Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Family History Bus: Getting Started

In the last few weeks, I've really become addicted to family history work.  Some people call this "genealogy".  Whatever you may call it, once you start, it tends to quickly become a favorite pastime. 

One of the things I'm finding that's critical for me is a Family Group Record (FGR) sheet.  They're downloadable and printable for free here.  (On the top right of the screen, you can click the link where it says "Download the Printable (PDF) Version" to print a clear copy.) 

I think I jumped in way over my head when I got started, and now I'm having to swim back to shallow waters.  When looking in the lines and lines of pedigrees I found for my family at new.familysearch.org, I found it was easy to get mixed up in downlines, by looking at other children in a family I descended from.  These would be my aunts and uncles, but since I wasn't their direct descendant, it was easy to get mixed up on who I actually descended from. 

This is where the FGR sheet comes in.  Even though many families (not all, apparently;) have a person who takes care of the "family history", it's important for anyone who looks at their history to know where they came from, and it's beneficial to take some time to look at those closest to you.  The shallow water. 

This is what I wish someone would have stressed to me.  In downloading a FGR sheet, you can fill out your immediate family's info.  If you're married, fill one our for yourself and your spouse.  And then fill in your kids.  Then print off a second sheet, and fill in one for the family of your parents.  After that, if you're feeling generous, fill out the family for your spouse.  Keep going back as time allows.  If you want to stay organized, buy some cheap 15¢ folders at Wal-Mart that allow for 3 holes in the side, and file your FGRs by main last names. 

Once you tackle your immediate family, take a little time to see if you can find your more extended family, like cousins.  (I never really knew any of mine, beyond three or four.)  Start asking them questions.  See if anyone's got a family Bible with pedigrees in it.  There's a ton of info online, but it seems like mastering swimming in this shallow water helps prepare one for the deeper treading. 

Have you ever tried using a FGR?  Have you even heard of such things?  Have they made your research easier?  Are you gonna jump on the Family History Bus? ;)

(photo source)


Monday, February 27, 2012

What was Jesus saying? Matt. 8:26

For the last few weeks, every time I think about what I want to read in the Bible, my mind is drawn to St. Matthew 8.  It's funny, because I'll sit down and think, "What should I read today?"  It's a really fun way to study the scriptures, because I believe the Spirit whispers where to go, and if I'm paying attention, or listening closely enough, I'll get a book, a chapter, and sometimes a verse.  Then I get to figure out what I'm supposed to learn from it. 

Today, for the second or third time now, it was Matthew 8.  So I opened it up, and as I got reading, I came to the part where Jesus entered a ship, and his disciples followed along.  I always presumed that "disciples" = "apostles", but I don't think that's the case, as Matthew was soon called to "follow" Jesus in Matt. 9:9.  (Unless these chapters aren't necessarily chronological, which is the case with some of the books in the Bible. 

I don't know if these disciples were accustomed to riding in ships.  I, for one, am not.  Boats kinda petrify me.  Well, these disciples are on the ship, and a storm–"a tempest"–comes, and it says "the ship was covered with waves: but he was asleep". (Matt. 8:24)  Ok... Jesus must really be a sound sleeper, unless they had fans and white-noise makers in his time.  I would not have been able to sleep through that! 

The disciples wake him up, asking him to save them.  He then says, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?"  Which begs the question –"Why are they fearful?" 

(I love this painting.  Photo source has a great elaboration on this story.)
 I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.  It seems natural to fear for their lives.  Of being cast into the sea.  Of drowning.  And Jesus, being all compassionate (when appropriate), would have realized this.  So what was he really saying here? 

Health Bus: Liking Salads

I've always had a really hard time liking salads.  My house wasn't really a "salad" house, and it seems that any time I tried to get my family to incorporate decent salads into family meals, my dad would usually give me this "you gotta be kidding" look. 

He's a meat-and-potatoes-at-every-meal kind of man. 

Lately I've been trying to increase my salad intake.  I have been convinced that eating living, fresh-from-the-ground foods work wonders for both increasing my spiritual capacity, but also increase my quality of daily life.  Since my body hasn't always appreciated these things, I needed additional support as I made the transition toward more vegetables.  I found something that really helped.  It's this:

I know, really?  Salad dressing?  Well, I never really enjoyed Ranch dressing.  And iceberg lettuce never really seemed that enticing.  Those two seemed to be the staples of school lunch salads, which is where most kids with meat-and-potato dads learn to eat salads.  Blech. 

