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26 March 2012

What I Wish I Had Asked

I had a candidate come to my door this afternoon, which I love, except when they ring the bell and naptime ends too soon. So I stepped outside and listened to his spiel. We agreed that we disagree on what consitutes "essential services" and what is just use for tax funds. The thing I wish I had asked him is:

What principle do you see as limiting what government can - and more importantly, cannot - do with tax money?

This sums up my thoughts on the matter. I wonder what his would have been. What about you?

What do you think?

23 March 2012

Egypt's Middle Kingdom

We're studying the Middle Kingdom of Egypt in history right now, and it's interesting stuff! One of the things we discovered is this temple in Abu Simpel that was built by Rameses II, and then had to be moved in the 1960s when they decided to dam the Nile and create a lake that would have swamped the temple. These clips tell the story of how it was saved.

We also watched a second documentary, which highlighted some of the technical difficulties of the move, as well as a cool feature of the original engineering and how they set up the light in the temple.

We found a copy of the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, and it's proved to be a lovely treasure-trove of information and they have some great links. That's how we discovered Abu-Simpel, and we also read about Ramases II, and about the Middle Kingdom. And they pointed us in the direction of some cool online exhibits from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we read about a scribe named Wah, his employer Meketre, and the cool funary models they had in their tombs.

Model of a bakery & brewery, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

16 March 2012

Nest Cams

Last year, we had a good time watching Wing and Beau and their babies in this nest cam. It sparked quite a bit of learning about Barn Owls, and we're looking forward to watching their nest again this year, though they're not doing anything much yet.

The Decorah Eagles, though are sitting on 3 eggs, the first of which is expected to hatch next Friday. We're pretty excited about that, and check in on them regularly. Dragon loves to watch the eagle. He sits on my lap and signs "bird bird bird" over and over before getting down and running off. We'll probably visit our local eagles' nest again this spring too. That was fun last year.

We also have a new nest we're keeping an eye on: Red-tail Hawks on the Franklin Institute. They just laid their first egg yesterday, so we'll get to watch this one for a few weeks before hatching and then the babies! The baby birds are Monkey's favorite part.

09 March 2012

Sahara Desert

We're moving, ever so slowly, through Ancient history. I thought it would take less time, but it's so interesting! And, February was not a good month for school; we barely did basic math and reading, due to all the illnesses: 6 cases of the flu, 1 round of pneumonia, and another bronchitis thing. Looks like the weather has shifted, and spring is upon us, and we're finally healthy again. So. History.

Today, in reading about Africa, we read about the Sahara Desert. Only, after we read the little blurb in Story of the World, it seemed clear to me that Monkey really had no idea. I want him to have some kind of understanding of at least what the land there looks like, and some frame of reference to put the Anansi stories that we're going to read into. So, we're looking at this National Geographic documentary.

After we watched this, Monkey gave me this narration:

Adam and his family had to go into the Sahara Desert. There was only one well his father knew it. There was a lot of shouting. Everyone was tired. The desert looked quite yellowish greenish. His family had to move right into the middle of it. It was dry dry dry dry dry. The camels have humps that supply a 5-day supply of water. Then they have to drink five days of drink; it takes them one day. They can suck up many many ounces of gallons. Everyone was shouting because the well was up in front of them. All of them could see it, the whole caravan. The desert was not really a safe place. There were bugs. Very dangerous – they had claws, feet, and head. And the little sleeping boy was unharmed!

08 March 2012

Blog Carnival

I think that the folks that host the blog carnival archives have been having issues with their system. I received notification of a whole bunch of submissions this afternoon- including one that I submitted to the Carnival of Homeschooling a while back. Please be patient with me as I try to get it all sorted out. We're still trying to get everything back on track after some illnesses and a death in the family, so the carnival is likely to be late, but I'll get there eventually!

04 March 2012

The Law of Moses and the Atonement of Christ

I was asked to speak in church last Sunday. We all take turns at that in the Church, and it'd been a while. I actually don't mind the public speaking, and I really enjoy the preparation; I always learn so much getting ready! This one was challenging for a number of reasons, including that I didn't know very much about the topic at the outset, and for whatever reason I didn't have as much time as usual - only 4 days to get ready. But I ended up learning a lot. I was speaking on The Law of Moses and the Atonement. Very cool stuff. A number of people asked to see a copy of my talk, so I'm posting it here, along with links to the sources I used in preparing it. I hope that y'all find it useful!

