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Thursday, March 20, 2014

249: SACRED BALANCE/UNION ON THE SPRING EQUINOX


Last week was the Spring Equinox. Next Sunday is April 6th. Two weeks after April 6th,  we will celebrate Easter. Here are a few more insights about the significance of the Vernal/Spring Equinox.

The spring equinox represents the renewal of life and the time balance and unity. It begins the time when our days progressively getting longer with more sunlight. symbolic of light overcoming darkness. This is the time of year when we observe the Easter holiday and we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. Easter is celebrated around the world with eggs and bunnies, all symbols of life, fertility and rebirth and renewal. Spring is usually a time of fertility for animals. It is a time of the beginning of life, or conception. I have recently learned that the Spring Equinox is not only a time of balance of equal light and dark, but a time of creation and union of  male and female.

In Ancient Egypt, there was a festival on the Spring Equinox. It was called the Festival of Isis and Osiris, where ceremonially the union of the female and male Gods brought fertility to the earth. It was also a time of receiving enlightenment from the God. 

On the morning of equinox, it was customary to face East on the Spring Equinox to witness the rising sun with prayer and praise. The Priests of the Temple of Solomon, The Egyptians Priests, and the early Christians would meet before dawn and wait for the rising of the sun. Their temples were oriented geographically so that the rising of the sun on the day of the equinox would enter in through the two front pillars.  

The rising sun was viewed as representing, symbolically, the Son of God. One of the Egyptian titles for the Son of God was "Lord of the Horizon." . As the sun rose above the horizon, the Early Christians would shout "Agerthe!" (Greek meaning "He is risen”). It was thought that one joined with the Gods on the horizon at the rising sun. This was a holy time of union with the Gods, and especially on the day of the equinox

The actual moment of equinox represents the absolute balance between light and dark, the moment of time that light and dark are equal this spring equinox was 10:57 AM. From that time forward, there will be progressively more sunlight as the days get longer until June 21st, the Summer Solstice. A symbolic time period of the triumph of light over darkness for three months. 

Here is a few photos I took on a hike on the Spring Equinox. They represent the symbols of the union and balance of the male and the female.

Male and Female Flowers:
 
 
The only two flowers that I saw were the purple Rockcress flowers and the yellow Daffodil. It is interesting to note that the color Purple and the color Yellow are opposite in the color wheel. In another post I hope to explain more color symbolism. The Purple Rockcress has four petals.  The number four is Symbolic of the square, and forms the four corners of the earth, The Daffodil is symbolic of  life, rebirth and creation. It has six petals which represents harmony, balance, love, and truth. Six is also the number of sides for the geometic shape, the hexagon. We see the hexagon used by the bees in the forming of the honeycomb. All associated with the female.
 
Here are a few more photos from the hike:
Male and Female Rock Shapes
 
Side by side Male and Female rock symbols 

 .......................................................................................................................................
 
Previously posted photos taken on the Spring Equinox 2014 morning.
 
 
 











Wednesday, March 19, 2014

248: VERNAL EQUINOX 2014: Light begins to conquer Darkness.


Photo taken last year at sunrise on top of Mount Timpanogos


 ...


Today is the last calendar day of Winter. Tomorrow, March 20, 2014, spring begins as we observe the vernal equinox here in Utah. At 10:57 AM will mark that special moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator going from south to north. The word equinox is derived from two Latin words–aequus (equal) and nox (night). On the equinox, the length of day, and the length of night will be close to 12 hours each. Depending on your location the sunrise and sunset will be around 7:40 AM/PM.

Early Christians observed the Vernal Equinox by greeting the rising sun on the morning of the equinox by going outside, facing east and shouting three times: "Christos Agarthe" (Christos Ah-gair-thay) which means “Christ is risen."

Spring is a time of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection, and regrowth. It is a time to gather, search, learn, receive and share more light. Light is becoming a more important, essential commodity to have in our life.

It is light, primarily from the Sun, that cause living things to ripen. The word ripen means to bring to completeness or perfection, or come to maturity. We often use the term "ripen" with fruit. In general when fruit is ripe, it is sweeter, softer and malleable. 

Interesting to note, there are two ways that you can speed up the ripening process.

You can allow the fruit to mature by placing the fruit in direct sunlight out in the open air. This process will make the fruit more sweet.
or

You can place the fruit in a closed bag (like a brown paper sack), control the environment and “suffocate” it with restricted air and little light. In this process, the fruit will be less sweet and eventually becoming rotten.

