Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Walking a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes

There is nothing in this world to help a person become more sympathetic to the plight of others than going through a similar hardship.

My husband has, for the most part, enjoyed a very healthy life. Not until the last five or so years has his body begun to show some very distinct signs of age. Poor guy. Suddenly a man who rarely took pain reliever when he was in pain has to take all sorts of meds to regulate things he's never had to worry about before.

The funny (and not ha-ha funny but interesting funny) is a lot of what he's been experiencing lately I've been going through for years. Like heart burn. I remember when he described the first time he had heart burn. There was almost panic in his eyes. But I'd been there...since I was a teen I'd been there. So I walked him through the first episode, we found out his was worse (acid reflux), and was so happy when he finally found something that would help take the daily pain away.

Then came the migraines. My husband had never experienced a migraine (I'm not sure if he'd really had a headache), and suddenly he's overcome with pain every single day! Fortunately, once again, he and the doctor were able to find something to help with the daily part. Unfortunately he still gets the occasional migraine, but occasional is definitely not daily, and for that we're so grateful.

The latest in a short line of odd things to go wrong with your body has been his trapezium (sp?) muscle. About two weeks ago he began hurting along the back, right side of his neck. Over time the pain has become increasingly worse and has spread into his back and shoulder, keeps him up at night, and is sometimes so painful he can barely lift his head. He headed into the doctor yesterday, who gave him a stronger pain reliever and a muscle relaxant. He slept very well last night, and is actually outside right now mowing the lawn because he feels better. Not great, but this is a man who'll work regardless of a 102 degree temp saying, "It's nothing."

I tell you all these things about my husband (and don't tell him I told you all this...he might not be as willing to share the intricacies of his life as much as I am) because I've watched him over the last few years gain greater empathy, in particular here in our little family. You see, shortly before he started getting migraines our oldest had them as well. Not daily, but bad enough they would make her throw up. Suddenly my husband found himself with greater patience when she began to complain. And now that our younger son has daily migraines, my husband is even more willing to help find something to make the pain go away.

With his acid reflux and heart burn, well it probably seems silly, but he has an idea of what I've lived with most of my life. Now when I say I have heart burn, he's much more understanding of the pain I'm experiencing.

This last little "glitch" in the body has sure thrown him for a loop, but it's something I've had happen at least once or twice a year for the last several years. Again, he now understands a little more why I've been laid down flat for a day or two when I have it.

So compassion is certainly my husband's lesson. But I've certainly gained one as well. If this awesome man of mine had not been the sort of wonderful man he is, I may have spent each episode crowing, "I told you so!" Fortunately for us both he's never been the sort of person to lack compassion for the trials of another, even if he couldn't personally understand what they were enduring.

For me the lesson has been a realization that instead of being the person who stands back and feels justified that someone else really understands what I'm experiencing, I have instead said, "Okay. I know what you're going through. So let me use my past experience in helping you out."

We will all eventually walk a mile, or even just a few feet, in the shoes of another. In that time we have a chance to learn compassion, and will hopefully gain a friend in the process.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Breakpast, Paper Toilet, and Nilk

Learning to talk correctly is hard enough for any kid. Learning to talk in a household where Mom and Dad think the mistakes you make are so adorable they refuse to correct your mistakes is ever harder. Heh, heh, heh.

I love the way kids say things. Just last night I listened as my 2 year old called my husband Chuckles - with no "l" of course. It got me thinking about all the other mistakes my kids make...and how I've yet to help them say these things correctly.

My oldest hasn't been a little kid for so long I don't recall much of her slip ups, but there are two I distinctly remember. One involves her Grandpa W. You have to know when this man sneezes, it's been known to reverberate throughout the room. So for more than a year he was known as "Grandpa Achoo." The second memory I wholeheartedly blame on my husband. He loves to sing the most inane songs (ones I completely thought he was making up until I actually heard them on the radio!) and nursery rhymes, and if he doesn't remember the words he has no problem making them up - which is why for an awfully long time M sang the wrong words to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." Something about clouds and lights instead of the world and stars.

J didn't say too many things wrong, but he had the most distinct western accent while saying them. Superman would come out with an exaggerated 'A', making him sound like he grew up in the deep South instead of Utah. Perhaps my most favorite, one I never corrected him on, is calling toilet paper "paper toilet." Fortunately he's lived long enough to naturally correct it on his own, but not before teaching his younger brother to say it first.

B is perhaps the most adorable with his speech. He's never struggled with saying "l" or "r" the way his siblings did, if anything he over-emphasises them, but he can't seem to distinguish very distinct sounds in other words. As mentioned in the title of this post, he refers to fingers as thingers. And breakfast has long been breakpast in our house (this one was passed down from M to J and at last to B). These silly things were made all the more noticeable because since the age of three he's spoken so much like an adult (Brent - you always pointed that out to me, rememer?).

And now we have our little A who is quite a mimic and such a willing participant in our family's new favorite game "Make Baby Repeat What We Say". In many cases this is an utter success leaving us all full of giggles. In other cases I worry about what her brothers are teaching her when Mom's not around. For example, a few weeks ago she looked up at me with big blue eyes and a smile so sweet I could taste the sugar and said, "Mom, I fawted." Yeah. I know. The boys received a nice little talking to that day.

Even with phrases like that, so long as she still refers to milk as "nilk" and her toes as "piggies," I'll forgive the former remark.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Inspirations April 19, 2009

I wasn't sure what to post about today. To be honest I'm still not certain what to post about even as I sit here at the computer. Getting everyone ready for church this morning seemed to take forever. While I had some wonderful lessons and heard two beautiful talks (sermons), I couldn't quite wrap my head around what the Lord might want me to write about today.

During Relief Society I had a bit of an "Ah ha" moment. You know, where something clicks in a way you never saw in quite that way before. We were discussing Joseph Smith, in particular about one of the times he spent in prison. It was during this time he was able to do certain things he would not have had time to do before.

He was able to reflect - upon his life, his doings in the Church and his family, where his path might take him from there. In the normal course of his life I would imagine Joseph rarely had time to simply think, ponder, and meditate.

Joseph had time to write to the members of the Church. He wrote his wife, his mother, his family, his friends. He was able to put his thoughts down on paper, to think about what he really wanted to say, to give answers to questions he might not normally have time to give.

He spent much energy on finding things to be grateful for. In many of his letters he not only proclaimed his love to family and friends, but he told them of all the things he was grateful for. He counted his blessings. He looked for the silver linings. Even when separated from those he loved most, in conditions we could not imagine, with those railing for his death, Joseph still focused on the good things in his life.