When Moses brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt, they had been there for 430 years, and were in a state of apostasy. They had forgotten the covenants the Lord had made with their fathers, and had embraced the idols and gods of Egypt. The Lord called Moses to speak to them, but they wouldn’t listen:

And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses

They witnesses the signs that the Lord showed Pharaoh, they experienced the tender mercies of the Lord first hand in the Passover, but miracles do not produce faith, and we read of their inability to trust the Lord at the edge of the Red Sea:

2.     Exodus 14:11
 And they said unto Moses, 
Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? 
wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?

Even then, after crossing through the Red Sea on dry ground where moments before there had been only unending water, even after this miraculous deliverance, they did not cast out the idols as they were commanded, and they continued to murmur. Israel had been brought out of Egypt, but much of Egypt remained within the hearts of the Israelites, and they were not converted to the Lord. Rather than destroying them, the Lord in His mercy gave them the Law of Moses to prepare them for the fullness of His gospel. For well over a thousand years from that point, the Law of Moses was the criminal, civil as well as religious code for the Jewish nation. Although the Israelites had continually struggled with apostasy, “the Law” had been there to guide every aspect of life for so long that the Jews at the time of Christ struggled to imagine life without it.  

From an Ensign article in Sep. 1983 we learn:

Much of the New Testament deals with the Law of Moses and with the implications of its fulfillment in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The books of Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews, and important parts of several others, including Acts, James, Colossians, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 Corinthians, all wrestle with the issue of the Law, and its continued role after the Atonement. Therefore, it is important to understand what the Law was and how it was fulfilled in order to fully understand these portions of the New Testament.

Strictly speaking, the Law of Moses consists of the first five books of the Old Testament—what the Jews call the Torah. These five books of Moses (Genesis; Exodus; Leviticus; Numbers; and Deuteronomy) are also called the Pentateuch, but in the New Testament they are usually just “the Law.” Sometimes the term “the Law” was used for the whole Old Testament, but usually a distinction was made between the books of Moses (the Law) and those of subsequent prophets (the Prophets); hence, the custom in Jesus’ time of referring to the Hebrew scriptures as “the Law and the Prophets” (for example, Matt. 5:17; Matt. 7:12). 

In the past, when I have thought about the Law of Moses, I thought of the animal sacrifice, and the exhaustive lists to be slogged through in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, but the Law is much more. Everything about the Law of Moses was designed to point the mind to Christ.  According to the Doctrine and Covenants, it was a preparatory gospel:
3.     Doctrine and Covenants 84:27 (first part)
Which gospel is the gospel of repentance 
and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments
 Understanding the Law of Moses is vital to the modern reader because it is indispensible in understanding the scriptures, particularly the Old and New Testaments. The Nephites also kept the Law of Moses, and Book of Mormon prophets add important explanations.
Ancient rabbis considered all parts of the Law to be equally important, but recognized a distinction between the ethical portions and the ceremonial portions of the Law. This division is still useful to the modern reader of the scriptures. I want to deal with the ethical portions, which dealt with relationships among people, first. The principles the Lord gives His people to guide their actions and relations are eternal in nature, and the Law of Moses requirements are actually still present in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Again from the Ensign:

 For example, the Savior expanded the commandments “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” by now commanding Christians to avoid even hatred or lust. (Matt. 5:28, 44.) Merely abstaining from adultery and murder was no longer sufficient. Christians must now change their very hearts, and this was more than the old Law had required. Also, at the Last Supper Jesus had made it clear that the atonement he was about to accomplish instituted a new covenant which would replace that of Sinai. (See Luke 22:20, 37.) And on at least two occasions in the New Testament (Matt. 5:31–32; Matt. 19:3–9), Jesus made it clear that the teaching of the Law (in this case on the issue of divorce) was not eternal but was only a temporary concession made necessary by the hard-heartedness of Israel. In the Book of Mormon, this was also the teaching of Abinadi to the court of King Noah on the nature of the Law of Moses. (See Mosiah 13:29–31.)
And yet it is vital to note that in the teaching of Jesus, the Law was not revoked nor repealed but fulfilled. (Matt. 5:17.) Under the gospel of Christ, murder, adultery, and dishonesty are still prohibited, and the formal requirements of the Law are still essentially in place; but the demand of the Law of Moses has been expanded, has been filled to its fullest extent. Where there is no hatred or greed, there can be no murder; where there is no lust, there can be no adultery. With the coming of Christ, the ethical portion of the Law had not been abolished; it had been caught up by, included in, and expanded to a broader application its intention, its potential as an ethical standard, had been fulfilled.

Then, as now, keeping the ethical portion of the Law prepares the mind and heart to receive further light and knowledge from the Lord. Obedience to the commands to love God and love our neighbor prepares our hearts for the fullness of the Gospel and invites the guidance of the Spirit in our lives. This portion of the Law points the heart toward Christ by increasing faith and righteousness in the heart of the worshiper.
The ceremonial portions of the Law of Moses consisted of performances and ordinances which were deeply symbolic, with all the symbols pointing toward the coming Atonement of Jesus Christ. The intent is that the Law of Moses should become a schoolmaster to bring the people to the Lord. Speaking of animal sacrifice, the Prophet Joseph Smith said,

“Certainly, the shedding of the blood of a beast could be beneficial to no man, except it was done in imitation, or as a type, or explanation of what was to be offered through the gift of God Himself; and this performance done with an eye looking forward in faith on the power of that great sacrifice for a remission of sins.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 58.)

Like the sacrament, animal sacrifice under the Law of Moses pointed the mind toward the great Sacrifice of our Lord. In our day, the Sacrament serves to bring to remembrance the body and the blood of the Savior. In ancient times, animal sacrifices were designed to point the mind forward to the coming Atonement, both ordinances serve to strengthen the participant’s faith in Christ. Elder Ballard explained more about the symbolism of those ancient sacrifices:

Always a firstborn male animal without blemish was sacrificed to represent the firstborn of God spiritually and physically, a perfect or sinless offering. The shedding of the blood of the animal represented the sacrifice and suffering of an innocent life for others. The offering of the whole animal, at times, was an emblem of the complete and infinite sacrifice that Christ would make. The consumption of the animal by fire, a symbol of purification, suggested the possibility of receiving the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost through the exercise of repentance and baptism. Similarly, the ordinance of the sacrament consists of the administration of the “emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ”, in remembrance of his atoning sacrifice and suffering: “… this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.”

At a time when life depended very directly on the family’s herd animals and crops grown, the Law of Moses asked for sacrifice of the best of both: the firstlings of the flock, and the first fruits of the field. This was a real test of faith for those who wanted to worship the Lord! While the Law of Moses has been fulfilled, the Law of Sacrifice is still essential to the Gospel of Christ, and essential to our efforts to come unto Christ. Joseph Smith the Prophet explained the relationship between faith and sacrifice:

“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; … it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life” (Lectures on Faith [1985], 69).

Elder Ballard said:

As we sacrifice our selfish desires, serve our God and others, we become more like Him.
Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught: “We are still commanded to sacrifice, but not by shedding blood of animals. Our highest sense of sacrifice is achieved as we make ourselves more sacred or holy.
“This we do by our obedience to the commandments of God. Thus, the laws of obedience and sacrifice are indelibly intertwined. … As we comply with these and other commandments, something wonderful happens to us. … We become more sacred and holy—[more] like our Lord!” (“Lessons from Eve,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 88).
In fact, the word sacrifice means literally “to make sacred,” or “to render sacred.”…

As we contemplate the replacing of animal sacrifice with the sacrament, we cannot help but notice a strong relationship between the two. Both sacrifice and sacrament:
    • Are affected by a person’s attitude and worthiness (see Amos 5:6–7, 9–10, 21–22; 3 Ne. 18:27–29; Moro. 7:6–7).
    •  Were designed to be performed by priests officiating in the Aaronic Priesthood (see D&C 13:1; D&C 20:46).
    • Focus on Christ (see Luke 22:19–20; Alma 34:13–14).
    • Use emblems that represent Christ’s flesh and blood (see Luke 22:19–20; Moses 5:6–7).
    • Provide a means whereby one can make and renew covenants with God (see Lev. 22:21; D&C 20:77, 79).
    • Are performed regularly on the Sabbath as well as on other special occasions (see Lev. 23:15; D&C 59:9–13).
    • Are associated with meals that symbolically represent the Atonement (see Matt. 26:26; Lev. 7:16–18).
    • Are the only saving ordinances in which members participate for themselves more than once.
    • Provide an important step in the process of repentance (see Lev. 19:22; 3 Ne. 18:11; Moses 5:7–8).

When I was asked to talk about the Law of Moses and the Atonement, my initial reaction was to wonder, “What sort of a topic is that?” As I began studying, it became a very interesting academic exercise. As I continued, I learned that it’s neither off the wall nor strictly an academic exercise. The relationship of the Law of Moses to the Atonement is as compelling as the Sacrament’s, and both are intimately connected with the Law of Sacrifice, the scriptures, and our salvation. I want to close with a final quote from Elder Ballard:

If I have a fear, it is that the principle of sacrifice may be slipping away from us. This principle is a law of God. We are obliged to understand it and practice it. If being a member of this Church becomes too easy, testimonies will become shallow, and the roots of testimony will not go down into the soil of faith as they did with our … forefathers. May God grant each of us an understanding of the law of sacrifice and a conviction that it is necessary today. It is vitally important that we understand this law and live it.

To this I add my testimony of Jesus Christ. That He lives. He loves us.


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