But this dressing has been a Godsend.  I love it.  I don't care how many calories or sugars or oils it has.  Asian Toasted Sesame dressing & marinade, by Kraft... (I sound like a commercial!)  Cheaper than a trip to the Chinese restaurant, and healthier on my stomach too!  Thanks to this handy condiment, I LOVE to eat salads.  I can easily down a huge salad every night, like this one:

Green leaf lettuce, spinach, purple cabbage, carrots, grape tomatoes, flax seeds (you can't really see them), and almonds.  Seriously incredible, especially with this dressing on top. 

In my area this dressing runs from about $1.98-$2.18.  Granted, it'd be better to not have to use dressing, but this helps me get on the health bus each day. 

What dressing(s) are worth their weight to you?  Please don't hesitate to share!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Miracles at Nephi's Garden Tower

This is a post that no matter how many times I start it, I never seem to get past the first paragraph.  Hopefully some sense can be made of the thoughts I hope to share.

The events surrounding this post revolve upon the words Nephi (son of Helaman) speaks while praying upon his garden tower.

(photo source)
(Photo note - I got that pic from a blogger who wrote up a great post on story of what happened to Nephi.  If you need a refresher, click here. {Not sure where he got the pic though, sorry.}) 

There are a few main points that I've observed from my reading this week, which has been in the book of Helaman, in the Book of Mormon.  Each one could deserve its own post, but I highlight them here to present ideas, and if you feel so inclined, you can delve into them, or share your own thoughts.  (I always welcome guest posts.:)

1st observation.  This is where "secret combinations" officially enter into Nephite society.  They may have entered sooner, but this is the first place where names of participants are addressed.  Previous to this, we learn from Alma that he is aware of them, but he is not to record details, lest the information get into hands it shouldn't, and the information be implemented.  Lo and behold, here in Helaman, we find that it comes to fruition.  A few thoughts about secret combinations:
  • Oaths between man and God are sacred.  
  • Oaths between man and man are to be made with great caution, if made at all.  Add a condition of "secrecy", and there is serious potential for danger, no matter how well intentioned the participants may be.
  • Those involved in oaths between two or more mortals will lie to defend their secrets, or try to deflect the question onto those revealing their secret.  There is a clear position of defensiveness.  In the case of Nephi, praying on the tower, the crowds came, and he boldly and openly shared details of the people's secret works of darkness. (Helaman 8:4)  (Consider what made them "dark"?)  Rather than internalizing the words of this bold prophet, those involved tried to rally the people, accusing Nephi of reviling their laws and judges.  They went so far as to bind, imprison, and try him before the judges, because he revealed their secret oaths.  
Beware of secrets, and secret combinations.  Additionally, I have learned to beware when someone wants me to keep their secrets.  If someone claims their secrets are too sacred for you to share with another soul, then they shouldn't be sharing with you in the first place. 

[The same applies for your own sacred experiences.  If you need to swear someone to secrecy, you shouldn't be sharing, because you're involving them in a secret oath, and I would boldly consider that unrighteous dominion. (D&C 121:37-39)  Those involved in such things must repent, and do it quickly.]

2nd observation.  Nephi is given serious, serious power.  It is not common to see such power bestowed upon a man in the scriptures.  Power is given, but rarely do we see such details.  Why?
  • Nephi declared the word of God with unwearyingness.  What does that mean?  And it wasn't just whatever he felt like preaching.  He declared the words the Lord gave to him to give to the people. (Helaman 10: 4)
  • Nephi didn't fear the people, and he didn't seek to save his own life.  He was willing to do whatever it took to do what God needed done.
  • He sought the Lord's will.  (Do you think it came clearly to him?  Was it ever unclear?  Did it take patience in seeking?)
  • He kept the commandments of God.  It's likely that he kept them with as much exactness as possible.
  • A point not added in these verses, but that I feel is important: Nephi didn't do all this to exalt himself, to gain power, or praise of men.  He didn't seek to be popular.  He was simply doing his best to lead his fellow man to Christ, and I believe he was full of charity. 
Because of all this, comes my 3rd observation, which is a description of that power received.
  • He was blessed forever.
  • He was made mighty in word.
  • He was made mighty in deed.
  • He was made mighty in faith.
  • He was made mighty in works.
  • He was made mighty, so that all things he declared would come to pass.  
Why?  Because he would not ask for anything contrary to God's will.  The Lord then goes to explain the extent to what power Nephi has, in great detail.  We even learn that he is "conveyed" in the Spirit, out of harm's way (Helaman 10:16).  Can you imagine that?  It is truly fascinating.  Amazing.  And this is all bestowed upon a mortal man.  (Or at this point, was he?:)  Wow.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Health Bus: Apples with Peanut Butter

It's my first post for the Health Bus!  I was going to call it the Weight-loss Bus, but I don't think these posts will only apply to people looking to lose weight.  They're more geared toward anyone looking to get or stay healthy. 