What was so enlightening about all this? I thought for a moment about where he was, and realized that had he not been in prison, had he not had these hours of solitude and reflection, the opportunity to reflect, to write to his friends and family, and to focus on things he was grateful for might not have occurred in the normal course of his life. Joseph, as the leader of a new and rapidly growing church, rarely had time to be with his family, or sit for an evening with his wife. Him being in prison gave him opportunities he might otherwise never had.

We are sometimes given trials, tribulations, and circumstances that seem to be more than we can bear. They can sap us of out strength, bringing us down to levels we never thought we'd hit. Yet, even in the most dire of circumstances, blessings are there to grab. It is only for us to look for them, to accept them, to recognize what they are in the moment before they are lost to us.

Many of us find ourselves trapped in some sort of prison. Whether or not we remain in despair is up to us.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Don't Know What to Title This Post

I've had loads of ideas for a title popping into my mind, and none of them do this woman justice. I'm sure most of you have heard all about her. I'm just putting out the word in my own little way, because I truly believe in promoting beautiful things.

As in intro, I want to take a moment and talk about YouTube. We're not exactly friends. I think we could be friends if I wasn't crawling along with dial-up speeds of around 26 Kbps. Snail speeds, you know? Because of this, when people send me links to videos on YouTube I typically skip them by. A 3-4 minute video has been known to take up to 2 hours to load. Crazy, I know.

My husband came home from work tonight raving about a video I just had to see. A woman by the name of Susan Boyle was making quite the sensation on England's version of "American Idol", called "Britian's Got Talent." From the moment you see her, you're convinced she's one of those people they let through for pure comedy. She's a 47-year old single woman who lives with her cat Pebbles. She's never been married - never even been kissed as she teasingly tells us.

The video clip is just over 7 minutes. I couldn't for a moment imagine waiting around for however long it would take to load that sucker up, but I was humoring my husband so I waited...and waited...and cleaned the living room...while waiting. Finally about the first two minutes of the clip loaded and I sat down to see what all the fuss was about.

Let me just say, I continued waiting just so I could see the entire clip! The voice that came out of such a seemingly plain woman was extraordinary. Where has she been hiding for so many years!?! I watched the stunned faces of the judges. I cried as this woman received well-deserved praise. I saw the effect she had on the entire audience. Even in this little living room here in an innocuous town in Utah, there were lives changed.

I hope you take the time to watch this clip, even if it means waiting an hour or two. I'm posting the link as I'm horrible at trying to figure out how to post videos. As you watch, keep in mind you never know what beautiful treasures are encased in what might seem a plain package.


Friday, April 10, 2009

He is Risen!

Early in the morning on the day after the Sabbath a mighty work was at hand. We know nothing of what occurred inside the Garden Tomb, testifying of the sacredness of the actual event, only that soon afterward the earth shook and two angels rolled away the great stone from the mouth of the tomb.

Two guards appointed by Pilate had been keeping watch. The chief scribes and Pharisees were so concerned with Christ’s prophecies about rising again they didn’t want to take any chances His followers would try any tricks (Matthew 27:62-64). In doing so they unintentionally gave quite a witness to the heavenly events. The two guards fainted at the sight.

Around this same time a group of women, many of whom had been disciples (devoted followers) of Jesus since He began His ministry in Galilee, were on their way to the tomb to anoint His body in the proper oils, thus giving Him the burial Jewish law required. They must have presented a desolate sight, grieving for the loss of their beloved leader and teacher.

The time line here gets a little fuzzy. Seeing the open tomb Mary Magdalene fears the worst. She runs to find Simon Peter, telling him, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him” (John 20:2). Mary believed someone had taken the Lord’s body, unwilling to let Him rest in peace but causing mischief even in His death.

While this was going on the women had looked into the tomb and saw two angels within (We discover there were two angels through the inspired translation of Joseph Smith in the King James Version of the Bible). “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” the heavenly visitors ask (Luke 24:5). The women are told to go immediately and tell everyone Christ had indeed risen.

No one believed them at first. In their grief and agony at such a loss, it isn’t too hard to imagine their doubt. As the women went on proclaiming the good news Simon Peter and John raced to see the tomb for themselves. Mary Magdalene was perhaps forgotten in their wonder at the sight of Christ’s burial clothes left undisturbed on the stone bench (by this time it seems the angels had left). Only then did they realize what had happened: Jesus the Christ had been resurrected!

Mary Magdalene had not come to this knowledge. In her mind she could not get past grieving over the loss of the Lord. She still thought someone had taken Him away. James E. Talmage, an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormon Church), describes Mary as a noble woman and devoted soul.

“Mary became one of the closest friends Christ had among women; her devotion to Him as her Healer and as the One whom she adored as the Christ was unswerving; she stood close by the cross while other women tarried afar off in the time of His mortal agony; she was among the first at the sepulchre on the resurrection morning” (Talmage, James E., Jesus the Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, p.264-65).

Only when she found herself alone at the tomb did she look inside. Once again there were two angels who asked the grieving woman, “Why weepest thou?” to which she answered, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him” (John 20:13). She turned away from the tomb only to be met with the presence of another. She assumed he was the gardener, or caretaker of the garden. She also assumed he must know what had happened to the occupant of the tomb. When she is against asked why she is crying she responds, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away (John 20:15). She never calls Him by name.

Here is one of, in my eyes, the most beautiful events recorded in history. Perhaps it speaks to my heart of how the voice of someone we love, whether it be a treasured friend or family member, can be recognized even in the face of death. The man spoke just one word, “Mary.”

“One word from His living lips changed her agonized grief into ecstatic joy…. The voice, the tone, the tender accent she had heard and loved in the earlier days lifted her from the despairing depths into which she had sunk. She turned, and saw the Lord” (Talmage, James E., Jesus the Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, p.681).

In her joy she reached out. Christ beckoned for her to pause. “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17).

Even as a resurrected being, when Christ could have stood in glory of what He had accomplished, He instead turns our attention to the Father.

Mary did what was asked of her, though again no one believed. How could they, when she hadn’t been able to understand until she saw the living Christ for herself? To Mary’s testimony came that of the other women. Once Christ had visited with our Father, He came to them, and then to others.

Christ was risen. All that He taught and prophesied had come to pass. He truly was the Messiah, the Redeemer of all mankind.

The Burial of Christ

There are two men in particular to thank for the proper, though hurried, burial of our Savior. If it weren’t for these two men Christ’s body would have been treated the same way as any other Jewish convicted criminal: tossed into a common grave. This was not a burial meant for the one who had just redeemed all of mankind.

