Monday, May 26, 2014

Week Forty-Seven


I’m not sure about this role playing technique they have for the missionaries to practice as missionaries. This week we witnessed the third missionary who literally shut down in such a practice, lips quivering and head bowed and unable to speak at all. It was so pronounced even a hug and condolences from Sister H afterwards had no effect.

In preparation for our meeting with Brother Forty-Two our minister, I put together a talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard, “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul” to speak to his question about what happened in both Gethsemane and Calvary and some other materials. We didn’t get into 2 Nephi 2 like we had planned as he had a number of questions about the Holy Ghost from the New Testament, such as Cornelius (How could he receive the Holy Ghost when you say he had to be baptized first) and Simon’s encounter with Peter, etc. Also if the Holy Ghost is a personage how does he do what he does? All the questions were asked sincerely rather than argumentatively. We reviewed D&C 130:22-23 and I felt inspired to draw out a chart. The first figure was eternity, then a stick figure to represent organized spirit, then the stick figure enclosed in a body of flesh and bones, then the separation of the stick figure and flesh and bones at death, then the reuniting of same in a glorified, perfected body. From that little time line he was able to conclude where Satan and the 1/3 of heaven left the progression and that the Holy Ghost was like an organized spirit now but some day would receive a body and be glorified. We then put together a little list of the various manifestations of the Holy Ghost; 1) Personage, 2) Witness prior to receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost like Cornelius received, 3) The Gift of the Holy Ghost, 4) Continuing companionship of the Holy Ghost through that gift.

We then drew out a chart showing the doctrines taught by the Church Christ established and the doctrines taught by Christianity following 326 AD, showing the differences as he had asked about the young woman’s questions of last week. I showed him that there is a divide between the doctrines as taught by Christ and those espoused by Christianity 300 years later and that is the same divide today. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fits nicely with the Church established by Christ, not so well with the changed doctrines of the 4th century AD.

His questions then turned to Joseph Smith, “So when he had the vision he knew something about Heavenly Father and Jesus he did not know before. They had resurrected bodies of flesh and bones, they were two separate beings, and he was to join no other church.” So we read together Joseph Smith’s account of the first vision and then his account of his visits with Moroni. As Jan noted he gave rapt attention to all this, had many quality comments and didn’t dispute anything after we had reviewed D&C 84:19-22 with which he was already familiar and 67:11-12 explaining why in some cases scriptures say man cannot see God and in other instances he can see God.

Received the following text message from one of the zone leaders which read—Elder and Sister Haddock! Sorry for texting so late. How was your day? I just had a question from my study that I really want to know, but I couldn’t answer it because I have never experienced. If you both can help me out, that would help me to build up a strong foundation in my life. The question is “How does the savior understand our spiritual suffering?” Simply, the atonement covers our spiritual and physical sufferings. I think I got the physical part but I don’t get the spiritual part. Often times, we just tell people who are going through worries, agonies, spiritual sufferings that the savior knows how it feels but I really want to know how he does. I read over Alma 7:11, but that wasn’t enough for me to understand. For some people, it’s possible to suffer without making sins, then where does the atonement come in? Because they don’t have to claim for mercy on the things, they did it right. Sorry that was a long text...

I replied—It is good to hear from you again. Our prayers for your welfare have been constant. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your life in this great cause.

Your concerns remind me of a statement once made by Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “We can no more comprehend the atonement than we can understand the creation or the fall” (New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 109). There is so much we don’t yet know or understand about the Atonement, specifically how our Savior could descend below all things and in the process pick up the ability to carry our burdens or answer for our sins and thus fulfill the requirements of justice. Nor am I going to use the term “sufferings” to describe what you are asking, rather  I’m going to choose “afflictions,” as I am loath to equate in any manner our afflictions with Christ’s sufferings.

We all suffer personal trials in mortality, like Paul we all have a “thorn in the flesh” with which we have to deal. It may be physical, or emotional, or spiritual or a combination of all three. Nevertheless they are real and are part and parcel of our mortal journey. They are a heavy burden to bear, for some more than others and the circumstances of others causes our hearts to break. Perhaps afflictions are ever present to draw us to Christ, to learn how to depend upon Him, that we might fully partake of the Atonement and become rescued by Him.

It appears Paul on occasion thought he would be better able to serve God should his affliction be taken away. At other times his ponderings led him to conclude his “thorn in the flesh” enabled or perhaps even forced him to rely upon the Lord and in relying he became strengthened or perfected in Christ as he concludes, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

In all our “afflictions,” no matter the cause, whether it be ourselves, others, or God allowing them to school us, the divine promise central to our understanding of the atonement is this: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30). In my humble opinion we don’t give enough thought to this profound statement. Perhaps it is beyond our current capacity to fully understand.

Our Savior will do the same for us as he did for Paul, for Joseph Smith and others. If we will allow it, the reality of the Atonement literally and completely lifts and carries our afflictions and strengthens us in the process (see Ether 12:26-27) because His grace is sufficient.

How can Christ strengthen, lift and carry our afflictions? Simply stated, because He suffered all that we have to endure and much, much more. It was in descending below all things (D&C 122:8) that his suffering enables him to carry our afflictions. This painful descent is what Elder Neal A. Maxwell referred to as the “awful arithmetic of the Atonement” (“Willing to Submit,” Ensign, May 1985, 73).

When Nephi was given the great vision of the Tree of Life he was asked if he knew what was the “condescension of God.” He answered simply, as would we, “I do not know the meaning of all things” although he did know “that he loveth his children” (1 Nephi 11:16-17). The answer Nephi was given was that the Son of God would come to earth and live after the “manner of the flesh,” and “ministering unto the people, in power and great glory” He would be “taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world” and be “lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world” (1 Nephi 11:18-33).

Somehow the Savior was able to suspend or limit in some way His divine powers in order to live after the “manner of the flesh” and to die, as no one could take His life from Him. In this way He clearly descended below all things.

We cannot, even in the depths of disease, tell him anything at all about suffering. In ways we cannot comprehend, our sicknesses and infirmities were borne by him even before they were borne by us. (See Alma 7:11-12; Matthew 8:17.) The very weight of our combined sins caused him to descend below all. (See D&C 122:8.) We have never been, nor will we be, in personal depths such as he has known. Thus, his atonement demonstrated and perfected his empathy and his capacity to succor us, for which we can be everlastingly grateful as he tutors us in our trials. There was no ram in the thicket at Calvary to spare Jesus, this Friend of Abraham and Isaac. (Neal A. Maxwell, “Our Acceptance of Christ,” Ensign, June 1984, 69.)

It seems that it was necessary for the Savior to transcend mortality in order that He could descend below all things in other ways as well. We understand the purpose in this, that he might comprehend all things through His experience─

He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth. (D&C 88:6)

Clearly when the Savior wrought the infinite and intimate Atonement He, again in some way yet to be revealed, took upon Himself the griefs, pains, afflictions, temptations, sicknesses, death and transgressions of all mankind “that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11-12).

In order for Christ to descend below all things, it was necessary for the divine elements of life and glory within Him to be repressed in their action upon Him so that He could feel the toils, pains, afflictions, and temptations of mortality, and also suffer death in the flesh. In this way, He suffered the full afflictions of mortality. By extending His virtue and power to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and restore the lame, He also took upon Himself, in a literal sense, the afflictions of men. Mortal afflictions are not eradicated without the manifestation of a counter force of life to restore the individual to health. Jesus gave of His divine life and power in order to heal the sick and the afflicted, and in this way He took upon Himself their infirmities. Then, to make the atonement, He consented to the withdrawal of the powers of eternal life which He received of His Father to the extent that He could experience the full effects of spiritual death for the sins of all men, and to the extent that His spirit could finally pass through the portals of death into the spirit world. Consequently, there is no sorrow nor suffering known to man that Jesus has not personally endured—no pain, no agony of soul, no turmoil in death. All this He experienced so that He could know "according to the flesh, how to succor his people." In this way He became fully qualified to assist the sons of earth to achieve mastery of the flesh and the world and to rise from wherever they might be in the depths of sin and despair and come unto righteousness. Man's recognition of and heartfelt acceptance and reliance upon this fact are integral parts of his faith in Jesus Christ. (Hyrum L. Andrus, God, Man, and the Universe [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968], 409-410.)

