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Sunday, February 26, 2012

30: The Prophets New Tie/Clothes

We just received the new March Ensign yesterday. There is a large portrait of Thomas S Monson on the cover. He is wearing a beautiful tie with all of the flags from around the world. I was able to count over a 100 flags visible on his tie, symbolic that Mormonism is now a global faith.

The bulk of the articles in this month's Ensign is to reiterate and emphasize in the minds of the Church members the importance of Following the Prophet and sustaining our leaders. Here are a few of the articles:
  • · "Follow the Prophet"
  • · "Led by a living prophet"
  • · "Following the Prophet makes me happy."
  • · "We sustain our Leaders"
  • · "Why do we need prophets?"
  • · "Preparing for General Conference"
  • · "Life Experiences of President Thomas S. Monson"
In addition to the headlines, I thought I would share a few excerpts from one of the articles, "Follow the Prophet" written by Elder Randall Bennett, one the General Authorities.
  • "We have learned not to question the validity of what prophets and apostles teach or to wonder if it makes sense."
  • "Some might call our actions blind obedience. But we have the Lord's personal promise that the prophets will never lead us astray."
  • "She had confidence in knowing that she was following the prophet. And that was more important than anything else." 
  • "Our determination to always follow the prophet."

One of the featured and longest article in this month's Ensign is a six page spread on the life of President Monson entitled , "Have I Done Any Good in the World today?" It is written by Heidi S. Swinton, who was commissioned by President Monson to write his autobiography. The article highlights some of Monson's acts of service and accomplishments throughout his life. In the article there is a compliment given by President Boyd K Packer referring to President Monson, "He is more Christlike than the rest of us". (Sidenote: This same quote is the opening sentence in Monson's autobiography).


Without question, there is an over abundance of stories and examples that we hear about how wonderful our Prophet is. In fact, in the latest Worldwide Training Meeting held a few weeks ago, the General Young Women's President said, " "I want to be like the prophet because he is like our Savior."

A few more quotes from the Ensign article:

  • "He (Monson) relates to a visiting dignitary from a foreign country with the same attention he does the man who polishes his desk at night." (Sidenote: I guess the bottom in worldly importance is a man who polishes President Monson's desk each night)
  • "President Monson does what most people only think about doing."
Preparatory to General Conference, once again in this months Ensign we are reminded of the good deeds and exemplary life of President Monson before the world will hear him speak to us..

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Sidenote:

One of the advantages of having young children is that you can read them bedtime stories. In addition the Ensign, the Church produces magazines like the Friend. However, sometimes it is fun to read classic fairy tales. I think we can learn a lot from fairy tales. Since both of my parents come from Denmark, as a child, my parents read to us tales written by the Danish author, Hans Christian Anderson. The Little Mermaid and the Ugly Duckling were some of our favorites growing up. One of his lesser known tales is "The Emperor's New Clothes." In case some are unfamiliar with the story, here is a very brief summary:

Once upon a time, there was an Emperor who loved to show off his beautiful clothes to his people. One day, the Emperor hires two tailors that promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position. The Emperor cannot see the cloth himself, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing unfit for his position; his ministers do the same. When the suit is finished, the Emperor then marches in procession before his subjects, who play along with the pretense. Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear:
"Look at the Emperor's new clothes. They're beautiful!"....

"What a marvellous train!"

"And the colors! The colors of that beautiful fabric!

"I have never seen anything like it in my life!"

Suddenly, a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but holds himself up proudly and continues the procession, deciding never to be so vain again and to take his position more seriously.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

29: The GRAND OPENING OF Beautified ZION... or BABYLON?

On March 22, 2012, one month from today,  the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will unveil their multi-billion dollar beautification project around the Salt Lake Temple called CITY CREEK CENTER.  It will be interesting  to see how the billions upon billions of dollars funds were spent. Already billboards (see below), advertisements and even a large permanent rock countdown clock are being used to get the public excited for the grand opening. Not sure the Church has announced their dedicatory plans for their red-ribbon ceremony, but I am guessing that it will be similar to both President Hinckley’s and also President’s Monson dedicatory prayers at the new Zion Banks a few years ago.

I thought I would share a few photos I took of the billboard ads along the I-15 corridor today. The church’s advertising agency are using catchy slogans and imagery to hopefully draw us to the City Creek Center to spend our money. From the looks of what this woman is wearing, I am not sure the target market is for a temple recommend carrying Mormon. But looking on the positive side, this is  a new Missionary Campaign to entice the non-members to shop and then come over to the visitors’ center. (A little bait and switch… once baptized someone will eventually need to tell them that once you go through the temple, you can’t wear some of the clothes you purchased at our shopping center).  However, in the meantime.. MAKE IT YOURS.

I have been reading lately from Hugh Nibley’s Approaching Zion. I thought I would share a couple of highlights.  