This occurred to Joseph of Arimathaea. Joseph was a rich man and a member of the Sanhedrin, the ancient Jewish court. His relationship to Jesus is uncertain, though some non-scriptural scholars have thought he might be the brother of Anna, Christ’s grandmother. It is more likely he was simply a devoted follower.

Joseph of Arimathaea went to Pilate, a ruler appointed by Rome, and asked to have the body of Jesus Christ released to him upon death. Though it seems a simple enough act, Joseph showed great courage. Not only could he have angered Pilate, he would also face the resentment of the Jewish leaders who originally sought the life of Christ and the court with which he served.
Pilate granted Joseph’s wish. Once death was declared Joseph went into action. Jewish law dictated that burial occur before the end of the day which was quickly approaching. Time didn’t allow for a proper burial in the sense of the body being appropriately anointed. All they could do was wash Him, wrap the head and body, and lay the body amid spices.

This is where we’re introduced to the second man who is only briefly mentioned at this time. Nicodemus, another ruler of the Jews (John 3:1) as a member of the Sanhedrin, had been a devoted follower of Christ, even in defending Him against the chief priests and Pharisees (John 7:45-52). He bought a large amount of spices, myrrh and aloe to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. The purchase was actually so large it was compared to that of what was used in royal burials, which I’m sure Nicodemus felt was appropriate.

These two men are those who took down the body of Jesus Christ. They removed the spikes from His hands, wrists, and feet. They lovingly washed His body clean, and did all that was needed in the short time available. I cannot picture the scene without seeing tears running down their faces, just as many of us who have grieved for our own loved ones who have passed on.
Jesus Christ was buried in Joseph of Arimathaea’s new tomb, freely given by this disciple (John 19:41-42).

James E. Talmage sums up the next few events:

“The tomb was in a garden… Because of the nearness of the Sabbath the interment had to be made with haste; the door of the sepulchre was closed, a large stone was rolled against it; and thus laid away the body was left to rest” (Talmage, James E., Jesus the Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, p.665).

Only a few women followed, though they didn’t enter the tomb. Their Sabbath day was soon to begin and so they planned to come back in a few days to complete the anointing. Little did they know what scene would meet them the next time they would come to the Garden Tomb.

Christ's Crucifixion, Last Words, and Death

We don’t know for certain where Golgotha is found. Many hymns and paintings over the years depict it as being on a hill, but none of the four gospels indicate this to be true. As we learn more about the culture and the times, we come to know crucifixions were done outside city walls along main roads. This was done to further humiliate the person being crucified, as well as a warning to others what would happen if they were caught.

We know Christ was crucified at nine o’clock in the morning (Mark 15:25). Spikes were driven through the palms of His hands as well as the wrists, and then into the feet, making sure no bones were broken in the process. At this point He would have been lifted up to the tree where everything would be nailed into place. Included in this was the sign written up by Pilate. It read:
Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews

As we read in John 19:19-22, the chief priests wanted Pilate to add two more words, so that the sign would read, “I am King of the Jews.” In this point Pilate finally stood firm. “What I have written I have written.” Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. Perhaps he also knew of Christ’s divinity.

Bruce R. McConkie describes some of what Christ went through on the cross.

“A death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of the horrible and ghastly – dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds, all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. The unnatural position made every movement painful…and, while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst. Such was the death to which Christ was doomed” (McConkie, Bruce R., Donctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 1, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, p.816).

Everything Christ endured on the cross is horrible to think about. What is miraculous to me is through all of it He was concerned about others, as we can see in His last words.

1. “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Who were ‘they?’ Certainly not the men and soldiers who arrested, scourged, and mocked Him. None of these men had repented, nor deserved forgiveness. Christ was speaking to His Father in behalf of the soldiers who, following orders, nailed Him to the cross.

2. “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Two thieves were also crucified at the same time as Christ. One of these men went so far as to begin mocking the Savior. The second thief rebuked the first, showing come compassion. Was he more concerned with himself, wondering if he might make it into heaven? This is certainly a possibility. Even so, his heart was in a better place, and Christ gave him some peace in the promise to meet in the world of Spirits.

3. “Woman, behold thy son! … Behold thy mother!” (John 19:26-27). One among a group of faithful women was the Lord’s own mother. How her heart must have suffered to see her beloved Son come to such an end. Near her stood John the Beloved, one of Christ’s own faithful followers. In putting the two of them together, He ensured His mother would be well taken care of.

4. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). For me this is the most heart-wrenching cry to have been uttered from the Savior’s lips. At this moment He had gone through so much. So much! His life was ending, His body pushed to it’s limits. I think the only thing that kept Him going was His link to the Father, and now it had been removed. Now there was no angel to help support Him, no promise of a return, only darkness.

5. “I thirst” (John 19:28). At the removal of the Father’s light and life, Christ may have felt the physical torment to an even greater degree. Admitting such a base need truly testifies to the agony He was then suffering. Still, when offered, Christ declined, putting His mission before His own needs.

6. “It is finished” (John 19:30). In the footnotes of the King James version of the Bible put out by the Mormon Church we find a slightly different account as translated by inspiration through Joseph Smith. “It is finished, thy will is done.” Herein we see the completion of the Atonement. All that Christ suffered was at the will of the Father. In this moment, this blessed moment, Christ knows He has done all that the Father has asked.

7. “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Christ gave up the ghost. It was His choice. He had power over His own death, as was given to Him by being the literal Son of the Father. Why is this so significant? It wasn’t the chief priests or Roman soldiers who brought about His death. Because of the light and life of the Father, which was in Him, Jesus could have lived on. This was in part the reason the Spirit left Christ, so that He could have total control over when to end His life, of His own free will and choice.

The earth quaked, the veil of the Temple ripped in two, mountains were laid low and valleys became mountains. The earth, and all that was upon it, mourned for the loss of its Creator. But somewhere in the afterlife was a Being who stood in the presence of countless loved ones, free of pain and sin, at last at peace. Only one thing more was required, and those on earth would have to wait three more days to see it happen.

Simon Carried the Cross

At last the verdict was in: Jesus Christ would be crucified. Already weak and exhausted from the Garden of Gethsemane, having stayed up all night being tossed here and there by evil men whose only aim was to see Him hung, by now Christ had suffered more cruelly than any other man on earth. His agony was only added upon by the Roman soldiers.

Roman regulations insisted that every man condemned to crucifixion be scourged first. This act alone was so brutal, so bloody, those inflicted often died even before they could be crucified. I don’t feel it’s necessary to go into the horrors of scourging here. Just know that it was far more horrible than we can possibly imagine.