Thus we find, as you read in Alma 7:11-12, a description of his suffering for afflictions other than our sins. We are told the word succor comes from the Latin succurrere, which means literally “to run to help,” evoking a quick, responsive action to our benefit. In the awful arithmetic of the Atonement, the infiniteness of it all, and the intimateness of it all, our Savior somehow was enabled to suffer for our personal pains and afflictions, and filled with compassion and perfect love, coupled with mercy was literally “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). The image is of our Savior running to us to lift and carry our afflictions that we not become overwhelmed by them. This comes about only as we are “relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” (2 Nephi 3:19). The clear scriptural message is we must willingly accept the gift of the Atonement if our burdens are to be carried by Christ (see D&C 88:3).

What disables or disconnects us from the atonement and the blessed relief it offers, is our hesitancy, our holding back in submitting fully to the Lord and whatever His purposes for us may be. When we willingly submit by letting go of our afflictions, and instead allow ourselves to be filled with the joy of Christ (see Alma 31:38), He willingly takes up the burden in our behalf. It is our unwillingness to let go that stifles the process. It is our spiritual submissiveness that enables Christ’s suffering for our afflictions to work, (see Alma 7:23; 13:28).

The extension of mercy is a gift from God and is needed both for our reclamation from sin and our reclamation from our fallen natural state. Consider Mosiah 3:19 that clearly states these two objectives, i.e., first “yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” to become cleansed through the blood of Christ, and secondly, “putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ.” Mercy is the prime prerequisite in both instances and in the second case comes not as a result of our doing anything wrong. There are at least two parts to the Atonement: 1) Redemption whereby we are cleansed and made pure through the blood of Christ; and 2) Perfection whereby we are enabled, changed into a man or daughter of Christ, so that when we return home, we will be at home. The first, redemption, deals with seeking the mercy of Christ to answer for our mistakes, the second deals not with our transgressions but rather our willingness to allow Christ and His mercy to change us. A complete recognition that we simply cannot do it on our own.

This is why Moroni’s testimony (Moroni 10:32-33) is so powerful. He recognizes that we cannot be made perfect except in Christ, through His grace, and in meeting these conditions:

1.       Come unto Christ
2.       Allow Him to perfect us
3.       Deny ourselves of all ungodliness
4.       Love God with all our might, mind and strength

When these steps are followed, because the grace of Christ is sufficient through the shedding of His blood through the atoning sacrifice, His grace will perfect and sanctify us for we are then holy, without spot.

While most of our suffering is self inflicted, some is caused by or permitted by God. This sobering reality calls for deep submissiveness, especially when God does not remove the cup from us. In such circumstances, when reminded about the premortal shouting for joy as this life's plan was unfolded (see Job 38:7), we can perhaps be pardoned if, in some moments, we wonder what all the shouting was about.

For the faithful, what finally emerges is an understanding of "things as they really are" (Jacob 4:13), such as the reassuring realization that we are in the Lord's hands! But, brothers and sisters, we were never really anywhere else! (Neal A. Maxwell, “Willing to Submit,” CR, April 1985, 89-93.)

It is only when all is done that we will see all the good that Christ has bestowed upon us “according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever.” Then we will see that “in all our afflictions, he was afflicted. And the angel of his presence saved [us]; and in his love, and in his pity, he redeemed [us], and bore [us] and carried [us] all the days of old” (D&C 133:51-52). All the best, Elder Haddock

We had 18 at our Aliso Creek Bible Study tonight. Brother Robinson really got out the word. Brother Four, another of our nonmember ministers, at my invitation, led the discussion on words how they can build, heal and inspire or tear down and rob us of hope. Spoke with many afterwards who were impressed with his comments and direction. Brother Robinson wrapped it up nicely from D&C 1 about the Lord’s words through the prophet Joseph Smith to bless all his children.

Received from young son of the Two Family “Helaman ch 5 was great. It was talking about Nephi and Lehi preaching to the Lamanites with power and authority from God and many people were baptized unto repentance. Nephi and Lehi got thrown into prison and were starved for many days and they were about to get killed but behold a circle of fire surrounded Nephi and Lehi and a cloud of darkness was upon the Lamanites. And there was a voice saying repent, repent. The people didn’t understand what this meant. One of the people was born a Nephite, I think his name was Aminadab and he told people what to do. They did as he said and the cloud of darkness was not upon them. The people looked upon Nephi and Lehi and their faces shone like an angel's and behold an Angel of the Lord appeared unto the people. This was enough proof for the people and they did talk about this marvelous thing to the other people and the Lamanites did give back the land that they had taken from the Nephites. What a great chapter.” Pretty good analysis for a 13 year old. 

In our second meeting this week with Brother Forty-Two, I had gone there with wonderful feelings to review the talk given in 2012 at Harvard, by Elder Holland entitled, Mormonism 101, which we did do but not to the effect I had envisioned. Rather the discussion revolved about two concerns, 1) How Jesus could be the only begotten son without God being both an adulterer and committing incest. Because of those possibilities, which he abhors, and seeing not alternative to conception other than through “intercourse” he believes the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one entity. Also confusion over the titles of God in the Old Testament, leading to the same conclusion. If Jehovah is Jesus Christ then statements to Moses for the children of Israel to worship only one God, means to worship the trinity. 2) Mormon theology leads him logically to conclude that our God has a God and father, so, said Paul, I want to worship “the” God not someone in between.

I tried to express my thought that we don’t know how the conception of Mary took place and I was unwilling to assume it happened through intercourse until God spoke to the subject himself. I said that repeatedly which he interpreted as me being upset with him. As to question number 2 I directed him to Moses 1 wherein Moses’ query as other worlds was rejected by the Lord as He was only going to tell him about this world. I concluded that God has offered me all the joy and happiness that he possesses if I will worship him and follow his commandments. That was good enough for me. As to other God’s I was content to again form an opinion only following further enlightenment. He felt Mormonism espouses polytheism which I rejected, as for us all, the Savior, the Holy Ghost and ourselves should we become as Him would still be subservient to him for it is only through him that we become as he is. Sent him the following to consider but have yet to hear from him:

"Teachers should not speculate on the manner of Christ's birth. We are very much concerned that some of our Church teachers seem to be obsessed of the idea of teaching doctrine which cannot be substantiated and making comments beyond what the Lord has actually said.

"You asked about ... the birth of the Savior. Never have I talked about sexual intercourse between Deity and the mother of the Savior. If teachers were wise in speaking of this matter about which the Lord has said but very little, they would rest their discussion on this subject with merely the words which are recorded on this subject in Luke 1:34-35: 'Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.'

"Remember that the being who was brought about by [Mary's] conception was a divine personage. We need not question His method to accomplish His purposes. Perhaps we would do well to remember the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.' Let the Lord rest His case with this declaration and wait until He sees fit to tell us more." (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 13–14) All the best, Elder H

Had another meeting with the Twenty-One family to bring them up to speed on what they missed from Sunday’s class. Jan did Itsy Bitsy spider with the two girls over and over again as they laughed and rolled on the floor crying, “Again! Again!” As we were leaving Brother Twenty-One asked if on one of our upcoming visits we could teach him how to read and study the Book of Mormon, which I assured him we could do. We again left serenaded by “I love you’s” as we walked out the door.

