Archive for the ‘soul of man’ Category

My regrets for not being able to post the thoughts of my heart these last few months. Life’s events have managed to overtake us and we are now beginning to get back to a normal level of chaos.

I did make one major gesture to try to get myself re-oriented. I proposed a presentation for the Kirtland Symposium scheduled for October 17 and 18. The proposal was accepted so I will be on the agenda for the meeting.

The topic? Something new and different. The topic of my 90-minute session is Faith, Evolution, and Intelligent Design. This is a subject that has been working in the back of my mind for a number of years and I felt that it was the right time to speak to the questions and concerns as I worked through my crisis of faith. I plan to provide the perspective of an engineer as I analyze several key aspects of evolution and the ‘un-scientific’ intelligent design. What are the elements of the evolution of life that are problematic to me as I ponder the elements of matter, energy, and information necessary to install and proliferate living organisms? How much faith does it really require to adhere to the doctrine of a designer or to the doctrine of a natural evolution of life?

Hope you can join me in Kirtland for this event.

It was all over the world news, ISIS put a Jordanian pilot to death by fire after he was captured in the war against the developing Islamic caliphate.  Here is an example of a religious body (yes, I am willing to call them radical Islamists) which believes so strongly that they are right and have God on their side that taking a life is justified in the ascension toward their sacred goal of world domination. It is of note that a cleric associated with the Islamic state was arrested for objecting to the punishment inflicted on the captured Muslim pilot.

Fire has been used for many years to extinguish the lives of those who were deemed a threat to the religious establishment. Wiki maintains a list of martyrs, including a 19 year-old relapsed heretic by the name of Joan of Arc.

Jeanne au bûcher

In the Book of Mormon, Alma and Amulek were commanded by God to preach to the people of Ammonihah. A minority of the inhabitants of the city believed the words of these missionaries and were subjected to cruelty. The men were stoned and the women and children were burned by fire as described in Alma 14:

“And they brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire.

And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek, and carried them forth to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.

And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene?  Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.”

These acts were committed because those that believed in the words of Alma and Amulek were seen as reviling the people of the city and, more seriously, they taught “that there was but one God, and that he should send his Son among the people, but he should not save them; and many such things did the people testify against Alma and Amulek.” (Alma 14:5) It is interesting to note that they were being punished for adhering to the truth. Ultimately the city of Ammonihah along with its inhabitants were destroyed by the Lamanites… justice served, I presume.

It seems to be a pattern what when a religious body has gone away from God, they take upon themselves the ‘right’ to determine the fate of those that are perceived to hold a different belief within the community. This day we see ‘virtual’ death being inflicted by those who govern the LDS church in the form of excommunication.  The charge is typically apostasy. A charge, which in a number of cases, cannot be specifically defined by those who wield it. In essence, the real offense is one of not following the guidance and direction of the priesthood leaders. The priesthood determines what is currently acceptable from a doctrinal and historical view and then uses this definition in punishing those who disagree with it. It does not seem to matter whether this doctrine is justifiable from a scriptural perspective, not does the fact that historical documentation can be shown to bring into question the efficacy of the church’s doctrinal or historical stance.

Those that are found ‘revile’ against the church by exposing flaws or unsavory aspects in its history or preach doctrine that is not aligned with the current version of church doctrine are to be subjected to the virtual torch. It doesn’t seem to matter whether these historical warts or the fact that these doctrines can find justification in the scriptures, it is not acceptable to speak out against the current version of church doctrine and the ‘correlated’ view of church history. This week, it was John Dehlin’s turn to face the tribunal of stake officers who determined that his public face could not be tolerated by the church that bears the name of Jesus Christ.

As I grieve for those who have found themselves in similar situations, I am reminded of the concise direction that the Lord has given the priesthood in dealing with these situations. Should anyone feel that they are exempt from such instruction; the Lord first reminds us that the probabilities are against the priesthood holder from judging fairly.