The fruit ripen by light will be gathered, the second fruit will be usually be destroyed.
...

Monday, March 17, 2014

247: WHAT INFLUENCE ARE WE UNDER?

Today is St. Patrick's Day.. Since this is a holiday where many people get drunk...after tonight, a large percentage of people (especially if they are Irish)  would answer "Alcohol" to the question "What influence are you under?"

 If only we all could answer the question that we are under the influence of The Spirit of the Lord. If we truly are keeping our Sacrament Covenants by being willing to take upon us the Name of the Christ, always remembering Him, and keeping His Commandments, we are promised to have His Spirit to be with us.. ALWAYS.

However, if we fail to live up to our covenants, we are under another influence. From the chapter "On the Sacred and the Symbolic" from Hugh Nibley's book, Eloquent Witness, Nibley writes:

    "What is the result of failing to live up to our covenants? It is to be under Satan's influence; there is no other alternative, for you cannot "serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24)....

    "The ordinances must be kept in the way God appointed: otherwise their priesthood will prove a curse rather than a blessing. There is no margin for rationalization or manipulation; "the moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the Devil takes power." (TPJS, 169)" ...

 Good questions to ask ourselves.. What master do we serve? Have we changed any of the ordinances from the way God appointed them? Do we rationalize this changes if any change has been made? Who is in control our lives? Who has taken over power?


Furthermore in Nibleys' book he writes:

    "Many have noted the strong tendency of Latter-day Saints to avoid making waves. They seem strangely touchy on controversial issues. This begets an extreme lack of candor among the Saints, which in turn is supported by a new doctrine, according to which we have a Prophet at our head who relieves us of all responsibility for seeking knowledge beyond a certain point, making decisions, or taking action on our own." pg 414-415.

    "When the extremists take over, and the ambitious corporations prevail, when the whole earth groans, who is to be trusted in such a world? "The world always mistook false prophets for true ones," said Joseph (TPJS, 206); and he noted that loyalty oaths and protestations are actually signs of desperation and mistrust.  In the end any solution given "without revelation, without commandment, would prove a curse" (TPJS, 256).
...



 
SIDENOTES:
 
I received a few interesting emails today that I wanted to share. In answering What influence are we under? One of the answers is Money and Wealth.

Here is a 9 minute interesting video:

 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuqGrz-Y_Lc&sns=em
 
EMAIL 2:
 


The LDS Church tearing down beloved school, homes near the New Zealand temple — and building a Legacy Park. The plan is for 100 new homes on the site, but they would be more expensive. "It feels like Americans came in and saw that our community was run-down and said, ‘This is not good enough. We need to put some sparkle on it,’ " Nin says. "If they had really looked at the people, they would know there is already something special here."

SL Tribune Article on New Zealand Temple

........


EMAIL 3:

With permission, a friend sent me an email that contained part of a letter that was written to the Presiding Bishop.


This letter is written to express the concerns of my wife and myself. We identify ourselves as active Mormons, being lifelong members of the church, current temple recommend holders, faithful tithing payers, with callings in our ward, attending our meetings as frequently as health and work permit.

I am not sure to whom to address this, as this is written primarily out of concern for church spending, especially when it comes to tithing and other sacred offerings. Local leadership certainly can’t provide all the answers, as all tithing funds are funneled centrally to Salt Lake, to be spent as the general leadership sees fit. So it is to you I address this letter. If you feel this is out of your jurisdiction, please forward to the appropriate office.

It is my understanding that the church invests our tithing funds, using the earnings in projects/business ventures that aren’t necessarily projects that tithing funds are to be used for. Is this true? Does the church invest these sacred funds for profit? If it is so, I am concerned…since I believe that any money earned from investing tithing is still the Lord’s to be used with prudence.

The church has made some rather large investments recently. One was in the news last week: the purchase of land in Florida for over half a billion dollars. The other: City Creek shopping center. My wife and I really started to become concerned about church spending since news of City Creek reached our ears. We have not ventured to the mall, but we are in awe of such a building project that cost more per square foot than any other building project ever. I have read that the funds did not come from tithing, and that it was built using funds from the church’s “real estate arm”. Were those funds augmented with earnings from tithing investments? The church offers no transparency when it comes to finances, and as a member it is impossible to know where funds arise from, and where they are spent.

