Sunday, December 28, 2008

Daily Scripture Reading Enhances Our Lives

15 For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.
16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard. (2 Nephi 4: 15-16)

Spencer W. Kimball said:
“I am convinced that each of us, at some time in our lives, must discover the scriptures for ourselves—and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again.

The Lord is not trifling with us when he gives us these things, for “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” (Luke 12:48.) Access to these things means responsibility for them. We must study the scriptures according to the Lord’s commandment (see 3 Ne. 23:1–5); and we must let them govern our lives and the lives of our children…”

Why do we read the scriptures? In essence we read them to gain knowledge of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, have vicarious experiences and gain empathy. The knowledge we gain is the mind of God. The commandments He has given us, because he loves us, are there for our eternal benefit and understanding. Can you imagine receiving a letter from your parents, whom you had not seen in very long time, telling you of their undying love and offering words of wisdom, with promises of great blessings? That is what the scriptures are to us.

Ardeth G. Kapp said: “The holy scriptures are like letters from home telling us how we can draw near to our Father in Heaven. He tells us to come as we are. No one will be denied. He loves everyone.” (See 3 Ne. 9:14, 17–18.)

We are commanded to study them, as they are an important part of our spiritual, cultural, and historical heritage. They take us back to the roots of many peoples, depicting lives and times far from our own. They take us from our limited experiences and place us among heroes, villains and consequences in the context of the eternal laws of the gospel. They record profound experiences of the prophets, the beauty of the commandments and the mercy of the forgiveness. They not only stir our souls, but our emotions and individual experience. These scriptural experiences we compare to our own.

Nephi said:
23 And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning. (1 Ne. 19: 23)

As I read the scriptures, the narratives contained therein let me experience decisions and feelings that I would not otherwise have in my life. I feel the power of the priesthood when Elijah confronts the priests of Baal. I feel the forgiveness of Joseph as his brothers come to Egypt, searching for food. I feel the obedience of Mary as she accepts the Angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would bear the Son of God. I feel Nephi’s depression when he sees the final downfall of his people. I feel Moroni’s sorrow as he understands that his people are past feeling. I feel the Apostle Paul’s clean spirit as he experiences forgiveness of his sins. I feel the desperation of Joseph Smith as he huddles in the Liberty Jail. I experience the desire to comfort the Savior as he atones in the Garden of Gethsemane.

When a Pharisee asked Jesus,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Empathy is the beginning of compassion, which, with the pure love of Christ, is the root of charity.

In a revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to his brother Hyrum Smith, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, the Lord said,
D&C 11:22 “…study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men, and also study my word which shall come forth among the children of men…”

How often should we study his holy word? Sister Ardeth G. Kapp says:

“I ask you, will you open your scriptures and read them every day? Why? Because the glorious promises will then be yours. You can have a sure testimony of our Father in Heaven’s love for you. You can know the gospel plan and the blessings that come through obedience and right choices. The verses you mark will become anchors to cling to when the voices of the world try to confuse you or discourage you. They will lift you up in spirit when you’re down, and you can experience the feeling of being close to our Father in Heaven.”

Henry B. Eyring said:

“The Holy Ghost confirms to us the word of God when we read it. That confirmation, repeated often, strengthens our faith. And it is by faith that we overcome obstacles and resist temptation

When I am in situations where I break out of the pattern, it’s hard on me. Once you get used to regular scripture study, you miss it if you don’t have it. It’s like food—you have to have it. I know that I need the scriptures like I need food. I don’t miss a regular meal, and I don’t miss regular scripture study.”

Sister Kapp continues:

"Learning to study the scriptures is like learning to walk. When you first begin reading them, you feel unsure; you’d much rather read something familiar, like a favorite story. But I can tell you from my experience, if you will try reading the scriptures every day, just as you kept trying to walk, these precious records will become as important to you as being able to walk. In fact, I believe more so. Every day will go better for you. Your confidence will grow, and you will find the strength to resist temptation and discouragement. But you have got to begin."

I’d like to close with another quote from President Kimball, this time summarizing a story from the scriptures about the scriptures.

‘… the story of King Josiah in the Old Testament is a most profitable one to “liken … unto [our]selves.” (1 Ne. 19:24.) To me, it is one of the finest stories in all of the scriptures.