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (D&C 121:39)”

I would suggest that the characterization of ‘almost all men’ should be sufficient to ensure that the guidance applies to everyone. Every priesthood holder should be instructed as to what this verse means relative to church governance. I would suggest that this verse implies that it is rare when a person holding the priesthood does not exercise unrighteous dominion as he perceives the purpose and execution of his authority.

What form does unrighteous dominion take in this context? I would suggest that unrighteous dominion can be characterized as the attempt to dominate another in a way that is not righteous or in tune with God. If I attempt to impose my current belief on another, have I attempted to dominate them spiritually? If one’s current view of history or doctrine is used to ‘demand’ obedience from a member of the church, is this unrighteous dominion? Does this apply to the current leadership of the church? Can one holding a position of leadership at the general or stake level be exempt from this charge from the Lord? I think that these questions should be carefully considered when one is called to bring judgment on another’s current spiritual worldview.

The Lord has given direction as to how one should administer in a priesthood position:

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile – reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he my know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. (verses 40-44)”

I would suggest that influence expressing the authority of the priesthood by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and by love unfeigned is the opposite of unrighteous dominion. Priesthood leaders are instructed in these verses to operate, not by compulsion, but by persuasion; not by swift action but by long suffering; not by authoritarian dictate but by kindness, gentleness and meekness. Have these corrective actions been based on ‘pure knowledge?’ What is pure knowledge when it comes to different interpretation of history and doctrine? And, most important, do not feign love by calling these activities ‘courts of love.’

Have these disciplinary sessions been held based on the movement provided by the Holy Ghost or by the SMTC? Have they been used as an attempt to persuade or dictate?

I can only pray that the next ‘torch’ is replaced by the light of Christ in administering to the spiritual welfare of those that call themselves saints.

What think ye?

What is the purpose of the priesthood? As I pondered that question, my thoughts went back to the many times I sat in priesthood meeting or in a priesthood class and was taught that we are privileged to hold the power to act in the name of God. We have many stations in our organization today, deacons, priests, teachers as classes within the lower, or Aaronic, priesthood and elders, seventies, and high priests accounted in the higher, or Melchizedek, priesthood.

In Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we find this description of these two priesthoods:

18  The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—

19  To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.

20  The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments.

As cited here, a person holding the higher priesthood holds the “keys of all spiritual blessings of the church.” These spiritual blessings are associated with the knowledge which comes from receiving information relative to the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

In Alma, chapter 12, we are told that we are to seek after the mysteries of God:

9  And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

10  And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

Are these ‘many’ who are privileged to acquire knowledge of the mysteries of God fulfilling the directive of the Melchizedek priesthood? Should we not follow Alma’s direction as well as take advantage of the blessings associated with this priesthood?

The second spiritual blessing offered through the Melchizedek Priesthood is to ‘have the heavens opened to them.’ How many of us truly believe that we can have the heavens opened to us? That we could receive knowledge and wisdom directly from heaven? That we can receive visions and revelations from this spiritual blessing of the priesthood?

The next spiritual blessing comes from being able to associate with those who are of the church of the Firstborn. Speaking of those who would come forth in the first resurrection, Joseph Smith stated in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76:

51  They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—

52  That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;

53  And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.

54  They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.

55  They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—

56  They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;

57  And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.

I would suggest that the church of the Firstborn is made up of people who have been sanctified. Something of which we have had considerable discussion in this forum. Is this not one of the spiritual blessings of the priesthood? Are we not taught that we must be baptized by water and by the spirit to be washed and cleansed of our sins? The name of this blog, Just and True, is a reminder of this spiritual blessing offered to all who seek to receive the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t it make sense that those who have been blessed to receive the baptism of fire would seek to commune with others who have been given the same experience?

Finally we are told that the last spiritual blessing of the higher priesthood is to be able to commune with God and Jesus Christ. This promise is reinforced in the ninety-third section of the Doctrine and Covenants

1  VERILY, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;

It should be known to all that the spiritual blessings availed to those who are benefactors of the higher priesthood include the right and ability to converse with God. Are we prepared individually and collectively to have this occur? What we are offered here is the right and privilege to interact directly with heaven without any proscription by any priesthood leader.