In a recent conversation with a friend, who happens to be an architect with one of the firms that the church uses to build temples and to maintain the Salt Lake temple, we learned about the high cost of planning and building a temple. We learned of the process of planning, making renderings of the rooms, each rendering costing tens of thousands of dollars. If the plans were not approved, the firm had to start over, and all that cost leading up to that point would have to be absorbed by the church. What a wasteful and careless process it sounds like! I know our temples are sacred edifices, but certainly the Lord doesn’t require custom furniture, custom rugs and carpets, fine gold and crystal furnishings. Doesn’t He care more about what is in our hearts than how we are adorned? If that is true for man, shouldn’t it be true for temples?

This architect friend informed us of a recent bathroom remodel in the Salt Lake temple that we had the privilege of using while waiting to attend a temple sealing. The bathroom was impressive, with solid onyx slabs partitioning the stalls and lining the walls, fine woodworking throughout, and beautiful hardware and fixtures. We were told the price to complete this project was $500,000. Did that come from tithing funds, since it was a temple project? How many poor members might have benefitted from those funds? How many temple trips might have been realized by members too poor to afford transportation to their nearest temple? How many mouths might have been fed?

My wife and I were recently made aware of starving LDS children in South America and southern Asia. It is estimated that up to 900 LDS children will die from starvation/malnutrition this year, while 90,000 will receive inadequate nutrition. Is church headquarters aware of this? The group that informed us about these children is called Liahona Children’s Foundation. This group is attempting to raise money to provide nutrition and education to these children and their friends. If what they claim is true, can’t more of our offerings be sent to ensure our brothers and sisters in third world countries have enough, and then some to spare? Especially since we are so richly blessed as members in North America.

I am reminded of a scripture in 2 Nephi 28: 12-13. I think as a church we need to heed all warnings from the Book of Mormon, as though they are directed towards us individually and as a church. We will certainly learn more that way.

“12 Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.

 13 They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.”

My wife and I are striving to know our Savior. We are trying to teach our children to know Him, and serve Him. We continue to pay an honest tithe, and it is our hope and prayer that the leaders of this church are being honest with those tithes. If there is a system of accountability of church leadership to the members who provide the tithes and offerings, I am unaware of it. In any corporation, there needs to be checks and balances, and I am curious if there are any checks in the church. Perhaps financial transparency would be a wise initiative, so that as members we can retake our privilege of consent, even common consent, for church expenditures.

We know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that he restored wonderful truths to the earth, and that we may become the beneficiaries of wonderful blessings if we seek after our Savior and do as He commands. At this time we find ourselves confused at the direction the church is moving, which feels ever closer to Babylon, rather than fleeing in the opposite direction.

If you have the time and ability to answer any of these questions, we would greatly appreciate it. We have no plans of leaving this church. We are part of this church, and it is a part of us. There is not one part that ought to be esteemed greater than the other, as every member is a member of the body of Christ. It is with this thought in mind that we submit this letter to you
.

........................

Response Letter:





Email 4:

It was the announcement of the 2014 recipient of "The Pillar of the Valley" Award which is one of the highest awards given to man in Utah Valley.  This award is given at Utah Valley's premiere business gala event. If you want to attend the event as a capstone sponsor" it will cost $10,000 (not including the cost of the tuxedo.) The event is advertised as "This is a black tie-optional event that is first class in every way. ". Billboards can be seen in Utah Valley along the Interstate 1-15 announcing the winner.  Here is the website to see who will be receiving the award. WINNER.


BTW: An Electronic Billboard can be seen driving North on the east side of I-15 between 1600 North Orem Exit and Pleasant Grove Exit of the recipient as well. Here is a small cell phone photo:




 
 
And Lastly: New Scout lodge to be named for LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson. The lodge will be named the Thomas S. Monson Lodge in honor of the longtime Scouter and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The lodge will be the centerpiece of the Hinckley Scout Ranch (named after the father of Gordon B. Hinckley), which is home to several separate campsites including Tomahawk, Frontier, Ridgeline and Sunrise. The nearly 23,000-square-foot lodge will feature conference rooms, restrooms, a Scoutmaster area with Wi-Fi access, a full-service kitchen, a dining patio, and program pavilions.   LINK

Monday, March 10, 2014

246: MORMONOPOLY: BUILDING "ZION" ONE PROPERTY AT A TIME


When I was a little kid, sometimes instead of a lesson for Family Night Evening, we would play board games. One of my favorite games was Monopoly. It is a game where the players move around the gameboard buying properties, developing their properties by building housing and then collecting rent from their opponents.  For the LDS market, I had an idea for a new variation of the game. I would call it Mormonolopy.