After the scourging had passed, the Roman soldiers who held Christ captive here couldn’t quite leave Him alone. Instead they took Him back to the judgment hall where they once again stripped Him of His clothes, mockingly replacing them with one of scarlet, a sign of royalty. Someone braided together a crown of thorny vines. It’s possible each of those thorns were an inch long. He was given a reed to hold, like a scepter, and once again He was scorned.

One of the things that most amazes me about everything Jesus was asked to endure was His patience. Though men spat upon Him, swore at Him, said cruel things to make fun and provoke, Christ patiently bore it all. As He was beaten, slapped, scourged, and other physical abuses were heaped upon Him, Christ never once raised a hand to save Himself. He simply bore all things with patience.

Bruce R. McConkie, a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormon Church), taught to us follow Christ’s example.

“To fill the full measure and purpose of our mortal probation, we must have patience. This mortal existence is the Lord’s sifting sphere, the time when we are subject to trials, testing, and tribulations. Future rewards will be based on our patient endurance of all things” (McConkie, Bruce R., Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, 557).

At this time upon Christ’s back was placed the cross He was to carry to Golgotha. We cannot know for certain whether it was the entire cross, or the crossbar. Even the latter would be trial enough, perhaps weighing 75-125 pounds. Christ is generally thought to have carried the crossbar, as crucifixions were generally done on a tree. The bar would have lain across the back of His neck, His arms tied to either side.

In this fashion Christ was prodded along through the streets on their way out of the city (no executions were performed within the city walls. Look up Numbers 15:35; 1 Kings 21:13; Acts 7:58). One of the soldiers carried a sign made by Pilate, indicating Christ’s name and supposed crime, which would later be fastened to the top of the cross.

Only at this point do we begin to see what toll all of the agonizing events had taken. Christ, under the great weight of everything He had endured, stumbled. He needed help. A passerby was called to by the soldiers and ‘compelled’ to carry the cross.

It is this man, Simon of Cyrene, who offers us a small ray of light in such a dark moment. Though we don’t know much about him, we do gain the sense that he had nothing to do with Jesus before this moment. He was not among the crowd who had demanded the life of Christ. He was not among those who joined the crowd in mocking and taunting the Savior. He was simply there because Mosaic law required all males of the covenant to come before the Lord during the Passover feast.

This one encounter, however, seemed to have affected Simon deeply. In Mark 15:21 we are given a small clue as to what eventually happened to Simon. “And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.” Simon had two sons: Alexander and Rufus. How does this help us?

Rufus was later referred to in Romans 16:13, where the apostle Paul mentions him, and his mother, specifically. In fact Paul seems to know them very well. We learn an even more interesting fact through a professor at Brigham Young University.

“Archaeologists working in Jerusalem believe that a group of ossuaries (stone boxes for the burial of human bones) discovered in 1941 belonged to the family of Simon of Cyrene…. One inscription bears the name Alexander, a name rare among Jews at the time; he is identified as the Son of Simon” (Skinner, Andrew C., Golgotha, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002, p.112).

The event that took place the day Simon found himself called forth out of the streets of Jerusalem had such a profound effect on his life he became a converted member to the Lord’s Church, and his family as well.

The thought I’d like to close with, however, is the thought of Simon carrying a load for our Savior. So many times we feel the crosses we are asked to bear are too heavy a load on our shoulders, and we stumble. Often we are told to allow the Lord to help us, for His burden is light. There are few individuals throughout the history of the world who can claim they were able to carry even a tiny portion of Christ’s heavy burdens. Though he may not have thought so at first, Simon’s life was truly blessed for that small act of service.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Betrayal and Trials of Christ

Things unfolded quickly after Christ’s triumphant exit from the Garden of Gethsemane. Even as He told His friends to sleep on and take some rest (Matthew 26:45), a group of men came to take Him. This group included chief priests and elders, all men of the Jerusalem Temple who acted almost like a police force in keeping the peace. Unfortunately these men had evil in their hearts, and were determined to rid themselves of the man who claimed to be the Son of God.

How delighted they must have been when one of His own devoted followers approached them. Remember, Judas left quite a while ago, even knowing Christ was aware of His coming betrayal.

“And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said” (Matthew 26:21-25).

Judas could have repented. He could have humbled himself, and asked for forgiveness. Instead his heart became hardened. Anger and hatred took hold, and he committed one of the most appalling acts this world has known: for thirty pieces of silver he betrayed his Lord.

The following events occur so quickly it’s easy to dismiss some important points. Judas led the group of men to the Garden, a place Jesus had taken his disciples to many times to teach, ponder, and pray. Judas knew this was where He would be, and led the priests and elders there.

Let’s stop here for a moment. Try to recall what the Christ had just gone through. He probably didn’t look like the same man. His robes were probably filthy, His face and hands encrusted with His blood mixed with sweat. Of all the men standing there I would think He looked the least like a man who could be the literal Son of God. Yet this is the man Judas approached and kissed.

In today’s time a kiss is often given without thought. It was not always so. The kiss is significant in Old and New Testament times. As Andrew Skinner, who currently serves as dean of Religious Education and professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, tells us in his book Golgotha, the kiss could mean a reconciliation between people who had been estranged, separated for a long time, or fighting (Look up Genesis 33:4; Exodus 4:27; Genesis 45:15). A kiss could be a token of respect. Religious and educational leaders were often greeted with a kiss by those who were taught. In 1 Thessalonians 5:26 Paul counseled the brethren to greet one another with a ‘holy kiss.’

For Judas to greet the Master with a kiss was a great contradiction. There was no love in it, only betrayal. Could Judas have been more properly reprimanded than for the Lord to have called him, “Friend…” (Matthew 26:50).

Though the timing is not confirmed, just before or after this betrayal Christ asked the men who had accompanied Judas whom they were seeking.

“They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he” (John 18:5).

At this point the men stepped back and fell to the ground. They were so stunned not one of them said a word. Once again Christ asked whom they were seeking, and again they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Why were these men so surprised at Jesus’ answer? Andrew Skinner gives us an idea.

“The translators of the King James Version of the Bible added the word he after each use of the phrase “I Am” in this passage, believing it rounded out the translation. Without that added word, however, we can understand more readily why the chief priests and elders responded as they did, for when they heard Jesus utter those words, they fell backward to the ground – as might anyone who has had the wind knocked out of him because God himself has just responded to his inquiry” (Skinner, Andrew C., Golgotha, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002, p.11).

I think there is one more aspect to Christ proclaiming the words, “I Am.” He’s literally just gone through what no other man on earth could ever hope to accomplish. He rose triumphant, having accomplished the first part of the Atonement. As the words “I Am” came from His lips, I would think there was such determination, such knowledge, such power behind those two words.