Josiah was only eight years old when he began to reign in Judah, and although his immediate progenitors were extremely wicked, the scriptures tell us that “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” (2 Kgs. 22:2.) This is all the more surprising when we learn that by that time (just two generations before the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 b.c.) the written law of Moses had been lost and was virtually unknown, even among the priests of the temple!
But in the eighteenth year of his reign, Josiah directed that the temple be repaired. At that time Hilkiah, the high priest, found the book of the law, which Moses had placed in the ark of the covenant, and delivered it to King Josiah.

When the book of the law was read to Josiah, he “rent his clothes” and wept before the Lord.
“Great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us,” he said, “because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.” (2 Kgs. 22:13.)

The king then read the book before all the people, and at that time they all made a covenant to obey all the Lord’s commandments “with all their heart and all their soul.” (2 Kgs. 23:3.) Then Josiah proceeded to clean up the kingdom of Judah, removing all the idols, the groves, the high places, and all the abominations that had accumulated during the reign of his fathers, defiling the land and its people. He also held a solemn passover, and “surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah.” (2 Kgs. 23:22.) All this that he “might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.

“And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.” (2 Kgs. 23:24–25.)

I feel strongly that we must all of us return to the scriptures just as King Josiah did and let them work mightily within us, impelling us to an unwavering determination to serve the Lord. Josiah had the law of Moses only. In our scriptures we have the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness; and if a taste is sweet, in fulness there is joy.’

And of course, we read the scriptures to gain a testimony of Jesus Christ, our redeemer. I learned myself that sweet testimony by reading the scriptures while investigating the church. The Holy Ghost witnessed to me that Jesus is the Christ. At that point I had my mother’s King James Bible and a missionary copy of the Book of Mormon. Today I have standard works that come with a dictionary, topical guide, maps and cross references. How blessed we are to have the word of the Lord in our lives. I ask you, as the prophets have asked us, to study the scriptures diligently, because in them we have eternal life. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Works Cited, empathy
Henry B. Eyring, “A Discussion on Scripture Study,” Ensign, Jul 2005, 22–26.
Gordon B. Hinckley, “Feasting upon the Scriptures,” Ensign, Dec 1985, 42.
Ardeth G. Kapp, “The Holy Scriptures: Letters from Home,” Ensign, Nov 1985, 93.
Spencer W. Kimball, “How Rare a Possession—the Scriptures!,” Ensign, Sep 1976, 2.
MacKean, Ian, Studying English Literature:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Twilight and Turkey Soup

The day after Christmas. I hovered over a roasting pan on top of my stove, picking out bones, skin and other non-edible sundries from the turkey carcass I’d simmered all day. A gift from my neighbor, Heidi, after our holiday dinner last night was now going to become food for the next few days and possibly longer, knowing my penchant for freezing meals. As I combed through the broth, I thought heavily on the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer that I was reading. I had seen the movie and decided to read the books.

My first attendance at the film was a mistake. I went on opening day and landed a seat on the edge of the second row. The screen was blurry and the 50 foot faces did nothing for me. Also, I didn’t hear much of the movie, since the audience contained screaming teenage girls at the rate of about 75%. I had no clue this was such a cult thing; I just the thought the movie looked interesting. The last vampire movie I’d seen was Van Helsing, and I thought this one looked tame enough. Well, the movie was tame, at least, tamer than the audience.

I then took my daughter to see it a couple of times. I loved the mood of the film, the gray drabble of the Olympic Peninsula that I had visited so often. I’d been in love with the terrain since I’d spent four days at the Makah Reservation in November of 1996. I mentioned this to my 17 year old daughter and she responded in her know it all fashion, “You’ve never even been to Forks!” Wrong, my dear, I was in Forks a few years ago and stayed at this great little motel with a huge garden. I got some great Chinese food there, too! I took my dog with me and we drove to La Push and spent all of 30 minutes on the beach. And, last summer I passed through with a friend on our loop around the peninsula. We’d been to the Quinault and Hoh Rainforests and came back on the north loop, through Port Angeles, and took the Kingston Ferry back to the east side of Puget Sound. I was actually in the Olympic Rain Forest on July 4 hiking with a singles group down to Third Beach in La Push. It rained like crazy and was freezing! And yes, I’ve eaten at that great restaurant on the Quileute Reservation.