The lesser or Aaronic priesthood hold keys also. The first key mentioned is relative to the ministering of angels. How many of us have sought to be taught the words of Christ? Do we individually or collectively have the faith to call down angels to minister and teach us?

The duty to administer the outward ordinances is the next blessing of the lesser priesthood. We are called by the scriptures to repent and be baptized as Mormon dictates in Mormon, chapter 7:

…if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior,

It is the duty of the lesser priesthood to make sure these outward ordinance are performed in accordance with  the ‘letter of the gospel.’ I would suggest that the phrasing here is to encourage that which is being taught to tightly concur with the gospel as is defined in the scriptures. Are we taught today based on the letter of the gospel? Do we hold tightly to what Christ defined as His gospel? Do we adhere with what has been clearly defined as faith,  repentance, and baptism?

What does it mean to ‘hold the keys’ as cited in Doctrine and Covenants, section 107? This should be a matter prayerful study for all who seek to understand the spiritual  blessings defined above. I would suggest that the answer is found in the scriptures. In one of the two chapters in the Book of Mormon that mentions ‘priesthood.’ we find the following from Alma, chapter 13:

6  And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—

While the entire chapter is certainly worth reading, I would want to focus on the definition of the ‘key’ as I understand it. The key is the knowledge that is to be given the seeker relative to how they may enter the rest of God. I would suggest that the priesthood key, in this case, represents knowledge to be shared. These high priests were selected only because they had themselves received of this blessing and had the ability to now communicate that path to others who sought the rest of God. These men held the keys to the spiritual blessings as described in Doctrine and Covenants, section 107.

What are we to make of these men who were called and ordained to this high priesthood?

10  Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;

11  Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.

12  Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.

It does not appear that these righteous individuals were called to preside and receive adoration of the masses. They were called to be servants and ministers of the people just as the disciples called from among the Nephites at the visitation of Christ.

1  AND it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

These twelve disciples were also given the keys of the spiritual blessings of the priesthood. They were to teach the gospel to those who sought the knowledge, they were to administer the outward ordinances in accordance to the letter of the gospel

8  And when they had ministered those same words which Jesus had spoken—nothing varying from the words which Jesus had spoken—behold, they knelt again and prayed to the Father in the name of Jesus.

These men understood that the key to bringing the multitude to the state of readiness for spiritual blessings was to teach them the words of Christ, and only those words.

11  And it came to pass that Nephi went down into the water and was baptized.

12  And he came up out of the water and began to baptize.  And he baptized all those whom Jesus had chosen.

13  And it came to pass when they were all baptized and had come up out of the water, the Holy Ghost did fall upon them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

14  And behold, they were encircled about as if it were by fire; and it came down from heaven, and the multitude did witness it, and did bear record; and angels did come down out of heaven and did minister unto them.

15  And it came to pass that while the angels were ministering unto the disciples, behold, Jesus came and stood in the midst and ministered unto them.

Here we have a representation of all the spiritual blessings of the priesthood. Thus we also see in these verses the purpose of the priesthood – to bring people to commune with heaven. Should it be any different in this day and age? Should we not expect and endeavor to acquire these spiritual blessings?

Finally, what manner of people should we see as the holders of these keys (knowledge)?

I would suggest that a concise reading of Doctrine and Covenants, section 121, would be appropriate

34  Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen.  And why are they not chosen?

35  Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

36  That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

Can a person have their hearts set upon the things of this world and be in a position to teach the appropriate knowledge of the spiritual blessings of the priesthood? I would suggest that this verse speaks otherwise. What are the things of this world that would qualify in leading them away from being able to exercise their priesthood?

37  That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

38  Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.

39  We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

40  Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

The moment a person succumbs to pride or ambition in the slightest degree; the moment that a person attempts to exercise any unrighteous control, or dominion or compulsion on others, the authority of that person is withdrawn. Is there any pride or ambition among the priesthood leadership? If so, they have no authority. Is there any who use their leadership to control and compel others? If so, they cannot exercise the true priesthood. Is this the situation with just a few, or is it the unenviable lot of almost all?

