Monday, December 31, 2007

My new church calling

I've just been called to serve as the first counselor in the ward Young Men's Presidency.  The whole presidency is newly called, and I'm looking forward to working with all of them.

One of the things I'll be doing in my new calling is teaching the Teacher's Quorum.  I'm really excited about that.  There are only 2-5 youth who will be there each week.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Anniversary 2007

Cheryl and I just celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary.  After a few unsuccessful attempts at romantic getaways in previous years, we decided to enjoy the comforts at home this year.  Our friends the Leafty's babysat Luke overnight and we made a fancy dinner at home.  We had shrimp cocktail and salad for an appetizer, followed by twice-baked potatoes and steak for our entrée.  Of course we had apple cider along with it. 

 The table set out for our anniversary dinner

Although we missed Luke, we hear he was pretty good at the Leafty's and enjoyed himself.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Eves 2007

Luke, Cheryl and I celebrated Christmas Eve twice this year: once on December 24th and again (tonight) on December 26th.  The first time we were with Cheryl's family in Colorado.  We spent the last few days with them and flew back to Washington on the afternoon of Christmas Day. 

Our time at the Mackrory's (Cheryl's parents) was very enjoyable.  Andrew & KaraLynne Mackrory (with their two kids Lyman and CoriLynne) were also visiting.  We celebrated Christmas Eve with lamb, ham, squash, broccoli and other great food.  Christmas morning we opened presents.  We had left most of our own presents at home so we could open them after our own traditions when we got back.

Christmas Eve at our house tonight consisted of a quick reading of Luke 2, followed by a "Mary & Joseph supper" consisting of cheese, crackers, grape juice, beef jerky and dried fruit.  Tradition would have it that we re-enact the trek Joseph & Mary took looking for an inn in which to deliver the baby Jesus.  In interest of time and a lack of actors we just read Luke 2, and quickly so that we'd have time to put Luke (the baby) to bed at a decent hour.  The food was good.  We added sliced oranges (compliments of dad Arnott) to our meal because it might have been dad's offering if he were there in A.D. 1.

Our family having our Mary & Joseph supper  (Andrew promises to warn Cheryl next time he snaps a picture.)

Tomorrow we will open presents from our extended family and to and from each other in our immediate family.  We'll likely blog again tomorrow.

Monday, December 17, 2007

How to easily stay up-to-date on family news

With at least 3 blogs from branches of the Arnott family keeping the rest of us up to date, I thought I'd help you "subscribe" to these updates so you know when someone posts to their blog and can read it easily.

First, let's review the family blogs thus far (that I know of):

  • http://blog.mysideoftheweb.com/ (Andrew + Cheryl)
  • http://hancockarnott.blogspot.com/ (Sarah + Sheldon)
  • http://danwebbfamily.blogspot.com/ (Rebecca + Dan)
  • Not listed here?  Get your blog started so we can keep up with what's going on in your life.  Here's a good place to start your new blog (it's free): http://www.blogger.com.

Gmail

Here's how you can add these blogs to Gmail so you are more likely to notice when someone posts something while you're just reading your Gmail:

  1. Get into your Gmail account.
  2. Click Settings
  3. Click Web Clips
  4. Fill in the "Search by topic or URL" box with the blog URL you want to stay up to date on. (one of the ones listed above)
  5. Click Search
  6. Click Add
  7. Keep repeating the last few steps until you've added all the blog URLs you want.
  8. Click the "remove" links next to any web clip lines you're not interested in seeing.
  9. Click Inbox.

Then you can click the Right button on the end of the Web Clip bar until you see some recent blog posts.  You won't always have to click that arrow.  When new posts are added to a blog you're interested in, they'll just show up in that ticker.

Google Reader

If you'd like an app that helps you subscribe to all these updates where you can read through lots of past entries at once, try Google Reader. 

  1. Visit http://www.google.com/reader
  2. Click the "Add subscription" link
  3. Type in one of the blog URLs listed above.
  4. Repeat to add each of the blogs you're interested in.
  5. Click the "All items" link to read entries from all of your subscribed blogs, in chronological order.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Luke is standing!

Luke has been standing with the help of steadying nearby objects for a few weeks.  He has recently been trying to free stand but only managed to do it for about a second at a time.  Tonight, he stood without any assistance several times for 10-15 seconds.  How exciting!

We'll share a video when we can get him to do it for the camera.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Looking for another job

An internal change at Microsoft forces me to find a new job (within the company).  Microsoft is making the transition as easy as possible.  There are lots of internal jobs available to me to apply for, and I have at least a few months to find a good fit.

