Punctuation Saves Lives, and Other Truths

A great truth reoccurred to me this morning: Punctuation saves lives. 
"Let's eat Grandma." 
"Let's eat, Grandma."

Moving on. I have spent a couple mornings thinking about, and dissecting, the following verse:

"O, my beloved brethren, turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation." 2 Nephi 9:44-45

Gotta love that prophet Jacob. 

A few thoughts have come from my "chewings" on this verse. First, look at the power words: turn away; shake off; chains; bind you fast; and rock. 

I am reminded of one of the meanings of repentance—it is to turn from what you shouldn't be doing, and turn to the Savior.

We all know that famous painting of Christ knocking at the door that has no doorknob. We take away the message that we have to open the door; our Savior does not break the door down and force His way into our lives— EVER. We have to turn to Him. But, one thing I realized this week that I hadn't seen before: He can look through the window and hear through the door what is going on inside. He may not break the door down, but that doesn't mean He is ignorant of what we are doing. Can't hide one thing from God. Maybe that is one of the reasons He keeps knocking.

(Leaving the squirrel I just ran after, I return now to the verse.) 

Though I didn't want to go there, "shake off" took me to Taylor Swift and her song, "Shake It Off." Thanks a lot, Tay-Tay.

To bind is to tie with a flexible cord, some might even say a flaxen cord: "and [Satan] leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever." (2 Nephi 26:22) A strand of flax alone cannot hold you, but many strands woven together will. One bad choice after another will bind you—restrain you—and you might as well be chained.

I had to ask myself, "Self, what 'flaxen cord' choices are you making that will lead to a chain that is harder to break? GET OUT NOW!"

You bind with flexibility ("I can do this one little thing, it won't hurt…" famous last words) until it's too late to get away easily. 

But, lest we despair, the verse ends with the rock of our salvation who is Jesus Christ. 

Few things are firmer than a rock that is anchored in the earth. Like an iceberg, you can't see what is below the surface. So it is with the Savior. To the casual observer, Christ looks like a nice guy with good values; a gifted teacher. But look deeper, dig into His gospel, and you find His deeper Self—the grace, mercy, love, patience, guidance, sacrifice, help, peace, vision, forgiveness, direction, and strength which go on forever. 

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20

Compose a song about THAT, Tay-Tay. I dare you.

"Isaiah, dude, why?"

“Oh, Isaiah, how hard are thy words to comprehend!”

Actually:

“Dude, why do you, like, talk that way? I totally don’t get you.”

I have heard it said that if you take the time to decipher the words of Isaiah, your ability to understand all scripture will increase. I think there is truth to that. 

But, seriously, he is so hard to get! 

I have just brushed the surface of the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, and as I hold my breath and get ready to dive in, I am totally afraid I might drown—again. Each time I get to this place on the dock, I think that this will be the time I work harder to “get him,” and if not swim, at least float.

Today I read the following:
“The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season unto thee…” (2 Nephi 7:4; compare Isaiah 50)

Isaiah is speaking Messianically, so he is speaking as if the Lord is. It makes perfect sense that Father in Heaven gave His Son a learned tongue. This makes me wonder that if a Father gave that Child something, would He be willing to give this child something similar?

Now, if you are wondering, not for one moment am I comparing myself to Jesus Christ. I know better. He is glorious, perfect, and powerful, I am a flawed, weak, amoeba; but, I am also a child of God, as is Christ. In my own amoeba-ish way I think I receive gifts from my Father as the Savior did. 

Christ has the tongue of the learned. He knows how to talk to us in a way we can understand. And after following the scriptural chain this idea took me on, I came to believe that Father in Heaven will also fill our mouths, if we take the time to fill our minds. 

In scriptural terms:
“Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted [measured] unto every man.” (D&C 84:85)

For some reason the Lord has seen fit to make me a teacher of  His gospel. For that I am grateful. I have had those moments when the Holy Ghost takes over in a lesson and stuff comes out of my mouth that I never planned. It just comes. Experiences I’ve had, things I’ve read that I totally forgot, come to mind and spill out of my mouth. I think this is D&C 84:85 in action. 

My challenge is to have more faith in that process. 

“Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate [practice, prepare] before what ye shall answer:  For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay [speak against, oppose] nor resist. (Luke 21:14-15)

I remember once being asked at the last minute to give a fireside talk at Girl’s Camp. I spent a couple hours wandering the hills practicing what I would say. When I gave the presentation it was a total flop—dry, empty, blah, blank. I wonder if I had spent those couple hours studying and praying—filling my mind—not practicing, I would have presented something with substance. Hopefully lesson learned. 

Because of the “fear of man,” I am hesitant to let go and let the Lord fill my mouth. What if I fail? What if my mind goes blank (which it has done…)? Will I look like a total fool? (“Hello there, Pride and Vanity, my old friends.”)

Though it may seem trite and a little irreverent, “Let go and let God” seems to fit here. 

I often stand on my mental soap box and think to myself that I have soooo much faith; then the Lord knocks me off and reminds me that I have work to do when it comes to opening my mouth with faith. Trusting that if I have put the information in my head, He will cause it to spill out of my mouth. 

“Oh, Sue, how hard is thy head to understand!”

Actually:

“Dude, why do you, like, behave that way? I totally don’t get why you don’t have more faith.”

You Can Bet Your Beset


“I am encompassed about because of the temptations which so easily beset me.” (2 Nephi 4:18)

Did you know that encompassed and beset mean the same thing? Yup. Encircled; surrounded; enclosed; pressed in on all sides;  besieged.

For me, this verse could be said another way: “I am surrounded by the temptations which find it so easy to press in on me from all sides.” 

Yeah, Nephi my pal, aren’t we all. 

A friend told me, and please correct me if I’m wrong, that many other faiths believe that when trials come upon you, it’s because you’ve done something wrong—punishment, so to speak. If that’s the case, I must be screwing up on a consistent basis. 

Latter-day Saints have a different view. Trials and tribulations, aka crap, come to us because we are in school. This life is the time to prove ourselves to ourselves. Our Father in Heaven knows what we’re made of, but we have to gain that knowledge. This requires some serious wading through crap to become stronger and smarter. 

Case in point: The Lord told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac not because God wondered just what Abraham and Isaac would do, He knew full well; Abraham and Isaac needed to realize just how far they would go to obey the Lord.  They needed to learn what they were made of.

We are no different, though thankfully we aren’t asked to sacrifice our children. (But there are those times… sorry, I digress.) 

We will be surrounded by trials and temptations. There is no escaping it. Consider what Helaman has to say, “ .. that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind … ” (Helaman 5:12)

Note it does not say, “maybe when,” just “when.” And if you want a good visual to go along with this verse, think of arrows in a tornado. Such is the way of hardships and temptations. They come at you from all sides. And they WILL come. You can bet your bottom dollar. (Just what is a “bottom dollar” anyway? Regardless, I will bet it. )

Alma had a few words to say on the matter. If we are true to Christ, “[we] shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall [we] be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh [we] shall be gathered together in [our] place, that the storm cannot penetrate [us]; yea, neither shall [we] be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry [us].”
(Alma 26:6)

All words to rally to, but note the “certainess” of the verse. These things will happen as we live out our lives here on the Big Blue Marble. 

My faith may be strong, and I may have a pretty good understanding of why crap falls on me, but regardless, there are times I cry: 

“Master, carest thou not that [I] perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto [me], Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”
(Mark 4:37-40)

Hard times will come. Temptations will beset. Trials will besiege. But, the Master of the wind and waves has overcome them all. I have no reason to be fearful. Everything will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.

Death by Chocolate

Nephi: ca 600 BC; Paul: ca 100 AD


Two of the greats in scripture; one in the Book of Mormon, one in the New Testament. Both were superb writers and prophets, and though their birthdays have a 700 year difference, they have these scriptures in common:

“O wretched man that I am!” 2 Nephi 4:17
“O wretched man that I am!” Romans 7:24

Centuries apart, the same lament—word for word. And not only that, but these are the good guys who “preached and teached.” Can we really consider them “wretched?” And if they were wretched, then what are we? What’s 100x below wretched? Basement wretched? Earth mantle wretched?

But, ah ha, what does the the word wretched really mean? For some uninformed reason I took the word to mean that you are a horrible individual. I went on the word “wretch,” which does mean “a deplorable or despicable character,” (dictionary.com) worthy to follow in the cinematic footsteps of Despicable Me 1, 2, and 3. 

My using the same definition to explain wretched is wrong (which wrongness on this, and other subjects, I’m unhappy to report happens often). The word “wretched,” in my trusty research spots—Strong’s Concordance, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, and dictionary.com—all mean the same thing: it’s the situation you’re in that’s the problem. You find yourself beset with trials that seem to go on forever. Life experience is the wretch, not you. 

