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19 October 2015

The Organ With the Organ Man

Dragon's current poems come from Robert Louis Stevenson's book, A Child's Garden of Verses. We don't do anything fancy; we just read them most of the time. This was today's poem:


Of speckled eggs the birdie sings 
And nests among the trees; 
The sailor sings of ropes and things 
In ships upon the seas.
The children sing in far Japan, 
The children sing in Spain;  
The organ with the organ man 
Is singing in the rain.

This, of course, requires some explanation; Dragon wants to know: "What's an organ man?" So we turn to YouTube, because some things just need to be heard to be understood, and music is one of those things. This, which isn't a proper song, just clips of hand organs strung together, is what we found, and they listened to it and gave it mixed reviews. Dragon liked it and listened to it more than once. Hero, on the other hand, was underwhelmed, but curious about how they work.

One of the things I really like about the things we've been using from the Ambleside Online curriculum is the way that it leads so naturally into enriching experiences, like this one. I doubt that I would have thought to introduce the kids to hand organs, but because we do the suggested poems, here we are.

17 October 2015

Working Out

This fall, I had wanted to do a Tough Mudder, but when the time came, I decided that I wasn't ready. I made some significant improvements to my core strength, but I still can't do the monkey bars at the playground, or even a single pullup, so I decided that it doesn't make sense to pay so much to do a thing I can't do. Yet. 

But I'm not done trying. This year's video is so encouraging.

My yoga workout has helped me. I have been working toward a handstand. I have more core strength than I've had, maybe ever. It's still not much. So when I saw this article on Pinterest, about how to do better handstands, I went to check it out. It's from crossfit, not yoga, but I figure that handstands are handstands, and however you label your stuff, you still have to develop the same muscles to get the job done. So I had a look. They've got a four week course... it's going to take more than four weeks for me. But I started.

20 tuckups - 20 sets of 1

And I did 15 superman pulses. I would have done more, but Tigress was sick and really wanted to snuggle.


20 tuckups. Mostly sets of 1.
40 supermans.
Added some of this "hollow body" stuff to my yoga.

The improve your handstand article also talked about doing a handstand with your belly toward the wall, and holding that for certain amounts of time. I just could not picture how to get there, so I headed back to YouTube.


This may take more than a week to do this first set of exercises credibly. 

After that, I wondered how it would look, done by yoga people, so I went looking for a video from Kino, my favorite YouTube yoga chick. She's always pretty amazing, but in this one, she's amazingly encouraging: apparently it took her five years to be able to do a credible handstand. Maybe it's not so unreasonable that I didn't get there in nine months. 

20 tuckups, a couple sets of 2 and even a 3.
40 supermans. 
Tried to try Kino's kick up thing. Gonna have to work to get to the beginner place.

20 tuckups

13 October 2015

The Plan of Salvation: What is Hell?

Recently, I've been asked what the Mormon theology about hell is. This post is an outgrowth of that conversation, which took place on Facebook. The question is this: Do we believe that hell is just a temporary state, or unending torment for the sinner who has rejected God and is consigned to be apart from Him for eternity?

There are two points in what we term the plan of Salvation or the Plan of Happiness that could be thought to correspond to the Protestant/Catholic Hell as it has been explained to me. I am a lifelong Mormon, and no expert in the theology of other Christian denominations, though I have tried to educate myself. I have made a serious study of Mormon theology on these points, but have only passing familiarity with the specifics of other Christian beliefs. Since I do not know your level of familiarity with our doctrine, I will first sketch the whole plan, and the address the question about hell more specifically.

The Plan of Salvation
We believe that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16, Ps. 82:6). That we lived with Him prior to our birth in mortal life (Job 38:7; Jer. 1:5). This is variously called the pre-earth life or the premortal existence in our vocabulary. 

It is our Father's Plan that we should become like Him (Matt. 5:48; Romans 8:17). As a part of this process we have been sent to earth, became mortal (Gen. 2:17), gain physical bodies (Gen. 2:7), and be tested as to our obedience and faithfulness (Romans 6:16).

Knowing beforehand that we would, even the best of us, fall short of perfection (Rom.3:23), our merciful Father arranged for mercy to temper Justice, through the intercession and sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son (John 3:16). Thus, this life becomes a probationary state, and allowing men a space in which to repent (Ps. 38:18; Mark 1:15). 