 
All of us are very familiar with the non-profit side of the Church with the buildings of Temples, churches, and the missionary program, but most are not familiar with the LDS Church for-profit companies. I thought it might be good to have fun playing a game with some of the properties that the Church owns. These are investment properties and companies that are income-producing assets. One would assume that these properties are helping with the Church's 3 fold mission, (actually I think there are four missions now.) It was announced recently the additional 4th mission: To Care for the Poor and the Needy.


Many might be surprised to know that the LDS church is the largest non-governmental land owner in the US. It is not unusual for the Church to buy land. It normally does so through its primary corporate entity, the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  news article
 
In a recent fireside at our stake, a Church employee spoke and shared with us that the Church builds more square footage in United States than Walmart. I don't know what the Church's exact square footage is, but as of January 31, 2014,  Walmart  has built almost 1 billion square feet. ( 723,385,669 square feet to be exact) stats 

Last week,  Suburban Land Reserve (one of the real estate arms of the Church) met with the City Council to propose a preliminary Planned Unit Development (PUD) in Herriman.  The LDS Church owns 300 acres in Herriman approximately at 6801 W 11800 South.  and hopes to get approval to subdivide the land into 2,549 home building lots. (Minutes to the City Council Mtg.)

A few years ago, "The Mormon Church has purchased a major chunk of undeveloped property in overbuilt Maricopa from two major home builders. Property Reserve Inc., a real-estate holding company owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, paid home builders Fulton Homes Corp. and Shea Homes for Active Adults a combined $72 million in October for about 1,900 acres of virgin land in the Pinal County city, 35 miles south of Phoenix." LDS Purchases Maricopa land from builders in Arizona

While a developing land to subdivide into home lots is one thing, when I learned that the Church has land with plans to develop an entire new city, I was really surprised. Here are some specifics of developing the Elberta/Goshen area. For those who are not familiar with this area, this is the land that is being used to film all of the New Testaments Bible videos for the Church.

http://www.utahcounty.gov/Dept/ComDev/Planning/UtahCountyGoshenValleySpecificAreaPlan.pdf

 
 
A few other purchase of the Church within the past 10 years:

International Corporate Park in Orlando bought by LDS Church's Surburban Land Reserve.
http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/stories/2007/08/27/daily52.html

  • Suburban Land Reserve announced late Friday that it has bought the International Corporate Park in east Orange County for an undisclosed price.  Scott Dean, a vice president with the Utah-based firm, says work with Orange County and the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority will begin immediately to complete the development and construction of the Innovation Way interchange at the 528 Beachline.

LDS church transfers Northwest Quadrant to Kennecott
http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/52567975-90/kennecott-development-church-lake.html.csp

  • Most of the quadrant has been owned by the LDS Church for decades, once serving as a welfare-era farm during the Great Depression. Duke, with the LDS Church's real-estate arm, notes PRI now holds 2,000 acres there, 1,000 of which is the city's former landfill.  Firmage says the LDS Church was "frustrated" by the inability to make a return on its sprawling investment. He says the housing market makes it too risky to develop, so he hopes to see an easement or the like to protect the land as open space." 
For those that are interested, here is a partial list of some of the other LDS for-profit companies and  property holdings.
 