It was at this point Jesus was seized by the temple men. Peter, who always seemed to allow his heart to rule his head, pulled out his fisherman’s sword and cut off the ear of one of the men to protect his Lord. Christ, ever mindful of what needed to happen, rebuked Peter. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matthew 26:53-54.) A legion in the time of Christ included 6,000 soldiers. Could you imagine having 72,000 angels coming at you?

Christ’s mission was not yet completed, as He tried to remind His friends. At this point He healed the guard (a blessing seemingly ignored by those who would kill Him), and meekly submitted to being bound and taken away.

Jesus must have been physically, mentally, and emotionally worn out at this time, yet His thoughts were ever on the welfare of others. He didn’t fight back when the soldiers took Him, knowing precisely what was still to come.

Jesus Christ was bound and led away by an interesting group of people. First you had the chief priests who performed the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood temple worship. There were also captains of the temple, who acted as security guards, so to speak. They kept order within the walls of the temple. There were also the elders of the church, who were spiritual and social leaders and teachers. Mixed in were Roman guards, thought to be included to make the entire arrest look official.

These men were essentially the same group who desired to take and kill Jesus back when He removed the moneychangers from the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:18).

After His initial arrest Jesus was first taken to Annas, father-in-law to Caiaphas the official high priest. Annas himself had served as high priest when Jesus was a youth (A.D. 7-15), and had great influence within the system. Annas began to question Jesus about His doctrines, hoping to find something within His words to condemn Him (John 18:19-21).

Christ had preached in their temples. The chief priests and elders knew precisely all He had taught. All Annas had to do was ask the men personally. It was in His answer Christ let it be known He knew of the entire plot. They could have taken Him at any time when He preached right in front of them. Instead they chose to claim Him during the night, while most of His devout followers would not be aware of what happened.

At this moment a servant of Annas came forward and slapped Christ for embarrassing his master. Christ was then sent on to Caiaphas, who seemed to share the courtyard with his father-in-law. Here the chief priests and scribes came together in a meeting that turned out to be neither legal, nor fair. In fact all the succeeding trials turned out to be full of ironies and hypocrisies (Matthew 26:59-60; Mark 14:55).

They looked for false witnesses and found two, but the two witnesses couldn’t even agree with one another (Mark 14:59). Do you know what the punishment is for lying in a council meeting? The same as that of the accused. By right these two men should have been crucified as well. Obviously this didn’t happen.

Eventually Christ was accused of sedition. Sedition can also be called trouble-making, treason, or incitement to rebellion (things the very leaders caused in front of Pilate). This was the most they could come up with, other than blasphemy by referring to Himself as the Son of God. For these two things the leaders of God’s own Church cried out for Christ to die.

The council then sought to take their anger out on Him. Christ was spat upon, battered, slapped, taunted and mocked. Around six in the morning Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Pilate was a cruel man who cared little for what the Jews wished, but had burned far too many bridges up to this point and stood on shaky ground with those directly over him.

Pilate asked the Jewish council, “What accusation bring ye against this man?” (John 18:29) to which the council responded, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King” (Luke 23:2). This, of course, wasn’t true (Matthew 22:21).

Pilate probably knew what the Jewish leaders wanted – to keep their own hands clean by making this a government issue. The council also had no power to put anyone to death, lest it be through stoning by their own hands. Though Pilate tried to make them take care of their own disputes, the council would not leave. In speaking with Christ, Pilate couldn’t see that He’d done anything worth being put to death and tried to communicate this with the crowd. The people only became “more fierce” and adamant that something be done. So Pilate did the only thing he could think of: he sent them all to Herod.

As Jesus was from Galilee, He was strictly out of Pilate’s jurisdiction. He also knew Herod had long desired to see the purported Messiah in the hopes of witnessing a miracle. In this Pilate had two hopes. First, that it would take the entire matter out of his hands. Second, that it would help mend the two leaders poor relationship. Only one of the two matters were accomplished. Later he and Herod became friendly.

This was the same man who had murdered John the Baptist, Christ’s cousin. Jesus refused to say a word to Herod. In anger Herod and his men ridiculed and mocked the Savior and sent Him back to Pilate. In a last ditch effort to save Christ’s life, Pilate took the tradition of setting free a prisoner on this day and brought forth a man who was the exact opposite of Christ: evil, notorious, a convicted criminal. When asked who should be released, the Jews cried out, “Barabbas.”

Pilate felt he could do no more without sacrificing his own position. In an effort to rid himself of any supposed guilt he did the ceremonial washing of his hands in front of the assemblage. Neal A. Maxwell wrote, “Pilate sought to refuse responsibility for deciding about Christ, but Pilate’s hands were never dirtier than just after he had washed them” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Why Not Now?”, Ensign, November 1974).

Through all of this Christ stayed quiet, calm, and humble. The one who could create worlds, heal the sick, command legions of angels to come to His rescue, did not lift a finger to save Himself. Even in some of His darkest moments He stood still, patient to the end, though hoards of evil men reviled and smote Him. If only we could all strive to be so patient in our afflictions.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Atonement: Christ Took On More Than Our Sins

“And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:37-39).

We read a little different account in Mark.

“And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:33-36).

The messages in these verses are so powerful, so intensely moving, but you may miss what lies behind them if you’re not careful.

I think the thing that strikes me most is when Christ begins to be sore amazed. He has barely taken a few steps away from His trusted friends and suddenly he feels “exceeding sorrowful,” “heavy,” “even unto death.” Before now I had never given the matter of these immediate feelings a whole lot of thought. Of course I understood that He was about to take upon Himself all of our sins, and had attributed the sense of sorrow and foreboding to that. It wasn’t until I began to study this a little deeper that one particular comment I read struck me harder than anything I had read before.

“Yet, for all the things the Savior knew, there was one thing he did not know, and, in fact, could not know because of what he was. The scriptures declare with absolute certainty that Jesus was perfect, without sin…

“Being perfect, Jesus did not and could not know what sin felt like. He did not have the experience of feeling the effects of sin – neither physically, spiritually, mentally, nor emotionally… Now, in an instant, he began to feel all the sensations and effects of sin, all the guilt, anguish, darkness, turmoil, depression, anger and physical sickness that sin brings” (Skinner, Andrew C., Gethsemane, Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 2002, p.58).

Christ didn’t understand why this heaviness and sorrow suddenly came upon Him because He had never sinned. In that moment the meaning behind the Atonement changed for our Savior. In that instant He began to fully understand how sin weighs us down, hides the light of God, and binds us spiritually.