Jan received a call late yesterday morning from Sister Two relative to some unkind words spoken in the heat of battle. Apparently such fractious occasions have been frequent she had believed they would subside with membership in the Church. We set an appointment and arrived early the next morning after speaking for some time to Brother Two the night before. It was apparent this morning that there is a communication problem and lack of a father role model for this young husband. We shared some things Sister H and I have done to help us in this regard and gave him a blessing.

In my pondering Sunday morning had some thoughts about presenting harmonizing the scriptures as opposed to holding to a belief and then trying to find scriptures to support that belief. Seems to me all verses should be read as true and then come up with an analysis or doctrine that fits each case. For example, in Exodus 33:1 we read that God spoke with Moses “face to face” and a few verses later in verse 20 we read “thou canst not see my fce: for there shall no man see me, and live.” Instead of adopting one or the other, harmonizing would be seeking an explanation that fits both. Same with grace and works. We are saved by grace, that’s true not works. From the perspective of what saves us, that is it. Yet from the perspective of do we have to do anything we have the Lord’s declaration in Matthew 7:21, not everyone that says Lord Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven but he that doeth the works of the Father in Heaven. We are still saved by the grace of Christ.

There was a partial quote from Elder Scott on the program of the Aliso Creek Ward bulletin today at Church that caught Jan’s eye and she shared it with me. In the process was developed the outline for our temple preparation class yesterday as well as our visit with the Six family.

The idea came to me that all who attend the temple should wear a placard around their necks to remind everyone including themselves, that not only are we not where we need to be yet, in this life we will never be there, we are in fact a work in progress and if we surrender to the tutelage of the Lord the time will come in eons from now that through the grace of Christ we will be changed into a holy being. So we need to resist the temptation to continually condemn ourselves for our shortcomings and follies and trust that if we continue to hold on to the extended hand of Christ we will indeed make it. Partly it is an attitude adjustment moving from what “I have to do” to embracing what “I can’t wait to do.” The way I have expressed it for me is this: We need to do the right things for the right reasons.

The entire quote from Elder Scott is this—“The Redeemer will safely lead you over the most difficult obstacles of life. His laws are absolutely secure anchors of protection that dispel fear and assure success in an otherwise dangerous world. Such a life will certainly provide you peace and happiness.

“True, enduring happiness, with the accompanying strength, courage, and capacity to overcome the greatest difficulties, will come as you center your life in Jesus Christ. Obedience to His teachings provides a secure ascent in the journey of life. That takes effort. While there is no guarantee of overnight results, there is the assurance that, in the Lord’s time, solutions will come, peace will prevail, and happiness will be yours. (Ensign, Oct 2006.)

I then shared a quote from Sister Marjorie Hinckley: “First I obey, then I understand” (quoted by Sister Burton, Ensign, July 2014, 41) and a quote from President Harold B. Lee that has always resonated with me: “All of the gospel principles and all of the gospel ordinances are but invitations to the learning of the gospel by the practice of its teachings. That’s all they are—invitations to come and practice in order that you can know…. It seems clear to me that we might well say we never really know any of the teachings of the gospel until we have experienced them one by one by living them. We learn the gospel, in other words, by living it.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Harold B. Lee, 35).

We then talked about Helaman 3:27-30, and 5:10-12, and 1 Nephi 17:3 demonstrating how center our lives in Christ gives us all we need to take us through mortality and the wiles of Satan and land safely with those who are exalted, never more to go out.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Week Forty-six

WEEK FORTY-SIX May 19, 2014

Sister H had her appointment with the cardiologist and learned she now needs to have a nuclear test in a couple of weeks. At least we are giving the doctor out here something to do.

Met with the Four Family and discussed the chapter in his book entitled spiritual warfare. Brother Four also agreed to lead our Bible study discussion in two weeks. on the 22nd. Also had a good discussion with the Fifty-five Family in the preparation to attend the temple. Met with a wonderful couple in the Aliso Creek ward to learn procedures at the Newport Beach temple for living ordinances.

Brother Forty-two sent me a text asking about Genesis 50:33 which surprised me as there is no such verse in Genesis. Then it dawned on me that he is referring to the Inspired Translation of Joseph Smith. I guess you would have to leave it to a minister to come up with that. I shared it was quite a remarkable prophecy of Joseph concerning the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Joseph Smith and restoration of the Gospel, and how God himself brings to pass his purposes. He said something to Sister H as we were leaving, “Before I knew just a little about Mormon doctrine, but from Dr. Haddock I know a great deal.”

Received a note from one of our granddaughter that brought tears to our eyes, she wrote of going to the temple once a week, “I feel so different there, I feel safe from temptation, and I feel the Spirit testify of the work every time.”

Received a text from our daughter asking us if we were having any trouble from the fires. We didn’t even know there were fires in north county San Diego, close to where we used to live. This mission business has one largely out of touch. But the next morning as we got up to take our daily walk we didn’t make 50 feet before we turned around with the smoke so thick we couldn’t breathe.

Received word this week that my cousin had passed away with complications from diabetes. He has had a rough road so our inability to be there was tempered by the thoughts of what he has gone through.

Meeting with Brother Forty-two later in the week a very busy, congested, and noisy Panera Bread store in Irvine. We had a good, and apparently a lively, discussion about the Savior and read together Alma 13 from my Whirlwind Tour of the Book of Mormon to get him reading that sacred volume. As we neared the end of our discussion at young adult Korean American, she came from Korea to American when she was six, came up. “Excuse me, I couldn’t help overhearing, did you say that Jesus didn’t come to earth in glory but acquired his glory after he was here.” I assured her that was not the case that we believed Christ was the Son of God, was God himself before he condescended to come to earth, and following the atonement was resurrected gloriously. “Who are you and why are you talking together?” We told her that we were friends discussion the gospel of Jesus Christ. When she saw the Book of Mormon she got real excited, “Are you Mormon?” I told her that I was. “That is a terrible book. God said he wasn’t going to give us anymore scripture.” Is that right, I said, where did he say that? Are you referring to the remark made in Deuteronomy or Revelation? It the remark means what you say it does, then everything after Deuteronomy needs to be discarded. “You are just trying to confuse things. No one needs another book?” Does God not love us as much as he did those who came before? Is it possible that we don’t need direction from God today? “Today God speaks to us individually. There is no need for a church. An apostle is someone who believes only. Even baptism isn’t necessary—just belief in Christ.” Then she said, “You don’t even believe in Christ?” At that point the minister reached across the table and fingered my plaque and asked “Doesn’t this say The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” Then he pointed to the Book of Mormon, “It reads right here another witness of Jesus Christ.” “But,” she asserted, “there is a great divide between what you believe about Christ and what Christianity believes.” I answered I didn’t believe so. “How can you say that?” Said I, “Because there isn’t a great divide. We believe that all are saved through the grace of Christ, that he is the Messiah and only in and through him can one obtain salvation.” Here comment then, “Why?” Why what I asked. “You have to prove there is not a great divide. I don’t. I don’t know enough about Mormon teachings.” I told her it was very difficult to prove a negative, that she was misinformed about our beliefs. “Then,” said she “I believe everything the Bible says and there is nothing more. Do you think your Book of Mormon is consistent with the Bible?” I asked, “Let me ask you a question first, do you believe the Bible is consistent with itself?” “Yes,” she said.  “Then,” said I, “when we read in Exodus 33:11 that Moses spoke with God “face to face” how do you reconcile that with a few verses later in verse 20, “there shall no man see me and live?” She said, “That is just an exception.” “In that case then, according to your definition, the Book of Mormon and the Bible are entirely consistent with one another.” She made it clear she didn’t believe a thing I was telling her and had no interest in learning more even refusing to take a card until Jan shamed her into doing so.