·         “Saints start out building up Zion and end up Building Babylon.”
·         “Some of the Latter-Day Saints had an idea that they could take the follies of the world in one hand, and the Savior in the other, and expect to get into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
·         “Lusting after the things of this world., the Latter-day Saints are shaking hands with the servants of the devil, instead of sanctifying themselves. When I think upon this subject, I want the tongues of seven thunders to wake up the people.” Quoting Brigham Young.
·         “Do we glorify the four things Mormon says will destroy a civilization, lust for power, riches, popularity, and desires of the flesh?”

The Lord teaches these same lessons when he tells how members of the church fall away because of “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, which choke the word and it becometh unfruitful (Mark 4:19, Matthew 13:22).

A past modern day living prophet declared in 1979, “Unfortunately we cannot proclaim that “All is well in Zion.” We find that we Latter-day Saints are also vulnerable to the destructive forces of evil that are all about us in this sin-sick world.”. Spencer W Kimball.  A little different message than what we hear today from our living prophet, “Now, my brothers and sisters, I am pleased to report that the Church is doing very well.”  Thomas S. Monson, “Welcome to Conference,” Ensign, May 2009, 4–6.

Well, the church must be doing very well to spend the kind of money it has on City Creek Center. Yes, on March 22.. IT ARRIVES!


As a family, we have finished up 2 Nephi. We are reading it a little slower than most. Chapter 28 is especially good. I wanted to point out Hugh Nibley commentary of  Jacob’s discourse early in II Nephi.

“It is at the climax of his great discourse on the Atonement that Jacob cries out, “but wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor.” This is  very important statement, setting down as a general principle that the rich as a matter of course despise the poor, for “their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their God. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also: Why does Jacob make this number one in his explicit list of offenses against God? Because it is the number one device among the enticing of “that cunning one” (2 Nephi 9:39) , who knows that riches are his most effective weapon in leading men astray. You must choose between being at one with God or with Mammon, NOT BOTH; the one promises everything in this world for money, the other a  place in the kingdom after you have “endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it.”

Are we being enticed? The billboard read, “Discover it”.  (Remember,  you can have anything in this world for money)

Just thought I would end with one of my favorite poems:

“All the water in the world, no matter how it tried,
could ever sink the smallest ship, until it got inside.
All the evil in the world, and every kind of sin,
could never damn a human soul, unless we let it in.”

Are we letting Babylon in?

Friday, February 17, 2012

28: AUTHENTIC VS COUNTERFEIT

Below are two different artist renditions of Jesus Christ.
The one on the left is painted by Karl Bloch
(I took a little liberty and made the face a little more round, with more red in the hair and made the beard a little more full.)

The image on the right is by Simon Dewey.
(Most LDS artists tend to paint Jesus Christ as a very handsome, "GQ looking", with "Mitt Romney" hair/cheekbones)

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We live in a day when Satan deceiveth the whole earth. (Revelations 12:9). While many of us can discern between obvious truth and error, see the difference between black and white, or feel the difference between hot and cold… it is more difficult to discern between what is real and what appears to be real, to discern what is “authentic” and what is counterfeit. Unfortunately, many times the counterfeit version actually looks better, seems to it make us feel better and sounds better to our ears. These counterfeit look so real that "if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24), all the while they believe they are following the real thing.


Authentic : the author or maker, Embodies the truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions.

Counterfeit: an imitation or variation of the original. Assuming the appearance of something, made by another. Counterfeit products are often produced with the intent to take advantage of the superior value of the orginal.

We should always be careful not to be deceived. It is unfortunate when we honor, worship or follow things that are counterfeit, thinking it is the real thing. Here just a brief example.




Michelangelo selected a used piece of marble. It was heavily scarred by previous sculptors who had given up on carving this particularly difficult stone. Skeptics doubted that anyone could produce anything worthwhile from this battered and overworked chunk of marble, but Michelangelo saw something within it that nobody else could see. Other sculptor created pieces of art from beautiful, unmarked and without outward flaws.

As Michelangelo’s Statue of David was being transported to the place of honor, the statue was stoned and attacked by unknown assailants. We also know in later political upheavals, the David was knocked of its perch and its right arm broken. Fortunately, another artist and supporter of Michelangelo salvaged the pieces and had the statue repaired when social order was restored. However, in 1873, it was decided that the David statue would be safer indoors, and a copy was set in its place.

It is very difficult to tell the difference between the two statues. (The photo on the right of the statue of David is the replica and to most, it actually looks better than the one on the right... because it is newer and without blemish or scars.