It hit Him so hard He fell to the ground. As Neal A. Maxwell, a former leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormon Church), describes it:

“Imagine, Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, ‘astonished’! Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fullness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined!” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Willing to Submit“, Ensign, May 1985).

Christ knew what had to be done in His head, but experiencing it was so much worse than He could possibly have imagined. What was the first thing He said? Abba. Father. He cried out to His Father. How many times do you hear a child cry out to a parent when hurt, injured, confused or scared? Jesus loved His Father dearly. He trusted His Father completely. Yet at this moment He found Himself enduring something He could never have understood up to that point.

He asked for the bitter cup to be taken from Him, but never without adding that His Father’s will came first. Though He was asked to endure what no mortal could, and asked not once, but three times for the cup to be removed, He always submitted to the will of the Father. Just as important is this: after He had endured the first round, Christ knew full well what would be asked of Him the next time, and He came back. He. Came. Back.

I cannot begin to know all that He went through during those 3 or 4 hours He spent in the Garden. We all know what sin can do to us, the guilt, the sorrow, the bondage we place ourselves under when we willingly commit it. These moments for us are but a drop in the ocean of what our elder brother, Jesus Christ, endured that night. He who was perfect, who had never sinned before, who was sore amazed at the effects of sin on the entire world from the beginning to the end, came back to finish the work. He loves us, He loves our Heavenly Father, that much.

No other man on this earth could have done what Jesus Christ did for us in that moment. Because He came back to finish the work, we are able to repent, to become clean again, to have the remarkable hope of one day living with our Father in Heaven again. He loves us that much.


It’s a heavy concept, the thought of taking upon oneself the sins of every person who ever has, and ever will, live. Even those of us with the most incredible imaginations could never possibly hope to come close to understanding what it was the Savior took upon Himself that night in Gethsemane.

All of us have sinned at least once in our lives, even if we did it in ignorance. Many children are taught incorrect truths as they grow up: swearing, hatred, intolerance, etc. I have known such sweet and innocent children, and even teens and adults, who have come to think evil things to be good, because that’s what they have been taught. Christ took every one of those sins upon Himself. But this is not all.

There are those out in the world who know what the laws of God are, and knowingly break those laws. At some point in their lives they have been taught what is right, or have felt the promptings of the Holy Spirit telling them what they are doing is wrong and have ignored those feelings. Even to the most vile sinners has the Lord offered the chance to be cleansed, by taking upon Him those sins, fully experiencing what they experienced, and knowing why they did what they did. But this is not all.

“In Gethsemane Jesus took the full force of God’s overwhelming and retributory punishment. Justice demanded it, and we, who are sinners, deserve it. According to the rules framing the universe, the full consequences of transgressed laws cannot be dismissed or overlooked. They must be borne by someone – the sinner or the substitute. Jesus was that substitute for all of us who will allow him to be so” (Skinner, Andrew C., Gethsemane, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002, p.51).

In other words, when we sin justice demands a punishment. If we do not repent we must face the punishment ourselves. However if we become remorseful, and truly repent of the sin(s) committed, Christ’s suffering in the Garden will be enough to erase the sin. He has already endured the punishment for us. But this is not all.

In the Book of Mormon, another testament of Christ, we are taught a new truth of what the Savior took upon Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane. These words come from a prophet by the name of Alma, who lived in the Americas around 80 BC.

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind’ and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, 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).

Christ took upon himself our infirmities. What does this tell us? He knows what it’s like to have cancer, lupus, multiple sclerosis, autism, depression, and myriads of other illnesses and diseases we are sometimes asked to endure to bring us a little closer to Him. Not only this, but He understands our pains. He knows what it’s like when we lose a loved one to death, to watch someone suffer needlessly and feel unable to help, to be tempted to the point of aching to give in. He knows and understands everything we will ever go through, whether it’s what God the Father places on our shoulders to endure, or what we will bring upon ourselves through incorrect choices. He knows. Surely all of this should be enough for us to be spiritually saved, but even this is not all.

There came a point in those awful hours, when He had gone through so much already even to the point of having an angel there to strengthen Him (Luke 22:43), when one more thing had to happen for the Atonement to truly be complete. The Spirit of God was removed from Him.

Think for a moment about how terrifying and horrible this must have been to someone who had never been without the light of God the Father in His entire life. In that moment of spiritual darkness He became subject to the fullness of Satan’s wrath.

Boyd K. Packer said:

“He, by choice, accepted the penalty for all mankind for the sum total of all wickedness and depravity….In choosing, He faced all the awesome power of the evil one who was not confined to the flesh, nor subject to mortal pain. That was Gethsemane” (Boyd K. Packer, “Atonement, Agency, Accountability“, Ensign, May 1988).

It was then, divided from the light of His Father, enduring everything we choose and are asked to go through, subject to the worst Satan could inflict, that Christ began to bleed from every pore (Luke 22:44). What did Christ do in this awful moment? He began to pray more earnestly. This man, who knew more about prayer than anyone on earth could ever hope to understand, prayed even harder.

At last it was done. Can there have been a more achingly glorious sight, unless it be the Resurrected Christ, than the picture of Him rising to His feet. Shaking, drenched in sweat and blood, He arose victorious! How the angels in Heaven must have cried out in joy! I would imagine the most comforting words to Jesus must have come from His Father. “Soon,” He might have said, “You will have rest. Just a little while longer, and we will be together again.”

All of this Christ did, for us and for His Father. In taking upon Himself everything, justice has been satisfied. We can repent and become clean again. The light of God can be a constant in our lives. All of these blessing and more, because our elder brother descended far below us all. All of this because He loves us.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Gethsemane: A Sacred Place

The Garden of Gethsemane was a familiar place to Jesus Christ and His Apostles. We can see it was not the first time they had visited there by looking at John 18:1-2.

“WHEN Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the
brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.
And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted
thither with his disciples.”

Bruce R. McConkie, previous latter-day apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormon Church), made a powerful comment on Gethsemane and it’s significance for Jesus and the disciples.

“Two thousand years ago, outside Jerusalem’s walls, there was a pleasant garden
spot, Gethsemane by name, where Jesus and his intimate friends were wont to
retire for pondering and prayer.

There Jesus taught his disciples that the doctrines of the kingdom, and all of them communed with Him who is the Father of us all, in whose ministry they were engaged, and on whose errand they served.

This sacred spot, like Eden where Adam dwelt, like Sinai from whence Jehovah gave his laws, like Calvary where the Son of God gave his life a ransom for many, this holy ground is where the Sinless Son of the Everlasting Father took upon himself the sins of all men on condition of repentance” (Bruce R. McConkie, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane", Ensign, May 1985).

