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Monday, March 30, 2015

312: ALIGNMENT OF EVENTS THIS WEEKEND

 The third "Blood Moon" occurs this Saturday morning on April 4, 2015. It will be visible to most in North America. From beginning to end, it will last for 3 1/2 hours. The moon will begin to eclipse around 4:15 AM and the maximum eclipse will be at 6:00 AM. The moon will set during it's final phase of eclipsing at 7:11 AM.

Passover is also this weekend. While many calendars mark the 4th of April as Passover, this sacred day always begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Jews will celebrate Passover on the sunset of Friday, the 3rd of April.  (which is also Good Friday, the day when Christians commemorate Jesus Christ's crucifixion).

Easter Sunday this year is observed this Sunday on April 5th. Beside Christmas, Easter Sunday is one of the most sacred days among Christians worldwide. It commemorates Jesus Christ's resurrection from death.  (Sidenote: For those who would like to see the sunrise on the top of a mountain on Easter Sunday, you can take the Snowbird tram up to Hidden Peak. The first Tram will depart at 5:29 a.m., and the last Tram will depart at 6:43 a.m. There is a short sunrise service that will begin at 7:00 a.m and the sun will begin to rise at 7:03 AM. It is free to the public. Observers should dress warmly. There is no cost for this event.)

All of this events coincide with the 185th  LDS General Conference this Saturday and Sunday.  (not to mention that  on April 6, 1830, is the date on which The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized.

Sidenote: I am curious to know if  the President of the United States, Barack Obama will observe in any of these religous events. He is scheduled to make his first trip to Utah this week as commander-in-chief. He has never visited our State since being elected president in 2008. I find it odd that he would be coming in this weekend, of all weekends. Here is the link to the story: http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=34034428


Sunday, March 29, 2015

311: SYMBOLS AND SIGNS

 One of the most common symbols used in the scriptures is a tree. In fact, the Bible contains more references to trees and wood (over 525) than to any other type of living organism except humans.  Tree references are found from the first book of the Bible, when Adam and Eve were introduced into the Garden and God presented them with two trees, the tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  We also read many references to trees in the Book of Mormon. Lehi was showed in vision a tree that represented the Love of God. One of the greatest allegories in all scripture which is found in Jacob 5 is all about the tame and wild olive tree. Trees are used by the Lord to teach us.

Today is Palm Sunday. Historically, the palm tree is a symbol of victory, triumph, peace and eternal life.  We read in John 12 that when Christ entered into the Holy City, the people "took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord."  In the ancient Egyptian religion, the palm was carried in funeral processions and represented eternal life. The palm branch later became a symbol of Christian matryrs and their spiritual victory or triumph over death.

Below are a few photos of some tree taken on a hike in the mountains last week on the Spring Equinox. Trees typically grow very slow and can live for thousands of years. I wrote about the bristlecone pine here. Until 2013, the oldest individual tree in the world was Methuselah, a 4,845-year-old bristlecone pine in the White Mountains of California.

What causes one tree to live for thousands of years while another tree dies before reaching full maturity?  Some probable causes are the lack of essential nutrients, rotting and decay, infiltration of insects.. and/or the tree is cut down by man.


Photos taken on March 18, 2015 on a hike in the Wasatch Mountains.

 On the hike last week, I came across a lone tree that was cut down many years ago along the banks of Lake Mary up Big Cottonwood Canyon. I wrote about the importance of this lake here. The stump is currently exposed in the deep snow, but normally it would be submerged underwater. When the natural Lake Mary was damned up to make a larger reservoir, trees were cut down that normally grew along the waters edge. Now that Lake Mary is now empty, the trees that were cut down are now visible. I walked up the stump. I was surprised to see small pine cones from a tree which had been cut down. If you look carefully you can see them on right side in the below photo. The pine cones are seeds for the tree to replenish itself and grow again.


 


Thursday, March 19, 2015

310: VERNAL EQUINOX 2015

 
Photo taken on the morning of March 18, 2015.



Yesterday morning, the sun rose at 7:35 AM and the sun set last night at 7:36 PM. It was the closest day to having equal sunlight and darkness. Day and Night were divided into roughly 12 hours each. Tomorrow the world observes the Spring Equinox, a time when the sun is exactly at zenith over the Equator. While some observed this yesterday, others believe that it is tomorrow at 4:45 PM (MST). Whether you go by a heavenly calendar or the world’s calendar, it is important to observe.

 While it has been an unusually mild winter in Utah, there is still plenty of snow up in the mountains. A hike that usually only takes about 2 hours, took over 5 hours yesterday in the snow. Hiking in the winter months, there is no easy trail to follow, and in the backcountry you need to forge your own path. The goal yesterday was to summit to Lake Katherine passing Lake Mary. Last year, Lake Mary was completely dry. I wrote about it HERE. Right now, the mountain lakes are still frozen and snow covered. It was a serene and beautiful solitary hike and time to receive much needed answers to prayer.





