of the holy priesthood, taking your sweetheart by the hand, half-listening to the great promises being said over you by a man who has authority, seeing in your mind’s eye the panorama of your whole life pass before you, feeling overcome with gratitude that you made it, even though you’re not sure you deserve it; then suddenly realizing that God really has accepted you—the two of you—and that no matter what it has cost or how hard it has been, this was worth waiting for; and somehow you just know you can be together always, if only you can make yourself remember that that is even more worth waiting for.
It’s seeing someone you love in temple clothes, in a casket, and hearing through your grief a still, small voice assure you with a deep peace that, somehow, it’s not all over, and you’ll be with that person again. It is the peace that surpasses understanding, as your heart tells you things your mind does not know.
And even though you can’t easily find the words to describe what it feels like for you, and sometimes it seems too sacred and personal to talk about even if you could find the words, the important thing is that you know the gospel is true. It really is true. Then, if you continue to purify your desires and keep searching to find God, that glorious quest will guide you and fulfill you all the days of your life.
And “if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Enjoy the sun!!

MELANOMA IS RAMPANT IN SEATTLE DESPITE CLOUDY WEATHER. SUNSCREEN IS SUSPECT. SHOULD WE WEAR SUNSCREEN IN BED? EMBRACE THE SUN!

What is the truth about melanoma? A news report from Seattle laments that in spite of exceptionally cloudy weather, the state of Washington has one or the highest melanoma rates in the nation.[1]Melanoma incidence there increases about 2% per year.
On top of this, they admit that most of the melanoma occurs on the cloudy west side of the state, and that the risk of melanoma has tripled in the last thirty years. Other states with cloudy weather have the same problems. The report further states that one should cover up with sunscreen no matter how cloudy and dark the weather, or even if one is spending the day indoors.
The reason? One of those awful sun rays may find its way through the clouds and then penetrate a window! What’s next? Must I slather myself with sunscreen before crawling in bed at night and then set my alarm for four hours later to wake up and reapply? This sunscreen mania now verges on insanity.
Sunscreens are said to have been invented in 1936 by Eugene Schueller, the founder of L’oreal, and ten years later a suntan cream was invented.[2] In that year, it is unlikely that many people used the sunscreen, but let’s suppose that one bottle was used that first year. Let us further suppose that three billion bottles are now used each year. That is probably a very low estimate.
In 1935, one in every 1,500 people contracted melanoma.[3] Today, one in 50 contract melanoma.[4] In other words, there has been a 30-times (3,000%) increase in the risk of melanoma, accompanied by a spectacular increase in sunscreen use that probably reaches into the billions of percent. Sunscreens have not helped prevent melanoma.
melanoma sunscreenHere is what I would like to say to the people of Seattle: Each year, more and more people are taking extra precautions to limit sun exposure and keep their skin protected when outdoors. Why then, do melanoma rates continue to increase? The answer from dermatologists, when confronted by this contradiction, is to avoid the sun even more and to slather our skins with sunscreen 24 hours a day. If we follow that advice, next year melanoma rates will increase even more. Did you realize that this melanoma increase is happening in a time where most of the population is working indoors? Does it intrigue you to learn that each year, as we use more sunscreen and avoid the sun, the risk of melanoma increases?
The latest research also shows that sunscreens are leading to widespread vitamin D deficiency.[5]Among children, vitamin D deficiency is now at alarming levels, having increased 8,300% since 2000 as they are “protected” from the sun’s rays.[6] The reason? Sunscreen can reduce the production of vitamin D by the skin up to 99%.[7]
The research also shows us that sun deprivation leads to 336,000 deaths per year in the U.S.[8] Sun is vital to human health, and too much “protection” can kill us. Here are some facts that you should know about sun exposure and health:
  • A 20-year Swedish study shows that sun avoidance is as bad for the health as cigarette smoking.[9][10]
  • A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip-fracture risk as those who avoid sun.[11]
  • Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.[12]
  • Women who avoid the sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer as those who embrace the sun.[13]
  • Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period, compared to those who stay indoors.[14]
  • Sun exposure increases nitric oxide production, which leads to a decrease in heart disease risk.[15]
  • Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is essential to human survival, and sun exposure is the only natural way to obtain it. Sunbathing can produce up to 20,000 units of vitamin D in 20 minutes of whole-body exposure.[16]
  • Sun exposure dramatically improves mood through the production of serotonin and endorphin.[17][18]
  • Sun exposure increases the production of BDNF, which is vital to human health.[19]
The person who wrote the Seattle article is a dermatologist who also says that during his years in Seattle, melanoma risk has tripled.