Before we move on into what Christ endured within the garden, I felt it was necessary to take a moment and try to understand the importance of this spot for the Lord. This was not a random place He picked out because it was secluded. This was a place he’d been many times before: a place of teaching, a place of pondering, a place of spiritual renewal.

“The word Gethsemane means ‘oil press.’ Situated on the lower half of Oliver, or
the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane was a lovely area and the site of
the production of olive oil in ancient times” (Skinner, Andrew C., Gethsemane, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002, p.49).

There was an oil press in Gethsemane in the time of Christ, the remains of which can still be seen today. There is a symbolic significance to Jesus being here in the garden of the oil press. In this place olives were crushed to gain the precious oil. This oil played a prominent part in the culture of the day, being used for cooking, medicine, anointing, lighting (think oil lamps), and other things.

In the same way our Lord and Savior was pressed and crushed by the illnesses, sins, and temptations of the world. The result of that horribly wonderful experience is similar to that of the olive oil: His sacrifice anoints, feeds, and heals broken hearts and souls. His sacrifice brings light and hope into our lives, hope that we will not live in sin for eternity.

Think for a moment about a place you like to go when you need to retreat from the pressures of the world. Even if you knew something hard would be required of you there, it would still be a place of refuge. The Garden of Gethsemane was such a spot for our Savior. It is not to be rembered with pain and sorrow. I like to think if the Savior had not died so soon after, He would have returned to the Garden, regarding it as even more sacred than before.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Last Supper

When I first decided to write a little about the Atonement my thoughts did not immediately fly to the Garden of Gethsemane. Instead they trailed back to the Passover Feast that occurred just a few hours before. While this may seem odd at first, I think you'll realize the significant importance of this event by the time we finish here.

Let's start by think about the last time you had a test. Did you start the test without studying beforehand? I certainly hope not. As many of us know the best course to help you succeed, to claim that perfect grade, is to prepare.

The Savior knew there was a big test, or trial, about to come upon Him. Did He know just how difficult it would be? I don’t know, but I don't think so. He did, however, realize how important it was for Him to prepare spiritually before the big test came. The Passover Feast was His way of preparing.

I don’t know a lot about the Passover as it is practiced today. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed the Mormon Church, we don’t hold this feast. Our reasons for this will be discussed a little later.

For several months now Jesus had been trying to prepare His apostles for this day – the day when He would no longer reside with them on this earth in His mortal form. As these months passed, rejection of Him as the Savior grew steadily worse. Even members of His own family, James, Joses, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55), denied Him as the Christ (John 7:2-4, 7).

“Neither did his brethren believe in him” (John 7:5).

And so He clung to the men who had stood by Him throughout His ministry, and chose to spend His last few hours in their company.

“During Jesus’ time, the Passover lambs used in the feast were killed on the fourteenth day of the month of Nissan, and the meal was eaten between sundown and midnight, in conformity with Exodus 12:6” (Skinner, Andrew C., Gethsemane, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002, p.29).

In the next several days of the Apostles lives they would come to know, as do we, the true symbolism in the Passover meal. Andrew Skinner, quoted above, gives us a basic description of this symbolism.

First is the representation of Jesus, the Firstborn of the Father, and the firstborn lamb who would be sacrificed. This lamb had to be without blemish (Exodus 12:5), as was Christ. No bone of the lamb could be broken. Through all that Christ endured, no bone of His was broken.

No stranger was to eat of the Passover lamb. Those who have not come to know of Christ and become a member of His Church should not partake of the sacrament. Just as hyssop was used to put the blood of the lamb upon the doorframe (Exodus 12:22), it was also used to bring the vinegar, at that time used as a pain reliever, up to Christ as He hung on the cross (John 19:29).

Lastly, the blood of the Passover lamb had been a symbol to the destroying angel of their belief in Christ. So now would the blood of the Lamb of God allow us, His believers, to be free from sin and spiritual death.

The day of the Passover Christ sent Peter and John to one of His believers, or a disciple, asking to use the upper room. The lamb was slaughtered at the temple, and roasted according to law.

At the appropriate time he sat down with His Apostles, His friends, and said, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). It was at this time He began to teach them about the true meaning behind the Passover Feast, a feast He instituted over 1200 years before.

The order of events went according to custom until the traditional breaking of the unleavened bread. Instead of reciting the customary blessing Jesus “took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

I would imagine this breaking of tradition astounded the Apostles. Did they realize at that moment the new law Christ was instituting?

Yet another change occurred. “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup in the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20).

Christ had shown His Apostles a new ordinance, that of the sacrament. This was to replace the sacrifice of the lamb, for He was the Lamb. It brought home the importance of individual commitment and interaction with God. Our sacrifice now should be a humble heart and a contrite spirit, represented through the bread (body of Christ) and wine (blood of Christ). This is why members of the Latter-day Saint Church no long practice the Passover Feast, but rather partake of the sacrament (though we use water instead of wine).

All of this was of vital importance in preparing the Lord for what was to come. Introducing the sacrament fortified Him spiritually and emotionally to face His future. The night was far from over. Christ offered up what is now known as the Intercessory Prayer (John 17). In one of His last lessons, Christ washed the feet of his friends. Then it was time to go.

As Christ and the Apostles left it was very late at night. Even without what was to come I’m certain they were all fairly exhausted. I love that one of His last acts before going into the mount of Olives was to sing a hymn (Mark 14:26), for music is one of the most powerful tools to keep the Holy Spirit close by.

At this point all had been done by the Savior to prepare Himself for the agony of Gethsemane.
The lesson we can gain from this is simple: we must spiritually prepare ourselves for whatever may come. None of us will ever be asked to endure what the Savior did, but we will have our own trials to bear, and can prepare ourselves spiritually to pass them.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Inspirations April 5, 2009

I had every intention of getting on today to write about General Conference (a gathering of the worldwide leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - nicknamed the Mormon Church - that occurs twice a year). Instead I awoke thinking about the true significance of the Easter holiday.

A year ago I came across three books when searching for a way to bring the Atonement to life for teens. Little did I know these three seemingly innocent books would forever change my outlook on what our Savior suffered, and the significance of what might appear to be ordinary things. I was able to put together a series of posts from those books, ones I'd like to share with you over the course of this week. I may be posting more than once a day, but I truly hope you'll stick with me through them all.

I want to make mention of the author of the books. Andrew Skinner is a professor of ancient scripture down at BYU. It is through his work I am able to bring most of this information to you. If you'd like to read these books for yourself look up Gethsemane, Golgotha, and The Garden Tomb.