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

42  By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

So these are the traits of those who have truly been ordained to the priesthood and can legitimately convey the keys to the spiritual blessings. They are long suffering, gentle, meek, and loving. They deliver the message of the letter of the gospel with kindness and pure knowledge. Such are those who truly called and chosen as we read from Alma, chapter 13:

11  Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.

12  Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.

I would suggest that the holy priesthood described in this chapter of Alma cannot be attained simply by reaching a certain age and having hands placed upon your head. To be called, and chosen, one must seek and receive that cleansing power of the baptism of fire and be sanctified. They are then called to provide the key to unlock this experience for those who seek communion with God. Having ones heart, even minimally, set upon the things of this world can invalidate one’s priesthood. Any attempt to coerce, compel, or dictate the path of another person will lead to the loss of the ability to exercise the priesthood.

May we all be able to recognize those who are called, ordained, and sanctified as ministers and servants to lead us into the rest of the Lord.

What think ye?

Last month, our family mourned the passing of my wife’s grandmother. A centenarian, she lived a long and difficult life but had a faith that was unshaken. She endured the many trials associated with carving a living out of the dust and sagebrush in Eastern Utah in an era that did not have powered machinery and communications.

As I stood in the room with her casket during the viewing, the image of her spirit passing through a door into the next room came to my mind. Many of those we know and loved have made a similar journey. Their body, made up of the elements of this earth, is placed in the ground and their spirit, consisting of the elements of the eternal world, moves beyond our cognition.

What is this thing called death? From the moment we come into this life, we seem to be programmed to leave it behind. Whether it comes through accident, at the hands of another human, or a degeneration of the body, this time of mortality ends for each of us.

During the viewing, my mind also traveled back to another family funeral. Several years ago, my two-year-old grand-niece wandered away from the family at my sister’s house and fell into the swimming pool. They tried to resuscitate her when she was found but to no avail. To this day, this simple lack of attention which ended this young life haunts those who were present. Limited solace is found in the idea that these young people go directly to the celestial kingdom; that their parents can be reunited with their deceased children and can raise them in the millennium. However, this idea seems to present some inconsistencies.

Here I have two persons, one leaving us after 100 plus years of trial and error; the other departing only after a ‘few’ days well before any reasoned consideration of the good and evil in this life. How are each of these treated in the world to come?

Joseph Smith is cited in Section 137:10 telling us “that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.” On the other hand, those who pass into at this ‘age of accountability’ are to be judged and assigned a kingdom based on their ability to keep the commandments.

So, if this life is a contest to see how little we can stain ourselves with sin, the child wins out. But, if we are sent here to learn and overcome, how does that experience come to the young departed?
Nephi tells us in the second chapter of second Nephi that the purpose of this creation was thus:

11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.

Without this opposition in all things, we cannot be tested. “Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” Much of this life hinges on the choices we make – how we conduct ourselves when options are before us. Are we able to resist temptation? Are we able to act and not be acted upon?

I have come to believe that this life is where we learn lessons, sometimes the easy way and sometimes the hard way. I also believe these lessons will continue to repeat in our lives until we learn from them, overcome them, and move on to the next lesson.

Where does the child who dies gain this essential experience of choosing between good and evil? Even being raised in the sin-free Millennium does not offer this opportunity. Are they left with no option? Will they never be presented with the same building experiences that my one hundred year old grandmother-in-law? Can these same lessons be learned when we are without a body?

I would suggest that no one can learn all the lessons in one lifetime. Even Christ, given the time of his birth, was not exposed during that mortality to all the bad choices we have before us today. Aren’t we taught that Christ descended below all things? Was His experience sufficient in the context of the materialistic, hedonistic life we are confronted with in these modern days? I would suggest the answer is: No.

In my thinking, this leaves us with no other option. We must have some means to have all these choices placed before us. We, by the rights of a loving God, are to be given the ability to act or be acted upon by temptations of all ilks.

“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.