We had a wonderful meeting with Twenty-one family who were pleased to learn we could keep meeting with them after he receives the Melchizedec Priesthood and they are sealed in the temple. The next day we attended their daughter’s dance recital at Cal Elite Kids. The owner came by calling us Elder and Sister and then returned later to tell us she and her husband were members of the Church and alumni of BYU.

Jan and I took by some popsicles to the Two family this week in our 3-4 days of triple digit heat. Thought we were going to melt ourselves. Received a call from them earlier in the week to stop by at the gate where they had some fresh watermelon cut up to relieve our heat exhaustion.

Attended the Lake Forest Ward Council just as the PEC was concluding as the Bishop said, “Speaking of the Haddocks, here they are.” We learned that he had just asked the EQ and HPGL to put a list together of people we could visit as “the Haddock’s seem to get in when others can’t.” We will see.

Our granddaughter Whitney wanted us to see what our plaque looked like hanging in the Edgemont 3rd Ward chapel so she had her mom take a picture and send it to us. We had not seen it before we left so this was our first time. They also sent a picture of our oldest granddaughter graduating from Seminary. All the boys in the picture were from my first Deacon's Quorum and Scout Troop. One of whom just received his mission call to Liberia, Africa.

In meeting with Brother Six Sister H asked, “Well what do we need to do for you to get baptized?” He had a puzzled look on his face. I then told him that the Lord had told us when we finished with the temple preparation I was to ask him, “What do we need to do for you to receive these blessings?” I told him we wanted him to think about that question as we will be asking it soon.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Week Forty-five

WEEK FORTY-FIVE May 12, 2014

We met with the Four Family, our former AME minister. Brother Four has written a book which we felt impressed to review with him, chapter by chapter. When we extended the invitation both he and his wife were excited to do just that. Tonight was our first discussion on his chapter entitled “Evangelism.” We had prepared significant notes, a copy of which Sister Four wanted to keep as we left, and had prayed that the Spirit might be there enabling us to establish points of common belief from which to expand additional light and truth that has been revealed in the latter days. We had a marvelous two hour discussion. I was surprised he didn’t want to lead out but wanted us to direct the discussion which we did. Interestingly many of the things he felt were missing in the Christian churches both to assist those coming to Christ and to better prepare the neophyte were found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We began the discussion with a sweet prayer from him that the spirit would be there and that a friendly discussion ensue; and ended with a prayer from Sister Four for “this wonderful couple.” It turns out she had been secretly wanting an avenue for him to be able to discuss his beliefs to sort of get back in the harness and our invitation and interest fit perfectly. We began the discussion comparing evangelism to “hastening the work” and how the Brethren were anxious for each member of the church to shoulder responsibility in bearing witness. I shared D&C 84:61 that partaking of the Atonement one is under obligation to share the witness of Christ with others. He was impressed with Amulek’s confession in Alma 10:5-6 “that’s me, that’s where I was” and 3 Nephi 5:13 “oh that’s beautiful.” In fact he seemed surprised with all the latter day revelation supportive of his beliefs. I suggested that Christ accepts everyone just the way they are, there are no preconditions. He just asks us to take His hand and hold, in doing so Christ would bring each of us to where we need to be. He liked that analogy. Also when we suggested D&C 11:11-14 as means for preparation, learning the scriptures, knowing whereof we speak, joining with others more experienced etc., he thought that all was music to his ears. When I suggested one of Satan’s ploys is to distract us with good but not eternal things, he said, “Oh I like that word that really fits.” When I read Galatians 2:20 he quoted it along with me; turns out it is a favorite of both of ours. It was a positive and power gospel discussion. He suggested a return visit next week to discuss his chapter on Spiritual Warfare.

Thursday morning we met the Two family at the Stake family history center where we got the family hooked up on Family Search and were able to trace their line back to the 900s. Sister H was exhausted two hours later after trying to corral a four and seven year old all that time.

Met with Brother Forty-Two and had a discussion mostly on Daniel 10-12 and Revelation. In his ministerial role he told us, this is all he teachers. He shared his experiences in Queens, New York where the Indonesian congregation was very humble and willing to have him preach. Not so here in Irvine he said, “they want to see a degree after your name.” So he is thinking about moving to New York.\\

I was invited to lead the discussion at our Bible Study class this week on the Woman at Jacob’s well (John 4). I started out with a little history pointing out this story goes back nearly six hundred years when according to prophecy the wickedness of Judah saw the capture of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah taken into captivity. The Samaritans were the descendants of a combination of the foreign colonists brought in by the Assyrian and Babylonian victors and those who escaped captivity. They occupied the area in central Palestine, which included Mt. Ebal (2,950 feet) and Mt. Gerizim (2,850 feet), which stand only a third of a mile apart. In fact the city of Sychar where the woman resides is located between the two mounts.

Approximately fifty years later, after Cyrus had unified the Medes and Persians, the spirit of the Lord inspires Cyrus to allow the Jews who so desire, to return to Jerusalem and they are led by the prophet Nehemiah. When Nehemiah returns to the ruins of Jerusalem he is met by Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, and others who offer to help the Jews rebuild the temple. Nehemiah rebuffs their offer, refusing to allow the Samaritans to participate, and later expels Manasseh, the grandson of the chief priest Eliashib because of his marriage outside the faith, thus violating his priesthood responsibilities (Nehemiah 12:23-31). Manasseh goes to Samaria and builds a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim where the Samaritans worship for nearly 400 years. It is the temple in those mountains to which the woman at the well refers when she says, “our fathers worshipped in this mountain” (John 4:20). The Lord then teaches here that true worship is not limited to a place but rather a condition of one’s heart (see John 4:22-24; and JST footnote).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie upon quoting this passage taught: “There is no salvation in worshiping a false god. It does not matter one particle how sincerely someone may believe that God is a golden calf, or that he is an immaterial, uncreated power that is in all things; the worship of such a being or concept has no saving power. Men may believe with all their souls that images or powers or laws are God, but no amount of devotion to these concepts will ever give the power that leads to immortality and eternal life. …

“But if he worships the true and living God, in spirit and in truth, then God Almighty will pour out his Spirit upon him, and he will have power to raise the dead, move mountains, entertain angels, and walk in celestial streets” (“How to Worship,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 129).

The well itself is Jacob’s well and was dug on the land Jacob settled when he returned from working for Laban in Padan-aram (Genesis 33:18). Jacob later bequeathed this land to his son Joseph.

Being tired and thirsty while traveling from Judea to Galilee, to escape the persecution of the Jewish leaders, the Savior sits down on Jacob’s well in the middle of Samaria at about noon, “about the sixth hour” (John 4:6) while his disciples go into the city to procure meat. The Savior surprisingly speaks with the woman, I say surprisingly because the Jews did not speak with Samaritans nor did lone men speak to a single woman. Later when the disciples return, even they “marvelled that he talked with the woman” (John 4:27).

Also of interest is the sequence of her salutations which shows an escalating testimony in the woman who goes from referring to the Savior as “a Jew” (John 4:8), to “Sir” (John 4:11), to “a prophet” (John 4:15), to “the Christ” (John 4:29).

The Savior here established his converting power and likewise so does the woman, perhaps the first to head the call to “hasten the work” as her witness is of such force that the men of the city “went out of the city, and came unto him” (John 4:30) because they “believe on him for the saying of the woman, which testified” (John 4:39).

Confused when the Savior offers her “living water” that would be “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:10, 14), she points out that he has neither to draw with nor to hold such water. Especially poignant is the concept of “living water” as taught in 1 Nephi 11:25 and Doctrine & Covenants 63:23.

Our first recorded instance in the Gospels of Jesus announcing who He was, is found in John 4:26: “I that speak unto thee am he” the Messias who is to come.