Too often it seems like people focus on their bad habits.  One person I'm working with seems to always have to confess her "bad" moments, eating one too many pretzels, or indulging in ice cream.  I keep reminding her, "You are NOT BAD!"  What is "bad" about eating such things?  They may not be great for encouraging health, but calling yourself "bad" does nothing to help the matter.  It's like saying, "Don't look at that giant purple panda off the side of the road!"  Instead of looking at the road, the driver naturally focuses on the purple panda, veering off toward it.  Poor dead panda.  

With that in mind, I want to focus on good things.  Often I feel like if someone puts a picture of some good-looking, healthy food in front of me, I'm more apt to eat it!  Sure, I could shovel in Mint Oreos all day, but if you offer me a decent plate of well dressed vegetables, I'll inhale them.  And I would bet most vegetable-tolerant people would. 

That said, here's my inspirational picture for the week.

Sliced Fuji Apples with Peanut Butter.  Chunky Peanut Butter.

When I started changing my own diet, I found that rather than changing everything at once, I began substituting my "trouble" food – which at the time was animal crackers – with one vegetable.  (Veggies were my problem food – I couldn't seem to enjoy any of them!)  For me, celery was my substitution of choice. 

I don't know if anyone out there has trouble eating fruit, but for this week, my substitution recommendation is apples.  They're one fruit that is relatively cheap right now.  These apples were the sweetest I've had in a long time.  And if you're one who's worried about sugar content, realize that these sugars are likely much healthier than processed and refined sugars.  So eat and enjoy, knowing you're putting living, healthy food into you!


p.s. - What are your favorite fruits this time of year?  What's in season where you live?

Disclaimer: The information provided on this post and website should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction.  No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this site.  Readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their personal health and well being.  The information and/or opinions provided here are believed to be accurate and sound, based on the best judgment available to the author, but readers who fail to consult appropriate health authorities assume the risk of any injuries.  This website is not responsible for errors or omissions.  And please don't eat apples or peanut butter if you are allergic to them in any way.  Don't forget to wear dentures if you have no teeth, as eating apples without teeth may be hazardous to one's health.  xoxo

Friday, February 17, 2012

Shake the Powers of Hell

In Alma 48:17, Mormon dictates something noteworthy to us, about the character of the head of the Nephite armies during one of the longest wars in the Book of Mormon record.  He says,

"Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men." 

I remember reading that verse as a teenager, and thinking, "Man, too bad he's not around now to date!"  The caliber of these men always stuck out to me as something incredibly special.  They were and still are my heroes.  

(photo source- "Come Forth", by Walter Rane)
 Mormon writes part of Moroni's epistle to Pahoran, and it further demonstrates his character.  

"Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain.  I seek not for power, but to pull it down.  I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of our country.  And thus I close mine epistle." (Alma 60:36) 
Can you imagine if even the simplest of minds thought like this?  If everyone with a bright idea or invention sought not for power, but to glorify God by bringing their idea to fruition? 

I don't begrudge anyone who seeks wealth.  That's not where my mind was headed when I started this.  But to think that here, the leaders of these forces were more concerned with the well-being of their fellow men, rather than seeking power or honor.  Moroni wasn't writing Pahoran to get a pay raise.  Or to get a decent retirement.  He was seeking the basic necessities for those who were defending the freedoms of others.  Food.  Provisions.  Do we take care of those who defend our freedoms this way?  And do we rely solely on the government to take charge of these things?  Moroni took charge of rounding up men to arms.  He took care of insurgents, and didn't mess around.  He got things done. 

Interestingly, this reminds me of some of the political debate going on today, only those debates involve a whole lot of suspicion, corruption, and debt.  Wouldn't it be something, to have a leader that's completely trustable?  One who's not afraid to mention his belief in God?  To allow our military to take care of insurgents, without having to go through endless red tape and "code of conduct" policies that end up getting soldiers killed?  

Was there "separation of church and state" here?  Was Moroni worried about being politically correct?  Faith was not forced upon anyone in this time, but time and time again, the faith and trust these men and women put in God was given as the reason for their salvation from utter destruction.  Why is this such a hard message for people to grasp? 