Many have used this scripture from Alma 34:33, in a twisted form, to point out the single chance we have to prepare for the eternities. I would suggest a careful reading brings out the fact that this is a conditional statement. IF we do not improve our time in this life, THEN comes the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. The corollary would thus be: IF we improve in this life, THEN we avoid the night of darkness where no labor can be performed. We improve in this life by learning lessons, by overcoming temptation, by acting and not being acted upon. By doing so, we will be given the opportunity to continue to progress. I believe this means a continuance of learning lesson after lesson. Can we do that without a mortal body? I believe that Nephi’s earlier discussion regarding the purpose of the creation suggests otherwise.

When I was in school, I needed to pass all the requirements of the second grade before I was permitted to move on to the third grade. I suggest that our lives are like our school experience. Is this life my version of second grade? What requirements must I perform before I can move on to the next?

What think ye?

It was supposed to be the dream family vacation to Hawai’i. I had enough frequent flier miles to get the six of us to the islands and got up at 4am on the specific day to make sure we had the flights we wanted. I spent a lot of time acquiring lodging on three different islands and arranging transportation and the connecting flights for our ten day odyssey.

The first stop was a beautiful little beach front cottage on the north shore of the island of Oahu. We arrived after dark on the first day and the constant roar of the ocean could be heard behind the cottage.

The next morning the kids were ecstatic to discover the miles of fine sand beach and the roaring surf. We discovered that we were about 200 yards south of the famed Banzai Pipeline where there was a surfing championship scheduled for the next few days.

Our first activity was to acquire a couple of boogie boards about 4 feet long which the kids used to surf back to the beach from a safe distance. Being the adventurous type, I decided to try my hand on the boogie board and proceeded out into the surf.

Between our cottage and the Pipeline area was a line of volcanic rock that was placed out into the ocean as a surf break and also delineated the private beach area from the public area to the north. Also of note was the little patch of rock about 30 yards from the surf break. As I left the shore I struck out further south of these potential obstacles.

Being the naive Midwesterner, I decided to go a little further than the kids had ventured and before I realized it, I was out close to the area where the surfers congregated and much to my consternation was moving with the current north towards the surf break. One of the surfers asked if I needed help and I politely declined figuring I could fight my way back in.

As I was trying to work my way back, I was caught by a larger than expected wave and began my quick journey back to the beach. I wondrously managed to survive the first wave and found myself pushed onto the small rock feature I described earlier. Before I could get my wits and launch off the rock, a second wave pounded me into the rocks and then tossed me back into the shallow water leading to the beach. I struggled to bring myself back to the sand and discovered a long skin wound from the middle of my calf to just below my left knee. As I tried to stand, I found my left leg could not support me and my two sons helped me back to the cottage.

As I lay on the couch in pain, I saw the first dark bruises begin to appear around my knee. Upon seeing this, my dear wife called the local hospital and was told to bring me in for an examination the next morning.

Here I was, less than 24 hours into the vacation of our lives and found myself wracked with pain and confined to the couch. Needless to say, it was a downer for the entire clan.

The next morning, the doctor immediately ordered X-rays of my knee and was soon showing me images of the damage. I had the top third of my tibia broken off and separated from the rest of the bone with a fair amount of crushed bone fragments along the top and front of the break. He told me that this was a serious break and would need surgery to repair the damage. He added to the dismal news by telling me that the crushed fragments would likely lead to a life of pain and early arthritis in that joint.

We worked out a change in our return reservations for me and my oldest son who volunteered to accompany back home. I will not get into the details but, for those of you who have made the 8+ hour flight back from the islands should try it with a 40 pound temporary leg cast crammed under a coach seat. I didn’t think my sanity would survive the trip but somehow, we managed to make it back home.

As I pondered my fate, my first call was to my home teacher, Gordon, who came over and gave me a priesthood blessing. His words gave me some comfort at the time and I carried a prayer in my heart that I would be able to work through this and that my family would be protected in my absence.