Notice that after the Samaritan woman had tasted of the “living water,” she leaves her “waterpot” in her haste to bear witness of him to the men of the city. Then, as the people saw the Savior and heard His words, their testimony of Him deepens (see John 3:41–42).

Following the Bible Study we went with one of the young elders to give a blessing to the Fifty-Eight family. They have twin girls, about 3-4 years of age. One had had a sore throat and cough leading the doctor to think she may have asthma. The family is hoping that is not the case and wanted a blessing which I gave as Elder Stephenson anointed. We are anxious to learn the result.

In our meeting with the Twenty-First family this week we were reminded of a blessing I have him a couple of months back over a very difficult work situation. The blessing said he was to be patient and to resolve the animosity he felt toward his boss for his egregious actions. Tonight when I announced we were getting to the end for Melchizedek Priesthood preparation he said, “Oh that is bitter sweet. I really want to receive the priesthood but we have so enjoyed our weekly lesson and visits with you.” Then he shared this story. “Two weeks ago while driving past the San Diego Temple for a work project, I found myself praying over my work situation. As I was praying I felt an answer from the Lord. I was to be patient and a big change was coming soon. Well the next week my boss quit and my best friend and current supervisor was named the new boss. I couldn’t be happier. Not sure I want another job now.” We had a wonderful discussion about prayer, discerning the answer to prayers and he shared another experience. “In high school my buddy and I took a couple of girls to the prom. It was held at some air museum in Hollywood. We decided to up to the Hollywood sign but didn’t know where we were going and ended up on Mulholland Drive going west. Neither of us had ever been there before. My buddy was a religious sort. I was not. He had tried and tried to get me interested and I told him it held no interest for me at all. We finally realized we were going the wrong way and I had a feeling to turn around. Where was the question? I told him I felt after the next bend in the road there would be a turn off on the right. There was and as we turned off, to cars came roaring past us, one in each lane racing one another. They would have creamed us had we stayed on the road. That got me thinking. There is a God. I had been given an impression. That started me on a search, I knew something was out there but didn’t know what or which until I found the church.” We got another “I love you” and wave from daughter Emily as we left.

Enjoyed a mother’s day dinner with Elder and Sister Litchfield on Saturday. In our meeting with the Six Family we took over an apple pie, it was Mother’s day, to celebrate with Sister Six. I had something prepared on the temple for them but instead felt to make a presentation on the Book of Mormon describing how the central role of the Book has changed since my first mission as a young elder where our focus was primarily on the Bible. I then shared what I had told to Brother Forty-Two when I told him that the Book of Mormon was a tangible piece of evidence for one to study, apply and pray about asking, “Was this written by an unlearned boy or did this book come from God.” If the answer is that the book is inspired of God then a whole bunch of things fall into place. Joseph Smith is a prophet of God; he did see the Father and the Son; there was a necessity for and God did restore his true church to the earth; necessary priesthood authority was also restored and baptism under that authority was not only necessary but again available and required of all seeking to enter the Lord’s kingdom. To which Jere said, “That’s why I’m a believer. I’m not a bible scholar although we are learning more each week. But when I read the Book of Mormon it was clear it came from God. Therefore, as you said, all the dominoes fall into place that you mentioned.” Again, as we left I found myself asking myself and Jan, “why oh why does this man not avail himself of baptism?”

One of our daughters shared with us an experience while participating in SS class when asked what was her Promised Land. She told them it was where she was right now. She felt to keep waiting for something new and different to find happiness didn’t make sense to her. We followed up suggesting D&C 101:36, Alma 31:38 and 1 Nephi 17:13 as scriptures supportive of her view and ours as well. My experience has been that we arrive at the Promised Land when our afflictions are swallowed up in the joy of Christ.

When asked about my marked scriptures I responded “It’s to help me reverence, remember and retain the words of Christ.” Our Gospel Essential teacher suggested the church lower the age of missionaries to 16 for two reasons: That’s when they know everything and their mother’s won’t cry when they leave. He also said “What Satan can’t prevent he will pervert.” We also heard about 911 praying, reserving our prayers for when we need them most. Also “sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Other times he lets the storm rage and calms his children.” And the 3 S’s: Scriptures, Spirit and Servants as our guide to whether what we feel are impressions are from God or not.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Week Forty-four


We were disappointed to learn Sister H’s eye surgery on her remaining eye was not successful in reducing the pressure appreciably but did learn the redness she is experiencing is an allergic reaction to sulfa in the drops but the manufacturers have yet to produce sulfa free alternatives.

The Aliso Creek elders asked us to accompany them to speak with an investigator who is now the Fifty Family. He has been involved with several sets of missionaries over the years, his wife though has yet to participate. He has a high regard for himself and his reasoning capacity. He controlled the conversation and didn’t let the missionaries say much of anything. They apparently hadn’t established common grounds of belief to be set points in reining him in from tangential presentations. Nor did they lay a foundation for the scriptures they used so he would take them for something other then what they wanted to discuss. It was clear as I mentioned a few things that he really didn’t want me to be part of the conversation.

One of the evidences of scripture legerdemain was James 1:5 in which he concluded we are dealing with temptations and trying to develop the patience to see what we are to learn from them in being perfected. So I wrote him the following note the next day, to which he has yet to respond: Thank you for the invitation last night to review and consider principles and practices of great importance.

I left, being reminded anew, it is not enough to evaluate what the author of sacred writ may have intended but also to consider its use from the viewpoint of the present day reader. So I felt amply repaid in hearing your portrayal of the epistle of James on such short notice, but also considering a number of other nuances the words of James suggest to me. However, with time constraints last night I didn’t feel the impression to explore them together.

As you aptly pointed out last night the importance of establishing the circumstances or setting which draws forth such writings, I was reminded anew of the difficulty in analyzing the  epistles of James, as they appear to be a collection of ethical precepts rather than a connected whole. Yet, for what it is worth, let me share some thoughts that occurred to me.

In the first four verses James states he is “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” and addresses his epistle to remnants of the twelve tribes of Israel scattered abroad. As I recall, at this time Israel was partly traveling, partly sojourning, and partly resident in most parts of the civilized world. Certainly the Day of Pentecost gives credence to that. Whether his message is to those of Israel who have embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ or all of Israel is left unsaid.

Noticing both the variety and number of afflictions [Adam Clarke tells us that “The word πειρασμος, which we translate temptation, signifies affliction, persecution, or trial of any kind, but mostly from without; and in this sense it is used here, not intending what is generally understood by the word temptation] that all Israel must endure, James concludes to count our afflictions as joy. He reasons that the trying of one’s faith works patience in us. Our trials put our religion, our beliefs, to the proof. James sees afflictions as evidence. As if he were saying, the man that stands true in his trials and afflictions demonstrates soundness of testimony which is evidence to his mind, inducing him to take courage, bear patiently, and persevere.

In other words, the opposition inherent in one’s mortal sojourn becomes the stuff that refines and purifies us. So we are to let patience have her perfect work in us that we may become complete, entire. To scattered Israel he is warning not to be overcome with their afflictions, but to remain steady in the faith which leads me to believe this epistle is to converts of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but whether that is the case or no, the principle remains valid as we become approved of God by trial and He perfects us that we become perfect, wanting nothing. Thus we should rejoice under the cross, because of the spiritual good which is derived therefrom.

Of this perfecting process Adam Clarke writes: “That ye may be perfect and entire - Τελειοι, Fully instructed, in every part of the doctrine of God, and in his whole will concerning you. Ὁλοκληροι , having all your parts, members, and portions; that ye may have every grace which constitutes the mind that was in Christ, so that your knowledge and holiness may be complete, and bear a proper proportion to each other. … Be then to the Lord what he required his sacrifices to be; let your whole heart, your body, soul, and spirit, be sanctified to the Lord of hosts, that he may fill you with all his fullness.”