 
 




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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

309: THE UPPER ROOM IN THE TEMPLE



Photograph taken on March 13, 2015 from a video display in the South Visitor Center on Temple Square.

 The First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles meet each Thursday morning in this room. It is called the “Council Room” and is located above the Celestial Room in the Salt Lake Temple. 
 
A news article printed in the Church owned Deseret News stated, "Every major decision in the church is made on Thursday mornings in the temple by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Every decision of the council must be unanimous, according to a scriptural mandate. That can take time.” Elder M Russell Ballard is quoted in this same article, "None of the Twelve are shrinking violets. We each have strong personalities. So when we are unified in a decision, you can rest assured that we have counseled together and come to that decision after much prayer and thoughtful discussion." 
 
In Websters 1828 Dictionary, the word 'revelation' is defined as communication of truth to men by God himself. It is sacred truths which God has communicated to man for His instruction and direction. It is important that we dont confuse a consensus in voting with revelation from God.
 
Todays announcement must have reached an unanimous decision in order for an Apostle to make a public statement. Elder D. Todd Christofferson said that Mormons who support gay marriage are not in danger of losing their temple privileges or church memberships.  This possibly will open a can of worms for members who need to answer "no" to the temple question: Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Brethern will need to revise this question.
 
 
In the above photo, it is hard to miss this huge portrait of President Monson.  I think this life size portrait would be somewhat distracting to sit in a solemn meeting trying to recieve revelation from the Lord.  I highly doubt that Joseph Smith would commission a painting of himself to hang on the walls of a Temple especially in a sacred room above the Holy of Holies where you go  humbly in prayer to recieve revelatioin.. Personally I think Joseph would find it to be arrogant and vain to hang such a portrait. When there is an intense devotion to a particular person it is called "cult of personality". It's purpose is to create an idealized, heroic, and at times, worshipful image, often through unquestioning praise or flattery. Do we do this?
 
Sidenote:
 
A few weeks ago my nephew recieved a letter in the mail that he was excited to show all of us at Sunday dinner with our extended family. Before showing us the letter he explained that as part of their Family Night lesson, he drew a picture illustrating a talk President Uchtdorf gave in the most recent General Conference. For fun, they sent his drawing to the Church Office building hoping that maybe it would make it into the hands of President Uchtdorf. A few weeks later a large letter came in the mail addressed to my nephew. Enclosed was a letter and an autographed picture.  Elder Uchtdorf has personally autographed a photograph of himself and expressed gratitude to my nephew for taking the time to read and draw a picture of his talk. My nephew has now framed the picture and has in hanging in his room. When my nephew showed us this picture, you would have thought it was more valuable to him than getting an autographed photo of Tom Brady or Michael Jordan.
 
 


Sunday, March 8, 2015

308: DAYLIGHT SAVINGS: SUNDAY,MARCH 08 (3.08)


Early this morning at 2:00 AM we switched to Daylight Savings Time. The power of men through congressional law control us to move our clocks ahead one hour. We use the friendly and positive term "spring forward"... (but in reality we lose an hour, but gain it back in the fall). By advancing the clock one hour, the sun appears to set later in the evening. Of course, it also rises one hour later in the morning. The day of the big switch used to be the first Sunday of April, but in 2005, Congress revised the rule as an energy-saving measure.

Men feel powerful when they can control things. They become prideful. We might think we have power to control, like changing/altering the time... but we don't control we only manipulate the things of God.

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.
For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."
Romans 13:1

Here are a few photos taken this morning.


 

"But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom,
and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life."
Doctrine and Covenants 63:23
 
  

 


"That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.
Moses 6:59



 "For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified.  Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment."
 
Moses 6:60-61


Friday, March 6, 2015

307: ALIGNMENT WITH GOD


Photo taken on February 11, 2015 of the setting sun perfectly aligned through a small hole in a rock overlooking a cliff.
 
On Friday, March 20, 2015, there will be a total solar eclipse. This cosmic event occurs when there is a perfect alignment of the earth, moon and sun. A total eclipse of the Sun can only occur when the Moon is closest to the Earth, in order for the size of the Moon to be big enough to cover the entire disc of the Sun. At the peak of the eclipse also called the ring of fire, darkness will cover the earth with the moons shadow. This eclipse of the sun will be visible in the high northern latitudes of the earth. (near Greenland and Iceland). Two blood moons have preceded this event and two more blood moons will follow. The next blood moon will be 15 days later on April 4, 2015, which happens to be on the Jewish Passover and Easter weekend. It is also the weekend of the LDS General Conference.

This total solar eclipse occurs hours before the first day of Nisan. Nisan is name of the first month on the Jewish calendar. Nisan 1 is like our New Years Day but instead of the day beginning at midnight, the day begins and ends when the sun sets. The first sunrise of the new Jewish year will be onn the morning of March 21 . For most, this would also be the first sunrise of spring even though the exact Vernal Equinox happened a few days earlier. Another interesting fact about Nisan 1 which was the first anniversary of the Exodus out of Egypt, Moses raised up the Tabernacle and the glory of God descended down from Heaven upon the Tabernacle.