Sidenote: The temple stone that the builders rejected for Solomon's Temple was "blemished" and in their opinion, unworthy to be used. (Psalms 118:22)  That is symbolic of Christ when we read in Isaiah 53:3 - “he was despised, and we esteemed him not”.
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The reason for this is from the following comment on the mormon stories podcast;

http://mormonstories.org/?p=2471

"I've been surprised at appearances. I've avoided making any effort to provide a description of the Lord's appearance. In the early church there are passing references to the Lord's "round face" from which I can affirm they saw Him. Most of the LDS artwork depicting "Jesus" are pretty good likenesses of Lucifer. I think there is wisdom in not making an image of the Lord because most of the images are quite misleading."

.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

27: THE COLOR OF MONEY

photo taken of the Salt Lake Temple and the high rise building of Zions' Bank in the background


ZION'S BANK ( An Oxymoron) :

Last week as I was driving home from work,  I had the impression to stop and take some pictures of the temple. It was getting dark, and the lights on the temple had just turned on. Just after setting up my camera, the lights on the Zion’s Bank building also turned on. I was surprised to see that the lights were the symbolic color of green. However, the green light only lasted for about 15 seconds until the lights were fully warmed up. Fortunately I was able to capture this photo with the centered words of Zion’s Bank lit up in green above the temple. It has led me to write the following thoughts. 
Besides the scriptures, one of the best books about Zion is written by Hugh Nibley entitled “Approaching Zion”. Here are a few quotes from the book:
·         “The gulf steadily widens between the Zion of God and those Babylonian institutions in our midst that brazenly bear the fair name of Zion as a gimmick to  promote local business”. Approaching Zion, pg 249

·         “The institutions of Mammon are made respectable by the beautiful name of Zion. Zion and Babylon both have their appeal, but the voice of latter-day revelation makes one thing perfectly clear as it tell us over and over again that we cannot have them both.”  Approaching Zion, pg 21

·         “There is an unbridgeable gap between Zion and Babylon. We cannot compromise on the two ways, because the two ways lead in opposite directions. When we try and mix Babylon and Zion and Babylon, Babylon has already won the game”. Approaching Zion, pg 18-19.


And then this quote by Brigham Young in the Journal of Discourses:

·         “When I see this people grow and spread and prosper, I feel there is more danger than when they are in poverty. Being driven from city to city is nothing compared to the danger of becoming rich and being hailed by outsiders as a first-class community.” Journal of Discourses 12:272

It was publicized in both the LDS Church News and the church owned Deseret News that both President Hinckley and President Monson dedicated these newly constructed Zion’s Bank Buildings, in Salt Lake and Provo respectively. Interesting that they both used exact wordings.. praying that the bank may be a bright and shining star.
·         In his dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley said, "We commend those who made the decision to locate the bank and its associated properties in this location. May it ever be a bright and shining star in the business community of Salt Lake City, and may its influence extend and be felt across the nation." 
·         LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson joined elected officials, business leaders and prominent Utah County residents Friday to dedicate and celebrate the Zions Bank Financial Center. In dedicating the building, President Monson prayed, "May it ever be a bright and shining star in the business community of Provo, and may its influence extend far and wide."

Sidenotes:

I think it is unfortunate that just like the other failed banks in the country. Zions Bank entangled itself with the US Government and received  bailout money. It was reported that Zions Bancorp. sought between $500 million and $1.5 billion of the $250 billion the U.S. Treasury Department that was given to banks to encourage lending and help thaw the credit-market freeze.
After receiving the accolade of International Executive of the Year from BYU's Marriott School of Management Nov. 6, 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley explained that the Church's business is salvation. In his acceptance speech, President Hinckley noted that the Church owns Bonneville International Corporation, the Deseret News Publishing Company, the Deseret Book Company, Zions Securities Corporation, Beneficial Life Insurance Company and other establishments. "Each is expected to make a profit."
Presiding Bishop of the Church, Bishop H. David Burton will receive the most prestigious honor that can be given in the Utah business community this March. The Deseret News article states, ..”as a businessman he has overseen the unprecedented investment in our capital city at the City Creek Center."
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I learned a new Latin term yesterday. It is “stare decisis”, which is short for a longer phrase meaning: “to stand by decisions and not disturb the undisturbed.” This term is mainly used in the legal profession which requires us to respect the precedents established by prior decisions. As Latter Day Saints, we too feel it is our responsibility to  respect, stand by and not disturb the prior decisions of our church leaders. They deserve our love and prayers as we all are trying to survive in this telestial world in which we live. I hope that this short email is received not in a spirit of criticism, but of concern similar to the others who have seen our day and raised a voice of warning like Moroni:
Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?” (Morm. 8:34–38.)
One thing I know to be true, Satan is the great deceiver. He claims that you can buy anything in this world with money… Not true. Zion CANNOT be bought with money.  
Unfortunately nowadays, all that is quintessentially Babylon now masquerades as Zion.  
Whenever the Lord prepares for Zion, there must be a division among the people. Because, no man can serve two masters… Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.