James then, in verses 5-8, either changes the subject or again to Israel seeks to focus on their utter dependence upon God, seeing the resulting patience as the causal factor in the humility necessary to expanded wisdom. So he exhorts Israel to seek the wisdom of God by asking God himself, who he promises, gives liberally to all. However, we are warned this asking must be done in faith, and not with a doubting or double mind.

When James states, “If any of you lack wisdom,” it seems to me he is joining the twin truths of general knowledge put to the best use and the best means of attaining it. Being set forth in the scriptures, wisdom might here signify true religion, the thorough practical knowledge of God, of the Savior and our utter dependence upon him, as well as one’s self and how we can know, feel and become as God and Christ are. For says James, if we want this kind of wisdom, we must ask of God, because God alone is the possessor thereof.

Having recognized the knowledge of ignorance is the beginning of our knowledge and armed with the truth that God will give men liberally all that is good and necessary if we ask fervently, in faith, and further He will not upbraid us, we venture forth with the expectation, the faith, that the wisdom we seek will be divinely given. The implied, other side of the coin is, he who does not ask does not feel his need for or ability to receive, divine instruction.

James continues, if we are to walk this path we must make sure we are asking in faith, not wavering; believing that God is, that he is the possessor of all good; and that he is ever ready to impart to his children whatever they need. Our intent, as we seek wisdom, must be to do as the Lord directs us. We must be single minded in our desire to learn and know the wisdom of God; rather than being a double minded person with one foot in the divine and one in the world. Why, because if we are wavering our capacity to learn, to understand, and to know will be as a wave of the sea, driven and tossed.

So we must establish the required element in our pursuit of wisdom, we must choose to exercise real intent and single-mindedness in our quest to obtain wisdom if we are to succeed. We must have no doubt concerning the divine path to wisdom, never supposing that God will permit us to ask in vain, when we asks sincerely and fervently. We must not hesitate, but be irresolute. For the man who is not thoroughly persuaded that if he ask of God he shall receive, is like a wave of the sea; in a state of continual agitation; driven by the wind, and tossed, equally rising by hope, then sinking by despair. For, concludes James, a double minded man, even should he pray, shall not receive wisdom, or anything from the Lord as he is unstable, not persuaded either of his own wants or God’s completeness.

At lunch the next day when I reviewed with the missionaries their experience of the night before, they told me they also had an investigator who wondered if the Bible is to be taken literally why does God permit rape and murder.

Received a nice note from Brother Two; “Every time I feel a doubt I just reflect and remind myself of the twelve apostles and the fact that no one else has the twelve. Along with the priesthood and the strong faith exhibited by ones like you and I realize time and again I have no doubts.” I told him such things (these little awareness’s) were called by Nephi "the tender mercies" of the Lord. Strewn throughout our lives are little packages of happiness left there by a loving Heavenly Father and by the Savior to remind us that they know us that they know our names and that we can be forever with them. It's as if we are infused with light when we are living the commandments. He was asked to bless the Sacrament Sunday with all the youth gone at a conference and did it flawlessly. Received a nice note from Brother Two’s eldest: “You are 100% right, without God we are nothing. He is the most high God and he is someone who you can put your trust in at all times.”

Received this devastating note from a couple in our temple preparation class, which read in part, “After serious consideration and personal soul searching I came to the decision to return to my old church. I truly appreciate the love of our ward family and the work of the priesthood. I love the gospel and the plan of salvation and I will continue strong in my faith. I've been in the church since 2005 and I am still struggling with temple work teachings. I want to be true to my faith. Thanks for all your love and service.” I can’t remember when a notice hit me as hard as this one did. There has been nothing but positive interchange with this family in the four temple preparation classes we’ve held. In fact Sister Fifty-five is the best at asking questions and always testifies to the truth of the answers given. How can this be? What did we do wrong? I wrote her back asking if we could come by and help with her struggles.

Sunday I learned from the Bishop what she meant to convey was that they wanted to go back to attending the Spanish Branch as she was having difficulty understanding everything when it is not in her native language. I can’t express the sigh of relief that followed from both Sister H and I.

We continue to visit families as directed by the bishop’s and even with warm receptions have been unable to get in the door as they have made decisions to worship elsewhere and just are not interested any longer. Sure initiates a flow of love and anguish in our hearts as we reflect on what they are choosing to leave behind. Most are doing many good things, just not things of an eternal consequence and they seem to have no recognition of what is being lost.

Met with the Twenty-first family and brought them up to speed on the temple class they missed Sunday and further on the Melchizedek Priesthood. There two little daughters, ages 4 and 2, give Sister H a giant hug every time we come. We learned the 4 year old is in a dance recital on May 17 and which we asked if we could come she was so excited. As we were leaving she shouted out, “I love you!” Which had her mother in tears.

After living in Louisville, Kentucky for a few years and attending the 100th running of that event, we have tried to see the running of Kentucky Derby each year. Our schedule was fortunate to see the running of the 140th Kentucky Derby won by California Chrome. I remember when another California horse by the name of Swaps won the derby, owned by Rex Ellsworth an LDS guy. Swaps was my race horse hero as a boy. He had 25 starts, 19 wins, two seconds, two thirds and set five course time records. Guess I had to come back to California for it to happen again with California Chrome.

Because of stake youth conference the Lake Forest meeting schedule was moved back to 1-4 p.m. so the Six Family decided there wasn’t time for a discussion after church. So we had a leisure schedule today. No missionary correlation meetings, no ward council meetings, and only one block schedule, Aliso Creek. After three dry runs the past Sunday’s we made connection again with Sister Fifty-seven who we picked up and took to church. As we returned to her home she said, “This was a wonderful service today. I felt so good.”

Later we went to the Bass home in Lake Forest where with several couples had a break the fast along with the young missionaries. It consisted of several couples whose families had grown up and left in the Lake Forest Ward. Apparently this started 20 years or so ago when the little tots were all running around together and has continued ever since.

Received a list of questions the investigator for the Aliso Creek Elders raised about the God condoning rape in the Bible. I responded—Contrary to his assertion, we don't take the Bible literally as many of the plain and precious things of the Bible have been lost. There are just too many errors. But likewise it is an error to try to find fault with everything. Let me take two from his list (which are straight out of the atheist handbook) and add a third. If your investigator is an honest seeker, one who is seeking to understand, this will get him going. If it has no effect, he isn't interested in understanding anyway.

Deuteronomy 22:23-24 Reads that if an betrothed women has sex with a man both the man and woman are to be stoned if she doesn't resist. The key here is that she "cried not" so it is assumed she consented to the sex. Had she cried out she wouldn't have been put to death. The man is put to death because he had sex with one belonging to another.

Deuteronomy 22:25-27 continues the same theme. If a man finds a betrothed woman and sleeps with her and she cries out. In this case the man is put to death (in other words rape is not condoned) but the woman is spared because she cried out which means she was raped it wasn't consensual.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29. In this case the woman, not betrothed, and the man have consensual sex (she doesn't cry out) then he has to pay the bride price (fifty shekels of silver like a dowry) because he has defiled her. Also he has to marry her and he can never divorce her.

The rape war ones deal with captive virgins who the conquerors marry, not rape. The sexism ones deal with God working through His priesthood to lead His church.

