It’s not about the statue

Downtown Salt Lake City has a lot to see and yesterday I got to take a long-time friend of mine through a couple of tours downtown. I’d been on or given this tour several times, but it’s always interesting how there’s more to learn.

We started with the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Being both morning people we arrived before the main attractions of the building were officially opened. A kind gentleman had also arrived early for his shift and gave us a private tour. Wow!

We then went on a tour of Temple square led by two highly capable Sister Missionaries. We did the tour backwards. We started in the South Visitor’s Center and looked at the interactive model of the temple.

Talking about why were weren’t going to go into the Temple was actually pretty easy. We showed her the virtual tour and explained that the Celestial Room is designed to be a rest from the cares of the world and that the spirit of reverence that you need in such a place would be difficult to achieve if people were there to admire the art and architecture.

She got-it, appreciated the honest answer, and enjoyed the rest of the tour. We proceeded into the Assembly Hall, Tabernacle, and North Visitor’s Center.

In the North Visitor’s Center we saw the lovely statue of Christ with open arms and I noticed two things that are worth sharing. First, his pose is of the body stance of a person right before they give someone a big hug. Second, was something I realized as I was talking.

“It is a beautiful statue, but can see you see how it’s not about the statue?”

The statue is lovely, but the real reason to be there is to enjoy how the statue helps to understand and draw us closer to the Savior.

I’m not sure how different this might be from the religious artwork my readers have been exposed to as well, but I think it’s worth noting. In general, religious artwork is designed to inspire us to move closer to our Heavenly Father.

It’s not about the art, it’s about the feelings from experiencing the art.

Do you have a painting or statue that you feel inspires a similar positive experience?

More than the foundation

A house is more than the foundation.

If we have accepted Christ as the foundation of our faith we should diligently strive to add each component of our lives as carefully and thoughtfully as if we were adding it to our house.

Temples for the Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are built to a high standard of construction, but that high standard can help us learn a pattern for our lives. In October of 2018 one of the church leaders responsible for assisting in that construction explains the lessons he draws from the experiences of organizing temple construction.

In April 2013 I spoke about the efforts involved in preparing every temple’s foundation to ensure that it can withstand the storms and calamities to which it will be subjected. But the foundation is just the beginning. A temple is composed of many building blocks, fitted together according to predesigned patterns. If our lives are to become the temples each of us is striving to construct as taught by the Lord (see 1 Corinthians 3:16–17), we could reasonably ask ourselves, “What building blocks should we put in place in order to make our lives beautiful, majestic, and resistant to the storms of the world?

Dean M. Davies

This is the Christ

A generally short song with a powerful message. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published this song as part of its Ensign magazine in 2006, but thanks to social media it can garner more attention and reach a wider audience than it did in print.

We can debate which version on YouTube is best. I like this one.
MP3

1. They heard His voice, a voice so mild.
It pierced them through and made their souls to quake.
They saw Him come, a man in white,
The Savior, who had suffered for their sake.
They felt the wounds in hands and side,
And each could testify:

Chorus:
This is the Christ.
This is the Christ, the holy Son of God,
Our Savior, Lord, Redeemer of mankind.
This is the Christ, the Healer of our souls,
Who ransomed us with love divine.

2. I read His words, the words He prayed
While bearing sorrow in Gethsemane.
I feel His love, the price He paid.
How many drops of blood were spilled for me?
With Saints of old in joyful cry
I too can testify:

Words: James E. Faust, b. 1920, and Jan Pinborough, b. 1954

Please, Take it Personally

It’s amazing to me how even after going to church for over 40 years I can still learn things about the parts that are generally the most routine. In this case it’s the Sacrament. This ordinance is done weekly in meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Guests are welcome to attend and participate and the methods for preparing the ordinance are very similar to those found in other Christian faiths.

Regardless of the faith there is a personal connection between the bread representing the Savior’s sacrifice and ourselves. There’s a personal connection between us and what we put in our bodies. There’s something beautiful we can do when we take the sacrament personally.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks once observed that “because it is broken and torn, each piece of bread is unique, just as the individuals who partake of it are unique. We all have different sins to repent of. We all have different needs to be strengthened through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we remember in this ordinance.”