There are no rational thought processes leading to the advice to use sunscreen all day long, 24/7, in cloudy Seattle. In fact, as pointed out in the research above, exactly the opposite is true.
[2] http://www.whenwasitinvented.org/when-was-sunscreen-invented/
[3] Melanoma International Foundation, 2007 Facts about melanoma. Sources: National Cancer Institute 2007 SEER Database, American Cancer Society’s 2007 Facts and Figures, the Skin Cancer Foundation, the American Academy of Dermatology.
[4] American Cancer Society. Melanoma Skin Cancer Overview 9/16/2014. Accessed on 9/23/2014 at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/overviewguide/melanoma-skin-cancer-overview-key-statistics
[5] Pfotenhauer KM, Shubrook JH. Vitamin D deficiency, its role in heath and disease, and current supplementation recommendations. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2017; 117(5):301.
[6] Basatemur E, Horsfall L, Marston L, Rait G, Sutcliffe A.  Trends in the Diagnosis of Vitamin D Deficiency. Pediatrics. 2017 Mar;139(3).
[7] Matsuoka LY, Ide L, Wortsman J, MacLaughlin JA, Holick MF. Sunscreens suppress cutaneous vitamin D3 synthesis.  Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 1987; 64:1165-68.
[8] Baggerly CA, Cuomo RE, French CB, Garland CF, Gorham ED, Grant WB, Heaney RP, Holick MF, Hollis BW, McDonnell SL, Pittaway M, Seaton P, Wagner CL, Wunsch A.L. McDonnell MPH, Mary Pittaway MA, RD, Paul Seaton MS, Carol L. Wagner MD & Alexander Wunsch MD. Sunlight and Vitamin D: Necessary for Public Health. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(4):359-65.
[9] Lindqvist PG, Epstein E, Nielsen K, Landin-Olsson M, Ingvar C, Olsson H. Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. J Intern Med. 2016 Mar 16.
[10] Lindqvist PG, Epstein E, Nielsen K, Landin-Olsson M, Ingvar C, Olsson H. Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. J Intern Med.  2016 Oct;280(4):375-87.
[11] Larrosa M, Casado E, Gómez A, Moreno M, Berlanga E, Ramón J, Gratacós J. Vitamin D deficiency and related factors in patients with osteoporotic hip fracture.  Med Clin (BARC) 2008;130:6-9.
[12] Stephen J Merrill, Samira Ashrafi, Madhan Subramanian & Dianne E Godar. Exponentially increasing incidences of cutaneous malignant melanoma in Europe correlate with low personal annual UV doses and suggests 2 major risk Factors. Dermato-endocrinology 2015;7:1.
[13] Bidgoli SA, Azarshab H. Role of vitamin D deficiency and lack of sun exposure in the incidence of premenopausal breast cancer: a case control study in Sabzevar, Iran. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014;15(8):3391-6.
[14] Pelle G. Lindqvist, Elisabeth Epstein, Mona Landin-Olsson, Christian Ingvar, Kari Nielsen, Magnus Stenbeck & Håkan Olsson. Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality: results from the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. J Intern Med. 2014 Jul;276(1):77-86.
[15] Weller R. The health benefits of UV radiation exposure through vitamin D production or non-vitamin D
Pathways. Blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Photochem. Photobiol. Sci. 2016.
[16] Hollis B.  Circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels indicative of vitamin D sufficiency: implications for establishing a new effective dietary intake recommendation for vitamin D.  J Nutr. 2005;135:317-22.
[17] Lambert GW, Reid C, Kaye DM, Jennings GL, Esler MD. Effect of sun and season on serotonin turnover in the brain. Lancet. 2002 Dec 7;360(9348):1840-2.
[18] Jussila A, Huotari-Orava R, Ylianttila L, Partonen T, Snellman E. Narrow-band ultraviolet B radiation induces the expression of β-endorphin in human skin in vivo. J Photochem Photobiol B. 2016 Jan 7;155:104-108
[19] Tirassa P1, Iannitelli A, Sornelli F, Cirulli F, Mazza M, Calza A, Alleva E, Branchi I, Aloe L, Bersani G, Pacitti F. Daily serum and salivary BDNF levels correlate with morning-evening personality type in women and are affected by light therapy. Riv Psichiatr. 2012 Nov-Dec;47(6):527-34.
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