Still, I will miss working on the .NET Compact Framework.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Family Christmas Newsletter 2007

Isn’t it amazing how the birth of someone so small can have such an impact on our lives and hearts that we are never ever the same? We began this year making preparations for the arrival of our little boy. We read books, took a class, and made several stops at BabiesRUs so that we would know how to handle every eventuality…On March 9th, Luke Mitchell arrived with his big blue eyes and an unquenchable thirst for adventure, and we found that you just have to take one day at a time. Now as we near the end of the year and his 9th month, we are amazed at how much we all have grown! I have learned how to multitask like never before, Andrew has learned to get by on minimal sleep, and Luke has learned to move about, hide things under the oven, unroll the toilet roll, and steal our hearts every time he smiles and says “Mama”.

Even though the miles have separated us from family, we were fortunate enough to make visits to Colorado, California, Utah and Portland. The Relate Institute, whom Andrew used to work for, invited him back to a retreat, partly funding our trip to Utah in June, allowing us to spend time with Andrew’s sister, and most of my family. It was really fun to see all of the Mackrory cousins together and see, not only a confirmation of our quality gene pool, but how they have all changed in just a year. Scout camp took Andrew to Puget Sound for a week so I skipped off to Colorado with Luke so Grandma and Grandpa Mackrory could spoil us. Just as the cold was setting in here, we went off down to Southern California so Luke could meet his Grandma Arnott (and GREAT Grandma too!). It was so nice to see the sun, all day, everyday, for a FEW days, and we managed to sneak in a visit to the temple, an hour at the beach, and a ride through the orange groves! We just got back from spending Thanksgiving with Andrew’s sister (the Webbs) in Portland, and despite the illnesses that inflicted half the party, it was so nice to see them and be with family again.

At the end of the summer, our church ward boundaries were redefined and we became part of a new ward. We left behind a lot of friends, but found that there are much more young families with whom we can relate, and Luke has the benefit of extra playmates at the back of Sunday School. We are currently doing a Christmas assignment and Andrew is sharing the teaching of Gospel Doctrine.

I became my own boss just before Luke was born (and then he became boss..), and in August, Andrew got a promotion. He really enjoys the team he works with at Microsoft and keeps very busy with the Homeowners Association. I love being at home with my little boy and having time to do crafty things when Luke takes a nap longer than an hour, a truly rare phenomenon.

Next year we plan to join my parents in going to South Africa for 2 weeks. Hopefully I can get my US citizenship in time to get a passport… It will be so fun to show Andrew and Luke a part of my childhood and see my Grandparents as well. We’re sure there will be reasons too to return to Colorado and California and we look forward to spending anytime we can with family. It has been hard to be living so far away from everyone but hopefully the internet and telephone will keep us feeling connected.

We hope that this letter finds you happy and healthy. As we celebrate all that is Christmas, the trees, the treats, and the trimmings, may your family feel the love and the change that can come from the birth of one tiny baby so many years ago. When you look to Him, your heart and life will never be the same.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Snow on December 1st

Happy December, everyone.  We looked at the window, and what did we see?  Snow-covered rooftops looking at me!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Luke's first Thanksgiving, and climbing his first steps

Here are some pictures of Luke climbing his first stairs, and eating his first Thanksgiving meal!

Monday, November 19, 2007

What we're thankful for

For Family Home Evening tonight, we made a list of the things we are thankful for.  Here is what we came up with.

  1. Super-Luke, Luke-ee-spook, Louie-Luke
  2. Microsoft benefits, especially health insurance
  3. Family
  4. Home
  5. Full-time employment
  6. Freedom of religion
  7. Reliable car
  8. That Cheryl can be a stay-at-home mom
  9. Rain because it makes everything so fresh and clean, or muddy and wet depending on how you look at it.
  10. Different perspectives
  11. Sleep (when we can get it)
  12. Food, and food storage
  13. Friends, who are so generous in helping us get ready for our baby
  14. Sarah had a baby
  15. Rebecca is pregnant
  16. Mike got a new house
  17. Sean got into BYU
  18. That Isaac got into BYU too
  19. Nathan got himself a woman
  20. Matthew can teach Andrew stock market research techniques
  21. Andy is going to be the first Mackrory to become a citizen (in December)
  22. Hannah's entertaining book
  23. Jared has interviews with Stanford and Wharton
  24. Our health
  25. Luke is developing well
  26. The Ric & Lisa Lewis' family is having a baby
  27. Our opportunity to go to South Africa next year

Monday, November 12, 2007

Not-so-scary Halloween pictures; and others

Here are some pictures of us at the ward Halloween party, and a few other random photos of Luke.

This also serves as a demonstration of how to get a slideshow of photos on a blog, so a single post doesn't have to be so tall because it's chock full of pictures.  Yay.

So here's how you do it.  Upload your photos to PicasaWeb using Picasa.  Then look at your online photo album within PicasaWeb and click the "Embed Slideshow" link on the left.  Follow the instructions and copy the HTML code into a blog post.  And you've got an instant photo slideshow of that album as I have above.

While I've come to like Windows Live Photo Gallery far better than Google's Picasa, I don't like the ads or links to other people's photos that are on Microsoft's or Flickr's photo sharing web sites.  Google's on the other hand doesn't try to draw your viewers to others' photos, making the web a slightly safer place to those looking at your pictures.  So what I do to bring in the best of both worlds is I use Windows Live Photo Gallery for all my photo work, and then I just start Picasa long enough to upload the photos to the web and then keep using Photo Gallery.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I'm in physical therapy now for my back

I learned recently that physical therapy is for the young as well as the old.  I injured my back while helping a friend move some exercise equipment a few months ago and it has gotten steadily worse.  I've been to the chiropractor several times, and recently I've been to physical therapy to learn some specific exercises to build up my "core strength," or my lower back muscles.

Meanwhile I sit with pillows and back supports attached to my chairs. 

Monday, November 05, 2007

How Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory should have ended

This isn't quite as good as the Star Wars or Lord of the Rings videos, but it's still amusing.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The evil behind 'The Golden Compass'

If you believe in and revere your God, do not watch the movie "The Golden Compass" and especially do not buy the books. 

You may already know about this, but I just learned about a kids movie coming out in December starring Nicole Kidman.  It's called The Golden Compass, and while it will be a watered down version, it is based on a series of children's books about killing God (It is the anti-Narnia).  The books are written by an atheist.

From what I understand, the hope is to get a lot of kids to see the movie - which won't seem too bad - and then get the parents to buy the books for their kids for Christmas. 

Here is a quote from the second book:

’The knife,’ he went on after a minute. ‘They never knew what they were making, those old philosophers. They invented a device that could split open the very smallest particles of matter, and they used it to steal candy. They had no idea that they’d made the one weapon in all the universes that could defeat the tyrant. The Authority. God. The rebel angels fell because they didn’t have anything like the knife; but now…’

’There are two great powers,’ the man said, ‘and they’ve been fighting since time began. Every advance in human life, every scrap of knowledge and wisdom and decency we have has been torn by one side from the teeth of the other. Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit.’

- The Subtle Knife, p. 283

Learn what is really going on here, and warn all your friends:

http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp

Monday, October 22, 2007

Steering wheel lady

How Superman Should Have Ended

If you remember Superman (the original), you'll appreciate this. So true, so true.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The King of Kings offers us TRUE freedom

I moved here from New Zealand when I was 17, I have recently completed my paper work and will soon have the privilege of taking the oath that comes with citizenship. The Statue of Liberty has traditionally been the greeter to immigrants. She has become an image of hope and freedom to many an immigrant who has passed by her. Her message is one of compassion:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

For centuries people have answered that call, and come seeking greater opportunity, a better job, a home of their own, land to grow crops, religious freedom and prosperity. For many of these wanderers, they have paid a great price for this promise of a better life, they have traveled great distances, overcome disease and rough seas, and have finally found shelter and respite on the shores of Ellis Island.

Even though I did not have to endure a stormy ocean voyage or the persecution that sparks immigration for some, I too know the joy of coming to this country from a foreign land and the exciting prospect of becoming a Citizen of the United States.

American society is made up of native born citizens and immigrants. In the Church some of us have been members of this Gospel all our lives, we were born into the Church. Others were found by the missionaries and have come into the fold in that way. All of us however have to become spiritually reborn if we are to truly be followers of Christ and be called “His people”. As I thought about what it means to become spiritually reborn, I recalled the process to becoming a citizen. Allow me to take it step by step and help you understand that each one of us is eligible and can attain this wonderful gift of belonging to the fold of Christ.

I want so much to be a part of the American People. My process of naturalization began and continues to be fueled by this great desire I have. Faith is a lot more than that, but it sure begins with a desire. If we allow “the desire to work within us” it becomes faith. Once we have faith, it continues to increase as we experiment upon the word and practice obedience. This is the first step and as the fourth article of faith states the first principle of the Gospel. It is important to realize that faith is not “something we get and then keep it is something to be strengthened and nurtured much like a testimony. President Faust said that “To be born again means that we must exercise a faith that does not waver and is not easily distracted.”

Just as my application for citizenship began with me detailing my past, and the kind of moral decisions and character I have had, repentance is an essential step in the process to being spiritually reborn. Just like faith, this principle is not just something we practice once, right before we are baptized. It requires constant attention and vigilance. Just because we are spiritually reborn does not mean we will not make mistakes, but it does mean we will want to continually be repenting and experiencing the blessing of the Atonement so that we can be always worthy of the spirit.

The citizenship oath includes the words: I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen. These should not be difficult words to promise if one truly desires to be a citizen of this country. How often do we pick and choose the things we will and will not give up in order to give our whole souls to God. In fact, HOW CAN WE profess to be a disciple of Christ when we still give place in our hearts to anything that detracts us from obedience to his commandments. There are so many distractions in this world, not all of them inherently evil either, but we all have things that we like just a little too much to get rid of. We are told that the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. This does not mean that we are expected to be perfect, but we should be doing all we can to be as close to it as possible.

I recently heard of a painting in which the artist painted an old man loaded up with packages and bags of every kind. He has maps and books under his arms and is barely able to move with this heavy load. Above his head is the iron rod…he sees it, and wants so badly to be able to reach it, but cannot seem to part with the things that are keeping him from being able to reach up and grasp hold of it. We can see how silly and seemingly easy his decision should be, however, we sometimes give priority to things in this life that cannot bring us peace and joy.

Alma 5 suggests that the things we should be giving up are pride, envy, mocking of one another, turning our backs from the poor and needy, setting our hearts on the vain things of this world among other things. We know, many of us from experience, that these things, are not only part of the natural man and therefore an “enemy to God” but are also an enemy to our happiness. As we become as a little child and submit to the will of our Father in Heaven, he looses the bands of our captivity and we become truly free. When we align our will with His we can realize all the blessings he has in store for us and we can be more open to bless others lives too.

In order to prepare for citizenship I have to study about 100 questions, present official documents, fill out paperwork and write a hefty check to cover...expenses...? The Lord requires something much different. Something we ALL can give no matter who we are, what we’ve done, or where we’ve been. He requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Baptism is the ordinance that opens the gate for our entrance into the kingdom of God. It is a cleansing of our bodies and our spirits and is perhaps what we most often think about when we hear the term, spiritual rebirth. I remember going to a baptism of an elderly lady a few years ago. When she came up out of the water, she looked up at the witnesses of this ordinance and said “oh, THANKYOU!” it really struck me that here she was, near the end of her mortal journey, being in a real sense “re born” and how grateful she was for that. Do we take it for granted, this great blessing of baptism?

When I take my oath of citizenship I promise that I will:

  • Support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies
  • Bear true faith and allegiance to the same and that I will ;
  • Bear arms on behalf of the United States and perform noncombatant service

When we are baptized we make promises to:

  • Obey the commandments and keep any covenants we have made.
  • Take upon ourselves the name of Christ and to always remember Him.
  • Be always ready and willing to stand for and to defend the truth.

Elder Theodore M. Burton said of this taking of the name of Christ upon us as part of Spiritual rebirth:

If we truly understand the full stature of the name by which we then are called, we will live different lives. No longer will we do less than our best in our work or at school. No longer will we be dishonest in paying our bills or in the treatment of our family members, nor will we take unfair advantage of anyone in any way. Our word will be as binding on us as our bond. No longer will we be unkind to our associates or be immoral or selfish in any way, either secretly or openly. We will do nothing to bring dishonor or shame to that holy name we carry as children of Jesus Christ. We will respect and honor our covenant Father, Jesus Christ, and be righteously jealous and protective of the holy name we bear. We will judge everything we do on the basis of how it might reflect on Him whose name we carry, not only on our lips but in our very hearts.

A scripture in Mosiah describes this commitment:

Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.

When I become American others will look to me as an example of what “an American” does and says. When I travel abroad without meaning to I will be an ambassador. Are there things that we are doing that are not in line with what a disciple of Christ should be doing? We need to be good examples of what we believe or we make ourselves into hypocrites. Being spiritually reborn changes not just our outward expressions of a commitment we’ve made, but we ourselves feel different, we are changed.

Following our baptism we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost as a guide and companion to us. I testify that having the Holy Ghost with us is so valuable. I have felt the power of the Spirit in my own life when I have been in danger several times with regard to dating, without knowing it myself, I was approached by someone who would not value and respect me and the quiet yet firm prompting of the Holy Ghost were a shield and protection.

Having the Holy Ghost with us will also prompt us to lift and help others and steer us in the paths of others we can bless. It is through doing the work of the Savior that we truly come to know the love he has for each of us.

President Faust says:

Those who take upon themselves His work shall be twice born, renewed in heart and in spirit. It is the message that they who drink of the water that the Master gives them “shall never thirst,” but that this water may be in them “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).  They who take upon themselves the burdens of others shall find unspeakable joy. This great transcending happiness is available to all, even the most humble and forlorn. It is within the grasp of all. We reach the Creator through His children. Whoso gives a cup of water to the thirsting gives it to the Savior, and whoso receives that water receives the infinite Father who sent Him.

So, if we have exercised faith, repented, been baptized, and received the Holy Ghost, how can we know whether we have been spiritually reborn – what does that feel like and how can we measure our progress? Elder Oaks answers this with examples from the scriptures:

After King Benjamin’s great sermon, many of his hearers cried out that the Spirit of the Lord “has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). If we are losing our desire to do evil, we are progressing toward our heavenly goal.

The Apostle Paul said that persons who have received the Spirit of God “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). I understand this to mean that persons who are proceeding toward the needed conversion are beginning to see things as our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, see them. They are hearing His voice instead of the voice of the world, and they are doing things in His way instead of by the ways of the world. End Quote.

As we work toward our salvation, trying harder each day to be better, we can get ever closer to Christ.

Because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters (Mosiah 5:7).

Elder Bednar comments saying:

The spiritual rebirth described in this verse typically does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process—not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience.

Whether we are born into the Gospel, or have to join the Church as an adult, all of us need to become spiritually reborn and truly converted.

President Romney says of this:

Membership in the Church and conversion are not necessarily synonymous. Stated simply, true conversion is the fruit of faith, repentance, and consistent obedience. Faith comes by hearing the word of God and responding to it. You will receive from the Holy Ghost a confirming witness of things you accept on faith by willingly doing them. You will be led to repent of errors resulting from wrong things done or right things not done. As a consequence, your capacity to consistently obey will be strengthened. This cycle of faith, repentance, and consistent obedience will lead you to greater conversion with its attendant blessings. True conversion will strengthen your capacity to do what you know you should do, when you should do it, regardless of the circumstances.

All of us are familiar with the great freedoms available to citizens of this nation, they are included and protected by the Constitution. We have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press the list goes on.

Christ offers those who follow him a freedom far greater than any of these. Some of these blessings are described in Alma chapter 5. They include freedom from the bondage of sin which weighs us down with feelings of inadequacy and guilt. We experience that “mighty change” in our hearts, we have the companionship of the Holy Ghost which testifies of truth and brings all things to our remembrance. We have an assurance of our divine nature as sons and daughters of God and are promised eternal life and exaltation if we are “faithful until the end.” What greater gifts can we hope for? What is not worth giving up for all that? The benefits of spiritual rebirth are lasting and eternal and bring a happiness the world cannot duplicate.

When we reach the end of this life, it will not matter where we have lived, what our house looked like, what job we had or how popular we were. What WILL matter is what kind of father, mother, sister, brother and friend we were, how we treated our neighbors and how we remained faithful to our covenants. In essence, our goal is to become like Christ. That is the point of our journey here in mortality.

Christ is the head of this Church, our Good Shepherd and the keeper of the gate that leads to our Father in Heaven and eternal life in His presence. His message has always been one of compassion. He welcomes all people regardless of situation or past, who truly repent and come unto Him. Alma 5 instructs that the Gospel be taught to everyone that dwelleth in the land, the old and the young, both bond and free, yea I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation, [that all these] must repent and be born again.”

The Savior says to each one of us “come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”

I testify that true conversion comes as we are tested, and as we cross the rough seas of life, but as we keep our eyes fixed on the Savior he will guide us home and give us the rest and respite we are seeking. We will be His and through the atonement we will inherit all the Father hath.

Monday, October 08, 2007

What's up with reserved parking for staff?

Why do teachers get reserved parking closest to the school, while students fight over open parking multiple blocks away from their classroom?  Who is working for who?

I often question the logic of having "staff parking" nearer to a building than customer/student parking.  The thinking for them, I suppose, is that staff are more important than customers/students.  Or maybe their political voice is stronger.  For whatever reason, staff and teachers typically get preferential treatment in parking to those who actually pay the bills of the establishment (the students and customers).  This seems mixed up anyway.

But now consider that a staff person will typically come once and leave once per day, staying the whole day and enjoying their short walk from car to building and back again exactly once per day.  A student/customer will typically stay for only an hour or so before leaving again, leaving their spot open to the next student/customer.  As often happens, many students may use the exact same parking spot in any given day.  So several students walk the long trek from car to building per day. 

Walkers enjoying a short walk: 1

Walkers forced to walk a great distance: many

This is economically unsound.  In your mind, swap the position of the staff and student parking.  Put the parking spot used by the staff member farther away and the student parking spot close to the building.  What do you have?  A system that benefits many more people:

Walkers enjoying a short walk: many

Walkers forced to walk a great distance: 1

Doesn't that make more sense?  Leave a comment and let me know if you agree or disagree.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

How to add a Sustain'd button to your LDS-oriented blog

I just added a "Sustain'd" button to this blog. If you read an LDS-oriented post that you like, please click the "Sustain This!" button to refer it to others.

While adding the button, I found out that the instructions on the sustaind.org web site for adding these buttons to blogs hosted by Blogger is out of date and has bugs in it. I fixed up the code before inserting it into my own blog.  In case you want to add it to your Blogger-hosted blog, here is the code I used in my blog template to add the button. I added it directly under the line that has the tag <data:post.body/>.  You may have to check the Expand Widget Templates checkbox to see this tag.

<!-- Sustain'd -->
<div id="meneame" style="width: 98px; height: 17px; border: none; padding: 0; margin: 0; background:transparent; margin-bottom:15px; margin-left:10px; ">
<iframe id="sustaindiframe" width="98" height="17" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" vspace="0" hspace="0" allowtransparency="true" expr:src='"http://www.sustaind.org/api/check_url.php?url=" + data:post.url'></iframe>
</div>
<!-- /Sustain'd -->

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The word "only" as used in the scriptures

Modern scriptures for the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints keep the King James Version style of ancient Biblical scripture in their latter-day scripture.  This can make understanding passages difficult sometimes.  By understanding a few writing habits used by prophets, several oft-quoted scriptural passages can be better understood.  In this post I discuss one of these: the use of the word "only".

Let me first propose that often the word "only" can and should be substituted with the word "except".  Let me give you some examples of where this will seem obvious if you think about it a bit:

Alma 38

  9 And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only [except] in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.

D&C 89

  5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only [except] in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.

D&C 104

  71 And there shall not any part of it be used, or taken out of the treasury, only [except] by the voice and common consent of the order.

D&C 121

  41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only [except] by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

I hope these few examples demonstrate that sometimes a point is made in the negative, and then followed by the word "only" and a provision for a single allowed scenario.  In modern English we use the word "except" in these instances.  In fact a keyword search for the phrases "only by" and "only in" in the scriptures shows that when the word is found in this pattern, it always uses the "except" meaning. (At least in all the scriptures I could check out).

There is one instance in scripture that is similar to the foregoing examples, but I recently met someone who interpreted the word "only" in the scripture to mean its usual literal meaning (which would end up meaning almost the opposite of what I believe was the intended interpretation).  It comes from the Word of Wisdom:

D&C 89

  12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

  13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only [except] in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

Consider the meaning of verse 13 if you interpret the word "only" the way we typically use it today: that we should not only eat the flesh of beasts in times of winter, cold and famine but in other times as well.  But since this followed the negative-only-allowance pattern if we replace "only" with "except", we see that we should not eat the flesh of beasts except in times of winter, cold or famine.

As further confirmation that this "except" word was the intended meaning of verse 13, consider the two verses that follow it:

  14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;

  15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.

This time the word "only" is not preceded by a negative phrase, and we keep the word "only" there. Since it is a grammatically simple sentence it is easy to see that God intends us to only eat the meat of beasts in famine or excess of hunger. 

As a side note, I think members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could live this commandment more faithfully than many of us do.  I enjoy my meat as well as the next Mormon, but I'm trying to be better.  I did have a friend who had done his research on the culture where people had the longest average lifespan.  The only unique thing in that culture that he could attribute the longer lifespan to was their dietary habit of eating a small portion of meat only once per year.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

When one chooses to follow Christ, one chooses to be changed

The following is a talk I gave in church on September 23, 2007.

The need for change

Because we are born the natural man, we must be born again. We must become childlike to return to live with our Heavenly Father. But we are naturally carnal, sensual and devilish. Christ’s atonement gives us the power to make the transition from the natural man to a Christ-like child of God over the course of our entire life.

A portion of the light of Christ is in every one of God’s children. Moroni 7:16 tells us “…the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil…” If you’re thinking about yourself or perhaps a friend not of our faith and thinking “I don’t think he/she is carnal and devilish”, then you recognize the light of Christ in that individual.

But it is not enough to have the light of Christ in our lives sufficient to judge between good and evil. We must pursue good and bring additional light into our lives. Moroni goes on to say:

  18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; …

  19 … search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.

It is not enough to stop sinning. Our hearts must be pure, we must keep all the commandments:

Mosiah 27
  25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
  26 And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

D&C 3
  4 For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.

When we need to change

When are we planning to change? Are we subconsciously just hoping that in the resurrection we will look at ourselves and notice “Hey! I’m suddenly Christ-like!”? Amulek taught the people of Ammonihah when and how this change really needs to take place:

Alma 34
  31 Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.
  32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
  33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
  34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

The change must happen here, in our lives right now.

As Robert Louis Stevenson has said: “You cannot run away from a weakness; you must sometimes fight it out or perish. And if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?”

Who changes us

It is vitally important that we realize who will change us. We cannot change ourselves. Filth cannot clean filth. It takes someone who is pure to make someone else pure.

President Benson said:

The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.

Source: July 1989 Ensign – Born of God

It is our nature that must change. Repentance throughout our lives will only change our nature if we let Christ change us.

President McKay said:

“You do change human nature, your own human nature, if you surrender it to Christ. Human nature has been changed in the past. Human nature must be changed on an enormous scale in the future, unless the world is to be drowned in its own blood. And only Christ can change it.”

(Beverly Nichols, in David O. McKay, Stepping Stones to an Abundant Life, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971, p. 23.) Source: July 1989 Ensign – Born of God

By acknowledging our dependence on God for this change of heart, we are on the path to the change in our human nature that we so desperately need.

Learning to accept the change

“When you choose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed.”

President Benson

Although Christ does the changing, effort is required on our part.

Corrie Ten Boom’s story

A true story from Corrie Ten Boom illustrates this:

It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. ...

And that's when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister's frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent. ...

"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard in there." No, he did not remember me.

"But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, ..." his hand came out, ... "will you forgive me?"

And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." ...

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling."

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

"I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!"

For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then.

Copyright © 1972 by Guideposts, Carmel, New York 10512. Source: PBS

My first missionary companion

Toward the end of our time together, my missionary trainer and I got into some kind of argument. I closed myself up in the bedroom to fume over it. This comes from my journal:

I was so angry. I did not want to leave my bedroom. But at the same time, I knew that being angry was not what I was supposed to be. … But I was so angry I could not think straight. I prayed, “Father, I am so angry. I cannot understand what just happened. But though I know I should love my companion, I cannot let go of this anger by myself. Please help me.” I honestly would have taken the whole day to get over this incident. After my prayer, my anger just vanished in under 5 minutes. It truly was a miracle, because I know I could not have given up my anger that fast.

I had to ask for help to change, and when the change came, I had to accept it. Even after my anger was taken away, it was hard for me to accept it because it meant I had to swallow my pride and walk outside the bedroom and make amends with my companion. It took me two more hours to be willing to accept the gift God gave me that day and get back to the work I was supposed to be doing.

Letting the change happen

Letting the change happen, I believe, would be easy if we were not so prideful. President Benson said that “God can make a lot more out of our lives than we can,” so by accepting God’s help we become the best we can be.

When poisonous serpents bit the Israelites in the wilderness, Moses erected a brazen serpent that people merely had to look at to be healed. Nephi, the son of Lehi writes:

1 Nephi 17

  41 … the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.

Some of these Israelites would die before humbling themselves to believe that merely looking up could save them. The prophet Nephi (the one who was alive when Christ came) taught his neighbors about the symbolism of what Moses did:

Helaman 8

  14 Yea, did he not bear record that the Son of God should come? And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come.

  15 And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.

If we look to Christ through faith and obedience to his commandments, our hearts will change. If we welcome that change and continue on the path we will be ready to greet Him at that great and last day.

The results of change

There are many blessings from this change in our nature while we are still in this life. When we are truly born of God, we will be aware of and enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

President David O. McKay said:

No man can sincerely resolve to apply to his daily life the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth without sensing a change in his own nature. The phrase ‘born again’ has a deeper significance than many people attach to it. This changed feeling may be indescribable, but it is real.

Source: July 1989 Ensign – Born of God

Desire for Service

One of the ways we are changed is in our desire for service. God’s work and glory is to serve others in the highest possible way: leading them to eternal life. Our desire for service must ultimately come to match His if we are to live with Him someday. As we continue in faith and obedience, God will change our nature; and we must be willing to accept and embrace that change when it comes.

President Faust:

This ministering to others must not always be to our own. I am reminded of a time when, as a young missionary, I was stricken with yellow jaundice, which was known to us as “missionaries’ disease.” I was so deathly sick, I was afraid I would not die. A good woman, not of our faith, nursed me back to health. I felt she literally saved my life. That surpassing service to me was unpurchased, for she accepted nothing in return. I am looking forward to seeing her in another world if I should be worthy to go where she is.

If performed in the right spirit, there is no higher worship than the unpurchased service to another soul of whatever faith, belief, or social stratum. The Savior of the world said it simply, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40).

Source: June 1998 Ensign – A Second Birth

Closing remarks

I’d like to quote to you one of my favorite scriptures.

D&C 50:24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

I love this because it captures the idea that there is light in me, and that light will seek out more light, and I become filled with joy and love as I progress through this life. I am reminded of my potential as a child of God.

Testimony

I leave you with my testimony that I know the Savior lives, that he loves us, and that he wants to be a part of our lives. I testify that he can and does change human nature as much as we’ll let him. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that Gordon B. Hinckley is a true prophet, and that this is the Lord’s Church.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Additional Resources

May 2007 Ensign, page 19 – Ye Must Be Born Again

Book of Mormon, Alma Chapter 5

May 1975 Ensign, page 4 – Birth

Nov. 2000 Ensign, page 32 – The Challenge to Become

May 2002 Ensign, page 24 – Full Conversion Brings Happiness

Nov 1984 Ensign – Why Do We Serve

Alma 5
28 Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.
29 Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.

President Benson:

Those who had been born of God after hearing King Benjamin’s address had a mighty change in their hearts. They had “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”

Source: July 1989 Ensign, page 2 – Born of God

More on the results of this change

President Marion G. Romney said:

Converted means to turn from one belief or course of action to another. Conversion is a spiritual and moral change. Converted implies not merely mental acceptance of Jesus and his teachings but also a motivating faith in him and his gospel. A faith which works a transformation, an actual change in one’s understanding of life’s meaning and in his allegiance to God in interest, in thought, and in conduct. In one who is really wholly converted, desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died. And substituted therefore is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments.

Source: Full Conversion Brings Happiness

Monday, September 24, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What a wonderful world- Hand puppetry

How The Lord Of The Rings should have ended

I had this same thought as I watched the movies. This depiction of it is hilarious!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Are cigarette butts not garbage?