I remember hearing something about someone filming a movie in Forks, but didn’t much matter, since when people are filming movies the best thing to do is stay out of their way. Of course, I didn’t really care, since I was there to take pictures of hanging moss, hug trees and talk with my friend about nerdy things. Forks is like many other small towns on the peninsula, it just happens to be really close to several really cool places and in between Port Angeles and Aberdeen.

So, I read the books after I saw the movie, wanting to know more about the characters and their decisions. I didn’t know author Stephenie Meyer was a Latter-day Saint like me. (That was fun. It’s always pleasant to see a sister be successful. Go Girl!) I’m a plot driven reader and I burned through them in a couple of weeks around Thanksgiving. Since I’ve been snowed in the last week in Woodinville, I’ve been reading them again, this time slower with more focus on the characters.

When Edward Cullen first tells Bella Swan to stay away from him, I heard loud dings and saw red flags. When I was chasing my ex-husband (whom I affectionately call my X-Man) he told me some similar things…on our very first date! Should I have listened? Maybe. Why didn’t I? Well, probably for the same reason that Bella didn’t listen, she was hopeful, curious, passionate and decisive. What could go wrong? Well, for Bella, it seemed to be one life threatening situation after another, the addiction she felt for Edward and her inability to move forward without him. I, on the other hand, was ready to move forward without my fiancĂ© when he kept changing the marriage date, but because I was so hopeful…well, you guessed it, I stuck with him. Would I make the same decisions Bella made knowing what I know now? No. But Bella would, because that’s who she is. We all make the best decisions we can with the knowledge we have and live with the consequences, me included.

I’m definitely a wolf girl, my favorite character being Jacob Black. I could hang in a garage and live on the beach…no problem. He’s intelligent, funny, determined and comes from a close –knit community and people. He treats Bella with a familial kindness and intimacy that is so uncommon among boy-girl relationships. One of my very best friends through school was male, and though we had no romantic feelings for each other, the comfortable relationship I had with him was always something I hoped for in a marriage. Also, the idea of my boyfriend transforming frequently into a giant wolf that I can pet, well, that idea is very attractive. I adore the way he is completely honest and passionate about Bella, though, I would add, I highly disapprove of the force he uses with her on a few occasions. And he’s like me…not a quitter.

Some mixed vegetables, wild rice and a few spices added to the broth—smell that? But I digress.

I’ve heard in interviews that many people consider Edward Cullen “the perfect man.” Well, he may be pretty, but if you read intently, he’s far from perfect. He’s nervous, uncertain, controlling and very vulnerable emotionally. Remember, he’s stuck at age 17. Consider what you were like when you were 17 and I doubt seriously that you’d feel your soul was complete. He may have aged in vampire years, but he still sees things from a teenager’s perspective, hence the self doubt and the longing he feels for Bella. I remember those doubts, don’t you? Many of us still have them in one form or another, no matter how old we get. But I also remember the longing, the passion bottled inside waiting to explode. (And yes, I still have that, too.)

Reading the books also inspired me to write two short stories from the first person perspective. I’d only done that a few times, several years ago, but I liked the way I could absorb myself into the characters. I’m still working on them, but I’m pleased with the ideas that flowed, one even from a dream. And no, they aren’t even remotely “fan fiction” or anything related to Twilight-that’s Stephenie’s ball game.

And speaking of ball games, that baseball scene was the absolute best in the movie! The music provided by Muse completely pumped me and reminded me of how much I loved baseball when I was 17. I’ve been toying with an idea for a while, and now its driving me nuts. I want to go to the batting range about a mile from my house. I’ve wanted to for years, now I almost can’t stand it. I’m kind of embarrassed to go, though. What will they think when an 47 year old fat girl drops in and says, “How slow can these things pitch? I’m not it great shape, but you already knew that.”