Both of our cited great prophets follow their “O wretched …” declarations with lamentations over the flesh: 
Nephi: “Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh.”
Paul: “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Let’s face it, the flesh can be a real bummer sometimes. Sure, the body is a gift, but in its current fallen state it’s the cheap knock-off, not the name brand.  

Dear Reader, this whole harangue has the sole purpose of stating the fact that the soul is not
a wretch, if only because of its Heavenly Parentage. We sometimes get ourselves in wretched situations through our bad choices, but we, us, kids of God, are not horrid wretches. 

And thanks to the help of Saint Dictionary, I have reached back through the centuries and I think I understand what Paul and Nephi were trying to say. Therefore I declare: 

“O wretched woman that I am! Who shall deliver me from the death of this chocolate? Yea, my thighs sorroweth because of my addiction to sugar.”

The Tale of Twins

It’s 8am and the babies are fed, changed, and asleep. After tag-teaming the 7am feeding/changing routine, I sent Daddy-Tadd to bed as he’d had the night shift. Caitlyn helped with the 2:30am. They let me have a full, uninterrupted night sleep. I feel like a new woman. 

Franklin, or Frankie, is a noisy sleeper. I have come to call him “Squeaky McSqueaker” because of all the racket he makes while he dreams. You are never sure if he is awake or asleep until you actually look at him. After he eats he likes to be propped up in the corner of the couch so he can survey the living room—or the blurs of the living room, depending on how a newborn sees the world— until his milk coma takes over and he falls asleep, which doesn’t take too long.

Sally has become a FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) child. Whereas Frankie stays awake a tiny bit after polishing off a bottle, little Miss FOMO keeps her eyes brightly open so she won’t miss a thing. She doesn’t fuss, just lays there looking around—waiting and watching. She must be FBI-in-Training.  FOMO FBIT.

Neither of these little twins are super fussy or colicky, and we thank our lucky stars for that. But they are twins, and everything is times two. Lots of diapers, wipes, and laundry. 

I have the privilege of being here in their house for the first weeks of their lives. How often does a grandma get to do that? Sure, Tadd, Caitlyn, and I are sleep-deprived, but we are told that will pass—there are no indicators of that yet, but we have hope. Hope springs eternal in the hearts of parents and grandparents. 

I am fortunate in that Tadd doesn’t hate having his mother-in-law around, at least he is not letting on if he does. We are working together to take care of these babies so Caitlyn can get some much needed rest. Her body has been through the ringer. First you consider she carried these two babies to full twin-term, and then underwent a vaginal birth AND a c-section to get them here. She can nap for three hours, get up and move around for a bit, and then go down for another nap. She says she feels guilty for sleeping so much, but I told her yesterday she has ONE job: sleeping. That’s it. We can handle the rest.

Thankfully these babies are bottle fed, so anyone can take care of them (well, not really anyone, but anyone on the trusted list). Caitlyn bought a nifty machine called a BabyBreeza, which makes a perfectly mixed and heated bottle in like 30 seconds. I can’t tell you how much that helps. 

Thus far, Frankie and Sally have had their first outing (to the doctor for a checkup—does that count?), first bath, and their first trip to Grandpa Jack and Grandma Sue’s for family swim day. They lounged in the shade by the pool and were passed from one set of hands to another, until oldest cousin, Jack, insisted they be brought inside while the lawn boys were working on the grass. 

These babies have older brothers. Samson. six, is the ever attentive biggest brother. He loves to hold Sally (the novel sister), and is learning how to feed and burp her and her twin brother. I keep trying to hand off diaper changing to him, but he’s not having any part of that. 

Walt, three, on the other hand, could give a flip less about the two new family members. All he cares about is Otter Pops, string cheese, and Mickey’s Playhouse. As long as there are plenty of those, life is good. 

He is also digging the string of play days he is having with cousins. Caitlyn’s sisters, Whitney and Haley, and sister-in-law, Lindey, have truly stepped up to the plate and taken turns corralling the two big brothers. It’s just one party-day after another for Sam and Walt. 

Grandma Camme comes by often to get some twin time. Face it, these babies must be held. She also heeded a request from Samson for spaghetti. He wanted some Camme-ghetti for snacking, and she complied. 