Upon our death, our body returns to the dust (Gen. 3:19), but the immortal soul continues (Luke 23:46; 1 Kings 17:21). 

Prior to resurrection, the spirits of the righteous and the wicked await judgement (Matt. 7:21-23; Romans 14:10). The righteous wait in paradise, which is a state of rest and peace (Luke 23:43; Rev. 14:13). The wicked wait in what we typically call spirit prison, though it can also be called  hell (1 Peter 3:19; Ps. 16:10), indeed, in the Book of Mormon it sometimes is called hell. The gospel is preached to those in spirit prison (1 Peter 4:6). Baptism being an absolute requirement (John 3:5); those who did not have the opportunity in life may accept proxy baptism for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29).

Then comes the day of judgement (Rev. 20:12). 

We believe that that which is typically called heaven in Protestant/Catholic theology can actually be thought of as three heavens, or degrees of glory, as we usually call them (1 Cor. 15:40-42; 2 Cor. 12:2). Additionally, there is outer darkness, a place of torment with no glory at all (Matt. 8:12) reserved for those who blaspheme against the Holy Ghost and for whom there is no forgiveness (Matt. 12:31).

For clarity, we will sometimes sketch an outline of the plan, like this. Though this is a traditional sketch familiar throughout the Church, it is not without its flaws. It does not show Christ's indispensable role; this sketch is concerned only with our journey. But it is useful to kind of map out where we were, where we are, and where we hope to go.

What is Hell?
There are two places that are, in Mormon theology, both sometimes referred to as hell. These are spirit prison and outer darkness.

We believe that spirit prison is a temporary place. I'm not super familiar with purgatory, but I believe that spirit paradise and spirit prison, together, would be somewhat analogous. However, rather than lumping everyone into a single place, we believe there is a distinction made between those who have done their best to live righteously and those who have not. As we understand it, the ordinance of baptism (I know that some denominations use the word sacrament, rather than ordinance) also plays a role in the separation, with those who have not received baptism being barred from spirit paradise; hence the importance we place on baptisms for the dead. Peter talks about the gospel being preached among the dead in one of his epistles:

For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
1 Peter 4:6

God's requirement for baptism is absolute (John 3:5), so the justice of God requires that each and every soul must have a meaningful opportunity to hear and accept or reject Christ. Hence, God, in His mercy, has provided a space for those who did not have the opportunity in life to have that opportunity prior to final judgement.

On the other hand, outer darkness we believe to be permanent. That punishment the Book of Mormon describes as being "as eternal as the life of the soul", endless punishment "affixed opposite the plan of happiness". In my opinion, outer darkness is analogous to what Protestant/Catholic Christians refer to as hell, much more so than spirit prison, though both can be, and sometimes are, called hell. This is one reason why most Mormons don't use the term "hell" very often, preferring instead the more specific terms of prison and outer darkness. There is no Mormon belief in "dodging" Judgement; on the contrary, we believe that it will be universal: every single person must account for their choices, including the choice to accept (or not) Christ's mercy.

12 October 2015

Voluntary Reading!

I think one of the most exciting milestones in learning to read is voluntary reading. That's the part when you can tell that they are gaining enough skill to begin to see what all the hard work of phonics is about, and it just might be my favorite part of teaching the kids to read.

Dragon is reading today, without being asked. He asked for a box of Bob Books, and started out reading to the Daddy, but when Daddy had to go do other things, Dragon kept going. There are several books from that set that are lost now, but what was there, he read. 

Then he came looking for another box. 

But I think the best part was when he commented that practicing the Bob Books will make it easier to read the scriptures. 

Yes. Yes, it will. And that is a worthy goal for a little boy.

11 October 2015

The 7th Psalm: Justice Begets Trust

Psalm 7

The difference between "I do trust" and "I will trust" is important: it's the difference between a current, active choice to trust God RIGHT NOW, and a more flimsy, unspecified future trust.

When I posted the quote art for the first verse on Facebook, I made a typo - if you look, it's edited, because I typed "In Thee will I put my trust". But that's not what the first verse says.

"O Lord my God, in thee DO I put my trust"

I'm glad I made the mistake, because it made me really see that little word. The difference between "I do trust" and "I will trust" is important: it's the difference between a current, active choice to trust God RIGHT NOW, and a more flimsy, unspecified future trust. RIGHT NOW is when things are hard. But I choose to trust anyway. RIGHT NOW things don't make sense. But I trust the Lord to make it right. RIGHT NOW I choose to act on that trust. Do means an active use of agency in the present tense. Do means that the peace of mind the Lord offers us is available to us -- RIGHT NOW.