The Living Bread Which Came Down from Heaven

Testimonies

In many churches there is only a small handful of individuals who speak from the pulpit. In our church we all take turns and I’m so grateful we do. There are some amazing testimonies among the members and I’m glad they get to share their voice.

Magnify

I’ve often heard the phrase ‘magnify one’s calling’ and immediately associated this with the wonderful lenses we have in our modern era. Then last week I decided to look up the origin of the word and it turns out magnify has nothing to do with lenses.

My quest started from Joshua 3:7

And the Lord said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.

The word magnify in the Bible predates our current use of the word. The Bible was completed in 1611, but it wasn’t until about 1660 that the verb was used In reference to lenses and making an object appear larger. Now the lens application is predominant in our lexicon, but the word at the time of the biblical text refers more to the concept of “glorifying, esteem greatly, extol, make much of”. There is also the concept of nobility in the term. It is a calling to live up to the nobility of our divine birthright.

To magnify our calling is to do the work of the Lord standing in His place with the full inheritance of the authority of our divine nature. It is an opportunity to be like God.

Christ’s ability to share this message succintly in Matthew, now has new meaning.

Matthew 23:11

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

The Faith To Repent

This talk was given at the Oak Creek Ward in Meridian Idaho on 23 April 2017.

Often when a member of the Bishopric will ask you to give a talk they will ask you to stay within a theme or reference a talk from General Conference.  I asked for permission to choose my own and my plan was approved.  In previous talks I’ve given I’ve talked about dad jokes, fonts, and oddly specific words.  If those things aren’t interesting then you might as well plan on sleeping through my talk.  As many times as I’ve slept in church, I wouldn’t blame you for sleeping through my talk.  I think one of the reasons why I’ve been asked to talk today is so that way there’d be at least one week where I wasn’t sleeping in the pew.

For a habitual church sleeper like me, it was quite refreshing to hear President Uchtdorf’s talk about how Perfect Love Casteth Out All Fear.  While it was about that topic, it included a tangential semi-endorsement of those of us who like to sleep in church.  In President Uchtdorf’s words, “I am pretty sure that church sleep is among the healthiest of all sleeps.”  

Sometimes when we learn something new it’s easy to do it wrong or poorly or inefficiently. When baptisms for the dead were announced they were initially done in the Mississippi River. Then it was revealed that they should be done in the temple.  Now many believe they’ve been given permission to sleep.  If this is your inclination during my talk today I would like to present you with a more perfect way to follow what you might believe is a call to nap from on high.  

If you’re one of the one’s blessed with the inclination to sleep today I would like to teach you a trick that will keep those unsightly lines from forming on your forehead.  First, you must commit to being a forward sleeper.  A backward sleeper is a bit rude, but not unacceptable.  Backward sleep tends to lead to more snoring and an unsightly gaping of the mouth.  Forward sleeping is good but the pew leaves a line that makes it awkward to socialize in the hallway on the way to Sunday school.  To fix this you just need to roll/fold your tie and place it on the pew in front of you as a pillow.  Experts will realize that the need to leave enough slack so that their mouth isn’t covered by their tie in case it turns into a drool nap.  This way the drool doesn’t get on the tie.  

If you think this is bad advice you should see what I’ve taught in youth Sunday School over the years.  I’ve taught about multiple sizes of infinity, the math problem in the book of Job, the verb of the atonement, and being fanatically selfish.  You should be cautious about calling me to substitute.

Our brains are hardwired to make correlations, but many of the correlations we make are wrong.  We often associate a route with multiple turns as being longer than one that is straight even though they may be the same distance.  At some point in my life, I associated the repentance process with being something unyielding and difficult.  With Satan’s influence, the awkwardness of admitting I had done something wrong grew into a fear of the repentance process.  For me, this happened when I was younger and it’s taken me years to overcome this false correlation.  Repentance may not be easy, but it is worth it.

Fear and faith cannot coexist.  I grew up afraid of repenting because I had only focussed on the part of the experience that was hard.  I had convinced myself that this part was so hard that it wasn’t worth going through the whole process.  It was a lie, and I believed it.  Today I’d like to tell you how wrong that is.

Admitting your mistakes is hard, but it gets easier with practice.  In team dynamics, environments where the team fails fast are better environments for building the team.  When I was younger I used to work on the Army’s telephone equipment.  It was a cumbersome piece of early 1980’s engineering.  If the equipment went bad it would sometimes take us a long time to get a part and get back up and running again.  I used to adopt the mantra that it was better for me to be what’s wrong with the system not working because I was trainable.  This threw a lot of people off.  Generally, the military thinks so highly of itself that it creates a social stigma for anyone to admit failure.  I was the exception and because of that, I wasn’t afraid to ask more questions and learn faster than my peers.  The result was that I learned the equipment so well that I was able to engineer something that no one else had ever done or will ever do again.  I wouldn’t have been able to count that among my successes if I wasn’t willing to admit my mistakes.

Practice makes perfect.  Repentance takes practice.  It’s not something you do once and you’re good at.  That sort of thinking leads people to apply death-bed repentance, which may be a thing, but it reduces your ability to be a contributor to this world.

Being a contributor is extremely important.  Just take a look at the book of Job and ask yourself, what turned Job’s life around?  The only book in the Old Testament to mathematically demonstrate that families are designed to be together forever wouldn’t have happened if Job hadn’t decided to contribute.

We often talk about the fruits of the gospel, but I like to dissect that phrase a little further.  What is the gospel?  It is the good news of Jesus Christ.  What was Jesus Christ’s role?  To take our sins upon Him so that way we can be clean.  So we can be clean.  That sounds like repentance to me.  That sounds like Christ’s role was to provide the means by which we can repent of our sins.

One of the greatest stories that talks about this is often misread.  It comes from 1 Nephi 11.  Nephi asks to see and understand his father’s vision of the tree.  The vision his father saw was bout the tree of life.  Think of that title for a second.  The tree of life.

For Nephi’s vision, he starts off with seeing Mary and is introduced to her as the Mother of the Son of God.  But Nephi doesn’t record that he understands this phrase.  There’s no typical Book of Mormon explanatory detour.  The vision simply continues.  The key to the conversation occurs in verse 21 which reads, “And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!”

Here Nephi is introduced to Christ as the Lamb of God.  Previous to this, Nephi’s relationship with the repentance process has been assisting his father conducting animal sacrifices.  He would literally help with the sacrificing of a lamb.  I wonder how often he must have pondered how the lamb being burned as an offering would translate to a forgiveness of sin.  He likely didn’t have a good answer but proceeded with faith that this is the process he was to follow.  Faith is putting your foot down on the ground in front of you even when you can’t see it.  You have to trust that it will be there.

Later in the chapter we get the explanatory detour as Nephi shares his excitement about how the tree represents the love of God.  What I always find interesting is how the angel one-ups Nephi’s excitement about Christ being the Lamb of God.  The angel describes it as the most joyous to the soul.  It’s not often in the scriptures that we get a dialogue as this!

So Nephi is asking what the tree means, and he’s shown Christ but introduced to him as the Lamb of God.  What did the Lamb of God provide?  The means for repentance!  The fruit of the tree of life is the fruit that comes from repentance!  It’s at the end of the path with the iron rod.  You get there by trusting the word of God and taking steps of faith though your vision is clouded and foggy until you get there.  When Lehi took the fruit he looked around for his family.  He wanted to share.

I had often pondered the scripture in Matthew 11 where Christ says “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  I used to think this scripture was somehow wrong.  How could Christ’s yoke be easy and his burden light?  He took on the weight of the sins of the world.  That doesn’t sound like a light burden to me.  That sounds like a bleeding out of every pour situation.  But when he was bleeding out of every pore he wasn’t bearing his yoke, he was bearing ours.  He was bearing mine.  His is light because he is without sin.

Article of Faith 4 lists baptism as happening immediately following the repentance process.  In John 3, Christ describes baptism as being born again, and we often discuss taking the sacrament as renewing our baptismal covenants.  When we are born the world is new, and we are excited to explore its beautiful treasures.  Repentance should lead us to the same feelings of joy as those of the angel who one-upped Nephi in a conversation!  It should lead us to a joy so powerful that the awkwardness and fear of admitting failure isn’t an overpowering thought, but a moment of truth that leads to great joy.

Just this morning I woke up to a vivid memory of one of my failures being told me in a dream.  Unlike other times when this has happened this time I conquered it with the confidence that only comes from repentance.  Repentance gives us the confidence to stand before God and the ability in this life to find all the joy possible.