Charity is in full force and there has been a parade of dinners coming in. Ladies in the neighborhood have brought by meals, which have helped immensely.  I’m beginning to behave like Pavlov’s dog and start salivating at 5pm. And my understanding is family and friends have signed up to continue feeding us for the next couple weeks. 

Today I have my assignment at the Payson Temple, so Whitney is coming down to help out while I am gone. She and family friend, Kalli, are committed to come here and take a night shift sometime this coming week. My only concern is Kalli putting a twin in her pocket and taking him or her home. We must perform a pat-down before she leaves. 


Yes, twins are a trip. You have these moments you look at the two little bassinets in the living room and think to yourself, “Holy crap, there are really two of them. Seriously, two of them,” and you have a mental moment of freak out. Then you hear that unmistakeable sound of someone filing their diaper, or a burp with some spit up to follow, or the dryer buzzing to tell you a load of clothes is ready to fold, and you get back to work. Double the work, double the magic, and, most of all, very double the blessings.  

Wade Through the Dark

“And we did … wade through much affliction in the wilderness.”

Yes, Nephi, we know it was tough out there in the wilderness with that nightmare of a family, but why use the word wade?

Webster’s definition of wade is “to walk through any substance that yields to the feet, like water; to walk through on the bottom, like a river; to move or pass through with difficulty.”

What an excellent way to describe our “walk” through life, which, at times, is really more like a wade through quicksand.  Down here in this fallen world, we are on the bottom. (I don’t mean to infer we are bottom dwellers.) The apostle Paul describes it this way: “we see through a glass darkly.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) 

Looking up from the bottom here on earth to the heavens above, our vision is obscured and reality is elusive. The reality I speak of is God and Christ. They are what is real. This earth life is merely a stage for us to act out our life on and prove to ourselves what we’re made of. It’s not permanent, people, so don’t get too attached to it. 

Nephi’s use of the word wade helps me understand that even though the way might be hard to travel, I’m still able to move forward. It might be difficult, but it’s possible. This phrase might be trite and overused, but truly “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” 


And I hate to be Debbie Downer, but just so you know, life will eventually kill you. 

My Poor Sunday School Class...

each week I subject them to my ideas and interpretations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Oh sure, I back up my thoughts with scriptures and the words of the prophets, but overall my 16-18 year olds are my captives for 40 minutes and I take advantage of the time I have them in my clutches.

There are three things—directives—I am trying to beat into them this year: 1) Gain a strong testimony of Jesus Christ. Do that and you are on the road to good things. Life will make more sense and you will have the strength to withstand the crap thrown at you.  He is the Beginning and the End. He is the Answer and the Way. He is Everything.

2) If you have doubts and questions about the gospel or the church, ask God—your Father in Heaven—not Google. Look to the right source for your answers. You will have questions and doubts throughout your life—there is nothing wrong with that—the problem lies in WHERE you look for answers. Joe Somebody who lives in his parent's basements and spends his days cruising the internet is not the best source for doctrinal answers, and neither is the professor who uses his large brain to pick apart the Mormon church. Faith does not fit in a tidy box. God's ways are not man's, and we don't have the intelligence to understand everything gospel related. Bottom line: God is a lot smarter than we are, and it's plain arrogance to think we know better than He does.

3) Keep promises. In our day a person's word means squat. This is why we have attorneys and the court system. (Oh for the days when your word was your bond.) When you make it to the temple, it's all about covenants. We promise this, and God promises that. His promises are pretty awesome and worth seeking. He always keeps His end of the deal. ALWAYS. We are required to do the same. When we make temple covenants, we don't sign documents, we just say "yes." That's it. I tell my Sunday School kids that if you practice keeping your promises now, then the temple covenants you make in the future will be easier to keep.

Last week I asked them what the three class directives were this year, and they gave me blank looks. Apparently I'm not doing my job very well. Thank goodness I have these kids in my grasp for seven more months.

Plain. Precious.

(WARNING: here we go again. Another religious rant. Proceed with caution.)


Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.

For the prophets of old, writing scripture was not an easy task. You’d have papyrus, animal skins, or metal plates to record your life and revelations on. None of these mediums were  found in neat packaging at the local office supply store. They were usually made by the individual writing on therm. And writing instruments were hard to work with as well. Ever try writing a book with a stick or quill dipped in homemade ink? Or pound out letters and symbols with a chisel?