I could go on and on.  Some people think these chapters are too tough to read through.  To me, they're too incredible not to.  Action packed and LOADED with application for our day.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012


A few years ago I attended my first "Cutman" family reunion.  My mom was the only daughter of Oscar and Mary, and for some reason, we never attended those family reunions.  Perhaps because they were always held the same day as my dad's reunions were, and for some reason that held more weight.  Being a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my grandma always gave me the impression that her family (and I assumed her husband's as well) didn't like our entire family, because we were Mormon.  Whether or not that's true, I really, really don't know.  She spent much of her (and my) life thinking that people just didn't like her.  I don't fully  understand all or even part of the history behind that.  But regardless, I only ever really knew (even vaguely) about four relatives on my mom's side of the family.

(photo source)
 Anyways, back to the reunion.  My sister and I were listening to one of the folks tell a story that was pretty "scandalous".  (SHRIEK!)  Oh my!  (Fainting.)  The scandal.  I honestly can't remember a single detail of it.  Looking back, though, one thing seems clear.  My ancestors were most definitely watching.
(photo source)

I truly feel our ancestors are mindful of us.  In the book Life Everlasting, Duane Crowther shares countless accounts of people with life-after-death experiences, where they testify that loved ones do in fact, often watch over their mortal descendants.  (Sometimes they have other duties as well, besides this.)  There are several accounts where it is described that some spirits cannot progress, without certain work being done by their mortal descendants.  And they can't progress nearly as fast without a body.  This is one reason it's important for us to use our time wisely here, for the most effecient growth possible.

As I've researched one line of my grandmother's family, I've come to what appears to be a block.  In 1867, one of my grandfathers was born to what appears to be a single mother and non-present father.  (The census lists her as single, but she had two children between 1867 and 1880, who both appeared on the census with their father's last name.)  My grandmother wasn't able to find info past this couple, and I have to wonder why, when some of her research was quite extensive.  Sure, there are physical barriers to record-keeping.  Few documents remain, and for those that do, they are very minimal with details.  But I have to wonder:  Do my ancestors, who are quite possibly well aware of my judgmental tendencies, keeping guard over my access to their personal situations?  After all, I hastily labeled another ancestor as "scandalous", laughing them to scorn.  If it were me, would I grant my posterity access to records about my life, when they showed haughty, self-righteous tendencies?  Hail no!

I know some of this sounds like a stretch.  But many people report miraculous stories of ancestors helping them find them, beyond the veil.  If that is true, then why couldn't it hold that the opposite could occur?

So dear Kate and Jacob, I hope you'll forgive my prior judgment.  I've learned the negative effects of criticism and scoffing, and want nothing to do with it.  Forgive me, please, and let me find out which of all the multiple Jacob Shindels born in the mid-1800s is the father to George Washington Shindel and Pearl Shindel!  I'll send heavenly Mint Oreos your way.  Or whoopie pies or whatever it is you prefer.


Book of Mormon Geography

What is this, you ask?  A sketch, or drawing of sorts? 

Why yes, yes it is.  I'm a nerd for Book of Mormon geography, and this is my map of where it all went down. 

While I won't say that it did or didn't happen in one region or another, I will say that this is my interpretation or layout of how it's described during the period from Alma-Helaman.  I appreciate having a layout, so I can envision the movements of all the armies.  Having it set out like this allows me to ponder some questions.  Like in Alma 51, it says that the city of Nephihah was so strongly fortified that Amalickiah refused to go against it.  Instead, he headed for the city of Moroni (bottom right), and then continued on to take Lehi, Morianton, Omner, and Mulek.  (It doesn't mention here anything about Jershon or Antionum.)  They were headed toward Bountiful, when they were repulsed by Teancum and his men, who were "great warriors".  I gather that Teancum and his men were likely the best of the Nephite forces; their elite.  So why were they kept up in the north-east corner, when the Lamanites would've likely come up from their lands, in the south (the land of Nephi)?  Having a good sense of the layout of the land helps bring up questions like these.  Good things worth pondering. 

Another interesting thing is that the "narrow neck of land" took one and a half days for a Nephite to cross, from the east to the west seas (Alma 22:32).  Was this on foot, or horseback?  Something I'd surely like to know.  (And now that I looked, I already need to make an adjustment to my map.  Bountiful goes all the way from the east sea to the west sea, not just the north-east corner.  Alma 22:33)

One can say that the geography got all messed up when Jesus was crucified.  Cities were sunken, burned, raised up and down... so it might all be entirely different from what it was.  But I really enjoy having something to imagine with.  Hopefully someday soon it'll all be revealed.  What a fun day for all that will be!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Simple Testimony: God Lives

I have no doubt God lives.  He loves us, He watches out for us, and He KNOWS us. 