Let's start with a brief history of the Passover Feast. To begin to understand the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ, we need to go back about 1200 years from the time of Christ to when this certain occurrence first began

The Israelites had been placed under the bondage of the Egyptians for about four hundred years. After much crying to the Lord, and a great humbling process, a way had at last been provided to free the Israelites in the form of a prophet, Moses.

Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, had no intention of letting the slaves go. Even plagues of locusts, frogs, lice, hail, and other awful testaments of the Lord’s power could not soften Pharaoh’s heart enough to let the Israelites go.

This is when the Passover Feast first happened (Exodus 12). Moses and the Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a lamb or kid (sheep or goat) about a year old. The blood of the lamb was to be sprinkled along the sides and top of the doorframe.

“It washed away 430 years of Egypt’s contamination. The blood of the lamb
protected them from the wrath of the Almighty. Its roasted flesh nourished their
bodies with strength for the long, perilous journey ahead. They ate in haste,
loins girded, staff in hand, shoes on their feet, prepared to leave at any
moment at God’s command (Rosen, Ceil, and Moishe Rosen. Christ in the Passover:
Why Is This Night Different? Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1978, pp.23-24).

For thousands of years since that time the Passover Feast has been celebrated. It typically occurs at the same time as Easter. When it comes to how the Feast is celebrated in this day I am at a loss. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed the Mormon Church, we do not celebrate the Passover Feast, though the true message of Easter is certainly held in reverence.

Three big changes happened in the Passover Feast almost immediately, as we can read in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible.

1. It lost its domestic character, and became a sanctuary feast.
2. A seven days’ feast of unleavened bread (hence its usual name), with special offerings was added (Exodus 12:15; Numbers 28:16-25). The first and seventh days were Sabbaths and days of holy convocation.
3. The feast was connected with the harvest.

These weren’t the only changes made. In later times several other ceremonies were added, and were practiced by Christ and His apostles in their lifetime. We can also read of these in the Bible Dictionary.

1. The history of the redemption of Egypt was related by the head of the household.
2. Four cups of wine mixed with water were drunk at different stages of the feast.
3. Psalms 113-118 (the Hallel) were sung.
4. The various materials of the feast were dipped in a sauce.
5. The feast was not eaten standing, but reclining.
6. The Levites (at least on some occasions) slew the sacrifices.
7. Voluntary peace offerings were offered.

There is so much more that goes into the spirit of the Passover Meal that I hope to share with you in my next post, in particular the symbolic nature of what the Lord taught in this Feast. It is also significant to note the two big changes the Lord creates in His last meal upon this earth.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Band-aids and Kissing Doctors

My youngest came out of the bathroom with a band-aid in hand. It doesn’t matter if she has an owie, she just loves to have the band-aids. What’s silly is as soon as we put the band-aid on, she immediately acts as though she’s been mortally wounded, cannot possibly walk (most of her band-aids go on the knees), and crouches as she scuttles through the house clutching her supposedly injured knee.

At one point she had made it into the boys’ room (who were busy giving it the weekly cleaning). They were all in and out of the room for a good ten minutes before I heard the following conversation.

B: “You okay baby?”

A: “I got owie.”

B: “Oh no, do you need the doctor?”

A: “Yeah.”

B: “J, come here quick.”

J comes: “What’s wrong?”

B: “A is hurt. Are you the Kissing Doctor?”

J: “Yeah. Does she need her owie kissed?”

B: “She sure does, Doctor.”

J: “Move out of the way.”

At this point a kiss was attempted, but A quickly let it be known it would not be required (and by that I mean there was quite a bit of yelling from all parties until Mom said to leave her alone and get back to cleaning).

After giving it some thought, I’ve decided every family needs a kissing doctor. In fact, most families probably have at least one. I can’t tell you how many owies I’ve kissed better over the years.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy Mama is Back, Baby!

First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who has reached out with a hand of prayer, love, and support. You have no idea what this has meant to me, especially when I wasn’t feeling myself.

I am happy to report things are much better these days. I went into the doctor and told him some of my biggest problems with the depression: intense fatigue, constantly crying, never feeling really happy. We also talked about how long it’s been going on and what might be some of the causes.

He recommended three things. The first was some medicine. He was a pharmacist before he became a doctor, so I trust him to know his medications. He opted to put me on Celexa as it would help with the fatigue as well as uplift and even out my moods.

Oh baby did it ever! I’m happier than I’ve been in about a year! Though the doctor said it might take a full two weeks before I see much of an improvement my whole family noticed a difference the very next day. I was laughing again, and it wasn’t forced. I was smiling again and it reached my eyes. Even my mom, who talked with me over the phone, said she could hear it in my voice.

I wasn’t faking happy any more!!!

There’s been one drawback to the meds. One I hope will eventually go away. Nausea, coupled with an intense gag reflex, has attacked with a vengeance. At first it was just for a few hours after taking my pill. Yesterday it was all day long. Suddenly I’m experiencing flash backs to pregnancy days. I can understand why a friend told me she lost a good bit of weight while on it…she may have been sick to her tummy for a few years, lol.

I’m still struggling a little with fatigue, but it’s not the so-tired-I-can’t-move type. I’ve only needed one nap in the last five days, and that was after a bad night with my skin. I go back into the doctor in another two weeks to see how things are going.

The second thing he recommended is counseling, in the hopes of finding some good coping techniques when I start to get too stressed or whatever. I definitely want to try, though I feel quite a bit nervous about finding the right someone to talk with. This’ll have to wait for a month or so until the kids are back on track at school. For the next few weeks I want to reintroduce my kids to Happy Mom.

The third thing he recommended was taking time out for myself, even if it’s just for a half-hour a day. I laughed a little as he named off a few things I could do: read a book, get out and take a walk, find a hobby to work on. I’ve constantly got a book in my hands, I tend to do my walking in the morning outside on good days and inside on bad days, and I’m overflowing with hobbies. I even get time all to myself come nighttime when everyone else has gone to bed.

The person I want to thank the most is my husband. It’s never easy being the one who endures the hard stuff, but just as bad is the person who stands helplessly to the side, wishing to make everything better and unable to do so. My husband, who already works harder than almost anyone I know, did everything he could to help me out. He washed dishes, helped the kids with homework, cooked dinner, helped clean the house, allowed me to sleep when it was needed, and simply became SuperDad during the last several weeks. I am so glad I was able to pull out of this so he could focus more on work (which is crazy busy this next week) without worrying about what was happening at home.

If ever there was a woman who was truly blessed by family and friends, it’s me. Happy Mom.