In Numbers 31:7-18 he conveniently left out verses 19-20 wherein the women had to go through a purification process before they could marry them. Moses was upset they brought any women back claiming they had trespassed against the Lord causing a plague among the congregation. A plague? Doesn't sound like the Lord was too happy with their choice here.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Week Forty-Three

WEEK FORTY-THREE April 28, 2014

Sister H and I visited with the Fifty-four Family, he is getting ready to turn in his mission papers and she to get married. They got a late start on our Temple Preparation class and we agreed to come by their home to catch them up. We had a really good one hour visit. We then met with the Two Family and in a lot of commotion were able to get Brother Two and the eldest son signed up and started on family history. We left them after a couple of hours and just made the meeting with Family Fifty-five a young couple who also would like to go to the temple but with his work schedule on Sunday’s currently are unable to attend the class. His father, also a member, was there as well and Jan adroitly roped him into staying and being part of the lesson. We covered the first two lessons for temple preparation and the atonement as they didn’t want us to leave, so we were there nearly another two hours. The father had a question about sealing that had been answered before a couple of times but so different as to cause more concerns than it solved, even pushing Brother Fifty-five into inactivity for several years he said. As they asked the question the answer quickly came to my mind, one if living and another if dead, which I gave to them regarding sealing. There was an audible sigh of relief from both the father and the son. It was one of those occasions where you are hearing yourself answer a question but it is as if you aren’t involved in the process.

Met with the Fifty-five family again later in the week, they are anxious. Enjoyed the spoils of his work at See’s Candy. A favorite of ours as well.

Later we received from Brother Two this message, “Thank you for above and beyond effort and service and above and beyond patience with us all. I know I was a bit on edge a few moments to put it nicely. You and Jan are the Lords tools of love for our family.

Sister H received an urgent call for some Facetime with one struggling grandson who later remarked to his mother that his day was much better after talking to granny.

We heard from Brother Forty-two that he was still in New York and would contact us upon his return. We are anxious to learn more about his experience at General Conference.

Received a request from the Aliso Creek sisters to pick up their investigator Sister Fifty-seven for the Bible Study class, which we did. She was so appreciative telling us she once had a baptism date and asking if she should reconsider.

We continue to be warmly welcomed by the Twenty-One family. In just a few more visits he will be ready to interview for the Melchizedek Priesthood and to set a sealing date for the two of them. When we first visited them their two girls were so shy but now they are anxious to see Elder and Sister Haddock, or at least Sister Haddock who they flock to and hug each visit and upon leaving.

Our younger Brother Two is now in the war chapters in the Book of Mormon and writes, “Wondering what is going to happen next. Can't wait to get back reading. Satan is nothing but trouble and will always be. These chapters are really good because they show the blessing that come when we put our faith in God.”

Jan and I picked up Sister Six early Saturday morning, and drove over to the Rancho Santa Margarita Stake Center. The stake had raised over $26,000 in donations to partner with Stop Hunger Now and produce and package 100,000 meals. Our shift was 8-10:30 and we had 200 or 300 in attendance all decked out in yellow helping hand vests. You can see us so fashionable dressed in the following photo. Four persons to a station, I filled soybeans, a young woman did rice, Sister H handled dried vegetables, and Sister Six vitamin and seasoning pack. We had a great time. Lots of fun and many laughs. Lots of non-members found out about it online on their own and were there working side by side. They asked if we did this often. This doing a good work and feeling good about it how can you beat that. Every 1,000 meals packaged there was a big gong sounded and everyone cheered.

Our son had some questions about the House of Israel to which I responded. To answer your question I think you need to consider four things: 1) The Abrahamic covenant; 2) The gathering and scattering of Israel as explained in Jacobs allegory; 3) The restoration of keys through the Prophet Joseph Smith; 4) The Lord’s injunction for the gospel to be taking throughout the world, to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.

Five great blessings were given to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 17:1-7; Abraham 1:15-19; 2:6-11):

1.             He would have numberless posterity

2.             They would be covenant people

3.             His posterity would be heirs to a certain land in the Middle East, including Palestine

4.             Through his descendants, all families of the earth would be blessed

5.             His posterity would direct the ministry of the gospel and the priesthood throughout the world

Through the restoration of keys to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Elias conferred the keys of Abraham’s dispensation upon Joseph Smith including the promise of posterity or seed and the blessings of future generations through this posterity. Also through Joseph Smith, Moses restored the keys of missionary work and the gathering of Israel and Elijah the keys of sealing, linking up families as a necessary part in fulfilling the promise given to Abraham. (See Doctrine & Covenants §110.)

Thus, both Abraham descendants and Church members not of the literal seed of Abraham, in our dispensation, increase our numbers and establish the promises through covenant, leading our families in righteousness in the gospel and blessing our posterity as we share our gifts and blessings with others. Thus in our dispensation we rear our children within the Abrahamic covenant and entitled to all the blessings of Abraham which blesses all generations after us, which is our seed as well as a continuation of Abraham’s seed, through eternity.

Jacob shares with us the allegory of Zenos laying out how all this works together and is brought to pass in an orderly manner:

1.             Though established and preserved in the promised land of Palestine, Israel rejects the gospel and is nearly destroyed

2.             Rejected by Israel, the gospel is given to the Gentiles

3.             The early apostolic Christian church flourishes among the Gentiles but soon falls into apostasy

4.             Scattered Israel also receives the gospel but falls into apostasy

5.             The Lord begins to gather the house of Israel into the gospel fold

6.             The Lord gathers and restores Israel to her lands of promise fulfilling ancient covenants

7.             Gentiles who embrace the gospel are numbered among the redeemed house of Israel

8.             The Lord destroys the remainder of the wicked world prior to his second coming and glorious millennial reign.

In the allegory the roots of the natural tree, the Abrahamic covenant, are the only thing that can ultimately produce and preserve good fruit. We nurture these roots as we perform vicarious ordinances for deceased ancestors. The natural branches of the olive tree propagate abundantly drawing their strength from the roots of the faith and righteous tradition of our Abrahamic ancestors. We nourish these branches as we guide our families living in the household of faith. The grafted branches also bear good fruit and are converts to the Church from among the Gentiles.

There is an order in this. The gospel is first preached among the house of Israel. When Christ comes he preached to the Israelites who rejected it. The apostles take the gospel to the Gentiles. In the latter days the gospel is first taken to the Gentiles and only now (in seeking out the elect) is it being taken to identifiable remnants of the house of Israel fulfilling the promises that the first shall be last an the last shall be first (1 Nephi 13:42). Of course, Gentiles who are not considered elect are gathered in the gospel net as well. Thus the gospel is being taken to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.

In our meeting with the Six Family, because of some questions asked we really got to the point of baptism and its need. Our non-member was right in the conversation testifying to the need for baptisms right along with us, yet for some reason unable to pull the trigger for himself and have the ordinance performed. Jan and I talked as we left, how can someone feel so strongly about the truth of the gospel and the importance of the ordinance and not feel to participate in it. Alas, the Lord has told us not to push, that it will all be revealed. So we press on in faith—and hope.

Week Forty-two

WEEK FORTY-TWO April 21, 2014

Visited or called all our families this week encouraging them to watch the video on, “Because of Him” which is a wonderfully well done Easter message. If you have yet to see it take the time it is less than 3 minutes in length. In our temple preparation class we discussed Love (our Heavenly Father’s and our Savior’s), Death (the complete conquering of death that the Savior’s rising from the dead accomplished), Sin (conditional cleansing from sin through the atonement), and Change (willingly allowing the Savior to change us into someone who when we get “home” will feel comfortable being there. It’s clear that we are not “made” God’s but “become” God’s through allowing Christ to change us. I believe our Heavenly Father gives us all the joy and happiness we allow Him to give us.

Good Friday this week found us in the Newport Beach Temple. As far as we can recall it is the first time we have been in the temple on a Good Friday. We found ourselves again praying for the missionary movement and for us to get back into that missionary spirit following our wonderful visit with our daughter Kelly and her family. We are so pleased that they have fit so well into our home ward which was confirmed by this email: “Kelly and family are a great addition to the ward! You may need to buy another house in the ward when you return, as we don’t want them to go anywhere! Hope all is well, we think of you often and pray for you every day!” We have shared that email with everyone this week.