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Guest Post: Heaven is Just a Service Project Away

The following is a guest post, by Cristofer Urlaub, from Philosophies of Men Mingled With Scripture.  Thanks Cristofer!  Enjoy!   

There's a basic mathematical principle that says: If A = B and B = C, then A = C.  This principle can be applied in scriptures. For example, in John 17:3, we read,

"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."
In other words, Eternal life = Knowing God.

Next, Mosiah 5:13 says,
"For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?"
In other words, Knowing God = Serving God.

Finally, Mosiah 2:17 says,
"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."
In other words, Serving God  = Serving Others.

So if Eternal Life = Knowing God = Serving God = Serving Others,
Then Eternal Life = Serving Others.

Eternal Life is service to those around us. This makes sense, since Heavenly Father, who has eternal life, is entirely dedicated to helping us. In Moses 1:39, Christ says,

"For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."
His entire existence is dedicated to uplifting and elevating us, His children.

So if any one would like to know what the Celestial Kingdom will be like, just go work with the missionaries. Or, even better, serve a mission. Heaven is just a service project away.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


A few days ago I was studying the conundrum of the Zoramites.  Some were outrightly rich, and professed their goodness before God on a high, high tower.  On the other end were those who were outrightly poor, and who were denied access to the tower by the rich.  They couldn't afford the costly apparel and "high society" to be considered "worthy" enough to be granted access to climb and shout out their prayers.

(photo source)
One of Garth Brooks' songs refers to an "Ivory Tower", that his ex-woman stays in.  He sings about his "friends in low places".  I wonder, where are we at on that tower?  Am I sufficiently humble?  Or do I think that by my cool flat screen TV that I have made it to a standard of success?  Do I think the girl wearing sweats instead of cool, hot skinny jeans in the mall is less cool that me?  Do I think because someone is actually friendly and sociable that they're just needy, or must want to get something from me?  What a freakishly BIZARRE train of thought.

On the other hand, do I put people in leadership positions in the Ivory Tower?  Do I expect them to represent God, and have the power to deny me access to Him?  Would God look down His nose at me if I show up to church in holey jeans?  Or do I think that because someone has a clean house, Pottery Barn decor or kids who actually eat their vegetables, they have the power to look down their nose at me?  To put me in my place, simply by a subtle, or sometimes overt scoff or sneer?

What is your Rameumptum?  Who do you put in it?  Yourself?  Or other people?

It is interesting that in the end, those that climbed the Rameumptum in the Book of Mormon turned out to be some of the most hard-hearted, murderous people of their time. 

Yes, beware of climbing the Rameumptum, regardless of whether or not you have a tower next door.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shifting at "A Major Shift"

So there's a new layout here!  I got tired of not being able to have gadgets, and being able to follow back the people who have so generously added to my "viewer" stats.  I appreciate your attention to my blog, and since Blogger's "Dynamic" view doesn't allow me to add gadgets, I figured I'd at least temporarily switch over to the old school view until they switch up their capabilities in that arena.  (I do love Blogger.)  So we're going retro!  (It fits with the van, which you can now more fully see, too!

I'm also hoping to add a few new features here, and looking for some contributions by you.

    (photo source)
  • Are you or anyone you know looking to lose weight?  Would you consider allowing me to use the techniques I've been studying to tutor you in your journey to lose said weight?  I'm looking for a few folks to feature each week, to see if these things I've been learning will actually work on real people.  It worked on me, but I may be a mutant.  (I was born during the Three-Mile Island debacle.  Very, very close to TMI.  Does anyone else even use that acronym?) 
  • Would you like to contribute to AMS?  Each week I hope to feature a "guest" who will share something that fits in line with this blog.  Your post doesn't have to be long, but this is a means to introduce you to my peoples, and hopefully your peoples can be introduced to me.  Networking, baby!  We can all bless each other quite quickly that way. 
  • Each week (or every other week) I hope to add a Genealogy feature.  The work I've done in searching out my ancestors has tied in so closely with my journey of emotional and physical healing, that it seems neglectful to not share something related to it.  I hope something I share can help others joining in!
  • I've also added tabs.  Stepping up in the world in my amature blogging skills. ;) Hope you enjoy. 
I do believe that's all for this post.  Stay tuned.  There will be more!  Let me know if you can handle the new format, and the lack of the "Rock Salt" font. ;)