My point is this - writing, condensing, abridging, transcribing, and printing scripture was a labor-intensive process; so when a phrase is repeated many times over, it must mean something. So it is with “plain and precious.”

In the Book of Mormon,  chapter 13  in the book of 1st Nephi, the phrase “plain and precious” is mentioned 10 times. You know me, I have to ask, “Why is that?”

I have thought about this for the last couple days and not really come up with a concrete answer to appease my curiosity. But I have had some ancillary thoughts. 

Plain means clear to the mind, distinct, simple, evident, and free from ambiguity or evasion. Precious is defined as of great value, costly, and highly esteemed  for some spiritual or moral quality. 

How better can you explain the principles of the gospel? They are clear, simple, and of great value. 

You’ll note that one of the definitions is “costly.” No kidding. Scripture and the gospel have cost some individuals greatly, even to the point of their blood. 

As I consider “plain and precious,” I think of the “straight and narrow.” (Don’t ask me how I got there…it just happened.) The world’s way is the polar opposite of plain and precious. It is gaudy and cheap. Fancy on the outside, empty on the inside. Conflicting, confusing, and easily obtained. Like the wide road of the world, there are many different notions traveling side by side. Choose one and link arms with it. It might be fun for awhile, but you will go nowhere. 

The gospel path is narrow. It’s simple and plain. There is one individual leading the way, and that Individual is Jesus Christ. Follow close behind Him and you end up at the feet of your Father in Heaven. Christ is plain and precious. Clear and valuable. Free from ambiguity and of great worth. 


Maybe that is the message for me. Keep it simple, Sue. Remember the value of what you know and believe. Stay behind the Savior. He is plain, clear, honest, trustworthy, of infinite worth, and offers you something of unimaginable value: Life eternal with God the Fatherand it's pretty plain to me that's precious.

One, Two, Three


(WARNING: Yet another religious rant ahead. Gee, Sue, what is the deal? Can't you write about anything else?)

Interesting how one verse—and it’s not even the whole verse—in the good ol' Book of Mormon, can have so much information in it.

Take for example 1 Nephi 11:1 (lots of “1s” there). Here Nephi is outlining a great way to get answers from Above. He has listened to the words of his prophet father, Lehi, and wonders just what they mean. So our pal, Nephi, tells us the formula for receiving personal revelation. In the LDS church, personal revelation is a thing.

First Nephi says, “I had desired to know.” Step One: you want to know. How many truths have you wanted to know? Understand? Untangle? Doubts and questions about the gospel are fine, actually good, because it means you are thinking. What matters the most is where you go for those answers. Ask God, not Google.

Step Two in the process: “Believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me.” Here is the faith stuff. You have no doubt God can answer you. It doesn’t say He must, or will, or should, but that He is able if He chooses to and thinks it’s the right thing for you at the time. (Again, the God Timetable Principle we all have such a hard time with.)

Then the Third Step, “Pondering.” This is the Turn Off, Tune In, Think About, Deliberate, Consider, Meditate—whatever term you want to use for “getting into your head and listening with you heart.” And the cool thing is that our Father in Heaven, because He knows all of us so well (He is our Father, after all), knows exactly how to talk to us. He knows the  language, examples, thoughts, words, and analogies that will get through our thick heads and really resonate with us. 


If you continue to read chapter 11 in 1 Nephi, you will see that this formula worked pretty darn good for our friend, Nephi. And I am pretty certain it will work for each of us. 

Accord


(WARNING: Religious Rant Ahead. Proceed with Caution)


In 1 Nephi 10:13, Lehi tells his family that the Lord wants them to go to the “land of promise” being “led with one accord.” What is the meaning of accord in 1838 when the Book of Mormon was translated? It means to be in agreement and harmony; to consent and have a concurrence of options or will. 

Unfortunately, Lehi’s kids didn’t all go “with one accord,” even though they did go.

In the book of Moroni, chapter 10, verse 7, we are told that the Lord works by the power of the Holy Ghost “according to the faith of the children of men.”

Can this according and the former accord have the same meaning? “According” to Webster, yes, they do (duh), and when put in this context, we come out with the idea that the Holy Ghost can work in our lives if we are in agreement and harmony with God, and consenting to His will. (Again, duh)

As Lehi and his family were “led with one accord” across the ocean to the Americas, we too can be led through this life by the Holy Ghost, “according” to our faith in, and compliance to, our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ.