Reflections on how Sister Beck’s work has affected me


Today I might have the chance to sit in a presentation by Sis. Beck so I thought I’d take some time this morning to review the reasons why I have been impressed with her.

I reread this post I did in 2013: https://whatimthinkingabout.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/relief-society-is-the-organizer-of-the-combined-gifts-of-women/#comments

One thing I appreciate about Sis. Beck is that she can respond to a heated question in two ways at the same time: 1, she opens up new ways of thinking, and 2, she cuts passed the contentious aspect by pointing out what’s really important. I think I have liked both of those approaches a lot. The second approach speaks to me quite deeply, and the first approach is fun and engaging.

For example, think of this statement: “Relief Society is the organizer of the combined gifts of women.” What do you make of that statement? I immediately think of D&C 46, which says that each person has spiritual gifts, if they seek them, and seek to do good with them. It goes on to point out how many gifts come in pairs: some have faith to heal, some have faith to be healed; some speak in tongues, some interpret tongues; some have testimonies so strong they know, some have faith to believe on their words; some have gift of knowledge, some are taught to have wisdom and knowledge. From this I understand that gifts are (often? always?) meant to benefit others, and put us in a situation where we need each other.

So when I hear Sis. Beck’s idea about Relief Society, it makes sense. It makes sense of past Relief Society groups as well as current Relief Society groups. It is a place where women can be together and experience spiritual gifts together. It is a place where some have testimony and others have believe those with testimony. It is a place where some have gifts to heal spiritually and others have faith to be healed spiritually. It is a place where some have knowledge and others learn to be wise. In past groups, it was also a place where some had gifts to heal physically and others had faith to be healed physically. It was a place where some spoke in tongues and others interpreted.

The question perhaps after this is why it would be important for women to have a place where they experienced this together. Why have a gendered meeting?

One could say that it is to parallel the meeting of men, but that doesn’t account for the fact that not all men hold the priesthood. The group of men who hold the priesthood is a sub-group within the group of men in the Church.

Perhaps nowadays, since we welcome all men into the quorum meetings whether they hold priesthood or not, we could say that those meetings are a gathering of the spiritual gifts of men. But I don’t think we could say that this is what they are as the scriptures describe them. As I’m thinking about this, I’m also thinking that originally, women who were in Relief Society was a sub-group within the group of women in the Church. So perhaps these are more closely parallel than I was starting to think.

These questions are so interesting to me because of what has and hasn’t changed in history. The number of people with the priesthood has changed so radically. I imagine if we had enough documents, journals, and insights we’d see how the gifts given to women has changed too (kinds, intensity, number of women involved, etc.).

And with each change, the culture and community is affected and changed, but of course something remains the same. I like to look at both…why do I like to look at both? I don’t know, but I find both interesting and fun. Really, fun. I think it’s fulfilling and edifying to think of how communities grow and find ways to do good (and yes I know there’s a ton of negative to every community configuration). And I am deeply invested in learning what it is that hasn’t changed about the priesthood through all these thousands of years.

Anyway, this is why I find Sis. Beck’s talks interesting. They hit on both of these. I think my own thoughts aren’t completely overlapping with hers and she doesn’t answer close to all of my questions. But I feel like she’s another explorer in the same jungle, and I like learning from her field notes.

Sis. Camille Fronk (Olson) was that way for me too. I took two of her classes at BYU and I am so grateful I did. The first was a New Testament class (2nd half) and I fell in love with Paul’s poetic and interesting ways of talking about the gospel. I also enjoyed how she highlighted the women in the story (without making it a distraction). I’ll always remember that Paul’s “yolk-fellow” may have been his wife. Camille’s approach made me feel that Paul considered her his equal in the work of the kingdom, and her work locally among the saints was something he saw as just as vital as his work traveling. I liked the way she protrayed being yolked together.

Later I took her Pearl of Great Price class. Man, I loved that class. Her enthusiasm for figuring things out in scripture was contagious, first off. But I learned a lot from how the Book of Moses describes Adam and Eve’s relationship. From looking at this blog, you can see how deeply that affected me.

I think perhaps that Joe, Sis. Beck, and Camille have affected me the most within the topics that I care about the most. I’ve learned a lot from many people and I have had many important conversations with many people. But within the scriptural topics that run to my center, I think these three people have affected me the most.

