Friday, January 18, 2013

Alma 22 - Kingdoms

Dear Austin,

It's been a very busy week, and I anticipate that the next few weeks will also be busy.  I wanted to share with you something that's been on my mind though, so you may have to dig a little to get more out of this post.

We were reading Alma 22 together this week, and the idea of "kingdoms" came to my mind.  There's been much talk in the political realm, about how our current president is imitating some of the actions of a typical monarch.  In Alma 22, we learn about a king of the Lamanites, and how in previous chapters he commanded his son to kill Ammon.  Due to what happened there, this king had a change of heart, such that he invited Ammon and his brothers to come teach him.

It ended up that Aaron, Omner, and Himni went to teach him, and some very wonderful things happened.  The king wound up having some marvelous manifestations, although his body appeared "dead" to those witnessing what was going on.  I imagine that this is typical to some of these experiences, where the spirit witnesses something and the body rests.

This king had just been taught the whole of the gospel by Aaron and his brothers.  He heard about the foundations of the world, Adam and Eve, and likely learned of many prophecies that would follow his time.  And then he prostrated himself upon the earth, begging the Lord to manifest Himself to him, so he could "know Him".

Austin, try this.  Do you not want to "know Him" too?  I think we all should try this.

I'm also pondering the idea of kingdoms.  Maybe you can help me out on this one?

Love you.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Enlightening Reads

Dear Magdalene,

I just saw the fifth movie in a series that I really feel is one of the best sagas I've ever read.  I know a lot of people will say this is an over-the-top set of movies, but I really enjoyed the books, and having them come out in movies was wonderful.  Granted, you can't ever put fully into a movie what you can say in a book, but they did a good job trying to do just that.

I know it's really random to be writing about such things, but having read a LOT of books, I can say that I know some are divinely inspired.  Living during the time that these books were extremely popular, a lot of people started trashing them, because they got irritated at all the hype.  It's as if people can't handle too much talk over something, so they get sick of the hype, regardless of whether or not they've really examined the thing itself.  I think that happened a lot here.  Some people also get jealous of one's success.  Jealousy and covetousness are something we are commanded not to do.

This book spoke of things that I think many of us dream about: immortality.  Granted, there were some "dark" sides of the story, in that the author took a topic generally regarded as "heathen" and turned it into something more beautiful.  The characters were generally seeking goodness, and despite their faults, they were actively trying to overcome them.

The bulk of the story was a love story, and there is a happy ending.  I know that doesn't always happen in life, but that doesn't mean you can't work towards it.

Why am I writing this to you?  I know you love love stories, even though you're such a sweet little thing.  I anticipate that you'll love them as you grow older, and you'll want to be your own princess in a castle, or in this case, a perfect cottage in the woods.  My wish is that you don't settle for less than you seek, and that you follow the truth in your heart, regardless of what anyone tells you.  You can obtain immortality, even if it means passing by the doors of death in the process.  (If you see the movie I'm talking about, you'll know what I mean.:)  And just because someone else thinks you're not strong enough warrant such rewards, that doesn't mean you aren't.  You're a strong little diva, and you will get there.

Sorry there's no scriptures in this one.  I think sometimes God speaks through other means besides scripture verses.  In this case it involved vampires and werewolves. :)

(photo source)

When you're 21 (or married:) go see the Twilight series.  I don't care what anyone says.  That's a divinely inspired book for people like you and me.  I hope you get all the symbolism and enjoy it as much as me and Daddy do.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Mosiah 18:9 - Taking a Stand

Dear Josten,

My, hasn't it been busy this past week?  You would think we could've fit time in for these letters every day, but my, it's been crazy!  I hope you don't mind a little delay in your turn for a message.

I wanted to talk to you about your sweet nature, which is in concordance with several commandments.  Today I read in Mosiah 18:9, and it reminds me of you.

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 that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
This is part of a beautiful story of a people living in exile, who wanted to draw closer to the Savior.  They were worshiping in secret, because if the king of the land knew what they were doing, they would have been executed.

When they decided that part of Christ's gospel involved baptism, they willingly agreed to do so, and were (shortly after this verse) baptized by Alma, who had been given authority to do so.  There is a pattern given later on about how that was done.

(This Minerva Teichert's Alma Baptizes in the Waters of Mormon.  I absolutely love it, and all her work.  Photo source.)

What I love about this verse and you, is that here we learn that part of the commitment we make to God is to be willing to mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.  To stand as a witness of God at all times, things, and places, even if it means ridicule, persecution, or ever death.  If we do this, we may be "redeemed" of God, numbered with those of the first resurrection, and have eternal life.

