Thursday, December 24, 2020

Waiting for Santa? or Celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus? or....

 Waiting for Santa? or Celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus? or better yet, Worshipping Christ the Lord? 

Today is Christmas Eve. It falls between two birthdays that we observe this week. Joseph Smith was born yesterday and we traditionally celebrate Christ's birthday tomorrow. I think Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days of the year. A day of excitement, hope and anticipation. A day that we read from the scriptures about the birth of our Savior. I wanted to share two things today. First a short essay written by my wife's relative and a short video entitled, The Shepherd. May we all fall on our knees to worship him, not because we were compelled to by catastrophe, but because we love Him. 

Three Levels of Christmas

Christmas is a beautiful time of the year. We love the excitement, the giving spirit, the special awareness of and appreciation for family and friends, the feelings of love and brotherhood that bless our gatherings at Christmastime.

In all of the joyousness it is well to reflect that Christmas comes at three levels.

Let’s call the first the Santa Claus level. It’s the level of Christmas trees and holly, of whispered secrets and colorful packages, of candlelight and rich food and warm open houses. It’s carolers in the shopping malls, excited children, and weary but loving parents. It’s a lovely time of special warmth and caring and giving. It’s the level at which we eat too much and spend too much and do too much – and enjoy every minute of it. We love the Santa Claus level of Christmas.

But there’s a higher, more beautiful level. Let’s call it the Silent Night level. It’s the level of all our glorious Christmas carols, of that beloved, familiar story: “Now in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus….” It’s the level of the crowded inn and the silent, holy moment in a dark stable when the Son of Man came to earth. It’s the shepherds on steep, bare hills near Bethlehem, angels with their glad tidings, the new star in the East, wise men traveling far in search of the Holy One. How beautiful and meaningful it is; how infinitely poorer we would be without this sacred second level of Christmas.

The trouble is, these two levels don’t last. They can’t. Twelve days of Christmas, at the first level, is about all most of us can stand. It’s too intense, too extravagant. The tree dies out and needles fall. The candles burn down. The beautiful wrappings go out with the trash, the carolers are up on the ski slopes, the toys break, and the biggest day in the stores for the entire year is exchange day, December 26th. The feast is over and the dieting begins. But the lonely and the hungry are with us still, perhaps lonelier and hungrier than before.

Lovely and joyous as the first level of Christmas is, there will come day, very soon, when Mother will put away the decorations and vacuum the living room and think, “Thank goodness that this over for another year.”

Even the second level, the level of the Baby Jesus, can’t last. How many times this season can you sing, “Silent Night?” The angels and the star, and the shepherd, even the silent, sacred mystery of the holy night itself, can’t long satisfy humanity’s basic need. The man who keeps Christ in the manger will, in the end, be disappointed and empty.

No, for Christmas to last all year long, for it to grow in beauty and meaning and purpose, for it to have the power to change lives, we must celebrate it at the third level, that of the adult Christ. It is at this level—not as an infant—that our Savior brings his gifts of lasting joy, lasting peace, lasting hope. It was the adult Christ who reached out and touched the untouchable, who loved the unlovable, who so loved us all that even in his agony on the cross, he prayed forgiveness for his enemies.

This is Christ, creator of worlds without number, who wept because so many of us lack affection and hate each other – and then who willingly gave his life for all of us, including those for whom he wept. This is the Christ, the adult Christ, who gave us the perfect example, and asked us to follow him.

Accepting that invitation is the way – the only way – that all mankind can celebrate Christmas all year and all life long.

by William B. Smart,  Messages for a Happier Life, (Deseret Book, 1989), 33-34.

 The Shepherd | The Chosen







 

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Great Conjunction: Signs in the Heavens on the Winter Solstice 2020

Here are a few photos taken this evening with my family on Antelope Island, on the certified International Dark Sky parks.  One of the best place to observe the Lights in the Firmament. The sun, moon and stars(and planets) were meant to be first for signs, then for seasons, and then for days/years. We read in Genesis 1:14

"And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days, and years"


The Great Conjunction occured tonight on the Winter Solstice. This alignment falls almost directly between the two Total Solar Eclipses that will crisscross over America. These signs in the heavens form an interesting chiasm. 

August 21, 2017 Total solar eclipse.

          approximately 3 ½ years (1218 days)

               December 21, 2020 Great Conjunction

          approximately 3 ½ years (1204 days)

April 8, 2024 Total solar eclipse.







We have examples in the Book of Mormon that many of the people began to disbelieve in the signs in the heavens. Maybe because they didn't know the meaning. They became less and less astonished.  We read in 3 Nephi 2:1-2

“and the people began to forget those signs and wonders which they had heard, and began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from Heaven, insomuch that they began to be hard in their hearts and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen,”
Christ prophesied in Luke 21:25 that in the last days there shall be signs in the heavens. 

"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars;"

A sign in the heaven is what is visible to our eyes without a telescope while standing on the earth and gazing into the heavens. It is meant to be seen by us. The Total Solar Eclipses, Blood Moons, Great Conjunctions that that haven't been seen for hundreds and hundreds of years. So is there any special meaning to all of these unusual signs in the heavens?  Is God trying to tell us something? Are we hearing Him? 




A few more photos from Antelope Island tonight. It was a beautiful, peaceful night to not only observe the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn but also the Winter Solstice. 