Anyhoo, it will be interesting to see if I get to go to this meeting (there’s a chance she can’t come, and it snowed a good deal yesterday and last night so travel is an issue now), and if I do, interesting to see what she decides to share with a group of newly hired BYU Religion professors. I don’t know if I will be able to even say a word to her, but if I did, it will be interesting to see what I decide to say. What would I say? Thanks? Have you written anything lately? Do you have an hour where I can share my thoughts and hear your responses?? Probably not that one. But any way, it will be interesting!


Granite Vault


I’m really good at liking a topic for a few days, then being distracted by other things, and then losing the fire for what was so interesting in that topic. And/or, coming back to that topic later and basically rediscovering what I’d discovered, and never really progressing beyond that.

I think I want to write about wisdom in D&C 10 and Words of Mormon, in part as a chance to finally write-up my ideas about Words of Mormon. But that basically means I’m done researching and I just need to write up my thoughts. But then, I don’t feel like I’m done thinking about wisdom at all, so I feel like that’s cheating a bit, so I put things off.🙂

Well, whether I’m doing that today or not, I’m not sure. But in thinking about what I’d like to say about the wisdom of Mormon making an abridgment, or the wisdom in Nephi et al making the small plates, the image I have in my head this morning is the Granite Vault that the Church keeps for genealogical records. It’s still pretty astounding to me that those are kept as they are – in a huge granite room in the mountainside! But it’s a testament to just how vital we think genealogical records are. It’s a massive back-up system, put in the earth, in a stone box, just in case our other records fail us.

That seems to me to be what Mormon’s abridgment was about too. He knew that the Lamanites would destroy any records they found. Ammaron had hidden the records in the earth and told Mormon where to find them. Later, Mormon went to that hill, and added his own account of the people’s history onto the plates. Later still, Mormon used those records to make an abridgment of the Nephite’s history that could be carried around and not left in that same hill – a history he could pass on to Moroni after he died. Moroni carries that record around [and adds to it, so was he carrying all of the other records? Did he sneak back to the hill to read? Did he receive the 24 plates when Mormon gave him the abridgment?] knowing that if the Lamanites found him, they would destroy that abridgment (though, hopefully the original documents would be safe in the hill). That is, the information in the plates was so important that it was wise to have a second copy just in case something happened.

Then Moroni, knowing that what was on the abridgment was so important — the most important parts of the story — he also hid that up in a stone box in a hill as our back up copy, and here we are hundreds of years later using the information from that hill to inform and restore our understanding of human history.

The other original documents still exist somewhere else. (Much like the original documents from libraries and churches and cemeteries and government offices all over the world.) But this back-up copy worked; it survived.

(There’s a story on the family search website about the records in the Vault restoring genealogical information that was lost in a storm in the Pacific islands. https://familysearch.org/archives/about-granite-mountain/)

But in addition to all of this, it seems that Nephi’s two plates also served this purpose! In part, there were two records in order that one had historical details and the other had spiritual details. We latter-day Saints usually note that but say that really he made two documents so that we could have the first half of the story when Martin Harris lost the 116 pages. So which is it? A back-up copy meant to restore information, or a separate document with a different purpose?

Great question.

What I want to mention here, and in the paper I hopefully write, is that Mormon, at least, saw this as a back-up copy. Or, he saw it as wise to have a second copy of the history focused mainly on the spiritual. Nephi may have as well. Why else would he have spent so long giving us the history of how they got to the new world, etc.? Why not just jump to the visions?

Also, does Nephi include so much Isaiah also as a back-up copy, just in case something happens to his people’s copy of the brass plates? Or just in case something happens to our latter-day copy of the Bible? (I don’t mean to fix little words here and there in Isaiah, for multiple reasons. But what if he thought whole chapters would be missing?)

The big insight that I want to write up somewhere is that I think Mormon sees the small plates as a back-up copy of sorts. When he adds his part through the Words of Mormon, I think that he adds much more than what we have there. I think that he adds an abridged abridgment, focused on prophecies and their fulfillments, of Nephite history from Benjamin on down to his own life. (I have an argument for this that I’ve written up on this blog elsewhere, and that would be the main thing I need to write up in a paper!) But if Mormon does do that as I suggest, then it seems that Mormon saw the Small Plates as another back up copy.

But he did put them with his other copy, so maybe not a back up copy. Or at least ,not a back up copy that would be safe if the Lamanites found the first copy. So a back up for what? A back up for our understanding, in case we missed the point of the first abridgment?

Hm. Gotta keep thinking about this way of framing things…


Elder Holland on Home Teaching (Oct 2016)


Now, as for what “counts” as home teaching, every good thing you do “counts,” so report it all! Indeed, the report that matters most is how you have blessed and cared for those within your stewardship, which has virtually nothing to do with a specific calendar or a particular location. What matters is that you love your people and are fulfilling the commandment “to watch over the church always.
My brethren of the holy priesthood, when we speak of home teaching or watchcare or personal priesthood ministry—call it what you will—this is what we are talking about. We are asking you as home teachers to be God’s emissaries to His children, to love and care and pray for the people you are assigned, as we love and care and pray for you. May you be vigilant in tending the flock of God in ways consistent with your circumstances, I pray, in the name of the Good Shepherd of us all, whose witness I am, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Random thought on D&C 88:35


Something from a different study topic sent me to D&C 88. I was briefly skimming the section and I found myself interested in this following verse. In addition, I found myself grateful for the (many) passages of scripture that try to lay out an explanation for something. The scriptures try to reason with us, and I like that.

Here is the verse that stuck out to me this morning, plus the two preceding it:

33 For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

34 And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.

35 That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.

That makes a great deal of sense. If a person refuses to be governed by a law that God sets up — any law, as in any specific law, or as in any laws at all (either way) — then that law can’t change that person, and also, there isn’t opportunity for mercy or justice. There isn’t opportunity for repentance and mercy if a person is keeping his/herself out from under the law to begin with. That’s an interesting point. Is it possible to keep yourself out from a law from God? I see the verse suggests this person willeth to abide in sin, and altogether, so this is a person who is turning away from any law from God altogether. I can see why that person would be out of reach of justice or mercy. (Once that person’s heart was touched, broken, changed…then there would be plenty of room for mercy, and a new beginning under the law.)

Anyway, random study today, just familiarizing myself with another part of scripture.


Quick ideas on a MSH 2017 paper on wisdom


Wisdom — based on Mormon & Moroni, and D&C 10:

-Wise to create more than one set of records

-Wise to separate the location of these records when practical or possible

-The material is so important that it is wise to create more than one copy of the information

-Material was the gospel that many hoped would go to the Lamanites. (You can collect many references to that — Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Words of Mormon, Mormon, Moroni, etc. as well as D&C 10 itself!)

-When the pages are lost, God tells Joseph that what is important is that He can fulfill his promise, that certain information could come to the Lamanites

-Satan desires to destroy “my Work” and the testimony of Joseph regarding this work. What if their plan had succeeded, and no one would believe Joseph could translate, that he had found an ancient record, etc? Not only would there be no church, no further revelations for the church, no temple, etc., the promise that certain information would go to the seed of Lehi would not have been fulfilled. Perhaps the work of a new church and so on could have happened another way, even, but the record of Lehi’s people to Lehi’s people was promised to come forth, and that specific work would have been frustrated.

-If that specific work would have been frustrated, then in essence, the Abrahamic Covenant would have been frustrated.

-But, God’s wisdom is stronger than the cunning of the devil. And perhaps occasionally God lets it look like the devil is winning precisely so that we will appreciate His strength as He overcomes whatever the devil was doing. (This sounds a lot like places in scripture that talk about the Abrahamic Covenant, actually. When Pharaoh’s heart was hard, then God’s power could be shown to be strong; when Israel is scattered, God can show is power to the nations when He gathers them; when Alma’s people are in bondage, they see God’s hand in their deliverance, and so forth.)

-So God wisely makes sure that there is more than one way to accomplish His plans. And He also wants to make sure we know that His power is stronger than the cunning of the devil, which can only be seen if we also see the cunning of the devil.🙂

Perhaps there is something here?


More passages on teaching in family


My friend Kylie and I have been looking at D&C 68:25 and its warning to parents about not teaching children. We are playing with how the word “not” is being used. Is it a warning to those not teaching to believe, or to those teaching to not believe?

If it is the latter, then it would line up with 4th Nephi’s account of those who purposefully taught their families to not believe: 38 And it came to pass that they who rejected the gospel were called Lamanites, and Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites; and they did not dwindle in unbelief, but they did wilfully rebel against the gospel of Christ; and they did teach their children that they should not believe, even as their fathers, from the beginning, did dwindle. 39 And it was because of the wickedness and abomination of their fathers, even as it was in the beginning. And they were taught to hate the children of God, even as the Lamanites were taught to hate the children of Nephi from the beginning.

This is similar to 2 Nephi 4:5-6: But behold, my sons and my daughters, I cannot go down to my grave save I should leave a blessing upon you; for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it. Wherefore, if ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents.

And reminds us of Jacob 3:9-10: Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.

These passages seem to suggest that what D&C 68:25 might be warning against are just those parents who are purposefully raising up kids who won’t believe. This may give some relief to parents who are trying to teach but are always unsure that they are doing a good enough job. But, it also seems fair to say that there are parents who aren’t trying to teach either, and it would be reasonable to suggest that D&C 68:25 should be read as warning them (so, the first of the two readings of “not.”)

We noticed that Jacob 2 has this passage: 2:35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.

And also Jacob 3:10 Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.

While these parents were not purposefully teaching their children to not believe, the fathers were acting in such a way that they lost of the confidence of their children, which may perhaps amount to any chance to teach them to believe. In addition, Jacob himself says that because of their actions, they might bring their children unto destruction, and their sins would be on their heads.

Another, on-the-ground way this could be interpreted (though not quite what I think Jacob is describing) is that if a parent is saying one thing but doing another (teaching honesty but being dishonest) then what the child is taught is that no one really believes that honesty is important.

I have one more scripture that may point in this direction. D&C 68:31 says: Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness.

There are two ways to read this, I think. First, that because some adults are idlers, their children are ending up full of greediness. Second, that because some adults are idlers, their children are growing up in wickedness and the adults are not earnestly seeking the riches of eternity and the adults’ eyes are full of greediness. In this case, the children’s behavior is undecided. They are simply “growing up” in wickedness, which isn’t a good start to life.

In either reading, there is a connection between the idleness of parents and the wickedness of the children.

——————————

I’ve been thinking about this passage as well, which seems odd now in comparison with the ones above. See that there was a question about the sins of parents being on the heads of children:

Moses 6:53-54: And our father Adam spake unto the Lord, and said: Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water? And the Lord said unto Adam: Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden. Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world.

I hadn’t thought about that question for a while so it seemed jarring after all this talk of sins of children being on heads of parents (or sins of a people being on heads of priests). But, also, now see how this conversation about the sins of the parents not being on the heads of children flows into a conversation about a parent being condemned for not teaching his children:

D&C 93:38-43: Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. 39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers40 But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth. 41 But verily I say unto you, my servant Frederick G. Williams, you have continued under this condemnation; 42 You have not taught your children light and truth, according to the commandments; and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your affliction. 43 And now a commandment I give unto you—if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house.

Interesting, right?


Answering for sins


I’m still thinking on this topic after last week’s study group. For now I just wanted to record some verses that are getting me/us thinking:

  • 2 Nephi 2:7

    7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

  • Jacob 1:19

    19 And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.

  • Jacob 3:10

    10 Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.

    (also verse 9:Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.)

  • Mosiah 2:28

    28 I say unto you that I have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together that I might rid my garments of your blood, at this period of time when I am about to go down to my grave, that I might go down in peace, and my immortal spirit may join the choirs above in singing the praises of a just God.

  • Mosiah 29:30

    30 And I command you to do these things in the fear of the Lord; and I command you to do these things, and that ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and iniquities they shall be answered upon their own heads.

  • Mosiah 29:31

    31 For behold I say unto you, the sins of many people have been caused by the iniquities of their kings; therefore their iniquities are answered upon the heads of their kings.

  • Mosiah 29:38

    38 Therefore they relinquished their desires for a king, and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins.

  • Mormon 9:35

    35 And these things are written that we may rid our garments of the blood of our brethren, who have dwindled in unbelief.

  • Ether 12:38

    38 And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.

  • Moses 6:54

    54 Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world.