While planetary alignments are important for us to take notice, it is more important for us to take notice of our personal alignment with God.

Since God does not change, the responsibility delves on us to align ourselves with Him. Unfortunately, we prefer to have God to align to us. It is easier and doesn’t require us to change nor have direct contact with Him. For example, we believe we know God’s will once a unanimous decision has been reached by those who hold “keys”. We then consider the decision to be revelation.

In each one of the standard works is the warning to us to not put our trust in the arm of flesh. See (Jeremiah 17:5; 2 Nephi 28:31; 2 Nephi 4:34; 2 Chronicles 32:8; Doctrine and Covenants 1:19). If we do, our hearts have departed from the Lord and we are cursed. We typically think that this warning is directed to rank and file to avoid dependence on their leaders instead of the Lord. Could the warning possibly be directed at the leaders to not use and depend on the opinions of the rank and file members? Do the leaders make decisions based on the results of surveys, focus testing, and opinion polling from its members? If they do, are the leaders also guilty of trusting in the arm of flesh?

Oh the arrogance and vanity of man compared to the wisdom of God. But I digress.

I believe nature has something to tell us. I try to observe and listen. I think the volume has been turned up recently. I can hear it loudly. I am grateful for a loving God who is in and through all things. In the upcoming weeks I hope to be more aligned with the Lord. An alignment is required for a thread to pass through the eye of a needle. A similar alignment is needed to enter the Lord's presence. While it might seem impossible, unlikely, even unattainable. I believe it is indeed possible, even necessary. 
Photo taken on February 11, 2015 of the same rock  in above photo as the setting sun pierced through a small hole a rock.

From another blog: “Nature testifies endlessly of the Lord. It also invites us endlessly to turn back to Him. This continuing patience and enduring invitation shown in nature is a reminder of how loving and patient, how persistent and committed the Lord is to our salvation. Salvation is predicated upon the same, universal standard for all who would return to Him. In that respect it is as exact and unchanging as the cycles of nature. Despite its exacting requirements, it is endlessly inviting and continually encouraging us to accept that standard and to live it. Not just to say, but to do.”


A photo taken last night from our backyard of the full moon rising above Mount Olympus on March 5, 2015.

The full moon last night on March 5, 2015 was the smallest full moon of the year. It is called a full Worm Moon. Last night's full moon was 30,000 miles farther away from Earth than it will be on this year’s closest full moon – the full supermoon (Harvest Moon) on September 28. Every month for the next seven months, the full moon will come closer and closer to Earth. So the seventh full moon after the March 2015 micro-moon will give us the year’s most “super” supermoon on September 28, 2015. It also will be the last of the four blood moons that started last year on April 15, 2015.



 


Sunday, March 1, 2015

306: SOLITARY AND WEATHERED


Photo taken on February 12, 2015 on a solitary trip to Southern Utah.


In 2008, I read a book that changed my life. It set me on a journey that to this day I am still traveling. The book was a collection of parables that used symbolism to illustrate profound truths.  It was written in a language that I understood. It is a language that I speak. Here are a few paragraphs taken from parable number 5 entitled The Weathered Tree from the book Ten Parables.

"A solitary tree grows in a crack of this cliff. The tree lives in the most difficult spot. To look at it, it appears there is too little soil for the tree to have begun life there. Once life began, it looks as if there would be too little water to sustain it. And even if its life were possible, the wind never stops blowing at the place, pushing the tree in one direction, then another, never stopping. The tree has been buffeted and blown relentlessly throughout her difficult life. The tree on the cliff is weathered and beaten. It could not grow straight, but was twisted by the buffeting of the wind as it grew. The weathered tree spiraled as she grew upward. Once she was struck by lightning, which charred a side of her and tore her original upward reaching arms. Though she suffered injuries which would kill most trees, she miraculously returned to life bearing a dark scar from the lightning on her side and injuries to her up reaching arms.

Year after year the trees all grew. Some trees reached heights, while the weathered tree fought for more root space in the granite in which she was planted. Her height was stunted as her energy was spent in the struggle for root space and her lack of available water. She was twisted, so that her height was further limited by the turns her difficult life had taken. The forest trees below mocked the weathered tree. They lived in companionship with each other, strong and straight. The solitary tree above had her shameful, twisted body on display for all the other trees to see and mock. “It was right to have this tortured tree kept apart from the rest,” they said, “for she would never fit in with our beautiful forest below.”

 The weathered tree remains there today. She is crooked, windswept, scarred and standing alone on a granite cliff. But her life’s sufferings and many injuries have made her wise, and her children regard her as the greatest beauty in the forest. It does not matter she stands alone, for she lives in harmony with her family. Because of them she is never alone. Because of her, they are never without hope."

Photo taken on February 12, 2015.