This isn't complicated, although sometimes it seems that way.  In school, you have a very good friend that seems to get picked on.  A way that you honor this part of God's wishes is that you stand up for him.  You don't join in the teasing or bullying that he receives, and you are willing to stand up for him, even if it means other kids tease you too.  It's not right to pick on others, and you inherently know that.  I love that you care enough to do this for your friend.  I would think this would be a common trait, but it's not always the way I think.  I am thankful for your stalwart and fearless nature in this regard.  I think sometimes you take after your mom, but have a bit less fear.

You have also shown a willingness to stand up for God.  Even when your friends use His name improperly, you likewise are willing to ask them to stop it.  This is an easy commandment, but so many do not honor or respect it.  I love that you do, and are sensitive to it.  God will bless you for that.

Love you.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's in the Book of Mormon

Dear Daniel,

It's a New Year!  While you may not have known or understood why we were celebrating, it's a New Year!  I hope this one is filled with wonderful things for you.

New Year's always come with celebrations.  Here in PA, it's a tradition for things to be "dropped".  In New York City, they "drop" an apple, because it's the "Big Apple".  In PA, we drop all sorts of random things, depending on the town you're in.  In Lebanon, they drop a giant 13 foot bologna.  (You pronounce this "baloney", as we should.:)  In Hershey, they "raise" a kiss, and no one knows why they don't "drop" it.  Harrisburg drops a strawberry, York a white rose, Lancaster a red rose.  Palmyra drops a shoe, and from time to time, Cleona drops a pretzel.  Dillsburg drops a pickle, Foulmouth drops a goat.  What else is there? I think Elizabethtown drops a giant M&M.  I'm sure I'm forgetting somewhere.  Yes, we Pennsylvanians are weird!

When I was thinking of what I wanted to share with you, while things are festive, this time of year I often remember the stories in the Book of Mormon that relate.  I know we're likely on different calendars.  There is no place, to my knowledge, that says that when Mormon and Moroni abridged the plates, that they correlated the calendar of the Nephites and Lamanites to our modern-day calendar.  Despite this, there are traditions that seem to take place in the Book of Mormon in relation to months.  I would like to highlight one to you.

There are a few significant events tied into the end of the year.  There are two, in particular, that I can recite by memory, because they tie into one of my favorite persons, which is Teancum.  In Alma 51:34, Teancum puts an end to the evil Amalickiah on the eve of the new year, putting a javelin to his heart.

(photo source - James H. Fullmer.  Really enjoy his work.)

In the book War in the Book of Mormon, (I can't find the author now.  I believe it's either Nibley or Sorenson), the author expounds on the theory that there was great significance to this event.  I wish I could quote directly for you.  He points out that in Arabian countries, for a leader to perish on the eve of the new year, it is considered a terrible omen for the upcoming year.  For Teancum to take out Amalickiah, an apostate Nephite, on New Year's eve, surely meant devastation for the likely superstitious Lamanites that he had been leading.  Following his assassination, the Lamanites backed up their evil war plan for many days, even months.  (Alma 52:2)

(photo source)

Following this event, the war continued off and on.  This war totaled about seven years, when all was said and done.  And what ended it?  Again, this man Teancum.

In Alma 62, it appears to be two days before the new year.  Once again, Teancum and his army (along with the armies of Moroni and Lehi) seem to be all gathered together, preparing for more fighting the next day.  Teancum does his super-sleuthing maneuvers, and kills Ammoron (Amalickiah's brother, who succeeded him as the Lamanite leader).  Ammoron, however, unlike his brother, was alive long enough to have his guards (or whoever) chase down Teancum, and "slew him".

The next day, which was the eve of the new year, as Moroni and Lehi and the others mourned Teancum's death, they defeated the remaining Lamanite army, thus ending the war.  (Alma 62:37-38).

What does this have to do with New Year's?  Often we talk about the New Year being a new beginning.  Here we have a story of one of the most patriotic, effective warriors and leaders in the Book of Mormon, drasticly changing the course of the war, giving his own life in the process.  He likely knew he would die, and he likely knew the war would end when Amalickiah's ridiculous brother Ammoron died.  What Teancum gave up, we don't know for sure.  But rarely in the Book of Mormon do we see a martyr, and it is apparent to me that he was one.  In essence, he was a type, or symbol for Christ.  He gave up his life so that others could live.  Whether or not you respect him or not is up to you.  Only a few dozen years later, Christ would come, and do the same thing.

As you start your "New Year" each year, I hope that as Teancum symbolically allowed an "end" to the war and a fresh start for those surviving, Christ also allows an "end" to our personal wars, giving us a fresh start for the days ahead.

As for you, little Daniel, you are a warrior, just like Teancum.  Don't ever give up.

~Mom <3