Trust Scripture Chain
Psalms 7:1
Proverbs 3:5-6
Psalms 125:1
2 Nephi 22:2
D&C 84:116

I had to work a lot harder at understanding the rest of the chapter. Initially, it just struck me as so... harsh. I had to really work at seeing anything but that, at first.

O Lord my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:)Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. -Psalm 7:3-5

Persecute me; kill me; trash my good name. This is serious stuff!

But, look: "If there be iniquity in my hands..." and, "If I have rewarded evil to him that was at peace with me..." This isn't random harshness, this is a recognition and acceptance of the unyielding demands of Justice. It's saying, "If I do evil, let evil be done to me."

This is a Psalm about Justice. And the Psalmist understands the different faces of Justice better than I do. Our culture enthrones Corianton's misunderstanding of Justice, and tries to depict it as virtue.

"...for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery." -Alma 42:1

If I'm honest with myself, the essence of my issue comes from discomfort with the just demand that penalties earned be carried out. The Law of the Harvest can be uncomfortable because it means that when we don't "plant", or we neglect our "garden", we have no right to expect to reap the rewards - whatever they might have been. It's not an at all comfortable principle, when you get right down to it. I've been aware for quite some time now that personal responsibility is, culturally, quite unpopular, but it's still disconcerting to discover myself having such a difficult time with scripture because of the unyielding nature of Justice. So I started pondering Justice. I think there is a tendency to consider Justice as only an obstacle to be overcome by the Lord's Grace, but if that's all the further we look, we miss an essential aspect of the character of God. I've come to think there's more to it than just penalties, though penalties are definitely part of the equation. But consider:

...he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you...
-Mosiah 2:24

God has promised to bless us when we do right. It is, therefore, Just that He should keep His word. This is, at least in part, the source of the trust the Psalmist opened with: the unflinching, unerring Justice of God requires that both penalties and rewards be given as deserved, each and every time. Knowing that God is perfectly just enables us to trust Him in a number of ways: we can trust that we we do well, He will bless us. We can trust that if we rebel, the consequences will come. If we are lazy, industrious, kind, cruel, and so on, we will reap the rewards.

It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity. -Proverbs 21:15

Like day following night, so come the consequences for our actions. For better or worse, we get what we choose. Even Christ's mercy is applied under principles of Justice: we choose whether or not to permit the Lord to assist us - and reap the consequences of that choice, too.

The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.
Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.

Justice Scripture Chain
Psalm 7: 8-9
Alma 42:1
Mosiah 2:24
Proverbs 21:15
Alma 13:3-4


01 October 2015

Commonplace Sampler: September

Little, in fact, had either the Vatican or Galileo comprehended just how serious a rival Jupiter and its moons are to Earth and Luna. They are more fairly compared to the entire solar system. We now know that Jupiter comprises two-thirds the mass of all nine planets and it is the biggest of the so-called gas giant planets, a class that also includes Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Unlike the inner terrestrial planets - Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars - these planets lack solid surfaces. Instead, they are made from the same stuff as stars: hot gas. ...

So, too, many of the Jovian satellites are more like planets than moons. The terrestrial planets only have three moons among them - Luna and Mars' satellites, Phobos and Demos. But the gas giants are surrounded by swarms of smaller bodies. Jupiter has the largest entourage, with eight regular moons and more than 60 so-called irregular moons. These moons are categorically different from teh terrestrial variety: Luna is probably a chip off Earth's block and the Martian moons may be captured asteroids. In contrast, the regular Jovian moons likely condensed from spare material around a proto-Jupiter, much in the same way as the planets coalesced from leftovers swirling near our newborn Sun.
-The Moons of Jupiter, p11

The Asters are the second largest family of flowering plants, surpassed only by the mostly tropical Orchid family. Worldwide, there are about 920 genera and 19,000 species, including 346 genera and 2,687 species in North America. Aside from lettuce (Lactuca), artichoke (Cynara), and endive (Cichorium), surprisingly few genera are cultivated for food.
-Botany in a Day, p 163