My son drove me to my appointment with my orthopedist the next day and I entered the clinic with some level of dread. I have never had surgery before and didn’t want to start now. With a new set of X-rays came heartening news. The doctor said the bones had come back together in good fashion and that I would need only to wear a cast for 5 weeks. He did caution me that, due to the injury, my left knee would be susceptible to pain and potential complications. I gladly accepted my fate.

Back at work, on crutches, I put the following caption on the whiteboard in my office: My family went to Hawai’i and all I got was this X-ray…

So, why share this with you now nearly 15 years after the event? I learned some things from this event and was prompted to share them with you.

First, I was an idiot for putting myself in harm’s way by going too far out into the ocean ill prepared for the elements. I was even a larger idiot for turning away help from someone who could see the danger I was in when I could not. How many times does our pride lead us to incur more pain than is necessary? I can say to this day that if I had simply said “Yes, I need some help. I don’t know how to get back to shore,” I would be much better off. I have carried with me to this day the clear understanding that we are not a lesser person if we accept help from others. Especially those who have a better view of the difficulties we may be in.

Second, the reason this event was brought to mind as I was going down the stairs in my home is the memory of the doctor’s warning of my possible problems in the future. Yes, I do have a bad knee, but it is not the knee I injured in Hawai’i. After all these years, my knee that sustained a significant injury, the knee that appeared in need of surgery, the knee that had been crushed is, today, my good knee.

I attribute my good fortune to the priesthood blessing I received that evening over a decade ago. A blessing of faith given to me that not only restored my knee to working condition but, somehow, elevated its performance above the other knee these years later.

I have been blessed with several miracles in my life that help me to remember on whom I rely for my very breath and well being.

I believe we are presented opportunities to learn lessons in this life. These opportunities are often repeated until we learn the intended lesson.This is one lesson I hope never to repeat.

What think ye?

I am going to diverge from my usual discussion items relating to doctrines in this post. I want to spend some time rehearsing some of my thoughts on genetics and the human soul. I have a son who is finishing his PhD in Molecular Biology at Berkeley. I have been ‘forced’ to educate myself on the topic so as to be conversant with him on his research and studies.

First, please understand that I am by training a computer engineer so this relieves me of any claim of expertise in my presentation on the topic. Here is some base information on the topic. The human genome is made up of 3.2 billion base pairs. These base pairs are made up of four different sugar and phosphate-based molecules which have been identified as adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C) and guanine (G). As you may know, DNA is represented by a twisted ladder with pairs of these ‘chemicals’ loosely mated together by nitrogen based compounds where adenine and thymine (A-T pair) and cytosine and guanine (C-G pair) form the steps. So, you have the 3.2 billion rung ladder that represents the set of instructions that are used to guide the operation of our bodies. These base pairs are grouped together by function into genes of which there are about 30,000 in humans. These genes are grouped into chromosomes. All living things use this same template of base pairs and genes. The number of base pairs range from about 1.8 million in the influenza bacteria to 100 million in plants to 2.6 billion in mice and up to our 3.2 billion pairs.

Every cell in our body (with the exception of sperm and eggs) contains the complete DNA string described above. Every cell also only ‘activates’ a small portion of its genetic information in the production of proteins which are necessary for the purpose of that particular cell. In the normal operation of a cell, the nucleus or center of the cell manufactures a particular protein that is then transported to the edge of the cell where it is used for some purpose. So, a liver cell has the same base information as a skin cell but they operate completely differently with selected gene being activated in each circumstance.

Hopefully that is enough background for what I would like to discuss. For those interested in this topic, I would highly recommend the book Genome by Matt Ridley.

One aspect of this topic that amazes me is how incredibly complex the process is to get us to a functioning human being. What begins as a single cell, the union of sperm and egg, results in a uber-complex body with each subsystem working off the same ‘template.’ As this original single cell begins to divide, it is only a few days before these cells are called upon to begin to specialize. The mass of cells, which were originally identical, now are called upon to form every organ, bone and muscle found in our bodies. How does one cell know what it is to do? Right now there are only theories on how a cell at one end of the mass of cells is guided to start forming the head and its components while another at the other end works of the feet and toes. How do these cells ‘communicate?’ At this time, I have only found theories that suggest the original mass of cells differentiate based on the presence of electrical or chemical markers that vary by the position in the cell mass. I find these theories woefully inadequate in explaining how my fingers and finger nails formed at the end of my arms rather than on the top of my head ;-].

The other amazing aspect of ‘life’ is commonly referred to as ‘instinct.’ Those innate abilities that we are born with that seem to be hard-wired into our brains. One example is that kittens separated from their mother before their eyes are opened will attempt to cover their fecal matter. Is there some ‘universal’ cat etiquette that is carried into the next generation?

One of my favorite examples of instinct is the cuckoo bird. There are species of cuckoo bird that do not build nests but simply lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. The cuckoo egg is ‘programmed’ to hatch before the eggs of the host nest and the young cuckoo chick pushes the other eggs out of the nest. Having removed the competition, the young cuckoo bird now is nurtured by the host. The thrush, in this picture from Wikipedia, continues to feed what is an obvious (to us) intruder. I think that the positive aspect here is that there are no bounds to the love of a parent. Looking at the size of the nest, you can get some perspective on how ‘out of context’ this situation is.


So… how does the young cuckoo bird know to push the other eggs out of the nest? It had no clues from its parents or the environment to trigger this behavior. How is this invasive species able to continue this behavior over generations?

These are only a couple examples of instinctive behavior among living beings. How does a human baby begin life with the innate ability to suckle from the breast of their mother? How does a sea turtle deposited as an egg in the sand of the beach inherently know to move toward the ocean when it emerges from the egg? How does a spider know how to create a web even though they are separated from any examples?

These are all questions related to how species-related information is transferred to offspring. Through the miracle that is the development of a living organism; basic skills are, somehow, implanted in the brain. In many cases, these implanted skills, or instincts, are necessary for survival.

So, this brings me to the crux of the matter. How can a sequence of sugars and phosphates linked by nitrogen-based chemicals govern the incredibly complex process in the development of a living entity? How can this sequence of chemicals develop into a cognitive being with certain skills imbedded in their brain?

As I peruse the available scientific literature, I find references to this information contained in what is currently called ‘junk DNA;’ segments of our genetic material that has no apparent purpose. There are other theories regarding how this information is carried in the DNA structure but none seem to satisfy the programmer in me. We share with other mammals between 70 and 90% of our genetic material. The unique material is what differentiates us physically from the mice and birds and whales in the world. I find it implausible that the same code used to build the physical body could also contain the programming.

In my mind, the argument is the same as saying a computer parts list when assembled correctly will automatically contain the operating system. As an engineer, I know that I can easily assemble a computer if I have all the physical elements needed. I also know that the computer will not be viable until an operating system is installed. The operating system is the set of instructions needed to make use of the physical components.

Our brain and the associated body are not viable without the equivalent operating system software. In my opinion, the ‘instincts’ we are born with partially represent the fundamental equivalent to this operating system. This is where I need to inject the spiritual aspect of this discussion. I hold that we, as souls or living beings, are a combination of spirit and body.  I believe the spirit which is embedded in the physical body at some point when the cells begin to differentiate carries with it the basic information needed to act in the ‘role’ defined.

It is easy for me to believe that all living things are a combination of physical and spiritual entities. The spirit of the yet to be born bird, or spider, or for that matter, any other living thing brings with it the necessary instincts and basic operating system to function in the context of its existence. We begin with this basic instinct to build our knowledge. I believe that this basic toolkit with which we are born gives us not only the basic tools but also the intrinsic uniqueness that every living thing enjoys.

As I contemplate the incredible complexity of my own body and as I have watched the process wherein new life is brought about, I find it much easier to believe in a creative God than in evolution’s process of trial and error .

From Genesis, chapter one, we read:

20  And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
21  And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
22  And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

The miracle of life is a testimony to me of the existence of this unseen world. There are clues all around us, if we but pay attention.

What think ye?