We picked up an office senior couple, and drove over to the Newport Stake Center adjacent to the Newport Temple. Although the meeting was not to start until 8:30 the place was already packed with missionaries from the Irvine and Anaheim Missions about 400 strong. Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Stanley Ellis of the First Quorum of the Seventy and their wives came about an hour and one-half after they were to be there so there was a long, long wait. When they arrived they organized the crowd and shook hands with all present in less than 15 minutes. Elder Foster, one of the ushers from our mission, was standing near Elder Anderson and I shook his hand first though he was reluctant, “I’m not supposed to shake hands,” he whispered. Later when the hand shaking ended and the ushers came up to shake hands, Elder Anderson played refused to shake Elder Foster’s saying, “I heard you say you weren’t supposed to shake hands,” which had everyone laughing.

Saw Carl Morrison there, an attorney I knew when we lived in Encinitas. He is the Executive Secretary for Elder Haynie the Area Authority Seventy and former stake president in Escondido. Sister Ellis used the last 7 statements of the Savior to apply to missionary work forgive those who persecute you, look for the good in all, expect to look out for your companion, you are not alone, pray for the comforter, trust for righteousness, complete mission with honor and finish strong. Commend your spirit to the Lord every day.

I am never surprised at the variety of truths we all see in sacred writ. Elder Ellis’ talk was about aligning ourselves with the Apostles and Prophets to receive power and used Nephi 3-4, from which he concluded Nephi and his brothers failed trying to do it themselves then decided to rely upon the Lord. It reads to me that they were praying all along and not sitting there waiting for direction, but got up and did the best they knew how, and then received the blessed direction as a result of a combination of their faith and effort.

Sister Anderson then spoke about general conference and the importance of the messages delivered there and testified as to their inspiration.

Elder Anderson spoke about a missionary and the atonement. He asked why did we shake hands? To make it personal, one on one. You have to establish what you really believe and bear testimony to those things. I was surprised that he did not offer an apostolic blessing upon the missionaries.

On our first Easter Sunday, we were in the Lake Forest ward where the congregation was treated as the ward choir and opening and closing hymns selected to encourage a robust response, which the congregation delivered on. Both the piano and organ were used which added to both the music and the spirit. Two families had filled the front of the chapel with flowers and the primary children, instead of singing a primary song, sang “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” all of the verses. As soon as the opening hymn began the spirit of the meeting intensified. The 6 Family was great taken by the effected as were we. It made quite a contrast to the succeeding Sacrament meeting in the other ward with no flowers, no special music etc.

Because of Easter Sunday the ward council in the second ward was not held so we were able to stay for Sunday school and Priesthood and Relief Society in the first ward. During the discussion in High Priest’s group several, for some reason, chose to share stories of bishops and other “church leaders” abandoning their testimonies and leaving the church altogether. I was concerned of the effect this would have on Brother 6 and shared some feelings with him who responded “What is wrong with these people?” Later when we went by for our discussion with the 6 Family he shared with his wife what had happened in HP without going into the actual stories. He became very animated wondering how someone could throw a testimony away because something couldn’t be explained. “It seems to me that when you know by the spirit something is true, the fact that you many not yet understand or know something else is no reason whatsoever for giving up that which you don’t know. I’m at a lost to understand.” This from a non-member of the church. As you can imagine, dear reader, we had a wonderful discussion of the truths of the gospel, the power of the spirit to learn and to know, and the importance in not casting away one’s confidence just because there is something you are yet to understand. In Preach My Gospel there is a quote from President James E. Faust, page 91, that reads, “The Holy Ghost bears witness of the truth and impresses upon the soul the reality of God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ so deeply that no earthly power or authority can separate him from that knowledge.” Apparently you can willingly give it away if you choose too.

As Easter Week drew to a close we were reminded of the reality of our Savior, His life and mission as reflected in the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father. That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (Doctrine & Covenants 76:22-24).

Week Forty-One

WEEK FORTY-ONE April 14, 2014

One of Kelly’s daughters was invited to the prom at Timpview (they have four daughters) so we both smiled when we saw a T-shirt the other day which read in big letters on the front, DADD. Underneath was written “Dad's against Daughters Dating.” On the back it read. “Shoot the first one. Word will get around.” I think I remember feeling that way as our daughters were into their teenage years.

While belaboring the week before what to do with Tuesday and Wednesday scheduled meetings with our family in town, all four appointments scheduled those days called and canceled their appointments for various reasons. To which Sister H said to me, "See, I told you we were supposed to be with our family those days."  To which one of the office senior missionaries said, “Only the righteous get such blessings!!!!!!” We were able to visit the 2 and 15 families with our family who responded “What a wonderful family.”  

We called the families we are working with and encouraged each to watch on the new video, “Because of Him” about our Savior. Waiting for Sister H in a Doctor’s office I spoke to a sister who then told me she used to be a member of the church and her husband walked off and left her and the children fourteen years ago. I offered the card to her and told of the video. She said to me, “I know everything there is to know about that church. I was even a witness in the temple once. I probably could have written that video myself.” I interjected that the video was not about the church but the life of Christ whereupon she thrust the card back into my shirt pocket defiantly saying, “Well, I’m not going to watch it so you can have this back,” and stormed out of the office.

Now I admit the problem here may be the presenter or the presentation because Sister H delivered a card to the receptionist as we arrived along with the invitation to view the video and her response was appreciative and a memory of attending The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with her grandmother many years ago.

Again had many instances sharing the reading of the Book of Mormon with the Two family, both the father and the eldest son. The father noting, “I have been really enjoying the true words spoken in it.” We were able to research about thirty names on his family history and he wrote, “I’ve been thinking about all those names of my family you got for me. Which I greatly appreciate. I want to do the temple work for them as soon as reasonably possible.” We set up an appointment to come by and get the family signed up to family search and get started.

On our P-day we drove to Solana Beach and had lunch with two families from our old Encinitas Ward at Fidel’s. We had a grand time sharing memories and news.

The eldest son of the Two family asked for us to pray for him and some special placement testing he is undertaking at school. Nice to see a new convert availing himself of the blessings of the Lord in his scholarly pursuits.

Took my two oldest granddaughters with me tonight as a replacement for Sister H to our Bible Study class in the Aliso Creek Ward. I was making a presentation on grace with some assignments I had given to the young elders and young sisters. Both our granddaughters participated well and fit right in. Following I got a call from Brother Robinson concerning “what a light your granddaughters brought to the meeting. It was felt as they walked in the door. They were so open and willing to participate and share comments. You have to be very proud of them.” Which we are. They were terrific. At one point Mariah pointed out they were using a set of “grandpa’s scriptures” which had some notes they wanted to share about how Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants fit the subject we were discussing. They easily engaged with one of our investigators as well as a couple of the new members. It was good to have them along and hopeful it gave them a taste of something they may want to pursue as they get older after having been missionary companions with their grandfather.

Sister H had me rescue a pot for cooking spaghetti that she spied in the dumpster but couldn’t reach. Missionary senior couples dumpster diving. This is what it has come to.

We also went to the Mormon Battalion visiting center in Old Town in San Diego with the family before they left. We tried to have lunch at Las Olas on the Cardiff Strand but it was packed with a forty-five minute wait. So we went to Roberto’s in Leucadia.

Our week all too soon drew to close this morning. We had an easy morning visiting and each though they had to sleep on the floor in our tiny apartment of nearly 600 square feet expressed their delight about staying with us instead of a motel. They left about 11 a.m. while Jan and I remained in a fog, instantly feeling terribly alone and un-missionary like. We prayed together to get quickly back into missionary mode.

Sunday during our temple preparation class Sister Fifty-two questioned whether Satan was tempting us when we feel dark or depressed and if allowing depression to settle in on us we are allowing Satan into our lives. We assured her no in both cases. Her son is terrible depressed at the moment which is adversely affecting her as well.