You can employ the same techniques. When a student asks a question, be careful lest you answer it! Or more emphatically, be careful lest the teacher answer it. How easy it is for a teacher to respond quickly to simple questions, to close a conversation that might have ignited a sparkling and lively discussion. The wise teacher deftly and pleasantly responds, "That's an interesting question. What does the class think of this?"
-Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, p 68

God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the Earth. He left the rivers unbridged and the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to man the challenge of raw materials, ... not the east of pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved... That man might know the joys and glories of creation.
-Thomas S. Monson, quoted on Facebook

O Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed: but Thou, O Lord, how long? Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.
-Psalm 6:1-4

You cannot exercise faith in God until we acknowledge that He exists and we have a correct understanding of His character, nature, and attributes. So the beginning of faith starts in the understanding of Christ.
-David A. Bednar, quoted on Facebook

The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart, this you will build your life by, and this you will become.
-James Allen, quoted by Shiloah Baker in "Training Mother Helpers"

Here [Helaman 6:7-9] we find one of the (extremely) few times peace existed between these two groups [the Nephites and the Lamanites], and the narrator lists for us a few resulting and related benefits. The first product of peace mentioned is open migration between the inhabitants of each distinct civilization. Free intercourse and commerce have special mention, and are corollaries to the unrestricted ability to travel and reside where one pleases. Second, the record notes that this exchange between the individuals of each group yielded increased prosperity for all involved. They became “exceedingly rich” and had “an exceeding plenty”. As with other scripture, this one can and should be likened unto us.
-Conner Boyack, Immigration, Individual Rights, and the Constitution

You’re not self-governing if you can’t rule yourself. Classical education is the means to freedom, the sine qua non of a free people, because it trains people in self-governance, in perceiving and living with the truth.
-Andrew Kern, quoted in "In The Common Core Era, Families Flock To Its Opposite"

More than once I have scolded members of a class just a little when they seemed to ridicule in one way or another a question asked by one of the group. And I have repeated with some emphasis the statement that there is only one stupid question: the one that isn't asked. Every student should have an open invitation to ask questions all of the time.
-Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, page 74

We make it a consistent practice in our family to respond to the questions of our children, an in doing so, we find that they ask many questions. If parents are not careful, they can dam up the quest for knowledge.
-Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, page 74

"All those antagonistic questions he asked you; it was just marvelous the way you handled them.  He was so antagonistic and bitter and yet the interview itself was successful."

I have never forgotten his answer. He said, "I never pay any attention to the questions - that is, if the interviewer is antagonistic. If he doesn't ask the right questions, I give answers to the questions he should have asked."
-Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, p77

There is another important matter we should discuss. A teacher naturally wants everyone to be satisfied and in agreement with him. That is not always to be. Often in the best teaching someone is left unsatisfied, perhaps even upset. Particularly this is true if we have an encounter with someone who is antagonistic. A mature teacher will know from the beginning that when the conversation is over someone will be unsettled and upset. Let it not be the teacher.
-Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, p83

In many churches of the world a doctrine is taught that holds that men are basically evil; that they are earthy and carnal and devilish, conceived in sin and possessed of a tendency to be wicked. This doctrine holds that the corrupt and evil nature of man must be conqured. It holds out the meager hope that by an extension of grace man may, on occasion, be lifted from his evil, carnal,and groveling state. In simple terms it avers that man is, by his very nature, inclined to be bad.

That is false doctrine. ... The doctrine is not only false, it is very destructive. ...

How glorious it is to have the revealed word of God, to know that we have a child-parent relationship with Him. If we are of His family, we have inherited the tendency to be good; not evil. ... God is our Father. We therefore are inherently good.
-Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, p88

I am fully aware that in the world there are individuals whose basic motivation seems to be contrary and disruptive and evil. I know this exists, but it is against their nature.
-Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, p89

For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
-Patrick Henry, Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death speech before the Virginia Convention, 1775.

If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.
-Attributed to Roald Dahl on Facebook

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.
-Haldir, Elven guard of Lothlorien, Fellowship of the Ring, p 452

Man's greatest happiness comes from loosing himself for the good of others.
-Attributed to David O. McKay on Facebook.

He understands. He can give pardon and bring peace. THE SPECIALTY OF THE SAVIOR IS MERCY. And He requires that we be specialists in mercy.
-Marion D. Hanks, "My Specialty is Mercy" October Conference 1981



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