  • Deseret Management Corporation 
  • Property Reserve, Inc.
  • Suburban Land Reserve, Inc
  • City Creek Properties
  • Beneficial Financial Group 
  • Bonneville International 
  • Bonneville Communications 
  • Bonneville Interactive Services
  • Bonneville Satellite 
  • KSL Radio Station as well as other affliates.
  • Television Station (KSL)
  • Deseret Book 
  • LDS Motion Picture Studios
  • Deseret Morning News 
  • Hawaii Reserves 
  • Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) 
  • La'ie Shopping Center
  • La'ie Park
  • La'ie Cemetary
  • Hukilau Beach Park
  • La'ie Water Company
  • La'ie Treatment Works (sewer)
  • Temple Square Hospitality 
  • Joseph Smith Memorial Building 
  • The Inn at Temple Square 
  • Lion House Pantry 
  • The Roof Restaurant 
  • The Garden Restaurant 
  • Passages Restaurant 
  • Zions Securities Corporation 
  • Farm Management Corporation 
  • Deseret Land and Livestock
  • Sun Ranch (Martin's Cove)
  • Deseret Ranches of Florida (Orlando)
  • Deseret Farms of California
  • Rolling Hills (Idaho)
  • West Hills Orchards (Elberta, Utah)
  • Cactus Lane Ranch (Arizona)
  • Deseret Trust Company
  • LDS Family Services
  • Property Reserves Inc. (PRI)
  • Ensign Peak Advisors - 
  • Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators 
  • Brigham Young University (BYU) 
  • BYU - Idaho 
  • BYU - Hawaii
  • LDS Business College
  • Agreserves Australia 
  • Deseret Ranches of Alberta, Canada
  • Agreserves LTD Cambridge,England
  • AgroReservas, S.C. Los Mochis, Mexico
  • Deseret Farms of CA Woodland, CA
  • Deseret Farms of CA Modesto,CA
  • Deseret Farms of CA Chico,CA
  • South valley Farms Bakersfield, CA
  • Deseret Security Farms Blythe, CA
  • Naples Farms Naples,FL
  • Deseret Cattle & Citrus ST. Cloud, FL
  • Deseret Farms of Ruskin Ruskin, FL
  • Kewela Plantation O'ahu,HI
  • Rex Ranch Ashby, NE
  • Riverbend Farms ST.Paul, OR
  • Deseret Land & Livestock Woodruff, UT
  • Wasatch-Dixie Farms Elberta, UT
  • Agreserves Cottle CO.,TX
  • Agrinorthwest Kennewick, WA
 
  
I would be interested in know how these companies and properties fulfill the missions of the Church, and with "hastening the work". It might be my lack of understanding but, it seems to be a lot of business as usual.  Large land parcels of several thousand acres for agriculture seems like a good thing.. but long-term development, mixed use projects, office, industrial, high rise condos seems more like Monopoly.

Sidenote:

Genesis 11:4–6
"And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and they said, "Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, with its top in heaven, and let us make us a name". And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one. . . Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand . . . and the Lord scattered them."

 The Gospel of Thomas, 64:1–12
 "Buyers and merchants will not enter the places of my father."



Wednesday, March 5, 2014

245: ILLEGITIMATE PRIESTHOOD


A descriptive banner from the Dead Sea Scroll Exhibit currently on display at the Leonardo in Salt Lake City. 

....
 
Salt Lake City is one of only six cities in the United States to display a collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls. On display is one of the largest collections of the priceless 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls and can be seen at the Leonardo Museum through April 27, 2014.

 Discovered by a shepherd in the Qumran caves in 1947, the Scrolls contain the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible. Qumran, was home to a community of a religious group called the Essenes, who devoted much of their time to writing and preserving sacred texts. The Essenes refer largely to those people who left Jerusalem after the destruction of Solomon's Temple and  went into the desert to continue to practice the ancient temple religion.

Part of the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit on display is the War Scroll popularly known as "The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness," is one of the seven original scrolls discovered in Qumran in 1947. The scroll sheds light on the New Testament Book of Revelation, in which a final war is described between earthly and heavenly forces.

Above is a photo of one of the banners above the War Scroll display. I found the information contained on the banner to be really interesting. It reads:
 
"The authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls were intimately familiar with Jerusalem. It is likely that some of them lived in the city at one time. Many scrolls mention both the contemporary city and messianic visions of it in a perfect future age. For these writers, the city was polluted and profane. It was  place from which they had spiritually and physically withdrawn because of its religious corruption, "the city in which the evil priest has undertaken abominable actions so as to render the Temple impure." 

The Temple was the seat of an illegitimate priesthood, which would be delivered into the hands of the Kittim, probably the Romans. At the same time, the scrolls speak of Jerusalem's future restoration, it would again be worthy of the divine presence at the end of days, when God would build a perfect Temple there."

I think this is the first place I have read the words " illegitimate priesthood." The word illegitimate means not authorized or in accordance with accepted principles or standard. It is not recognized as valid or sanctioned.  A question to think about is... what makes the Priesthood illegitimate?  Some answers can be found in D&C 121.