 "and let them be for signs and for seasons"





Interesting as we were driving out there was an "alignment" of birds flying across the sunset
 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The COVID vaccine — a modern-day seagull miracle?

Received this in our ward newsletter today:

"After hearing so many medical experts marvel at how rapidly the COVID vaccine was developed and how effective the testing has been, I have commented several times that this was all obviously an outcome of Pres. Nelson’s April 2020 call for prayer and fasting for the Lord to help us overcome the pandemic.

The writer of this letter goes a step further in likening the miracle of the seagulls saving the early Pioneers in Utah with the vaccine saving the lives of so many in our time."



As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I think one of the most beloved stories we tell is the miracle of the seagulls. The beleaguered Saints arrived to Utah in July of 1847. The lateness of the season and the parched earth of the Utah desert made for a scant harvest in the fall of 1847. The winter of 1848 was brutal. Food and hope were both scarce commodities. The potential crop of 1848 was the only thing keeping the Saints alive, physically, mentally and emotionally.

When an infestation of crickets threatened the crops, it must have felt to many like God had abandoned them. After much prayer, thousands of seagulls from the Great Salt Lake descended on the crickets, and for two weeks the seagulls ate the crickets consistently. The crops survived, saving the Saints. Many said it was a miraculous answer to their prayers.

I believe in miracles. I believe as we turn our hearts to God and unite our faith we see His hand. It’s not so much that we can change His will or awaken Him from a slumber and now draw His attention to His desperate children. More so I believe miracles are when we tune our hearts to seeing that which God was eager to do for us from the beginning.

In April 2020, President Russell M. Nelson, current president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked not only members of his faith, but also the world, to join in fasting for a cure for COVID-19. I think today we are seeing the beginning of another seagull-like miracle. I see how quickly this vaccine has been developed, approved and ready to be distributed as a miracle, a direct consequence of those who united their faith. Like the seagulls, this vaccine brings with it hope. This is the miracle we have been praying for. This is the seagulls of our time.

______________________________________________

I don't even know what to say after reading  something like that. I see things so much differently. Maybe the miracle might be the pandemic itself, which I view was a call for us to repent.  And as for the "modern-day seagull miracle.. maybe the miracle was the crickets themselves which the pioneers could have eaten for amazing protein, like the Indians in the area did. This story that was published in today's Deseret News is a highly exaggerated claim, not only about the perpetuating the Seagull myth but this claim about the President Nelson and the vaccine. 


Sidenote: 

The seagull-cricket miracle has been exaggerated through the years. First, ornithologists don’t regard the arrival of seagulls as particularly unusual because the seagulls around the Great Salt Lake often eat insects in the adjacent valleys. Also, some historians don’t believe that the gulls were as widespread or as effective against the insects as is often supposed. Many pioneer journals recount the frosts and the insects, but no seagulls.

Chapter 8 of “New Mormon History” is titled: “Mormons, Crickets, and Gulls: a New Look at an Old Story” by William G. Hartley.

In this heavily referenced essay, Hartley (a BYU professor of history and church history) makes the following points:

1) The gulls were not strangers to the valley. They are natural enemies to various insects including crickets.

2) Gulls habitually regurgitate the indigestible parts of insects they have swallowed.

3) Gulls did not arrive until after severe cricket damage had already occurred in 1848.

4) In 1848, Mormon crops were seriously damaged by three enemies–frost, crickets, and drought. The Gulls dealt with only one problem and too late at that.

5) The “miraculousness” of the event was not clearly recognized by contemporaries (including newspapers, diaries, and official church correspondence).

6) Since 1848, gulls frequently have been on the wing to feast on crickets and other insects, making the 1848 encounter hardly unique.

7) Like other popular accounts of important and unusual historical events, over the years the details of the 1848 crickets and gulls have been oversimplified, improved upon, and been given somewhat legendary characteristics.


-----------------------------

and before anyone rushes out to get the "miracle" vaccine, please educate yourself.

https://www.naturalnews.com/2020-12-09-fda-reveals-serious-health-conditions-from-covid-19-vaccinations.html

FDA reveals long list of serious health conditions that may result from covid-19 vaccinations, including death


Behind closed doors, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has discussed a long list of serious health problems that will be caused by new covid-19 injections. These “adverse events” are not publicized because vaccine companies and their media cohorts need everyone to believe that the vaccines are “safe and effective.”

FDA reports 22 serious health issues caused by covid-19 vaccination

These health issues include transverse myelitis, a serious nervous system disorder. The vaccine can cause the immune system to attack its own cells, interrupting the messages that the spinal cord nerves send throughout the body. This issue is similar to paralytic polio infections and can cause pain, muscle weakness, paralysis, sensory problems, or bladder and bowel dysfunction. The condition requires extensive rehabilitation and some people are left with major disabilities. This list includes other autoimmune diseases that may arise, along with arthritis and joint pain. One of the most troubling autoimmune diseases that could occur is acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, a condition marked by sudden, widespread inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

The FDA also warns of potential for negative pregnancy and birth outcomes. The vaccine is designed to attack coronavirus spike proteins transcribed by the vaccine’s messenger RNA, but these spike proteins contain syncytin-1, a protein created by endogenous retroviruses for placenta development in humans. After covid-19 vaccination, an individual’s immune cells will be trained to attack syncytin-1, leading to potential miscarriages, birth defects and infertility.