Where do smokers get the idea that they're not subject to littering laws and decency?  We're all taught not to litter, so how come every smoker I've ever seen discard a cigarette butt has done it on the ground instead of an ash tray?  There are some smoking areas where there must be hundreds of them on the ground.  Whether it's from their moving car, at the bus stop, or outside their office building.

Come on, smokers.  If you're going to injure yourselves and others through smoke and second-hand smoke, the least you could do is respect property and cleanliness.  Use an ashtray already!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Ward Photo Directory is now open source

In response to several requests for feature enhancements that I do not have time to provide and several requests for the source code, I have created the Ward Photo Directory project on CodePlex

The source code will be uploaded shortly, but the setup program for version 1.1 is already there for download.

Now as a personal request: if you download the source code in order to make a change, please consider contributing back to the project in one of the following ways (in ascending order of preference):

  1. Add a comment here or shoot me an email with what you're doing so I know what's going on and how people are using the software. 
  2. Add an Issue to the Issue Tracker for the feature you want to see fixed or added.
  3. If you fix the issue yourself in a generalized way, please either send a patch back to me or ask to be added as a developer on the project so you can check in your changes to help everyone else who is using the program.

Updated Ward Photo Directory app

So my previous post about how to generate a ward photo directory PDF in just a couple minutes has generated some great feedback.  I hadn't realized the hard-coded values (like my ward name!) that was in the version I published.  I've just uploaded version 1.1 that allows some additional customization:

  1. Change the ward name
  2. Select which families get included

I also disabled the Upload to Ward Web Site button because it had code in it that is hard-coded for my old ward, and until I can get admin rights to at least one more ward I won't be able to generalize it.

To download Ward Photo Directory v1.1, visit my previous post and make sure you follow the installation steps.  The link to download the app has already been updated to the new version.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

How to create your Ward Photo Directory in two minutes

All wards publish their membership directory in some form or another for their members.  Some wards (including student wards) very often publish a photo directory to help members get to know each other better, and to help a member recall the name with a face.  Creating ward photo directories has been a laborious task, but it doesn't need to be any more.  I've written a program that can generate your directory for you!

Oh, and as a bonus feature, with just a click you can upload all your membership photos to your ward web site on lds.org.  Your photos are automatically resized as necessary.  What used to be a painful, tedious and slow process is now completely automated!  Yay!

All it takes is an MLS membership export and a directory full of member photos (sorry, you still have to round up each member family and get their photo).  It produces a nicely-formatted PDF with every family, listing phone numbers and address, and children's names. 

This program is free.  Follow these steps to download, install, and use it:

  1. Download and install the prerequisites: Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0, Microsoft Visual J# redistributable, Microsoft Windows Installer.  These total 28MB, and I've never seen an MLS computer connected to the Internet, so I suggest you download it all to a thumb drive at once.
  2. Download the program: Ward Photo Directory installer
  3. Install the program and start it.  You should see a screen like this:
  4. On this first "MLS Import" tab, you can either open a file exported from MLS or you can paste the data directly from the clipboard that was prepared by MLS.  Follow the directions at the bottom of this step in the wizard to prepare the data.
  5. Under the "Photos" tab, choose the directory to import photos from.  The photos must be named by family name or head of household.  The program has some limited intelligence to figure out which photo goes with which membership record. 
  6. Under the "Hide Details" tab, include the geographic information that is common to most/all ward members.  You can reduce clutter in the directory by leaving out obvious parts of addresses like the state and area code your ward lives in.
  7. When you get to the "Output" tab, you're done.  Just generate your directory:
  8. Choose a PDF quality and after a few moments a PDF pops up.  Don't be too discouraged by the progress bar during generation.  It does all its movement at the end (poor progress bar).  Here is a sample of what it looks like (blurred deliberately to protect the innocent):
  9. If you want to upload your photos to your ward web site on lds.org, you can!  Just click the appropriate button on the last screen of the program.  It will prompt you for your lds.org username and password (as it needs it to go and upload photos).  It will likely take several minutes to do it's work, but I guarantee the time ratio had you done it manually is at about 15:1. 

Where do I get "two minutes" from?  Well, once you have the pictures and are familiar with the program, you can regenerate your PDF in about two minutes from start to finish.  Once you see how easy PDF generation is, you'll probably want to update your photo directory more frequently than you used to.  My last student ward likes to print out an updated copy each week for 2-3 weeks allowing members to pass it around and mark corrections on it.  Then the final prints out and they make copies for everyone.  It helps keep MLS updated too!

I hope you find this program helpful.  If you do, please comment on this post and tell me what your old process was like.  And hey, I take feature requests. :)  If you're a programmer too and want the source, comment on that, too.  If I get enough interest in collaborative development I'll consider open-sourcing the program. 

Copyright and license info: this software includes NFOP, an open-source product licensed under the Apache Software License