I’ll let you know how it turns out. “Batter up!”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

O Come, Emmanuel

Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Oh, come, oh, come, our Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times gave holy law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Oh, come O Rod of Jesse's stem,
From ev'ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow'r to save;
Bring them in vict'ry through the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations,
bind In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Hymn # 31 from Lutheran WorshipAuthor: French Processional
Translated: John Neal, 1818-66 Tune: Veni Emmanuel1st Published in: 1854

Imagine back with me now, to the Medieval Catholic church with cold, stone floors and vacant, vaulted ceilings. Imagine a solemn chant, the earliest form of singing in the church, echoing through the chilled winter air. It is a pleading, longing chant of the Israelites for the coming of their Savior, for deliverance from all captivity and sorrows. It is a longing we all share as God’s children on the earth.

Veni, veni Emmanuel!
Captivum solve Israel!
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio,

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

And then the comforting answer to the supplication:

Gaude, gaude,
Emmanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.

Rejoice, rejoice.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O, Israel.

The origins of the haunting melody are unclear, though they are commonly considered to be 12th Century. However, it may have begun as early as the 8th century. It was sung in the Advent season, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus. The Hymn began as a series of Antiphons-short statements sung at the beginning of the Psalm or of the Magnificat at Vespers, the evening prayers. Each of the Antiphons greets the Savior with one of the various titles to which He is referred in the Scriptures.

1. Emmanuel
O EMMANUEL, God with us, Our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: COME to save us, O Lord our God.

Matt. 1: 23
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

2. Wisdom
O WISDOM, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: COME, and teach us the way of prudence.

Proverbs 8:14
14 Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.

3. Lord of Might
O LORD AND RULER of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: COME, and redeem us with outstretched arms.
Micah 2
2 But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

4. Root of Jesse
O ROOT OF JESSE, that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: COME, to deliver us, and tarry not.
Isa. 11: 10, 2 Ne. 21: 10
10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

4. Key of David
O KEY OF DAVID, and Sceptre of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: COME, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Isa. 22: 22
22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

5. Daysrpring, meaning dawn or daybreak
O DAWN OF THE EAST, brightness of light eternal, and Sun of Justice: COME, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Luke 1:67-79
When Zacharias could speak again after John the Baptist was born, he prophesied that Christ would
77…give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

6. Desire of Nations
O KING OF THE GENTILES and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: COME, and deliver man, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.
Hag. 2: 7
7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.

Rejoice, rejoice.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O, Israel.

I testify to you that these prophesies were fulfilled, that Jesus Chris was born in Bethlehem to Mary who wrapped him warmly and laid him in a manger. His birth was announced by glorious angels of His Father, the Most High God. He began his earthly ministry as a humble carpenter and taught his followers peace and hope through repentance. We can rejoice, because Emmanuel has come to Israel, redeemed us from temporal and spiritual death, and will return again to usher in the millennial dispensation. Let us continue to sing glad Noels to our Savior and redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Works Cited
The Bible, King James translation.
The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Charlene E. Fairchild 2002 - 2006,_O_come,_Emmanuel
Title: O Come ImmanuelBy: Ray C. StedmanSeries: Isaiah: A Short Series Scripture: Isaiah 7, 9 Message No: 3 Catalog No: 578 Date: December 22, 1985
Prayer for the Jubilee by Kathy Coffey

© 2008 Penny Lee Soutar Kjelgaard

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oh, what a shovel of snow we heave, when in white Christmas we believe

Ever since I was a small child in Fisherville, New York, snow at Christmas was a necessity to the celebration of the holiday. The song, of course, by Irving Berlin had us believing, but better yet were the pine trees outside my bedroom window. My father would clip the large, colorful light bulbs to their branches in November, before it got too cold (gloves didn't work well for this activity.) When the snow came, it covered the bulbs entirely, thus giving the snow a multicolored effect that looked like snow cones. Staring out those windows while singing Christmas carols was my personal holiday heaven.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, it doesn't snow that often. I find my self loving the mild winters, but at the same time thinking, "If its going to be cold, it might as well snow." I even dreamed about it one night:

Last Night I Dreamed it Snowing

Last night I dreamed it snowing
Icy flakes, gliding, slowing
Laughing children, mothers smiling,
Snowballs soaring, snow forts piling,
Cotton snow drifts flowing
In my dream still growing.

So now, in December 2008, we have been snowed on for over a week. The temperatures are low and even my skylight snow has not melted, giving the house a grayish tinge inside. It keeps drifting down, piling high and mezmerizing me. I just can't stop staring out the window and this milky miracle from God.

© 2008 Penny Lee Soutar Kjelgaard